The King Must Die
And sooner or later
Everybody's kingdom must end
After all these years, it was like a dance. Each knew how to anticipate the other’s moves, to be in the right place at the right time, and to communicate without words to meet the other’s needs. They moved together effortlessly through the darkness, checking occasionally to catch a breath. Pinned down by a particularly swift move, Doyle spoke for the first time. ‘Nasty,’ he breathed. A glint of eyes and teeth in the darkness was his only answer. ‘Bastard.’ A hiss of laughter and the struggle continued. Sweat-slick skin sliding over taut muscle, the pace and the tension built as they both fought for dominance. Then suddenly it was over. An incautious move by Bodie and Doyle took full advantage: digging a thumb into the pressure point between tendon and bone on his partner’s wrist, Doyle slammed him into the mattress and held him at the sweet point of pain in an unbreakable arm lock.
‘Give in?’ he whispered into Bodie’s ear.
‘Mmfgh,’ was the response.
‘I can’t quite hear you,’ said Doyle, slipping astride Bodie’s thighs and using his other hand to trace patterns on the small of Bodie’s back, dipping lower and lower towards the dark cleft between his buttocks.
‘Yeah, yeah, now get on with it.’ Bodie’s response was still rather muffled but Doyle gave a wolfish grin and released his arm.
‘Such encouragement.’ Doyle stared down, anticipating what he was going to do. His cock rose and hardened.
‘Bloody hell, that hurt.’ Bodie rolled over, unseating Doyle and rubbing his elbow where it was sore from the arm lock. ‘Bit enthusiastic, aren’t you?’
‘Bit of pain keeps you sharp. So.’ He bent and nipped at Bodie’s neck. ‘I win. What shall I do with you, eh?’
‘Oi!’ Bodie pulled away. ‘Not where it shows, remember?’
‘Mmm.’ He pushed Bodie back down on the bed, eyes glittering in the darkness. Bodie recognised the wildness in his partner and rose to meet it. It was going to be one of those nights, then.
And it was. Mutually satisfying, the sex was fast and hard and breathtakingly fulfilling. Doyle took Bodie first, pinning him down on his back and slamming into his arse while bending Bodie’s legs back up to his chest, and Bodie cried out, panting helplessly as he came from the sheer pleasure of feeling Doyle’s cock driving again and again over his prostate. The small pains Doyle was inflicting elsewhere as he indulged himself were hardly noticeable in Bodie’s lust-filled pleasure. As Doyle’s limp cock slid out of his arse Bodie experienced a moment of regret. He did love being fucked. He loved the sensation of being stretched wide, of a cock sliding in and out, and of the moment where, poised and still, he could feel Doyle’s cock pulsing and thudding as Doyle came deep inside him. He grabbed for the damp flannel by the bed, grimacing at its cold clamminess as he wiped randomly at his backside, and then reached for Doyle.
‘Only trying to help!’ Bodie huffed.
‘Yeah, well, don’t. ‘S cold.’ Doyle turned towards him, yawning horribly. Bodie nudged him.
‘Oi! Is that it, then?’
A mumble was his only answer. He hoisted himself up on one elbow, but all he could see in the darkness was a tangle of unruly dark curls and the angle of one sculpted shoulder blade.
He tugged at the sheets, trying to make a bit more sense out of the mess they’d made between them. He managed to sort the bedding so they at least had a pillow each and a sheet to cover them. He turned back to look at his partner, wincing slightly as he flexed his arse.
‘Ray?’ No answer.
Bodie ran a cautious finger down Doyle’s broken cheek. Nothing. He smiled tenderly, sure of being unseen in the darkness. Flat out. Knackered. Always does for him, when he goes off like this. He rubbed absently at one of the bruises forming on his pectoral muscle, wincing slightly as he pressed too hard. That was going to ache for the next day or so. Better remember to cover up as well. Don’t want anyone wondering where the marks come from. He sighed contentedly, and wriggled down in the bed so he was lying next to Doyle, soaking up his warmth. Doyle gave a little grunt and started snoring faintly. Bodie grinned. He was comfortable but not particularly sleepy. His mind wandered, and he thought back to the first time he and Doyle had got together.
They’d been double-dating after a truly awful day, and the evening had ended up back at Bodie’s place as Accommodations had put him in a two-bedroomed flat for a change. All four of them had started in the living room, but as things heated up, they’d paired off and moved into the bedrooms. Naked and randy as hell, Bodie had been about to get down to the serious business of fucking Julie through the mattress when there was a squeal and the sound of a smack from across the hall, followed by the stomp of marching feet. Bodie sat up, disengaging from the clinging limbs and scented warmth surrounding him. What was happening?
‘Back in a minute, beautiful. Keep it warm for me, eh?’
She grabbed at him as he slid off the bed but he avoided her and went to the bedroom door, ignoring her indignant, ‘Bodie!’ Catching up his towel from the back of his door and slinging it around his waist, he stepped out of the bedroom. In the hallway, Donna was dressing swiftly, jamming her feet into her shoes, buttoning her coat up with angry, trembling hands. She was sniffing, the tears causing her mascara to run and smear her face with black smudges, but she turned on Bodie to snarl as she was fumbling at the locks on the door.
‘Open this door, will you?’
‘What’s up, love?’
‘I’m going home.’
‘Hey, what happened?’
‘He’s a bloody animal, that one!’
Bodie’s eyebrows raised and his mouth quirked. Oh, there was some mileage to be got out of this one. ‘Our Raymond a bit too much for you?’ he enquired delicately.
With a little scream of frustration, she kicked the door.
‘Open this door!’
‘Certainly, madam. Would madam be needing anything else this evening? A little something to sweeten the temper, perhaps?’ He bowed as she stormed out of the flat and down the steps, and closed the door gently behind her. Now to see what had prompted that little episode.
‘Bodie! I need you!’ Julie’s voice came plaintively from his own bedroom.
‘I need you too, gorgeous. Won’t be a minute.’
He peered in the other bedroom door at his partner. Doyle was hunched over, every line of his back expressing tension and hurt. Bodie raised an eyebrow.
‘Everything okay, mate?’
‘What happened with Donna, then? Sounded like you were getting on really well.’
Doyle rose to his feet and stalked towards Bodie, naked and painfully aroused, cock hard and weeping, balls drawn up.
‘Go away! Go back to fucking Julie and leave me alone!’
He grabbed Bodie by the arm, hustling him towards the door.
Bodie was suddenly, irresistibly, attracted by his sheer masculinity. Very simply he reached out, his towel dropping to the floor.
‘Looks like you need a hand with that, sunshine.’ He took Doyle’s cock in a firm grip and watched as the expressive face of his partner flicked through the gamut of shock, desperation, relief and desire. He pumped slowly, and the gasp Doyle gave made him lean in and kiss the full mouth while he ran his thumb over the leaking cock head on the upstroke. Doyle tore his mouth away.
‘Bo-day…’ he growled, but Bodie was too fascinated, too enthralled to stop now. He took their cocks together in one big hand, bringing Doyle’s hand round his, creating a tunnel for them to thrust into, and because his partner’s arse had always been a magnet for his hands when fully clothed, he brought his other hand round and caressed the muscular buttock. Doyle gasped again, so Bodie, greatly daring, drew a finger down the cleft between the arse cheeks and gently rubbed the little puckered bud there. With a grunt, Doyle came into their joined hands, and Bodie, hugely excited, followed suit with a muffled yell. Panting, they leaned against one another, and looked at the mess in their still-joined hands.
Doyle was the first to push away.
‘What the hell was that?’
‘You looked like you were hurting.’
A long, level stare, followed by a flicker of a smile.
‘I was. Thanks.’
There was an awkward silence. Bodie drew a breath to say something to get them out of this situation - anything, it didn’t matter what - but was interrupted by a plaintive wail from his own bedroom. ‘Bodie! Are you coming?’
Doyle met his eyes and they shared a moment of laughter.
‘What you gonna do?’ Doyle made a brief but comprehensive gesture towards Bodie’s limp cock.
‘Dunno. Um –‘
‘Here – clean up, at least.’ Doyle became brisk with the towel, until it struck him that perhaps he shouldn’t be cleaning his partner’s penis of their shared semen, and he dropped it awkwardly. ‘Hope your recovery rate’s as good as you say it is, mate.’
Mentally thanking Doyle for getting them back to their normal banter – they’d deal with the rest of it somehow – Bodie grinned and said, ‘No problem there, my son!’ He hesitated. ‘Um, I’ll just –‘ He gestured back towards his bedroom and the waiting Julie.
Doyle nodded. ‘Yeah, yeah. I’ll, erm, let myself out. And pick you up tomorrow, yeah? Usual time.’ He turned away, and Bodie turned to leave the room. Neither met the other’s eyes.
As Bodie kissed a sulky Julie back to interest, he could hear Doyle leaving the flat, and as he made love to her, his mind was on Doyle and what they’d done. What he’d done. He hadn’t lied to his partner. He’d always had a fast recovery rate and a high sexual drive, but if he were honest, what was turning him on now more than Julie’s perfumed softness was the memory of holding Doyle’s cock in his hand, and of feeling him come. And with that memory, he climaxed again, and Julie wasn’t to know that she wasn’t his inspiration.
The following day was remarkable only in the complete lack of any reference to the previous night’s activities. The next time he met Julie, however, she was full of gossip about Donna and Doyle.
‘She won’t see him again, you know. He bit her on the boob. Like, properly bit her, not just a love-bite. She said it really hurt, and she’s got such a bruise now. I feel ever so sorry for her. Is he always like that?’
‘Hmm? I don’t know, do I?’
‘Well, he’s your mate, isn’t he? You should know!’
‘I’d rather think about you in bed than Doyle’, and Bodie rolled her over, her happy giggles almost drowning out his thoughts of what Doyle might actually look like in bed, cock spurting so Bodie could see it this time.////
He smiled sleepily in the darkness, remembering how they’d so-cautiously sounded each other out about whether it should be a one-off (no), and whether the other had ever been with anyone else (yes), and how the affair had progressed from great, fast sex to great, long, lingering, inventive sex to what they had now, a solid relationship. With all the aforementioned great, fast, long, lingering, inventive sex plus the little quirks Doyle brought to the party. He stretched contentedly again and went to sleep, still smiling.
And sooner or later
Everybody's kingdom must end
And I'm so afraid your courtiers
Cannot be called best friends
Bodie and Doyle were in their little office, mulling over training assignments, when Betty put her head round their door. She wrinkled her elegant nose at the litter of coffee cups, empty crisp packets, a crumpled biscuit wrapper and a lone sock.
‘Mr. Cowley would like to see you immediately.’
‘Just once – just once! - I’d like to get my head round this schedule before something interrupts us. Oh, not you, Betty, love. It’s always a pleasure to be interrupted by you. In fact, if you could arrange to do it more often, that would be – hey, wait for us!’ Doyle turned to his partner in mock astonishment. ‘She’s gone!’
‘Our lord and master calls.’ Bodie rose lazily to his feet, stretching stiff muscles. ‘Never could keep your women, could you?’
He ducked out of the office before the pen Doyle threw hit the door.
Arriving at the Controller’s office, they tapped at the door and entered to find Cowley seated at his desk. He gestured to them to shut the door. He waited until they had closed it behind them and taken up their customary positions, Doyle leaning against the file cabinets and Bodie standing more centrally in front of his desk. He nodded, pleased that their usual casual attitude meant that no rumours had escaped about what he was about to say.
‘3.7. 4.5. I have an unpleasant assignment for you.’
‘What, like a change from all the pleasant assignments we get?’
‘Yeah, all the ones with fine wines, Cordon Bleu cookery –‘
‘Enough of your tomfoolery! This is categorised as need-to-know and you will report only to me. No one else is to know what you are working on. You will keep all files at your flats or locked in your office at all times. If asked, you will mis-direct your colleagues. This is serious, gentlemen, and I expect you to make it your top priority. The sooner the situation is resolved, the better.’
There was a startled silence. Bodie straightened, and even Doyle came out of his customary slouch to approach the desk.
‘What’s up, sir?’
‘I believe there is a traitor in CI5.’
He could read the change in their attitude. They were all business now, shocked, but listening intently.
‘And you think you know who it is?’
‘I do know who it is, Doyle. Do you remember Anthony Penman? He went through training just before you did, as I recall.’
‘You want us to go after Penman?’ Bodie whistled. ‘You’re certain he’s turned?’
‘Aye, as certain as I can be.’ Cowley watched as the partners communicated briefly with raised eyebrows and a downturned mouth.
‘What’s he been doing? I haven’t come across him for years.’ Doyle looked over at Bodie, who shrugged.
‘Penman was always more suited to working on his own’, said Cowley with a slight frown. ‘He was one of my deep cover agents for a while, then on loan to Special Branch. He’s worked with MI6 and several other agencies, and then came back here briefly before completing an assignment with the CIA. He’s done several… terminations… for us. Quite a few, actually, both here and overseas.’
‘Charming’, Doyle muttered under his breath.
‘It’s not going to be easy, sir. He knows everything we do, and probably more.’ Bodie raised his voice slightly to cover his partner’s intervention.
‘Of course it’s not going to be easy! Why the devil d’you think I’ve put you two on it? Called you off training? If it were easy I’d have given it to Burton and Irvine!’
‘What about the training schedule, sir?’ Doyle was slightly incredulous that they were being asked to chase down one of their own.
‘To the devil with the training schedule! Find someone else to take it on, man! This is more important, can’t you see?’
‘Only we need an excuse, sir, if you don’t want everyone to know what’s going on. Sir.’ Doyle’s irritation was showing now in his customary push-back, the slight insolence tempered by a healthy watchfulness for Alpha One’s temper.
Cowley tore off his glasses and flung them onto the desk, rubbing his eyes.
