Waiting to Fall

by


CHAPTER ONE

As yet another heavy door clanged shut behind him, Bodie barely managed to suppress a shiver. Down the bare corridor an unseen man could be heard shouting orders. Prison. Even the sound of the word was depressing. The uniformed warder opened the final door into a small room, bare except for one scrubbed table and two uncomfortable-looking chairs.

A door on the opposite side of the room opened and a prisoner escorted by two uniformed men entered.

"Prisoner for transfer, sir," shouted the larger of the two men. Bodie saw the eyes in the gaunt face widen.

"Transfer? Where to?"

"Shut up, Doyle. Speak when you're spoken to."

"This is the first I've--"

"I'm warning you, Doyle, belt up."

The door behind the prisoner opened again and a fourth warder appeared carrying a tatty holdall and brown paper carrier bag. Doyle snatched the bags from him.

"That's my stuff!"

"Check the contents, Doyle, then sign this." The officer who had accompanied Bodie put the official form down on the table. In silence Doyle diligently checked each bag and box, not hurrying and totally ignoring the irate glares and snorts from the four burly, uniformed men.

Bodie saw the quick glance that raked him from head to foot but did not say anything.

Satisfied that all his possessions were there, Doyle straightened up and turned to the man who had shouted at him, handing over a bar of slippery soap with a hard smile.

"This isn't mine. Wouldn't want to get done for thievin' Her Majesty's property, would I!" He turned back to the table. "Now, where do you want me to autograph?"

The form signed, Doyle picked up his bags and looked expectantly towards Bodie's escort.

"Right, sir." The warder moved towards the door, indicating that Bodie should precede him. "We've a few forms for you to sign at the office and he's all yours. Milton, bring Doyle." And the procession moved towards the other office.

Watching discreetly through the glass partition as he completed the paperwork, Bodie looked his new acquisition over. The washed-out, baggy prison issue clothing swamped the frail-looking figure, his size diminished even more by the sheer bulk of the guards that flanked him. Again he wondered what Cowley was up to. This was hardly normal procedure.

Prisoners' interviews were usually carried out within their place of abode; to be released into the custody of a lone CI5 agent without even an escort was, to Bodie's knowledge, unheard of.

What was so special about Raymond Doyle, he wondered.

"I can't say I'm going to miss the bugger," the warder confided as Bodie asked about his prisoner. "Sometimes I reckon it's a shame they stopped transporting 'em to Australia. Real bundle of trouble, he is."

"What's he in for?"

"Bent copper." The man pulled a face. "Nothin' I hate more than a bent copper."

Paperwork over, Bodie collected his prisoner and the procession continued in silence to the outer gate. Before opening the final lock in the door, the guard with the loud voice stopped Bodie.

"Shouldn't you cuff 'im?"

Doyle glared at the guard but remained silent. Bodie assessed the skinny man.

"Nah. Not going to do a runner, are you," he said brightly, confident of his own abilities if the smaller man should risk it.

The door opened and the two men stepped into the free world. Bodie started to move towards his car but then stopped. Doyle wasn't following.

"Come on, Doyle. The car's that way." He pointed to the solitary vehicle.

"Where are you taking me?"

"You'll find out when you get there."

"Who are you? This isn't normal procedure. I want to know where I'm being taken." Doyle stood his ground.

Annoyed by the stubbornness, Bodie grabbed hold of a surprisingly well-muscled arm and pulled.

"You're going where I'm taking you." He manhandled Doyle across the empty space, unlocked the car and pushed him into the passenger seat. Ingrained caution made him lock the door before walking around to his own seat.

The drive into town took nearly an hour and the journey was conducted in silence.

As they pulled into the CI5 car park Doyle peered up at the drab building. "What is this place?"

Bodie ignored him and got out to unlock Doyle's door. An hour ago the man hadn't wanted to get in the car, now he didn't want to get out.

"I'm not moving until I know where I am and why I'm here."

"Look, mate," Bodie growled, "you're here because I was told to bring you here."

"Doesn't answer my question," Doyle answered belligerently. "I've been stitched up once too often. I'm not moving until I know what's going on."

Bodie knew that it would take very little effort on his part to get the little toad into the building, but it had been a tough week, he was wearing a good suit of clothes, and, quite frankly, he couldn't be bothered.

"I'm CI5." He flashed his I.D. before the brittle gaze. "That is CI5 headquarters." He pointed towards the building. "My boss, who is not known for his generous nature and kind heart, is in there waiting to see you. If you shift your arse out of my car and get it over there you might find out what's going down because I neither know or care. Okay?"

It obviously was because Doyle gathered his belongings and followed him through the doors. The bags were left at the security office and the two men walked into the building. Coming towards them, his attention on a file in his hands, was a sandy-haired, middle-aged man. Bodie called out to him.

"Sir."

The man looked up and removed his glasses.

"At last. I was beginning to wonder what was keeping you. No problems at the prison, Bodie?"

"No, sir."

The man turned his attention to Doyle.

"Well, Mr Doyle. If you would come with me, my office is just here."

The man opened a door bearing the nameplate of George Cowley, Controller CI5. Doyle did not know whether to be worried or impressed.

"Bodie, there's no need for you to remain, but stay in the building, please. Once I have spoken with Mr Doyle I'll want to see you again."

"Sir." Bodie acknowledged the order and the dismissal as he left the office.

Ray Doyle watched the door close and turned his attention to the man seated at the desk. Any minute now, he thought, I'm going to wake up and find it's all been a dream.

"Sit down, Mr Doyle, make yourself comfortable. Can I offer you a drink?"

He must have nodded because the man stood up and crossed the room to remove glasses and a whisky bottle from the filing cabinet. He took the offered glass and sipped the golden liquid. The burning sensation spread like wildfire down his throat and into his stomach.

"Now," Cowley reseated himself behind his desk, "down to business. How much did the Governor tell you?"

The whisky had caused his vocal cords to seize up and even his second attempt was not too clear.

"Not much." Doyle cleared his throat and told Cowley all he knew. "I was called to the Governor's office yesterday afternoon and told that new evidence had come to light. He wouldn't tell me anything else. Said he didn't want to get my hopes up."

Cowley was unsurprised by the bewildered voice. Governor Bryant had not been too pleased when his ordered routine had been disrupted by CI5's demands. Events had occurred so fast it was surprising that Doyle looked as confident as he did.

"You are not in my custody, Mr Doyle. You are perfectly free to leave as and when you like."

"Free?"

"Free," confirmed the Scots brogue softly, the sharp blue eyes missing none of the effect his announcement had caused.

"I don't understand. I don't understand any of this, do you mean I'm getting a retrial?"

"Let me explain from the beginning. Your defence at the trial, your only defence, was that you were setting yourself up as a plant in the drug ring in the hopes of snaring the other police officers whose identity you didn't know but were sure were involved. Now, you claimed that on the night in question you told your senior officer, Detective Inspector Taylor, of your plan. What was Taylor's reaction?"

"He told me not to go ahead, said that he didn't think it was a good idea for me to go undercover alone."

"Did you obey his order not to proceed?"

"You know I didn't. If I had I wouldn't have got myself in this mess, would I?"

"The prosecution's main evidence was your total lack of official orders; there was no record of your informing the squad of your intentions."

"Of course there wasn't. It wasn't until the next day when I was arrested that I heard about the accident."

"Yes. D.I. Taylor's death was most unfortunate, especially for you."

"Most unfortunate," Doyle repeated, his voice bitter. "That's one way of putting it, I suppose."

"I have examined the reports; the crash was, beyond any doubt, an accident."

"What made you think it might be otherwise?" Doyle asked, the wariness in his voice being replaced by curiosity.

"D.I. Taylor did make a report on your plan to infiltrate the group. It seems he guessed that you would ignore his instructions to leave things alone--"

"Where's the report? Why didn't anyone find it at the time?" Three years, three lousy years, all because of one missing report, the last report of a dead man.

"He handed it over to D.I. Behan."

"Mike? Mike Behan?" Doyle couldn't believe his ears. Mike had been one of the few friends who believed his claims of innocence.

"D.I. Behan was the police presence within the ring. He knew you had to be stopped. Taylor's death provided him the ideal opportunity. No one else knew of your intentions. Behan arranged your entrapment, planted the evidence and destroyed Taylor's report."

"I'll kill him!" Doyle leapt to his feet, ready to find his former friend and carry out his threat.

"He's already dead; he died four days ago. Cancer."

Doyle slumped back down into the chair, disappointed to have been robbed of his chance to wreak revenge.

"Amongst his papers was a letter addressed to the Home Secretary. It seems he wished to die with a clear conscience. The original report was destroyed but the letter is thought to be an accurate record of his involvement with the suppliers and dealers and, of course, a statement declaring your complete innocence and the way he framed you. Here," Cowley passed over several sheets of paper, "is a copy of the letter. I'm sure you'll want to read it."

Doyle took the document in shaking fingers and forced himself to concentrate on the scrawling, spidery writing. The letter was dated only a few weeks previously.

At last he folded the papers and handed them back.

"So I'll get a retrial?"

"That is what I want to discuss with you. A retrial would become a very public affair. The media would have a field day--a young policeman framed by his senior officer, all those wasted years you've spent locked away, broken dreams, personal heartache, only to be cleared by the testimony of a dying man. The film companies would be queuing at your door for exclusive script rights. Is that what you want?"

"Well...no, but--"

"I can use you, Doyle. I had already noted your name before the charges arose. I was sure I wasn't wrong about you but, as you know only too well, there was no proof. I want you in CI5. What I don't want is someone whose face has been plastered across every newspaper in the country."

"Well... I don't--"

"If you agree to my proposals, your innocence in this matter will become a matter of record and you will, of course, be financially compensated for your loss of earnings and the hardship you've suffered."

"What proposals?"

"You have every right to request a public retrial, I am suggesting that you forgo that right."

"Why?"

"As I said a few moments ago, Mr Doyle, I can use you. Three years ago I would have welcomed you on your professional abilities alone. Though a trifle rebellious you were a good policeman. Now, after your recent experiences, you have a wealth of contact with those on the other side of the fence. As an ex-prisoner your face is known and you'll be able to gain easy admittance to circles that undercover agents would have to work months to achieve." Cowley paused for a moment, allowing his words to sink in. "But, as a publicly affirmed, upright, honest citizen you'd be back to square one. If you agree, your criminal and prison records will be destroyed, you'll be free to tell friends and family about your innocence. All I ask is that you consider it. I have a feeling you will find working for CI5 an...experience. Well?"

