by JM Sherwood
sequel to Lightslide by Anne Carr
It had not been easy to find a way; however much he may have wanted to follow Bodie at once, that simply wasn't possible. His abrupt departure would have left the people without a trained Healer. It would hardly have been fair to walk out leaving only Jevren, who was in the middle of his studies.
The other difficulty was that passage through the portal required a storm of certain magnitude, and there had been no more such after the one which transported Bodie back over. In the end, he was forced to bide his time patiently -- something that only years of discipline enabled him to accomplish -- waiting. He filled his days with tending his patients, and teaching Jevren, the nights with making plans for how to proceed once he crossed over, remembering everything that Bodie had told him about his world . . . And supposing Bodie's feelings had changed by the time he did get there -- what then? The Healer knew he would have to tread carefully . . .
If people noticed their Healer spending many a night sitting in the temple courtyard, staring sightlessly into space, or pacing the temple precincts restlessly long after everyone else had gone to bed, it wasn't mentioned.
CI5 -- Criminal Intelligence 5. Cowley's lot. That's what the bowler hatted Whitehall warriors called them. They were regarded by these same bureaucrats in much the same way people think of their doctors -- rather nice to have about in an emergency, but not someone you'd want in the sitting room on a permanent basis.
Any money in the Home Office budget designated for CI5 was spent wisely. The briefing rooms hadn't been one of the places where the money was spent. It was rumored that the wooden chairs had been liberated from the Nazis in 1945, and personally chosen by the head man, George Cowley, for their discomfort.
Raymond Doyle, ex-Metropolitan CID, glanced in on his way to Cowley's office. From the looks of things -- blackboard shiny clean, clairs pushed into semi-neat rows, another group of recruits was due in for their first -- and last -- indoctrination lecture. After the gruelling selection process, The Lecture or the Gospel of CI5 According to George Cowley, was the last stop before the hapless newcomers were partnered off and plunged into routine work. If there was such a thing in their line of business.
Doyle had been through it all himself, some six months ago, so as he glided on down the corridor he spared a brief bit of sympathy for the new kids on the block. After all, it was more than likely one of them would end up as his partner. In fact, he already had a particular someone in mind -- if Cowley would just cooperate.
Bodie paid strict attention to what Cowley was saying. Early on -- about half a second into his first interview with the old bastard -- he'd divined that not to do so would be an act of imponderable stupidity. Double-thinking was something Bodie'd mastered years before, of necessity. George Cowley was quadruple-thinking in the womb.
". . . To contain and render ineffective such by whatever means necessary. That is what our official brief says. The small print. Now, I'll tell you what it's really going to be like . . ." Cowley, no novice at getting and keeping the madding crowd's attention, paused for considerable effect. "You'll be paired off -- and from then on the slightest whiff of anything and you move in . . ."
There was more, in like vein. When he finished, Cowley favored each of the men and women in the room with a flick of his laser-beam stare, then nodded as if satisfied, for once, with what he saw. A good group, this. Half of them might even be alive 18 months from now. With luck.
Doyle had arrived at CI5 from a background that made interesting personnel file reading. That there were a number of things that hadn't made their way into said file was something not even George Cowley knew. Doyle supposed that wasn't strictly honest, but he wanted to work, not be carted off for psychiatric observation, so certain things he kept strictly to himself.
Such as the fact that George would never realize his decision to partner Doyle with new-arrival William Andrew Philip Bodie, while an excellent judgment, was not -- at least at first -- entirely his own idea.
Again, Ray apologized -- silently -- for the interference, but it would harm no one, and would be to his -- and Bodie's benefit . . . He tried to ignore the little voice that mockingly insisted, "Maybe . . . if you're lucky . . ."
As for Bodie, he was too busy concealing the shock his new partner's appearance was giving him. Bodie could handle coincidences, but this mirror image standing before him, wearing the oh-so-familiar half-smile, was just a bit much for his equilibrium to take without protest.
"Well?" Cowley's voice cut through his confusion with a snap.
Patiently, George repeated, "I take it you have no objections to being partnered with Doyle? If you do, I'll consider them, though it's unlikely . . ."
Bodie interrupted hastily. "None, sir. None at all."
The half-smile on Doyle's face intensified a fraction. Cowley sensed the odd tension between the men, and congratulated himself on another good choice of partners. Without that "spark" they'd be no use to him, or each other . . . "Good. Take him down to the armory, Doyle, then to personnel -- you know the drill."
Bodie obediently shook hands with the old man, and trailed out after Doyle. His equilibrium was still whirling.
"What the hell . . ." Bodie acknowledged the fact that he'd fallen out of bed with further highly descriptive language. He'd been dreaming about Raylin again -- nothing new in that, but the dreams had intensified in the time since he'd started working with the Healer's twin. Ray Doyle.
