“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” J.M Barrie
Betrayal begins with trust.
Gun shots rang out, echoing through the museum’s empty hallways.
“Bomb squad should be here in ten minutes,” Bodie called out to Doyle from his cover behind a large wooden desk, as he pocketed his R/T.
“That’s too long.” The air surrounding Doyle was alive with the dust and debris stirred up by earlier blasts. Doyle looked at the rubble strewn around them. “We’ll have to take care of it ourselves.”
Bodie studied the ragged figure framed in the doorway – hair grey with plaster, clothes coated in dust, the lower leg of his jeans stained dark. “Ray, we don’t know where the last bomb is. There are blokes shooting at us. You’re injured and the Cow has ordered us out.”
“There are three children trapped in this building, Bodie, and another bomb set to go off. Am I supposed to run and do nothing while those bastards finish blowing this place to kingdom come? Can you?” His face was ashen with pain. “We have to try.”
Bodie shook his head in resignation. There was no dealing with a Doyle in this mood.
“Where do we start, then?”
Doyle limped cautiously towards the door and turned to speak. His words were swallowed up in the explosion that rocked the building.
Bodie woke in hospital and slowly took stock of his condition. Everything seemed to be connected and in working order. There were elastoplasts decorating his arms and face, and his ears were ringing from the blast, but nothing appeared to be too serious. His head ached and his throat was dry. That, and the itching from the dressings, was the worst of it.
He found the nurse call button and summoned help. He wasn’t really surprised when Cowley entered his room.
“How are you feeling, lad?” It was Cowley’s standard line to his injured agents. Cowley handed him the water sitting on the bedside table.
“I’m fine, sir.” He took a sip of water through the straw. “How’s Doyle?”
“He’s back from surgery. The bullet went through his calf; it missed the bone. They’re cleaning it up. He took a few cuts and bruises from the explosion,” Cowley shook his head. “It’s not his physical state I’m worried about, Bodie. The children didn’t get out in time. All three of them died.”
“And Doyle is blaming himself, as usual...” Bodie sighed.
“No,” Cowley grimaced. “This time he is blaming me.”
Doyle paced uneasily around Bodie’s flat.
“Sit down, Ray. You’re supposed to be resting that leg.” Bodie knew his words were useless. Doyle had been out of sorts since Cookie’s death and this latest cock-up only added to his irritability. He was withdrawn, moody, and quick-tempered. Bodie knew he was wrestling with something.
“Are you really taking this so easily?” Doyle’s tone held derision. “Three kids were killed, Bodie. Three! Not to mention the poor bloody coppers who died. And now Cowley tells us that there’s to be no trial, that the bastard will likely go free.” He waved an arm in the air. “Oh, there will be an inquiry, laddie,” Doyle’s voice did a fair mockery of Cowley’s brogue, “but don’t look for justice. The Minister has his own plans for the man and they don’t include jail.” Doyle turned and punched the wall; wincing with the pain, he took a deep breath and turned anguished eyes to his partner. “How the fucking hell am I supposed to live with this?”
“The thugs who did the job will get their just rewards, Ray.”
“Oh, well, that’s acceptable then, isn’t it?” He took a deep breath and rubbed his bruised knuckles. “I’m sure that’ll make the families of all those killed sleep much better knowin’ that.”
Bodie stood and pulled his partner into his arms. The taut body was shaking with rage. Bodie knew whatever he said would be wrong, but he had to try.
“Ray, we’ve seen the villains let off before....”
Doyle pushed him away, his hands curled into fists.
“And that makes it all right?” He glared at Bodie. “Well not for me, mate. Not this time.” He poked Bodie in the chest with a stiff finger. “I’m done with all of it. I’m out. I can’t do it anymore.” He started for the door.
“I’m not leaving with you.” Bodie spoke softly, hoping to calm the angry whirlwind in his lounge. “I’m not giving up.”
“Is that what you think I’m doing? Giving up?” Doyle was yelling now. “Think what you like. It doesn’t matter to me.” He pulled open the door. “And I didn’t ask you to leave with me anyway. Attach a lot of importance to yourself, don’t you?” The door slammed shut behind him.
“Bodie! Doyle! With me,” Cowley called into the restroom as he quickly walked past the open door. Stretched out on the shabby settee and having hoped for the chance at a kip, Bodie rolled his eyes in resignation. Doyle shrugged and slurped the last of his tea.
Cowley led them down to the car park and handed Bodie the keys.
“Where to, sir?” Bodie held the rear door open for him while Doyle slid into the passenger seat.
Bodie exchanged a puzzled look with his partner. Neither man spoke. Cowley broke the silence.
“The Minister has agreed to meet with us to discuss the museum operation. I hope you gentlemen know how unprecedented this is. The Minister is not one to explain his orders. I had to pull in a few favours for this.”
Bodie watched Doyle settle lower in his seat. Head down and eyes tightly closed. He could feel the tension radiate from the man.
Bodie did realise that it was a rare opportunity they were being given. Probably an attempt to keep Ray from going out and doing something everyone would regret, he thought with a wry smile.
“What’s to explain?” Doyle demanded, straightening up quickly. “The man responsible for six deaths is walkin’. Seems pretty simple to me.”
Bodie cringed at Doyle’s tone, waiting for Cowley to tear into him. Doyle had been impossible to live with since he had learned that the man behind the museum debacle was going to escape the due reward Doyle felt he deserved.
“The Minister understands that his decision will not sit well –“
Doyle snorted, “Yeah.”
Cowley spoke louder, “-but he has offered to meet with us to explain his actions.” Cowley caught Doyle’s eyes in the rear view mirror. “You will listen.”
Upon entering the Minister’s office, Bodie was surprised to find the heads of MI5 and MI6. The CIA was represented as well. Doyle’s eyes narrowed. Bodie grimaced at the expression and sat back to wait for the impending explosion.
As he had thought, the meeting did not go well. Bodie watched as Doyle sat simmering, hands clasped in front of his mouth, chewing on the edge of a ragged nail as the Minister explained.
“The man responsible for the deeds at the museum is involved in activities currently of interest to other departments.” He indicated the agency heads seated around the office. “Bringing him in now would jeopardise sensitive operations.” The Minister met Doyle’s eyes. “At this time, the man will remain free.” To Bodie, the Minister almost sounded apologetic.
At the announcement, Doyle jumped to his feet. He was furious.
“It’s not right!” Doyle’s voice thundered through the room. “He’s guilty as sin!” He looked over at the other men in the office. “CI5’s had to clean up MI6 messes before. There’s no guarantee they’re going to get it right this time.” He turned to Cowley. “We’ve got him dead to rights on this job. Promises for the future shouldn’t get him off scot- free.”
“Doyle! Sit down and control yourself, man!” Cowley’s anger matched his agent’s. “You’re making a spectacle of yourself and CI5.” Cowley took in the annoyed visage of the Minister and the amused looks on the faces of the men from of MI5, MI6 and the CIA. “The men who perpetrated this heinous act will be punished, to the full extent of the law.” Cowley tried to calm his agent.
“But not the man who planned it,” Doyle interrupted, enraged. “He walks.”
Bodie knew it wasn’t the time to try to pacify Doyle. He winced inwardly as Cowley reached up to pull Doyle back into his chair, but Doyle evaded the grasp.
“Aye Doyle, maybe it is wrong, but it is not your decision to make,” Cowley reminded him. “You don’t have all the facts. Remember who you are, who you work for, what you represent.”
“Bollocks. It’s all lies. I thought I was working to keep Queen and country safe. I thought I was serving to keep Britain smelling sweetly of lavender and roses.” His tone was mocking, his face twisted and ugly with rage and betrayal.
Bodie saw his partner shudder. Doyle looked around the room, meeting the eyes of everyone in the office in turn, finally settling on Cowley. His shoulders sagged.
“I truly believed that, sir.” His voice was quiet, his eyes blazed as his emotions got away from him. “I put my life on the line, risked Bodie’s life, and for what? To protect a man who thinks nothing of killing children? Make no mistake; his plans killed those children.” He shook his head in disgust. “The mysterious man they are all protecting,” Doyle’s hand made a sweeping gesture that encompassed the men sitting around the desk, but his attention was fixed on his own boss, “it was him caused the death of three policemen. I saw it happen. But because he may be important to the Ministry, to MI-fucking -6 and the Cousins, that all gets swept away. He’s free to do it all again.” Doyle’s anger was rising again as he looked at Cowley. “They won’t even tell us his name.”
“Doyle! Sit down. Now!” Cowley’s fury had not abated.
“No, no more. Here.” He slapped his ID onto the table in front of his boss. “I’m sorry, but I can’t turn a blind eye to this...this travesty, and I won’t work for someone who can.”
Bodie tried to stop him as he limped out of the office but was pushed aside.
“Leave off!” Doyle spat angrily at him. And he was gone.
The Minister cleared his throat while the rest of the men in the office found something to watch outside the window.
Cowley sighed and turned to Bodie, “Go after him.”
Too stunned to move, Bodie watched Doyle leave and wondered how the hell he was going to get the man to see reason.
The sound of a boot scraping against the pavement behind him caused the skin on the back of Bodie’s neck to tingle. The path to this courtyard had been clear; there shouldn’t have been anyone behind him. If he found himself alive when this was over he was going to murder his new partner. After nearly three years and too many close calls, Cowley had partnered him again. Adamson wasn’t a bad partner. He was young and new and a tad idealistic. But he wasn’t Ray Doyle. Ray would never have left him exposed like this. He cursed the direction of his thoughts. Even after all this time he still expected to turn around and find Ray beside him, behind him, watching his back.
The unmistakeable click of a gun being cocked was followed by a sharply shouted “Down!” Instinct took over and his body followed the command without a thought. Three shots rang out. He waited to feel the pain. There was no way the gunman could have missed at this range. He heard the soft thud of bullets striking flesh, then the clatter of a gun hitting the pavement. Puzzled, he slowly turned his head and saw a ghost. Be careful what you wish for, he told himself. He rose from his defensive crouch.
Ray Doyle was leaning over the prone body, closing Jackson’s eyes. Jackson, who had been the object of the whole op, lay sprawled at Doyle’s feet, three neat holes in his chest.
At Bodie’s movement, Doyle jerked around and their eyes met. Bodie could still read those eyes. He saw the anger directed at him for carelessly putting himself in danger, saw regret that they were no longer there to protect each other, and saw the aching loneliness born of the knowledge that they were each on their own. The emotions were gone as fast as they had appeared. He was sure Ray had seen the same feelings reflected back at him. With a quick nod at Bodie, Ray was off, reloading his weapon as he ran towards the sound of more gunfire.
Bodie stood stunned. ‘What the fuck had happened here?’ Ray had saved his life, again, and had disappeared, again. Where had he come from?
Back at HQ after the Jackson mission clean-up, Bodie sat in the restroom with some of the other agents, unwinding with a mug of tea.
“Thought I saw Doyle today,” Charlie announced.
“Yeah, he was there.” Bodie didn’t look up.
“Do you see much of him these days?”
Ignoring the clipped answer, Charlie probed a little deeper. “Was knocked for six when he left the mob.”
Bodie surprised Charlie by answering. “I never really thought he’d go, either. Thought it was just that temper of his talking. He was more than angry at the way that museum op came apart. But his reaction wasn’t anything new. He’d been like that before – after other jobs. I thought it would all blow over once he worked it out of his system. I didn’t believe he’d really walk away.” Bodie sighed and continued voicing thoughts long held inside, speaking as if he were alone. “I must have left him on his own too long, left him too much time to think. That’s dangerous with Doyle. I should’ve been there for him - it’s what partners - friends - are supposed to do.”
