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Driven By Anguish

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Driven by Anguish
by krisser

 

October 1980

The fourteen-year-old rushed to the cupboard beneath the stairs as soon as the doorbell sounded. He didn't want his mum to know about his hiding place as it was the only way he learned stuff. Nothing had been normal from the moment he'd heard of his da's death. His mum could hardly stop crying and when she did stop, she wouldn't tell him anything.

It was this hiding place that afforded him the chance to find out things that everyone claimed he was too young to hear, not today. He looked out the mid-door crack that he had enlarged many years ago. This time it was a solitary man, not a gush-load of women with food.

"My name is Cowley, George Cowley," he heard the man say.

 

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From the outside, the well kept red brick, manicured garden and tall hedges of the Mantons' house looked like a fine home that should have housed a nice upstanding family, not the family of man who had committed the highest form of treason. The head of CI5 now had a job to perform. He didn't relish it, but it had to be done. He rang the bell.

"My name is Cowley, George Cowley. I'd known your husband many years." His tone was flat and formal.

He looked familiar to her, but she just couldn't place him. "You worked with Freddie?" The well-attired woman motioned her guest inside. She looked forward to the chance to talk about her husband.

"In a manner of speaking." It was still difficult for Cowley to think of Frederick Manton as Freddie. It served to remind the CI5 Controller that as traitorous as Manton had been, he was a father and husband in this home.

Cowley turned away from the door and from Mrs Manton. He flicked his half- open hand at his agents, Bodie and Doyle, waiting on the pavement just out of the line of sight. They moved forward on command.

"I have a warrant to search the premises." Cowley motioned his agents to move around him as he withdrew the document and presented it to Manton's widow.

"I don't understand." Genuine confusion coloured her voice as she barely glanced at the warrant.

The stern expression on Cowley's face softened, and his voice gentled a bit as he explained, "We are unsure of all your husband's possible contacts. Hence the warrant."

"I don't understand. Freddie is . . . was a good man. He died a hero's death." She voice wobbled. "I heard for myself, it was on the BBC. He died a hero's death," she repeated. Her voice was more firm and proud this time, as though the statement gave her great consolation. She dabbed her eyes hoping to stem the flow of tears that still continued to follow thoughts of her loss. She led him to the front room. "Please sit down."

"Yes. That's what I'm here about. How much of your husband's dealings were you aware of?" No further preamble, no finesse, straight and to the point. Cowley seated himself in the chair closest to the door. His posture was as stiff-backed as the chair itself. He sat on the edge, weight resting on the balls of his feet as if poised for flight. He took no notice of the nicely furnished room.

"Bits here and there, only what he told me." Mrs Manton's voice fluttered as she fiddled with the handkerchief wedged in her hands. "As much as any wife, I suppose. I attended functions and luncheons with him, of course. My husband worked quite late every night."

"How much did you know of his activities outside the job?" Cowley pierced her with his stare.

"I don't know what you mean!"

George Cowley sat back and studied the woman carefully. He was quite sure that her confusion was genuine and that she had been as unaware of her husband's dealings as had Mrs Forester. Mrs Manton had lived with her husband for over twenty- five years and yet knew very little about him. He sighed to himself; it just made what he had to do all the more difficult.

"Aye, I'm sure, and therein lies the problem. Had Frederick Manton lived, he would have faced charges of treason." He kept the repugnance he felt out of his voice.

Mrs Manton sucked in her breath. "But the papers said. . . "

"Aye, that he died a hero's death in defence of his country." His tone was almost weary as he repeated the trite and meaningless phrase. "That is the story we released."

The tone indicated distaste so obvious that even the fourteen-year-old hiding in the staircase cupboard understood the biting sarcasm in Cowley's voice.

"You must be in error." A hint of determination finally entered Mrs Manton's voice.

"No. I'm sorry. There is irrefutable proof." He withdrew a manila folder from his briefcase and gently placed it on her lap. "There is more than enough here."

"No, it's just not true." The women crushed the edges of the envelope in her grip.

"I wish it weren't," Cowley said with a sigh. He turned his head to acknowledge Bodie standing just inside the door of the adjacent room.

Bodie moved quietly to the Controller's side and bent his head so his mouth was close to Cowley's ear. "We've boxed all the documents from his office. There is a safe, but we couldn't locate a combination for it."

Cowley looked to Mrs Manton. "Do you know the combination to the safe?"

"What safe?"

Cowley believed her. It was obvious to him as he watched her that she hadn't known of the safe's existence. He stood. "We will return tomorrow with the tools to remove the safe."

The youth under the stairs fell back into himself, tears flowing freely. That man was wrong, he just knew it.

------

The following morning, Cowley once again knocked on the door of the Manton home. The woman who answered looked haggard, world-weary, and resigned; a polar opposite to the well-dressed woman of yesterday.

"We're here for the safe." His tone was gentle in contrast to his last visit. His arm gestured 'go in' to his agents as he focused his attention on the woman.

Bodie and Doyle led Easton to the safe located at the back of the house.

Cowley followed Mrs Manton inside. She pulled the manila envelope that he had given her yesterday out of the hatstand as she passed it and handed it back to him. She led him to the same room as yesterday. He sat and waited as she composed herself.

She licked her lips, opened her mouth, and closed it just as quickly. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She spoke with determination. "I must think of my son. Can't have him growing up amid the shame. I have a brother who emigrated. New York. We will move in with him. I spoke with him this morning."

Cowley nodded. "The United States will allow a greater freedom and anonymity. I will send people in tomorrow to help with all your relocation plans," Cowley offered sincerely.

"No! No! No!" erupted from the bowels of the house. A young whirlwind of energy rushed straight at Cowley. Fists pummelled wildly as they struck his side and back.

Bodie and Doyle, alerted by the howl, rushed into the room. Bodie pulled the kicking and sobbing lad away from their boss.

Doyle checked that their boss was uninjured. Cowley brushed him away impatiently.

"You're lying about my father. I'll get you back, you old liar. I hate you!" the lad yelled and sobbed.

"Hush, Gerald." Mrs Manton moved to her son. "Hush now."

Bodie released the lad to his mother. He joined Doyle and Easton at the door. Cowley waved them along.

"I am sorry for your loss." George Cowley left the devastated household only wishing that dealing with Manton's treachery could be handled just as easily. The Philby fiasco had shaken the country's confidence in the government. Cowley didn't think the populace was ready for another such incident of treason, even after more than 15 years. He left the way he came.

 

August 1985

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"Do you think he's coming back?" Ray Doyle asked seriously as he continued to work at the restraints binding his hands and legs. His wrists were already rubbed raw from days of trying.

"Well, not now the ticking's started." The remark sounded casual but Bodie's eyes darted about the place still looking for a way out. A damp, earthen cave was outside their previous experience of captivity and the more usual means of extrication did not apply. Bodie completely ignored the fact that his shackles were still anchored in the wall, tight as ever. He continued furiously working his left wrist back and forth within the restraint, the blood aiding his movement.

"Ticking? You think there's a bomb?"

"Either that or a very large watch." Bodie cocked his head to the side and tried to gauge where exactly the ticking had originated.

"Bloody hell." Doyle worked harder at his manacles. "Cowley's not here yet. I thought he wanted Cowley. It can't go off before he gets here. What's the point?"

"He's not running on a full tank. He may not need a reason now."

The first explosion rocked the cave, sending rock debris, vegetation, and dust downward to fall upon the CI5 agents. The damp odour of wet rock now permeated the entire enclosure.

"Damn, do you think he's trying to kill us by causing a cave-in?" Doyle asked after shaking the debris off his head.

"What? You mean I fell asleep when he was confiding his dastardly plans to us?" Bodie's retort was automatic, his actions to free himself never ceasing.

The second explosion cracked the cave wall and freed the base of Doyle's shackles. His arms were still confined but both his legs became untethered from the wall. He scrambled to secure his footing amid the rubble falling around him. Manacles were still attached to his ankles but were no longer attached to the cave wall.

"Maybe it will crack enough so we can pull free." Doyle pulled at the metal restraining the arm still attached to the wall.

Bodie didn't have time to comment before the third explosion opened the cave floor to expose a vast crevasse. The wall supporting Doyle broke completely. Doyle stumbled frantically, shackled arms flailing for purchase but landing nowhere. He slid into the opening.

Bodie, still completely anchored in place, wrenched his left wrist out of the restraint with adrenaline fused strength. He reached out desperately with that freed hand like a cobra strike and caught hold of his partner. He grabbed onto Doyle's arm and felt his own stretched out of its socket. He didn't care; he only knew he had to hold on with all his might.

"RAY!" Panic filled Bodie's voice. He couldn't move enough to see into the hole.

"Still here, Bodie."

"Ray, walk up my arm. Concentrate. You can do it." Bodie tried to hide his fear, but the quivering in his voice was quite audible.

"Can't Bodie, got half the fuckin' broken parts of the wall chained to one wrist and my ankles."

Bodie pulled furiously at his shackles; he'd recognised futility in his partner's voice.

"Hang on, Ray. Just hang on. Damn it, Ray, I need you." Bodie didn't hear his own begging tone.

Doyle pulled harder on Bodie's arm with all his strength trying to do as he was bid. A grunt from Bodie was the only indication that he felt any discomfort.

"Not working – can't climb up, can't hold all this weight."

"Keep at it. Don't give up now, sunshine."

Doyle hung there still for a moment before stating quietly, "Wished I'd proposed. And I should have said it before, I love you, Bodie." Then he let go.

"NO!" Bodie yelled as he reached out spastically, clutching only empty air. "RAY!" Bodie hollered like a banshee into the abyss. The eerie sound of nothingness in answer was all he could hear.

Nothing.

Then a clunk, like something hitting bottom

"No, no, no," he cried out over and over.

