Secure yourself to heaven
Hold on tight, the night has come
Fasten up your earthly burdens
You have just begun.
-- Indigo Girls
Ray Doyle had no doubt that he was going to burn in hell.
When the rotund nun in a black habit rushed towards him, calling loudly, "Father Jacob! Father Jacob!", he didn't hesitate for a second.
Doyle turned, nodded and said, "Sister Roberta, calm yourself, please!"
"Oh, for heaven's mercy. He's here." She panted roughly, her bulk not conducive to running for any distance. Her round face was red with exertion. In her late fifties, Sister Roberta took her duties to Father Jacob and her church with an air of serious dedication.
Feeling as if the dog collar circling his neck restricted his breathing, Doyle pulled at it before he stroked his grey beard. He cleared his throat, holding the sister's attention while he gathered his senses for what he was sure was to come.
"Go on, Sister. Who's here?" He brushed a hand down his black coat. Glancing down, he grimaced at the slight coating of dust on his freshly polished shoes. Funny how one sees those tiny details when one isn't quite sure how and if one will survive-
Her breathing did not quiet and his concern for her grew. "Sister, please. Sit." He led the woman to a wooden bench. He wondered how many generations of nuns and priests and seminary students had sat on these polished boards. He sat down beside her, waiting somewhat impatiently for her to continue. Her hands fingered her rosaries nervously and he had to tamp down the desire to clamp his hands upon hers to still her fidgety fingers.
"Patience," he schooled himself silently. "You need information. Don't blow this."
Sister Roberta finally spoke. "In your office. You must hurry. He bears a message from His Holiness and he insists that it is extremely important."
"Why didn't you ring me on my mobile, Sister? There was no need for you to rush headlong to fetch me." Doyle's tone was sharp and he started to berate the woman since she'd obviously ignored his firm instructions to ring him immediately regarding any messengers or messages from any source, no matter how inconsequential they might appear. Important things were in the works and minutes sometimes made a difference in someone's life -- or death.
"I forgot!" Sister Roberta said huffily. "Can't keep up with these newfangled devices!"
Doyle relied on his professionalism and Sister Roberta's innocence regarding his true identity to keep his anxiety at bay. "Relax, Sister," he said comfortingly. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap. There are important events taking place and I must be informed as soon as possible." He grimaced. "In Rome," he added as an afterthought.
Doyle watched the sister's eyes widen when he mentioned Rome, and he rose quickly.
Sister Roberta stood as well, her face alight with curiosity. "Of course, Father. I'm still learning the ins and outs of this parish since I arrived last month. I'm doing my best and I want to be of assistance to you. I'm sure all will run like clockwork for His Holiness' visit. Now will you come?"
He nodded, wanting to shout at the innocent woman that the question was utterly stupid. Instead he said gently, "You're doing a fine job, Sister. Thank you."
Knowing she was unaware of what was causing him such inner pain, he merely inclined his head to her and took off at a jog. He didn't bother to wonder if Sister would think him brash for racing off. Father Jacob was nothing if not a calm and considerate man. Still, he couldn't stop himself from hurrying. With a sense of foreboding, he broke into a run as soon as he rounded the corner.
Doyle slowed down before he reached the office and ran a hand through his grey hair, straightening his clothing into proper position. He took in a deep breath and slowly exhaled, calming his racing heart. It wouldn't do to appear out of sorts to the messenger. With his chin held high, he turned the door handle and entered the office.
Doyle quickly assessed the imposing man who sat slouched in a chair in front of Father Jacob's desk. Under the impeccable grooming, the expensively cut suit and the smooth-shaven face of a thirty year old, the messenger was bulky with meaty hands. The stranger's thighs resembled small tree trunks and his nose looked as if it had been broken and reset at slightly off centre. Doyle noticed a slight bulge under the man's arm. Doyle flexed his fingers, wishing he had his own weapon tucked safely inside his jacket.
He wasn't surprised when he immediately disliked the stranger but thought that being brought up on charges of grievous bodily harm would go down a treat with his superior. While roughing up the man might feel good momentarily, it would be highly unproductive. The man rose when Doyle stepped into the office. Neither man greeted the other. The messenger eyed Doyle as he extended his hand, fingers curled under.
Doyle took in a deep breath, huffed it out, and held out one of his hands to receive whatever the stranger had hidden in his own fist. The black flash drive was two inches of plastic and metal yet, to Doyle, the small item conveyed a feeling of impending doom. His other hand was buried deeply in his pocket, wrapped around his mobile with his index finger on the short cut to Bodie's mobile.
The man finally spoke. "For you. Be sure to follow the instructions to the letter." He touched his forehead in a mock salute and skirted Doyle to leave. At the door, he tossed out a disturbing grin. "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned." Laughing coldly, he quickly left the office.
As soon as the door started to close, Doyle pulled the mobile out, pressing the appropriate speed dial number. "Bodie, he's made a delivery. Get him." As he held the mobile to his ear, he hurried to lock the door.
When Bodie responded with a simple, "Right," Doyle went over to the computer that resided on a table set along one wall. He glanced at the flash drive for only long enough to expose the USB connection. "I'm too bloody old for this," he muttered as he seated the drive into its port. He waited for the information to appear, tapping his foot tensely. His temper was aching to flair and he had the desire to thump something or someone to relieve his rage. He tensed his shoulders when the computer dinged, announcing that it recognized the drive. Doyle sent up a silent prayer, held his breath, and clicked on the command, "open to view all files."
Doyle stared silently at the image on the computer. Full screen, in horrid living colour, was the image of a man with features identical to his own. After all these years, he still had a moment of surprise when he saw himself reflected in another. Further examination revealed that the man's eyes were closed and he was gagged. Doyle fervently hoped that he was not dead. He told himself that a dead victim was of no use to a kidnapper and he hit the command to make a screen shot before he ran out of time. To be safe, he made the same screen shot three more times.
While he waited for Bodie to return with news, he forced himself to study the monitor. Over his brother Jacob's right shoulder was the outline of a door, wood, with four panels. Illumination came from an overhead light fixture that he couldn't see. The walls of the room were not in good focus, but appeared to be covered in some sort of badly hung wallpaper with a pattern of thin lines running vertically.
Doyle could see Jacob's shoulders had been bound in thick sisal rope, with single thin strand of the same rope wound around his neck. There was no movement from him. Doyle thought for a moment that he was looking at a still picture, but he saw that if he looked closely, the camera wavered slightly. A video then, after all. He bit down on his lip, drawing his own blood.
Expecting that he could reach out to Jacob with the force of his own will, Doyle ordered the unconscious man to move, to prove to him that he was still alive. Unaware of what he was saying, Doyle whispered, "Please, please, Jacob, please wake up. Give me something to work with here. Please, God. Don't be dead; don't be dead."
As if in answer to his prayers, a hand appeared from the right side of the screen and slapped Jacob's cheek, making him shudder as his eyes fluttered wildly. Then the disembodied hand cupped the captive's chin and raised his head so that Jacob was looking directly into the camera. Green eyes blinked dazedly, the pupils large and out of focus. Drugged! Damn it to hell. But otherwise, Doyle had to admit from what he could see, Jacob appeared to be uninjured.
Never taking his eyes from the monitor, he studied the details that he could see. "What's the sodding date, you arsehole. Is he alive now, right now?" Again, his plea was miraculously answered when a copy of one of the daily London newspapers was held up, blocking out Jacob's image for a few moments. He took another two screen shots.
Doyle didn't doubt that he was losing it when he reached out to brush away the paper that obstructed his view. If he wasn't so angry, he would have laughed at his own action. As the video continued, the same hand moved away momentarily. It appeared again, holding a sheet of what looked like normal school book paper with a ragged edge where it had been ripped from the wire binding. Written on the paper in black square letters from some sort of large tipped marker were the words: "Further orders: 24 hours. Bless me father..." He had time to take another couple of screen shots of the note being held in front of the camera but before he could do more than curse under his breath at Jacob's treatment, the picture slowly dissolved away, and he was staring at a black screen.
Doyle sat before the computer until a knock on his office door brought him abruptly from his daze. He rose angrily and scrubbed at his gritty eyes. "I'm sorry, Jacob," he snapped, putting his fingertips on the computer screen. "I'll find you. By God, I swear it."
The knocking grew louder, more impatient.
"Just a moment," he called out, his voice rough. "I swear it," he vowed, splaying his hand on the screen. In spite of the black surface, the image of his brother was seared into his brain. He stood for a moment longer until the rapping became louder, more frantic, and the door handle rattled.
"Father!" a man's voice shouted. "Open it now!"
Doyle hurriedly opened the door before Bodie took it upon himself to kick it open. Bodie was never patient about locked doors.
"Bloody hell," he hissed. "Don't break it down!" He glanced left and right to be sure no one had overheard the scene. "Get in here. Tell me what happened."
Doyle glared at Bodie, not bothering to hide his feelings. Bodie glared back, hands on his hips.
"About time!" Bodie snapped, stomping into the room.
Doyle covertly gave his partner the once over while he closed and locked the door. Bodie was dressed in navy blue twill overalls, his shockingly white hair sticking out from under a tweed cap. The hat, the legs of the overalls and his thin brown poplin jacket were speckled with bits of leaves and grass. Brown work gloves covered his hands and he held a dented metal pail in his right hand. Bodie's intelligent blue eyes intently examined him. Playing the gardener suited him.
Bodie no doubt saw Doyle's fury but he chose to ignore it. He bowed rakishly, gaily touching his forelock. "Father," he said in a put on Cockney accent. "Come for me wages." He stepped up to Doyle and placed a hand in the centre of his chest, giving Doyle a merry push.
Doyle stumbled back. One of Bodie's gloved hands clamped onto the arm of his black coat, saving him from falling to his bum. Bodie tightened his grip. "Don't shoot daggers at me, mate. I'm not the bad guy there."
"I know," Doyle conceded, relaxing slightly now that Bodie was here. "What happened?"
"Tailed him down about a mile, then one of the lads took over. They'll pick him up when they're ready."
"When the old man's ready, you mean," Doyle said.
"Same thing," Bodie acknowledged with a shrug and a smile. "Let's see it, then."
Doyle nodded, waving at the computer.
"Was it bad?"
"Bad enough," Doyle said angrily.
"Yeah, I know. But fuck it, Ray, this is shit."
"Language," Doyle said, his warning not holding any heat. His dry eyes burned and he swiped at them, making the feeling intensify. "Christ, Bodie. He's been drugged to the gills. Couldn't even hold up his head."
"That's not a bad thing, right? If he's been drugged, then he's still useful. You know how this works."
"Doesn't mean I have to like it!" Lowering his voice, Doyle said, "I'll kill him, Bodie. I swear it. I'll take great pleasure in slowly disembowelling whoever did this to Jacob."
"I'll sharpen the blade," Bodie offered.
Doyle held Bodie's gaze for a moment, then nodded curtly. "Knew I could count on you."
"Always," Bodie said. "Come on, then. Show me the snaps. You did get screen shots."
"Of course I did," Doyle responded with as much affronted dignity as he could muster. "Know me job, don't I?"
"Been out of practice, mate. Getting on in years."
"You're no spring chicken either, mate," Doyle reminded his partner, anger rising on the last word. As quickly as he'd barked, his temper dissolved. Bodie was the last person to deserve the sharp end of his tongue. He gave Bodie a small smile. "Sorry."
"No worries, love. I'll get even with you later. Now let's have a look and get them processed."
Bodie gave Doyle's shoulder a punch. Doyle returned with a slap of his own but before they ended up tussling and drawing unwarranted attention, he danced out of Bodie's reach and sat at the computer.
Bodie watched over Doyle's shoulder as he accessed the screen shots. After Doyle emailed the file to the lab techs at CI5 HQ, Doyle printed out each one and put them into a file folder for Bodie to study later. Doyle wanted to pore over the photos of Jacob but he couldn't risk having the copies in Jacob's office. Sister Roberta, the housekeeper, or one of the seminary students might accidentally discover them. Bodie took the file and with his free hand, squeezed Doyle's shoulder.
"Here's the flash drive." Doyle unmounted the device. "Maybe there's something the techs can use."
Bodie took the item, musing aloud, "This is the second contact." He tapped the drive on his palm. "The first message telling us that he'd been taken was on a DVD. Same thing happened: after the message was shown, it self-destructed."
"Know that, don't I?" Doyle turned in his chair, stretching his arm across the back as they discussed the case so far. Bodie sat on the edge of Jacob's desk, his leg swinging.
"Even that's a clue. They're obviously technologically savvy enough to put a virus on a DVD and a flash drive." Bodie held up the small drive. "We'll find him, Ray. You know I'll do whatever it takes, and the lads will as well. I promise you, Ray. We will find him."
"You can't promise that, Bodie. I know you'll do your best and the lads will as well, but..." All of the anger he had earlier disappeared. Tiredly, Doyle hung his head momentarily before he raised his face to meet Bodie's compassionate eyes. "Best not call me that, Bodie. Might slip when Sister Roberta's here."
"You haven't been calling me Billy when we're alone."
"I'd best be more careful, then." Doyle rubbed his forehead. "What a mess. I hate this."
"Ray," Bodie said, drawing him up off the chair.
Doyle didn't want to hear what Bodie was thinking about. "Don't." He put a hand in the centre of Bodie's chest and pushed lightly.
"Door's locked and even Sister Roberta can't see through frosted glass. We'll find him," Bodie said again. "We'll find who's done this and why."
Doyle looked furtively at the outer office. "Isn't only the people here we have to worry about," he reminded Bodie.
"It's not as if the blokes in the buggy boo don't know."
Doyle smiled. "Yeah, but still, if any of this ends up in the wrong hands, it's best to have conducted a professional investigation."
"Always thinking ahead," Bodie muttered. He gently kissed Doyle's ear and whispered for Doyle alone, "All right, for now, but later on, you're in trouble, mate."
Doyle's smile widened. "Stop," he mouthed. "Let's get back to it," he added in a normal tone.
Bodie grinned mischievously. "Right. Best get this drive to HQ and see if they can get those geeks down in the dungeons to squeeze anything from it. You did a fine job getting the shots. It will give them a lot to work on."
"Did Hunt put a tail on the goon?"
"Told you he did, didn't I," Bodie said patiently. "But don't get your hopes up. You and I both know it'll be some berk who's merely a pawn in this mess. Hired by email or courier and paid in cash at the drop where he got the drive."
Doyle pulled back and gave a small smile. "What? You're psychic now?"
Bodie snorted with amusement. "You know the drill as well as I do by now, but the room's bugged to shit so Hunt'll review the tapes of you taking delivery anyway. He'll have the messenger picked up and lounging in a CI5 lock up by tea time." Bodie rubbed a comforting hand on Doyle's back. "Everything humanly possible is being done."
"I know, I know," Doyle said wearily. "After all, Hunt's got a meaner streak than Cowley had when he was interrogating somebody. Maybe this bloke will cough up something that will prove useful." Doyle shrugged, knowing that he was hoping for something that wouldn't be. Whoever had taken Jacob and insisted that Doyle replace him for some yet unnamed purpose had dotted all the I's and crossed all the T’s. In the past few days, there'd been two messages regarding Jacob's fate but not one word regarding the object of the switch or the desires of the kidnappers. It was frustrating to be working so far in the dark and even more so since it involved his own brother.
Doyle stood in the hallway of his and Bodie's Hyde Park flat, staring down at the envelope he'd picked up from the floor. It had been delivered with today's post, under an advertisement for this week's sale items at Tesco's and current power bill.
It was a plain white envelope with no return address. Looking down at the envelope, he slipped a finger under the flap. A DVD rested inside. Doyle removed it and studied the piece of modern technology. Written on the DVD's surface in generic black marker were the words: 4.5: FYEO. After turning it over several times, Doyle chewed on his lower lip, wondering who could have possibly sent him a DVD with his old agent's number written on it. He hadn't used that number in ten years. The letters that followed his agent's designation were something that a spy film buff would understand immediately.
He was still studying the front of the envelope where his name and address had been written in plain block letters when Bodie came out into the foyer. "Thought you wanted breakfast." He must have seen the puzzlement on Doyle's face because he asked, "What's happening?"
"Got this in the post. No return on the envelope." He held out the envelope. Bodie took it by one corner and slipped a finger into the centre of the DVD.
"No post mark either. Strange."
"I don't like it." Bodie looked at the front and back several times before he muttered, "FYEO... for your eyes only. Bit James Bondish, eh?"
"Yeah," Doyle said again. Their eyes met and wordlessly they went down the hall. In the office, Bodie pushed a button on the desktop computer to open the disc drawer and dropped the DVD into the slot.
Doyle sat in the chair and Bodie looked over his shoulder at the monitor. When the disc opened, Doyle clicked on the folder marked "Play me". It opened in the video player and both men were shocked to see that the footage was of Jacob, Doyle's twin brother. Doyle let out a gasp and touched the screen. Jacob was bound to a chair. His head was hanging sideways and his eyes were closed.
Doyle's stomach lurched and his eyes prickled. "Christ," he cried. "Jake? Oh, God, he's dead! Who did this?"
Bodie's fingers dug into his shoulder and gave him a shake. "Ray. Ray, look. He's gagged. If he were dead, he wouldn't be gagged, would he?"
Staring at the monitor, a hand appeared and slapped Jacob's cheek several times. Jacob's head wobbled and his eyes opened.
"He's alive!" Some of the terror when he'd first seen Jacob had abated. Not much, but enough that he focused on Bodie's words.
"That's good, Ray. Looks like he's been drugged. Look at his eyes. Unfocused, and he's having trouble holding up his head."
"He's not dead." Doyle grabbed Bodie's hand and held it tightly. Anger coursed through him and he saw Bodie wince. He loosened his grasp but kept hold of his lover's hand. "Who's doing this?" He looked up at Bodie, needing his steady presence.
Bodie covered Doyle's hand with his free one. "That hand there looks masculine. See? The knuckles are thick and the nails squared off. Not a woman's hand. No rings. Can't see a watch or any distinguishing marks, though."
Doyle's rage grew the longer he watched the monitor. "What the hell is going on? There's no reason for this! Nothing we're working on would warrant this. Nothing at all! Hell, we don't work cases anyway."
As they watched, the camera moved slightly, revealing a square of white paper pinned to Jacob's shirt. On it were printed the words: Doyle takes Myers' place immediately. Report to rectory and await orders. Or else.
Doyle let out an angry sound. "Take his place? For God's sake, why? That's daft. Why would anybody want me to replace Jacob?"
Bodie gripped his biceps. "Steady, mate," he said soothingly. "We'll figure this out. We'll call Hunt and get the lab-"
Before Bodie could finish his thought, the information on the screen wavered, blinked twice, then disappeared.
"No!" Doyle shouted, tapping the keyboard frantically. He started to panic when his attempts to retrieve the video weren't successful. Not willing to give up, he pressed this key and that, then ejected the DVD before reinserting it. After several failed attempts, Bodie put his hand over Doyle's.
"It's been erased, Ray. Stop. You can't get it to work."
"Get off, Bodie. That's my brother!" Doyle tried to shake off Bodie's hold.
"Don't you think I know that? Come on. Let's get Hunt on this right now."
Doyle glared up at Bodie, ready to fight. "It's Jake."
Bodie quirked an eyebrow and tapped Doyle's cheek with a long finger. "Got your attention, eh? All right. I know, Ray. He's been kidnapped. I can see that and so can you. Going off half cocked won't help."
"Do not preach to me. You've gone off half cocked plenty of times before," Doyle snapped.
"Not for a long time. And even when I did, it never helped." Doyle saw the frustration etched on Bodie's face but instead of lashing back, Bodie did one of the yoga breathing things he often used. Doyle took a moment to admire the way Bodie had learned to handle his ratty temper and his rage started to abate at Bodie's calm tone. "Listen, love. We need to get Hunt and the lads on this now. Okay?"
Doyle scrubbed at his eyes, wondering if he should admit that Bodie was right. After all, his partner was insufferable most of the time as it was. "Fuck."
"Okay!" he shouted. "You're right. There! Happy now?"
"Immeasurably," Bodie said drolly. "Right. I'll call it in. You bag the DVD and the envelope, all right?" Bodie hunkered down, put his hands on Doyle's knees and held his gaze. "Ray, okay?" he cajoled. "We need to get on this so we can figure out who's got Jacob. We have to help him. After all, he's family."
Doyle's chest tightened and for a moment, he found it hard to breathe. His head pounded and his stomach roiled. He looked into Bodie's compassionate eyes and the last flames of his anger banked for now. He took in a shaky breath and let it out before he nodded slowly. "Yeah. All right."
"That's my boy," Bodie said, patting his knees. "Love you."
Rising, Bodie ruffled Doyle's hair once before he dialled HQ. Doyle stared at the monitor for another moment, the image of Jacob etched in his brain. He ejected the DVD. After he'd retrieved a plastic bag from the kitchen, he sat back down to carefully slipped the disc and the envelope into it and pressed the seal.
Bodie hung up the phone and walked over to Doyle, leaned down and put his arms around his neck. He kissed Doyle's ear. "Are you all right?" Doyle shook his head. "Hunt wants us in his office within the hour." Doyle nodded. "Hey." When Doyle turned his face towards Bodie, he kissed him. "I'm here."
"Ta, mate." Doyle gave Bodie a ghost of a smile. "Can count on you."
"Yes, you can." Bodie smiled, straightening up. "But it took you long enough to realise what a wonderful catch I truly was."
"Berk," Doyle said affectionately. "I think I sort of like you."
"And..." Bodie's face lit up, making Doyle shake his head and smile. Bodie was always fishing for compliments.
"Love you, even if you are a pain in the arse."
"Come on, then. Let's get to work." Bodie pushed Doyle playfully.
"I'm ready when you are."
Hunt paced his office, running his hand repeatedly through his blond hair until it stood out from his head and made him look like a recent escapee from the nut house. Doyle saw Bodie's eyes brighten. He cast his partner a warning glance, and Bodie managed to keep his laughter in check. Doyle was of a mind to be angry at Bodie for being flippant but it was Bodie's way of coping. Doyle admitted to himself that Bodie's sarky attitude helped him keep his emotions under control even when all he wanted to do was kick something.
"We need a full team on this immediately," Doyle insisted.
Randolph Hunt turned and grimaced. "I don't have the funds for this right now. I can spare you and Bodie, but-"
Doyle leapt from his chair. "The funds? The funds? This isn't about pounds and pence. It's about my brother's life!"
"I know that, Ray," Hunt said, "but we have nothing to go on."
Bodie stood up. Doyle waved a hand at him to keep him quiet. This was his fight. "Listen to me. Jacob told me about the new Pope's secret visit. In a fortnight, he's going to be at my brother's church, celebrating Mass. How about this for a headline?" Doyle painted the words across the air with his forefinger. "Pope Zachary Killed on England's Watch. Entire World Mourns. Lack of Security Cited as Cause."
"Jesus Christ," Hunt muttered.
"Undoubtedly," Bodie said. "He'll not be happy about his man being killed either, I'm sure. You'll have a one way ticket to Hades, Hunt." Both Hunt and Doyle glared at Bodie, who shrugged. "What?"
Hunt stopped pacing. "How much do you know?"
Doyle narrowed his eyes. "How much do you know?"
"Oh, great," Bodie muttered.
"Shut it, Bodie," Doyle snapped. "I know what Jake told me and I haven't said a word, if that's what you're asking, and neither has Bodie. We know what top secret means."
"I'm not doubting yours or Bodie's loyalty, your veracity or your trustworthiness," Hunt said sincerely. "I know he's your brother and you have his confidence. I'm merely reviewing the facts now that you've brought this new information to light."
"Did you know about the Pope's visit?" Doyle asked.
"Yes," Hunt admitted, "but since CI5 wasn't to be involved, I wasn't briefed on details. I didn't realise St. Bartholomew's was the destination for the Pope and his entourage."
Doyle slowly nodded and returned to his seat. He caught Bodie's gaze. Bodie smiled, patted his arm and sat down beside him.
"Jacob and the new Pope have been mates for many years. They worked at the Vatican together. He told me it was a personal visit from one friend to another. No fanfare, no state dinners. None of the usual pomp and circumstance involving a papal visit," Doyle explained.
"And now it's gone bollocks up, eh?" Hunt groused. "He's been taken and you've been ordered to take his place."
"Yeah," Doyle conceded.
"But why?" Hunt asked.
Bodie snggered. "You want a list?"
Hunt picked up a pen and looked askance.
Bodie had a moment's hesitation before he said, "The easiest answer is usually the right one. Somebody wants to kill the Pope."
"But why the switch?" Doyle asked, musing aloud. "Why not just kill him? Why the ruse?"
Bodie lifted an eyebrow. "They want something else, maybe. Something Jacob can't give or do or deliver."
"Possibly," Doyle said. "Could be. Maybe not."
"Hard to say without seeing it through," Bodie agreed.
Hunt looked from Bodie to Doyle and back again. "Great. Now they're talking in riddles."
"I didn't ask for this," Doyle said quietly. "All I want is my brother back."
Hunt was silent for a good two minutes. Doyle sat unmoving. Bodie crossed his legs. The room was quiet until Hunt reached out and picked up the phone. "Ellen, I want Andrews and Smythe, Patel and Wainwright in my office as soon as possible." He paused. "No, not thirty minutes. Make it fifteen. Please get me Sir Reginald on the phone immediately. Tell him it's urgent and of the utmost sensitivity. Thank you." Hunt hung up the phone. "I'll speak to Sir Reginald on a secure line and we'll lay out a plan to protect the Pope. I'll put two teams on your brother's kidnapping."
Hunt's phone rang. "Yes?" He listened for a few moments. "Okay. Send me a written report ASAP." He put down the receiver. "The lab did a preliminary inspection of the DVD and the envelope. Nothing so far. They'll do some further testing and let me know."
"Am I going in?" Doyle asked, leaning forward, his eyes locked on Hunt's.
"Yes, but I need a few hours to do this properly. I won't have you barrelling in like the Seventh Calvary. Are we clear on this, Doyle?"
Bodie mock punched Doyle's arm. Doyle looked at him before he rubbed a finger across his upper lip. "Right. Okay. We'll lay out a detailed plan before I go in."
Hunt nodded curtly. "Bodie, I'll find a place for you so you can stop glaring at me. Don't bother. I know exactly what you were going to say."
"Thanks, sir. Doyle needs somebody to watch his back."
Hunt waved a finger at both men. "You two listen to me, and listen carefully. Neither of you are active agents and I want absolutely no heroics. Am I clear on this? I want both of you to swear this."
"You're joking," Doyle spat out, insulted. "I've been in this organisation-"
Hunt held up his hand. "Save the speech, Ray. I know how long you've been in CI5. You and Bodie are both valued members of my staff, but you're not young men any longer. I don't want either of you killed. I know you might think that's not nice of me, but I care about both of you." Hunt smiled. "Besides, we've paid a hell of a lot of money training you both and if either of you is killed, the paperwork will bury me. And another thing. I can't afford to find a new director of training," he pointed at Bodie, "nor a new head of personnel." His eyes met Doyle's. "Do I need a Bible?"
"No," Doyle answered.
"Well...," Bodie said.
Hunt gave him a deadly look.
Bodie grinned. "Nah, you're all right. Sir."
After a glare, Hunt said, "Good." The phone rang. "Now go and wait in the restroom while I get this set up. Then we'll be on our way."
"Yes, sir," Doyle said caustically. He hated being treated like some new agent on his first week in the A Squad. He should be in on the planning and he should have a say on which agents would be assigned to help look for Jacob. After all, hadn't he been giving assignments to agents for a decade now?
Bodie must have thought Doyle was going to go off on Hunt because he planted a hand on each one of Doyle's shoulders and bodily pushed him towards the door and out of Hunt's office as fast as possible.
In the hallway, Bodie leaned close to Doyle's ear and chuckled evilly. "You'd better quit while you're ahead, mate. Hunt's put you on his list now. I'd watch me back if I were you."
Doyle shook off Bodie's hands, glaring. He pushed a finger into Bodie's chest. "You're an arse."
As Bodie continued to snicker, Doyle elbowed him in the stomach, triumphant when Bodie let out an 'oomph'. Doyle stalked towards the restroom with Bodie trailing behind.
"I'd watch my back, Raymond. He's pissed off you were privy to his royal holiness' visit and he wasn't!"
Doyle decided to take the high road and ignore his annoying partner. He entered the restroom and was happy to see several other agents there, making tea and chatting. He sat down beside Woodthorpe and ignored Bodie when he sat next to him. Bodie didn't say anything but when Doyle glanced his way, Bodie met his look with his best puppy dog eyes. Doyle's lips twitched. Bodie picked up on his weakness and he laughed, ruffling Doyle hair.
"Ahh, isn't that special?" Denham said. "The love birds are at it again."
"Stuff it, Denham," Bodie said. "You're jealous I'm already spoken for."
The men began to laugh and Doyle joined in. Their company helped pass the time while they waited for orders from their boss. As the hours passed, the teams were all given their assignments until Doyle and Bodie were alone. It was three hours after the first debriefing when Hunt finally appeared.
Doyle leapt to his feet. "What's happening?"
"You've cleared to go in, Doyle." At Doyle's whoop of glee, Hunt pointed a finger at him. "Sit down."
"What about me, sir?" Bodie asked.
"Would you both give me a moment to give the orders?" Hunt said. "Good God, but you two are insufferable."
Doyle fidgeted in his chair. He wanted to shake Hunt to get him to speak faster. He laced his fingers together and forced himself to sit still. Doyle was thrilled and terrified at the same time. He wanted to do this. He had to do this for Jacob, but take Jacob's place? Jacob was a bloody priest! How could he do this?
How could he not?
"Doyle, are you listening to me?"
Hunt's voice brought him out of his musings. "Yes, sir."
"Good. As I was saying, you're to handle all the duties of your brother as normally as possible. Do you think you can handle pretending to be a priest?" Hunt asked, clearly giving Doyle the opportunity to back out.
A cold sweat broke out on Doyle's body. His knees shook and his stomach fluttered. He'd asked himself that same question moments ago, and now he repeated his answer aloud. "Yes, sir. I can do this."
"All right. And you'll wear a wire at all times. No argument."
"No, sir," Doyle said.
"Bodie, you're going in as backup. You'll bug as much of the place that you can. I've got men assigned on twenty-four hour surveillance outside the grounds."
"I've always wanted to be a priest," Bodie said gleefully, rubbing his hands together. "I look smashing in basic black, if I do say so myself."
Hunt guffawed. "You're not a priest, Bodie. You're the gardener. Overalls is the outfit of the day."
Hunt was enjoying himself. Sometimes he liked getting up Bodie's nose himself. He laughed as Bodie protested. Hunt forestalled his argument by holding up his hand. "Save it, Bodie. Go and get outfitted from supply, and report back here when you're ready."
"Yes, sir," Bodie said. "See you in a few," he said to Doyle before he left.
"So," Hunt said, sitting down across from Doyle, "we've got a bit of a problem."
Doyle was tense enough as it was without hearing about any other problems. "What is it?"
"We have to do this properly, so we're on hold right now. Until we know when and where the kidnapping occurred, I can't send you in."
"You can't delay this!" Doyle shouted, furious. "A minute's delay could mean my brother's death!"
"And if we blunder in and don't take the time to do this correctly, it could indeed mean your brother's death and the Pope's as well!" Hunt said firmly. "You are not going in until I have more details. That isn't up for discussion. That's an order."
Doyle fumed. "It's not-"
"What?" Hunt demanded. "It's not smart to do this as well as possible? It's not wise to know as much as we can before I risk two agents on top of the other people whose lives are in jeopardy?"
"Christ," Doyle said, covering his face with his hands. "What a fucking mess."
"Now that I agree with. When Bodie returns, you both go home. I'll call you the minute I'm ready to send you in." When Doyle didn't answer, Hunt asked, "Doyle? You can back out of-"
"No!" He let out a shaky breath. "No. I'll be ready when you are."
Twenty-four hours later, Doyle, dressed in the black suit and white collar of a parish priest, drove past the front gates and onto the grounds of St. Bartholomew's Church and Seminary. It was time to save his brother.
Bodie gave Doyle an amused look as he mimicked him. "Maybe this bloke will cough up something that will prove useful. You're taking the piss with me, Raymond. You don't really expect a break in the case. That'd take all the fun out of this débâcle." His tone was derisive and he snorted inelegantly. "But I admit, if anybody can get something useful from whomever he's questioning, it's Hunt. Or me." Bodie gave a devilish grin. "But you. You're always the optimist, eh? Let's hope that this time your optimism pays off." He gave Doyle a poke in the ribs, apparently determined to jolly a smile from Doyle. "Still, Hunt's got a huge set,” he held his hands out, showing the size of those big bollocks he was alluding to, “so he'll get any information from any of these pigeons that he can capture. I'll check in and let you know if the boys find anything." He rose, adding, "And then, I must spread fragrant manure on the roses."
Doyle laughed softly. God, but he loved how Bodie knew exactly what to say to make him feel as if he wasn't alone in this mess; that together they might figure this out. To Bodie, being sarky was a form of endearment. Doyle gave as good as he got. With an indulgent smile, he said, "Found your true calling, eh? Been spreading shit for years and you're still doing it."
"Language, holy man."
Doyle wanted to draw Bodie into a hug and never let go. Instead he merely rolled his eyes at Bodie's easy blasphemy.
Bodie copied Doyle's eye roll. "Keep it up, Father. Need I remind you that in two hours time you will be in the church, hearing the confessions of your faithful parishioners."
Doyle's smile vanished at the thought. "Oh, crap. Pretending to be a priest," he muttered. "Hell fire and suffering are going to be my lot in the afterlife."
"Then we'll burn together, love." Bodie smiled and swiped the backs of his fingers across Doyle's cheek in a gesture of affection. Then he swatted Doyle's arse. "Never did a man of the cloth before. Tonight will be a new experience."
"Out, you blackguard! Go and spread your manure outside instead of in here, and leave us God fearing folk alone."
Bodie laughed. "Yes, Your Grace." He bowed.
"Bodie?" Doyle didn't bother to try to keep the emotion from that single word, but with Bodie, he had enough confidence is his long time partner to know that he didn't need to try.
Bodie looked up, his face suddenly serious. "No need to say it, Ray. I feel the same."
Once Bodie left, Doyle opened a side drawer in Jacob's desk and retrieved his brother's calendar and a daily journal. Doyle had spent hours poring over the items when he'd first come to St. Bart's yesterday evening. Jacob was a stickler for notes and diaries, and he kept detailed records of his work, his parish, the seminary. Most importantly, he had the details for the upcoming visit by Pope Zachary, scheduled for Friday next.
It was to be a small, informal visit, a thank you to Jacob for his lengthy and devoted work with The Vatican. He and the new Pope had been friends when Pope Zachary was a cardinal. Zachary was one of the few people who believed in Jacob's work as an exorcist and had supported Jacob when Cardinal Bukovak had actively tried to destroy him. Jacob had told Doyle once that he believed Zachary had used his own far spreading power to knock Bukovak down a peg or two. Bukovak had been reclusive ever since.
Doyle pulled out a manila envelope and removed a dozen snapshots. He spread them across the surface of the desk and leaned close, studying each one. CCTV had caught Jacob leaving St. Bart's two mornings before. Jacob's calendar revealed that he was off for a two day retreat at St. Benedict's Abbey. Several of the photos showed Jacob's Volvo heading towards the Abbey and even arriving at his destination. They had proof his car had been parked on a street adjacent to St. Benedict's, but the cameras showing the pavement and streets surrounding the Abbey had suffered a computer malfunction for several hours that day. There was no further footage of Jacob walking towards the Abbey.
Jacob had never arrived. From Doyle's discussion with the Abbot, he'd discovered that Jacob had called to explain that he had an emergency and wouldn't be able to attend. That was the last anybody had heard from him. Doyle had received the first missive from Jacob's kidnapper that same morning, so whoever had perpetrated the crime had planned it down to the last second. They'd coordinated Jacob's kidnapping and Doyle's insertion into St. Bartholomew's with the precision of a maestro. Doyle had driven Jacob's motor (the keys were in the ignition!) back to St. Bart's on the scheduled evening of his return from the retreat and no-one had been the wiser. The idea that a lot of criminals were stupid certainly didn't fit this particular one, and Doyle was furious over the entire affair.
Furious and helpless.
Doyle reckoned that if he was going to pull off this switch -- that if he was going to become Jacob -- he had to think of himself as actually being Jacob. He stood before the mirror in his small room and stared at himself. He looked like a priest. He wore Jacob's black suit and his white clerical collar. For the confessional, he also had donned Jacob's- his- purple stole. As he adjusted his garments nervously, he remembered what he'd read this morning. It was no longer called "confession" but "reconciliation".
"Damn it," he muttered before he looked heavenward. "Sorry," Doyle said. "I'll be better. Sorry." After a moment, he added, "Please keep Jacob safe." Even though he was alone, Doyle was embarrassed. He hadn't prayed much since he and Jacob had been young boys. Jacob always had a love of the church. While Doyle had run the streets, carrying a knife and getting into scrapes, Jacob had longed to become an altar boy. He'd done so the minute their step-father had given his permission. Doyle had tried not to tease his brother about his devotion to the neighbourhood church, but sometimes he had. The adult Doyle reckoned he'd been cruel to his older brother back then, and now he regretted his childish remarks.
Jacob, for his part, never held his brother's comments against him and loved Doyle with as much devotion as he gave his religion and his God. Doyle wondered sometimes why Jacob had such love for a brother who did what he did. One was a religious man, devoted to peace and love, while the other killed for Queen and Country.
The rap on the door brought Doyle's head up sharply. "Yes?"
"Father, there are already a dozen souls waiting for forgiveness. You're late!" Sister Roberta called out.
