“People loved you in the way they knew how -
and often it was not the way you knew. Or needed.”
― Josh Lanyon, The Dark Tide
Bullets ripped into the trees sending shards of bark flying in every direction. Murphy brushed the worst of it from his hair and turned to Bodie.
“I think he’s made them angry.” Another fusillade of machine gun fire kicked up the dirt at the foot of the stone gate they hid behind.
“Yeah. That partner of yours has a way of getting up people’s noses.”
Bodie shot him a proud grin. “He does, doesn’t he?”
A loud explosion shattered the front windows of the house they’d been watching. Bodie started moving forward.
“That’s the signal. Let’s wrap this up, Murph.”
An hour of hide-n-seek punctuated by gunfire and grenades ended the week-long obbo. No major CI5 casualties, four captured gunrunners and a cache of weapons that would not see the streets of London had Cowley smiling.
“Well done lads.” He looked over the state of his agents. “Doyle, get that leg looked at. After the reports are finished you three have a thirty-six hour leave. I’d suggest you use it to get some rest.”
“Was lovely, that.” Doyle stretched languidly across the mattress. “Good idea Cowley had, eh?"
“Hmmm...” Bodie agreed sleepily.
Ray moved closer, his face pressed against the side of Bodie’s head. “Love you.” The words were a warm whispered breath that caressed Bodie’s cheek and feathered softly across his parted lips. Bodie raised himself on one elbow and looked down at his bed partner. “Don’t,” he warned, but Doyle had already drifted into sleep – wrapped in Morpheus’ embrace and Bodie’s denial had no place in his dreams.
Bodie closed the door quietly and reset the locks. He didn’t want to wake Doyle. Cowley had phoned rescinding the rest of his leave and ordered him in first thing this morning. There was no reason both he and Doyle had to be up and about this early. Yeah, that was why he hadn’t wanted to wake his partner. He probably should have left a note. He didn’t want to examine the reasons he hadn’t. He brushed a hand across his lips where he imagined he could still feel the ghost of the two words Ray had whispered before sleep took them both.
Ray was getting too close. And it scared Bodie that he was allowing it, allowing himself to feel something as well. He’d long ago learned that letting someone close only led to pain; that feelings were a complication best avoided; and that hearts were fated to be broken. But this was Ray Doyle. He winced as he recalled the words he’d spat at Doyle the first time Doyle had tried to kiss him. “It’s fucking, Doyle, not love.” Doyle had flinched at the vehemence in the words. Bodie had watched as the hurt in Doyle’s eyes had been quickly covered with insouciance. And that had been that. Doyle hadn’t tried again and Bodie felt a distance growing between them. Bodie would be lying to himself if he said he didn’t regret that. But it was better this way, he thought. Better all round.
“Good morning, sir,” Bodie knocked briefly and entered the office.
“Ah, Bodie. Have a seat. I have an assignment for you.” He waved towards a pot of tea on the corner of his desk.
Bodie poured two cups, adding milk and sugaring one, and sat down. He took a sip of the hot liquid whilst ignoring the chocolate biscuits and tried to relax.
Still studying the folder in front of him, Cowley began, “I’ve received some intelligence from a deep source indicating that the Americans will ask our help to secure some information from the East Germans. I don’t entirely trust our cousins from across the pond so I’ve arranged for you to join an operation Interpol is running in parallel that will allow you to look after our interests.”
“Our interests?” Bodie asked, an uneasy feeling settling in his gut.
“Well, actually Piet Van Neikerk. Doyle will be reprising his role as the assassin to assist the Americans in achieving their goal.”
“So many questions, 3.7. Let me finish before you jump to conclusions.”
Bodie begrudgingly nodded his acquiescence.
“The East Germans want Van Neikerk to terminate one of their own rogue agents. They can’t do it themselves - it’s -ah, leave the politics to me, Bodie.” Cowley took off his glasses and softened his tone. “The Americans have requested the use of Van Neikerk. In return, we’ve been told we will be made privy to the information they’re to collect from the East Germans.”
“How do the Americans know about Van Neikerk? I thought he was a well kept secret.”
“Not so well kept, it seems. The Minister offered him to the CIA.”
“You do know that the East Germans are still after Van Neikerk for the Cleff assassination?”
“Yes. Your point?”
“Once their problem agent is taken care of, Doyle will be a target. They will try to kill him.”
“And it’s your job to see that they don’t. The Minister has informed me that the Americans have agreed to protect Van Neikerk and will help to get him safely away.”
“The Minister would sacrifice Doyle to get his hands on the East German information without hesitation. That is why I’ve arranged for you – unbeknownst to all but me - to be part of the group that has been tasked with getting Doyle out after he’s completed his part of the mission. You will be on loan to Interpol, assigned to make sure things go smoothly.”
Bodie sat staring at his hands still holding the cup of tea. “Has Doyle agreed to this?”
“I haven’t approached him yet.” Cowley watched his agent intently. “He won’t turn it down.”
“You’re pretty sure of him.”
Cowley sighed. “I know there is some trouble between the two of you.”
Bodie rose swiftly and slammed his cup on Cowley’s desk. “There’s nothing --”
“Sit down, Bodie. Spare me the dramatics. Doyle came to see me. He asked for a solo assignment. He said the last several jobs, one on top of the other, and the constant pressure and togetherness were wearing on both of you. He thought a separation would be good for the partnership.”
Bodie tipped his head to one side and challenged his Controller. “Oh, he did, did he? He didn’t seem to mind my comp...”
“Yes, Bodie?” Cowley raised his eyebrows in question.
“Nothing sir,” Bodie paced in front of the desk.
“Ach - sit down, Bodie,” Cowley repeated. “I’m getting a crick in my neck looking up at you.”
Silence settled heavily on the room.
After several minutes Cowley closed the file on his desk. He handed Bodie an envelope. “The information you need to connect with the Americans is in here. Study the file. They expect you in two days. There is a leak in the system, Bodie. As far as everyone is concerned, you’ve been temporarily assigned to Interpol. No one is to know about your role in this.” He looked straight into Bodie’s eyes. “And I mean no one. Is that clear?”
“Yes, sir. But let me say that I have serious reservations about this assignment. I think you’re underestimating the danger to Doyle.”
“That’s why you are being sent in, 3.7. See that nothing happens to him. Agents of his calibre...”
“...are expensive to replace,” Bodie finished the thought for him without the usual amusement.
Doyle woke alone in the big bed, evidence of the previous night’s activities dried in flakes on his stomach. He grimaced as he picked up the corner of the still damp sheet and asked his absent partner Does this mean anything to you Bodie? Anything at all? He remembered the look on Bodie’s face as Bodie had eagerly entered him with a smooth glide - eyes closed, breathing in rhythm with his thrusts. In - deep, out - slow. Beautiful, Bodie was. He remembered feeling stretched, filled, and complete. Now all there was was emptiness.
‘Get over yourself, mate.’ He shook his head. ‘You’re not livin’ in some Barbara Cartland novel. Should take a hint from Bodie. “It’s fucking, Doyle. Not love.” Cold, bloody bastard.'
The alarm went off, startling him out of his introspections. No sense in wishing for what wasn’t there. He climbed out of bed and headed for the shower.
“Anyone seen Bodie?” Doyle stuck his head in the rest room, taking quick stock of who was there. “His name’s not on the duty board.”
“Misplaced your better half, then?” Anson asked, smirking. “Should keep him on a shorter leash.”
Doyle glared at him, his caustic retort stopped mid-curse by Cowley’s voice.
“Doyle! My office, now!” Cowley’s summons filled the hall outside the rest room.
Doyle rolled his eyes. “Maybe now I’ll find out what the hell is going on.”
“Maybe the Cow has finally agreed to read the banns.” Anson winked at him.
“Ha – bloody – ha.” If you only knewDoyle thought as he gave Anson a two finger salute and stalked from the room.
Betty nodded towards Cowley’s office as Doyle passed by her desk.
“Go on in. He’s been waiting for you.”
He knocked once and entered the office. Cowley looked up from the files he was reading and gestured for him to sit down. He started to protest, but swallowed the words when pale blue eyes dared him to continue. He knew that to be a battle he couldn’t win. He sat with a loud sigh.
Cowley nodded, acknowledging the surrender without comment, and returned to his ever-present files. They sat in silence for several minutes.
Doyle fidgeted in the chair, silence not his strong suit. “Sir –“
“I have a solo assignment for you – as per your request,” Cowley’s voice held a challenge. “It will involve going under cover.”
“What about Bodie?”
“Your partner has been seconded to Interpol,” Cowley interrupted tersely. “He disagreed with me over how to handle an assignment. Until he realises that he is not in charge of CI5, we will have to make do without his services.”
“I have nothing more to say on the subject 4.5 – is that clear?”
“How’s the leg?”
“Fine, sir. A few bruises and some stitches. Nothing serious.”
“Good.” Cowley settled back in his chair. “The Americans find themselves in need of our help.”
“The cousins?” Doyle asked, eyes wide.
“Yes, the CIA. An undercover agent in East Germany has offered them some highly important intelligence. It seems the East Germans are willing to trade it for a favour – the assassination of one of their own disgraced agents here in Britain.” He stopped and looked at Doyle. “They also want the man who killed Martin Cleff.”
“Van Neikerk is dead.”
“The East Germans don’t know that.”
“So you want me to be Van Neikerk again.” Doyle sat staring down at his trainers. He didn’t like where this was going. “You want me to kill someone? Bodie or Murphy would be a better choice. I’m no assassin. Sir.”
“Ach, I know that 4.5. It will be handled, leaving your morals intact.” Cowley studied his agent. “There’s more to this than I’m being told, and I don’t like it. There’s a very real danger to you, Doyle. I want you to think on that before you agree to this.”
Rubbing his hands on his thighs, careful of the healing wound on his left leg, he looked up at Cowley. “This is what Bodie objected to?”
“Bodie’s opinion does not enter in to this,” Cowley said harshly. After a moment his tone softened. “But yes, Bodie didn’t care for the set up.”
“He’s often right, you know.”
“Yes. But this is too big an opportunity to let pass because Bodie is worried about your well-being.”
“I’m glad someone is,” Doyle muttered under his breath, but loud enough for Cowley to hear.
“You knew the risks of the job when you joined CI5, Doyle. You and Bodie both. If they’re no longer palatable, it’s time for you to get out.”
“Partners watch each other’s backs. You drilled that into us all right from the start.” Doyle stood and paced in front of Cowley’s desk. “That’s all Bodie was doing.”
“Maybe so. But his loyalty – his duty – is to the job first.”
Doyle moved to the window behind Cowley’s desk to cover his unease. Cowley, despite the earlier warning about the danger, was keeping something from him. His back to the room, he asked quietly, “What is it exactly you want me to do?”
“You have an appointment to see the Minister in one hour. Don’t be late.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I assure you, Mr Doyle, I am completely in earnest.” The Minister tapped on the pile of papers on his desk. “I have irrefutable proof that someone high up in one of the security agencies is passing information on to the East Germans and it is making its way to the Russians. No one is beyond suspicion – including George Cowley.”