After the rock, dust, and debris had settled, no other sounds could be heard from the great gaping hole in the cave floor; a hole that was still set too far away for Bodie to look in. He strained for any sound, anything, but nothing at all emerged to give Bodie hope that Doyle lived.

No hope at all.


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Bodie rolled away from the hole as best he could, feeling an ache so deep he expected to find a physical emptiness. He knew that nothing would ever fill the void again. He curled up as tight as he could manage against the cave wall and lost himself deep in his memories of another place and time.

 

"I thought maybe she invited you into her bed, her knight in shinning armour and all that." Doyle turned on the lights and locked the door of his flat behind his partner.

"She twigged onto what I was before that." Bodie smiled. "Anyway, she thought you were the good-looking one. Her mum liked you as well, all that talk about the roses." He headed for the drinks counter as Doyle sat on the sofa.

"So you going to pull her in now? Case closed and all that."

Doyle, with his dogged persistence, brought a smile to Bodie's face.

"She has quite enough on her plate with reacquainting herself with her father, don't ya think?"

"But you plan to?"

"Not my scene, Doyle. She's the settling down kind, not my kind." Bodie stretched his arms over his head as he watched his partner slouch in a more natural pose. He had the impression that Doyle was suddenly more relaxed. He wondered why. "What's it to ya, you plan to ask her out yourself?"

"No. Never entered my mind."

"Then what, Doyle? Very dogged for not wanting a go at her yourself."

"I'm not wanting a go at her."

"Then what?"

"Wanted a go at you."

"Huh!?"

"Recognised she was the settling down kind as well and was worried you were smitten."

"So you were jealous of her?" Bodie felt off- balanced by the turn of the conversation. He sat down on the sofa, turned so he could watch his partner.

"Not jealous so much as thinking I'd lost my chance."

"Chance at what? A slap 'n' tickle? A discovery one-off?"

"Wasn't proposing."

"So obviously a one-off to see what's what with the other side." Bodie's anger was no longer hidden.

"NO! No." Doyle turned to face his partner. "The last few of our double dates I found I was more interested in the time spent with you than the bird. Got me to thinking."

Bodie held back his automatic rejoinder, instead confessed honestly, "I've recently found myself thinking that way as well."

"Yeah?"

Bodie watched Ray's lips open and pause as though searching for words. Bodie knew a wild freedom freshly born in his mind and acted on it. He leaned forward and pressed his own lips to Ray's. A light pressure that finished with a light dusting of his tongue to leave Ray's lips glistening.

"Is that what you were thinking of?"

"It might be. Would require more sampling." Ray smiled at Bodie; a genuine smile that spoke volumes to his sharing the same wild freedom.

Bodie pushed Ray flat on the sofa and covered him with his body. His lips, less tentative this time, began an extensive exploration of the entire area in and around Ray's mouth.

Bodie had no trouble recognising the answering hardness that pressed itself against his own. His hand fumbled with the button and zip longer than he liked; so anxious to touch was he that every second seemed like an hour. Finally, his hand was rewarded with the warm, hard length of Ray and he relished the moment. He held him and gave the full erection a squeeze before his thumb moved from the base to tip with a hint of pressure. To feel the warm hardness quiver and thicken in his grasp even more was a revelation and Bodie found he wanted to make it show all it could do at his command.

Bodie's lips sucked at Ray's throat as his hand created an age-old rhythm. Ray bucked into the pressure, bucked into his hand and Bodie drove him to the end of his road. The payoff was more than he imagined as five solid shots of Ray's warm, sticky fluid hit him in the chest, the heat to be felt as it soaked through his shirt.

Ray collapsed back against him, body so malleable it seemed to Bodie that he was like a puddle of goo.

What a turn on! Bodie, now so hot himself, went in search of his own erection only to find that Ray's hand beat him there. Then he flew as Ray's hand mimicked what only minutes before he had done to him.

The very illicit nature of the act combined with knowing the hand that had him in its grip didn't leave Bodie long to enjoy the build - up as he came with four solid shots of his own. He buried his face in Ray's neck, afraid it would be just the one-off he feared.

Ray pulled Bodie's head out of his neck and sought his lips, the post- kiss even sweeter, if possible, than the pre- kiss. Bodie knew a few more moments of heaven.

"This will require lots more sampling."

Bodie chuckled, fear gone.

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Murphy charged into the cave and stopped short. Half of their manhunt was over. He moved in close and found Agent 3.7 curled into the tightest ball that he could manage shackled to the cave wall.

"Here," Murphy yelled, directing the manpower to the cave. "6.1 to Alpha." He fingered his R/T.

"Alpha – what do you have?" The sharpness of tone was the only indication of the frantic concern.

"Located 3.7. He's chained to a cave wall. Hole in the middle of the cave floor. Evidence of a broken shackle." Murphy gave his report without emotion. His eyes scoured the cave for evidence of what had happened. Cowley expected complete information.

"4.5?"

"Not here."

"Don't stand there, ask 3.7." His impatience fairly jumped through the transmitter.

"He's unconscious, sir. Need medical assistance."

"Should have said so immediately!" his impatience was even more pronounced. "It's on its way."

Murphy surveyed the scene quickly and with little imagination figured out what must have happened to Doyle. He tested the ground before he moved closer to the hole, the bottom of which he could not see. He wondered if they would lose Bodie, as well. He looked back at the man rolled into a foetal position and knew he would be no good to CI5 without his partner.

Cowley assigned Murphy to stay with 3.7 and he sat alongside the unconscious man as he was airlifted to a London hospital. Cowley stayed on scene trying to locate 4.5's body and ascertain who had led his agents there. 3.7's R/T had got them to the general area. Repeated reports of explosions got them to the cave, but no answers awaited him, only more questions.

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In hospital, Murphy waited. Bodie was delirious in reaction to exposure. The only name besides Doyle's that had been understood was Manton's. Another dead man. A dead end until Bodie regained consciousness.

Murphy waited as ordered, but it wasn't until two days later that Bodie's fever broke. Cowley and most of the CI5 resources were on the scene in Holland-on-Sea. Murphy was still assigned to Bodie, but as much as he wanted to be in on the hunt for Doyle in all honesty, he was actually glad to be on hand for his friend. He fully expected to deal with a depressed and angry man.

He drank endless amounts of tea as he continued to wait for his first opportunity to actually speak with 3.7.

3.7, on the other hand, didn't seem to display any urgency to speak to 6.2, or anyone else for that matter.

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Twenty-four hours later, Bodie awoke by himself in the darkened hospital room. He remembered instantly what had happened, no cloudy or muddled thoughts to spare him a few moments pain. What he couldn't seem to recall was how he got to hospital. He knew he was currently alone without opening his eyes. He heard only his heart monitor; no one else was breathing, so no guard inside.

 

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Bodie knew there was only one thing he needed to attend to: retribution for Doyle's demise. He would seek out Manton and kill him. Manton had killed Doyle the same as if he had fired a weapon point blank. His death was the only revenge that Bodie would be afforded. After . . . well after mattered not.

Bodie was moved to another room on a different floor as hospital staff made room for victims of a road accident. Murphy lost his chance to speak with him during the exchange. Bodie was asleep by the time Murphy located the new room. He peeked in and realized that Bodie was now sharing a room. Murphy was sure that his boss would not be pleased. It was too late in the night to change rooms yet again. He brought a chair over from the waiting area and placed it guarding Bodie's room. He leaned his head back only intending to rest his eyes a bit from the glare of corridor lights.

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Bodie woke after the shift change check of the floor. He waited until the wee hours of the night when all was finally quiet before leaving his bed. He slowly moved his monitoring equipment closer to the unconscious man in the next bed. He removed the sensors from his body and piggybacked them to that patient. He waited until he was sure that all was recording smoothly.

With absolute assurance in what he needed to do, Bodie exited the room with a practised stealth, easily moving past a sleeping Murphy. He knew his friend and fellow agent would catch hell from their boss, but he also knew that Murphy would interfere with what must be done.

He located a doctor's coat and nicked it before he left the hospital via the doctors' car park. He nodded to the few staffers as he passed by. Bodie ignored all the cars as he walked straight out to the street and away from any possible cameras. He hailed a cab, had it drop him off at the closest tube station and took another cab from there. Bodie had that driver drop him off close to another of his secret bolt-holes in Soho that contained a second untraceable motor, additional weapons and clothes. Only Doyle had known of its existence besides himself. He squashed all thoughts of his partner. It was the only way he could continue to function. He had to lock away the pain. Grief would cripple him soon enough.

Clean clothes were his first order of business. A doctor's coat may have looked normal within the hospital confines, but it appeared out of place in the dilapidated area of Soho, especially as the only garment beneath was his hospital gown. Once changed into his usual all black, he felt more comfortable. He stuffed his holdall with weapons, ammo, extra clothes and cash. He'd send the wallet and cash he'd borrowed back to the doctor at hospital. He then closed everything up, reset his traps and locked the door behind him. He headed directly to HQ in his backup motor. He needed information.

Bodie had no need nor desire to contact Cowley. His boss would only order him in, well aware of what his intentions would be. Cowley and his mob were best left out of it. Bodie knew operational procedures in these situations so HQ would be virtually empty. Besides, Cowley would have wanted a debriefing and the subsequent marshalling of CI5 forces would only allow Doyle's killer to escape.

Bodie would not tolerate that.

Bodie parked down the road from HQ. No matter the time of night, he followed precautions. He entered records without detection. Three thirty a. m. was not a hot- bed of activity at CI5 on a regular day and tonight there was less activity. A skeleton staff at best was on duty and Bodie knew how to avoid them all. Stairs instead of the lift and a pass key liberated from Betty's desk made it easier. The object of his search was the Manton records. He searched out all properties owned, bought, or sold, past and current and all information that he could find on relatives and relatives of relatives. Another Manton had an appointment with death.