“So why did he leave - really?”
“Said he couldn’t take the triple-think. He didn’t like workin’ blind. Honestly, I think he felt betrayed by Cowley. Ray’s a bit of an idealist.”
Charlie swallowed a cough.
Bodie glared at him, but continued. “It’s true he and Cowley didn’t always agree, but Ray trusted that the old man would always do the right thing. That meant taking the side of the man on the street, and to hell with the politics.” He paused, reflecting. “For someone who’d survived the troubles life had thrown at him, Ray was rather naive about some things.”
“So why go back to the Yard? He’d already seen what that bunch was capable of.”
“Dunno. I suppose because he felt he knew what he was walking into. They couldn’t catch him unawares again. And if he didn’t have high expectations, he couldn’t be let down. He wanted to do some good. That’s what the job is all about for him, he needs to feel he can help – can do some good.” He looked down into his mug and sighed. “I think he left CI5 because Cowley let him down.”
Jax and Susan came into the restroom.
“Oi, any of that left?” Jax pointed at Bodie’s tea.
“Probably stewed by now,” Charlie informed them.
“I’ll start a new pot,” Susan moved over to the kettle. “That was quite a risk Doyle took today to help you, Bodie.” Susan paused in filling the kettle to look at him.
“I suppose.” Bodie had retreated after his uncharacteristic discourse with Charlie.
“What was Doyle doing there, anyway?” Jax asked.
Bodie froze and the other agents noted the colour leave his face. His voice was flat as he finally realised why Ray had been there and exactly what it meant. “He was undercover.”
“That’s what Cowley said,” Susan poured herself a mug of tea. “Apparently the Cow has been working with the Yard on the quiet to stop Jackson’s gang. He’d had a tip that there was a drop today. He hadn’t expected the Yard to be there this morning. It was too late to put a stop to things. Good thing they were there, eh, Bodie?”
Bodie stood abruptly. He hadn’t heard a word of Susan’s explanation. “He was undercover! He knows better, damn him! He put himself at risk. Hell, he put the whole operation at risk. He could have blown his cover, and why?”
“He saw you were in trouble, mate.” Charlie stood and put a hand on Bodie’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “It’s what friends do.”
Ray Doyle shook off his jacket and sighed deeply. Although he’d been doing so for a few years now, he really didn’t like working solo. He missed having someone to watch his back. Face it, Doyle, you miss having Bodie watch your back. He was reluctantly amused by his admission.
The day’s earlier fiasco brought back memories of him and Bodie watching out for each other. It had been like old times. He’d reacted without thought of consequence when he’d seen Jackson get the drop on Bodie. His current undercover had been forgotten. Bodie was in danger and all that mattered was getting him out of it. And he had.
He walked to the drinks cabinet and pulled out the special bottle of malt, the one he opened once a year. He poured himself a generous glass and raised it in mock salute to those who no longer played a role in his life. Three times he’d raised a glass to commemorate the day he’d walked away from the best job and partner he’d ever know. “Cheers.” He was surprised that this time it came out sounding regretful rather than bitter. Images of the old CI5 gang played across his closed eyelids. Cowley, Susan, Charlie, Jax, Murphy... and Bodie.
He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. Seeing Bodie today brought back everything that had led to his leaving CI5. He didn’t blame Bodie for anything that had happened. Bodie had been used and had been dissatisfied with the outcome of the museum op too. But Bodie had been better able to deal with it all. At least it had seemed that way. No illusions for Bodie. He expected the worst and so wasn’t disappointed when it came to pass. And he couldn’t forgive Bodie for that. He had wanted, no needed, Bodie to hurt too. As selfish as that was, he had wanted to know that he hadn’t been alone in his outrage and misery over that op. He had wanted Bodie to feel the same betrayal he had felt as a victim of Cowley’s triple think. But Bodie hadn’t – or if he had, he’d kept the feelings to himself. And that holding back had angered him. So he had let his ratty temper take over and he’d said some unforgivable things to Bodie and told Bodie to leave. And Bodie had.
He felt worse knowing that Bodie would forgive him, had probably dismissed the words as soon as they were said. But he couldn’t forgive himself for taking all his hurt and anger out on Bodie. Stubborn pride kept him from asking for that forgiveness. It had been easier to avoid Bodie.
He shook his head again in frustration and dismissed thoughts of the past. It was over, behind him. Why couldn’t he leave it alone? He had a different job now and it required his full attention. All things considered, the current op had been going well. It had been easier than anticipated to get into the villains’ gang. Today he had risked all of it for Bodie. Bodie, who had walked out of his life and had never looked back.
His lapse in judgement really didn’t surprise him. He knew, despite all that had happened that he cared very deeply for Bodie. As he had left the alley, he’d wondered if anyone had seen him take down Jackson. Several members of Jackson’s crew, including himself, had been sent out to reconnoitre the area for the drop. They’d been surprised by the presence of CI5. He had no idea why Bodie had been there or what Cowley had wanted with Jackson. But at the end of the day, it had all worked out. The only one who could blow his cover was Jackson, and he wasn’t going to be talking to anyone, ever again.
He walked over to the window, sipping his drink. Leaning back against the cool glass he raised stinging eyes to the ceiling. His throat tightened as he whispered into the dark night, “Christ, I miss you, Bodie.”
One of the faces looking up at him from the grainy surveillance photo turned Bodie’s guts to water.
“Doyle?” He managed to keep up his usual air of indifference; as if nothing he was being shown was important enough to demand his full attention.
Not fooled in the least, Cowley removed his glasses and looked at his agent. “He’s undercover. You knew he was working with the Yard again?”
“I’d heard,” Bodie admitted, remembering his encounter two years earlier with his former partner. The last time he’d seen him. He pulled himself together with effort. “I haven’t made it a habit to follow his – er, career, sir.”
Cowley took in the shuttered expression. A look that could have been called understanding crossed his own face, and was quickly hidden when he replaced his glasses. He opened a file on his desk and passed another photograph to Bodie.
“For the last year, Doyle has been working undercover in Evan Coughlin’s gang. We believe Coughlin is turning drug money into guns and selling those weapons to an IRA splinter group. Doyle has been collecting evidence to tie the two groups together and to find out who and where Coughlin’s contacts are. He hasn’t made contact with the Yard for two weeks.”
“He’s been sussed?”
“The Yard isn’t sure. The other agents in place report that Doyle is even now working behind the bar at The Dockers Arms. He’s been tied to Coughlin’s sister.”
“The Yard doesn’t think he’s turned?” The scorn in Bodie’s voice was clearly evident. He turned away and coughed into his hand to cover the surprising twinge of jealousy he felt at seeing Ray’s arm around the girl in the photograph.
“Bodie, this is Doyle we’re talking about. The man could no more turn than...”
“I know that,” Bodie interrupted. “But the Yard knows it’s happened before. Barry Martin…”
Cowley cut him off. “Rumours are circulating that Coughlin’s group has been compromised. The Yard thinks that Doyle has gone deep to keep suspicion from himself. He’s not taken the chance to report in, in case he is being watched. We have no reason to believe Coughlin is on to him, but the Yard is backing off.”
“Cutting him loose, you mean.”
“They’re too close to taking this mob down to pull him out. Doyle accepted the risk when he went in.”
“Where drugs are involved, Doyle has no sense. Of course he agreed to this.”
Cowley sighed. “There was another reason he took this on.”
Bodie’s eyes narrowed. “Go on.”
“Doyle learned that the man involved in the deaths at the museum five years ago is orchestrating the gun sales.”
“The mystery man? The one who was going to lead MI5 to a spectacular bust that would have cleaned up Britain? The one who somehow managed to elude their master plan and walk off?”
“Bloody hell.” Bodie let out a deep breath and ran a hand over the back of his neck. “No way is Doyle going to quit. The Yard, they’re going to sacrifice him, aren’t they?”
A strained silence stretched between them.
“Aye, they are,” Cowley answered quietly. He raised a hand before Bodie could speak. “But we’re not. I’ve requested and received permission from the Minister to involve CI5 in the operation. You’re going in. Ostensibly, your job is to gather the information from Doyle and help take Coughlin’s mob down. If you can get Doyle out too, so much the better.”
“And how do I get in? You said it took Doyle months to be accepted.”
“We’ve been in contact with him for several weeks. Keller has become quite valuable to the Americans. The CIA has made him some promises if he can gain us Coughlin’s trust.”
“What’s his connection to Coughlin and why are the Americans willing to help us?”
“After Keller was released from hospital, the CIA took him. They set up a cover so they could get to his contacts. Coughlin is one of those contacts. The CIA has an interest in Coughlin’s mob because they believe some of their activities involve Americans sympathetic to the IRA’s cause. Neither the Americans nor the British are happy with that, each for their own reasons. In an effort to better relations between all the agencies, the Americans have agreed to let us use Keller to get you into Coughlin’s gang. Think of it as a sharing of resources.”
Cowley gave Bodie a moment to collect himself. He realised the man had been dealt several unanticipated shocks.
Clearing his throat, he handed Bodie another folder.
“Everything you need to know is in there, 3.7. You have two days to settle into your role. You’re to arrive at Coughlin’s pub on the fifteenth.”
“Yes, sir.” Bodie rose to leave.
“And, Bodie. Remember your target is Coughlin. Doyle is secondary.”
“I understand, sir.”
“See that you do.”
Bodie threw the folder on the coffee table. The photo of Ray and Coughlin’s sister slid free. He picked it up and leaned back into the cushions on the settee. What have you got yourself into this time, sunshine? And why do I care?
He stared at the impish grin that he used to work so hard to pull from Ray, but this time there was something missing. The smile didn’t reach Ray’s eyes. What had taken the light out of those innately expressive eyes? Was it the undercover? Was it finally having a chance to exact some justice on the man responsible for the deaths of innocent children and policemen? And how much of it was his own fault? He knew he had hurt Ray. The scene played out in his mind, like it had numerous times since he’d walked away…
“I told you I don’t expect you to leave with me.” Ray was throwing socks and pants into a battered holdall. He turned back to the wardrobe, dismissing Bodie.
“Ray, why are you doing this? Slow down a minute and think things through.”
The only response was more silence. Bodie had enough. He grabbed Doyle by the arm and spun him around.
“Look at me, damn you. Tell me why you’re doing this. Why are you leaving? I thought...”
“You thought what?” Doyle turned a wide-eyed look on him that was filled with scorn. “That I would be able to forget what Cowley sanctioned? That I could keep working for an organisation, for a man, who will do anything, sacrifice anyone if he decides the cause is worthwhile? I’ve lived with his bloody plotting before. No more. Remember Diana Molnar, Bodie?
“Yeah, and we got over that and moved on, didn’t we?” The question was laced with derision. “We might not have liked the reasons, but we came to terms with the necessity. Why is this round so different, Ray?”
“At least we knew, or thought we knew, what we were getting into; we at least knew what could happen. It was just us being given up. Until Diana decided to sacrifice herself. This time – those poor bastards didn’t have a chance. Those coppers were dead as soon as they answered the call for help at the museum. And the children, Bodie. Maybe you and Cowley can live with that, maybe that’s acceptable to you military types. But it’s not acceptable to me.” Ray’s breathing was quick and harsh, underlining his resentment and feelings of betrayal.
