by Brenda K
Kate Ross rubbed her hand across her eyes, seeing the print blur in front of her eyes. Although it was hot in the tiny cubicle they called an office she shuddered as if chilled to the bone. Images of Doyle were constantly playing across her weary mind, but whether it meant she was giving way to grief or clinging to hope she no longer knew. The memories, in all their intensity, were crowding in, jostling for place.
When the news had come in through the wires about the deaths of three British security experts in Colombia, her emotions demanded she let loose the horror that welled up instantly, but somewhere a tiny glimmer of hope refused to be extinguished. It hadn't been confirmed. Maybe - just maybe - they'd got something wrong and Doyle wasn't lying dead out there. Or was she just being stupid?
Her thoughts ran unchained, despite the years of training that had demanded they did not. Ray Doyle had been in her thoughts far more often than was good for her over the years. His strange pairing with Bodie had certainly worked as Cowley had been so convinced it would, despite the broody, quicksilver, stubborn mind of Doyle versus the aloof, self-assured and equally stubborn rock that was Bodie. Chalk and cheese, Cowley had often called them, yet their partnership had been one that endured all that CI5 had thrown at them and more. They had shared one thing for many years though, she reflected, and that was their distrust of CI5's resident psychiatrist.
Rain splattered against the window with the wind, distorting the shine from the street light outside into tiny jewels of pale orange light. The sounds in the corridors were virtually stilled. It was a time that normally she appreciated, when she could work without the constant shrilling of telephones, and when she was accustomed to putting the day's thoughts in order. And not so many years ago it was a time when George Cowley would often knock - oh, so politely, of course - and discuss his team and its problems with her.
It had been a strange relationship with the old man, for he was often brusque and always demanding, and absolutely nothing could stand in the way of his own methods of command. Over time, however, she had come to see a few more facets of a person many saw as a dour, impenetrable, semi-tyrant. She had seen him close to weeping at yet another violent, unnecessary death, removing his heavy glasses and rubbing his nose - a gesture she had come to recognise. She was trained to see those things, and, she admitted, she had seen a great deal since those first days.
Another gust of wind hurled rain against the window, and her thoughts stubbornly switched from Cowley, where she had forced them to turn, back to Doyle, where her emotions screamed they must.
It had been raining that night she had seen Bodie and Doyle for the first time. Newly recruited to CI5, she had been discussing profiles in Cowley's office late one evening when the R/T had crackled.
"All wrapped up nicely sir," said a politely modulated voice.
"Excellent, 3.7. You have the film?"
"In my pocket, sir..."
"Well bring it in. Now."
"Now, sir?" Bodie seemed to hesitate. "I was just going to drop Doyle off."
"Now, Bodie. I want it back in the right hands without any more delays. You can drop Doyle off later. What about Jensen?"
"Police have taken him and his mates. Murphy's seeing to it."
"Good. Full report tomorrow. But first, the film. Out."
Cowley's eyes betrayed a brief glimmer of satisfaction, and he even permitted himself a small smile to his new psychiatrist.
"Bodie and Doyle. Did a good job."
Bodie and Doyle, she mused. She had seen their files among the others and wondered vaguely at Cowley's reasons for pairing an ex-policeman and a mercenary turned SAS sergeant. She vaguely recalled them from the photographs in their files, but had not been prepared for her own reaction when they appeared at the door only a few minutes later.
Bodie - yes, the dark-haired one. He was tall, smartly dressed and obviously pleased with himself yet frowning towards his partner. But her glance was virtually snatched from him to the object of his stare. Nearly as tall, but a little slimmer, with a mop of wild, dark blond curls and slanting green eyes. He was dressed so casually it verged on the scruffy - elderly jeans, an equally well-worn T-shirt and leather jacket - but that did nothing to detract from his magnetism. Her breath dried in her mouth: this man was unbelievable. Even in a state that betrayed sheer exhaustion, with a cheek that looked damaged and a slim hand holding what seemed to be painful ribs, the attraction was immediate and startled Ross by its sheer intensity.
She was horrified at her own reaction. Of all the stupid, illogical, absolutely impossible people to be attracted to - but there was no denying it. She knew that there was only one solution - to assume the brisk, professional manner that was her barrier between her feelings and the world. He would never know. And neither would anyone else.
"Miss Ross, our new psychiatrist, Bodie, Doyle." Cowley said almost without taking a proper look at them, reaching out for the small canister of film, then stopped short as he saw the older of the two men.
"Doyle, are you hurt?"
"He took a good beating" Bodie started, but Doyle, shook his head slightly. Still mesmerised, Ross realised the man was in pain. He was ashen, eyes barely focused, and he reached out to steady himself on the back of a chair.
"Nothing much. I'm okay."
"I think he should see a doctor. He thinks he knows better," chided Bodie, still eyeing his partner with a frown. "They played rough."
Doyle made to shake his head again, but Ross, watching his face and still under the spell, was suddenly aware of the long lashes fluttering. Teeth clenched, Doyle's legs started to buckle, and she was out of her seat as she realised, but Bodie was faster. As the slim body went limp, the bigger man's arm was already firmly under his partner's shoulders, breaking his fall and swinging him up and onto the battered sofa outside Cowley's office.
"Ray...damn it, he's right out. Bloody Jensen... get hold of a doctor for him," Bodie said, anger and fear in his voice as he stooped over the pale face, quickly loosening his partner's belt and feeling for a pulse.
"Let me look at him," Ross said quickly, moving to push Bodie aside, worried herself at this sudden collapse. Bodie stared, hesitated, and it was Cowley who nodded briefly.
"Miss Ross is a qualified doctor."
"I though she was a shrink" Bodie muttered, still bending over his partner, but not offering any resistance as she knelt beside him. "They really laid into him. Bastards. If he'd had been armed..." Bodie shook his head. "By the time Murph and I got there they'd had plenty of fun, but he kept 'em busy or we'd never have nabbed them."
"He's coming round." Ross said quietly. "Find me a cushion and get the medical bag from my office, please." Staring at the strange, fascinating face, she mentally gritted her teeth again and focused on the professionalism that had led Cowley to hire her in the first place.
Doyle moaned slightly, and his eyes shot open, green and wary.
"Sorry," he muttered thickly, apprehension flooding his face as he saw Ross, then what seemed like relief as he focused on his partner.
"It's okay, sunshine," Bodie said, still studying his partner with unconcealed concern. "Miss Ross'll sort you out."
He didn't sound very convinced, Ross thought, not particularly caring for the frown when he glanced over at her again.
"I'm all right." Doyle muttered again "Just went dizzy."
"You may have concussion," she said quietly. "Can you focus? What about your balance?"
Doyle grimaced, pushing to sit up.
"Don't think it's concussion," he said steadily. "Just pain. My side... back..."
Indeed, as she helped him remove the jacket and shirt, the bruising was impressive and ugly. Even the slightest touch brought a bitten-off gasp as she gently probed, looking for the extent of the damage.
Bodie glared at her, but she continued her examination, aware of the exhaustion and pain yet the equally stubborn refusal to cry out, although she was fully aware of how he must be hurting. This had been vicious, but intended more to inflict pain than to kill. Looking at the extent of the bruising it was quite possible that some damage had been done - and internal bleeding was no laughing matter, despite Doyle waving her away and assuring her that he just needed a night's sleep.
"You need x-rays, Mr Doyle." she said firmly. "In a hospital."
Doyle objected, but she'd held her ground. She was not going to be responsible for a lack of proper medical care, despite the fact she'd given up classical medicine for psychiatry. And there, she was going to go far. She knew that already. These two might be CI5's up and coming agents, but she had a thing or two to prove, too.
There had been many times over the years that she'd looked back on that night, she thought as the present closed in again. Doyle had attracted her then, but she'd refused to acknowledge it and even more to show it for nearly 20 years. There was no room for sentiment in what she did, and she was good at her job. Most of the squad hated her. They always did and probably always would, she admitted to herself. That went with the job.
Oh, she'd watched Doyle whenever she could, but was careful to ensure that his effect on her went unnoticed. It was his easy grace, coupled with the fiery temperament and that sudden explosive laugh when his eyes lit up, and a million other tiny things that she had carefully hugged to herself. She loved to see his eyes crinkle with laughter or his brows knit in a brooding frown weirdly reminiscent of Bodie's.
Over the years, she had also come to realise that however many girls had entered Doyle's existence and left it again, that sensation of his loneliness and his often-troubled conscience had become part of her soul. Bodie had always seemed to be the only one who could lift him out of it. His partner could tease him, offsetting both Doyle's sharp mind and his soul-searching by that banter and that solidity, that urbane screen of outward calm.
And then one day, things had changed. She supposed that over the years some sort of grudging respect had developed between herself and Doyle. Probably not with Bodie, she admitted, but that was hardly surprising since the episode with King Billy. Not that he'd liked her much from the start.
Oh, they were on first name terms now, but even that was relatively new and mainly thanks to Murphy's slightly more casual style of running the squad than Cowley's had been. Bodie had thrown her a few sideways looks when he'd first noticed the "Ray" and "Kate", after the shooting all those years back, but she hadn't bothered wasting time and effort justifying that.
Bodie, she reflected, was suspicious of anyone who got too close to Doyle for his liking. If Bodie knew that she and Doyle had indeed become closer than anyone knew, there was going to be trouble.
They'd had a drink after work now and then, usually in her office. Doyle often looked tired, but considering the hours he put in that was hardly surprising. It was late in the evenings that she could see the loneliness and vulnerability in sharp contrast to the brilliant, intuitive mind and lightning reactions that were part of his role. Those were more things she was trained to see.
She had been surprised at his suggestion to join he and Bodie at the official inter-force dinner a few months ago. Neither man was short of female company, despite the fact that their relationships tended to be short-lived, but Doyle had proposed taking her and she hadn't refused. He'd even picked her up, and she'd restrained herself from remarking on the elegant evening suit, realising he'd come a long way from the wild mop of curls and dirty trainers. She'd taken immense care with her own appearance, too, and was perfectly aware that the understated sheath of dark green silk did wonders for a body that had remained slim yet still with curves in the right places even at the wrong side of forty.
Seeing them arrive together, Bodie had barely succeeded in disguising the frown. He had immediately attached himself to Murphy and his wife, ignoring Doyle and Ross with studied ease. She'd seen him with those all-seeing eyes focused on them both as Doyle had led her, smiling, to the dance floor, but had ignored him in turn. Doyle was a wonderful dancer, and the hand on the small of her back had felt remarkably right there. His eyes had held something different, too, as they moved to the music.
The dancing continued, and they'd stayed on the floor, exploring each other's expressions and the subtle contact of hand on skin. You are a fool, Kate, she had told herself, before giving herself entirely to a feast of sensuality that was a rare occasion indeed.
Back at home, she'd pulled on an elderly sweatshirt and dropped onto her sofa, willing herself not to slide into a bout of self-pity. She could still feel Doyle's arms around her as the music had become slower and the lighting more muted. There had been an unspoken question in his eyes, and her very closeness had begun to answer it when his damn bleeper had shattered it all. Bodie had looked so damn self-satisfied, she'd seethed.
Pouring herself a drink, she had flipped on the CD player, tucked up her feet and stared, unseeingly, at the file on the table. Work, Kate. It's what you're good at, she'd told herself wearily.
The doorbell had startled her, and her mind, instantly in gear, registered both caution and a tiny, chilling spark of hope.
A glance at the video camera on the street below, and her fingers had started to tremble even before she released the lock, willing herself to stop shaking like a nervous child as she had opened the door.
"I always did worry about the daft sod when he was out there on his own." Bodie said, entering her office as silently as ever and succeeding in startling her. She sighed, deciding that he was the last person she wanted to see.
"That's natural," she said, sliding into professional mode almost without thinking. "For somebody who was your partner for so long. Doyle worried about you too."
"He hid it better than I did, though." Bodie said, almost absently.
"Sometimes. Not always," she snapped, not comfortable with Bodie having a stab at psychology.
Bodie glanced at her sharply.
"Oh, you know what I mean, Bodie. Remember when they took you hostage?" Damn, what was the matter with her? The last thing she needed was to analyse Doyle's feelings in front of Bodie.
"I remember." Bodie said grimly. "Silly bugger could have been blown to bits."
"He could. And you very nearly were, if I recall. But if it had been Ray strapped into explosives, you'd have run after him, too. But the whole thing shook him. I'm just pointing out that you don't have a monopoly on feelings." That was better. She was back in control now.
I know, Kate. I know." Bodie had got the hint, and sounded strangely defeated.
He rose to his feet. "Don't stay all night."
Kate Ross watched him leave. Watched the broad back and for once almost felt sorry for him. For Bodie to remember a little basic civility, let alone to come and talk to her without being forced to, was proof of just how much he was worrying.
Bodie paced up and down in the rest room, ignoring the battered furniture and the rain alike, willing the lumbering beaurocracies of both London and Bogota to react, to provide confirmation - to put him out of this agony of waiting and allow him to grieve, if grieving was inevitable.
He should have been there, armed, watching his former partner's back. He'd said so, too.
When the case had come up, Bodie hadn't liked the idea of Doyle galloping around factories in Colombia one little bit. He'd started in on the sheer logistics of the Vice-Controller going into the field again. Doyle's reaction - predictably enough - was to tell Bodie to get stuffed, and he'd got two of his ex-partner's finest with him, hadn't he? To Bodie's disgust, Murphy had given the operation the go-ahead on Doyle's insistence.
Admittedly, Doyle could probably play the role of a security consultant with some degree of credibility, and the other two were no fools when it came to sophisticated electronics either. What worried Bodie most, however, was the sheer fragility of the whole bloody situation. CI5 was equipped with the finest tools on the market these days whether in terms of people, systems or information in general. The cover story was good. No, the fragility came from the politics of it all. If Doyle was right about the drugs rings and the role of some members of the government, the fewer people who knew about CI5's intervention the better. And so Murphy was running this one virtually single-handed.
Bodie was part of the team because he'd briefed two of his men to go with Doyle and sharpened them up for it in true Macklin style. Apart from two telecommunications experts and Murphy's secretary, that was all, apart from Kate Ross. She'd been involved because she'd worked on the profiles of some of the so-called factory owners alongside Doyle. From her presence tonight, even she was suffering from the new of the field team, which surprised him a little. As if she damn well cared.
Still pacing, Bodie absently decided she'd had been behaving strangely lately. He'd even seen her smile a time or two a couple of weeks back. Seeing this most unusual phenomenon had surprised him more than a little, and not for the first time in his life he'd started to wonder just what the distinguished Miss Ross hid so well under that calm, professional exterior. And she'd looked less than professionally detached a few moments before, too. For Christ's sake, Bodie ruminated. Was the woman developing feelings? Now that would be something.
Doyle, for some reason, seemed to like her a bit more than she did. Mind, he'd had plenty to do with her after the shooting. He'd even defended her on occasion when Bodie was feeling particularly anti-Ross.
Like that day straight after the bike race. He'd come out of Cowley's office after a day of emotions and bikes and fury, still stinging from the lecture about personal involvement and the knowledge that he had to take those bloody tests all over again. He'd been absurdly pleased to see Doyle waiting for him.
"They took your bike to my place, with mine. Expect you want to pick up the keys." Doyle's voice was a study in neutrality. And it was only the grunt as he settled behind the wheel that roused Bodie from his own attempt to appear distant. Damn, he'd hit him - hit Doyle in the guts. He'd pushed him out of the fight and out of the whole thing. He hadn't wanted him involved, and yet Doyle had still been there.
"You all right?"
Doyle just nodded, eyes on the road. He said nothing until they were in front of his place, parked next to the muddied trial bike and his own, precious BMW.
"I don't expect you were offered a wee dram tonight."
Despite himself, Bodie chuckled. "Hardly. I was just offered three rounds with the delectable Miss Ross and a re-assessment."
"You're lucky you weren't offered the fastest route out of a job, with references to the appropriate small print." Doyle opened his door, and Bodie realised he was following his partner, suddenly liking the idea of a little company, not too mention a not-so-wee dram. "Besides, if your delectable Miss Ross hadn't had the sense and the wits to figure out what's bugging you, you'd have been pushing up daisies by now. Either from Cowley shooting your stupid brains out or when you fucked up under fire like you did during the tests."
"Look. I'm sorry." Bodie acknowledged, weary now and anxious to restore diplomatic relations with his partner, even if it meant apologising.
"Don't have to be sorry for me, mate. But a little subdued repentance might go down well with Miss Ross."
"What might go down well with our Miss Ross is a good roll in the hay. Might loosen her up a bit."
Doyle just shook his head, handed a glass over, and sprawled into an armchair. "You stupid bloody prat. She's good at what she does, and probably deserves a little respect. Give her credit where it's due. We don't have to like the woman, but at least she knew what she was doing. And now..." The look in the green eyes killed Bodie's retort before he'd got it out. "Now shut up and drink. Dunno 'bout you, but I'm knackered."
Bodie drank, the whisky starting to warm the ice inside him. He relaxed, comfortable and grateful for Doyle's lack of further comment and above all his company. Doyle got up his nose often enough, but they understood each other. Miss Ross, on the other hand, scared him more than bikers and terrorists put together.
He didn't refuse a refill, or another. The conversation turned to a less than appreciative review of the combat tests CI5 managed to dream up, and Bodie found himself glad of the company and the renewed complicity with Doyle before fighting his own personal dragon.
Bodie jumped as the intercom crackled and Murphy's voice came over briefly and peremptorily.
"Bodie - in my office. Now."
He ran, still thinking of Doyle's companionship and help when he'd most needed it, and nearly collided with Ross. Damn the woman. Even Murphy got her involved when, in his opinion, she would have been better messing around analysing somebody - anybody - rather than getting under his feet.
"... then let me speak to him" Murphy was saying, with the authority that came so naturally. Bodie crouched forward over the desk, knuckles tight on the back of a chair.
"It's Ray. He's on a plane out of Columbia" Murphy explained rapidly, a mixture of jubilation and concern in his voice. "Captain wants confirmation..." he broke off as Doyle's voice finally came across the connection.
Bodie closed his eyes for a second, letting his head fall back as relief flowed through him.
"Murph - I need backup. In Geneva. And can you just tell the captain that I'm for real and not some sort of would-be hijacker?"
"OK, Ray." Murphy said quickly, and paused only a moment. "Tell me who got to the top of the chimney first."
