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Half Past The Point Of No Return

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Excerpt from Pink's "Glitter In The Air"

(Full lyrics for the song can be found here)

 

Have you ever thrown a fistful of glitter in the air?

Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, "I just don't care"?

It's only half past the point of no return

The tip of the iceberg, the sun before the burn

The thunder before the lightning and the breath before the phrase

Have you ever felt this way?

 

 
  

 

 

1983

 

Bodie looked at his prisoner, his eyes glittering.

‘Very nice,’ he drawled, walking slowly around the room to get a better view of the man spread-eagled and handcuffed to the table. There was no response except a defiant glare.

‘Oh, yeah,’ Bodie continued, ‘there’s not much you can tell me but I might as well get something for my trouble. You’ve cost me a lot of time and energy today.’

He drew a finger delicately across the man’s back. ‘Nice, wide shoulders.’ The finger travelled slowly down, tracing the spine and stopping at the belt around the narrow waist. ‘Nice arse, too. In fact, lovely arse.’

Carefully, he reached around the front and slowly undid the man’s belt and jeans. ‘All tucked in, all buttoned up. Keeping it safe for someone, are we?’ He continued his sensual exploration of the tense body stretched out over the table, running both hands over the firm buttocks and standing close enough for the other man to feel the heat of his body. With a sharp move, he grabbed the man’s jeans and yanked them down his legs. There was a stifled cry of distress or discomfort. Bodie didn’t care which it was.

‘Tut, tut – no underwear? Anyone might think you were expecting this.’ Eyes glowered at him from above the rag tied round the mouth and the man flung his weight against the shackles pinning him in place.

With a feral grin on his face, Bodie smothered the struggles with the weight of his body, unzipping his flies with one hand as he twisted his other hand in his prisoner’s hair. ‘Stop struggling’, he chided. ‘The cuffs will mark your wrists, and how are you gonna explain that later, hmm?’

The muffled noises the man was making went straight to Bodie’s cock.

‘Oh, yeah, go on, sunshine, shout. Tell me you want it.’

The noises stopped, and the movement stilled.

‘Ah, come on. Don’t be shy. This is the interrogation suite. They’re used to hearing shouts and screams down here, so don’t think anyone’s going to come to your rescue.’

He leaned closer, murmuring in the man’s ear, ‘No-one knows we’re here.’ Bodie let go of the man’s hair and fumbled in his pocket for the gun oil he’d appropriated from the armoury earlier. He backed off and dropped his trousers, freeing his cock from the confines of his underwear. Swiftly anointing himself, he slicked up the man’s arse and slid a finger inside. There was a whimper from his victim.

‘More, eh? Oh, I’ll give you more. Nice to know you’re eager.’ Two fingers working carefully, more gun oil, three fingers, then at last he was able to press his aching cock to the arse spread before him and push inside. There was a groan, and the body under him heaved up and back.

‘All right, we’ll get there.’ Shuddering, Bodie withdrew and thrust again, smoothing his hands gently over the broad shoulders.

‘All right?’ There was a muffled noise of assent from beneath him. He reached round to find the other man’s cock, hard and leaking, and took it in an oily hand as he thrust and thrust again. Bodie was fucking strongly, unstoppably now, and the man was pushing back to meet him. The table was rocking and creaking beneath their combined weight but Bodie didn’t have a thought to spare for anything but how good this felt, how the pressure was building in his balls and how his cock was swelling impossibly further, until suddenly the man beneath him climaxed with a guttural cry. His orgasm took Bodie over the edge too, and he came hard, pumping into Doyle with no thought for where they were or his partner’s discomfort, pinned beneath his weight on a cold, unyielding surface.

Several moments later, he realised that Doyle was struggling to get out from underneath him and that the muffled imprecations in his ear were probably instructions to set his partner free. He disengaged, heart still thumping hard, and looked at Doyle with a grin.

‘Bloody hell, that was good!’

He removed the gag and fished in his pocket for the key to the handcuffs, releasing his partner.

‘You mad bastard – what if someone had come in?’ Doyle still looked slightly dazed, eyes half shut and cheekbones flushed, Bodie noted with some satisfaction.

‘Ah, hell, Ray, what’s life without a little risk? Anyway, it was great, wasn’t it?’ He was rewarded with a chip-toothed grin.

Bodie undid the cuffs and adjusted his trousers. He pulled out a neatly-folded handkerchief from his top pocket and offered it to his partner with a flourish. Doyle took it with a wry grimace and unselfconsciously mopped himself up.

‘’Ere you go.’

Bodie eyed the soiled scrap of linen his partner was trying to give him with a lack of enthusiasm.

‘Er, no thanks, mate. You can keep that.’ Doyle shrugged and put the rag into his pocket.

‘You play a good jailer, Bodie. Must admit, you had me going.’

‘Ah, well, your turn next, sunshine – see what you can come up with to match that, eh?’

Doyle glared at him, rubbing his wrists to restore the circulation. ‘Well I’ll try to find something that won’t leave you covered with welts, shall I? What am I going to say if someone spots these? Didn’t think of that, did you?’

‘I did tell you not to struggle. Not my fault if you were entering into the spirit of the thing.’

Doyle shrugged. ‘Ah, well. We’re always covered in marks – nothing to say they’re not from the job.’ He looked round, checking that nothing was out of place. ‘Come on then, let’s get back upstairs before we’re missed.’ He sniffed the air, chuckling. ‘Let’s hope no one uses this room for a bit – it whiffs in here!’

Bodie held the door for him courteously. ‘After you, my son.’

Doyle preceded him out of the room, but made an abortive snatch at the handcuffs, still dangling from Bodie’s back pocket.

‘And I shall want those back!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Macklin had taken advantage of a quiet period and called the A-squad together for a joint exercise somewhere in Peckham.

‘Where does he find all these sodding warehouses?’

‘In bloody Peckham at that!’

‘Edge of the known universe, mate!’

The teams were fooling around but no one was relaxing: it didn’t do to relax around Macklin, as they all knew to their cost. Then he arrived.

‘Ready, boys and girls?’ He smiled, thin and sharp, and the work started. He had them working in teams, a sort of extreme hide-and-seek with deadly consequences if caught. Buddleia and thistle had colonised the waste ground, making it good for cover but hard to see where you were putting your feet. McCabe, clumsy sod that he was, fell off a small ledge and sprained an ankle. Pennington started sneezing after rolling through a patch of something flowery. Bodie copped a feel of Doyle’s backside and was nearly caught by Murphy, unexpectedly where he shouldn’t have been. It was not a good training exercise and Macklin was unimpressed.

No one was pleased when it was interrupted by a real call-out.

‘Might have bloody known,’ groused Anson. ‘First the bastard breaks half of us and knackers the rest, and then we get to go and play with the real bad guys.’

‘Think of it as being nicely warmed up,’ said Macklin, ghosting up behind him and speaking in his ear, causing Anson to jump and glower at the instructor.

‘How the fuck does he do that? He’s six foot two and built like a brick shit house – he shouldn’t be able to move without you hearing him!’ grumbled Anson once the instructor had moved on and his heart rate had slowed down to normal again.

‘Could always put a bell round his neck,’ suggested Jax absently, concentrating more on Cowley’s approach.

‘It’s not a bell I’d put round his bloody neck, let me tell you!’

‘Shut up – the Old Man’s here.’

Unmollified, Anson fell into line with the rest. Cowley surveyed the ragged set of agents with a jaundiced eye.

‘I hope you’re all fit. This new operation is connected to that tip-off we had about the drugs deals that came to nothing a couple of months back. We’ve had another hint about a deal going down over in Camden but,’ he scowled impartially around his scattered team, ‘there’s something else going on at a bank in Soho. So split up and check them both out. I don’t like this – we’re being sent around the houses here. There’s something bigger happening and I want to know what it is. There’s a rumour it’s being managed from inside a jail, so if you find anything out about that, let me know. Well, don’t just stand there – on your bikes!’

They split up: Bodie, Doyle, Jax and Anson to the Soho bank and Liz, Pennington, Turner and Lucas to the suspected drugs deal. The hapless McCabe was sent back to the infirmary with a sour-faced Macklin as escort. Susan and Murphy paired up to see if they could track down the source of the tip-offs; Ruth and Benny volunteered to go back to HQ and look for anything in the files that might give them a lead. Cowley nodded in satisfaction.

Several hours later he was not as satisfied. Although his agents had foiled the bank raid, two would-be bank robbers were dead, several members of the public were injured and shocked, there was a large hole in the side of a building and half his team were chasing after the remaining bank robbers.

Breathless, Doyle slammed to a halt at the end of the alley-way, cursing as the getaway car screeched away from the curb.

‘Lost ‘em!’ he said as Bodie dropped down from the top of the wall behind him.

‘Ah, bugger. The Old Man’s not going to be pleased about that.’

They jogged back to the yard where Cowley was supervising the clean-up.

‘Messy.’ Doyle stepped around the body of one of the bank robbers and over a torn-off hand.

‘Bodie! Doyle!’

‘Coming, sir!’

‘Well? Did you miss them?’

‘Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.’

‘They were our only leads! How d’you think we’re going to get anything from this mess?’

‘Sorry, sir.’

‘Did you find anything? Did they leave anything?’

‘No sir. They didn’t get anything. Left empty-handed, as it were.’

Doyle turned away, trying manfully to suppress a smirk but waiting for the bellow from Cowley.

Bodie!’

Yep, there it was, right on cue. Ah, life was good, no doubt about it. 

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Half of his mind occupied in looking for his way up the maze of fire escapes, all of his body and muscles desperate for oxygen, a small, detached part of Bodie’s brain was still able to admire his partner’s grace as he sprang up the scaffolding in pursuit of Smail. Billy Smail was their one link so far between the whispers they’d been chasing for the last two weeks and the abortive bank raid, and Cowley wanted him unharmed and able to talk. He’d led them a merry dance across East London to this building site where he was working as a brickie, having been taken on after his release from HMP Wandsworth, and rather than going to ground he was making for the heights. Doyle was following and Bodie was aiming to cut off his escape down the other side of the roof. They were converging on Smail at the corner, and he had no way out. Bodie was peripherally aware that Murphy was down on the ground but his attention, as always, was focused on Doyle. Smail pulled up as he saw Bodie step around the corner and glanced from one to the other with a look of panic.

‘You can’t take me in! I daren’t! He’ll kill me!’

‘Who’ll kill you? Come on, Billy, who’s setting this up?’

‘Come on, Billy, tell us – you know we’ll look after you.’ Doyle’s tone was persuasive and easy-going.

‘You can’t! He’s spent years planning his revenge on you! I’m not going back inside with him – no way! He’ll kill me!’ His voice was rising higher and higher with his panic and his eyes were wide as he shook his head violently, as if seeing in his mind’s eye the flames of hell already reaching out for his soul.

Impatient, Bodie stepped forward.

‘Tell us who it is, man—‘

‘No!’ Smail shrieked, and twisted away from him, forgetting for one fatal moment where he was standing. He staggered and fell. His ‘No!’ was echoed as Doyle snatched at him but overbalanced himself, tripping on a loose plank at the edge of the roof. Bodie lunged forward and grabbed at his sleeve and jacket, and with a herculean effort swung Doyle back onto safer ground, but not without cost.

On the ground, Murphy watched events happening at horrifying speed, all backlit against the bright skyline. Doyle running; a body plummeting screaming to the ground; Doyle seemingly about to follow, then a grab and a twist from Bodie followed by a bellow of pain. Then silence. He checked the body on the ground rapidly. Strawberry jam: Cowley wouldn’t be pleased. He belted up the fire escapes.

‘Doyle! Bodie!’

‘Up ‘ere.’

‘Where?’

‘Keep coming.’

‘Where the fuck --?’

‘’Ere, you pillock.’

Murphy burst around the corner and came to an abrupt stop.

‘Oh, here you are. You all right?’

‘No. Bodie’s dislocated his shoulder.’

‘Bugger.’

‘Yep.’

They both looked down at Bodie, white-faced and wheezing with pain.

‘Only one thing to do, old son.’

‘Don’t… fuckin’… touch me,’ ground out Bodie through gritted teeth.

‘Now don’t be like that. We did this in the Paras together, and we did this again in field training with Hedley.’

‘Gerroff… me!'

‘You did it to me, you bastard, in the pitch black and the rain, half way up the Brecon bloody Beacons! This’ll be a doddle, compared to that!’

Doyle looked at him questioningly. Murphy nodded and turned to Bodie.

‘Come on then, matey, time for a little TLC.’

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘That shoulder tendon needs work, Bodie. I’ll set something up and let you know.’ Macklin dismissed them.

‘Oh, great,’ Bodie grumbled. ‘That’s exactly what I need – massage from old Ironfist there. He’s got hands like shovels!’

Doyle had a slightly abstracted look on his face as he replied, ‘Yeah. Well, you never know, he might get someone else to do it.’

Two days later, it seemed as though Doyle might have been right.

‘Mr. Bodie?’

She was tall, blonde and good-looking in a severe sort of way. Her white coat was buttoned up over a slim figure and dark-framed glasses contributed to the serious look.

‘I hear you’re having problems with the aftermath of a dislocated shoulder?’

‘Blimey, I was expecting a massage from a tall blond, but you’re not the tall blond I was expecting!’

‘Really, Mr. Bodie –‘

‘No, honestly, love, you’re far better – all my dreams come true, in fact.’ He winked at Doyle, who remained poker-faced. Miss Sweden didn’t look impressed either.

‘Take your shirt off, please. And get onto the couch.’

She was massaging his shoulder and her fingers were spreading wider and wider across his chest, almost caressing his pectoral muscle. Bodie tried to think boring thoughts, but it was no use, he was getting turned on. He shifted, cursing his inconvenient erection and hoping in vain that she wouldn’t notice it. Fat chance. He was lying on the couch and his prick was straining upwards hopefully.   He darted a gaze upwards to her face. She had a sly, smug tilt to the corners of her mouth. Oh, she’d noticed it all right. Bodie groaned silently.   Her hands worked down, down… further down… and grazed his nipple. Bodie’s eyes flew open and he looked up at her, but she was intent on her work, or appeared to be at least. Was it accidental, or… He darted a look across the room at his partner, who was leaning against the door, a hungry look on his face.

‘Just relax, please, Mr. Bodie.’ There wasn’t a flicker of a smile on her face. Her hands ranged wider and further, over both nipples, down, under his waistband… Fuck, she was no masseuse, this was a setup: she was undoing his trousers, freeing his prick from the confines of his underwear. She moved down his body so that her mouth closed over the tip of his cock and he gasped as she took him in. He glanced down to see her smiling, and groaned to see himself sucked in further and further. She applied her tongue to his slit, and then sucked him in deeper and deeper, until her nose was buried in the curls at the base of his cock and it felt like he was halfway down her throat.

Bodie spared a glance at Doyle, to see to his disbelief that Doyle had his own cock out and was masturbating furiously, eyes fixed on the sight of Bodie’s cock receiving one of the best blow-jobs he’d watched for quite a while. Doyle looked up, his eyes glazed, obviously near his own climax now. Bodie had seen his partner on the verge so many times it brought him closer to the edge too and he felt his balls tingle and his cock swell further. He choked out, ‘I’m gonna come!’ and was rewarded by the sight of Doyle ejaculating, head thrown back against the door and mouth open as his come arced neatly up and over his fist onto the floor in great spurts. Bodie flooded the girl’s mouth with his semen and she swallowed it down, licking his cock clean as he sagged back onto the couch.

He lay there for a moment, recovering, and was vaguely aware of Doyle’s approach.

‘Thanks, Paula, luv. Great job!’

‘Anything to oblige, Ray, you know that. What is this place, anyway? Is it where you work?’

‘Yes, and we’d better get you out of here sharpish. Come on, darlin’, and I’ll take you back downstairs.’ He bustled her out of the door, exhorting Bodie to zip up and meet him upstairs in a few minutes.

Leaving the medical suite swiftly, Bodie made his way up to their office. Doyle joined him with a smug look on his face.

‘What the hell did you think you were doing?’ Bodie hissed.

‘What, didn’t you enjoy it?’

‘I bloody loved it, mate, but what if someone had come in?’

‘It’s only what you did last month, down in the interrogation suite.’

‘Hedley!’ Bodie was almost bug-eyed with disbelief.

‘Nah, he’s up at the monthly conference with Cowley and Macklin and that lot. They always go over to the pub after, so I thought we’d have an hour clear. Anyway, I was leaning on the door, wasn’t I?’

‘Yeah, that’s what took me over the edge, y’know? Love to see you take yourself in hand. You always go at it so fiercely – gets me going every time.’ Bodie gave his partner a fond look. Doyle grinned.

‘Well, it was quite something, let me tell you, seeing her going down on you like that.’

‘Who was she? Friend of yours?’

‘Paula? Yeah, one of the girls from that sex club last month. Quite high class, but her pimp was giving her some trouble, so I leaned on him a bit.’ He rubbed his nose, embarrassed. ‘Just wanted to say thank you. I’d have gone over the edge of that roof if you hadn’t caught me, and all you got out of it was a dislocated shoulder and a bollocking from Cowley.’

Bodie shrugged. ‘Think nothing of it, mate. You’d do the same for me.’

‘Yeah, I would, but that’s not the point. Glad you enjoyed it though. Your face when you cottoned on! Priceless.’

They were still chuckling when Macklin put his head around the door. ‘Bodie. Medical suite – let’s see what we can do about that shoulder.’

He looked at them impatiently as Bodie paled slightly and Doyle stifled giggles.

‘Oh, come on, man, it won’t be that bad. You might even enjoy it.’

 

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Bodie slunk into the briefing minutes after Cowley had started, sliding into his accustomed place beside Doyle under the beady eye of their leader. Cowley ran through the expected operations and finished up by taking his glasses off and staring at his agents pensively.

‘There’s something else going on. Och, I can’t put my finger on it, but that’s the problem. Every time we get a lead it disappears. There’s someone big behind it, that’s for sure, or why else would Smail throw himself off a roof rather than face whoever it is? And what did he mean, he’s been planning his revenge on you for years? Who’s been planning? Revenge on whom? Doyle specifically? CI5? Doyle, I want you going through all your files – yes, all of them! This doesn’t make sense with the information we’ve got. We need to know more! So all of you, keep your eyes and ears open. I want to know what’s going on!’

 

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‘Sir John Terringham. Our Minister.’ Cowley looked at them over the top of his glasses.

