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China Crisis

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Sam relaxed for a moment, glad for the break in the rather exhausting Kung Fu class that had been provided while Jiao, one of the other students, gave a small demonstration. There was a calm fluidity to the girl’s movements that always impressed him and, although he was no slouch himself, he somehow never quite made it to her level. Without meaning to be stereotypical he was certain that her Oriental background meant that she had an advantage over the rest of them. It certainly made him feel better to think that every time she beat him on the mat. Her perfect rendition of the set movements coupled with natural control of Chi created a hypnotic beauty and, completely caught up in the moment, Sam leaned forward slightly, unwilling to miss a second of it. As she completed the form and bowed to the group he was the first to applaud, his eyes twinkling as his smile was returned, if shyly. This pretty young thing had just shown the entire group how it should be done and Sam Curtis was well and truly hooked.

******

Bodie was doing the rounds. He’d been up to the Records Department to collect a file before going down to the ground floor where the typing pool were based to see if he could persuade one of the pretty young things to type up a report for him. By the time he’d made it back up to the rest room he fully expected his partner to have a cuppa ready for him, however when he got there he was to be disappointed.

“Where’s Doyle?” he asked the room in general. It was Murphy who answered, only just interested enough to look up from yesterday’s copy of the Evening Standard.

“Got a phone call.”

“Who from?”

“No idea,” replied the tall, dark haired man, as he turned another page.

“Well you’re a fat lot of use,” replied Bodie, checking the kettle. It wasn’t even warm.

“Think he went to see Cowley,” said Murphy, as if as an afterthought.

“Well why didn’t you say so?”

Bodie strode out of the room and made his way along the corridor towards the nerve centre of the entire CI5 operation. George Cowley’s office.

He had just arrived and was about to knock on the door when the object of his search came rushing through the door towards him, race face on, the one that said he wasn’t about to take any prisoners.

“Ray?”

Ray Doyle, the other half of CI5’s top team, wearing jeans, t-shirt and jacket that Bodie knew for a fact were the cheapest he could find but on him looked a million dollars, stormed along the corridor away from his partner, shouting over his shoulder as he did so.

“Call you later.”

And then he was gone.

“Oh, very nice,” muttered Bodie as, with the smallest of knocks, he opened the door to Cowley’s office.

“Did I say ‘Come in?’” roared Cowley, slamming a desk drawer shut with far more force than was absolutely necessary.

Bodie immediately snapped to parade attention.

Cowley’s eyes narrowed, then he seemed to relax a little as he took his glasses off, placed them on the desk before him and rubbed at the bridge of his nose.

“What do you want, 3-7?” he asked, his voice sounding tired.

“I was looking for Doyle, Sir.”

For a moment it looked like Cowley was considering telling Bodie that he wasn’t Ray Doyle’s personal tracking service, but then he seemed to relent.

“He received a personal telephone call and has gone to deal with it.”

“What kind of personal?” asked Bodie. “Er, if you don’t mind telling me. Sir.”

“Well I assume that he will tell you himself, so yes, I will tell you. He has received news about a young lad of his acquaintance, a Mr Curtis, and needs some compassionate leave in order to visit him.”

“Visit him, Sir?”

“In hospital.”

If it was at all possible Bodie straightened even more, visibly alert. “Which one?”

“I believe he said Charring Cross,” replied Cowley, as he stood up. “Stop right there. Although I’m relatively happy to grant 4-5’s request that doesn’t mean you have to tag along. You’re not joined at the hip and I have a job for you to do.”

“But Sir!”

“I’ll not hear another word on the subject, Bodie. Now, take this and get over to the Minister’s office immediately. Report back to me as soon as you return.” Cowley handed Bodie a large envelope marked ‘For Your Eyes Only’ which Bodie, reluctantly, took. “Off you go now, laddie.”

Somewhat stiffly Bodie left the room and started to walk down the corridor outside, muttering to himself as he went.