Doyle gave a grunt, whether it was of humour or not Bodie couldn't tell, but Murphy was no fool. His stunt of climbing the factory chimney years ago was a constant joke among the CI5 veterans every time he took himself off to climb another of his beloved mountains.
"You did. Until you fell off. So Bodie climbed up after you."
"I was shot." Murphy said with the slightest hint of a smile. "I didn't fall. Okay, Captain Cole, this is Ray Doyle without a doubt. And we'll need your co-operation. This is a secure line and we'll need to keep it open. Where are you now?"
"Just out of Bogota," came the reply. "Landing in Geneva at 7 am. Mr. Doyle..."
"... needs a little help once we get on the ground" Doyle's voice cut in. "They're right on my heels. But I got what we were looking for. I just need a pickup in Geneva."
"You'll get it," said Murphy. "Let me get back to you. We can have somebody there by tomorrow morning. All clear on the plane?"
"Think so. And Murph, I got what we wanted. Somebody better bring the telecommunications equipment to Geneva and make sure it gets to you fast. It won't take them long to catch up with me."
"Will do" Murphy said. "Excellent. And we're very glad to hear from you Ray. What about the others?"
"They didn't make it," Doyle said quietly.
Murphy and Bodie exchanged looks.
"OK, Ray. Understood. Anything else you need?" Murphy got control of himself in seconds. The grieving would come later.
"Mr Murphy?" the captain cut in. "Mr Doyle isn't in good shape. You may want to take that into account."
"What's the matter?" Bodie spoke sharply, unable to help himself. "Ray, you hurt?"
"I'm okay." Doyle said shortly. "Just tired. Few bruises and a chill or something. I'll live."
Murphy was frowning now. "Captain - can you see what your crew can do to help? I'll make sure he's taken care of as soon as you land. I'll be back to you once I've made the necessary arrangements. Ray? Take it easy. Murphy out."
Three abrupt sighs in the CI5 communications room signalled the end of the communication. Bodie shook his head. Relief coupled with fear was overloading his senses.
"Switzerland's not the easiest place to send the troops in." Bodie was the first to speak.
"Right." Murphy said. "We need two seats on the next flight to Geneva - we have to be there before they land. I'm getting on to the Swiss police."
"We?" Bodie snapped. "You can't go Murph. I'll take Jax."
"I'll go," Ross said quickly. "Bodie and I can get Ray out and away."
"No." Bodie reacted immediately, with utter amazement. "That's ridiculous."
"Don't be stupid, Bodie. I'm a doctor. The whole idea of this operation was the fewer the better people who knew about it. Remember I did do those famous "back-up operative" courses. And just for your information I know that part of Switzerland."
Bodie stared at her, hesitating. He could see the logic behind her proposal, but he still didn't like the idea. He didn't like the "stupid" either, but it was hardly the first time she'd used that particular expression where he was concerned.
"Fine." Murphy nodded. "That might come in useful, although I hope not. We need to get hold of a private plane for you to get out of Geneva, because we can't get the RAF in. Too many people know about their special flights, and knowing the Swiss they wouldn't authorise a landing anyway. And you'll need to take the telecom equipment with you."
"But I still don't think Kate..." Bodie was glowering now, openly defying her.
"I'm not asking for your opinion, Bodie. I asked Murphy and he agreed," she snapped.
Shit, the woman could be hard going, not to mention persistent, Bodie sighed to himself. Seeing Murphy wasn't going to back down, he focused on the job.
"You're right about problems with the Swiss, Murph. Not very co-operative, particularly if Whitehall are going to bust a gut about Ray being in Colombia in the first place."
Murphy shook his head.
"That's going to be a major exercise in diplomacy, especially as some heads are going to roll once Doyle's information on their little games reaches us. Okay. Get some weapons that pass airport checks from the armoury. Bodie, you can see to that. Get your field ID and passports. You still up to date, Kate? Good. I'll sort something out to get Ray assistance at customs - even the Swiss can't refuse us that. And I think I know just the person to contact."
Murphy's face, despite the tension, broke into a short grin.
"He got out alive. Now we have to keep him that way."
Doyle took the glass of water from the stewardess, accepted the two painkillers gratefully, and pulled the blanket around him. He was still cold, barely able to control the shivering, and his side was on fire, but for the moment anyway there would be a few hours' respite from the tension and emotions of the last few hours.
He knew full well that closing his eyes would only bring back memories of that bomb they had put in the car. Both the men working with him had been outstanding and the loss sickened him. Bodie was doing a great job - they were sharp, competent and tough. But a split second had been all it took. He shuddered, the adrenaline from getting his message across to the captain ebbing away and leaving him with a headache that throbbed in time with the heavy engines. Exhausted as he was, sleep wouldn't come and the whole sequence of events ran though his mind, refusing to be driven away.
All through the drive to Bogota, the absolute necessity of getting out of there had kept him going, allowing him to fight the elderly jeep through the muddy, rutted tracks and badly-made roads, the rain insistent and torrential for much of the way. He hadn't allowed himself to think about anything much but getting to the airport and on a plane, concentrating on the bucking wheel and the road ahead. He'd made it, somehow, and relief had made his fingers tremble as he'd opened the holdall stashed in a locker. The wound in his side was a gash from flying metal, but it wasn't deep enough to bleed excessively, even if it hurt like hell. He'd patched it up briefly, pulled on clean clothes and left the muddied, bloodied ones in the locker, wondering if somebody might find them some time next century. Then he'd thrown away the key.
Scanning the list of departures, he'd realised that waiting for a flight to London wasn't an alternative. They could catch up with him any moment - might have people heading for the airport even now. So it was a choice between Geneva, New York, Madrid and Hong Kong unless he waited for hours. Realising the Geneva flight was with BA, he'd made for the counter, wishing the dizziness would clear.
The heavy jet lumbered its way through the night, and still sleep didn't come. But scenes from the attack did.
They'd tumbled to him somehow either before or during that last visit. Of that he'd been almost certain from the very look in the eyes of the so-called "factory manager" of the production centre. The meeting had been more than strained, each knowing the other was far from what he seemed. The Colombian made little effort to disguise his conviction that the security specialist was a sham, despite Doyle's careful presentation of computerised access and clocking-in systems, to be installed in partnership with a joint venture company from Bogota.
Strangely enough, half a dozen of the other suspect factories he'd visited had been more than interested in the whole thing. He and his team had even imagined their surprise at discovering, once the operation was over, that the "affiliate" in Bogota had disappeared along with the "parent company" in Britain.
After two weeks, they'd drawn complete blanks. The factories they'd visited were open books - or at least as open as they got in Colombia - and they'd been allowed to explore every nook and cranny of them, supposedly analysing the building for security and access points.
This time, though, he'd had a hunch right from the start that this place didn't have a whole lot to do with processing canned vegetables. They'd received him reluctantly, and only thanks to the much-crested and creased letter from the government praising the formation of the company with undoubted benefits for the Colombian economy, including a solution to rampant absenteeism in its factories. At least Murphy was thorough, Doyle had grinned to himself when seeing the thing for the first time.
When he'd glanced at one of the "executives" there and recognised him from a blurred photo from the Colombian drugs file, he'd known this was the one. An English voice on the intercom asking to speak to one of the men in the room had intrigued him, but the switch had been rapidly flipped. The atmosphere didn't thaw, and they were refused a visit to the production machines or indeed any other part of the factory. Promises were made to "get back to him", but he knew perfectly well they would not. And that he could expect trouble from that moment on.
The three of them had returned to the factory that night, because they needed to move fast - if it wasn't already too late to find what they were looking for. They'd tumbled him all right, but maybe they hadn't got very far yet. All the same, they were treading on dangerous ground now.
His two fellow-agents had looked convincing enough as his assistants, but they looked frankly dangerous as they cut fencing, neutralised the rather inefficient alarm system and entered the offices. It was almost all too easy - there hadn't even been a night watchman in sight.
It was probably the sheer satisfaction of finding the information they needed that had lulled them all into a sense of security. They'd downloaded what they wanted from the computer - for Christ's sake, even hacking into the system for the password hadn't taken one of his team more than a few minutes - and slid out of there.
Settling into the passenger seat, he'd seen the glint of triumph in two pairs of eyes as weapons were stowed and balaclavas removed. That was the moment Doyle saw the snippet of wire on the floor and yelled, throwing himself out of the car in the same breath.
Bile rose in his throat, suddenly, as he remembered the dull explosion. He'd rolled away, feeling a sharp pain in his side and dismissing that immediately as he'd looked back and seen the smoke and, for a brief second, the outline of two figures still in the car among the inferno. He'd kept rolling.
Sprawled in a wet, muddy ditch he'd felt his heart pounding, aware his gun was still in the car, and realising with sick fury that the bastards had been playing with them. They'd let them get the disk, get out of there, and had used their time wisely to plant the bomb. But that very twisted mind who'd planned it had made one small mistake, and that was the possibility of somebody surviving. Too sure of themselves, he snarled to himself, feeling the disk snugly inside his jacket. They'd pay for that, and pay for it dearly, because he'd get out of there and show them what their over-confidence had done.
Nothing moved, and then he'd heard voices. Laughing, triumphant voices speaking a mixture of Spanish and English. That voice was there again too - the phantom one on the intercom.
When the merriment and back-slapping had died down, he'd realised they were heading for the factory, no doubt to celebrate their little victory. Crawling silently to the car park, he'd groaned to find it empty. But they had to have arrived in some sort of vehicle, as the place was miles from the nearest village. Getting unsteadily to his feet, he'd felt pain start to kick in on his side, feeling blood but not too much of it. He'd live.
The jeep, when he found it, was a good mile down the muddy, uneven track. He'd got it started, seeing his fingers shaking as he manipulated the ignition wires, and headed for Bogota.
Finally, the flashbacks faded.
The stewardess smiled as she went past, tucking a blanket around the slim form, openly admiring him in sleep.
On a much shorter flight between Heathrow and Geneva, Kate Ross was equally unable to find sleep. The relief at knowing Doyle had survived had been so all-consuming she'd almost forgotten to keep up the icy disdain she usually reserved for Bodie. As they'd prepared for the flight, he'd been too focused on the issue to be rude, yet the eloquent curl to his lip as she'd fumbled with the weapon had said enough.
Finally, though, he'd seemed resigned enough to her presence - if ignoring her was any indication of that. His look now was one of worry mixed with single-minded determination to get Doyle back in one piece.
It was an expression she knew well, having seen it for two long, long days when Doyle had been fighting for his life. And during his recovery, too, when Bodie had watched over him like a hawk, trying to stop him doing too much too quickly.
Even that hadn't stopped Doyle from his relentless drive to rejoin his partner. Despite their vastly different characters, they could be so alike in some things, so completely single-minded. Sharing Bodie's own fears, although he would never know it, she had been equally aware of Doyle's frustration at knowing Bodie was out in the field without anyone minding his back.
And so, a few weeks into his convalescence, and with that grim determination that had made him what he was, Doyle had gone too far in the gym one day. He had collapsed in a tight ball of agony as his body had protested violently, and found himself back in hospital.
She had feared Bodie would run amok when Cowley told him, in his fury with Doyle, with Macklin, and with the world in general. Bodie had indeed left Cowley's office like a tornado, she'd learned later, immediately rushing to the hospital where she had been waiting with Murphy. Macklin had called her in the absence of the staff doctor when he had seen Doyle stagger and sink to a bench, whimpering in pain despite his efforts to hold it back. She had been sick with fear herself, wondering if he'd put too much strain on a still-healing heart.
Climbing in with the ambulance crew, she had seen Doyle's exhaustion and frustration and Murphy's ill-disguised fear as he closed the doors and ran to his car. During the journey, amid the sirens, she had been unable to stop herself from ruffling the sweat-soaked curls, murmuring encouragement, trying to impart a calm she was far from feeling.
By the time the doctor had confirmed that there was no serious damage - this time - the relief was so violent her legs had threatened to give out on her. A few seconds later Bodie had charged in, that same fear in his eyes she had come to recognise when Doyle was in any sort of trouble.
"He's all right Bodie. You can see him in a minute. He's just overdone it." She was in control again now, and already wondering if Doyle had been aware of her all-too-evident fears in the ambulance.
"Bloody fool." Bodie's lips were in a thin, hard line. "What the fuck is he trying to prove? What was Macklin doing? How bad is it?"
"Macklin wasn't pushing him, he was pushing himself," she snapped.
"What in hell's name was he doing anyway?"
"He was working out. I was there - thought he was overdoing it a bit and told him so." Murphy said quietly. "Macklin already told him to slow down, as well. And before you start, Bodie, I know you've been doing the same, but you know what he's like."
"He's got a programme, for God's sake. Somebody's got to make him keep to it." Bodie glared at them both.
"Smothering him isn't going to help. You're making him feel like an invalid. So he's frustrated," Ross said with that superiority that made Bodie's hackles rise.
"For Christ's sake can't somebody stop himself from killing himself? He damn well knows he's got months ahead of him," Bodie growled, looking pointedly at Ross.
"But he's in too much of a goddamned hurry," Murphy said, shrewdly. "And he has to slow down. You telling him that all the time is just making him all the more frustrated. He'll have to try another tack, Bodie. Get it into his head that for once in his life he needs a little patience."
In the end it had certainly worked. Perhaps with a little help from her own careful and determined sessions with Doyle but most of all, she had to admit, thanks to Bodie. A clumsy nursemaid but one Doyle at least listened to, he'd spent every possible moment watching his partner in the gym, making sure he kept to the much hated programme. Then running with him, making sure the pace was right. Feeding him too, judging from some of Doyle's scathing comments on his talents with a frying pan and not much else.
Gradually, however, Doyle had become as supremely fit as ever. Still with that lithe grace that hit her between the ribs every time she saw him.
The images in her mind melted as a hostess bent over, and Bodie snapped awake as if by the flick of a switch.
"Could you speak to the captain, please, sir?"
Bodie moved with his usual deceptive speed and was back after a few minutes, jaw set.
"It was Murph. He's had the captain of Ray's flight on again. Somebody from MI6 radioed, asking for the passenger list. I knew they'd get their bloody noses into this somehow. Doyle told Cole to go ahead - he's travelling on another name. But I still don't like it."
"Any news of how Doyle's feeling?"
"Cole said he was holding up, apparently. And it's all clear with the Swiss. We can meet him at the customs, take him out the back way to the private flights."
"Good" she said. "At least that."
"At least that." Bodie echoed. "Let's just hope they haven't got any rockets aimed at that flight just in case."
"For Christ's sake..." Ross started, but Bodie shook his head.
"Don't think you need worry about that, Kate." His tone was cold.
As they entered the terminal in Geneva, they could see the snow falling in thick, wet, flakes. Inside the airport, the efficiency for which the country was renowned clicked into place, and a good half-hour before the Bogota plane was due, Bodie and Ross were waiting beside the incoming plane's docking gate. With them was a silent, uniformed customs officer and another official in civilian clothes. A lean, unremarkable figure speaking perfect English, he had introduced himself simply as "Dubois".
So far, so good, though Bodie, trying his damnedest not to pace. His eyes had been everywhere as they had followed a network of pristine corridors, and seen nothing that sounded the tiniest of alarm bells. The next hurdle was to get Doyle into a private plane, hoping all the time that the weather would not hold them up too much.
"The plane is on the approach path" said Dubois quietly, and Bodie crossed to the plate glass, watching the snow falling still. Minutes later, the huge jet swung into the gate and the docking ladder advanced slowly to the aircraft's door. They knew Doyle would come out with the crew, and Bodie was watching with that concentration he had never lost. When the door opened and two figures walked out of the plane, Bodie's fists tightened imperceptibly. The first out was the captain, with cap and epaulettes, in shirtsleeves, and beside him was Doyle in an airline jacket, also with a cap. Good move, Bodie acknowledged. His walk didn't look very assured but, as Bodie grimly noted to himself, he was still on his feet at least.
It was all Bodie could do to stop himself racing forwards as they entered, but with the barest of greetings to the Doyle and the captain, he and Ross followed the small group along yet another corridor and into a small, anonymous room. As they walked, Doyle took in Kate Ross, and flashed Bodie a look of astonishment mixed with reproof. Bodie ignored it, knowing his partner would lose no time in kicking up a fuss once the time was right.
Mercifully, a gloomy official gave their passports a perfunctory glance, and handed them back without comment.
"Good to see you, Ray," Bodie said quietly, trying to take in how he was in that first glance. Kate Ross, from her eyes, was doing the same.
Doyle managed a grin, his eyes betraying relief, but could do little to hide either his pallor or the absolute exhaustion on his face.
"And Captain Cole," Bode extended his hand. "We owe you a lot."
"We owe him his jacket and one of the steward's caps to start with," Doyle spoke for the first time. "And probably a supplement for first class."
Cole shook his head. "Pleased to help. But I don't like the look of Mr. Doyle much. I think he needs more than a couple of painkillers."
Doyle was sliding out of the jacket, wincing as he did so. Kate Ross could have kicked herself, seeing him shiver immediately. "Got a jacket?" she asked, and he shook his head. Bodie had his own parka off and around his partner's shoulders with deceptive speed before turning to the customs officer and Dubois.
"Thank you very much." Bodie said. "Now we'd like to get onto our plane immediately, as soon as we've sent these documents through."
As the customs officer and Cole left, Bodie wasted no time in swiftly setting up the equipment to transmit the contents of the diskette Doyle handed him. Silently, he offered a prayer of thanks as the wonders of the computer age behaved as they should, and within minutes he snapped off the switch with a short sigh of relief. All the time, he had one eye on Doyle as he slumped in a chair, watching Kate Ross bend over him. He looked shadowy-eyed, Bodie realised, and was glad to see Ross start opening the medical bag.
All eyes jerked to Dubois as his portable phone trilled. The few terse replies meant little to any of them, but the look on the face of the Swiss boded no good at all.
"Gentlemen, we have a problem. In fact two. First, the weather is closing in and no private flights may leave the airport for several hours. And what is of greater concern is that MI6 have become aware of your presence."
"Christ," Bodie snapped "How the hell?"
"It would seem they went over the head of our services and behind the back of yours."
"How in the name of..." Bodie clenched his fists. "They didn't know which flight he was on."
Doyle was shaking his head "I wasn't followed at the airport. I could have been on half a dozen flights. They don't know the name I'm travelling under, either."