‘Ach, I’m sorry, man.’ Doyle blinked. The old man wasn’t known for apologising. ‘Betrayal. It’s a terrible thing. It gets to you. It’s happened to us before, and no doubt it’ll happen again, but it hits hard, lads, it hits hard. Yes, let’s put Lucas and Somers on the training schedule. Tell them you’re being considered for a different role, a hybrid, a liaison between here and the Home Office. That’ll explain your absences and any digging in the files you’ll need to do – you can put it down to having to come up with new procedures. And let’s hope you can bring Penman down quietly, before he does any more damage.’
‘But what is it you think he knows, sir? What has he done?’ Doyle asked.
‘Done, Doyle? He is selling information. He has links to MI6 and through their mole, links to the Chinese Government. I want it stopped. He failed to report in on schedule several weeks ago and has since disappeared. Initial investigations show that he is no longer trustworthy and in fact has made a very good job of covering his tracks.’
Bodie glanced at Doyle. ‘Er, sir? When we find Penman, what do we do with him?’
‘Bring him in, Bodie.’
‘And if we can’t do that? Because it’s not going to be easy, you know.’ Doyle frowned. ‘Come to think of it –‘
‘Then terminate him. We know what information he’s been passing and to whom. He has to be stopped. He’s doing too much damage. We’ll co-ordinate taking his contacts as well, including his handler in Six.’
He glared at them over the desk. ‘Here. Take his file. Take the weekend to read it. Learn the man, learn what he’ll do, where he’ll go. Be back in here on Monday morning at 7am to report, but don’t make a move yet. You’re right, Bodie, he knows all you know and more, so let’s not alert him yet. Go on, off you go.’ He pushed the file at them and turned to his other paperwork. Doyle lifted the heavy folder and they left the room silently.
They didn’t speak until they reached the car. By mutual, unspoken consent they unlocked it, took their accustomed seats, closed the doors and sat there without starting the engine.
‘Bloody hell.’ Doyle pushed at his curls, scowling.
‘Terminate.’ Bodie stared straight ahead, but it wasn’t the CI5 gatehouse that was commanding his attention.
‘Penman. Do you remember him?’
‘He was bloody good.’
‘Remember him nearly wiping the floor with Anson and Pennington – and then he took on Towser and didn’t make a bad showing of that, either.’
Bodie chuckled, remembering Pennington’s face. ‘Penman was the one that pulled that Slovenian bird in, wasn’t he? – linked her to the under-secretary and the leak about the arms deals.’
‘Yeah, and he tracked down that terrorist cell in Bedford with links to the Provos. And he brought in Sieur Simone single-handed and closed that drug ring.’
‘Okay, you can stop now. I’m starting to feel inadequate.’
‘What, you? Never. Have to have a look at that later.’
Bodie gave him a lazy grin. ‘Promises, promises.’
Doyle gave a swipe at his partner’s arm to bring him back to the subject. ‘Seriously, though. Twep ‘im.’
‘You’ve done it before.’ Bodie slanted a glance across the car, ignoring the gestures of another agent who was hoping for their parking space.
‘Mmmm. Worse when it’s one of our own.’ Doyle shifted in his seat uncomfortably.
‘Protect our assets. Clean our own doorstep.’
‘Whatever label you give it, it’s not nice, Bodie.’
‘Cowley seems pretty sure.’
‘Where do we start, then?’
‘Let’s get home and read War and Peace here before we work out what we need to do.’
‘What, this?’ Doyle indicated the file on his knee. ‘It’ll take us all bloody weekend! I had other things planned, I’ll have you know.’
‘Yeah, so – got any beer in?’
‘When have you ever known me not have enough beer in?’
Bodie sighed. ‘When we drank it all the other night, pillock.’
‘Oh, yeah. First stop the offie, then.’
The Capri roared away from the car park with two very thoughtful agents on board.
No man's a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
The living room of Doyle’s flat was scattered with the debris of an Indian takeaway and several empty beer cans. Paperwork was everywhere: balanced on the arms of the settee, laid out in careful progression on the floor, stacked in criss-cross layers on the coffee table, it threatened to overflow into the hallway and march towards the outside world. Bodie rubbed ineffectually at a curry stain on the file he was holding.
‘You reckon the Cow’s right?’ Doyle asked, frowning at the pages in his hand.
‘Seemed very sure the other morning.’
‘Have you looked at this file?
Bodie turned to look at his partner. ‘Bloody hell, Doyle, we’ve spent all sodding weekend crawling through all the sodding files! You know I’ve looked at it. What’s the matter?’
‘I’d’ve expected more, that’s all.’
Bodie rolled his eyes. ‘What, like a little billet doux saying Dear George, very sorry I sold you out, love Antony, kiss kiss?’
‘Come on, seriously, what d’you mean?’
‘It’s all so – I dunno – circumstantial. There’s nothing concrete there at all.’
‘Yeah, yeah, you and your copper’s nose,’ jeered Bodie, jettisoning the file and settling back comfortably with his beer.
‘Don’t knock it. If the evidence isn’t there, it isn’t there.’ Doyle was standing in the middle of the room, gazing round at all the paperwork.
‘He seemed sure enough.’
‘Yeah, well let’s go through all this lot again so that we’re sure, right? Bringing him in or even killing him if he’s turned is one thing, and I hear what Cowley’s saying, but I need more than that these days, know what I mean? I’m not seeing it, Bodie, I’m just not seeing it.’
Bodie looked at his partner.
‘You saying you don’t trust the old man anymore?’
‘Oh, come on, do you? I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s set us up, all for the greater good!’
Bodie grimaced. ‘True. Not like this, though. It’s only been our lives, before.’
Doyle looked at him in disbelief. ‘Diana Molner? Manton? Ring any bells?’
Bodie grunted, and the conversation was shelved for that evening.
Back in their office early next morning, they were struggling with the logistics of fitting everything in to their newly-expanded schedule. Bodie was tapping his pen against the scribbled comments already covering the neatly-typed timetable Betty had originally given to them. Doyle was roaming around the room, impatient power apparent in the leashed movements of his body. He turned to his partner.
‘All right. Look, if we hand over the training completely, people are going to ask questions. That crap about Home Office liaison isn’t going to fool anyone. We’ll be expected to do that along with everything else, you know we will.’
‘Good point. Okay, how about this? We’ll carry on supervising –‘
‘Yeah, because Top Gun bloody Oxley needs taking down a peg or two –‘
‘We’ll carry on supervising but start to hand over to Lucas and Somers. It’ll do them good to start to get involved anyway, and that way we can free up some time to look for Penman. All right?’
‘Yeah, it’ll do. Have to, I suppose. Let’s have a look at that schedule, then, see where we can carve out some time.’ Doyle pulled out the other chair and sat down at the desk. Bodie passed over the file and took the opportunity to stand and stretch his legs and back.
As he watched Doyle frowning over the file with a pencil, Bodie chuckled.
‘Did you ever think it would come to this?’
‘What, worrying about a training schedule for snotty trainees who think they know it all? Nah, it’s not like it used to be, is it?’
‘D’you miss it?’
Doyle shrugged. ‘I’m slowing down, Bodie. I don’t want to admit it, but I am. We need to have a think at some point about what we do next. This might work, staying on and running things, but I don’t know what you want to do.’
‘Hey, steady on! We’re not quite decrepit yet, y’know!’
‘I know, but – Ah, forget it. I’ve just got a bad feeling about this one.’
Bodie studied his partner intently for a moment, and it was with a different note in his voice that he said, ‘We can get out completely if you want, Ray.’
Doyle looked up at him blankly. He shook his head. ‘Never thought I’d hear you say that.’
Bodie looked away, embarrassed. ‘Well. Y’know.’
Doyle’s mouth twitched. ‘No. I don’t know. Tell me.’
Bodie regarded him with narrowed eyes. ‘Piss off.’
Doyle laughed. ‘Oh, come on. I thought we were going to have a meaningful conversation, share our feelings, open up – did you learn nothing from that course the other month?’
Bodie crossed the small room in one stride and bent down to his partner, one broad, capable hand brushing down the fine cotton of Doyle’s shirt. ‘The only opening up I want to do,’ he murmured into Doyle’s ear, lips brushing the lobe, breath hot against the other man’s neck, ‘won’t take place here. And it won’t involve much talking. You’ll moan, you’ll writhe, you’ll beg for more. But you won’t be able to talk, and when I’m done, you won’t be able to sit on this chair either. Does that sound meaningful enough for you?’
He felt the flush of heat rise up in Doyle and felt smug at the swallow he felt in the long throat. He gave a satisfied nod as he moved away.
‘Oh, and by the way?’ Doyle looked over at him, lips parted and eyes blown wide with lust. ‘Yes,’ Bodie continued. ‘We can get out completely. No problem.’
Doyle blinked, coming back to himself rapidly. He tilted his head, smiling. ‘As easy as that?’
‘As easy as that, sunshine.’
They smiled at one another, each recognising now that the other completed him as no one else ever had, and put it comfortably away for another time and place.
‘Right, you lot, settle down and listen up.’
The trainees grumbled their way into their desks, displaying no enthusiasm for the day ahead. Doyle repressed a grin. He remembered being in the same situation, hating the confines of the training room and believing that none of the old farts pontificating from the front could match him for speed or intellect. He spared a glance at Bodie, staring impassively out from the dais at the class slouched in front of him, admiring his solid stance and the pull of his shoulders against the taut cotton of his shirt.
‘Today’s task. Form into teams of four. Read the brief. Get the information you need from CI5 personnel in this building. Report back here at 1500 hours prepared to present your case. We expect you to have analysed what’s in the brief, followed up the intel, discussed in your team and come to a conclusion about where the terrorists are holed up. With that information, we want a recommendation for an assault plan. We’ll hear them all and discuss as a group. Any questions?’
There was a moment’s silence as the trainees looked at the piece of paper in front of them. Then one raised his hand.
‘This briefing paper. It’s a bit sketchy, isn’t it?’
‘As in, there’s not much information on it,’ the man elaborated carefully, as if talking to an idiot.
Doyle pushed off from his lean against the wall and advanced on the speaker, a dangerous glitter in his eyes.
‘You want a written invitation? Pretty calligraphy, perhaps? This is all you get, son. In fact, this is more than you often get. We’re playing nice. For now.’
Smithson sank back in his desk and eyed Doyle, who was leaning over him menacingly.
‘Right, gentlemen,’ Bodie interjected smoothly. ‘If there aren’t any more questions? Begin.’
The room was filled with the scraping of chair legs and the muttering of agents as they sorted themselves out into teams. Bodie listened in to the assorted comments of the group nearest to him without making it obvious that he was eavesdropping. And if they hadn’t worked out yet that every word they uttered was analysed to the nth degree and back, he mused, then that, too, would be added to their files and would contribute to their score at the end of the assessment period.
‘S’all very well for them.’
‘Yeah, the golden pair.’
‘Ah, you don’t really believe all you hear about them, do you?’
‘No, be fair, they have done some incredible stuff.’
‘Defusing a nuclear bomb?’ The tone of incredulity made Bodie bite his lip to stop from laughing out loud.
‘That really happened. I checked. I had to get into a few files but it’s true.’ Interesting. That was Richards, who was proving to be difficult to categorise. Clumsy as hell but brilliant in other ways, and now, it seemed, a researcher as well.
‘Yeah, but some of that other shit…’
‘You can’t do that sort of thing these days. It’s just not feasible.’ That was Bell. Stolid, a plodder, and unimaginative. Few redeeming features so far, except brute power in the gym and excellence on the defensive driving course.
They all jumped as Doyle appeared amongst them, having been so taken up with their conversation they had missed his silent approach. Another black mark. Dearie me.
‘You can do anything with the right partner, and don’t you forget it!’ Doyle said fiercely. ‘You don’t sit there and have a bloody conversation about ‘is it feasible’ – you get the job done! If you’re going to worry about what’s feasible perhaps you should go and retrain as an accountant, because you’re sure as hell in the wrong bloody job here, Bell!’
As they were staring at him like rabbits caught in the headlights, another hammer blow crashed onto their self-esteem. Cowley, who had been observing unnoticed behind them, added,
‘You do what it takes, lads. Don’t forget that.’
Bodie withdrew quietly and added to his notes.
Back in their office, flicking through the files on Penman again, Bodie came across a familiar name.
‘Oi, here’s one for you, look! Remember playing housie with the lovely Esther while I suffered in that bleedin’ bedsit with those kids? There was you all tucked up warm and snug and there was me burning the floorboards for a bit of comfort!’
‘For someone who constantly bangs on about your rough life in the great African bush, you don’t half like your home comforts.’ Doyle’s tone was abstracted as he searched through another section of paperwork.
‘Yeah, well, that’s what makes you appreciate things, right?’
‘Anyway, what did Esther have to do with Penman?’ Doyle dropped the file he was working on onto the desk and looked up alertly. ‘She must have been about sixteen when he was coming out of training.’
‘Er, not quite, mate. She’s not that young, y‘know. Surprised you didn’t notice.’ Bodie smirked at his partner, who ignored him loftily. ‘Anyway, they worked on the same team when there was a big drugs bust. It was coming in from Hong Kong in shipping containers. The Cow was involved in that one as well. Not much else of interest.’
‘Note it down. Add it to the big pile of other things that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Honestly, mate, we’re wasting our time here, we really are.’
They were in one of Macklin’s warehouses by the river on the Isle of Dogs. Always decrepit, this one had an extra air of melancholy thanks to the cries of the seagulls and the acrid pong of the mud as the tide went out. This was the first major exercise for the new intake and the intent was to see how they would pull together as a group. Split into two teams, Bodie and Doyle had each taken half of the group of trainees and were busy running a standard search-and-disarm drill. They’d added a little spice to the game by making it a challenge, losers made tea for the winning team for the rest of the month, and the trainees had of course turned it into a grudge match. Bodie spared a moment to appreciate the sight of his partner running lightly, effortlessly along a narrow beam fifteen feet above the practice ground in order to come down silently and unexpectedly behind one of Bodie’s trainees. ‘Bang’, Doyle whispered softly into Oxley’s ear. Caught off balance, Oxley spun around and fell, tearing the knee out of his expensively-cut trousers. Bodie smirked to himself. That might teach him. He looked round for the rest of his group and rolled his eyes. Yep, they’d got themselves into a huddle over by the storage shed, invisible from the front and outlined beautifully against the grey breezeblock from the back. He went to get them, sneaking up and ushering them over to the mottled fence instead, where they could disappear into the vegetation. He counted heads, frowning. Where was Phil?