"Coming!" Doyle gave himself a final glance before he hurried to the door and to his clerical duties.
Doyle shifted in his seat in the darkened confessional. He had no idea how Jacob could stand sitting here, listening to the petty whining of his congregation. Doyle shook his head at his own musings. He had no right to judge Jacob's following or Jacob himself. Doyle freely admitted that they were quite different, even down to their last names.
Bringing his attention back to the elderly woman atoning for her sins, he waited while she recited her Act of Contrition. For the ninth time tonight, Doyle made himself pretend he was indeed a priest and gave the women her penance: three Our Fathers. Then he blessed her aloud while silently praying to a God he didn't believe in to once again forgive his grievous trespass of taking Jacob's place and granting absolution to people who believed he had the right to do so.
But he had no choice. He would do anything he could to save Jacob, up to and including performing a sodding exorcism if he had to. God help him! Doyle slapped a hand over his own mouth to keep a hysterical bubble from erupting.
"Thank you, Father," the woman whispered. "God bless you."
"And you, my sister in Christ." Doyle said the words with sincerity. Deep down, he wished all of Jacob's flock a peaceful afterlife, if that is what kept their earthly bodies happy while on this planet.
Tiredly Doyle slumped back, his head resting against the wall of his cubicle. As he waited for the next penitent, he closed his eyes.
"Bless me, Father."
Doyle jerked upright. He rubbed at his eyes, realising he'd drifted off for a moment. It was no big surprise that he was tired. Since he'd discovered Jacob had been kidnapped, he'd barely had three hours sleep. Blinking awake, he glanced about and was surprised that he couldn't see the hand in front of his face.
This was not how he'd spent the past ninety minutes. Throughout the evening's sacrament, he had been able to see the residual flickering of candles and the soft light of the chandeliers hanging above the pews through the door's wooden screen. While the church hadn't been lit as brightly as when Mass was being performed, it wasn't shrouded in this utter blackness either.
With his ears straining to hear any sound from outside the confessional, he shuddered in the deep cold of his enclosure. He began rubbing his arms to generate some warmth. Why was the bloody heating off? He didn't remember it being this cold earlier. In fact, he distinctly recalled feeling quite comfortable in the tight cubicle. Now, if he could have seen his breath, he would have seen a frosty cloud coming from his mouth and hanging in the air. Something wasn't right. His entire body went into high alert.
"You can save him if you choose," said the disembodied voice from the other side of the confessional screen. The tone was pleasant, friendly, but something made Doyle want to run away from it.
Doyle strained to see through the criss-cross wood panel. "Pardon? Do you wish to confess?"
A cold chuckle made Doyle shiver. "Not hardly, Father Raymond. But you can save him if you wish."
Raymond? "How do you...?" Doyle blurted out but more important words finally sank in. "Save who?"
"Why your brother, of course."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean, Father. You merely need to ask and he will be returned to you."
"Why of course. Ask me and it is done."
The icy tone belied the words that offered a resolution to this entire mess. Suddenly Doyle jumped to his feet. Who was this? Unfounded terror gripped him and he fumbled with the door's handle, struggling to open it. His heart pounded and his breathing escalated as fear coursed through him. Cursing softly, he finally managed to turn the reluctant knob and in his haste, caught himself before he fell to the floor. Somehow in the darkness, he found the lever to the side section and he yanked the door open. Hands out, he lurched into the space... into empty air.
"What the-?" Doyle spun on his heels. He listened intently for the sound of retreating footsteps but the church was a tomb of silence. He blinked and stumbled forward. "Who's there?" he shouted. He walked a few feet forward, arm stretched out to ensure his way was unimpeded. "Hello?"
A faint tap of footsteps coming towards him broke the silence.
"What do you want, you bastard?" Doyle cried.
The beam of a torch touched Doyle's face. He held up a hand against the glare and it took a few moments recognise the voice. "Bodie?"
Bodie walked up to Doyle, shining the torch between them. "What does who want? What's wrong?" he asked tensely. "What's happened to the lights? Who's a bastard?"
"Did you see him?" Doyle demanded, latching onto Bodie's upper arms. "He had to run past you!"
"Who?" Bodie said, confusion colouring his words. "There's nobody, mate. I came to check on you and it was pitch black. Switches aren't working so the lights must have shorted out but I couldn't find the bloody breaker. When I heard you shouting, I came running. Maybe the circuits overloaded."
"No. No, not overloaded. Somebody... It was cold and his voice..."
"Jesus, Ray, you're shaking." Bodie took a step even closer.
Doyle dropped his hands and stepped back. "Not here. Somebody might come in. What the hell is going on?"
Bodie grinned. His face looked ominous with the torch shining on it, like a creepy mask. "Don't know. Maybe you thought you were fighting hell for the souls of your faithful."
"Don't joke, Bodie. Somebody was here! He knew about Jacob." Doyle peered about nervously, dropping his voice. "And about me."
"Eh?" Bodie looked around, moving the torch slowly over the nearby pews. The paltry light was lost in the black enormity of the church's interior. "Doyle, trust me. There was nobody here. I heard you stumbling around as I walked up. Nobody but you. The last parishioner left half an hour ago. I'd already locked the front doors for the night." Bodie scrubbed at his nose. "Went to use the loo and when I came back, all the candles in the place were out, as well as those two horribly ugly chandeliers that had been burning when I left." Bodie paused, then asked, "Knew what about you? That you're not - you know who?"
"Yes! I'm telling you somebody was here," Doyle insisted. Somebody evil, he added to himself but his tongue wouldn't let him say the words aloud. Not yet anyway.
"I believe you think somebody was here, Ray. I also know you've been under a hell of a lot of pressure and you haven't had a good night's sleep for days. Come on." Bodie lightly tapped Doyle's hand with his fingertips. "Let's go to the kitchen and have a cuppa and a biccie. I promise to look at the electrical breaker first thing in the morning when there's enough light to see." At Doyle's hesitation, he cajoled, "I'll make the tea. Got fresh milk in and those banoffee things you like."
Doyle was exhausted. He dropped his chin to his chest. "All right. Tea sounds good."
"We'll work this out."
"I know." Doyle glanced about one last time, needing to see but afraid to know. If he had been pressed to explain how he was feeling at the moment, he would have been reluctant to put a name to the fear and dread that had taken hold of him. Suddenly grateful for the dark, Doyle was happy that Bodie couldn't see those feelings reflected on his face. He berated himself for his weakness and again found himself praying that the uneasiness would dissipate quickly. He had enough to do concentrating on finding Jacob, figuring out why he'd been taken in the first place, and stopping the kidnappers from completing whatever quest they had in mind. He didn't have time to give into this unfounded apprehension.
Or to ghosts, or demons or any other creatures the Church used to keep its believers in line.
"Come on," Bodie said, shining the light so that they could take their steps with care.
In spite of the stern talking-to Doyle had just given himself, the coldness of the nave made him shiver. Not all of it was from the cold, though. He visually searched the darkened recesses as he and Bodie crossed the stone floor towards the exit, but he was unable to see much past the circle of the torch light. Suddenly, the sound of footsteps echoed through the air. More footsteps than two men could make. Doyle halted abruptly and stood straining to hear things he might not want to acknowledge. Had there been a parishioner in the confessional, speaking in the strange voice to him, maybe playing a joke? Had it been his imagination? Or had it been- No! He had fallen asleep. It had been a dream, a creepy dream brought on by lack of sleep. It had to be.
Without a doubt, Doyle understood that the cold and the strange voice hadn't been the result of a last minute confessee. Somebody or something else had been in the confessional and was here with them.
"Stop it," Doyle said aloud.
Bodie reached out and took his hand. "Stop what?"
"Nothing." Doyle squeezed Bodie's fingers. "I'm bloody freezing!"
"All right, all right. I'll check the boiler as well," Bodie offered, then added pleadingly, "But in the morning! Tea tonight. You know, Ray, now, tonight, before it's morning already."
Doyle chuckled at Bodie's rambling. "Eh?"
"Move it!" Bodie tugged on Doyle's hand before he dropped it to turn around and using his torch, guided them out of the nave.
Doyle heard a sharp sound behind him and a scorch of heat brushed the back of his neck. He refused to pause or to look back. Instead, he reached out, grabbing onto the back hem of Bodie's shirt until they'd reached the corridor. Thankfully, Bodie did not question Doyle's action, nor did Bodie mention that Doyle was holding onto the material as if his life depended on it. Doyle breathed an audible sigh of relief when Bodie had closed the door leading into the chapel. He acknowledged to himself that if he had been a religious man, he would have crossed himself and said, "Thank you, Lord."
With steaming cups of tea in front of them, Doyle ate yet another banoffee biscuit.
"These are amazing," Doyle admitted, brushing crumbs from the front of his black jacket. "Delicious."
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "Millie makes a brilliant lot, eh?" At Doyle's nod, he took a bite of his own biscuit and chewed before he asked, "What's up? You don't usually eat sugar and white flour quite so enthusiastically. Something's bothering you. Other than this sodding mess, of course." Bodie eyed him through narrowed slits. "But there's something else. Come on, Ray, spill it." Bodie added quietly, "I'm here for you, you know."
Doyle sipped at his tea before he met Bodie's eyes and as quietly as Bodie, admitted, "There was something in the church. Something... unnatural. Felt it. Gave me shivers."
Bodie's hand paused midway to his mouth, biccie held aloft. "You're joking."
Bodie raised that eyebrow, the crooked one Doyle liked to kiss. "Okay then, tell me what happened."
"You're not going to call me daft?" Doyle asked, gratitude in his tone.
"Known you for far too many years, Ray. If you say something creeped you out, then I believe you." Bodie looked at Doyle, his dark blue eyes warm and loving. In fact, the affection there made Doyle choke up for a moment. "Still, I might needle you. Keep you in your place. Can't let that grey head of yours swell up bigger than it already is, my dear Father."
Doyle guffawed. "You're the daft one for sticking with me all these years," he said, letting the warmth and love he had for Bodie shine out. His voice gave out on the last word and if he didn't stop talking for a few minutes and try to calm down, his voice would break.
"You going to spill it or what?" Bodie asked, ignoring Doyle's emotional moment, for which Doyle was grateful, as he stirred more sugar into his third cuppa.
Doyle shook his head, using his best pleading look to distract Bodie for a spell. "Tell me about the messenger and what Hunt said first."
Nodding, Bodie took a refreshing drink before he set his cup down. "Turned out the bloke was an actor, of all things. Took the job for cash. He answered an advert from a flyer some kid was passing out on the corner near his flat. Said he called the number, which was listed in his outgoing calls when they pulled his mobile records. It was, wait for this big surprise, a prepaid mobile and as we both know, untraceable," he added unnecessarily. "Told the old man that a man's voice gave him instructions on what to say, to act the heavy, like in a gangster film. The man explained that it was a lark on a mate, and then said to hand over the flash drive." He took another sip of tea. "Told the actor it was some great porn of ladies with big... Well, you get the picture. The bloke -- Thomas Stuart-Nash was his name -- tossed the paper the advert was printed on into the rubbish after he'd answered. He said it was typewritten or off a computer printer, not by hand. Our boys went around but the rubbish had been collected days before so there was nothing for the lab boys to look at, not that this arsehole would leave any clue behind."
"He seems to know what he's doing," Doyle agreed. "Unfortunately."
"It wouldn't have mattered anyway. One of the lads looked around where Stuart-Nash said he picked up the paper but nothing was lying about. There was a Rymans round the corner so I'd guess he made the copies on a public machine. No way to trace that even if we had a dozen of them. He's being careful." Bodie said, passing Doyle another biccie. "I see you eyeing the last one."
"Share with you."
"Deal." Bodie broke the treat in half and handed Doyle his piece. "We'll find Jacob, Ray. You know we will."
Doyle stared down at the biscuit in his hand. "Alive... or dead."
"No way to tell, is there? But I hope it's alive. You know I like the old coot."
"Hey! He's the same age as me, you know."
Bodie waggled his eyebrow. "Nah. He's older than you."
"By three bloody minutes!"
Bodie shrugged. "I like a younger man."
"Berk." They grinned at each other. "You have toffee stuck in your teeth."
"You want to pick it out?"
"No! Disgusting!" Doyle said haughtily.
"You don't seem disgusted when you have your mouth-"
"Bodie!" Doyle hissed. "Not here!"
"Why not? You'd think this was a church or something the way you act all priggish. We've been shagging for close to thirty years and now he's embarrassed," Bodie said, casting his eyes heavenward. He let out an exaggerated sigh. "God help me."
"Bodie!" Doyle repeated. "Have some dignity!"
"I have plenty of dignity," Bodie said indignantly. "Humph." He lifted his nose and stared down it at Doyle, which made him laugh.
"You're definitely a moron."
"But I'm your moron."
"Yeah," Doyle gave a nod, "you are... for better or worse."
"Til death do us part."
Doyle shivered. "Don't."
"Hey," Bodie said sympathetically. "Come on, tell Uncle Bodie what happened in the church. Did somebody refuse your blessing? Piss in the holy water?"
"You're going to burn for your blasphemy, Bodie," said Doyle drolly.
"I know. Told you that years ago. Was the Parsali case, wasn't it? Told you I had a reservation all booked. It hasn't changed."
Doyle gave Bodie a smirk. "You remember back that far, old man?"
Bodie stuck out his tongue. "Younger than you'll ever be again, granddad."
Doyle laughed, looking warmly at Bodie. His long time partner, his lover, liked to pretend he wasn't a caring and devoted friend, a loving and kind man, but he was all those things and more. He was dedicated to his country and Doyle. Doyle should thank Bodie more often for making his life fulfilling and fun, even if Bodie was the most exasperating man he'd ever known. And Bodie still loved a good practical joke and put that black humour he favoured to good use at the most inappropriate times, but that made Bodie "Bodie". Doyle wouldn't have him any other way.
Soppily, Doyle admitted that he loved Bodie more today than yesterday. He would love Bodie more tomorrow than today. Trite but true. Still, he couldn't be too sentimental with Bodie because Bodie would laugh and ruffle his hair and then smack his bottom, leering and talking dirty. So much for hearts and flowers. But he didn't need those things. He had Bodie's heart and it was a thing of beauty and joy.
"Good God," he muttered.
"Eh?" Bodie said, his teacup pausing on the way to his mouth.
"Nothing. Just wondering where my brain is sometimes."
"Been wondering that same thing since I first met you, what? Forty years ago," Bodie said seriously, theatrically rolling his eyes and sighing heavily. "You always did need a good head shrinking. God only knows why I put up with you."
With an impish grin, Bodie agreed and ate his half of the biccie in one bite.
Doyle finished his biscuit slowly. "You've been distracting me," he said peevishly. "I need to think about what happened tonight and what I must do tomorrow."
"Tomorrow is too far away to worry about. Besides, I'll be in the front pew, helping you."
"Good God, Bodie! How in bloody hell do you expect me to celebrate Mass with you eyeing me up!"
"You act as if I look at you like you're not wearing any knickers!" Bodie protested indignantly.
"You're doing it again!"
"Distracting me! Damn it all, Bodie, but this is serious." Doyle let out a sigh of exasperation, smashing a pile of crumbs under his index finger.
Bodie leaned across the table and reached out a hand. "So tell me," he said seriously. "What did you see?"
Doyle flicked the crumbs around before brushing his hands together. "I didn't really see anything. I felt- Christ, I don't know! Like something was there, something nasty. It knew... It wasn't... Forget it." He waved a hand dismissively.
"Evil exists, mate. We've seen it all these years. You know it's out there."
Doyle shrugged, not wanting to acknowledge the truth of Bodie's words. He looked around the old but pleasant kitchen. The walls were a warm yellow, the floors lino, white with some sort of a paisley design in tan, dark yellow and green with a touch of red. Clean and neat. The cabinets were a darker yellow and the sink white enamel. The fridge was a newer model, white, and it hummed away in the corner. The cooker was also relatively new, and the chrome gleamed. The housekeeper took pride in her duties and the room was always kept tidy. How could evil invade such a mundane place? It looked so normal!
The table at which they sat was Formica, a blue top banded in chrome. These days the style would be called retro. It was from the fifties and had seen many meals shared, many priests and acolytes and seminary students had sat on these metal framed upholstered chairs. Visitors to be sure, and the occasional homeless lad or lass. The saintly and the damned had more than likely sat here. If the table could only speak, Doyle could guess at the myriad stories it could tell.
The window over the sink was covered with brightly flowered muslin curtains that were tied back about half way down with a strip of green material. Through the window, Doyle's mind's eye saw the tidy garden of roses that was visible in the daylight. Presently, it was dark outside and he could see stars strewn across the night sky through the clean panes of glass.
Sitting in the cosy kitchen with Bodie, drinking tea poured out of a Brown Betty, it was hard for Doyle to come to terms with the idea that something evil, sinister, had been in the church. Something... not human.
With a derisive snort at his own thoughts, Doyle rose. "I'm off to bed."
"Doyle..." Bodie's concern radiated out of every pore.
"I'm all right," he said firmly. "As long as you're with me," he added with a quirk of his lips.
Bodie didn't press him, merely smiled and nodded. "I'm going to make a final check of the windows and doors."
"You'd best stay in your own bed. If Sister wanders, she'd have a heart attack if she saw you skulking about, sneaking into my room."
"I do not skulk," Bodie sniffed indignantly. "I am a trained agent of Her Majesty's Government. I hide in the shadows, blend into the woodwork. I am a master of my craft."
"Oh my God, but you're insufferable."
Bodie sent Doyle a beaming grin, his eyes dancing. "But you're right. Sleep is what you need. Will you be able to kip without me beside you?"
Doyle shrugged. "Would rather have you with me, but I don't have much choice, and neither do you."
"Go and sleep, love. Night, Father."
"The flippancy in your tone at my predicament is apparent. You will burn in hell."
Bodie grinned. "So you've said. Expect you to save me soul before I pass on. Hold you to that, Ray."
Doyle snorted in dry amusement and went to his room.
It was nearly half nine on a bright, sunny morning, and Doyle's stomach constricted into knots. He had twenty minutes before he had to celebrate Mass, and he was sure he was going to vomit. Earlier, he'd awakened after a refreshing five hour sleep. He'd shaved, showered and dressed without suffering any panic attacks. He'd been all right as he'd eaten a light breakfast. Now, in the small vestry, the enormity of what he was about to do descended full force upon his head, and his heart. God would surely strike him down as he approached the altar. How could he do this?
How in God's name could he pretend to be Jacob, to read from the Bible, to give a sermon, to bless the congregation, and more importantly, distribute communion? His rational brain told him that he wasn't committing any sort of sacrilege. In today's church, most of the duties of a priest could be carried out by a layperson. And in dire circumstances, sacraments performed by someone not in the clergy wasn't a mortal sin. But in his heart, taking Jacob's place, lying to the congregation who trusted his brother, was wrong.
How could he do this, he asked himself.
Because you don't have a choice, a voice inside his head said firmly. Because Jacob will die.
But Jacob would rather die than cause a moment's pain to another person. He would rather die than put anyone else in danger, he argued with the first voice, both his own to be sure. He had an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, apparently.
You don't know that! You can't know that. You might be able to stop all of this and get Jacob back to his parish in one piece. You have to try. Performing Jacob's duties is not the horror you believe. Jacob would understand, and so would his church.
Doyle had changed into Jacob's cassock but his fingers refused to tie the cincture around his waist. "Come on," he muttered. "It's only a bloody bit of rope!"
The door suddenly burst open. Doyle's head jerked up sharply. Three young men practically tumbled into the room like a litter of enthusiastic puppies. In unison, the laughing boys saw Doyle and immediately they fell silent. Stammering apologies, the seminarians entered, one of them closing the door.
Yet another swear word died on Doyle's lips when the students entered. He stood with the two ends of his cincture in his fingers, watching them. Two of the three men blushed. The third might have also, but his dark skin hid any rise of colour on his cheeks. Doyle managed to give the young men a stern look. All three bent their heads contritely, yet were unable to hide their youthful exuberance. Doyle's lips quirked up into a smile and the boys glanced up, grins on their own faces.
"Good morning," Doyle said.
The young men returned the greeting. Two of them crossed to the cupboard holding the vestments and began taking out cassocks and stoles for today's Mass. The third boy glanced at Doyle.
"Father?" he said, "may I assist you?"
Doyle nodded and allowed the student to take the ends from his fingers while he studied him. He'd spent hours poring over Jacob's records and the seminary's student information. Cataloguing the men, he recognised his helper as Anthony Osoba. While Anthony deftly tied Doyle's cincture, he observed each of the three students in turn.
Anthony was a heavy set black youth, with tightly curled hair and startlingly beautiful hazel eyes. He had a ready smile that he directed at Doyle each time their eyes met. Matthew Henderson, with his long brown hair falling over his forehead and ears, with brown eyes and tanned skin. He was slender but not skinny, a good looking lad. The third seminarian, Conor Brimble, was very tall, over six feet three, with large hands and a soft voice that didn't quite fit his frame. Jacob's notes were extensive, detailing that he had known Matthew the longest, from about the age of eight when Matthew's mother had moved into Jacob's parish. He was an easy student to have around, a devout and caring boy.
Matthew had some form from six years ago, but nothing since, and was from a single parent home with no siblings. He was London born, as was Anthony.
Anthony was the newest student at seminary. In Jacob's records, Anthony was listed as a good student, if somewhat lazy in his study habits. He was smart enough to be able to pass his exams without the hours of study other seminarians needed. Anthony had served as an altar boy in another parish since his boyhood and as far as Jacob had noted, had never been in trouble with the law.
Jacob's personal file on Conor was quite interesting. Apparently, Conor was often in trouble with the coppers and his headmasters in his younger days, and he was the one that Jacob had spent the most time helping find his place. Jacob had written that he had many encounters with Conor through a parish youth organisation that interceded with troubled youths. Somehow Jacob had forged a relationship with the belligerent boy and Conor's attitude slowly changed from one of belligerence to devotion to Jacob and to the Church. Jacob was proud that he'd helped Conor find his way.
Doyle smiled at the lads' chatter while they got ready. When the students stood in a line in front of Doyle, he realised that they expected something of him. He swallowed and looked around.
"Father?" Matthew asked, "are you all right?"
Nodding, Doyle said, "Yes, of course."
Anthony looked at his friends before he turned to Doyle. "Father, did you want some assistance with your vestments?"
"Oh!" Doyle bit his lip. "Sorry. My mind was elsewhere," he said quickly.
Matthew grinned and Conor sniggered. Matthew elbowed him.
"Hey!" Conor quipped.
"Lads," Doyle reprimanded. "What?" he asked, seeing the grins on their faces.
"You're thinking about next Friday," Anthony said.
"Can you blame him? It's not often that the Pope himself shows up," Matthew added.
"It's exciting, isn't it, Father?" Conor asked. "I know I'm excited."
"Yes," Doyle said quickly, thankful for a good excuse for his daydreaming. "But you all are keeping this quiet, eh?"
"Yes, of course. Here, Father," Matthew said, taking Jacob's chasuble from the hanger and holding it out for Doyle.
"Thank you," Doyle said, slipping into the vestment. He quickly reviewed the steps that he needed to perform during the upcoming service. His years spent in the Catholic church were long ago. Of course, Doyle remembered some of the traditions from his youth, but he'd forgotten more than he'd remembered. The past few days he'd spent several hours memorising the movements, the timing, and the structure of the Mass. Now, he was well versed in which prayers to say and which vestments to wear. He studied the layout of the altar and the position of each item he would use during the service. Knowledge he had; the will to pull this off he doubted. But he had no choice. Not if he wanted to see his brother alive again.
Doyle closed his eyes briefly, gathering his wits. He'd studied more than the Mass and whereabouts of the hosts used for communion. He'd also committed to memory the diagram of the church, the rectory, and the grounds, including the outbuilding that housed the gardening supplies and Jacob's car. Thanks to CI5's excellent research department and Google, he also memorised the names of the altar servers and acolytes in the parish as well as their backgrounds. He studied Sister Roberta's history and that of the cook-come-housekeeper assigned to keep the rectory running efficiently. He was versed in the names of the fifteen seminary students who came to St. Bart's to study for the priesthood.
Doyle had plenty of information churning around in his brain, but the most important information he wanted, where Jacob was and how to get him back, safe and sound, was not in his grasp. Doyle opened his eyes when he realised that he'd been standing still and that the three seminarians hadn't said anything for the last few minutes.
"I hope to be as prayerful as you some day, Father," Matthew said, obviously misinterpreting Doyle's closed eyes and silence. How could Doyle tell Matthew he wasn't praying, but was trying not to run from the room screaming that he was a fraud?
Anthony and Conor nodded at Matthew's comment, apparently agreeing with Doyle's piety. Doyle swallowed anxiously, hating that he was lying to these boys. He had to think like Jacob. He had to be Jacob. Now. This second. Leave off on the whingeing and do it, he ordered himself. Doyle met the eyes of each student. "You are all good servants of the Lord and it is my pleasure to celebrate Mass with each of you."
The three young men beamed. Anthony opened the door for Doyle and he stepped through. With his heart pounding in his chest and his palms sweating, he led the small procession towards the altar.
"Father Jacob," Sister Roberta said as she placed a large casserole dish on the centre of the kitchen table, "that was a delightful sermon today. So fitting to this feast day of St. Theresa. You always deliver a thoughtful talk." She lifted the lid. "Mrs. O'Malley baked your favourite macaroni cheese dish. She thinks you've been off your food these past few days."
Doyle, who had been putting his napkin on his lap, paused in his action mid stream. Had he given himself away? He had never even considered Jacob's eating habits when he'd taken his brother's place. Of course, he and Jacob had shared many meals over the years but perhaps Doyle hadn't paid close enough attention to his brother's likes and dislikes. Who was he kidding? He hadn't even considered those sorts of minute details when he'd embarked on this charade. It was impossible to remember each thing Jacob did or said, how much he ate, what brand of toothpaste he preferred, and did he like one spoonful of sugar in his tea or two? Bloody hell...
But it's not a charade, Doyle tried to tell himself. And even if it was, it didn't matter. He would do anything to save his brother. Anything within his power to do or say or try, up to and including performing all seven sacraments, if that's what it look.
Two down, five to go, he thought dryly. Good God, he hoped there wasn't a marriage on the calendar this week!
Doyle brought his runaway thoughts back to the lunch table. He reached out and scooped a large helping of the steaming pasta onto his plate. "This looks wonderful," he said. Lifting his fork, he added, "Thank you for your kind words about today's lesson." Doyle started eating, grateful that he had something to do with his mouth other than speak. He had absolutely nothing to say to Sister Roberta about his sermon (it was one of Jacob's he'd found among his papers) or his eating habits. In fact, it might be better if he didn't say much now that the enormity of his deception weighed him down more and more as each minute passed.
"Delicious," he managed to say between mouthfuls of cheesy macaroni. He helped himself to some of the tossed salad that the cook had also provided. The dressing was particularly tasty, although he couldn't quite place the delightful herb that had been added. As he found himself enjoying the midday meal, his brain supplied the question: Do you have the right to enjoy anything with Jacob in peril? Suddenly, his appetite abandoned him and he put down his fork, wiping his mouth.
Sister Roberta eyed him carefully. "Mrs. O'Malley is right, it seems. You are off your food. Are you ill? Should I summon a doctor?"
"No, Sister," Doyle said, putting far too much thought into folding his napkin, "I'm well. Only... a lot on my mind lately."
"The Lord has granted my prayers since I came to St. Bartholomew's. Things have been quiet and calm, praise God." Sister Roberta held Doyle's gaze. "There hasn't been a need for your services for the past year from what I've been told."
"Eh?" Doyle raised an eyebrow.
Sister Roberta shook her head. "You would miss those awful situations, Father." She gave him a look that he took as approval. "Still, you saved damned souls, kept them from the eternal hell fire, even if Rome looks unfavourably on exorcisms."
"I like peace and quiet."
Sister Roberta laughed. "Since when? Not from the tales the other sisters have told me." She continued to laugh at his shocked look. "More?" she asked innocently, holding up the serving spoon.
"No. Thank you." Doyle rubbed at his eyes. "Since... last week."
"Father?" A man's voice echoed through the room, deep and familiar.
Doyle's head shot up. "Oh, B-billy." Doyle waved at Bodie, who hovered in the doorway of the kitchen. "Come in and have some lunch."
Bodie rubbed his hands together as he walked to the table. "Looks wonderful. It's a cold day outside."
"Have you washed your hands, Mr Phillips?" Sister Roberta frowned as she watched Bodie sit down. "I didn't see you in Mass."
Bodie grinned as he filled a plate. "Got on me Sunday best, haven't I. Went over to me gran's and took her to services. Church of England, sorry."
Doyle looked at his partner with a raised eyebrow. The suit Bodie wore looked rather older than his usual natty dress. The jacket and trousers were a bland brown, and the dress shirt he had on was an awful pink. His tie was green. Doyle peered at the tie closely. Green and red. He started to splutter on a sip of water.
"Billy, have you got a Christmas tie on?"
Bodie grinned beatifically. "Yup. Pressie from a dear old mate. Do you like it? Can't see a good reason to keep it for Christmas. I wear it all year round."
Embarrassed, Doyle blushed a deep red. Bloody hell, that was the same tie that he'd given Bodie two Christmasses ago. The same tie that Bodie had used to bind up Doyle's, er, well... Doyle's thought came to a stop. Dressed as a Catholic priest, he couldn't even think the word "cock". He coughed even harder.
Bodie jumped up and thumped him on the back. "Going to be all right, there, Father?" he asked seriously. "Wouldn't want to have to have Sister perform Last Rites in the kitchen now, would we?"
"Mr Phillips!" Sister Roberta said, shock evident in her tone over Bodie's blasphemy. "I never have."
Bodie sat back down and picked up his fork. He scooped up a large bite but before he directed the mountain of cheese and pasta to his mouth, he raised that infernal eyebrow that Doyle wanted to shave from his face at the moment. "I'll bet you haven't. I have, many times."
"Billy!" Doyle reprimanded. "For heaven's sake."
Sister Roberta rose with as much dignity as she could muster. "Father," she said tightly, clearly annoyed at their juvenile antics. Then she left the room, head held high.
"I'm going to have to go and apologise now, Bodie. That was uncalled for." Doyle shook a finger at Bodie, unsuccessfully stifling his chuckles. "And so shall you!"
"Yes, Father," Bodie said meekly. He helped himself to more pasta.
"You will?" Doyle asked, not quite sure he believed Bodie.
"Course. I'm a gentleman."
At that, Doyle dissolved into laughter. Bodie tried to look affronted, failed miserably then grinned mischievously. Doyle shook his head in fond exasperation and marvelled to himself how being with Bodie could make him forget his troubles, if even for while.
"Have some salad," Doyle offered.
"Do I look like a sodding rabbit to you, Father?"
Doyle didn't respond, merely rolled his eyes.
Completely comfortable together after so many years of closeness, they chatted of mundane things, specifically avoiding the case for the moment. While Bodie ate, Doyle sipped his after lunch drink, marvelling at how pleasant a simple coffee could be.
With Bodie off outside somewhere doing his gardening duties, Doyle had left the grounds for a few hours, driving up and down streets without success. He had a purpose in his wanderings, and that was to find Jacob. After realising that he more than likely wasn't going to find Jacob wandering down some side street or back alley, he returned to St. Bart's.
Back in the rectory, he aimlessly wandered towards the church. It was strange to him that there was some sense of comfort, of peace, sitting in one of the pews, his hands clasped on his lap. The lemon scent of the polish that Sister Roberta had rubbed into the wooden pews mingled with the fragrance of the flowers that graced the altar. The pungent aromas of burnt wax and incense added to the myriad scents that tingled Doyle's nose and sparked a scent memory.
He saw himself many years back, sitting in a pew in The Church of the Immaculate Conception, watching Jacob as he was blessed by the Bishop during the rite of Holy Orders. He had been proud when Jacob dedicated himself to God because it was something his brother had dreamed of for as long as Doyle could remember. He'd supported his brother the same way that Jacob had supported Doyle's decision to join first the Metropolitan Police and then CI5. Of course, they had had to work hard to get to that point, to find that acceptance of each other, but they'd made it and for that, Doyle was extremely grateful.
Two different men, born from the same parents, identical twins, each called to a different life.
Doyle bowed his head. He wasn't given to prayer often. He chuckled at himself. He wasn't given to prayer at all, but at the moment, it was right, sitting here in God's house, a place his brother loved with all of his heart. And Doyle loved Jacob, so Jacob's love was his own in his heart, if not in his own calling.
Doyle started, jumping to his feet when a voice next to his right ear whispered: "Jacob doesn't have God in his heart. He has doubts."
"Who's there?" Doyle demanded, spinning on his heels to glance behind him. He saw no-one. His eyes darted frantically, searching the dark space. No-one was there.
Surprising himself, Doyle made the sign of the cross on his own body. As if that would protect him from- What? He slipped from the pew and headed towards the door leading to the rectory. A hot breeze, as if someone had huffed a breath on the back of his neck, made the hair on his body stand on end. Before he could react, there was a touch of fingers on his skin directly below his right ear.
"Stop," he cried, turning in a circle. A chuckle, barely discernible, reached him. It came from the confessional. Running to the wooden cubicles, he yanked open the priest's section. The smell of burning flesh assailed him. He put a hand over his mouth and coughed as he backed up. Unable to see clearly into the dark interior of the cubicle, he steeled himself against the stench and opened the tall door as much as possible to allow the light from the high chandelier to reach the corners.
A white object lay on the interior shelf. It was small and made of paper. There were smears on the paper and in the light they looked brownish red. Something liquid -- blood?-- dripped from it, soaking the paper and staining the floor. Doyle watched his own hand trembling as he reached out but when his fingers were barely an inch away from the object, he paused. His copper's instincts and his knowledge of forensics warned him that he shouldn't touch the paper container; that he might ruin evidence that could prove useful to finding Jacob.
Wait, why did he feel this was in any way related to Jacob's disappearance? His rational mind gave him one answer: because this is a message from Jacob's kidnapper to follow orders or else. A good investigator would get any evidence to a lab quickly so it could be thoroughly tested.
His heart told him that the blood might be Jacob's but he had to see what was inside. He had to know.
Biting his bottom lip enough to draw blood, one of his hands hovered over the paper packet while the other was jammed in his jacket pocket. He touched something, his mobile. With one hand still outstretched, he pulled the mobile and pressed Bodie's speed dial number.
"I'm in the church. Bring an evidence bag. Hurry." He disconnected and stood staring at the bloody package, barely breathing.
Bodie burst into the church clutching a plastic kitchen storage bag. He didn't bother speaking to Doyle, merely followed Doyle's glance. Cautiously, Bodie leaned into the confessional. He blocked Doyle's view, making Doyle shift impatiently. Before he could berate Bodie for taking much too long to store the evidence in its bag, Bodie turned. He hadn't placed the bloody paper in the plastic, but instead, held the small item in his hand.
"Bodie!" Doyle berated his partner. "You're ruining evidence!"
"It's an ice cream, Ray. Look." Bodie held out the packet. "Look at it," he repeated sternly.
"No!" Doyle averted his eyes. His face must have revealed his disbelief because Bodie held out the dripping bundle closer to Doyle's face. From the corner of his eye, Doyle could see was the blood dripping from a corner and down Bodie's hand. "No," Doyle said, backing up a step. "There's blood on your hand."
"Ray, it's a melting ice cream. Strawberry, if my nose is correct. It's not blood. Honestly, it's only ice cream."
Bodie took a careful step forward. "Doyle?" he asked softly, concern clearly etched in his voice and on his face. "Did you see something else? Tell me."
Doyle shook his head, realising that Bodie was acting as if he believed Doyle would go off half cocked, start screaming or crying, or bolt in terror. Swallowing around a dry throat, Doyle whispered, "I thought... The smell was... It looked like blood."
"But it's not. You'd better tell me what's going on in that noggin of yours."
Doyle blinked, looked again and saw the truth in Bodie's words. He touched the dripping ice cream and brought his finger to his nose. Strawberry. He was a moron now that he realised he'd overreacted, but when he first saw the blood, he wasn't hallucinating. Was he?
"Christ," Doyle muttered, rubbing his eyes until they stung. "I'm losing it. Bodie, I'm falling apart."
"No, you're not. I won't let you." Bodie took a step closer. "Tell me what happened. I want all the details."
"Heard a voice. Felt..." Doyle shook his head again. "Some- thing touched me. Made the hair on my body stand on end. It was as if-" Doyle raised his eyes to meet Bodie's. "Do you believe in Satan?"
Bodie snorted inelegantly and opened his mouth, then clamped it shut. After a moment's pause, he asked, "Do you?"
"Jacob did. Does. You know he does. You know he's performed exorcisms. Seen evil first hand." Doyle scrubbed at his face with both hands. From behind his fingers, he said, "I'm frightened and angry and horrified that I might be losing it."
"Hey," Bodie said softly. "You've a right to be all of those things. You're not losing it. Your brother is in the hands of some madman. You're masquerading as a priest and as much as you don't want to admit it, you feel guilty for pretending you're Jacob."
"I do feel badly, but I don't know what else to do?" Doyle hated how his voice broke.
"You're doing the right thing, Ray. You always do."
"Do I?" Doyle glared at Bodie and when his anger flared, it drove the fear away. "I've killed more men than I can count! I've lied and cheated in the name of my country. I- This is it, mate. Last time. We find Jacob and then we chuck it all in." When Bodie remained silent, he growled, "With or without you, I'm out of it."
Bodie guffawed. "As if you'd go off by yourself, you old coot."
Doyle wanted Bodie to lash out, to accuse him of being selfish, of not caring about their relationship. Instead, he got understanding. That made him furious.