"Precisely," the Swiss continued. "I think it's a bluff that worked. They probably contacted the destinations and pilots of all flights leaving from Bogota yesterday. We have been asked to hand you over - discreetly - on arrival, Mr. Doyle."
"But how the hell..." Doyle said, with tight fury. "And somebody from your lot was stupid enough to tell them I was expected here?"
"Your - ah - counterparts in MI6 are no fools," Dubois said. "They simply said they would be co-ordinating with whoever was in charge of the CI5 reception team. My superiors felt it was incorrect to stand in their way, despite the fact that I personally am fully aware that you are not collaborating with them on this case. But I cannot affect decisions made at a higher level."
"Shit," Bodie spat out his fury. "So they bluffed, waiting for somebody to fall for it."
"Okay" Doyle cut in rapidly, but with the composure that had served him well in many a tricky situation. "They're probably halfway down the hallway now. Where do we go from here?"
"At this moment," said Dubois quietly, "I have told them you are not yet off the flight. And you should know that I do not appreciate this intervention, particularly since I know your Mr. Murphy well. We have been climbing together for over ten years."
There was a brief silence, and Bodie broke it with a short snort of relief.
"So where do we stand now?" Doyle asked. "Can you get us out of the airport?"
Dubois was obviously thinking, and hard.
"I think so," he said after a moment. "Because you cannot stay here. I have promised to take you to a private sector in just a few minutes. They know the plane has landed, and you are supposed to think I am taking you to the departure section for private aircraft. A team from MI6 - or someone representing them - it on its way now and we are to keep you busy until they arrive. Are you armed?" he asked Bodie.
"Yes." Bodie was unzipping his bag as he spoke, assembling his weapon and glancing over to see Ross calmly doing the same. Thank God the woman at least had her head on her shoulders and remembered how to do it right this time.
As Bodie worked, Dubois was tapping his fingers on the table, thinking fast.
"I can tell you how to get out of the airport fast... but you will need transport. I have no car here.
"And we don't know how many people they have in place," Doyle added, gratefully taking the lightweight pistol from his partner.
"True. But they cannot cover everywhere. And you must have transport - it may be several hours before private aircraft are cleared. The weather over the Alps is too dangerous."
"They're looking for Doyle." Ross said quietly. "Do you know if they have been informed who came to pick him up?"
"They know somebody did." Dubois said. "But as for exactly who... I have neither mentioned nor given your names to my superiors after Murphy told me you were arriving. As far as the rest of my own service is concerned, you are simply a CI5 team. However, I presume you announced yourselves on arriving."
"Right," Bodie confirmed bitterly. "I showed my ID, though, for them to contact you..."
"But I didn't," Ross said calmly. "I can get hold of a car from one of the car hire firms."
"No," Doyle snapped, but Bodie, much as he disliked the idea, nodded slowly.
"It's not a bad idea, Ray. Mr. Dubois, we don't have much time."
Rapidly, Dubois explained a route to the underground car park used for the car rental firms.
"And now," Dubois said quietly, "I'm afraid you must make sure there is proof you have overpowered me."
Understanding immediately, Bodie nevertheless hesitated.
"I'm sure Mr. Murphy will be most grateful for your help," he murmured. Dubois allowed himself a slight smile.
"I am sure he will. I owed him a favour anyway - he's a useful person to have around on a mountain."
"Tell him they're probably better than chimneys anyway," Bodie said, and felled Dubois neatly, thoughtfully breaking his fall as the Swiss slumped to the floor. "OK, let's go."
More pristine corridors. The three moved swiftly, and to their relief Doyle seemed to have regained a little of his strength and kept pace with them, although Bodie, glancing across, noticed the sheer determination on his face. It was only in the lift going down to the car park that he leaned against the walls, seeking support.
Ross wasted no time once the two men reached the rental car park, and watching her disappear Doyle shook his head.
"What the hell is she doing here, Bodie?
"She volunteered." Bodie replied lightly. "Good team needs 'em, specially if it's short-handed like we are on this job. Now, sunshine, you gonna complain much longer?"
Doyle just shook his head, glad of the supporting arm that had appeared around his waist.
"Just wanna get warm."
Bodie threw him a sharp look, seeing the shivering. Underground car parks weren't the cosiest place in the world. At least this one had the advantage of being deserted except for a few bored-looking representatives of Avis, Budget and Hertz in their respective booths.
"C'mon then. At least take a pew," Bodie said, steering him to a row of luggage trolleys. "Park yourself on that," he added, feeling the chill himself, particularly since his parka was doing its best to keep his partner warm. "Seriously, Ray - how bad d'you feel?"
"Lousy," he said quietly. "Got a fever - had the chills ever since I got caught in what they probably call a quick shower over there. Think the wound's infected or something as well. It hurts like bloody hell. Kate got some stuff with her?"
"Sure," Bodie grinned. "I got the ironmongery, she's got the patching up kit. Soon as she gets back, we'll sort you out."
"And what then?" Doyle muttered. "You thinking of driving home?"
"Maybe not that far," Bodie admitted. "Get you somewhere warm and safe. Apparently the remarkable Miss Ross knows the area. Then get Murph to find some alternative transport."
"Okay." Doyle dropped his head in his hands, obviously weary beyond measure.
"Shit, Bodie. I nearly didn't get out of there.
"We thought you hadn't," Bodie said softly. "Came over on the wires that three British security experts had crashed their car and it exploded."
Doyle swallowed. "They didn't get out of the car fast enough. If I hadn't seen the bit of wire on the car floor, I'd have gone up in flames with them. They blew it up - set the device while we were in there. I'm sorry, Bodie. They were good, both of them."
Bodie stared at the floor for a moment, digesting his own grief and consigning to a corner until he had the time to cope with it. It was the only way to survive. Except there wasn't a corner big enough for the grief if Doyle had gone up with the bomb.
"Well, you're on your way home now, sunshine," he said finally, more cheerfully than he felt.
Bodie saw the lift doors open after what must have been less then fifteen minutes, and gave a grunt of appreciation as Kate Ross strode briskly towards them with a set of car keys dangling.
Glancing at the registration numbers, she pointed to a large Cherokee.
Doyle grunted in obvious pain as he settled into the seat, but collected himself rapidly. "Great job Kate, thanks."
Bodie frowned. There was going to be a little more to getting out of the Switzerland than hiring a car.
He swung the big car up the ramp, eyes still scanning his surroundings, and out into the pre-dawn gloom. The snow was falling thickly, yellow in the headlights. He chose the direction to Lausanne, deciding that crossing into France via the Geneva customs was asking for trouble. He just hoped Kate Ross did know her way around here.
Despite the efficient snow-clearing teams, a thin coating of fine, powdery snow was rapidly defying the last run by the snow plough, and the traffic - already fairly heavy - was moving slowly and cautiously.
"You know what worries me," Ross said as she bent over Doyle. "I think we should get off this motorway as soon as we can. Hire cars are easy to spot. They may soon figure out we have one and send the police looking once they've checked whether any cars were rented straight after the flight landed. Or once somebody figures out that I was part of this famous "CI5 team" they were welcoming."
"Easy to spot?" Bodie was puzzled.
"The number plates of hired cars have a "V" at the end. There might be quite a few Cherokees around in this country, even green ones, but not hundreds with these plates."
"The minor roads may have less police patrols or road blocks," Bodie agreed, with grudging admiration for her usual analytical skills. "But what the conditions are like I hesitate to guess. So where do we head for?"
She hesitated. Then seemed to make a decision.
"I have a good friend here. Lives in the hills outside Lausanne."
"I don't think we should get anybody else involved in this," Bodie said, curtly.
"I think he would be willing."
"He? Old flame?" Bodie couldn't help himself. "Well, well..."
"Spare me the comments, Bodie. He's a friend of my father's."
"Cut it out, both of you," Doyle snapped.
After shooting Ross a glance of pure loathing into the rear mirror, Bodie suddenly reconsidered. "I think she's right, Ray," he said thoughtfully, after a moment's pause. "You need somewhere to rest. And they'll be checking the hotels around here too."
Ignoring the frown on Doyle's face, he nodded to her. "Go ahead and call him, Kate, if you would. Then I'll get Murph moving."
To Ross' obvious relief, her call was answered immediately, and information was exchanged rapidly. After only few minutes, she broke the connection.
"The Gods are on our side. Not only does Dubois go climbing with Murph, but Jean-Pierre's at home and willing to play the good Samaritan." She was smiling, broadly, for once and the euphoria even reached Bodie momentarily.
"Don't you mean the St. Bernard," he suggested lightly. "Because a little brandy might cheer up our passenger here."
"Bodie..." Ross jerked back to reality rapidly as she turned back to Doyle again. "This isn't looking good."
Doyle was huddled in the seat, still shivering, face pinched and his breathing rapid.
"OK. I'll call Murph." Bodie reached for the phone.
As Bodie filled the CI5 chief in on what was happening, he glanced in the mirror at Ross leaning over Doyle.
"What's the verdict?"
"Not great. His temperature's sky high. The wound's not so bad in itself, but it looks angry."
"Just got a chill," Doyle muttered through chattering teeth.
Ross worked swiftly, dressing the wound and frowning.
"Bodie, I don't want to be any longer on the road than we need be."
"I'll stick with the motorway for a bit then," Bodie glanced in the mirror and caught the look on her face. The very absence of any protest from Doyle told Bodie all he needed to know. The driving conditions were atrocious on a well-cleared motorway, and what they would be like off it he hardly dared hazard a guess.
"What can you do for him?" he asked quietly, the antagonism replaced by concern.
"I can help with the pain. Give him antibiotics for the infection. But he needs sleep and that wound properly disinfected and dressed. Can't do all I'd like here and now in that direction."
"Imagine what it would have been like in mini", Doyle suddenly chuckled weakly, and Bodie couldn't resist joining him.
Typical Doyle when he was hurt, he mused distractedly. However bad it was, the ex-copper always found a remark to lighten up the situation.
There was that terse remark to Cowley when he'd been shot in the thigh. In pain and virtually passing out, he had managed to point out that he wouldn't have his boss' problem with a lodged bullet as Tarkov's shot had gone right through.
Or there was the time when he'd burned the ropes from his wrists on the Ojuka case and made that stupid comment about ruining his violin practice, omitting to mention the cracked ribs from Parker's vicious beating that were giving him hell.
Dammit, Doyle was tough, but he looked terrible and the joking wasn't fooling him any more now than it had done in the past. They'd been so damned good together, Bodie remembered. Please God they still could still function now, so many years later.
For a few minutes, Ross worked calmly, summoning well bitten-back gasps of pain from her patient.
"OK. Now you can relax, Ray," she said finally, snapping the bag closed. "Try and get some sleep."
"With him driving?" Doyle snorted. "At least this white stuff might slow him down a bit."
But Bodie was doing his utmost to make sure it did not. As it grew gradually lighter, the snow seemed to fall more densely than ever, and the fine snow was in parts giving way to a dangerous surface of half-melted sludge as the unceasing traffic fought its way along the lakeside.
Kate Ross watched the tired face beside her, eyes closed now. The painkillers should be powerful enough, she hoped, but he was still shivering. Instinctively, she slid towards the door, gently encouraging him to lean against her. With a grunt that could have been relief or frustration, he let his head rest on her shoulder, allowing her arm cradle him into some semblance of comfort.
She could feel the high fever and the tremors, and - with a surge of alarm - the increasingly shallow breathing. Had the antibiotics been enough to stop the onslaught of infection? Adrenaline had probably kept him going so far, but now pain and what looked suspiciously like pneumonia were rapidly robbing him of what little resources he had left. He should be in hospital, she knew. Warm and with proper treatment, not some hasty job in the back of a car in a raging snowstorm.
They made agonisingly slow progress, and after nearly an hour were only just out of Lausanne, heading towards Neuch'tel. Doyle had dozed into a fitful, uneasy sleep, curled tightly into the warmth of her arms.
She glanced up frequently, over Bodie's back, aware of the fierce concentration. And then, staring through the endless dance of snowflakes barely tamed by the windscreen wipers, saw a forest of red tail lights.
"What the...?" Bodie gently applied the brakes, feeling the big vehicle protest, snake slightly then grip. "Dammit."
"What is it?" she said, worried, trying to see further ahead.
"Dunno. Maybe just a traffic jam or an accident." Bodie scowled, remaining in the outside lane, scanning the long, unmoving line of cars and lorries ahead.
Nothing moved for long minutes, and then they heard the faint wail of sirens. Cars pulled over onto the hard shoulder, and Bodie's fingers closed on the butt of his pistol, then released it again as two police cars sped past them, followed minutes later by an ambulance.
"How close are we to the end of the motorway?" Bodie asked, passing Ross the map.
"About ten miles, I think" she sighed.
"Good. At least this snow means no helicopters just yet."
"What's going on?" a weak voice muttered, and Ross looked down at a pair of weary green eyes.
"Nothing, sleeping beauty," Bodie replied gently. "Just a hold-up. Get some kip - we'll wake you up when we get there."
Still nothing moved. Bodie turned up the heating a couple more notches and continued to ignore her.
Feeling the weight of Doyle against her shoulder, she found herself pondering on Bodie's so obvious dislike of her that - she admitted - had always been mutual. His attacks usually took the form of less than subtle remarks about frigidity, but she wasn't about to tell him that there he was completely wrong. It was simply detachment - so often misconstrued as a lack of feelings - that made her so good, whatever it cost her on a personal level. What Bodie didn't realise was that he wasn't so very different himself. Except that when it came to his partner, she could see right through that faade. Like now.
Bodie's cutting comments to her about apparent lack of humanity had reared their head during Doyle's convalescence from being shot in the heart, too. She'd known for many years, even then, that part of his animosity was jealousy of anyone getting close to Doyle. And the day she'd been forced to examine the two men's friendship a little more closely, it hadn't been pleasant. It hadn't exactly helped the already uneasy relationship between she and Bodie, and most of all she'd feared it would be the end of her much easier contact with Doyle.
Cowley's summons had been a surprise that morning, and as soon as she saw the set expression she'd known there was trouble.
"Miss Ross... I'm afraid I need your help. There are some rather - surprising rumours doing the rounds about Bodie and Doyle."
She raised her eyebrows, waited for him to continue.
"You've been seeing a lot of Doyle."
"Yes, quite a bit. He's doing better now."
"I certainly hope he is after his demonstration at the gym last month. He's lucky it was nothing worse. If he strains that heart he'll regret it."
Cowley hesitated, sadness creeping through the hard exterior.
"However, we may have another problem. MI6 are busy spreading the rumour that Bodie and Doyle are enjoying a homosexual relationship."
Ross' eyebrows rose a notch higher. "MI6 are? On what basis?"
"I wish I knew. Do you believe there is any truth in it?"
Cowley dropped his glasses on the desk, briefly explaining his latest meeting with the head of MI6. A man he had never liked, and whose dislike of CI5 was abundantly clear. His few acid comments about the two agents' love affair becoming public had quite frankly amazed him. He had refused to even pursue the matter, preferring to get to the bottom of it in his own way. Which meant Kate Ross.
His psychiatrist struggled to collect her thoughts, running a few details through her mind rapidly and with her legendary analytical skills.
"To be honest, no. Unless they are extraordinarily good at hiding it, I've seen no evidence of anything but an extremely strong friendship - nothing sexual I could put my finger on. They're close... probably even more so after the shooting. Bodie even demonstrates jealousy when other people get attached to Doyle, but Doyle is either unaware of it or ignores it."
"I realise they are close. But I need to know exactly what's going on. I want you to go and clarify the matter, Miss Ross. Today."
She nodded slowly, still mulling the whole idea around in her mind.
"And if they are having some sort of sexual affair?" she said, finally.
"If they are, we will deal with it as I see best."
"Which means?" she said, unable to resist.
"Miss Ross," Cowley removed his glasses, sighing. "I really don't wish to discuss the matter further until we have more information. I do not like hearing this sort of rumour, and it has to be cleared up one way or another. CI5 must be seen to react, wherever the truth lies."
Kate Ross had returned to her office, reeling with a myriad of images. Bodie affectionately slapping Doyle on the back. His hand grasping Doyle's fiercely at the hospital. Doyle's sudden, wide smile at some of Bodie's half-witted jokes. A fiercely protective Bodie watching Doyle's back when he was slowly trying to get back in shape, passing him towels, even massaging his complaining neck muscles after a session with Macklin. The absolute complicity between them. Had it turned into something else? No, even when she mentally reviewed all those images she had seen nothing more than a genuine friendship there. But had her own attraction to Doyle blinded her to something more? From a professional point of view, her judgement would so far refute this stupid rumour, but what if her private feelings for Doyle had led her to ignore what she didn't want to see? Damn. She picked up her bag, and drove to Doyle's flat, still deep in thought.
Doyle answered the door with a smile, and she could feel the familiar flutter to the ribs, taking in the tousled hair, well-used jeans and faded sweater. He looked better, too. The pallor was less pronounced now. And skinny as he was, the smile bore none of the strain that had betrayed his fight with his own body for long weeks.
"Kate. Didn't know we were due for a session. Come on in."
"Morning," she said stiffly. Only a week previously, they had abandoned formality for first name terms almost subconsciously and both seemed comfortable with it. Now she was going to destroy that familiarity again and it left a bitter taste in her mouth.
"Is Bodie with you?"
"No - he often comes round after work, but he's not here now. Why don't you check with central if it's him you came to see? Not been getting into trouble, has he?"
"I came to see you, Ray" she said, quietly. "Look..."
"Sit down - I'll get you some tea or something."
Doyle had disappeared into the kitchen before she could protest, and she sat awkwardly, trying to find the right phrase as mugs and kettle clattered.
Doyle's flat had the same scruffy elegance as the man himself, she decided. She'd been a fairly regular visitor over the last couple of months.. It was comfortable and a little messy, but with a touch of style that was hard to define. The sofa was comfortable and the table in front of it laden with everything from novels to poetry. The easel in the corner had a half-finished study of what looked like a seascape, the stereo was stacked with everything from Mozart to Deep Purple. Somehow, it all worked.
On impulse, she rose.