He got stiffly to his feet, and stared at the snarled bedclothes with a grimace of distaste. Fate just would land him with a partner who was good to work with. Better than good, in fact. He and Doyle blended right from the first. Filling out each other's weaknesses and complementing each other's strengths. Not something he would ordinarily have complained about -- except that Doyle was his lover's twin in every way. And so, a constant, living reminder of what he, Bodie, had lost. The emotional turmoil it caused was heightened by the fact that his body didn't recognize the difference. Doyle's proximity had a most disturbing and potentially embarrassing effect on Bodie, one that, so far anyway, he was unable to control. It was getting so he was going to elaborate lengths to avoid doing so much as coming within touching distance. The only bit of luck he'd had, was that Doyle didn't appear to notice the way his partner tensed up around him.
Bodie clung to the hope that familiarity would breed -- if not contempt -- at least indifference. After all, it'd only been a couple of months.
It might have comforted Bodie, if he'd known that his erstwhile partner was not only having a restless night too, but for much the same reasons.
It'd been a very long -- even by their standards -- and trying couple of days. The kind that left you distinctly uneasy with only your own company. Still when Doyle brought the car to a halt outside the anonymous block of flats Bodie was housed in this quarter, he was surprised by his partner's inviting him in. Usually Bodie couldn't wait to disappear when they got off duty; Ray understood why, so that didn't bother him. But the prospect of an evening in Bodie's company -- particularly when they were both dead beat, with correspondingly lowered defenses, did not fill him with enthusiasm.
"Well? I think I've got some steaks in the freezer . . ."
Doyle groaned inwardly. When Bodie got that hopeful expression on his face -- which was nothing so much as that of a little boy asking to go to the circus -- it was impossible to refuse. At least for him.
Still, he hesitated, visibly, and the light died out of Bodie's eyes. "If you don't want to . . . some other time, then . . ." He climbed out of the car, began walking away.
"Hang on," Doyle scrambled out from behind the wheel, "you might wait for someone to answer you, before you go stalking off. I'm starving." He caught up with Bodie, tilting his head up the fraction of an inch that separated them in height. "I was just going to say, you'll have to be tolerant if I fall asleep in my plate."
The uncertainty in Bodie's eyes, though quickly masked, still hurt.
"Oh come on, you promised me steak." Doyle grabbed his partner's arm and dragged him towards the building.
He'd been prepared for a plethora of . . . 'things' . . .
Instead, Bodie's apartment was neat as a pin, and almost as bare. "Surprised you've got furniture --"
Bodie tossed his keys down on the coffee table. "Had to. Came with the place. It's a bit cluttered, I'll admit . . ." He grinned at Doyle's expression.
"If it was any more cluttered, we'd be sitting on the pavement."
"Try the sofa instead," was all Bodie offered. "I'll go see what I can find in the fridge."
Left to himself, Doyle padded silently around the room, examining the few things there were sitting about. Walls painted cream, bare save for a couple of surprisingly good paintings; sofa, coffee table, some lamps, a couple of chairs, and a roll top desk -- which, judging by the mass of neatly chaotic papers, was much used. Lead toy soldiers were displayed on a combination of shelves and hooks that stood near one window -- it was loaded with plants. Doyle examined the greenery with eyes that were narrowed . . . most were medicinal herbs . . . he touched one plant, gently, as though it might bite, then moved away, quickly.
His gaze idly swept back around the room, coming to rest, finally, on the one thing that was elaborate. The far wall was taken up, nearly entirely, by a stereo system so sophisticated it could have passed for a launch control board at NASA. Doyle did a rapid mental calculation as to what it must have cost, and came to a total that was, to put it mildly, mind boggling. Must be at least three or four thousand pounds' worth . . . where'd Bodie get that kind of money???
"Nice, innit?" Bodie appeared at his side, practically out of thin air.
"Yeh . . . take you long to put together?"
"Not really -- I came into a good bit of cash a few years back. I'd always wanted something like this, so when it came available, and I had the money . . ."
"Yeh," Doyle said again, marvelling at the sparkle of his own conversation, "what'd you do -- rob a bank out in the jungle or something?"
Bodie laughed. "Nah, not exactly anyway. I . . . had a few rather valuable things come into my possession in those days. Hung on to 'em until I got back to England. That's all."
Keeping his voice even, Doyle asked, "Jewellery?"
That got him a keen sideways glance. Equally calm, Bodie answered, "Some of it." Innocently, he went on, "Brought a good bit of silver back with me -- more portable. Come on."
"The food's ready -- you did say you were starving. The only table's in the kitchen. Come on."
Doyle shook his head, not unlike someone who'd just been hit. "Oh . . . Right."