“Nothing more than a bloody gofer, absolutely bloody ridiculous, just treats me like dirt…”

******

Doyle declined the use of the obligatory hard plastic chair and chose instead to lean casually against the wall, clutching a plastic cup of hospital tea in his hand. He had to admit it had been a bit of a shock to find out not only that his young friend, Sam Curtis, had been hit by a car, but also that his was the name of next of kin on the ID in Sam’s wallet. Although he probably should have expected it, with all the history they had.

He hadn’t been allowed to see Sam yet because he was still in the operating theatre, and so he just waited. He was used to waiting in hospitals. It seemed like either himself, Bodie or even Cowley spent half their lives in them. Just because he was used to them though, didn’t mean he had to like them. They had their own very particular atmosphere, smells and noises. The clattering of trolleys, the sound of distant machines beeping, the movement of people, patients and staff alike. Once you stepped foot inside sometimes it felt like you became the property of those sent there to heal you as they made decisions that affected your life.

Doyle didn’t like the loss of control, not to mention loss of dignity, that came hand in hand with a hospital admittance.

And then there was the loneliness. Well-meaning visitors were kept to a minimum by restrictive rules and visiting hours, and the staff, used to thousands of different faces coming and going, never seemed to see you as an individual. More like a statistic that they needed to score well on. Which left you, the patient, left alone with thoughts of your own mortality at vulnerable moments in your life and an ever increasing yearning to get the hell out of there and go home.

He put his cup down and sighed inwardly, just as a young man in a white coat pushed through the double doors and approached him.

“Mr Doyle?”

“Yes.” Doyle straightened up. “What’s happening?”

“We are moving Mr Curtis to a side ward now. The operation went well but he will be unconscious for a while.”

“How long?”

“The human body is a very complicated thing, Mr Doyle, and his has been through quite a lot. It will need to recover.”

Doyle ground his teeth slightly. This wasn’t just any human body, this was his friend, a young man who had been through a lot in his life already and who should be happily studying at University in Oxford, not lying in a hospital bed.

“Right,” said Doyle. “Well, if you could show me…”

“Certainly. I’ll just show you the way and leave you with the Ward Sister.”

“Thanks.”

Doyle followed the young doctor until they reached the ward where, with a noticeable sense of relief on both sides, the Ward Sister came out to meet them.

“Thank you Doctor, you can leave this with me now.”

As the Doctor walked away she turned to Doyle with a smile. “I’m Sister Elliot,” she said. “You can call me Caroline.”

“And he was…?” Doyle couldn’t help ask.

“Don’t tell me,” she replied, “he didn’t tell you his name.”

“No.”

She sighed. “Typical of most consultants, I’m afraid. They all think they’re Gods who we should worship. Anyway, let’s go through to your young friend.”

“How is he?” Doyle asked, following her as she led the way through the ward.

As they arrived at the small side room she paused to answer him. “Do you want lip service or the real story?”

“I want to know how he is so yes, the real story. Please”

“Well, I’m assuming you know some of it,” she replied. “Mr Curtis was hit by a black cab. He has multiple contusions, a badly broken arm and collar bone on his right side, three broken fingers, and he also has severe grazing down his right thigh and leg where he hit the tarmac. He’s just come out of surgery where they re-set his broken arm and we’re hoping he will come around soon.”

“That’s quite a list,” said Doyle, doubtfully.

She opened the door and led Doyle inside, then picked up the chart that was hanging from the end of the bed and flipped over a page or two. “I know it sounds a lot but the scan they just completed looks good and we are expecting him to make a full recovery – unless there are any complications that we’re not aware of, of course.”

Doyle moved towards the bed and looked down at the young man who had become part friend, part son, since they had first met back when Sam had been a troubled youngster.

Back then Doyle had seen a young man who could so easily have gone either way in his life, and it had been an easy decision to step in to help guide him along the right path. Now that Sam had successfully made it to University Doyle had been able to relax about him a little, but he never lost touch with the youth and had made him promise that if ever Sam needed help, he would call on Doyle.

Not that Doyle had ever expected or wanted to see him like this.

He looked down at the pale figure in the bed, at the dark hair pushed back off his face and the shadows under his eyes. He seemed to be all scrapes, bumps and bruises and his arm was encased in plaster with a nasty looking metal framework holding it together.