Doyle dropped into the chair the Minister had offered him earlier, careful of his injured leg. He stole a look at the third man in the office who had so far not been introduced. “So why don’t you bring them in?”
“We are not sure who it is. We just know that the information is being passed from a highly placed source.”
“Well, there aren’t too many of those, are there? Give each of the suspects different information and see which of it ends up in the Russians’ hands.”
“Spoken like a true policeman,” the Minister smiled. “If only it were that easy. No, Mr Doyle, we’re convinced that there is more than one man involved and we want them all.”
“So where do I fit in, sir?”
“The East Germans are willing to give the Americans the name of a high ranking Western double agent in return for the assassination of one of their own that they suspect of treason. The Americans have agreed to let us join in an operation they’ve been running for several years if we provide the assassin.”
“Why would they do that? Not like them to share, is it?”
“Politics, dear boy. No need for you to get involved in that.”
Doyle snorted. “And my cover is a dead man. Piet Van Neikerk?”
“The East Germans are not aware of his demise. We kept it that way for just such an opportunity. ”
“And what keeps the East Germans from offing me once the job is done? They have no love for Van Neikerk.”
“I do.” The man standing next to the Minister’s desk spoke. His voice was deep, the accent American.
“And who are you when you’re at home?” Doyle’s eyes narrowed in challenge.
“My name is unimportant. All you need to know is that I’m your ticket home.”
“Yes,” the Minister confirmed, drawing Doyle’s attention back to him. “The Americans will claim you as one of theirs. The East Germans won’t dare touch you. They want to keep the Americans happy.” The Minister’s gaze swept guardedly over the American.
“You’ve been taking lessons in the triple-think... sir?”
“Triple-think?” The Minister laughed. “Where do you think he learned it?”
“What about my partner. What will he be told?”
The Minister frowned. “I’m sorry, Doyle. No one can know anything about what you are doing. And...” he hesitated.
“Go on.” Doyle’s voice hardened.
“Since it is a high ranking official that is suspect, Cowley is under investigation as well. He doesn’t know the whole of the operation. Just that Van Neikerk is required. And given your partner’s respect for Cowley, we can’t trust him not to tip George off if he were to know what we were doing.”
“Bollocks.” Doyle reddened, then realised where he was. “Sorry...sir. Bodie might hold Cowley in high regard, but he’d do what was necessary for Queen and country. He’s risked his life many times to do just that.” He looked the Minister in the eyes. “Neither of them would betray Britain. I’d stake my life on it.”
“You may have to, Mr Doyle. You may have to.”
Doyle heard the key turn in the front door lock. He hadn’t been sure Bodie would remember that he’d offered to cook. With Bodie’s silent early morning departure and now his secondment to Interpol, he had been pretty sure he wouldn’t see the man tonight.
“In the kitchen, mate. Pour yourself a drink. Dinner’s almost ready,” he called out, keeping things light.
The cold expression that greeted him made a mockery of his attempt.
“So you asked for a solo assignment, did you? Told Cowley we were getting on each other’s nerves or some such nonsense? Needed a change?” Bodie was angry.
Doyle wiped his hands on a tea towel and sighed. He put a hand on Bodie’s shoulder. “Let’s sit down, get a drink.”
Bodie shook him off. “What’s this really all about, Doyle? This your way of getting back at me for not going along with your romantic fantasies, is it?”
“Nothing romantic about fucking, or so I’ve been told. No fantasy in waking up alone.” He ran his hand through his hair and exhaled heavily. “Look, Bodie. I’ve been honest with you about what I want. Cards on the table, mate – I’m showin’ hearts.”
Bodie remained silent, ignoring the unspoken question in the words. Doyle turned away. “Fine – you keep ‘em close, yeah?” He waved his hand in the air as if to say it didn’t matter. “Sit down and eat.”
Dinner was a tense, subdued affair. Doyle watched Bodie withdraw further, saw the hated blank-featured mask slide into place as he replayed his conversation with the Minister for him, leaving nothing out. His final declaration got the expected reaction.
“You what?” Bodie stared at his partner, incredulous.
“I’ve agreed to the op.”
“Look, Bodie. I know you don’t like the set up. Christ, I don’t like it either. Piet Van Neikerk is not my choice for an undercover – too many people want him dead. But this is important. I can work from the inside to find out who the real mole is, and clear all doubts about Cowley in the process.”
“I don’t have any doubts about Cowley.” Bodie said flatly. “But I am beginning to have serious thoughts about you.”
“I don’t like it, Ray.” Bodie ran a hand over the back of his head, smoothing down his hair. He let out a deep breath and looked back at Doyle. “I don’t like thinking that you’ll be in there on your own.”
“I’ve worked on me own before.”
Bodie sighed resignedly, knowing his next bit of news wasn’t going to sit well. “Cowley is sending me in to cover the back end.”
Doyle opened his mouth to speak but Bodie waved him off. “I’ve a meeting with the Americans after the assassination – to make sure you get out.”
Doyle stood quickly, knocking his chair over. “Why am I hearin’ this from you? Why didn’t Cowley tell me he was sending you in too?”
“Cowley is sure he’s not been given the whole set-up. He wants back-up in place in case things go tits up. He’s worried.” Bodie looked up at Doyle. “I am, too.”
“Don’t think I can handle it, eh?” Doyle raised his chin in challenge.
“You know that’s not true.”
“Isn’t it?” Doyle sneered.
“Ray...” Bodie stood up and walked behind Doyle. He grabbed him, fingers squeezing Doyle’s shoulders hard enough to leave bruises. “I don’t like the set-up. I don’t trust the Americans – and what about the East Germans? Do you know what you’d be worth to them if they found out who you really are?” Bodie released him and pushed him away. “And if they buy you as Van Neikerk? He’s not exactly popular there after the Martin Cleff affair. And I don’t like the fact that the Minister is pulling this behind Cowley’s back. He’s known Cowley for years. How can he think the man would be involved in this? I’ve never trusted the Minister. Too much politics. He’d sell any one of us down the river for his own gain – including Cowley. Someone is setting CI5, and you, up....”
“All right,” Doyle shouted cutting off Bodie’s tirade.
“All right? That’s it. You’ll drop it?” Bodie let out a deep breath, relief coloured his words.
“Didn’t say that.” Doyle shook his head. “This is important, Bodie. It’s got to be done.”
“But not by you.” Bodies face and voice softened. “You’re barely out of hospital. Your leg-“
“Is fine.” Doyle’s temper rose. “I won’t have you treatin’ me like an invalid. It was a crease. A few stitches and a bit of soreness. I’m fine.”
Bodie’s temper rose again to match his partner’s. “Doyle.”
“Why didn’t Cowley tell me he was sending you in?” Doyle asked again, eyes narrowed. “Or was it your idea?”
Bodie rolled his eyes. “I told you. He’s worried. He thinks there’s a leak. He wants to keep my role a secret.” Bodie reached out and put a hand on Doyle’s shoulder. “Don’t do this, Ray. I won’t be close enough to back you up. Call it intuition, but this job is going to go wrong and I won’t be able to pick up the pieces.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, partner.” Sarcasm dripped from the last word as Doyle gathered the plates off the table and made for the kitchen.
“I mean it, Ray. I’ll -”
“You’ll what?" Doyle spun around. "Resorting to threats now, Bodie?”
“If you like.”
Doyle’s R/T sounded.
“Fuck.” He shook his head, put the dishes back on the table and answered the call. “4.5. Now? All right. Ten minutes.”
He looked at Bodie, taking in the belligerent stance and cold face. “Cowley. Last minute instructions. Lock up when you leave.” He turned away from Bodie. “See you later, mate.”
Doyle opened the door and spoke quietly, all the anger gone. “I’m going to do my job, Bodie.”
The door closed quietly behind him.
Traffic was light at this late hour, giving him the opportunity to pull himself together before facing Cowley. He needed to get Bodie out of his head. He needed time away, time to rebuild the walls that had fallen in the path of the storm that was Bodie. But he wasn’t being given that time. Anger at Cowley’s manipulation rolled through him. Did he confront Cowley about Bodie’s part in the job? He wasn’t supposed to know about it. It would serve his insufferable partner right to drop him in it – tell Cowley that Bodie had told him. It wouldn’t change anything, though. Why did neither of them believe he could do his job?
The ride back from Avery’s house was made in silence. The satisfaction of seeing Ojuka safely off faded as Doyle recalled Cowley’s exchange with Bodie.
“You disobeyed an order, Bodie. I told you to stay put.”
Bodie didn’t back down “Couldn't let them get away with it. How d'you think you'd feel if you let them get him?”
“My concern for Ojuka has nothing to do with insubordination—“
“I wasn't talking about Ojuka, sir, “Bodie replied.
Bodie’s words echoed in Doyle’s head. He looked over at his partner and watched the smooth movement of thigh muscle as Bodie slid the car through the range of gears. “Why’d you do it, Bodie?”
Not turning his head, Bodie’s eyes shifted as he stole a quick look at his partner. “Do what?”
“Don’t, Bodie. Just don’t. You know what I’m talking about.” Doyle leaned forward in his seat to face the driver.
“Not a clue, sunshine.” Bodie raised an eyebrow.
“Disobeyin’ orders, sunshine. Cowley told you to stay put, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, that.” Doyle settled back. “Why Bodie? Didn’t you think I could handle it on me own? Needed my big, bad partner to protect me?” Doyle’s voice rose. “Well I didn’t, did I? Got out on my own, thank you very much. If you don’t think I can do the job-”
“You know better than that.” Bodie sounded hurt.
“Do I?” Doyle’s voice softened. “I hope it’s not because we’re sleeping together. We both agreed, before we started – that it couldn’t affect the job. You can’t always protect me, Bodie. We agreed -”
“All right.” Bodie cut the lecture short. “I’m sorry, Doyle. Next time I’ll let them shoot you, shall I?”
A tense silence filled the car for several minutes. Then Doyle’s lips twitched. “See that you do.”
It had been so easy then. A bit of black humour, a knowing look, a punch to the shoulder and they were back in sync. It wasn’t so easy now. Oh, they were close, maybe closer than ever. Maybe that was the problem. At least he thought so and hoped that a solo assignment, a little time alone, would help him sort himself out. He knew Bodie resented the pressure to make a commitment to their relationship. He knew he needed to back off a bit or risk losing Bodie. He didn’t want that. So he’d bury his own need for now; he’d play the game Bodie’s way. Keep it light and loose. Enjoy the sex and try to protect his heart.
Cowley’s office window was the only one lit up when he pulled into the CI5 car park. ‘Time to get your mind on the job, Doyle’, he said to himself, amused that the words in his head rang with a Scottish accent.