"Just going to the bathroom," she called out, feeling her heart beat faster as she opened the door. It surged into a higher gear still as she quickly scanned the sink and shelves. There was one toothbrush. One bath robe on the hook behind the door. The cabinet displayed an impressive range of pills, which was hardly surprising. A packet of condoms. She allowed herself a tiny reaction of triumph. So that was one thing. Coming out, she glanced through the open door to see Doyle's bedroom - simplicity itself in rich blue and green. One dent in the pillow. Doyle's voice made her jump violently, and she spun round, feeling the colour rush to her cheeks.
"Kate? You all right? You look jumpy as hell."
"Ray... sit down. How are you feeling?" Not the greatest introduction, she grimaced inwardly, but it was a start.
"Suitably penitent about last month, if that's why you're here," he smiled. "But we already talked about that. I've had hell from Bodie, hell from Macklin, and from Murph and Cowley and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. So I guess it's back to your turn again now. It's been going better the last couple of weeks, but I already I told you that, as well."
"I didn't come about that," she said, a little sharply. "Look, Ray. Cowley's been getting wind of a rumour that's going around MI6. About you and Bodie."
"What about me and Bodie?" Doyle looked puzzled. "Kate - what sort of rumour?"
Carefully, she forced herself to look at him.
"A rumour that you and Bodie are sexual partners."
Doyle's astonishment, she would have sworn, was genuine. And within a split second it had given way to pure and simple anger.
"Bodie and I... oh, for Christ's sake, Kate."
The expression on Doyle's face was a study in cold, hard fury. He slammed the two mugs down on the nearest table and glared at her.
"What the fuck is this supposed to mean? Cowley thinks Bodie and I are busy jerking each other off and sends you to check us out... thanks a lot."
Abruptly, he turned and, running his hand through his hair, shook his head.
"So. Miss Ross the shrink turned Cowley's detective. Checking whether the bedding's rumpled. Did you have time to check for telltale stains as well? Or were you expecting a practical demonstration? Me and you fucking on the floor to deny it, or Bodie and I sweating and grinding to an audience to prove it? I hope you remembered the video cameras."
The tight fury in his voice cut through her like a knife, but she carried on.
"We need to know. For everybody's sake. To squash the rumour... if...."
"You don't seriously think..." Doyle's own colour had risen. "Or was it fun snooping around? Christ, Kate, I would have thought better of you."
"Oh, you would, would you? It's my job to know what our people are thinking and doing. And don't you forget that. Or the fact that I take orders, like you do." She was angry too, now, and returned the cold fury in the green eyes.
"Like I used to do, you mean. I get two bullets, need bloody months to even be able to keep on my feet, and now I'm gay. Is that it?" Doyle snarled.
"I didn't say you were. And to be quite honest it's none of my personal business if you are," she countered. "But it is the business of CI5, because you'd be laying it wide open to a lot of problems if there is any truth in it all.."
Doyle sighed, looking utterly weary now.
"Terrific." he muttered. "Just dandy. And I presume you have the same questions in store for Bodie. Does he fancy me? Like the idea of a quick roll in the bushes between jobs? Or would you like to test his tendencies in that direction personally, too? From what he says, he's pretty good."
"That was quite unnecessary," she snapped. "I want some sense out of you, not vulgarity."
"Look." Doyle sank into the sofa, the strain around his eyes evident again now, suddenly appearing tired beyond measure, and anger giving away to what seemed like pain. "If you want me to come and swear on the bible, sign some bloody stupid form, and promise my intentions with Bodie are honourable, just say so. I'd bet my life the same goes for him. Bodie's... hell, whatever I say is gonna sound like some lovesick crap now."
"Lovesick crap? Bibles?" a smooth voice repeated, and suddenly Bodie was in the entrance, arms full of Sainsburys bags and a bottle, frowning.
"Bodie..." Kate Ross swallowed as Doyle rose to his feet.
"Come on in, sweetheart, and give us a kiss." Doyle spat in Bodie's direction.
Bodie's eyebrows shot up to his hairline and he stared at Doyle in amazement.
"What the bloody hell is going on?"
"Tell him, Kate." Doyle said fiercely, relieving Bodie of the bags, stalking out of the room and slamming the kitchen door behind him.
"What the...?" Bodie repeated, staring at Kate, then the door.
She told him, and expected Doyle's fury to be echoed by his partner, but Bodie just stood and stared. When he did speak, it was with cold control rather than anger.
"So, our much-loved, ever-efficient Miss Ross is busy again. Enjoyed it, did you?
She returned the stare. "Hardly. We're not all cut out to be just plain vicious. No, Bodie, I have Ray's answer..."
"Oh, pardon me. Forgot you were first names now," Bodie spat. "Well you can have my answer, too. I still prefer women and enjoy them immensely, thanks. Most of them, anyway, but there are exceptions."
That wasn't lost on her, although she wasn't going to give him the pleasure of seeing it.
"Fine. Then I can report back to Mr. Cowley. For what it's worth, I even believe you. Except for wondering what women see in you, Bodie."
Bodie, in his turn, ignored that one.
"What I still need to know, however, is what you feel might have caused it."
Bodie sighed and then, in an admirable impression of an effeminate lisp, called out to his partner.
"Ray, get that gorgeous ass of yours in here."
Doyle emerged, face still tight, and stared at them both.
"Cool it, Ray." Bodie said, expertly grasping bottle and corkscrew and appearing to calm down a little. "I think I may as well explain before the delectable Miss Ross gets her nosy backside out of here once and for all. Find a couple of glasses."
Doyle shook his head. "I still think...."
"We know what you think, sunshine. But what I think is that Willis is stirring up trouble, and I know why. And I know Miss Ross is busy stirring too, just for a change, so she'd better stay and listen before reporting back."
Two questioning glances met his, and pouring three glasses of Sainsbury's best, Bodie settled himself in the sofa.
"Right. And after this, I'll go and beat hell out of that little git from MI6 who was in court the other week."
"For heaven's sake..." Ross started, but Bodie parried that what she was intending as a comment on violent thugs by pushing a glass of wine into her hand.
"Remember when we had to go to court over that drugs dealer, Ray? When you were just out of hospital?"
Doyle nodded slowly, and Bodie continued.
"It was supposed to be a ten-minute appearance. They didn't want to postpone it, so we went. Raymond here was barely on his feet, but nobody expected it to go on so long. I think it must have dragged on for over an hour. By the time we got out of there, and been sent up God knows how many flights of stairs to sign some papers, he'd turned that fetching shade of blue we've come to know and love and decided to do a maidenly swoon on me in the corridor."
Doyle grimaced, and catching Ross' frown, butted in.
"I know - and if I'd told the doc, and Macklin, they'd have wrapped me in cotton wool even longer. So Bodie didn't let on and neither did I. But who...?"
"Golding had followed us out," Bodie explained. "And must have got an eyeful of you draped round me. You wouldn't remember. You'd been so bloody busy pretending you could sprint up those stairs you nearly got back into hospital earlier than last month."
"I remember my legs going." Doyle admitted grimly. "Next thing I knew you were bawling me out again and stuffing those bloody pills down me."
"Dunno how you reached the top" Bodie added. "But you nearly fell all the way back down again. One minute you were with me, and the next, you were doubled over. I didn't give Golding any thought at the time - too busy trying to find you a seat and some pills. By the time I'd got you a pew and fished them out of your jacket, he'd gone."
"...After seeing you pawing around in my clothes and mistaking your Florence Nightingale act for a quick and dirty." Doyle finished for him. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, he threw back his head and laughed. That unmistakable, spontaneous laugh. Even Ross, unable to resist, permitted herself a smile.
She'd left Doyle flat relieved for some things, but could almost feel Bodie's glare between her shoulder blades as she'd opened the door. He'd probably wished he could add a little poison to the wine.
Doyle seemed to have quickly forgotten the whole thing, and the rapid outburst of temper had quickly cooled. Bodie, she reflected, probably remembered it still.
Doyle stirred and coughed, choking back a whimper of pain as he did so. Bodie felt the fear claw at him again, knowing things weren't getting any better.
"Move, damn you," he muttered, fingers drumming on the wheel. As if on command, the car ahead inched forward slightly, then the entire column slowly edged forward, still nose to tail. Slowly, they moved on, their progress punctuated by increasingly frequent bouts of harsh, painful coughing.
"Kate? Exit's ahead - sure you know your way?"
"Sure" she said. "I've been here often enough. Let's just hope there's no welcoming committee ahead."
Bodie nodded, easing the car towards the exit. "Better be ready anyway - Ray...?"
"Virtually out of it," she said softly. "Want me to wake him?"
Bodie hesitated and nodded.
Doyle managed to straighten up, and reached to take the pistol from Kate.
"You expecting trouble?" he muttered groggily.
"Dunno. Hope the police are too busy with this weather to block every single bloody exit from here to wherever. But be ready."
Already, the exit ramp had a thicker coating of snow than the motorway, and Bodie coaxed the jeep round the bend, half-expecting to see flashing lights ahead. But apart from the never-ending veil of snow, there was nothing. Just endless white, broken only by trees and a village nestled against the flank of the forest.
"Better tell your friend we're on the way," Bodie said, feeling the thick tyres grip better on the fresh snow than on the motorway. "We need to get the car out of sight as fast as possible now... looks like the weather's clearing."
Kate Ross quickly punched in the number, and blessedly her call was answered almost immediately.
"Jean-Pierre? We'll be there in ten minutes or so. My colleague isn't well, as I said, and it's not getting better. No, we can't call a hospital, I'll explain later... Oh, no." She broke off frowning, listening, before turning to Bodie.
"Snowdrifts along the lane to his place. It's Sunday - they're clearing the snow later than normal. They're expecting the plough any moment but until it gets there he doesn't think you'll make it for the last quarter mile or so, even in a jeep."
"Shit," Bodie breathed. "That's all we needed. Can you get him to meet us?"
"Listen, Jean-Pierre", Ross continued calmly. "We need blankets - got to keep him warm. We can carry him from the lane. But he needs to get inside fast and there's no way we can wait for the plough. Oh - and bring some sort of jacket for my other colleague if you could. Thanks.
Bodie was frankly amazed at the last comment. He would have imagined her quite glad to see him freeze to death. Of course, she needed him in one piece to carry Doyle. That explained it. All logic, no feelings, our Miss Ross. Situation normal, he realised, almost with relief. For a moment, he'd actually though she was showing a little basic kindness. Right now, however, he needed her skills too, so there was no sense in making an issue of it.
"Sounds like he's pretty snowed in," she said quietly. "At least for the time being."
"Looks like it," Bodie said, taking a sharp bend with consummate skill. "He bearing up?"
"It's not great, Bodie - he's drifting in and out. And I don't much like the idea of hiking across country."
Bodie was well aware of that, praying that the jeep could cope with the increasingly impressive drifts across the small lanes. So far, so good. The wheels bit and skidded, bit again, and the vehicle slewed dangerously close to the edge of the road. If they ended up in a field, nothing would budge it, four-wheel drive or not. The lurching brought a groan from Doyle at one point, but Bodie somehow kept going, spurred on by Ross pointing out a large farmhouse about a mile ahead.
As the jeep nosed towards a junction, Ross pointed, relief in her voice. "There, Bodie - over there. He's coming!"
Indeed, a figure was laboriously heading towards them, waving. With one final effort, Bodie fought the car into the lee of an imposing stack of logs and cut the engine. With little time to spare for niceties, he offered the barest of greetings before virtually snatching the blankets from his host. Kate Ross thrust the heavy parka at him and he paused momentarily to put it on before easing Doyle from the back seat.
"Shall Jean-Pierre help you?" Ross asked.
"No." Bodie's reply was fierce and brooked no argument. "Just show me the way."
However much Bodie would have like to hurry, it was impossible. The snow across the lane was in many places beyond his knees. Wearing normal shoes didn't help matters either. He held onto Doyle like grim death, stumbling occasionally and seeing the house coming slowly - too slowly - into focus through the dancing snowflakes.
Despite the cold and the numbness seeping through his feet, Bodie's thoughts wandered as he forced himself into some sort of rhythm.
The images that were running through his mind were of the first time he'd actually met Ross. He'd not known much about psychiatrists then, and despite his brushes with her since, he still didn't. He hadn't taken much notice of her that evening, since his worry for Doyle - like now - took precedence over everything else. The strange thing, he realised for the first time, was that Ross' appearance at CI5 had roughly coincided with the period he'd realised how much he cared about Doyle. He'd held an unconscious Doyle in his arms then, too, feeling that curious mixture of fear and caring.
He had been furious that Cowley wanted to see them in such a hurry that night. If Doyle hadn't given him that massive scowl and shake of the head when he was on the car radio he'd probably have protested a bit more. But maybe, he'd thought, one of Cowley's "wee drams" might not be such a bad idea if the stubborn idiot was still refusing to see a doctor.
Oh, that had been a bitch of an op. He and Doyle been working together for a year or so by then, and as a partnership it wasn't going badly. It worked well, in fact - they were getting nicely tuned to each other's way of thinking. As far as friendship went, he supposed neither of them seemed to be very much the chummy type, but they had fallen into a routine of a few drinks after work and the occasional double date. Most of all, though, they trusted each other, which - as Cowley had once grimly remarked - was the best weapon for staying alive.
He'd had a bad feeling about it this one, despite knowing that Doyle was perfectly capable of looking after himself. When he and Murphy finally got to that building, however, the cry they heard had hit him in the guts. It was fear and pain mingled, high-pitched and desperate. And it was Doyle.
Neither man hesitated a second longer. They burst into the basement, and Bodie fired even as he heard Murphy's gasp, registering Jensen raising his own gun. Jensen dropped.
"Oh, Christ, Bodie... " Murphy breathed, staring down at the floor even as he pointed his own weapon, unwaveringly, at the two others.
Somehow, Bodie managed to throw one of Jensen's two sidekicks over in the corner for Murphy to handle along with the other one before dropping to his knees beside his partner, bile rising in his throat.
"'bout time." The whisper did little to reassure Bodie, who was still taking it all in. Doyle was splayed and bound face down, arms and legs roughly tied to the piping. Naked. The bruising was massive and ugly, but that wasn't Bodie's primary concern as he sliced his partner free.
"Easy... easy sunshine." Bodie glanced at Jensen just once, then turned his attention back to more important things.
"Bodie... " Murphy's voice held a trace of panic, but Bodie was beyond answering as he scooped Doyle up, aware he was shaking violently.
"Oh, Christ," Murphy repeated, seeing Doyle huddled against Bodie. "They didn't..."
Doyle, blessedly, was shaking his head, but gasping in pain and shock as Bodie anxiously scanned the battered body. "Bloody nearly."
Murphy, with fury in his eyes, lashed out with the butt of his gun once. Twice. Not at all like a guy who did everything by the book.
"Bastards. I wish they'd been armed."
"C'mon Ray," Bodie said, only his training allowing him to keep some tenuous control of the situation. "Get you an ambulance. Murph, call the police."
"No." Doyle got his head up. "No, Bodie... please... not like this."
Not convinced, Bodie hesitated, then saw Doyle's clothes in a heap on the floor and Doyle nodding towards them.
"Lemme get dressed. Be okay in a minute."
Bodie passed them over, seeing Doyle grimace as he tried to stand.
"I still think..."
"You don't think anything." Doyle spat. "Nothing happened. Please Bodie... Murph". Bodie caught the plea in his partner's eyes, despite the sharp tone. Saw him wince again, yet furious at his own clumsiness with his clothes. Instinctively, Bodie reached to help and the reaction was a look of fury as Doyle pushed his hands away.
"Listen." Doyle looked up at Bodie as he fought with the buttons of his jeans. All the venom had gone from his voice suddenly. "This - this didn't happen. They tied me up. Beat me. But the rest..."
Murphy threw a glance across at Bodie, compassion on the handsome face.
"Okay, Ray. If that's how you want it." Bodie had said, gently. "You still need to be looked over."
Doyle issued a grunt that could have meant yes or no, and Bodie decided it was time to get moving.
"Murphy - you get the police and get these two locked away. I'll get the film to Cowley and get Ray some help."
"Just take me home." Doyle said, tightly. "And take that bloody film from him. It's what we came for. It's in his jacket."
Bodie did as he was bid, lips curling with disgust and fury as he looked at the half-clad body on the floor.
"Murph - can you...?" Stooping, Bodie threw Jensen's trousers towards the tall agent.
"Sure" came the quiet reply. "And no problem with the report. It's okay with me, Ray."
Doyle looked away.
"We'll call Cowley on the way," Bodie said, looking at his partner's still trembling hands. "You sure you're okay?" he added gently.
"I'll live." Doyle said. "Let's get out of here."
With grim determination, Doyle headed for the door, and Bodie had enough sense not to offer any support, keeping a concerned eye on his partner as he made his unsteady way to the Capri.
Before he reached it, however, he doubled up as if in pain and Bodie put a supportive arm out, willing to risk being shoved away as he saw Doyle retching and sinking to his knees.
The violent bout of vomiting seemed to drain all resistance from his partner, and Bodie knew it must be agony after the beating.
"All done?" he enquired softly, and the curly head nodded briefly. Somehow, Bodie got him into the car, seeing the set face, seeing his partner fighting for control.
Minutes passed as Doyle slowly seemed to get a grip. Gradually, the shaking seemed to subside.
"'S funny," he said gruffly. "Gays don't bother me. Knew plenty of 'em and liked some..."
"Rape's different," Bodie said softly. "Doesn't matter what sex or combination. It's still wrong."
Doyle looked up at him suddenly. "Yeah. I've worked with victims when I was in the Met. Both sexes. You just don't expect it's gonna happen to you. But..." he managed a grin. "As you said, it didn't. C'mon. Let's give the man his film."
The farmhouse finally came closer, but Doyle seemed a dead weight. Bodie didn't like that at all.
At last, Bodie swung him onto a bed, and pulled away the snow-covered blankets to see Doyle's eyes closed and a face that was a mask of pain. His heart lurched as he frantically searched for a pulse, but to his infinite relief, Doyle gave a muffled gasp and the green eyes flickered open, looked at him and then past him to settle on Kate Ross.
She smiled at him - a genuine smile - and he returned it.
"Thanks, Bodie. Kate."
The psychiatrist bent over him, opening the bag again and frowning, and Bodie allowed himself to be led out of the room and into the kitchen with uncharacteristic docility, almost oblivious to the pain creeping into his numb feet now they were slowly warming. He took in the huge, comfortable kitchen-cum-living room, watched pans being clattered, and forced himself to sit down at the large wooden table rather than pace the floor. A mug of something hot was pushed into his hands and he found to his amazement that he was drinking it.