‘Ah, yes, the lovely Claire.’ Bodie smirked. ‘Now that was a job I did enjoy,’ he continued, ‘squiring a beautiful debutante around, gambling in high-class establishments—‘

‘Losing money, being sold to an Arab, hocking your stereo –‘ Doyle murmured innocently.

‘Yeah, all right, but all that was just following orders, that’s all.’

‘Aye, well, it’s the other daughter this time.’ Cowley quelled them both with a look.  

‘The Right Honourable Claire is married now, so she won’t do, but luckily for us, Sir John has another young daughter who is involved in this operation. Sir John is being blackmailed, or rather, I suspect his daughter is being blackmailed, although he’s not admitting that at the moment. I think there’s something happening amongst her circle of debutante friends, possibly drugs, possibly something else to do with the Diplomatic Bag but I rather incline to the drugs theory myself. He’s a little unclear on the detail but I’m meeting him this afternoon to find out more.’

‘Blackmail, sir? Why us? It’s more of a Yard problem, isn’t it?’ Doyle suppressed a grin at Bodie’s pained expression.

‘No, Bodie, not when Sir John is being asked to reveal the location and the combination of the lock-up for the recovered drugs store. I’d like to know how the existence of that came to be known outside CI5, but that’s something we’re looking at elsewhere. Sir John is also being asked for the timetable for the security guards and a guaranteed window of opportunity. This would, of course, render him vulnerable in the future as well. It wouldn’t be this security breach that was the issue, but giving into pressure this time would place a Government Minister firmly in the hands of a blackmailer, and as he moves up the ranks, as I’m sure he will, well, I don’t need to outline the problem further.

‘This daughter – Patricia, although I believe she is referred to as Patsy – is attending a ball while Sir John has been instructed to leave an envelope elsewhere. If he does not do this, his daughter will be abducted from the ball. You, Bodie, will escort the young lady to the ball and will act as bodyguard. Doyle, you will be one of the waiters and will provide backup if required. Questions? No? Good. Here’s the file: off you go, and I’ll see you later this afternoon.’

They left the office and Doyle shook his head, disbelieving.

‘You jammy sod! You get the girl, and I have to be a waiter for an evening!’

Bodie’s eyes sparkled and he rubbed his hands together, beaming.

‘Some of us have got it, my son, and some of us haven’t.’ Doyle gave an unwilling grin.

‘Yeah, well, you just watch yourself, mate. Her sister had her eye on you, I could tell.’

‘Nah, nothing went on there. I was concentrating purely on the job,’ he said, pursing his mouth up primly.

Doyle snorted in disbelief. ‘That’ll be the day.’

Bodie assumed his best innocent look. ‘Straight up!’

They both broke into laughter. Cowley swept by, giving them a disgusted look.

‘On your bikes, lads, there’s no time to waste.’

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It was a long night. Doyle, offering canapés and appearing discreetly at elbows with glasses of champagne, was focusing as much on Bodie as he was on the girl he was accompanying. Damn, but he was gorgeous. The severe black and white of formal dress suited him to perfection, and Doyle’s cock stirred as he imagined Bodie taking him when they got home, not pausing to undress, the fine lawn shirt brushing over Doyle’s naked chest as Bodie thrust into him over and over again. The blood rose to his face and his breath came faster as he gazed intently across the ballroom, causing one young lady to be captivated by the sexual heat he was exuding, and to offer herself blatantly, rubbing against his leg or hip every time he passed. Doyle never noticed her.

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The door to the flat slammed shut and Bodie staggered into the hallway. Doyle raised his eyes from the book he was reading, and grinned as he looked at his partner.

‘Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in!’

‘It’s not funny – I barely got out with my virtue intact! She’s man mad!’

Doyle gave a dirty chuckle. ‘Just as you like ‘em, isn’t it?’

‘It’s all very well laughing, but she’s heading for trouble, that one. Couldn’t keep her hands off me.’

‘You be careful – she’s underage, isn’t she?’

‘Yeah, well, you wouldn’t know it from where she had her hands. Honest – I had to fight her off!’

He grabbed Doyle’s can of beer and sank into the armchair, groaning with relief as he kicked off his patent leather shoes and loosened his bow tie. Doyle looked over and his belly gave a kick of lust. The sight of Bodie, sprawled over a chair, dark, brooding and gorgeous, made his cock twitch and his balls tighten.

‘Not too tired, are you?’ he said, huskily.

‘Yeah, knackered, mate, all I want to do is go to bed. It’s tiring, you know, all that dancing and drinking.’ His eyes glinted with mischief as he primmed his mouth to add, ‘An’ the worst thing is, we’ve gotta do it all again on Tuesday! The fish didn’t bite.’

Doyle pounced on him, kissing him fiercely.

‘Don’t you start with me! All evening I had to look at you, togged up like James bloody Bond, and there’s me stuck with a tray in me hands and nowhere to hide me hard-on! The least you can do is make it up to me!’

And although throughout the evening Doyle had had fantasies of being taken by Bodie, in the end it was he who was opening up Bodie, tonguing and then fingering his anus until Bodie was sighing in pleasure, claiming his mate by easing into that luscious heat slowly, until Bodie cried out for more. Coming to rest fully sheathed, wishing that this moment, this night could be endless, he kissed the back of the other man’s neck and murmured words of love, pinching nipples and stroking the blindly thrusting cock underneath him until Bodie pushed back against him with a hoarse demand for more. Then – then he claimed his partner, thrusting, pushing ever deeper, until their balls clashed with a soft brush of suede, until he could get no deeper, until he was seated at the heart of his partner. He took a moment to glory in the broad back spread out beneath him, before he couldn’t help himself any more and the need to come took over, and he thrust and groaned until the bright sparkles up his spine claimed all his reason and his being and his essence flooded into the tight hot channel enclosing his cock and beneath him Bodie writhed and swore and came also, shooting hot semen into Doyle’s waiting hand.

Bodie escorted the Lady Patricia elsewhere the next night of the operation and Doyle was not required as backup, so Doyle was spared the torture of the previous evening. He chose to go to bed chastely with a book, deliberately not dwelling on what his partner might be getting up to on his own.

That operation seemed to come to no real conclusion, but this wasn’t unusual at the moment and they concluded that Cowley was playing one of his long games. There were plenty of other things to keep them occupied, after all.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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They could hear shouting coming from Cowley’s office.

‘Is this how you repay my support?’ A Scots mumble followed, but despite straining their ears they couldn’t make out the words. They had no problem, however, in discerning the words from Cowley’s visitor.

‘I have backed this department in every way, Cowley, and against my better judgement in some cases – and now I see where it has led to!’

Another mumble.

‘It’s disgraceful, man, absolutely intolerable! What are you going to do about it, eh? I trusted you! I trusted him!’

A harassed-looking Cowley poked his head out of the office, scowling. ‘Bodie! In here now.’

Doyle raised his eyebrows at his partner.

‘What’ve you been up to?’

‘Dunno – can’t think of anything at the moment. Unless it’s my last expense claim and he’s upset about the new suit.’

‘I told you not to try it. Go on, then, and you can bring me a cuppa on your way back.’

Bodie’s response, as he left the room, was silent but graphic.

Murphy entered the room as Bodie left it. Spotting Doyle, almost horizontal in the armchair, he kicked his supporting leg out from under him to get his attention.

‘What does Cowley want with Bodie?’

‘He thinks it’s something to do with his last expense claim.’

‘Oh. Who’s the stuffed shirt in with the Old Man, then?’

‘’What stuffed shirt?’

‘Some bloke shouting fit to burst. Very Home Counties, doncha know?’

Doyle swivelled round in the chair and sat upright, gazing at Murphy intently.

‘In with Cowley? I didn't see who it was, did you?’

‘No,’ said Murphy patiently, ‘that’s what I’ve just asked you.’

‘What's going on?’

Murphy cast his eyes up to the ceiling.

‘If I knew that, you pillock - we're going round in circles here, Doyle!’

‘Did he look military? Might be something to do with Bodie’s old regiment.’

‘No, moron, because that’s my old regiment as well, and I would have recognised him. Anyway, I didn’t see him – only heard him in passing. Bloody useless, you are. I’ll go and chat up Betty.’

Doyle lay back in the armchair, grinning. Murphy was the gossip of CI5. He couldn’t bear not knowing what was going on, and had the best relationships with the secretaries of any of the agents. He’d find out all about it, and come and let Doyle know. Doyle wriggled his shoulders to get more comfortable and fell into a light doze.

‘Oi!’

Doyle woke up. A worried-looking Murphy was standing at the door.

‘Have you heard?’

‘Heard what?’

‘Bodie.’

‘What about him?’

‘Did he come and tell you before he left?’

‘Left? He hasn’t left – he was driving me home and he wouldn’t have gone without me.’

‘Look, Ray, I’m not sure what’s happened but I think it’s serious.’

‘Murph, you pillock, stop being bloody mysterious. What’s happened?’

‘Well, Betty’s not sure but the Minister stormed in earlier and he and the Old Man had a real shouting match, then Cowley called Bodie in and there was even more shouting. Then Bodie slammed out and disappeared. Sir John left a few minutes ago but Betty said he still didn’t look very happy. Cowley sent her away just after it all kicked off so she didn’t hear much. What’s going on?’

Doyle sat up. This didn’t sound right at all.

‘I dunno, Murph, but I’m going to find out. You sure Bodie’s left the building?’

‘His car’s gone,’ said Murphy simply. ‘I checked.’

‘Right.’ Doyle swung himself out of the chair and strode down the corridor towards the Controller’s office.

‘Is he in?’ Betty looked worried.

‘Oh, Ray – he’s in, but I don’t think—‘

Doyle brushed past her and flung open the door to Cowley’s office.

‘What’s happening, sir?’

Cowley turned from where he had been staring blankly out of the window. He regarded Doyle with a sombre expression.

‘4.5. Shut the door and come and sit down.’

 

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‘You utter twat!’

‘Don’t start, Doyle.’

‘How could you be so fucking stupid?’

‘Give over.’ It was a warning rumble: Bodie was still and contained, but his eyes had a dangerous glint in them.

‘You shagged her? Bodie, how old is she? Fifteen?’

‘Look, it wasn’t like that, right? She knew what she was doing, believe me.’

‘But you knew! You knew she wasn’t old enough!’

‘She’s seventeen. Old enough to know what she’s doing.’

‘That’s still too bloody young.’

‘She wouldn’t let it go. She just wouldn’t give up. In the end, I thought, well, she’s asking for it, she can have it.’

‘Bodie!'

‘She was experienced, Doyle. She’s no bloody virgin, I’ll tell you that.’

‘And now she’s knocked up. What did you think you were doing?’

‘She’s seventeen. And she said she was on the Pill.’

‘She said, did she? And you believed her?’

‘Enough, Doyle!’ Bodie flung himself off the settee and strode towards Doyle, scowling. ‘Yes, she’s pregnant, no, I shouldn’t have done it and yes, I’m in bloody trouble. Now leave off.’

Doyle’s heart softened as he looked at his beleaguered partner.

‘Oh, mate – what’re you gonna do?’

‘I don’t know. Oh, shit, Ray, I don’t know what to do. Maybe she’ll get rid of it. I don’t know. I just don’t know.’

Their eyes met and held, and Doyle moved to take his partner into an embrace. Bodie burrowed his head into Doyle’s shoulder, and Doyle held on tight.

Bodie mumbled something. Doyle cocked his head downwards. ‘Sorry, mate? I didn’t catch that.’

‘Cowley says I have to marry her.’

‘Marry her?’ Doyle thrust Bodie away from him and held him at arms’ length. ‘What the fuck do you mean, marry her?’

‘He says it’s the only way not to cause a scandal. Sir John… ‘ His voice tailed off uncertainly.

‘He’s out of his fucking mind!’

‘He says it’s that or leave.’

Doyle pulled his partner to him again, staring over his shoulder at the wall. Leave CI5… only it wouldn’t mean leaving, it would mean dismissal. And then what would there be for Bodie? Thrown out of the Squad, none of the other government agencies would take him, and he’d blown his chances in the military with Major Nairn years ago. Private security firms or back to gun running and mercenary work, that was all that was in Bodie’s future if Cowley dismissed him now.

‘We’ll sort it, mate, don’t worry. We’ll sort it.’

Bodie pulled away from him fiercely.

‘Easy to say, Doyle. There’s nothing we can do about it, is there?’

Doyle watched, troubled, as Bodie prowled over to the window, then back around the room restlessly. His face was reduced somehow so that it looked to be all planes and angles and his eyes were dark and miserable.

‘Look, perhaps everyone’s over-reacting. There’s nothing to say it’s yours, after all.’

‘Oh, she’s daddy’s little angel, and she’s never done anything like this before.’ He gave a harsh bark of laughter. ‘Can’t exactly tell our Minister that his daughter’s a tart who’ll drop her knickers for any man, can I?’

His face was set and closed. Doyle watched him, not knowing what to say.

‘Well, I might have to marry the little scrubber, but it doesn’t mean anything.’ Under the bravado, Doyle could sense doubt and desperate unhappiness. He longed to go and embrace his partner, to tell him he was loved and it would be all right, but they had no precedent for words of love, no protocols to follow in their relationship and no options other than Bodie leaving CI5. Actions and consequences: it was like throwing a fistful of glitter in the air – once released, there was no calling each individual piece of the whole back, and who knew where or when or how they would land. So he watched, and he waited, and he suffered silently the night through with his partner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The wedding was surreal. A very quiet, Registry-Office affair, there was no one on Bodie’s side except Doyle, Cowley, Betty, Anson, Jax and Murphy. McCabe and Lucas were on an obbo somewhere and Bodie hadn’t even mentioned it to Turner, Pennington and the like. Sir John stood beside his daughter with a face set in grim, disapproving lines, but nothing seemed to get through to Bodie, who carried out his part with a blank expression, hardly looking at his new bride. She looked sulky and tearful, Cowley implacable, and Doyle secretly wondered if there was any need for this at all, triple think notwithstanding. After all, what did it matter whether Bodie married her? The fact that her father was CI5’s Minister was mildly embarrassing but surely – surely – there wasn’t any reason for this?

The Rolls-Royce drove away with Bodie and Patsy ensconced at separate ends of the wide bench seat, and the agents looked at one another, at a loss to know what to say. Jax broke the uncomfortable silence.

‘What happens now, then?’ Everyone looked at Doyle. He shrugged.

‘Don’t ask me.’

Anson frowned. ‘Well is he going to live with her, or what?’

‘I don’t know! We haven’t discussed it, all right?’

Ever the peace-maker of the group, Murphy was swift to defuse the tension. ‘Tell you what, let’s go to the pub and have a swift one, shall we? Toast Bodie and his new missus?’ Doyle shrugged his shoulders again, turning away from the group.

‘Nah, don’t really feel in the mood. You all go on. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

They watched him go in silence.

‘Trouble in Paradise?’

‘Well, think about it. How’s it gonna work? Where are they going to live?’

‘Is the baby even Bodie’s?’

‘Why the fuck did they get married? It’s never going to work.’

They discussed it some more, but increasingly bawdy speculation, fuelled by pints and then doubles, got them nowhere except to agree that it was all very odd.

 

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Cowley had sent his teams of agents out like hunting dogs, paired lean and dangerous to sniff for the scent of what he was insisting was the trail of corruption and hidden rot. It had brought them to these seedy back streets in Brixton. Originally tracking down an arms deal, they had come across the drugs deal funding the arms as well and they didn’t have enough agents on the ground to cover the dealers, the grass who’d led them there, the arms dealers and the pushers who were there to collect their supplies. It was a first-rate cock up.

In the confusion Pennington had taken a hit. Jax was trying to find out how bad he was while shouting for back-up on the RT. Murphy and Anson were giving covering cross-fire from across the building but Susan was pinned down, coolly returning the arms-dealers’ fire from her position behind boxes and bags of who-knew-what in this backstreet store. Anson was directing them all over the RTs.

‘3.7. Can you circle round to your left? Take out the one by the door. That’ll mean 5.6 can move and then 6.2 can shimmy round and help out 2.3.’

‘Yep, can do.’

‘4.5, go right, take out the guy at the back entrance.’

‘Will do.’

A quick nod to each other and they were off, separating, never quite sure if this would be the end, never thinking fully about it. Afterwards, ah, afterwards that was different, the adrenaline and the what-ifs charging round their bodies, setting light to nerve ends like sparks raging through every channel, every fibre of their being, filling them with the urge for movement, for sex, for completion – but for now, they were cold, calm and focused.

Doyle sneaked carefully round the side of the room, looking for his man and trying to keep an eye out for anything unexpected. Browning at the ready, he flattened himself against the wall and took a quick look round. There was his man. But there was movement on the other side as well, a swift, dark figure. Shit! – an unknown. His mind raced – whether to take out the one on the door or go for the one on the other side? The door first. Heart thumping, he steadied his aim, waiting for the guy to move over a fraction more… more… out of the cover of the doorframe. He couldn’t quite be sure – then the guy moved and his finger closed smoothly on the trigger. But another shot rang out at the same time or even a fraction earlier and the man dropped to the ground. What the fuck? He whirled, looking for the source. Bodie! The other figure across from him, the unknown he’d nearly shot first – that was his partner. Gun still out and ready, he ran lightly over to check their joint victim. He was definitely dead. He whirled round again, catching Bodie coming up with that panther’s tread of his to do the same thing.

‘What’re you doing round here? I nearly shot you!’

‘Anson said to take out the bloke by the door. I did.’

‘The other door, you dumb crud!’

Their eyes were flickering round the room as they spoke, constantly checking that they were still clear. With that shorthand they had developed over the years, they were still in sync, even with Doyle’s anger at his partner’s misunderstanding.

There was a rustle elsewhere behind them.

‘Someone else?’

‘Yeah.’

An exchange of signals – you left, me right – and they split up again. On Doyle’s side it dead-ended into an empty room so he retraced his steps. He could hear a struggle and his heart thumped again as he rounded the corner and came across Bodie struggling with a huge man who had his hands around Bodie’s neck and his knees painfully on Bodie’s chest. Bodie’s movements were slow and laboured, his arms flailing uselessly as the man methodically cut off his oxygen. Doyle calculated the angles on the fly as he was running across the room and shot the man in the back, blowing the man away and off his partner. He helped Bodie off the floor.