“Why don’t you sit with him a while?” suggested Caroline, gently.

“Yeah.” Doyle pulled a chair alongside the bed and sat down. “Thanks.”

“This is the call button if you need me.” And she left the two men alone.

“Stupid sod,” said Doyle, fondly, to the sleeping figure. Then he stretched out his legs, relaxed back in the chair, and prepared himself for a long wait.

******

It had been a bit of a whirlwind romance, a passionate if short lived affair. To Sam it seemed that they were both of the same mind about what they expected from the other. He took Jiao on country walks and picnics, spending lazy, uninvolved days with her. He thought he could control things and that things wouldn’t get too serious. But it didn’t take long before that was exactly what started to happen.

Jiao seemed to find numerous ways to monopolise Sam’s time, subtly distancing him from his friends. Even America wasn’t far enough away as it appeared that Sam’s best friend, Chris, was some kind of threat to her plans and somehow she engineered for Sam to miss more than one of his regular telephone chats with the young American. It had go to the point where Sam felt he couldn’t even mention Chris’ name without Jiao scowling in response.

Under pressure Sam relented enough to agree to a visit to Jiao’s parent’s home in the heart of the nation’s capital. He enjoyed his day with them, of that there was no doubt. Chinatown was so colourful, bright and animated, and they had shared a delightful meal at her Father’s restaurant. But alarm bells were ringing noisily in Sam’s head. Jiao was talking about marriage and children, her eyes alight with excitement. Her parents were already treating him as part of the family and Sam’s heart sank. This wasn’t what he wanted. Not yet. He was too young, too ambitious. This was just a fling and, more to the point, it was a fling that was now over.

As night fell the young couple bade farewell to Jiao’s family and started to walk through the busy city streets to catch their train back to Oxford.

Every step felt heavy as Sam realised what he had to do, and quickly, before either of them got hurt. They had just reached Piccadilly Circus, where night never seemed to fall because of the constant lights, noise and traffic. He paused, waiting for a green light on Shaftesbury Avenue. He told her that he was sorry but it had to end. He tried to be kind but at the same time needed her to understand that he was serious. She tried to make him change his mind, which he wouldn’t. She blamed Sam for leading her on, made comments about him caring more about Chris who lived miles away in America, than her. He tried to explain but she wouldn’t listen any more. Time seemed to stand still. She looked at him as though he were speaking a different language which, in a way, he was.

And darkness fell.

******

“Bloody Cowley has had me running all over the city with bits of paper which I swear I will roll into small balls and force feed him with if he carries on like this tomorrow. What’s wrong with using one of those new fax machines? Instead it’s ‘Go here Bodie’ and ‘Go there Bodie’. I’ve only just managed to get away.”

Bodie looked as frazzled as he sounded. His pale blue shirt was rumpled with two somewhat unattractive sweat stains under the arms, and his hair was sticking up in a way that made him look like he’d just got out of bed. He had almost fallen into the room in his haste and now stood looking at Doyle with a mixed expression of indignation and concern on his face. “I’m sorry,” he said. “How is he?”

“He keeps talking in his sleep,” said Doyle, looking just about as worried as Bodie had ever seen him.

“Oh.” Bodie moved closer to the bed and looked down at the young man. “He looks like he’s been run over by a truck.”

“A black cab, actually,” corrected Doyle.

“Bloody hell. Poor Kid.” Bodie looked across at Doyle, taking in how tired his partner looked. “Ray, go and have a break.”

“I want to stay until he wakes up.”

“And I’m not saying you can’t, but you look a bit rough yourself, me old son. Go and grab a cup of something, take a walk outside for some fresh air. I’ll stay with Sam.”

Doyle stood up and stretched his arms up to the ceiling. “Yeah, okay. I won’t be long though. Thanks, Bodie.”

Bodie gave him a half smile and sat down on Doyle’s now vacant chair. “Blimey, you got a hot bum,” he said.

“So I’ve been told,” grinned Doyle.

******

Bodie had seen a lot of things in his time, many of which could give a person night terrors forever. But somehow it always distressed him to see anyone else actually caught in the grip of a nightmare. He squirmed uncomfortably as he watched Sam thrash about on the bed, an unwilling witness to Sam’s inner pain.