"How long do I have to decide?"

"I need your answer now. I'm sorry to rush you, but D.I. Behan's letter has stirred up a regular hornet's nest and the D.P.P. is eager to get started on it. How he deals with it depends on your answer."

"If I agree, my name will be left out of new investigations into that little lot." Doyle pointed to the letter. Cowley nodded.

"How can I avoid the retrial? It's a formal procedure, how could I get out of that and the attendant publicity?"

"I have examined the implications of the letter. It clears you completely. You were arrested before you uncovered anything that will be of any assistance in the new enquiries. The Home Secretary has agreed to leave your name out of the new investigating. D.I. Behan is dead. There is no need to rake over old ground. Unless you feel the need to be publicly exonerated. It is, of course, your right."

Doyle's mind was in a whirl. Ever since the summons to the Governor's office the day before, his thoughts had been a jumble of 'what ifs' and hopes that kept insisting on struggling out from under the tight lid he kept clamped down. It was happening too fast. He had only just begun to accept his lot, and try to adapt more to the strange prison life. In less than an hour this man, George Cowley, had turned his whole world upside down. Mike, his friend, had betrayed him and left him to rot in jail, only a guilty conscience releasing him, and now he was being asked not to scream his freedom cry from the rooftops, but to keep the stain on his name, to hide his innocence in a way others would hide their guilt? What for?

Because it would make him useful to CI5, because this Cowley person said he could use him. Even three years ago Cowley had wanted him. Doyle knew he would have jumped at the chance then, but a lot had happened since. He'd changed.

Cowley could see the indecision in the shockingly large eyes.

"I know a little of what you've been through, Doyle. You'll be allowed time to retrain and rehabilitate yourself."

Time. Time to retrain and rehabilitate. Would there ever be enough time for him to escape the past few years?

"I don't think I could face going back inside. Not now."

"I won't ask you to, not now. I can't promise you that I will never ask you, though; as a CI5 agent, I frequently order my men to do unpleasant duties."

"All right, I waive my right to a retrial." Where had the words come from? Doyle thought in amazement. Not from his brain, that was for sure. Cowley was already moving into action, showering him with reams and reams of paper, all requiring his signature. So much for reading everything before you sign it, he thought ruefully.

As the last of the papers were signed Cowley called someone on his desk intercom and in response the door opened and an attractive woman entered.

"Yes, sir?"

"Ah, Betty. A small matter for you to attend to, more pleasure than duty I hope, though. This is Ray Doyle, he has just agreed to join our organisation. Our timetable has become a little behind and I'm sure that he would welcome a break from business and a meal. Take him down to the canteen and fix him up with something, bring him back here when he's finished."

"Yes, sir."

"Before you go, call Bodie to my office."

"Yes, sir." Betty turned to the latest addition to the family. "If you'll follow me, Mr Doyle."

"Yes, of course." For all the informality of the conversation, Doyle knew he had been dismissed. Dutifully he followed Betty.

"Where do you come from, Mr Doyle?"

"Pardon?" Doyle's head snapped back to the woman, trying not to show his surprise at the seeming abundance of men openly wearing shoulder holsters that passed them going in the opposite direction.

"Bodie, Mr Cowley wants you in his office."

His escort from the prison came into the corridor from a side room; like the others he was minus his jacket, his shoulder holster looking as if it belonged to his body. Doyle saw the double take in the blue eyes and waited for the inevitable comment, but all the man said was "Everything okay?" to which Betty replied:

"Fine. Just going to get some lunch. See you later."

Bodie moved past them without another word.

"I said where do you come from? Most of us were trawled from army, navy, airforce or the police," Betty continued.

"Oh, er...police." Doyle jumped on his impulse to say prison.

"Met.?"

"What?"

"The Met., are you from the Met.?"

"Yes."

"What part?"

"Drugs Squad."

"I don't think we've got anyone else from there, a few Met. boys but mostly the armed forces." Betty gamely struggled on but the conversation was like wading up a muddy river against the current. Conversation clearly wasn't one of the new boy's good points.

Rather than eat in total silence Betty talked almost non-stop about CI5 while Doyle picked at his food.



Bodie entered the quiet office with trepidation, wondering if perhaps this was how Daniel felt on entering the lion's den. He knew the old man was up to something, he could feel it in his bones.

"Come in, Bodie, stop hovering in the doorway. Sit down."

Bodie stopped hovering and sat.

"How's your back now?"

"It's just fine, sir."

"Dr Willis doesn't agree."

"Now I've got rid of that bloody neck brace I feel much better, hardly so much as a twinge."

"Willis said you could stop wearing the brace?" asked Cowley. Everyone who had come within range of Bodie's tongue over the past few weeks had heard about his view on modern instruments of torture.

"Yes, sir, providing I don't 'exert myself'," Bodie said meaningfully, leaving Cowley in absolutely no doubt of his meaning.

"Hardly a twinge is not 'fine', Bodie. Damaged vertebrae are not things to be trifled with. You're damn lucky not to have been killed or crippled--" Cowley broke off, realising that Bodie knew only too well how lucky he had been.

"Perhaps you don't need to be told that. Anyway, it will be some time before you will be medically cleared for normal duties so I feel obliged to keep you occupied in some way. You're causing havoc in the office, you've got to divert some of that energy and I've just the job for you."

Bodie managed to look wounded and cautiously interested at the same time.

"I've decided it's time you were teamed up with a partner."

"Oh no. I work solo, I always have," Bodie broke in. This was not what he had been expecting.

"You've worked alone because it suited me to let you, Bodie. It now suits me to partner you," Cowley snapped back, the authority in his voice quelling further protests. "The man I've selected is new to us. CI5's facilities will be placed at your disposal and I want you to supervise his training. Dr Willis feels another two months will be enough time for your injury to heal properly. In ten weeks I want you and your partner ready and fit for active duty. Macklin will run the last two weeks' training so you can participate fully."

In other words, thought Bodie with a sinking heart, the last two weeks are to pummel me back into shape. Oh well, might as well know the worst, find out who Cowley wants to saddle me with.

"Who is he?"

"Ray Doyle."

The name hung in the air. Bodie couldn't believe his ears.

"He's straight from the nick! He's still doing time, for christ's sake."

"Kindly lower your voice, Bodie," Cowley ordered. "These files are for your perusal; read them, familiarise yourself with their contents. They will tell you all you need to know about Doyle. He can tell you his personal details himself."

"You're nuts!" Bodie stood up and paced the floor. "I really don't believe you. You are teaming me with a bent copper!"

Cowley ignored his operative's disrespectful attitude; he could quite understand how it looked from Bodie's point of view.

"Sit down, man. Doyle has been completely exonerated from all the drug and corruption charges. As from today he is a free man without a stain on his character."

"I haven't heard about any retrials going on," said Bodie.

"And you won't. Doyle has waived his right to retrial; he has agreed to accept the Home Office decision and no public announcement will be made."

"Why should he do that?"

"Think, Bodie! Doyle has been inside the prison system for three years. Think of the faces he knows, people he's met, the people who have met him. When I send him undercover those same people are going to see a familiar face, a kindred spirit, not a stranger who is to be mistrusted. Doyle and everyone who matters to him, along with the authorities, will know he was falsely accused. But everyone else will accept him for what they think he's proved to be. A bent policeman, a criminal of the worst kind, someone they can trust."

Bodie could see the point behind Cowley's impassioned speech, but he could also see one or two flaws.

"So the past three years were a set-up then?"

"No."

"How do you mean? Was he really convicted or wasn't he?"

"The case against him was sound, he had no defence to speak of and he was convicted and sentenced to eight years. With good behaviour the earliest release date he could have would be eighteen months from now."

Bodie was really confused by this time. If the case was so good how come Doyle was being released early? Why should the man forgo all public declaration of his innocence? He had a hundred and one questions which all demanded answers.

They came in a shortened version of the Taylor/Behan report and letter and the files listing Doyle's police and prison records. A swift scan of the files told him a lot about his proposed partner. Detective Constable Raymond Doyle had been quite a busy little bluebottle, and a police marksman to boot. Reading between the lines Bodie could see why Cowley had considered Doyle for CI5 even before the spell in prison. From the comments written by his superiors it was clear that Doyle hadn't been popular. Insubordination was a common complaint--his methods, though at times unorthodox, got results.

Moving on to the record of the prisoner Bodie found a very different story.

The arrogant, incorruptible D.C. Doyle had not reacted positively to incarceration. There were pages of logged incidents in which Doyle was the alleged instigator or the centre of disturbances and fights. His aggressive behaviour had not endeared him to either the warders or his fellow inmates and he had been subjected to the full gamut of official punishments. A few sheets clipped to the front of the file turned out to be medical notes from the prison hospital. The seemingly endless list of cuts and contusions bore testimony to frequent fights. Not all the injuries had been minor; a year ago Doyle had been seriously injured in a fight and had been transferred to an outside hospital for treatment. Fractured skull, shattered cheekbone, broken wrist and cracked ribs. It had been some fight.

The shattered cheekbone obviously accounted for the strange bump high under the skinny man's eye. The medical notes were incomplete but Bodie had read enough.

"He spent three years in hell and you expect him to be sane enough to work for CI5!"

Cowley's answer was interrupted by a ringing telephone; he answered it promptly.

"Just a moment, Betty," he said into the phone and then turned back to Bodie.

"It's up to you to see that he's got what it takes. You've got twelve weeks to turn him into what you know I want." He pinned Bodie to the spot with a glare, then without looking away spoke into the telephone again. "All right, Betty, send Mr Doyle in, please."

Crossing the room, Doyle felt his skin prickle as Bodie looked him over, the dismay at what he saw all too clear.

"Doyle, I know you've already met Bodie but from now on you're going to be seeing a lot more of him. For the next twelve weeks he will be running you through a training programme."

Twelve weeks, Bodie thought with disgust as he looked at the frail, green-eyed wraith, twelve months wouldn't do it. He came to the conclusion that Cowley sometimes expected too much of his men.