He printed out everything, waiting impatiently for the machines to complete the task. Each minute, each second wasted in locating Doyle's killer was more time than the walking dead man deserved. Every second of life that Manton had past Doyle's was a blasphemy against everything Doyle had been. Bodie's thoughts held nothing of himself. Bodie knew that he, himself, was a walking dead man as well. He had ceased to live when Doyle had died. He now had but one purpose. He would see this mission through, then . . . disappear. He nodded with a smile to the lone typist on his way out. He left the way he entered.

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Debbie Robbins entered the records room at five a.m. She was surprised to see the famed agent 3.7. She smiled. Just off leave, she knew nothing of the circumstances surrounding the last ten days. When she thought about it, she saw nothing odd in his presence at this early hour, it only confirmed why he was considered one of the best. She never thought to mention seeing the agent until five days later.

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Bodie finished his coffee and put the cup on the table. He looked around. The caff was starting to fill with the breakfast crowd. It was time for him to push on. Bodie rubbed the back of his neck; he needed to organise his thoughts. He knew that the next order of business should be evaluating all the Manton properties and their proximity to the water and caves. The mad- man holding them had given out clues in his ranting and ramblings, if only he could decipher them, but his weariness was catching up with him. So, even though he wanted desperately to push on, he knew that next up had to be finding a place to stay and taking a kip.

His flat was not an option now and neither was a hotel using his own name. The Cow had resources. He picked up a newspaper that had been left behind and scanned the bed-sit ads. He found a couple that might work. He left cash on the table before heading out. He got into his motor and drove without thought.

He wound up in Chelmsford off the parkway near Cedar Lane without remembering the drive, but the A-Z told him he was in the right place. He combed his hair and used a shaver Doyle had left in the boot in case they had ever needed to run again. He could barely stand to hold it but he had to look somewhat presentable.

As it was after nine am, he knocked on the door of the manager's room. The door was answered by a plump woman who looked like she could be anyone's mum.

"Good morning." Bodie's Liverpudlian accent was more prominent in his tired and distressed state.

"Is this about the ad?"

"Yes, it is." Bodie bobbed his head.

She took a good butcher's before she spoke. "You look okay. First month's up front."

Bodie smiled as he took out his wallet. He gave her the cash and his hand. "Ian Dunworthy."

She took the money first, then his hand. "Mrs Ann Padden." She opened the door to the stairs. "Number seven is yours. Shall we go up and give it a once over?"

"Thank you, Mrs Padden." Bodie followed her up the stairs. His legs felt weighted by the time they reached the top but he put on a bright face when she turned around and handed him the key.

"No wild parties." She cracked her first smile.

"No, ma'am." Bodie bobbed his head again in agreement.

"You have your own back entrance." She pointed to the kitchen area. " The facilities are down the
passage to the right."

"Brilliant. I'll be moving in my belongings all week after work." He didn't want her to think him a layabout.

"That'll be fine." Mrs Padden left her new tenant to look the place over himself. As soon as the door closed behind the woman, Bodie sought out the bed and collapsed onto the hard mattress with the last of any energy he had. Even though his shoulder ached, sleep claimed him immediately.

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"What do you mean he's missing?" Cowley yelled into the phone. "What did I have you on watch for then?"

"To make sure he wasn't recaptured," Murphy answered, then added, "To get his story of what happened as well."

"Now we have no information on who or why. Damned efficient." Cowley's voice dripped with disdain.

Murphy accepted the chastisement, as it was warranted. "We know where they had been held, sir."

"We need to get back out there. We're starting blind." Cowley added, "Scour that area yourself in case our team missed anything."

"Yes, sir." Murphy knew he was headed back to Holland-on-Sea. He hoped that Bodie was all right wherever he was.

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Bodie woke as soon as the light started shining through the window. It hit right on his face. He felt the warmth but he didn't really care. His legs didn't seem to have any desire to move, and the ability to face the day was lost in apathy. Bodie just rolled over and even though it was onto the aching shoulder he fell back asleep.

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Cowley arrived on site, impatient to discover what his operative had found. "Wait here!" Cowley directed the driver of the CI5 Vauxhall. He headed in to the fray.

He looked over the multitude of personnel being utilised and couldn't help but think it was a lot of manpower for two men. The main fact, though, was he had to know what happened. He couldn't have anyone thinking that they could apprehend, hinder or interfere with any of his agents and remain unscathed.

Cowley was relatively sure that Bodie was running around England half-cocked, ready to render judgement and retribution for the loss of Doyle. No evidence had yet been uncovered that Doyle was indeed dead, but just the threat was enough to send Bodie off. This was the one real area where Bodie was vulnerable.

He located Murphy next to a large gaping hole. The very hole into whose depths Doyle was believed to have fallen. Ropes had been anchored and men were down in the hole. The shackles that Bodie had been bound with still rested in the walls of the cave, blood still in evidence. His eyes narrowed before he turned to face his agent.

"Report, 6.2." Cowley barked to the man who hadn't yet noticed his arrival.

Murphy whipped around to face his boss. A bit flustered, he managed to sound confident. "Mr Cowley, sir."

Cowley waited silently, patiently, though his look spoke volumes to the contrary.

"Though the explosions rendered this area unstable and the cave directly below as well, the entire cave system is actually riddled with rooms. Our spelunkers have discovered that these caverns link directly with several old mining tunnels. There is sufficient evidence to indicate that someone with a vehicle recently drove in and out one of the mine entrances. There is also evidence that a body was dragged. No indication if it was Doyle, or if it was Doyle if he was alive or not."

"Doyle may or may not be alive." The statement was delivered in Cowley's usual factual style, but anyone looking closely would have been able to see in his eyes that the head of CI5 was greatly affected by Doyle's possible loss. "Any evidence that Bodie has been here or knows about any of this?" Cowley looked down inside the hole.

"None, sir. The men have been here continuously since we rescued Bodie. No one has seen him." Murphy had asked them first thing upon arrival.

"Doesn't mean that 3.7 hasn't been here."

"Bodie's doctor was surprised that Bodie had enough strength to leave hospital let alone have enough energy to gallivant about on a Doyle hunt."

"Bodie is not hunting Doyle, 6.2, he is hunting his killer. Bodie will strike down that perpetrator if we can not locate him first."

"Who? Bodie or Doyle's killer?" Murphy wasn't sure.

"Either, both." Of that, Cowley had no doubt.

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Bodie woke again, body refreshed despite his state of mind, so that this time when his eyes opened there was something more pressing than his bladder. He had unfinished business. More urgent than any other task before him. Find Doyle's killer and end his very existence.

A mission. Something to focus on. He needed a place to start. Bodie thought about Manton, their young captor. He was a nutter, plain and simple, and this nutter had rambled on most of the time. Something important must have been revealed in his constant patter besides his desire to hurt Cowley.

There had been so many different conversations with the nutter, but Bodie worked at isolating just one of them. He replayed one of those conversations in his head, a specific dialogue with Manton, searching for any additional clues with his analytical precision.

 

"That old man was wrong – he was looking for a scapegoat and my da was the convenient choice. All those papers couldn't have got it wrong. That head geezer was a dried up old man who was jealous of all my da had. I've had plenty of time to think about it. I had time to plan, too."

The deranged youth hardly paused for a breath as he paced back and forth, arms flailing about willy-nilly, before continuing. "Studied the old prune, to figure how to hurt him back. I thought he was hiding all the important ones, but he didn't have any. Just the job. All he does is work. Knew then I had to get him there. This part, though, getting him through his agents is just taking too long." He knelt and checked for the thousandth time that the shackles were secure.

"You could call him." Doyle suggested dryly.

"I left clues," the young Manton stated proudly, missing Doyle's sarcasm.

"What kind of clues?" Bodie just wanted to keep the nutter talking.

"The bike, of course. It was made in Shoreham-by-Sea. I made sure that decal was left under the seat."

"Are we in Shoreham-by-Sea?" Doyle asked.

"No, but we are by the sea. Should be obvious. What do you want me to do? Draw a map?"

"The UK is a bloody island. What other, if any, clues did you leave?" Bodie would have thought it funny if he could get out of the shackles.

"There's a bat decal on the crossbar." Manton's voice was again smug in his knowledge. He stood, facing the CI5 men.

"A bat?" Doyle couldn't help himself, he was curious.

"Sure! Bats live in caves."

"Do any bats live in this cave?" Bodie was betting there were no bats for miles.

"No, didn't want to make it too easy." His tone was one of disdain.

"Is the bike still with our vehicle?" Doyle asked trying to piece the clues together himself.

"Of course not! Can't make it too easy for the imbecile. He wouldn't respect me then." He jumped back as though he were excited.

Bodie shook his head, "What did you do with our motor?"

"Your car? I left it at a used car lot on the way here. Don't get any ideas, I changed the license plate."

Bodie didn't care about the plate, he knew that CI5 could trace the R/T in the glove box. That would at least give them an area. The nutter's clues were useless.

 

Bodie knew from the CI5 printouts that Clacton-on-Sea was where his CI5 motor was found. It was a place to start.

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So, Clacton-on-Sea was where he was headed. The printouts also showed that Manton's grandfather had left the property to the young Manton. As far as he could tell it was still owned by the family.

It was probably a wild goose chase, but there wasn't much to go on. For all the daft ramblings of the younger Manton he hadn't given up much as to his whole plan.

Bodie knew that he had to be extra vigilant in keeping an eye out for Cowley and the rest of CI5. He was sure his boss was hunting him as much as he was hunting Doyle's killer. Bodie knew his mob were probably still combing the area they'd been found for information and Bodie needed to avoid Cowley at all costs. The man would interfere. He could already hear Cowley's thoughts on his joining in. – "I'm not having you on this case. You're emotionally involved." Yes, he was emotionally involved, but this time was even more important than the last. Cowley's rules had no place in his plans.