Bodie paced around Doyle’s flat in the dark. It had been two hours since the man had left to answer Cowley’s summons, leaving him with nothing but time to recall how he had almost lost Doyle the last time Doyle had played at being Van Neikerk. After discovering the dead CI5 agent assigned to watch Van Neikerk and the empty holding cell, he’d read Cowley the Riot Act; his worry for his partner overriding common sense. Cowley had not been best pleased. Bodie hadn’t cared. His concern was all for Doyle. Discovering the body in the bath in Doyle’s hotel room, brown curls floating around the edges of the white towel concealing the victim’s identity, had almost stopped his heart. And why? Because he did care. He cared too much and it had frightened him to discover just how much Doyle meant to him. The relief at realising the body in the tub wasn’t Doyle was short-lived. His partner was still missing and Van Neikerk remained at large. Then there had been a phone call and relief at finding the dozy sod sitting on a dusty roadside by a phone box. He remembered Doyle’s pitiful expression as he’d stood up rubbing his bum. He’d buried his own feelings in a joke – “Hurt your head?” – and Doyle had responded in kind. Uncomfortable emotions back under control. Until the op was over and they’d ended up at Doyle’s flat after leaving the newspaper plant...
...”Why’d you do that, Bodie?” Doyle pushed him up against the back of the door.
“Do what?” Bodie pushed back.
Doyle pulled the dead girl’s white headband out of his jacket pocket. “Put this on? Why’d you do it?”
“Was meant as a bit of a joke.”
“The girl’s dead, Bodie. You find that funny, do you?”
Bodie shrugged and tried to move past Doyle. A hand gripped his shoulder hard enough to bruise and spun him around. Bodie knocked the hand away and forced Doyle back against the door. He put one hand loosely around Doyle’s neck. The other stabbed at Doyle’s chest.
“Thought it was you, didn’t I?” Bodie yelled.
Doyle closed his eyes and dropped his head.
Bodie gripped Doyle's chin and forced his head back up. “Van Neikerk had got free, you weren’t answering the phone. When I got into the room I found a body in the tub, covered with a towel – all I saw was curls.” Bodie tightened his grip. “All I saw was you.”
“Who was she, Ray?” Bodie didn’t release him. “What was she doing in your room?”
“Just a girl, Bodie. A lonely girl.” Doyle sighed. “She picked me up in the hotel bar. She pegged me as an assassin. Thought she might know something about Van Neikerk, so I invited her up to the room. Turns out my first impression was right. She was just a lonely girl.”
“So knight in shining armour that you are, you offered to comfort her?” Bodie scoffed.
“Yeah, I slept with ‘er.” Doyle pushed against the body holding him against the door. “Is that what you wanted to hear?”
“Hardly.” He took the headband still clenched in Doyle’s fist and put it on Doyle, covering his eyes. “No need to be. She’s dead, and I’ve got you.” He leaned in and licked the skin of Doyle’s throat, smiling as he felt Doyle shudder. “Yeah, I’ve got you...”
“Bloody hell,” he muttered at the memory and the tightening in his groin. He decided not to wait any longer for Doyle and to go for a pint instead. He went to retrieve his coat and heard footsteps slowly approaching the door. He waited until the key turned in the lock and then wrenched the door from Doyle’s hands. He grabbed Doyle by the arms, slammed the door with his foot and pressed his surprised partner against the wall.
“Sshh.” Bodie pressed his fingers against Doyle’s lips.
Doyle struggled against his hold.
“What’d you want Bodie?”
“Wanted to let you know that it’s not that easy to walk away from me.” He looked at Doyle and hoped the anger, resolve and care he felt for this man showed on his face. “I’ll be there for you, Ray. Whether you want me to be or not. Whether Cowley plans for it or not. I’ll be there.”
Doyle’s eyes widened in understanding and he nodded once. “I know that. It’s nice to hear it.”
Their positions mirrored the scene Bodie had just relived. His arousal at that memory had not abated. He pressed more of his weight along the length of the Doyle’s squirming body. His mouth covered Doyle’s, bruising both their lips.
This wasn’t a kiss; this was domination. His tongue demanded access and he tasted blood when it was granted. His hands went to work on buttons and zips. Doyle continued twisting beneath him. Having opened Doyle’s shirt, Bodie pulled it free from tight denim. The jeans were loosened and pushed down. Doyle raised a knee towards Bodie’s groin, but Bodie neatly stepped back. With one hand he pinned Doyle’s arms above his head against the wall. He ran his free hand gently down Doyle’s throat and traced the taut skin covering narrow collar bones. He ruffled chest hair and smiled as Doyle’s breath caught. He pinched a nipple on his way down and across rippling stomach muscles. His hand stopped on the waistband of Doyle’s pants. Their eyes met. Expecting anger, Bodie was taken aback when he saw nothing but heat in the gaze that met his. Doyle’s hips bucked against him, urging him on, granting him permission. He rested his forehead against Doyle’s and released Doyle’s arms. The freed limbs came to rest on top of his shoulders and they pulled Bodie in tighter. Foreheads still pressed tightly together, Doyle nodded, a small smile lifted the corner of his mouth. Bodie winked as he licked at the bloody lip. Doyle didn’t fight when Bodie turned him to face the door and pushed jeans and pants further down to the floor. He shoved his own clothes out of the way and leaned against Doyle.
“All right?” He breathed softly into Doyle’s ear as he slowly slid into Doyle’s body.
Doyle groaned and pushed back, setting a rhythm and taking control. Bodie let out a laugh and let Doyle drive them both to climax.
They sat propped against the door with their legs tangled together, Doyle’s warm heavy breaths tickling the side of Bodie’s neck. Bodie picked up Doyle’s discarded shirt and began to clean them up.
Doyle stood and reached a hand down to help Bodie rise, the invitation clear. Bodie looked around at his clothes strewn about the floor. The hesitation was enough. Doyle’s eyes darkened and he turned away, walking to his bedroom.
Bodie sighed, “Bloody hell.” He kicked his shoes aside as he padded to Doyle’s room. The illumination from the street lamp sneaking in through the partially open curtains was enough for him to see Doyle watching him closely.
He stopped in the doorway. Doyle lifted the edge of the duvet. Another invitation. A second chance. Wasn’t much for second chances, Doyle. Bodie slid in between the cool sheets and rolled to face his silent partner. He could feel the tension in the body next to his. He put his arm around Doyle’s waist and pulled him in close. Doyle relaxed into the embrace, muscles easing with a soft sigh. Doyle’s fingers slowly stroked along Bodie’s eyebrow and down his jaw, a question clear in those green eyes. With a rueful smile, Bodie nodded. Message received and understood. He’d be there in the morning.
Bodie woke first. The curtains they’d forgotten to fully close the night before allowed the sunlight to paint a stripe across the bed. He sat up and put his legs over the edge of the mattress and felt a hard grip around his wrist.
"Running again?” There was no warmth in the sleep-roughened voice.
“Need a shower.” Bodie didn’t turn around. The grip on his wrist tightened.
“You can pretend that last night didn’t happen, that you didn’t kiss me, that it meant nothing. But you’re only lying to yourself.” Doyle sat up behind Bodie and wound his arms around Bodies shoulders, drawing them closer together. Quietly he asked, “Why do you find it so hard to trust this, Bodie?”
“You think I don’t trust you?”
“With your back, with your life, yeah, you trust me.” Doyle sighed sadly. “But not enough to let me in here.” Doyle’s rested his hand against Bodie’s chest, covering his heart. “Why, Bodie?”
Bodie remained still and silent.
“Look at me, damn you!” Doyle grabbed his shoulder and tried to turn him around.
“Leave off, Doyle.” Bodie shook himself free and stood up, still not meeting Doyle’s eyes.
Doyle got out of bed and stood in front of him. He grabbed Bodie’s chin and turned his face towards himself. His eyes narrowed in anger. “You’re a fucking coward, Bodie.” His hand tightened on the stubbled jaw. “A fucking coward!”
Doyle caught the fist headed for his own jaw and pushed Bodie away. His head dropped and his shoulders sagged. “Go home, Bodie,” he said quietly. “Just go home.”
Affording the waitress who delivered his coffee and pastry a small smile, Bodie leaned back in his chair and tried to dismiss all thoughts of Doyle. But, stubborn as the man himself, they wouldn’t let go.
Did Doyle really believe that Bodie didn’t trust him? Not one to examine his motives too deeply, Bodie could recall several instances where Doyle might get that idea.
He stood in the street outside Doyle's flat. He could see Doyle and Marikka through the open window, Doyle pacing while Marikka sat tensely on the settee. He’d seen Doyle shadowing him earlier. He wasn’t sure what to make of it all. His best mate with his lover – ex-lover – were they setting him up? No, Doyle wouldn’t be part of the MI6 set up. He wasn’t sure about Marikka. Why hadn’t Doyle sought him out? He laughed at himself. And when had he given Doyle the chance? Taking off from the pub after Marikka’s call without a word to Doyle. That’s trust? No wonder Doyle had looked so hurt when the rifle had slammed into his chest. And he’d still looked hurt when he’d come over to the flat later that evening...
Bodie ignored the knock at his door and rolled his eyes when he heard the lock release.
“Turned to B and E now, Doyle?” There was no warmth in his voice.
“Nah. Got a key, haven’t I?” Doyle replied, trying humour to lighten Bodie’s mood. “Good as an invitation, that is.”
They stood staring at each other, an unfamiliar distance between them.
“Bodie.” Doyle looked down at his trainers and then up into Bodie’s eyes. “’m sorry, mate.”
“I’ll bet you are.” Bodie glared. “Sorry I caught you following me? Sorry I saw you conspiring with my woman? Sorry MI6 didn’t twep me?”
“That’s not fair!”
“Fair? That’s rich, that is, mate. What was fair about you trying to set me up? I saw you with Marikka. Was she good?” Bodie leaned in close, his face inches from Doyle’s. “I trusted you, Ray. You’re my partner. I never expected to have to watch my back against you.”
“Now just a minute, Bodie. If you had trusted me from the start none of this might have happened. Marikka and I were trying to get evidence to prove you were innocent. I can’t believe you’d think I’d turn on you.” Doyle took a step back and poked Bodie in the chest with a stiff finger. “You tell me where the trust was there, partner.”
“So you say.” Bodie snarled.
Doyle’s head dropped in defeat. He walked to the still open door and stopped. “Ask Cowley for the tapes, Bodie,” he said quietly. “Then come and talk to me about trust.” He pulled the door shut behind him as he left…
Guilt was an uncomfortable emotion. And much to his disgust – guilty was how he felt. Not about wanting Doyle, or taking him as he had the previous night. It was the leaving this morning that had his belly tied in knots. The look on the poor bastard’s face when he’d sent Bodie home. Doyle knew Bodie feared commitment, vows, involvement. And that was everything Doyle wanted, no, what Doyle expected from his lover. We’ve been involved since the day Cowley paired us. How many times had Doyle said that to him when Bodie had backed away.
And why did he back away? Doyle had always been honest with him. Doyle had never betrayed him. Doyle was the best mate he’d ever had. He trusted the irritating sod. So why did he keep pushing Doyle away? Why did he keep hurting the one person who truly cared for him? Why was it that Doyle could have him asking himself these fucking questions? He knew he had to make amends. As soon as this current assignment was over. He’d fix things somehow.
“Fuck’s sake, Doyle! What have you done to me?”