‘Thanks, mate – thought I was a goner there.’ Bodie was gasping for breath and wincing as he moved but seemed basically okay, brushing himself off and grabbing Doyle by the arm to steady himself as he stood.

‘Bloody hell, Bodie – I thought you were a goner there too. He’s a Neanderthal! Didn’t think they made them that big.’ He was busy checking Bodie’s neck and throat as he was speaking, but Bodie cut him off.

‘Ray –‘

They looked at one another and then, with one accord, reached out for a dark, needy kiss. Doyle broke it and groaned, ‘Finish up here first!’

Bodie swore and reached for his RT.

‘Anson?’

‘Where the fuck are you two?

‘Round the back. All clear here.’

‘Well stay there. We’ll be round in a few minutes. We’re clear here too, no thanks to you.’

‘Okay, we’re clear – come here.’ Bodie grabbed Doyle and clamped big hands on his arse, pulling their groins together. Doyle took his mouth in a kiss that was more bite than kiss but pushed their bodies apart slightly so he could fumble their zips down and get their aching cocks in his hand. Humping together, it didn’t take them long to reach orgasm, panting and urgent, hot and sweaty, and a delicious relief.

Gasping and still wild-eyed, they were catapulted into action again when a slow handclap sounded around the room.

‘Oh, very nice, gents, very nice indeed.’

It was the pusher who’d started it all.

Bodie’s backhanded blow knocked him against the wall.

‘Shit, Bodie – we never even knew he was there!’

They stared at one another mutely. They’d felt the effects of adrenaline before and gone at each other in dark corners, but never – never – had they failed to check the scene was clear before.

They could hear the others coming through the building.

‘We have got to talk –‘

‘Not now!’

Doyle looked at him dubiously, then looked at the pusher still crumpled unconscious in a heap at the foot of the wall. Then Anson and the rest piled into the room and there was no more time for private discussion.

‘You pair of twats! You nearly got each other killed there! What the fuck are you playing at?’

There was no answer from the partners. Anson glared at them.

‘Cowley’s going to do his nut. Have you thought of that?’ Still no answer, but a mutinous silence prevailed.

‘What the fuck were you playing at? Can you not understand simple orders? You went the wrong fucking way!’

‘I thought you said to take out the guy by the door.’

‘I did – the front door. I told you to go left!’

‘You didn’t specify the front door!’

‘You weren’t bloody listening!’

‘You didn’t give clear orders, you twat! What sort of direction is shimmy, for fuck’s sake?’

‘What’s the matter, Bodie, can’t you tell your left from your right anymore? Little wifey sucking all the juice out of you, is she?’

‘Don’t you fucking start with me!’

‘If you two boys could stop shouting and thinking with your gonads for one little minute, you might like to know I’ve put a field dressing on Jax’s arm. And Penn’s uncomfortable but the bleeding’s stopped for now. They don’t look too bad but the ambulance is on its way.’

How Susan managed to maintain her cool after a firefight where she’d been pinned down as badly as she had been was a mystery to Doyle, but he was grateful that she’d defused the tension and stopped Anson and Bodie from escalating to killing one another. He nudged Bodie’s arm. Now was not the time to draw attention to themselves. They had too much to lose. Bodie took a deep breath and nodded.

‘Yeah, sorry, Geoff. I screwed up. But you should have specified the front door as well, you know?’

Anson looked at him sharply, considering both the apology and the validity of what Bodie had said.

‘Yeah, okay, point taken. Look, you two stay here with Murph and wait for the wagons. I’ll go back round the front and see to Pennington and Jax and the bodies.’ He and Susan strode off.

The sudden silence in the room was interrupted by a moan as the unfortunate pusher started to come back to life.

‘Him again!’ Doyle stalked over and kicked him in the ribs.

The figure made retching noises and struggled up to his hands and knees.

‘You ought to treat me better’, he whined, looking up at Doyle.

‘And why’s that, then?’ Bodie came over to join the conversation, crowding the man. ‘You gave us crap information. We should beat the shit out of you again and then lock you up and throw away the key.’

‘Ah, but you won’t, will you?’ He spat onto the floor, and massaged his jaw gingerly. ‘You daren’t, after what I’ve seen.’ He struggled to a sitting position against the wall, and regarded them with a nasty smile.

Doyle’s senses prickled with danger again. This was turning out to be a really bad day. He could feel the intensity of Bodie’s stare. Their stillness attracted Murphy’s attention, and he lounged over to them.

‘Everything all right, lads?’

‘It will be.’ Bodie’s gaze was dark and brooding, but the pusher maintained his standpoint.

‘You’re gonna let me go, aren’t you? Aren’t you?’

‘Let him go?’ Murphy’s eyebrows rose into his fringe comically. ‘What’s going on?’

‘Nothing.’

‘We fucked up.’

‘They were wanking each other off like nancy boys.’

The three voices blended together so Murphy was hard pressed to hear who was saying what, but he got the gist of it. Tense, fraught, the partners held each other’s gaze. Murphy looked at them.

‘True?’

Doyle shrugged. Bodie turned away and moved to the other side of the room. The tall agent whistled thoughtfully.

‘Does Cowley know?’

Bodie flung round again, snarling, ‘What the fuck do you think?’

‘He will soon, unless you let me go,’ came the snide voice from against the wall. ‘Bet you didn’t know they were shirt-lifters either, did you? Pansies, the pair of them, you should have seen them! Really going for it, they were, right fags!’

‘Shut up!’ The instruction was barked from all three agents at once and the man subsided, smiling, obviously believing he had the upper hand.

‘Well, you’ve fucked up all right. If he does tell all, you’ll be off the Squad in no time.’ Murphy looked at them both as if he couldn’t quite believe what he’d heard.

‘’Yeah, we know that, Murph, no need to state the bleeding obvious, is there?’ Doyle turned and kicked the pusher again viciously.

‘Ow!’

‘Stop it, Doyle, you’re not helping!’ Bodie grabbed his partner by the arm and Doyle shrugged him off.

‘Well it’s helping me, all right?’ They glared at one another, stuck in a situation of their own making.

Murphy stepped forward again.

‘Hey, no need for all this aggro. It’s not that big a problem.’

The partners turned to glare at him. ‘Oh, yeah, right, all he’s got to do is flap his bloody great mouth and we’re history.’

‘One teeny little drug-pusher? Nah, no problem, mate.’ Murphy looked sublimely confident.

‘Look, Murph, you know what’s going to happen when the Old Man gets to hear of this!’

Murphy shrugged. ‘Yeah? Have you got everything you need from this toe-rag?’

‘Yeah, I don’t think he knew much to start with. Even Cowley’s not gonna get much more. He’s given us the name of his source, but I don’t think he knows anything else, to be honest.’

‘Sure?’ Murphy lounged forward, a lazy smile on his face. ‘Going once, going twice…? No?’ The other agents looked at him, puzzled by his actions. ‘Last chance?’

Murphy leaned over and shot the pusher neatly behind the ear. ‘There you go, lads. End of problem. But remember, you owe me.’

Doyle looked at him, startled. With his easy-going nature and pleasant, handsome face, it was easy to forget that Murphy, too, had served in the Paras and the SAS and was one of Cowley’s trained killers: apt, on occasion, to dispense with protocol and take the simple way out.

Bodie smiled in relief. ‘Yeah, thanks, Murph – brilliant!’

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It was as though the wedding had never happened. As far as his fellow agents were concerned, there was no difference between a married Bodie and a single Bodie. Any jokes about having the Roller collect him or getting the butler to make a cuppa were met with a blank stare or complete indifference and therefore soon faded. Certainly he was called out as often as before his marriage, and hadn’t given up his CI5 flat.

For Doyle, the partnership had deepened, if anything. They never spoke of Patsy, and as far as Doyle was aware Bodie never even went to see her. They led totally separate lives – and indeed, how would their two lives ever be compatible, he mused? One a nicely brought up debutante, whatever her recent behaviour may have brought upon her, living in a whirl of expensive frocks, parties and luxury, the other an ex-mercenary, a tough, dangerous man dedicated to keeping Britain safe from dangers she probably never even knew existed. Not to mention the odd situation of being, effectively, one of Daddy’s employees.

So their relationship continued, and their loving continued, and if Bodie was worrying about the baby, Doyle never knew, and if Doyle was wondering what would happen when Bodie became a father, only Doyle knew, and he didn’t let on. They never discussed it, they never referred to it, and they certainly never thought about talking. Perhaps their love-making became more desperate, as if neither believed that it could last and they had to snatch every precious moment between operations. But it went on, and Doyle kept a mental countdown of the weeks and months, and he had reached seven months and two weeks by his reckoning when the telephone call came.

They were out in the car, returning from a long day trailing round the wilds of Hertfordshire. The RT crackled and Bodie gave a long-suffering sigh.

‘Bloody hell, what now?’ He reached to answer it.

‘3.7.’

‘3.7. Urgent call from St. Monica’s hospital – patching you through now.’

And Doyle listened to the conversation, turned the Capri around, sped across London, sat with Bodie outside the Intensive Care unit and wondered throughout it all what his partner was thinking. There were few clues in Bodie’s set jaw and downturned mouth, but Doyle would be willing to bet that he wasn’t grieving. He hardly knew the girl after all, but he supposed Bodie might feel some kind of obligation. He waited for Bodie and Sir John to come out of the private ward. Bodie came out first and flopped into the chair next to him.

‘Stupid bitch.’

‘That’s a bit harsh, mate, isn’t it?’

‘Look, Doyle, she was eight months pregnant, doped out of her tiny mind, crashed the car and killed herself. What would you call it?’

Doyle had views on the wisdom of giving a seventeen year-old girl a powerful car as a reward for passing her driving test but didn’t think this was the time or the place to air them. Instead he leapt to his feet as Sir John shambled out of the private room, a broken, tired old man, seemingly oblivious to the thin wail of a baby behind him.

‘Sir.’

Sir John flapped a hand wearily in passing but said nothing, heading for the exit. Doyle watched him go, then turned back to his partner.

‘Now what? She is dead?’

Bodie nodded, eyes shut.

A nurse bustled out of the room, pushing a bassinet.

‘Do you want to see your daughter, Mr. Bodie?’

Bodie looked at her in disbelief, pushed up to his feet and strode out of the room without a word.

‘Mr. Bodie!’

‘Look, love, that’s his wife lying dead in there, okay? So cut him some slack.’ Doyle didn’t for one minute believe that Bodie was troubled by Patsy’s death but he was willing to lie to the nurses – hell, to anyone – to give his partner the time he needed.

‘But who’s going to look after the baby?’

‘I dunno! You’ll have to keep it here for now – I need to get after him and make sure he’s okay.’

He ran down the corridors towards the exit where he found not only Bodie but Cowley as well. Cowley was looking ruffled but was obviously trying to be patient. He broke off what he was saying when he caught sight of Doyle.

‘Ach, take him home, 4.5. Bring him back at 8am tomorrow. We’ve a lot to discuss.’

All Doyle could do was to take his partner back to his flat. They didn’t talk, just fell into bed and made love fiercely in the darkness, as if it might hold demons at bay. And if they both lay awake far into the night, each pretending sleep, at least they lay side by side, with the other’s warmth and steady breathing in the dark for comfort.

 

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The next morning, Cowley was brisk.

‘I’ve seen Sir John. He’s resigning as our Minister, effective immediately. A pity – he’s a good man, one of our better Ministers, but this has finished him, I fear. Oh – my condolences, of course, Bodie.’

‘Sir.’ Bodie was militarily blank.

‘Aye. The ramifications – well. A pity, as I say.’

And that was it, Doyle supposed, trying not to snort with inappropriate laughter. Cowley and his bloody triple think.

Doyle, however, was traitorously, shamefully optimistic. He was sorry Patsy was dead, certainly. He wouldn’t actively have wished her harm. But it didn’t half solve his problem for him. With her out of the way, Bodie was released from his obligations and could focus properly, on the job and on his partner, as it should be. They’d be back at the top of their game in no time at all. He couldn’t see the Terringham family wanting Bodie to have anything much to do with the baby – Rhiannon or Marion or whatever they’d called it – so Bodie would be his again. And he was determined that they would put all this behind them and take this relationship further. He knew there was more he wanted from it, and he was fairly sure Bodie wanted more as well, only it was hard to tell sometimes, stubborn git that he was. His spirits were high, and he found it hard to keep a solemn face, and not to whistle. It was going to be okay. He had a good feeling about this.

 

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The operation had concluded, and was succeeded by another, and another, until even Cowley looked tired, working until all hours and shuffling between his desk and Whitehall. His disposition became unreliable and even Doyle learned to keep his tongue between his teeth when being sent on another assignment. Tempers became frayed and the elite of CI5 found themselves on an endless treadmill, with one day blurring into the next without breaks or rest. Mistakes crept into their daily work, whether from agents or back office staff, and consequently there was a lot of blame allocated when things went wrong, as they inevitably did. Harassed and irritable, Cowley’s patience, never great, grew shorter with his agents, pushing ever more for perfection in an increasingly imperfect world.

Doyle, however, although finding work difficult, bounced through the days with a gleeful spring in his step that did not go unnoticed by his fellow agents. He tried to tone it down when he was with Bodie, but in the VIP Lounge without his partner, the other agents were soon thoroughly tired of his antics.

Working with Bodie was not as smooth as it should be but that was only to be expected. It was going to take Bodie a while to be back at full speed. It was irritating that they had to see Kate bloody Ross, something they certainly didn’t have time for, and painful when they had to see Macklin and Towser, especially when they both ended up battered and bruised due to a bit of a misunderstanding.

Off the job, he recognised that Bodie was still withdrawn and although he didn’t understand why, tried to give his partner time and space to deal with whatever was bothering him. After all, what was the big deal? Sure, it was sad about Patsy. But everything was back to normal now, even if they were making more mistakes than they were used to. That was because everyone was so busy. They weren’t the only ones – he smirked as he recalled the Cow dressing down Jax and Murphy for losing a lead to an arms dump – but the communication between him and Bodie would come back soon. It would.

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‘3.7. You wanted to see me?’ Bodie hesitated in the doorway, and Cowley turned sharply. ‘Well? Out with it, man, I’m busy.’

‘It can wait then, sir. It’s not something to rush.’ He made to leave the office but was stopped by Cowley’s outstretched hand.

‘Is it serious?’

‘Yes, sir, it is.’

Holding his agent’s eyes with his own, Cowley picked up the telephone.

‘Betty? Hold all my calls. And tell the Under-Secretary I’ve been unavoidably detained. Rearrange him for tomorrow.’ He replaced the receiver and lowered himself into his chair, wincing slightly as his leg pained him.

‘Right, 3.7. Come in and sit ye down.’ He waited until Bodie had taken the chair opposite him, and noted the slight slump rather than the usual militarily erect posture. Pouring them both a drink, he waited until Bodie had picked up the glass and was staring into its contents.

‘Well? What is it, Bodie? Have you come to offer me your resignation?’

Bodie looked at him warily. ‘How did you…?’

‘Ach, it wasn’t difficult to predict. You’ve been off your game lately, both of you. Macklin reports that you’re not fit, Dr. Ross wants you pulled off the streets, the pair of you fouled up that last operation and let Yerentov run – and for no good reason except that you weren’t communicating. Don’t communicate any longer, so I’m told. Well? What have you got to say, man? Lost your nerve, is that it? Eh?’

Bodie shrugged. ‘Yes, sir, that’s right,’ he said, standing up smoothly from his seat. ‘You guessed it. So it’s better that I don’t work my notice but I just leave. I’ll let you have my gun and ID and I’ll turn my car in. I’ll be out of the flat by the weekend.’

Cowley sat back and smiled, shaking his head from side to side.

‘Bodie, Bodie,’ he chided, taking off his glasses and swinging them by one arm. ‘Give me some credit, lad. You’ve never lost your nerve. Sit down and tell me what’s happening.’

Bodie held his gaze for a moment, then sank back down into his chair. The problem was, he didn’t know how to begin.

Cowley had no such difficulty.

‘Is it Doyle? Has your… liaison… finally foundered?’

Bodie was silent for a moment.

‘It’s not… with Doyle…’ He was blushing, for fuck’s sake, he was actually sodding blushing. You shouldn’t have to talk about these things, and particularly not to your commanding officer.

‘When this… relationship… between you and Doyle started, I knew. Oh, I knew, all right. The signs were obvious. And then you gave me the nod, discreetly, as it should be. Aye, I should have stopped it then, I suppose, by splitting the partnership. But I thought to myself that it’s a hard life we lead, and I wouldn’t stop you taking comfort where you find it, either of you. But not – not! – at the expense of the Squad, or of this government’s reputation. I’ll admit, I didn’t think it would last, but it has, up until Lady Patricia.’ He paused, and looked shrewdly at Bodie. ‘Is that what’s caused the problem, laddie? Upset the balance?’

Bodie nodded. ‘I don’t even know why. It’s just not the same.’

Cowley had a shrewd idea about why, but wasn’t prepared to tell one of his agents that he believed him to be in love with his partner. Efficiency was often compromised when love was involved. He’d regretted it himself, after he thought he’d found Annie Irvine again and then she’d let him down. Casual affairs between staff members couldn’t be avoided and created enough difficulties, but there was no room for love in this department.

‘Aye. Well, it’s better that you go, then. I understand, Bodie. I don’t like it, but I do understand.’

Bodie looked across the desk and met the gaze of the man he respected most in the world. ‘Will you do me one last favour, sir?’

Cowley smiled sadly. ‘There is no last, laddie.’

It was the pity in those wise old eyes that nearly broke him.

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‘Marty.’

‘Bodie.’ Martell eyed him measuringly. ‘And to what do I owe the pleasure…?’

‘Know anyone hiring at the moment?’

‘What’s this? CI5 sniffing round the fringes again?’

‘No, it’s not like that. Come on, Marty, do you know of anything going on?’

‘I haven’t heard of anything much, no. Krieger might want some men but only as grunts. Why, Cowley putting you undercover again, is he?’

Bodie looked downstream. ‘Something like that,’ he said noncommittally.

Martell frowned and looked at him more closely.

‘You’ll have to give me a bit more information than that, dear boy, if you want me to find you the right cover.’

‘Just something out of the country.’

Martell leaned casually on the rail next to Bodie.

‘Problems?'

Bodie said nothing. The downcast gaze and the compressed mouth spoke volumes to Martell, however.