"Screw you," Doyle muttered. "I'll do it." He was acting like a petulant child, but he didn't care. All he needed to do was stomp his foot and cross his arms. He crossed his arms, foregoing the foot stomping.
Bodie raised an eyebrow, spread out his hands, and dripped more ice cream onto the floor. "All right."
Doyle peered angrily at Bodie. He searched his lover's face for signs of mockery but found none. "You mean it?" he said, testing the waters even though he was a berk for doing so. Bodie deserved better from him but he couldn't stop himself. "If you're taking the piss out of me. I'll bust your teeth in."
"Yeah, 'course I mean it. Look at me and tell me I'm taking the piss out of you."
Doyle met Bodie's firm glance and he needed only two seconds to know Bodie was being totally honest. Overcome with emotion over the amount of love he got from Bodie, even when he didn't deserve it, he was rendered speechless.
Bodie gave him an understanding smile. "We deserve some peace. We've done enough, given enough. Time we thought about ourselves." Bodie brushed the backs of fingers from his non-sticky hand down Doyle's cheek.
Doyle finally heaved a sigh of relief and nodded curtly. "Okay. I'm holding you to it." He grabbed Bodie's hand and squeezed it before he remembered where they were and who they were supposed to be. Doyle hurriedly looked around, albeit belatedly. If someone had been watching, they would have seen Bodie's loving touch and his response. Could have heard their argument and would have reckoned that they were not quite what they claimed to be.
"Thank God nobody's here, Bodie. Only you and me." After a moment's pause, Doyle said, "For right now," as his eyes darted around the church's interior.
"Well. Right then. Let me toss this rubbish first, then I'll make a full circuit and lock up. Double check to make sure nobody's lurking in the shadows. See you in the kitchen in fifteen?"
At Doyle's "uh hum," Bodie said, "And for being a dick, you can pour me a nip of Jacob's best whisky. I need it tonight." Bodie hurried off before Doyle could scowl at him again, leaving him alone in the cold church.
Doyle looked around and said aloud, "You may attempt to do your worst but you will not win. I'd bet my life on it." He walked down the aisle and towards the doors to the rectory. As the door swung closed behind him, he was sure he heard a man's voice drift out from the empty church, saying derisively, "Would you bet his life on that?"
As much as Doyle wanted to turn around and rush back into the church, to shout at the top of his lungs that he would do anything for his brother, something deep inside of himself told him that was the wrong thing to do at the moment; that he needed to think about the possibility of the improbable.
And he might even think about saying a prayer.
Forty-eight hours later brought another directive in the form of an email. Doyle was sitting at his desk studying the steps required for a baptism that was scheduled for Saturday morning. He heard the small ping that indicated an email had arrived. Hurriedly, he opened it and read the message even as he opened the screen shot program. He took three quick screen shots before the message disappeared. Surprisingly, the email remained on the screen and as Doyle stared at it for a few more moments, he saw the small paper clip symbol indicating an attachment. He clicked on the symbol and two photographs opened. Not willing to risk losing the photographs to an embedded virus, he took screen shots of both and saved them. After he'd successfully captured all of the information he focused on the screen, expecting the message to dissolve away into a shower of dissipating pixels. When that didn't happen, Doyle let out a whoop of joy. The kidnapper might have made his first mistake and there was a slim chance that he'd left a trail on this message by not adding the virus code to the email.
Doyle called Bodie on his mobile to alert him of the latest communication. He disconnected and while he waited for Bodie to arrive, he hit the copy button on the keyboard and watched as the printer sprang to life, spitting out three pages, one with the instructions on it and two more with one picture on each. The quality of the pictures wasn't the best, but they were clearly visible.
Studying the photographs, Doyle saw that Jacob was stretched out on a single metal framed bed in the same room that had been shown in the previous photographs. He grimaced when he saw that Jacob's wrists were handcuffed to the headboard's rails. The picture focussed on Jacob and the background details were not visible, so no help there again.
The second photograph was a close up of Jacob's face. His eyes were open. A copy of the daily newspaper rested under his chin with the date clearly visible. Doyle confirmed that the paper carried the day's current headline. He studied his brother's face intently, wishing that the kidnapper had sent video instead of photos. Still, Jacob was alive, and for that Doyle was thankful.
Bodie burst into the office without knocking. "What does it say?"
Doyle handed Bodie the sheet bearing the instructions, as well as the two pictures. He scanned the note before he perused the photographs. "You know the blokes on this list?"
"I've read their files and I've spoken to three of them. They've all been in attendance at Jacob's classes during the past few days."
Bodie read aloud, "Achmed Rahad, Joseph Charles, Matthew Henderson, Conor Brimble, Anthony Osoba. You have their pictures?"
"Yeah." Doyle rose and drew out five manila files from the cabinet. He laid them out on the table and Bodie picked each one up, matching names and faces from the photographs attached to the inner paperwork. "Any of these stand out?"
"Not as a suspect in a kidnapping." Doyle looked at the pictures with Bodie. "I'll go over their files again and Jacob's notes. See if I missed anything."
"You need to talk to each of them. Spend some time with them to see if you get any vibes."
"Right. Have Hunt run them through our database and tell him to hit Interpol and the CIA as well." Doyle stared down at the fresh faces looking up at him. "I hate to think that one of these lads is a piece of shit."
"A full check goes without saying." Bodie paused. "Betrayal sucks."
Doyle heard the anger and irritation in Bodie's tone. He understood because he hated being betrayed, and he'd been at the receiving end of its sting several times in his life.
Doyle brought his head up sharply at Bodie's words, wondering if his partner's brain went to the same place his did. Marikka and Ann. Decades past, yet the shadow of pain still remained. He considered his own betrayal worse than Bodie's but that was because he had a bigger guilt complex than his lover. If he cared to, he could recall each detail of those incidents. He didn't care to. Then there had been Barry Martin. That one still hurt.
Under Bodie's intense scrutiny, Doyle met his serious eyes with his own. "We both know what that's like."
Bodie's look flashed understanding. "We both learned from those mistakes, mate. I am trainable and so are you." Bodie gathered up the files. "I'll get Hunt on these names and the techs on the email immediately." He glanced at the email on the monitor. "That's interesting that he failed to put a virus on his post, but don't get too excited. It's probably bounced off too many servers to count for much."
"You think we won't be able to trace it," Doyle stated, well aware of the problems tracing something on the world wide net that has been pinged around the globe and through hundreds, if not thousands, of servers.
"Yeah, I'd take bets on it, but still..." Bodie shrugged. "The IT boys will see. You never know."
Doyle let out a snort of disgust. "You and I both know it doesn't take that much these days to hide one's cyber trail."
"I know, mate," Bodie said quietly. "But he's still alive. I'm sure of it."
"Yeah." Doyle sat heavily in the desk chair. "The note says these lads are to participate in the papal Mass. It doesn't specify in any particular capacity." Doyle mulled over this information. "So we know that it has something to do with the Pope, which makes me think it has got to be related to Jacob's ties to the Vatican."
"Makes sense," Bodie agreed, sitting in one of the chairs in front of Jacob's desk. "He spent a lot of time in Rome. He ruffled a hell of a lot of feathers, did our priest."
"He's that kind of man," Doyle said proudly. "He's not one to let an injustice go unchecked."
"Much like you."
Doyle smiled. "I'm proud of the idea that you think I'm anywhere near as good a man as Jacob. He's the best."
"Don't sell yourself short, Ray. You're a good man," Bodie insisted.
"We have more facts today than we did yesterday. The biggest piece of information is that during the Pope's visit, there will be an incident. Just what, we don't know but whatever happens, it won't be good."
Bodie snorted inelegantly. "You think?"
Doyle rolled his eyes. "Yeah. My powers of deduction are beyond reproach."
"I'll be sure to get that printed on your next t-shirt."
"Well, what do you think it means, the list of seminarians and the order for them to serve at the Mass?"
"Same as you," Bodie agreed.
Doyle chewed on the tip of one finger. "That doesn't make any sense. Assassination isn't the goal."
"It's too- stupid. Why not lie in wait outside and use a high powered rifle if he wants to kill the Pope? What does having these lads serve Mass mean? It has to be something else."
Bodie let out a frustrated sound. "You're making far too much sense, mate. So no assassination. But then, why kidnap Jacob and make you play the role?"
Doyle pondered for a moment. "Because...," he paused, thinking before it hit him. "Because whatever the kidnapper or kidnappers want, Jacob would have refused outright. I know my brother and he would've told them to get lost, to kill him. He wouldn't let anybody be endangered on his account."
Bodie leaned forward. "They know you'll do whatever it takes to save your brother."
"Right. Up to a point anyway."
"A farther point than Jacob would ever take. And..."
"Don't know. Doesn't sound like the whole story, does it?" Bodie asked, his eyebrow raised.
"Don't you have work to do?" At Bodie's "who, me?" look, Doyle hid his laughter. Bodie had a way of making any situation better. With a low voice, Doyle leaned across the desk. "Go on. Best go and get our boys on the job."
Bodie stood and looked down at Doyle. "Will you be all right?"
"No, but... Get out of here." Doyle tried to give Bodie a reassuring look. From the glance Bodie tossed back at him, he'd failed. "Go on," Doyle repeated, putting as much calmness as he could into his tone.
"I'll alert our mob though you know they're already on it. They've got your computer on the network. Remember?"
"Oh right. I forgot."
"You're tired. Still aren't sleeping, eh? Why don't you have a kip?"
"Don't be a mother, Bodie. I'll sleep once Jacob's found."
Bodie let out a disgusted sound. "If you keel over, I'll have to do all the bloody work myself."
"Nag, nag, nag," Doyle quipped, waving him away.
Chuckling, Bodie came over to Doyle's side, leaned down and put his mouth near his ear. "Have I told you how good you look in black?"
Doyle moved away before Bodie actually kissed his ear. Or worse, nibbled on it. It wasn't the sort of distraction he needed right now, as much as he wanted Bodie's touch. And Jacob's office definitely wasn't the place to respond to Bodie's covert advances. "Out!" He pointed at the door, shoving Bodie away. "I have a Bible study class at the seminary in an hour and I have to prepare. Can't do that with your hot breath in my ear."
Straightening up, Bodie danced away from Doyle's hand as Doyle tried to smack him. "Going to talk to our list of possible suspects?"
"Yeah," Doyle said, "even if I don't like it. Guess I don't have a choice."
"You know that it's got to be done."
"Doesn't mean I won't feel like crap when I do it. These are Jacob's students, people he trusts."
Bodie stepped closer to Doyle and patted his shoulder. Doyle let Bodie's hand rest on his sleeve for a moment before he smiled warmly up at him. "Get to it, Bodie."
"Yes, Father." Bodie gave him a jaunty salute.
"With your irreverence, you're going to-"
"Don't say it!" Bodie ran from the room.
Doyle reviewed the list of names once again. He had spent a small amount of time with three of the students, and had briefly spoken to the other two in class. Otherwise, he only knew these lads peripherally. That was something he'd remedy immediately.
Taking up pen and paper, he jotted down a list of questions he wanted to ask each man. Once he'd finished the task, he glanced at the clock. 10:00 am. He had a Bible study to get to. He made his way to the classrooms and conducted his class, studying the two students in attendance who were on the list.
While the seminarians debated the church's early history relating to Acts, he wrote down any other questions he considered necessary. He would invite each young man into his office so that he could assess each one for himself. He realised there would be an official investigation immediately launched into their backgrounds by his superiors but eye to eye contact revealed a lot about a man. Doyle had enough confidence in his skills as an interrogator to believe he could make a good evaluation when he spoke to each one of the students in a one on one situation.
He had to be careful, of course. The students believed he was Father Jacob, and he had to act as if he were. When class ended, he dismissed the students and made his way back to Jacob's office. He sat and thought about the note and the reasons for the demand. Why these five? There had to be an intention, and he had to suss it out.
Chewing on his finger, Doyle decided that after he spoke to each man, he'd also have Bodie speak to each one. Bodie's own type of questioning while in the guise of the gardener could bring out some information that a bloke might not even realise he was spilling. Together, they had to figure out if one or more of these men had knowledge about Jacob's kidnapping and what the motives for this incident were. It made sense that one of them would, but proving it would be the ticket. Finding Jacob would be the successful end result. The only acceptable end result, Doyle told himself firmly.
When someone knocked on his office door, Doyle called out, "Come in."
He looked up from his notebook where he'd been making a few more notes about the interviews. The dark haired young man who entered gave Doyle a serious look. He recognized the lad as Achmed Rahad, one of the seminarians who had served at Mass the past Sunday.
"Father, you asked to see me?" Rahad asked.
"Yes, please sit down." Doyle watched Achmed as he sat tentatively. "Relax. You're not in trouble." He hoped his tone alleviated Achmed's nervousness. A nervous interviewee wasn't always the most forthcoming.
Achmed swallowed hard enough for Doyle to see his Adam's apple bob. "Thank you, Father. I had hoped not. I strive to please God." He picked at a piece of lint on his trousers. "Your lesson today has made me think, sir. You have a way of bringing those questions of faith to my mind."
"I hope that's a good thing," Doyle said. "Questioning one's faith is not bad or wrong. It's an opportunity to learn."
"No, Father. I mean, yes, Father."
Doyle watched the man before him. Slim, with dark skin, cropped dark hair, a plain sort. His hands constantly moved, straightening his sleeve, brushing his hair, scratching his nose.
"You've been accepted as a Candidate for Holy Orders. How does this make you feel?"
"I am pleased. Since I was five years old, all I've wanted was to become a priest. This first step on that road is one that I have prayed for."
"Your conduct here has been exemplary. I've spoken to your teachers and your classmates and they speak highly of you."
Achmed looked downwards, lacing and unlacing his fingers. "Thank you."
"I'm sure you're wondering why I called you here for a private talk. I have chosen you to be a part of the papal Mass next Friday evening."
"Father?" Achmed asked in surprise, his head snapping up and his eyes wide. "Truly? It is an honour!"
"So you would like to serve the Lord in this way? It will take extra time in preparation and your background must be checked by the Vatican and possibly by Scotland Yard. Their approval is required, but as far as I'm concerned, you're one of the men I've chosen."
"Thank you! Oh, this is indeed a time when my prayers have been answered."
"Do you have anything in your background that would cause any sort of red flag?" Doyle asked lightly, keeping his tone mildly curious.
Achmed shook his head. "No, sir. Nothing. My parents will be happy with this. May they attend?"
"No." Doyle smiled, "I'm afraid not. The attendance will be strictly regulated by the papacy. They have control over the guest list. The Pope has said it is to be a small gathering to honour Ja-" Doyle paused. Jacob's work at the Vatican had put him in favour with this new Pope, and he remembered how highly Jacob had spoken about Zachary when he'd been a cardinal. "It's an honour for me to have His Holy Father at St. Bart's."
"I understand. I'll be able to tell them about it, won't I? Afterwards?"
"Of course. I'm insisting that we wait until after the visit has occurred. In today's climate," Doyle watched Achmed's facial features intently, "terrorists and dissidents world wide would like to harm someone such as the Pope and spread ill will about our church and our faith. Security will be tighter than it has ever been."
Achmed's reactions were appropriate for the conversation. He overcame his nervousness after Doyle had extended the invitation and he had looked directly at Doyle when he accepted. He was forthright and other than his nervous habit of fidgeting, he didn't appear to be someone who Doyle would consider a suspect. Still, no one would be scratched off the list until after the Mass, and after the Pope was safely away. Doyle engaged in a few more minutes of conversation with Achmed about his family and his studies, then he dismissed the young student.
On his notepad he wrote: appears genuinely pleased, no discernible deception, not believed involved, but... He put one question mark next to Achmed's name. In his own private rating system, five marks would indicate someone he was most suspicious of and one being the least likely.
He tapped the pen against the notepad as he waited for his next appointment with Anthony Osoba.
"Anthony," Doyle said to the young man who sat before him. "I've been given the honour of picking the servers for the papal Mass next Friday and I've decided to ask you to serve with us."
Anthony practically bounced in his seat. "Thank you, Father Jacob. Thank you!"
The student's startling clear hazel eyes were dancing with delight. Doyle couldn't help but smile. "I take it you accept?"
"Oh, yes! Yes, please! I'll do anything you need! Thank you, sir."
As Anthony intoned his thrill over being asked, Doyle studied him closely. Anthony had been another of the boys who had served at Sunday Mass so Doyle had spoken to him on that occasion. Now, Doyle's copper's instincts and years of experience dealing with people told him that Anthony was genuinely thrilled with the assignment. Doyle had read Anthony's file regarding his childhood. His father was a postal worker and his mother was a homemaker, raising three other boys besides Anthony. The entire family were devout Catholics, and Anthony had had no run ins with the authorities that Doyle could find. He took his studies at St. Bart's seriously.
As the young man chatted away, Doyle knew that his initial reactions to Anthony were correct. He was open and honest, and Doyle liked him.
"I see from your teachers' notes that you write a fine lecture. Perhaps you could write a short blessing of about two hundred words or so, to be delivered at the end of Mass."
"Really, Father? Thank you!"
"You've received the Ministry of Acolyte level. Congratulations and keep up your studies."
"Yes, Father Jacob. Thank you." Anthony bounced even more.
Watching the man, Doyle wondered if he ever had that much energy when he was that age. "Off with you. I'm sure you have jobs or studies to attend to. If Mr Charles is outside, please send him in."
"Yes, Father. Thank you," Anthony said. He grinned and bounced out of the office.
Doyle marvelled at how such a large man could move so quickly. Anthony's infectious joy made Doyle smile as he straightened up the papers on his desk and put the manila folder marked, "Charles, Joseph" on top of the pile. After Anthony's name he put one question mark. At this rate, he was getting nowhere fast.
"As if the suspect will come in, drooling and dragging his knuckles, acting like a nutter so you can slap the cuffs on him," Doyle muttered. He scoffed at his own words while he waited for the next young man.
Doyle rubbed at his eyes and propped his elbow on the desktop. He tiredly rested his chin in his palm. In the quiet of the room, where the only sound Doyle heard was the ticking of the clock on the wall behind him, he jumped when a disembodied voice spoke into his right ear, "What will happen when the Pope is killed on your watch? In your church?"
With a start that jerked his neck enough to hurt, Doyle sat upright and blinked in surprise. He glanced around, expecting to see Joseph sitting across from him. No-one else occupied the office. Doyle swallowed hard. No-one he could see anyway.
"What do you want?" he asked, sure that engaging whatever was taunting him was a huge mistake. Why, he hadn't a clue. Even so, he had to ask; had to find out for himself what was happening. "Come on, then. Speak up." Doyle looked around again. "You don't have the bollocks to face me?" For God's sake, what are you doing? he asked himself, unable to put the stops to his mouth. Fatigue overtook him and he listed sideways. "Bloody coward," he muttered.
"I've been called worse," responded the voice.
Masculine, Doyle reckoned. Or a manly sort of woman's voice. Either way, the idea that he was having a conversation with... What? Or who? Satan? Jacob had spoken of demons who tormented souls. Could Satan come onto consecrated grounds? His fatigue evaporated when the idea hit home.
,"I can go where I choose," it said triumphantly.
Good God, could this -- Satan read his mind? A test. Fuck off, Doyle thought angrily, refusing to engage whatever was taunting him.
The voice laughed, apparently finding Doyle amusing but giving no indication that he was privy to Doyle's innermost thoughts.
"I go wherever the sinners are. You have called to me. You will need me. Best we become friends."
"Never," Doyle spat with irritation. "I don't believe anyway. So go to hell." Angry, he crossed his arms, trying to ignore the fear that clutched at him.
"Then you don't want to see your brother alive again?" the demon queried, tone light and innocent.
Against his better judgement, Doyle asked, "What do you know about Jacob? Where is he?" As soon as he asked, he realised he'd made a huge mistake. This evil might not be a mind reader but it could sense his weaknesses, and his love for his brother was indeed a weakness. He couldn't let Jacob die. He couldn't!
"I can help you. I can do whatever you desire. I can save him."
"At what price?" Doyle asked quietly before he shook his fist in the air. "No, no. Don't answer. Go away. Just go away!"
The demon (Satan? he again wondered, afraid to give a name to the entity, but unable to stop himself.) coldly laughed. "You send me away now and he's dead, do you understand? He will burn forever."
"No! He's devoted to God. His soul is pure!"
"Then his suffering will be even more sweet to me!"
"I won't let you have him!" he cried out loudly.
The door to his office swung open. "Father Jacob?" Joseph burst into the room, his rosary hanging from his outstretched hand with the crucifix held aloft. He stopped in his tracks and searched the room with wild eyes. After a moment, he looked back at Doyle. "Are you all right?"
Doyle stared at the small silver cross Joseph held high. He whispered aloud, "Please, God," before he started to tremble and his stomach pitched wildly. A cold dread spiked through him as he saw Jacob's dead body flash before his eyes. Horrified at the image, he barely managed to stretch out a hand before he passed out.
The voice that finally broke through Doyle's blackness was tense and concerned, and familiar. "Father?"
"Wha-?" Doyle struggled to get his thick tongue to cooperate. "Wha- happened?"
Bodie's firm voice, tempered with care and a trace of apprehension kept in check, calmed Doyle's racing heart. "Come on, let's get you up."
"Bo- Billy?" He wanted to throw his arms around Bodie and hug him tightly; never to let go. His hands twitched but he firmly held himself under control. His training took over. Don't blow it now, he berated himself. Remember Jacob.
Bodie's dark blue eyes stared down at him. "Here, Father. How do you feel?" He helped Doyle up and into his desk chair while Joseph hovered a few feet away, his pale face blanched even whiter from anxiety, with two bright red spots on his cheeks.
"What happened?" Bodie asked Joseph, barely taking his eyes off Doyle to flick a glance at Joseph.
"I don't know," Joseph said breathlessly. "I heard shouting so I- Something pulled at me, made me open the door without knocking. I had the strangest need to display Our Lord Jesus on the cross. I don't know why." He hung his head. "I'm sorry, I startled you."
"No need to apologise, Joseph," Doyle managed to say. "It's all right." His eyes closed. Bodie squeezed his upper arms gently before he released him. If he hadn't felt like death warmed over, Doyle would have smiled at the care radiating from those familiar hands. How he missed those hands, that loving man who shared his life and his bed. He let out a tense sigh, shivering lightly.
"Get him a glass of water, please," Bodie said over his shoulder. "Here, drink this."
When Bodie rested a hand on his arm again, Doyle opened his eyes. Bodie kept a grip on the glass until Doyle got a firm hold with his slightly trembling hand. He sipped the cool liquid gratefully while Bodie patted his shoulder, communicating his concern. He could tell that Bodie wanted to hold him closely but both were aware of the consequences of such an action. How he wished this entire débâcle was over; that Jacob was back where he belonged, and that he and Bodie were back in their flat, where they belonged.
"Go on, Joseph," Bodie said. "Tell us what happened. What did you hear?"
Joseph looked at Bodie curiously. "Excuse me?"
Doyle intercepted Joseph's possible question about why the gardener was interrogating him. "Joseph, Billy can be trusted. I've known him for many years." Doyle took another drink. "He tends to be concerned for my safety."
"Yes, Father." Joseph gave his attention to Bodie and began: "I was walking down the hallway towards Father Jacob's office when I heard shouting. Angry voices; two men. One was Father Jacob but the other I didn't recognise."
"What were they arguing about?" Bodie prompted.
Joseph glanced at Doyle, who waved his hand in approval. "About someone's soul, but... That wasn't what made me run in. It was... something else... the odour... It filled the hallway and I feared for Father Jacob. That's why I came in uninvited."
Doyle said quietly, "What was it you smelt, Joseph?"
Joseph looked directly into Doyle's eyes as if searching for something. Doyle held his gaze calmly and watched as Joseph swallowed, then gathered his courage. "I know this might be barking mad, Father, but it was what the Bible tells us." He shifted uncomfortably, staring down at his toes.
"Go on, Joseph," Doyle prompted gently. When Joseph stared at Doyle, he had to force out his next words. "I believe in the Holy Word as you do." What gave him the right to deceive this young seminarian? And even more so, did he believe what he'd just said? Did it matter? That was the real question. And the answer was his usual one: Jacob believed, and by default, Doyle did as well, since he believed in Jacob.
Joseph nodded and said clearly, "I smelt sulphur, Father, the odour of demons. It stank out the entire hallway. I was really scared." He shifted again, from one foot to the other, and quietly asked, "Father Jacob, are you possessed?"
Doyle was at first relieved. Joseph had said he heard a second voice and he detected a strange smell. Thank God, Doyle thought, he wasn't hallucinating. But after a few moments, he wondered which was worse: seeing and hearing things, or being possessed.
"Bloody hell," Doyle said aloud.
Joseph looked shocked at Doyle's cursing. "Father?"
Bodie took over. "Listen, mate. Father's not himself at the moment. Why don't you come back after supper, say about six. Will that work for you? He'll be feeling better after he's had a bite to eat and a kip."
Joseph looked sceptical but he finally agreed when Doyle added, "It's okay, Joseph. You're not crazy and I'm not possessed. Come back at six."
"Tell the other lads to wait until afterwards as well, would you please?" Bodie added.
"Sure," Joseph agreed. "I'll do that."
With one final glance at both men, Joseph pocketed his rosary and turned to leave. "I'll be in the chapel praying, if you should need me," he said over his shoulder before he slipped from the room.
Sitting in the sunny kitchen, Doyle watched as Bodie chatted and hurried from kettle to fridge to table as he laid out tea, milk, sugar, and the makings for sandwiches. Doyle played with his cup and saucer, letting Bodie ramble about nothing in particular while a thousand questions tumbled over each other in his brain.
"Mustard?" Bodie asked.
Doyle blinked. He'd been so deep in thought, using Bodie's chores as background noise, that he hadn't noticed that Bodie had poured tea and was making two rather large and messy ham sandwiches.
"Eh? Oh, yeah, mustard. And a couple of slices of tomato." Doyle gave Bodie a watery smile. "And brown bread. White isn't good for you."
"Ray, give over!"
"Quiet, you berk! Do you want somebody overhearing?" Doyle hissed. "It's Jacob. Remember?"
"Oops. Sorry, mate," Bodie said. "I forgot. Getting too complacent, eh? It's like home around here." He grinned, passing Doyle a plate with the sandwich he'd put together.
"Home?" Doyle stared down at the plate. Ham jutted out from the sides and mustard dripped onto the plate. Huge slices of tomato were piled an inch high and Doyle could see the bright orange edges of processed cheese sticking out as well. He hated processed cheese. "I might be possessed. I'm..." he glanced around, lowering his voice, "...pretending to be a sodding priest. I'm hearing voices. My brother's been kidnapped and possibly tortured. This definitely isn't home. And I detest this orange cheese!"
"I know," Bodie said around a huge bite of his ham sandwich. "But I'm here. You're here. It's home enough for me 'long as we're together. And I love the cheese. Take it off if you don't like it."
"You're a sentimental bastard," Doyle complained.
"And you love it."
"I do." Finally, Doyle picked up the sandwich and took a bite. Suddenly, his body remembered food and he was ravenous. He wolfed down the entire thing, along with two more cups of tea, and was looking for more food. He was surprised at his own over-active appetite but given how many meals he'd missed, forgotten or picked at these past few days, he decided to give himself some slack.
"What are you looking for?" Doyle asked, being treated to Bodie's bum pointing directly at him as he rummaged around in the fridge. He smiled at the still shapely bottom.
"Ah ha!" Bodie's cry echoed from the depths of the lowest shelf. He straightened up and turned, holding his prize: a round, white plastic food storage container.
"What've you found?" Doyle asked, peering in after Bodie'd lifted the lid. "Cake. A beautiful chocolate one, I see. It's not Swiss roll and it's not yours," he added, giving Bodie a stern look.
"I'm an equal opportunity cake eater," Bodie said loftily. "Nobody'll miss a piece or two." He grabbed a knife and two plates. With a devilish grin, he set aside one of the dishes. "Of course, I understand if you don't wish to indulge, Father. Gluttony is a sin, to be sure."
"Oh, for Christ's sake. Leave off with the sermon and cut me a hunk."
Bodie chuckled and carved off two large pieces. He passed Doyle his share while he eyed the slice he set in his own place at the table. "Devil's food. How appropriate."
"Billy!" Doyle said, coughing when a few crumbs went down the wrong way.
"Take a drink. No sense spitting out perfectly good cake."
Doyle coughed, sipping his tea.
Bodie tutted. "Do you need me to thump you on your back?"
"I'm fine," Doyle muttered, his eyes watering. He cleared his throat, returning to his cake. His stomach finally gave the all full alert when he'd eaten about three quarters of it. Knowing Bodie, he pushed the plate towards him so that he could finish the rest. With a snicker, he made sure his fingers were well away from the cake when Bodie reached out and speared a bite.
"Good stuff," Bodie admitted, wiping his mouth on a napkin.
Doyle took the last swallow of his tea. "Are you finished yet?" he asked with the right amount of exasperation guaranteed to make Bodie raise that infernal crooked eyebrow. He coughed again when Bodie did exactly that.
"You, Father, are such a prat," he said conversationally.
Doyle cast a glance at the table, at the path of destruction they'd created on their impromptu feast. There was nary a crumb left. Bodie always enjoyed a good meal. With a shake of his head and a flood of love for his partner, a man who knew him inside and out, and how to get under his skin to make him smile or frown or even cry, Doyle rose and started washing up. He kept his back to Bodie, giving the mundane chore a chance to help quiet his turmoil and to bank those emotions that in the current circumstances, ran much too close to the surface. Quietly, Bodie joined him, clearing the table and wiping it down. He brought the last of the cutlery to wash over to Doyle and stood next to him, shoulder to shoulder. They bumped into each other often, and on purpose, sharing smiles like errant schoolboys. Doyle's spirits lifted the longer they worked.
"What's up tomorrow, mate?" Bodie asked again as he dried the plates.
"Got a baptism at ten. Don't you say a word!" Doyle demanded, waving a soap bubbled hand in the air. "Then at two, there's a meet up with the papal emissary and their security delegation, as well as Hunt and whoever he drags along from MI6. Most of the arrangements are already made. Thank God Jacob kept detailed notes so I know what the plans are. Now I have to convince them that I need the five seminarians to help with the Mass."
"What will you tell them?"
"I have to let them know there's a credible threat to the Pope's safety."
"I don't think that will be a big surprise. There's always heavy duty security when the holy man cavorts around the globe." Bodie looked down at the tea towel in his hand.
"Don't even think about it," Doyle warned.
"What?" he responded innocently. "Would I smack a man of the cloth on the bum with a wet tea towel?"
Doyle chuckled. "Yes, you would. And just when you do, Sister will walk in or with my luck lately, my superior from the archdiocese."
"Didn't know you had a boss other than the man upstairs," Bodie said, casting his eyes upwardly.
"We all have bosses, mate. Priests happen to have one with more power than even the Queen."
"That's blasphemy for sure, Ra- Jake. You'll need confession for sure after that."
Doyle let out an inelegant snort. "I am not confessing my sins to the likes of you."
"Hey!" Bodie quipped. "I'm perfectly capable of granting forgiveness." He grinned and ruffled Doyle's hair. "You and me, Father. Together forever. Wonder where we'll spend our eternal lives? Up or down?"
"God help me," Doyle muttered at Bodie's antics. "I'm locked into forever with a mad man."
Bodie merely laughed evilly and smacked Doyle with the damp towel once before he tossed it at the back of Doyle's head. Doyle spun around to berate his partner but Bodie had already run from the room.
"Coward," Doyle muttered.
When the voice spoke into Doyle's ear, he jumped back. "You're not a coward are you, Father Raymond?"
"No," he said before he thought it unwise to respond. He clamped his lips together tightly.
The male voice, deep and smooth and now (unfortunately) familiar, laughed in triumph. "I know you're not. But let's talk about your brother. How much do you want him back alive?"
Doyle was aware that he shouldn't engage this demon. He could never win because the demon could and would twist his words, outsmart him, lie if he had to but Doyle couldn't help himself. He had to hear what the demon would offer.
"You know how much he means to me," Doyle answered.
"Of course. How could it be any differently," the demon stated matter-of-factly. "I don't ask for much and all that I take is given with free will." There was a pause before the demon added, "You Catholics prize free will."
Doyle swallowed, his throat dry. "What do you want?" he whispered. My soul. He'll ask for my soul. But I'm already going to hell for all the men I've killed, so no big loss for me.
The demon's voice was so close, close enough that he could again feel the heat of it brush his neck. "This is a new twist. You would give me your soul freely for your brother, and for your homosexual lover, so for this one time, I'm going to ask for something different."
Shuddering, Doyle would have moved away from the voice, the heat, but his feet seemed to be nailed to the floor. "What?"
"A companion of my own. Someone to spend my days with and my nights, especially my nights. You do know what the night brings, don't you, Father?"
"Get on with it, you fucking piece of shit."
"My, my, such filth coming from the mouth of one of God's chosen. All right, all right. I want what you have. I want William Andrew Philip Bodie, body and soul, thank you so much."
"Jacob for Bodie? That's not fair! No. Never. I'll never agree." Doyle shouted, but the silence that suffused the room was as thick as the night the demon spoke of. Doyle put his face in his hands and struggled to keep his anguish from bursting out loud. After a few moments of wallowing in terror, he steeled himself and let a more familiar feeling overtake him: anger. Rage he could handle, and the unbridled fury he had for Satan and the other demons who tormented the souls of his world made him strong.
Determination rushed through him, and he embraced it.
After the latest visitation, it took Doyle about two seconds to make up his mind. While the demon was "present" and talking. Doyle realised that his will wavered, that his courage faltered, and that he considered what Satan was saying to be reasonable, even acceptable. But the moment the presence departed, Doyle was cognisant of what it meant to be suffering a crisis of faith. The idea that he even had faith was ludicrous, but as he examined this thought, he reckoned he had a lot of faith. It might not be religious in nature, but it was spiritual.
He had faith in himself; in his decisions and in his life.
He had faith in Bodie. They'd been through a lot these past forty years. From the first day they'd met, there was something between them. At first, it had taken a while to build the trust that their partnership required, but once it was established, it remained steadfast. Sure, there had been some bumps along the road, but they'd weathered those rough patches and had come out stronger.
After Kuolo's bullets had almost ended it all, Doyle was thrilled to have survived. He was thrilled to still be able to continue with CI5 albeit after a lengthy recovery and torturous retraining period. He was especially thrilled to discover that he and Bodie were bonded in more than a partnership and a friendship: they were bonded in love as well.
No path is all lavender and roses, but overall, they had made it through prejudice and scorn and more than a few life threatening situations. They'd survived and yes, thrived. Doyle was satisfied and happy as he thought of Bodie and the life they shared.
To hell with the devil, he thought, not missing the bit of irony thinking about the devil and hell. No matter. He and Bodie would work this case together, or they'd die trying.
Doyle returned to his office, refreshed and ready to soldier on. Joseph waited patiently on a bench in the outer office, and Doyle invited him inside his own space. Twenty-four, blond and blue eyed, he was a handsome lad with a missing side tooth that was visible when he smiled. Doyle waved him into a chair.
"Do any of your family or friends call you Joe?" Doyle asked.
"Nope. Ah, no, sir. We had two others in the house with the same name. Me grand-dad was Joe, Dad was Joey and I've always been called Joseph."
"Families are a special gift."
"Yes, Father. Mine is kind of crazy but I wouldn't trade any of them. Well, except for my younger brother."
Doyle chuckled. "I have a special favour to ask. Are you willing to be of service during the Papal Mass next week?"
Joseph's smile suddenly vanished and he looked at Doyle with suspicion. "Why?"
Taken aback by the rapid transformation, Doyle managed to blurt out, "Eh?"
"Is this a lark? I'm not one to be chosen for much of anything, Father," Joseph said honestly. "I'm far from the smartest or the most popular."
Doyle tented his fingers and observed Joseph for a long minute. "God doesn't choose his servants because of superior intelligence or popularity, son, or else I'd not have been picked for his Church. If you recall your Bible studies, you'll remember that at first David wasn't in consideration to be king since he was the youngest son and thought to be least worthy, and yet God chose him to fulfil that position."
"I'm different, Father Jacob, and the others know it!" Joseph fell silent, and Doyle could see that Joseph was surprised and embarrassed at his sudden outburst.
"Do you feel that you are singled out by your classmates for any reason, Joseph?" Doyle asked pointedly, suddenly aware that Joseph had a secret he was hiding.
"No," Joseph said sharply.
"Would you like to tell me the problem? It might help to speak-"
"No!" Joseph rose to his feet.
Before Joseph could bolt, Doyle also stood. "I am your priest, and anything you tell me is bound by the seal of the confessional."
"This isn't a confessional," Joseph replied sullenly.
Feeling like a fraud and wondering how this simple interview went from questions to confession so quickly, Doyle continued, "It is a confessional wherever and whenever two people chose it to be. I would hear your confession now and you can be assured I would go to my grave before I would break that holy covenant." Doyle gripped the edge of the desk to keep himself from shouting out aloud that he was a liar, a deceiver, but the anguish reflected in Joseph's eyes made him keep his silence. If he could help this young man, he would do so, and gladly.
As Joseph continued to stare intently at Doyle, Doyle wondered what slight thing he'd said to start this scene. Whatever had touched Joseph, to him, it was no small thing. It bespoke of a long time suppression of some calamitous words, thoughts or actions committed against this young man.
Joseph slumped back down into his chair. "Would you hear my confession, Father Jacob?"
Doyle nodded, pulling a chair closer to Joseph's. "God is here for you, Joseph."
Joseph steeled his shoulders and said haltingly, "I have impure thoughts. Ah, vivid dreams. I- I think I'm a..." his voice dropped to a whisper, "...a queer."
"Oh," Doyle said, struggling hard to keep a smile from his face.