Doyle paced the length of the lounge in the safe-house, ignoring Murphy’s exasperated sighs.
“Sit down, Doyle. You’ll wear a path in the carpet. Chances are Cowley’ll make you pay for its replacement.”
“I’ll submit it with my expenses, yeah?”
Murphy chuckled. “Good luck with that, mate.”
Doyle dropped heavily into a chair and ran his hand through his hair.
“What’s bothering you, Ray?” Murphy asked.
“Cowley’s not giving me the whole picture.”
“And you’re surprised?”
“Why would the East Germans agree to let Van Neikerk go? They’ve wanted him for years for the Cleff hit.” He went quiet and tapped a finger against his bottom lip. “Just once I’d like to know the whole story before jumping into an op!”
“If wishes were horses, mate.”
Doyle grunted and stood up to start pacing again. “I’m being kept in the dark, Murph, and I don’t like it. Feel like the proverbial sacrificial lamb.”
“You really think Cowley would go along with that?”
“Not sure he’s been given a choice, mate. Not sure any of us have a choice.”
He turned towards the window when they heard a car pull up. “Showtime.”
Murphy stood and grasped Doyle’s shoulder. Doyle nodded at the offered support.
“Go on up,” Murphy pushed him toward the stairs. “I’ll greet our guests and then you can make the grand entrance.”
Twenty minutes later, following Murphy into the kitchen of the safe house, Doyle, now wrapped in the mantle of his undercover persona, studied the four agents sitting around the table. Three were the perfect manifestation of the CIA stereotype: dark suits, white shirts, narrow ties. The fourth was a woman. None of them was the man he’d seen in the Minister’s office.
Doyle nodded at them in dismissive acknowledgement of their presence, pulled a cigarette out of his jacket pocket and turned to Murphy for a light.
Drawing in a deep lungful of smoke, he closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. Relaxing his shoulders, he opened his eyes and looking at Murphy he asked, “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends, man?”
“Sit down.” One of the men sitting at the table kicked out a chair.
“Friendly,” Doyle smirked at Murphy, making no move to sit.
“My name is Jones --”, the blond, well built agent introduced himself.
Doyle choked back a laugh. “And these are your friends, Mr Smith, Mr Johnson and – ah, Ms Williams, correct?” Doyle waggled his eyebrows.
“Close enough.” Jones looked Doyle over from head to toe, blatantly dismissing what he saw. “Look Piet – may I call you Piet? – we know all about you - your time with BOSS, the Muldergate scandal, your body count.”
“None of it is a secret, man.” Doyle smiled and finally sat, his attention directed at Williams. “Your here to make sure I’m kept safe, yes?” he asked her with a wink. “Keep me safe and warm at night?” He ran his tongue across his lower lip. She glared at him.
Doyle’s attention was drawn to the dark-haired agent with the wrestler’s build as Smith drew in a hissing breath. Doyle smiled at him. “Jealous, man? I’ll let you warm my bed too, if you like?” he leered. Smith was out of his chair and a step from Doyle when Jones waved him off.
“What is a secret, man, is your current location.” Jones spoke over Doyle’s attempts at provocation.
“The East Germans were very pleased to have found you. They are willing to forgive past – ah – shall we say - transgressions if you’ll take on this assignment.”
“Oh, so I have a choice?” Doyle returned his attention to Jones, sounding amused, blowing smoke rings up towards the ceiling.
Jones stared at him coldly. “No, actually you don’t. You will kill the target, we will get a name and you will get asylum in America.”
“And if your plans don’t work out?” A crack appeared in Doyle’s flippant demeanour; he crossly stubbed out the cigarette. His words were laced with anger.
“You will get an all expenses paid trip to East Berlin.” Williams’ smile didn’t reach her eyes. “I hear it’s lovely there this time of year.”
Bodie sighed and checked his watch again, glaring at the OAP in the phone box. He’d just finished his meeting with his Interpol contacts and he needed to call Cowley and give his report. She peered at him through the glass window separating them with a frown and gave no appearance of finishing up with her call anytime soon.
He’d tried his R/T, but was out of range. He leaned against the wall of the bookshop and sipped at his cold tea. It was odd not being with Doyle. It had been a long time since either of them worked a case alone. Alone. If they did work alone, it was usually his own doing.
The fiasco with Forrest - handled that one well, hadn’t he? Almost got Doyle killed because he wouldn’t let him in. Doyle had only wanted to help. What was it he’d told Doyle after visiting Claire in hospital?
…”Just stay clear of me. I'm going to get whoever did this, Ray. And neither you nor Cowley or anyone else is going to stop me, okay?” He walked away, but not one to give up, Doyle followed him out of the hospital still trying to convince Bodie not to go off by himself.
“Will you just stop a minute? Will you just stop and talk for one minute, Bodie! Listen! Have I got to stand and fight before I get through to you? You want to get yourself arrested for brawling in public, terrific! Nothing Cowley would like better than to see you safely out of the way till all this is over.”
“Look, I know what you're talking about, okay. Now, don't worry, I'll not embarrass anyone. Okay?”
And then he’d driven away. Taking a look back, he’d seen Doyle staring after him, anger and hurt clear on his face.
And when it was all over, when he found Doyle propped against that kitchen wall dirty and bloody there had been no recrimination on Doyle’s part. Only a muttered ‘What took you so long?’ before the ambulance came for him.
Bodie came back into Ray’s hospital room as the nurse was finishing her check on Doyle’s blood pressure.
“Oi, where’s me flowers?” Doyle asked him, setting the magazine he was reading down in his lap. “They really were for Claire, eh?” He pouted.
The nurse smiled as she gave Doyle his pills and then left the room. Bodie’s eyes followed her out. When his attention returned to Doyle, all the earlier hints of teasing in Doyle’s face were gone.
“Save it, Bodie. I don’t want to hear it. Unless you want to tell me what you thought you were doing going off on your own.”
“Nah, it’s over. No point in rehashing it, yeah?”
Doyle looked hurt. “I’m serious, Bodie.”
“I know you are.”
“Not used to asking for help.” Bodie looked down at his shoes. “Learned early on it was best to solve my own problems. Didn’t want to owe anyone anything.”
“You think I’d do that – hold it over your head.” He threw the magazine across the room. “A lot you think of me, mate.”
“Ray – you know I don’t think that.” Bodie bent over to pick up the magazine.
“Thought I should, too. Then you shut me out. Don’t know what to think now, do I?”
“What’s this really about, Doyle?” He dropped the magazine on the cupboard beside Doyle’s bed.
“You help me with my problems – Jill Haydon, Ann Seaford, the Prestons – but you close me out when you need help. Bit one sided, innit?”
“Need a keeper, you do, sunshine. You jump before you look, and I need to protect my own interests. I don’t want to have to spend the time to break in a new partner.”
“And you think I do? You think you don’t need the same kind of protection?”
Bodie shrugged. “Never really had anyone who seemed to care enough.”
Doyle’s eyes opened wide and he reached out to collect Bodie’s hand. He rubbed his thumb across Bodie’s knuckles. “You dumb crud.”
Bodie squeezed the hand holding his. “That’s the second time you’ve called me that. Not sure I like it.” He smiled tentatively.
Doyle smiled back. “If you will do stupid things...
And Doyle had never mentioned any of it again.
Yeah – looking back he hadn’t given much of himself to Doyle. But it was to protect the mad bastard, wasn’t it? To keep him safe. But the lie didn’t work anymore. The self-delusion had been pierced by the single word he’d uttered the first time, the only time, Doyle had said that he loved him. Don’t. The truth was, he shut Doyle out to protect himself.
“The hit will be in Newcastle, the day after tomorrow.” Bodie scanned the street from his position in the phone box. The target is Heinrich Gruber. According to Interpol he’s a low level attaché with unexplained access to some high level secrets. Interpol has been interested in him for several years now. They’re looking forward to getting their hands on him.”
“I’ll bet they are,” Cowley replied. “Your information confirms what Doyle told us.”
“Doyle? How did he get information out?”
“Anson followed after the Americans took Doyle from the safe-house. He followed them to their hotel. Miss Pettifer has assumed the role of a hotel maid. Doyle was able to leave the information for her.”
“Ruthie? Undercover? As a hotel maid?” Bodie couldn’t keep the amusement from his voice.
“Something funny, 3.7?”
“Er, no sir.”
“Good. What else?”
“Gruber is scheduled to take the ferry. Seems he has some pressing business in Amsterdam. He’ll be taken by Interpol before he leaves his hotel. They will put a man in the car disguised as Gruber so Van Neikerk can fulfill his part of the deal.”
“And after the assassination?”
“Van Neikerk is to make his way back to his hotel. I’m to meet up with the Americans there and arrangements will be made to get him out of the country.” Bodie’s voice was flat.
“We’ll have people at the hotel, Bodie,” Cowley answered the unspoken worry, “We’ll bring Doyle in.”
“Yes, sir.” Bodie hung up the phone and sighed, not at all reassured by Cowley’s words.
Doyle shivered as a strong chilling gust of wind slipped icy fingers under his collar and down the back of his neck. Tugging his wool scarf tighter he thought longingly of a hot cup of tea. He huddled closer to the brick chimney he was concealed behind and checked the time. Five more minutes and Gruber’s car should be coming by on the street below him. He made sure of the sites on the rifle for the fifth time. He hoped the message he’d left in his hotel room had got through to headquarters and that the ruse Cowley had set up would fool everyone. He checked his watch again. It was time.
Moving to the edge of the roof he stretched out on the bitumen, bracing the rifle against the crumbling brick border that outlined its perimeter. He adjusted the scope and rested his finger on the trigger. Nervous sweat ran down his back, soaking his shirt and adding to the chill. I shouldn’t be here he thought to himself. He wasn’t an executioner. He could, and had, killed to defend himself and his partners. But he’d long ago decided that there was a line that separated him from cold-blooded killers. It wasn’t in him to carry out a death sentence simply for someone else to gain retribution. It should be Murphy or Bodie here. They’d crossed the line without tearing themselves apart. He wasn’t sure he could do that. Bodie - words from the past disturbed his concentration, one of their first assignments - Can you take him? He felt the anger again that those words had brought. Damn Bodie.
The car came into view, focusing his attention back on the job. Gruber, or rather his double, was easily seen in the front passenger seat. Doyle could see the flak jacket through the scope. Taking a deep breath and holding it, he took aim and squeezed the trigger. He watched through the scope as the windscreen shattered and heard the squeal of tyres as the driver sped up trying to get to safety. He heard the crash of several other vehicles. The sounds of horns blowing and men shouting filled the street. Leaving the rifle where it rested, he quickly made his way down the six flights of stairs to the street.
He could see that the car holding his target had crashed into a lorry coming from the other direction, and there were several other cars involved. He shivered with relief. Cowley had come through and the old man’s plan had worked perfectly. He hadn’t been forced across the line. He recognised several CI5 agents as they got out of the wrecked cars and acted to stir things up. With the ensuing fire and chaos he had no trouble avoiding attention as he made his way towards the ship yards where he was supposed to be picked up and taken back to his hotel.