Bodie forced himself to refocus on his plan. He knew that the very first order of business was fresh clothing. He couldn't go back to his flat or the sports club. His new bed-sit may have been furnished but it held nothing in the way of toiletries. He was counting on still being able to use his ID, but not if he were looking like a common ruffian off the street. Doyle would have suggested the Oxfam and it would be the best bet. Doyle loved picking up the bits and pieces . . . well he had. Those words chilled him to the bone. Self-preservation pushed all thoughts like this from his mind, otherwise – otherwise he wouldn't be able to function. Doyle deserved better.

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The properties were the only link to Manton that he'd found. The young lunatic had left no paper trail since his landing at Heathrow. The obvious possibility was that Manton was living on one of the properties. At least that was the way Bodie figured it. So, following the land titles seemed to be his only lead.

Bodie located the Clacton-on-Sea property easily. It was situated less than ten miles from where his motor was located. It was his first stop, on the off- chance that the man might have doubled back.

He pulled his motor off the road under a group of trees that lined the road. He parked out of the line of sight from the property. Gun out, Bodie approached the house with care. He didn't want to give the game away if his quarry was present. He used the trees and shrubs for cover as he circled around to the least windowed side of the house.

The sun, still well above the skyline, glinted off the windows and made it difficult to discern if any lights were on inside. Bodie had been watching his steps carefully, planting each foot carefully, so when the crunch of a broken twig beneath his foot sounded like a crack of lightning he froze to the spot. He cocked his head to the side and listened for any sound to indicate movement. No movement didn't mean he was in the clear as yet. He sprinted across the yard crouched as low as he could manage. He pressed himself silently along the wall and made his way around to the door.

Bodie tried the knob and it turned easily. He pushed it open with the butt of his gun. He waited for any reaction, He heard nothing but still entered with care. The first thing he noted was the musty smell. The place didn't have that lived in feel, but his CI5 training demanded that he check out the whole house first.

Checking the upstairs last, he was ready to call the house empty when he heard movement from behind a bedroom cupboard door. Bodie placed his foot at an angle in front of him so if the door burst open quickly he wouldn't be incapacitated. He reached out to open said door. Instead of a forceful swing, the door inched open.

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"Come out slowly," Bodie commanded, eyes focused on the opening.

It was difficult for him to remain at shootout readiness as he watched a squirrel heed his command. Once exposed, the rodent dashed out of the room and down the stairs.

Bodie could almost laugh at himself.

A search of the house for clues of Manton yielded very little. Yes, the house had been occupied, but not in several months. He headed outside to check the rest of the property.

No luck. The property was bereft of signs of human life as well.

He walked it all and eventually ended near the cliff's edge. Bodie looked out at the pounding waves as they hit the isolated rocks. The water covered them for a few short moments, then left them exposed once more. Over and over again, no change. . . just empty. It mirrored what his life had become, empty and bereft. The vast loneliness that consumed him might have not been visible from without, but from within, it gnawed, revealing the gaping hole that had been held by his heart's desire. The hole grew daily, hourly, filling all the places that had previously known joy.

For a few moments the lure of absolute darkness threatened to suck him in, but he shook it off and headed back into the biting wind to his motor. Once there his thoughts were again refocused on the job at hand.

 

On the road once more, headed in the direction of the town centre, Bodie recognised the area immediately. Doyle's grass from his Met days had been in big trouble and Doyle had promised help. This was that place. He didn't even know if that meet had been a set- up. Never would.

The nutter must have left the bike at the accident site. He replayed their capture, or what he was able to recall, searching for anything else that could prove helpful. His mind was clearer because of the sleep and a fresh review might reveal another clue. That motor might be gone, but he remembered the incident with clarity…

 

"Are you sure you know where we're going?" Bodie asked yet again. It seemed a long way from London to help a grass.

"Hang on, the directions have us turning just up ahead." Doyle read from the paper in hand.

Bodie nodded and rounded the corner with his usual speed but had to brake quickly. A young man was frantically hailing any passer-by, pointing to the fallen bicyclist and the blood on the pavement. Bodie looked at his partner then stopped near the young man and hopped out. He reached the victim just as Doyle came around the front of the car.

Bodie bent over the bicyclist and immediately noted that something was off. He turned back to warn his partner. "Doyle . . ." His eyes widened as he saw Doyle struck from behind with a thick club by a second man that had darted out from nowhere. His partner collapsed, unconscious. Bodie started forward to attack the man but was struck down by something hard. A third man had been in his blind spot.

Both men woke to headaches and cottonmouth. They found themselves shackled to what appeared to be a cave wall.

 

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Bodie figured his next stop was the local plod's station. Maybe they had some record of the accident. Cowley wouldn't know to ask about that. And Bodie knew, as sure as he was of the gun in his holster, that Cowley was ferreting out what had happened. Bodie could imagine that his boss was all but frothing at the mouth in his frustration at being kept in the dark.

He stopped for coffee first. He had to stay alert. No hunger pangs, though, to remind him to eat; Bodie ignored the food altogether.

He parked in front of the police station and exited his vehicle like a man on a mission. He pushed open the door and his ears were assaulted by the noise of complaining voices and the wailing of what must have been an exceedingly miserable child.

He waited, foot tapping, for his turn to talk with the front desk officer. Once there, he flashed a smile and his ID.

"I need information about the bicycle accident two weeks past." He requested easily, but the blank stare indicated that the copper needed more information. He obliged. "It happened near Pallister." Bodie hoped that they would at least look in their files.

One officer from the back overheard and stepped up. "We did find a mangled bicycle two weeks ago but no one reported an accident."

"I see. Did anyone take pictures of it?" Bodie asked without much hope.

"No need. We still have it. No one came to claim it." The officer indicated that Bodie should follow him.

The officer led him into the back area of the station that appeared to house all the junk the public turned in. To call it a lost and found would be too clever. It was a junk jumble instead. With only one bike on offer, it was easy for Bodie to spot the article he sought.

"Thank you. Ah, any chance you have information on license plate PNO58OR? It belonged to a Ford Capri. I heard that it was removed from the vehicle." Bodie wanted to know about his car.

"Your boss man himself was in about that plate. The plate was found inside the boot." The officer's tone was part awe, part dismay. "Your mob took it away. Found it in the car park on Walton. Was paid up until the end of the month."

"Why should they tell me? It's only my car after all." Bodie's smile was rueful and the officer grinned in understanding. "Thank you." Bodie added a nod. He turned and left the building.

Back in his motor, he rested his head against the steering wheel. Most of what he learned just confirmed his own conclusions.

He knew that where they had been found was close by. He knew all that from reading the current status reports as he had waited for the printouts. He really needed to see it for himself. So his plan was now to return to that cave where they'd been held. The name of this area, Holland-on-Sea, proved to be another one of the Manton properties. He'd stake it out and view the scene for himself, but only after Cowley's men had left for the night. Or even if they didn't for that matter. If he couldn't get in and out undetected he wouldn't be much of an A squad agent.

He drove on without thinking about anything but the road signs. It was easier that way.

Bodie stopped to refuel before he picked up more coffee. He drove past once to make sure that there were no CI5, left his motor in a car park and hiked to cliffs directly above the bluffs that housed the cave. He could see the CI5 worker bees below. He located Cowley shaded from the late afternoon sun. The controller didn't stay long. Bodie watched as his boss scanned the entire area before getting into the waiting vehicle. He held his breath until Cowley's car has vanished into the distance.

He studied the path down and committed it to memory. He waited out of sight from both ground and aerial spotters by staying up a tree that was thick with foliage.

The ex-army man knew that all he could do now was wait silently for all activity to cease below and for the personnel to clear out. He had been trained for inactivity as well as performance to bring his mission to an end.

He didn't look past the mission. The present existed without future, only the past beckoned with its living memories of love and happiness.

 

"We're not even on standby. Two whole days off!" Bodie's enthusiastic tone caught his partner's attention.

"Let's take the bikes out," Doyle suggested.

His smile was obviously all the answer Doyle needed. He received a happy smile from Doyle that had almost made him feel giddy.

Bodie gathered their gear while Doyle fixed a lunch from the offerings available in Bodie's cupboards. Not the most healthy of fare but enough food to prevent them from stopping on the way out of town.

The two men dashed downstairs and piled into Doyle's triumph. Doyle grinned and he sped away as if they were on a case. Bodie's carefree laugh was infectious and Doyle romped on the pedal. Doyle parked his motor back at his place and collected the bikes they both left housed in Doyle's flat's garage. Fuelled before they were put away the bikes were instantly ready for a quick exit.

They weaved and bobbed through the London traffic, making a game out of the congestion, the open road with its freedom the ultimate prize sought. Once achieved, the wind in their faces only reminded the duo that they were indeed alive.

 

Bodie's memory came crashing to a screeching halt when his conscious mind reminded him. Doyle was no longer alive. He ceased all further thoughts on the topic and buried it deep within until there was no emotion left underneath the deep, aching weariness.

He drank the cold coffee. No hunger pangs to remind him to eat, appetite just wasn't there. He picked up his binoculars and studied the area below.

He waited this way, motionless, until two in the morning.

Once his watch clicked on the hour, Bodie stood and stretched in place until limber. He packed away all his gear except his head torch and the knife that was always in his pocket. His gun was locked in the boot of his motor; he couldn't take the chance of losing it. He stowed the pack in a tree crotch before making his way downward. The short switchbacks had a well-travelled look, which aided his trek. The last twenty feet turned out to be straight rock climbing. His feet made connection with the outcropped rock smoothly and in turn made solid hand- holds. His well-practised stealth was second nature, and his descent to his destination was made flawlessly in complete silence.

He was positive that Manton had used this route many a time.

He stopped at the outermost cordoned-off area and studied it thoroughly. He was not surprised whatsoever that Cowley had left someone on watch. Anson. He could smell his cigars long before he saw him.