“Chris… Don’t… No, please… Chris…”

Slightly awkwardly, Bodie took hold of Sam’s uninjured hand to try to reassure the unconscious youth, but Sam pulled it away immediately, his head moving from side to side on the pillow.

“Chris… Please…”

William Andrew Phillip Bodie may be described as a hard man, tough in the extreme. The ex Merc/ex SAS parts of him certainly could be described that way. But Sam’s mournful and plaintive cries, begging for his friend to be there, broke a tiny piece of Bodie’s heart.

Sam had met Chris Keel the previous year when he had rescued the teenager from a violent home life that had forced him to sleep on the streets. The young American had made a huge impression on them all that summer and, even though he had now returned to the States to continue his studies, they had all kept in regular contact with him. Bodie hadn’t fully realised until this moment exactly how much Sam must miss his American friend. But he certainly realised it now. When the chips were down and Sam needed someone to be there for him, it was now patently obvious that that person was Chris Keel.

The door swung open as Doyle returned, two plastic cups of tea in his hands. Bodie stood up.

“I bought you a cuppa,” said Doyle.

“No,” said Bodie. “Thanks but I’ve got to go.”

“What? You’ve only just got here.”

“I need to do something. I’ll be back. Stay with him, Ray.”

And with one final squeeze of Sam’s hand, Bodie was gone.

******

Doyle stretched his back, causing the light blanket to fall from his shoulders. Blinking in the soft light of the room he squinted at the bed to check on Sam and then looked at his watch to check the time.

Sam had been unconscious now for more than 18 hours and a new day was dawning. The nurses kept reassuring Doyle that Sam was expected to come out of it, it was just that they couldn’t be sure when.

He fully expected Bodie to come back at some point, when he’d finished whatever his oh so important job was, so when it finally happened the only reaction he could muster was an enormous yawn.

“Pleased to see you, too,” said Bodie, handing Doyle a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a sausage sandwich.

“Nice one, cheers, mate.” Doyle threw the blanket onto the ground and stood up to eat his breakfast. “So where’d you get to?” he asked, he voice muffled by a mouth full of sausage.

“Ah.” Bodie puffed his chest out, looking extremely pleased with himself. “Got a surprise for you, haven’t I.”

“Another sausage sandwich?” asked Doyle.

“Better than a sausage sandwich.”

On cue the door opened again as Caroline stepped in, leading an exhausted looking Chris Keel behind her.

“Chris!” Doyle put the remains of his coffee and sandwich on the table and stepped forward to hug the young American. “Where did you spring from?”

Chris, blue eyes wide with concern, returned the hug slightly awkwardly before pulling away. “Bodie paid for my flight. He said… he said Sam was hurt and was asking for me.”

Doyle threw a sideways glance at his partner who beamed back at him like a Cheshire cat who had inherited a particularly large saucer of cream.

“I see. Well in that case you better come and swap places with me. Come on, sit down before you fall down.”

Hesitating slightly, Chris took in the sight of his best friend looking so frail and injured in the bed until, with a nudge from Bodie, he moved forward and took Doyle’s vacated seat at the bedside.

“I filled Chris in during the car drive over,” said Bodie, “but of course we don’t know the latest news.”

The nurse moved to the opposite side of the bed and started to check Sam’s vital signs and make notes on the chart. “He’ll wake up soon enough, you’ll see,” she said.

Chris, who hadn’t taken his eyes off Sam since sitting beside him, now gazed up at the nurse as if he had only just processed what she had said.

“He’ll be okay?” he asked, unable to control the shake in his voice.

“We believe so, yes,” replied the nurse.

Chris reached out towards the bed, then hesitated. “The broken fingers…”

“All the fractures are on his right side,” she smiled. “The side you’re sitting nearest is safe to touch.”

Needing no further encouragement Chris took Sam’s left hand in his, squeezing it gently.

“It’s okay, Sam,” he said, quietly. “I’ll be here when you wake up.”