Bodie burrowed deeper into his overcoat as he searched the rooftops through the binoculars looking for Doyle. A cold wind was blowing in from the docks. “C’mon, sunshine. Let me see where you are.” He panned across the near-by buildings and saw a figure moving swiftly towards a fire escape. “Gotcha.” He allowed himself a small smile. He followed the fleeing form as Doyle made it down to the street and disappeared into the crowd. When he didn’t see anyone following, he relaxed.
Bodie put down the binoculars and picked up his R/T.
“3.7 to Alpha.”
“Go ahead 3.7.”
“Everything went as planned, sir. Doyle’s shot took out the windscreen. The follow-on crash was a thing of beauty, sir. Anson and the lads were out of their cars and shouting at each other before the wheels had stopped spinning. Had all eyes on them, and the ‘body’ was in the ambulance and off without sirens with no problem. Should have convinced anyone watching that the victim’s dead. Lots of blood on the front seat of the car, nice touch that.”
“And Doyle?” Cowley interrupted the exuberant report.
“Got clean away. Didn’t see anyone interested in him.”
“Good. Get yourself back to his hotel and make sure there are no problems with Van Neikerk’s release.”
“There won’t be, sir.”
Doyle had been waiting for what seemed hours, keeping watch for the CIA agent who was supposed to collect him and let him know what the next step in Van Neikerk’s future was to be. He didn’t like the last minute change in plans that had him at the docks instead of his hotel. But Jones had been insistent that this was the safer option; the hotel had been compromised, Jones had explained; the docks were closer to the assassination site and the ship had been his eventual destination anyway. Jones had hinted that the East Germans were planning a double cross and it would be safer to go straight to the ship. The wind felt colder here by the water and he was shivering. He should have just walked away after the shooting. But Cowley needed to know who was running this little show. He had to stick it out. A yawn escaped him. He was chilled, tired and on edge.
He cursed Cowley and the Minister for having him on this operation. He wondered if Bodie was around and if so where his partner was. Doyle was freezing his own arse off standing around outside a derelict dockside warehouse with no sign of relief. Waiting. He hated waiting.
He yawned again and rubbed at his tired, itchy eyes. He hoped his contact arrived soon. He tipped his head back and felt the sting of sleet on his cheeks. “Perfect,” he mumbled.
A cascade of ice sliding off a nearby roof startled him and he spun around towards the noise. A frission of unease tickled his instincts. A warning chill slid down his spine as the hair on the back of his neck rose. Too late. He felt a sharp pain on the back of his head as the night’s darkness claimed him.
Bodie swallowed his fear as he watched Jones carry Doyle’s unconscious form into the building. The orders from Jones to meet at this dockside warehouse instead of the hotel had set off Bodie's internal alarms and the fact that he hadn’t had the chance to notify Cowley of the change made him uneasy. He and Doyle were now on their own.
“Here, what’s this then?” he asked as Doyle was locked in a small side room that must have once been an office.
“Change in plans.” Jones informed him. “Mr Van Neikerk is going to get his trip to East Berlin after all.”
“What?” Bodie demanded. His hands curled into fists. “What’s happened?”
“Not a thing – the hit went off without a problem.”
“Then why -” He bit back on his anger. It would do Doyle no good if he blew his own cover now.
“Too many questions, Mr Bodie. I was told to bring Van Neikerk here and that he would be picked up by an East German agent sometime tomorrow.”
“Interpol was supposed to take Van Neikerk. My boss won’t like-”
“You could join him on his trip,” Jones was calm, but the threat in his voice was unmistakable.
Bodie’s hand went instinctively for the gun tucked under his jacket. Jones’ eyes narrowed. Bodie checked the move and raised his hands, palms facing forward, in capitulation. “Don’t think that’s a trip I’d enjoy.”
“So sit down and make yourself comfortable.” Jones' tension eased with Bodie’s retreat. “It could be a long night.”
Bodie settled into one of the chairs and leaned his head back against the wall. He closed his eyes. Thoughts spun through his mind as he concentrated on playing a non-threatening role. They hadn’t expected this development. But it made sense. What game was being played here? The CIA would be able to buy a lot of favour by giving Van Neikerk to the East Germans. But east-west relations weren’t that good. And the Americans were unlikely to give up an asset like Van Neikerk without getting something bigger in return. Bodie sat forward in the chair and rubbed his hand along the back of his neck.
And what about Interpol? What was their role? Would they help him? No, best not to count on them either. He’d have to get Doyle out on his own. He could still taste the fear that seeing Ray being carried in had raised. Did the mole have an accomplice? He looked speculatively at Jones who was pacing around the room. Bodie shook his head. He was over reacting, wasn’t he? Just concerned about his partner, his friend. Anyone would feel that way, right? He drifted into a light doze but it wasn’t restful. Images of other times Ray had been hurt and his own reactions forced him to acknowledge the truth. Doyle did matter. He mattered a great deal. Doyle had got under his skin, despite his own best efforts to keep a bit of distance between them.
He remembered Doyle leaning over him, ear to his chest after he’d been run down by Rahad’s car. “Didn’t know you cared,” he’d said flippantly – and had been surprised by the anger that had coloured his partner's cheeks at the comment. If he was honest with himself, he hadn’t wanted to know that Doyle cared that much. But what about now?
Cold. Damp. Doyle woke reluctantly as each sensation slowly penetrated the fog clouding his mind. The darkness swirled around him, the chill clinging to sore muscles and bones. He couldn’t stop shivering.
A thin shaft of light coming through a broken roof panel irritated his already sore eyes. He closed them against the hurt. With a deep breath he threw himself over onto his side. Nausea wracked him and he retched dryly. He’d been drugged. A bitter laugh eluded his control, the sound echoing off the wet walls. Think later. He needed to get out of here before anyone came to check on him. Danger crouched in the corners. But where was here? He struggled to his knees. His stomach lurched with the movement, but there was nothing left inside him to purge. His head ached. He forced himself to his feet. Limbs trembling, he leaned against the wall and fought to remain aware.
He studied his surroundings. He was locked in a small room, with narrow horizontal windows high above him near the decrepit roof. The room was empty of furnishing and anything else that might help him escape. His legs gave way and he slid down the wall to a sitting position. He was slowly drifting into sleep when he heard people talking.
“...picked up...East German...sometime tomorrow...”
He thought he recognised one of the voices --Bodie? But the pain in his head and the remnants of the drugs still running through him stole his awareness and pulled him down into unconsciousness.
The second time Doyle woke, it was to find himself blindfolded, half-naked and tied to a chair. He tested the ropes around his wrists and ankles but he was securely restrained. He muttered a curse. A door opened behind him. The disturbed air raised goose-bumps on his already chilled skin. Fear? He laughed at himself. But the blindfold made him feel vulnerable, which was crazy, really. Here he was, drugged and tied to a chair with no idea where he was. But a simple piece of cloth – part of his own shirt he’d guessed from the smell - tied across his eyes was threatening to undo him. These guys, whoever they really were, were very good.
He flinched when a warm hand rested on his shoulder. How had they got so close without him realising it?
“Easy. It’s me.” Bodie’s voice. So it had been Bodie he’d heard earlier. “We need to get you out of here.”
Doyle snorted. “Fat chance of that.”
Bodie removed the blindfold. Doyle sighed, his face heated with embarrassment at the relief. He opened his eyes to see Bodie smiling at him.
“I’m going to loosen the ropes on your hands. You’ll be able to work them free.”
“Just untie me, Bodie. Let me go. Let’s get out while we can.”
“Can’t do that, sunshine. We don’t have all the players yet. Cowley wants them all. Hold on a bit longer, yeah?”
“Easy for you.”
Bodie smiled again and ruffled Doyle’s curls. “Wait until after they bring your breakfast. There’s a meeting of the rats after that. We’ll know who they all are. You should be able to sneak out while their attention is elsewhere.”
He felt Bodie slip a knife into his trouser pocket. “It’s not much, but you should be able to cut yourself free. I left a shirt and trainers in the skip outside the door. Get as far away as quickly as you can.”
“What about you?”
“Got a job to finish, don’t I?”
“I don’t like this, Bodie.”
Bodie resettled the blindfold and cupped Doyle’s chin, his thumb brushed lightly across Doyle’s lower lip. “We’ll get you out of here first, and then worry about me.”
Doyle froze, stunned by the uncharacteristic affectionate gesture.
“What?” Bodie asked.
Doyle shook his head.
Bodie laughed softly. “Not the time, Ray. We’ll sort things out later, when this is done.”
Doyle listened to the familiar tread walk away from him. Bloody hell, Bodie. What game are you playing now?
Breakfast turned out to be a bowl of cold porridge. His guard, Smith, refused to free his hands; the loosened ropes remained his secret, so he had to settle for the humiliation of being fed. Smith forced the first spoonful deep into his throat.
“Bastard,” Doyle choked out.
Smith laughed. “Thought you liked things rough, Piet. Open up now.”
Doyle spat the food back at his gloating minder. Smith backhanded him. Blood and porridge ran down his chin.
Smith wiped at his shirt. “I really don’t care if you eat this or not.” He waved a third spoonful in Doyle’s direction. “Actually seems a waste when you stop and think about it. You may not be around long enough to gain any benefit from it.”
They stared at each other in silence.
“So, Piet, what’s it going to be? You want to eat?”
Doyle nodded with ill-temper.
“Good boy.” Smith patted his cheek.
He ate the rest of the meal, blazing eyes never leaving Smith.
After he’d finished, Smith wiped the oatmeal and blood off his lips with mocking gentleness and left the room.
Doyle began working at the ropes that Bodie had loosened. In minutes his hands were free. He ripped the blindfold from his eyes and hurled it to the floor. He pulled the knife from his pocket and cut the ropes binding his legs. He stood up stiffly, stretching cramped muscles and letting blood flow return to his hands and feet. He felt light-headed, so he sat back down with his head between his knees breathing deeply. Footsteps overhead reminded him of the need for haste and he got up and started for the door. It was unlocked.
“Over-confident bastards,” Doyle whispered to himself as he pushed it open cautiously.
The door was jerked out of his hands.
“And where do you think you’re going, hmm?” Smith asked.
“Need to use the bog, man,” he offered innocently.
A gun pressed into the back of his neck.
“Back inside.” He was shoved back into the room. He lost his balance and came down hard on his knees. The gun moved to his cheek.
“Well, Piet. Leaving us? Don’t like the hospitality?”
“Gaan fok jouself!” Doyle swore at him.
“We’ve had word from our contacts – they just want you out of the way. They no longer care if you’re dead or alive. I think you’ll be a lot less trouble if you’re dead.”
The gun left his cheek. He tried to get up. A blow to his face knocked him back down. He cried out in surprise and felt the gun press between his lips. He tasted copper and lead.
“Open up for me, now.” Smith’s words echoing their earlier breakfast encounter.
Doyle glared at him, eliciting a laugh.
“Tough guy until the end, eh, Piet?”
A blow to his stomach doubled him over, and the gun was shoved into his mouth, far enough to make him gag. He heard the gun cock and felt the click of the trigger on his tongue. His stomach clenched and bile rose in his throat. He closed his eyes.