‘Twelve years, is it? Or fifteen, that we’ve known one another? Come on, Bodie, you know you can trust me.’

A muscle in Bodie’s jaw twitched. He drew in a sharp breath, then turned to look at the arms dealer he called friend.

‘I need to get out of CI5. It’s time to move on.’

Martell blinked. ‘And Doyle?’

‘He’ll be all right.’

Martell’s eyebrows rose. ‘I thought you were joined at the hip? Two hearts that beat as one?’ he enquired delicately.

‘Leave it out, will you? He’s not part of this.’

‘You’re leaving him?’

‘I said, leave it out.’

There was a long moment where Martell stared at his erstwhile colleague.

‘If you’re sure?’

‘Yes. I’m sure. Doyle’s staying here. I’m moving on. Clear enough?’

Martell paused deliberately, letting his silence say all he needed to. He considered the man by his side. ‘Well, you’re getting a bit long in the tooth to go back to mercenary work. It’s a young man’s game, and most of the players we knew have moved on, but there may be something to suit us both. I need a good man in Amsterdam, someone I can trust.’ The lack of enthusiasm from his companion struck him as being slightly ungrateful, and he added acidly, ‘If, of course, you could lower yourself to work with me again.’

‘Sorry, Marty. Yeah, that sounds good. Starting when?’ The effort to sound sincere showed plainly, and Martell regarded him doubtfully.

‘Dear boy, far be it from me to interfere, but isn’t this a bit sudden?’

‘It’s got sod-all to do with you, so keep your bleeding nose out,’ Bodie snarled, turning rapidly. Martell stood his ground, looking coolly into the other man’s face, inches from his own.

‘Oh, I think it has rather a lot to do with me, actually,’ he drawled. ‘If, that is, you want my help? You did want my help, Bodie, old chap?’

Bodie glared at him for a moment, then capitulated. The anger faded from his face, leaving it only sad.

‘Yeah, I did. I do.’ He sounded weary and defeated, and turned away to look downstream again.

‘Then follow me down to my office, dear boy, and we’ll discuss the details.’

 

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Doyle stared at Cowley in disbelief. He was vaguely aware of the old man pouring him a drink and pushing it over the desk towards him, but he ignored it.

‘Left?’

‘Aye, laddie. I know it’s a shock.’ Cowley peered at him intently.

Doyle shook his head. This didn’t make sense.

‘What – you mean you’ve sent him on an undercover job?’

‘No, Doyle. Bodie has resigned from CI5. He’s moved on.’

‘But he can’t.’

He felt like a beetle, with a scientist examining him under the microscope of hideously magnified spectacled eyes. He felt hot and cold, light and unanchored, as if he might blow away.

‘Doyle?’

‘Resigned?’

Cowley nodded. ‘This afternoon.’

‘But –‘ This afternoon he’d been in the VIP lounge until Jax had needed backup in Soho and he and Anson had pelted out to help. They’d been back almost within the hour, joking with Jax that he’d only wanted them there so he could wrap up early and get home to his girlfriend, and that he’d be asking for demotion to the B squad next week. Jax had sworn at them and they’d scuffled back up the stairs, and he’d automatically looked for Bodie as he’d come back into the VIP lounge, but he’d had no clue, no foreboding. How could that be?

Cowley was saying something, and he’d missed it.

‘Sorry, sir?’

‘I said, it might be better if you take the rest of today off and then spend a couple of days in files.’

Doyle ignored this completely.

‘Why? Why did he leave?’

His boss fixed him with a dark, fathomless stare.

‘It’s always hard to lose a partner, however it happens.’

‘You’re not answering my question. What happened? Why did he go?’

‘How would you evaluate your performance recently?’

‘Evaluate… what the fuck do you mean? He’s been fine! We’ve been fine!’

Cowley raised his eyebrows.

‘Is that really true?’

‘Well, okay, we’ve had a bit of difficulty now and then, yeah, but nothing we can’t handle! Nothing!’

He flung out of his chair and paced round the room, scowling.

‘Was it the job?’ He turned to look at Cowley.

‘What did he say? Did he say anything about… Did he say anything else?’

Cowley looked at him steadily.

‘He referred to the difficulties of his marriage.’

‘His marriage? Oh, come on, he scarcely knew the little cow existed!’

‘Nevertheless, Doyle, he referred to certain stresses within his relationship that he was finding it very difficult to deal with. That, I believe, is what has caused him to cut all ties and leave.’

‘You can’t honestly believe he was referring to Patsy!’

‘Be very careful, 4.5. You do not want to mar Bodie’s reputation in this organisation by implying anything else.’

Doyle was brought up short in his pacing round the office by the solid obduracy of Cowley’s demeanour. Incredulous, he leaned over the desk.

‘You hypocritical old bastard! You dare to sit there all po-faced and say that! To me! When you’ve pimped us out time and again for queen and fucking country – ha! – sent us on Operation bloody Susies, abandoned us without a bloody second thought, forced Bodie into that marriage like a –‘

He swept the glass across the desk and it hit the wall with a crash. Cowley didn’t flinch, but removed his spectacles impatiently.

‘Och, sit down, Doyle, and quit your tantrums! Yes, I knew about your relationship. Bodie never outright told me, no, he never needed to. He was in the military, he knew how it was done. If I’d known, man, I’d have had to put an end to it, d’ye not see? I made this department, Doyle, I made many of its rules, but I have to play by some of the official rules here and there.’

He looked over at Doyle, giving the younger man time to process what had been said.

‘But he’s really gone? How could he leave?’

‘He was struggling, I think, and he’d made a few mistakes recently. He didn’t want to let you down.’

‘He was struggling?’ Doyle fastened onto the one bit that made least sense. He knew they’d made mistakes, all right. He felt breathless, as if all the air in the room had been used up.

Cowley shifted in his chair, clearly uncomfortable with discussing his operatives’ feelings.

‘He was struggling with commitment, I think.’

‘Commitment? But that’s…’

‘Aye. I know your background.’ There was a prolonged silence in the room, and Cowley felt obliged to fill it.

‘Perhaps I made a mistake, forcing his marriage. But I’ve fought for this department, Doyle, and I’ve nursed it through thick and thin. Sir John was one of our better Ministers and I wasn’t going to alienate him. He could have ruined us, aye, brought us down. And I’ll not have that!’

‘So it was Bodie you brought down instead?’

‘It might have worked out.’

‘But it didn’t.’

There was another silence. Doyle had nothing to say, and felt his throat closing with sorrow. He couldn’t have spoken another word to Cowley. He was bewildered by the speed of it all, by the suddenness of the disintegration of his world. His life was suddenly a great, dark wrongness and he wanted to retreat like an animal to its lair. Perhaps he would get home and it wouldn’t be true. Perhaps Bodie would still be there, packing. Perhaps he’d have a chance to make it right, after all.

His frantic, scurrying thoughts were interrupted again.

‘I’ll get Murphy to take you home. He’s a good lad, and he’ll not pry.’

There was nothing else he could say. Doyle nodded, and allowed Murphy to take him home. Bodie wasn’t there, of course. His former military training gave him the ability to decamp fast, and Doyle had had no chance of catching him. Even if he’d wanted to be caught.

Doyle’s appearance of normality worried the other agent. All Doyle displayed was a slight time lag in processing conversation and requests, as if some sort of filter was being applied internally. His face was blank, and other than a minor tendency to misjudge distances when putting mugs back down on the table, or putting his foot on a step, Murphy really couldn’t fault Doyle’s performance. Assured for the fourth time that Doyle was fine, Murphy reluctantly left him on his own.

Possibly Murphy would have been reassured when, much later, some of the other residents of the block of flats were awakened from their sound sleep by a formless howl, a deep, wordless outpouring of grief that echoed through the building and caused more than one person to turn in their bed and burrow into their spouse for comfort. Those, like Doyle, who had no comfort could only shiver, and try to sleep again.

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Life without Bodie was so hard. Oh, the other lads on the Squad were great, but they weren’t Bodie. There was no one quite on his wavelength, no one to joke with in the same way. Hell, no one to think the jokes before he even made them. And he felt antsy on ops – the lads were good, Anson, Murph and Jax in particular, but no one filled that gap, and there was no one he trusted as he knew his other self. He became more of a loner, sloping off after the day was done to his flat, where he read, or listened to the radio. He cooked, but didn’t go for take-out, or watch the football, or do any of the things that reminded him so sharply of his missing self.

And it was like missing part of himself. He’d heard about people who’d had limbs amputated who still had phantom pain, and he had a physical pain in his gut whenever he thought of Bodie. So he walled off that part of his soul, and pretended that life was okay. He went down to the pub with the other agents often enough to stave off comment, and he went out with Murphy enough to satisfy that gentleman’s enquiring mind, and he asked enough of the secretaries out to keep the gossip mills happy, but he was empty, tired and heartsick, with no one to notice or care.

After one difficult op, he got very drunk and ended up wandering the streets on his own. Clouds were a dark, brooding indigo on the horizon as he stood on Battersea Bridge watching the Thames roll past underneath, swift and deadly, and wondered, with the ponderous solemnity of the very drunk, what he was doing with his life. Should he carry on, an empty shell? Wasn’t he wasting his life? If all he was ever going to do was hanker after the unobtainable – Bodie – wouldn’t he be better settling for second best, and making a go of that? But what second best was there for him? What else had there ever been? Wasn’t it too late to start again, and how could he summon up the energy? Dating, the whole artificial advance and retreat of the mating dance, seemed too much to ask right now. But was what he wanted really a familiar pipe-and-slippers, easy, comfortable second best? Could he convince himself that that would do? And if so, how and where to find it? Trouble was, none of the girls he dated were long-term prospects, or ever had been, come to think of it. Except… Ann.

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Although the wedding was in a church and not in a registry office, Doyle’s wedding to Ann mimicked Bodie’s wedding to Patsy in many ways. After a whirlwind romance and courtship, he hadn’t wanted the full church wedding but Ann had insisted, and here they were, Ann decked out in full white lace, he in a grey three-piece suit. There weren’t many CI5 agents present because Ann had shuddered delicately when he’d mentioned it, and he’d supposed after what had happened with her father she had a point. But he’d wanted a few of his mates there, because there wasn’t anyone else for him, so Murph stood with him (not Bodie, never Bodie) and Jax had been there with his wife, and Ruth and Betty and Susan. And he’d realised, looking at all the chattering people as he’d waited for the ceremony to start, that there was no one else.

He’d gone through the ceremony with almost the same sense of surreal absenteeism he’d experienced at Bodie’s wedding (stop comparing), and he’d smiled and nodded and kissed in all the right places. And if he’d paused (hoped) for a second with the vicar at ‘If any of you know cause, or just impediment’ it was because he wanted to give Ann her moment to smile at him. It was okay to take a breath before the phrase. And he said his lines firmly and correctly. And then he was married.

Job done.

Ann’s friends were nice people, but very social, and they all knew one another and asked after one another and their children and even their bloody dogs, and he found it tiring. He made it through the reception but then Ann was ushering him towards the car she’d ordered and he shook Jax’s hand and gave Murph a brief hug and was taken away by his new wife to the hotel she’d chosen. This passivity, this docility, pleased Ann, he could tell. He only hoped he could keep it up. She was his last chance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Three years later, and the cracks were beginning to show. He’d hoped they could have longer, but too many call-outs, too many ruined or missed dinner-parties with Ann’s friends had taken their toll. He’d done his best, really he had, but although he pretended to like the delicate, lacy cheese straws, pale green and aubergine-coloured olives, and bone-dry sherry in fine crystal glasses that Ann served to her friends at her parties, and joined in as best he could with the bookish conversation and the political analysis, his views and tastes did not fit in with those of her friends.  He felt like an uncouth, uneducated outsider, and would much preferred to have been eating cheese and onion crisps, drinking beer and watching the match until he fell asleep, twined with Bodie like a pair of puppies on the sagging sofa.

He and Ann had started with reasoned discussions, then progressed to polite disagreements. These had escalated to arguments and they’d then had a couple of blazing rows but this latest one was so bad that she’d walked out, and Doyle had hit the bottle badly. Murphy was unimpressed when he called to collect Doyle the next day.

‘Strewth!’ He waved his hand in front of his face. ‘You don’t half stink! Go and clean up while I put some coffee on. Ann gone to work?’

Doyle grunted and headed for the shower.

Murphy took a look round, noting the whisky bottle with its solitary attendant glass in the lounge, and in the kitchen, the abandoned meal, the shattered plate and the congealed food on the work surface. He cleaned it all up while Doyle was in the bathroom, and put the coffee on to brew. He found orange juice, and by the time Doyle came back into the kitchen, washed, dressed and looking marginally better, he was able to thrust a plate of toast at him.

‘It lives! Here, get some of this down you.’

‘Cheers, Murph, you’re a pal.’

‘What happened, then, the lady take the hump?’

‘Yeah, apparently I fucked up again. Yesterday was the anniversary of the day we first met or something. I dunno. She’d cooked a special meal and I was supposed to be home by six.’

‘Ah. I guess Cowley had other plans?’

‘Not so much Cowley as chasing round Hackney with McCabe and Ruthie after those kids with the grenades and the Armalites. Oh, hell, you know what it’s like, Murph. She wants a normal life and I’m never going to be able to give her that.’

‘None of us are what you’d call normal. You don’t join this mob if you want 9 – 5 and Sunday dinner with the in-laws. Or any in-laws at all, come to think of it.’

Doyle nodded, then winced as his head hurt. They sat there in silence for a few minutes.

‘Ann’s still never understood the job.’

“‘A bear of very little brain’,” Murphy observed wryly.

‘What?’

‘Winnie the Pooh.’

‘How do you know that?’ Doyle shook his head, baffled.

Murphy smiled imperturbably.

‘Nephews. Nieces. Hundreds of them.’

‘Oh. No, she’s clever enough – bloody clever – but she still thinks I’m a thug. And she doesn’t want kids.’

‘Well, I’m no marriage guidance counsellor, Ray, but it seems to me as though you need to think about how much you want to keep her.’

He paused, considering.

‘Look, none of us have said this to you, but when Bodie left we were worried about how you’d cope. Then when you found Ann again we thought great, he’s cracked it. But it was never quite the great romance, was it? Tell me to fuck off by all means, but was there something more than just the odd wank between you and Bodie?’

Hung over and weary, Doyle looked over the table at his friend, and knew an urge to confess.

‘Yeah. Yeah, it was more. Yeah, I loved him. I thought he loved me, but he left me in the end.’

Murphy blinked, and tried desperately for a look of sympathetic understanding.

‘Was it the affair with Patsy?’ he said tentatively. ‘Losing her must have been really hard for Bodie.’

Doyle gave a harsh croak of laughter.

‘Patsy? I don’t think he ever gave a shit about her. Or the baby, to be honest. That’s the problem, Murph, I’m still not sure why he left me. People do, you know? Now this thing with Ann isn’t working either. I don’t know – people seem to like me enough as a friend, but to settle down with? I’m just not good enough.’

He fell silent, his mouth working, and Murphy didn’t know how to answer him. After a while, Doyle turned to look the other man in the face.

‘You’re a good-looking bloke, you’re a nice guy, you’re not short of girlfriends yet you’re on your own. Is that your choice?’

‘Yeah, I guess so. I got used to doing for myself in the army, and I like my own company well enough.’

‘See, I’d rather be with someone. I’m scared of being on my own. I thought that if I couldn’t have Bodie then I’d make a go of it with someone else – and I tried, Murph, really I tried. But Ann – she lives in such a different world, and she doesn’t like my world at all.’

‘Well, there’s your problem, right there. All these people, rushing round their little lives like hamsters in a wheel, if they knew the half of what went on in the underbelly, they’d be shocked. But they read one per cent of it in the papers the next morning and they tut to their wives or their husbands and they pat their children and their dogs on the heads and off they go to work. Out on the 8.05 and back on the 5.55 and shall we have trifle for tea, dear, because the raspberries are doing so well this year. Not a bleeding clue.’ He paused, and shook his head.

‘That’s why I stick to barmaids and such – they’re cheerful and they don’t have such high expectations. Plus, they’re replaceable. You’ve just got to work out what’s going to work for you, and what you can work with, Ray.’

Doyle eyed his colleague with gratitude and a new respect.

‘That’s probably the longest speech I’ve ever heard you make, except for being my best man.’

‘Yeah, well, it was so long it’s made us late. Drink your coffee and let’s go and catch more bad guys. Only I think I’ll drive if you don’t mind.’

‘Okay. And Murph – you don’t mind about me and Bodie?’

‘Nah. I’ve always suspected you bat for the other side occasionally. It’s not a problem. Just keep your hands off my gorgeous arse. Now come on, will you?’

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Ann leaving had hammered the final nail into Doyle’s CI5 coffin. He’d barely scraped through the physical tests, courtesy of some sterling work on the part of his team mates, but the psychological evaluations revealed his mental state to be too challenged for Kate Ross to contemplate letting him loose on unsuspecting members of the public. Cowley called him in to deliver the news. It came as no surprise to Doyle, who had been glumly expecting this meeting for a while.

‘I think you know why you’re here, 4.5’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Your scores are down to the point that I can’t keep you on the A-squad.’ Cowley was brisk but not unkind. He eyed Doyle over the desk.

‘What happened? I’d have thought you were one of my strongest agents, mentally, able to cope with most things. Indeed, I never thought you were particularly well suited to Miss Holly, if I may say so, although I understand that when Bodie left –‘ He noted the flinch with interest and some annoyance. Was the man still hankering after the unobtainable? An idealist, he supposed: it showed in his profile. Still, it explained many things about the failure of this relationship, and about his inability to settle within CI5 over the last year or so.

‘Am I right in thinking that you’d rather not go to the B-squad?’

‘No, sir. Er – yessir, you’re right, I don’t want to go down to the B-squad.’

‘Had you considered any options yourself?’

Doyle was momentarily jolted out of his gloom. He hadn’t realised that he might have any options, let alone that he might have been expected to come up with some.

‘Er – no, sir. Not really. I suppose I could move over to Training. I didn’t know if you’d let me stay.’

‘Aye.’ This not being indicative either way, Doyle waited while Cowley flicked through a file on his desk. He had the impression, as so often with Cowley, that he had been assessed and found wanting.

‘Well, Doyle. I think it better that you not stay here.