“Ray, listen to me...”
“I’ve heard it all already, Bodie,” Ray’s anger rode callously over Bodie’s words, not letting the man explain. “I know you think Cowley was doing what he was told, that he was upset by the outcome too. But if that’s true, the problem is that he went along with it, blindly following orders, never questioning if those orders were right. He never worried about the cost of following those orders.” He took a step towards Bodie. He poked him in the chest. “You’re as bad. You follow Cowley’s orders without question. ‘Yes, sir. No, sir. Three bags full, sir!’ Never thinking for yourself. Well, I won’t do it, Bodie! Not anymore.”
The reality of it finally hit Bodie. Ray was leaving. Cowley had manipulated the Minister into allowing Ray to resign rather than sacking him, but Ray was out. Insubordination, reckless endangerment and disregard for CI5 policy would have been the charges. Six people dead, a public scandal and the end of the best partnership CI5 - and Bodie - had ever had, was the fallout. Ray hadn’t even tried to defend himself. He’d quietly accepted his dismissal and was moving on. Without Bodie.
The room was silent except for Ray’s heavy breathing. Into that silence, Bodie dared one last question.
“What about us, Ray?”
“What us? You mean the sex? Was just a way to come down off an op, mate. At least that’s what you’ve been tellin’ me.” There was hurt tangled with the anger in the rough voice now.
“You know it was more than that.” Blue eyes flashed with indignation.
“Do I? You ever tell me how you felt? The one time I said it,” and the anger was gone now, replaced by a soul deep sadness, “...the one time I said that I loved you,” he paused and grabbed a fistful of his dishevelled hair, yanking on it unconsciously, “you walked out and I didn’t see you for two fuckin’ days.” Ray walked over to the window and looked out into the rainy afternoon, his back to Bodie. His voice was as bleak as the weather. “Two fucking days, Bodie, and when you finally decided to honour me with your company again it was as if none of it had ever happened.”
“Why does it mean so much, Ray? Why do you need to hear it? Don’t you already know?” Bodie couldn’t hide his exasperation. Men didn’t have conversations like this. He rubbed at the back of his neck. This was one of the main reasons he had steered clear of entanglements. Damn Ray for putting him in this position.
“I believe you do, Bodie. But I don’t know. Because you’ve never said. It’s important because...” Ray flushed and stumbled over the words. “I need to know that after all the shit I’ve been through, after all the hurt and betrayal and pain - I need to know there’s a place I can come home to, Bodie.” Ray stopped speaking and turned to face Bodie. And Bodie could read in his eyes all the words Ray wouldn’t, or couldn’t say out loud, the words he needed Bodie to hear and understand. Bodie saw his deep need to know that no matter what happened, there was a place for him, a place where someone loved him, no matter what. “...a place to call home, Bodie,” Ray’s voice faded away. He angrily wiped his face. “Go away, Bodie. Please go...”
Christ, he knew this man. Knew Ray inside and out, knew what he needed. But he couldn’t give it to him and he wouldn’t lie to him. Bodie turned away and quietly left the flat. He took a few deep breaths as he leaned back against the wall in the entry-way. “I’m sorry, Ray,” he whispered. He heard a glass crash against the closed door followed by Ray’s voice broken and beseeching, “So you tell me, Bodie, what about us?”
Bodie dropped the photograph back onto the table. “What about us? Good question, that. I left, Ray, because I wasn’t ready to deal with an us.” Bodie sighed. “Trouble is, mate, I don’t know how to let you go.”
Bodie got to the Dockers Arms a few minutes early for his meeting with Coughlin. The pub sat in the middle of the docks and looked to be a well frequented establishment. Several workers were standing outside when Bodie arrived. They nodded and made way for him to enter. It made him feel more secure about his cover as a dockworker. He entered the pub and was enveloped in warm air. His stomach rumbled in a positive reaction to the chance of a meal and he realised that he hadn’t eaten since early that morning. He instinctively braced himself for the snarky comment Ray would have made at this reaction to the merest hint of food. He’d found himself thinking of Ray more and more since Cowley had told him of Ray’s involvement in this case. He had been successfully not thinking of his former partner for years and now he couldn’t stop.
As if thoughts could conjure ghosts, Ray appeared from the backroom of the pub carrying a tray of pasties.
Taking cursory notice that someone had entered the pub, Ray shouted over the noise, “With you in a minute mate.” He headed off to deliver the meal in his hands.
Bodie sat at the bar. He took in the appearance of the man he hadn’t seen in years. His hair, a bit longer and wilder, was tied back with a leather strip. The body seemed thinner. The clothes were as tight as ever and Ray hadn’t yet learned what the top three buttons on his shirt were for. Being generous, Bodie attributed the scruffiness to Doyle’s cover. A closely cropped dark beard emphasised the pallor of the cheeks above it.
The barmaid came over to where he sat.
“We have pasties or pie,” she smiled at him.
“I guess it’ll be the pasty, luv,” he returned the smile, “with a lager.”
Bodie moved to a table. He sat back and found his attention drawn once more to Ray, now standing behind the bar. He couldn’t help the smile that formed as he watched Ray moving rhythmically to the music spilling from the jukebox. The man’s innate grace was displayed with an unselfconscious ease as shoulders and head moved in time to the music and hips and legs sinuously followed. Bodie saw the slight break in the dance and watched Ray tense, as if he sensed someone watching him. He saw Ray’s head tip towards where he sat. The old connection remained. Their eyes met and Bodie watched the playful, carefree mood drain from Ray’s face. He felt a pang of guilt for his part in that. No one else would see it, see the walls come up and the joy die, but Bodie knew this man, knew how he had hurt him. How they had hurt each other.
A petite red-head pushed her way through the pub. Bodie watched as she slid behind the bar and grabbed Ray around the waist. The sister. Ray’s smile returned as she greeted him with a deep kiss on the lips. He remembered those lips. He’d revelled in their softness, their gentleness and had been surprised at the submissiveness they had revealed in such a hard man. It underlined the enigma that was Ray Doyle; all the tenderness hidden under a tough exterior.
The girl pushed Ray away, laughing as he dropped a quick kiss on the end of her nose. Bodie felt a quick spear of regret and closed his eyes to keep from giving himself away; he remembered when a greeting like that was his alone.
When Bodie opened his eyes, Ray was standing in front of him, holding his lunch. Ray’s expression was filled with challenge and maybe a touch of sorrow. This could be the make or break moment, Bodie thought. Was Ray going to assume Bodie was undercover and play along, or would he expose the man that had walked away from him, the man that had hurt and abandoned him?
“Oi! Off with the fairies then, mate?” The remembered rough voice, dripping with amusement, brought Bodie back. He returned the smile. “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” Ray’s eyes lost their mischievous glint. He set the meal down and retreated back behind the bar.
Bodie was finishing his lunch when Evan Coughlin sat down at his table.
“Bodie? Pleased to meet you, mate. You come highly recommended. Any friend of Keller and all that.”
Bodie shook hands. “Can I get you a pint?” he offered.
Coughlin nodded and called out, “Ray, bring us another round.”
Bodie wondered at his impression that something was not quite right between Doyle and Coughlin. He noted a hint of tension there, and he knew Doyle well enough to feel the man’s unease. Maybe Cowley had been correct in his supposition as to why Doyle hadn’t been in contact with his colleagues at the Yard; he thought he was being watched too closely to risk it. This could become a problem, Bodie thought. The old instinct to protect Doyle remained strong, even though they were no longer partners or even friends. He sensed the danger surrounding Doyle; he’d have to find a way to talk to him, convince him to get out.
His reverie was broken by the harsh sound of their pints hitting the table. He looked up to find Doyle standing by the table.
“Anything else for you gents?” Doyle asked.
Both men shook their heads.
Doyle walked back behind the bar. Bodie watched him go and Coughlin noticed where his attention was directed.
“You know our Ray?” he asked.
Bodie shook his head. “Looks a little familiar… but, no, I don’t think I do.” He returned Coughlin’s look. “Who is he when he’s at home?”
“Ray Doyle. He’s our driver. Does some B and E work when we need it as well.” Coughlin’s attention drifted back to the barman.
“Is there a problem?” Bodie asked.
“Not sure,” Coughlin turned back to Bodie, “but regardless, the problem is mine, not yours.” He smiled. “Keller told me you know your weapons. I’ve got a consignment I need checked out and you’re the man to do it.”
Bodie returned the grin, rubbing his hands together. “Let’s get to it, then.”
Coughlin laughed. “A bit keen, are we?” He rose from his chair and sent a guarded look towards Ray, who was standing behind the bar. “I’ll be back in an hour or so, I need to set up the meet.” He held his hand out and Bodie shook it.
Bodie stood, picked up his empty glass and headed for the bar. “Refill, mate?”
Doyle looked around the pub, and seeing they were alone for the moment, he slammed Bodie’s glass down on the bar.
“What the fuck are you doin’ here?” he growled.
“Father was worried about you, sunshine,” Bodie replied with a smile, knowing the effect it would have on the man seething behind the bar. “You haven’t called home.” He took a deep drink. “Ah, good, that.” He settled on a stool.
Bodie watched the range of emotions play across Ray’s face, moving from anger to resignation.
Ray sighed, “I think they might be on to me. Didn’t want to take a chance of getting caught makin’ suspicious phone calls.”
“That’s why I’m here, mate, the seventh cavalry.”
Ray scowled, “Smug bastard. The Yard never asked for CI5’s help.”
“No. Cowley gathered some intelligence of his own. He heard you might be in trouble, so he offered me up to check on you while I play my own game. Doing the other services a favour, I am. You know Cowely’d never miss a chance to get brownie points.”
Ray nodded, and then looked suspicious. “So what game are you playin’? What exactly are you supposed to be?”
“Working the docks, mate,” Bodie let his Scouse accent come through. “earnin’ an ‘onest crust.” He smiled again, waggling his eyebrows.
Ray rolled his eyes.
Bodie saw and understood the thoughts that flashed in Ray’s eyes, amusement, annoyance, fear, and finally resolve. He wasn’t surprised when Ray leaned in and whispered fiercely, “Just stay the fuck out of my way, yeah?”
Bodie met Coughlin in the warehouse at the appointed time. Coughlin led him over to a stack of wooden crates.
Bodie opened one and whistled in appreciation. “Your buyer knows his weapons,” he smiled at Coughlin.
“Well, thank you.” A voice sounded from the shadows. Bodie tensed as the new man joined Coughlin. The man was older, but appeared to be in good physical condition. He waited, but there were no introductions.
“You’re Keller’s man?”
“I worked with Keller.”
The man laughed. “All right, point taken. You approve then?” He gestured at the gun in Bodie’s hands.
“Yeah, nice piece, this.”
A noise from in the back of the warehouse captured their attention. Coughlin started to move. Bodie held up a hand. “I’ll go. You finish your business here.” Bodie tipped his head towards the stranger and Coughlin nodded his agreement.
Bodie made his way to the back of the warehouse. “You may as well come out,” he called quietly.
He wasn’t at all surprised when Doyle stood up from behind a pile of cardboard boxes. Anger suffused his face. “What the fuck are you playin’ at, Doyle?”
“I’m doin’ my job! So piss off, Bodie.”
“Does your job include getting yourself killed?” Bodie stepped forward quickly and pinned Doyle against the wall. His hand pressed hard on Doyle’s shoulders. He moved in close so that their noses were almost touching.