Everything still felt unreal to Doyle; his senses were still reeling from the calmly delivered news that he was free. He knew he'd made a right prat of himself with the woman. Lord knows what she thought of him, he knew he hadn't managed to form sentences of more than two words over the whole meal. He returned the wary look he was getting from this Bodie character. Cowley was handing him over to that! It was as clear as the nose on his face that Bodie didn't want anything to do with him. Cowley had said he was free to leave any time he wished. All he wanted to do at that moment was start running, to run and run until he found a quiet place where he could be alone to think. Everything was moving too fast. Stop the world, I want to get off, he thought to himself, and almost giggled aloud at the cliché. Christ, now I'm getting hysterical!

"Doyle."

The voice cut through his confusion, but no one seemed to notice he hadn't been paying attention.

"...will of course be issued with your own car from the pool. It will take a month or so for the allocations office to find you a flat; in the meantime, Bodie, your present flat has a spare room I believe?"

"Yes, sir," replied Bodie, not too sure he liked the way the conversation was heading.

"Unless either of you have any valid objections you can share. It shouldn't take security too long to clear a place for Doyle."

If either of the men had any objections they chose not to voice them.

"Right then," Cowley looked at his wristwatch, "there isn't much more we can do today. Doyle, I've arranged for you to attend a meeting at the Home Office at 10 tomorrow morning. Bodie, make sure he gets there on time. It will only be a formality, Doyle, so don't worry about anything." Cowley broke off from his talk and watched the two men.

It was clear that neither of them was happy with the arrangements but that couldn't be helped. The young man's disorientation was all Dr Ross had predicted. If Doyle was going to be of any use to CI5 they had to stop him from falling into a mire of self-pity; Ross' advice was to keep the new recruit moving at such a speed he could only react instinctively, he shouldn't be allowed time to begin any self-doubts.

Bodie was just what the doctor ordered. Cowley knew that the established agent was going to try and run his unwanted partner into the ground. Doyle would either go under or survive. Cowley only hoped there was enough spirit left to survive!

"Right, gentlemen, I've only a few more things to say. Firstly, Doyle, I've told Bodie the bare facts leading up to your imprisonment and subsequent release. He has also seen your police and prison records; once you have completed your training period you will be given access to his professional details--as partners it is only fair that you each know the other's history and training. Any exchange of personal information is completely up to the pair of you.

"And finally, Doyle, you have been told you can inform anyone you care to that your character has been cleared. I wish to caution you to use discretion when telling people. Remember, however unpleasant, your 'prison record' can be useful only as long as it is believable."

"Yes, sir."

"That is all, gentlemen." Cowley stood up and walked around his desk, extending his hand to Doyle, who rose from his chair to take it.

"Welcome to CI5, Mr Doyle."

"Er...thank you, sir."

"Bodie, there are a queue of people waiting for Mr Doyle in the Administration Office, show him the way."



It was another few hours before Bodie led the way out of the building, only to return immediately to retrieve Doyle's bags from the security office.

Doyle could feel the heat burning his cheeks as they emerged through the doors for the second time. How was he supposed to have recognised where they were? All day he had been dragged along corridors, into one office after another, rarely being told where he was going or why. Every time someone shoved a piece of paper under his nose he scribbled his name on it; he had probably signed his life away a hundred times over. The Incredible Hulk had glowered and snarled constantly and was letting everyone know exactly how he felt about being lumbered with so much dead weight.

On top of his physical exhaustion, Doyle's mind was numb from the speed of events and he was almost too tired to take anything else in. He was feeling knackered, confused, a little frightened and more lonely than he had ever believed possible. The Hulk clearly wanted nothing to do with him and Cowley only wanted him because he could 'use' him. People had used him before and he didn't like it.

Glancing sideways at his silent shadow, Bodie gave a mental groan. The poor sod was grey with exhaustion and clearly didn't know whether he was coming or going. He could feel himself softening and jumped on the reaction, squashing it firmly. Don't feel sorry for him, you fool, he told himself sternly. You'll be offering to carry his bags next! He turned his attention towards the evening he had planned--shit! Doyle.

"Look," Bodie began, "I've already made arrangements for tonight and I expect you've got things you want to do..." Doyle didn't say a word and Bodie felt a nasty insidious feeling well up inside but squashed it before he could recognise it. "I'll give you a spare key and I'll see you at my place later, okay?" The emotion demanded to be recognised. Guilt.

Doyle felt his heart sink a little further but schooled his voice and features to hide how much yet another rejection was hurting him.

"Suits me. The admin. bloke gave me your address. I'll see you later then."

Bodie winced at the tone of voice, deciding at the last minute to at least try and be friendly. It was, all said and done, the bloke's first day of freedom in three years. He stumbled, embarrassed over his invitation.

"Look, I've arranged a date with this girl, I can call her up, maybe she would bring a friend."

Doyle had received better invitations, but even so he was tempted. The relaxed atmosphere of a pub and a few drinks could be what he needed to unwind a little, but common-sense prevailed. Apart from the fact Bodie obviously felt obliged to ask him, Doyle was suddenly aware of his meagre funds. The solitary five-pound note in his pocket wouldn't last long and he had no wish to impose on Bodie's begrudging charity.

"Thanks, but no. Like you said, I've got things to do."

A weight lifted off Bodie's shoulders and he began to move towards his car.

"Just in case I'm back late, you'll find sheets and blankets in the airing cupboard in the hall, help yourself to anything you want, should be something edible somewhere in the kitchen. See you," Bodie shouted across the road as he climbed into the car. He was already manoeuvring out of the car park when he looked back to see that Doyle was still standing where he had left him. He pulled up alongside and wound the window down.

"Can I drop you anywhere?" he asked politely.

The question terrified Doyle. Panic welled up inside him. Did he want to go anywhere? What a stupid question. What a bloody stupid question! Yes, he wanted to go somewhere, anywhere away from here, from the drab building filled with its energetic, lively happy people and the dour Scotsman who wanted to use him, away from the piercing blue eyes that had already seen right through him and despised him. Just away. Somebody please--come and take me away! But he knew nobody would come--who was there left to care? Only himself.

"I said, can I drop you anywhere?"

"No, thanks. It's all right."

Relieved, Bodie shouted a farewell and accelerated out of the car park, trying vainly to leave his feeling of unease behind with the solitary figure standing clutching his bags on the pavement.

Doyle watched the car roar down the road until it disappeared into the traffic. He looked around at the surrounding buildings and tried to work out where he was. No one had thought to tell him. In the distance and through the hum of city traffic he heard a clock chime. Five o'clock. He hadn't realised it was so late. His own watch had been stolen soon after his arrival at the prison--so much for honour among thieves. He was certain the clock was Big Ben and so made off to find the nearest tube station that he knew could only be a few streets away. Once he found the station he'd think about his next move.

He turned the corner and stopped dead, the sudden mass of humanity taking him by surprise. The rush hour! Endless streams of busy, hustling office workers scurrying to catch busses and trains home after a hard day's work.

Stepping into the flow of bodies he was swept along with the tide to the Underground station; standing still in front of a map he was buffeted and knocked aside by the constant movement of human traffic. His eyes traced the coloured line; Bodie's address was Knightsbridge, practically a direct line from Hounslow; he could go and collect his belongings from John's house.

Rejoining the flow of people, he bought a ticket and struggled onto a packed train. He stood all the way and the journey took forever.

He was already walking up the path to his brother's house before it occurred to him that perhaps he should have telephoned. Too late now. He reached out and rang the doorbell.

The hall and porch light came on as the door was opened, the sudden brilliance blinding after the dim street lighting.

"Good lord!" Doyle recognised his brother's voice. "What are you doing here?"

Now he knew he should have telephoned.

"'Lo, John," Doyle said calmly as he tried to gauge his brother's reaction.

"How did you get here? What do you want?"

"Yes, well it's really great seeing you again too. Me? Oh, I'm fine, how about you?" The sarcastic bite successfully hid shaky notes.

"I suppose you'd better come in," his brother said ungraciously.

"Why, don't you want the neighbours to see me?"

John Doyle stepped back to let his troublesome brother inside and was unable to prevent himself looking up and down the street to see if anyone was watching his house.

"I suppose you want a cup of tea."

"Only if it's not too much trouble." Doyle knew that his brother had only offered out of habit, but he suddenly realised how thirsty and hungry he was.

"Your face--what happened to it?" Standing under the bright kitchen light, John got his first proper look at his brother's battle-scarred face.

"A fight. Thought you were told about it," he answered in a forced attempt at nonchalance.

"The one that put you in hospital."

"Yeah, oh and thanks for the get well card and chocolates."

"What...I never sent any card--"

"No? Oh, sorry, my mistake." He had known that. A week in intensive care and another month in a public hospital before being carted back to prison...he knew the doctors had called his brother and told him about his condition but nothing came of it. Not even a visit.

Daft to have expected it really, he told himself.

"What are you here for? You can't stay here y'know. I told you at the funeral that you weren't welcome anymore."

His mother's funeral. They'd let him out, with an escort of course, to attend the service. Milton, the creep, had waited until the family were all around them before removing the bright, shiny handcuffs. His brother had told him right there outside the church before going in to the service, exactly what he thought. Mum's death was entirely his fault. The shame he'd brought on the family was what finished her. The cancer that had slowly been destroying her for years had absolutely nothing to do with it.

"I just want the cases I left here."

"You should have phoned, I could have sent them to you, you know I don't want you here."

"All right, I should've phoned but I didn't. Just give me my stuff and I'll go."

"Too right you'll go, Carole and the kids are due home soon and I don't want them seeing you."

John pushed past his brother and disappeared upstairs. After a few minutes of banging around he came back struggling and sweating with the effort of retrieving the heavy cases from the very back of a cupboard.

He set them down and opened the front door.

"Here's what you came for. Now you can go, can't you."

"Thanks for looking after them--"

"Don't mention it. Only reason I took 'em was because I didn't want you going round Mum's upsetting her when you came out. If I'd had my way I'd've chucked them on the council tip the day of the funeral. Get your cases and get out, I don't ever want to set eyes on you again."

((line missing)) but his brother didn't want to hear.

"No. Go on, get out."

"Things have changed, John. I was released today because--"

"If you don't move I'm going to kick you out and I don't care if the bloody neighbours are watching!"

"John, please listen to--"

"Get going before I call the police."

John pushed the cases out of the house, shoved his brother out with them and shut the front door.