Doyle nodded, depressed. This was the end, then. Kicked out. He supposed he could find a job in security somewhere, or possibly teaching at a yuppie gym. There were plenty of those around after all, and although he was no longer fit enough for Macklin he was far fitter than the average member of the public, and probably than the average gym instructor, although –

‘Are you listening to me, Doyle?’

‘Sorry, sir?’

‘Och, man, have a drink and don’t look so down in the mouth! I said I’d arranged a transfer for you.’

‘Er… where?’

‘Scotland Yard. You can tackle this drugs problem from the other side.’

‘Oh, no, sir, not the Drugs Squad again!’

‘No, laddie, no. I wouldn’t send you back there.’

‘Do I have to take it?’

‘No, you don’t have to, but I think it would be a good thing for now.’

‘Good? Who for?’

Cowley eyed him over the thick glasses.

‘Think of it as a temporary transfer.’

‘Temporary? How long for?’

‘As long as it takes, Doyle. You will move over to the Serious Crimes Division and liaise with this department until we –‘

‘Serious Crimes? Last I heard they were a bunch of wankers in there. Couldn’t plan a piss-up in a brewery. And they wear suits. Suits!’

Cowley studied the man in front of him, considering the open shirt, the tight jeans and the red boots.

‘I’m sure you’ll manage to come to some agreement on the dress code. Now, as regards the –‘

‘And another thing, my salary and pension. How will that transfer over? I bet that’ll get cocked up again.’

‘Doyle, I’m trying to give you the outline of this job here. You can work out the detail later, in your own time. I’ve arranged this transfer for you because I think it’s of mutual benefit, so please pay attention. I have plenty to do after this meeting.’

‘Yes, sir. Certainly, sir. Three bags –‘

‘Doyle!’

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1989

 

Doyle leaned back in his chair, wincing as his vertebrae popped and cracked from sitting hunched over for so long. So much was coming together in this operation, if they got it right. Cowley’s plan of moving him over to Scotland Yard had paid off and he’d headed up one side of the investigation with CI5’s wider-ranging powers enabling him to call for assistance in other areas. And yet again, Cowley had been right. He marvelled at the old man’s insight. There had indeed been one person behind this whole empire of crime, and everything had indeed been linked together as he’d sworn. And here he was, Raymond Doyle, Acting Superintendent of the Serious Crimes Division (and hadn’t that ruffled a few feathers?), about to launch the combined operation to bring it all crashing down and finally capture the criminal mastermind behind it all. He snorted. He was thinking in terms of tabloid headlines now. This man, Bain, was due in this place and they would take him down. They had planned everything to link together so that his whole empire came crashing down at the same time, and he the kingpin at the apex, and it would all end tomorrow.

He considered the balance of CI5 agents and police officers and riffled through his notes again. He scribbled another list, then sighed as he pushed his chair back from his desk again. He rubbed his eyes, frowning. It was very quiet in the outside office. He looked at the clock. Shit – 11:47pm. He’d done it again: worked without realising that the office had emptied around him. Probably his secretary had put her head in to say goodnight and he’d not really noticed, merely responded on automatic again. Still, everything was in place now as far as he could tell. He thumbed through his notes, topping them with the detailed instruction pages of which sheets went to whom, and looked one more time at the schematic of the warehouse-turned-nightclub. He’d go there in the morning to check it out one last time and make sure they hadn’t installed anything that would get in their way. He couldn’t afford anything to go wrong with this one.

The staff work had been thorough, he knew it had, but still he had to check. He’d had Records working overtime, trying to trace backgrounds on all the nightclub’s staff, but it was the nature of the place that people drifted in and out and references weren’t exactly critical to employment. It was driving the clerks mad as well: one girl had asked him cheekily if next time he could please choose engineers or bankers, people with twenty years’ employment history and whose dogs were pedigreed back seven generations. It would make a nice change, she’d said with a wink.

There was a long chain of incidents both major and minor, and many deaths linked to Bain stretching back over the years and this operation would finally lay some of the ghosts to rest. Benny, Dick Mason, Jane Jameson, Patsy, Terringham’s resignation, come to that, at the time when he was shaping up to be one of their better Ministers – Bain had a lot to answer for.   It had better go well.

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Dust motes hung in the air as the sunlight slanted through the grubby windows onto the cellar floor. Someone walked along the pavement at head height and Doyle flinched until he realised they were outside. Nerves overstretched, he chided himself, be glad when this is over. He checked that all was as he had left it in the cellar and that Phillips had installed the listening gear where they had agreed before running lightly up the stairs to the main club.

It was a vast space, made more cavernous when empty of people and without the driving disco beat that filled the room at night. Dimly lit, it looked shabby and tawdry without the spotlights and the glitterballs, and he was filled with a vague distaste for the place. A figure over on the other side caught his eye, and he thought, That bloke looks like Bodie’s dad.

Disbelieving, he looked again. No.

Before he could think about it, Doyle was over the other side of the room, one hand out to stop the other man.

It was Bodie.

Always solid, Bodie had run to fat and the clean, spare lines of muscle were now blurred around the edges. His eyes were pouched and bloodshot, and there was a slight tremor to his hands. His tread was heavy, and Doyle had been able to approach without Bodie realising that anyone was coming his way. He turned ponderously, slightly off balance, and looked incuriously at the other man.

There was a moment where, Doyle knew, Bodie simply didn’t recognise him, and it hurt, after all they had been to one another, that it had come to this. And then the red-rimmed eyes brightened, and a slight flush stained the pale cheeks.

‘Doyle?’

‘Hallo, Bodie.’

‘Doyle, mate!’

Doyle held out a hand cautiously, his mind racing. What was Bodie, of all people, doing here? Why had their research not identified him as a member of staff? What was he going to do? How much could he – should he – say? And worse, how could Bodie possibly not know what was going on under his nose? Was he involved in Bain’s drug trafficking?

His hand was grasped and he was pulled into a hug. As he felt the extra flesh and smelt the beery breath he made the unwelcome discovery that, if not already an alcoholic, Bodie was well on his way.

‘My ol’ Ray of sunshine!’ Doyle wasn’t used to this level of effusiveness from Bodie and was having difficulties reconciling this Bodie with his self-contained partner.

‘Fancy meeting you here! What’re you doing here, then?’

‘Oh, I’m only here to have a look round, you know?’

‘Yeah? You still with the Old Man?’

‘No, I’m on secondment to the Yard. Serious Crimes Department. Acting Superintendent.’

Doyle felt uncomfortable explaining and winced internally, waiting for the mockery he felt sure would follow. But Bodie seemed to accept that at face value.

‘Superintendent, eh? Not bad, sunshine, not bad at all.   Cowley’s all right, though, isn’t he?’

‘Yes, he’s fine – getting on a bit now, and his leg’s no better, but he’s still there, still fighting the bureaucrats.’

‘And what about all the lads – they okay?’

‘Yeah – not bad. We lost Mason, Tulliver, Jameson and Marriott, and Corrigan, Turner, Fields and Nelson got invalided out, oh, and Ruthie’s pretty much doing all the driving for Cowley these days, but other than that, they’re pretty much okay.’

‘And you? What’re you doing with yourself nowadays, then?’

Doyle looked at the other man. Something wasn’t quite right. Bodie was asking the questions, but it was almost by rote, as if he knew he should ask but wasn’t very interested in the answers.

Doyle shook his head, but Bodie continued before he could say anything.

‘Something big going down, eh? That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?’

Doyle had to make an instant decision. He thought rapidly, trying to come up with something harmless and believable. He borrowed the name of a minor criminal they’d been chasing for a while, a man suspected of tobacco smuggling on a major scale in this area of London.

‘Nah, just scoping it out, mate. Nothing more than that, really. You seen anything of a man called Joss Carter?’

He felt guilty for lying to his former partner. This was the man who’d meant everything to him: the man who’d had his back; rescued him; saved his life; whom he’d loved – and then he looked again at the bloodshot eyes, the slight tremor in the hands and knew that Bodie, like any other addict, would find it difficult to resist anything for his next drink. So he lied.

Bodie, however, hadn’t lost all his previous perspicacity and knowledge of his partner.

‘Joss Carter? Never heard of him. Anyway, you? Haven’t you got minions for that sort of thing? After all, you’re a top man now!’

Doyle thought fast.

‘Oh, come on, Bodie. I’m hardly that senior. And anyway, it gets bloody boring, sittin’ behind a desk all day. You remember what Cowley was like, always under our feet in the field. And it keeps the young ‘uns sharp, thinkin’ their boss is checking up.’

He stopped, aware that he was babbling and providing far too many excuses. Bodie seemed satisfied though, turning away restlessly.

Doyle reached out a hand to him, turning him back to face him.

‘Bodie… are you okay here?’

‘Oh – yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. I know it’s not what we – well. What we had. But it’s okay, Doyle. It suits me.’

Doyle looked at him, trying to see the truth in the dim light of the club.

‘If you’re sure.’

‘It’s fine.’

‘If you need anything…’

‘Yeah, yeah, I know where you are, don’t worry.’

Doyle was mute, unable to believe that this life, this lack of purpose, of anything he’d ever known about Bodie, could possibly be enough. That his friend, his lover, could have could have sunk so far towards the point of oblivion was incomprehensible.

Bodie raised an eyebrow.

‘Seriously, I’ve still got a few investments ticking over if I ever need them. Don’t worry about it. Now, fancy a beer or two? On the house?’

‘Bit early for me. I’d better be getting back, given that there’s no trace of Carter.’

‘Well, if you’re sure?’

Doyle hadn’t even turned away before Bodie had a bottle raised to his mouth, slouching away into the shadows of the club without a backwards look.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The RT crackled. It was one of the deep undercover CI5 agents stationed well outside the main operation zone, detailed to keep an eye on Bain to see if he’d swallowed tonight’s bait. Doyle took a sharp breath.

‘Control? Looks like we’re on. He’s setting off, on his own. He’s wearing a grey suit, black shoes.’

‘Acknowledged. Stand down.’

No point in following him and possibly spooking him. If all went well, if all their plans came to fruition, Bain wasn’t just nipping out for a takeaway and he’d turn up on their doorstep and be nicked.

He flicked the RT switch.

‘All agents, stand by. Target heading for meeting point, wearing grey suit. Target is alone. Maintain radio silence from this point on. Control out.’

It should take Bain around thirty minutes to get to the club from his elegant mansion in Kensington. Another few minutes to park his car, then a short walk through the misty evening, hurrying a little to get out of the damp. Call it forty-five minutes, perhaps. Doyle sat back.

He could wait.

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Everything was set up. The club was full, and the CI5 agents and plainclothes police officers blended in well. Doyle was careful to stay hidden in the cellar room in case Bodie spotted him, and he had made sure that he had stationed Bodie’s former CI5 colleagues outside the club, to ensure they were well out of sight and unlikely to catch a glimpse of him. He’d put police officers and the newer CI5 agents in the inside positions. They wouldn’t know Bodie. Not that the others were likely to recognise him, or he them, but there was no point in taking any risks at this stage. He could see Bodie on the CCTV cameras, looking tough in his bouncer’s role but not having to do much on the door. He watched him surreptitiously take a swig from a small hip flask: vodka, Doyle guessed with a shudder – foul stuff, but it wouldn’t taint his breath as much.

As he was watching, Bain walked off the street, giving Bodie and his colleague a nod of acknowledgement, and through the main door.

This was the first time Doyle had had a clear view of the man who had caused him so much trouble and personal difficulty over the years. He’d been remarkably troublesome to lure into the open, preferring to do business by proxy, and it was only with great difficulty that he’d been persuaded to turn up to this meeting in person. His subordinates were close-mouthed about him but this was not from loyalty. He was unprepossessing on first glance and Doyle could see nothing to inspire such fear. He was past middle age, bald and slightly overweight, but looking closer the air of menacing self-confidence became clearer even on the CCTV monitors, and the poor quality picture did nothing to disguise the mean set of the mouth and the heavy shoulders, visible even through the cut of a very expensive suit.

‘Heads up, everyone, we’re on.’

Doyle tracked Bain on the monitors as he pushed through the crowd to the bar and paused. Doyle froze.

‘Come on, you bastard, just a bit further,’ he crooned under his breath. Seeing nothing out of place, Bain continued and ordered a drink, turning and leaning with his back against the bar so he could survey the packed dance floor in front of him.

Agents 2.4 and 7.9 were chatting at the bar a little bit further along from him: to all intents and purposes they were two office workers out for the evening, slightly the worse for wear. 2.4 turned and grabbed 7.9’s breast in a boozy lunge.

‘Oi!’ she said loudly. ‘Don’t do that!’

‘I’m sorry, darlin’. Come ‘ere and gis us a kiss, then,’ and he pulled her towards him and snogged her expertly, the signal for all agents to move closer, surrounding the two agents and Bain. 7.9 – Harrison – hauled off and smacked 2.4 – Burbage - as per orders. The smack Harrison landed on Burbage’s ear was harder than had been rehearsed and consequently drew more attention. The planned brawl degenerated into a free-for-all as some of the nightclub’s more aggressive partygoers joined in uninhibitedly and Doyle, down in the control room, suddenly realised it was in danger of turning into an undisciplined, disorganised riot.

 

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Bodie had a quick nip from his hip flask. The punters were tailing off now, most of them already through the doors, the girls giggling at Bodie and his colleague, the boys muscling up as if to say, ‘I could take you.’ Yeah, right.

A couple went through, the man’s hand on the girl’s arse already, then an older chap looking a bit out of place amongst all the younger types. Nice suit, though. Bodie changed places with his colleague Naz and had another swig. He relaxed again into his pleasant mental haze while a few more late-comers made their way into the club.

A rise in the rumble of voices from within, a heightening of the tone and the tension, and Bodie was jerked out of his fug by Naz’s hand on his arm. They looked at one another.

‘Trouble?’

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‘Shit!’ Doyle ripped off the headset and barged past the communications officers out of the door, taking the stairs three at a time up to the main club. He pushed through the bodies on the dance floor without a qualm, looking desperately for Bain. He couldn’t see him anywhere. Shoving struggling, screaming people out of his way, he was heedless of his own safety, totally focused on finding Bain. His fixity of purpose singled him out and was his undoing as Bain spotted him, a hunter amongst the bleating sheep. Coldly, Bain pulled out his gun and snapped off two shots.   The crowd scattered, screaming wildly. Doyle swore viciously as he dived for cover. Agents and police officers were shouting, trying to contain the situation and protect the clubbers and partygoers. No one had eyes on Bain in all the chaos. Doyle scrambled to his feet again, furious that it had all gone so wrong, turning, searching for the man he was so determined to take down.

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Suddenly screams and two gunshots from within ripped through the music. Bodie turned and ran into the club, pelting onto the dance floor, shoving screaming party-goers out of his way. Scanning the area, long-buried instincts kicking in, he saw guns in the hands of what could only be agents. People were screaming, people were running every which way, people were panicking, but he couldn’t see the focus of the room.

Another shot. There – Doyle! It was Doyle! There was an op going down here after all. Bodie turned rapidly, trying to see –

He knew where Doyle was, as he knew where his own hand was. He saw a man with a gun aimed at his partner, his finger tightening on the trigger. The world was turning so slowly: he was running through sand, through treacle: he shouted as he had shouted so many times before,

‘Down!’

He had a fraction of a moment to see Doyle drop to the floor, to see the barrel of the gun turn away from Doyle and fix coldly on himself as the target instead. Then a pause, then another shot, the thunder before the lightening, then a bright flowering of pain. 

The last thing Bodie saw as the darkness descended was Doyle striding towards him, warrior-bright in the cold light of the club’s spotlights. 

 

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Doyle was looking round frantically for Bain when suddenly a well-known voice roared,

‘Down!’

Doyle dropped to the floor as the shot rang out. Bodie? Where was he? He wasn’t supposed to be involved, but the fool had got himself mixed up – and had saved his life again. Doyle shook his head as he inched over the floor to the next bit of cover, looking around for Bodie.   There was a pause, then another shot.

He scrambled to his feet again, roaring, ‘Bodie!’

Running in heart-bursting panic to where Bodie had fallen, he snapped off a single shot as he ran and drilled Bain through the forehead. Doyle slid along the floor to where his ex-partner lay in a graceless heap and, forgetting everything he’d ever been taught about first aid, grabbed him by the shoulders and heaved the inert body over onto its back.

‘Bodie!’

He fumbled desperately for a pulse in the big artery in his neck. Blood oozed sluggishly from a wound on one temple and there seemed to be another patch of blood on the other side. Shit, had the bullet gone through?

‘Christ, please no,’ whispered Doyle. Around him all was still chaos but his world had shrunk yet again to this one man. 

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The clear-up took forever. Dazed, shocked and injured clubbers had been led away, equipment was being dismantled, reports were being compiled, measurements were being taken and Bain had been taken away in a body bag. Doyle had undergone a quick debrief with Cowley and the Chief Commissioner, with the promise of a full enquiry to follow.

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He visited the two injured police officers on their hospital wards and said all the right things, praising their bravery, reassuring them that they wouldn’t be there long and promising commendations. He visited the CI5 agent as well and said similar things but more awkwardly, and without the promise of a commendation.

Finally, hesitantly, he came to Bodie’s bedside.

‘How are you feeling?’

‘Rough.’

Bodie looked rough, Doyle thought. The bullet had just grazed him but the subsequent fall had done as much damage when he’d cut his head open on the side of the bar on his way down. He had two dressings where they’d had to cut his hair away at the sides of his head and his hair stuck up in the middle like a cockatoo’s crest. Doyle smiled faintly at the image and then sobered again as he looked closely at his ex-partner and noted the changes in him.

‘You saved me. Again.’

Bodie shrugged, then winced.

‘Habit.’

‘Thanks.’

Bodie shifted in his bed and tried a smile.

‘Don’t suppose you’ve brought me any grapes?’

‘Grapes?’

‘You know, like we took the Old Man? With his whisky in the bag?’  Brazen demand blazed out of his eyes.

‘You know that’s not the way.’

‘Yeah, I know. ‘S hard, though.’

‘I know.’

Bodie looked up. ‘You lied to me.’

Doyle flinched. Here they were, at the tip of the iceberg. He’d known this was coming and he still wasn’t sure what to say. In the end he went for honesty.

‘Yes. I did. I couldn’t risk it.’

‘Risk what?’

He paused.

‘I didn’t know if you were involved, at first. Then I saw you and… ‘

‘And what?’

Doyle found it hard to meet his eyes.

‘I didn’t know if I could rely on you to keep it to yourself, to be honest.’