“You bloody fool.” Bodie hissed through clenched teeth, “You told me you thought they were on to you.” He shook Ray, bouncing the man’s head against the wall. “What the hell is wrong with you? Why are you taking chances like this?” Bodie stepped back and patted him down. He found no weapons. “Chrissakes, Doyle, you’re not even armed!”
Angry silence met his observation.
“Do you even have a gun?”
Bodie rolled his eyes and then moved back in close. He pressed himself against the stiff body he held against the wall and kissed Doyle, hard, on the lips. He tasted blood.
That finally got a response.
“Gerroff, you mad bastard!”
He leaned in and kissed Ray again, this time gently. His tongue cleaned some of the blood from Ray’s lower lip.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Doyle’s voice held nothing but shock.
“Do you trust me, Ray? Can you have a little faith?”
The heat in Bodie’s eyes stole Ray’s breath. The long dark lashes lowered, hiding Bodie’s emotions.
“Bodie? Everything all right?”
Bodie cursed silently. There was no way to let Doyle go now.
The veil lifted revealing eyes that were hard and cold, the mask back in place.
Doyle pushed him away.
“Back here,” Bodie called.
He grabbed Doyle by the back of his collar and headed for the front of the warehouse. Coughlin was walking towards them with Mal and Eddie. There was no sign of the other man.
“What the...” Coughlin stepped towards Doyle.
“Found your barman in the back.” Bodie pushed Doyle into the centre of the group. “Sorry, he’s a little worse for wear.” Bodie wiped fresh blood off Doyle’s lip with a finger and rubbed it on Doyle’s shirt.
“Ray?” Coughlin’s voice radiated anger. “What the fuck are you doin’ here?”
“Overheard you and Action Man here, talkin’ in the pub about a meet.” He squared his shoulders and straightened his jacket. Defiance sparked his words. “You aren’t leavin’ me out of this, Evan. I’m here lookin’ out for meself. I want to make sure I get my share.” He glared at them, hands held in tight fists shoved into the pockets of his jeans. “Don’t like bein’ left out.”
“Ray, Ray,” Coughlin laughed, reaching out to cuff Doyle’s cheek. “We have no intention of leavin’ you out. And you’ll definitely get all you’ve got comin’ to you.”
Coughlin sent Doyle back to help Lisa close the pub for the night, saying he had one more piece of business to take care of before he’d call it a day. Doyle locked the front door after Lisa and the last customer left. Have faith, trust me, Bodie had said. The words echoed in his mind as he trudged up the stairs to his rooms. Such a fragile thing, trust. So easily destroyed. He’d closed himself off to people after his own faith in others had been shattered. Or he’d tried to.
If you didn’t trust, you couldn’t be betrayed; he’d learned that lesson early. A child’s trust in his parents was immutable, wasn’t it? But he’d helplessly suffered the beatings brought about by his father’s drunken rages and then cried himself to sleep trying to understand his mother’s betrayal. How could she let his father do that to him? To her? It had finally destroyed the family and he’d found himself out on the streets, relying only on himself. But the isolation had proven to be too much for him and he had allowed himself to open up, to let down the walls and trust a few people. Not many, no more than a few: Syd, Preston, Cowley, Bodie. He’d given each one of them his trust and each one had let him down. Syd had died, leaving him unmoored. Preston and his gang of corrupt coppers had crushed his belief in the police. Cowley’s lavender and roses had lost their sweet smell and Bodie? The idea of not trusting Bodie was unthinkable.
He stared out of the window. Bodie had always chided him for his introspections, but Bodie wasn’t here and he couldn’t stop the dark thoughts running through his mind.
So what am I still doing here? No real home, moving from bed-sit to bed-sit, putting on someone else’s identity, lying to people like Lisa, facing suspicion at every turn – these things had made up his life for more years than he cared to count. Was it worth it? Had he made a difference? To anyone? Bodie was right; it only paid to look after number one.
Bodie. What the hell were those kisses in the warehouse? What game was Bodie playing? Earlier, in the pub, before the meet in the warehouse, he’d been annoyed at how normal, how right and comfortable it felt to be with Bodie again. And then Bodie had pulled the He-Man stunt in the warehouse. He had to stop this. He wasn’t going to let Bodie close again. He wasn’t going to let himself be that vulnerable again.
From his vantage point across the street, Bodie watched Lisa leave the pub with the last of the drinkers. He knew Coughlin was at the warehouse with his gang. The lights in the pub went out. If he was going to talk to Ray, he needed to do it now. The street was dark; there was no one else around. He easily opened the lock on the Pub’s door. He made his way quietly up the stairs. The soft notes of a Mozart sonata drifted from the room on his left. Even coming from a cheap tape deck he recognised the piece. It was one of Ray’s favourites. He moved to the door and gently tried the handle. It wasn’t locked. Biting back memories of another unlocked door and the anger he no longer had a right to feel, he closed and locked the door behind him as he entered the room. Ray was leaning against the window, one hand tucked in the back pocket of his jeans, the other grasping the wooden frame, his head resting in the crook of his elbow.
With his back to the door, Ray knew who had entered his room even before he’d heard the familiar tread on the wooden floorboards. The telepathy between them had not diminished through the years or through their separation. He’d know Bodie anywhere. He’d been expecting this visit since he’d seen Lisa leave the pub. Bodie had been ignoring the warnings he’d been throwing his way. He didn’t need Bodie complicating the operation, but here he was, as large as life.
“What do you want, Bodie?” he asked without turning around, his voice weary, resigned.
“You.” There was no hesitation in the response.
“Bit late for that, innit? Your latest bird not comin’ across?”
“Bodie, I’m tired. I don’t want a fight with you. Please, leave me be.”
Bodie’s hand dropped onto his slumped shoulders. When he didn’t immediately shake it off, he felt Bodie move in closer, felt Bodie press himself into his back. Bodie’s arm wound itself tightly around his chest.
He stiffened in the embrace, but didn’t pull away. They stood that way for a long, hushed moment, neither one advancing or retreating. He felt Bodie smile against the nape of his neck and heard the familiar “stubborn git” in Bodie’s soft laugh. Then a single gently whispered word, soft as a feather, brushed against his ear.
Ray felt the velvety breath warm him and stir a long absent reaction deep in his belly that threatened to move lower.
So much for putting Bodie off. Why fight it? Ray asked himself as he tipped his head back and let it rest on Bodie’s shoulder. It had been so long since he’d felt wanted. Bodie’s arms tightened around his chest and stomach. He so missed the comfort he found here. The whole operation was falling apart around him. Maybe he should take up what Bodie had on offer. Coughlin, the Yard, the guns and drugs, they’d all still be there. What would it hurt to take an hour for himself? He felt Bodie lick the sensitive skin behind his ear. He trembled.
“Don’t.” There was no strength in the word.
“You need this, Ray. You’re stretched tauter than a bow. You’re exhausted.” Bodie’s teeth gently nipped the muscle where Ray’s neck and shoulder met. “You’re not thinking clearly. We’ve always worked it out before between us.” Bodie’s tongue laved the reddened flesh left by his teeth. “Let me help.”
Ray turned and then pulled away.
“Your altruism is hangin’ out, Bodie.”
“Is it?” With eyebrows raised and a devilish smile, Bodie replied, “Maybe you’d like to tuck it back in for me?”
Ray snorted. Bodie always tried to jolly him out of a mood. And Bodie was right. He did need this. He started laughing and lowered his head into his hands. “Oh, Bodie.”
Although he had not meant it to be one, Bodie took that as an invitation and he felt himself bundled back into strong arms. He felt himself begin to shiver and slowly the shaking turned to shuddering. Ray felt the grip tighten when he sensed that Bodie had realised the laughter had turned to sorrow.
Ray covered Bodie’s mouth with the palm of his hand. His lips pressed to Bodie’s ear.
“Shh, Bodie. No words.”
So instead Bodie used the language of his hands, his tongue, his lips and his body. And Ray understood. They moved with slow steps to the bed, unhurriedly undressing each other. Ray sucked in a deep breath when warm naked skin met hot smooth flesh. Bodie was always hot. He moaned quietly when Bodie’s lips found his. He gasped when a velvet tongue curled around his own. Breaking the kiss, Bodie laid him down on the bed. They made love, remembering what the other liked and needed, as if they’d never been apart. And it was everything he needed, everything he missed, everything he remembered and yet, somehow, it was new, different, almost like a first time. It started tentatively, gentle and tender with soft licks and light caresses. It was comfort and solace and need fulfilled. As they fell back into an old familiar rhythm the strokes became harder and more demanding, teeth replaced lips on aroused flesh, whimpers became groans and growls, sweat-slick skin slid against clenched muscle, the pace increasing as they each reached for more. Release, when it came, shook them both with its intensity. Finally sated and spent, they lay silently tangled in each other’s limbs.
“Come back to me, Ray,” Bodie whispered softly against the pulse beat pounding in Ray’s throat.
“I can’t.” Ray withdrew from the embrace and left the bed. “We don’t want the same things.” He quickly pulled on his jeans. With jumper in hand, he unlocked and opened the door. He held on to it as if he’d go down without its support. He turned to face Bodie and suddenly he felt all the lost years roll wetly down his cheeks. His voice betrayed him, too, breaking as he spoke the pain filled words that denied reconciliation.
“The cost is too high, Bodie.”
The sound of the closing door echoed through the empty hallway.
Hours later Doyle returned to his room. Holding his breath as he unlocked the door, he exhaled in relief when he found that Bodie had gone. He wasn’t sure he could face his former partner right now. The hour spent in Bodie’s arms had weakened his resolve. He needed time to rebuild the walls, re-fortify his heart. The problem was it had been good, bloody good. He’d be lying to himself if he said he didn’t want it again. He wanted it too much. And Bodie didn’t want it enough. But Bodie’s voice, when he’d tried to call him back - had there been something there? Wishful thinking. He castigated himself for a fool.
He took his coat off and lay down on the bed. There was a hard lump under the pillow. He knew immediately what it was. The Walther was wrapped in one of his own t-shirts. Chrissakes, Doyle, you’re not even armed! The accusation reverberated in his head. Staring at the weapon in his hand, he laughed out loud. Leave it to Bodie!
The next morning Bodie went to the warehouse and was met by an angry Coughlin.
“We’ve got trouble.” Coughlin gestured towards the crates scattered around the warehouse and indicated that everyone should sit down.
“What kind of trouble?” Bodie tensed, wondering if he’d been seen leaving Ray’s room last night, and made ready to react if Coughlin moved against him.
“Pigs. My contact told me last night that he’s pretty sure that the Yard knows there’s a deal goin’ down. The filth don’t have all the details yet, but it’s going to make it harder for us to get the guns out of here.”
“How did they get hold of that?”
“Does your contact know who the snitch is?”
“He suspects it’s our very own Raymond.”
“The very same. Seems a Ray Doyle worked with the Met years ago. My man recognised the name.” Coughlin shook his head, “I should have trusted my instincts.”
“Your contact, he’s sure it couldn’t be someone else? Doyle hardly seems the informer type.”
“Only other person we don’t know too well is you, Bodie...”
Bodie’s eyes narrowed, his shoulders tensed.
“Relax, man. I’m not seriously accusing you. I’ve had a funny feeling about Doyle all along. If Lisa hadn’t taken up with him, I’d’ve got rid of him a long time ago.”
“So what happens now?” Bodie hoped he was hiding the sudden rush of fear for Doyle that was tightening his gut.