Kate Ross' appearance brought him back to reality in hurry.
"How is he?"
"Very weak, Bodie. He hasn't come round. I've got some medication into him... cleaned the wound. Now it's just a question of waiting." She swallowed, brown eyes lacking in their usual hardness. "I'm worried, though."
The admission of humanity thawed Bodie a little, too.
"You did all you could. Better get some of this down you." He pointed to the soup and for the first time really took in the elderly, bearded Swiss pouring it out.
"I don't think we've been introduced."
"Jean-Pierre Chappelet. Another of those psychiatrists you dislike so much." Despite the defiance in the words, for once Ross' voice had no biting edge to it.
Kate Ross volunteered to take the first watch with Doyle. Bodie didn't argue, realising the long trek through the snow and the tense, difficult drive had left him exhausted. He found himself in an armchair with a large glass of brandy, discovering he liked this unassuming old man who left him to his thoughts. He dozed, warm and comfortable.
After a couple of hours, he was awake, considerably refreshed, and went through to Doyle's room.
"Come on, Kate, let me take over for a bit. You must be tired."
"Don't tell me you're trying to be friendly," she said, sadness in there somewhere despite the almost automatic retort.
"You never know. He'll fight. Always does," he said, not unkindly.
"His breathing's a bit more regular. I just hope the rest and what we've given him work. He's coughing less, but his fever's still high."
"He's in good hands, love. Go and have some soup. I'll call you if I think it's necessary."
She hesitated, obviously almost as surprised at Bodie calling her "love" as he was himself, once it had slipped out.
"Go on," Bodie's voice still gentle. "You always told him I was like his nursemaid. Even though my nursemaiding talents are usually strictly reserved for my trainees these days."
"Nursmaiding?" she chuckled faintly. "From the echoes I hear that's not exactly how they see you. 'Torturer' is the word that seems to crop up more often than anything else."
Bodie smiled. "Brian Macklin lives on. The whole cruel to be kind syndrome - you of all people should know about that."
"You love it, Bodie - admit it."
"Seems to suit me, I agree. Better than running around getting shot at, anyway." For once, he almost forgot how much he disliked her.
It was an uneasy sort of truce, but a truce of some sort all the same.
Kate Ross was left wondering as she left Doyle's room, too. It was strange, this slight hint of complicity with Bodie. A Bodie who didn't share easily. And a Bodie who, if and when he discovered she and Doyle were lovers, would no doubt cut off diplomatic relations as fast as they seemed to have begun. All that, she sighed, when she'd fought for the partnership harder than he'd realised.
After the shooting, the subject of Doyle had often arisen at the regular meetings between Cowley, Macklin, Howell and herself. Reports on his work at the firing range were outstanding, which hadn't surprised her, despite Howell's exacting standards. The medical reports were getting better weekly, and her own reports were equally positive.
Doyle seemed to have killed a few demons while he was in his half-world at the hospital. The self-recrimination seemed a little less near the surface and partly, she had hoped, as a result of her own work in that direction. Even Macklin's judgement was often tinged with grudging admiration for Doyle's rapidly returning fitness. So the morning Cowley brought up the issue of re-assessment came as little surprise.
"I think we should book Doyle in for the March session," Cowley said, peering over his glasses at the others. "I wondered if we would reach this point, but it appears we have."
Indeed, Cowley was always reluctant to spend the huge sums necessary in staging the series of tests if any operative seemed likely to fail. Bodie's obsession with the death of his mates and King Billy several years back had probably aroused as much anger regarding the waste of funds as it had over the reasons why.
"George," Macklin spoke reluctantly. Close to Cowley, he was one of the very few with the doubtful privilege of being on first-name terms. "There's just one thing..."
"I thought you said he was in excellent physical shape?" Cowley frowned.
"No doubt about that at all. He's fit, his reflexes are superb and he's as fast as ever. God knows I've pushed him to the limits the last few weeks. From what Kate says he's okay on the psychological side too. And his marksmanship was always exceptional. I just wonder about Bodie."
"Bodie? About the partnership?" Cowley nodded thoughtfully. "In what way?"
"Bodie's still like an over-protective nanny. Had them both in the gym last week and I was giving Ray a hard time - and by that..."
The others nodded, knowing what Macklin's hard times were all about.
"At one point I had Doyle down and virtually out. Next thing I knew Bodie was all over me, although he was supposed to be taking on Towser. He can't detach himself enough. It's more important to him to protect Doyle than to watch his own back. Towser could - and should - have taken him out for that."
"We've seen that before," Cowley said. "Doyle on the Ojuka job, for instance. Both of them can be foolish if the other is threatened... and I told them so."
Sighing, he looked round at the others, who didn't seem to doubt Cowley's capacities on that score in the slightest.
"I've thought about the same thing," Ross admitted. "Obviously, they should focus on the job in hand rather than each other, and in the past they've made mistakes there. It's also occurred to me that if they had to make a choice - between each other and somebody they were supposed to protect - I wonder what would happen. In their favour, however, they're very much in tune with each other. The fact that they're so good at watching each other's backs gives them an edge."
"True." Cowley nodded. "And your observations could be applied to most of the teams we have. Will they make the right decisions at the right time?"
"We do everything we can to make sure they do," Ross smiled wryly. "All of us. I admit that those two have been through more than most so it's perhaps brought out this protective side. Remember they've both been involved in some particularly unpleasant cases. And now this. But it's also because of the way they both are. Their backgrounds. Their characters. Two basic loners that seem to have found their other half. If it had been some of the others on the squad, I may have suggested splitting them, but there I don't think it would help. You've seen how Bodie's been performing with the others."
"Quite." Cowley nodded. "Not exactly outstanding. He's good, whoever he's with, but at the same time..."
"...There's something missing," Ross confirmed. "And it would be the same with Doyle if you tried partnering him with one of the others. He's worked - fought - to get back out there with Bodie. Personally, I think we're more liable to see one of them either getting killed or deciding to quit if we split them. And," she added wickedly "training replacements doesn't exactly come cheap."
"I see your point." Macklin said, thoughtfully. "But even if it means spending a little more of our hard-earned money, George, I think one solution is to send them to the re-assessment together. I know Bodie's not due, but I want to see how they react when they're as close as we can get to actual combat situations. And then see if they can still put either Joe Public before each other if need be."
"Agreed," Cowley sighed. "They're still - potentially - the best we have and there's no point wasting that. But in the meantime, Miss Ross, I suggest you take a little time with both of them prior to their planned reactivation as a team, should Doyle pass his reassessment, and try to get some sense into their respective heads. I need those two, both in the field and after, in a few years."
Getting the point across hadn't been easy. Bodie's furious scowl upon learning he had to go through the whole process with Doyle had spoken volumes, until he reluctantly saw the logic of it all.
"You have to get used to working as a team again. It's been nearly five months. And while we're on the subject, there are a few question marks in Macklin's mind about you, Bodie."
Doyle frowned, then slowly nodded. "You wouldn't be talking about his little tantrum with Macklin and Towser the other day would you, Kate?"
"Tantrum? Me?" Bodie had replied sweetly. "I'm not the one with a temper."
"Oh, you prefer being a nursemaid do you?" Doyle snapped suddenly. "Look, Bodie, I am not some sort of invalid. I don't need you to fight my battles for me. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
"Look," Bodie glowered. "You couldn't take any more. Macklin was killing you."
"That's exactly what I mean, Bodie. You were too busy hovering over me, and it won't work like that. Particularly when you have your own side of things to look after. If Towser hadn't been a CI5 trainer, he'd have cut your throat while you were reaching for my pulse."
Ross remained silent, waiting to see what would come of this.
"If you don't trust me any longer, Bodie," Doyle said softly, temper barely under control. "Then there's not much point even trying to make it work. I've been patient as long as I can. I'm ready to get back to work and I'd like you watching my back. But if you can't concentrate for worrying whether I'm capable..."
Doyle hesitated, then continued, green eyes deadly serious.
"I'll say this in front of Kate," he said quietly. "You did everything you could for me, Bodie, from the moment you found me in my flat. From delivering me to the hospital to feeding me pizza, cheering me up or picking me up off the gym floor a couple of times. Believe me, I'm grateful. But now you either see me as a partner again - watch my back by all means - or let's call it a day now."
Bodie stared at him, at Ross, and back at him.
"Raymond, my boy. You are most definitely back to normal. Message understood. But I'd be most grateful if you'd try and remain in one piece in future, because there aren't many people I'd go through these bloody tests again for. And speaking of feeding you pizza, I think that - and a bottle of Chianti - is just what we need to keep body and soul together before taking on the world tomorrow. You still need a little more speed on the running track."
"More speed? Me?" Doyle retorted. "I'm not the one who needs more speed. And you, sunshine, might like to work on getting those reactions of yours halfway decent again after botching up most of the jobs you've been on lately. And pizza? You have to be kidding. What you need is somebody to explain how to eat properly to keep in shape."
"You never heard about condemned men and last meals?" Bodie said suavely. "I think I'll have some Tirami-Su with it."
"Do, Bodie. Please do. And then let's see how fast you run those first five miles tomorrow morning." *
Settling down in the chair beside the bed, Bodie watched grey clouds roil on the horizon, promising more snow, and let his own thoughts wander about Doyle.
It had been so many years, now, since the initial distrust had matured into an excellent partnership and a friendship neither of them had dreamed of all those years ago, when they had been paired. He hadn't expected it to become such a solid relationship, and even less that he'd come to care so much about the temperamental little sod.
The Jensen case had taught him a thing or too, and those that followed had only deepened that need to look after Doyle. It wasn't just watching his back any more, but something that surprised him by its intensity. Something in the slim frame and the expressive face brought out a protective streak he'd hardly known he had, and although Doyle was by no means a weakling, he needed this man's conscience and his crusades and his remarkable skills to complete his own seemingly closed, insensitive yet impetuous nature.
What a pair they'd been sometimes. Disobeying orders, obeying them sometimes without knowing why, but always joined at the hip as some of the squad had joked at the time. He couldn't imagine all those years without Doyle. Couldn't imagine life without him now, either.
So many years and so many memories, Bodie reflected, watching the sleeping figure and wondering what had driven them, and even what had kept them alive. Doyle, he supposed, only needed a cause and he was ready to put his life on the line for it. He, Bodie, was a little more apt to see the whole thing as one more adventure and revel in the action without thinking too much about the whys and wherefores.
Damn, this was getting to be too philosophical by half. Ross would have a field day with thoughts like these, he grinned faintly to himself. Not that she ever let much of herself slip, of course. What must it be like to mess around with people's feelings? To probe and analyse people who did a job like theirs? Doyle already thought too much for his own good, but she'd made it into art form.
She'd certainly done her best to delve into what made him tick once or twice in the past, and particularly over those bikers. He'd endured that - albeit with bad grace - simply because he wanted to get back to work. To get back out there with Doyle. Then she'd stuck her nose into their relationship after the shooting, on Cowley's orders admittedly, but his overriding urge had been to throw her out Doyle's flat rather than stay and explain. The only reason he hadn't was because logic had overcome the sheer fury.
Now, however, he was stuck here with her out in the middle of nowhere. She'd done a good job of looking after Doyle, he supposed, just as she had the first time he'd set eyes on her. Like she'd done after the shooting too, apparently. Doyle hadn't said much about their sessions but ever since them he'd certainly stopped baiting her as he'd once done.
Then, over the years that followed, the she and Doyle had seemed to strike up a fairly easy relationship. Ross had a fair amount of contact with both he and Bodie both in the course of their work, although at last there were no more annual torture sessions at the psychological assessments. Where Doyle seemed happy enough to discuss the squad and its problems with her, however, Bodie had shied away from her at every possible opportunity.
When Doyle had suddenly announced he'd invited her to this damned dinner, he'd been furious. Sure, Doyle was between girlfriends - both of them often were - but of all the company to choose he'd never imagined Ross rolling up, looking glamorous if he were honest with himself, on Doyle's arm.
It was strange, he decided. He'd felt like a spare part when they'd started dancing, and the sound of the bleeper on Doyle's belt had given him an irresistible urge to laugh out loud.
A tendril of realisation suddenly crept its way into his mind. For Christ's sake, he'd been jealous. Jealous of somebody else Doyle could talk to about the job, to share its triumphs and its failures and its complexities. No women they'd ever met in the past could do that, but this one could. Damn. She was intruding into an area where they'd often joked about being the two of them against the world, and three were definitely a crowd in Bodie's opinion.
Dusk was falling, and Bodie was still wrapped up in thoughts when he suddenly started, seeing a pair of green eyes gradually opening as Doyle stirred.
"Where the hell are we?"
Grinning, Bodie reached for water and held it out before replying.
"You ever read that story called "Snowed-in hut" when you were a kid?
Doyle looked at him foggily.
"Don't worry. We're at a friend of Kate's. Warm, cosy, and you look like you're ready to join the land of the living again. How do you feel?"
"Like I've been steamrollered."
"Yeah. Not surprising, sunshine. I'll get Kate in to have a look at you, but you do look a bit better."
"How long have I been here? Did you call Murph? And have you moved the car?" The high fever certainly wasn't clouding his senses now, Bodie was pleased to note. Definitely Doyle in usual twenty questions mode.
"We got here about nine this morning. It's after five now. Yes, I called Murph and you're to call him back tomorrow if you're up to it. I'll call later tonight and tell him you're improving, as well. As for the car, it's well hidden behind some logs - not even visible from the air unless somebody's got their hands on a NASA.satellite. But I'll sort that out tomorrow, too. Anything else?"
"Okay. Thanks..." Doyle sighed. "Where's Kate?"
"With Chappelet. Nice old guy. She was with you for a while, earlier. Then we swapped."
Doyle nodded. "You two managing to keep off each other's throats?"
"So far, so good. She patched you up, anyway. And didn't panic." Bodie admitted.
"Not her style to panic."
"She has a style?" Bodie queried. "I though she functioned on memory circuits and liquid nitrogen running through her veins."
Doyle grinned. "Oh, I can assure you there's more to Kate than meets the eye."
"Yeah? And what would you know about that?"
Doyle seemed lost for an answer, momentarily, looking over Bodie's shoulder. Kate Ross was standing at the door, and how much of the conversation she'd heard Bodie had no idea as he glanced around and saw her.
"He's doing better," Bodie said, stating the obvious for want of something better to say after his clumsiness, and she smiled.
"So I see." She was smiling again. Bodie could hardly believe his eyes, having expected at the very least her usual icy disdain if not a full-frontal onslaught after his comments. It looked as though the truce was holding even if she'd been listening longer than he realised.
"Plenty of rest, old son," he said, the relief still keeping his own mood buoyant. "Murphy's going to want you on the other end of the phone before much longer."
"Spoilsport" Doyle gave an exaggerated sigh. "An' me who was thinking this was gonna be a ski holiday."
Walking back along the snowy lanes to the farmhouse the following day was even quite pleasurable, once he'd made the effort, Bodie decided. He'd stashed the Jeep in a multi-storey car park in the nearest town for CI5 to sort out at some later moment, and even bought himself a coffee and some croissants before setting back.
Maybe it was all those years in the army, but physical effort was something he ostensibly hated but secretly loved, once he'd got started. He'd hopped on a bright yellow post bus with a certain childish glee, backtracked a little, then started to walk, referring to the map now and then. There was definitely nobody following him, and the snow-streaked fields were strangely beautiful. Quite the picture postcard.
All the time he'd been in Africa, he'd longed for a good fall of snow, a windy autumn day or that unmistakable first feel of spring, and had realised with astonishment after a while that he actually missed the seasons. Yet every time he got caught outside in Britain's fickle excuse for weather - meaning wet, windy, changeable and generally abominable - he would wish himself into a deliciously tropical climate, with a couple of palm trees and a hammock thrown in.
It wouldn't be long until he was back at the farmhouse now, and he mentally envisaged a good cup of steaming hot chocolate. Or chocolate biscuits. Or even just chocolate. There were things to be said for Switzerland.
He pushed open the door to see Doyle on the telephone, who glanced up to see Bodie stamping snow from his borrowed boots.
"Hi, Bodie. 'S Murph."
Bodie nodded absently, sizing up the coffee machine, the worktop, and the absence of food thereon.
After a while, Doyle broke the connection and grinned at Bodie frowning at the coffee machine.
"Looks like a bloody cockpit, this thing. How's Murph?"
"Happy with the information on the diskette. Less so with all the excitement going on at Whitehall. And mad as hell about MI6 being called in."
"He happy you're back in the land of the living?" Bodie was peering into bread bins and cupboards with little success.
"Yeah. Even gave me until Thursday to lie back and enjoy it. Think you can survive that long in the company of your friend Kate?"
"I might even be polite to her if she makes me a cuppa on this thing, preferably with a little more substantial reward for all the hard work. I'm hungry. Walking does that to me."
"Most things do that to you. Apparently Chappelet's getting us lunch soon, but they both scarpered while I was on the phone. Bodie..."
"Mmm?" Bodie gave up the search and looked at Doyle, deciding he looked better, although still far from on top form.
"It's not over yet. Not quite, anyway. Word's out there's a contract out on me."
"Shit," Bodie breathed. Not that he hadn't seen it as a possibility, but it wasn't good news.
"Murph's sending a plane for us. Tight security. But I want Kate safely back home before they have a go at me."
"They know who's after you?"
"One of the lesser minions on the Colombian side who was picked up came out with it while they were asking him questions. They're trying to find out who's behind it. Maybe they will, or maybe it's just a rumour. But I'd prefer you didn't mention it to Kate."
"Sure," Bodie sighed, not liking this at all.
"We're okay here. Lines are secure and only Murph knows where we are. Until the plane's chartered, nobody will know anything at all, and even then he'll have an absolute minimum team in the know."
"Can't you lie low for a bit longer?" Bodie grimaced, and knew the answer as soon he'd said it.
"Hardly. I need to be back. Take a ski holiday another time."
Bodie nodded, finally discovered what looked like a tin holding something edible, and prodded a few buttons on the coffee machine at random.
"Yeah. Beats Columbia, skiing. Just need a couple of chalet girls to go with it. Preferably better-looking than Kate."
Doyle threw him a strange look, but Bodie was too occupied with the biscuits to notice.