‘Anyone seen Richards?’
‘He was over by the water tank last time I saw him,’ volunteered Bell.
‘He was setting the trip wire.’
‘Oxley was supposed to be with him – how come he’s just been captured by Doyle over there?’
There was some shuffling and the ground underfoot became quite interesting as four men studied it in the hope of evading their instructor’s gimlet eye.
‘Well?’ There was no answer.
He glared at them. ‘You are not at school. I asked you a question and I want an answer. Why did Oxley and Richards split up?’
Whitehead was the most phlegmatic character of the group and little fazed him, but even he spoke up warily. ‘Oxley didn’t think much of their task. He said Richards could do that on his own and he’d go and recce over on the other side, find out what they were doing and take Doyle out.’
Bodie laughed, genuinely amused. ‘Fat chance.’
‘He thought that way we’d win outright.’
Bodie had known that Oxley hadn’t rated the exercise but hadn’t realised that he was prepared to balls it up for the whole team by taking a risk. Have to re-evaluate that one, he thought, frowning, but then put that out of his mind and came back to the situation in front of him.
‘So you don’t know where Richards is? Or what happened to him? Or what’s happened to the exercise?’
They looked at him meekly.
‘Stay here,’ he said curtly, and turned to head for the water cistern, pulling out his bleeper as he went. He wouldn’t pull the drill yet, not until he knew what was up, but it shouldn’t have taken the boy this long to set a simple trip wire, and he couldn’t possibly have got lost.
He reached the target area. Silent, weedy and deserted, it was devoid of any trainee – or trip wire, come to think of it. He swore, scouting round on cat feet, senses on high alert, until he realised that this was not real, this was a drill, he was one of the instructors now and he could actually just shout Phil’s name and be done with it. Still – best not mess it up for the lad, if he’d managed to do something clever. He grinned. Unlikely. Phil was a clumsy sod at times, ineffectual at the most surprising things. His redeeming features were a remarkable capacity for analysis, an unnatural affinity for computers, and pinpoint accuracy on the firing range, enough to keep him on this intake for now but both Bodie and Doyle would recommend that he move to the back-office team after the obligatory field trials. But where was he?
Keeping low, he ducked his head over the edge of the cavernous entryway leading down to the lower-level base of the water tank. Nothing. He listened. Still nothing. He had a sense, though, that there was someone down there. He knew where all his team were, other than Phil, but he didn’t know where Doyle’s mob were. Or where Doyle was, for that matter. Be a bit embarrassing, he mused ruefully, to be caught by his own partner. He could still pull the exercise, but… Nah. Let’s see what’s down there first.
Down there, as he’d suspected, was Phil Richards. Trapped by a bit of fallen masonry crushing his ankle, he’d somehow managed to drag himself further into a corner and twist his body under the pitiful cover of a mouldy tarpaulin.
Working quickly, Bodie blipped Doyle on the RT whilst gently exposing the mangled foot.
‘How the hell did you manage this?’
‘I slipped. It wasn’t difficult. I could do it again any time you like.’ Richards’ eyes were over-bright but he was still gamely trying. Bodie gave a snort of laughter.
‘All right. We’ll soon have you out. Why didn’t you shout, though?’
‘Oh – I didn’t want to compromise the team. The exercise. I knew someone would come and get me eventually.’
Bodie’s thoughts on Oxley were not pleasant.
They were at Bodie’s flat that morning, painstakingly going through the files in the hope that information would leap out at them.
‘Let’s go through it again. What were the links between Penman and Special Branch?’
Doyle flicked through the file he was holding. ‘He knew Nash. He worked with Trickett. He – oh, here, he was the liaison with Forrest on Operation Snowstorm, wasn’t there something about that in the other file?’
Bodie ferreted through the other file with a hunted expression. ‘I can’t find it. Oh, yeah, got it. What date was that?’
‘1979 – now what?’ Doyle broke off in exasperation as the RT bleeped. He stretched to answer it.
‘4.5. Yes, sir. What, now? No. Yes, sir. Um, about twenty minutes. Because we’ve got to pack all these bleeding files away – er, secure all your records first. Sir.’ He clicked the RT off and threw it onto the settee.
‘Bloody Cowley! Come on, back to HQ.’
‘Ah, this is hopeless!’ Bodie tossed the file he’d been reading onto the pile with the others. ‘As soon as we think we’re getting somewhere we get called off again! Remind me, when we get back, there’s something there I want to follow up.’
They were working in their office, reviewing the trainees and the upcoming pairings and exercises.
Bodie groaned. ‘Come on, we’ve done enough for now. Let’s go and get a cuppa, for Pete’s sake.’
‘We’ve got seven more to do. Let’s do one more so’s we’re half way through, then we’ll come back to it and finish them all this afternoon. Cowley’s gonna want to see them soon.’ Doyle reached for the next file. ‘Richards.’
Bodie started laughing. ‘Phil. Two left feet. One of which is slightly damaged at the moment, the twat.’
‘You’ve got a soft spot for him, admit it.’
Bodie paused. ‘I suppose I have, really. He’s so bloody cack-handed, and yet he’s so eager. Really keen, y’know? And he’s got a wicked sense of humour. I just – I just want him to do well.’ He shrugged, embarrassed.
‘No harm in liking him – as long as that’s as far as it goes,’ Doyle said lightly.
Bodie grinned at him. ‘Strictly platonic, mate, believe me.’ He sobered. ‘He reminds me of my kid brother.’ He shook his head, dismissing the images that recalled. Doyle narrowed his eyes, remembering the one time Bodie had been drunk enough to talk about what had happened to the other Phil, and let it go.
‘I’ll swear he shuts his eyes on the shooting range,’ Doyle said wryly. ‘But he manages to score higher than any of the others.’
‘Almost equals your score, sometimes,’ Bodie said, looking over slyly at his partner to see how he took this.
Doyle smiled blandly. ‘Not surprising, given that I’ve been giving him the benefit of my experience.’
‘Where did he come from again?’ Bodie riffled through the file.
‘Hendon. Couldn’t wait to get rid of him, if you read between the lines of his recommendation.’ They exchanged a grin.
‘Seriously, though, what do we say about him? He’s clumsy as hell and only just holds his own in unarmed combat.’ Bodie threw the file back onto the desk.
‘He’s bloody brilliant at analysis though,’ mused Doyle. ‘He’s the first one to come up with patterns every single time. And computers – he’s showing me a thing or two there, I can tell you.’
‘Yeah. Put him down for that. He should just about scrape through the evals, if Mack isn’t in too foul a mood, and we can put him down for more training in one-to-one and group work. Chuck me that timetable and let’s see where we can fit him in.’
Bodie had just reached for the schedule when the door banged open and Craig, the new departmental doctor, stuck his head around.
‘4.5. 3.7. Glad I’ve caught you both. I’ve had a cancellation for my course this afternoon, and I notice that you’re on stand-by. Let’s get your medicals done early. I know they’re not due for another couple of weeks, but this way I can get a start on my schedule. Be nice to be ahead for a change.’
Doyle froze. He didn’t dare look at Bodie. Shit.
‘Actually, we were planning to call some of the trainees in. There’s quite a lot to do here and we were going to use the time to refine their schedules. Look, you can see where some of them need some more time in the gym.’ Bodie sounded smooth as silk and ever so slightly bored, as if it didn’t matter. Doyle knew without looking that the pulse in his neck would be thumping faster.
‘No, I’ve spoken to Mr. Cowley and he said to get started on you two this afternoon. Downstairs with you now and let’s get it over with.’ Craig was smilingly impatient.
‘But doc, can’t you start with some of the others?’
‘Doyle, you’re wasting time. Sooner we start the sooner it’s done.’
To protest any more would be to raise questions. With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Doyle followed his partner’s rigid back out of the room. He’d thought they’d had another two weeks. His mind flashed back to a few nights ago, to how he’d indulged himself, how Bodie had let him, encouraged him, even. And it had been glorious. In two weeks’ time the marks would have faded enough that they could have been explained away as something acquired during training. Hell, they were always covered in marks of some sort. But now there was no doubt about what they had been doing. These marks were fresh. The question was, how far would patient confidentiality hold in CI5? Would Craig go straight to Cowley? Doyle had little faith that he would not. Not only that, but he hated to put Bodie through this. They’d been careful over the years, with Bodie covering up in polo neck jumpers or buttoned up shirts, taking a lot of flak for it from their fellow agents. It gave Doyle an extra kick, going round with his own shirts undone down to his midriff and knowing what lay under his partner’s prim garb. Oh, God, they had arrived at the medical suite while he’d been mithering. Craig ushered them through, fussing around with notes and files, and Doyle went first.
Blood, urine, lung capacity, weight, height, all the usual measurements. Doyle went through it all in silence. He shrugged his shirt back on, conscious that now it was his partner’s turn. Bodie had been standing remotely with his back to the wall.
‘Very healthy, 4.5. I’ll get the tests done on the bloods and urine but unless you’ve picked up anything nasty or you’re pregnant I don’t expect you’ll hear from me.’
Doyle smiled politely, and Craig looked at him in puzzlement.
‘You’re both very quiet today. Everything all right?’
‘Yes, fine. Just a bit busy, that’s all.’
The doctor nodded. ‘I know what that’s like. Let’s carry on, then. 3.7, shirt off and on the couch with you.’
Staring straight ahead, Bodie’s hands went to the buttons of his shirt. One by one he undid them, fingers moving with precision until the shirt hung undone from his shoulders. He shrugged it off and turned to fold it carefully and place it on the chair behind the couch. Revealed in the unforgiving fluorescent light of the examination room were the marks Doyle had left on the fair skin.
‘I say, 3.7!’
Craig took Bodie by the shoulder and turned him round. Bodie stared straight ahead, not meeting his partner’s stormy gaze.
‘These are bite marks! Quite severe, some of them. Bad bruising – quite deep. Do they hurt?’
‘I see. Well, you might want to suggest to your girlfriend that she eases off a bit. You can see the teeth marks here. She hasn’t broken the skin but it’s quite a close thing in places and you can see there are several nasty bruises formed here, and here. Is it… ah,’ he paused delicately, ‘is it something she needs to do?’
Bodie looked at him incredulously. Craig continued, ‘That of course puts it into the realms of a fetish rather than just that of –‘
‘Do you mind?’
‘Oh, ah – sorry. Er. Yes, of course. Well. Back to this examination. If you’d lie on the couch we can continue.’
The examination concluded in strained silence and Bodie and Doyle left the room and went back to their office without further comment from Craig. Doyle picked up the untouched files on his desk but dropped them again without opening them.
‘Sod this for a game of soldiers. Let’s knock off early.’
The return to Doyle’s flat was achieved in a brooding atmosphere that promised trouble.
Bodie twirled a curl around his finger. Doyle was sulking, face down on the bed.
‘Does it matter what he said?’
A one-shouldered shrug was his only answer.
‘Hey, come on. What’s up?’
Doyle flung himself off the bed and started hunting in the chest of drawers.
‘Now what?’ Bodie looked at his partner in some exasperation.
‘Going for a run.’
‘Want some company?’
Bodie sat and watched in silence as Doyle threw on his tracksuit and his trainers and left the bedroom. A crash indicated that the door to the flat had been slammed shut. Bodie rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, and reached for the paper.
He was unable to read, though, distracted by the morning’s events, and his mind drifted, thinking of Doyle and their sex life. Their relationship was solid and the sex was the most satisfying he’d ever had. He’d dated girls before and had enjoyed it, but found that he could only be himself with another man. Girls were endlessly fascinating, amusing, delicate and demanding, but in the end, he always lost interest. Men enabled him to cut loose. In the merchant navy and the mercs he’d learned the mechanics of male sex, and he’d had one or two longer relationships. But it was Doyle who completed him, Doyle who was his other half. He smiled, remembering how the biting had started.
It had been a bad day. A bad week, rushing round always two steps behind the drug dealers they were chasing, never enough rest, never any time to eat, and at the end, three agents in hospital. They’d reached Doyle’s flat too tired to do anything but fall into bed, but when Bodie had woken out of a restless sleep at 2am, he’d reached for Doyle as a means of release. Doyle was always up for it. Only this time, he wasn’t.
‘I just can’t quite get there.’ Frustrated, Doyle had glared at his jutting cock as if it were an enemy. ‘I want to, but I can’t. I’m sorry.’
‘No problem. Here, try this,’ and Bodie had rolled under him, pulling Doyle to kneel over him on all fours so he could suck Doyle off while rimming him gently with one hand and pinching his nipples with the other. It was no use, he could feel Doyle’s erection wilting.
‘Hey, never mind. You’re just tired. Come back to sleep and we’ll have another go in the morning.’ Bodie rearranged them again, curling them together and trying nobly to ignore his own body’s demands.
Doyle’s face was against Bodie’s chest. He reached out to tongue a hard pink nipple and Bodie stifled a whimper. He loved that. Doyle took the nipple into his mouth and played with it, reaching down for Bodie’s cock. Bodie gave himself up willingly. A hand expertly scratched his balls oh yeah more and the other one played with the pre-cum on the tip of his cock. The pressure on his nipple was getting harder though, and he twisted away, gasping as Doyle’s teeth caught him hard as he moved. His gasp was echoed by Doyle, whose eyes had gone wide and dark. Suddenly there was a massive erection against his own. He looked at his partner questioningly. Doyle was motionless, frozen into place as if he didn’t know what Bodie would do next. Bodie nodded.
‘Go for it.’
Doyle’s eyes closed briefly in thanks, anguish, Bodie didn’t know what, but he lay still as Doyle positioned him carefully, watching the other man’s eyes blown wide and dark.