“I think it’s time to have a chat with Mr Doyle.”
“Ray, you have to get out of here.” Lisa ran up to the bar where Ray was polishing glasses. “I don’t know what’s going on, but Maureen says Evan is looking for you. She saw him headed this way from the docks with that Bodie and a couple of others. They stopped at Mal’s, but she’s sure they’re headed here. She said Evan’s very angry.”
“He was yelling something about the police and a snitch.” She saw his face pale. He couldn’t hide the brief flash of fear. She knew.
“Ray? What’s going on?”
“Dunno.” He shrugged and reached out to hug her, but she stepped away. “Probably some mix-up.”
“Lisa.” He reached out for her again.
“No.” She backed away again. “Who are you?”
He rolled his eyes, trying to make light of her concerns, but she wasn’t buying it.
“He’s right, isn’t he? You are a copper.”
It was clear to him now that the op was over, his cover, if not blown, was severely compromised. He could at least try to protect her from the fallout.
“Lisa, please, listen to me.”
“You bastard! You used me!” She slapped him.
He closed his eyes. When he opened them, they were filled with sadness.
“Do you know what your brother does?”
She didn’t answer.
“He sells drugs, to buy guns, which he then sells to the IRA.”
But he could see the doubt in her eyes.
“The police have been watching him for months. It’s merely a matter of time until they have enough evidence to arrest him.” He watched her face. “Think about it, Lisa. He spends a lot more money than this pub takes in. He drives a flash car. Where’s the money coming from?”
“You’re wrong. Evan got out of that game years ago. He promised me.”
He remained silent, letting her find the truth on her own.
“And what about you? Was I a convenient a way to get to my brother? You used me,” she repeated.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. I needed you to get to your brother.” He sighed and looked her in the eye. “But you used me too, yeah? We both know it was no great romance. We were two lonely people tired of sleepin’ alone. We were looking for a spot of comfort – and we found it. The friendship we built, that was real.” He reached up to cup her face in his hand. “I do care for you.”
She slapped him again and stormed out of the bar. He closed his eyes and tried to push the feeling of rejection down deep inside himself, tried to lock it away with all the other abandonment he’d suffered. He didn’t blame her. He knew all too well what betrayal felt like.
“Quite the scene there, Ray. Am I interrupting a lovers’ spat?” Evan watched his sister’s exit as he entered the bar with Bodie, Eddie and Mal coming in behind him. Bodie looked tense, the others eager.
“Fuck off, Evan.” Ray moved to walk past Coughlin and out of the bar.
“Not so fast, lover boy. I have a few things to get straight with you.”
“I’ve got nothing to say to you, so piss off.”
Coughlin put a hand to Ray’s chest. Ray threw it off.
“We can do this hard or easy, Ray.”
“You sound like a bleedin’ cliché, mate.”
Coughlin turned to Mal and Eddie. “Take him into the storeroom. I’ll be right there.”
Ray tried to duck around Coughlin, but Eddie tripped him and he fell hard, hitting his head on the bar’s brass foot rail as he went down. Stunned, he couldn’t fight off the pair of them as they lifted him and bundled him behind the bar and into the back room.
Coughlin turned to Bodie.
“Keller told me you have other talents; you’re not just a weapons expert.”
Bodie felt sick. He knew what was coming.
Coughlin continued, not waiting for Bodie to respond. “I want you to break him. I need to know what information Doyle has passed on and to who. I need to know now.”
Don’t look him in the eye, Bodie reminded himself. His fist connected again with Ray’s jaw. Eddie and Mal held Doyle upright, bracing the battered body for another blow. It won’t be real if you don’t look at him. Lessons learned back in his mercenary days, when he frequently had had to beat information out of former colleagues, ran through his mind as he tried to balance minimising the damage done to Ray with making the beating look real. Coughlin raised a hand.
“Now, Ray, let’s try again. Who are you working for?”
“I’m working for you, Evan! I don’t understand...”
“You’re with the Yard.”
“A cop? I’m a barman, Evan, you know that! He looked up blearily. “Why do you think-.”
Evan turned to Bodie. “Again.”
Ray groaned in Eddie’s grasp. “Please. I’m not a cop. What’ve I done to make you think-”
Coughlin grabbed the front of Ray’s torn t-shirt and roughly pulled the bloodied face close to his own.
“The cops know things that nobody should know but us. They’re watching people they have no reason to watch. This all started about the same time we took you in. I don’t believe in coincidence, Ray, my boy.”
“How do you know all this? How do you know what the cops know?”
A smile crossed Coughlin’s face. “Have my own undercover man, don’t I?” The smile died. Coughlin backhanded Ray, once for each spoken word. “Who. Do. You. Work. For.”
Ray shrugged. Coughlin pointed at Bodie.
Ray looked into Bodie’s eyes and Bodie saw Ray’s acceptance of what had to come, saw acceptance and understanding. Ray was going to take the fall. He wasn’t going to try to get out of this by turning on Bodie, or by taking Bodie down with him. Ray closed his eyes and nodded ever so slightly, barely enough for Bodie to see. Wounded by the silent courage in the blackened eyes, Bodie decided to end it quickly. A sharp blow to Ray’s midsection, followed by an uppercut to the chin had Ray unconscious immediately. Mal and Eddie dropped him and delivered a few well placed kicks to his ribs and back. Coughlin stopped them.
“Lock him in the storeroom. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with him.”
“You sure he’s the snitch?” Bodie asked, rubbing his battered knuckles.
“Yeah, my source in the Yard worked with Doyle years ago. He’s a copper. He’ll be in later to confirm that this is indeed DC Doyle.”
“What does that do to our time table?”
“I’m not sure. We need to work out how much Doyle got out and who he gave it to. We should know something later tonight.” Coughlin looked around the room. “Mal, clean this place up. I don’t want Lisa to know what happened here. Bodie, you and I have some guns to examine. I’ll see you at the docks in an hour. We’ll all meet back here at seven tonight.”
Lisa was behind the bar again when Bodie emerged from the backroom. She jumped when Bodie slammed his empty bottle down on the bar.
“Sorry, luv.” He was finding it difficult to suppress the anger growing inside him, but he didn’t need to take it out on her. Damn Doyle.
“Bad day?” She smiled tremulously.
She replaced his empty lager with a full one, waving off payment. Her eyes widened at the bruising she saw on his knuckles as he put his wallet aside.
He looked away, embarrassed, lowering his hands to his lap.
“Must be rough working on the docks.” She ignored his discomfort. He saw her sneak a quick look at the door to the backroom.
He took the reprieve offered to him and gave her what Ray had called ‘a real Bodie smile’. She nodded and moved down the bar to serve another customer. He watched her, wondering if she suspected something. He wondered what her relationship with Ray was. He knew they were sleeping together, had seen firsthand the affection they shared, but Ray didn’t look at her – well – the way Ray had looked at him. There was something missing. Something in Ray’s eyes. Ray’s eyes. That brought the anger back, and since he was alone now, he let it grow. He’d seen understanding and acceptance in those eyes even as he’d landed the blow that knocked Ray out. It’s alright, Bodie, do it, the gaze had said, keep yourself safe, mate. Do it. And he had. And he’d felt a small amount of satisfaction in hitting Ray, punishing him for being a bloody fool.
His hands ached. The satisfaction was replaced by guilt. He’d hated what he’d done to Ray, but they both had known it had been necessary. Or had it been? And that was the root of his anger. It hadn’t been fucking necessary. What was Ray bloody Doyle playing at? How had Ray let himself get caught? Why had Ray left CI5? Why had he stayed with this damned undercover when he suspected that he’d been sussed? Why had Ray let him walk away all those years ago? Why had Ray let things go so wrong that Bodie had to be the one to try to beat the truth out of him? Why couldn’t he let go of Ray? Why couldn’t he admit to himself what Ray really meant to him?
He emptied his lager and left the pub.
His heart ached.
Awareness came back to Doyle slowly. The chill from the floor he was lying on had seeped into his bones. He was cold. He was alone. The way his muscles ached, several hours must have passed since the beating. Something wet ran down the side of his face. He tried to move and was surprised to find that he wasn’t tied up. The darkness, the pain, and the disorientation combined to bring him memories of a similar awakening from years ago, memories long since buried. He’d been younger then, his first stint with the Met. He’d woken in a similar dark and cold space. He hadn’t been alone then though. He remembered a mocking voice, detailing what was going to happen to him. He remembered the pain of the blows to his sides, the pain of the cudgel breaking his arm. He shuddered anew with the memory of the sharp sound of bone cracking when the booted foot had connected with his cheek. A man’s laughter had followed him into oblivion.
But he was alone now, here, in a different place, a different time. So why was he reliving the past? What had brought back memories best left forgotten? He groped for what he remembered of how he’d ended up here. Coughlin had come back with another man. They had questioned him again while he was trapped in the pub’s storeroom. He remembered trying to convince Evan again that he wasn’t the grass; he knew Coughlin didn’t believe him. Another voice, impatient, had interrupted his denial, telling Coughlin to hold his arm. He’d felt the needle slide into the skin at his elbow. He knew the voice but couldn’t initially place it, his memories teasingly out of reach, obscured by a wall of remembered pain. And then it came to him. It was the voice that had been at his side as he was rushed to hospital all those years ago. It was the voice from that other dark room. The same voice was now telling Coughlin that Ray Doyle was a copper, that they needed to keep him under until they could figure out how to get rid of him. McAllister. It all came back, the anger, the betrayal and the helplessness. His cheek throbbed in sympathy with the memory. It had happened so long ago, but hearing that voice made it feel like yesterday…
Loud noises escaped from a half open door on the third floor. The staircase was dark. He climbed up carefully, truncheon ready. This bedsit was a known hang-out for drug buys. He’d called for back-up but they hadn’t arrived yet. He couldn’t figure out what was holding them up. He was supposed to wait before going in, but he’d seen a young girl being forced up the stairs by two thugs. He couldn’t leave her to suffer the fate he was sure awaited her if they got her into the room. Where the hell was his back-up? He heard a scream. She sounded so young. He couldn’t wait any longer. He crept quickly across the landing to the door. He pushed it open slowly with his foot. Once inside the room he staggered to a stop. The girl stood in the centre of the floor smiling at him from behind the barrel of a rifle. Too late he saw the door begin to move. He felt it slam, pinning his hand and the useless truncheon against the door jamb. The truncheon dropped from his numb fingers. “DC Doyle,” a voice laughed as the door released him. He thought he knew the voice. “Who...” the world disappeared in a haze of pain.
He came around to see lights moving swiftly in a blur above his head, rushing by as if they were on some kind of track. No, he realised, it was him, moving below them. Voices called his name, one familiar and at the same time, unsettling. He tried to answer, but the effort was beyond him. Smells – hospital smells, blood, vomit, disinfectant. And he knew where he was. He knew he had survived the attack.
A face drifted in front of him, the lower half hidden behind a mask.
“Constable? Constable Doyle, can you hear me? You’re in hospital.”
“D…Det” He tried to correct the medic, tell him his rank. For some reason that seemed important to him and then it struck him as funny and he started to laugh. The pain in his cheek drove him back into blackness.
He woke slowly, reclining in bed, his arm in plaster, his ribs taped and his head swathed in bandages. He tried to sit up but a warm hand pressed him back into the bed.
“Easy, Doyle. The doctors say you’ll make a full recovery. Won’t be a pretty as you were, but at least you’re alive. You should be thankful for that.” The voice held none of the warmth of the hand holding him down.