Kate Ross hadn't heard Bodie come in and was idly exploring the shelves of books while letting her thoughts wander - and not on psychiatry, psychology or even her own latest research for once. That was the joy of Jean-Pierre's place - that and his company. It was an escape that was light years away from CI5.
She'd even been to the farmhouse with her parents, years ago when Chappelet was another rising figure in the field, just as her own father had been. He'd retired gracefully, still welcoming her to his home and was now the only link to what her family had been.
Angrily, she fought back those memories and turned closer to the present. She didn't like bringing CI5 here there for so many things. It was supposedly safe, as long as the telephone connections were as well protected as they were meant to be. All the same, this was her private world, but it had just seemed such a gift from the Gods on that snowbound motorway that she'd been unable to refuse. Bodie seemed to have relaxed his usual hostility just a shade, even though she'd walked in at the wrong moment the night before. In fact he'd even been at least civil ever since.
The previous day, she'd barely allowed herself to think about her feelings. As ever, she'd shut that part of herself away, forcing her mind onto another level. When Bodie had called her into Doyle's room later in the evening, and she'd seen the smile, the relief had virtually swamped her. Instinct wanted her to reach out and hold him close and let the tears go, but she couldn't afford that. Not in front of Bodie.
The next morning, Bodie was up and out soon after dawn, and Chappelet was keeping discreetly out of sight. She checked up on the peacefully sleeping figure, remembering the few times she'd woken beside him and felt the slender body close to her own, and left him to his much-needed sleep, happy to see the fever had dropped.
The second time she went in there, however, Doyle was stirring, and she ruffled his hair instinctively.
"Mmmm. Nice." Doyle was smiling. The smile that never failed to catch her breath. "More, please."
"Ray... how do you feel?"
"Better. Come and check." He patted the bed. "No doubles in this joint?"
She laughed. "Hardly." He caught her hand, and she found herself grasping the slim fingers, looking at him as a lover rather than a patient now.
"Bodie's gone to put the car out of sight," she said, watching his eyes.
"Yeah. So there's just you and me."
"And Jean-Pierre," she reminded him, but he kept on grinning.
"Strikes me he's too much of a gentleman to come barging in here."
"You could be right there..."
"So come here and give me a kiss."
It felt magnificent. His lips on hers had the same effect they always did, and she slid towards him, anxious to feel him close, to shut out the fear she'd tried to hard to disguise, and to forget everything else.
Doyle slid one arm around her waist, letting the other hand slowly move up under the bulky sweater as his tongue explored her mouth. Ross felt herself immediately aroused, reaching to him and caressing the supple body in turn. He pulled her towards the bed, and she was suddenly beside him, hands exploring urgently, now. Rapidly, he slid the sweater over her head, and she could feel her nipples harden as the line of fire crept down her stomach.
The telephone rang.
Gasping, Doyle tried to ignore it, but only Bodie and Murphy had the number. His eyes spoke volumes as he picked it up.
Ross pulled on the sweater, forced herself to smile, and disappeared.
Their lovemaking had always been good. That first night it had been a coupling born of urgency and sheer desire, but later, and on the few other nights they had spent together, it had been magnificent.
She'd looked upon all Doyle's joking with Bodie about girls and sex with disdain and disguised longing, and yet there was no doubt, now, that hers was a lover who combined expertise with gentle comprehension and sometimes a raging passion that left her breathless.
He'd come into her flat on the first night, smiling ruefully and apologising for their interrupted dance. She hadn't known how to act at first, but he'd taken her into his arms even as she'd closed the door, answering the unspoken question in her mind with the first hungry kiss. Reason said it was crazy, that it was simply lust, but her body was incapable of resisting.
Those hands - the slim hands that could hold a gun or knock a man down with ease - were exploring her breasts, pulling her mouth to his, and she could already feel his hardness against her thigh. She was sinking, unable to think of more than opening the still-immaculate shirt and feeling him, letting her own hands fumble with his belt even as he tumbled her to the couch, sliding off the loose sweats and groaning as she responded. Her breath caught as she revelled in his nakedness, and his first touch along her stomach and downwards as he gently parted her legs was turning her arousal into a burning, all-consuming need.
Caressing him made her mouth dry, and as his fingers explored her wetness she knew that this was not a time for waiting, for gentle exploration. She pulled him onto her, urging him on, welcoming that first penetration and gasping at the ease and the joy of him inside her. Feeling him move in her, feeling his own burning need of her was driving her wild. Raising her knees, she felt him try to hold back, but arched her body up to his, welcoming his thrusts with a hunger that brought him to the brink. He cried out as he poured into her, and she felt him tense, half-sobbing in release.
Spent, he had continued to hold her close, long fingers caressing her spine, murmuring thanks and planting kisses on her breasts. He'd known she was still desperately aroused, too, and one gentle hand returned to her wetness, forcing moans from her as the fire grew and she felt herself spasm against his touch to finally shudder against him, infinitely grateful and magnificently sated.
She'd wondered, after that night, if it was just a momentary surge of folly on both their parts, but it was not. Indeed, Doyle had taken her out to dinner only a few nights later, and this time the lovemaking was slower and softer, each taking their pleasure and enjoying the discovery of each other's bodies. Soon, they were snatching as many nights as they could, knowing the Colombia job was looming closer. From the unlikeliest of pairings, she felt sure something was growing there, based on far more than sex alone. Only the knowledge of the impending operation and his role in it clouded the horizon.
"We'll have to tell Bodie, you know," he murmured one morning, caressing her shoulder as she slid closer to him. "He already thinks I'm anti-social, suddenly."
"He won't like it," she'd said, honestly.
"He'll get used to it," he'd replied, not so sure it was the truth. "Trouble with you two, you're too alike."
Seeing the look of horror on her face, he'd grinned. "And no, I'm not kidding. Neither of you ever share your feelings. Both of you do a damn' good job, and both of you are loners. I don't need to tell you that, anyway. You're the one who knows us inside out."
"I'd never seen it like that," she admitted. "And comparing me to Bodie..." she chuckled, suddenly. "But I know how well you know him, Ray. I've often wondered what he's like when he's being human and not playing games to try and thwart the much-hated shrink."
"He's human. You might be surprised. He's shown me a few things about caring in his own way. Somehow it just worked between us and always has. Cowley wasn't such a bad psychologist himself sometimes."
"I'd noticed that," she murmured.
He'd pulled her closer, and she'd felt her arousal growing yet again at the touch of him."
"So when I get back from this job, it's time he knew. I'll get him round for dinner. Do things in style and watch his jaw drop."
"Sure. You can cook, though. He'd probably think I was going to poison him."
"You're on. Now look, Miss Ross the holy terror of CI5, you're going to be late for work if you're not careful. Ruin your reputation."
"I am running perfectly to time, I'll have you know."
"You soon won't be..." Doyle had slid his hand to a breast, and she'd gasped, deciding CI5 could wait for once.
All in all, Bodie decided, the few days spent in that strange bubble had been a rare treat. He'd enjoyed the log fires, the discovery that the Swiss knew how to make excellent wine - even if they kept it to themselves - and food that was light years away from rapidly-grabbed meals and the odd official banquet. The old boy certainly enjoyed his cooking, and there he was a man after Bodie's own heart. He'd even managed to file away the worries about their return to a large extent, concentrating on his old theory of taking every day as it came. And best of all, he'd noticed that Kate Ross was keeping well out of his way.
The last evening before their flight back had been particularly pleasant yet in a strange way nostalgic. The fondue became history, logs were brought and replaced, and the conversation slid from one subject to another. Bodie even regaled them with an anecdote or two from his colourful past. A past he'd almost buried away so deep that it hardly saw the light of day. Seeing his erstwhile partner contented, and distinctly more healthy was not the least of the reasons for the relaxed mood.
By the time Thursday morning came around, it was clear that Murphy had been getting things moving, judging from what was hitting the press and television. CI5's controller must have been working nearly round the clock to tie up the loose ends of the case, and with every conversation, matters seemed more and more in hand. No further rumours of revenge had come to light, making both men hope it had just been the words of a frightened man.
The small plane took off from Lausanne's small airstrip against a backdrop that did every justice to Swiss travel brochures. Doyle was then headed for a safe house with Bodie pending some more time spent debriefing with Murphy, while Kate Ross was to return to her duties after a "holiday."
"I don't need a whole bloody army of nannies." Doyle had muttered, hearing about the safe house and Murphy's intention to put a team in place there.
"Don't be daft." Bodie had said, seeing the scowl. "Besides, think of Kate. She's just put you together again. Don't go and waste all that hard work."
"You wanna be careful." Doyle grinned. "One day you two are going to start appreciating each other and you'll give me a relapse."
The team who picked them up at the airport consisted of Bodie's ex-trainees, and they were definitely on their best behaviour with three of CI5's top brass under their wing. The flight had gone smoothly, the transfer at the airport equally so, and Bodie started to relax. Spring was just around the corner, and life could indeed be much worse.
When the shots cracked out, their driver's foot hit the pedal, swerved, and accelerated fast. Tyres screamed behind them. More shots hit glass and bodywork. Bodie clung on to the dashboard, got a look over his shoulder.
"It's okay - the others are moving in on them. We'll get them. At least they missed." Their driver's voice was almost jubilant.
"They didn't." Doyle's voice from the back seat was the barest whisper.
"For Christ's sake, Bodie, will you stop pacing." There was more weariness than reproof in Doyle's voice, but it wasn't a question.
Bodie did as he was told, sinking to a hard plastic seat opposite the bowed head. Was it really over ten years since he'd sat in this same damned hospital, waiting for news of Doyle, knowing that his heart had already stopped on the operating table? It could well have even been the same corridor, although they all looked the same. He'd been on intimate terms with the lino floor then, too.
Deja vu, all this, he thought grimly, remembering the corridors, the endless flow of medical staff all looking purposeful, and above all the waiting for somebody to approach them with that short hesitation before imparting the news, whether good or bad.
Instinct nearly got him on his feet again, but good sense told him not to even try, nor push Doyle too hard to make conversation. Ever since the shots had rung out, Doyle had been strangely contained, acting like a machine and betraying nothing. Although he was aware that Doyle thought more about Kate Ross than he did, this insistence on staying at the hospital and his retreat into virtual silence was something of a surprise. Mind, she'd probably saved his life only a few days back, and they'd been remarkably matey ever since.
"Coffee?" Bodie suggested, eventually, shaking those thoughts away and hoping even a trip to the brown water machine would be an excuse not to sit still, and the head shook. Then, surprisingly, lifted.
"You don't have to stay here, you know."
"Very funny." Bodie studied him. "Come on, Ray..."
"Sorry." The head dropped again.
"Taken your pills?"
Doyle shot him a murderous glance. "If you think..."
"A few days back you were hovering around in never-never land with pneumonia, sunshine, if you care to remember. So take them, all right? You know what they say about antibiotics." Bodie added rather prissily, and then regretted it. Doyle really looked terrible.
Doyle ignored him, so Bodie stayed put, despite being torn between making a full-scale safari to the cafeteria or a shorter journey to the drinks machine. Absently, he picked up a stray newspaper and stared at it without reading much, noting that the Whitehall scandal was still front-page news. And despite Murphy's Herculean efforts to prevent it, it was evident that Doyle was still a target. What was more, the pick-up team had even managed to lose the marksman, and Bodie was furious about that. Would they ever learn anything? Couldn't they have prevented it?
"Get me a coffee then. To take the pills with." Doyle muttered, and Bodie shot to his feet.
"And for God's sake press the no-sugar button this time. Don't want your treacle version."
"A little sugar might help your energy levels." Bodie couldn't resist an attempt to stimulate a little dialogue.
"Just go." Doyle shot him a murderous glance.
The great British drinks dispenser, Bodie thought, feeding it coins and wishing for a cup of Chappelet's espresso with sugar and some of that excellent cream.
Finally, he handed over the plastic cup.
"No sugar. No cream."
"Thanks." Doyle took it, stared at it, and finally looked up at Bodie.
"I leaned forward, see. If I hadn't..."
So that was it. Doyle on one of his guilt trips.
"You couldn't know that. Blaming yourself isn't gonna help, Ray. She wanted to be there, and she wasn't bad." For Bodie that was quite an admission.
"You remember we used to be scared shitless of her?" Doyle said, suddenly.
"Even Cowley was." Bodie grinned. "I've seen him flinch a couple of times when she'd blind him with science about our mental capacities."
"Or lack of them," Doyle finished for him. "Considering you she's ripped you to shreds a couple of times, you survived."
"Yeah." Bodie grinned faintly. "She hurt my pride, though." And, he added to himself, she still scared him.
"Didn't do you any harm," Doyle retorted with a touch of the old fire. "You had plenty of that anyway. Maybe you deserved it after all your comments about ice-cold shrinks and what she needed from you to put that right. You were always rude to her, dammit. Right from the first time you saw her."
"Me?" Bodie looked puzzled. "Over the King Billy stuff?"
"No. In Cowley's office. You were already exchanging hostilities while you were taking me to hospital afterwards."
"Yeah. Well, she was asking for it."
Doyle didn't reply, obviously in another world yet again.
He remembered that scene, so many years ago. He'd felt his legs start to go soon after they'd reached Cowley's office, and he'd been both furious and curiously detached. Maybe it was the warmth of the room, or just that the pain was getting worse. He'd not really taken in the woman sitting opposite Cowley until she was getting to her feet, staring at him. Bizarre, he'd thought, distractedly, as the darkness had closed over him.
Bodie was staring at him too, as he opened his eyes and realised, after a few seconds, that he was on that moth-eaten old couch. For a split second he'd thought he was back on the floor with Jensen's buddies putting the boot in. He felt terrible, and the recollections of it all nearly sent him back into oblivion, especially as fingers were probing, gentle but thorough.
He'd barely noticed anything about Kate then, except to notice her evident lack of appreciation for Bodie - returned in kind - during the drive to hospital. All he'd wanted was to blot the whole thing out. To slip back into blackness and let the memories fade with the pain. What he did remember was Bodie there in that room, holding onto him as he'd cut the bonds loose. Then steadying him as he'd stumbled, sick to his stomach. Bodie had understood his need to hide the details too, and had offered comfort when he'd most needed it, without needing many words to do so. That case, he had realised over time, had strengthened their partnership more than almost anything else during those early years.
Bodie had become his strength and his rock. He had come to dread a return to the loneliness he'd known before the partnership, and a loneliness that was also partly the result of his own stubborn, fiery nature, he admitted to himself. Girls came and went, and with few exceptions they couldn't cope with his odd hours or his lack of commitment to anything but his job. Not that they'd have really understood what he did anyway, even if he'd been able to tell them about it. Girls added a little distraction and a fair amount of physical relief, and he didn't have time for much more. Bodie, though, was his partner, the other half of a whole, and for some reason their relationship worked on every level.
Then, years later, Kate had come into his life and was suddenly a part of it. She understood what he did better than almost anyone else - except perhaps Bodie. He'd been almost frightened of those brilliant analytical qualities, especially when it came to seeing straight through him. He'd shared Bodie's dislike of her to a large extent for years, not appreciating the cold, seemingly unfeeling attitude that exuded from every pore.
And yet, when he thought about it years later, he realised that he'd seen the glimmer of something more human there, starting from her visit to the hospital after that famous collapse in Cowley's office. She'd been pleasant, and he'd thanked her, and he was somehow touched she'd made the effort to come and see him. But that had been just about the only time he'd encountered her apart from the usual psychological tests, where her sheer detachment had led him to share in the verbal sparring with her that Bodie could never resist.
Then Bodie had got himself involved with the bikers, and he'd gradually realised just how much her dogged research had contributed to defusing that potential bomb. Then, after the shooting, he'd been surprised to find himself being more open with her than he'd ever dreamed possible, despite the interlude when she'd been sent by Cowley to investigate his relationship with Bodie.
Once he'd left fieldwork, they'd still come into contact, and the physical proximity of their offices had meant they ran into each other more than before. He liked talking to her, found her witty and as committed as he was to keeping the squad alive. And just like Bodie she'd betrayed little of herself at first, and yet he'd realised the caring was there, well hidden.
He'd found himself watching her, even finding pretexts to put his head round her office door, and finally found an opportunity to ask her to that famous dinner. And when he'd held her, it had come almost as a shock to realise he was responding to her physically, too.
Their time together had been short, but he'd spent more time thinking about her than he'd ever done about a woman since Ann Holly. He felt as comfortable with her as he did with Bodie, which was remarkable, and had started to see the similarities between his ex-partner and the "shrink" more and more, although he'd never put it into words until those days at the farmhouse.
At first, when he was with her, he'd suddenly begin to look at those brown eyes and have the uncomfortable feeling she was looking too deeply into his soul and his motivations within their relationship, and even admitted it. She'd looked sad, suddenly, and explained that her very profession was the worst enemy of many a love affair. And that the barriers she'd built were difficult to break down. Somehow, he'd done that, just as he had done with Bodie over the years.
Telling Bodie about the relationship wasn't going to be easy, he knew, since the two were constantly fighting for supremacy every time they came into contact. But he'd been torn between hoping they would at some point accept each other and an inner conviction that they never would, and that frightened him. For so many years, nobody else had managed to get as close to him as Bodie, not even Ann if he was honest with himself. And he dreaded being forced to choose between them.
Doyle was suddenly aware Bodie was talking to him, and he stared at the blue eyes for a second, still lost in thoughts of a pair of hazel ones that could go soft with lust or sparkle with happiness.
"Sorry, Bodie. What did you say?"
"I said somebody's got to make sure you take your pills. You were miles away."
"Bodie. Something you should know."
Bodie frowned. "You feeling bad?"
"Yes. No. Yes..."
"Kate and I, Bodie. Was time to tell you but we didn't. Thought it was better to get back here, somehow. Get this mess over with."
Bodie stared, and Doyle sighed.
"Have to spell it out, do I? Kate and I were lovers. Have been since that bloody inter-forces dinner but it's been brewing for longer. More than just lovers, even..."
There was a silence.
"Bodie?" Doyle's voice was a whisper. "I know you didn't like her. But I... you... " He couldn't finish it, his voice breaking.
Roughly, almost, Bodie got an arm around the slim shoulders. Doyle realised he was shaking with reaction and fear, but he couldn't control it. The sheer safety of that contact was almost overwhelming. He didn't even move from its comfort when the surgeon came towards him.