******

“He keeps calling for me,” said Chris, hardly sparing Doyle a glance as he placed a pre-packed hospital sandwich on the table beside him.

Chris had only been in England for a half a day but already he had witnessed several of the same nightmares that had worried Bodie enough to send for him.

“Well, that’s understandable,” Doyle replied. “You’re about the closest friend he’s got. It’s natural that he might be thinking of you in his dreams.”

Chris shook his head in response. “No, it’s not like that. You’ve seen him, Ray. He’s upset, agitated… it’s almost like he’s trying to warn me about something.”

Bodie, who had been sitting in the corner of the room reading a newspaper, looked up sharply. “Warn you about what?”

“I’m not completely sure...”

Doyle frowned. “It’s just his head working its way through what has happened. There’s no good reason to think of anything more than that.”

Bodie leaned forward. “Oh I don’t know,” he said. “We shouldn’t discount Chris’s gut feeling over this.”

“Bodie…” Doyle’s voice had a warning tone to it.

“I’m just saying we shouldn’t ignore it, at least until we know what happened to Sam.”

“We don’t want to worry Chris now, do we?” said Doyle, narrowing his eyes, cat-like, as he hinted his feelings as strongly as possible towards his partner.

“Humph,” muttered Bodie, picking his newspaper back up again before turning away to carry on reading it.

“There was something else…” whispered Chris.

“What?” asked Doyle.

“Has he told you about the girl?” asked Chris, his eyes wide.

“No. What girl?”

Bodie lowered the newspaper again, giving Doyle a look that quite clearly said ‘See? I was right. I knew there was more to this.’

******

“Chris…?”

It had been a long vigil and Chris had only caught a few naps throughout the night, dozing off and on in the uncomfortable bedside chair. At the quiet, unexpected sound of his friend’s voice he leaned forward to look into dazed, silver eyes.

“Sam! You’re awake at last!” he grasped Sam’s uninjured hand.

“No… why are you here?” Sam’s voice croaked as he tried to speak. “You shouldn’t be here.”

“Sam, you know it’s me, right? It’s Chris.”

Weakly, Sam pulled his hand away and tried, in vain, to sit up. “No… I mean, yes. Oh God.”

“Want me to get someone?” asked Chris, his face concerned by his friend’s strange reaction.

“No. Not yet. Need to tell you something first.”

“What?”

“She… she pushed me.”

“Pushed you? You mean in front of the car? Who? Who, Sam?”

“Need to warn you…”

“Warn me of what?”

“You might be next…”

“Sam? What do you mean?”

“Sorry, so tired…” Sam’s eyes flickered as his head lolled back on the pillows.

“Sam?”

The rest of the hospital was, relatively speaking, quiet. A figure slipped back into the shadows, waiting for an opportunity as two nurses walked down the corridor. As the area quietened again the slip of a shadow moved towards the side ward where Sam’s room could be found and paused outside, hesitant. Inside a voice could be heard, an American voice, calling Sam’s name. The shadow moved into the room with purpose. And the voice stopped.

******

“This is ridiculous!” said Doyle. “How can you lose a seventeen year old American?”

The nurse visibly bristled. “With all due respect, sir,” she replied, “it is not our job to monitor visitors. Your friend shouldn’t have been here outside of visiting hours anyway. It would have been assumed that he had just left, like everyone else.”

Doyle grabbed the plastic chair and lifted it up for her inspection. “Blood!” he said, waving the chair in the air before slamming it back down on the ground. “So not like everyone else, then?”

“Doyle…” warned Bodie, as he looked across at Sam’s face as, already pale, he turned a shade paler. “It’s not her fault.”

“Well whose fault is it?”

“If you don’t calm down I will have to call security,” said the nurse, plumping up Sam’s pillows and smoothing his bedding, before turning once again towards Bodie and Doyle.

Bodie moved between her and Doyle, giving her a wide smile and as much Bodie charm as he could muster at 6.30 in the morning.

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” he soothed. “I’m sorry about my partner, he’s just a little upset. But we are both CI5 agents and I can assure you we will do all we can to locate Chris while at the same time causing you as little disruption as possible. How does that sound?”