Doyle mouthed the skin of Bodie’s chest delicately, kissed it, and then took it between his teeth. He glanced up at Bodie, gauging how much his partner would take. He bit, gently at first, then harder, tugging the skin. Bodie lay passively, watching. Doyle’s breathing was raw. He moved his mouth away and examined the marks he’d left. ‘Beautiful,’ he sighed, before striking in another spot. His cock was hard and leaking, and he nudged it against Bodie’s. ‘All right, mate?’ Bodie nodded. In truth it hurt, but no more than anything he received in his day-to-day life. He was intrigued to see how far Doyle would go and was prepared to stop him if he drew blood, but it was the calculated aspect that he found slightly disturbing. Doyle obviously wanted to bite, and this was not something Bodie had ever come across before. Flogging, yes, he knew of several people who needed either to be whipped or to whip to get their rocks off, but this, this was different. He looked down to see Doyle with his teeth fastened into the skin of Bodie’s chest, tugging and pulling harder and harder. ‘Hey,’ he warned. ‘Sorry, sorry,’ Doyle whispered, releasing the white, bloodless skin and kissing the marks he had made.
Bodie could feel the sexual tension now. No problems with Doyle’s arousal, and if Bodie ignored the pain it was a turn-on for him to see how much Doyle was getting out of this. As if sensing his thoughts, Doyle looked up again. ‘Okay?’ he breathed.
Bodie nodded, fascinated. Doyle re-positioned them so that Bodie was flat on his back and Doyle was kneeling over him, their cocks brushing together. Doyle seemed more interested in the marks he was making, in the precise pressure of his teeth against Bodie’s flesh, gentle at first, then harder and harder, still then worrying at the skin and muscle underneath, then easing and pulling away, looking at the blue-white indentations and watching the blood flow back to tint the skin rosy-red, all the time pushing and rubbing and telling Bodie how beautiful he was in that hoarse, sexy voice, until Bodie shifted the angle slightly and they were frotting against one another to delicious completion, Doyle crying out in satisfaction.
After, they’d lain in sticky silence for a while, Doyle stroking the marks on Bodie’s neck and chest gently.
‘You all right?’
Doyle twisted round in the bed abruptly to see Bodie’s face. ‘You’re not all right.’
‘No, I’m fine. Was good. Just… different.’
‘Did I hurt you?’
‘Nah. Had worse in training, haven’t I?’
‘You didn’t like it?’
Bodie shrugged carefully. ‘I didn’t mind. I liked what it did for you, though.’
A huge yawn was his only response. He looked over, astonished to see that his partner was sliding into sleep. Okay, if that was how it was going to be…////
An hour later, the rattle and slam of the door indicated Doyle’s return. Bodie cast the paper aside as his partner put his head into the sitting room.
Doyle went into the kitchen. Bodie could hear him at the sink. He came back into the sitting room with a glass of water and drank deeply. Bodie watched. Doyle went back into the kitchen and Bodie could hear the taps running again. He waited patiently, wondering what all this displacement activity would result in. Eventually, Doyle returned, and flung himself into a corner of the settee.
‘You said. What about?’
Doyle shrugged, not meeting Bodie’s eyes. ‘This morning. Putting you through that with Craig. Then having a hissy fit when we got back here. Stomping out in a huff.’
‘Ray, what Craig thinks doesn’t really bother me. You heard him, he thought it was my girlfriend. And you stomping out, you’ve been doing that ever since I’ve known you ‘cos you’re a stroppy bastard.’
‘Is it the word fetish that upsets you?’
‘Well…’ Doyle shifted uneasily in his place. ‘Yeah.’
‘If it’s not a problem between us, and it’s not, then don’t worry about it.’
‘Easy for you to say,’ Doyle muttered.
‘Well, what is the problem, then?’ Bodie was starting to get annoyed.
‘I just… I don’t think of it… like that.’
‘Like what?’ Bodie’s irritation was clear in his voice. He looked across at his partner, tense and hunched, and his exasperation melted. ‘Look, sunshine, you’re gonna have to explain. I’m trying to understand, here, but I’m not following. I honestly don’t see it as a problem.’
‘It’s dirty. Old men. Leather and rubber and whips.’
Bodie raised an eyebrow. ‘Those are fetishes, yeah. It’s not all old men though. It can be anyone. Or anything.’
‘Liking something’s not odd though, is it?’ Doyle’s voice was gruff, but Bodie caught the unspoken plea behind the aggression.
‘Well… it’s a bit more than liking, isn’t it, sunshine?’
There was no response. Bodie thought of the number of times Doyle had needed to bite him before he could get it up. It was mainly when his partner was stressed or tired, although there were occasions when it was done with devilish glee. Those were good, he privately admitted.
‘I don’t need to all the time.’ Doyle’s hand was over his mouth and the words were muffled.
‘I don’t even know why, really. Or when it started. I don’t know what’s so good about it. How it makes me feel. It’s just – such a turn-on. Goes straight to my balls. An’ I know people think it’s wrong, an’ – an’ dirty, and that makes me ashamed, but I still do it. And you let me.’
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Doyle raised his head from his hands and scowled at his partner. ‘I’m pouring out my soul to you and you come up with platitudes?’
‘Not platitudes, mate, it’s the Bard. From Hamlet. Means that it is what it is.’
‘That’s really helpful, Bodie.’ Doyle rolled over moodily.
‘No, seriously. Look, don’t sweat it. We’re lucky because we suit one another.’
Doyle frowned, not understanding.
‘Look, it’s simple. We work well together on the job, yes? We work well together in bed. Every so often you like to bite. I don’t mind being bitten. End of story. Now stop bloody sulking and get your arse in gear so we can get a curry, sink a couple of pints and go to bed again. All right?’
A reluctant smile dawned across his partner’s face. ‘Yeah, all right.’
‘Ah, 4.5. You remember Sergeant Ng from the Hong Kong police, although she is now Inspector Ng? I’ve arranged for her to come and give evidence in person next week. It’s safer. You can meet her at Heathrow and escort her while she’s here.’
‘The lovely Esther? Well, well.’ Bodie looked across at his partner with a grin on his face.
‘Me, sir? Why can’t someone else do it? We’re a bit busy next week, what with trying to bring in Penman for you and keeping everything looking normal at the same time.’
‘You, 4.5, because it will seem natural that you look after her again while she is back in the country. Indeed, if you wished to give the impression that there might be anything of a romantic nature developing, to camouflage…’ he tailed off and looked at Doyle benevolently.
‘That means fine dining on expenses, my boy!’ Bodie rubbed his hands together gleefully. ‘I’m sure she’d be delighted to meet me again too.’
‘No, Bodie. I have a different assignment for you. Similar, in that it involves getting information from a pretty girl, so no doubt you can bring yourself to accept it.’
‘Ah, yessir. I’ll do my very best, sir. Which pretty girl would that be?’
‘Penman’s younger sister. He may have contacted her before he ran. They were close. Find out, Bodie. However you can.’ He held Bodie’s gaze meaningfully.
As they left the room, Doyle turned to Bodie. ‘Unbelievable! Pimped out by our bloody boss!’
Bodie shrugged. ‘Could be worse, sunshine,’ he said philosophically. ‘At least we’ll get expenses for it.’
There were raucous cheers as Bodie walked into the pub late that evening. Lake turned to Doyle. ‘Still scrubs up well, doesn’t he?’
Doyle considered his partner, resplendent in dark trousers and shirt with a cream jacket over the top. The trousers and shirt were tightly-fitted to the muscular body and the man himself exuded confidence and power.
‘Not bad,’ he nodded, taking a long drink from what remained of his pint. Over by the bar the other agents were clamouring for the details of what they knew to have been a seduction sanctioned by Cowley, jealousy and admiration showing through in their lewd comments and questions. Bodie refused to answer, putting them off with a smiling, ‘A gentleman never tells!’ which garnered the expected comeback of ‘But you’re no gentleman!’, eliciting howls of drunken laughter. As he made his way over to Doyle and Lake a solitary voice was heard to ask plaintively, ‘Yes, but how do you get those assignments? Do you have to do something special for the Cow, or what?’ The delighted few seconds’ silence that greeted this faux pas, and the racket following it, covered Bodie and Doyle’s exit from the pub.
At home, Doyle nudged his partner. ‘Come on then, spill. What was it like? It’s been a while, hasn’t it?’
Bodie paused in his ministrations to Doyle’s nipples. ‘What about Esther? Don’t tell me you haven’t shagged her?’
‘Nah, she’s a nice enough girl, but she was coming on a bit heavy. Go on, tell me!’ He flipped over and pinned Bodie down, hard.
‘Why, you worried?’ Bodie looked insolently up into Doyle’s eyes, nudging his cock with his own.
‘Should I be?’
Bodie grinned. ‘It was all right. Softer, had to remember to be gentle. Quite nice, actually. Could get to like it again.’
‘Oh yeah?’ Doyle said fiercely. ‘Did she do this? An’ this?’ Bodie gasped under the onslaught and smiled to himself. He did love teasing Ray.
Bodie found Esther waiting in the corridor outside the Controller’s office after her last interview with him. He needed to tell Doyle that Marie Penman had finally given him a lead to follow, but his partner came out of the Gents further down the corridor and Esther stepped forward, her whole face lighting up.
‘Time to be off, then?’ Doyle remarked casually.
‘Will I see you again?’ Esther gave him a hopeful smile.
‘Probably not, now you’ve done what you came for. I mean, there’s no real need, is there?’ He regarded her with bafflement.
‘Then it’s goodbye?’
Doyle shrugged. ‘Yeah, I suppose so. It’s been great to see you again, really… great,’ he finished lamely, eyeing her as she wiped her hand across her face and tried to smile. Didn’t we do this once before?
‘Then I’ll say, “zài jiàn”. It means, see you again rather than goodbye. Goodbye is forever.’
Doyle shook his head, conscious of Bodie standing in the background and aware of this byplay.
‘Look, sorry, but I’ve got to go. Goodbye, Esther. Take care of yourself, yeah?’
And he was gone, slipping past her with a twist of his body as if he didn’t want to touch her.
Bodie smiled sympathetically. ‘Sorry, love.’
‘I thought he cared! I hoped – ‘ She shook her head, looking after Doyle, now disappearing through the far door. ‘I never had a chance, did I?’
‘Let’s just say I can’t see him ever marrying any woman, and leave it at that, shall we? Now come on, or you’ll miss your flight home.’
Later, Doyle turned to him with a puzzled look. ‘Did you get a chance to see Esther’s evidence?’
‘No. I was too busy drying my shirt after all the tears.’
Doyle looked sheepish. ‘Yeah, sorry about that, mate. Thanks for seeing her off at the airport.’
Bodie pulled a face. ‘Do it yourself next time.’
Doyle ignored this. ‘There was nothing in it, though. The old man brought her all this way, and it wasn’t worth it.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘All she could say was that yes, Penman was on the team, but she didn’t see him do anything out of order. Cowley was more focused on getting me to ask her about Cowley’s role, and Penman’s.’
‘I know. Didn’t make sense to me at all.’
‘He brought her all that way for that?’ Bodie whistled. ‘He’s not going to be too pleased about that. Think of the budget!’
‘Yeah.’ Doyle looked thoughtful. ‘Funny thing was though, he looked quite happy.’
‘Off to the showers with you then!’
The trainees filed out of the gym, or in one case limped out, and watching them Doyle muttered, ‘Speaking of showers…’
‘Ah, come on, they’re not that bad,’ said Bodie indulgently. ‘Just room for improvement, that’s all.’ He turned to his partner. ‘Fancy a quick workout?’
‘Yeah, go on, just ten minutes or so. See if we can relieve some of that stiffness.’
They were circling round on the mats, eyes hard and wary, and after a tough few minutes’ sparring they had collected an audience of trainees up in the viewing gallery again. There were some comments, mostly appreciative, until the exercise changed.
‘Why’s he throwing his gun away?’
‘What the fuck? Is it playtime?’ This was Oxley.
One more experienced trainee answered. ‘They’re practicing having to throw it away. For when you get caught and the bad guys tell you to ditch it. Watch.’
In silence the row of agents watched as first Bodie, then Doyle threw their guns away without looking where they had fallen, then dived and rolled to retrieve them again. There were murmurs of appreciation as time after time each of them landed in the approximate area, grabbed for the gun and – most of the time – came up with it rock-steady and trained on an imaginary target.
‘They’re still good.’
There was a scornful noise from Oxley.
‘What, you don’t think so?’
‘It’s all James Bond stuff, that. If you do your job right, you shouldn’t ever have to throw your gun down!’
‘You sound like you’ve had a lot of experience?’ Bell was sardonic.
‘Yeah, reckon you can take those two?’
There was some shoving and laughter, but also some murmurs of agreement, and the group started to drift away. A couple stayed to watch, but when Bodie and Doyle called it a day they too left the viewing area.
Bodie grabbed for the towel and disappeared under it, rubbing briskly. When he emerged to pass it to his partner he found Doyle looking moodily at the balcony.
‘Did you hear that?’
‘Yeah. Laying down the law again.’
‘Shows you what a fat lot he knows.’
‘Why is he so bloody cocky all the time? I mean he’s good, okay, he’s probably the best of that bunch, but he’s so fucking arrogant with it!’ Doyle gnawed the side of his thumbnail, scowling.
Bodie considered what his partner had said.
‘Cowley finds the best, you know he does.’
‘Yeah, and some of them are damn good in what they know already, I’ll give you that. They need a bit more fine tuning in the specialist areas. Surveillance, street fighting, Cowley’s strategic thinking, that sort of thing. But him – it’s as if he thinks he’s got a free pass or something.’
‘Ah, come on, don’t you remember going through training? Remember Donaldson and Bennett? I always thought they were has-beens.’
‘Mmmm.’ Unconvinced, Doyle rubbed at his hair again with the towel. ‘Let’s keep an eye on him though, eh? There’s something a bit off.’