"Mr. Doyle? She's out of surgery. One bullet chipped her collarbone and exited, and that's not too serious. The bullet in her right lung is a lot more worrying, however. The lung collapsed, and there was some considerable damage..."
"How bad?" Doyle asked softly.
"We've done all we can during the surgery. It's difficult to say yet, I'm afraid, and we won't know more until we see how she responds."
Doyle ran a shaky hand through his hair now, trying to get all the questions out at once.
"When? When will you know? Can I see her? What... Christ, I'm sorry..."
"She may remain in a coma for some time, or wake up within a few hours. It's very hard to say."
"But she will... wake up?" Doyle's voice was a bare whisper.
"We hope so. I wish I could say more than that. She's certainly not going to come round for several hours, so for the time being, I suggest you get some rest."
Doyle was staring fixedly at the wall, jaw set.
"Thanks." Bodie nodded at the surgeon. "Time for some shuteye, sunshine."
Doyle said little during the journey, letting his eyes close as the car sped towards the safe house. Bodie's eyes followed those of the two CI5 agents accompanying them, watching the road and in the mirrors and glancing over at the pale, strained face of his ex-partner, knowing full well he was not asleep.
Whatever he could say about Kate would sound false anyway, but the revelation was still making his senses reel. Why had he noticed nothing? Probably because they'd been so good at hiding it, but it at least explained those unexpected smiles from Ross a few weeks back, not to mention Doyle's retreat from their usual social life before he'd left for Colombia. And it certainly explained Doyle's reaction at the hospital. He was deep inside a private hell of guilt and grief, Bodie knew. If Kate Ross didn't make it, he wondered if Doyle would ever get out of it.
He sighed, wondering what in hell had possessed the stupid bugger to fall for the most unlikely person he could have imagined. Quite honestly, he detested the woman, and even the uneasy lull in hostilities in Switzerland would probably never change that. If she did recover, he'd have to live with the fact that the two were together, and that thought wasn't an easy one to handle either. Whatever happened, in fact, there were storms ahead. But he'd be there when Doyle needed him. Always was, wasn't he?
Reaching the safe house, he'd pointed at a bedroom, and Doyle had gone almost meekly. Less than half an hour later, however, Bodie grabbed his R/T as it beeped.
"Bodie? You have to get out of that house. Now. I repeat..."
"Murph, what the -"
"Just get Doyle out of there. They know where you are - go." The urgency in Murphy's voice was unmistakable.
Moving fast to wake Doyle, Bodie realised he hadn't been sleeping and was already on his feet.
"Shit." Bodie heard a car approaching and glanced at their support team from the window.
He swore and headed for the back entrance, Doyle at his heels.
"Hope those two keep 'em busy... move, Ray."
Doyle bolted from the door, head down, and Bodie hurled himself into the driving seat of the car as another squeal of tyres announced more trouble.
Bodie gunned the car forward, nearly meeting the car head on, and swerved, hard. The windscreen starred as he fought the wheel, feeling the skid and correcting it, vaguely aware of Doyle ducking yet still shooting repeatedly through the passenger window, despite the bullets that pounded the bodywork.
"Go..." Doyle screamed. "Get a bloody move on, Bodie..."
"Doing my best." Bodie muttered, foot down hard, watching the mirrors. One car was after them... then another. Where was the CI5 team?
"8.4 to Bodie," the radio came alive, "In pursuit...no casualties..."
"Get a fucking move on," Bodie yelled into his own radio, trying to get Doyle to stop leaning out of the window and offering himself as a target. "Doyle - get your head down, for Chrissake."
"Just drive, Bodie."
Bodie drove as only Bodie ever did, knowing that nothing could resist automatic weapons forever.
He managed to widen the gap a little, pushing the car hard, seeing the crazy ballet of two cars behind him jostling to aim, to fire. To kill.
Doyle was reloading his pistol with that fluid movement Bodie knew so well, face betraying sheer hatred. As they took one corner, he was knocked hard against the window frame and grunted. For an instant, Bodie was sure he'd taken a bullet, but no, he was still firing.
"Where the fuck ARE they..." Doyle spat out, ducking yet again and clinging hard to the dashboard as Bodie flung the car around another bend, only to aim and fire over and over once their pursuers came into view, cursing as nothing hit home and their pursuers snaked and wove behind them.
Now, the two cars were drawing closer, and Doyle could see the snout of a gun in the first one clearly. He had to get the driver... had to stop them somehow. Images of Kate flew across his mind as his instinctive aim commanded the trigger finger.
His bullet hit home fair and square, shattering the windscreen as it reached its target. Then the car was swerving wildly, lifting onto its side and rolling, metal screaming against tarmac, to land against a tree.
"Nice," Bodie muttered. "Now number two, sunshine..."
"Trying..." Doyle aimed the gun yet again.
"8.4" Bodie screamed into the still open radio. "Get the others off our backs. Leave that one ..."
The road was empty, blessedly, and Bodie coaxed his mind to remember the turnings. A junction - yes - not far ahead. He took the turn on two wheels, ignoring the tyres screaming protest and the acrid whiff of burning rubber, fighting the wheel. The second car skidded wildly, missing the turn, and as it did the CI5 team's car finally came into sight. Bodie saw no more, still pushing the car to its limits.
Minutes passed, and Bodie was heading towards the city fast, eyes constantly on the mirror, as the radio burst into life again.
"Take 'em in then. Get another team out for the other car. And no fuck-ups."
Rapidly, he snapped over to Murphy's frequency, glancing over at Doyle, deathly pale and breathing heavily.
"Bodie to Alpha."
"Bodie? Where are you? Damage?"
"Heading north. We're okay. Where now?"
"Proceed to Cowley's residence. Over."
"You heard me."
Doyle snatched the radio from him, suddenly.
"Murph... I'm worried about security for Kate..."
"Still in place, Ray. And don't even think about going back there now."
"For Christ's sake..."
"You heard me. Proceed to Cowley's house. He's expecting you. I'll meet you there and brief you on what happens next. Alpha out."
Doyle sank back against the seat.
"Cowley's house?" Bodie said, frowning. "Well, why not. It's not that far from here."
"Bodie," Doyle snapped, warning. "I'm not playing this game. I want..."
"I know what you want," Bodie cut him short. "And we both know what they want. Your head on a plate. So for once YOU shut up. Murph'll have something to go on now. You at the hospital only means trouble."
There was murder in Doyle's eyes, Bodie noticed.
"Ray," he spoke more softly. "There's a good team at the hospital. They'll do their job. The police are there too..."
Doyle didn't reply, closing his eyes.
Bodie kept the speed up, kept his eyes on the mirror and threw a glance over to the passenger seat from time to time.
Doyle coughed, and Bodie grimaced. Good sense told him not to comment, but he thought plenty.
The fifteen-minute drive to Cowley's place was spent in silence. He'd thought Doyle would put up more of a fight about the hospital, but then he looked lousy again. Kate had predicted he'd be tired and off colour for a couple of weeks, but she hadn't taken shock, worry and car chases into account.
Cowley was waiting for them, the garage door open. Bodie slotted it in, deciding he was doing a good line in hiding cars these days, and followed Cowley into the house. Doyle, he noted, was shivering - the bloodstained parka was still at the safe house.
"Ye'll need a drink," Cowley said softly, looking at the two of them shrewdly. "I heard you'd been busy back there."
Doyle shook his head, still mute.
Bodie frowned. "Need something to warm you up, sunshine."
Cowley was observing Doyle, huddled into an armchair, the reaction from the chase kicking in hard now. "I'll get Mrs. Russell to get you a sweater or a blanket, Doyle. You look like death, man. In fact ye'd be better in bed."
"I'm all right," Doyle snapped, breaking his silence. "Just tell me what all this is about, coming here."
Cowley reached into the bar, obviously still sizing them both up and ignoring Doyle's brusque tone.
"What made Murphy call you?" Bodie asked, accepting the glass gratefully.
"I've been making a few discreet enquiries into this business among my old contacts. Murphy seemed to think I still have a few remaining uses," Cowley permitted himself a small smile. "I was able to provide him with a few leads on who knows who within the cabinet. And until now nobody - and I mean nobody - except Murphy knew I was aware of this operation. I proposed bringing Doyle here today right from the start, but Murphy wanted that to be a last resort."
"So this is the last resort?" Bodie raised his eyebrows.
"For the time being. Because they've found your leak. Your Mr. O'Hara's been busy hacking into the safehouse files," Cowley informed them grimly.
"O'Hara... " Doyle ground out, remembering the short, sandy-haired computer expert. "Bastard..."
"He was checking the lists when he had no reason to do so. Fortunately Faircroft knew you were using one and tumbled to what was going on when the files were accessed, otherwise Murphy couldn't have warned you in time. They're working on him now."
"We need to know who he's working for and fast, " Bodie murmured, and Cowley nodded.
"Murphy will be here shortly with all the files on the Colombian case, plus O'Hara's dossier. We'll see if we can piece something together, added to anything they get from O'Hara and the gunmen."
Cowley was still studying Doyle, coughing as he sipped the whisky.
"Doyle, you need medication?"
"I'm all right. Got some pills."
"Which you probably left in the safehouse," Bodie remarked astutely. "So stop being a bloody hero."
"Oh for crying out loud, Bodie... we've got more to think about than pills."
"We also need you on your feet." Bodie rebuked, not unkindly.
Murphy arrived only a few minutes later, and Bodie found himself taking in the immaculate suit, the equally elegant raincoat, and the amazingly expensive, hand-made shoes. Quite the dandy, our Murph, Bodie thought to himself. Where Cowley had favoured sensible, discreet tailoring, CI5's new chief much preferred Italian designer suits and rather avant-garde ties.
"You heard about O'Hara?"
"We did," Bodie said, lips in a thin line. "For Christ's sake, Murph - you never suspected him before?"
"No," Murphy sighed. "We couldn't be certain that anyone was feeding information from within CI5, nor that the threats were serious."
"So you used us as bait." Doyle snapped.
"If you want to look at it like that," Murphy returned the cold stare. "As it happened, that was how it turned out. We hadn't been able to pinpoint the leak we'd suspected inside. O'Hara didn't know you were in Colombia, as far as we know. Very few people did. But somebody told him. He probably got details of your flights out of Switzerland from the somewhere, too, but they're still trying to trace that." He paused, regret in his voice suddenly. "Obviously, I was hoping to get you back safely and get Kate out of the way before trying to provoke something "
"Tell that to Kate," Doyle said, bitterly.
"I'm sorry about Kate," Murphy said, sincerely. "I spoke to the hospital on my way here. No change."
Doyle nodded, eyes on the whisky glass.
"But to return to O'Hara, we're working on him, to see what pressure was on him to be so anxious to provide people with information."
"Blackmail?" Bodie asked.
"Possibly." Murphy grimaced. "We can try and work backwards from him, and our ace right now is nobody knows we've got wind of their little game yet. That might come in extremely useful. I intend to make good use of our beloved Mr. O'Hara."
"Anything from the gunmen?" Doyle asked.
"Hired help. We're trying to trace that back, too. Three of them are talking and the one in the first car is dead. Shot through the head."
Bodie glanced over at Doyle, admiring his ex-partner's aim once more.
"For now, though, I suggest you get some rest and enjoy George's hospitality." Murphy was already rising to go and Bodie followed him to the door.
Doyle realised his head was spinning. To add to it all the shivering was back with a vengeance and he didn't even have the energy to complain much when a doctor - obviously summoned by Cowley - arrived.
He endured thermometers and blood pressure apparatus with resignation. The injection hurt, but he tolerated that, too, and swallowed the pills obediently. Anything to keep going.
It was as Cowley was showing the doctor out that he realised the light-headedness was turning into a drowsiness he couldn't seem to fight.
"Bodie," his own voice was hoarse. "Bodie!" He yelled at his partner's retreating back in sudden, futile fury. "You bastard... what the hell did he give me?"
Bodie didn't reply immediately, and had the grace to look a little embarrassed.
"He doped me, you bloody..." Trying to get up, his legs wouldn't co-operate and Bodie was suddenly there.
"It's for the best, Ray. You're not in good shape. Need your sleep, sunshine." Bodie's arm was round him, getting him back against the cushions.
"Chrissake, Bodie, I can't...you..." the words were slurring now.
"Orders from the boss. C'mon, don't fight it, Ray."
From a long, long way away, he heard Bodie's voice, and the anger in it.
"I damn well hope Murphy was right about this ... he's not gonna like it."
He slid back, losing the fight and letting loose all the tumbling thoughts and emotions he'd been fighting for hours as he his eyes closed.
They were spinning on the dance floor, and her arms were around him. Her voice seemed to echo, but he was holding her, feeling her body under the green silk, then the silk was an old sweatshirt and she still looked gorgeous. She was kissing him, and he was laughing. Then she wasn't wearing anything at all, and he was reaching for her, pulling her to him and she was pliant, urgent, wanting him. Oh, and he wanted her, wanted her badly... wanted to possess her, and her hands were arousing him, urging him on. It was so right, so good. Oh yes... so very, very good. He was part of her, and he felt her move with him, welcome him. The slim body was under him now, and their hands were touching, caressing, exploring. Their lips were gentle at first and then greedy, echoing the mounting desire. She wanted him, and he was inside her now, her need matching his with every movement. She was so soft, sheathing him and smiling at him and matching his thrusts, moaning then crying out.
Kate... he wanted it to go on forever, this total communion, but her voice was echoing more and more, trailing away and suddenly he was alone. Alone again, like always, and there was blood on the snow-white duvet crumpled on the bed.
Suddenly, there was something urgent he had to do, but she was talking to him from behind a door, telling him about grief and guilt. The silk dress was in a crumpled heap on the floor and as he reached for it something hit him, threw him down.
The floor was hard against his face and he hurt. Hurt all over. Why was he tied up? Who was behind him? It was Jensen, and he was laughing. And he was holding the silk dress now, laughing, and slowly bending over him. Doyle screamed as a hand touched him. Screamed for Bodie, but he didn't come.
Nobody came, and the voice talking about guilt and grief was chanting, now. It went on and on, louder and louder, and suddenly he could get up and fling open the door to see not Kate, but O'Hara writing something.
He had to get away - get out of that cellar, but not without the dress.
The dress had gone, but there was the duvet with the blood on it, neatly spread out on the filthy floor. He ran outside and it was raining. Warm, torrential rain splashing into muddy rivulets. His side hurt, but he had to drive the jeep and get back to Bogota, and fast. It would be snowing there, and Kate would be waiting for him.
But where he had expected snow, it was foggy and it was London, and he couldn't find her office.
His side hurt still, and his chest, and it hurt to cough. He threw all the doors open along the corridor to see O'Hara there again, still writing and smiling, handing a piece of paper to somebody. The he was running along corridors, which led to a plane. He had to get onto that somehow, to get back to Kate.
For a while, she was there again, holding him in her arms, giving him warmth and holding his hand. She'd taken his loneliness away, and she was taking him to the clean, white duvet and they were making love again. She wanted him and made him laugh and made him feel whole. She was alight with desire as she straddled him, tasting him and teasing him before taking control, taking him into her. It was slow and sensual at first, and he caressed the erect nipples, tasted them, feeling her movements gain in urgency. God, he was so deep inside her, and that steady, controlled rising and falling was driving him wild... and her muscles were clutching at him, starting to spasm and he was falling, falling... and her voice was an echo again.
The jeep was fighting through the mud and the rain, but it was supposed to be snowing and suddenly he was in the driving seat again, shivering, wishing that Bodie was at the wheel, knowing he had to hurry. She needed him.
Grief and guilt, a voice chanted again and he whirled round to see Bodie smiling as bullets ripped into his back, and the two kids running, holding Kate's dress and laughing at him.
Then he was alone again. Bodie had gone and he couldn't find Kate. There was only the Chinese girl standing over him, but he shouted for her to leave, and the door opened as Kate walked in, shaking her head but slowly pulling the old sweatshirt off and kneeling beside him, frowning.
He reached for her, wanting to feel that body again. For a few seconds, she was lying beside him, hands running down his chest and pulling him close, smiling into his eyes, but then it was only a stone floor and Jensen was laughing, holding out a ragged piece of silk and laughing.
Where was Bodie? He should have been there. Bodie should come and save him, and he hurt... and he cried out in fear and desperation, which quickly turned to racking sobs he couldn't hold back.
Then Bodie was holding onto him and telling him it'd be all right, and suddenly it didn't hurt so much. Strong arms were around him, and the rough wool of his sweater was tickling, but it was good. The tears were being wiped away with something soft and white and blankets were being tucked around him. Bodie? Yes, he was still there and he was saying he'd always be there, and then it was warm and he was so drowsy...
Bodie heard Doyle stirring, and was immediately awake from his own half-sleep, folded awkwardly into an armchair, neck stiff and back protesting.
The green eyes were hazy for a moment, and Bodie watched him slowly emerge from the drug-induced sleep and could almost see the thoughts and memories assail him.
"Had a good kip?" Bodie said, gently, waiting for the onslaught, which didn't fail to come.
"You bastard. That was the filthiest trick -"
"I know. But you needed it.
Doyle sighed, clearly still trying to shake off the vestiges of the dreams.
"Thanks a bundle," Doyle snapped, then was suddenly awake. "News? From the hospital? What time is it?"
Bodie shook his head. "Not yet. And it's just gone 6."
"You had no bloody right, Bodie..." Doyle was pulling off the blankets angrily, stopping dead suddenly. His hand came into contact with Bodie's once-pristine handkerchief and his eyes snapped up again, focusing on the rough woollen sweater.
He handed the handkerchief over, meeting Bodie's eyes for a brief moment, a strange mixture of understanding and wariness on his face.
"Those dreams sounded like hell. C'mon, Ray. I suggest we go and stoke up the machinery." Bodie consciously changed the subject.
Doyle played with a piece of toast and made inroads into the coffee as Bodie took full advantage of Mrs. Russell's talents with a full English breakfast, baulking only at the porridge. Cowley was welcome to that.
Murphy strode in a little later, and was hauling out the files and a tape recorder even before he took his coat off. Doyle abandoned the toast and glared.
"Did you really have to resort to knocking me out last night, Murph?"
"I'm sorry, Ray. But it had to be done. By all accounts you were seriously ill over there, and another sleepless night wouldn't help."
Doyle, for once, kept his temper in check and pulled the tape recorder over.