Footsteps quickly approached; it was a rhythm he knew. Bodie. Again.
“Hold up, Smith,” Bodie shouted. “You can’t kill him.”
The pressure of the gun eased slightly. “And why not?”
“He’s not Van Neikerk.”
Doyle stiffened. What was Bodie playing at? The gun was removed from his mouth and placed against his throat.
“He’s what?” Smith demanded.
“He’s not Van Niekerk.”
Smith looked at Doyle. “Who the hell is he then? And how do you know?”
“Did a bit of research.” Doyle cringed at Bodie’s familiar know-it-all attitude. That wasn’t going to play well with Smith. “Have some friends from my mercenary days in Angola. I asked about old Piet, got a description.” He looked with contempt at Doyle’s crouched figure. “This isn’t him.”
“Who is he, then?” Smith repeated.
“Let’s find out.” Bodie roughly pulled Doyle to his feet. He grabbed a handful of sweaty curls and forced Doyle’s head back. He placed his gun against the pulse beat in Doyle’s neck. He twisted the hair in his hand, tugging hard enough to elicit tears. “Who are you, friend?”
“No friend of yours, man.” Doyle winced as the grip in his hair tightened. He knew Bodie was only trying to maintain his own cover. He tried to fight back his anger at the abuse.
Bodie ran the barrel of the gun gently up and down Doyle’s exposed throat. “Talk to me, now.” His voice was gentle, as if they were the only two in the room. “Who are you?”
“Fuck off.” Doyle managed through clenched teeth, sweat running down his forehead into his eyes.
“Not nice, friend.” Bodie slammed a fist into Doyle’s stomach. Doyle vomited the small breakfast he’d eaten earlier onto Bodie’s shoes. He looked up through wet lashes and smiled nastily.
Bodie slammed him against the wall, gun pressed back against Doyle’s throat. “Who. Are. You?”
“Violence isn’t the way to get anything from him, right, hard man?” Ms Williams had quietly entered the room and stepped between Bodie and Doyle. “He requires a bit of subtlety.” She ran a finger mockingly down Doyle’s throat, tracing the path that Bodie’s gun had just completed. “Tie him back in the chair.”
Bodie and Smith wrestled the uncooperative Doyle onto the wooden chair, securing his wrists behind him and his ankles to the chair legs.
“The blindfold too,” Williams instructed.
Doyle cursed inwardly. The room was silent. Doyle shuddered as a gust of warm air brushed past his right ear. Soft laughter followed. “Now hard man – we’ll take it as given that you’re not Mr Van Neikerk.” While the warm lips whispered the words “Tell us who you are” against his ear, a hand softly stroked his naked chest, fingers tangling in the soft hair surrounding his nipples. The caresses and soft breaths continued until they finally had their intended effect. He tried to move away from the invasive touch, willing himself not to react, but his defences were down. He groaned softly.
“I don’t think-” Bodie’s voice was quickly cut off by a hiss from Williams.
“You can catch more flies with honey, isn’t that right, hard man?” Her hands continued to play with the curls on Doyle’s chest. His nipples peaked and his stomach muscles quivered as her hands moved lower. He could feel his face getting hot. “Tell us who you are - who you’re working for.”
“Fuck off.” Doyle now regretted the chauvinistic attitude he’d taken with her when they’d first met. The revenge was bound to be unpleasant.
“Let’s not get nasty, now.” She slapped him lightly on the cheek and pinched a nipple. Blindfolded he couldn’t steel himself against her touches as her fingers traced over his lips, moved down his neck, across his chest and belly and settled finally on the waistband of his jeans. To his horror he felt himself stir. She laughed. “Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.” She undid the button and slid the zipper down; the sound was loud in the silent room. She let her hand rest on his inner thigh, fingers moving gently back and forth against the denim.
“You’re looking a bit uncomfortable, hard man. Tell me what I want to know and I’ll take care of it for you.” She leaned in and licked the edge of his ear.
Breathing hard, humiliated that he couldn’t control his body’s response to her teasing touch, he swallowed the words that he wanted to send her way and settled for, “Fuck off, bitch.”
“Getting repetitive, Piet. Maybe you need a bit more inspiration.” She laid a hand on his groin and squeezed.
Doyle jolted back in the chair, almost tipping himself over. “I’ll kill you for this,” he growled through clenched teeth. Her hand remained in place. He could feel himself getting harder. His balls ached. Her hand cupped him. To his further embarrassment a soft whimper escaped him. She laughed again and released him.
Taking in deep breaths, trying to calm himself and ignore the pain in his groin, he was startled when his chair was knocked over and he was on the floor. His blindfold had come off in the fall. She watched his eyes closely as she put her foot on his crotch and pushed down. “Who are you, hard man?” All her previous softness was gone.
“He’s Raymond Doyle. CI5.”
All attention was drawn to the man just entering the room.
“Jackson. We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow.” Williams removed her foot and delivered a kick to Doyle’s thigh, smiling at the prone man’s cry.
Doyle recognised Jackson as the American agent that he'd met in the Minister’s office.
“You bastard!” Doyle roared. Livid at the CIA agent’s betrayal of his identity he tried to break free from the toppled chair and get to the man.
The American ignored him. “We can’t kill him, yet. Mr Bodie was right about that. The plan continues. Doyle will be a much better bargaining tool than Van Neikerk was. Mr Bodie, pick him back up. And put a better guard on him.”
Bodie lifted the chair and settled Doyle back into it as Jackson, Williams and the rest of the men walked out of the room leaving Bodie alone with his partner. Silently he re-tied Doyle’s hands behind the chair and re-strapped his ankles to the chair’s legs. He leaned in, resting his hands on Doyle’s thighs. “Ray.” Doyle tipped his head down and away from Bodie.
“Nothing to be embarrassed about, mate,” Bodie ran a hand over Doyle’s hair. “Just nature taking its course.”
Doyle didn’t respond.
Bodie squeezed his thigh and felt wetness under his hand. “What the- ?” Bodie looked down and found blood on his hand and on Doyle’s jeans.
Doyle winced at the touch. “Must’ve torn the stitches in the scuffle with Smith. Nothing for it, now. We’ve got bigger problems, mate.”
Bodie nodded and lifted the blindfold from the floor. Doyle shuddered. Bodie used the cloth to wipe the blood and sweat from Doyle’s face. “That one’s gonna leave a nasty bruise,” he said, wiping at Doyle’s cheek. He dropped the rag back onto the floor. Keeping his voice low he asked, “Who’s he, then?”
“Never got his name when I met him, but he was there when the Minister briefed me on this op. We’re in a bad spot, Bodie.”
He squeezed Doyle’s shoulder as he moved away.
“Bodie.” It was a quiet, broken whisper.
Surprised, Bodie turned to face him.
“Don’t let them turn me over to the East Germans.” He could hear both the fear and the determination in his own voice and saw its effect on his partner. “Promise me, you’ll take me out yourself before that...”
Bodie stepped close and leaned in next to Doyle’s ear. “I’ll get you out of this, Ray.”
“Promise me, Bodie! Promise you won’t let them have me.” Doyle’s whisper was harsh; his gaze imploring.
Bodie looked at him, his expression bleak. “I promise.”
Doyle stiffened in the chair and Bodie turned around to see what Doyle was staring at.
Jackson stood in the doorway with a gun pointed at Bodie.
“Touching,” Jackson mocked.
“What -” Bodie scowled, aggression clear in his eyes.
“I did a little research of my own, Mr Bodie.” Jackson interrupted with a smile. “Or should I say 3.7.” He turned to Jones standing behind him with a gun in hand as well. “Secure them both in the ship’s hold. Two CI5 agents should catch us a nice reward.”
Awareness returned to Doyle slowly – one sense at a time. Darkness surrounded him – a heavy, weighted damp darkness. The air smelled wet and stale. He tasted the tang of copper and another metal on his tongue. He’d been drugged again. He was cold, naked and chained. He moved and warmth bloomed on his thigh. Blood. The wound in his leg had re-opened. Probably infected. It was too much to deal with. He was so tired. Beyond tired. Feverish and exhausted. He let it all go – let the pain, the loneliness, the betrayal, the fear – let it all go. He almost welcomed the pin prick on the inside of his elbow. Almost welcomed the sweet warm slide into oblivion that it promised. But there was something wrong about feeling like that. There was a voice in his head warning him against surrender. Bodie’s voice? But he couldn’t bring himself to question it, couldn’t bring himself to care. He let himself slip back into the warm nothingness.
A gentle thrumming brought him back to consciousness, the floor vibrating beneath him. They were moving, rocking nauseatingly back and forth in a slow motion. On the boat then. And he was still alive. Bodie had lied to him, had broken his promise. Hadn’t taken him out – was letting the East Germans have him. Anger and despair fought each other for attention. He’d have to find a way to end himself. He knew what awaited him at the conclusion of this trip.
Water dripped slowly, incessantly from above him, splashing onto already chilled skin. He shivered but couldn’t roll away from the source of the moisture slowly soaking him. Muscles stiff with chill and fever refused to move. Delirious, he thought he heard someone calling his name. He groaned and opened his eyes.
“Ray – need you to stay awake, old son.” Bodie’s voice called from what seemed miles away.
“Over here, mate.” Bodie called out letting Doyle know where he was.
“Got caught making you promises, didn’t I? Jackson wasn’t happy. He thought that since I was so concerned about you, I might like to spend some time with you.” Bodie let out a dark laugh and rattled the chains holding him. “That man must’ve read the “Boy’s Own” torture issue – no light, no watch... no clothes.”
Doyle ignored the dark attempt at humour as he finally recalled Jackson and the gun and Bodie being captured. “He knows who you are.”
“Yeah. Doesn’t matter.” Bodie dismissed the danger. “I think the assassination was set up to protect his own duplicity, you see – Gruber knew that our Mr Jackson is the mole and the bastard wanted Gruber silenced.”
Doyle heard the hesitation in Bodie’s voice. “What’s the rest of it?” he asked, already knowing.
“We’re on our way to East Berlin.” There was a brief pause before Bodie added, “He offered to let us go if I told him where Gruber’s being held.”
“We’re as good as dead.” Doyle took a deep breath. “Tell him to go fuck himself.”
Silence descended. He felt himself dropping back into unconsciousness.
“Doyle!” Bodie’s voice was sharp. “Stay with me, mate. Not good for you to drift off.”
“Why? We aren’t getting out of this one.” Feverish and defeated, he gave into the despair that was drowning him. “Think we’ve finally reached the end, mate.”
“Oi! Where’s that never give up Doyle attitude, eh?”
Doyle laughed shortly. “Good question, that. Must’ve lost it somewhere amongst all the triple think and betrayals. The old man would be really proud of us now.” Doyle pulled on the chains securing him to the wall. “Cowley’s finest, eh?” He sighed and was silent for awhile.
“Ray?” Bodie called to him.
“Thought Cowley was mad when he partnered us.” Doyle spoke quietly.
“We’ve done OK. Considering what I was given to work with.”