‘Yeah?’ After all these years, Bodie trusted his partner’s judgement. ‘Okay. It won’t hurt. But meanwhile, we have twelve mid-term evaluations to complete for Alpha One.’ He grinned as Doyle groaned theatrically and slumped against the doorframe. ‘Come on. Let’s see how many ways we can find to say “This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot”.’
It was very early in the morning and Bodie had woken up randy. Doyle hadn’t taken much persuading that they could fit a quick one in before they had to be into HQ like model senior agents, bright and early, showered, shaved, and setting a good example. Bodie was now kneeling up over his partner, who was lying flat on his back, shagged out after an intense orgasm. He concentrated, licking his lips where he could still taste Doyle, relishing the ache in his jaw that came from having Doyle thrust again and again into his mouth, where Bodie had sucked his cock and dug his fingers into Doyle’s arse and pinched his nipples hard until with a hoarse cry Doyle had climaxed, throwing his head back, transfixed in ecstasy. Now it was Bodie’s turn. He was so ready, this wouldn’t take long. His breathing quickened as he stroked himself, one hand scratching lightly at his balls, the other pulling and squeezing and stripping his cock more and more urgently as it lengthened and thickened. Doyle watched him through half-closed eyes, lips parted.
The phone rang.
‘Leave it,’ Bodie gritted out. He was so close.
‘Can’t, mate,’ and Doyle rolled slightly under him to get the phone, keeping an amused eye on his partner. ‘Save it,’ he mouthed silently, before answering, ‘4.5’ in a creditable attempt at professional crispness. ‘What, now? Yep. Okay. Fifteen minutes.’ He slammed the phone back into its cradle and rolled back to lie flat on the bed.
Bodie groaned. ‘Fifteen minutes?’
‘Come on,’ Doyle whispered, ‘finish it. Come on me, come on my face, come in my mouth, shoot it all over me.’ And with a grunt, Bodie did, hitting Doyle’s cheek, his hair, the pillow and the sheet in his enthusiasm. He was sitting back on his heels panting, Doyle grinning up at him, when his RT went, as they both had known it would.
‘Fuckin’ hell – 3.7,’ he said, fumbling the switch slightly and nearly dropping the whole thing in his haste and uncoordinated state. ‘This early? Okay. I’ll be ten minutes though at least.’ He clicked the switch off and threw the thing onto the end of the bed, turning to Doyle who was muffling his laughter in the pillow.
‘Is there nothing in this bloody job that’s sacred anymore?’ Bodie asked bitterly, as he threw back the covers and stalked over to his clothes. ‘Can’t even get your end away without being disturbed any longer, no time for a shower, rushed from pillar to post, can’t do any bit of any bloody job properly , it seems – what the hell are you finding so funny?’ Doyle had emerged from the semen-covered pillow but was still helpless with laughter. Bodie glared at him. ‘Oh, piss off. I suppose there won’t be time for that, either, soon. I’m going in, I’ll see you there.’
Take my word and go
Betty wasn’t there when they arrived at Cowley’s office, but Cowley was, bent over files and plans on his desk.
‘Morning, sir. And what a lovely sunrise it’s going to be, I’m sure.’ Bodie’s smile was expansive and insincere.
Cowley, a man with no patience with life patterns other than his own and seeing nothing amiss with such an early start, ignored this completely. Spending no time on the preliminaries, he looked at them over his glasses.
‘Ah, good. We’ve received information about an arms dump.’ He indicated the plan. ‘A big one. It’s reliable information that will allow us to mount an operation to capture the gun runners and take these arms and munitions off the street.’
‘Where’s the information from, sir?’
Cowley stood up from his desk and moved over to the window. His next words were slightly muffled by his movements.
‘Six. They passed it on to us.’
Bodie raised an eyebrow. ‘Very generous of them. They’re not known for sharing.’
Cowley turned abruptly. ‘Does it matter, 3.7? I’m telling you that we have a chance to capture a large quantity of arms before they hit the streets and you’re quibbling about where the information comes from?’
‘Not quibbling, sir, just curious.’
Bodie looked over at Doyle for support and suppressed a chuckle. Doyle was irritably pulling at his hair and Bodie realised that his partner was picking dried semen out of it after their morning’s exertions, not having had the time for a shower. Cowley looked up.
‘Something amusing, 3.7?’
‘No, sir.’ Doyle scowled across the room at him. He smirked back, then returned his attention to his boss who was now riffling through the set of files on his desk.
Cowley patted the files. ‘I’ve been looking through your recommendations on the new intake. This should be an easy operation. It will be a good opportunity to use a couple of the trainees. Put Whitehead, Oxley and Richards in.’
‘Richards, sir?’ Bodie frowned. ‘Our recommendation states that he’s better suited for back-office work.’
The Controller stared at him. ‘Are you saying he’s not suitable for field work?’
Doyle stepped in. ‘No, sir, as we said in our report he holds his own in the field, but his strengths are in analysis and computing. He’ll do the regular field tests but he’s outstanding in –‘
‘He’s no use to me if I can’t deploy him in the field. D’you want him stood down?’ Cowley’s interruption and challenge was unexpected. He looked at Bodie, brooding in the corner. ‘Well?’
‘I say again, this should be an easy operation, text book. But I can’t have men who can’t be put in the field on occasion.’
‘It’s not that, sir.’ Doyle tried again.
‘Ah, you thought you were planning the whole thing? Well, so you are, man, so you are, but I’ll still keep my finger in the pie, and I’ll still reserve the right to put my operatives in where I want them. You’ve no objection to Oxley or Whitehead now, have you?’
‘Och, don’t sulk, Bodie!’
Ever-watchful, Doyle grabbed his partner and hustled him towards the door before Bodie could say anything to provoke the old man further. He threw a few placatory remarks at Cowley as they left.
‘Right, sir, we’ll get onto it. We’ll collect the files on the way out, have a look, put a plan together and let you know in an hour or so.’
Once they were out and safely in the corridor, he slowed down their headlong rush and let go of his fulminating partner.
‘That was a bit odd, don’t you think?’
‘Odd? Why bother asking us for recommendations if he’s not going to accept them?’ Bodie shrugged his jacket back into place where Doyle’s hands had disarranged its fit, smoothing the crumpled sleeve down angrily.
‘No, not that. Why aren’t Six grabbing the credit for this deal?’
‘He can’t let go. He says he’s going to hand something over, he should bloody hand it over. Not keep dabbling in it.’
‘And why would they tell Cowley anyway? Willis hates him.’ Doyle gazed thoughtfully at his partner, whose shoulders were hunched over like a boxer’s.
‘I’ll tell you, unless he can back off, this isn’t going to work.’
‘Bodie! Get your mind out of the detail and up to the bigger picture!’
‘What?’ Bodie’s exasperation was clear.
Doyle looked round the corridor. ‘Not here.’ He pushed the other man towards their broom-cupboard and shut the door once they were safely inside.
‘Now. Don’t you think it’s odd that Willis – Willis - has given Cowley information about something that’s going to be a nice, easy bust? That will hit the headlines as a big success? Keeping our streets clean? An’ Six aren’t looking good at the moment, what with the Defence Procurement licence applications mess. They could do with a bit of good publicity.’
‘True. Perhaps the old man has something on him?’
‘What, and forced him to hand over the details? But how would he have known about it in the first place?’
Bodie considered his partner. ‘You’re a bit twitchy, mate. What’s up?’
‘I don’t know. I just get the feeling there’s something going on and he’s not telling us everything again.’
‘Oh, well, what’s new, then?’ Bodie slammed his hand down on the pile of files on the desk. ‘Set the op up – but you only have half the information and you can’t use the men you want to use. Yes, and we could tie one hand behind our backs as well, that would help!’
Doyle ignored him. ‘Perhaps I am being paranoid. Perhaps this whole thing with Penman is getting to me.’
Bodie’s mood changed. ‘Nah, your instincts are generally right. If you think there’s something odd, that’s good enough for me. Look, let’s plan this so it’s tighter than a gnat’s arsehole, all right? Then we can take another look afterwards and see what's going on when everyone’s back safe and sound.’
Gunfire, smoke, screaming. He’d seen Richards go down, and he wasn’t sure about Jax. They’d been set up. The gun-runners had been waiting for them, in position long before CI5 had arrived in Peckham, and had waited patiently for them to be in the very worst possible situation of halfway set-up, with no-one where they should be and each agent cut-off from his fellows. Then the grenades had started, bringing masonry crashing down around them like a war zone, and when they’d scuttled every which way for better cover, gun fire to pick them off. Doyle had screamed for back-up on the RT but most of the damage had been done in those few early minutes while it was on its way.
And Bodie. He knew, with a sick certainty, that his partner was down in the crossfire, a spray of blood bright in the sunshine.
Caesar's had your troubles
Widows had to cry
While mercenaries in cloisters sing
And the king must die
Cowley nodded to the nurse as she left and he entered the private room.
‘How is he?’
‘I know that, Doyle. I’ve spoken to his surgeon so I know about his injuries. I was asking about his mental state.’
‘He’ll be fine.’
Cowley looked at the man standing wearily by the window.
‘That’s not the impression either of you gave earlier.’
Doyle whirled around and advanced on Cowley.
‘What do you mean by that?’
At his raised voice the man in the hospital bed stirred and mumbled groggily. Doyle turned away from his boss to run his hand lightly over his partner’s hair, murmuring too softly for Cowley to hear. Bodie stilled again and Doyle turned back to the older man.
‘What do you want me to say? That it was a text book op only something went wrong? Nothing should have gone wrong with that set up! We’ve got a leak somewhere, and that’s why we lost Richards. Bodie’s taking that hard.’
Doyle shook his head. ‘I dunno. Look, he’ll be out of here sometime tomorrow, with a bit of luck. His leg’s fine, now they’ve stitched it, but his back will be sore for a while. Give us the rest of the day and we’ll be in on Tuesday morning to sort it all out.’
‘Tuesday, man? We need to get on to it as soon as possible!’
‘Yeah. We’ll go and see Phil’s mum and dad in Yorkshire, then we’ll take a look at what happened. I’ve already set some searches running.’ He held Cowley’s gaze without flinching. Cowley stared back, then nodded.
‘Tuesday it is, then.’
Doyle had time to think while he was driving. Bodie slept for a lot of the journey, and Doyle’s mind drifted back to the last time he’d seen Phil alive. They’d included him on the team, as Cowley had instructed, and Doyle had taken the opportunity to dig him in the ribs as they exited the van at the warehouse site. ‘Oi. Watch yourself when you’re setting that thing.’ He indicated the camera Richards was carrying. ‘Remember, quick, quiet and get out unnoticed.’
Richards nodded easily. ‘I can only do my best.’
‘It’s all any of us can do, at the end of the day. Take care, though, eh?’ Later, Doyle remembered the boyish smile Phil had flashed over his shoulder before he’d rounded the corner and vanished. At the time, he was aware of wondering if they’d ever been that young. He almost went back, but… He’d had his own job to do, and it was at that point that hell had erupted around them. It wouldn’t have saved Phil.
Meeting Phil’s parents was harrowing. His father was looking for confirmation that his son had died for a good cause. Well, they’d tried to give him that reassurance, tried to emphasise that Phil had died in the service of his country, but there’d been nothing on the television, it wasn’t like being a soldier, and however heroic they tried to make it sound, it was still all very hush-hush. Dealing with his mother was far worse. She alternately wept as she remembered the little boy who’d brought her daisies on her birthday and who’d cried when they’d wilted, and raged at an organisation that couldn’t keep him safe. There was little they could say. They did not work for an organisation that kept its people safe. Bodie was tight-lipped, pain and grief taking their toll, and Doyle had a thumping headache by the time he managed to extract them both and get them back on the road home.
How had Robinson’s gang known about CI5’s impending operation? What, exactly, had gone wrong? Doyle mulled it over. He and Bodie had planned the op. Cowley had given them the information, passed on from MI6. Unusual though that was, the source was unimpeachable. There had been little time between planning and setting off, and no one who was not involved directly had been aware that it was even happening. As far as he knew. But someone must have leaked the information, for Robinson’s men were positioned round the site before the CI5 team arrived to set up, and they’d arrived a good three hours before the deal was supposed to go down.
There was only one answer, and that was the unpalatable one. A leak. Well, he could at least trace all calls in and out of the building. He could check the files again, and see who had signed in and out. And the computer files. Phil had shown him a thing or two there. He rubbed his eyes, and corrected the car as it swerved over the white line. The first priority, however, was to get home in one piece.
And if my hands are stained forever
And the altar should refuse me
Would you let me in, would you let me in, would you let me in
Should I cry sanctuary
Doyle did not feel ready for this interview. He’d made his preparations, but there was no getting away from it, he did not want confirmation of his conclusions. Betty nodded him through and he tapped on the Controller’s half-open door.
‘Doyle. You wanted to see me. Come in, come in.’
Doyle took a deep breath and walked steadily into the room, closing the door behind him. Caffeine jangled along his nerves from the strong cup he’d downed swiftly in the VIP Lounge. He dug his hand into his pocket before approaching the desk.
‘Now, is this about Penman? You’ve found him?’
‘I want to talk about the Robinson op.’
Cowley frowned up at him. ‘We’ve been over that, Doyle. How is Bodie today?’
‘You set us up.’
‘What?’ Cowley looked up sharply.
‘It was you that leaked the info about the Robinson op. I didn’t believe it at first. Tried every which way to see it differently. But it was you. You set us up.’
‘Set you up, 4.5? What exactly are you accusing me of?’ Cowley’s tone was contemptuous.
‘You let your tame mole know about the arms dump, knowing he’d go running back to Willis.’
‘And who is this mole supposed to be?’
Doyle had been watching for the flicker in Cowley’s eyes. ‘Oh, very good,’ he applauded. ‘I didn’t know if you’d go for total denial or something more plausible.’
There was silence in the room. Cowley spoke first.
‘Very well, 4.5, I’ll humour you. Explain your reasoning.’