Bodie circled south as it was least used and the best way to avoid detection. He made his way into the cave where he had been held captive. He didn't turn his head, never glanced at the cut shackles still attached in the wall. All he saw was the big gaping hole that had been the means of Doyle's death. He hooked himself into a harness the CI5 men had been using and checked the rope before he descended into the tomb.

He didn't actually know what he was looking for. Doyle's body was sure to have been moved by now. But maybe some clue that would only be evident to him could be found. He knew he was reaching but he had to check.

He waited until he was deep into the hole before turning on his light. From his aerial perch he found the same numerous caverns the CI5 men had before him. He saw the scuff and drag marks. He had a different spin as he figured that the CI5 men had left them all.

He was grateful that he could not locate blood. He had that at least. Bodie turned off his lamp and in the place where his mate had met his death, he hung in silence. In the quiet dark he said goodbye.

After an indeterminate amount of time, he promised the spirit of all he had lost that his killer would meet the same fate. If his face felt wet, he attributed it to perspiration.

His ascent was made in a sad silence. He climbed out of the hole and his foot dislodged a single rock. As it descended back into the hole Bodie hurried away. When the rock eventually struck bottom the insignificant sound was enough to alert Anson. He ran into the cave mouth and spied a figure running away.

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"Bodie, wait!" Anson yelled out.

Bodie paused, well out of any reach that Anson might attempt.

"The Cow wants to talk to you."

"Nothing you or I can say will bring him back. I'll return as soon as I'm through." Bodie moved into the dark.

"Bodie, we never found Doyle's body," Anson called after the fleeing figure. His voice was loud enough to carry, and Bodie heard it clearly. Anson didn't even try to chase after him.

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Bodie returned up the bluff the way he had descended. Once he had completed his task and was back at CI5, Cowley would put a watch on him as if afraid that his agent would do himself bodily harm. Not far off the mark, that. But even the Cow didn’t understand everything. Didn't understand Bodie's special partnership with Doyle. . . he swallowed hard then and pushed those thoughts aside. He could wallow later. He needed to remain focused on the task at hand. Only when his task was complete could he indulge in his love and loss.

His mission had broadened. Not only would he kill the one who had killed Doyle, but he must recover Doyle's body as well.

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Bodie pointed his motor back toward Chelmsford and his bed-sit. He stopped for coffee yet again. Instead of moving on, Bodie remembered that Manton had many properties listed and he wanted to check where they were all located again. His memory wasn't as clear as usual. He faintly recalled that there could be another in the area. He opened the printout and the A-Z book.

Colchester. His memory wasn't as shot as he thought. His bed-sit could wait. He headed back to the A133 and drove directly west to the inland city. The information stated that Frederick Manton had purchased this one himself. Bodie couldn't help but wonder why the kid hadn't just sold all the properties – he'd have been a wealthy man.

Bodie knew the answer, though – the kid was set to avenge a lie that was actually the truth. The mother had done him no favors by lying to the kid.

Traffic required Bodie to focus on the road and he did so with a mindless intent. The A-Z had him passing through the heart of town and back into the woods again. He finally found the unmarked road off the main highway of Bristol Road. He parked amidst a stand of trees.

Through binoculars, this property appeared as deserted as the one in Clacton. Only this one had been renovated, obviously intended for a holiday residence.

 

He collected a torch and checked his ammo clip. He followed the tree line until he was inline with the house. He used the shrubs and flowers to help conceal his approach. The hairs on the back of his neck were at rest and he knew that the house was empty. He checked for alarms and found nothing to indicate that they had ever been installed.

The door was locked this time. He pulled out his pick and worked the lock, smiling when he heard the click. Walking carefully through each room, he touched tables and counters. Looking at the thick layers of dust on his fingers, combined with the cobwebs covering the corners, and smell of disuse, Bodie nodded to himself; it was obvious that the house hadn't been used in years if ever.

He headed outside; the early morning sun glinting off the marble fountain went unnoticed as he made his way to the other structure that he'd seen on his approach. The empty horse trough confirmed his thoughts that it was a barn and not a garage. He followed the faded tyre tracks to its door. This area had seen activity in recent months. Not fresh enough for last week, but Bodie was sure that the younger Manton had been staying here.

He opened the unlocked door carefully. There was a single desk situated near the door away from the stalls. He searched the desk and walls and found no evidence of personality. If it had been a base of operations, Manton had removed all evidence of it. Bodie walked back to the house.

He decided that perhaps the house could provide information that the older Manton may have left. As he walked from room to room he opened drawers and cupboards, searching for anything that could provide a clue to the younger Manton. In the room set up as an office, he found several deed documents and scooped them up. He found account journals as well, and carried them away. He shook his head at himself, it would probably add up to nothing, but he wasn't CI5 trained to ignore anything that could possibly prove useful.

Finished with the house and barn, he wanted to walk the entire property, same as he had in Clacton. The paddock fencing was still sturdy but the ropes holding equipment were frayed and barely holding the tools in place. The shrubs were more than just overgrown, spreading into many places they weren't intended and the grasses were popping up through what were once manicured flowers beds. In the end, it yielded the same result. Nothing useful. Nothing at all. He made his way back to the car seemingly in a daze. He was aware of the wildlife about. He just didn't care.

He pointed the motor toward Chelmsford once again. He stopped for more coffee and this time included a pasty and another bottle of Scotch. The survivor deep inside knew he had to eat something. He had a mission.

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The alcohol didn’t seem to work. He could usually count on the fiery liquid to dull his senses. No such luck tonight. Seeing that hole again had only given him daymares. His left shoulder ached and he knew that he had failed his best mate and lover as sure as he was still drawing breath. Bloody hell.

He finished the bottle and found himself still staring at the door, still hoping for a stupor that was a long way from coming. He moved himself by force. The call of nature was harder to ignore than listless limbs.

Bodie splashed water on his unshaven face once he returned to the room. He threw himself down on the unmade bed and closed his eyes for just a short second. The much elusive sleep claimed him immediately, but his memories plagued him even there. He tossed and thrashed about. He eventually calmed into a deep sleep, but that didn't last.

Bodie woke abruptly, drenched in sweat, the image of horror still stamped in his mind. Only this time Doyle was dead before he fell into the hole.

Bodie shook all the images from his head. The sense of loss so was overwhelming it drove him from his bed. He looked at his watch – three am, just two hours since he went to bed.

Two hours of sleep in as many days wasn't enough. He needed to be sharp to finish his mission. He grabbed the bottle of Scotch again and dropped in front of the box. He drank a half glass straight down then poured another, followed by another, like shots of tequila. He felt the warmth suffuse his body, the first thing he'd felt in days. But the oblivion he so craved eluded him.

He dropped his head back onto the sofa and locked his thoughts on a better time and place.

Bodie woke curled about Ray's body. He stretched into it even more closely, loving the feel of skin on skin. Birds' skin was softer but this was soft enough and furry. Better yet, there was a freedom from restraint when he pressed into Ray's firm backside.

He wedged his morning erection between the halves of Ray's perfect bum. The secretarial pool rated it number one and he couldn't disagree.

Bodie pulled Ray closer, moulding himself to every bit of skin he could. He snaked his arm around Ray and found the answering hardness he knew would be there. He cupped the entirety of Ray's maleness, that delightful part that made him gloriously different than most of his lovers. The hard prick, so much like his own but wonderfully different in scent and feel.

"I love you," Bodie confessed for the first time.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," he answered with a smile, and added, "I do."

"Oh, Bodie." Ray pressed Bodie back against the mattress and covered his mate's mouth with his own. He rubbed against Bodie sensuously as his mouth plundered all that Bodie had. Doyle's mouth moved downward mapping all the bits of skin, breathless gasps made him feel as if his body was just being discovered for the first time.

Ray's mouth seemed to know no weariness, it kept on and on, further downward. Bodie bucked and writhed, almost at his breaking point, and still Ray had not yet reached the straining prick. Bodie moaned his need and twisted his body to aid himself. Only then did Doyle take heed and claimed the full length as his own.

Moist heat surrounded Bodie and his whole focal point now centred with Ray's mouth. Warmth and pressure in tandem worked him until all of life existed in just that one area. Sensation overload imminent, he burst and flew for a moment before earth beckoned once more. Ray was magic.

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Ray was magic.

Now the magic was gone. Life was bereft without it. He didn't worry about learning to live without it. He was only marking time . . .

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Cowley was irritated. How could his agent flummox an entire organisation? Had he ever displayed such prowess before?

Both lads were alarmingly perceptive. More than he cared to give them credit for. And Ruth had been accurate as well on that Barry Martin fiasco. Bodie was fairly impenetrable, but he didn't miss a thing.

His reverie was interrupted by the noisy arrival of his men.

"Why are we sending more men to the cave site, sir?" McCabe asked straightaway. "We didn't find anything."

"We know that the property the cave was on belonged to Sofia Fagen. . . . .eventually they will find her connection to the Mantons." Murphy hoped to deflect his boss's ire.

"That's why specialists are being sent in. If you have need to speculate, ponder on where and what Bodie's been doing these five days." Cowley's tone was none too gentle.

"Could Doyle have been seized and held for a ransom of information?" McCabe asked when Cowley remained silent.

Murphy shook his head, "No, absolutely no evidence to suggest that Doyle had any way out but the hole in the floor of the cavern. Besides," Murphy's voice dropped, "Bodie doesn't act like a man who thinks his partner is alive."

"He said as much yesterday," Anson added, forgetting that he hadn't mentioned 3.7's wee hour sojourn as yet.

"What?" his boss all but yelled.

Shrinking into himself, Anson finished what he knew. "He said he would return as soon as he was through."

"Damn it, man, you held out on me, Anson." Cowley bristled.