It was a few minutes before Doyle looked away from the closed door. The encounter had been even worse than he had imagined it. God only knew why he'd come here today, perhaps just to get the inevitable over with. He rearranged the holdall over a shoulder and tied the carrier bag to one of the cases, then started up the path towards the station.

He didn't look back.



He was shaking with exhaustion by the time he pushed open the door to Bodie's flat, his arms and shoulders protesting fiercely at the strain of lugging all his worldly possessions across London. It was a relief to find the place empty.

He placed the bags in the spare room and found the airing cupboard and the kitchen. He made a cup of coffee but decided against eating anything. His stomach was in a knot, the whole day had been one shock after another. John's reaction, though expected, had been the last straw.

Feeling uneasy about imposing on Bodie's privacy, he returned to the spare room and collapsed onto the bare mattress. He did not lie there too long though, only too aware he could easily fall asleep. He unlocked his luggage and started to check through the contents.

He had packed them the first night after the trial had started. It had taken the court six days to find him guilty but he had known the outcome already. Not much to show for twenty-nine years of life. After he had been suspended from the force and released on bail to await his trial, Ann had asked him to leave the flat. He hadn't even been able to convince her he was innocent. She had believed all the lies and hadn't even tried to believe or trust him. The cheap, furnished bedsit he had moved to had been a long way from the cosy house the lovers had shared. He had agreed to let her keep the furniture they had collected together; somehow even then he'd known he wasn't going to need it. Good job they hadn't been married really, Doyle thought as he carefully checked each item; Ann could be such a snob at times. She would have hated being a felon's wife. And as for prison visiting--she would have died of embarrassment. He put the last item back, clicked the lid shut and moved on to the second case.

She hadn't visited him once. There had been a few letters at first, polite, stilted notes completely ignoring the fact that the recipient was a recently abandoned lover who had fallen on desperately hard times. The last letter had been over two years ago and had been full of information about the 'really terrific job' that would be 'so tremendously fulfilling' in America.

He'd never had many visitors. One or two of his colleagues, his mother once, just after his committal. She had cried the whole time. That had been the last time he saw her.

Satisfied that everything was all there, he locked the cases up again, shutting from sight all the memories of his former life. They contained no clothing, only personal treasures that he had found it impossible even to consider parting with: photograph albums, a few special framed pictures that had always been a part of his home, documents, certificates, records, books and, somewhere wrapped in tissue, the picture of his class at Hendon the day he had passed out. He knew it was there and had seen the white tissue but he had not unwrapped it. He still couldn't touch it--not yet, there were still some memories that were still too painful.

He stood up and wandered through the flat until he found a clock. It was just after eleven. Having had an enforced bedtime of ten o'clock for so long, it seemed very late and he wondered what time Bodie would get in.

Struggling against his tiredness, he made up the bed and then went in search of the bathroom. The bath proved irresistible and before he could stop himself he was up to his neck in hot water and thoroughly enjoying his first totally private bath in a very long time. He only just managed to find the strength to drag himself back into the bedroom where he sat on the edge of the bed. About to lie down and give up the battle to stay awake, his eyes caught sight of the closed door.

He didn't have to close that, did he?

Doyle knew he was being stupid, there wasn't even a lock on it, but he did it anyway. Getting up, he re-opened the door, leaving it slightly ajar; then, satisfied, he crept back to bed.



As he pushed the door shut and clicked the double lock over, Bodie listened. The flat was quiet, but his sigh of relief was cut short as he saw the pool of light spilling into the dark hallway.

It was gone midnight; if the little toad was waiting up for him like some Victorian maiden aunt, Bodie decided he wouldn't be answerable for the consequences.

His night out, like the day preceding it, had gone from bad to worse. Marianne had been in a strange mood, alternating between sullen silences and a nagging bitchiness which indicated, to Bodie's mind, she had just about had enough of broken dates, phonecalls out of the blue, not to mention being abandoned mid-date. He knew it was all over bar the shouting but he had wanted to finish the affair on a high note--give the poor creature something to remember him by.

But Marianne was like a tiny china doll, incredibly beautiful miniature perfection, and her under five feet in six-inch heels height had meant her six feet in his two-inch heels escort had spent a great deal of time stooping to hear her soft, genteel voice. By the time they adjourned to her bedroom his back was killing him and the lure of lying on the exquisite Marianne's bed had nothing whatsoever to do with the lady's skills.

But it was her bed, he was her date and she knew it would probably be the last time and she felt she had earned it. Not wanting to disappoint her and unwilling to appear ungentlemanly, Bodie tried to put his heart into it. Things were moving along nicely when a pair of slender arms slid around his neck and her soft, supple body arched up against him as she stiffened beneath him. Bodie felt his own release building up, but as her body jumped in a final orgasmic convulsion she tightened her grip around his neck.

The yell Bodie uttered was not one of triumph. Unwittingly, the luckless Marianne had applied pressure directly over the injured vertebrae.

His whole body, with one noticeable exception, went rigid as the pain washed over him. It was left to Marianne to manoeuvre the pain-wracked body off her and to try and comfort the sweating man.

Unable to face the prospect of a repeat performance, Bodie had finally managed to get away, only too aware that his swan song was not likely to instil any feelings of regret or loss in Marianne.

He peered into the bedroom, ready--even eager--to let rip. But even in that he was thwarted. Doyle was asleep.

Spoiling for a fight, Bodie walked right up to the bed, willing the man to wake up. Doyle slept on.

Bodie looked around the room. Over in the corner were two medium-sized suitcases, a holdall and carrier bag. On top of the bags, neatly folded, were Doyle's clothes. With a guilty start Bodie realised that Doyle had still been wearing the prison issue when he'd left him outside headquarters. Of course he had, Bodie told himself, no one at the prison had realised he was going to be released.

He looked at the cases again. Where had Doyle got them from? How had he got there? The uneasy guilt magnified. Christ, he thought, he hadn't even checked to see if the poor sod had any money! It was more than likely that he hadn't. Fuckin' hell, he thought morosely, maybe I should have passed the hat around at H.Q. He forced the uncomfortable feelings away with practised ease.

His gaze returned to the sleeping man. That's right, Doyle. You get your beauty sleep because you're gonna need it.

The gaunt face was softened into delicate planes and angles by sleep, dark rings and the ugly mismatched cheekbones transformed by the gentle lighting that also played on the smooth bare shoulders and arms. Doyle was slim to the point of being skinny. There was no way this frail creature was going to last the training period. Bodie cheerfully estimated the inevitable collapse would happen in the first week.

He clicked the light off and softly padded into his own bedroom. There was no need to worry about Cowley teaming him with Doyle. His headache forgotten, Bodie climbed into bed, already planning the first and last week of Ray Doyle's career with CI5.



CHAPTER TWO

Wrapped as he was, warm and comfortable within a cocoon of bedding, dreams unremarkable and nearly forgotten, already fading away, it was the silence that finally made him open his eyes.

Being accustomed to a dawn chorus of heavy boots, clanking doors and jangling keys, mingled with loud and often heated verbal exchanges, this new stillness was almost frightening and he was still half afraid that any sudden move on his part would wake him up only to find the whole thing another cruel joke.

He blinked against the brilliant sunshine that was pouring through the uncurtained, unbarred window.

It was a beautiful morning.

He slid out of bed and crossed over to the window, grimacing a little as his shoulders protested about the previous day's physical demands. Pushing the window wide open, he leant out and peered into the street below. Although bright, the sun gave little warmth, but the discomfort did not interrupt his enjoyment of the new morning.

Further down the road, three uniformed school boys, heads together, could be seen making their unhurried way to school. As he watched, two of them snatched something from the third and ran off, their victim running shrieking after them, their war cries echoing up and down the quiet street. As they vanished around a corner, a milk float rattled into view and squeaked to a halt outside the next block of flats; the milkman climbed from his cab and passed a few words with the postman emerging from the same block. An old man out walking his dog completed the picture.

Sounds from inside the flat drew his attention from the tranquil scene. Doors opening and closing, somebody moving about. Bodie was awake. Doyle was half dressed before he really looked at the clothes he was putting on. The previous morning, like so many other mornings, he had dressed in the standard prison gear; blue trousers and jacket, blue and white striped shirt. Fashion and individuality were unheard of where he had been living, and he had long since stopped caring about his appearance; to be different meant you stood out. It had been a hard lesson but he had soon learnt to blend into the drab 'sameness' and become just another blue uniformed prisoner. Anonymity had its benefits.

He suddenly went cold as he recalled the previous day. He hadn't given it a single thought. All day he had been wearing the prison uniform--even going out to his brother's house--he had thought himself a little paranoid at the time and had convinced himself that he was imagining the strange looks he had received from everyone; the women in the CI5 canteen, the office staff, the ticket collector and the hard-looking man who had stared at him from Hounslow to Knightsbridge. Nowadays the uniforms were not decorated with brightly coloured, vile arrows, but they might just as well have been.

He tore the sleeve in his hurry to get the garment off. Never, ever again would he wear a blue and white striped shirt. The only clothes he had were all issued, courtesy of Her Majesty. He finally settled on the short-sleeved white vest; it would do until he could get something more suitable.

Barefooted, he walked through to the kitchen. "Morning," he said, as Bodie started in surprise.

"Bloody Christ!" the other man swore as he recovered from the silent entrance. He had almost forgotten about his visitor. "Do you always creep about like that?"

"I wasn't creepin' anywhere," Doyle retorted, immediately on the defensive. Stooping to pick up the plastic bottle Bodie had dropped, he read the label--the tablets were strong distalgesics--and handed them over.

They were taken with poor grace.

"Kettle's just boiled, tea and coffee's over there, milk's in the fridge. Bread's in the bin. Help yourself." Bodie tipped two tablets onto his hand then swigged them down with some water.

"I'll drop you off at the Home Office in time for your appointment, then go on to HQ. I'll either see you there or here tonight as I don't know what's going on just yet. I've got to arrange your training programme and fuck knows what time you'll get out of your meeting."

"Okay."

Bodie watched as Doyle made himself a cup of coffee.

"How did you get on yesterday?" he asked.

"Pardon?"

"Last night, I noticed you'd collected some cases from somewhere."

Doyle spun round; the cases were in his room, the only way Bodie could know about them would be if he had come into the room last night--while he was asleep.

Not understanding the troubled expression, Bodie pressed the question again.

"Pick them up from a friend, did you?"

"No."

"Family?"

"Yes."