“Hmmm.” The nurse looked decidedly unsure. “Just don’t forget Mr Curtis needs his rest.”

Bodie rubbed his hands together. “Absolutely. You won’t even know we’re here.”

“I’ll be back with something for you to eat,” she said to Sam before leaving the room.

“I don’t want to eat,” muttered Sam as he watched her leave. “I just want Chris.”

“What exactly do you remember?” asked Doyle.

Sam shrugged. “Chris was here when I woke up in the night, but… I couldn’t keep my eyes open. And then when I woke up again this morning, he was gone.”

“So we don’t know what time he left?” checked Bodie. “There’s still a chance he’s in the building.”

“Call the nurse if anything happens,” said Doyle, already on his way out of the door.

******

A wave of sickness hit Chris as he cracked one eye open. Swallowing down bile he squinted into the dim light of the room, focusing vaguely on the metal shelving that lined the walls. It being a small room or, as Chris was starting to realise, supply cupboard, it didn’t take him long to take everything in. As he tried to move the nausea hit again and he had just about decided to stay in a curled up heap on the floor when rough hands grabbed him and forced him to a sitting position, pushing him back so that he leaned against the racking. It was then that he realised his own hands were tied behind him and, with a groan, he slumped against a shelf and tried to focus on his assailant.

The figure in front of him was dressed head to toe in black, including a black balaclava that hid everything but dark eyes that flashed at Chris in anger.

“Who are you?” Chris muttered. “What do you want?”

The figure crouched down, inspecting him as though he were some kind of exhibit.

“Your boyfriend,” came the reply, muffled through the woollen balaclava, as a karate chop came down on Chris’ neck and he lost consciousness once more.

******

Bodie and Doyle walked towards each other from opposite ends of the corridor, meeting up just outside Sam’s room.

“No sign?” asked Doyle.

“Nothing,” replied Bodie. “And I’ve asked just about every nurse in the building.”

“I’ll just bet you have,” said Doyle, raising his eyes skywards.

“Now, now, Ray. You know I only have eyes for you.” Bodie pursed his lips seductively.

“Silly bugger. Come on, let’s see if Sam has any news.”

Bodie opened the door, courteously, for Doyle to go through first, and nearly walked into the back of him as Doyle stopped just inside the door. Bodie squeezed around his partner and then stopped himself, equally surprised by what they were both seeing.

A beautiful young oriental woman, perhaps a year younger than Sam, was sitting on the side of the bed, smiling down at the patient. She had long, shiny black hair and almond shaped eyes, and was wearing a knee length bright red dress.

As the two men entered the room Sam gave them a startled look, evidently trying to transmit his thoughts to them without words.

“What are you doing here?” said Doyle.

He had only popped out for supplies, some groceries, milk. Maybe, with hindsight, he had been a bit complacent but he didn’t feel the need to double lock his own front door every time he left the flat. That had changed now. Since the shooting not only was Doyle more security conscious but he was no longer living alone, which meant Bodie was always locking and double locking the door behind them.

He hadn’t understood why this particular girl was standing in his flat, it was all just a bit bizarre. And then there was a gun and a flash of clarity as he suddenly realised exactly what was going on and why she was there. But it was too late. In seconds he had been shot and was lying on the rug in his living room amongst the blood and spilt milk.

He saw her shoes as she walked closer, felt her crouch down near him and he knew, without any doubt, that she was about to end his life.

And then she didn’t. He had no idea how much time went by, it could have been seconds, minutes, hours, but then Bodie was there, doing the first aid thing, not quite panicking, not talking either. Far from tentative, Bodie’s touch was firm, controlled, absolutely denying anything that meant that Doyle might be close to the end of his life.
Finally on their way to the hospital Doyle looked at Bodie, saw the look on his face, and knew with all certainty that he wasn’t going to be allowed to die because Bodie needed him. And then came the realisation that he, in turn, needed Bodie.

She had given them that, the girl. Forget the pain, the bullets, the near-death experience. Because she made them realise that they weren’t just partners, that, in fact, they each couldn’t live without the other.

“Ray? You okay? Ray.”