Joseph looked shocked at Doyle's apparently inappropriate reaction. He'd obviously expected a hateful or hurtful response. Doyle schooled his face into a smooth surface. He remembered the many discussions he and Jacob had about church doctrine and interpretation, and the subject of homosexuals was one that they had pondered at one time or another. He knew Jacob's views: that a man might know in his heart he were gay, but as long as he remained pure in body, he was not a sinner.
Doyle carefully asked, "Are you untouched by another man's hand?"
"Yes! I've never..."
"Then there is no sin. You have no need for penance or confession." Doyle held Joseph's gaze. "Do you understand me? You do not need to confess. If you remain pure in body, you are not a sinner for your thoughts."
Joseph stared back, waiting no doubt for Doyle to suddenly cry out what a disgusting person Joseph was. When time ticked by and Doyle remained silent, Joseph finally relaxed.
"Now about my offer," Doyle said, thankful that he was able to assuage Joseph's anxiety.
Joseph gave him a ghost of a smile and stammered, "Thank- thank you, Father. I'd be honoured to share the service with the Holy Father."
"Good. I'm pleased. It's getting late and no doubt your supper is waiting for you and growing colder by the minute." Doyle smiled and waved the young man away.
"Thank you, Father." Joseph held out his hand.
Doyle reached out and, embarrassingly, Joseph grasped his hand and kissed his ring finger. "There's no need for that," Doyle chided lightly. "I'm not a bishop, Joseph, and certainly will never rise to that position. Maybe a cardinal, though."
They both laughed over the silly remark, the tension and anxiety in the room dissipating fully.
"And Joseph? If you need to talk, please come to me any time."
"Yes, Father. Thank you."
Giving Doyle a blindingly bright smile, Joseph shook Doyle's hand before he scurried from the office. Once the door was closed, Doyle slumped in his chair. He had no idea that Jacob's life was so full of problems and disasters and worry. It was hard fulfilling the spiritual needs of so many different sorts of people. Frankly, Doyle was exhausted and he felt every one of his sixty plus years.
But he had a job to do and a brother to find. He rose and shook off the tired feeling. After a cool glass of water, he opened the door and invited the next seminarian in.
Ignoring the lethargy that wanted to overtake him, Doyle greeted Conor Brimble, who sat in the hallway beside Matthew Henderson. "Go in and have a seat, Mr Brimble." He turned to Matthew. "I'm sorry this is running so late. Would you like to come by in the morning before Mass?"
Matthew rose. "You look tired."
Doyle rubbed his forehead and brushed a finger across his upper lip. "I've had a trying day, I admit."
"In the morning before Mass, about seven?"
"That will be fine. Thank you." Doyle gave Matthew a grateful smile.
"It's no trouble, Father," Matthew said. "I wanted to say a rosary this evening so I'll do that now. Would you like me to get the chapel ready for the morning? I saw that some of the votives need replacing and the altar cloth needs changing."
"Yes, please. There are several boxes of new candles in the supply closet. Sister put clean cloths in the vestry cupboard. Thank you, Matthew."
"You're welcome, Father."
Doyle watched the young man as he left. Again, he wondered how he thought he would ever find Jacob's kidnapper among these devoted men. He turned to the seminarian waiting in his office, feeling despondent.
As Doyle took his seat, he recalled the casual conversations he'd had with Sister Roberta and various other students over the past days since he'd come to St. Bart's. With his skill as an interrogator and his outgoing friendly "Father Jacob" manner, he'd spoken to the students Jacob had formed a particular attachment to. From Jacob's detailed notes, Conor and Matthew were two of his favourites, although he had been careful in his praise of each student currently studying for his Holy Orders. They all had garnered Jacob's respect with nary a rebel among them. Great, he thought with annoyance. Why couldn't one of them have been a troublemaker? It might've made it easier to pinpoint the kidnapper, who had to have inside knowledge of Jacob and the seminary students.
Maybe he was looking in the wrong place? Maybe the kidnapper was one of the other teachers? But no, the kidnapper hadn't asked for any other people to attend the Holy Father. He had to be someone on that sodding list!
Conor sat respectfully silent, waiting for Doyle to speak. He looked at Doyle out of guileless green eyes. He had a shock of red hair and freckles that dotted his nose, making him look younger than his years. He was truly an exceptionally handsome lad and Doyle immediately liked his easy smile.
"Conor, I'm sure you've heard by now that I'm interviewing several students regarding their participation in the papal Mass which you know will be celebrated Friday next."
"Yes, Father. It's a privilege for St. Bart's to have our Holy Father in our church."
"It is indeed. So are you interested in being part of this?" Doyle asked, smiling at the pleased look on Conor's face.
"Yes, sir. It's really cool."
"Cool?" Doyle said, raising an eyebrow. His lips twitched as he tried to remain serious.
Conor blushed bright red. "Sorry, Father. It is an honour, sir, to be asked to participate."
Doyle chuckled and waved a hand. "I'm only joking, Conor. It's perfectly acceptable for you to say that being chosen for this special occasion is cool. I think it's pretty cool myself."
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity, Father."
"You never know. Some day you may rise through the ranks of the church and occupy a seat at the Vatican as cardinal."
"The robes would clash with my red hair, sir."
Doyle laughed aloud. "Yes," he said with a nod, "they probably would, but I don't think God will care."
"Me neither, Father. I hope I'm worthy."
"You will be, my son. You are a joy to your family." Since Doyle had put on Jacob's clothing, he'd wondered where the words he found himself saying aloud came from. To his own ears, his platitudes sounded hollow. He could only hope that when he spoke from his heart, like now, that something of Jacob's love of God came through. So far, everyone he'd spoken with had not been suspicious of him and he'd been able to pull off this trickery.
With a faint smile, Doyle looked into the eager face of the seminarian. "It's way past meal time by now. I hope there's something saved for you in the cafeteria. If not, come to my private quarters and I'll find the making of a sarnie or two."
"Thank you, Father." But while Conor had risen, he hadn't moved from his spot. "Father?"
"May I have your blessing?" Conor asked earnestly.
Doyle hesitated before he got to his feet. "Of course." As he blessed the young man, he once again prayed for forgiveness for his deception and that God would accept his motivations as good. He did wish blessings upon Conor and all of Jacob's flock.
When Doyle finished the small prayer, he dismissed Conor. "Go with God. Good night."
"Yes, sir. Good evening, Father Jacob."
Matthew was waiting, bright eyed and eager, promptly the following morning.
"Coffee?" Doyle asked when Matthew followed him into his office.
"No, thank you, Father. I'm taking Communion in a short while."
"Ah, yes. Sit down, then."
Doyle examined the young man who sat before him. He was an average looking lad, pleasant to look at with a tumble of brown hair that continually fell over his forehead. Matthew reached a slender hand up to push away the fringe that brushed his eyes.
When Doyle didn't speak, Matthew asked, "Father, is there something you wanted?"
"Oh, right, sorry. Daydreaming." Doyle smiled. "You've been here a good while, and your studies are progressing well. I've had the honour of selecting students to participate in Mass with His Holiness on Friday and I'd like for you to be part of that."
Matthew smiled. "Thank you, Father. I've been studying hard these past years and I appreciate your confidence in me. It would be a privilege to attend to Pope Zachary."
"Good. How was your rosary last evening?" Doyle asked.
Matthew met Doyle's eyes evenly. "Excellent, Father."
"Your mother is well, I hope."
"Yes, she is. Thank you for asking."
"Will she attend your ordination?"
Matthew hesitated only a moment before he said, "Yes. She's looking forward to it. I'm the only person in my family who's ever been called by God to holy service."
As Matthew answered each of Doyle's questions, Doyle could not find anything that would make him suspicious of this young man. Same as the others, he reckoned. Bloody hell.
Doyle started, realising his mind had been wandering yet again. Matthew would think him senile if he kept drifting off during conversations. "What? Sorry. I didn't sleep well last night." A glance at the clock, and he stood. "Time for Mass."
"Yes, it is." Matthew smiled. He opened the door for Doyle. Walking through, Doyle gave a nod of thanks.
Together they walked to the church to celebrate the sacrament.
The morning passed without incident, and it was after lunchtime when Doyle closed the door to his room and leaned back against it, staring blankly. After a few minutes, he pushed off and crossed the room.
"What a bloody waste of time," Doyle complained, pulling off his dog collar and throwing it onto the chest of drawers. He glared at himself in the mirror, seeing a grey haired man, tired and worn out, frustration etched on his features. When had he got so old?
The door opened softly, and in the mirror, Doyle watched Bodie slip inside.
"Last lad not a criminal mastermind, eh?" Bodie asked.
"Matthew?" Doyle didn't try to keep the frustration from his voice. "No, not at all. He's nice. Polite and devoted to God and to Jacob. He's already a deacon, for Christ's sake! He's responsible. They all appear to be."
Bodie sat on the edge of Father Jacob's bed. "Rotten bastards. Imagine being responsible and law abiding and even worse, decent and holy!" He theatrically put his hand over his heart and pretended to swoon backwards onto the pillows. "I do detest it when some people scorn the law by pretending to abide by it!"
Doyle ignored Bodie's teasing, pacing back and forth, as he ran his hands through his hair until he was sure it was a tangled mess. Even short as he kept it now, it still tended to have a mind of its own. Doyle passed by the mirror over the dresser and he caught his partner scrutinising him. In spite of Bodie's joking, Doyle could see the deep concern reflected in his eyes.
"What about the mob? Anything?" Doyle asked, surprised that he still somehow managed to have hope.
Bodie shrugged. "Nothing. Not from the flash or the DVD. Not from that hulk of a bloke. Thorough checks on your lads show five boys who, while from various social and financial backgrounds, all check out. No terrorist activities, barely any form to speak of past shoplifting and, get this, skateboarding on a public pavement signposted, 'Absolutely, positively no skateboarding'."
"Got a lot of society's dregs, eh?" Bodie guffawed, making Doyle groan. "Great; that's just marvellous. Now what?"
Bodie wrinkled his forehead. "Don't know. Hang in there. Keep our eyes and ears open. Pray for a break in the case."
Doyle stood in front of Bodie, hands on his hips. "Oh, that's a fantastic plan, isn't it. After all, it's been hours, Bodie. Twenty-two to be exact, and not another message or word about Jacob." He threw out his arms, gritting his teeth. He was so frustrated, he wanted to hit something. Having Jacob's kidnapper under his hands, squeezing the life out of him, sounded so good right now. With the fury rushing through him, Doyle had to take in a breath and close his eyes before he ran around the room screaming. After a moment, he slowly exhaled and managed to speak, his voice quaking, his tone low and dangerous. "We're no closer to finding my brother. We have no clue what his kidnappers want. For Christ's sake, don't just sit there looking at me with pity."
"When you're like this," Bodie snapped, "even me taking a breath is going to set you off. What do you want from me, Ray? I'm in this with you, not against you, in case you've forgotten."
Doyle stood and glared at Bodie, aware that he hadn't bothered to try and keep the hurt from his tone. "So you're bloody right again. I'm a massive prick and you're my long-suffering partner."
"That's not fair," Bodie said quietly.
Doyle let out a huge groan, throwing his hands up. "I know! I know." He closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them. He lowered his arms and slumped his shoulders, anger draining away, replaced by incredible sadness. "I know. Without you beside me..." Doyle waved a hand aimlessly. "You're right. I'm being a prat."
"Yeah, you are, but you've got good reason. I understand. Go on, bite me head off. I can handle anything you can toss out." Bodie smiled, love shining from his eyes. "But don't expect me to not snap back at you. Not in my nature to be a door mat, even if I understand what's what."
Doyle moved closer to Bodie and tapped his nose. "And you are the best mate a bloke could ever have. My heart is yours."
Bodie rolled his eyes. "Now he's getting sentimental on me," he said to the ceiling. Lowering his face, he smiled. "Mine's belonged to you for decades, love. I'm too old to change now."
Laughing lightly, Doyle said, "I do adore your declarations of undying love."
Bodie slipped an arm around Doyle's waist. "I'd best be off. You've got a busy day tomorrow." With a twinkle in his eye, he said, "Come on, then. Give us a kiss."
"You're incorrigible." Doyle leant down and placed a discreet peck on Bodie's forehead. He moved his head further down until his mouth touched Bodie's ear. "Love you."
Bodie turned his face and brushed his lips against Doyle's. "You too."
They stayed as they were for a few moments, with Doyle leaning against Bodie, arms around each other. Bodie shifted. "Hate to be the one to bring this up but I think you have that baptism in twenty minutes."
"Oh, Christ, I forgot!"
Doyle rushed over to the chest of drawers and quickly brushed his hair.
"And at two, you have that lot from the Vatican, along with those wonderful blokes from MI6." Bodie grinned deviously. "And our esteemed leader, of course."
"Don't remind me!" Doyle hurried to the door, changed direction and stopped in front of Bodie. "You're an excellent social secretary."
Before Doyle could open the door, a pillow stuck him on the side of the head. He laughed, then clamped a hand over his mouth. "Bodie! If somebody hears..."
"I'm the soul of discretion," Bodie offered. "See you at supper?"
"After the meet up, I should have a couple of hours before we eat. I'm going to take a drive."
"You're going to look for Jacob again? He's not going to be strolling down the street, Ray."
"I know that. It makes me feel better to move about, drive the streets."
"I'm going to check with a few of my old grasses later today."
"None of mine have come through with anything useful," Doyle said with a sigh. "You'd think somebody would know something!"
"We could hit a few of the pubs down near the docks. Might pick up something."
"Good idea. We'll meet at 6 pm in the kitchen, grab a fast meal, then head out."
"Right. Okay, I'm off. Ta, love. Oh, and Raymond? Best if you leave the dog collar at home."
Doyle smiled, opening the door into the corridor. He glanced both ways to check that the coast was clear and made his way to the church to change into his vestments. The thought that he had to actually pour holy water on some innocent babe's head made his stomach clench. Even the afternoon's appointment with the Pope's detail wasn't as daunting as having to christen a six week old baby into God's loving arms.
Doyle sat in what had become his usual spot in the church's nave. The front pew on the left hand side of the altar before the statue of The Virgin Mary. Candles in glass holders, with flames of red, yellow and white swayed with the air's gentle movements. The melting wax was now a familiar, comforting scent. It was late, but he couldn't sleep. The pub crawl had proved fruitless and the two pints he'd drunk hadn't settled well. Tired of pacing the floor of his room, he'd escaped here for solace.
Hands on his lap, fingers laced together, Doyle sat with his eyes closed, soaking in the quiet. The baptism had gone off without any drama. He hadn't dropped the child, and the parents and Godparents left happy in the belief that the babe would indeed be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven. It was good doing God's work, but he also wondered if they would agree. He had used those people without their consent. They'd believed that he was Father Jacob and could bestow the sacrament on their baby when, in fact, he was a liar and a fraud. He would never reconcile himself to the fact that he was these things, even if he understood why he was doing them. Emotions trod on his well thought-out reasoning but in spite of these, he couldn't call a halt to the deception.
Doyle considered his responsibilities. He had the safety and lives of Jacob to worry about, plus those of the Pope and his entourage. Even if he could somehow pull himself out of the operation, where would that leave not only his brother but a dozen or so other people who deserved Doyle's concern? He had no choice. Fraud or not, he was in this and in this, he would stay.
Letting out a soft sound of derision at himself, Doyle heard the tread of footsteps moving towards him. He tensed, afraid to look, but when the fragrance of aftershave touched his nostrils, he relaxed and smiled.
Bodie slid into the pew behind him and knelt on the padded kneeler. He leaned close to Doyle's ear. "Hey, love. You all right?"
"No," Doyle answered honestly.
Bodie's hand squeezed his shoulder. "I know." He paused and rubbed his eyes. "It's past 1 am. You must be knackered."
"Can't sleep," Doyle admitted. "It's..." He fell silent.
Doyle didn't respond but Bodie's hand on his shoulder let him know that his partner was well aware of the disturbing dreams that he'd had. They'd come on regularly since the first night he'd tried to sleep after Jacob had been kidnapped. His subconscience was determined to bombard him with strange images that made no sense, yet left him feeling off kilter and anxious.
"Come on, then. I'll tuck you in."
"Not a good idea. Somebody-"
"Don't care. Care about you and you need to sleep."
"Bodie," Doyle started to protest.
"Say goodnight to God, Ray."
Beyond tired and unable to fight Bodie's quiet strength, he slowly nodded and stood up. Bodie followed closely behind Doyle. Doyle expected a disembodied voice to assail him. Tension made his shoulders ache and he balled his hands into fists in his coat pockets. He could barely breathe until they'd left the church and had arrived at the door to his room. Standing in the corridor with Bodie, he breathed in and out several times, trying to calm his racing heart.
Bodie stood close to Doyle. "Go on, sunshine. Sleep well, and take a sodding tablet if you need to. I put a bottle of Panadol Night Time in your bathroom."
"No, I can't-"
"Don't be a prat, you hard-headed bastard. Take the damn medicine!" Bodie glared but Doyle merely smiled.
"I can't wait until this entire mess is over and we're back in our own place," Doyle said honestly. "When Jacob's safely back with his flock and I'm in your arms."
Bodie gave Doyle a special smile that lit up his entire face. "Bloody sentimentalist." Doyle waited patiently until Bodie admitted, "Love you, Father."
"Off with you, you cretin." Doyle opened Jacob's door and before he closed it he said, "Love you as well, Billy." He closed the door, smiling as Bodie's warm chuckle soothed his ravaged senses.
Doyle closed the bedroom door and sagged back against it. He'd managed to keep the exhaustion in check when he was with Bodie but now that he was alone, his fatigue overtook him with full force. He used all of his will power not to fall face first onto the hardwood floor. He staggered across the room and pulled pyjamas from a drawer. Shuffling like an old man, he somehow managed to get down the corridor to the bathroom where he splashed cold water onto his face and haphazardly scrubbed his teeth. Standing at the toilet, he allowed his trousers to drop to the floor and urinated. Toeing off his shoes and stepping out of the trousers, he undressed, leaving a trail of collar, jacket and shirt as he fumbled his way into his pyjamas. In a haze, he found his way back into his room and over to the bed. He pulled back the bedspread and top sheet. He climbed into bed, so tired that he wouldn't need that sleeping tablet tonight. He was asleep in moments.
Doyle came awake fully in the blink of an eye. The heavy weight on his chest bore down on him; he could barely breathe. His eyes flew open and because he'd left a small lamp burning on the chest of drawers, he could see clearly. He blinked, unable to process what he saw resting on his torso: a girl, a young woman of maybe twenty. Slim and beautiful, with long red hair and large green eyes. He shivered, recognising her, as she smiled down at him and her fingers caressed his cheek.
She resembled a young Ann Holly, all wide eyes and pouting red lips. His own eyes widened in horror at the weight that threatened to steal his breath. Doyle attempted to unseat the girl, but her weight grew heavier the more he struggled. His arms were pinned under the blankets and as he bucked his hips upward to toss her off, her hand covered his mouth and her body pressed him easily to the mattress. She began to undulate against him, and he was horrified when he responded to the stimulation. She grinned triumphantly.
"The spirit is willing," the Ann demon said pleasantly, "but the flesh is weak. Isn't that how you good ones justify your sins?"
Doyle thrashed his head, hoping to knock her hand away. That was when he saw Jacob's rosary lying on the cabinet next to the bed. The silver crucifix gleamed oddly in the lamp's glow, seemingl yfrom an inner light source. He wormed an arm free and slowly reached a hand towards the rosary beads.
"You tell yourself you want to control your response to me, but really, that isn't what you desire. You want to take me, force me, make me sorry for leaving you all those years ago. Fuck me hard. You know you want it."
Grunting deep in this throat, Doyle didn't give up his fight. She retaliated with her body. Breathing became more difficult with each passing second. As stars danced before his eyes, his fear grew. She leaned closer and closer, her smile inviting. She had even white teeth and clear skin. Nothing about her looked evil. Everything about her was malicious.
"After I'm finished with you, I'm visiting your homosexual lover. The church hates queers. They encourage their destruction so I'll be doing everybody a favour. Even Jacob despises you. He prays for your poor, pitiful lost soul." She laughed, a sweet melody, the sound in opposition to her words.
No, no! Doyle refused to listen. This wasn't Ann; this was Satan come to torment him once again. Pray! Bless me Father, for I have sinned...
The demon laughed aloud the more he fought. Barely able to moan now, Doyle began to slip into unconsciousness. He summoned a reserve of strength he wasn't even aware he had and fought harder, terrified that if he passed out, he would be helpless and she could easily use him, take him, destroy him. If that happened, he wouldn't be able to save Jacob. He would never see Bodie again. God would punish him for celebrating Mass and for baptising that baby, and he would lose any chance he might still have for redemption. He stretched his arm as far as he could, his fingers brushing the beads. If he could grab hold of the rosary, he could use the crucifix. Jacob had told him that a demon can't handle a holy object touching its form. Even as he struggled, crazy, irrational thoughts tumbled one over the other and he silently cried to Bodie for help...
Doyle was sinking into unconsciousness when the sound of a gunshot echoed through the room, startling him back to a semblance of awareness. The heaviness on his chest suddenly disappeared and he took in much needed air, trying not to breathe in or out too deeply. His throat was raw, making each breath an agony.
As awareness slowly returned, he acknowledged that Bodie was with him, was gathering him into his arms and holding him tightly. Doyle flailed weakly in his embrace, making Bodie tighten his grasp.
"Ray? Jesus Christ, what the fuck was that?" Bodie demanded before he tempered his tone. "Are you all right?" he asked more reasonably. "Where are you hurt?"
Doyle blinked, grateful that his vision cleared and the tightness in his chest abated with each breath. Of all the questions that came to mind, he asked the stupidest first. "What... what happened?"
"I tossed the rosary beads on your chest."
"I saw you reaching for them, but something kept you from getting at them."
Doyle gave Bodie a confused glance, blinking dazedly. "Why? What made you think I needed the rosary?"
Bodie blushed. "Because of the demon, moron. The one that's been haunting you. You wanted the rosary because it's blessed. Demons aren't particularly fond of blessed objects."
"How did you know?"
Bodie looked at him carefully, studying his face. "Did you hurt your head? You told me, remember?"
"You believed me," Doyle said incredulously.
"Of course. Why would you lie?"
"I didn't, but I didn't think you'd believe it anyway."
Bodie pulled Doyle closer. "Silly sod," he said softly, stroking Doyle's back. "'Course I believe you. You're my other half, Ray. You don't lie about something like that. You said the devil was after you. I didn't think you were lying."
Doyle's eyes misted over. He sniffled once before he buried his face in Bodie's neck. "You helped me. You believed me. You knew what had to be done."
"Yeah. Worked, then?"
"You didn't see... her?"
"No, just saw you. It sounds daft but it looked like something- somebody- was hurting you. Your face was white as the sheet and you were writhing on the bed. You looked like you couldn't breathe. I called out to you but you didn't respond. So I took the beads and stretched them out on your chest." Bodie hugged Doyle to him.
"How did you even know to come in? That I was in trouble?"
Bodie shuffled his feet before he finally admitted, "Was sleepin' in the corridor."
"You were? Why?"
"It's my job to protect you. After all, you're me mate," Bodie said simply, conveying clearly that he considered Doyle and as his spouse regardless of society and the law.
Doyle smiled into Bodie's neck. "And you're mine," he whispered.
"Did you shoot her?"
"I thought I heard a shot."
"Oh, that." Bodie kissed the side of his face. "I, er, put a hole in the wall with the door handle. Came barrelling in so fast that it mashed right into the plaster. No gunshots, but it was awfully loud." He looked apologetic. "I'll fix the plaster tomorrow."
"Sister will come, then. You'd best leave."
"She's gone to visit her gang, remember?"
"Gang? Oh, you mean her sisters at the convent. Okay, I forgot." After a moment's pause, Doyle made a decision. He had to tell Bodie the rest. Bodie deserved his honesty. "She- It- Whatever it was, threatened you and Jacob. Said I had to choose one of you over the other." The words came unbidden but he couldn't stop them. "I can't, Bodie. Can't pick Jacob over you, or you over Jacob. I'm sorry. So bloody sorry. What am I going to do? I can't lose either of you." Doyle held onto Bodie even harder and he moved impossibly closer. "What should I do? Help me, please."
Bodie made a small noise that to Doyle, sounded like a sound of compassion. That made Doyle feel worse, because he was now the object of Bodie's pity. Knowing he was being unfairly judgemental to his partner in his present state, he kept his mouth shut and took comfort from Bodie's nearness.
Doyle stood in the passageway overlooking the back rose garden. Large arches opened intermittently along the wall and Doyle leaned on the left side of one of the arches, feet and arms crossed, as he took in his partner and the beautiful surroundings. Bodie was busily pruning the eight foot high hedge that encircled the colourful plants. The roses were carefully tended. He'd been in this garden with Jacob several times and had seen the beautiful flowers in various stages of life. He reckoned that with the weather warming, soon a rainbow would burst forth, painting the garden in a kaleidoscope of pink, white and red. There were several special species that brought forth blooms of dark blood red and one special bush given to the seminary by a donor that bloomed in a gorgeous orange shade. He had often admired the garden when he'd sat on one of the benches with his brother. This was a good place for peace and reflection and brotherly talks.
He steeled his shoulders and walked down the gravelled path towards Bodie. Bodie didn't look up from his task but his partner was well aware of his approach. There was a slight tautness of Bodie's broad shoulders and the smile that crept along the side of his mouth. Doyle smiled himself and when he called, "Billy?" he was rewarded with Bodie's look of pleasure.
Only Bodie could say "Father" in such a mocking tone and still convey his teasing nature. Doyle let his grin widen before he became serious. "We need to talk."
"'Course," he said respectfully, touching his forelock, his eyes twinkling. He placed his tool onto the ground and followed Doyle to the nearest bench.
"Ignore my outburst from last night," Doyle said without hesitation. He was embarrassed and talking about his behaviour in the light of day made him want to cringe. "I was being a total berk."
"No." Bodie crossed his arms and leaned back, looking like a fellow enjoying the morning sunshine.
"No?" Doyle said shortly. "Why the f- Why not?"
"You were terrified, and don't try to tell me you'd had a bad dream. I know what I saw. I know what you felt. So we're not going to ignore this problem. In fact, we're going to fix it." Bodie didn't move but his tone was clearly adamant.
"There's nothing wrong, Bodie. We need to leave it." Doyle heard his voice rise and he glanced around, hoping nobody had overheard their disagreement. "I'm much too busy," he said huffily then stomped off, praying that Bodie didn't follow.
Doyle's steps never slowed. In fact, he hurried along. He had far too much scheduled to worry about his night time visitor. In the sunny brightness of the day, the entire incident was unreal. He entered the corridor leading to his office, grateful that Bodie wasn't on his heels. He'd had only a moment's relief when his mobile began to ring. Doyle pulled it from his pocket. With shaking fingers, he held it up to read the caller identification. Blocked.
"Damn it all," he muttered before he pressed the "on" button. "D- Father Jacob," he stumbled.
A mechanically distorted voice spoke. "Is all prepared?"
The weirdness of the tone reminded Doyle of the demon attacking him and he fumbled with the mobile. He recovered it. "Yes. I have a final-"
Terrified the caller would disconnect too quickly, he asked, "Please, let me speak to Jacob. I need to know he's alive."
"Not now." The call was ended.
"Please!" Doyle shouted even though his entreaty would be fruitless. He closed his eyes and clutched the mobile tightly. "Jacob," he whispered.
A door opened. "Father?" Sister Roberta called. "Are you all right?"
"What?" Doyle said, jumping out of his skin. He hadn't been paying one wit of attention to his surroundings so that he hadn't heard Sister Roberta approaching. Great agent he was. Could have taken a bullet to his head and would never have seen it coming. Smarten up, he berated himself.
"It's ten minutes past your lecture time. I'm sure your students are waiting."
"Oh, right. Sorry. I'll take care of it." Doyle ignored the quizzical look on Sister's face and walked around her, heading to his office. His phone was tapped so that whomever was manning the buggy-boo would have picked up the call. The techs were experienced and would have recorded the call as well as started a trace immediately. Bugger it all, but he couldn't rush to Bodie at the moment and see if they'd had any success tracking the caller. He had work to do if he expected to keep his cover.
Doubt about Jacob's condition niggled at him. Why wouldn't the caller let him speak to Jacob? Was it to keep him on task so that he worked harder for this madman, or was his brother already dead? Doyle walked into his office to get Jacob's lecture notes for today's lesson. He snapped up the folder and as he hurried to the seminary class room, he dialled Bodie.
"Any luck," he asked without any preamble.
"No. Prepaid mobile." Bodie paused. "Did you speak to Jacob?"
Doyle didn't bother to keep the annoyance out of his voice. Bodie wouldn't take it personally and it took too much effort at the moment to be civil. "He refused," he said curtly.
"That's rough, mate. I'll meet up with you for a drink and a bite to eat, and we'll compare notes."
"Eat without me. I'm not hungry."
He disconnected before Bodie could protest and pushed open the door into the lecture room. It took all of his courage to stifle the raging emotions he was feeling -- anger, fear, irritation -- and turn his attention to his task. He looked into the attentive faces of the young men who waited for him. Doyle paused, steadied himself and did what he had to do: carry out his brother's duties to the best of his abilities.
The lecture on St. Paul's conversion had been well received. The discussion had been lively and the time passed quickly. Doyle dismissed the lads and made his way back to Jacob's office. He closed the door between his office and Sister Roberta's outer room and locked it. Sitting at Jacob's desk, he put his head in his hands and didn't move for well over an hour. Emotions too strong to explain to himself overtook him and he let them. He was so tired of fighting all of this. He wanted to crawl into bed, pull the blankets over his head, and weep with the exhaustion, the futility of it all. Doyle wanted to run away, to never be responsible for another thing in his life, not even himself, and certainly not for Jacob's life. Or Bodie's.
His thoughts made no sense so after a few minutes, he dropped his head onto his crossed arms and closed his eyes, dropping off to sleep.
When he finally blinked awake and raised his head, it was dark outside. The small lamp burning in the outer office cast a warm glow through the glass separating the two rooms. His stomach rumbled. Doyle's anger, still present and unabated, turned inward. He didn't deserve to be hungry, not with his only brother being held prisoner, not with his own inability to do anything to find Jacob. He didn't deserve any comforts or love or, or... Doyle's eyes prickled and that made him even more furious, at himself and at the entire world. Without sympathy, his stomach growled yet again.
"All right," he snarled at himself, rising with annoyance. "I can't even have a moment's peace from myself. Why do I bother?" He crossed to the door and yanked on the handle. It refused to open. Irritated, he pulled harder before he remembered he'd locked it. With his patience long gone, he smacked his hand on the lock, barely feeling the sharp pain. Finally, the door opened and he marched to the kitchen. Before he noticed that he'd arrived at his destination, he'd blundered into the room and walked directly into Bodie, who stood at the table setting out a late-night snack.
Not able to apologise in this condition, he turned to leave. Bodie grasped his arm firmly, and he found himself spun back around, face to face with his partner.
"Get out of my way," Doyle said, his voice low and deadly. Bodie glanced uncomfortably out into the corridor. Doyle snarled, "Sister Roberta's out until later. She had duties at the hospice. One of our parishioners needed comforting. Do you think I'd risk her overhearing?" Doyle shook his arm, trying to dislodge Bodie. When Bodie didn't respond to Doyle's angry words, he snapped, "Bloody hell, Bodie, you think I'm that incompetent?"
"You're not being fair," Bodie finally said, his voice quiet, his dark eyes narrowed.
A quiet Bodie was a deadly Bodie, but Doyle was beyond caring. "Oh, right. I'm incompetent and not being fair. Great. Marvellous. Thanks, mate. I appreciate your vote of confidence." Doyle scoffed coldly. "You're a wonderful partner, eh?"
Bodie balled one of his hands and bit down on his lip, irritating Doyle even more with his self-control.
"Go on, say what you want," Doyle demanded, shoving Bodie with his free hand. "After all it's not your brother who's been kidnapped and possibly d-dead. Is it now? You want me to do what? Go on, speak up, damn you."
Bodie look directly at Doyle, his face emotionless. "Got nothing to say, Ray."
"Pardon? Nothing? Your mouth is twitching. Your knuckles are white, and you're about to burst out of your skin, yet you stand there and pander to me?"
"You're not thinking clearly," Bodie responded, his mouth a thin, tight line.
"I'm not- Oh, right. That's rich. The cool, competent WAP Bodie. Always in the right. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." Bodie stayed silent, rigidly in control. Doyle fumed over Bodie's ability to control his emotion and his own feelings of helplessness. "Christ, Bodie, why do we have a lab and technology and all this shit that isn't doing a thing to find Jacob!"
"We'll find him."
"What aren't you telling me? We know it was a prepaid. What?" Doyle didn't look away from Bodie until Bodie was the one to break their glare. Realisation dawned. Bodie hadn't spilled all the information. "Exactly where did they find it?" he asked hotly.
Bodie showed no surprise at Doyle's assertion. "On the wall outside the gate."
"Oh my God. He's watching us, and we can't bloody find him! We're such a great organisation, aren't we?" All of the derision he harboured for himself, for CI5 and for the criminals in the world surfaced and he bit out his words in nasty chunks. "We're worthless. Fucking worthless." Locking his quaking knees, he jerked his arm from Bodie's grasp. "We've failed. Utterly and totally failed."
Bodie stepped aside and left the room without another word. Doyle was stunned into silence at this sudden abandonment. It wasn't like Bodie. Even when Doyle was at his worst; when his temper was out of control and his tongue lashed, Bodie had never deserted him before. Bodie, his one constant these past decades. His shoulders slumped and the fight drained quickly out of him. Depression, dark and deadly, engulfed him and he suddenly realised that Jacob was dead.
Jacob was dead and Bodie would be soon. He couldn't save either of the men he loved. Doyle dropped his chin to his chest and closed his eyes, letting the anguish overtake him.
Doyle hadn't experienced this reaction in many years, not since he'd joined the mob. He'd had friends and lovers and superiors and a partner whom he could trust implicitly. What had just happened shook him to his core. Bodie had walked out, walked away, leaving him. Leaving them.
He was sad to know that he was now truly alone.
But not for long apparently, because Bodie strode back into the room five minutes later, wearing his coat. He was carrying Doyle's jacket and he threw it into Doyle's face. When Doyle pulled the material away, he glowered at his partner. Bodie stood with his arms crossed and toe tapping, impatience radiating from him. Doyle mechanically put on the jacket and didn't protest when Bodie grabbed his wrist and dragged him from the room, down the passageway and out a side door. Without breaking the silence, he towed Doyle towards Jacob's car, opened the passenger door and pointed at Doyle.
Meekly, Doyle climbed into the Volvo estate and closed the door. Bodie glared at him momentarily, skirted the back of the vehicle and got into the driver's side. He jammed the key in and turned the motor. He drove out of a secondary service roadway, bypassing the large iron gates that dominated the front drive and steered the car through quiet night time streets until they were away from the city on an unlit macadam road that Doyle didn't recognise. Twenty minutes later, they turned into a small dirt lane situated between two large weeping willow trees that all but obscured the lane's entrance. Driving on for another five or ten minutes, Bodie pulled into a wide lay by and turned off the engine.
"Out," Bodie said, opening his own door.
The sound of Bodie's voice breaking the silence made Doyle start. He considered protesting but Bodie raised a finger and pointed directly at him. He kept his mouth shut. He got out and joined Bodie at the rear of the Volvo. Bodie turned on a torch and opened the tailgate, shining the light into the interior. The rear seat was folded down and a nest of blankets had been tossed onto the cargo floor.
"In," Bodie ordered.
Doyle saw the resolve on his lover's face. With a sigh of resignation, he crawled in. Bodie followed, pulling the rear door down until it clicked.
"Why are we here?" Doyle asked at last, unable to keep silent any longer. "Not comfy, eh?"
"It's comfy enough. Besides, we need this. You and I, alone and quiet, with no interruptions or distractions." Bodie reached out and tenderly stroked Doyle's hair. "I miss those ridiculous curls."
Doyle closed his eyes. "I'm so tired, Bodie."
"I know," he answered, moving closer. He leaned forward and touched his lips to Doyle's.
This is what he'd been missing for days now. Doyle needed Bodie's touch, his love, his nearness. He needed Bodie's dry wit and scathing, satirical tongue; his horrid black humour. He plain needed Bodie, and after all these years, he wasn't fool enough to fight that need.
As Bodie deepened the kiss, Doyle threw his arms around Bodie and let out a sound that even to his ears, came out as a moan of longing, with hint of desperation. He didn't care. He was in Bodie's arms, safe and loved.
Doyle chuckled against Bodie's mouth.
"What?" Bodie asked, putting a line of kisses across Doyle's forehead. "Laughing at my technique, eh?"
"You haven't got technique any longer. You're mine."
"Not dead yet, mate."
"Thank God for that," Doyle said sincerely. "Even if you believe you have all the answers to the world's problems."
Bodie pulled back and with the torch under his chin, shone the light on his own face. He grinned, his teeth huge in the strange glow. Doyle laughed aloud. "You look like you're wearing a horrid zombie Halloween mask."
Bodie laughed with him. Giggling like a schoolboy, Bodie laid the torch down and reached for him.
"I don't have all the answers for the world's woes, Ray, but I do have one of the answers for yours."
Bodie's mouth found his. His kiss was ardent, leaving Doyle breathless and trembling. Doyle wiggled as close to Bodie as the cramped space allowed, inviting him to explore further. Doyle's cock, heretofore unresponsive to Bodie's advances, perked up and began to take notice. Doyle breathed a sigh of relief against Bodie's lips.
"What?" Bodie asked, lightly licking the outline of Doyle's lips.