"Pleased to see you were they?" Bodie asked politely. Those painkillers were good, the sharp pain in his back was already ebbing away to a more tolerable ache.

"Surprised," was Doyle's answer.

"I'll bet they were." Bodie chuckled. "How did they react to the good news?"

Doyle turned back, pointedly ignoring the question, and spooned some sugar in his cup. "I've just used the last of this milk, you got any more?"

The flat voice and change of subject curtailed that particular conversation. Once Doyle had drunk his coffee he left the kitchen, leaving Bodie sitting there alone to finish his in peace. Finally Bodie rinsed his breakfast things up and got ready to leave.

Jacket on and car keys in his hand he tapped on the door to the spare room. It swung open to reveal Doyle standing at the window.

"You ready?" he asked.

"Yes." Doyle followed him towards the front door.

Bodie looked back at the T shirt-clad figure. "Haven't you got a jacket, it's going to be cold out there."

"I'll be okay."

"I said it's cold, you'll need a jacket or something." Bloody hell, Bodie thought, I'll be wiping his nose for him next.

"I'll be okay," Doyle insisted.

Suddenly Bodie caught on. Why on earth hadn't the daft sod said something? Even he could understand why yesterday's jacket was no longer acceptable.

"Hang on a minute," he shouted over his shoulder as he dived into his own bedroom. "Try this, it's bound to be a bit big but at least you won't get cold." He held out his second best leather jacket.

"No thanks, I don't--"

"Wear it," Bodie snapped out. "The last thing I want right now is you going down with bleeding flu." He thrust the jacket over and left the flat without looking back. By the time he reached the car, Doyle, wearing the coat, was right behind him.



By lunch time Doyle was beginning to wonder why he had ever wanted to leave the quiet sanctuary of his cell. He had spent all morning determined not to give in to the desire to apologise for all the trouble he was causing as he was seen by a never-ending stream of bureaucrats who seemed at a loss to know what to do with the man cluttering up their neat offices. He had received an awkward handshake and garbled apology for the inconvenience the mistrial had caused him from the Home Secretary's secretary's assistant's secretary. At least he thought it had been an apology. He had never seen so many embarrassed faces in one day before. Oddly enough, it seemed to be his decision not to go for a retrial that was causing the problems rather than the fact he had wasted three years of his life in H.M. prisons.

He was ushered into yet another office and braced himself for the next round. The fact that he was clearly expected almost threw him off-balance.

"Ah, Mr Doyle, I was expecting you hours ago, get lost did you?"

The vigorous handshake and thump on shoulder were as genuinely friendly as all the others had been false. "Come in, come in, have a seat, cup of tea? Might even round up some chocolate biscuits if we're lucky." The redheaded whirlwind pulled him into the wonderfully unregimented office, while issuing orders to his secretary.

"Two teas then, Bet, luv, and some biscuits; oh, and tell Mr Randall that we'll be over to see him soon."

Doyle removed some papers from a chair and sat down.

"Right, now then, I'm Bob Craig. Let me see where you've been so far." He took the file that Doyle had been carrying around with him and quickly scanned the list of departments already visited. "Been around a bit this morning. Any idea of exactly what's been going on, have you?" Craig's cheerful face positively beamed across the desk at him and Doyle felt his gloom lift a little.

"To be honest--no."

"Can't say I'm surprised. Gets right up their noses when they realise that our wonderful Courts of Justice aren't all they're cracked up to be. Don't suppose anyone's even apologised to you yet, have they."

"Well, I think someone did earlier this morning."

"Not that any apology is ever going to make up for what you've been through." Craig looked the young man over; he had read the reports and had no doubts at all that the man before him had been through a lot. "How's it been since you were discharged from the hospital wing? No more trouble I hope?"

The green eyes widened as Doyle understood that Craig knew everything that had happened to him.

"No, no trouble," he answered flatly.

Craig was wise enough not to press the point.

"Mr Cowley is a formidable man, are you sure that he hasn't pressured you into forgoing your right to a public retrial?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

"I can understand the reasons behind his desire to keep your good character quiet but I'll give you the credit for knowing your own mind. I believe that you are to start a training programme to qualify you for CI5."

"That's right."

"If at the end you find you don't want to join Cowley's organisation or, indeed, if CI5 decide they don't want you after all, you will still have the right to ask for a public announcement of your innocence. This whole affair is totally without precedent so I don't see that a delay of another few months will hurt anyone."

"Sounds fair enough."

"Now, down to practicalities. Money. Do you have any?"

"Er...some savings in a building society, not much though."

"In time you will receive financial compensation, the amount will no doubt be bickered over but when all's said and done it will amount to your three years' loss of salary, taking into account any overtime and increments you would have been entitled to plus, of course, what they call 'recompense for hardship endured'. Though how they agree on a total for that defeats me. The Legal department will be in touch with you in due course; my job right now is to make sure you've enough to be getting on with. I understand Mr Cowley has provided you with a flat..."

"Yes."

"Again, should CI5 dispense with you in the near future you must come and see me about accommodation. Can't have you dossing down under the arches, can we?"

Doyle's thoughts immediately went to his current flatmate--dossing under the arches didn't seem such an unpleasant prospect.

Bob Craig continued the interview at a brisk pace, speaking in plain, everyday English that seemed to cut through reams of red tape and make the effort of rejoining the free world seem a piece of cake.

In under two hours, this very untypical civil servant had taken him to a quiet pub garden for a beer and a ploughman's, introduced him to Mr Randall, the local friendly bank manager, and arranged for an impressive advance on his forthcoming compensation. Cheque book and card were promised as soon as the ink was dry and Doyle now found himself at one end of Oxford Street with enough money in his brand-new leather wallet to buy a complete wardrobe.

With a light heart and a spring in his step, Ray Doyle walked into the first shop.



"Morning, Sid." Bodie nodded a greeting to the security man on the door and made his way up the stairs, his mind already listing the things he had to do when he reached his office.

"Morning Bodie, where's your little friend?"

Bodie looked at Connors, non-comprehension mingling with the scowl on his face.

"Huh?"

"Rough night was it?" said Connors, whose main problem in life was correctly assessing people's moods. "Showing our little jailbird the finer things in life were we."

"What?"

"Doyle--took him out on the town, didn't you?"

"No, I flaming well didn't!" Bodie's acid tone implied that his colleague was mad to have even suggested the idea, and adequately covered the uncomfortable suspicion that everyone--including Cowley--had expected him to do just that. He glared at the unfortunate Connors and rounded the corner, walking straight into one of the subjects of his thoughts. Cowley.

"Oof!"

Cowley reeled back under the impact and was only prevented from landing in an ignominious heap by Bodie's restraining hands.

"Ouch!" As he righted his boss, Bodie's hand went to the stabbing pain at his neck, and he closed his eyes against the threatening black and white spots.

"Bodie? Are you all right, man?" Cowley asked, his voice full of concern. Bodie had gone as white as a sheet.

"Yeah...fine... I'm fine..." Bodie had to admit to himself that hadn't sounded very convincing.

"Are you sure Dr Willis said you could leave the neck brace off?"

Recovering quickly, Bodie forced a pained smile. "Would I have taken it off otherwise?"

"I won't waste breath answering that, Bodie, but if you cause further injury to yourself by your own neglect I advise you against--"

"I'll be careful, sir. Promise. Scout's honour."

"Huh." With a warning glare, Cowley continued along the corridor and Bodie entered his own office without further mishap.

Halfway through the morning, Bodie threw his pen down and allowed himself his first smile of the day. Reading back through the timetable he had compiled, the smile grew. It wasn't excessive, he told himself. He knew he couldn't come down too hard on the man, but he was confident that Doyle would be willing, even eager, to cry off the rest of the training.

It wouldn't take much. After very little thought he had decided to stay in town and concentrate on the facilities available at HQ and the nearby gymnasium; a few runs around the building would kill Doyle off just as well as the open spaces down at the army ranges they normally used, and for a week or two it was hardly worth the effort of packing a suitcase.

He suddenly remembered that he would have to book time on the indoor ranges; he would have priority, of course, but it was still best to book. What guns had Doyle been trained on, Bodie wondered thoughtfully, probably something pretty basic. None of the so-called police marksmen he ever met amounted to much in the way of skill and versatility. Doyle probably thought he would be some kind of hot-shot, he decided disparagingly. That would be another way to knock him down to size; after three years Doyle's style was bound to be more than a little shaky, and there had been a lot of innovations during that time. CI5's armoury was extensive. Blind the little bugger with science, he thought cheerfully. First things first, though, he had to check on Doyle's weaponry record.

Walking slowly down towards the General Office, Bodie detoured via the vending machine and, by dint of a powerful thump on the side of the cabinet, persuaded it to cough one plastic beaker three-quarters full of a dubious liquid that claimed to be water. He couldn't decide which taste was worse, the sweet coffee/tea tasting water or the tablets which started dissolving immediately they touched his tongue. As always, one of them lodged in his throat and he had to repeat the manoeuvre to get a second drink of water. He was still trying to get rid of the bitter taste when he heard his name mentioned. Ever curious, he listened to the conversation drifting into the corridor through the open door.

"I thought he looked...cute."

"Come off it, Cathy...cute hardly does him justice."

Bodie's ears pricked up even more, it sounded like a good conversation.

"Those eyes," Cathy said. "I don't think I've ever seen such beautiful eyes on a man. I'd kill for eyes like that." The open envy drifted towards Bodie who, if he had been a bird of the feathered variety, would no doubt have preened the said feathers.

"What about his bum! Have you ever seen one like--"

A sudden commotion further down the corridor cut off the rest of the other girl's sentence; Bodie thought it was Barbara, but a girl with taste whoever she was. He knew he ought to move away but vanity made him stay. It wasn't often he actually heard firsthand what the office girls thought of him. The noise stopped as quickly as it had started.

"...training programme."

"Poor thing, fancy being stuck with that berk," said Cathy, and Bodie agreed wholeheartedly.

"If the department's so hard up for accommodation, I'll volunteer to let him come and stay with me," Barbara offered. It wasn't often that one could claim to hear a woman speak lecherously, but Barbara managed it beautifully and Bodie made a mental note to have a quiet word with the accommodation officer.

"I saw him first."

"Claws in, pussy cats," interrupted a third voice. "By the time Bodie has finished grinding the little darling into the ground he won't have any energy left for what you've got in mind."