Doyle glared at him, knowing the look was wasted; it was far too dark for Bodie to see his face. He relented. “Yeah, we did. Took a while, though – to build that trust.”
“What are you on about?”
He knew Bodie was goading him, trying to keep him talking and awake.
“I’m talking trust,” Doyle pushed himself up into a straighter position and groaned at the tearing pain in his thigh. He swallowed hard and continued, “You remember the Turkel case - Dr Brook and Billy? I’d never been so angry.”
The scene played out in both their minds...
“So what was that in aid of, then?” Doyle demanded of his partner, face red with anger.
“What?” Bodie removed the white coat and handed it back to Dr Brook. He closed the switchblade and tucked it back in his pocket.
“Can you take him?” Doyle spat in a mocking, sing-song voice. “Can you bloody take him?”
Doyle grabbed Bodie by the shoulder and shook him. “What. Did. You. Mean. By. That?”
Bodie rolled his eyes and looked to the sky. “Was just tryin’ to keep things calm. I knew you could take him. Told you so, didn’t I?”
Doyle let him go and angrily spun away. He took a few steps and then turned around and marched back to Bodie. He grabbed the neck of Bodie’s jacket and pulled him close, their faces inches apart.
“Don’t you ever question my abilities in front of the squad,” he waved his free arm around, taking in the scene around them, “or in front of the police or the public. If you have a problem – if you think I can’t do the job – if you don’t trust me to watch your back – you just say so, 'partner' -- to me. Got it?”
He let go of the jacket, shoving Bodie backwards. Bodie stumbled into the parked car they’d hidden behind. Doyle stalked off, ignoring the looks thrown his way by the CI5 agents cleaning up after the operation.
He winced at the memory. “Made a real prat of meself.”
“With cause, and I did apologise.” Bodie chuckled. “The lads in the rest room looked at us both funny for a few days afterwards.”
Silence settled around them again.
“We did get it all straightened out, though,” Bodie said matter-of-factly. “Cowley’s best, we are.”
Doyle snorted as visions of him with his jeans around his ankles and his shirt pushed up under his arms as he was pressed against the back of his front door while Bodie’s tongue painted circles around his nipples flashed before his eyes. “Don’t know that straight is the word to use, petal.” They could both hear the smile in his voice.
“But, yeah, we worked it out.”
Neither man spoke for a few minutes, both lost in their own thoughts.
“Do you think Cowley knows about us?” Doyle broke the silence.
“Probably knew even before we did.”
“And yet, despite the non-fraternisation rule, he let us go on?”
“Tried to stop us.”
There was a long heavy silence. “Marikka.”
“And Ann Holly.”
“Almost cost him the partnership with those two.”
“He didn’t want us to get involved.”
“Don’t worry. You didn’t.”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?" Bodie asked, affronted. "I walked away from a sure thing with two beautiful girls to help you with Ann Seaford. I gave up my fishing weekend to help you and that bitch investigate Haydon’s innocence. And I slept in my cold car instead of with the voluptuous Veronica to protect your sorry arse from that nutter Preston and his wife. Don’t tell me I’m not involved.”
Doyle felt a prick of guilt at the unfairness of his accusation. He quickly changed the subject. “So he moved on to Plan B.”
“Who?” Bodie lost the thread of the conversation. Doyle’s mind moved too fast.
Bodie was silent for a few minutes. “Susan Grant.”
Doyle nodded and said, “Esther.”
“The old bastard knows our weaknesses pretty well, doesn’t he?”
Doyle chuckled. “Yeah, leggy blonds and foreign coppers.”
“He got it wrong though, didn’t he?” Bodie’s voice was soft, almost gentle.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re no leggy blonde and I’m no foreign copper.”
Doyle laughed, the low, dirty cackle echoing through the open space. “Very observant, my son. We’ll make a detective of you yet.”
Startled awake by the loud groan of metal hinges, they watched warily as the door to their prison was unlocked and slowly opened. Williams slipped quickly through the narrow gap and pushed the door closed again. She walked towards Doyle, hands held out to show she meant no harm. There was a battered hold-all in one hand and a hypodermic needle in the other. Doyle pushed himself back tighter against the wall as Williams approached and set down the bag.
“Looking for round two? Doyle asked nastily.
“Easy.” Williams whispered. “I’m going to release you.” She looked over at Bodie. “Both of you.”
Doyle watched, sceptical. “You’ll have to forgive my lack of enthusiasm.” His eyes narrowed and his voice was cold.
Williams met the challenging gaze. “I know you have no reason to trust me.”
Doyle snorted. She ignored the interruption.
“Jackson has informed us of a change in plans. He’s not planning on giving you over to the East Germans.”
“How magnanimous of him.”
Bodie winced at Doyle’s hostility. While he understood it, it wasn’t going to help them now.
Williams glared at Doyle this time but continued, “He’s planning on killing you both right here, tonight. That’s not on – I’m not a murderer.”
“Oh. You’re not a murderer. But beating and torture are acceptable. Drugs and fists and seduction don’t cross the line, yeah? But murder? A whole other story, that.” Doyle looked up at Williams, disgust clear on his face, chin jutting forward, voice cold and clear. “Nice to have principles.”
Bodie closed his eyes and wondered – would it kill Doyle to soft-pedal it once in a while? He admired Doyle’s toughness but wondered if the man didn’t have a death wish.
Williams scowled and repeated, “I’m going to free you. I’ve been in touch with your Mr Cowley. He’s going to send a squad to meet you in the square at the end of the docks. You’ll have to make your own way there.”
“What, no escort service?” Doyle scoffed belligerently.
Williams turned her attention to Bodie, ignoring the sarcasm. “I’ll keep Jackson’s attention diverted long enough for you to get off the ship. Interpol is sending a team to deal with him. They’re still about 30 minutes away.”
Bodie nodded his understanding. Williams leaned over and unchained him. “There are clothes and shoes in the bag.”
“What’s the needle for?”
“For your friend.” Williams turned back to Doyle. “It’s a painkiller, for your leg. I’ve also got some pills.” She shrugged at the poisonous look Doyle cast at her. “Your choice. But it will be easier to move if you’re not hurting.”
“Take it, Ray.” Bodie stood and stretched, releasing cramped muscles. “If she wanted us dead, she’d have come in here with guns blazing. Or not come in at all and left us for Jackson.”
Doyle shot him a dirty look and held his hand out for the pills. He waved off the shot. “Had enough of your bloody needles,” he muttered and his glare dared Bodie to comment.
Bodie remained silent and moved to the hold-all. He dressed quickly while Williams unchained Doyle. Bodie brought Doyle tracksuit bottoms and a T-shirt.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get coats. It shouldn’t take long to get to your rendezvous.”
“Your concern is heart warming.” Doyle tried to stand.
“Shut it, Doyle,” Bodie snapped, his patience finally gone. To Williams he said, “We’ll manage.”
She reached under her coat and handed Bodie her gun. “Only the one clip. I couldn’t get more.”
Bodie took the weapon and nodded his thanks. He helped Doyle to his feet and into the clothes. The fever hot skin that brushed against his hands worried him, but the closed look on Doyle’s face made him keep the concern to himself.
“Wait in here. Give me a few minutes to distract Jackson and then go. Out this door -”
“So we can walk into a wall of gunfire as soon as we open it?” Doyle challenged.
Williams paid him no attention. “The stairs on the left will take you top-side. Once you’re off the ship, head to the right. And run like hell.”
They listened as the sound of her footsteps slowly faded away. They waited until the echo of a door closing rolled thunderously down the metal-walled corridor of the ship.
“Ready?” Bodie whispered.
Doyle pointed at the door and they slipped out of the hold and silently crept towards the staircase that would take them top-side. They froze at the foot of the stairs as voices filtered down to them from the floor above. There was no cover – if someone came down the stairs they’d be completely exposed. Bodie tightened his grip on the weapon Williams had provided. Doyle’s hand gripped Bodie’s shoulder, letting Bodie know he was aware of their precarious position. The hand offered more than the assurance of back-up. It cemented the feelings they’d shared in the hold – they were partners and had each other’s backs despite whatever had come between them in their personal lives.
The footfalls above moved closer to the stairs. They watched anxiously as one booted foot stepped on the first rise.
“Smith!” William’s sharp voice caused them both to flinch.
Smith’s foot left the stair and they heard him walk away. Releasing the breath he’d been holding for what seemed hours, Bodie turned to Doyle and rolled his eyes.
“Too close. Let’s move.”
They got off the ship without any further problems. The air was cold and laced with sleet. Doyle began to shiver immediately. Bodie grabbed his arm and they started running. Doyle shook him off with a glare. Bodie shrugged and they moved out again, headed away from the ship. A surprised shout from behind them increased their speed.
They took a corner fast and Doyle’s leg gave way on the sleet-slick pavement. He caught himself against a pile of old wooden pallets, cutting his hands on their rough surface with the effort of remaining on his feet.
Hearing the slide of trainered feet, Bodie came back for Doyle and helped to steady him. “All right?”
Doyle scowled at him and started running again, his limp more pronounced. With an exasperated sigh Bodie followed. They dodged around loose crates, tarps and cargo, thankful for the cover. Heavy booted footsteps followed on their heels. So far no one was shooting at them; the debris in their path keeping their pursuers from getting a clean shot. The rendezvous spot was just ahead.
Bodie stopped behind a stack of crates, sucking air into tired lungs, looking around the square. “I don’t know where the seventh cavalry is but Williams said they’d pick us up here.” He leaned over, hands on his thighs, breathing deeply.
Doyle felt himself being studied, his fitness assessed.
“You can’t keep up this pace, mate.” Bodie straightened up. “I’ll lead them away. You wait here for Cowley.”
“No.” Doyle raised a hand and pushed against Bodie’s shoulder, knocking him back a few steps. “Think again, Bodie. I’m not lettin’ you go and sacrifice yourself for me. You think I don’t know what you’re plannin’?”
“No, Bodie. Who the fuck decided that my life is more important than yours? We’re in this together, you berk.” Doyle pushed him again. “Partners. Remember? We watch each other’s backs.” Another shove. Bodie couldn’t suppress his smile.
“All right, Ray. All right.” He held up his hands in surrender to ward off further abuse. Doyle was having none of it.
“Think it’s funny do you? You don’t get to decide my fate, Bodie, you stupid, stubborn arsehole.” Doyle raised a fist but Bodie caught it before it connected with his jaw.
“Easy, Ray. Easy.” Bodie released Doyle’s hand and grabbed him by the shoulders. He shook him gently. “We go together. I get it.”
“’bout time, too.” Doyle shook him off and turned away trying to hide the colour he could feel rising in his cheeks. “Where the hell is our backup?”
A bullet ricocheted off the brick wall of the warehouse just behind them scattering shards of masonry. They flung themselves down and took cover behind a battered skip. Bodie took the gun from his pocket and released the safety. He put the gun in Doyle’s hand, wrapping the bloody, shivering fingers around the handle. “Look, we need a diversion and you can’t run. I’m going to head for the warehouse to draw their fire. When they reveal themselves, you shoot.” He looked at the fever-bright eyes. “Understand?”