“McAllister.” Ray’s voice betrayed his unease.
“What do you remember of the attack?” McAllister asked.
“You… You were there. Why didn’t you stop them?” Understanding flooded through him. “It was you. I heard your voice. But why?”
McAllister laughed at the look of dawning betrayal on Ray’s face. “You are an innocent, aren’t you?” His eyes grew cold, his grip on Ray’s arm tightened. “You were getting too close, Doyle. We couldn’t let you interfere. So we removed you. You’d do well to remember how easy it was.”
“You think you can get away with this?” Ray was incredulous.
“You have no witnesses. It was me and Gallagher that ‘rescued’ you, after all. Who’s going to believe that we were the ones to attack you? Oh yeah, we’ll get away with it alright. And if you’re as smart as you think you are, you’ll forget what happened and keep your nose out of what doesn’t concern you.”
“You’re mad if you think I’m going to…!”
McAllister laughed again, and stood up as the nurse entered the room.
“Your patient is awake,” McAllister told her and then turned to Ray, “Take good care of yourself, DC Doyle.” He winked as he left.
But he hadn’t listened to the warning in McAllister’s words and two weeks after his meeting with the Detective Inspector, where he had laid out his accusations, Ray received a phone call.
“Ray... oh God, Ray...” the voice broke.
“Abby.” Cold dread filled him as he listed to her sob. And he knew, knew with utter certainty, what had happened, what he’d lost, what his unbending sense of morality had cost him.
He shook off the memories to focus on now. He needed to find a way out of this storeroom before Coughlin came back. He was shivering from the cold and from the drug working its way through him. He retched dryly, forcing the memories away. He couldn’t let himself go back there. He had successfully buried those memories until another trusted mentor had betrayed him. Cowley. The Molnar affair. He’d been furious and then lost after leaving the train yard. Bodie had bundled him home, plied him with drink and finally got him to open up. He’d told Bodie it was Cowley’s betrayal that hurt, that it always seemed his trust was misplaced. Tears of anger had filled his eyes, but he hadn’t let them fall. Bodie had silently held him, listening to the painful story. When he had looked at Bodie there was no mockery, no pity, only strong silent support and understanding. That was the night he had realised that he loved Bodie.
And then Bodie, like the others, had left him.
Lisa waited until Bodie left the pub and called out to the other barmaid. “Cover for me a minute, Maureen, I’m going to get some more lager from the back.” The girl waved at her in acknowledgement.
Lisa made her way carefully into the backroom. She’d seen her brother and his mates leave, but she wanted to make sure they had really gone. Something about the look in their eyes, Bodie’s bruised hands and Ray’s not being around made her nervous. There was something going on and she was afraid. The backroom was empty. It looked like the floor had been swept clean, which was odd. None of the others ever bothered with that; they left it to her. Women’s work they called it.
She stood quietly and heard a noise in the storeroom. Walking towards it, she noticed it was locked. Evan never locked it. The staff needed access to it to restock the bar. She found the key on the hook by the hinges and tapped lightly on the door. There was a shuffling sound and then an answering knock. She heard a muffled voice call out. She unlocked and opened the door. Ray stood looking at her through blackened eyes, “Hallo, Lisa,” he groaned and then slid to the floor.
“My God, Ray! What’s going on?” She helped him into a sitting position, feeling the shivers that raced through his body.
“Your brother an’ me had a bit of a fallin’ out, luv.” He tried to smile, but winced as it re-opened his split lip. He tasted blood.
He held up his hand to stop her scolding. “I told you Evan was involved in some shifty dealings, yeah?”
She nodded, but the look she gave him told him she wasn’t convinced.
“Well, I stumbled into his business, and he took exception.” He waved a hand at his face, “Got a tad angry, he did. It would probably be best if I wasn’t here when he gets back.”
“Who are you?” she challenged, “Who are you, really?”
“He’s Scotland Yard, Lisa. And he’s a dead man.” Evan strode past her, grabbed Ray by the arm and pulled him to his feet. Ray swayed weakly, grabbing Evan’s wrist to remain upright.
“Evan! No!” Lisa cried out, reaching for her brother. Ray took advantage of interruption and twisted Coughlin’s wrist until strained muscles and tendons forced Coughlin to release him.
His faked weakness now revealed, he spun away from Coughlin and stumbled towards the stairs that led to the roof. He was still somewhat muzzy from the drug.
He heard Coughlin roar and Lisa call his name, but he kept moving. He couldn’t let himself be recaptured. He moved up the stairs to the roof, stopping on the small landing and looked back down to see Mal and Eddie kneeling by Coughlin.
Coughlin shouted, “Leave off, I’m fine. Get Doyle.”
He didn’t wait to hear anymore. He pushed through the door and onto the roof. He ran around the perimeter, disheartened to see that the neighbouring roofs were too far away to attempt a jump in his condition. He reached into a pile of roofing debris and pulled out a long piece of wood.
The door banged open and Mal and Eddie appeared. Neither one was armed.
“Got you now, you prick,” Eddie yelled. They started towards him. As they approached him, Coughlin climbed through the door.
“He’s mine.” The voice was cold. Mal and Eddie stopped where they were.
When Coughlin didn’t show up at the docks, Bodie went back to the pub to find him. Lisa was behind the bar, crying into the phone. Maureen stood behind her, offering support. A sliver of ice ran up Bodie’s spine.
“Where’s your brother?” he barked, intuition telling him he had no time to spare for niceties.
Maureen pointed to the backroom, while trying to calm Lisa.
Bodie ran into the backroom and noticed the open storeroom door. Ray. He felt a draught from an open door at the top of the stairs and hurried up.
When Bodie climbed to the roof above the pub, Coughlin had Ray backed into a corner. Ray looked wild-eyed; the air around him thrummed with pent up energy. Ray had a piece of two-by-four in his hands, and was sweeping it back and forth in front of him to keep distance between himself and Coughlin’s thugs. Bodie couldn’t recall ever seeing him look so alone.
“Drop the weapon, Ray,” Coughlin’s voice threatened, but he made no move.
Doyle looked at him with a feral glint. His lips pulled back from his teeth. “Come and get it then,” he snarled.
Bodie didn’t recognise the expression or the voice. Here was a man pushed to the limit of his endurance. Worn physically and mentally, Ray was at his most unpredictable. There was nothing of his former partner in the look that raked over the men surrounding him. Bodie mourned the loss, dismayed that he hadn’t been able to prevent this. His mind raced through his options. If he helped Ray, he’d blow his own cover and end up in the same straits as Doyle. If he didn’t step in, Ray would be dead.
“Doyle!” Coughlin’s shout snapped Bodie’s attention away from his thoughts in time for him to see Ray disappear over the edge of the building.
“Someone get down there and find him!” Coughlin yelled at his men.
Heart in his throat, Bodie leaned over the edge of the roof expecting to see Doyle lying broken on the tarmac. Instead, he watched with wonder as Ray climbed out of a skip and limped hurriedly away. Daft bugger. He couldn’t hide the laugh that had bubbled up through him with his relief.
Coughlin turned on him. “Think its funny, do you?”
Bodie smiled at him. “Who’d’ve thought he’d go over? Some balls on the bastard, yeah?”
Coughlin, furious, glared at him. Bodie shrugged impenitently. Neither spoke as Mal and Eddie clambered down the stairs and into the street.
A voice rang up from below. “We’ve lost him.”
“Lost him?” Coughlin ran a hand through his hair and barked, “How could you lose him? He’s drugged; he dropped two floors – find him! Find him, now.”
As day turned to dusk, Doyle made his way through the docklands. He was pretty sure he had lost Mal and Eddie in the tangled alleyways he’d led them through. Not the brightest of lads, those two. The effects of the beating were making themselves known and he’d landed badly on his ankle with his drop from the roof. The drug they’d given him to make him sleep had all but worn off, leaving him raw and in pain.
He found a phone box outside of a closed chemist’s. It was in the open, but he needed to call in to his boss at the Yard and then find a place to rest. Checking around and not seeing anyone, he pulled open the door and dialled the Yard.
“Doyle! Where the hell are you, man?”
“Easy, Turner.” He knew his governor wouldn’t be best pleased to hear from him. “I wanted to check in, let you know that I’m still on the case. CI5 is involved; they’ve probably wrapped up Coughlin and his gang by now.”
“So why haven’t you come in, then?”
“The ring leader is runnin’ free. I’m not coming in until I have him.” He could hear the stress in his own voice. He took a deep breath to regain control, to steady himself. “The man slipped through my fingers once before - it isn’t going to happen again.”
“There’s no place for vengeance, Doyle. Get yourself back here. You know-“
Doyle hung up.
He worked his way back towards the Dockers Arms. Panda cars blocked the street in front of the pub. He knelt and ducked behind a van parked across the street. He could hear Coughlin giving his crew hell as he himself was being cuffed and pushed into the Black Maria. He swallowed an amused smile.
He saw Bodie being led out of the pub in handcuffs.
“Bring that one over here,” shouted one of the police officers. “There’s someone special wants to talk to him.” Doyle watched the smug smile form on Bodie’s face, the one that said Yeah, I am special, mate! Doyle froze when Bodie looked straight at him as he was being pushed into the Panda car. He was almost convinced that Bodie had winked at him.
“How did the police know to come and get Coughlin?” Bodie sipped at the scotch Cowley had handed him when he’d entered the Controller’s office.
“Coughlin’s sister, Lisa, called the police. She told them that a man was being chased onto the roof of the pub and needed help. The Met knew we were interested in Coughlin and they called it in. I had them arrest you and then bring you here.”
“Thank you, sir.” Bodie’s tone, as he rubbed chafed wrists, was anything but grateful.
“You didn’t enjoy the hospitality provided by the Met, 3.7?” A trace of amusement lit blue-grey eyes.
“Let’s say they fall a little short of a four star rating.”
“Quite.” Cowley shuffled the folders on his desk. “Coughlin’s gang is waiting downstairs for questioning. Murphy is on that. The gun shipment has been confiscated and the connection to Coughlin’s supplier broken. Jax is following up there. The Yard is working on finding the dealer. I’ll expect your report before you leave this evening. Two days leave, Bodie. Dismissed.”
Bodie didn’t move.
“Was there something else, 3.7?”
“Yes, sir. There is. Doyle.” Bodie was impatient to find Ray. He’d overheard some of the Met officers saying that Doyle was missing. He didn’t understand why Ray hadn’t come in after the op blew up at the pub. He was afraid the jump from the roof might have injured Ray more than it had first appeared. A check of local casualty departments and a call to the Yard itself hadn’t turned up his former partner.
“Doyle is no longer our concern. He left us, as you will recall. I told you he was a secondary consideration at the beginning of all this.”
“And yet you sent me in after him, to try to help.”
“Aye, I did.” Cowley looked at his agent over the top of his glasses. “Spend your days off wisely, 3.7.”
The night’s darkness helped hide him as Ray watched the pub from the end of the street. There were no lights on at the Dockers Arms. The pub was empty tonight. He silently made his way to the back, sticking to the shadows in case anyone was watching. He needed a few things from his room and he needed a place to get his head down for a few hours. With Coughlin locked up - he’d confirmed that on his call in to the Yard - and Lisa off staying with friends - confirmed with an anonymous call to Maureen’s - no one should be at the pub. Better, no one would expect him to return there. He let himself in and relocked the door behind him. He waited a few minutes to make sure he was alone, but there was no response to the sound of his entry. He went up the stairs to his room. The door was locked. He relaxed tense muscles and let the tiredness he felt run through him as he pulled his key from his pocket.