Raucous laughter rang out but Bodie wasn't listening any more. Doyle. They had all got the hots for that pathetic weed that Cowley had dumped on him.

By the time he reached the counter in the office, the girls were a picture of decorum.

"I want a file. Ray Doyle," he snapped.

"Sorry, Bodie," said Barbara sweetly. "All CI5 personnel records are kept in Mr Cowley's office."

"He's not in CI5 yet," he barked.

"Mr Cowley holds his file though, you'll have to see him."

Bodie did an about turn and left, his bad temper wrapped around him like a visible cloak which people saw and avoided.

On arriving outside Cowley's office, Bodie caught sight of the file he was seeking--on Betty's desk. Naughty, Betty, he thought, the file should have been under lock and key, not available for every Tom, Dick and Bodie to have a look at.

He flicked through to the relevant pages and whistled under his breath. Not just a marksman, Doyle had been the top marksman for the two years before his committal. He had wiped the board in competitions, taking top prizes and honours in inter-constabulary competitions in handguns; he hadn't trailed far behind the riflemarksman either. Even three years away from the ranges would be unlikely to destroy that level of skill--a little practice and Bodie suspected he might find himself bettered on the handgun. It would be interesting to see how Doyle would progress with the brand-new technology available to CI5. He snapped the file shut; he wouldn't see it because Doyle was not going to last that long.

"Bodie, I want a word with you in my office. Now."

Bodie almost jumped in surprise; he hadn't heard Cowley come in. Taking the folder with him, he followed Cowley, wondering as he went why the Old Man was looking so disgruntled.

"Shut the door."

Bodie closed the door and moved across the room to sit down, only stopping as he saw the stern expression and upraised brow that indicated this was not an occasion to make himself comfortable. Wondering what the hell he had done wrong now, Bodie stood, military style, at ease before the desk.

"Last night," Cowley snapped out. "Where did you go?"

"Pardon, sir?" asked Bodie.

"When you left here, where did you go? What's the matter, don't you understand English anymore?"

Bodie was at a loss to understand why Cowley should be so mad. That he was furiously angry was obvious. It took a lot to get George Cowley this riled.

"Out, sir. To a pub--the Black Lion, on to a restaurant, another pub, and then to a home in Richmond."

"Who with?"

Bodie began to get the sneaking suspicion that Cowley was not going to like his answer. It seemed that Connors' assumption of who he should have spent the evening with was shared by Cowley.

"Marianne Phelby."

"Who else?"

"No one."

"Where was Doyle while you were gadding about with Miss Phelby?"

"Don't know, sir."

"What did he use for transport?"

"Don't know, sir."

"Did you think to ask him if he had any money on him before you left him to amuse yourself with Miss Phelby?"

"No, sir."

"What was he wearing when you parted company?"

"Prison clothing, sir."

"Where exactly did you leave him?"

"Forecourt outside, sir."

"What time did he arrive at your flat?"

"Don't know, sir."

"You don't know much, do you Bodie? It seems that the entire London Transport Police, Prison Service and the Home Office have been informed that there was an unescorted, possibly escaped prisoner travelling between Westminster, Hounslow and Knightsbridge last night. There were half a dozen telephone calls from retired prison officers, an ex-probation officer and several ticket collectors to that effect. Last night, Governor Bryant received a phone call from a Mr John Doyle who wanted to know if the Governor knew his brother was roaming the streets, free as a bird, in prison uniform." Cowley came to an abrupt halt. He had been perfectly aware that Bodie had not welcomed the prospect of having Doyle as a partner, but he had been sure that his agent's fair-mindedness and cleverly concealed soft heart would prevent him from being too hard on the man. Had he been wrong? Yesterday he hadn't thought so.

"Did he tell you anything about what he did yesterday?" Cowley asked, his voice a fraction less icy. He could only be thankful that none of the people had attempted to apprehend the prisoner. God only knew what that little scene would have done to Doyle's off-balance self-confidence.

"Only that he had collected some cases from a member of his family." Bodie's voice was very subdued. Listening to his own string of 'Don't know, sirs', he finally admitted that his behaviour towards Doyle had not been very benevolent.

"His brother reported him to the Governor, sir?" he queried.

"Aye, he did. It would seem that Doyle chose not to enlighten his brother about his change of fortune." John Doyle's telephone call to the Governor troubled Cowley. The next few months were going to be tough on his newest recruit, and it seemed that he was going to be denied the respect and understanding of his family as well as being run into the ground by a hostile instructor. He knew that if they mollycoddled Doyle the chances of losing him would double, but they didn't have the right to destroy him completely.

"Have you worked out a schedule for Doyle yet?" Cowley asked; at least he would keep an eye on Bodie, make sure he did not go over the top.

Bodie handed over the rough plan he had worked out and watched as his boss examined the very untidily drawn outline.

"It is only a rough draft, sir," he offered as Cowley peered at the scribbled handwriting.

"That much I can see, Bodie." He peered at the scrawling words a little longer, then removed his glasses.

"I'll want a decent copy of the working timetable."

"Sir."

"There are only two weeks here, what will be your plans from that time?"

"Haven't worked them out yet, sir. I thought it best to see how he gets on with that little lot first."

Cowley pushed the timetable back across the desk. Bodie's answer hadn't fooled him at all. It was plain that the younger man was not expecting Doyle to last that long.

"Very well. Before you start I want you to see Macklin, he will tell you how to measure Doyle's heart rate, respiration and so forth. Bearing in mind that Doyle has not had any strenuous exercise for a long time you must be careful not to push him too hard too fast. If you have any cause for concern over his physical condition you will consult Dr Willis immediately. Do I make myself clear?"

"As crystal, sir," Bodie said crisply.

"I'll want a rough outline of the entire programme before tonight. You will show it to Macklin when you see him, as well. You are in charge of Doyle's training, Bodie, but Macklin will have my permission to change or adapt anything he deems necessary. That will be all."

Cowley dismissed Bodie from his office but not from his mind. The outline had been what he had hoped for. Not easy but not excessive. Bodie clearly did not have a very high opinion of Ray Doyle's resilience or stamina.

This whole idea of teaming the two men had been more than a diversionary tactic to keep the convalescent agent out of the office staff's hair. Bodie had all the skills that CI5 needed at his fingertips, a true professional; his military experience combined with his mercenary experiences, gun running and slightly illegal youth, plus the hard-shelled nature that he showed to the public was what made his presence so advantageous to the department.

But, and Cowley admitted that it was a big but, all that skill was in danger of running wild and free. Bodie had no roots, nothing to hold him down and Cowley was aware that if the occasion arose, he would move off. Nothing would stop him; apart from himself, Cowley guessed that few people would even care. The only reason Bodie remained now was because of his personal loyalty to the head of CI5. Loyalty was hard-won and easily lost. Cowley knew that there would have to be something else to hold Bodie back, another binding loyalty. The two men were chalk and cheese, they had little in common, practically nothing except comparable weaponry skills and a seemingly ingrained sense of competitiveness. If the teaming worked, Cowley suspected they would be unbeatable.

Ifs and buts. That's what it all boiled down to in the end. Cowley sighed and pulled out a file that had been out of sight in his desk drawer.

Slowly he read through the medical reports. Was it really wise to put the two men together, he asked himself. He had gained access to Bodie's confidence only rarely, the young man's private life being a close-kept secret; but the little he had gleaned of the horrific experiences Bodie had endured in Africa said that he was right. If only Doyle would trust Bodie enough he might find an understanding friend.



It took two trips from the taxi and four trips to the rubbish disposal chute before he could begin to put his purchases away in the drawers and wardrobe of his new temporary home.

He had enjoyed the experience of spending money like it was going out of fashion, had savoured the sensation of owning a wallet that, like Dozemary Pool, was bottomless. Money had never been much of a problem before, but the complete freedom of buying something just because he liked the feel of the cloth and the vibrant colours of the fabric was new to him.

Once everything was neatly packed away Doyle set about choosing something to wear. He was spoilt for choice but eventually settled on a pair of jeans and a soft cotton shirt that even with its starchy newness was more comfortable than his much-washed prison clothes. Dressed, he fastened the new watch around his wrist and began to attempt tidying up his tousled hair. He frowned at his reflection as he watched the curls spring straight back; next on the list was a decent haircut. The hand dragging the comb through his hair stopped mid-motion, and the frown deepened. The small shaving mirror he had used over the past year had been old and speckled, reflecting enough for him to shave adequately. This mirror was as good as new and situated in the correct position to reflect a perfectly clear, well-illuminated image of its user.

For a long time Doyle looked at himself. It was almost like seeing a stranger. He had known he had lost weight but he'd never realised how much; he had always been slim, but the wide-eyed waif in the mirror was a complete surprise. He looked like a walking skeleton--no wonder The Hulk (which he had adopted by way of name for his appointed trainer and flat mate) had not looked overly impressed. D.C. Doyle of the Yard had vanished and in his place stood--what--Ray Doyle, exonerated ex-con and CI5 hopeful. His gaze returned to the reflection of his face, and in particular the protruding lump high on his cheekbone.

"That'll teach you to be so bloody vain."

A chill crept up his spine and he felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle as he heard that hateful, despicable, loathsome voice that haunted his waking hours as well as his dreams.

Had he been vain? he asked himself. Before what happened to him inside he would have said not. He was what he was. He could not change the colour and curls of his hair or alter his physical shape any more than he could suddenly grow horns. He had never had any problems attracting the girls he had wanted once he'd passed the puberty-pimply stage and it had never occurred to him that he might attract fish from the other side of the pond. Again he asked himself, Why me? But, as on the millions of other occasions, he could not fathom an answer.

He forced himself to turn away from the mirror. How long would it be, he wondered, before he would be able to see that mark on his face without remembering all that went with it?

He consulted his watch; it was early evening and he wondered what time The Hulk would arrive at the flat. There was no way of knowing without calling HQ and he had no intention of doing that. Rummaging around in the bedside cabinet, he came across a few technical manuals on basic firearms, and for want of anything better to do, he settled down across his bed to read.

When Bodie arrived home he found Doyle still sprawled across the bed, fast asleep, with the magazine still open at the first page.