Doyle looked annoyed. “Course I do.”
Bodie smiled and ruffled Doyle’s hair. “Can you take ‘em?”
But Bodie was off and running. Doyle watched as two shadows moved out of a doorway across the way. Jackson and Jones. Bodie knocked over a trash bin, creating a loud crash and shouted Doyle’s name to further draw their pursuers out. Shots followed his footsteps and he heard Doyle’s return fire. There was one surprised grunt of pain and then nothing. Bodie was ready to sprint further away when a Scottish accent split the silence.
“Jackson! Stand down! You are surrounded, man. Give it up!”
More gunfire followed. Bodie heard someone approach. Warily he looked up. “Bodie, it’s Anson. C’mon, mate. Let’s get you clear.”
“Doyle?” Bodie asked.
“Murph’s collected him. There’s an ambulance waiting.”
“You set me up.” Doyle didn’t meet the eyes of the man sitting beside his hospital bed, concentrating instead on the sheet twisted between his fingers.
“Aye, lad, I did.” There was no apology in Cowley’s voice.
“You knew Jackson was the mole and that he would either sell me to the East Germans or kill me.”
“Yes, Doyle, I knew. But I did not know until you were well into the mission. There was no way to reach you without compromising your cover.”
Doyle ignored the explanation. “But you wouldn’t have let him sell me, would you? Too many secrets up here,” he angrily tapped his head. “So you had Williams ready to off me.”
“You seem to have had her ready to kill you without my orders.”
Doyle’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Yeah. I did at that.”
“Ach, Doyle, it wasn’t what it all seemed. Yes, we knew that Jackson was the mole. But we had no solid evidence to bring him in and we did know he wasn’t operating alone. We needed to find his accomplice.” Cowley took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Mr Jones real name turns out to be Wilhelm Mueller, an undercover operative for the East Germans. He infiltrated the CIA ten years ago and eventually teamed up with Jackson. Williams had approached her boss in Washington when Jackson concocted the plan to do away with Gruber. She’s been after proof of Jackson’s treason for over a year. This seemed the perfect opportunity to finally bring them both down.”
“It was a set-up all right,” Doyle interrupted, angry eyes pinning Cowley in place. “With me as the monkey on the string!”
“Williams knew who you really were and I sent Bodie in as additional protection. You were safe enough.”
Doyle closed his eyes. His hand moved from the bandage on his thigh to the bridge of his nose. “So that’s it then.” His voice was low and sullen. “Jackson and Jones go to jail, Gruber keeps his life, Williams gets an accommodation, you get London smelling a bit sweeter of lavender and roses and I get a pat on the head and a few days leave to heal.” He lifted his eyes to Cowley’s once more. “Life goes on.”
“Yes, 4.5 it does.” He rose from the chair. “Come on. They’re letting you out. I’m to take you to Whitehall.”
Doyle stood rigidly in front of the Minister’s desk, Bodie one step behind him. Anyone watching couldn’t help but see that this was not easy for Doyle. Here was a man of motion trapped in unnatural stillness by betrayal. Tension held his shoulders tight, his back straight and added lines to a tired face. Red-rimmed eyes revealed that all his emotions were not tightly under control. He’d been betrayed by these three men. One he’d given his trust, one his loyalty and one, worse than all the others; one had been given his heart. And Bodie knew from his own experience that once trust was questioned, it wasn’t easily regained. Once a heart was broken, it wasn’t easily healed. No matter how hard you worked at it, no matter how much blood you shed, or how many tears you cried, or how many promises you made, the questions were always there lurking beneath the surface. He had his work cut out for him. And he’d finally realised, somewhere in the flight from Jackson, that Doyle was worth the try. Somehow he would repair the damage done and bring a smile back to those haunted eyes. Somehow.
The Minister spoke. “A very successful ending to this affair, gentlemen. Jackson and Jones have been given over to the care of Interpol and their contacts are being rounded up as we speak. We had an inkling that Jackson was the mole and we needed your help to gather enough evidence to legally detain him and to find his accomplice. There were political ramifications that required limiting the dissemination of certain pieces of information. That made your task even more difficult. While I knew the possible danger that that put you men in, the greater good had to come first.” He paused and stepped out from behind his desk.
“Mr Doyle,” the Minister held out his hand. “A job well done.”
Doyle stared at the hand extended towards him and for a moment Bodie was afraid he’d not take it. Then with a long exhaled breath Doyle extended his own hand. “Thank you, sir.”
“I regret that I was unable to give you all the details at the start of the operation and that you were injured.”
Doyle shrugged. “All part of the job, sir. Should be used to that by now, yeah?”
Everyone in the room ignored the slight hint of sarcasm in the tired voice.
“Yes, well,” the Minister turned to Cowley. “You should be proud of these men, George.”
“Aye, sir. That I am.”
“Good. I’ll need your written report, George, as quickly as possible.” He moved to open his office door and turned to face them once again. “If there is nothing else?”
“No, sir,” Cowley steered his men to the door. “We’ll be on our way.”
After leaving the Minister’s office, Cowley treated them both to a drink at the Red Lion. Doyle was quiet. It was out of character for Doyle to remain silent when he felt he’d been hung out to dry. Yeah, too quiet, Bodie thought. Cowley must have sensed it as well. He rose and ordered another round for his two agents. He picked his coat up off the chair with one hand and put the other one on Doyle’s shoulder. “A bad thing all around, Doyle. But you handled it well. Both of you.” He looked at Bodie. “Finish your drinks, 3.7 and then take him home. I’ll see you both in two days.” He gave Doyle’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Remember lad, life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us. “
Doyle closed his eyes and nodded. “Yes, sir. Thank you.”
“Illegitimi non carborundum,” Bodie whispered in his partner’s ear.
Doyle’s lips twitched. He punched Bodie’s shoulder. “Berk.”
The drive to Doyle’s was made in silence. Bodie felt an uncertainty from Doyle. It hurt. Even when they’d first been partnered there hadn’t been this uncomfortableness between them. They hadn’t trusted each other, but it had been a distrust born of the unknown and rooted in self-preservation. They were both careful men. This was different. This awkwardness came from knowing each other too well. Regret, betrayal, shared memories and a now uncertain future, were all woven together and wrapped like chains around them. Bindings too tightly wound to allow escape, but seemingly too fragile to hold them together.
Bodie pulled the car into a parking space in front of Ray’s flat and left the motor running. Doyle didn’t move when the car stopped. He sat hunched against the passenger door listening to the sleet tapping at the car windows as it coated the world in a shiny layer of glass. The silence stretched, neither man willing to break it. Despite the car heater kicking out warm air, Bodie could see Doyle shivering.
Bodie smiled at his stubborn partner. “All right, mate. Let’s get you where it’s warm, eh? Get a hot coffee in you or maybe something a bit stronger?”
“You coming up, then?” To Bodie’s dismay Doyle sounded a bit surprised.
“You invitin’ me?”
Doyle’s lips twitched. “Yeah, I’m inviting you.”
“Then I’m coming.” Bodie’s tone was no longer playful.
Doyle raised a questioning eyebrow. “Assuming a lot there, aren’t you sunshine?”
The drinks Cowley had provided had done little to release the adrenaline that had been building all night. The tumult of emotions brought on by the last day’s activities – pain, fear, humiliation and helplessness – would take more than a coffee to tame. Doyle knew, as knackered as they both were, they wouldn’t be able to sleep. He wasn’t surprised when he was forced against the back of the door of his flat as soon as it was closed. Blue eyes pinned him in place as securely as the hand around his throat. He shook his head, denying his partner.
A low menacing voice told him “You want this. We both do.” And he did. But not this way. This had to mean more. Hard and fast wasn’t what he needed now. And Bodie in a mood like this was dangerous. He knew how to defuse him. He sucked in a deep breath.
“What about me coffee?” He shivered a little, not at all penitent about playing to Bodie’s protective bent.
The ice shattered; the set jaw relaxed; lips softened.
“I wouldn’t hurt you.” The hand around his throat moved and fingers gently caressed a cheek.
“You would. You have.”
He watched the walls come up.
“I’ve done it, too. It’s going to happen. It’s life, Bodie.”
“Shit happens?” The tone was mocking, Bodie’s face turned away.
Doyle caught the stubborn chin and turned it back to face himself. “Yeah, it does.” He placed a soft kiss on the stubborn mouth and felt Bodie’s lips open beneath his. His tongue traced the sharp edges of Bodie’s teeth.
“Take me to bed, Bodie.”
Bodie nodded, took his hand and led them into the bedroom. Standing next to the bed, Bodie reverently removed Doyle’s clothes. Strong fingers traced lightly over Doyle’s shoulders, across his collar bones, and down to tangle in the curls on his chest. A warm tongue tickled the shell of his ear, slid wetly down his throat, painted circles around his nipples, rimmed his navel and finally licked the growing arousal between his legs from root to tip. He tried, unsuccessfully, to swallow a whimper. Bodie laughed warmly and pushed him gently down on to the sheets. Over-bright eyes devoured him and a husky voice whispered, “Let’s be having you, then.” And it was everything he wanted. A slow, soft, sweet ride to completion. In the end, bowing to his partner’s need, he let Bodie have control. He let Bodie enter him, savouring the heat of him, the restrained power of him, and the care that Bodie took to make sure he wasn’t left behind.
In the aftermath, in the sweaty tangle of legs and bedding, they smiled at each other. Doyle tapped the end of Bodie’s nose.
“Next time it’s my turn.” His fingers left Bodie’s face and travelled the length of him.
“Yeah?” Bodie challenged, trembling at the touch.
“Yeah. We’re equals, mate. Remember that. There’s no rank in CI5.”
“This is outside CI5’s jurisdiction, Doyle.”
“Nothing is outside our jurisdiction!” Bodie laughed at his bungled attempt at a Scottish brogue and he joined in. The laughter bubbled up inside him, and he felt that this, this just might work out after all. Green eyes met blue and the laughter gentled and finally faded.
They stared intently at each other.
Leaning up on his elbow, Bodie gently traced the silver tracks of scar tissue on Doyle’s chest. Feeling his partner withdrawing again, Doyle stilled the fingers with his own. He pressed Bodie’s hand flat against his chest so Bodie could feel his heart beat. He lifted his eyes to Bodie’s and spoke softly. “We all have ‘em, you know.”
“What?” Bodie’s voice was rough.
“Scars. Some we can see.” He ran his finger along the scar near Bodie’s shoulder blade. “The worst ones are the ones we keep hidden.” He felt Bodie tense above him. He cupped Bodie’s cheek in his hand. “Nothing to be ashamed of, Bodie. Don’t have to be afraid of them either. My Gran told me that a scar is a lesson learned. A painful lesson that you survived.”
“What is it you want from me, Ray?” Bodie whispered hoarsely.
“All of you.” Doyle smiled. “And I want you to be here every morning, from now on.”
“Never asking for much, are you?” Bodie pulled him close and held him tightly; his embrace saying the words he couldn’t voice. And Doyle heard them all.
“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
― Maya Angelou