There was a small, pained silence.

‘I see.’  Bodie forced a small, rueful smile. ‘Can’t blame you, I suppose.’

Doyle was furious at his easy acceptance, at his denial of all they had previously meant to one another, of the synergy they’d had. Bodie recognised the anger that swept through his bones.

‘Look at you! How could you let it get to this state?’

‘It’s not so bad, you know. No expectations.’

‘You can’t mean that!’

‘Things change, Ray.’

‘Not that much, surely!’

He stared at the other man in total incomprehension. Bodie shifted, wincing under the double hit of his head wound and the desperate need for a drink. Doyle softened, recognising his discomfort.

‘Come on, let’s get you home. They said you’re okay to go.’

‘Home?’

‘Yeah. My place.’ He looked quizzically at Bodie’s evident confusion.

‘You got somewhere else to go?’

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It was late and it had been a hell of a long day. Doyle padded around his flat, tidying up a newspaper here, clearing away a glass there, somehow reluctant to go to bed and using the time to process the happenings of the day. He stopped in front of the soldiers and reached out a finger to touch, remembering Bodie’s surprise and delight when encountering them again earlier that evening.   Finally there was nothing left to do, and he headed for bed, retracing his steps with a curse as he realised that there was actually one more thing left to do before he could rest.

Doyle looked into the spare bedroom, checking on his unwanted guest. Bodie was asleep, curled into the blankets as if trying to make himself invisible. The room stank faintly of stale alcohol, exuded from Bodie’s skin despite his recent shower, and Doyle’s lip curled slightly as he turned away. How could his ex-partner have let himself come to this? Doyle was conveniently forgetting – or, rather, choosing to ignore – his own obsessions, the compulsions that had driven three secretaries away and broken his marriage. He sighed, speculating about how long it would take to get Bodie back on his feet, feeling guilty about his scorn and wondering what, if anything, they might still have in common.

And then his attention was caught by the pile of neatly-folded clothes on the chair in the corner of the room. He stood, arrested by the sight, taken back to the years of their partnership as if the wrench in their lives had never been. Despite his drunkenness, despite the change in his circumstances, despite all his troubles, Bodie still put his clothes in the same place every night, so that he could find them if there was a sudden call to arms. Doyle had asked him about it once, in the early days of their partnership.

‘Are you this tidy about everything?’

‘That’s what the military does for you, makes you neat.’

‘What, still expecting weapons inspection every morning?’

‘Look, when the call to arms comes at oh-dark thirty, you don’t wanna be hopping round on one foot trying to find your other sock and wondering where you left your belt, know what I mean?’

Doyle shook his head, his eyes prickling unexpectedly.

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The big shock had been the discovery that Bain was not Bain at all, but Eric Sutton, and it was Sutton who had been behind these years of careful planning and mayhem. At first Doyle had been puzzled.

‘Sutton?’

‘Yes, sir. We’ve traced him back to your days in CI5 and a drugs bust there that put him in prison. It seems as though he made connections while he was inside and when he came out he disappeared off our radar.’

Looking through the file his clerks had hastily assembled from the available information on the way to his meeting with Cowley, Doyle marvelled at the spread of Bain’s – Sutton’s – empire, covering as it did drugs, prostitution, protection, and a whole host of smaller but equally unpleasant offences. It was like that Life on Earth programme Ann had insisted they’d watch, when David Attenborough was describing how fungus spread underground, silently, out of sight, in the dark. The contrast of his enthusiastic, civilised tones and the eerie pictures on the screen had given Doyle the creeps.

Debriefing with Cowley, he’d admitted he’d never given the man any thought after he’d been jailed for his drugs offences all those years ago.

‘1977? A hell of a long time ago, sir. I never had cause to remember him.’

‘Aye, well, Doyle, it pays to remember your enemies.’

‘But that’s it – he wasn’t an enemy, was he? Just another minor villain, banged up for drugs dealing.’ He hesitated, looking at his former boss. Cowley nodded.

‘Go on.’

‘Was it because of the threats?’

‘When I threatened to turn him into a heroin addict himself? Aye, likely so, likely so. But you throw some people into jail and they reform, others do their time and come out and go on with their lives. Some go back to their old ways. Sutton, he fell in with the big boys and cultivated them deliberately, and made his connections and made his plans.’ He paused, brooding.

‘Still, he’s dead now and he won’t be troubling us again.’

Doyle shot to his feet.

‘So that’s it? That’s okay, is it? How many lives did he ruin? Three CI5 agents, Patsy, Terringham – Bodie, come to that – but it’s all okay now is it?’

‘And what else would you have me do, Doyle?’ He stared Doyle down, and the old authority reasserted itself until the younger man subsided again.

‘How is Bodie, by the way?’

Doyle exhaled noisily.

‘I dunno. You know he’s an alcoholic?’

‘Yes, I know. Sad.’

‘I don’t have any drink in the house and I haven’t given him a door key but he’s still getting some from somewhere. He hasn’t got any money either so I don’t know how he’s managing.’

‘Well, let me know if you need help.’

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Doyle did need help. It had only been a few days and he was tired, tired and heartsick. To think that his cool, self-sufficient partner, the man he’d relied on and loved for so many years had deliberately reduced himself to this pathetic mess was hard for Doyle to accept. Bodie’s physical wounds were healing well but the silences between them festered.

For his part, Doyle felt a sense of obligation, given that Bodie had undoubtedly saved his life in the club, and been wounded solely because he’d tried to take Sutton down to save Doyle. He’d forgotten that he was out of condition, he’d forgotten that his reactions were slow as treacle and he’d operated purely on old reflexes and conditioning, with one directive – to save his partner. Whether he was regretting it now, Doyle couldn’t tell. He didn’t think so, but he found it hard to read the man sprawled on the settee in front of him, restlessly watching breakfast TV, and he had no way of gauging his responses these days. The aching sense of loss was physical, like a cold stone in his belly.

Bodie shifted slightly, as if conscious of feeling Doyle’s heavy gaze on him, but said nothing.

Bodie was struggling too. What had seemed like an easy enough existence was suddenly proving hard to deal with. His sudden flight from CI5 and Doyle had started a slow descent into cold unhappiness, until the balance of having a drink or two had tilted almost unnoticed into needing a drink or two, and then it was an exquisite relief not to have to think about anything at all except the next bottle or two. He’d drifted, after Marty’s job, keeping enough sense at first to set up a chain of different identities, and he’d washed around Europe gently and casually in different roles before coming back to shore once again in London, where he reckoned he belonged. He’d found the nightclub job – or it had found him, he supposed – and it had suited him fine. Now it was all ruined and his nice comfortable existence was shattered into small pieces. But he’d saved Doyle’s life. So not all bad, then.

But he felt beleaguered, badgered and resentful of Doyle’s incomprehension and palpable irritation. What was it to him if he, Bodie, wanted to drink himself quietly into oblivion? Realistically, who was there to care?

Doyle cares, said a little voice in his brain. Well, he shouldn’t. Not after what I did. And oh, yes, here was Mr. Do-Gooder, Mr. Social-Conscience, Mr. Oh-Bodie-How-Could-You? Christ, but his head hurt. He shifted on the settee again and closed his eyes mulishly, hoping against hope that Doyle would take the hint and sod off.

Nope.

‘Come on, Bodie, I know you’re in there.’

‘What?’

‘Don’t you think we should at least talk about it?’

‘Talk? What is there to talk about?'

‘Oh, I don’t know. Current events? The Ayatollah Khomeini’s funeral farce? Having to arrest two hundred and fifty poor bastards for trying to celebrate some hippy shit at Stonehenge? That was fun, I can tell you. Or just perhaps what the fuck you’re doing with your life – or even why you ran out on me without a word four years ago, and the next time I see you you’re a stinking alcoholic in a sleazy nightclub?’

Doyle was standing over him by the end of this speech, voice raised so that the person in the flat above was thumping the floor.

Bodie winced. ‘Keep the noise down, will you?’

‘Is that all you’ve got to say?’

‘What do you want me to say?’

‘I want an explanation!’

‘I haven’t got an explanation. I made bad choices. It happens.’

Doyle slammed his fist into the wall.

‘That’s pathetic, Bodie!’

‘Yeah, well maybe that’s what I am, then.’

‘I can’t believe I’m hearing this!’

Bodie shrugged wearily. He just wanted Doyle to go away now. All that energy was tiring.

Doyle looked at the man slumped on his couch and came to a conclusion.

‘You’re lost. You’re scared to even try any more. You’re a fat old alcoholic and you’re gonna drink yourself into the grave because it’s easier and safer than trying to fight your way back. What happened to the man I used to know, eh? My partner – remember him? He still in there? I don’t think so.’ He paused in his diatribe and looked down.

‘I loved you. I thought, when I saw you, there’d be something left. But this –‘ he shook his head, and Bodie looked up in time to catch the utter contempt in his eyes.

The slam of the door as he left the flat was the final death knell of Bodie’s self-respect.

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Bodie let himself out of Doyle’s flat but didn’t go to his accustomed place with the winos under the railway bridge. Instead he went and sat on the Embankment, watching the river roll by and doing as much thinking as his aching head and fuddled mind would let him. Slowly, reluctantly, he came to the conclusion that he needed help. He didn’t want to be like this. He shied from the memory of Doyle’s expression and the biting words he’d used. The slam of the door echoed in his head, but in vicious counterpoint, the craving for drink – just one – gnawed in his belly and flickered in his brain.

Okay, so he needed help with this. The instinct to hide was still there, not to let anyone know that he was hurt, that he needed help – but he did. Suddenly it all seemed too difficult again, and he rose from his bench, intent on finding the nearest pub and cadging a drink from someone. But then his eye was caught by a passer-by, long-legged, tight-jeaned, curly-haired, and although it wasn’t Doyle - never Doyle again, perhaps – it was enough to stiffen his new-found resolution so that he sagged back onto his uncomfortable bench to think.

His head hurt. Think, think. What did he need? Okay, he needed to leave Doyle’s place and find somewhere else to stay. The first part was easy – he didn’t need to go back as he had nothing there he needed to bring away with him. Then, somehow, he needed support in giving up the booze. And then he needed to get fitter. And a bit of money, which probably meant a job. His shoulders slumped. It was all too bloody difficult. Pathetic, Doyle had called him, and pathetic he was. No one would give him a job as he was, so – no money, nowhere to live, no chance.

And then he took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and expelled it, slowly. Well, he could do something about getting fitter on his own, perhaps, even if it was only walking a bit to start with and lifting something as free weights. He didn’t have any trainers to run in, but in his current state he couldn’t even run a bath right now, so that wouldn’t be a problem for a while.

Pleased that he’d solved one thing, however small, he straightened up a fraction. Okay, next. Who could he approach for help? His options were limited here. He didn’t have many friends – in fact, he didn’t have any friends left, looking at it realistically. Cowley had said he’d always help, and he might be able to put him in touch with Kate Ross or her current incarnation. But Bodie shrank from letting his former boss see him like this. Doyle had been bad enough.

Not work, then. Social Services would be too slow. He couldn’t think of any former girlfriends’ names, let alone where they might be now. This wasn’t looking good. It might have to be Cowley, then. He hunched his shoulders again, hating this, wishing for a minute that he could undo the resolution and could head back for the carefree obscurity of drunken anonymity. But having made the decision, he was surprised to find it was helping him, and even the thought of parading his shabby, pitiful, failed self in front of a man who had never let himself down was better than going back to where he had been. Okay, Cowley. Although he supposed there was one other person he could possibly try first. It was a long shot, but you just never knew.

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Doyle had had another crap day, and had taken his bad temper out on everyone at work. He’d sloped off early, brushing off his secretary who was trying to arrange a meeting with some committee. Perhaps he’d been a bit too brusque, as thinking about it he’d seen her reaching for the box of tissues she kept on her desk as he’d swept out of the door. Never mind, he’d sort it all out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, he had some serious thinking to do. He pulled the car into the kerb by the river, turned the engine off and sat staring out over the grey waters. Had he ever thought he’d see Bodie again? Had he ever really recovered from losing him four years ago? No to both questions, was the honest answer. It had taken him a long time to accept that Bodie had indeed walked out on him without a single word, even knowing that his partner had done this before. But he’d believed that what they’d had had been special, had changed them both. He snorted in disgust. He was starting to sound like a bloody women’s magazine.

Okay, look at the facts instead. Quite unexpectedly, he had another chance with the one person in his life he’d loved. That person had problems. That person had no one else and nowhere else to go. He, Doyle, was willing to put everything he had into trying to… well.   Start with friendship and see how it went. But in order to do that…

Dammit. He was going to have to tell Bodie about his early history. Having decided that he wanted Bodie back in his life again, it was going to come at a cost. He couldn’t expect understanding and acceptance without explaining the whole painful saga of how his father had abandoned him and his mother while Doyle was still a young child. His mother had reluctantly taken charge, only to abandon him in turn as soon as she judged him able to look after himself. Learning at an early age that fists and blows were, in truth, better than having no one, it had sealed Doyle’s determination later in life never to get involved with or dependent on anyone ever again.

Only he had, hadn’t he? Oh, he hadn’t meant to, hadn’t intended to fall for his partner. He’d never learned how to love, merely ended up there, stranded when Bodie left, with no map nor compass to navigate back to calmer waters. Bodie’s disappearance from his life had been like a sudden jolt back to the days of his childhood, when everything could be ripped away with no explanation and for no reason, and life was out of his control.

He nodded to himself, confident that he could explain this so that Bodie could understand, even in his current state. They had a lot to work on, and Bodie might not want to dry out as quickly as Doyle knew he needed to, but they could sort it out together. Okay. Time to go, then.

He drove home mulling over how he could get some help for his former partner now the head wounds were healing, and rehearsing his apologies and what he might say to recover their friendship. If that were possible, of course. But Doyle didn’t understand this new Bodie at all. If he’d said the things he’d said to the Bodie of five years ago, Doyle would have been picking himself up off the floor. This Bodie just lay there watching bloody breakfast television, accepting it all. Doyle thumped the steering wheel hard, winding himself up again. He supposed he shouldn’t have shouted at Bodie like that, but it was so infuriating, that he’d let it come to this.

By the time he pulled up outside his flat and parked the car he’d calmed down again. He’d worked out his strategy and tactics, eyes firmly on the end goal, tongue firmly leashed. He bounded up the stairs and unlocked the door, calling out as he went in,

‘Hi, it’s only me!’

He was immediately aware of the indefinable quality of emptiness: silence and stillness that were more than someone merely being quiet. His first thought, that Bodie had let himself out again, was succeeded by the knowledge that, once again, Bodie had moved on and left him, without a single word.

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The dojo where Shusai had taught had long gone, paved over by yet another set of industrial units, blank and closed at this time of the day. Bodie stood indecisively on the road, tired and footsore after his long walk. He was down to his last couple of quid and the burning hunger for a drink was starting to gnaw at his gut. A small blind seed of panic took root: where could he go now? He scanned the buildings in front of him with a desperate need for them not to be there, for everything to be back as it was. Then he saw it: a small, smudged poster in the window of the tyre and exhaust company’s office. Salvation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More walking took him to the address of the class, but this was nothing he associated with his old master. This was new and noisy and brash, lacking the quiet discipline that sank into the soul like water into a thirsty desert. He stood silently in the doorway, a shabby figure, until one of the hotshot hard boys came up to challenge him.

‘You looking for something?’

‘Someone who used to teach me.’

‘You?’ The youth looked him up and down, openly sneering.

Bodie was too depressed to rise to the challenge. This was not what he was looking for.   Sensing the potential for an altercation, two of the kid’s friends joined him, all bright eyes and muscle, jostling silently in the doorway. Bodie put his inner sickness aside: he was the one in need. He doubted that they had ever felt this way before: they were too young, too confident, too certain that the world revolved around their limited experience.

‘I’m looking for my old master: Sensei Shusai. He used to teach at the dojo on Whitworth Street but it’s gone now. Any ideas, lads?’

‘Never heard of him.’

Then a new voice, older, more assured. ‘Shusai?’ This bloke had the gi of a master, and his 6th dan belt around his waist. ‘All right, hop it, lads, I’ll deal with this.’ They melted back into the doorway, still all teenage cocky slouchiness, and Bodie was left with a faint hope rising in his chest.

‘No offence, but you don’t look like you were ever trained by Sensei Shusai.’

‘No, I know.’

The man’s eyebrows rose, and Bodie felt obliged to add a bit more.

‘It was a long time ago, and things have been a bit difficult since then.’

A blink, and behind the impassive stare Bodie could sense some mental deliberation going on.

‘Well, old as he is, I reckon he could still break you in two like a twig if he needs to. He’s still training, but it’s very exclusive now. He only trains masters, and that’s only if he feels they’re worth it and ready. He’s working out of a tiny place on Halifax Road, over near Alder Park. You know it?’

‘I’ll find it. Thanks.’

The man nodded. Bodie could feel his eyes on him all the way to the corner of the street.

Okay. Another long walk, but he could do this. Focus. Not on the cruel, twisting gripe in his belly and the burning in his mind, but on putting one foot in front of the other, and on reaching Shusai.

bdbdbdbdbdbdbd

‘Sensei.’

‘Bodie. It has been a long time.’

‘I wasn’t even sure if you still taught.’

‘If there are still students, I will still teach.’ He looked at Bodie with his head on one side, like a small bird.

‘You are in trouble?’

‘No. I – well. Yeah – um, not really.’ He looked at his former master.

‘Come. We will have tea, and you will unburden yourself.’

After he had explained the whole sorry saga, he rested in silence. It felt good to have got it all out, to have told someone he trusted implicitly, and it was indeed an unburdening. He felt lighter, and at the same time very tired. He could sleep now, he felt, for days. The room was quiet, and the only sounds were those of the muted crackling of the small fire. Bodie felt a great weight on his eyelids, and a lassitude in his limbs. His breathing slowed, and his eyes unfocused. Time passed.

Shusai stirred, breaking the peace with the rustle of his clothing as he moved in his chair.

‘Doyle. He is the partner of your soul?’

Jolted out of his somnolent state, Bodie was unprepared for the question.

‘The partner…? Uh – yes. I guess so, yes.’

Shusai nodded. ‘And you would be with him? You would remake yourself for him?’

‘Remake myself?’

Shusai repeated himself patiently, as if to a small child.

‘You wish to be with him?’