"Well, I thought that. . ." the agent began.

"I highly doubt that or this would not have been the first time you mention this information. What were you thinking?" Cowley only just reined in his temper.

"Doesn't change anything, sir. Couldn't catch him. Wasn't going to shoot him. He didn't leave any clues behind." Anson was thinking up a few more excuses if needed. "I did tell him you wanted to speak with him, sir." Anson brightened slightly.

"A fat lot of good that did." Cowley was not appeased. "And you're wrong, Anson, Bodie's going there does give us a clue. He hasn't found whom he has been seeking. We have time to catch him and Doyle's killer, if he is indeed dead."

"Is there really any doubt, sir? Murphy asked.

"Until we find a body there is always a chance." Cowley didn't want to dwell on the hit his department would take if Doyle were indeed dead.

"So what do we do now, then, sir?" Lucas asked. They didn't really have much to work with.

"Our only clue, if you can call it that, is what Bodie said in hospital. Manton." Cowley clarified. If all his agents were this dim-witted he would never retire.

"Fredrick Manton is very dead, sir." Murphy reminded the controller.

"Aye. I shot him." Cowley's tone was fairly scathing. He handed his request to the office girl.

She typed in a name and indicated that he could retrieve the requested documents from the desk across the room.

Cowley advanced the distance with all his innate military bearing. The computer girl looked up immediately in unconscious reaction to the unspoken demand.

"The Manton research." Cowley nodded to the programmer.

"You must be working on Bodie's case," Debbie Robbins noted as she retrieved the requested documents.

"What's that you say?"

"The information you requested, it's part of the same collection of information that Bodie got."

"When was this?" The impatience in his voice was at odds with his manner.

"Last Monday." Debbie had to wonder about the head man. She figured he would know all the movements of his operatives, or at least that was what the gossip implied.

"Let's see everything he took." Cowley didn't waste time with how they had missed this; he only wanted to catch up to 3.7.

Debbie made a copy of everything Bodie had and pointed the top man to the printout tray.

The agents looked at their boss and then once more at the printouts. None had a clue as to what Bodie wanted with a dead man.

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Bodie was stripped of all that had given him joy in the conscious world; all that was left to him were the memories. His dreams though were used to vent his rage at CI5, at Cowley, at Manton. Doyle was lost to him because of Cowley. Dreams turned to nightmares where he could rail at the fates for ever allowing him to find all that he sought only to have it snatched away.

He woke exhausted and depressed. He rolled over to see the time. Disbelieving his eyes, he jumped up to see out the window. It was morning again. Bodie cursed himself for losing a day to sleep.

Melancholy replaced disbelief and his shoulders drooped under the weight of responsibility of forging onward without Doyle. Inertia held him in place as he leaned against the window. Bodie pressed his forehead against the pane. The chill of the glass went unnoticed as dawn cracked the horizon. The beauty of the golds fanning the landscape escaped him. He saw a different dawn in his mind's eye.

 

"Why are you awake? We have the entire day off." Bodie kept his eyes closed in case there was a chance for more sleep.

"We have the canal boat on hire for the entire day. We want to get it when we want it, early. Get to a place that's secluded so I can have my wicked way with you – no one about to hear," Doyle explained as he rested on his elbows.

"You can have your wicked way right now, secluded – no one about," Bodie responded with a suggestive tone.

Doyle shook his head as he smiled. He wiggled his arse shamelessly as he edged out of their bed and headed for the bog.

Bodie's eyes had opened and remained that way as Doyle purposefully sashayed across their bedroom. Like a moth to flame, Bodie was out of the bed and followed the lure of Doyle.

The shower water was already running and he spied a bare leg as it disappeared into the stall. He was too hard for a leak so he followed his mate inside.

A dry Doyle, tight clothes, fluffy hair always revved his engine but a wet, naked and sleek Doyle gave the dry version equal competition.

The hum of his fevered blood now controlled all his actions. Bodie picked up the soap and ran it over the wet body, concentrating on areas that his Ray loved best. The gasps and sucked- in breaths were starters. When the drenched body leaned back against the shower wall, he was already at Bodie's mercy, but it was the hard, arcing erection that beckoned Bodie's full attention. The soap dropped unnoticed as Bodie grabbed onto Doyle's hips and bent down on his knees. His mouth welcomed the prize it sought. He sucked for his pleasure, that his mate received equal pleasure was a bonus. Ray's writhing body was expected and Bodie moved his mouth in tandem with all movement so as not to be denied a second of this joy.

He knew his lover was close so he took a soaped digit and pressed into an opening that welcomed him.

Doyle moaned, arched, and spurted. Bodie was in his own world of glory, receiving all on offer; sight, sound, scent and taste. Then with a single brush of Ray's finger against his own pulsing prick Bodie exploded in his own climax.

The sky that morning had been particularly gorgeous. Today, the sky's colours were lost on the sombre man. Those memories were of a happy time.

Time that could never be recaptured; time that lived only in his head.

Time could heal all pain. Rubbish! Time wouldn't be given the chance to heal this pain – for Bodie knew there was not enough time for that to ever occur.

He showered, quick and efficient. Shaved out of habit. Picked up his bag and returned to his room before he locked the bed-sit behind him.

Shoreham-by-Sea was his destination. Manton had mentioned that the bike had hailed from there. That seemed a superfluous piece of information, but Manton had stressed it, so there had to be something else there. The demented mind of that walking dead man did have some sort of plan. Bodie would discover it all.

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The CI5 men sat or stood around a table that was covered in maps, printouts, and reports. Multiple stacks of paper spread over every inch, yet they still felt they had yielded no real information. They were flying blind but were expected by Cowley to somehow glean answers anyway.

"Why would Bodie sneak in here and retrieve information on a dead man?" Anson wondered aloud to the agents at hand.

Lucas shrugged. He didn't know much of the whole Manton episode. He and McCabe had been on assignment in Manchester at the time. Gossip and outrageous stories were spread all over the halls, but nothing confirmed, more's the pity.

Murphy looked up as his boss entered the conference room and took it upon him to own up to how little they had learned. "The Manton family history is full of smugglers and pirates."

"One chooses his own destiny." Cowley didn't cotton to genetics as an excuse for treasonous behaviour.

"But that may explain several of the properties by the seaside." Murphy drew air circles above the cities located by the ocean.

Betty entered with a file, handed it to her boss, and left quietly.

Cowley opened the folder, read the report, then closed the folder again. He took off his glasses before placing the folder onto the table amid the existing mass. He pressed the bridge of his nose and replaced the glasses.

"Finger- prints on the shackles come back not known. A dead end." Cowley, furiously planning, took several measured breaths before ordering, "Lucas, McCabe, you go to Colchester. Murphy, Anson, Clacton-on-Sea. Find out what Bodie was looking for. Answers are out there. Find them." The controller left the room.

"The answers are out there." McCabe deadpanned.

"Find them," Lucas mimicked.

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Bodie was well past London before traffic could make travelling tiresome. He stopped a solid hour later for coffee and made the township of Shoreham-by-Sea another hour after that. Once he left the A27, the road conditions were only marginal. He found several unmarked roads south of Buckingham Park. He chose the one most obviously used based on instinct alone.

His instinct proved well founded. The road led straight to a house surrounded by trees. This house was much smaller than the last. That larger house and paddocks had been intended for an extended holiday stay. This place was more in the line of a cottage, just a bit larger. The flowers were too tall and full of weeds to speak of being cared for. The house was completely dark.

Bodie grabbed up his torch and approached quickly. He found the door unlocked. He entered cautiously and could see immediately that this had been lived in recently. He changed his posture so he could tread lightly as he investigated. He took out his gun and inched into the first room. It didn't have the dust layers and spoke of inhabitants. He cocked his head and listened for any telltale sounds of life. Hearing nothing but his own breath, he slowly peered around doors. Each room showed use, but nothing personal to indicate who had been here.

Though this house had been used it was now deserted. He headed to the kitchen. The larder was well stocked but the food in the refrigerator was spoiled. Based on the degree of spoilage, Bodie speculated that Manton hadn't returned after his and Doyle's capture. He prowled the entire residence again, this time looking for the smallest of clues, but didn't find much that was useful. He explored the whole property that had become his habit and discovered a small barn that was hidden from easy view.

The dirt around the building was well used. Tyre tracks and footprints were everywhere. He stepped inside carefully, but all thoughts of care vanished as he took in what he was surrounded with; paper of different shapes and sizes covered every space available. He found what he had been seeking. Maps and newspaper clippings lined the walls. A much abused picture of George Cowley adorned the back of the door. Cowley first, then CI5, had been the centre of the young man's obsession.

Painstakingly thorough, Bodie looked at each scrap of paper, each article, every scribble to see if it could be a clue to where Manton had gone. The CI5 printouts had no other properties listed. Bodie knew there had to be another somewhere else. This place held a clue, it had to. Bodie closed his eyes; he was close to completing his mission. His thoughts were locked into a loop on this issue. Don't allow distractions; don't delay. Over and over it played in his head. It was what drove him and the only thing that fired his soul. It's what was owed.

It was a promise and a threat. The redundant track was also a part of his subconscious self-preservation. If he remained focused on the present he remained alive. The future didn't promise that.

He shook his head, trying to clear his own cobwebs. His brain wasn't making the connections that he felt it should. Decision made without thought, Bodie picked up the phone, relieved to hear a dial tone, and punched in numbers rarely used but always remembered. A friend from before his SAS days, but one who remained loyal and steadfast; one who was also able to be more clever than the CI5 computers.

"Danton," a voice answered.

"2 degrees 30' S and 18 degrees 30' E."

"Bodie, you old sot, can't you just say hello?" Danton chuckled at the end of his question.

"Saves the awkward moments if you don't recognise the voice." Bodie half-smiled with kinship remembered. "Danton, I need a favour. I have a situation that could use your abilities."