"Our Mr. Hara and his blackmailer - you were right, Bodie. Fortunately, he finally gave us all we needed to know last night."
"What did they have on him?" Bodie was frowning. "And how much damage has he done us?"
"From what I understand, not a lot until now," Murphy rubbed a hand over his eyes, suddenly, betraying a long night. "But he's got rather unusual tastes. He was picked up once on a raid at a gay night club and somehow that information reached all the wrong places - and didn't come our way. Meaning that he was extremely useful to somebody for getting information out of CI5."
"Likes the boys, does he?"
"Boys yes, Bodie" Murphy said curtly. "But he likes the accessories... dressing up, playing all sorts of little games. Including those with young boys... gay he could get away with, but some of the rest of it he couldn't.... you all right, Ray?"
"Yeah," Doyle was frowning, remembering that vision of O'Hara writing. "Christ - it went through my mind he was after that young guy doing the programming, but it didn't really register. Though it was his business. That was months back. I remember him scribbling a note to the kid and passing it over like a naughty kid in class..."
The dream closed in on Doyle again for a moment, nausea rising as he realised just how close to the truth his subconscious had been. He'd seen O'Hara writing during that nightmare, but hadn't remembered the rest of the scene. Would it have helped it he had? For one, logic overcame the guilt, and he forced his mind back to the present.
"Listen," Murphy pressed the button, and Doyle bent over, forcing away the vestiges of the images assailing him.
The first part of the tape was O'Hara's sobbed confession - Doyle didn't bother asking how Murphy had got it. After a short while, however, Murphy advanced it, nodding to himself.
"Now we come to the interesting bit, where he plays our game. He's calling his blackmailer to arrange a meeting, claiming he's got some information to give him about where you are in exchange for all the material incriminating him. His contact - Prentiss - may not be behind the attack on you, Ray, but it's one step nearer."
"What's the link between Prentiss and O'Hara?" Bodie asked, and Murphy sighed.
"Question of little favours on the part of a few people, I believe. Somebody must have given that information to Prentiss when he was with MI6, before he left for the Ministry where he works now."
"You think the guy will play the game?" Doyle interrupted. "He'd probably prefer to have O'Hara killed once he's got the information."
"Possible," Murphy said. "But Prentiss agreed to the meeting, and we're putting on some protection for O'Hara."
Bodie and Doyle listened once more, and after the first few words, Doyle let out a grunt of surprise.
"Play it again, Murph."
"Shut up, Bodie," Doyle wasn't interested in either Humphrey Bogart, Casablanca or Bodie's weak attempt at humour. The few seconds it took to rewind were enough for his mind to be back outside a factory in Colombia. And when the voice came over the tape again, he was sure.
"Prentiss works for the ministry - field expert on transport a logistics, these days," Murphy was saying, thoughtfully. "He's been out of the country for a while, according to our information..."
"And I know where he's been" Doyle snapped, interrupting him. "He was in Colombia. I heard his voice..."
"Officially, he was in the US," Murphy frowned
"Are you sure, Ray?" Bodie asked, seeing Doyle's face tightening.
"Of course I'm fucking sure," Doyle spat out. "I heard him on an intercom at that factory, and then after the bomb went up, celebrating with his buddies."
"Figures," Murphy agreed. "The heavies who shot at you both times were Colombians. The ones who rolled up at the safe house were the same team as those who were waiting for you when you landed. They're talking their heads off now, but they didn't know who was paying - and believe me they would have been singing if they did know. Our team didn't exactly go easily on them. The instructions came from a "Mr. Smith" who was using some sort of voice scrambler, and the down payment was placed in a left-luggage locker. All nice and anonymous."
"And Prentiss wanted me out of the way. Strange thing is I could probably never have identified him unless I heard his voice. No obvious connection with the others involved in the drugs ring, either."
"Yeah," Bodie sighed. "But one day you might have rubbed shoulders with him and put two and two together when you heard him speak. Not to mention the fact you've seriously compromised whatever it was he was up to over there anyway."
"We're working on that," Murphy added. "Looks like he might have had his own little operation going - skimming off his own percentage from the deals with the others. In any case, we'll soon find out. O'Hara's due to meet him at ten. We're getting people in place."
"I'm going with them," Doyle said.
"Like hell you are," Bodie snapped, and Murphy was shaking his head.
"Murph, I want to look at the bastard in the eye when they bring him in. This was my operation as well as yours, remember."
Murphy looked at Bodie and then back to a pair of coldly determined eyes.
"Fine. But you keep out of the way."
Bodie wished he believed him. There was something on Doyle's face he couldn't fathom. Resignation? Worry? Or maybe just plain exhaustion. There was still been no news from the hospital.
Kate Ross wondered if she was dreaming. She was aware of sounds. Regular, softly bleeping sounds. There was a tube feeding oxygen into her nostrils. She'd always hated the look of those, and first-hand experience proved she'd been absolutely right.
A hospital. Yes, definitely. What on earth was she doing there? She moved, just slightly, but that brought with it a wash of violent pain in her chest.
Then she remembered the shots and started to understand.
Her eyes shot open suddenly, looking around her. Was she the only one who'd been shot? What about Doyle?
There was somebody not far away, in white, so she'd have to ask him if she could. Stirring again, fighting down the spears of agony, she tried to attract him with her eyes.
"Miss Ross? How are you feeling?"
Trying to get sounds out hurt, and her first attempts didn't get her very far. Eventually she managed to pronounce Doyle's name.
"Mr. Doyle? He was in earlier, but had to leave. He'll be back later, I'm sure."
"No. But he's been extremely worried about you. We'll tell him you're awake."
She closed her eyes with relief, furious that so few words required so much effort.
Another thought crossed her mind suddenly, but she very nearly squashed that one. Somehow, though, it seemed worth knowing if Bodie was all right. For Doyle's sake, at least. But then why the hell should she care?
The momentary indecision occupied all her energy for a moment or two, and then she decided to ask anyway. Doyle needed Bodie - always had and always would.
She got the name out - another painful syllable.
"That's Mr. Doyle's friend? Yes, he's fine. You were the only one injured, but you need your rest now."
She did indeed. The struggle was almost beyond her, and she wasn't stupid enough to imagine this was something minor - there were too many machines for that.
Doctors always made the worst patients, she reminded herself, because you couldn't pull the wool over their eyes. Platitudes about rest were one thing, but this gnawing, burning, screaming agony wasn't going to go away.
She was so very, very tired. It would be good to see Doyle, but she had no illusions there, either. If they'd shot her, they'd been after him as well, and he was probably holed up in a safe house somewhere with Bodie, out of harm's way. Good idea, she admitted, appreciating her own logic.
Oh, to see those green eyes as they'd been the last evening in Switzerland. Narrowed with sheer, raw desire as he'd crept into her room. Then soft and fulfilled later, with those laughter lines crinkling as he described Bodie snoring happily away next door as they lay together, savouring each other's bodies and revelling in the sheer thrill of a clandestine visit.
To hell with the fact that Bodie was next door, she'd told him. He'd find out about the two of them sooner or later, then the fun would really begin. Doyle had grinned, although his eyes had been thoughtful, suddenly.
Bodie was always hovering around him, and she'd fondly thought he'd have to change a few of his habits there. For once, however, she'd got it wrong. Doyle was going to need him more than ever.
Suddenly, the pain was worse, and it even blotted out those precious images for a moment or two. Where was she? Yes, thinking of Bodie - of all people. Bodie who watched over Doyle and cared about him. Bodie who would know how to put the pieces together again after all this, because she knew, with perfect clarity and a growing calm, that she wouldn't see him again. Was it normal to see death approaching with such detachment? She didn't really care.
At least her sensitive, stubborn lover wouldn't be as alone as she'd been all those years. He had Bodie. And she had...
She'd put up a fight, the doctor supposed. But lost it.
Doyle was as good as his word as the team swung smoothly into place, staying in the car and letting Murphy direct operations.
They brought O'Hara in good time, and released him among the few strollers out near to Richmond bridge. Bodie saw Doyle's eyes follow him, Forcing himself to look away from his ex-partner and watch the scene, Bodie took in the young couple sitting on a bench, arm in arm, knowing both of had guns only a microsecond away. Then there was the tramp, fishing around in a variety of bags and sacks, his shoulder holster well hidden under the filthy jacket. The fisherman, he grinned, was one of his latest recruits and was taking it very seriously, fiddling with rods and bait. The gun, he knew, was right there in the basket. Another two rifle experts were on roofs nearby, and another CI5 team was parked over by the football pitch. Murphy was leaving nothing to chance.
Murphy's telephone shrilled as he and Bodie leaned on the car, watching. It would soon be time to get out of the way and let the teams do their work. It was still something Bodie found hard - to stay back and keep out of it - but he'd do it, if only to keep Doyle out of trouble.
The conversation was brief, but something in the twist of Murphy's lips registered on Bodie.
"No," Murphy replied quickly, but Bodie knew different.
Doyle was sitting in the car, staring out towards the river, waiting for O'Hara to appear. They'd found a photograph of Prentiss, and all the team had committed it to memory, waiting for a lean, prematurely grey newcomer to arrive from the Twickenham end of the bridge. Bodie glanced through the closed window at him, seeing the fierce concentration, then back to Murphy.
"Kate?" he said, barely audibly.
"Yeah," Murphy couldn't keep eye contact any longer. Bodie had told both he and Cowley where things stood the previous evening.
"Christ." Bodie muttered. "Can't tell him now, Murph - I think our friend is on his way. And I can see O'Hara..."
Indeed, the two men were slowly moving towards each other, and as Murphy turned up the microphone linked to the bug in O'Hara's clothing, Bodie slid behind the wheel and parked the large Rover further away. The smaller man's harsh, nervous breathing echoed Bodie's own sudden reaction. Right now, however, he had to push this away to deal with later.
Slowly, the two men approached the bridge from opposite sides. Alone on it, they stood out in sharp contrast to the pastel colours of the elderly bridge. The fisherman was on his feet, eyes on his rod and line but with the bridge in his field of vision, too. The tramp ambled his way closer.
"Not too difficult for him to try and do away with O'Hara here," Bodie muttered, scanning the surroundings yet again and hearing Murphy check with the two on the rooftops. "But I'm sure the bastard's got backup somewhere..."
O'Hara's voice sounded strained, but he remembered his lines, asking for photographs and negatives before giving away Doyle's location. Prentiss simply laughed.
"Forget that, O'Hara. You tell me where Doyle is now, or I'll have you shot through the head as you stand here."
Bodie shot Murphy a look, knowing the others would have heard that too. He saw the couple of lovers, the tramp and the fisherman all discreetly look around.
"Don't do that... please... I'll tell you... but please..."
The young couple rose, and Bodie heard the message. "Think we've located them. Over on the edge of the football field. Guy with a holdall. Onto it."
Nicely done, Bodie admitted. The girl started to run, laughing and joking at her boyfriend, and he followed her, heading precisely towards where they'd seen the supposed gunman.
But then O'Hara cracked.
"They told me you wouldn't harm me... they promised..."
Prentiss knew he was trapped, and whirled, gun out. Simultaneously, shots cracked out and O'Hara fell. The CI5 couple moved, fast, as their prey turned and ran, but the fisherman stumbled and slid against the steps to the bridge. Shit, Bodie breathed to himself. Prentiss had two of them covering him and they'd only spotted one.
The tramp was too far away from Prentiss, and he was forced to take cover against the sides of the bridge... and shots were still coming.
Bodie was barely aware of Doyle moving until it was too late to stop him, as he headed for the bridge himself, gun out, with Murphy behind him, diving into the relative cover of the bushes as the shooting continued.
Doyle was faster - moving with the speed and fluidity Bodie remembered so very well. And Prentiss saw him coming, pelting away from the bridge. Bodie was aware of a rifleman, suddenly, and whirled to fire, to cover his partner, as Doyle snapped off a shot, felling Prentiss as he ran.
Frantic to see Doyle exposed, not knowing if his shot had hit home, Bodie ran towards him, screaming at him to take cover, and yet Doyle just stood there looking at Prentiss. Why the fuck didn't he move? Did he have a death wish, like that daft sod Tommy... or... Christ, no. Not Doyle. He was just stunned. Or at least Bodie hoped so as he ran.
He had to get the stupid bastard out of the way, but he was too late. Doyle staggered, dropping to his knees as Bodie screamed in frustration and sheer terror, tackling him and throwing his own body over the slim form. Suddenly, there one more shot, then silence.
Murphy reached them only seconds later, as Bodie was rolling off Doyle, terrified at what he would see.
"Got the second one. All clear." Murphy said breathlessly, dropping to his knees. "Ray? Bodie - for Christ's sake..."
Doyle's eyes were open, strangely lifeless, although Bodie already had a hand on his pulse and the other pulling the shirt roughly away from his shoulder.
"Just a graze. What the bloody hell were you playing at?" Bodie knew damn well his voice was close to breaking, and didn't care.
Doyle didn't answer, watching the tramp drag Prentiss over. Slowly, he stood and faced the man who went with the voice. Bodie saw their backup people bending over O'Hara and the fisherman, but that wasn't his priority now.
Doyle's gun was pointed at Prentiss' heart, straight as a die, and he seemed oblivious to the blood colouring his sleeve.
It was Prentiss who spoke.
"You might as well finish me off. Surprised you didn't." The sneer didn't raise any reaction from Doyle, who didn't budge an inch.
"Maybe he should," Bodie said, softly. "Through the gut, preferably."
"You can't do that," Prentiss gasped, whirling to see Bodie's own gun pointing precisely there.
"Yes, I can," Doyle said, finally. "And I may well do it. You can still talk a great deal you're dying. Amazing what drugs can do to keep you going."
"You'll beg us to finish you," Bodie added, conversationally, watching one of the riflemen, sleeve bloodied, being hustled towards a waiting car. "You either give this gentlemen..." Bodie jerked a thumb towards Murphy, "all the names, details he needs and call 'em all off Doyle and anyone else in CI5, or I'll show you a few things I learned. Just as nasty as bombs in Colombia. Or drugs. Or snipers."
Bodie lowered the gun slightly then glanced over to Doyle, silent and grey-faced.
"How about one in the balls, first? What d'you think, Ray?"
Doyle shrugged, then looked at Bodie with something that looked like surprise.
Murphy turned on his heel, and Bodie watched him go, knowing that CI5's controller was putting a lot of trust in him. He remembered a day all those years ago when Cowley's gun had been held against his own temple. Then, he'd wondered if he'd have killed Billy if it hadn't been for the old man turning up.
This time, though, he wasn't going to kill, or even maim. But he was frightened Doyle would. Frightened above all for the man's sanity if he did.
"You wouldn't - not here - for Christ's sake, man - in front of the head of CI5..." Prentiss finally reacted.
"The head of CI5 doesn't like murderers and drug-runners any more than we do, " Bodie said. "We're the goodies, remember. If a stray bullet was to hit you, nobody would be particularly surprised - not even him. If we forget to take you to a hospital for a bit, nobody would know either. Besides," Bodie swept his arm around. "All the spectators have already run away, you see. No witnesses. And our friend the tramp here neither knows or cares, do you, Stevens?"
The youngster met Bodie's eyes, and to his utmost relief seemed to register the slight wink, nodding almost imperceptibly.
Sighing with impatience, Bodie slowly brought his gun and lined it up on Prentiss' crotch.
Prentiss gave a strangled sob, and threw himself to his knees.
"Anything. I'll call them off. Just don't let him..."
Doyle's lip curled and his finger started to tighten, but Bodie caught his stare over the cowering man's head, shaking his head in warning.
"Fine. But if you change your mind, you'll be singing castrato faster than you can imagine." Bodie nodded to Stevens and turned towards Doyle.
"C'mon, sunshine. Time to go home."
Doyle hesitated one second longer, then let the gun drop, suddenly seeming to sag. Bodie grabbed him, taking his weight.
"'s okay, Ray. He's ready to sing like a bird now. He really thought you were gonna shoot him."
"I was," Doyle whispered. "Thought I could. Bastard deserved it. Kate's dead, isn't she."
The flat voice felt like a fist in Bodie's guts.
"That phone call - you couldn't see the look on your face, Bodie. But I saw it. But of course the job had to come first, like it always does," Doyle's tone was bitter.
"Nothing we could do, Ray," Bodie didn't release his hold, realising shock was kicking in. Doyle was starting to shake and the patch of blood on his shoulder was widening by the minute. "So don't start blaming yourself. You got the drugs ring, now Prentiss. Be getting yourself an MBE if you go on like this. If you can stop standing in the way of bullets, at least."
"I really didn't care at that moment, Bodie. Almost wanted him to shoot me."
"Yeah, I noticed," Bodie said, softly. "Then you wanted to shoot him. But more deaths aren't going to help anybody. You're the one who told me that once or twice."
Doyle didn't reply.
Bodie started guiding him towards the car, feeling the strength drain out of the trembling figure, wondering how the hell he was going to cope with this. Suddenly, he paused.
"Listen, Ray. I'm gonna tell you this once, and once only. It's the lousiest bloody thing that could have happened, and you're going to hurt over it and badly. But you have to get over it, because you owe it to yourself, and to Kate. To Joe Public because like it or not, that's what we're good at."
Doyle stared at him, then looked away. Bodie knew he had to jerk him out of this, and fast. Or at least start.
"Kate cared about you, but so do I. Always will, remember?" Bodie struggled for words, but realised at least he had Doyle's attention now. "So let's forget all the strong, silent stuff. Let it go - grieve for her, and I'll be there. We've come a long way since we were two tearaways who bedded everything in sight, thought we were the bees' knees and thought we didn't need feelings. Or at least I used to think I didn't. Remember?"
"Yeah," Doyle said, just audibly.
"Must have learned something from that soft hearted partner of mine after all." Bodie added.
"You think?" Doyle said huskily. "I tell you, Bodie, I was going to shoot the bastard. And I knew damn well you wouldn't."
"You did?" Bodie said, thoughtfully, surprised Doyle had read him that well. "You could be right. But if you'd killed him, ray, in cold blood, you'd have felt even worse afterwards. Besides, you know as well as I do we needed the information from him first."
"Maybe," Doyle admitted, then got his head up. "Thanks, Bodie."
"For what. Stating facts? Stopping you doing something you'd regret?"
"That... and... the rest. For what you said about being there."
"Any time," Bodie half-grinned at him. "Any time at all, sunshine."
-- THE END --