‘Yes. If he’ll have me.’

‘Then you are willing to change how you are?’

‘If I can.’

‘You can. The question is, whether you will.’

For a moment, he wondered what would happen if he said, ‘What if I can’t?’ But he knew, in a small, quiet corner of his mind, that the answer would be, ‘Then you can’t.’ and that would be that. His choice, entirely.

Shamefaced, Bodie nodded.

‘I can’t go back like this. He picked me up out of the gutter, but I could see what he thought. And I don’t blame him – I don’t want to be like this either. But I don’t know how to get out of it.’

Shusai nodded.

‘You recognise it now: that is the first step back.’

Silence descended again, and Bodie waited, but his earlier inner peace was gone. He had no idea what he would do if Shusai couldn’t or wouldn’t help him. He had nowhere else to go and he was down to his last option.   He couldn’t even afford the gun and ammo to make a clean end, he reflected with grim humour.

At last Shusai appeared to come to a conclusion. He rose from his chair and went to his small kitchen. Bodie would have followed him, but he made shushing movements with his hands to keep Bodie in his seat.

‘Too small, too small,’ he said, returning a short while later with a simple meal, which he served to Bodie before he would say more. Bodie choked the food down grimly, convinced that this was an act of charity before he was sent on his way. Finally Shusai cleared the plates and regarded his former student with compassion.

‘You will stay here. You will live in the dojo, work as errand boy, sweep up, learn from the beginning again, learn discipline. You will not need to drink. As the discipline returns, so you will learn self-respect again. One can acquire real truth through hard training as one can find water is cold or warm by drinking it. So it will be for you.’

The flood of relief swept through Bodie like a tidal wave. As if from a distance, he observed that his hands were shaking, and although he knew that Shusai was still speaking, he only caught some words about his bed being in the corner of the dojo. The little man caught his sleeve and led him out through the yard to an outbuilding, where there was a small room partitioned off containing a futon, a blanket and a sink with a shelf above it. Lying alone in the cold darkness of the coming night the reaction hit him again, and he lay alternately cursing, that his life had come to this, and scrubbing fiercely at his eyes as he thought of the kindness of his old master.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the next two weeks Bodie was capable of little other than resisting, with gritted teeth and clenched fists, the gripe in his belly, the cold sweats, the shakes and the unshakeable conviction that one, just one drink wouldn’t harm him. His sleep was fractured, and he was reluctant to get up and pace because he didn’t want to disturb Shusai. He spiralled through an endless cycle of relief that he could give up responsibility, and depression that he had failed so badly. He tried to eat what Shusai gave him but found it hard to choke the food down, and harder still to keep it down when the shakes started. Miso soup was his lifeline.

Towards the end of the third week, his discomfort started to ease slightly, and he looked for something to take his mind off his physical condition. Shusai pressed a broom into his hand, nodding, and led him towards the dojo. Bodie considered it.

He had previously only used the dojo in its other incarnation as working space, full of noise and swift movement, shouts, the stamp of a foot, the crack of shinai, all making up the hard dance of mastery. There was none of that now. The sprung wooden floor was gently welcoming, and the sunlight fell warmly through the window.   He could hear traffic noise as a background blur. Shusai nodded again, and left him to it.

He removed his shoes and began in one corner. If he was going to sweep the floor, he’d do it properly.

He developed a routine. He would wake in the morning and have a brief wash. He would air and sweep his own room, then air and sweep the dojo. A silent breakfast with Shusai, who would then depart for his own mysterious purposes, and then Bodie would go for a walk. He walked faster, and then one momentous day was able to break into a run. He came back flushed and happy, and realised for the first time that he no longer felt ill.

He mentioned this to Shusai at their evening meal. Shusai eyed him consideringly, and stopped him from going out the next day. Bodie was brought up short, all the pleasure leached from his face, wondering if he was about to be kicked out.

‘Exercises.’

‘Oh!’ The surprise and delight filled him like sunlight.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shusai would only show him once, expecting him to pay attention and ask if he didn’t understand. He would leave it to Bodie to practice on his own, assuming that he was doing so, although he would check occasionally to see that Bodie’s stance was correct or that his timing was accurate. And still Bodie swept and kept the dojo in readiness.

Then one day there was a subtle air of expectation at breakfast. Shusai addressed Bodie.

‘Today people will come to the dojo.’

‘Do you need me to help? Or shall I go out, go away?’

‘You may stay. Learn, if you wish.'

He stayed. He swept in between bouts. He learned. And as this pattern was repeated every couple of months, he started to see who would progress, and who was not ready. Then the day came when Shusai took the broom away and led him to dress and armour himself. He stared unbelievingly at his master, and the older man gave a nod. He nodded again at the end of the day as the three referees raised their flags in unison, awarding the point, the match and the grade to Bodie.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bdbdbdbdbdbdbd

 

 

1992

 

The air was still and quiet. Doyle was peripherally aware of the resident buzzards shrieking and tumbling in the cool blue heights, but it was the old Land Rover’s innards that were occupying most of his attention as he swore and cursed and occasionally bashed recalcitrant bits of metal with a hammer. Sucking his thumb after one of these incidents, he paused to clock the post van bumping up the main road, a faint drone of diesel engine in the distance, with Peter crashing his gears at the bottom of the hill as usual. He flexed his shoulders and dived back under the bonnet of the Land Rover.

An hour later, and no nearer to fixing the starter motor, alarm bells suddenly started to ring in his subconscious. A car: big engine, well-driven, coming fast was heading up his drive. He wasn’t expecting anyone, and it was taking the deliberately unmaintained surface and the unexpected bridge with ease. A professional driver, then. All his senses now on alert, Doyle hefted the largest spanner thoughtfully and waited.

A large black BMW rounded the last corner in a shower of dust and gravel and drifted to a perfect, foursquare halt. The driver sat, looking over at him without getting out of the car.

Doyle put the spanner down.

‘Bodie?’

Doyle was squinting into the sun, but the vision he could see was so far removed from the last time he’d seen Bodie that he doubted his own senses.

He’d lost weight and the muscle was back, but more than that, the drive and purpose were back in his eyes and his bearing. Even sitting behind the wheel of the car, Doyle could see the muscle tone under the black t-shirt, and catch the scent of an expensive aftershave as it drifted across the warm air between them.

‘Doyle.’ Non-committal, as if unsure of his welcome, Bodie hadn’t turned the car engine off. Doyle paused awkwardly in his move forward to greet him. Now neither of them were sure how to proceed. Then common sense took over.

‘You can at least get out of the car.’

Bodie flushed, and turned the engine off.

‘I wasn’t sure if I’d be welcome.’ His voice was loud in the sudden silence. He slowly emerged from the car, his face the stone mask he used to cover doubt and uncertainty.

Doyle looked at him measuringly. ‘You walked out on me. Again.’

‘I know. That’s what I meant.’

‘Well, you’d better come in. Maybe you can explain.’

A short while later, they were established in armchairs on opposite sides of the cool, shadowy sitting room. Doyle took a slurp of tea deliberately.

‘Go on, then. What brings you up here?’

‘I wanted to say I was sorry.’

Doyle fixed him with a hard stare. ‘It’s been three years, Bodie. Three years since you walked out without a word. An’ I haven’t heard a single thing from you since that day.’

‘I know. It’s been a difficult time.’

‘Not the point, is it?’

‘No. I suppose not.’

Silence fell again.

‘So… this place…?’ asked Bodie, waving a hand to encompass the barn and all its environs.

‘Changing the subject? I thought you were going to explain why you walked out without a word? Oh, and why you walked out the time before, come to that?’

‘Ah, Christ, Doyle!’

Bodie exploded from his seat, knocking his tea flying in a great golden arc across the polished floor boards. He took a short, arrested breath, shook his head and blindly carried on, to fetch up against the window, staring out unseeingly. Hands pressed to his mouth, muffling his words, he continued haltingly, ‘Look, I can’t just… I find it really difficult to talk. To tell you how I feel. About what happened. Stuff like that. I thought if you could start, I might be able to - well, work up to it.’ He turned, and gave Doyle a miserable glare.

‘Feelings, Doyle – I’ve got ‘em, but I don’t own up to ‘em.’

‘Oh, Bodie!’ Doyle rose from his own chair and paced over to the long window, staring unseeingly in his turn over the empty landscape. He took a deep breath, and blew it out.

‘Okay. Look, we don’t have to do this all at once. You’re staying, right?’ He wheeled round to fix the other man with a piercing stare. ‘You walk out on me now, Bodie, and that’s it, I swear. I’m not even sure I -- well. We’ll see, eh? But for now, there’s a bit of supper, and a bed for the night.’

Bodie nodded, relieved. In truth, he hadn’t even been sure he’d get this far.

‘All right. Come on, then. I’ll show you round.’

It was a simple place, but it had its own grandeur, bedded into the landscape like one of the local limestone boulders. Inside it was equally simple, lacking the clutter of Doyle’s previous CI5 flats. Downstairs was open plan, with kitchen flowing into sitting room with only a counter to break up the space. Bodie supposed this was partly to help with keeping it warm in the winter. The porch outside served as windbreak, boot room, coat rack and general dumping ground, and the stairs rising up to Doyle’s bedroom ran up the inside of the barn wall to a mezzanine floor looking out over the endless moor. His bedroom was almost monastic in its simplicity, with a dark wooden floor, high, old-fashioned iron bed, plain white cover and plain white walls. A dark wooden wardrobe and a bedside cabinet, not matching, were all the other furniture the room contained. Bodie wasn’t sure what to make of it. Doyle – his Doyle – had been something of a sybarite in his previous life.

Doyle pulled out blankets and a pillow from a chest acting as coffee table.

‘Here, you’ll need these for tonight.’ He threw them onto the squashy settee and stopped when he noticed Bodie’s hesitation.

‘Oh, were you expecting something else?’

‘I wasn’t sure you’d let me stay. I’ve booked a room at the B&B down the road.’

‘What, with Angie? She’d’ve eaten you alive, mate – better cancel that now. Unless you’d rather stay there?’

‘No! I’d prefer to stay here – if that’s okay with you?’

They were as hesitant as two teenagers, both unsure of the etiquette and both unsure of how the other had changed in the intervening years.

‘Come and have a look outside. I’ll introduce you to Betty.’

Betty? Was Doyle married? Bodie’s heart gave a jolt. He hadn’t factored that in. Nothing had prepared him for this. He followed Doyle through the big oak door and round the back of the barn to the outbuildings, rehearsing meaningless politenesses as they went.

A neat vegetable plot was full of things Bodie didn’t recognise but Doyle identified for him: beans, peas, carrots, potatoes, turnips, tomatoes, then onto the fruit: raspberries, gooseberries, currants, the end of the strawberries… Doyle wittered on, pausing to nudge a hen away from something with his foot.

‘They’re supposed to keep the bugs and stuff down, but it doesn’t work like that sometimes,’ he said gloomily. ‘This one’s Sally – Ruth and Susan are around somewhere.’ Susan? Sally? Bodie decided his world had suddenly become slightly surreal.

‘An’ here she is – come and meet the lovely Betty!’

Bodie stared. He was looking at a goat.

‘Betty?’

‘Yep!’ Doyle was grinning fondly. ‘Don’t you think there’s something around the eyes?’

‘You mad bastard!’ And he was chuckling, laughing, and it got out of hand and he was roaring with laughter and he couldn’t stop himself, and Doyle was laughing at him laughing and the goat turned her mild brown eyes on them wonderingly and it set them off again.

His middle ached from laughing. He couldn’t remember when he had last felt like this, but it felt so good. The warm air was perfumed with the scent of grass and wild honeysuckle. They’d sunk down onto the soft turf and were lying in a contented silence, but he knew it couldn’t last. Bodie struggled up to one elbow and looked out over the rolling, silent land beneath the smallholding.

‘What do you do in your spare time?’

‘What spare time? Takes a lot to keep this place running, mate.’

‘It’s so bloody isolated.’

Doyle gave him a wry glance. ‘It’s not that far from civilisation. Bakewell’s only seven miles away, y’know.’

‘Ah, yes, the teeming metropolis of Bakewell. Is it Monday afternoon that everything closes, or Tuesday?’

Doyle threw a pebble at him. ‘Berk. Half-day closing is Wednesday, as you very well know. Monday is market day.’

Bodie lay back on the grass, grinning up into the cloudless sky. ‘Oo-ar.’

‘It’s not that bad. I don’t have mains electricity, but there is mains water at least. No telephone line though.’

‘Seriously?’

Doyle waved an arm at the landscape.

‘You see any telegraph poles out here?’

Bodie looked around the unspoilt countryside.

‘Er, no.’

‘No. Mobile signal’s not bad, though,’ Doyle said, grinning wickedly.

‘You’ve got one of those? I’m impressed!’

‘Yeah, it’s a bit like having a brick in your pocket, but it works. And I’ve got a generator for electricity, and there is a well, just in case, although the last time I looked in there there seemed to be newts and a couple of toads, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you get desperate.’

‘Heating? Sewage? Don’t tell me there’s an outside dunny, because I’m getting right back in that car now, Doyle, and I’m heading back for the nearest town.’

‘Oh, give over. There’s a septic tank, and the Aga keeps me nice and toasty through the winter. And don’t push your luck, sunshine, because you might still be getting right back in that car and heading back for the nearest town. We’ve got a lot to work out, and you’re not helping by derailing the conversation every time it gets difficult.’

‘Tell me one thing first, though, Ray.’ Bodie looked at him, a little crease between his eyebrows.

‘If I can.’ Doyle’s gaze was level and challenging.

‘Yeah, okay, I know I’ve no right to ask. But… are you seeing anyone?’

Doyle gave a short huff of laughter. Incredulous, he sat up and loomed over the other man.

‘Seriously?’

Bodie shot upright so fast he gave himself a crick in the neck.

‘No – look, sorry, forget I asked. I know I shouldn’t have done, only I needed – wanted to know if there was anyone else who - fuck.’ He jumped to his feet and walked away, rubbing his neck as he went, wondering how the hell he’d managed to stuff his foot quite so far into his mouth in such a short time.

‘Bodie. Come back an’ sit down.’ Doyle’s tone of voice was level and slightly amused.

Fall down seven times. Get up eight, Shusai’s voice whispered in Bodie’s head.

‘I didn’t want to impose if there was someone waiting for you, or if you had somewhere to be.’

‘I’ll let you know if you’re imposing, don’t worry.’

They looked at one another, somehow more at ease than before the misunderstanding.

‘Look. Let’s keep it to the facts. I’ll tell you what happened to me, you can tell me what happened to you and we’ll take it from there. All right?’ Doyle looked for signs of acquiescence and was rewarded by a nod.

‘Okay. I was fucked up after you left. I kept thinking I was holding it together well enough. And I did, for a bit. But it got worse and worse until I failed the psych tests and Cowley had no choice but to get rid of me. He did well by me, though, moving me over to the Yard. Mind, that was all part of his grand plan as well, turns out, controlling that last op from both sides.’

Bodie raised an eyebrow when that seemed to be all.

‘That’s the work side,’ he prompted.

‘Mmmm.’ Doyle looked off into the distance.

He sighed. ‘Ann.’

‘Ann Holly?’ Bodie was incredulous. ‘You never!’

Doyle nodded, looking away remotely again, as if replaying a distant time. His fingers plucked at the grass by his side.

‘I wanted to be normal. I never had much family life when I was little. I used to envy my mates. Oh, I used to play the big man, pretend they were soft for having to do what their mams said and be home by nine, but secretly, I was jealous as hell that someone cared about them. I never thought I’d have what you and I had. But we did. And then we didn’t, Bodie. It all went away and there was nothing left. So, yeah, I married Ann.’

‘Did it work out?’

‘For a while. She was pleased I’d got back in touch, happy to be married. She didn’t want kids, though. Her career mattered to her but she couldn’t live with mine. She kept pushing for me to go for promotion, as if it was something I could ask for.’ He shook his head, marvelling. ‘In the end she couldn’t accept that I wouldn’t ever be a Chief Superintendent at Scotland Yard. The funny thing is, when I cocked it up because she left, that’s exactly where I was going to end up.’

‘That’s where I came in,’ murmured Bodie quietly.

‘Yeah. When that didn’t work out either, I jacked it all in and came up here.’

That really did seem to be the end this time. Bodie nodded.

‘My turn?’

‘Yeah, go on. Start from when Patsy died.’

‘Jeez, Ray. Lead in gently, why don’t you?’

A level stare was his only response.

‘Okay. Well, you know I was going off the rails. I couldn’t see a way round being with you and the rest of the Squad knowing. I didn’t know what to do about Patsy, poor little cow, I couldn’t face being a father to some little tot who wouldn’t even live with me, and I didn’t know what to do about you. Then Patsy killed herself and you went all triumphant on me. I didn’t know if they’d stick me with the baby, I didn’t know what Cowley would do if they did, I didn’t know what you’d do if they did. So I left. Worked with Marty for a while, then did a few other bits round Europe for a year or so. Took me a while to realise I was dependent on the drink and then when I did realise, it was a comfort, not a problem. By the time I met you at the club, I didn’t care.’

He broke off for a moment to see how this was being received. There was no visible reaction, so he ploughed on.

‘Nothing really mattered, Ray. You were telling me about agents who’d died – friends we’d lost – and it was as though there was some fog or… You know in the Peanuts cartoons when the children hear the adults speaking as wah wah wah? That’s what it was like. Nothing made sense. The only thing I needed was my next drink. Then when I came in and saw you were in danger it was like the fog started to clear, only nothing went right and I couldn’t move fast enough. Then I got hurt and you - well, you took me home and cared for me. Whether you did it out of duty or what, I don’t know. Anyway, your disgust when you –‘ He broke off, unable to continue.

Doyle prompted gently, ‘The facts, remember? Where did you go after that? I looked for you but didn’t know where you might have gone.’

Bodie took a grateful breath. The facts.

‘Shusai. He gave me a place to stay. I started by looking after the dojo, then he gave me some exercises. Eventually I moved up the ranks, did well and now I have an outward bounds centre, a sort of action man place for stressed executives to come and play. It’s a bit clichéd but it seems to work.’

Doyle looked at the man in front of him and compared him with the sorry specimen he’d been three years ago. For Bodie to have come so far in that short a time argued a drive and initiative that equalled or outshone anything Bodie had exhibited in the past. He suspected that Bodie was leaving a lot out of the story, but he himself had skipped over quite a few areas so couldn’t complain.