"Fill me in."

"Thanks," Bodie read off the names of Manton's parents and grandparents; all the properties he knew; all the local maps he saw on the walls. Everything that Bodie had amassed on Manton was passed on along with the phone number printed on the cradle. "He lived in New York until six months ago. I don't know what I'm missing, but I need it yesterday."

"As soon as I get something." The phone disconnected.

Bodie put the phone down and waited. He sagged back onto the dilapidated sofa, staring at the phone.

The present held nothing except the phone call that would spur him into action once again. Limbs heavy, Bodie stayed seated and let his head fall back against the sofa. The only place he felt any energy for was the past.

"Another bloody run?" Bodie complained as he loaded his gear into the boot.

"We've been on stakeout the last three days. Need to get the cobwebs out of my system," Doyle explained patiently.

"If it's exercise you need, I have many alternate ideas."

"Sounds more like dessert." Doyle smiled at his partner from across the top of the motor.

"Not sure it wouldn't energise you the same way." Bodie's expression left little to the imagination as he leered at Doyle.

Inside the car, Ray turned to face his partner and placed his hand on his thigh. "I expect to be so sated that I won't be able to push a single limb out of our bed."

"I believe I will be up to the challenge." Bodie's thoughts already created a response.

Doyle watched intently as the folds in Bodie's running togs grew taut. He licked his lips unconsciously as he itched to move his hand closer.

Bodie reacted to the newly moist lips and his erection became more pronounced.

Doyle, a slave to his own desires, stretched his hand out and with a single finger skimmed the material from the base to the tip affecting the skin beneath. He perfectly outlined the hardness that swelled ever that much more with the attention.

Doyle forgot that he was in his motor, parked along the kerb of their residence. He cupped and squeezed, lightly then harder as moans and a sudden pushing against his hand seemed to beg for more. Not wishing to deny, he complied. He pushed, squeezed, and pulled. That was all it took for his hand to feel the moisture newly encased inside Bodie's shorts to leak through.

Bodie's head lay back against the headrest, eyes closed and a resplendent smile on his face. He loved Doyle more for this unsolicited act of debauchery. He whispered the words aloud. "I love you."

Doyle gave the flaccid cock a gentle squeeze through the damp shorts. He pulled a towel from his bag and cleaned Bodie of all evidence of moisture. The running shorts began to dry immediately.

Doyle tossed the towel into the backseat before he leaned over and kissed Bodie's cheek. "This doesn't get you out of running."

 

The shrill ring of the phone propelled Bodie back to the present. He snatched up the phone before the second ring. "Bodie. Anything, Danton?"

"Of course. There is one more property within that family – a cousin on the father's side. Southend-on-Sea. Should be unoccupied at the present time, so the fact that it has been occupied for the last nine days is odd. Off the A13. 14 Dunton Road."

"Thanks, mate." Bodie's gratitude was genuine.

"Always." Danton broke the connection.

Bodie took one map off the wall before running to his motor. No matter how close it looked on a map, Bodie knew it would take three hours. He stopped for more coffee and a pasty in Bexley. His plan was to avoid all of the London area while he headed for the A13.

It was late afternoon before Bodie pulled into a Southend-on-Sea petrol station. He used the bog and purchased more coffee. He knew Doyle would have been the one to appreciate the irony of that. He checked his map and headed his motor in the right direction.

He drove past the turnoff to see how close any other properties were to Manton's. He surveyed the access road and decided he would park down the road well past and walk in.

 

Out of the line of sight of any possible passersby, Bodie changed his clothes, his jumper as dark as his trousers. He darkened his face and neck, to finish the all black effect that would allow him to better blend in with the night.

He took his gun out of the glove box and checked to see if it was fully loaded. It was more of an automatic gesture than concern for its readiness. He let it rest in his hand longer than usual; he felt the weight and relaxed into the same readiness as his weapon. He grabbed up more ammunition, and emptied his pack of all but essentials for the job at hand.

He exited his motor just after dark, a determined man, revitalised by finally having his quarry close at hand. He checked the outer perimeter of the property for indications of an early warning system and found nothing. Bodie hadn't actually expected to find any but he was too close to mission end to allow a mindless error to thwart him now. With that thought, he picked up his binoculars and scoured the area for any CI5 presence. He was relieved to find none; this which meant he still had the advantage.

He elected to stay off the traditional path. He wove himself amid the bushes and trees into the heart of the property. There he located the house.

Bodie knelt on the damp grass on a knoll above the house. He turned the binoculars on the brightly lit windows and saw the Manton he wanted in the window. A sniper shot would take care of him, but he needed to know what Manton had done with Doyle's body before he put him down.

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He moved the binoculars slightly and located the garage. It was dark and there didn't seem to be a barn anywhere close by. He moved them back and trained them on Manton once more. Bodie wanted him outside. There was to be no chance that he could destroy something that could lead to the body. He moved the glasses slowly right then left, assessing each tree. He reached into his pack and withdrew the rope.

With graceful stealth usually associated with a catman, Bodie circled through the trees, down the modest hill, until he was even with the house. He stopped next to the tree that was perfect for his plan. It was as close to the front of the house as he could get. He shimmied part way up the chosen tree, holding tightly with his knees, looped the rope up over a high branch, then jumped down to land silently, worthy of any cat landing. Bodie set up the end of the rope into a snare, and covered it with dirt and leaves. It was set in a direct path from the house so that the quarry couldn't avoid it.

He waited. Bodie knew how to wait. The conclusion of this wait would bring an end. It wasn't the end that Manton was expecting and it would still be better than he deserved. Manton had ranted often enough during their incarceration, more than enough, but the only thing he had been remotely clear about the entire time was his reason for revenge.

All this for just the possibility of punishing Cowley.

 

"I've done the research, there's not one word anywhere about my father. It all ends with his government service and being killed saving another member within the Queen's service. So, how does Cowley get the power to kick us out of the country? Tear my mum from her family? Mum didn't know I knew what the bastard said to her. She just thought I was rebelling to the change in schools. I told her when I turned eighteen – told her I was going to vindicate his name – even if she didn't."

Doyle moved as if to answer, but Manton wasn't expecting an answer just yet, if at all. He wasn't listening.

He continued his flow of words. "She said she read the official file. She was adamant that she believed that dad wasn't capable of what CI5 accused him of but she ruined it by claiming all they said was true." His tone became derisive. "She started a new life without dad, without his memory. No pictures – nothing. She was a traitor to his memory. Won't let that happen."

Doyle recognised the injured passion within the lad. The facts at this point wouldn't convince him of the truth.

That didn't stop Bodie from trying. "He was working with the Russians. He had two secret bank accounts. He was caught in the act."

"LIES! All lies!" Manton yelled, "Cowley was probably the traitor."

Doyle shook his head. "We were there, that final day, we saw it all. He kidnapped an agent, set him up for the Russians." Doyle's voice was gentle.

Bodie's was not. "Cowley tried to spare the rest of your family the shame of that man's actions. Now you will undo all that."

All that Gerald Manton heard was that these agents saw his father die and did nothing to help. "You'll die, just like my father and Cowley will be too late." Manton left them, left the cave in a fit of pique.

Several hours passed before Doyle asked the one question that they were both pondering.

"Do you think he's coming back?"

 

The beginning of the end for them all.

Bodie waited silently. Unmoving eyes watched the house. It was well after dawn when the quarry ventured outside. With great skill and stealth, Bodie moved within easy firing range to take him down.

It was then that Bodie spoke, all the danger in him evident in his voice. "Move and you're mine."

The startled young man whipped around and stepped toward the voice and triggered the rope trap. Manton was carried high into the air and flipped upside-down.

"Ahhhh," Manton screeched aloud. He ranted and raged at Bodie in words so garbled that they hardly made any sense. "Get me down!" he demanded at the end of the tirade.

He was completely oblivious of the fact that there was absolutely no reason for Bodie to comply.

When Manton's struggles and rants subsided, Bodie spoke again. "All this and still no Cowley." He paused as he took in a deep breath. "You will die today. How painful a death will be determined solely by whether you give me the location of Doyle's body. I can make your death last a dozen days, each more painful than the last."

Manton screeched loudly again. "Ahhhhhh." After more swinging he spat out, "Your fairy partner is still alive – you'll never find him if you kill me."

"You're lying! Prove it." No hope was permitted to take root.

"Can't, you're holding me upside-down."

Bodie shot him in the calf.

"Now you're bleeding. I said prove it!"

"Ahhhh, he's chained down in the basement. Now get me down!"

Bodie left him where he was and ran into the house, not that he expected Doyle to be actually alive, but if the body was there then he could end it all right here.

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The feeble lock on the door was no match for Bodie's gun.

Bodie's head turn slightly as he heard the drone of a helicopter but paid it no heed as he threw the door open and raced down the cellar stairs.

Doyle's body was shackled to the wall, his features slack. The keen of anguish Bodie made sounded as though it were ripped from his very soul. He dropped to his knees as he bowed his head in defeat.

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Murphy keyed the controls as soon as he left the building.

"Alpha One – 6.2."

"Alpha One. What do you have?"

"Bodie was here. He enquired at the police station after a bicycle that had been in an accident. They said that he seemed to know more about it than they did." Murphy relayed in almost one breath.

"I need pictures." Cowley's tone was more demanding than the words sounded.

"Better, sir, we have the bike."

"Hurry."

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George Cowley looked over the mangled bicycle. He worked the possible clues aloud. "It was made in Shoreham-by-Sea. There is a bat decal on the crossbars that had been recently applied. A spot along the coast with access to caves. Obscure to say the least. Gentleman, we are not dealing with a hardened criminal, but quite possibly a demented one. Shoreham, that place must mean something to our culprit. Shoreham – that's our destination." The Controller turned to Murphy. "Call down to Debbie Rollins in the computer room, tell her we need the address. Time is running out." He could feel it in his bones. Cowley turned back and pointed at Anson. "Call up the helicopter."