‘It’s triple-think again, isn’t it? I don’t know why, though. But you sold us out, set us up so that Oxley would go to his contact in the Home Office with the information.’ He registered the infinitesimal shock in the older man’s face as he named the trainee agent with no satisfaction. The stillness in the room belied the tension thrumming between the two men.
‘Yeah, Oxley. I had my doubts about him from the start. He was always so cocky, as if he knew his place on the Squad was certain. Oh, you wouldn’t have told him directly, nothing as clumsy as that. But I bet you called him in to tell him about his place on the team, and just happened to be called away, and I just bet the file just happened to be on your desk. You were only out of the room for a couple of minutes, weren’t you? Yeah, right.’
He waited, watching his boss’s face. This was the man he’d trusted for so many years now. He’d accepted that there were times when agents were sent out on a limb for the greater good, however hard that may be. He and his colleagues had survived Operation Susies over the years. Some of his fellow agents had not. He recognised, that like a kid clinging to his dreams, he was hoping deep down in his gut that Cowley had a reason. An explanation that would make it all right.
‘Very well. Tell me how you came to your conclusions.’
‘Oh, no.’ Doyle shook his head. He wasn’t going to be caught that way. ‘Tell me why you did it.’
‘You’re very sure it was Oxley.’
‘I pulled the phone records.’
Cowley blinked. ‘Well, you have learned something recently.’
‘And the computer records,’ Doyle added softly. He watched as the other man’s hands deliberately relaxed and rested openly on the desk, a sign that his brain was working furiously. ‘The links are there. Oxley to Ferguson to Willis and the Minister. You set us up.’
‘And why would I do that? To my own men?’
‘That’s what I’m asking you.’
Cowley rose swiftly from his chair. ‘How many years have you worked for me now? Ten, is it? Eleven? And you can still ask me that?’
Doyle waved a hand dismissively. ‘You’ve not given us all the facts before. But you’ve never sold us out.’
‘Sold you out? You think I did this for money?’ Cowley’s wrath was suddenly palpable in the space between them.
‘Ah. You did, then.’
A long pause.
‘And if I did?’ So, it was to be challenge, then.
‘But don’t you see, man, it was a strategic move to give us Willis, the Minister and Ferguson! That proved beyond a doubt that Oxley was feeding information to Ferguson!’
Doyle stared at him blankly. Cowley continued, leaning forward in his desire to convince, to share his deep-seated conviction that this had been the right thing, the only thing to have done.
‘That one operation was the key piece in demonstrating the link between them! It couldn’t have been clearer!’
‘Och, I regret that, of course I do, deeply regret it. It was never my intention –‘
‘Your intention? You’re directly responsible for Phil’s death and Bodie nearly copping it as well.’
‘It’s very painful, I understand that. But – collateral damage, isn’t that what the Americans call it? You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, Doyle, and I’m very thankful we didn’t lose Bodie. Regrettable as it was, the loss of a junior agent –‘
‘You set that up.’
‘The operation was carefully controlled. As I said, it was never my intention –‘
‘You can’t control ops – you do the best you can to set them up but when you’re on the ground anything can happen, you know that! But you should be able to rely on your boss not to sell you out!’ Doyle was shouting now, with Cowley sitting rigid in his chair, glaring back at him.
‘Careful? Where was careful when we were under fire from all sides because of your fucking strategy?’
‘4.5! I will not tolerate this attitude!’
‘Tell me this at least. You’re going to get rid of them all, aren’t you? Willis, Ferguson, Oxley, Branson? They’re all gonna go, aren’t they? Now you’ve proved they’re dirty?’
Cowley studied his agent across the office. ‘Doyle, think. If they all go now then yes, I’ve cleared the corruption temporarily. But more will follow. You know that. If I leave them in place I have power over them. They will tell me who the corrupt ones are in their ministries, in their offices. That will do more good in the long run.’
‘That’s dirty. Oh, I don’t believe I’m hearing this. That’s blackmail!’
‘No, Doyle. That’s strategy again. Triple-think, man! Can’t you see the good it will do, long-term? Rather than denouncing a few petty bureaucrats now, I control the flow of information! I am the one who decides who goes and who stays! I have the power to make or break!’
Doyle shook his head slowly.
‘What was it? “To detect, deter and prevent, and or take suitable action and or actions against those transgressors against the law outside the norm of criminal activity. To keep this island clean and smelling--even if ever so faintly--of roses and lavender.“ ‘ He paused and looked down at his boss with immeasurable contempt. ‘All hail George Cowley, hypocrite and faithless bastard.’
‘Enough! You’re suspended!’
Doyle held his gaze for one smouldering minute, both men considering their next moves, before flinging out of the office. As the door slammed shut behind him, George Cowley sank back into his chair, breathing heavily, one hand to his chest.
Bodie looked up as Doyle came into the room and put his fingers to his lips to indicate caution. ‘You swept this place recently?’ he mouthed.
‘Yeah, we’re clean, don’t worry.’ Doyle shrugged his jacket off and threw it onto the settee.
‘As of when?’ Bodie pulled the curtains shut. ‘Do it again, eh?’
‘Okay.’ Willing to humour his partner, even though he knew the flat was clear of any electronic listening devices, he did a quick sweep of all the rooms. ‘An’ look. Phil showed me this.’ He held out his hand which had a small box in it. ‘It creates sort of white noise. If we keep our voices down, even if they were bugging us, they wouldn’t be able to hear past this.’
‘Right. Go on, then, tell me.’
So Doyle recounted the bare bones of his meeting with the Controller of CI5. He watched his partner’s face become more set and strained, and was sorry for the effect his account was having, for he knew what Cowley had meant to Bodie. And he grieved for what he was about to do, but he knew that he had to do it.
‘Something else. Something else Phil gave me.’
Bodie looked up from his contemplation of the floor.
Doyle brought out a small instrument from his pocket. ‘It’s a recorder. Japanese. Very small. Battery operated.’
‘Go on, then.’
In silence, they listened to the betrayal. Doyle found that he was almost detached, that the squeaking of the tiny spindle and the robot voices almost made it impersonal, as though it had happened to someone else. But he could see the effect it was having on Bodie, and he was heartsick, and sorry.
The recording ended with an incoherent jangle of noise as Doyle had been rushing out of the building and had forgotten, in his rage, to halt the recording. In the flat, Doyle pressed a button on the tiny machine and the tape stopped with a final click. Delicately, precisely, he put the recorder down on the table.
There was a long silence. Then Bodie scrubbed his hands across his face and rose clumsily to his feet.
‘Need a minute.’
Doyle nodded. He’d had an hour in the car to process what they’d just heard, although he suspected that his driving had been downright dangerous. It still made him feel empty and cold inside. Hell, they’d suffered from Cowley’s machinations before, and survived, although it had been a close run thing occasionally. Sometimes agents didn’t make it. They’d lost more colleagues and friends than he cared to think about, but never before from Cowley’s deliberate actions. Death, danger and despair were part of the job, but he felt they had an immutable right to be able to depend on the man they worked for.
He looked up as Bodie came back into the room. He looked care-worn and weary, and as though he was hurting. Doyle didn’t think it was his physical wounds.
‘It’s okay, mate. I know it’s a shock, to hear it like that.’ He paused, judging Bodie’s reaction to what he’d heard. ‘What d’you want to do? Can you go on working for him?’
‘No’. The reply was swift and without hesitation. ‘You?’
‘No way.’ Doyle was definite.
‘What’re we gonna do, then?’ Bodie’s tone was sombre.
‘What about these other bastards?
‘Oxley? Ferguson?’ There was a long pause. ‘They’ve got to go.’
‘And Benson. The Minister. He’s as bad.’
‘Cowley should get rid of them.’
Doyle shook his head. ‘You heard him. He’s not going to.’
‘Can we force his hand? Go to someone else?’ Bodie looked hunted. Doyle recognised the last desperate push against a decision that had to be made.
‘Who? The Home Sec?’
‘Maggie might take an interest.’
Doyle looked up cynically. ‘You trust her?’
Bodie sighed. ‘No. She’d use it for her own ends as well. Probably be delighted to have something on so many people all at once.’
Doyle got up and paced to the window and back. ‘I can’t get over what he did.’ There was no answer from his partner. He glanced over, to see Bodie studying the floor again. ‘You okay?’
‘Okay? How can I be bloody okay?’ Bodie surged up from the couch, ignoring his healing back, ignoring Doyle’s instinctive grab to help him as he staggered. His shoulders were hunched as if he’d received a mortal blow, and his eyes were screwed up as if to avert the threat of tears.
‘I trusted him. He rescued me when Nairn was going to dump me. He gave me you as a partner. He’s backed me all the way. He’s been more of a father to me than my own dad ever was. And now this.’
Doyle watched him warily. He knew that once given, Bodie’s loyalty was not easily shaken, but equally, once lost, it was unlikely to be regained. Ever. And if Cowley had been like a father, Phil had reminded Bodie of the younger brother he had lost years ago. Cold decisions about strategy were not going to outweigh his sense of grief and betrayal.
‘We could just get out, mate.’ There, he’d given Bodie the option.
‘No.’ The response was quick and furious. ‘He’s got to get rid of them. If he won’t, we will. Permanently.’ Doyle looked questioningly at the other man. He’d back Bodie all the way, but did he really mean that?
‘If we leave them in place, he’ll do it again. They’ll do it again. Do you want that on your conscience?’
‘Then it’s not just Oxley, Ferguson, Willis and Branson,’ said Doyle slowly, eyes fixed on Bodie. ‘It has to be Cowley as well.’
Bodie looked harrowed, a man fighting against what he knew. ‘Yes.’ Grief left a weight on the air between them.
‘Be sure, Bodie. Be very sure.’ Doyle knew the depth of Bodie’s affection for George Cowley.
Grim, Bodie nodded. ‘Yes. Cowley has to go too.’
Doyle drew a breath. ‘Okay. Just take a minute, mate. Come here.’ He waited until Bodie had settled back on the settee and the tension had dissipated slightly.
‘You realise what you’re saying?’ Doyle turned to look at the other man.
‘Facts, Ray. Cowley sold us out on that op. He caused Phil’s death.’
‘He sent us after Penman to clear up after himself.’
Bodie raised an eyebrow. ‘You sure about that?
Doyle nodded. ‘Found it in the file today. Cowley’s previous link with Ferguson. Penman and Cowley were on an operation together when Penman was a trainee. Cowley was his direct handler. Cowley introduced Penman to Ferguson. Ferguson is Oxley’s uncle.’
Bodie whistled. ‘No wonder he didn’t want that known.’
‘Yeah, and no wonder Oxley was so bloody superior. Of course he thought he’d got a ready-made place – if not in CI5 then in MI5.’
‘So if we’d either handed Penman over to Cowley or taken him out ourselves…’
‘No more inconvenient evidence cropping up when it’s least expected and getting in the way of Cowley’s world domination.' Doyle laughed bitterly.
‘What d’you wanna do about Penman?’
‘Ah, leave him be. He’s happy enough where he is. It’s Cowley we need to worry about. This way, he leaves the Minister in place so he can control him as well. Christ, Bodie, it doesn’t bear thinking about. He’s got the Minister in his pocket, and MI5 and MI6 if he needs a lower level or to play one hand against the other.’
‘Like a spider in a web.’
Doyle shuddered. ‘Never liked spiders.’
‘He’s changed, that’s for sure.’ Bodie’s face was grim. ‘He’s not the George Cowley I signed on with.’
Doyle looked at him. ‘D’you think it’s gone to his head?’
‘What, the power? He’s always been a bit that way. He’s always used it for good before, though.’
‘Oh, he made that perfectly clear. This is his idea of good. That’s the problem.’
‘Play that bit again. The omelette bit.’
Doyle rewound the miniature tape, the machine making a high-pitched, squeaky whirring sound as it went. After a few false starts, he reached Cowley’s Scottish burr and the damning, horrible words.
‘It’s very painful, I understand that. But – collateral damage, isn’t that what the Americans call it? You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, Doyle, and I’m very thankful we didn’t lose Bodie.’
There was a long silence in the flat. The day outside was slowly losing its grip on life and the setting sun shone blood red through a chink in the curtains.
‘Look, let’s sleep on it, eh?’ Doyle considered his partner. ‘You need to get some rest. We’re not in any mood to make big decisions tonight.’
‘Yeah, okay. You going back to your place?’
‘You want me to?’
Bodie looked sheepish. ‘Nah. Stay here, would you?’
Doyle’s heart turned over. Oh, Bodie. ‘What, can’t reach the choccie biccies on your own?’
A look of relief crossed his partner’s face, quickly stifled. ‘No, it’s not that. I can’t get me jammies on ‘cos me toenails are too long. Need some help, nurse.’
‘You are revolting. I am not coming anywhere near your disgusting toenails.’
Bickering, they eased gently into the night time routine, and the little recorder lay ignored on the table.
‘You all right?’
‘Yeah. Just thinking of Phil and his enthusiasm for the computers.’
Doyle smiled. ‘He taught me loads, y’know? He was brilliant, he really was.’
Bodie gave a small nod, jaw clenched. ‘Yeah. And we’re going to use that.’
‘Oh, yeah.’ Their eyes met, and they raised their glasses.
They held the moment, then put their glasses down.
‘Right. Let’s plan this. We need to hack into the computer systems. Arrange new identities. Twep the fuckers, and disappear. Does that sum it up?’ asked Bodie.
‘Always straight to the point, that’s you.’
‘Yeah, well, in order to start all this, you’re going to have to grovel to Cowley. Can you do it?’
‘I’m sure I can. I don’t know if he’ll accept it. Christ, Bodie, I still can’t believe he’s changed so much.’
‘That’s the point, isn’t it? He’s not the man we knew. Look, don’t let’s rehash this.’ Bodie shifted on the couch.
‘Your back bothering you?’
‘No.’ He sighed at Doyle’s hard stare. ‘Yes, but it’s fine.’