"Haven't been able to get... you know, since Jacob's-"
"No, no talking about anything else but us. This is for us, this stolen hour. The master is here and your little problem," Bodie stroked his fingers lightly over Doyle's cloth covered crotch, "will soon be a thing of the past. Now lie back and think of England."
"Rather think of you," Doyle said softly, lying on his back with his knees bent and his feet flat.
"Good." Bodie smiled. The torch that he'd propped up between them fell away but the moonlight, with the stars shining overhead, provided enough light for their lovemaking. And what their eyes couldn't see, their fingers could feel.
As Bodie made slowly delicious love to Doyle, somehow, thank God, Doyle was able to focus on Bodie's hands and his lips and his mouth. Jesus, but Bodie had a mouth that could make an angel sing, or a devil repent. Doyle let Bodie have his way, let the sensation of Bodie's mouth on his cock send him soaring.
Bodie refused to allow Doyle do to anything at all, other than to let him kiss whatever bit of skin came close enough to be touched by his warm lips. After many minutes of the unrelenting onslaught of feelings that Bodie had released on Doyle's willing body, Doyle couldn't have told anybody the date or the time or what had happened the past week. He was taken away from his life for those precious minutes by his lover's unselfish desire to please, to intercede, to care, to honour. Doyle understood that of all the people in the universe, Bodie chose Doyle to be the one he trusted, to whom he pledged his life, and Doyle needed to remind himself that he had a duty to his mate. Not in a negative way, but in a way that he took upon himself with a joy that he'd never known with any other lover. He gave his love to Bodie freely. Even in his darkest moments, Bodie had never failed him.
At the moment, Doyle reckoned that Bodie was the most successful man in the UK. His entire body was alive, tingling, and Bodie's mouth on his cock made him tremble with delight. Bodie knew exactly where to touch, where to press, stroke and tickle. Doyle could barely breathe when he orgasmed, lifting his hips from the floor and crying out.
Falling back, Doyle grinned. "Bloody marvellous, sweetheart."
"Hey! None of that Valentine's rubbish."
"Sorry," Doyle said with a laugh, stroking Bodie's hair. Even though Bodie liked to pretend he was offended by endearments and romantic overtures, Doyle understood. Bodie loved being pampered and petted. He believed it was his manly duty to protest, even lovingly. "We should go. It's late."
"It's early, love. Besides, got something here to take care of." Bodie pushed his cock against Doyle's thigh.
"Not enough time."
"Ready to go off as it is. Won't take long."
"Not enough room."
"We'll make do."
"Taken care of."
"You're a pillock," Doyle said with a laugh.
"On your side and be quick about it," Bodie prompted, laughing as well. "Come on then." With encouraging hands, Bodie pushed Doyle's trousers and pants farther down.
Doyle, for his part, pushed his arse into Bodie's now exposed crotch, wiggling enticingly. "We're like sardines."
"Nah. Just two peas in a... Volvo."
"You'll be shagging- Bodie!" Doyle's voice rose on his lover's name when Bodie pushed a finger coated with a large amount of cold lube into him. "Oh, Jesus," he whispered, lifting his top leg as far as he could, encumbered as he was with his clothing around his knees. "Bodie."
Doyle relished the touch of Bodie's hands holding his hip. He waited with anticipation while Bodie fumbled behind him. After a few moments, Bodie's cock touched him and he gasped, holding his breath. They didn't do this often, especially since their middle aged years had somehow sneaked up on them. No longer randy young men ready for a screw at a moment's notice, they'd fallen into a comfortable pattern of using mouths and fingers to keep each other happy, with the occasional act of intercourse for those special times when one or the other needed something more.
Doyle definitely needed something more. With a rush of lust, his body relaxed and welcomed Bodie in. Letting out a low moan, Doyle shuddered as Bodie filled him. He pushed back onto Bodie's hardness with a grunt and a sudden burst of laughter.
Bodie let out a long moan, pressing his lips to Doyle's ear. "God, Raymond, I love you," Bodie pushed forward, trembling. Doyle laughed again when Bodie's crotch cupped his arse. Bodie wiggled his hips, giving a small thrust. Doyle went from laughter to a groan in a seconds time.
"Bodie." Doyle couldn't say more. He wondered what happened to his vocabulary when Bodie did this. He couldn't string two understandable words together when Bodie made love to him.
Bodie set a slow, deep rhythm guaranteed to make this last. Each stroke bought them to new heights, made each nerve sing with pleasure, until Doyle was sure he'd cry. Sniggering lightly, he reached back and clamped a hand on Bodie's arse.
"Are you poking fun at my methods, sunshine?" Bodie whispered, biting Doyle's ear lobe sharply. Doyle let out a shout when the pain/pleasure of it made his cock jump. He squeezed his lover's flesh, encouraging more of whatever Bodie wanted to give.
"No, not at all. Besides, I'm not the one doing the poking, am I?"
Bodie let out a groan. Doyle wasn't sure if it was because of his bad pun or because of the way he'd squeezed his bum muscles around Bodie's cock. Doyle didn't care which, as long as Bodie didn't stop. "Love you, too much sometimes," he admitted.
"Bodie," Doyle said, this time unable to keep the emotion from his voice. He was speechless from Bodie's touch and from the depth of his love for this man.
Bodie merely placed a kiss on Doyle's temple and with a calloused hand, caressed all of the skin that he could reach under Doyle's shirt and where he'd pushed down his trousers and pants. Doyle shivered at the sensations of Bodie's cock deep inside him and of Bodie's hands stroking sensitised skin. Bodie gently pinched his nipples before his hands swept down Doyle's body to cup his balls. Doyle shuddered in Bodie's arms, and spoke encouraging words to his lover until Bodie let out a harsh moan. His next few strokes were erratic and with a shout, he came strongly.
Bodie finally fell still, his hand moving to caress Doyle's flank under his shirt. "Never shagged a man of the cloth before."
"Bodie!" Doyle said, unable to keep the laughter from his tone. "Irreverent sod," he added affectionately.
Bodie chuckled as he withdrew. He moved about but Doyle was too sated, too sleepy to offer any help. He drifted off. When Bodie nipped at his ear lobe, Doyle's eyes flew open and he gave a yelp.
"Turn over," Bodie ordered, sucking on the place he'd bitten, "and help me with these sodding baby wipes. You've made a huge mess."
"Me?" Doyle put his hand over his heart and craned his neck to peer over his shoulder, giving Bodie his most innocent face. Bodie pulled a handful of wipes, wasting more than he needed. "Give me those," Doyle said with a giggle.
Doyle turned onto his back and pulled the wipes away. He slapped away Bodie's hand when he tried to help and lovingly cleaned his partner. As he performed the task, he thanked God for the silence, with Bodie's even breathing the only sound. At his age, he appreciated every second that this life granted him. While Bodie returned the favour and used the baby wipes on his own cock, he revelled in the contentment surrounding him. Always in tune with each other, Bodie was quiet as well. The atmosphere in the cramped Volvo was filled with peace, and for that he was grateful.
Dawn was breaking over the horizon when Doyle bid Bodie goodbye and returned to his room. He considered climbing directly into bed but he desperately wanted a shower. He smiled, remembering Bodie's lovemaking but he was sticky and sweaty from that endeavour. Standing in the centre of the room, he suddenly remembered what he was about to do and the peace Doyle had appreciated dissipated quickly.
Doyle didn't bother to argue with himself as he gathered up what he needed for his shower. He draped Jacob's robe over his arm and dug clean pants out of the chest of drawers. Next on his list of necessary items was Jacob's prayer book, his rosary beads, and a small glass vial that Doyle had personally filled the day before. Normally he would have scoffed at himself for his trepidation but these preparations weren't a laughing matter. He carefully deposited the items in the pocket of the robe before returning to the chest of drawers. He lifted a silver chain from its resting place and held it out, letting the light catch on the shiny links. He nodded in appreciation at the small silver crucifix that dangled from the end. He didn't care how silly it was, he wasn't going into that bathroom unarmed. After he'd slid the chain over his head and settled the crucifix on his chest, he sauntered to the bathroom.
This bathroom was the main facility that serviced his bedroom as well as the three other bedrooms situated in the wing. Sister Roberta slept in one of the bedrooms when she was in residence, and Bodie occupied another one. The fourth was currently not being used. Doyle hated this room.
When Doyle entered the bathroom, it was cast in a weird play of shadows through the glass window. The odd black and yellow shapes caught Doyle's eye. He examined the panes and wondered why the bottom pane captured the sun's ray differently than the other sections. Must have been replaced at some point, he reckoned.
The room made him uneasy, and he hated coming in, but he had no idea why. The old room was fairly unremarkable, yet if prodded to explain, he'd have admitted it was downright creepy. The space was large, with an old tiled floor and a claw foot bath that stood in the middle of the room in an awkward position. There was an added on shower apparatus with a cheap plastic shower curtain clipped to a circular metal bar. He usually chose the other bathroom closer to his office, but it was only a water closet, containing a toilet and a sink. He wished that the smaller bathroom had its own shower because he would be happy never to set foot into this room again. Something in the room was evil.
No, that was rubbish, Doyle ordered himself. Even as he thought the words, he didn't believe them. Could a room be evil? Or had something happened in the room that permeated the paint, the tiles on the floor, the wood around the window?
"You're a daft nutter," he muttered, dismissing the flights of fancy from his mind by force of will. He wasn't surprised that his resolve didn't last long.
Doyle stripped down. He felt strangely self conscious that he was naked, even though he was alone. He walked over to the door and locked it, unable to overcome the idea that he was being watched.
Ordering himself to erase those frivolous notions, Doyle turned on the taps and waited for the water to heat to an acceptable level. He waved his hand under the spray, and when the water was hot enough, he stepped in. The idea that he was under observation made him shiver. He quickly pulled the curtain around him. The cocoon of the shower made him feel more comfortable. He picked up the bar of soap and started to wash.
"Ignoring me does not make me any less real." The strong male voice seemed to be coming from directly beside Doyle.
The soap flew from Doyle's hands, hit the rim of the bath and disappeared through the gap in the curtain. He heard it hit the floor with a dull thud. The hot water continued to beat down on his head. He blinked the water away and looked around wildly. He couldn't see outside of his wet prison, but it was as if he were captured inside the belly of some great beast, being consumed by it.
"Leave me alone!" Doyle shouted. "I don't believe in you!"
"I told you before, that's no matter to me. I believe in you. Jacob believes in you and in me, so we're connected through him. And soon, your homosexual lover will believe in me. You've made a decision, I see."
Doyle was shocked when he heard footsteps. His heart pounded and his breathing came in great rasps. His hands were unsteady when he reached to push open the wet curtain. "I haven't made any decision!" he shouted, frantically searching the empty room.
Grabbing a towel, he wrapped it around himself and climbed out of the bath. He walked over to the door but as he tested the knob, he found it was locked, exactly as he'd left it. He turned and incredibly, saw the soap rise from the floor and drop into the bath. Then wet footprints crossed towards him. He backed up quickly, holding out one hand to ward off whatever came at him; as if simple flesh and bone would be shield enough to save him. His brain had trouble acknowledging what he could clearly see. Or not see, in this case. This wasn't possible!
Still, he refused to give way. He couldn't. Not with Bodie and Jacob's lives at stake. Not with their souls in the balance. "You can't have either one," Doyle whispered, sure that a giant hand was squeezing his throat, making it hard to breathe. He tried to swallow. Wheezing, he blurted, "I'll fight you for both."
Before him, a young man started to take shape, becoming clearer with each passing breath Doyle took. He was young, maybe early twenties, with an angelic face and beautiful dark hair flowing over his shoulders. Incredibly handsome. His eyes... Doyle could see the colour of his eyes. Such a beautiful, clear mountain lake blue that drew him in.
The apparition reached out a finely boned hand, showing strong slender fingers that called to Doyle. "Fine words from a sinner, eh?" he mocked, his face keeping the innocence of a child. "Since you refuse to choose, maybe I should merely take what I desire. I do have the ability, after all. Your cooperation isn't necessary, but it is welcomed."
Doyle shivered in the cold of the room. The way his heart pounded violently, he was sure it would burst from his chest, and from the way his teeth clattered together, he wouldn't have been surprised if they had cracked and fallen from his gums.
Stunned, he watched the man approach and in spite of his fear, he was drawn to the vision -- the demon, he corrected himself mentally. This had to be the devil who had been tormenting him. As the devil smiled, Doyle fought against the attraction. Even as he took a step closer, his mind rebelled. His inner self screamed in outrage, yet his bare feet moved closer and closer to the beckoning demon.
"No," Doyle thought, but his lips moved to form the words, "Yes, please." When he'd moved within reach of the devil, the hand that he held out wrapped around Doyle's arm. Terror, pure, abject terror, coursed through Doyle. His skin was burning, his lungs stopped working, his mind closed down. Heat ran down his legs, puddling at his feet, and the flames consumed him. Somehow, he found his voice. He screamed so loudly that the sound of his voice bouncing off the walls hurt his ears.
In a full panic, he stumbled backwards, slamming against the door. He slid to the floor, dragging the robe he'd hung on a hook with him. Frantically, he plucked at the robe, his eyes latched onto the devil who beckoned him with promises of pleasure beyond measure; of unlimited wealth; of power he couldn't even fathom.
"No!" he cried, fumbling for the crucifix around his neck. He pulled off the necklace with one hand and searched for the items he'd stashed in the robe's pocket with the other. The first thing his fingers latched onto was the rosary beads. He flung them at the demon, but they fell to the tile floor with a clatter of wood and plastic. He grabbed the prayer book from the pocket with his left hand. In his right, he held the chain and let the crucifix dangle from the end. Doyle started to pray. "Our Father, who art in heaven-"
The devil shrieked in outrage at his words. It grabbed for him but its reward was the sizzle of its skin. The stench made Doyle retch and his eyes were so dry they hurt when he blinked. The demon retreated a few feet. Doyle dropped the prayer book and grabbed the vial of holy water. He used his teeth to uncap it and flung the contents at the apparition. "Hallowed be thy name!" he cried. The demon screamed its hatred and flung itself at Doyle with fury.
Doyle was sucked up into a whirlwind of intense pain and ultimate pleasure. He screamed until his lungs burned. Sure he would die, he fell into the void. All went black.
Doyle came awake instantly. His vision was blurred so that the face that hovered over him was indistinguishable. Hands held him down. Adrenalin, spiked with fear, overwhelmed him. He brought his fist up and smashed it into the demon holding him. The bonds fell away. The cry of pain that echoed through the room made Doyle jerk and warm droplets spattered down onto his face.
"Doyle!" said a firm, masculine voice.
"Bodie?" Doyle cried, blinking to clear his vision. In seconds, he could plainly see his partner looking down at him with blood dripping from his nose. "Bodie?"
"You're okay." Bodie said, his tone even, reassuring, belying the fear etched on his face.
"I hit you. You're bleeding."
"I'll live, and so will you."
"What happened?" Doyle struggled to sit up, wondering what had happened. He was in the bathroom, lying on the cold tile floor. Naked as the day he was born, he found himself sitting in a pool of liquid. Had he urinated on himself? The memories rushed back. "Oh, Christ. Where is he?"
"Don't know. I heard you screaming. Bloody screaming like the devil himself was after you. I tried to kick the door in but you were propped up against it."
Before he'd come to St. Bart's, Doyle would have scoffed at the idea of the devil himself attacking him, but now, the notion was real. He struggled to push away the terror and asked, "How'd you get in?"
"I pushed as hard as I could and you finally moved away. I got in and you were in a faint. For a moment, I thought you were dead!"
"I'm okay," Doyle said, tentatively giving himself a once over. Everything was working. He had all his fingers and toes, as well as the other bits and bobs.
"You want to tell me what happened?"
"Was taking a shower."
"That's it? But-"
"Help me up."
Bodie helped Doyle to his feet and after pulling the robe from the floor, he wrapped Doyle up tightly. "You're shivering. Can you stand?"
Doyle nodded. "Was a bit scared," he admitted weakly, feeling like shit as he watched Bodie pick up a flannel and dab at his bleeding nose.
"I'm sorry," Doyle whispered.
"I was scared as well, when I couldn't get to you. Come on then. I'll run the shower nice and hot."
Bodie must have seen Doyle glance about like a cornered rabbit with the hounds of hell snapping at his paws. He was grateful when Bodie didn't call him regarding his trepidation. It was incredibly silly to be afraid of the bathroom, but he couldn't help himself. Bodie put an arm around Doyle's shoulders and said comfortingly, "Hey, I'm staying right here. You need to rinse off and warm up. Then we'll go to your room together and get you clean sweats. And since you are determined to once again saved the world from total destruction after yet another earth shattering traumatic event, we will make our way to the kitchen where we will do what all good Englishmen the world over do after such heroic actions. Do you know what that might be, Father?" Bodie spoke with so much drama that Doyle, after hiccuping a few times, had to smile.
Together, they both said, "Tea."
Bodie gave him a one arm hug, released him, and turned on the taps. Doyle looked down at his feet. He scooped up the chain and crucifix, Jacob's prayer book and the rosary beads. When the items were safely tucked away into his pocket, he went over to the bath and put out his hand. Bodie took it and smiled.
They sat in the quiet kitchen drinking tea from Doyle's favourite pot, the creamy white bone china one with the bright blue flowers dusted over its surface. There was only a small lamp burning on the sideboard, casting the room in a warm glow. Doyle was surprised that he didn't feel frightened in the dim room, but the kitchen was comforting and inviting.
Bodie had poured the steaming India tea into two matching white and blue cups and laced the drink with whiskey. He slid his chair next to Doyle's. They sat close enough so that the entire sides of their bodies touched. Doyle pressed closer, holding in a shiver. He was still cold except where Bodie's body touched his. They sipped the hot brew and took pleasure in the quiet and in each other's company.
"Last cuppa, then it's to bed with you," Bodie said as he poured them each another cup.
Doyle breathed in scents of fragrant tea and good malt. "Yes, mum."
"But before I tuck you in, we have to talk." Bodie clucked his tongue, sounding like Doyle's mum when she planned on launching into a 'very serious' discussion.
Doyle let out a wide yawn. "I'm knackered, mate. Can't it wait?"
"No," Bodie responded firmly. "This can't go on, Ray. It's killing you."
"Let it," Doyle snapped. He surprised himself at how quickly he became angry, and he was pissed off at himself for being so out of control of his emotions. He grabbed hold of himself and put a hand on Bodie's arm. "Sorry. Ignore me. I'm being a prat."
Bodie smirked. "Just the usual, eh?"
"Berk." Doyle drained the last of his tea with a loud slurp, knowing how amused it made his partner. "So now what?"
Bodie lifted an eyebrow at Doyle's antics, approval on his face. "We have to focus on Jacob and this other rubbish is distracting both of us, you especially."
"Yeah, but what can we do?"
"We're going to fix your problem."
"Are you going to suggest what I think you're going to suggest?" Doyle asked sceptically. Belatedly, he wondered how he'd got himself into this enormous mess. Of course, after asking himself the question, he knew the answer: Jacob. He would do anything, cross any ocean, climb any mountain, kill any kidnapper, to save his brother.
"Exorcism," Bodie answered firmly.
Doyle sat still, staring at Bodie with wide eyes. Bodie's suggestion was a valid one. Hell, he'd thought about it himself, more than once. Still, he wanted to talk himself out of what he knew had to happen. He wanted Bodie to talk him out of it as well.
Bodie kept his attention firmly on Doyle. "You know I believe it can work. Told you about Africa, about the time I was so ill the doctors told me there was no medical reason for my sickness and that there was no hope for recovery since I was so far gone. He didn't believe me about my being cursed during an operation. But I believed it. Me mates took me to the local witch doctor and he performed the Vodun rite that saved my life. I was there, Ray. I believe."
"But that was Africa," Doyle replied stubbornly. His belly tightened at the idea of exorcism, and the tea sloshed about in his stomach. He covered his mouth with a hand and burped. He prayed that he didn't barf up the savoury drink all over the kitchen table. It would be a shame after it had tasted so good doing down, he thought acridly. "This is bloody London."
"Jacob believes it works. You know he does. He's told both of us what he could without revealing identifies or betraying confidences. We know he saved souls right here in London. You and I have seen things that have no explanation, no earthly one anyway."
"I know, but... You'd do this with me?"
"Of course. As if I'd let you do this alone. Jacob's always said that an exorcist doesn't hang about, letting Satan run amok. He takes charge; faces the devil straight on. Possessed or tormented, we still need to take care of this tonight. It can't go on any longer."
"I bloody know what Jacob says!" Doyle rubbed at his eyes. "All right, I know what you're saying makes sense, in a totally insane way, of course. But I'm not an exorcist. In case you've forgotten, I'm not even a priest." Doyle reached into the pocket of his robe and brought out the crucifix on its silver chain. It made a puddle of shiny metal on the table. He added Jacob's prayer book, running a finger along the cover. The last item to appear was the rosary beads. The beads were black as was the crucifix. On the cross itself was a figure of Jesus, in silver.
Bodie stretched out a hand and touched the rosary. "I haven't forgotten a thing. We're on the side of the angels in this. I know it."
Doyle couldn't admit that Bodie was correct, even though he believed it himself. He was confusing himself with his uncertainty and it was making him angry. He remained silent, looking at Bodie.
His internal battle must have been evident because Bodie playfully punched his arm. "Now that I have your attention, maybe you'll remember a couple of years ago when Jacob was telling us about Mother Theresa's last days? He told us that she hadn't been possessed when she lay dying; that she was under attack because of her goodness, her devotion to God. Now don't laugh but I think that's what's happening to you."
"I'm under attack because of my devotion to God?" Doyle laughed, rolling his eyes. "Oh yes. That makes perfect sense. Jesus, Bodie," he said sarkily, "that's the daftest rubbish I've ever heard. I've killed many men. I'm not close to any god and I'm far from good."
Bodie vehemently shook his head. Doyle wanted to reach out and pet the longish hair that tumbled over Bodie's ears. Talk about daft! He had no business even thinking this way. Not with the disaster he was in. And by default, he'd dragged Bodie into. Bodie didn't deserve this.
"Listen to me, Ray, because I'm only saying this once. You've done nothing wrong. You've saved thousands of peoples' lives over the years and you've only done what your country asked of you. I won't hear you speaking that way about yourself. Do you understand me?"
Surprised at Bodie's quick anger, Doyle was mute for a long minute. Bodie was willing to defend Doyle, even against himself. Doyle's love for this sometimes insufferable man washed over him in a huge wave. It was as if he was standing at the seashore and the warm water swirled around him, making him feel refreshed and alive. Sometimes Doyle was shocked at the love Bodie had for him. He wondered if he deserved such loyalty and he hoped he showed as much care and love to Bodie as Bodie did to him. "Sorry. Right. Okay."
"Sound like you mean it." Bodie crossed his arms, looking like he was ready to bite Doyle's head off in one large bite.
Doyle touched his leg and said sincerely, "Ta, mate. Your faith in me is beyond value. I'm willing to listen and I'm sorry I spoke against myself. And you know what?" At Bodie's head shake, Doyle admitted, "If I think that way about me, then I must think that way about you. You're a good bloke, Bodie, and I'm pleased as punch we're together in this life."
"Would you put that in writing?" Bodie asked, making Doyle smile. "So about this thing we need to do. Let's call it a cleansing."
Doyle considered the idea. Could they do this? Get this madness to stop? It had to. He had to be able to concentrate on Jacob. "What about Jacob? It's barely five days to Friday and we still aren't any closer to finding him."
"We're taking care of this other thing tonight. Finding Jacob is another matter entirely. Hunt wants me in his office tomorrow morning. Maybe he has good news. Listen, I know that finding Jacob is what's most important to you, but this tormenting is hurting you. In here." Bodie put his hand over his heart. "More even than Jacob's kidnapping. It's one thing to fight the bad guys, but it's another to fight a real evil, to battle Satan."
Doyle didn't care for Bodie's sympathy, but he couldn't fault his lover. He'd have reacted the same way if Bodie's soul was under assault. Yes, he'd admitted to himself, his soul was being attacked and Satan had singled him out for demoralisation and more than likely, for much worse. They couldn't let the demon be successful, no matter what.
"All right." Doyle stood up and began clearing the table. He put away the milk and returned the sugar container to its spot in the cupboard. "Let's do it."
"This will work," Bodie said firmly. He put the tea cups, saucers and spoons into the sink. After he'd thrown the used tea bags into the rubbish bin, he rinsed the pot and set it to drip on the draining board.
"I certainly hope so." Doyle leaned against the counter, crossing his arms and his feet at the ankles. He watched as Bodie did the washing up. "I'm ready."
"So am I." Bodie dried his hands, walked over to the table, and picked up the silver chain. He slipped it over Doyle's head and touched the crucifix as it nestled in his chest hair. "I have faith in you."
Doyle had to smile at his partner's adamant tone and at the way Bodie's finger brushed down the cross. He wrapped a hand around Bodie's wrist, held it and looked into Bodie's eyes. Both men were silent as they shared an intent look. Doyle so wanted to kiss Bodie and he could see the desire in Bodie's eyes. Doyle swallowed hard. "We'll do this together. God help us."
"I think I remember something about God helping those who help themselves." Bodie smiled, his fingers resting on Doyle's throat.
Raising an eyebrow, Doyle asked, "And you believe that saying is in the Bible? Did you never go to Sunday School?"
Bodie grinned and shrugged, moving his hand away. Doyle missed the warmth of his fingers. Bodie asked, "Isn't it in the Bible?" At Doyle's head shake, he laughed. "Oops. If you must know, me gran dressed me in my best duds and sent me to church every Sunday, and every Sunday I played the hop. Had to join the lads down at the playing field. Cricket is much closer to God than a vicar's sermons will ever be."
Doyle smiled. "Come on, then. We have a job to do."
"Just as always, Ray. Me 'n you, never far apart, eh?"
"Not in this lifetime," Doyle agreed. "Thank God."
Bodie stepped back and stood at attention. He gave Doyle a jaunty salute. "Let's go and kick Satan in the goolies."
"That sounds marvellous," Doyle said, punching Bodie in the arm.
On the way out of the kitchen, Doyle remembered to pick up Jacob's prayer book and his rosary beads. The weapons of a good exorcist. He steeled his resolve, gathered his courage, and followed his partner.
The nave was dark and the light from the votives didn't penetrate the gloom. Dancing shadows from the flickering candles cast the back of the chapel in an eerie light, adding to the strange atmosphere. Doyle sat nervously on the edge of the last pew. Bodie stood next to him holding a small book. Doyle saw the book tremble. Knowing that Bodie was as scared as he was lessened Doyle's anxiety.
Bodie shifted from one foot to the other, snagging Doyle's wandering attention back to the task at hand.
"Are you sure you want to help me with this?" Doyle asked, flipping the pages of the book he held in his own hand, a duplicate to the one Bodie had: The Rite of Exorcism.
"No. I'm going to go and hide me head under the blankets," Bodie snapped, yet his soft look told Doyle all he needed to know.
"All right, then. We'll forge on together. I only hope I don't bring any sort of demonic wrath down on your head for getting you involved." Doyle looked at Bodie seriously. "I don't want your soul on my hands as well."
"Do you believe we have them, Ray?"
Doyle didn't hesitate. "Of course."
"So let's get to it. I've heard Jacob say that a few prayers never hurt anybody. Let's hope they hurt this demon like hell."
"My brother is a wise man, eh? I like your choice of words, mate." Doyle opened his book. "I've marked the passages. We'll take turns reading the cleansing prayers, but if something-" He paused before clearing his throat. "If something happens to me, you keep at it, all right? Jacob says that Satan will try anything and everything to stop the prayers, so I'm counting on you." He put a hand on Bodie's arm. "Just in case, mind."
"I'll manfully soldier on," Bodie quipped, earning a measured look from Doyle. Bodie merely grinned and opened his own book. "Hang about," he suddenly said, standing and walking a few feet away to lift a large plastic jug from the floor.
"And what in God's name is in that?" Doyle asked. "Wasn't that full of orange juice earlier?"
"It was, but now it's a container for a good exorcist's best weapon: holy water," Bodie said, clearly conveying the idea that Doyle should have known. He held up the jug as if it were a grand prize from the funfair.
"Holy water," he echoed. "Good God, that holds two litres. That's enough for a hundred devils. All I brought was a small bottle!" He held up the small vial he'd stowed in his pocket. It held about three ounces of liquid.
"Yeah, well, it's worked before, so I'm not taking any chances. I'd bring a bath full if I could've carried it."
Seeing the container of holy water made Doyle's stomach give a lurch. "I hope this works."
"It'd better or we have a bigger problem than we reckoned," Bodie said. He stood at the end of the pew and put the jug down on the seat within easy reach. With a nod at Doyle, he opened his prayer book.
"Marvellous," Doyle muttered, peering at the words on the page. It was too dark to read the text so he stood and moved one of the candle holders closer. "There." He shifted his shoulders and straightened his collar.
"Ray," Bodie said softly, standing next to Doyle.
"I'm all right." Doyle cleared his throat and moved closer to Bodie. He was reassured by his partner's nearness and he hoped he gave Bodie some measure of comfort as well. As much as he wanted to, he couldn't delay any longer. "Let us pray." He began to read:
"Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
by the Divine Power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen."
Bodie tipped a finger into the water and made the sign of the cross on Doyle's forehead before he read:
"In the name of Jesus Christ, I command all human spirits to be bound to
the confines of the cemetery. I command all inhuman spirits to go where Jesus
Christ tells you to go, for it is He who commands you. Amen."
When Bodie finished his part, he leaned over and asked, "Do you feel anything?"
"Depends on what I'm supposed to feel." Doyle shrugged. "Don't feel-" As if someone had flipped a light switch, Doyle shuddered violently. Sweat beaded on his forehead and ran down his face. It was so cold that his teeth chattered violently and fear gripped his bowels. He prayed that he didn't foul his pants and he forced himself to swallow around his tightly closed throat. "Why is it always so bloody cold in here! Thought you were fixing that boiler."
Bodie moved even closer to Doyle and put a trembling hand on Doyle's shoulder. Doyle covered Bodie's hand with one of his own.
Bodie tightened his grip. "It's not cold, Ray. Boiler's working just fine. Actually, it's quite warm." He slipped his hand out from under Doyle's, pulling his polo neck away from his skin. "Bloody stifling even."
"Bodie..." Doyle blinked slowly. He was drowsy and wished he could lie down. Yet the cold kept him somewhat alert. Another shiver ran down his back, raising the hair on his arms and legs. Cautiously, he looked around the chapel before returning to watch Bodie.
Bodie's eyes were wide when he looked at Doyle, and he saw Bodie's Adam's apple bob. "Read the next one, Ray," he ordered softly.
With his heart pounding double time and his breathing rough, Doyle took another furtive glance around. It was so cold that it made his legs twitch and he wiggled his toes to alleviate the chill. After a few seconds, he stared down at the prayer book, blinking rapidly. He'd turned to another page. His brother had jotted down a notation margin: This one works well. My favourite.
A jolt of determination tinged with sadness coursed through Doyle's body. Jacob had held this book, probably many times, and that made Doyle feel as if Jacob were with him now, standing beside him, helping him. He swallowed around the sudden rush of tears and forced himself to hold onto his pain. He touched a finger to Jacob's writing and in the dim light, he read:
"O Mary, powerful Virgin,
You are the mighty and glorious Protector of the Church.
You are the Marvellous Help of Christians.
You are Terrible as an Army set in Battle Array."
The candle flames jumped in the sudden breeze that swept through the church. Bodie slipped an arm through Doyle's, pushing him lightly with his hip. They leaned against each other, and in seconds, they'd laced their fingers together. Doyle tightened his grip, sure he'd snap the bones in Bodie's hand. Bodie squeezed Doyle's hand with force. Neither said a word. Doyle couldn't have spoken if he'd wanted to. Terror held him in its grip. Something evil, dirty, malicious wrapped around them. Bodie let out a cry. Doyle held onto Bodie desperately, determined to never let go. Doyle tried to see what was attacking them, but his eyes filled with tears of pain and fear. A searing cold wind smashed into them with enough force to knock them over.
Gasping, Doyle was amazed that they'd managed to keep their hands linked as they fell. Pure terror gave people strength they might not have had otherwise. Not letting their link break, they struggled to their knees and finally their feet. Doyle pulled Bodie to the closest pew and they sat side by side, breathing heavily. Doyle closed his eyes and pressed the side of his body against Bodie. It was so cold that it was a struggle to breathe, and when he did, he was sure that the lining of his lungs was being burnt out.
Doyle let out a low moan. Bodie lifted Doyle's hand and kissed his knuckles. The warmth of Bodie's lips was in such sharp contrast to the intense cold that he gasped aloud and jerked in surprise. It took all of his will to pry his eyes open. He watched as the candles' flames shot upwardly for a good ten feet. Long fingers of flame swayed and wove in a strange, hypnotic pattern before they bent and reached out to grab at Doyle.
Doyle cried out, leaning back in the pew as far as he could. From the corner of his eye, he saw Bodie, eyes wide with terror, doing the same. The flames grew and changed into long arms with fingers of fire. Laughter filled the church, so loud that it hurt his ears. He clamped one hand over one of his ears. There was no way he would let go of Bodie's hand, no matter how painful the laughter became.
Bodie cried out in pain. Doyle pulled hard on their linked hands until Bodie awkwardly tumbled against him. He wrapped his arm around Bodie's head and clutched it to his chest. Bodie wrapped his other arm around Doyle's waist and buried his face in Doyle's black shirt. All Doyle could do was hold onto his partner and press his own face into Bodie's hair.
The heat burned his flesh when the fingers stroked him from the top of his head down his side and across his thigh. He screamed, eyes screwed tightly shut as he lurched sideways to escape the pain. With his adrenalin spiking, Doyle pushed Bodie completely off the pew into the aisle. Despite his abject fear, he was able to keep his stranglehold on his partner and together they fell in a heap. When they hit the floor, the jolt loosened his hold and he let out another cry of pain. Bodie sprawled under him, arms and legs flailing in a convulsion. Bodie's body arched and bucked, tossing Doyle aside. In the dark, he scrambled to find his partner's head, intent on keeping Bodie from slamming his skull on the stone floor. Biting his lip, Doyle ran his hands up Bodie's torso.
Doyle held Bodie's head and looked around. None of the candles were lit. The flaming hands were gone. The church was quiet, so much so that the sudden absence of sensation made him all the more afraid. He sat huddled on the floor, his hands on Bodie's head, and trembled. Like a trapped animal, he whimpered and looked frantically around him, expecting attack at any moment and from any direction. The need to protect his mate was strong. Doyle moved out from under Bodie, taking care to lay his head gently down. He crouched over Bodie, teeth bared, and searched the darkness.
Bodie writhed on the floor, arms and legs flailing. One hand smacked into the side of Doyle's head. Worried that Bodie would hurt himself, Doyle tried to restrain him but he couldn't avoid Bodie's flailing fist. It slammed into his forehead, sending him reeling backwards to sprawl on the floor. Doyle lay stunned for a moment when something latched onto his ankles and started to drag him across the floor. Doyle screamed in terror, kicking at whatever held him captive. He twisted and cried, frantic to escape.
Phantom hands pulled at him, digging into his flesh, ripping away the cloth of his trousers. Pain lanced into his skin, and he screamed, crying and cursing. The darkness grew heavier and the choking odour of sulphur engulfed him. Doyle screamed again and again. The hands flipped him to his stomach and pulled. He clawed at the stone floor, desperate for any handhold to stop his momentum. A crushing weight slammed onto his back, pushing the breath from his body with a horrid squeak. He flailed weakly, unable to breathe. The weight spread from his torso to cover his entire body. Doyle couldn't cry out, couldn't breathe, couldn't see...
A horrendous scream ripped through the church and the ghostly hands released Doyle with abrupt suddenness.
Doyle lay stunned for barely a second. He found his breath and got to his hands and knees. He could hear Bodie thrashing on the floor behind him. He crawled towards his partner. The floor was flooded with cold water that soaked his clothing and chilled his hands. He or Bodie had kicked or pushed over the jug, baptising the floor. When the demon had touched him, it had also touched the holy water. The demon had fallen into it. That had to be what made it scream and let him go.
Crawling forward on the wet stone floor, he panted like a dog who'd run down a herd of sheep, tongue hanging out. His heart thudded wildly and the rush of his own blood pounded in his veins, making his temples throb.
"Bodie!" Doyle rasped. "Bodie!"
Doyle reached out, searching until his fingers touched wet cloth. Bodie! He followed Bodie's leg up to his chest. Doyle splayed his hand on Bodie's chest, feeling his heart beating double time. He let out a sob of relief. "Bodie, please," he begged. Moving upwardly, Doyle ran his hand over Bodie's face, patting his cheeks then touching his wet hair. Gently, Doyle raised Bodie's head and laid it on his lap. He stroked his partner's hair, whispering, "Bodie?"
Bodie let out a strangled noise. He coughed several times, then groaned softly. Doyle pulled him closer, hugging him tightly. "We're alive. Thank God we're alive. Bodie?" Doyle trembled, blinking rapidly. It was pitch dark. Fear roared back to life, and he let out another sob, clutching Bodie and rocking gently.
"Blind," he croaked. "'m blind. Bodie?" He shook his partner. "Oh God," he whispered.
God, but his throat hurt from screaming. "Why can't I see?" Doyle rocked, burying his face in his lover's hair. His heart thudded and he stomach lurched. Frightened, when he tried to catch a breath, his lungs tightened. There was no air in the room and Doyle began to panic, convinced he was suffocating. He swayed a few times and fell to his side. For a few moments, he lay senseless.