While his men did as they were bid, he walked down to the computer room. Debbie had the address waiting for him.

"Lassie, stay on today. Wait by the phone. I will have need of your skills yet again."

"Of course, sir." She was pleased to be singled out.

Cowley met up with his men at the makeshift helicopter pad atop their building. There was always room on the roof, they just had to repaint the landing marks before each use.

The CI5 men shielded their faces as they watched the police helicopter land. The propellers never ceased their movement as the pilot waited for the men to board.

Cowley handed the coordinates to the pilot before he climbed beside him and buckled himself in. His agents were just snapping their belts in place as the helicopter took to the air.

The Controller appeared calm to all observers, but he was actually quite agitated. Cowley knew he had been one or more steps behind this entire time. He didn't have all the facts and Bodie's behaviour had not endeared him, as it hadn't helped one bit. Though, to be honest, one small part of him did admire the loyalty of one agent to his partner. He had always suspected that if any one of his organisation were capable of this type of steadfast loyalty and determination it would be 3.7.

His thoughts carried him all the way to the south coast.

The pilot put down his craft on the property as close to the building as possible. Anson and Murphy sprinted to the home while Lucas and McCabe checked the rest of the grounds.

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Cowley headed to the barn. There he found all that Bodie had come upon and he was finally able to make sense of who their perpetrator was.

When Murphy and Anson made to join their boss in the barn, it was to inform him of their failure to find anything useful. Both men paused at the door to watch their boss in a flurry of movement. He was busy pulling maps and newspaper clippings off the walls.

Cowley pulled his agent in from the dark. "Frederick Manton had a son. It was he that took Bodie and Doyle in an attempt to get to me. Collect the others. I need to make a call." The Controller first checked for a dial tone of the spliced-in phone, then dialled the CI5 computer room. When Debbie answered immediately he asked for more details on Manton and their properties. "And hurry, lass." His impatience fairly jumped through the line.

"There seems to be one more property owned by a cousin. Southend-on-Sea, 14 Dunton Road."

"Thank you, lass. Go home." The phone was barely down as Cowley headed out the door and yelled to his men. "Let's go. We must hurry."

The helicopter took off and headed northeast. Murphy and Anson held onto all the material collected. Lucas tried to take a peek, being still in the dark, but Anson hugged it tightly. He was more afraid of losing any of the papers as the helicopter didn't have any doors. They all had heard the rollicking that Murphy took for losing Bodie while in hospital. No one wanted to incur Alpha One's wrath.

Cowley sat still and silent, organising his thoughts.

As the helicopter veered in for a landing, none could miss the screaming man hanging upside-down from the tree.

Cowley exited the craft as soon as it landed. He headed to the living spectacle as he hand signalled his men inside. The Controller of CI5 stopped beneath the swinging man and looked up. "Well, young Gerald, here I am."

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Bodie kept his head bowed. It was more difficult to see Ray dead than he had ever imagined. His eyes grew moist at confronting the reality of his loss.

A moan from the bed put a quick end to the tears. He rushed over to Doyle, hoping against hope, a shaking hand out to feel for a pulse. His greatest discovery was that Ray was indeed still alive. Not conscious, but still drawing in air. The slack features didn't appear so death-like up close. His head bowed and touched Doyle's for just a moment, in reverent appreciation of what was still his.

As the snake sheds his skin, Bodie's outlook of life changed. The light was back in his eyes, pure joy coursed through his blood. Ray was alive!

He bounced up and a quick search of the area produced a wall of keys with the needed shackle-sized key to release the manacles holding Doyle. New energy infused his movements but Bodie wouldn't let himself contemplate his refound joy too deeply. Just as his sorrow could distract, happiness could be equally distracting. He knew he needed to keep focus to get Doyle the medical attention he needed. He unlocked the heavy cuffs and released Doyle's hands.

"Ray, I'm here and you will live." A promise and vow made as he kissed Ray's forehead. The delighted tone was one that Doyle would recognise.

Hearing the clunking of feet descending the basement stairs, Bodie turned to face the door with his gun drawn. Shouts of his name from recognised voices allowed Bodie to put down his weapon and face his partner once more.

"In here. Doyle's alive. Need help. We must get him to hospital." The almost gleeful voice a surprise to the men entering the room.

Murphy pushed open the door with the first smile in days. "Doyle's alive. Great news." He hurried over and assessed the situation. "We can get him out faster if we carry him up. Got a chopper waiting. Anson, grab his legs."

The three men carried Doyle up the stairs and to the waiting helicopter. Bodie climbed in after his partner.

Cowley was beside the helicopter opening. "Good job, 3.7." He turned back to his men. "6.2, go with them. Don't lose them this time." After Murphy jumped in, Cowley waved his hand to get the pilot airborne.

The helicopter wasted no time taking off. Cowley didn't watch it leave but turned his attention back to young Manton. The Controller looked at the man for a moment before issuing orders to Anson, "Call for an ambulance. This man needs care as well." He indicated the man still swinging in the tree. "Get him down. Cuff him."

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The helicopter flew the CI5 agents straight to London. Straight to the hospital that was frequently utilised by their organisation. Cowley had the pilot call ahead and a doctor, quite used to seeing men with guns in holsters enter the A&E, was on hand to meet the helicopter when it landed on the roof.

After completing his cursory exam he announced, "Our patient has a broken ankle, the other possibly sprained, and is suffering from dehydration." He nodded to the staff that they could move the patient off the helipad.

A very relieved Bodie followed as Doyle was transported off the roof. He was glued to his partner's side and had no plan to leave it. When staff tried to bar both men, Bodie and Murphy simultaneously flashed their ID badges.

Dr Graham faced down the two men. "Only one of you."

Murphy nodded to the doctor and turned away. "I'll report in."

Bodie never even looked at Murphy. He stayed at Doyle's side until his partner was wheeled into the operating theatre to work on the broken ankle. In the gallery above, Bodie's eyes never strayed from his partner's body. He stood silently, face pressed against the glass, fixated on a chest that rose and fell in a regular rhythm. The agony of the last week not forgotten, but fading in its intensity.

After the work to the ankle had been completed, Doyle was wheeled to recovery for a short stint. Bodie paced outside recovery until Doyle's gurney was moved to a private room. He followed behind charting the ministrations for himself. One ankle reset and enclosed, one wrapped, IV drips attached, and monitors set. The staff vacated only after double- checking the patient, finally leaving Bodie alone. He pulled a chair close with new found energy, sat down and pulled Doyle's face next to his and kissed Doyle's pale forehead before resting his own against the smooth skin. His body fairly hummed with anticipation of their future. A smile graced his face.

Bodie straightened, schooled his expression, and sat back as soon as he heard some commotion in the corridor outside. He wasn't surprised to see George Cowley enter.

"Doyle will recover." Cowley repeated what the physician had said as soon as the door closed behind him. Salutations were not forthcoming; Bodie would have been worried if Cowley had started spouting them.

"Bodie, I can't have you tearing about half of England on a vendetta."

Bodie's eyes softened as they remained on his partner. He automatically answered his boss. "No, sir."

"CI5 resources could have made things faster."

"You would have kept me out of it," Bodie snapped.

"Emotionally involved agents . . ."

"I found him without CI5 resources." Bodie turned his head and looked Cowley directly in the eyes, his self-satisfaction evident.

"Aye, laddie, you did." Cowley knew any other words would fall on deaf ears. He was quite proud but those words would never leave his lips.

"Have you had the nutter arrested?" Bodie redirected.

"Gerald Manton is headed for Bethlem Royal." Cowley stated.

"A psychiatric hospital instead of prison." Bodie shook his head, not willing to be charitable.

"He's already in his own prison." Cowley moved to the door but turned around just before reaching out for the door handle. "I'm sorry this happened." He tried to convey without words that this should have been his burden alone.

"All part of the job, sir." Bodie could afford to be generous to his boss now that Doyle was alive and well.

Cowley nodded, accepting Bodie's gesture. The Controller opened the door but paused again. "Full report. Nine am tomorrow." The door closed behind him.

Bodie watched his boss leave before he moved his chair closer. He continued his watch at his partner's bedside. His face would be the first Ray saw. It was a relatively short time later that Bodie's vigilance was rewarded. Ray Doyle opened his eyes.

"Hey, lover, where am I?" The groggy voice was more of an indication of displacement and confusion, but to Bodie it was a grand sound.

"Hospital. Skiving off yet again." Bodie was smiling. A teasing lilt to his voice.

Doyle shook his head. A mistake, but the pain helped clear the cobwebs. He remembered too much. "Manton. What happened? I fell, but don't remember much after that. A few things in and out. . . ranting when I was in but I was out mostly, though."

"It's a long story."

Doyle looked around. "I have time."

"Yeah, we do." Bodie's smile was radiant.

"One thing I know I forgot, but won't again. I love you."

"Know that."

"Ah, but I don't say it enough."

"Haven't said it at all, well, until now." Bodie just didn't count the words spoken as he saw his partner falling through the hole.

"Always thought it. I do, you know."

"Knew. But it is nice to hear."

"You will more often. My vow to you."

Bodie knew about vows and accepted this as Ray meant it. He grabbed onto Ray's hand and squeezed. He bent down and gently kissed the lips he had thought he'd permanently lost.

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The light in his life was back on. It was as simple as that. The depression and empty loneliness of the last week a thing of the past. Locked away was the knowledge of what his world would be when it did become a reality. Dreading that day consciously wasn't an option Bodie afforded himself, it was too crippling. That horrid knowledge also gave him the insight to not only live in the present but to appreciate every moment they had together as well. After all, the present had a Doyle on the mend. And for him, that was all that was really necessary.

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