Doyle got up and stalked into the kitchen, returning with a glass of water and Bodie’s pills.
‘I don’t need them.’
‘If we’re going to do this, you need to be in good shape. Take the pills, hardarse.’
Meekly, Bodie took the pills.
Doyle watched him suspiciously until he was sure the pills had been swallowed. ‘Okay. So I go and grovel to Cowley and get access to the computers. Cover our tracks, bollix the system so it crashes and they can’t do anything for a week or so.’
‘It means getting out completely. Setting up with new identities, the lot. You okay with that?’
‘As long as we’re together, yeah.’
‘Just checking. We might have to go abroad for a bit, but we can come back after a while.’
‘What do you want to do, after this?’ Doyle was curious. What sort of thing had his partner been considering?
‘Dunno. Never really thought much about getting out. What about you?’
‘Just the standard things. Security, bodyguard, fitness trainer. But we don’t have to stay in this business. We could do something completely different. Be normal.’
‘Normal?’ Bodie was sceptical. ‘Such as?’
‘Teacher. Artist. Landscape gardener. We could live in a little house together and – oof!’ He broke off laughing as Bodie elbowed him in the stomach. ‘Well, we could!’
‘Set up house together? We’d have to be careful where we did that, ducky. There are places where we’d get run out of town for that.’
‘Yeah, and I can think of another problem too, sharing a house with you.’ Doyle frowned at him, suddenly teasingly serious.
Bodie tensed. ‘What?’
‘Well, this house. We’ve only ever lived in CI5-issue flats before.’
‘So who’s going to choose it? I mean, you’re a precision-engineered privet hedge kind of bloke and I’m more of a wildflower, cottage garden person, with roses round the door, that kind of thing.’
‘Precision-engineered – You pillock!’
The discussion was postponed for a while.
‘What about it?’
‘I need to shuffle it around a bit before we change identities ‘an all that. Be a bit annoying to set up everything new and then not be able to get at it.’
‘This your merc money you’re talking about?’
‘Yeah. It’s a reasonable amount by now, enough to keep us comfortably for a while, at least.’
‘Mmm. Well.’ Doyle rubbed his hand over his face. ‘Something to tell you there, mate.’ He shuffled on the couch. Bodie looked at him narrowly. If he didn’t know better, he’d say his partner was embarrassed.
‘It’s okay, Ray. I’ve enough for both of us.’
‘Nah, it’s not that. I’ve got some put away as well.’ Bodie looked a question at him. ‘From my face.’
Bodie gaped at him. ‘The face that launched a thousand ships? I know I like it, mate, but –‘
‘Prat. No, from the compensation.’ Bodie shook his head uncomprehendingly. Doyle turned round and sat up. ‘I’ve never told you, have I?’ Bodie shook his head again, feeling as though it was going to fall off. ‘You know about the Drugs Squad.’ Bodie nodded in relief.
‘Okay. I shopped them. Huge surprise, massive fall-out, commendations for D.C. Doyle. They get nicked. And then one dark night three of their friends come to call on brave little D.C. Doyle, who gets his face kicked in so badly he’s in hospital for 3 months. Unfortunately for them and their friends they were caught doing it, the friends shopped them, so there’s a big cover-up, the higher-ups not wantin’ to ruin the good name of the Met any further. I was doped out of my head in hospital so I signed whatever they put in front of me. Cowley came along with the CI5 offer, so when I was out I just put the money in an account and left it there. Because it was all so hush-hush it was triple what it should have been, and it’s been there ever since.’
Bodie was silent for a moment. Then, ‘Is that why you hate them so much?’
‘Blood money, feels like. I should never have accepted it, but I was out of my skull. On drugs, ironically enough. But now’s a good time to use it, I reckon.’
‘You sure, sunshine?’
‘Hell, yeah. If I leave it it’ll be confiscated and go back to the Crown, I guess. Sod that. We’ll take it. If I can find me pass book.’
‘How did it go?’
Doyle pulled a face. He threw his sweatshirt onto the back of a chair and wandered into the kitchen. Bodie heard the fridge door slam shut and then the unmistakable sounds of Doyle hunting for something, punctuated by swearing. He waited impatiently. Something hadn’t gone right today, by the sounds of it.
‘Will you – Get the fuck in here and tell me what happened.’
Doyle reappeared in the doorway, clutching a can of beer and a stack of crackers with cheese on them. Bodie stared unbelievingly at them. ‘You stopped to make cheese and bloody crackers?’
‘I’m hungry, all right? Haven’t eaten all day.’ He kicked off his boots and slumped onto the settee next to Bodie, balancing the can on his stomach.
‘Doyle. What. Happened?’ Bodie tried to heave himself up from his slouch and twisted his back in the process. His yelp and wriggle upset Doyle’s precarious equilibrium and the beer can went flying, spilling cold beer all over Doyle’s crotch.
‘You moron!’ It took them a minute to sort themselves out and once they had, Doyle was sitting head in hands.
‘Did you speak to the Old Man?’ At this, Doyle looked up questioningly and made a circular motion with his hand. Bodie nodded. He’d swept the place just before Doyle had arrived back at his flat.
‘Okay. Yeah, I spoke to him. He believed every word I said. I’m back, no problem. Well, the usual lecture, but what’s that nowadays? He’s just going through the motions.’
‘That’s good, then.’
‘He’s changed. He’s so complacent. He’d have seen right through me two years ago.’
‘That’s the problem though, isn’t it? That’s what started all this.’
They sat there gloomily.
‘I dunno, Bodie. What the hell happened? He used to be so – so moral, so upright. It’s as though he’s set on one idea and he can’t see anything else. He’ll sacrifice everything to get there.’
‘He’s always done that though.’
‘Yeah, but for the greater good.’ Doyle rubbed one fist with the other hand.
‘He sees this as the greater good. We don’t agree with him this time, that’s all.’ Sighing, Bodie moved to ease his back. Doyle didn’t notice, his attention still focused on his hands.
‘I suppose so. There’s been times we didn’t agree with him before, I guess.’
‘Mmm. He’s always been a bit of a law unto himself. Remember Manton? Shot him in the back. And Martin. No hesitation there.’ Bodie knew he should stand up and move because his back was aching, but he didn’t want to disturb the mood. They had to be absolutely sure about what they were planning to do. Ray could be such a moody bugger sometimes, and even after all these years Bodie sometimes never quite knew where he was with him. Ah, sod it. Just ask.
‘You still sure about this?’ Bodie stood up, and Doyle’s gaze instantly whipped up to him, eyes narrowing.
‘Yeah. You?’ Doyle’s tone was calm and strong.
‘Yeah. No doubts, sunshine.’
‘There’s no going back after this.’
‘No. Are we ready, d’you think?’
‘We can go through it all one more time. Won’t hurt.’
‘I don’t mean just the plan. You haven’t often killed in cold blood, Ray.’
Doyle was silent for a moment. ‘No. But I’ve done it. It’s part of the job, after all. I know you want Oxley for Phil. Ferguson, though, he’s doing it for money. He’s not being blackmailed, he’s probably never even connected the dots. He thinks it’s not his fault, if someone unfortunately gets killed. Which means he’ll do it again so he can trade his Jag in for a Range Rover next time. Bastard.’
‘Okay. We hit Oxley together. You take Ferguson, I take out Benson long-range. I’ll make it look like the IRA, that’ll fox ‘em. We’ll do Willis together after that. Then we go for Cowley and disappear.’
‘To Amsterdam. I like the sound of that.’
‘Who d’you think they’ll set to finding us?’
Doyle snorted. ‘None of the current lot. Couldn’t find their arses with both hands.’
‘Reckon they’ll get anyone to track us down, like Cowley wanted us to track Penman?’
‘Who? They’re all retired or dead. Susan might. She’s a whizz with the computers.’ He gnawed a thumbnail. ‘I’d better put a few bugs in there for our Susie. Lucas is a digger, but I don’t think he’ll track us. And Murph might be able to find us, if Rachel lets him.’ They grinned at each other, thinking about Murphy’s red-headed wife and their four children. ‘He always knew how we thought. He and Allison have been out of it for too long though. He’ll never get Lewis back from that cushy number in Dubai. Jax is still recovering. Geoff Anson – what’s he doing nowadays?’
‘Went back to the Guards, didn’t he? They don’t seem to mind about his hearing. I suppose they shout so much it doesn’t matter.’
‘Hmmm. Well, I can’t think of anyone in the last few years who’s as good as our bunch were.’
Bodie assumed a superior look. ‘But naturally, old son. We were the best.’
Some men are better staying sailors
Take my word and go
‘Can we have a word?’
‘Can I say no?’
‘Nope.’ Doyle gave Bodie a discreetly helping arm up the ferry’s ramp but knew that the arms dealer had seen his assistance. He deliberately crowded Martell, using the warmth of his body, his stare and his aftershave to good effect. Doyle had summed up Marty in one searing look on their first meeting. He felt Bodie tense up and knew he was trying not to laugh.
‘Please. Won’t you join me in my office?’ Martell’s gaze was sharp. ‘Bodie, dear boy, have you hurt yourself?’
‘Nothing a stiff gin and tonic won’t cure.’
‘Well, I’ll have to see what I can do about that then. Come this way.’
The partners had agreed to tell Martell as little as possible, but Bodie had warned Doyle that Martell’s information network was expansive and nearly rivalled CI5’s in its spread. ‘Not only that,’ he added, ‘but Marty’s clever. He’s likely to add two and two and get sixteen.’
An hour later, they’d got what they wanted. A shopping list of untraceable weaponry: rifles, semi-automatics, pistols, holsters and ammunition for everything. Martell had driven a hard bargain but as Bodie had told Doyle in their earlier discussions, there wasn’t anywhere else for them to go. ‘And at least he’s reliable. And he still owes me.’ However…
‘You’re being very helpful. Pricey, but helpful. What’s the deal, Marty?’
Marty nodded slowly. ‘Why am I helping you? Because, to be honest, I don’t want you coming back and stirring up trouble. Not that it isn’t a pleasure just to look at you,’ he added, eyes roaming over Doyle’s body. Bodie controlled his grin. Marty had always had a thing for Doyle right from their very first meeting. He’d originally admired Bodie’s hard-muscled body but had abandoned him without a second thought when introduced to Doyle’s siren charms.
‘But then again, dear boy, I get the feeling that you won’t be coming back from this one.’
Doyle was on his feet instantly.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Easy, Ray. Give the man a chance. Marty?’
‘It’s an awfully big shopping list, Bodie. I do wonder why CI5 can’t supply some of it, if you’re doing George’s dirty work again.’
‘You know how it is. Sometimes he throws us to the wolves and denies all knowledge, and we’re out there on our own.’
The two men held each other’s gaze. Doyle, still on his feet, was ignored.
‘Have you been putting the willies up someone, Bodie?’
‘Chance would be a fine thing.’
Martell sighed. ‘Oh, I do know how you feel. I hardly ever get the opportunity to put the willies up anyone these days.’ He considered Bodie, still sitting on the seat opposite him. ‘All right, you can have all your gear, and I’ll deny everything. I’ll even cover up behind you. For old times’ sake.’
‘Thanks, Marty,’ Bodie said softly. ‘I appreciate it. You look after yourself, mate, eh?’ They smiled, each knowing that this would be the last time they met. Bodie could feel Doyle’s frustration and bafflement but ignored him. He’d been through a lot with Marty over the years, and although he didn’t mind cutting himself off from most of his acquaintances, he admitted privately that he was going to miss this one.
They were sprawled under a tree on Clapham Common, with no one in sight or hearing.
‘How are we doing with our plans, then?’ Doyle spoke upwards, into the dancing leaves.
‘Got the money. Got the identities – three each. Got the weapons.’
Bodie grunted. Doyle turned his head slightly to check his partner’s expression but couldn’t see much due to the arm hiding Bodie’s eyes. He added his own update.
‘I’ve set up the computers so the programmes will cascade. It’s just waiting for me to initiate the first command sequence and the whole lot will fail. It’ll take them at least a week to find it, probably more.’
‘You think we should do that? What if there’s a terrorist threat?’
‘I’ve left all the police and MI5 and Six’s systems intact. Plus I’ve left the links there, so they don’t have to reprogramme anything, they only have to get ours back up and running and they’re all set.’
‘Payback time then.’
‘You still sure?’
Bodie sat up, wincing at the sudden movement. ‘Why d’you keep asking, Doyle? D’you not want to do this?’ His eyes were fierce as he stared at his partner.
‘Me? I’m fine with it. It’s you I’m worried about, you daft bastard! Look at you! You’re still not recovered, for one thing.’
‘Will you keep your voice down!’ Bodie was exasperated.
‘There’s no one here except those two old biddies on the bench half a mile away. Look, I know what you think of Cowley.’
Bodie shook his head sombrely. ‘Thought, Doyle.’
Doyle regarded him with pity. ‘Yeah, okay. Onto the next steps, then.’
Oxley locked his car, whistling. It had been a good evening. He jogged across the damp pavement to the doorway of his block of flats, fishing for his keys in his pocket. He had no warning when two figures moved silently out of the shadows to flank him, and jumped as they each took an arm.
‘What the – oh, it’s you. What’s up? Is it a call out?’
‘Upstairs with you.’ They were crowding him, manhandling him up the stairs to his door, and he felt a sudden sense of unease. Bodie looked very grim in the dim light. Bloody bulb had gone again. He tried to move round, angling for better light and some space, but Doyle, the bastard, cut off his movement.
Bodie reached out and almost gently, it seemed to Doyle, snapped Oxley’s neck. Oxley crumpled without a sound. Doyle looked down at his body, sprawled gracelessly in death. Briskly, he untied one of Oxley’s shoelaces, scraped the aglet briefly under the sole of the other shoe, and applied his foot to the body. It slid to the bottom of the stairs and landed in a heap.
Cowley was at his desk reviewing the overnight updates from the Duty Officer when Betty put her head around the door. She looked upset.