‘What happened to Patsy’s baby?’

‘She’s with the Terringhams. She’ll be fine.’

‘Do you ever see her?’

‘Nah. What would she want with me? What could I give her?’

‘You’re her dad, Bodie. That means something.’

‘Oh, yeah – meant something to you, did it?’

Doyle was silent for a few moments, recalling cuffs and blows and harsh words.

‘You’d be different from your own dad, though.’

‘Maybe.’ There was a pause. ‘I’ve left a letter. For if she ever did want to find me.’

Perhaps that would have to be enough. Doyle came to a decision.

‘That day, when I said you were pathetic. I went out and nothing went right. I went and sat by the river and thought about what I wanted. I realised I hadn’t been fair, because I’d never told you what my problem was and yet I expected you to deal with it, to deal with me how I wanted, needed to be dealt with. I came back. I was going to tell you all about it. You’d’ve been the first person I’d’ve told, willingly. And you were gone.’

Bodie sat bolt upright.

‘Ray.’

Doyle shrugged. Let it go now. It’s time. ‘I can talk about it now. It’s not a new story: unwanted child, basically. Me dad walked out, leaving me with me mam, then as soon as she thought I was old enough to look after meself, she upped and left as well. So that’s why I’ve always had what Kate Ross calls commitment issues and abandonment issues. Since Ann left there’s been no one.’

He looked over at Bodie again, who was looking horrified.

‘It’s okay, don’t worry. I’m not blaming you now. I’ve worked through a lot of it, in my mind, and thought it through. We don’t have to talk about it, I just thought you should know.’ He smiled. ‘You can choose another subject, go on.’

Bodie blinked, then availed himself of the invitation to drop the difficult topic and smiled teasingly.

‘Well, what you said then. I don’t associate you with celibacy, sunshine.’

Doyle gave a crack of laughter.

‘Have you seen my neighbours up here? There’s not much choice, believe me. Besides, I’ve sort of lost interest, to be honest.’

‘Lost interest?’

‘Well, I’m so busy all the time. It doesn’t seem to matter much.’

‘I think you’re just doing the wrong things with the wrong person, mate.’

‘Oh, yeah, and you’re offering to be the right person again, are you?’ Doyle’s gaze was challenging.

The mood between them changed. Bodie was turning over options rapidly in his mind. Should he risk it? He found it so hard to explain his feelings, the things that had driven him to do what he had done, and what he felt for Doyle, now and then. He could see that he wasn’t really getting through. Doyle wasn’t convinced and Bodie didn’t know how to make a better case in words. He’d never been at his best with words, and he and Doyle had never really needed them. They’d communicated brilliantly by a look, a gesture, by touch. So would that work here? He’d done his best to evoke the past but he’d deliberately shied away from anything that could be construed as sexual up until this point. What if it led to outright rejection?

But perhaps this was decision time. God knew he wanted Doyle, ached for him and longed to touch and be touched. So - to risk what he’d achieved in this past few hours, to trust his instincts again? or to go home unsatisfied and wanting, never knowing if this might have brought them together again, two lost souls as they were.

He took a breath and reached out and ran a finger down the line of Doyle’s jaw.

‘You’re still so beautiful, Ray.’

Doyle was shaken by the sudden flood of desire that coursed through his entire system. He knew that he should push Bodie away, but if this might be the last time, how could he resist? He frowned into the navy blue eyes so close to his own.

‘Bodie…’

‘We were good together.’

‘Yeah, we were.’

‘We could be again.’

Bodie curled his hand around and into the warm nape of Doyle’s neck, checking briefly at encountering leather-bound hair instead of the familiar loose curls. He pulled the other man towards him gently, testing for resistance, and met none other than a slight hesitation.

Doyle closed his eyes as he leaned forward, wilfully shutting out the consequences and the implications of what he was about to do. The breath before the kiss was tantalising, familiar, exciting. He met Bodie half way, surrendering his senses willingly, drowning in sensations old and new. Bodie had always been a good kisser. They separated reluctantly.

‘Ray?’

‘Oh – I don’t –‘

Bodie stopped, his eyebrow lifted quizzically. ‘You, sunshine?’

Doyle gave a little choke of laughter, part amused, part ashamed.

‘It’s been so long, Bodie, I’m not sure if I can. Don’t know if it even works any longer.’

‘Well, let’s find out, shall we?’ and he took Doyle into his arms, all smooth, hungry power, and rolled them over on the lion-coloured grasses under the wide blue sky.

It was hesitant to start with, at least on Doyle’s part. What are you doing?, his mind cried, what are you playing at? But their future might end with tonight. This warmth, this silence, might be all that they would ever have. If that were so, he would take what he could to remember, the sun before the burn, and pay the price willingly. But it built so sweetly, urgent and delicious and unstoppable, and he was as anxious as Bodie to remove jeans and shirts and bare sweet flesh to the gentle breeze.

He felt Bodie’s tongue tease warm and wet round his arsehole, then delve inside. God, this was good. He’d forgotten how much he’d loved it, loved being fucked by this man until it felt as though the marrow blazed in his very bones. He could feel the big cock positioned at his arse and his own cock was hard now, hard and aching, thank heavens. He hadn’t known if he’d be able to respond, but everything in him was flying as Bodie took possession gently, tenderly, and at the end with a hard, driving lust that he equalled and matched with a power and passion that left them both gasping and spent on the soft grass.

The world shifted around them and resettled, taking in this new reality. They separated and rolled over silently, amazed and slightly embarrassed. Now what? How did they go on from here? They shifted, doing up buttons and jeans in twitchy silence, until their eyes met, and their joint sense of the absurd, which had carried them through so many years of partnership and all its ups and downs, tipped them both over the edge into laughter.

‘Okay?’

‘Very much okay,’ said Doyle, relaxing into the warmth and curve of Bodie’s shoulder as he squinted up at the vaulting arch of the sky and the buzzards still wheeling on the thermals.

‘S’nice up here.’

‘Mmm.’

‘That it, then? Mmm? No comments on my technique, no, “Oh, Bodie, did the earth move for you too?”, no – oof!’ He subsided as Doyle elbowed him sharply in the ribs.

‘Pillock.’

‘Yeah. It is nice, though.’ The peace was broken by a prolonged gurgle from Bodie’s stomach.

‘Might have bloody known it. Some things never change,’ said Doyle, grinning as he hoisted himself to his feet and held out a hand to Bodie. ‘Let’s get you fed.’

‘A growing boy, that’s me,’ responded Bodie complacently.

‘Mind, I haven’t got any booze,’ Doyle said, frowning. ‘I don’t really drink, these days. I gave up, after Ann left and I came up here.’

‘You’re forgetting, sunshine,’ Bodie said gently, ‘I don’t drink either.’

Arrested by this simple statement, Doyle looked at the other man. Bodie was smiling, and there was a peace and serenity in his face that Doyle had never associated with him before.

‘Come on, before I starve to death, Raymond. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience, now would you?’

Accepting the hand, the statement and the change of mood, Doyle took them both off to the kitchen for food, chat, and a most enjoyable evening.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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They’d taken their tea outside and were lying sprawled in the grass once more. Bodie nodded towards the vegetable plot.

‘You’ve got a visitor,’ he said, keeping his voice low so as not to disturb the peace of the evening.

Doyle raised himself up on an elbow, blinking in the low light of the setting sun.

‘What? Oh – little sod!’ He grabbed a pebble and threw it towards the undersized rabbit that had been quietly nibbling on a turnip top.

‘Bastards,’ he said gloomily. ‘Can’t keep them out of anything. They stripped the lot, first year I was here. Locals thought it was hilarious. Couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t set traps. Then I didn’t get any – couldn’t understand that either, till I went round the boundaries and found all the snares my neighbours were setting.’

Bodie roared with laughter, imagining the naïve Doyle and his chuckling neighbours.

‘It’s all very well laughing,’ said Doyle severely. ‘It took me ages to get the balance right and start making this place pay.’ He stretched and got to his feet, wincing.

‘You okay?’

‘Backache. You forget,’ said Doyle enigmatically, leaving Bodie uncertain if Doyle had forgotten that sex gave him backache or if he’d forgotten about sex generally or about Bodie specifically.

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Bodie woke up after a dreamless night’s sleep. He’d been surprisingly comfortable and had slept very well, confounding his expectations of a restless night. He padded out to the bathroom to use the loo and was confronted by the back view of Doyle, long hair tied back with a leather thong, sleeves rolled up to display the fine, hard muscle of his forearms. There was a buzzing noise and Bodie realised that he was shaving, still using his old rechargeable Remington. He was assailed by the memory of Doyle leaning against Cowley’s entrance door shaving at 5:30 in the morning. He shook his head violently, chasing away the vision, turning the hourglass back to today and superimposing today’s Doyle on the younger Doyle in an attempt to stay grounded as his martial arts exercises had taught him.

‘All right?’ Doyle finished and turned to smile at him. ‘Sleep well?’

‘Yes, thanks. Cup of tea?’ Bodie needed to get out of this close proximity and gather himself. His piss could wait.

‘Yes, please. You know where everything is. Won’t be a minute.’

Bodie had the kettle singing on the Aga and the mugs lined up when Doyle arrived back in the kitchen. He mumbled an excuse and escaped back out to the bathroom.

Okay. Time to ask the big question. He headed back to the kitchen, where Doyle was burning toast.

‘Marmalade over there, butter – oh, can you pass those knives?’

‘Ray, have you had a chance to think about us getting back together?’

Doyle stopped, face suddenly shuttered and all free movement arrested in his body. He looked down, not meeting Bodie’s eyes.

‘I’ve been thinking, yeah,’ he said slowly.

‘Go on.’

‘I don’t think I can take it. I don’t think I could live with wondering if you’d be back from the market, or the cricket match. Hell, that’s even assuming you’d want to live here. Not exactly your cup of tea, is it?’

‘I’m not sure which to start with’, Bodie said carefully, ‘the living with you or the not coming back.’

Doyle shrugged. ‘Either one’s good.’

‘I understand why you wouldn’t trust me to come back. I’ve walked out on you twice now without a word and I understand how that must feel.’

‘You complacent bastard! You have no fucking idea! How can you stand there and say that?’

‘I’m trying to be reasonable here, Doyle!’

‘Reasonable? You? What the fuck was reasonable about disappearing without a word? Not one word? Twice?’

They stared at one another across the room, unable to let go, unable to move forward.

‘Ah, what’s the use.’ Doyle turned away.

Muscles tensed for action, as if he could force Doyle into understanding, into listening, into seeing it his way, Bodie suddenly realised what he was doing. In his head, he heard the voice of Shusai.

When the mind is not present, we look and do not see; we hear and do not understand; we eat and do not know the taste.’

He knew that if he pushed Doyle now, that would be it and he would never have another chance. Hell, he might not have that chance now. What to do? He closed his eyes, and trusted.

‘Okay, sunshine. It’s okay.’

Doyle was brought up short in his pacing.

‘Okay? What do you mean, it’s okay? Nothing’s bloody okay anymore!’

Bodie seated himself again carefully, slowly, as if not to spook a wild animal. Certainly Doyle looked wild, backed up against the wall as if brought to bay.

All Bodie’s hard-won calm from Shusai’s teachings was running through his mind. He spared a moment to be grateful to the little man, and the silence and the struggle of the dojo that seemed equally appropriate to this place.

‘Ray. I want to be with you. To live with you. But I know I’ve fucked it up badly and you’ve no reason to trust me anymore. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.’

There was a pause. The air in the room was charged, it seemed to Bodie, as if just before a storm.

‘Talk to me, mate.’ Bodie’s voice was soft and coaxing, reaching back in Doyle’s subconscious to a time where there was trust between them, to shootouts and chases, lazy nights and gentle caresses. He saw Doyle take a breath, and his shoulders drop slightly.

‘Okay. Okay. I don’t know. I’ve made a life here. It works. Then you come waltzing back in and expect to take back up where we were. I can’t do that. So no, the answer’s no. I can’t.’

Bodie could see his resolve firming again as he said this, talking himself into it, convincing himself that that was what he wanted. Bodie tried to stay calm, but there was despair in his eyes, the wreckage of all his hopes.

‘I’m not expecting to take back up again where we were. I know you’ve moved on. Jeez, this place is great. I’m a bit jealous, if I’m honest. It’s fantastic up here, and the house is lovely. Shusai taught me a lot about what I really need and it comes down to the essentials. I’d like to know you’re okay, though, if that would be all right. Because you are one of my essentials. But I understand if not.’

He stood, trying to smile, fixing the image of Ray Doyle in his mind.

‘So yeah, you’ve built a new life, you’ve got everything you want and you’re happy. I’m glad, Ray.’ He nodded once, and moved to the door.

‘Look after yourself, sunshine.’

He managed to get to the car without any loss of dignity and drove carefully down the lane. Looking back in the rear view mirror, his last sight was of Doyle leaning against the barn door, one hip tilted in that heart-breakingly familiar pose. His eyes blurred with tears and he nearly hit the bank at the next bend.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doyle did his chores for the day, fed the hens, made sure that the vegetable plot didn’t need watering and gave Betty fresh straw. He swept out the kitchen and put a pan of soup on the Aga for tea. He checked the level of oil in the tank and made a note to order some more in the next week or so. He added a few items to his shopping list for his next trip to the market. After he’d eaten he took a last wander round outside and locked up for the evening, before reading a few pages of his book and going to bed. All perfectly normal.

Life was perfectly normal over the next few weeks. Like Bodie had said, he’d built a new life and he’d got everything he wanted.

So why was it so fucking empty all of a sudden?

He’d come up here after he’d resigned because it was home territory, he supposed, but like an animal licking its wounds he’d retreated to hide away until he’d recovered. He’d bought the smallholding for a pittance because it was so lonely and run down, then thrown himself into the hard physical work of renovating the barn and creating the workable parts of the land in order to keep busy and not to have to think. He’d managed to fool himself so far that it was enough.

Seeing Bodie again had brought back all the hurt and all the delight that one person could offer. It sounded like Bodie had not only turned himself around, in terms of the alcoholism, but had made a huge success of the outward bounds centre, whatever the hell that was. A playground for stressed executives, the way he’d described it, but with an indulgence and a humour that were both new. And that was another big change, Doyle mused. There was a calmness, an inner peace and mental acceptance that he’d never before seen in Bodie.

Doyle put it all out of his mind again and carried on with the daily grind. And grind it bloody did, the weeks getting longer and more tiresome. The autumn was closing in, and he’d woken to the year’s first dusting of snow. The land was seamed with white where snow lay in the lee of walls and the ridges and furrows of the hills, and chopping wood that morning with a mean little breeze sneering round his shoulders had made him question his choices in living up here for the first time. For the first time also, he felt alone.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He started to forget things. He could do without sugar in his tea for a week, but he had a bit of a panic when he’d forgotten to pick up the pellets for the hens and had had to go begging to his nearest neighbours in the evening.

He lay awake at night, a huge, dim longing in his mind. How might he and Bodie make it work again? He’d turned Bodie down flat: if he now contacted Bodie again, could he, might he change his mind? Or would Bodie be hurt by Doyle’s rejection? Had that been a one-time offer, and had Bodie gone back to his successful playground, with his big fancy car and his new way of life? Did he even still have Bodie’s number? He scrabbled for the business card Bodie had left, turning it over and over in his hand until the light faded and he could no longer see the numbers.

Then one morning he woke with a calm, cool mind and a clear decision. All he’d ever wanted was to be loved for himself. Perhaps, though, he’d expected too much and not thought enough of the other person first. Perhaps you had to love first, before being loved for yourself. Perhaps that was what Bodie had learned from Shusai.

Or perhaps not, and this might go spectacularly wrong again. Was he willing to take the risk again, that was what it came down to. Risk it, trust Bodie, and be loved, or live this half life.

Put like that, there was no contest. He reached for Bodie’s business card and his mobile phone.

His squawk of indignation echoed through the rafters of the big barn.

‘No fucking charge? Bastard!’

In last night’s preoccupation, he’d forgotten to plug the charger in.

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Ten minutes later he’d coaxed the Land Rover into life and was rattling down the lane towards Bakewell. Traffic was busy and there were people everywhere. Shit, it was Monday – market day. He slowed as an escaped bullock cantered ponderously across the road, followed by two older men with sticks and a nimble youth in wellies and a very holey jumper, flapping his arms to head it off from the stallholders’ market. Doyle banged the steering wheel in frustration. Turning off the main road, he abandoned the vehicle in a residential area, ignoring the glares of an affronted householder, and jogged back towards the town centre.

Change – did he have any for the pay phone?   No. A newsagents, then, and a paper. Now a phone box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first one was occupied by a woman with several shopping bags and a small dog. He pushed on, looking for the next one. Too many sodding people. The next one was also occupied. Bloody hell. Okay, he could wait. The man inside looked to be a farmer, a stout man in a tweed jacket and mis-matched tweed flat cap. Doyle jigged from one foot to the other. He could hear one half of the conversation.

‘Aye, from Flagg.’

‘Aye, he’s home bred.’

What the fuck?

‘Nay, he’s stood for’t fust time.’

Doyle tapped on the door. The farmer turned to look.

‘Nearly done, mi duck.’

‘I know, but I’m in a bit of a hurry.’

The farmer looked at him reprovingly.

‘Ah’m just tellin’ our Bert about this bull. I – oh, ‘eck.’

He fumbled in his pocket for change as the pips rang out tinnily.

Doyle turned away, grinding his teeth. Calm. It wouldn’t help his prospects with Bodie if he were to be arrested for killing this old fart with his bare hands, and Bert, and the sodding bull from Flagg.

Finally the phone box was free and he stepped in and closed the door. The interior was warm, and smelled slightly of manure. Sound was dulled. Doyle noticed abstractedly that his palms were sweating and his breathing was faster than normal.

What if Bodie wasn’t in? He’d have to do all this again. What if he had a secretary at this posh place? He thought about that as his hands found the card, and the coins. She’d be blonde and gorgeous, he knew. He gritted his teeth as the dial rotated back around from the final number. There was a pause, then the ringing tone.

Would he pick up? Would he know it was Doyle? Would he know what Doyle wanted, or would he have to spell it out? What if…?

There was a click as the receiver was picked up. The pips rang out, and he fumbled his money into the slot with shaking fingers. A voice answered.

‘Bodie.’

‘Hello, sunshine.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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