Bodie took stock of the new clothes; at least that was one worry settled, he'd clearly got some money from somewhere. He looked at the time; it was just gone 6.30 p.m., surely it was too early for Doyle to want to settle down to sleep for the rest of the night--besides, he wanted to talk to him about their plans for tomorrow. He crossed the room and laid a hand on the sleeping man's shoulder.

Doyle was standing upright on the opposite side of the bed almost before his eyes were open.

"Oh...it's you..." Doyle rubbed a hand across his face, wiping the sleep from his eyes. "Startled me... What d'you want?"

Bodie couldn't help but be amazed at the speed of Doyle's reactions. He would have sworn that the man had been very deeply asleep.

"Didn't mean to startle you, but I thought you'd want to know what's in store for you tomorrow." Now that Doyle was fully awake, Bodie was conscious of something in the cold glare he was receiving that was very unsettling; for a brief moment he felt that Doyle was scared of him but the aggressive stance denied that impression immediately. "Come through to the other room when you're ready." Still puzzled by the mixture of emotions, Bodie retreated to the living room.

It was a few minutes before Doyle joined him and settled down in the opposite armchair, perched on the edge, his eyes scanning the sheets of paper Bodie had spread over the coffee table, preparing for the worst.

"Right, first things first," said Bodie in a businesslike, impersonal tone of voice. "From Dr Willis, the departmental quack; he's gone over your medical files and will be seeing you for a thorough medical at various stages during your training. He reckons you're about two stone underweight so here's a special diet sheet--follow it."

Doyle looked at the paper; it contained a list of high-protein, high-carbohydrate foods, most of which he had always disliked intensely and had no intention of eating now on anybody's say-so.

"Next, you ever gone in for jogging?" Bodie asked, successfully making the question sound as if jogging was a distasteful vice that no sane person would ever consider.

"Yes, I used to do a fair bit, it's a good way of keeping fit."

"Oh." Somehow Bodie had guessed that would be the answer. "In that case you can start first thing tomorrow, set your own pace and distance, then after breakfast we'll go down to the gym and start on building up your muscles." Bodie smiled as he spoke but the expression failed to reach his eyes.

"Okay," Doyle agreed quietly, already looking forward to a jog around the peaceful streets the next morning.

"Have you got any gear? Shoes, trainers, that sort of thing?" Bodie asked. After this morning's encounter he could imagine Cowley's reaction to discovering Doyle exercising in normal street clothes.

"Yes." Doyle was pretty sure he had anticipated and prepared himself, equipment- and clothing-wise, for everything The Hulk was going to throw at him.

"After the first week or so we'll start going over department policies and tactics; your papers say you've done a bit of urban-guerrilla training."

"That's right."

"Well, you can forget just about everything you learnt. In CI5 we have our own way of handling things. I'll put you through all the ranges; as you progress we'll move on to the next group and then the next. In CI5 you will have to reach a specified level of accuracy and remain constant, otherwise you'll be out on your ear."

"How long will the testing go on for?"

"Constantly. Everyone is checked regularly; if you get complacent you're out."

From the casual, offhand tone Doyle surmised the Bodie was sure he was going to fail at the first hurdle. People had underestimated him before; just because he wasn't built like a brick outhouse they assumed he was a seven stone weakling. He had surprised his opponents on more than one occasion and he would do his utmost to shock The Hulk out of his careless judgement.

The discussion of the training schedule was suddenly interrupted by a very loud rumble. Embarrassed by his betraying stomach, Doyle forced himself to look up.

"Sorry, but I think my stomach's trying to tell me something."

"Wouldn't say no to something to eat either. What do you fancy, there's an Indian and Kebab's takeaway, a Kebab House or a chippy just around the corner."

Before Doyle could answer, though, Bodie said, "Shit, it's Wednesday, the Indian and Kebab's shut so it's chips, unless you can cook," he added without much hope.

"I can cook. What have you got in the kitchen?"

"Dunno, Marianne got a load of shopping at the weekend; it all cost enough so there must be something out there."

"Don't you cook?"

"Not if I can help it. Do you want to see what's there?"

"Okay."

Once he had shown the new cook where to find everything, Bodie retreated to the living room where he settled down in front of the telly with a can of beer and Doyle's training programme, only half aware of the muted clattering coming from the kitchen.

It was nearly an hour before Doyle piled everything onto two plates and carried Bodie's tray through to the living room. Trusting that Marianne would have pandered to Bodie's tastes, he had chucked just about everything he had found into the bolognaise sauce and poured it over a pile of steaming spaghetti.

Apart from the widening of his eyes and the undisguised eagerness with which he reached for the tray, Bodie made no comment, but the speed at which the meal vanished spoke for itself.

"There's some more outside if you want it," Doyle offered.

Bodie did, and helped himself to a second generous portion, offering some to Doyle, who just shook his head. As he watched the second helping go the way of the first, Doyle wondered why it seemed to be his lot in life to end up with people who enjoyed good food but were unable or unwilling to cook it. Ann had hated cooking; the very thought of peeling potatoes or chopping meat would make her miserable for hours. She'd enjoyed his cooking and he had always found pleasure in spending an hour or so in the kitchen. Mind you, he admitted to himself, with Ann it was cook it yourself or starve.

Bodie leant back in the armchair and stretched. "That was really good. Put you to work in the kitchens, did they?" It had been meant as a compliment; he had enjoyed the meal, and a full stomach usually put him in a very benevolent mood.

"How did you guess!"

The biting voice cut through Bodie's sated well-being and made him realise that perhaps his comment had lacked tact. Before he could respond, Doyle finished his meal and strode through to the kitchen.

He really hadn't meant to offend the man and Bodie waited for him to return so he could apologise, but an item on the news caught his attention and by the time the programme had finished he realised that time had passed and still Doyle had not returned. Walking through to the kitchen with his own dinner tray, he found everything washed up and left to drain, and the room empty. Adding his own things to the stack of pans and dishes on the drainer, Bodie peered into the hallway; light was spilling out from the half-open door to Doyle's room.

So, he thought grimly, the little toad had decided to sulk in solitude. Stuff him then, and he turned back to the living room and the film that was just starting.

Lounging across his bed with the gun magazine spread out in front of him, Doyle lifted his head and listened as he heard the footsteps from the living room to the kitchen and back. Through the doorway he could hear the music heralding the start of the film. He refused to let himself dwell on the stupid throwaway remark. It wasn't worth it, and it was, he acknowledged sadly, probably only the first of many such comments. He couldn't afford to let each one upset him, but pretending that they didn't was proving to be harder than he had expected.

The magazine was not particularly interesting and the noise from the television eventually proved too distracting. Unable to settle, Doyle got up from his lounging sprawl across the bed and walked quietly through to the living room.

On reaching the darkened room, though, his resolve to walk in and watch the film faltered. Bodie looked very comfortable. The light from the television fell upon a very cosy scene, with Bodie lying full length across the sofa, his head propped up on a cushion.

How long he stood in the door he was not sure. There was nothing to prevent him from entering the room, absolutely nothing--except Bodie's indifference. Unable to force himself to intrude on the man's privacy and reluctant to experience any more hassle, Doyle returned to the friendly isolation of his own room.



CHAPTER THREE

Turning left into the quiet side road in which he lived, Bodie gave a sideways glance at his flaked-out passenger who had been asleep since before they left the car park.

It was hardly surprising, though, Bodie admitted cheerfully, and he allowed himself to smile properly for the first time in nearly a week.

Today had been pretty tough for Doyle; standing on the sidelines the gleeful convalescent had seen the confidence and cockiness of the previous few days falter and fade. He had at first allowed Doyle to set his own pace without letting him realise exactly what he was doing. It made sense to know precisely what the little toad thought he was capable of, Bodie had decided, and so for three days he watched as Doyle did his early morning jogging, weight training and shooting practice. Doyle's level of fitness, considering his undernourished state, was in fact a little above average for his size and age--a fact which told Bodie that he had not spent the past three years shackled to some dungeon wall.

Ray Doyle had decided against informing his instructor about the series of exercises Bill Hillyard had worked him through in the prison gymnasium, deciding that it would be in his own best interest not to lay all his cards on the table at once. His object, however, was completely and utterly defeated by his wish not to fall flat on his face and show himself up in front of the irritatingly superior agent.

By the third day, Bodie knew exactly how far Doyle's strength and skill could take him. The fourth and fifth days he had pushed Doyle to his limit and beyond--and then on some more.

Drawing up to the kerb, Bodie jerked on the handbrake and switched off the engine. Doyle didn't so much as twitch. Bodie shook him roughly, then even harder. The sleeper jumped and pulled away from his touch, then mumbled something too softly for Bodie to hear, before settling down again on the other side of the seat.

"Oi!" Bodie leant over and shouted in his ear. "We're home. Wake up, Sleeping Beauty!"

A hand reached up to cover the ear nearest the noise and heavy lids lifted to glare in sleepy annoyance.

"We're home," Bodie repeated loudly, deciding there and then to leave Doyle in the car all night if he didn't wake up soon.

"Mmm--pardon? D'you say something... Oh, we're home..."

Uncoordinated fingers fumbled with the catch and pushed the door open. Recalling the agony last night's unthinking haste had caused, Doyle was careful to move each leg slowly and ease himself out of the car gently. He didn't care if he did look like an arthritic geriatric, he wasn't going to give Bodie the pleasure of seeing him doubled in agony caught by a cramp halfway between the car and the pavement again.

Following Bodie into the flats, he glared first at the staircase and then at the smug grin on the arrogant face. He dearly wanted to tell Bodie what he could do with his bloody lift, but he knew he lacked the energy to do it; he didn't even have the strength to crawl up the flaming stairs on his hands and knees--and Bodie knew it.

Angry with himself for being so weak, he raged mutely as Bodie considerately opened and closed the lift gates. Once inside the flat he flopped down in front of the television, prepared at least to try and take an interest in the news and following current affairs programme. Apparently--according to Bodie anyway--all self-respecting CI5 agents kept on top of current affairs constantly. As well as the physical training, Bodie had him reading all the daily newspapers, every day--cover to cover--from the Court Diary in the Times to the gossip column in the Sun and all points in between. If he wasn't being thrashed, pounded and humiliated, he was stuck in a corner hidden behind piles of newsprint.

Since the first disastrous evening Doyle had not offered to cook anything more adventurous than toast or coffee, and it had been left to Bodie, with half an eye on Dr Willis' diet sheet, to prepare the evening meals.