‘Oh, sir, I’ve just had some bad news in. John Oxley, sir – he’s dead! He had an accident overnight. He fell down the stairs at his flat. I have the details here for you.’
Cowley stared at her in astonishment. ‘Dead? Why wasn’t I informed earlier?’
‘It wasn’t picked up as a CI5 matter, sir, not until the police realised who he was and contacted the Duty Officer.’
‘Och, that’s terrible news. There’s no doubt it was an accident?’
‘It seems as though he tripped on his shoe lace, sir. The light bulb at the top of the stairs had blown so he might not have noticed and just, well, fallen.’
‘Poor lad.’ Cowley held out his hand for the report. ‘Poor lad. A good agent. What a way to go – what a senseless way to go! Aye, all right, Betty, thank you. I’ll deal with it.’
He sat for a minute, musing on the waste of talent, before putting the report to one side and continuing his perusal of the overnight reports. A few minutes later the chair crashed back against the wall and he was bellowing for Betty again.
‘Send Fischer in, and Turner! Recall Lucas from leave immediately! And get me the Minister on line 1! And then set Anderson to find 4.5 and 3.7! We are now on priority alert, repeat, we are now on priority alert!
‘Do it now!’
He sank back in his chair, breathing heavily. He picked up the report from the desk where he’d thrown it. Yes, it was clear. Basic in its format, the agent who’d spotted it had seen no cause for alarm. ‘MI5 senior information analyst killed in tragic car accident’ stated the bland headline from the early papers.
But Cowley knew better. Oxley and Ferguson in the same night?
The red phone on his desk rang. With a sense of dread, he reached out his hand.
Anderson tapped on the door. Wearily, Cowley raised his head. ‘Enter.’
‘I’ve been trying to raise 4.5, sir, but he’s not answering. I’ve tried 3.7’s flat but there’s no answer there either. Do you want me to keep trying?’
‘No. No, lad, I don’t think that will be necessary.’
‘Sir?’ The young agent was puzzled. ‘Do you know where they are, sir?’
‘Aye. Aye, I think I do,’ and the Controller of CI5 sank back into his chair, staring blindly at the wall.
He’d lost them. He’d lost them both, his best lads. Oh, he’d recognised long ago that they’d formed a partnership that excluded most others in its strength and skill, but he liked to think that they depended on him as well, that they respected him and even – dare he think it – liked him. Doyle, now, he was more of an independent thinker, had to be convinced every time, had to be won, but Bodie was more willing to obey orders. And Bodie, he admitted secretly to himself, was like the son he’d always wanted. Fiercely loyal, physically extremely capable, intelligent, possessing a dark sense of humour – yes, indeed, if he could have chosen any of his agents, Bodie would have been the one.
Doyle. He knew he’d been upset with the Robinson operation, at Richards’ death and Bodie’s injuries, but he thought he’d done a good job of explaining why it was so necessary. Damn it, he, Cowley, had been grieved too. He never liked to lose an agent, even though Richards was never quite going to make the top grade. It upset everyone and it was expensive to train replacements. But Doyle had stood here in this office, appearing to back down and to agree – although reluctantly, just reluctantly enough to be convincing, damn him - that having the power to control the Minister and his cronies was a good thing.
Dammit, could the man not see? He knew his idea had been sound, had been the right thing to do. Remove the men at the top, cause a scandal and they’d be replaced. He’d have no control over the replacements and would have to spend precious time getting to know how they thought, working out how their minds ticked. He’d have been able to nudge Branson to do the right thing, quietly, without fuss. Similarly, he could have influenced MI5 through Ferguson. And finally, after all these years, he’d have the upper hand over Willis in MI6. Never for his own gain, no, never for that. Always for his country, and what was needed. Not always what was seen by others as the right thing to do, perhaps – that Mather woman had been scathing in her denunciation and some of her words had cut deeply, but he firmly believed that someone had to do it. The country was changing under Mrs. Thatcher, and the winds of power were keener. It was a fine line he walked, and it got harder all the time. It was good to have a quiet way in at the top. But no longer, it seemed.
He looked at the latest report again. ‘Miles Branson, Minister for Home Affairs, shot. Suspected IRA involvement.’ Tchah. Coming on top of Oxley’s fall and Ferguson’s car crash, this was no IRA sniper attack. He knew exactly who was responsible.
Had he misjudged them so completely? His mind homed back to a previous conversation.
Long ago, Kate Ross had warned him. Separate them now, she had said, or you risk them turning inward to each other and becoming each other’s sole focus. Their loyalty will be divided, or worse, will be switched from CI5 and they will need no one else.
He’d thought about this. But they’d worked so well together, and he’d left it just one more operation, and then just one more, because he needed his best team working on the hardest cases… and then it had become too difficult to change things. And they didn’t work as well with others. Oh, they tried, they did their best, but you could see the seams where things didn’t quite match up, and the stop-go motion where the action didn’t quite flow, and everyone was frustrated, so in the end it seemed more sensible to leave them as they were.
He’d noticed, as well, the growing closeness between the pair of them. Kate had warned him about that too. They still dated girls, but it was with a slightly amused tolerance, and the affairs never lasted long. And again, they turned to each other. He didn’t know if it was sexual. Didn’t want to know. Didn’t like to think of that, really. But then, if it were so…never to know the hideous, devouring loneliness of the single life - until the end, and even then they would have had all the years together. He’d thought perhaps… with Annie… but it was not to be.
He shook his head fiercely and focused on the present. What were they likely to do next? He thought of Doyle as he’d last seen him, sulky, mutinous, and of the time before that, almost incoherent with rage, eyes blazing, shouting about Oxley, Ferguson, Willis – that was it! Willis was their likely next target. He barrelled out of the office past a confused Betty, shouting for all agents.
‘Right, next step. Time to lose the car. The problem is, wherever we leave it in London it’s going to be found. Unless we put it back in the CI5 car park, of course.’ Bodie grinned at the idea.
‘I’ve had a thought about that. Saw a piece on the news last night. It’s a bit of a drive, but still. I can combine it with tidying up some other stuff at me mam’s.’
‘They just so happen to be extending a reservoir up near Nottingham. It’s got some stupid name - Holme Pierrepont, that’s it. I thought that’d do nicely.’
‘What, sink her? Clever!’
‘Yeah. But it’s a long way, so we’d better get started. You follow me and we’ll be off.’
A few hours later, they watched as the Capri slid silently into the water. Doyle sighed. ‘Reckon she’ll sink far enough out that no one will see ‘er?’
‘No one’s going to find her there for the next thirty years. If then. Give ‘em a surprise when they do, mind.’
‘Poor old girl. She doesn’t deserve that.’
‘Sentiment, 4.5?’ Bodie was gently mocking.
‘Nah, there’s no time for that, is there. Come on, on to the next bit of the plan.’ He felt his partner looking at him through the darkness. ‘Oh, yeah, go on then. A bit. Served us well, didn’t she, all these years.’
‘Think of it this way, at least she’s not going to be crushed.’
Doyle felt a shoulder brush his own gently as they turned away from the water, and he leaned into it, grateful for the brief warmth. ‘Good point. Okay, come on. Let’s get out of this lousy town – never liked Nottingham either, you know?’
‘That’s only because you support Derby. Still. Despite the fact that they couldn’t win a match against a group of Girl Guides.’
Bickering, they made their way back to the unremarkable Volkswagen Golf parked away from the reservoir and headed for the final step in the plan.
No man's a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
While the juggler's act is danced upon
The crown that you once wore
The king is dead, the king is dead The king is dead, the king is dead
Long live the king
It was the end of a very long day. Cowley had spent it in interminable meetings: meetings to brief the Home Secretary, meetings to brief the hastily-appointed replacement Minister, meetings with a vengeful MI6, meetings with a furious MI5, meetings spent trying to reassure a shocked and nervous CI5, and he was feeling every one of his years. The car drew to a halt outside his flat and he waited as the Special Branch men designated as his bodyguards checked the approach, then entered and checked that the flat was clear. He nodded in dismissal as they left, and turned to bolt the door.
So this was it, then. He closed his eyes briefly. There was an inevitability about it, he supposed, that having trained the best, he couldn’t now defend against them.
He turned, and addressed them. ‘Bodie. Doyle.’ He refused to give them their call signs. They were no longer any agents of his. He watched them warily. There might still be a chance. It was possibly a good sign that they hadn’t killed him from a distance – although he had little doubt that that was what they were there for.
‘You know why we’re here.’
He nodded. ‘Aye. You’ll not refuse me a last drink, then?’ He made a move towards the sitting room, only to be checked by Doyle.
‘No!’ The man had the gall to raise his own Webley against him. ‘Stay right where you are.’
Despite everything, his breath was coming shorter in his chest. The ache was back too, but he was damned if he’d rub at it in front of them. He stood straighter, like the soldier he’d always been, now called to face his reckoning. He saw Bodie looking at him. Aye, he knew what he saw. He saw the papery skin, the sparse hair, the thin hands every day in the mirror. But that was no reason not to meet his Maker like a man.
‘Go on, then. I’ll not beg you for my life. What I did, I did for the best. Not for me, but for the country. I deeply regret young Richards’ death, of course I do. But I would do it again if I believed it was right. So go ahead.’ He bowed his head and murmured to himself the comfort of the Nunc Dimittis. ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.’
‘Hang about. You’d still do it again?’
He raised his head at Bodie’s interruption, irritated. ‘Yes. That’s what I told Doyle. Och, Bodie, that’s the price of command. Don’t you think I’ve grieved for every agent lost under my direction? When I know I’ve sent them out to their deaths? But what good am I if I cannot take that decision? I prepare them all as best I can and I pray that they will all return. And I answer to my own conscience, and to my God, for those that don’t.’
‘Crap. You were on a power trip.’ That was Doyle. Arrogance, insolence – oh, he could have been a good man, a good replacement for himself, even, if he could but have learned to control that hot temper.
‘No, Doyle.’ He looked at the younger man levelly. ‘It was never about personal power. I can only repeat that I have always – always – worked for the good of this country. There may have been times when taking the strategic view was unpalatable, sometimes painful, but it was for long-term gain.’
They stared at each other. Cowley shrugged. ‘And if it were for power,’ he added, ‘look around. What has it got me?’
Doyle didn’t need to look around Cowley’s flat. He’d been there often enough to know that it was comfortably furnished but empty. Bare. Containing nothing reminiscent of a life shared with others, and certainly reflecting no personal interests or items that might indicate friends, relatives, or any social connections. The man lived a spare, barren life and had nothing to take with him into the future.
‘Why, sir? Why didn’t you tell us?’ That was Bodie. From such unpromising beginnings, damned and condemned by Nairn, he’d grown out of his hard, cold shell. Aye, and much of that was to do with Doyle, he supposed. He held the man’s stormy gaze.
‘Why, Bodie? Because the decision was mine and mine alone to make. You were too close. Could you have gone through with it, knowing how it might have played out?’
‘We could have been prepared!’
Cowley shook his head slowly. ‘No, Bodie. Any hint, and Robinson would have been warned off. Oxley was clever. He was trained as a profiler by MI5, you know. He was reading you like a book.’
‘Why were you so anxious to cover up your association with Penman, then?’ That was Doyle, watchful behind him. Och, use interrogation techniques on him, would they? Split the focus, keep him off balance? He snorted. ‘For precisely the reason you suspect, Doyle, but not from your point of view – from Willis’s and from Benson’s! I couldn’t have them finding out when I wanted leverage over them!’ He shook his head, irritated. ‘I can only repeat, this was never about me. It may sound old-fashioned, but I have done what I have done in the service of my Queen and of my country. Do as you will.’ He bowed his head again.
One glance between them, and there it was again, that silent communication always so baffling to the outsider. But this time there was something between them he hadn’t been aware of before. Mind, he hadn’t exactly been in this situation before either. He raised his head and studied them curiously. Tension, aye, but a closeness, a oneness that was new. Though, looking at them, was it new? It was as though, in this situation, all pretence had been stripped away leaving the bare essence of what they were. And suddenly, he understood. So they had been lying to him about that, too. The end of many things, then.
Doyle stirred, attracting his attention again.
‘Up to you, mate.’
‘We were going to twep you too.’
Cowley snorted again. ‘And why not? Not got the guts, eh?’
‘Don’t push it.’ That came from Bodie, a menacing, low growl.
It was Doyle who responded, eyes still wary, but with a mocking smile on that too-pretty mouth.
‘Nope. We don’t need to. Because CI5 won’t last without you. Not after this. There’ll be too many questions asked, and it’ll all become too difficult, politically. You’ll be asked to retire and that’ll be the end of the department.’
Bodie crossed in front of him and saw what he had been trying to hide, that he had managed to trip the alarm hidden on the hall telephone.
‘Time to go. You’re right. None of it’ll last.’ He turned directly to Doyle, and Cowley saw their eyes meet. His heart caught and stammered in his chest at what he saw.
They backed up towards the door, watching him. He followed them, stumbling slightly, and thought Bodie almost put out a hand to steady him. They reached the lobby, and the two men slipped silently out of the flat. The outer door open, they turned. One piercing, intense look from each of them, and they were gone. He hurried back to the sitting room window and pulled the net curtain aside. Two shadows crossed the road, lightly, shoulder to shoulder. They reached the little park and faded into the dusk of the pale midsummer night.
He could hear squawking now, from the telephone, and knew that backup would only be minutes away. He returned to the hall and lifted the handset. ‘No, stand down. Alpha One here. Code name is Scarsdale, code sequence is six two, code word is Integrity. Repeat: Scarsdale, six two, Integrity. Aye. Aye. Good night.’
He replaced the receiver and slowly returned to the window. Peering out into the evening, he thought he saw movement again. He squinted, trying to see, but they were gone.
He’d never see them again, he knew. He’d been given an unexpected reprieve. And his lads? Och, they were still his lads, he supposed. Deep down, he wished them well. They’d disappear, take new identities, and live out their lives together. Always together, never far apart. He closed the curtain and turned back to his lonely flat.