Bodie was giving him a rather odd look, but Ray only summoned up a smile, so he didn't say anything, just led the way to the kitchen. Part of his brain was busy wondering just why a pile of sound equipment would upset Doyle so much. Because it had -- however much he might smile, put his monosyllabic answers, and abstraction, down to simple exhaustion.
4 A.M. Oh just marvelous. You work a couple of 20 hour days, finally get a day off, and what do you do? You stare at the ceiling instead of sleeping. Real brilliant. All because of a stupid pile of electronic equipment.
Ray closed his eyes, determined to get some rest if it killed him. How could he have sold it? After he gave the dowry box back, and came after me, I thought that . . . and for what? Another bloody great pile of THINGS.
You sold things you'd brought over, too, when you first got here . . . but that was to live . . . had to have a background that was foolproof, didn't I? . . . No choice, really -- couldn't stay there without Bodie, and I'd promised . . . "Necessary" . . .
In the end, he stayed awake a good deal longer, that one particular word repeating itself with mocking insistence.
Bodie realized three things simultaneously. 1. His partner was, at least, a couple of very long flights of steps away; 2. the other fellow had a .357 magnum pointed straight at Bodie, and was doubtless upset at Bodie and Doyle's interruption of his and his friends' activities; 3. his own Browning automatic was behaving uncharacteristically; it had jammed. The sum of these realizations was that since Doyle was probably still making his way down from the roof -- if he wasn't already fully occupied with the others; and since Murphy and his partner were also similarly occupied; and since his gun wasn't working, and that of the malevolent chap standing two feet away from him was having no such problems; then, ergo, he, Bodie, was dead. Logic, pure and inescapable.
Made even more so by the bullet that slammed into him a couple of seconds later.
"Your man's lucky." The surgeon wasn't wasting time on niceties. "Several inches lower, and he'd be dead. As it is, that shoulder will probably have him cursing a blue streak, until everything knits."
Cowley nodded, satisfied. Any kind of luck was all right in his book, as long as it meant he -- and his men -- came out of it alive, and at least potentially in one piece. "Have you told Doyle?"
Mr. Evans raised an eyebrow. "I wouldn't dare not have, practically picked me up and shook me like a rat before I'd even gotten myself out of the operating room properly."
"Collapsed onto a sofa in my office. He's a bit tall for it; he'll regret ignoring my advice to go home, when he tries to stand up."
Doyle was dreaming, a swirl of images, chaotic . . . there was the Temple gleaming so brightly it hurt to look at it; Bodie playing with the school children . . . laughing . . . holding him tightly, hands soothing after they made love . . .
Still locked in his sleep, his dream self turned his face into Bodie's neck, seeking comfort. Which was freely given, and more. Beside that, nothing else mattered.
Certainly not something so insignificant as a necklace of silver and jade . . .
"Just what do you think you're doing?" Doyle glared at Bodie, hands on hips, the picture of righteous indignation.
Bodie dropped back on the sofa. "Trying to stand up -- is that all right with you?"
"No. If you think I'm going to spend any more time than strictly necessary carting about after you . . . you're supposed to rest, Bodie."
"I AM resting. I've been doing nothing but REST ever since they let me come home. You're worse than the hospital." He assumed a downtrodden expression. "I only wanted to walk into my own bedroom, open my own dresser drawer, and get out my own shirt, so I could change out of this," he regarded the plaid shirt he was wearing with disgust. "That's ALL. I was planning on RESTING the entire time."
"Oh really? And just maybe put another nice rip in your shoulder muscles at one and the same time? God, you're so stupid I could . . . all right. Which drawer?"
"Don't. I've been here a week, hopping to your slightest whim, so don't push it. Which drawer?"
Meekly, Bodie said, "Top left. The shirt's the overlarge blue one."
Nastily, Doyle said, "All yours are that way, mate. Goes to match your head . . ."
But Bodie only assumed an expression of outraged innocence, and, still grumbling, Doyle padded off.
Bodie glanced at his watch, the paperback he was reading no longer holding his interest. No sign of Doyle. Had he got lost? "All I asked him to do was get a shirt out of a drawer . . ."
He waited five minutes more, then decided to brave Doyle's wrath by getting up and going to see what was taking so long.
Doyle was standing in front of the dresser, an antique box in one hand, the other gently stroking the box's contents.
"Did you . . ." Bodie took in the scene. "That's . . ." He took a deep breath. "Someone I loved very much gave that to me. A long time ago."
Slowly, Doyle set the box on top of the dresser, and turned. A necklace of bright silver and dark green jade stones dripped from his fingers. His eyes were the same color as the stones; the expression in them made Bodie's pulse halt, then accelerate to light speed.
His touch was liquid fire as he reached up and gently fastened the necklace around Bodie's neck, fingers pausing to trail along the side of his jaw, then moving to outline Bodie's mouth.
"Yeh," Raylin whispered, just before he covered Bodie's lips with his own, "I know."
-- THE END --