An arm wrapped around his neck, a hand covered his mouth. Startled, he bit down on the fingers resting against his lips.
“Oi! Bloody cannibal.”
Bodie pulled his hand back and put the bruised fingers in his own mouth. “What the hell is wrong with you, Doyle?”
“Teach you to sneak up on a man at his own door,” Doyle pushed Bodie’s arm away from his neck and swung around to face him. “What’re you doing here?”
“Lookin’ for you, sunshine.”
“Well, you found me. Now sod off.”
“Raymond, is that anyway to...”
“I mean it, Bodie. I’m still on assignment.” He looked Bodie up and down and huffed, “You’re bad for my cover.”
Doyle opened the door and let himself in the room. He tried to shut Bodie out, but Bodie’s foot kept the way open. They stood staring at each other in the doorway.
“C’mon, then.” Doyle sighed in resignation and gestured Bodie into the room. He turned on a small bedside lamp.
“You all right, Ray? You took quite a beating -”
“’M fine, Bodie. You were careful where you hit.” The silence grew uncomfortable and Doyle finally whispered, “Thanks.”
“Thanks?” Bodie snorted. “Thanks for beating the shit out of you? That’s not on, mate. I-”
“Thanks for not hitting me as hard as you wanted to. I could read it in your eyes, Bodie. Know you were angry.” He turned away. “And I probably deserved worse than you gave me. But I had to see this through.”
“Not playing the guilt game with you this time, Ray.” Bodie grabbed Doyle’s shoulder and spun him around. “Why didn’t you come in when you got away?” Annoyance lurked beneath Bodie’s words.
“It’s not over yet,” Ray spat back. “There’s the top man to get. And I don’t intend to let him walk this time.”
“Long story. Old story. But I don’t have time for it tonight. He’s been warned. I’m sure he’s been warned. I have to move - tonight.”
Bodie met the determined gaze. “So what’s the plan?”
“Oh, no,” Doyle shook his head. “Doin’ this on me own. I’ll not have Cowley on my back because I dented his blue-eyed boy. I’m going to kip for a few hours, and then I have someone to meet.”
“And what am I going to be doing?”
“You’re leaving, mate.”
“Like hell, I am.”
“I’m not leaving you on your own, Ray. You’re hurt, you’ve been drugged and you’re letting vengeance rule your better sense. A bad combination, that. No, Goldilocks, you’re stuck with me.” He ruffled Doyle’s hair. Doyle ducked.
“Gerroff, you maniac.”
Bodie took a chance, grabbed hold of Ray and wrestled him against the door. Ray fought back and the tussle landed them on the floor. When they finally relinquished their hold, they were both laughing. Bodie sat up and brushed a stray curl from Ray’s forehead.
“Miss you, Ray,” and he leaned down and pressed his lips to Ray’s open mouth. The kiss lasted forever and was over too soon.
“This is a bad idea, Bodie,” Ray gasped.
“No one’s ever accused us of havin’ much sense, have they?” He raised his eyebrow in that oh-so-familiar way and Ray found himself melting inside. “Ah, Bodie. What...”
“Don’t think, Ray. Don’t talk. Like last time, no words.” He kissed Ray again.
Ray woke as the first light of dawn crept into the room through a gap in the drawn curtains. He’d slept longer than intended. Bodie was asleep. Ray watched him with affection. He had been right; it had been a mistake to let Bodie into his bed. He wanted to stay here with Bodie, forget the rest of the world and lay here with his head on Bodie’s chest, letting the steady rhythm of that stalwart heart carry him into sleep and peace. But he couldn’t hide here in Bodie’s arms while McAllister ran free. McAllister had escaped justice before, but not this time. He had a chance at McAllister and he wasn’t going to miss it. He hoped that Bodie would understand.
He quietly left the bed, careful not to wake the sleeping man. He eased open the drawer in the bedside locker and found his handcuffs. He locked one cuff silently to the head of the bed and then the other around Bodie’s wrist. Bodie snapped awake when the cuff clicked shut.
“I’m sorry, Bodie. I told you before. I have to do this.”
“Ray, let me help.”
“Can’t. What I’m going to do, well... It’s better if you’re not involved.” He bent down and picked up a package from under the bed. He stuffed it under his jacket.
Bodie tugged on the chain holding him to the bed. “Doyle!”
“I’m gonna leave the key over here, on the table. You’re a clever lad; you’ll be able to get to it eventually. I need some time on my own, to pay back something that’s been long overdue.”
“Call Cowley! Call your squad! Let them handle it, Ray.”
“Like they handled it the last time? No, this time he’s not gettin’ away with it. I can’t trust them to do it right, Bodie. I need to do this myself.”
“What are you going to do, Ray?”
“I’ve a few surprises tucked away.” His smile was malevolent.
“And what about after, Ray. Are you going to be able to live with yourself after?”
Ray turned towards the door.
“Let me loose, Doyle,” the angry words hissed through clenched teeth.
“I’m sorry, Bodie,” Doyle said with sincere regret.
“You’re going to be, you fucking bastard.” Bodie pulled angrily at the chain attached to the bed. “Take off these bloody cuffs!”
Ray left the room. Bodie’s curses followed him down the hall.
Doyle walked quickly through the back streets leading to the wharfs. It was quiet this early in the morning, the sun just beginning to light the waterfront in pink and orange. Most workers were already at their ships. His made his way to the warehouse where Coughlin’s gang had been storing the weapons. He hoped that he would find McAllister there, trying to repair the damage that Coughlin’s arrest had inflicted on his plans. Peering around the corner of the building Doyle saw two lorries parked fifteen feet inside the fence that surrounded the yard behind the building. The tail-flaps were down and two men were loading boxes into them. As he watched, McAllister came out of the warehouse calling out orders.
“Gotcha.” Doyle smiled to himself.
He waited until McAllister went back inside and then slowly made his way to the front of the nearest lorry. He had hoped to sneak past the two villains and straight into the warehouse, but as he started to move he stumbled when his sore ankle gave way. The noise alerted the two. One of the men caught sight of him as he moved across the tarmac and shouted a warning. In no time at all, McAllister was back out of the warehouse, gun drawn. Doyle tried to turn and run, but was grabbed by one of the thugs and thrown into the fence. McAllister and the other man were quickly there, pinning Doyle to the barricade. McAllister smiled at him, anticipation in his eyes.
“I thought it was you when I heard your name. There couldn’t be two Ray Doyles who would be so interested in me.” He nodded at one of his companions and the man delivered a blow to Doyle’s stomach. Doyle doubled over, trying to suck in some air.
“You’re nicked, McAllister,” Doyle panted, “My mob knows it’s you behind the weapon sales. Your boy Coughlin spilled it all. Won’t be long now. You’ll be joinin’ him behind bars.”
“Always the talker, eh Doyle? Who’s going to be taking me in, then? I only see you and you’re in no position to threaten anyone.” McAllister slapped him hard across the face then cupped the reddened cheek. “I’ll have to leave you another reminder of why it’s not smart to mess with me. Apparently the last lesson didn’t hold.”
“You’ll be gettin’ the lesson this time. The Yard and CI5 are coming for you.”
McAllister laughed and punched him. Doyle allowed the punch to double him over again, and let the knife hidden in his sleeve drop into this hand. He concealed the blade against his wrist. As he fell forward he took the man holding him with him. He stomped hard on his captor’s instep and felt the arms holding him relax slightly. He spun quickly out of the grip and swung the arm holding the knife in a backwards arc that caught McAllister’s bully-boy across the chest. The man cried out and dropped to the ground. He sensed the second thug coming up behind him and pulled his gun from under his jacket with his left hand. He turned around and loosed a single shot into the leg of the second henchman. He silently thanked Bodie for leaving the gun for him. He saw McAllister running towards the warehouse. He stood resting for a minute to catch his breath and then took off in pursuit.
From the roof opposite the warehouse, Bodie raised binoculars and watched McAllister and two of his gang pin Doyle up against the fence. Stupid bastard… running off on his own. He saw Doyle crumple from a blow to the stomach. Bodie studied his surroundings and the distance between him and Doyle and knew he wouldn’t get there fast enough to help. Damn the man. It had taken Bodie more than thirty minutes to finally get the handcuffs off. He’d had to push and then pull the heavy bed across the small room and cluttered floor to get close enough to the table to be able to reach the key. It had taken a few more minutes to find the clothes that Doyle had hidden in the kitchen. At least his gun had been with his clothes. Cursing the stubborn, single minded, mulish, tenacious prat he’d once called ‘partner’, he had run towards the warehouses. He knew which one Coughlin was using, having been there earlier. He’d decided it best to scope out the building, before jumping into the fray. That’s how he found himself on a rooftop too far away to help.
A loud howl drew his attention back to the fight. Two of the villains were down, Doyle standing over them with a bloody knife in one hand and a gun in the other. McAllister ran towards the warehouse. Doyle started to follow and was tripped up by one of the wounded men. The knife was knocked out of his hand as they wrestled on the tarmac. McAllister’s man rolled on top of Doyle, using one hand to pin Doyle’s gun hand above his head while punching Doyle with the other. Doyle twisted away from most of the blows. He stretched his hand along the ground. His fingers brushed the knife. He bucked under the thug holding him down, moving them both, until he was able to grab the hilt of the knife. Bodie saw Doyle’s arm swing in a wide arc and plunge the knife in the man’s back. The body on top of Doyle tumbled sideways and Doyle was up again and running toward the fence and McAllister.
Bodie flew down the rickety stairs to the street and started running. He swore in frustration as he saw Doyle pull himself over the gate and chase after his quarry. He heard the report of a pistol and watched in horror as Doyle pitched forward and fell to the far side of the fence.
He saw Doyle go down, but he was too far away to help. McAllister moved towards Doyle, raised his gun to shoot. Bodie let off a few shots of his own as McAllister moved closer to Doyle, knowing they wouldn’t reach the man, but as hoped, they did force McAllister to back away. Doyle took advantage of the distraction and rose to his feet. Bodie tried to catch up as Doyle staggered into the warehouse. A series of shots echoed out of the cavernous building. Bodie put his head down and ran to the door. Hard.
Bodie entered the building cautiously. Doyle’s voice, raised in temper and spitting vitriol, confirmed that Doyle was alive. The fear loosened its grip on Bodie. Hugging the wall, he moved further into the darkness, gun drawn.
A corner of the warehouse was lit by early morning sunlight coming in through a hole in the roof. The tableau presented rekindled the unease he’d felt earlier. Doyle was standing over a bloodied McAllister, gun pressed tight to the man’s forehead.
Doyle turned towards Bodie, his face pale beneath deep bruises. The hand holding the gun was steady and unmoving. The other hand wiped indifferently at the blood running down his cheek from the gash at his temple.
“Go away, Bodie.” The voice was cold, unfeeling, frightening.
“What’s this about then, ma… Ray?” The old, familiar address didn’t seem appropriate any longer.
“Cowley told you why I joined his mob?” Doyle challenged.
“Cops didn’t want you.”
Doyle nodded towards McAllister. “He’s the reason why. Was him that led the bent coppers, him that made sure I wasn’t welcome in CID, him that made it impossible for me to work there.” Doyle sucked in a deep lungful of air. “I couldn’t get anyone to listen to me after the dirt he spread. Didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. It was him that hired the thugs that took me apart, broke my face and put me in hospital for months.” Doyle took an unsteady breath and whispered. “I had a girl back then, was going to get married.”