The stone floor grew cold, and it was wet under Doyle's body. He stirred and blinked, realising that he must have fainted. He lay still for many minutes, cataloguing his own body. He was cold and sore. His throat was dry and he longed for a drink of water or a nice cup of hot tea. He looked around, but in the darkness he couldn't see anything. He could, however, smell the scents of burnt candles, flowers, and after a moment's consideration, the ever present fragrance of beeswax polish. Relief flooded through him. He was in St. Bart's.
Doyle remembered everything he and Bodie had been doing before he'd fainted. Bodie!
"Bodie!" Doyle cried out.
He forced himself to his bum and then to his hands and knees. He found Bodie lying a foot or so away. "Bodie? Please speak to me." Doyle pulled off his coat and put it under Bodie's head. He knelt next to his partner, debating what to do. Bodie needed help but Doyle couldn't bring himself to leave his partner to fetch anybody. He sat on the floor with a hand on Bodie's chest while ideas flashed through him. What should he do?
The first thing Doyle's gut told him was that he should finish the cleansing before Satan returned. For now, the church was quiet but for how long? He gave a cold snicker. Could he find the prayer book, and if he did, how would see be able to read the words in this thick blackness?
But wait... Did he really need the prayer book?
"Close your eyes," Doyle told himself softly. "You've read the prayers. You can do this."
He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. Slowly he released it, letting his mind see the prayer book. He saw himself open it and turn the pages. He looked down at the letters and they merged into words that danced across his vision. With his mind's eye, he grabbed each word and began to read aloud in a raspy voice:
"You... alone have destroyed every heresy in the entire Church.
In the midst of my... anguish, my struggles and my distress,
With each word he recited, a huge weight pressed down on him. Doyle's fear spiked and dread rushed in. Anger grabbed his heart and hatred exploded inside him. It would be so easy to give in, to let Satan win. So easy...
"You... can do... it, Ray." Bodie said, his voice cutting through the darkness. His hand touched Doyle's cheek and wiped away his tears. "Pray, mate. Pray for yourself and for Jacob. For all of... us."
"Bodie," Doyle sobbed, turning his head until his lips touched Bodie's fingers. "Thank you, God." He gained strength from Bodie. He received love and commitment. Sure, at times all he got was aggravation and arrogance. But with Bodie, life was good. With Bodie, it was worthwhile. Bodie was his rock, his partner, his love. Gathering his inner strength, Doyle cleared his throat and said:
"Defend me from the power of the enemy,
And at the hour of my death, Receive my soul... my soul into Paradise."
When Doyle said the final word of the prayer, the entire room tilted sideways. Doyle toppled backwards and hit his head against the floor. He lay stunned until he was lifted up and tossed about until he slammed against a wall. He slid to the floor in a heap. Gasping for breath, Doyle heard Bodie's wail. It was cut short and the sudden silence made Doyle tremble.
"Bo-die!" Doyle cried, unable to move. His body blossomed with pain and his head pounded furiously.
Doyle started when a loud noise came from the other side of the room, followed by another. It sounded like someone - or something - was intent on destruction. Objects crashed into the walls and onto the floor. Doyle pictured the crucifix that rested on the altar hitting the floor. He heard the tearing of the altar cloths and the crash of the metal votive candle stands as they toppled over. One of the small donation boxes that had been attached to the stand broke open and the coins made a tinkering sound as they rolled across the flagstone floor. Small candles joined the coins, skittering here and there until several individual candles plunked against him. It seemed as if the candles were searching him out. He shuddered, sitting up with his back against the wall. He kicked the votives away in disgust.
Wearily, Doyle folded his hands together and bowed his head. He put his heart and soul into his plea. "Please, God. Could use some help here."
His words were quietly spoken, yet somehow they became magnified and echoed through the church. Doyle sat still and waited for the next volley. He was surprised when nothing happened. He didn't move for a long while until his body reminded him that it wasn't happy. His back hurt, his shoulder throbbed and his head pounded. When the pounding of his heart slowed down and he could hear clearly, he heard a groan of pain from several feet away. He jumped at the sound and scrubbed at his eyes. Sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows. It was now morning. Bodie lay sprawled on the floor.
"Bodie!" Doyle called out, his voice raspy. He'd screamed so much his throat was raw. "Bodie!" Bodie wasn't moving and for a panicked moment, Doyle was sure he was dead. Fear grabbed him and he crawled to his partner with tears running down his face. When Bodie's hand twitched, Doyle was so relieved that he started to laugh hysterically. He reached Bodie and touched his face. "Bo-bodie," he blurted out, "Come on, mate."
Doyle patted Bodie's cheek. "Please, Bodie." In the dim light, Doyle saw a red lump on Bodie's forehead. He brushed the wet hair from his brow. ""For Christ's sake, Bodie. Can you hear me?" Doyle pleaded.
"'m here," Bodie answered weakly. He slowly lifted his hand and touched the sore spot on his forehead gingerly. "What happened?"
"We did it!" Doyle shouted, loudly enough to bounce off the walls.
"Blimey, Doyle, do you have to yell? Me head's falling off as it is!" Bodie groused.
Doyle laughed. "We're alive!"
Bodie groaned again, rolled to his side and gagged.
"Are you all right?" Doyle asked. "Don't move. You might be concussed."
"I'll be all right. Stomach gave a lurch but it's settling. Head hurts, though," Bodie admitted.
"Mine as well. Rest for a minute then we'll get on with it."
"Oh with it?"
"We have to finish." Doyle fidgeted, not confident that the demon wouldn't return at any moment. The idea made his own stomach roil and sweat bead on his forehead. He shivered slightly.
Bodie blinked, holding his belly. "There's more?"
"Yeah. Marvellous, eh?"
"Oh, yeah. Bloody marvellous," Bodie said with a groan. "I feel like shit."
"Take it easy." Doyle patted Bodie's arm before he stood up and retrieved one of the candles that had rolled under a pew. With his ever present lighter, he lit the candle and put it on the floor near Bodie.
"Feeling better?" Doyle asked solicitously.
"Terrific," Bodie muttered darkly, glancing about.
Doyle followed Bodie's gaze. He was taken aback at the amount of destruction the demon had wrought in spite of the fact that he'd heard everything. Seeing the condition of the church made him thankful they'd survived.
Doyle turned in a circle, looking around the nave. He was furious at the way Jacob's church had been destroyed. The heavy metal candle stands were twisted crazily. The altar cloths had been ripped into bits and pieces, and the large crucifix had been thrown so forcefully that it was embedded deeply into the wall. Dozens of candles dotted the floor and urns of flowers were tossed helter-skelter around the nave. Devotional prayer books had been turned into confetti and littered the floor like snowflakes. Even a few of the pews had been upended and one was splintered into kindling.
Puddles from the holy water and the upturned flower vases pooled on the flagstones. But while Doyle was unhappy about the mess, he was thankful that he and Bodie were still alive to really worry about it. It was a small price to pay to rid them of the evil that was intent on harming him and Bodie. He sent up another silent 'thank you' for his life and for Bodie's before he turned his attention back to his partner.
Bodie had pushed himself up on his elbows. His eyes tracked around the church and when they met Doyle's, he asked, "What the fu- heck happened? This place is a disaster."
"I think we did it. I think we sent Satan back to hell." He allowed himself a few moments to enjoy their success until another thought intruded. "Well, maybe started him on his way."
"Maybe?" Bodie looked sick for a moment.
Doyle understood. He was damned sick over this mess himself. He put a hand on Bodie's arm. "We have to finish the ritual. Can you do it?" Concerned over Bodie's injuries and his well being, he knelt beside his partner and ignored the cold water that dampened his already wet trousers.
Doyle smiled at his partner. "Come on, then. Lean here." Doyle guided Bodie to sit with his back against the side of a pew, his bottom firmly on the floor.
"Steady. Hold my hand," Doyle instructed, reaching out. Bodie took Doyle's hand. Doyle slid closer to Bodie and as he did so, he saw one of the prayer books peeking out from under the kneeler. He grabbed the book and peeled apart the wet pages until he found the right spot. He leaned close to Bodie, sharing the book. Bodie shivered and he pressed against his partner, also sharing some body warmth.
"Read with me, love," Doyle said.
"In the name of Jesus Christ,
and by the power of His Blood and His Cross,
I bind all spirits in the air and the fire,
in the water and the ground,
in the underground and in the netherworld."
I bind all satanic forces in nature.
I bind all curses, hexes and spells,
witchcraft and occult activity.
I bind the interaction and interplay of all spirits.
I claim the protection of the shed Blood of Jesus
Christ over Raymond Doyle.
After they'd read the last line, Doyle intoned:
"I claim the protection of the shed Blood of Jesus
Christ over William Bodie and Jacob Myers."
Bodie asked, "Can you do that? Add names like a marketing list?"
"Don't know. Can't hurt, eh?"
"Right," Bodie agreed. "Okay then. I claim the protection of the shed Blood of Jesus
Christ over William Bodie and Jacob Myers." He paused. "Always forget that Jacob's surname isn't the same as yours." He narrowed his eyes, peering at Doyle intently. "Are you sure you're related?"
"We sort of look alike, but you never know." Doyle gave Bodie a lopsided smile, shrugging. "You know the story, but sometimes I wonder about both of us. He's so much better than I could ever hope to be." Doyle stood and helped Bodie to his feet, not releasing his arm until he was satisfied Bodie was steady. "All right?"
"Yeah. I'm okay. But it's not true."
"What's that?" Doyle said, putting a candle stand upright. He looked around and spied the candle that fit into the holder. He seated it firmly and lit the wick. For some odd reason, the warm glow made Doyle feel better. He smiled and began sorting through the debris scattered around his feet, making small piles of what was now rubbish and what could be salvaged. "Blimey. It's going to take days to clean up this mess. There must be a hundred candles tossed about, not to mention the rest of the ruined stuff."
Bodie joined him, picking up prayer books and inspecting them. Doyle saw that he was making two piles: the ones that were wet or torn he put in one lot, and those that were intact he piled on one of the pews.
"It's not true that he's better than you," Bodie said, adding another missal to the rubbish pile. "You're a good man, Raymond Doyle." Bodie shot him an amused glance. "Even if you had to have Jacob thump you to figure it out."
"I deserved to be thumped, and hard. The way I treated him and my step-dad was a sin if ever there was one."
"He forgave you, Ray. A long time ago."
"I know. He's that kind of bloke; that kind of brother. When I was running the streets and causing trouble, he was praying for me. When I rejected our step-dad's love and offer of his own name, Jacob accepted it with open arms." Doyle glanced away, guilt as fresh now as it was fifty years ago, when he was a lad of fifteen. He picked up a torn altar cloth and stared down at the ruined embroidery. He added it to the rubbish pile with a grimace. "Told you before, that night... You remember. The first time for us, in that corridor, knowing that the next day we were going to bite it.
"Jacob came to me one night, tried to convince me to accept Fred's surname. Me, I taunted him, called him weak for his love of our step-dad and of his God. I remember him saying that Fred would be his dad, and he wanted Fred to be mine too. He took my hand and asked me to pray with him." Doyle snorted harshly. "Fred was a good man. Took us in after me own dad had been dead for years, and he loved our mum." He shuddered as he remembered. "For his caring, I cut him. Christ, Bodie, I pulled out a fucking knife and cut my own brother!" He threw one of the smashed candles against the nearest column. Standing with his hands clenched, Doyle breathed in deeply and slowly exhaled. He was sad and useless. "I don't deserve anything good in my life, Bodie. I'm shit."
Bodie looked sympathetically at Doyle, and he had to turn from Bodie's kind face when Bodie said firmly, "Don't do this. It's long done, Ray. Jacob and you've mended those fences decades ago." Bodie clamped his hands onto Doyle's biceps and shook him. "It's the demon talking. He's hurting you in your soul, making all the guilt you had back then resurface. He's making it so you can't finish the ritual by dredging up that crap." He released Doyle and picked up the Rite of Exorcism book that they'd been reading from. Bodie searched until he found one of the pages that Jacob had marked. "There are more prayers." He squinted in the dim candle light. "Here it is. Ready?" Bodie waited, looking at Doyle intently.
Doyle returned Bodie's stare, his mind racing over Bodie's words. In his heart, he understood Jacob had forgiven him; that Jacob loved him. He loved Jacob deeply and these feelings of depression and worthlessness could well be the work of the devil. He acknowledged to himself that Bodie was speaking the truth and he was grateful for Bodie's strength and wisdom.
"You're right." At Bodie's grin, Doyle shook his head. "Don't let it go to your head."
"Wouldn't dream of it, Ray."
Doyle gave his partner a warning glance, but he ignored it and pulled Doyle close. Doyle gave up trying to keep Bodie in line this once and leaned against him. He let out a contented sigh when Bodie's arm slipped across his shoulders. Bodie held the book so both of them could see the words and in unison they read:
I now call Michael the Archangel
and his army of angels to surround, fill and
protect St. Bartholomew's.
I praise God for all of His heavenly angels.
I call them forth now and release them
to surround and fill us
with God's power and blessings,
in the name of the Father, and the Son,
and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Their mingled "Amen" echoed through the church and both men sat still, holding hands and waiting. Waiting for the apocalypse to crash down upon their heads. Time stretched. The church remained quiet, so silent that Doyle swore that he could hear the candle burning and wax melting. He blinked, staring at the candle flame until it doubled before his eyes. Blinking again, he let out a relieved sigh. The flame didn't gut; it didn't grow or writhe. It burned normally, and Doyle started to giggle hysterically.
Bodie's grasp of his hand tightened. "Did it work?" Bodie asked quietly.
Doyle whispered between silly giggles, "Yeah, I think so. I feel all right. You?"
Bodie started to chuckle as well. "Yeah, feel okay. Got a monster of a bleeding headache but otherwise..." He laughed again. "Don't feel possessed, if that's what you mean."
Doyle grinned. "Neither do I, so maybe it'll be all right.
As they stood together on the wet flagstones, furtively looking into the darkened corners of the church, Doyle jumped when the candle flame suddenly flared upwards. Surprised, his eyes tracked the flame. He was frozen in place, unable to move, to cry out.
Bodie blurted out, "Holy shit." He yanked on Doyle's arm. "Run, Ray."
With Bodie tugging him, he numbly followed until he planted his feet. "No," Doyle said adamantly. "We can't run. There's nowhere to run."
"But we can't win!" Bodie shouted. "Look at it!"
They looked at the candle that burned brightly, much too brightly for a single small wax pillar. In moments, all about the room, the candles that had been toppled to the floor ignited. A hundred flames burst to life.
"Jesus," Bodie muttered, "will this ever end?"
"It'll end when we're finished, Bodie."
"The cleansing. Look." Doyle held up the prayer book. "There's more."
"Well then, bloody read it!" Bodie shouted.
Doyle looked down at the words, but they blurred on the page. He swiped at his eyes, suddenly sure that he wasn't worthy to do this. He wasn't good or holy. He wasn't Jacob. He was an old man, a killer, a sinner. Depression swamped him so quickly that he stumbled back and gasped, falling to his bottom. He let out a cry of pain as he landed hard.
"Ray!" Bodie cried out, kneeling in front of Doyle and holding him tightly by the forearms. "For Christ's sake, read the damned prayer!"
"No. I'm not good enough." Doyle rocked himself. "Not right. This is not right. I'm not Jacob. I can't do this." Something clutched at his throat and he could barely speak. A blackness covered his soul, smothering anything hopeful in him. "I'm not a good person."
The slap came quickly. Doyle gasped, his hand going to his cheek. Bodie shook him again. Stunned, Doyle looked into Bodie's wide eyes. He could see the fear in them.
"Stop it!" Bodie shouted. "Do you hear me?"
Doyle's head bobbed as Bodie shook him harder. "Leave off! Bloody maniac."
"Ray?" Bodie looked at him through narrowed eyes. "Is that you?"
"Of course it's me, you nutter. What'd make you say that?"
"You told me you couldn't do it."
Puzzled, Doyle was aware that Bodie was telling the truth, but he didn't remember saying that. It was so odd, as if things around him were muted, the colours faded. His vision was fuzzy and his heart slowed down until he was sure it skipped a beat, not once but twice. It was a disturbing feeling, and he swayed, light-headed and much too warm. Doyle licked his lips. "It- it was weird," he muttered, his tongue thick. "Feels like something grabbed hold of me." He put a hand over his heart. "It hurt inside." The strange feeling lifted slightly and his breathing and heart rate returned to normal. "That was barmy, but I think I'm all right now." He gulped noisily. "Sort of."
Bodie thrust the book at him. "Read it now."
Doyle took the book and with his hand shaking, held it firmly.
"The Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth rebuke you.
The Lord Adonai rebuke you.
I claim the Blood of the Lamb,
the shed Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you leave.
In the Name of Jesus get out!"
When Doyle finished, Bodie took Doyle's wrist and moved the book towards him so he could repeat the words. He shouted the final words with all the force he could, as if the volume in his voice had the ability to send any demon shrieking from the room. Doyle smiled faintly at Bodie's faith in him, for it was that faith that had made the entire ritual possible; that had made the ritual a success.
The world suddenly stretched out like a well used elastic band and then snapped back into place with an audible jerk. Doyle blinked and the colours, the sounds, the feel of his world returned. He let out a gasp loud enough for Bodie to look at him with fear. He touched Bodie's arm, relishing the texture of the shirt Bodie wore. "No, it's all right. I'm fine. Bodie, it worked!"
"It worked! The ritual."
"How can you tell?" Bodie asked.
"It looks wonderful! Marvellous! Terrific! It feels good here," he said pressing his hand against his own chest. "It's gone. The demon is bloody well gone!"
Doyle grabbed Bodie's shoulders and they shook each other, grinning like daft nutters. The longer they looked, the more they grinned, then broke into laughter. They laughed until they couldn't any longer, leaning against each other. Doyle could feel Bodie's heart pounding against him and he could feel his own heart racing. He extracted himself from Bodie's arms so that he could look into Bodie's eyes. He gave his lover a small smile.
"Hate to throw cold water on the moment but we haven't found my brother." Doyle paused. "And I'm completely out of options."
"We're never out of options. Not until the fat lady sings." Bodie touched Doyle's cheek. "Not until we're both in a pine box, Ray. We'll fight to the end."
Doyle smiled crookedly. "Should have that engraved on my tombstone, 'He fought to the end'."
"That's downright sick, Raymond. Wish I had thought to say it." Bodie laughed. "Come on. This place gives me the creeps. Let's see if the lads have anything more for us."
As Doyle let Bodie lead him from the nave, he glanced around. "This place is a holy mess."
Bodie chuckled. "No worries. I'll clean it up in a bit. After breakfast, mind." Yawning widely, he shut the doors firmly behind them. "Then I need to sleep and so do you. The rest will work out."
Doyle smiled at Bodie's confidence and took his partner's advice.
Doyle had kept his schedule for the day before the papal Mass clear of all religious functions and duties as well as personal obligations. He wanted to concentrate wholly on the following day's events. Classes had been suspended so that the seminarians attending the Mass could prepare for their duties. The seminary was closed for a long weekend, and the five students who had been chosen to participate in the Mass were busy making sure their garments were in impeccable condition.
Most of the seminarians had asked for and had been granted permission to attend the Mass. Several of the students had pressing personal matters and had asked to be excused for the long weekend. Permission had been granted to them as well, and security made sure the young men who'd asked to be excused had indeed left the premises with admonitions not to return until Sunday afternoon at the earliest. The names of the remainder of the students who had indicated they would be in attendance at Mass had been duly noted. The information had been passed onto Controller Hunt and the boys at MI6, who would be vetting each of them. Doyle would be apprised of the results at today's final meeting, scheduled in about two hours time.
Using his last minutes of free time for the next few days to check his own garments, Doyle puttered around in the changing room off the sacristy until his mobile beeped, the alarm reminding him of his 10 am meeting. The final run through of tomorrow's events would take place, and then there would be nothing left to do but face Friday and be prepared for anything to happen.
He brushed invisible dust from his- Jacob's - beautifully crafted white and gold brocade chasuble that rested on a cloth covered wooden hanger. With a finger, he touched the garment and said softly, "For Jacob's safe return, I humbly pray that you see fit to grant me this request." Doyle smiled. He was getting soft in his old age. With a final look at the chasuble, he hurried to his office.
"Father Jacob," Controller Hunt said, walking across the room and reaching out to shake Doyle's hand. He was a tall man, with dark brown hair, greying at the temples. His blue eyes were deep set and he had bushy eyebrows. Like Bodie, he had the ability to raise one in a questioning way that made Doyle want to giggle. It reminded Doyle of a caterpillar. He kept that notion to himself, especially since he admired Hunt and found him a competent man to run CI5.
Hunt was loud and friendly, a good leader. He expected his agents to execute their duties expertly and they gave him the respect he deserved, Doyle included. Even Bodie kept his usual black humour in check around Hunt. Doyle knew that Bodie felt Hunt was worthy of his admiration. Doyle admired Hunt's ability to keep Whitehall off all of their backs.
Doyle shook hands with Hunt. "Good day, sir."
"I hope it is," Hunt responded.
"So do I," Doyle said softly.
Side by side, they inspected the room's other occupants. Although Doyle had met the other men previously, Hunt played host and reintroduced Doyle to Commandant Kurt Anrig, head of the Swiss Guard, the Pope's personal protection detail, as well as Sir Reginald Sawer, head of the SIS. Doyle shook hands with both men.
"You know Albert Rowan, Commissioner at the Met."
"Mr Rowan, a pleasure to see you again," Doyle said. They shook hands. "Please, be seated. Coffee or tea?"
"Thank you," Rowan said. "Tea please. Black, one sugar."
Doyle poured tea for Rowan and himself. When everyone had their refreshment, Doyle sat behind Jacob's desk.
"Are we ready?" Doyle asked.
"Yes. We thought it best not to have more people in the room than we absolutely need," Hunt said.
"Thank you." Doyle read over the schedule that had been hashed out several days ago. The other gentlemen studied their copies. Doyle had gone over the details a hundred times, then another hundred. All was as secure as possible. "Time table, schedule of events, down to the minute. Looks like we've got it all worked out."
"Everything's covered," Hunt explained. "From the moment Pope Zachary deplanes to the second he arrives here. Security during the Mass will be unobtrusive but present. We're not hiding but making sure anyone who has ideas about breaching the peace or harming anyone will clearly see that we mean business."
"Yes," Rowan agreed. "My men will be on full alert and covering the arrival and departure route."
Doyle laced his fingers together, leaning on his elbows. "Is there anything else that we haven't considered or that bothers any of you? Anything? Any small detail?"
One by one, the men discussed minute details that could be deemed insignificant but nevertheless, were picked apart and either noted or discarded.
"Mr Hunt, have any of my students who asked for approval to attend Mass raised any red flags?" Doyle asked.
"Not a one," Hunt acknowledged, passing out a sheet with the results of their background search of each student.
"My office ran its own independent check," Commandant Anrig added.
"As did mine," the MI6 man offered. "They all came back clean."
"Good," Doyle said. "I'm relieved that my boys passed muster." My boys. They really were his boys. He'd got to know several of these students and he liked them. They were friendly, devout, studious. He gave a ghost of a smile. Well, some were studious. Others were devout but avoided studies like any other group of young people who would rather be doing other things. They certainly appeared to be a normal batch of young men. He brought his mind back to the task at hand and once again, the details of every minute of Friday's events were checked and rechecked.
Doyle was beyond exhausted by the time he'd let the last man out of the rectory and walked to the kitchen. A glance at his watch told him it was past 7 pm. When the security men had stopped for a mid-afternoon meal, Doyle had passed, using the time to read through CI5's latest reports on their efforts to locate Jacob. Dinner time went by unnoticed by the men and finally, at about half six, everyone took their leave.
As Doyle entered the kitchen, his stomach rebelled at its abandonment. Sure he would have to make do with a cold meat sandwich and a cup of tea for dinner, he was surprised to find two place settings on the table. He stopped and sniffed the air. Indian, he realised. The oven indicator was glowing red and he walked over to open the door. The redolent smells of three different dishes wafted up and around him. He salivated, retrieving the foil pans with a tea towel.
"Time for dinner?" said a familiar voice.
Doyle turned his head, smiling. "Did you do this?" he asked Bodie.
"I reckoned you'd be famished. You skipped lunch."
"How'd you know that?"
"I'm a trained agent of the government. I know all," Bodie quipped.
Doyle couldn't help but grin even as he rolled his eyes.
"Let me do that. Sit."
Doyle smiled his thanks and tiredly sat down. A glass was placed in front of him and amber liquid miraculously appeared in the glass. He chuckled. Bodie paused, saying, "What?"
"You're marvellous," Doyle said. "Thank you."
"You need a double," Bodie observed, pouring another inch of whisky into Doyle's glass. "And so do I." He poured for himself and put the bottle near Doyle. "In case you want a refill." Bodie took a bracing sip. "Ah, yes. Liquid of the gods."
Doyle closed his eyes when the burn of whisky coursed down his throat. He revelled in the heat as it hit his empty stomach. "Perfect," he acknowledged, taking another drink.
"Best eat before you get too tipsy."
Bodie put a plate piled high with chicken dhansak (Doyle's favourite), prawn bhuna (Bodie's choice), coconut rice and naan. Doyle's mouth watered.
"This is delicious," Doyle said around a mouthful of chicken. He ate a prawn, groaning with delight. "I was hungry."
"I reckoned you'd be," Bodie said, scooping up rice with a wedge of naan. "It is good, isn't it?"
They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes. Once the initial hunger was sated, they both slowed down, nibbling chicken and prawns between bites of bread.
"Did you get everything laid out?" Doyle asked.
"Uhmmm, yeah. Got two dozen men put through their paces today. Remember Parsali? We did the same thing to the younger blokes." Bodie grinned devilishly. "Made them roll around on the floor, lurk under the altar-"
"Bodie! There won't be anybody lurking under the altar!"
Bodie laughed. "I know that, but it was great fun. Had two of those Swiss Guard blokes crawling on their bellies between the pews looking under them for explosives. Those dogs sniffed into all the corners and then went over the MI6 agents. Did you know that Kowalski is afraid of dogs?"
Together, they laughed.
Doyle shook his head, grinning. "You're such a moron," he said affectionately.
Bodie stood up and put his plate in the sink. "You want tea?" He lifted the whisky bottle, "Or another wee dram?"
"Do you need to ask?" Doyle held out his glass. Bodie poured two fingers of pure malt. "God, that's good," he said after a drink.
"Going to be staggering during Mass tomorrow?"
"Talked to Hunt. He said everything's been hashed out. Schedule's ready to the millisecond."
"It is. Nothing's been left to chance."
Bodie rubbed his nose. "Don't look behind you."
"Eh?" Doyle said.
"Don't look behind you!" Bodie said even louder, his face taking on a look of total innocence.
Doyle, of course, couldn't resist looking behind him. Sister Roberta stood in the doorway, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.
"Oh. Evening, Sister," Doyle said. "Are we ready?"
Sister Roberta walked into the kitchen and over to a cupboard. She opened the door and took out a glass. "Everything's been cleaned, polished, washed or scrubbed. All is in readiness for His Holiness."
Bodie gave Doyle a sheepish grin. Doyle shrugged, not sure what was going on. Sister Roberta could be quite testy, but usually she was courteous. Tonight she was annoyed as she stood in front of Bodie and stared at him, glass in hand.
Bodie appeared nonplussed for a moment before he stood up and pulled out a chair. "Would you like to sit down, Sister?" he said cordially, bowing slightly.
She gave a harrumph and sat. Bodie looked from her face to the glass in her hand. He picked up the bottle. "Whisky?" he asked, tipping it towards her glass.
"Yes, please." Sister Roberta watched Bodie intently. He put a mere half inch in the bottom of the glass. She glared up at him, lifting the glass, and he grinned, adding another inch. Sister Roberta took a drink. She licked her lips. "Thank you."
Doyle merely sat with his mouth open, shocked. "I didn't know..." His voice trailed off under her withering glance.
"It's all right for a priest to drink but not a nun? Bit sexist, eh? In this day and age," she said, drinking again. She set the glass down with a thump and turned her flashing eyes to Bodie. "So, Mr Phillips or whoever you are, I saw you today. Not really a gardener, are you?"
Bodie pretended to be shocked when he regarded Doyle, who started to titter. He put up a hand to cover his giggles and raised an eyebrow at Bodie. Bodie's mouth made an O and he gave Doyle a sidelong look that clearly said, this is all your fault!
Sister Roberta looked from one man to the other. Doyle imagined that he was back in primary school and the teacher was letting him know that his pranks would be dealt with harshly. He could practically hear her thoughts telling him to stay out of this if he wanted to keep his head on his shoulders. Returning her attention to Bodie, she crossed her arms and waited.
Bodie threw out his hands. "All right, you win. I'm part of the security detail. No, I'm not a gardener. I'm here to help ensure everyone's safety."
Sister Roberta chortled triumphantly. "I thought he was a fraud! He wasn't much of a gardener although the rose garden is looking perkier."
Doyle couldn't help himself. He burst out laughing. "Sorry. Sorry, Sister. Bi- Billy is indeed with security. I was under strict orders to keep that information to myself. You understand, I'm sure. He was sent in for early reconnoitre. You do realise the safety-"
Sister Roberta waved a hand. "You two have been acting like a couple of errant schoolboys. He's certainly not the most professional security man I've ever seen nor the best. And he's old for the job, isn't he."
Bodie soon joined in, laughing with Doyle. Sister Roberta sipped her whisky and with stately grace, ignored their frivolity.
Doyle got himself under control. "I've known Billy for many years. He's an old school mate and a long-time friend."
"Is he any good?" Roberta asked. "He has shifty eyes. Can't make up my mind about him, but he looks quite shifty, if you ask me."
"You can trust him. Honestly." Doyle responded, casting Bodie an amused glance. He crossed his eyes at Doyle, grinning. Sister Roberta reminded him of Marge all those years ago, giving Bodie the evil eye as if he were dirt under her shoe. "He's all right, Sister. I can vouch for him."
Roberta finished her drink. "I'll have to rely on your word, then, Father." She stood up and both men stood as well. "Good night. I'll be up early to help prepare for Mass."
Doyle smiled. "Thank you, Sister. Good night."
Bodie raised his glass. "'Night!" he said, much too happily.
Roberta gave each one of them a last put-upon look before she left the room.
Once she'd gone, the two men again burst into helpless laughter. Tension from the entire assignment made them giddy, and they didn't bother trying to hold it together. They laughed for several minutes before Doyle wiped his eyes and let out a sigh.
"I hope he's all right."
Bodie took Doyle's hand. "He is. I know it. We didn't fight demons and..." He started giggling again but managed to stifle them after a few seconds, "...and Sister Roberta to be defeated."
Doyle squeezed Bodie's fingers. "No, we surely didn't."
When Bodie stroked the skin of Doyle's wrist, Doyle shivered.
"Don't," Doyle said softly, pulling his hand away. "I need you tonight but we can't..."
"I know that, Raymond. You look like you're falling asleep in your drink. I'll do the washing up."
Doyle raised an eyebrow. "I must be looking horrid for you to volunteer to do the washing up."
"Best you take advantage of my good nature while you can, Father."
"All right, off with you." Bodie made shooing noises. "Go on. Good night and sweet dreams."
As if on cue, Doyle yawned. "'Night."
Doyle stood up and trailed his hand across the back of Bodie's shoulders as he passed. He smiled to himself when Bodie flexed. In all their years together, they'd perfected their wordless communication, secure in the knowledge that they loved each other. He could feel it in every fibre of his being. Bodie knew he was well loved, even when Doyle didn't remember to say it nearly often enough.
Once in his room, Doyle considered taking a shower but the idea of that bathroom gave him pause. Besides, his bed beckoned. He'd shower in the morning when the sun was up and the bathroom looked less creepy. He'd be fresh and bright when he met the Pope. He went to the secondary bathroom to wash his face and clean his teeth. With a tired sigh, he slipped between the sheets, and with thoughts of Bodie in his head, he fell quickly into a dreamless, reviving, much needed sleep, the first in many nights.
Friday dawned sunny bright and blue skied. After a good night's sleep, Doyle was ready to face the day. Surprised that he'd managed to sleep until his alarm sounded, he had risen clear eyed, full of expectation with another day of life to look forward to. It took a few seconds for realisation to sink in. In a rush, the events came back. It was going to be a long day full of uncertainties. While he was no longer exhausted, Doyle's stomach ached with anxiety. Today was the day, he told himself. Showered, shaven and teeth cleaned, Doyle inspected himself in the mirror, trimming his beard and putting some gel on his hair that desperately needed a trim.
With a parting look at himself in the mirror, Doyle walked to the kitchen. He wondered if his innards would accept a coffee. He eyed the coffee pot balefully before he opened the fridge and looked inside, not really seeing the contents. His mind raced.
Doyle had given a lot of thought about the reasons he'd been ordered to take Jacob's place many times these past few weeks. The only thing that made sense was that Doyle would possibly acquiesce to the kidnapper's demands but that Jacob would not. This kidnapper was familiar with Doyle: his background, his personality, and his record regarding what he'd done for Queen and country. Jacob would not do the same things that Doyle would do. Doyle would kill to save another's life. He hoped that Jacob would never have to make that decision.
Questions he didn't like answering insisted on attention. Would Doyle kill to save the Pope? Yes. Would Doyle let Jacob die to save the Pope? That was a moral dilemma Doyle hoped he would not have to make because right now, the answer would be no.
So the bottom line had to be that Jacob's beliefs didn't mesh with the kidnapper's desires, so Jacob had to be replaced with Doyle, and no one but the higher echelons of government were supposed to know. Why? Why? Why?
Doyle had a lot of ideas but no concrete evidence to back up those ideas. There was nothing left to do but wait and see what transpired over the course of the day. A thousand possibilities and twelve hours to live through. He hoped everyone survived.
Doyle returned to reality when the cold from the fridge finally registered. He dismissed the idea of coffee and retrieved one of Bodie's energy drinks. He sipped the cool liquid as he walked towards the church. His stomach accepted the liquid, staying relatively quiet, for which he was thankful. Walking by the windows overlooking the front drive and grounds, he saw several cars parked along one side, three dark saloons and two large 4x4s. Dark suited men walked here and there, and several of the men were accompanied by their well trained dogs. The canines were using their sensitive noses for a final check of the area. After watching the goings on for a few moments, he turned away.
Doyle walked into the nave and looked around critically. He and Bodie had spent hours cleaning up and he could find no fault with the preparations that had been made the evening before. The church had been thoroughly cleaned. The stone floors gleamed. The pews shone with such a lustre that Doyle could see his reflection when he passed by. He stopped to admire Sister Roberta's work. The altar was laid with sparkling cloths pressed and starched to crisp whiteness. Even newly fallen snow couldn't compete with the cloths' dazzle. The sister and the students who had helped her had done an exemplary job.
The flowers were amazing. The florist had prepared special arrangements for the Mass with varieties that Doyle had ordered after reading through Jacob's notations. Thank God for Jacob, who had quite the obsession with details. He'd written down the types of decorations he wished for the altar, which clothes he'd sent out for cleaning, and other items that he had intended on preparing or doing. Jacob had kept everything simple yet elegant, and Doyle had followed his brother's wishes to the letter.
Seeing the end result, Doyle was still somewhat surprised that his decisions had turned out so well. Jacob had wanted white glass vases but he hadn't specifically indicated their style. Doyle had chosen six large vases from the florist's special stock and had them set atop carved limestone pillars that he'd found in the supply room. Three pillars graced each side of the altar, laid in a tiered fashion on the steps. Each vase held on all white floral arrangement of lilies, snapdragons, larkspur and stock, with deep green ferns adding a dash of colour. The flowers scented the air with a delicate fragrance that was quite pleasant.
His mobile rang and vibrated in his pocket. Pulling out the device, he said, "Father Jacob."
"Bomb dogs are finished, mate." Bodie's voice sounded tense, but Doyle was glad to know he was nearby.
"I take it all was clear?"
"Yeah. We'll make another sweep of the grounds before the Pope arrives, of course. They want to bring them inside for a final go."
"I'm ready. Send them in."
Doyle sat in the first pew and observed two of the teams enter, each team paired with a dog. Bodie and another CI5 agent followed. He and Morganstern stood back while the search teams checked the premises for explosives. Bodie and his companion opened the confessionals before disappearing into the vestry. The dogs tracked along, wandering left and right at the end of long leads, checking every crevice. After making two circuits of the space, Doyle heard one of the men radio that all was clear. They went to the back of the church and into the vestibule.
Bodie returned alone several minutes later. Doyle watched his approach and he smiled. He took in Bodie's dark blue suit, the crisp white shirt and the nice blue tie a shade or two lighter than the suit. His grooming was impeccable. He was shaven and shampooed, and his white hair fell in a slight fringe across his forehead. Doyle was comforted by the thought that Bodie was armed, and he wished that he could have carried his own gun. When Bodie sat down beside him, Doyle turned towards him and smiled.
"Father," Bodie said, somehow managing to sound irreverent with a single word.
"You're insufferable," Doyle whispered. "But I'm glad you're here."
"Where else would I be?" Bodie said sarkily.
"Could think of a couple dozen placed I'd rather be." Doyle laced and unlaced his fingers several times. When he realised he was fidgeting, he clamped his hands together.
"No. Yeah. Not long now."
"An hour to go before his royalness arrives. Did you have breakfast?" Bodie asked, bumping his shoulder into Doyle's.
"Did you eat?"
"Of course," Bodie said proudly. "Don't know when I'll have the next meal so there's no sense in missing one."
It was Doyle's turn to tease. "So I've noticed." He peered at Bodie's midsection before meeting his gaze.
Bodie's mouth fell open and he put a hand on his stomach. "I'll have you know I'm as trim as I was..." he grinned, "...last year."
Doyle shook his head in fond exasperation. "Off with you before I thump you."
Bodie rose and ruffled Doyle's hair.
"Hey! I just combed that."