“What?”

“You drifted off there, mate. You alright?”

Doyle blinked hard, twice, then turned to Sam. “Who’s she?” he said, not looking at the girl directly.

Sam looked a little lost as if he were unsure what to do or say. “A… a friend,” he stammered. “From Uni. This is Jiao.”

“A friend? Did you tell her you were here?”

Sam shook his head, biting his bottom lip nervously.

Doyle took a step towards them, this time focusing directly on Jiao. “How did you know Sam was here?”

She stood up and edged slowly away from the bedside until she was standing with her back against the closed window.

“I only wished to see he is not hurt,” she replied, in polite and educated tones.

“How did you know he was here?” repeated Doyle.

“I mean no harm.”

“No? So where is Chris?” said Doyle, taking another step closer.

“I don’t know a Chris,” she replied.

“Liar,” spat Doyle.

“Ray…” Bodie moved forward and put a restraining hand on Doyle’s shoulder.

Doyle shoved his hand away. “No, Bodie! She knows something.”

Bodie smiled, his eyes full of understanding. “Ray, you’re confused. This isn’t Mayli.”

Bodie moved closer until he could put a hand on each of Doyle’s shoulders, the action moving them both further away from the doorway. Like a flash Jiao sprang away from the bed, sidestepped around the two men and made a dash for the exit.

“Stop her!” cried Sam. “She pushed me under the car!”

Bodie, a good man. Moves like a cat, George Cowley once said. And he wasn’t about to let a slip of a girl get away from him now. He took off after her down the corridor, Doyle a hair’s breath behind him.

She was good. Fast, nimble and determined, but she was no match for the two CI5 agents. It was only ever going to end one way. She hadn’t even got twenty feet before the three of them ended up on the floor wrapped around the nurse’s reception desk with Bodie sat on top of Jiao pinning her to the ground while Doyle put the handcuffs on.

“Where’s Chris?” Doyle shouted, as he hauled the girl to her feet. Her response was to simply close her eyes and look away from him. “Tell me,” he snarled, smashing her back against the wall.

“Ray. Ray, stop. Listen.” Bodie took a few steps down the hall to where there was a clearly audible banging sound coming from a cupboard. He wrenched the door open only to look down upon a bound and gagged Chris Keel. “I have to say,” said Bodie, as he reached in the cupboard to help Chris, “that she is one young lady I really wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of.”

*****

“Are you sure this is going to be okay?” asked Chris, a little nervously. “The last time I was here it didn’t exactly end well.”

“No, it’s all fine,” said Bodie, as he carried Chris’ bags through to the small bedroom and put them on the bed. “The Dean is organising for a bunk to be put in here for you and you’re allowed to stay as long as it takes for Sam to get better.”

“It’s not as if he can take care of himself,” agreed Chris. “He’s a wreck.”

“Hey, I heard that,” said Sam, his voice strained as Doyle helped him into the adjoining room.

“Come on,” said Chris, ushering him to the fireside chair, “sit down before you fall down. Time for me to look after you, now.”

“I’m not totally helpless,” Sam protested.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” said Doyle. “You’re to take your tablets, go to your hospital appointments, and do what Chris tells you to do. Otherwise we’ll have to find somewhere else for you to recuperate.”

Sam held up his one good hand in defeat. “Don’t worry, I know.”

“Good,” said Doyle. “Anything you need, you know where we are.”

Sam nodded. “Thanks, Ray. And Bodie. You’ve both been amazing.”

“No problem,” said Bodie. “Don’t have too much fun, you’re meant to be recovering.” He mussed Sam’s hair as he walked past him to the door.

“Bodie?” Chris’ voice stopped Bodie in his tracks. “Wait.”

Without warning the big tough CI5 agent found himself being squeezed firmly and far too emotionally as the young American hugged him.

“And you, too, Ray,” said Chris, letting go of Bodie and, a little more shyly, embracing Doyle.

“Nothing but a great big softie,” said Bodie, a smile playing across his lips. “Soft as marshmallow.”

“Look who’s talking,” replied Doyle.

But as they left the two young teenagers alone, he found he was smiling too.