“You never said…”
“Never talk about her. Not to anyone.” His breathing harsh, the words were short and sharp. He looked away.
Bodie knew about keeping secrets, he had a few of his own. “What happened?”
“This scum arranged an accident.”
“Had her killed?”
“No. She survived the crash, but...” he pulled in a shaky breath, “she’d just found out – we, we were going to have a child, Bodie.” He looked at Bodie. “The baby died. And she couldn’t face me anymore. She left.” He turned his attention back to McAllister, eyes blazing, the gun pressed tightly to McAllister’s head. “I got too close to his kingdom. I ignored the warnings, thought I was superman.” Guilt dripped from the words, flowing unrestrained like tears. “And he was in charge of the operation at the museum. You remember that one, don’t you Bodie? Kids and cops, all of them dead because of his greed.” Doyle motioned towards McAllister with a feral grin. “The op that cost me my job at CI5.” His voice dropped to a whisper, the words barely heard. “The one that cost me you.”
Bodie watched Doyle’s fingers, white with the fierceness of his grip, tighten on the trigger.
“He ruined my life, Bodie,” his voice was unsteady and bitter.
“No, Ray, he hasn’t. Not yet. But if you shoot him now, like this, in cold blood, you’ll be finishing the job for him.”
McAllister’s voice teased. “You want to kill me, don’t you, Mr High and Mighty. Where are those morals now,” he goaded. “C’mon. You want to do it – for those poor kids and the unsuspecting pigs at the museum, for your career…”
Silence descended, the air was charged with tension, everyone waiting for Doyle to make the next move. He stood, motionless for long seconds. Finally, wearily, he lowered his gun; his chin dropped heavily to his chest; his eyes met Bodie’s and he could feel the heat of embarrassment creeping up his neck and staining his cheeks. Anger burned on Bodie’s face as well, he couldn’t face that; he spun away.
“...for your child,” McAllister laughed shrilly. “But you won’t kill me. Knew you were a coward, Doyle,” he mocked, taking a step towards Doyle’s exposed back. “And I have friends, Doyle, friends in high places who’ll make sure that I never pay…”
Memories of the man’s smug smile in the hospital years ago, his arrogance in the pub’s storeroom, memories of dead children in the museum, the minister allowing this monster to remain on the street, the guns and drugs in this warehouse that promised more death – No! Not again. This ended now.
Before he could turn back, McAllister’s words were suddenly cut off. Ray heard the sound of a scuffle behind him, the sickening snap of bones, the thud of a body falling. He wheeled around and saw McAllister sprawled broken on the floor. He felt a stab of guilt at the relief that poured through him. It was finally finished. He turned to his partner.
“Jesus!” He gasped. “Bodie?” Why? But the word died before it was spoken. His eyes met Bodie’s and all the answers to all the unasked questions were there. All the unvoiced feelings shone hotly in that steady gaze. Everything he’d ever wanted, everything he thought he’d never have. It was all there. His. And yet - there was something else there too. Bodie had done this, had killed, for him, and now Bodie stood waiting for judgement. There was no apology on offer in those eyes. Bodie was waiting, and the stoic expression said that Bodie would accept and live with whatever Doyle decided. And Doyle recognised that something else as fear. And that was wrong. There shouldn’t be fear. He watched Bodie’s eyes shift to the body slumped awkwardly on the floor and he understood.
Spinning on his heel, he looked around the warehouse, at the catwalk hanging under the roof and the haphazardly piled crates leaning against the wall. He strode over to the pile and tumbled some of the crates to the floor. He cleared his throat and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Poor sod. He should’ve been more careful. A fall like that…”
Bodie reached out and pulled him into a tight embrace. Ray went willingly into the comforting grasp and whispered shakily against Bodie’s shoulder, “Thank you.” He hoped Bodie knew it was for far more than today. He felt a choked rumble escape from deep in Bodie’s chest. A laugh - or was it a sob? It didn’t matter. All that mattered were the strong arms tightening around him as he surrendered his anguish to Bodie’s strength. It felt right; it felt like coming home.
“Can I come in, lad?” Cowley stood framed in the hospital door.
“Of course, sir.” Doyle finished stuffing his things in his hold-all and sat on the bed. He winced at the pain in his ribs as he sat.
“Bodie, I’d like to speak to...” Cowley gestured at Doyle.
Bodie rose and offered Cowley his chair.
“Just leaving, sir.” Bodie turned to Doyle, “I’ll bring the car around, sunshine.”
“Ta,” Doyle waved him out.
Cowley made himself as comfortable as he could in the hard, plastic hospital chair.
Both spoke at the same time. Cowley nodded for Doyle to speak.
“I understand that I have you to thank for sending Bodie in. He saved my life. And I know you had no cause or reason to do that.”
“Ach, Doyle. Your rescue was merely a fortuitous outcome of Bodie’s mission. We were after Coughlin’s gang. That we got you out too was a bonus.”
Both men knew the lie for what it was, but neither would acknowledge it.
“Of course. But all the same, thank you, sir.”
Cowley studied the man on the bed with a raised eyebrow. “Somewhat unfortunate though, McAllister’s - fall.” Doyle looked down at his feet, his teeth biting into his lower lip. Cowley coughed. They sat in an uncomfortable silence. Doyle broke it.
“Permission to speak openly, sir?” He offered a small smile.
“You’re as cheeky as Bodie. Go on then. What do you have to say?”
“I’ve had some time to think and I owe you an apology.”
“The things I said...”
“...were all true.” Cowley interrupted. “I’ve never denied that. Sometimes, those of us in a position of power need to do things that don’t sit well. Sometimes I have to order others to do things that test their beliefs, their honour. Some of these things are truly despicable. But one needs to consider the reason for the actions. If I take this path, who am I hurting? Who am I helping? It’s a precarious balance, Doyle. One that is not easy to live with, as you’ve discovered.
“Your problem, Doyle, as Bodie has pointed out many times, is that you think too much. Men like Bodie can accept orders, trusting and understanding that those who issue those orders have already gone through the steps to determine if the action is warranted. They don’t need to repeat that exercise. You’ve called it a military mind-set, follow orders, don’t question them.” Cowley stopped and sighed. “Although your former partner has questioned me on numerous occasions – maybe that’s your doing, eh?” A small smiled bent his lips.
“You, on the other hand don’t have that built in trust. You question.” He raised a hand to stop Doyle’s interruption. “And before you get on your high horse, questioning is good. We need men who question. It’s part of the balance. It keeps those of us who must make the decisions – honest. It forces us to make absolutely sure the decision made is the correct one, makes us weigh all sides and outcomes.” He looked directly at Doyle. “Can you see that, lad? I didn’t give up McAllister lightly after the museum op. You saw the destruction, the cost, of what he did and you wanted justice. I had to weigh that against the cost of not having the information we could get from him, which in turn, would prevent future situations like the one at the museum. The cost of the museum op had already been paid. The agencies measured all the options and it was felt, with McAllister’s connections, valuable information could be gained by leaving him in place and watching him.” Cowley drew in a deep breath. “But the cost was higher than I thought. I hadn’t planned on losing you.”
Doyle sat speechless. Cowley had never offered explanations for his actions. He expected to be obeyed. Full stop. Oh, he’d tolerate a small amount of questioning, but at the end of the day, things were done his way. Doyle looked away from the cool gaze and cleared his throat. Quietly he asked, “So where does that leave us, sir?”
“I’d like you to come back to CI5, Doyle. I hope my little speech showed you that we need men like you. I told you once before that…your problem is that you care. Your conscience makes the job harder for you. The issues of this trade are complex, tangled. Compassion can be a big step towards solving them. We may not always agree on the solution, but I think you can see that we have the same goals.” His voice softened. “Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.”
Cowley raised his hand to stop him. “I don’t expect an answer now. I’m sure we have some details to work out. But consider it. The Yard wants you to stay on. CI5 could certainly use you.” There was another pause. “I’d like you to come back.”
Doyle shook his head, feeling slightly lost.
“You’re a good man, Doyle. Don’t let what’s happened here or in the past make you doubt that.” Cowley stood and put on his hat. He moved to the bed and held out his hand. Doyle took it.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Get well, Ray. Then come and see me.”
Doyle nodded and smiled at the familiar address. “I will, Geo….” His eyes lit with a touch of mischief. “…Sir.”
Cowley’s brows furrowed in exasperation, but there was an amused twist to his lips.
“Looks like Bodie’s habits have rubbed off on you as well. If you do come back, I may have to rethink your teaming.” He pulled the door open to find Bodie on the other side.
“Eavesdroppers rarely hear anything good about themselves, 3.7.”
“Eavesdrop? Me, sir? Never, sir!”
Cowley gave him a sceptical look.
“Take care of him, Bodie,” he said just loudly enough for Bodie to hear. Then louder, “I’ll see you in my office on Monday, 3.7. Eight AM sharp.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“Welcome back, 4.5.” Doyle winced as Macklin’s hand dropped heavily on his sore shoulder.
“I must be mad,” Doyle said under his breath.
Bodie heard and ruffled Doyle’s hair.
Doyle groaned, “Even me curls hurt.”
Bodie and Macklin both laughed.
“You’ll do, 4.5, you’ll do. Cowley said for both of you to take two day’s leave. Report to him on Monday morning. That should give you enough time to baby those tired bones, Doyle.” Macklin put on his coat. “I’m late for a meeting. Lock up when you leave.”
Ray waved a two finger salute at the retreating figure.
“Two days!” Bodie rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation. “Whatever shall we do?”
“A hot bath, a stiff drink and forty-eight hours sleep for me, mate. I’m knackered.”
Bodie pouted. “Boring, Raymond. Very boring.”
Ray fell asleep in the bath. Bodie roused him enough to get him out of the water and dried off. He tucked his partner into bed. Ray looked worn out. His time with Macklin had taken its toll, coming so soon after his release from hospital. Bodie had wanted him to take some time before coming back to CI5, but Ray had insisted he needed to get back to it quickly. Bodie knew better than to argue.
He gently ran a finger down the sleeping man’s cheek. “Good to have you back, mate,” he whispered. He stripped off his own clothes and slipped under the duvet. He was asleep in minutes.
He woke, deep in the night, to find Ray, propped up on his elbow, silently considering him. Over-bright eyes, reflecting the moonlight stealing in through a gap in the curtains, fixed on his. Ray raised a hand to Bodie’s lips. Bodie opened his mouth to speak, but the words stuck in his throat. He swallowed, hard, remembering the distance that words left unsaid had put between them five years ago. Ray watched him expectantly. He sucked in a deep breath and started to speak.
Ray stopped the words, covering Bodie’s mouth with his own. The warm eyes told Bodie that Ray knew and that the words weren’t necessary, that they never had been. There was apology in the soft gaze, taking responsibility for the years of separation. But Bodie was having none of it. He’d take his share of the blame.
He whispered into Ray’s mouth, “Love you.”
Ray smiled, kissed him again and pulled Bodie into a tight embrace. “Love you, too.”
Bodie tucked Ray’s head under his chin and ran his hands through Ray’s hair and down his flanks. He felt Ray’s breathing deepen.
“Missed you, Ray.” He spoke quietly into Ray’s ear.
He heard Ray whisper as he drifted into sleep, “It’s good to be home.”