With wide, disbelieving eyes, Bodie stared. "Really? I thought you'd forgotten to brush it after you got out of bed. Proper rat's nest, if you ask me."
Doyle stood up and pointed a finger at the door. "Go and protect."
"Ray, be careful." Bodie's eyes were quickly full of concern.
"I will." Doyle held Bodie's gaze. "Be safe, love."
Bodie toss Doyle a jaunty salute, and then he was gone.
Pope Zachary arrived promptly at 9:30 am. Doyle stood at the bottom of the steps that lead into the church, anxiously waiting until he climbed out of the black saloon surrounded by bodyguards. As His Holiness approached the stairs, Doyle knelt on one knee and bowed his head.
"Your Holiness," Doyle said reverently.
Pope Zachary extended his beringed hand and Doyle kissed the ring. In a deep voice, the Pope said, "Good morning, Father Jacob," in his precise English. His words were clear in spite of his heavy Russian accent.
"Welcome to St. Bartholomew's," Doyle responded, rising. He smiled into the bright brown eyes of the Holy Father.
"Allow me to introduce you to Cardinal Cooper," the Pope said.
"Cardinal," Doyle said, kissing the cardinal's ring. "It is my honour." Doyle smiled at the older man. He appeared much the same age as Doyle, with neatly kept moustache and a broad, handsome face. His intelligent brown eyes looked at Doyle without much interest. Doyle got the distinct impression that Cooper didn't have much use for someone close to his own age who hadn't risen in the ranks of the church. Clearly, being nothing more than a parish priest was someone Cooper wasn't interested in.
"Cardinal Valletta," Pope Zachary added. "I believe you know each other from your time at the Vatican, Father Jacob."
Doyle kissed Cardinal Valletta's ring, then the men shook hands. "It's a pleasure to see you again."
Cardinal Valletta smiled, displaying large, even white teeth. He was dark of hair, skin and eye, and he conveyed a love of life in his smile. In crisp Italian, he said, "Father Jacob! I've looked forward to renewing our friendship for many days now."
Doyle had a moment's pause before his own Italian resurfaced. Thank God he and Jacob had practised the language they'd both learned in their childhood. One of the women on their estate had been from Italy and she was the neighbourhood children's grandmother, having no family of her own. He and his brother had spent many hours at her house and she taught them her native tongue. Being children, they'd picked it up easily and the knowledge had come in handy through the years.
"Cardinal Valletta, it is so good to see you!" They hugged briefly. "Come, all of you. I know you wish to fast before Communion but I do have some cold bottled water."
Pope Zachary gave Doyle a smile. "Thank you, Father. I wish for no water, but I do have a need to use your toilet. With the traffic, it was a long drive from the airport."
Doyle smiled. "Of course. My personal facilities are at your disposal. Would you care to come along," he asked the other men, "or would you rather have the guards take you to the vestry to change?"
"I shall go and don my vestments," Cardinal Valletta said. "I need more time than you youngsters to make myself presentable." He smiled at Doyle. "Perhaps we will have a few minutes to catch up later on."
"I'd like that," Doyle said.
"I'll go with Cardinal Valletta," Cardinal Cooper said.
Doyle nodded to the guards and two of them escorted the Cardinals to the vestry. Doyle led Pope Zachary to his quarters, relieved that Bodie accompanied them. As they walked, Doyle's anxiety rose with each step and his irritation along with it.
On one hand, he was terrified that there would be an assassination attempt on the Holy Father. On the other hand, he was annoyed that because of this man's visit, his brother's life hung in the balance. Why was Pope Zachary's life any more important than Jacob's? Weren't all men created equal? Wait, that was the United States Constitution, but still it had a ring of truth to it. To Doyle, Jacob was more important than the Pope. Did he have a right to think that way? Was it wrong to love his brother more than the head of the Catholic Church? More than any stranger on the street? Christ, but his mind wouldn't stop racing, disjointed thoughts colliding with each other until he wanted to run down the corridor screaming his frustration out loud. Or fall to his knees and beg God to get him far away from here, back to when things were calm and Jacob was safe and sound in his rectory.
Doyle waited in the hallway across from his rooms, along with Bodie, while the Pope made his ablutions. The other guard stood in front of the door and crossed his arms. Doyle's head throbbed and he rubbed his temples with his fingers.
"Headache, Father?" Bodie said in a voice that was for Doyle's ears only. He had a worried frown on his face.
"Stop apologising. It's been a screwed up week."
"That's for sure. Any news?"
Bodie shook his head. "Sorry."
"Stop apologising," Doyle said, echoing Bodie's words, a ghost of a smile on his lips. "It's been a screwed up week."
"No sh- No kidding." Bodie cocked his head when the door to Jacob's chamber opened. "His Holiness seems to be finished."
"Your Holiness," Doyle said, "Shall we go and get ready?"
"Yes, Father Jacob, thank you," Pope Zachary said in Italian as they walked. "I am anxious to celebrate Christ's death and resurrection." Bodie walked in front and the other bodyguard fell in behind them. Doyle could see Bodie slip a hand under his jacket. He knew exactly what Bodie was doing: he was reassuring himself with the feel of cold steel that he was ready if the slightest thing went awry. The gesture made Doyle long for his own weapon.
Doyle returned his attention to Pope Zachary and smoothly answered in the same language. "It is an honour to have you here and to celebrate this holy sacrament at your side. And it so good seeing you again. I've missed Rome."
Pope Zachary acknowledged the compliment with a nod of his head. "I must practice my English," he said, switching to that tongue. "It is very good seeing you as well, my old friend." Zachary patted Doyle's arm.
"You speak beautifully, Your Holiness, but it's always good to practice."
"Yes, it is. I have a message for you, Father. Cardinal Bukovak sends his regrets for not attending. He appreciates your kind invitation."
Doyle cast a sidelong look at Pope Zachary. The Pope was a shrewd man, with experience regarding the ins and outs of his organisation. He had no doubt that the man had full knowledge of Bukovak's and Jacob's somewhat hostile relationship. Doyle was well versed in Jacob's ups and downs with Bukovak as well. The long chats he'd had with his brother about things Jacob was at liberty to reveal outside of the confessional had definitely paid off. Now all Doyle had to do was ask himself, how would Jacob answer?
"I hope you take Cardinal Bukovak my best regards," Doyle said graciously, well aware that even the Vatican wasn't immune to the inside political games of life. It was, after all, its own state and had its share of governmental intrigue. Power was something all men craved, he thought caustically.
Pope Zachary smiled knowingly. "I will do so."
One of the men opened the door leading into the church. They entered from the side and the group halted.
"It is most beautiful, Jacob," Pope Zachary said, looking around. "The flowers are among my favourites and your church has the most beautiful windows. I enjoy how the sun shines through them onto the congregation. It's like Our Lord is blessing his followers." He smiled. "New altar cloths, I see. You have outdone yourself, my friend."
Doyle wondered what Pope Zachary would say if he explained that Satan had destroyed most of the accoutrements that had graced the church. Best not, he thought wryly, coughing into his hand to hide his sudden desire to giggle madly.
Doyle inspected the two dozen or so people who sat in the pews waiting for Mass to begin. "Thank you. I hope it honours God. Shall we get ready?" Doyle guided the Pope and two of his guards to the vestry. "It's a bit crowded," he said by way of apology when he saw how small the room was with the four men standing inside.
Pope Zachary waved a hand. "Our Lord doesn't require grand palaces to share his word. He only requires a heart full of love for God."
Doyle bowed his head, truly humbled by the devotion of this man. "You are a wise apostle of Jesus. I'd better hurry and change or I'll be late."
Doyle went into a secondary room that he'd had designated as a changing area for the rest of the celebrants of the Mass. He quickly changed into his vestments: purple cassock, lace trimmed alb, and white chasuble embroidered with gold thread. He was checking his appearance in the mirror when two guest priests arrived, accompanied by several armed guards.
Doyle greeted the new arrivals. "Father Daniel, it's good to see you again." They shook hands. Doyle studied the young black priest. While he didn't know all of the details, Father Daniel had helped Jacob last year when Jacob had been tormented by demons he was attempting to exorcise.
"Father Jacob," Father Daniel said, "it's wonderful to see you. You look-"
"I look tired," Doyle said, tempering his interruption with a smile. Doyle saw Father Daniel look at him oddly, and Doyle had to forestall any questions that he might raise. Now wasn't the time.
"Hosting His Holiness creates a lot of work, but it is worth every moment, I'm sure."
"Yes, indeed." Doyle turned to the older, hunched Oriental man with the fathomless black eyes. "Father Watannabe, it is so good to see you," Doyle said loudly. Father Watannabe was the oldest active priest in London and hard of hearing.
"Hello, Jacob!" Father Watannabe said. "Thank you for your hospitality."
"My pleasure," Doyle said. "Have you met my students?"
Father Daniel said, "We were just about to make the introductions when you arrived."
"This is Mr Rahad," Doyle said, giving each man a moment to shake hands with the two priests. "Mr Henderson, Mr Charles." The three students stepped aside to make way for the last two to be introduced. "This is Mr Brimble, and Mr Osoba."
Once everyone had been introduced, the men continued changing for Mass. Father Daniel and Father Watannabe wore the same colour garments as Doyle. The seminary students wore black albs with white surplices. Each man checked the other for proper appearance. When all was ready, they gathered in the vestibule at the front of the church where Pope Zachary, Cardinal Valletta and Cardinal Cooper waited.
Pope Zachary's vestments were simple: a white alb overlaid with a gold chasuble, and a pallium of white wool, embroidered with red crosses around his neck. He had a white zucchetto on his head. The cardinals wore red cassocks with white albs edged in lace over them.
Six guards circled the waiting men. The new arrivals met the Pope and after each man knelt and kissed his ring, he blessed them. The men readied themselves for the entrance processional. Brimble would lead the way with the incense burner, followed by Osoba carrying the cross. Rahad and Charles were next, side by side, each carrying a candle in a tall gold holder. Next would be Henderson holding the missal, followed by Doyle, Fathers Daniel and Father Watannabe. Pope Zachary would bring up the rear.
One of the guards opened the church's double doors. Doyle looked around the interior. The candles gracing the altar were burning brightly. The smell of flowers filled the air. He saw movement to the right and he quickly looked in that direction. Bodie walked in the far aisle, hands behind his back, his head turning as he searched the room. Something made Bodie pause to look directly at Doyle. Doyle stared across the space. Their eyes met; Bodie gave him a minute nod and a ghost of a smile. Doyle's heart thudded when he saw how professional Bodie looked. His entire being was at the ready. Doyle was so proud of Bodie: how he worked to keep his skills sharp and his body in good shape for a man his age. Bodie looked away, scanned the crowd again, and lifted his hand. This was the prearranged signal that all was ready for the Mass to begin. Someone coughed, catching Bodie's attention. He turned away, but Doyle kept the private exchange close to his heart.
"I'm here with you." Doyle could hear the words as clearly as if Bodie had spoken them aloud.
The organ began to play a joyous tune. A shiver ran down Doyle's back; goose flesh prickled his arms. He straightened his spine, moving forward with the procession. All thoughts of his obfuscation, his deception, were gone. Doyle reached deep inside himself. He gathered his courage, his fortitude, and his will, and he did his job like the professional that he was.
The smell of incense reminded Doyle of his childhood forays to the neighbourhood church. He'd loved the incense best of all during holiday Mass, and he often wished he could be the altar server who got to swing the censer. When he was seven or eight, he wanted to be an altar boy. By the time he was twelve, he was much too cynical to bother. Now he was grateful that Jacob had kept his faith, and in turn, had saved Doyle from ruining his life all those years ago. True, he'd followed a completely different path than Jacob but he told himself he helped people as well. Sometimes he even believed it.
The ritual of Mass was a beautiful affair. Each step followed a precise pattern which brought peace and comfort to believers. Doyle appreciated the idea of Mass, but he wasn't sure he was a true believer. No matter. Jacob had enough faith for both of them.
While Doyle's mind raced on, tripping over things that had absolutely nothing to do with his duties or his brother, he kept a close eye on everyone by the altar and sitting in the pews. It didn't take long for his head to ache horribly under the pressure he'd put on himself. The muscles in his body were tense; his jaw hurt from clamping his teeth together. He was sure his eyeballs would pop out of his head the way his eyes darted from face to face constantly, wary for anything out of the norm, for any movement that could be taken as a threat. Doyle wouldn't have surprised himself if he had run screaming down the main aisle of the church, a blithering nutter that they'd be happy to lock away in an insane asylum.
Doyle surreptitiously watched the bodyguards prowl the back and sides of the nave, while four other guards positioned themselves on either side of the altar. They were silent sentinels, eyes constantly scanning, with hands clasped together in front and feet planted firmly. If it hadn't been for the movement of their eyes, Doyle would have wondered if the men were mythical knights of old who came down from the heavens to guard one of God's own. They were so still, they barely appeared to be breathing. He had a vision of each man having the emblem of the Knights Templar tattooed on their chests.
Again, his mind flitted hither and yon as the Mass progressed. Somehow he remembered to say the right lines at the right time. Et cum spiritu tuo. Kyrie eleison. Deo gratias. Anthony and Matthew were both sweating but otherwise, they appeared to be in control. Joseph's entire body shook when he handed one of the cardinals the crystal cruets of water and wine that would be poured into the gold chalice. Being nervous wasn't a crime, and Doyle had to admit being this close to the Pope and knowing he was under threat made his own hands shake. Achmed looked completely calm, which made Doyle
suspicious. No one of his chosen profession should be that composed being so close to God's representative on earth.
"Bloody hell," he thought, "don't accuse somebody because they're able to handle pressure. Not like you, eh?" He turned to watch Conor and his breath caught in his throat.
The look on Conor's face was unhappy, angry. His eyes were watering and his face was twisted awkwardly. He stood to the side, slightly behind the altar with his hands clasped as if in prayer. Conor shifted from one foot to the other and was doing his best to hide his fidgeting. To Doyle, the small jerky movements were all the more suspicious. Everyone else was following the ancient ritual except Conor. Doyle felt his hackles rise. Was Conor Jacob's kidnapper? He watched the young man carefully.
Conor balled his hands into fists and pinched his mouth into a thin line. His forehead was creased with deep furrows. Why was he so furious? He looked positively pained. Doyle kept a close watch when he lean forward, his chest heaving as he breathed in and out deeply. Looking around, Bodie stood frozen, his focus totally on Doyle. Bodie had picked up on Doyle's interest in Conor. With a tight nod, Bodie cautiously glided down the far aisle, now also concentrating on Conor.
Bodie had things well in hand so Doyle returned to his careful observation of the other men surrounding the altar. Everything was moving along smoothly. Another perusal of the occupants of the pews revealed nothing out of the ordinary. Once the Mass progressed past Communion, Doyle allowed himself to relax slightly. He hadn't like it
when those taking the sacrament were allowed to approach the Pope to receive the host and his blessing. If he were going to strike at the man, that would have been the moment he would have chosen.
With every muscle tensed to move, Doyle kept glancing at Conor, but the seminarian didn't waver from his appointed tasks. He did, however, still look very uncomfortable. Bodie hovered in the aisle closest to the altar, poised to move should the need arise.
Finally, it was time for the Dismissal. The Pope blessed the congregation from the aisle, far too close to the people for Doyle's liking. Conor hadn't moved from his proper place and other than still sweating profusely and looking miserable, he didn't do anything untoward. Doyle was holding his breath so tightly that he started seeing spots. Commanding himself to relax, he clutched the staff holding the crucifix that would lead the procession down the centre aisle and out of the nave.
Doyle stood in his place in the procession. At the Pope's quiet word, they moved down the aisle to the vestibule. His knuckles white from his intense hold on the staff, Doyle kept a close watch on the worshippers, scanning the crowd from left to right. Nothing out of the ordinary caught his interest, and in less than two minutes, the group reached the vestibule.
Guards quickly escorted Pope Zachary and the cardinals to the vestry to disrobe. Doyle went with the seminary students to also remove his vestments. The young men gathered together.
"That was fantastic!"
"I feel blessed today."
Doyle smiled at their joyful chatter. He noticed that instead of joining in, Conor quickly removed his garments and raced into the toilet. He slammed the door behind him. On full alert, Doyle hovered outside the door, waiting for Conor to emerge. The other occupants of the room filed out, talking animatedly about the Mass.
Once the rest of the men had left, Doyle knocked on the door. "Conor, are you all right?"
"I'm... ill, Father," Conor called out. "Excuse me, please. Something-"
Doyle heard the sounds of retching. He was torn between going in and making sure Conor wasn't faking and rushing out to call a doctor. The awful noise continued. He realised that Conor was indeed sick. Decision made to call in the doctor, he hurried out into the corridor that led into the private quarters and the school.
Cardinal Cooper approached. His gait was unsteady and his hand was pressed to his stomach. "Father Jacob, I'm afraid I'm not feeling well. Could you please allow me to lie down?"
Doyle stared at the man, his mind whirling as he digested the situation. Suspicious, he asked, "Aren't you scheduled to return to Rome with the Pope this afternoon?"
"I've told them to go on without me. I'll make my own way-"
Cooper swayed. Doyle reached out a hand before he fell. "Steady. Come on, let's get you to my room. I'll call for a doctor." Doyle gripped Cooper's arm and led him down the hallway. "Someone else is sick also," he said aloud. "Weird."
Cardinal Cooper stumbled. Doyle put his other hand in Cooper's armpit. He didn't believe in coincidences. Cooper and Brimble were both suddenly stricken, but it wasn't by accident. Someone had poisoned or drugged them. He'd bet a month's wages on that. But who? He had studied everyone who'd had contact with both men, and for the life of him, he couldn't figure out which man had been responsible. Doyle's stomach lurched in fear. What had he missed? He had to hurry. Get Cooper down and find Bodie. Alert him that the suspect was in the building.
With one hand under the cardinal's elbow, he flung the door to his own room open and rushed Cardinal Cooper across the room and down onto the bed.
"Stay here! Don't move," Doyle ordered.
Cooper nodded, his face a white sheet. He lay on the bed, moaning softly.
Doyle pulled out his mobile. "I'm calling an ambulance."
"No, no hospital. I can't abide them." Cardinal Cooper wiped a hand down his sweaty face. "It's only my stomach. Let me rest for a while first. If I don't feel better within the hour, I'll consider the hospital."
Doyle didn't have time to argue. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, quite sure."
Doyle backed towards the door. "Stay here," he repeated.
Cooper weakly waved a hand. Doyle rushed out of the room and ran into Sister Roberta.
"Sister, call the doctor immediately. Cardinal Cooper is ill, and one of the students is as well. I'm going to the vestry to see to him."
Sister Roberta looked towards Jacob's room. "Both of them?"
"Yes. Hurry." His concern about Cardinal Cooper and Conor pushed aside his earlier decision to alert Bodie. In his rush, he pressed his mobile into Sister Roberta's hand. "Call the doctor. I need to check on Conor. You stay with the Cardinal." He didn't wait to explain any further but ran down the hall and into the vestry where he'd left Conor earlier. He discovered Conor lying on the floor.
"Oh, God, Conor!" Doyle called, falling to his knees. "Please don't be dead." He pressed his fingers to Conor's neck and was rewarded with a strong pulse. Relief coursed through him. "Conor?"
Conor blinked slowly. "Father?"
"How do you feel? The doctor is on his way."
"I'm feeling much better, but really sleepy." He yawned. "Stomach... seems to have settled." His eyes drifted shut. "Sleepy."
As he dropped off, Doyle put a hand to his forehead. Conor didn't have a have a fever and whatever he'd been dosed with wasn't fatal. Conor was breathing steadily and his colour was good. His temperature felt normal. What was going on? Why would somebody want these two out of commission? It made no sense. Doyle stood up and looked down at Conor, his mind racing. Should he have Conor moved to his room? Who had dosed two people with something that made them sick and sleepy, and why? Something niggled at him. He was sure he'd forgotten something in his race to aid the cardinal and Conor.
"Bloody hell. Bodie!" Berating himself, he reached into his coat pocket for his mobile before he remembered that he'd given it to Sister Roberta. How could he have been so distracted? He had to find Bodie to alert him that Jacob's kidnapper could still be in the church. He'd started towards the door when it slammed open.
"Father Jacob!" Sister Roberta cried out. She was shaking and her face was streaked with tears. She clutched her rosary beads.
"What's happening?" Doyle demanded. Sister Roberta was clearly too upset to notice his harsh tone. Anxiously, he realised that he hadn't had a moment since the end of Mass to get himself together. Things had happened so quickly and seemed to be still moving along at the speed of light. "What's wrong, Sister. Tell me."
Doyle was halfway across the room when Sister Roberta caught her shoe on the carpeting. She stumbled forward, still wailing loudly. Doyle caught her in his arms.
"What's going on, Sister?" Doyle asked again.
"He's going to kill him!" Sister Roberta blurted out between harsh sobs. Doyle helped steady her and she latched onto her sleeve. "He's got a knife!"
"What?" Cold sweat broke out on his body. Fear gripped him. My God, he'd screwed this entire operation up somehow. Mass was over; the Pope and his entourage were safe and more than likely had left the grounds by now. What was going on? Who was being threatened? What had he missed?
"Where?" Doyle snapped.
"There!" She waved wildly to the right. "Corridor over by the garden!"
Doyle gave her a shake. "Listen to me. Do you still have my mobile?" She fished it out from one of her pockets. Her hands were trembling so badly she dropped it onto the floor. "Leave it. I need you run outside and find Bodie. He should be making sure the Pope and his entourage are safely away." Doyle started to pull her by her arm out of the room, scooping up the mobile on his way.
With impatience, he shouted, "The bloody gardener! He's undercover, remember? Sodding Billy! Tell him what's happening and to come quickly."
"Go now. If you don't see Bodie immediately, get any of the agents. Do you understand? Get help!"
Doyle released the crying woman. She hurried away. He ran pell-mell down the corridor outside his office, around to the right and across the back of the church. He burst out the door into the corridor that bordered the garden. His heart was pounding and for those few minutes, he felt twenty years younger. Adrenaline spurred him on, giving him speed he hadn't had in years. He rounded the last corner and skidded to a halt, the soles of his shoes sliding on the smooth stone floor.
Matthew stood with his back against the wall, one of his arms around Cardinal Cooper's upper body, effectively pining his arms. His other hand pressed a knife against his prisoner's jugular. His youthful strength easily overpowered the older man.
"Matthew!" Doyle cried, moving swiftly towards the student and his victim, his arms outstretched in supplication.
"No," Matthew shouted, pressing the thin blade against the man's skin. A trickle of blood ran from under the knife's blade. Cardinal Cooper moaned softly, his hands clawing at the arm circling his chest. "Stay back! I'm warning you!" Matthew's hand shook and the blade dug into Cooper's flesh. More blood trickled from the wound.
Doyle had no doubt that Matthew was unaware what the knife blade was doing to the Cardinal's neck. Matthew's hand trembled violently, making the blade scrape against Cardinal Cooper's skin. His eyes were wide and dilated, and his breathing sounded like he'd just run a marathon. Sweat poured down his face. Terror mixed with hatred radiated from every pore.
Cardinal Cooper looked to be in shock. His eyes were unfocused and he moaned constantly. Doyle knew Cooper would not be able to help himself escape Matthew's hold. The combination of drugs and terror rendered him helpless.
Doyle was the only one who could save the man. Pushing aside all personal feelings, Doyle assessed the situation, instantly making a plan. He let his years of training take over and concentrated on the immediate problem: to safely extricate Cooper from Matthew's hold. And he would save Matthew, if he could.
From the way Matthew was reacting, Doyle didn't have much time. When CI5 and MI6's agents arrived, the situation could quickly escalate into violence. Hunt or any of the other commanders would more than likely order a sniper to take Matthew out immediately. Gone were the days when terrorists or criminals were negotiated with. There was zero tolerance now.
"Matthew, you don't want to hurt him," Doyle said evenly, taking a step forward.
"Don't call me that!" Matthew shouted, his face screwed up with rage. "I hate that name! It's his name! That worthless boy who whines and cries!"
"Ma-" Doyle stared into the young man's face. "What do you want me to call you?"
"Anything but fucking Matthew!"
"You must have a name," Doyle said calmly, surprised that he was as composed as he sounded. He could do this. It was his job and he was good at it. Now if he could get Matthew talking, maybe, just maybe he could figure out a way to diffuse the situation and nobody would be hurt. "Come on, mate. Tell me. Let's talk."
"No! You're trying to trick me!" Matthew glared at Doyle before his eyes tracked quickly to the left. "Get her out of here!" he screamed. "Now, now!"
Doyle spared a moment to look behind him. Sister Roberta stood, clenching her hands. His heart gave a lurch. The last thing he needed was somebody else to worry about. He quickly looked back at Matthew and spoke over his shoulder. "Go on, Sister. It will be all right. Go."
"Go away! I don't want her here!" Matthew wildly looked from Doyle to Sister Roberta and back to Doyle. "Just you, do you hear me? Get rid of her. Nobody else or he dies." He pressed the blade of the knife harder. Blood trickled from the cut, but so far from what Doyle could see, the wound appeared superficial.
"Sister," Doyle said firmly, raising his voice. He hoped that if he showed he was in control, that Matthew would calm down. "Go now." He waited until Sister Roberta's footsteps had retreated. "There. It's just you and me. Why don't we talk about what you want?" Doyle had to sound interested without being too condescending. In spite of his sweating palms, he somehow managed to keep calm and to speak in a voice as neutral as possible.
"I know you have your mobile with you. Call your CI5 handlers and those MI6 goons and tell them not to come in here." At Doyle's hesitation, Matthew shouted, "Do it now!" He moved quickly, raising his arm to circle Cardinal Cooper's neck. He squeezed his arm. The cardinal flopped around, gasping for breath. His head thrashed from side to side and his mouth opened in a soundless scream.
"Please stop hurting him. I'll do as you ask. Please." Doyle pulled out his mobile. "Hunt, it's Doyle."
"What's going on in there? The sister said that one of the students had a knife."
"That's right. He's got Cooper and I'm talking to him."
"You have no authorisation to negotiate."
Doyle held the mobile tightly, pursing his lips. He had to keep them from charging in. "Please, give me ten minutes."
"I don't like this."
"Make sure Bodie stays outside. I want to speak to Matthew alone."
"Five minutes," Hunt growled. "Then we're coming in."
Matthew's patience must have run its course because he shouted, "Stop talking!"
Doyle disconnected and pocketed the mobile. "It's just you and me." He took a step forward, smiling in what he hoped was as non-threatening as possible. "What-"
"Get a journalist here!" Matthew ordered. "Get me that arse from The Guardian, Kamali. I want him here in five minutes or there's going to be blood everywhere!" To prove his point, Matthew tightened his arm. Cardinal Cooper hissed as his airway was compromised. "Stop walking closer! Stop it!" Matthew ordered. His hand jerked. The knife blade bit into Cooper's throat. A streak of red raced down Cooper's skin and disappeared under his collar. "Do you think I'm stupid?" Matthew shouted.
"No, of course not!" Doyle held out a hand. "You're a smart bloke. Know that about you, don't I." Doyle feared that Matthew might unwittingly kill Cooper if he didn't get the knife away from him soon. Keep him talking...
"I've got my mobile ready to call the papers. Why don't you tell me why you want a newspaper reporter? I want to understand." Doyle took a step closer. "Explain it to me. I want to listen." Doyle desperately wanted to ask about Jacob but with the situation degrading quickly, his first priority was to get that knife.
"Because he's a bloody rapist! He's a liar and a cheater. He's nasty and dirty! Can't you see it? He stinks of it!"
Doyle swallowed around his dry throat. A rapist? Sweating profusely, he swiped a hand across his forehead before rubbing both hands down his trousers. With his heart thumping wildly, he slid one foot forward a few inches, then the other foot. "Who... That's terrible. Why is he a rapist? Who did he rape?"
"You haven't asked me about what's important! You don't have a sodding clue what I've gone through!"
"Why don't you tell me?" Doyle cajoled. "I want to know." He stared at Cooper,
"Stop it. Stop being nice to him! Look at me! God damn you, look at me?" Matthew screamed and pressed the knife harder. Cooper shrieked, a thin, distressed sound.
"Please don't hurt him. Please, Matthew. Look at me." Doyle waited until Matthew met his gaze. "Good. You asked me to look at you, so I'm looking. Do you know what I see?" He held Matthew's interest by force of will until Matthew finally responded, shaking his head. "I see a good man. I see Matthew Henderson, a man who loves God."
Matthew's eyes narrowed and his mouth twisted in anger. "That's not me! That's him, bloody Matthew. I'm the one who lets him believe in God." Tears streaked down Matthew's face.
Cooper flailed in his arms, sobbing. He wheezed and coughed, thrashing his head before it fell to the side. Cooper had fainted.
"Please let him go," Doyle begged. "He's an old man."
"No! He's a piece of shit!"
"Okay. All right. Tell me about - you."
Matthew sniffled loudly, awkwardly using his sleeve to wipe his nose. "'m the one who handles all this shit so he can be the holy one, the good one" he said with venom. "I take care of him, of everything, so he can sleep at night! Me!" Matthew cried, tears streaming down his cheeks. "I'm the one who found our mother's body after she killed herself!"
"Your mother is dead? But..." Doyle's mind raced. Matthew's file clearly said that his mother was alive, living in Yorkshire.
"You're as stupid as the rest" Matthew said, his tone mocking. "Fucking stupid. That's our grandmother. This piece of crap raped our mum!" He shook Cooper by his neck. The knife sliced deeper into his skin. Cooper flopped limply in Matthew's arms, unconscious. "Then he abandoned her when she got pregnant. He wouldn't even give her money for a fucking abortion! Was against his religion, he said." Matthew laughed bitterly. "Imagine that. It's all right to rape an innocent girl, but it's a sin to kill a child of rape!" Matthew's eyes glittered and his mouth twisted into a horrible smile. "You want to ask me something, eh? Go on, ask me. You're dying to ask me. You have ten seconds to ask."
"What...?" Doyle was backed into a corner but he couldn't help himself, he had to ask. "Why me? You know I'm not Father Jacob. Why this charade?"
"Because," Matthew explained slowly, his tone clearly conveying that he was speaking to a moron. "Father Jacob would hear this rapist's confession. He'd give him absolution and then he'd tell me to follow God's laws." Matthew spat out the words, hatred dripping from them. "To forgive the criminal his crime. He'd absolve my rapist father's sins! Do you think this man deserves to go to heaven with good people like my-" Matthew looked away, tears glinting on his cheeks.
Cooper jerked in Matthew's grasp and his eyes opened. He blinked, dazed and confused. He tried to speak, but Matthew tightened his arm and spoke into his ear. "Shut your mouth, sinner." Cooper moaned.
"Like your mother? You don't want the likes of him in heaven with your mother?" Doyle asked softly.
"She's not in heaven. He made sure of that." Matthew cried harder. "He was just a bishop then, when she worked on his household staff. One night... He told her he wanted her and she refused. She said it was wrong, that he'd taken vows of celibacy. He laughed in her face. He slapped her and then he ripped her clothes off and he stuck his prick into her. His filthy prick into my mother." Matthew looked intently at Doyle. "Do you know how many times he forced himself on her?"
Doyle shook his head, sick at heart.
"Over and over and over..."
"Why didn't she-"
"Don't ask that! Don't you dare! Do you think anybody would have believed her? And when she swelled with her baby, do you know what he did? He cast her out, excommunicated her for being a whore." Matthew sobbed. "She had Matthew, and she took care of him until his tenth birthday. She read to him from the Bible every day. And every day she told him her story. Every fucking day he had to listen to how this piece of shit ruined her life."
"What about..." Doyle cleared his throat. He had been able to get within three feet of Matthew without the man calling him on it. Matthew held the knife tightly, as if his own life depended on ending Cooper's. From the position of the blade, Matthew could easily glide it across Cooper's neck before Doyle could stop him. It would take no effort to sever Cooper's main artery. "When did you arrive to help Matthew?"
Cooper slumped in Matthew's arms, moaning intermittently. His dead weight dragged at Matthew, who leaned against the wall behind him and propped himself up by planting his feet. Doyle saw that the Cardinal's own body weight was slowly strangling him. His eyes bulged and his body was limp. Doyle smelled the tang of urine and noticed the pooling under Cooper. If he didn't make a move now, Cooper could be dead within minutes.
Either Matthew was ignoring Doyle or he was so far gone he didn't hear his question. He rambled on, eyes staring unseeing. "She never set foot into a church again because she knew she was going to hell. She was going to burn. He'd told her as much. He'd committed the ultimate betrayal when he'd excommunicated her. To her, that was worse than the rape." Tears flowed continually. "Can you imagine knowing that your body wasn't your own and that your soul was damned." He sobbed loudly. "One night... He was asleep when noises woke him. He heard-- awful sounds. A thud and this- creaking." Matthew blinked slowly, looking distant, as if he were seeing the scene unfold anew. "He crept out of his room and down the hallway to his mum's room.
"The hallway was dark; the only light was from inside his mum's bedroom. He was afraid to go in and he pressed himself to the wall beside the door. There was this shadow... Long and black, with something thin reaching to the ceiling." He spoke quietly, his voice so soft that Doyle had to strain to hear. "The shadow swung back and forth, back and forth. Don't look. Don't look. He sat on the floor with his back on the wall, and watched the shadow until it stopped moving.
"He sat there until morning and the shadow disappeared. Matthew wouldn't look into the room, but I could. I wasn't a coward like he was." He smiled coldly. "I looked into the room and she had hanged herself. I remember walking into the room and pushed her legs, making her swing from side to side." Matthew grinned. "I never looked away."
Hearing Matthew's story made Doyle ill. His stomach roiled and his head pounded. He had clenched his jaw so tightly that his head ached from the pressure. He was sure he would vomit. Cardinal! The man didn't deserve the title of cardinal. Hell with that. He didn't deserve to be called a human being. Cooper was a monster.
Doyle swallowed, forcing himself not to throw up. "Matthew, I swear. I'll make sure he's charged. I'll make sure it's public knowledge. I swear it. Please, Matthew." He held out a hand. "Give me the knife."
Matthew raised his tear-stained face. "It's too late. It's too late," he whispered in an endless litany, his voice sounding like a small child.
"Matthew, listen to me. It's not too late. Your mum is not in hell. She was the victim and God doesn't send anybody like your mum to hell."
Matthew looked suspiciously at Doyle. "He said she would burn in hell! He told her she was dirty. No more communion, no church. My mum loved Mass and communion! She loved God and he made her go to hell!"
"Your mum is not in hell," Doyle said firmly.
"You're not even a priest! How in bloody hell would you know!" Matthew shouted, laughing madly. The knife blade cut deeper. Blood spurted from the cut, and Cooper gurgled, a sickening sound.
Trembling, Doyle sent up a prayer asking for the strength to save both of these men and made his move. He launched himself at Matthew, latching onto his arm and wrenching it away from Cooper's throat. Matthew let out a startled yelp and dropped his arms. Doyle took advantage of Matthew's confusion to yank Cooper out of Matthew's grasp.
Matthew yelled out in surprise and rage. Doyle smashed him in the chin, knocking him cold. He fell into a heap. Doyle quickly went to Cooper and put pressure against his throat to staunch the bleeding, praying that Cooper lived until help arrived.
Help. He needed help.
"Help!" Doyle shouted, looking around for someone, anyone who could aid him. "Help! Bodie!"
It was so quiet. A bird chirped out in the garden. A plane flew overhead. A siren sounded in the distance. A footstep fell behind him.
For a moment in time, Doyle's world stopped. He looked over his shoulder. Time seemed to have slowed to a crawl. His heart lurched and his lungs seized. Matthew came at him with the speed of light. He lunged at Doyle, knife raised over his head. Doyle could only watch-
A shot rang out.
Matthew's head exploded in a shower of blood and hair and brain matter. Doyle cringed and cried out in shock, somehow managing to keep the pressure on Cooper's throat.
"Doyle!" Bodie ran to Doyle and fell to his knees. "Hang on, Ray. Help's on the way."
Doyle stared at Bodie, mouth agape. He looked woodenly at Matthew's body, then back to Bodie. His world fell in. The only thing he could whisper was: "Jacob."
Bodie gripped Doyle's upper arm. His eyes were wide with horror. "Ray, oh Christ, Ray. I'm sorry. He... I couldn't let him hurt you."
"Jacob's dead," Doyle said hoarsely. "My brother..."
Doyle was sure his heart was breaking. Tears came unbidden and he looked down, watching through them as Matthew's blood spread across the flagstone floor, slipping between the stones. He closed his eyes to the blood and gore. "Jacob." Dead inside, he felt nothing, heard nothing, not even when the area overflowed with people.
"Leave off, Ray. The EMTs will take over. Ray?" Bodie pulled Doyle's hands away from Cooper. He sagged sideways against Bodie.
"Come on, Ray. We're in the way." Bodie helped Doyle to his feet. Doyle let himself be led away.
"Cooper?" Doyle managed to ask.
"Don't know. Was alive a minute ago."
As Bodie guided Doyle down the corridor and away from the scene of horror and death. Doyle cast a last glance back. Matthew lay sprawled out on the cold stone floor with most of his head blown away, but one of his eyes wasn't damaged. The eyeball stared at him, accusing him. Why didn't you save me? Doyle stumbled and Bodie's hold tightened.
The sounds from the scene faded until there was nothing for Doyle to hear but the beating of his own heart and the pounding of his blood in his ears. He retreated deep inside himself, unable to take it all in. The only thing he could understand at that moment was that his brother, his twin, would never be found. His grief was overwhelming. Doyle didn't notice when they arrived at Jacob's office. He was vaguely aware that Bodie had pushed him into a chair and was wiping his hands. He felt distant from the blood that he could see splattered across his sleeves and smearing his hands.
Bodie scrubbed off what he could with a handkerchief before he threw it on the floor with a muttered curse. Doyle was barely aware of the glass that Bodie pressed into his hand.
"Drink it," Bodie ordered sharply. Bodie squeezed Doyle's shoulder before he stroked the side of his face. "Go on, Ray. Take a sip. Please, mate, for me. Will make you feel better."
Doyle shook his head. Didn't Bodie understand that nothing would ever make him feel better again? Jacob was dead. With the last family member he had now gone, he was truly alone. He was an orphan, and it was awful. The huge hollow spot deep in his gut would never be filled. He ducked his head as tears ran down his cheeks.
"Ah, mate," Bodie said, kneeling at Doyle's feet. He held a tissue out and Doyle numbly took it, dabbing at his eyes and nose.
Doyle looked down at his hands, still streaked with drying blood. He held a tissue in one hand and a glass in the other. Disoriented, he wondered how they'd got there. Still, as he tilted the glass to watch the amber liquid swirl about, he thought that this was the perfect time to get truly and properly pissed. Doyle gulped the contents of the glass in one go. The harsh burn made him cough as it blistered a path down his throat. The combination of grief and alcohol made him cry harder. He held out the glass and waited until Bodie had filled it half way. He drank greedily before he dropped the glass onto the floor and watched it roll under Jacob's desk. Bodie let out a soothing sound and pulled Doyle out of the chair into his arms.
Together, on the floor of Jacob's office, they mourned for their lost brother.
After many minutes, Doyle hiccuped his last sob and pulled away from Bodie. He wiped his eyes and blew his nose on the handkerchief Bodie had produced. Raising his head, he said, "You did the proper thing."
Doyle was taken aback when Bodie's own eyes filled at his words.
"Don't, Bodie. Please don't cry. Wasn't your fault. It's his... Matthew's. He's the one who did this, not you." Doyle used a corner of Bodie's handkerchief to wipe his cheek. "You saved the cardinal. That's what you and I have been trained to do all these years, love. We stop the criminal and save the victim."
Bodie took the cloth from Doyle's fingers. "He wasn't much of a victim apparently."
"Not for us to judge, eh? And not for Matthew either. It wasn't the way to honour his mum."
Bodie was silent as he looked at Doyle for a long moment. "This might not be the proper time or place, but I have to say this. I want you to know that even after all these years, I'm still gobsmacked that you picked me to spend your life with. I hope I've deserved your loyalty, Ray. I'm not much for fancy speeches or soppy sentiments, but I want you to know that I love you."
Doyle touched the back of Bodie's hand. "Yes, I know. I feel the same."
"Are you up for getting back to work?" At Doyle's nod, Bodie smiled softly. "That's my Ray. All right then. We need to search Matthew's room. See if we can find any leads. I'm not giving up on finding your brother and neither are you."
"No, I'm not either. Not until..." Doyle breathed in, then slowly exhaled. "Maybe the lads have found something."
Bodie rose and pulled Doyle to his feet. "Before we do anything, you need to change."
"I do?" Doyle asked, looking down at himself. He lifted his arms and looked down, surprised at the blood splattered on his clothing. "Oh."
"Yeah, oh." Bodie put a finger under his chin and lifted Doyle head. "I'm sure the lads are searching Matthew's room as we speak. We do need to see what they've got and we will."
"We need to look ourselves," Doyle insisted.
"Yeah." Bodie touched the side of his own nose. "Hooter extraordinaire here."
"Sodding blood hound you are," Doyle agreed with a half-hearted smile.
"You're the master of this old hound," Bodie teased.
"Bodie!" Doyle protested. Leave it to Bodie to toss out his infamous black humour in the middle of a horrid situation. Still, it made Doyle shake his head, and for two seconds, he was marginally better. He took one of Jacob's extra coats from the hatstand beside the desk. "Best you get out of your jacket. I've made of mess of it."
Bodie swapped out his own bloody jacket for Jacob's black one. "A bit tight, but it'll do."
The sound of music cut through the room. Strains of "A Hard Day's Night" made Bodie mutter a curse. Doyle chortled when he remembered the line about working like a dog. Bodie glowered at Doyle, who barked softly.
Bodie fished for the mobile in his trousers. "Bodie." A pause, then, "Now? All right. Running all the way." The "sir," he added was quite insolent, Doyle thought.
Still, he wasn't ready to be alone. He wanted to be digging for clues, finding Jacob, cruising the streets as in the days of old, when they hunted the criminals together, recklessly. Ah, youth. "Now?" Doyle echoed, shifting uneasily.
"Back in a tick. Hunt said he needs me immediately." Bodie pocketed the mobile. He raised a warning finger. "Sit. Stay."
"I mean it, mate. Don't make me have to hunt you down. We'll get on it in five minutes."
"Going to go and change."
"Be quick about it. "
At Bodie's insistence, Doyle acquiesced with a nod, grimacing at the dried blood crusting his hands. He got clean trousers, shirt and jacket from his room and in the bathroom, washed quickly. Now wasn't the time to indulge in a hot shower. Later, after Jacob was home. He splashed cold water on his face, used the toilet and was back in Jacob's office in minutes. Bodie hadn't returned so he poured another dram of whiskey and drank it slowly, savouring the taste.
"Good afternoon, Father."
Doyle started. A man stood in the doorway. Doyle hadn't heard his footsteps approaching, and the bloke appeared to have materialised out of nowhere. Pushing the idiocy of his thoughts away, he found himself smiling. The young man was dressed like all of the other seminarians: black jacket and trousers, with a white shirt. He had the most shocking head of ginger hair and more freckles on his face than specks of sand on a beach. His skin was pale and he had gorgeous deep green eyes that sparkled with intelligence and humour. Neat white teeth peeked out from full lips.
He held a small square of white paper in his hand.
"Hello," Doyle acknowledged, not recognising this particular student.
"Father Jacob," the young man said pleasantly.
"May I help you, son?"
"Have we met before?" Doyle asked.
"No, Father. I'm Gabriel." Gabriel's bright eyes met Doyle's. Doyle stood still, holding his breath. Gabriel held out his hand, extending what looked like a business card.
Doyle reached for the card, but a small puff of a breeze blew it out of his grasp. He scrambled to the floor, snapping up the card. He rose and looked around.
The man was gone.
Doyle hurried through the doorway and into the corridor. It was empty. There was no way anyone could have disappeared that quickly. No one -- normal; human... He shook his head at his daft thoughts and stared down at the business card he held. There was a sudden rush of anticipation and his heart pounded. For a second he was dizzy, and he had to put a hand to the wall to steady himself. He blinked away the feeling and focused.
An address was printed in a small, neat hand on the card's reverse side.
Doyle turned the card over expecting to see Gabriel's name and address, maybe a mobile number or the nature of his business. Instead, he was shocked to read: Father Jacob Myers. Underneath Jacob's name were the words: Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Jacob's mobile number as well as his two addresses were listed, the one here at St. Bart's and his office in Rome.
Doyle looked at the hand written address. His mind raced. An address... But whose? A thought blasted into his brain. Dare he even think that this could possibly be where Jacob was being held? He clutched the card and closed his eyes.
"Please, God, is this what I think it could be?" A sense of peace enveloped him. If asked, he couldn't say why he suddenly was confident and strong. That he had made the right call, and that he was doing the right thing.
Doyle was jolted out of his reverie when Bodie called his name. Doyle latched onto Bodie's arm and shook it enthusiastically.
"Jacob! I know where he is!" Doyle bounced up on his toes before rocking back on his heels. He couldn't have kept his excitement in check, even if he'd wanted to.
"How?" Bodie asked.
"Here," Doyle cried, shoving the card into Bodie's face.
Doyle grinned when Bodie had to take a step back from the card that Doyle held much too close to his nose.
"Hammersmith?" he asked, forehead wrinkled in confusion.
"What's wrong with Hammersmith. There's a good pub there, you do realise."
"Yes, but how did you get the information?" Bodie asked impatiently. "Did your grass hang out at The Blue Anchor?"
Doyle laughed. "It wasn't a grass, mate. It was an angel, Bodie. A bloody angel."
"Eh?" Bodie said, his eyes full of doubt. He stared at Doyle as if he'd grown another head. "Angel?"
"A miracle. It's a real, honest to God miracle. Come on!" Doyle pulled on Bodie's hand. "Hurry up!"
Bodie grasped Doyle's forearm and Doyle clasped Bodie's wrist. They looked at each other, grinning, until Bodie lifted his eyebrow. "Hang about. Where did you get this?"
"I told you-"
"You said an angel. Come on, mate, that's not how these things work."
Doyle wouldn't allow Bodie's scepticism to dim his happiness one bit. Not now. Not when he knew where his brother was. "Bodie, we fought Satan himself. Why can't there be an angel as well? Good and evil; it's the way of it. Don't we deserve somebody- something - on our side for once?"
Bodie looked intently at Doyle for a long moment before he shrugged. "Guess there could be an... angel," he admitted hesitantly.
Doyle pulled at Bodie. "We know where Jacob is. Shift yourself!"
Bodie let himself be towed along for a few steps before he caught up to Doyle. "So did this particular angelic creature properly introduce himself before he supplied you with this invaluable information?"
"'Course," Doyle said excitedly, laughter bubbling out of him. He couldn't keep his joy contained. He was as light as air and his feet practically danced across the floor. "Gabriel."
It took Bodie only a few moments of thought before Doyle saw his acceptance of that outrageous statement. Bodie cast Doyle a look that was full of trust and love. Doyle's own heart filled with his love for this man. He couldn't help but chortle out loud.
"What else would an angel be called," Bodie replied, not bothering to keep the amusement from his tone. "On telly, Castiel seems to be the go-to angel."
"Indeed. Got me own, apparently. Gabriel's a good name." Doyle grinned and broke into a trot. "Hurry up, old man!"
Bodie hurried along.
When the men exited the church, the front drive was packed with vehicles. Four panda cars lined the drive, along with two or three black estate saloon vehicles used by MI6. Hunt's white Mercedes coupé was also parked on the pavement. Jacob's Volvo was blocked in. Doyle cast a quick glance over his shoulder. Bodie returned the look with a slight nod.
With Bodie at his heels, Doyle walked casually down the row of cars, looking directly ahead to avoid making eye contact with any of the security men or police officers prowling the grounds. He tried to appear as unimportant as possible so that no one stopped and asked him to explain what he and Bodie were doing. He didn't have time right now for lengthy explanations or to ask permission to proceed, not with Jacob's life hanging in the balance.
Doyle stopped beside one of the unoccupied panda cars. A quick look told him that the keys were in the ignition. Doyle opened the door and slid in without saying a word. Bodie climbed in the passenger side. Doyle started the motor, and after taking half a second to adjust the mirror, he engaged the gear lever.
"Drive out like your old granny, mate," Bodie said, eyes darting around. "But hurry. Two of the security blokes are looking our way."
Doyle released the clutch and made the most sedate take off in CI5 history. There was nary a chirp of tyres nor a rev of motor. Neither man said a word until they passed under the archway leading out onto the street and had made a right hand turn, taking them away from St. Bart's. Only after they were well away did Bodie let out a huge sigh of relief.
"Hunt's going to go off his nut," he said happily. "Move it, Ray."
"Yeah," Doyle agreed, tossing Bodie a grin. He pressed the accelerator and the engine revved. He shifted into third and gave another smile when the tyres caught pavement at his quick gear change. This was like the old days, driving away with tyres squealing.
Once they'd gone a couple of miles, Bodie pulled his mobile from his pocket. "Best call our esteemed leader. We might need backup." As Doyle careened around a corner, he grabbed onto the grip on the passenger's door. "3.7 to Alpha," he said automatically, then grinned with embarrassment. "Sorry. Hunt, this is Bodie. Doyle and I need backup at number 39 Blythe Road, W14." He paused. "And an ambulance."
Doyle started to protest but he allowed reason to intrude. Jacob would be all right, but best be safe. He'd need to be checked out after being held captive for close to two weeks. Right?
"Right," Bodie answered.
"Did I say that out loud?"
"No, but I can read your mind," Bodie said. "What little there's left anyway. Considering your age and all." He chortled at his own humour. "You get this funny wrinkle between your eyebrows."
"Got more wrinkles than that, mate." Doyle tossed Bodie a telling look.
Bodie looked down at Doyle's crotch. "Wasn't talking about your cock."
"You brought up wrinkles, not me!" He blinked, the picture of innocence.
Doyle stomped on the brakes. The car slid to a halt amid the screech of tyres. "Sodding red light," he muttered. "Bloody hell."
"Father Raymond, it would be best not to kill both of us before we arrive at our destination."
"Christ, but do lights always take this bloody long?" Doyle asked.
Bodie reached out and flipped a toggle. The siren sprang to life. "Try turning on the flashing lights, Raymond. I do believe that the boys in the garage installed them on this vehicle for a particular reason."
"You are an arse," Doyle snapped, trying to be sharp but failing because of the smile he couldn't keep off his face. Why hadn't he thought about the blues and twos earlier instead of being a berk and giving Bodie more ammunition to tease him about. "Stop calling me Father. Even thinking about what I've done makes me cringe," Doyle grumbled, glaring at Bodie.
"It's the duds, mate. Can't help but call a man of the cloth, 'Father'."
"Moron," he said affectionately. After he drove on a few more minutes, he said, "Bodie, I wouldn't have an angel if Jacob wasn't all right." When Bodie didn't respond, Doyle smacked his arm. "Right?"
"Right!" Bodie said again.
Doyle laughed at Bodie's antics. Joy infused his soul. Relief washed over him as tangible as a wave at the seaside. Jacob was alive. Doyle continued to laugh. Bodie joined in, and Doyle had to wipe his eyes several times to clear his vision. No sense crashing before they freed Jacob from his confinement. Besides, it was nearly tea time. If he were aware of anything in this life, he could count on Bodie being hungry.
"He's all right," Doyle insisted between whoops of laughter.
"Thank God," Bodie added.
They laughed even more.
The street was average, ordinary. Houses stood in neat rows, each touching the other. Their faces were brown brick with red accents. There were funny arches over the white framed windows that reminded Doyle of eyebrows raised in surprise above wide open eyes. He looked away from the windows and glanced about. The neighbourhood looked quiet and well cared for. How could a kidnapper keep his victim here without raising any suspicions?
By keeping his victim quiet, Doyle's rational brain supplied. Asleep, not dead. Asleep, drowsy, dopey. Not dead.
Please, God, not dead.
Doyle thrust away the negative thought. Gabriel wouldn't have led him here to find his brother's body. No God would be that cruel. Still, Doyle sent up a prayer, begging for this one favour: to find Jacob alive. Not that he deserved the favour, but Jacob did.
Reading the house numbers under his breath, Doyle said, "Thirty-eight, thirty-nine... There." He pulled across the drive, blocking the closed garage door. Just in case, he reckoned. That way if somebody was inside and tried crashing their way out, they'd have to go through the panda car.
"Should we wait for backup?" Bodie asked.
Doyle didn't even consider the idea. "I'm not waiting in the bloody car for backup. I'm going in and getting my brother." He flung open the door and climbed out. He wasn't surprised to see Bodie get out quickly and slip his hand under his jacket.
Across the roof of the car, they looked at each other. "Just checking, Ray. Let's do it. Let's get Jacob now."
"For a second, I thought you'd lost your mind." Doyle patted his own jacket. "Damn it anyway."
"What's wrong?" Bodie asked, pulling his weapon. "Oh, right. No gun. Stay behind me."
"No way in hell, Bodie."
Doyle took stock of their surroundings, checking to be sure their way was clear. "Cover the back."
"No way in hell, Doyle," Bodie echoed, testing the front door. "We stay together. Damn it. Locked."
"Surprise, surprise. Pick it."
"Nah, no need. That kid was working alone." With that, Bodie raised a foot and kicked the door in, busting the frame and sending the lock flying through the air to land in the hallway with a thud.
Doyle pushed past him and rushed from room to room on the ground level. Bodie took the stairs and Doyle could hear his pounding feet overhead. He was checking the garage when he heard Bodie shout.
Doyle took the steps two at a time. "Where are you?" he called, not seeing his partner on the second floor.
He found the attic door at the end of the corridor and trotted quickly up the stairs. The first room was empty but Doyle ran when he saw the open door at the far end. He burst into the small space and found Bodie leaning over a body lying on an old, scarred white metal framed bed, his fingers pressed to the body's neck. Doyle could see the outline of feet underneath a grey blanket that might have been white at one time.
"Jacob!" Doyle pulled Bodie away so that he could look into the face that went with the figure. "Jacob!" He reached out, putting a hand on his forehead. Jacob's eyes were closed, giving Doyle a moment's panic.
"He's alive, Ray. I checked his pulse. His heart rate is slow by steady." While Doyle examined his brother, Bodie pulled his mobile and told Hunt to move it, reminding him about the need for an ambulance priority A3.
Doyle knelt on the floor next to Jacob. Bodie ruffled his hair before he walked back into the outer room.
"Look here." Bodie held up a small canvas satchel. "Got a bottle without a label, half full." He opened it and sniffed. "Probably a benzos since they're common, and more than likely black market. Syringe and needles in here as well, but no doctor's or chemist's labels on any of them." He rustled through the pack. "Got some sort of capsules as well." Bodie read aloud, "Mary Brown, Hamlet Gardens. Prescription for Valium. Nicked or sold for cash by Ms Brown or maybe an unscrupulous employee, I'll bet."
"Yeah." After reassuring himself that Jacob was breathing and that his heart was beating, Doyle pulled back one of Jacob's eyelids. "Drugged to the gills. If Henderson wasn't already dead, I'd kill him myself."
"You don't mean that, mate."
Doyle grimaced. "Don't test me today, Bodie."
Bodie picked up a water bottle that lay on the floor next to the bed and opened the top. He sniffed the contents. "Smells all right but you never know."
"At least the bastard gave him water." Doyle leaned close to his brother. "Jacob," he said worriedly, patting Jacob's cheeks. "Come on, wake up." He stroked his brother's forehead, pushing aside the dishevelled grey hair.
Jacob's beard was unkempt. He hated it when he couldn't trim his beard regularly. His face was pale, he had dark circles under his eyes. He'd definitely lost some weight; his cheeks were thinner than last month when they'd had dinner together.
Doyle clutched Jacob's hand, letting himself feel a small measure of relief now that he had found his brother. He looked down into Jacob's face, and his anger and frustration of the past few weeks ebbed slowly away. Jacob was alive! He was so thrilled he could have cried. Yet underneath, he was sad. All these years he and Bodie had dedicated themselves to keeping their country and its people safe, but it was never enough. As soon as they'd removed one criminal from society, another sprung up in a never ending cycle of death and destruction. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered at all.
Seeing Jacob treated so abysmally made him wonder if anything he'd done was worth the cost. No one had a right to do this to another person, no matter how righteous his cause might be. His brief respite from the anger he had carried with him returned. Doyle shook with rage. No, no! He couldn't let the bad guys win! He grabbed hold of himself and with a force of will, he took in a deep breath and released it slowly. He did the exercise two more times until there was some measure of relief and he had a grasp on his runaway emotions.
Bodie put a hand on Doyle's shoulder. "He'll be all right, Ray. He's a fighter. He's survived worse than this, to hear him tell it." Doyle let out a dry chuckle, and Bodie squeezed his shoulder. "I hear the ambulance. I'll direct them up here. I'm sure Hunt's on his way. I'll brief him while you go to hospital with Jacob."
"I'm staying with him."
"I know that. Just said it, didn't I?" Bodie gave him a smile and turned to leave but he paused. "Ray, I'm glad he's alive."
Doyle gave Bodie a grateful look. "Me too. I just hope he's all right."
"After all of this? I have faith." Bodie grinned, turning away.
Doyle listened to the sound of Bodie's footsteps for a few seconds before he turned back to Jacob. Now that he was alone with his brother, his eyes filled. "Jesus," he whispered, putting one of his arms across Jacob's chest and leaning his forehead against his brother's arm. "Thank you, God."
"Never heard you pray before," Jacob said hoarsely.
Doyle brought his head up quickly. "Jake!" He grinned, hugging Jacob. "Bloody hell, but you've aged me twenty years these past few weeks!"
Jacob raised a shaky hand to Doyle's face. "Ray," he said softly. "I'm so... glad to see you." His eyes fluttered closed. "Sorry. Can't seem to stay awake for long."
"You've been drugged."
Jacob gave a slow nod. "Need a bath."
"You're ripe, but..." The words drifted away as Doyle's emotions swamped him. He wanted to bury his head on Jacob's chest and bawl.
"Stay with me?"
Doyle cleared his throat so he could speak. "Of course. Right here, mate. Going to get you to hospital and get you checked from your old grey head to your wrinkled flat feet."
"I've missed you," Jacob whispered before drifting off again.
Doyle smiled even as his eyes filled. He blinked rapidly, determined not to blubber. Instead, he got hold of himself, laced his fingers with Jacob's, and watched Jacob sleep. Finally, with a moment to breathe, he glanced about, seeing the small, windowless room where Jacob had been held. The room was airless and dusty, depressing. The idea that Jacob had been confined made him angry all over again. He understood how any effort Jacob would have made to call out for help would have been fruitless. Matthew had covered the walls with mattresses, converting the stuffy attic room into a fairly soundproof cell. Given Jacob's condition, no one, not even the closest neighbours who shared walls with this unit, would have been able to hear his cries for help. It also explained the strange striping that Doyle'd seen in the photos. The coverings on the mattresses were striped with thin blue lines.
For a brief moment, Doyle was glad Matthew Henderson was dead. In the next second, guilt flooded him. Matthew had been the kidnapper and he would have killed Cardinal Cooper, but he was still a victim. Cooper had hurt his mother; raped her and scorned her. Doyle could understand why he had to defend his mother, someone whom Matthew must have loved deeply. He realised that in the years since her suicide, he had elevated her to sainthood and his revenge on the man responsible made perfect sense to the psychologically damaged man.
Matthew's mother had played a part in his downfall, to be sure. Her suicide meant that she couldn't see past her own grief to put her son first. Doyle could understand a son's need to protect his mum, especially when there wasn't a father around for those duties. The sad thing was that then the child lost something. He lost his childhood, turning into a protector instead of the protected. Matthew's actions proved that he took all the blame for his mother's suicide on himself.
Doyle didn't have the answers. There was not always right or always wrong. There was no perfect family. But not all sons whose mothers had been raped and had a child in the aftermath had turned into criminals. In fact, it was the opposite. Few did. Matthew could have chosen another road. He chose the path to destruction.
Dropping his head, Doyle closed his eyes and tightened his hold on his brother's fingers. He didn't move or think or pray until Bodie touched his shoulder, calling his name quietly. He blinked dazedly, looking up into his lover's face. Bodie's smile conveyed the love that Doyle lived for, that warmed his heart and fed his soul.
"Paramedics are here, Ray. Let them have at Jacob so we can get him out of this hellish place."
"Yeah. He deserves much better accommodations," Doyle agreed, rising slowly from the floor. His bones ached from the short time on the hard surface. He walked off the stiffness in his knees while the paramedics took care of Jacob. When they had loaded him onto a portable trolley, he followed and climbed into the ambulance beside his brother.
"I'll follow you," Bodie said, waving a hand at the panda car they'd requisitioned.
Doyle chuckled. "Best remember to put it back where we found it after we're through."
Bodie grinned. "You do realise that the report we're going to have to file on all of this will take us days to fill out."
"Nah." Doyle yawned and settled next to Jacob, wrapping a hand around his blanket covered arm. "You'll have it done in no time."
As the attendant closed the door, Doyle smiled at Bodie's incredulous look and his affronted cry of, "Me?"
The kitchen at St. Bart's looked exactly like it had when Doyle had been in residence. Yet now that Jacob was back with him, safe and well, the room was more like home. The drapes were brighter and the sun streaming through the window was warmer. The table appeared sturdier and the entire world was better. Doyle chuckled at his silliness while he fussed with the tea things. He must have been really daydreaming because Jacob snapped at him.
"For God's sake, Ray, pour the tea and stop messing about! I'm parched."
Doyle looked down at his hands. He'd been boiling water and preparing tea bags for many minutes. He'd opened three separate packs of biscuits, made a pile of toast, put out jam and pickle, and spilled the milk not once but twice.
"Sorry," Doyle muttered. "It's just that... I came close to losing you and I don't understand why."
"Would you like me to put pickle and jam on your toast?" Jacob asked.
Doyle looked down at the table, rubbing his finger across his upper lip. "Christ, I guess I wasn't thinking. How about butter and jam instead? Pickle doesn't go well with strawberry."
Jacob chuckled before he turned serious. "I can see those gears whirling around in that brain of yours and I want you to hear this: you're being too hard on yourself. You had no way of knowing what was going on in Matthew's head. I didn't know he was so troubled, and I saw him daily for the best part of a year. There isn't any way you could possibly have known. You know we will never understand how he worked out everything."
Doyle picked at a piece of bread on the cutting board. "I know, but-" He looked down, seeing how he'd shredded the bread into tiny bits. Dropping the remainder, he dusted his hands.
"No, there are no buts. You can't work this out in that head of yours. What he did doesn't have to make sense to me and you. Only to him. He had mental problems that he managed to hide."
Doyle wasn't surprised that Jacob had been able to read his mind. He was feeling that he should have been able to see through Matthew, even if the idea was impossible. "I feel like I need to understand, Jake. That if I could understand it would all make sense. That it's me who's lacking here."
"How long are you going to play the martyr over this?" Jacob said, his tone somewhat testy.
Doyle caught his eyes and gave a sheepish grin. "Sorry, mate. I'll work on that complex of mine."
Jacob laughed. "I doubt you'll change at your age, old man."
Doyle joined in the laughter. With a smile, Doyle poured the hot water into the warmed Brown Betty. At the table, he rested the pot on a yellow and green tea towel. Sitting, he picked up a piece of toast, spread on butter and jam and took a bite.
"Let's look at the facts, then. He kidnapped you. Insisted I take your place. It doesn't
make a wit of sense. You could have done what I did. You could have got the lads to serve at the Papal Mass as well as I could have."
"I believe what you told me he said when he had Cooper. If the cardinal had come to me and confessed, I would have given him absolution. It's my job to have done that. It's what I believe is right, Ray." Jacob pinched the bridge of his nose. "If he confessed and in his heart, he were contrite, he would have been granted heaven."
"That's so not fair," Doyle snapped. He pounded his fist on the table, making the cups rattle in their saucers. "God lets killers and rapists and child molesters into heaven because they're sorry? How in bloody hell can he do that?"
"It's God's law," Jacob said placidly.
"I know you believe that. I believe too, but I also believe in justice."
"There is the legal system," Jacob explained, "and then there's God's justice. I'm a priest, and I have faith in God's word. You know I've devoted my life to God. I don't do this as a lark."
"I know that," Doyle admitted. "I know you have a deep faith and a love of your God. I admire you for your devotion."
Jacob smiled. "But you don't understand it."
Doyle smiled in return, shrugging. "Logically, I do understand it. I know what faith is, but..."
"You're trying to understand faith. Men have been trying to do that, to explain God and faith for thousands of years. It's not here," Jacob said, pointing to his head. "It's here." He splayed his own hand over his heart. "I accept my faith in God. I don't dissect it.
"Matthew wanted the world to know about Cardinal Cooper." Jacob poured tea into Doyle's cup, then his own. "He probably reckoned that since I had ties with the Vatican, that if I was aware of what Cooper had done, I'd push it under the rug. He had good cause to believe that. Look at the different scandals the church has covered up for many years." Jacob stirred in two sugars and milk. He stared down at his cup. "I was in the establishment and you weren't. He was aware that I'd give Cooper absolution and that you couldn't, even if you wanted to." Jacob took a drink of his tea. "He believed that absolution meant Cooper would be allowed into heaven. Even he had his own take on faith, Ray."
"Do you believe that?" Doyle added milk.
"Sugar?" Jacob asked.
"I take sugar, and you and I are the same size."
Doyle added one sugar. "I like it better this way," he said after taking a sip. "Did I tell you Hunt had that water bottle tested? The one Cooper drank from? Conor told me he saw the bottle sitting on the counter and took a swig. It was laced with a sleeping draught and something to make them sick enough to vomit. That's why both men fell ill."
"Ah," Jacob acknowledged. "He wanted Cooper to stay behind. Conor did what most blokes do: drink whatever's open and at hand."
Doyle nodded before he carefully asked, "Does the church push a lot of things under the rug, Jake?"
Jacob was quiet for a few minutes before he answered. "I'm not involved with that part of the church."
"I know that, but you've also been further inside the inner workings of the church than most people could ever hope to be. You know things."
"I tried to avoid the politics. It made me..." Jacob looked away for a moment. When he looked back, Doyle could see the distaste in Jacob's eyes. And something else... "Frankly, I hated it. I only wanted to minister to my flock and serve God. The rest-" Jacob waved a hand dismissively. "Bah, it's not for me."
Doyle pressed, not sure if he wanted to hear the answer, but needing to. He dragged a fingertip through some crumbs that dusted the table. "What about those incidents with Monsignor Vincenzo? Even his prison record was redacted. Cardinal Bukovak made sure nothing made any of the international newspapers."
"For better or worse, the Catholic Church has far reaching arms. It is its own state, with its own laws." Jacob frowned. "With its own troubles, to be sure."
"Is that all you have to say?" Doyle demanded. "It's not right, what goes on behind the scenes. Are you saying that nobody in the hierarchy had a clue about Matthew and Cardinal Cooper?"
Jacob looked apologetic. "I would not bet against that, Ray. The Cardinal had powerful friends and they kept him shielded from any scandal. Matthew understood all of this, and that's why he finally went mad. He wanted justice and only he could deliver it. "
Doyle saw the "something else" he'd picked up on earlier. Jacob was feeling guilty even though he did everything he could to serve his church and his fellow man. Both of them had that inner self that berated them for not doing more, being smarter, even if they were doing the best any one man could do.
"He deserved justice," Doyle said softly, then fell silent for a long while. "It's not your fault, Jacob. You're a good man. You help many people and you love your God."
"He's your God as well." At Doyle's silence, Jacob asked, "Can you truly say you don't believe after what you told me? After what you and Bodie had to do in my church?"
Doyle rubbed his eyes. "I'm a gay man, living with another man. God doesn't want me nor Bodie. I can't accept a God who would condemn us to hell because we love each other."
Jacob smiled softly. "Ray, God doesn't condemn anybody to hell because of love."
"That's not what your church believes."
"But it's what I believe," Jacob said firmly. "You're my brother and I love you. Bodie is your lover and he's also my brother and I love him. God will not abandon you, even if you abandon him." He smiled, adding, "And I hope after these past few weeks, you will find your faith again."
Doyle sipped his tea. He bit into one of the vanilla crème biscuits and chewed thoughtfully. "I have faith in you, Jake."
"For now, I'll take that."
"Cheers. Now I'd best get home. Bodie will be calling any second." Doyle's mobile rang at that moment, and both men laughed. Doyle read the text message. With fond exasperation, he admitted, "He's got me on a tight lead."
"He loves you and misses you. You two haven't had a quiet night together in nearly three weeks with you ministering my parishioners and then me." Jacob stroked his beard before he waved Doyle away. "Go on. Go to him."
Doyle rose and crossed to stand behind Jacob. He wondered if he should tell Jacob now or later about shagging in the back of his Volvo. Later. Definitely. Grinning, Doyle slipped a hand onto Jacob's shoulder. "Take care, Father."
"I'll try. Of course, after I explain to the bishop how my brother, who is not a priest, performed several sacraments, I might need somebody to rescue me from the amount of penance I'm sure I'll be ordered to perform."
"You're on your own, brother." Doyle ruffled Jacob's hair.
"I'm telling mum on you."
"You always were her favourite."
Jacob tipped his head back to look up at Doyle. "I thought you were."
Doyle laughed. "I do like you for some odd reason."
"That's because if you didn't like me, you'd have to dislike yourself."
"Your logic is impeccable."
"Dinner next week? You're paying, of course." Jacob grinned impishly, brushing biscuit crumbs from his beard.
"Let's get Bodie to pay!" Doyle chortled.
"Good plan. Call me."
"I'll send you a text."
Jacob laughed. "Come to Mass on Sunday, Ray."
"Jake..." Doyle looked into his brother's hopeful gaze. "All right. Mass on Sunday. This once," he said, waving a warning finger. "But no Reconciliation!"
"This once," Jacob agreed, grabbing Doyle's finger and pulling him closer. "And no Reconciliation." He hugged Doyle briefly. "Thank you."
"You're my brother," Doyle said simply. "Good night!"
Doyle left with the cheerful sound of Jacob's laughter in his ears. He couldn't keep the grin from his face. That sound was music to Doyle's ears. He'd never take having a brother for granted again. Sure, they would still bicker occasionally, but their bond as brothers had deepened because of this experience. Doyle was lucky to have two people who loved him unconditionally. He was a fortunate man indeed.
Bodie had the front door wide open by the time Doyle made it to the second floor landing.
"About time!" Bodie said shortly. "I've been cooking my fingers to the bone, and you're late! You said seven o'clock. Dinner's close to ruined."
Doyle couldn't help but laugh. Bodie looked like a harried housewife. His hair was sticking out as if he'd run his hands through it. Flour dusted the bridge of his nose and one cheek. It speckled the front of his shirt. He had several splotches of red on his shirt as well. Tomato sauce or ketchup or that spicy hot sauce Bodie loved?
"What in God's name are you doing?" Doyle asked.
"Been getting things ready for the celebration." Bodie looked affronted that Doyle had to even ask.
"Yeah. It's our anniversary."
"It is?" Doyle looked at the screen on his mobile. "Which one? The first time we kissed?"
"No." Bodie dragged Doyle into the living room.
"The first time we shagged?"
"No." Bodie hauled Doyle to the dining table. "Go on, sit down."
"Wow, this is amazing." Doyle glanced at the table. There were two places set with their good white china, nice utensils, crystal glasses and real cloth napkins. Doyle wondered where Bodie'd got cloth napkins. He chuckled, picturing Bodie shopping for table linen. Candles were lit, and the flames danced merrily. "You've been busy, it seems."
"Yup. You hungry?"
"Ravenous. It smells marvellous!"
"Great. Dinner is served." Bodie theatrically lifted one of the three salver covers that graced the table to reveal...
"Pizza Hut?" Doyle said incredulously. "You prat! You haven't cooked a thing!"
Bodie burst out laughing. He opened one of the three (three!) trays of takeaway hidden under the covers. Slices of pizza were piled high under one.
"That one's the veggie supreme. Got me the chicken with the works. I'm watching my calories."
"With all this food, you're watching calories?" Doyle asked in a surprised tone.
"Could have got me the meat feast, you know," Bodie said, pouting.
Doyle laughed. "What's under this?" Lifting the cover, he saw a huge mass of cheese covered garlic bread, and the third contained a large amount of baked pasta, again covered with cheese.
"That's the four cheese and veg pasta. You can have me broccoli."
"Jesus, Bodie, the cholesterol alone will kill me!"
"But you'll die a happy man!" Bodie gleefully rubbed his palms together. He poured red wine while Doyle piled their plates.
They sat down and dug in. Between sips of wine, Doyle ate two slices of veggie pizza, three pieces of garlic bread, and a large portion of baked pasta.
Once he'd had his fill, he sat back and watched Bodie finish his meal. Swallowing another mouthful of wine, Doyle chortled aloud. "It's not our anniversary! It's George's birthday!"
"To George." Doyle raised his glass.
Bodie followed. "To George. Ninety two and feisty as they come."
"We must visit him tomorrow. Take him a small cake and a wee dram."
"His nurses will throttle us," Bodie warned.
"Let them," Doyle said, raising his glass again. "He deserves to be pampered." He leaned back and let the comfort of the surroundings infuse his soul. Bodie was close, looking tantalising in his soft tan trousers and a black poloneck. He had well worn slippers on his feet and the smell of his aftershave tickled Doyle's nose. Doyle always loved how Bodie smelled after he shaved.
Doyle watched Bodie sip his wine and he found himself blinking quickly to try and stop his tears of joy. He was so lucky! He had a man who loved him beside him. He had a brother he adored. He had a marvellous flat with its own garden, mere steps from Hyde Park. He had his health in spite of the dangerous years he'd been an active agent with CI5. He'd lived through injuries that would have killed other men, and he'd survived. He was a lucky bastard. With a feeling of contentment, he said, "Thanks for this, mate. It was fun."
Bodie lifted his own glass in response. "So how's Jacob doing since I saw him a few days ago?"
"Good. Fully recovered. I'm going to Mass on Sunday."
Bodie paused, glass held near his lips, before he took a sip. Doyle held his breath, wondering if Bodie would grouse or whine or- "What time?"
"You going to church?"
"Sure, why not?"
Doyle smiled. "Thank you."
Bodie rose and held out his hand. "Come on, then."
"We need to do the washing up."
"Leave it. I've got plans for you."
"Yeah. If I'm going to church, might as well commit a few sins so that I have something to beg forgiveness for."
"Oh?" Doyle took Bodie's hand and stood. "Such as?"
Bodie waggled his crooked white eyebrow. "Sodomy."
"Ah," Doyle said, nodding knowingly. "Best add Confession to that list, eh?"
Bodie led his mate to their bedroom. "Oh, I won't be doing much confessing, but I will be doing some praying. Just not with Father Jacob. Got me a new tube of lube and a man to use it on."
"You're definitely a sinner, Bodie."
"Says one sinner to another."
Doyle laughed, falling onto the bed with Bodie. He was so bloody happy it should be illegal. Thank God it wasn't. Not any longer. Unable to contain his joy, Doyle's laughter grew louder and he held out his hand to Bodie. Between giggles, he managed to say, "Now come here and let me at you. Right now, Sunday is a long way off."