The reason for Doyle's malnourished appearance swiftly became obvious to Bodie. The man had the appetite of an anorexic sparrow! What Doyle had eaten in the last week wouldn't keep Bodie satisfied for a day. Coaxing a grown man to eat was not a skill that Bodie had ever acquired. His culinary expertise was not extensive but he tried to tempt Doyle with the few things that Willis recommended and he could cook. Steak and potatoes. Oven chips, Bodie decided, were the next best thing.

Carrying the dinner trays through to the lounge, Bodie was hard-pressed not to laugh at Doyle's earnest attempt to look wide awake and alert as he stared with glazed eyes in the general direction of the television, looking for all the world as if the Andrex puppy was the hottest news of the day.

The weight of the tray on his lap drew Doyle back to the present and he looked down, trying to hide his dismay.

Steak and chips again! Couldn't Bodie cook anything else? He couldn't even cook steak, Doyle decided as his stomach threatened to revolt; it was raw--if it had even seen the base of a frying pan it hadn't stayed long enough to make any impression, and if that wasn't bad enough, the blood made the chips go soggy.

Once he was sure Bodie had forgotten he was there, and he had eaten his fill of the unbloodied chips and accompanying tomato, Doyle slipped quietly into the kitchen and carefully disposed of the unwanted steak.

Surfacing from his own preoccupation, Bodie was unsurprised to find himself alone. Apart from the aggravation of preparing an extra meal and the odd extra cup of coffee, he could almost forget he was sharing his flat with anyone else. Even after five days there were no outward signs that anyone other than Bodie lived there. He'd had girls stay over before and even after only one day he would find things scattered about, an extra toothbrush in the bathroom, a strange jacket in the hallway, an unfamiliar book beside a chair, but so far nothing belonging to Ray Doyle had left the small spare room that he occupied.

It was still early, not even half past nine, but Bodie knew that if he went into the hallway he would find the rest of the flat in darkness. Early to bed, early to rise and all that, Bodie thought. At least the berk didn't try to pretend he didn't need to sleep that much. Christ! if he had to tuck him into bed at night as well as everything else he'd do his nut next time Cowley asked how things were getting on.

Cowley! Should he tell Cowley about last night? God, let's hope that's not going to be repeated in a hurry, Bodie thought fervently. Doyle hadn't mentioned it this morning. Not that there was any reason why he should, of course. Nightmares were a perfectly normal thing to have; it was just your subconscious showing you all the nasty, horrible things that your conscious mind insisted on forgetting. A lot of perfectly normal people had nightmares; Bodie even had them. High on his list of most embarrassing memories was a recollection of the circle of twelve startled, sleepy faces around his bed as he screamed and fought off the enemy, only to wake up in his nice, safe bed in the middle of the barrack dormitory. One bad dream could happen to anyone.

It was the seventh night before the second dream disrupted the quiet flat.

Already reaching for his gun as sleep vanished, Bodie was on his feet before the panicked cry faded. For a moment it was quiet, but he trusted his senses enough to know he wasn't remembering a dream.

Not his dream--Doyle's. In the dark the voice cried out again, louder and more distressed. Slipping his gun back into its holster, Bodie relaxed a little.

Another cry came from the other room. More disturbed than he cared to admit by the obvious terror behind the garbled cries, Bodie slipped on his dressing gown and softly padded down the hall. The other night Doyle had seemingly woken up after the first cry because there had only been the one, blood-chilling scream that had frightened Bodie out of a year's growth. Sleep was reluctant to loose its grip on the exhausted, terrified man tonight, though. One more cry decided it for Bodie and he pushed open the door and reached for the main light switch; in the same instant Doyle jolted awake and hit the bedside light, the resulting brilliance blinding both men.

"What do you want?" Doyle asked in a breathless voice. "What's up?"

"That's what I came here to ask you," Bodie replied, slightly annoyed that he had to explain his presence. "Sleepwalking isn't something I go in for--neither is waking the neighbours at three in the morning screaming my head off."

So he had been screaming then. Sometimes, if he was lucky, Doyle knew that he would wake up before the screaming started, but like tonight, more often than not he wouldn't. Instead of the screws banging the door down, he now had to contend with Bodie also suffering broken nights.

"Sorry if I disturbed you...it was just a dream." Might just as well warn him of the worst, Doyle decided. "Get them every now and then. Seems I get a bit...noisy."

"I'd already worked that out for myself."

Sharp eyes looked up at him in a silent question.

"A few nights ago I heard you--guessed it was a bad dream."

The eyes dropped and gazed intently at the sheets. He didn't remember that one, they didn't always wake him up. Now that the recent nightmare was fading and the icy fear that chilled him to the bone was thawing, other emotions, mainly embarrassment, flooded in.

Remembering his own humiliation in the wide-awake barrack room, Bodie found himself trying to ease the tension. There was no shame attached to having the odd nightmare.

"Look, it's okay, don't worry about it," he said kindly. "All coming to get you, were they?" he joked.

The innocent words made Doyle freeze. Did Bodie know, he wondered. Surely not. He wasn't even sure if Cowley knew. Stupid. Of course Cowley knew--it was just easier to pretend that no one did. Was there anyone who didn't know? He'd grown used to the change of expression, the flash of sympathy, revulsion and in some cases excitement. Bob Craig, the doctors, the nurses in the public hospital, Governor Bryant, the screws--everyone in 'B' wing had known. Why should Bodie remain ignorant of the facts? But maybe he didn't know; Doyle wanted to believe he didn't. Were CI5 agents allowed to have nightmares, he asked himself--probably not. Would Bodie write "unsuitable because of recurring nightmares" across his report? Time would tell.

"Something like that."

The answer, when it finally came, was something of an anticlimax. Bodie watched as the immobile figure had worked the intended joke through, thought about it and spat it out. He would dearly love to know what had been behind the changes of expression in the drawn face that, in only a few seconds, had reflected shock, fear, disgust, despair and resignation.

"Look," Doyle continued, his fingers plucking at a loose thread on the pillow case, "like you said, this wasn't the first time...don't suppose it'll be the last either. There's no point both of us being up half the night--so next time, if there is a next time, I'd be grateful if you just left me alone. There's nothing you can do...just ignore it."

"If that's what you want."

"It's what I want."

"See you in the morning then."

"Yeah."

Giving him a stiff nod, Bodie switched off the main light and went back to his own room. Doyle watched him go, breathing a sigh of relief as he heard him returning to his own bed. Relaxing against the pillow, he closed his eyes. He was wide awake now; not that he wished to go to sleep right away, the dream always seemed to come back when he did that.

Through the open door he heard Bodie cough as he snuggled back into his bed, the noise sounding clearly through the quiet flat. Getting out of bed, Doyle walked to the door and slowly shut it; he stayed there for a few minutes with his hand resting on the handle. The small room grew oppressive; a cold sweat broke out across his face and down his back and his heart started pounding wildly. Suddenly terrified that he was going to be trapped in the tiny room, he opened the door, the rush of cool air dispelling the panic as swiftly as it had begun.

He stood there, leaning on the doorframe, gulping at the air. CI5 might well accept agents prone to nightmares but Doyle was certain that claustrophobes wouldn't even get past the first interview.

He closed the door and walked away, back to the other side of the room. It wasn't locked; there wasn't even a lock on the door. Any time he wanted to get out he could just walk over and open it. Any time.

He lay back down on the bed and closed his eyes.



With his jacket slung over his shoulder, Doyle sauntered out onto the street, hoping that he looked more at ease than he felt. It was the first time since being released that he had gone out alone of his own choice. Although he enjoyed his solitary morning jog, he was always aware that someone was awaiting his return and hoping that maybe this morning he would collapse and refuse to go on.

No, he thought, deciding to be fair, Bodie was starting to realise that he meant business. Strolling along the sun-drenched, tree-lined avenue, Doyle felt in a mood to be charitable. He really couldn't blame Bodie for reacting to the proposed partnership without any enthusiasm. It must have been a terrible blow to his ego when Cowley had informed him that, after due consideration, he had decided that an ex-convict--albeit a wrongly convicted one--who had done three years inside, suffered from nightmares and various other psychological disorders and was two stone underweight was the ideal partner for him. It would probably take a bit of getting used to.

He carried on walking slowly, just looking around him, soaking up the easy atmosphere. Most of the office workers had gone home and the only people on the streets seemed to be people like himself, just out enjoying the summer evening: tourists with their cameras and guidebooks, couples soaking up the sun and each other's company, a few families looking tired but happy after a day in the big city.

A little way down the road, a public house had set tables and chairs outside on the pavement so people could drink and continue to watch the gentle flow of life and London, and he made himself comfortable with a cool beer at one of the tables. He was tired but not exhausted, today having been slightly easier because of Bodie's distraction. Doyle felt mildly guilty that he had used the other man's lack of attention to ease up. For the past two weeks Bodie had been pushing him harder than necessary, but he had an idea that he was going to be grateful for the strict regime he had imposed. Today, in a different part of the gym, another agent had been working out and Bodie had asked her to take Doyle on the mats in hand-to-hand combat. Ruth had agreed and set to enthusiastically; at first her degree of skill had floored Doyle--several times--but Ruth calmly told him that the first rule was always--never underestimate your opponent. He already knew that and was mad with himself for having to be so forcibly reminded, especially in front of Bodie, and by a woman who was certainly no taller or heavier than he was. He didn't consider himself to have a chauvinist attitude but being defeated so soundly by a mere woman was painful.

At the end of the day Bodie had told him quietly that he wouldn't be going straight home that night; the news had not surprised Doyle in the least. Bodie had not been very discreet about who he had been concentrating on all day, so after seeing Bodie and Ruth Pettifer slip away together, he had decided to venture out on his own.

There had been nothing to stop him going out at any time except his own exhaustion. Another reason why he had put off going had been his total lack of choice. An evening out with Bodie was something he was sure he could live without; all day in the man's company was bad enough. He had never really enjoyed drinking alone and he was very reluctant to call on any of his old friends, none of whom had visited or kept in touch with him--which really only left the cinema or a show, a meal in a restaurant--table for one, cruellest sentence in the world, that.

No. A quiet walk. Soak up the sunshine then go home, read that manual Bodie'd given him, try to stay awake past ten o'clock and then with luck, a dreamless sleep.

"Hello, love, sitting all alone on a lovely night like this! Can I join you?"

The soft, lilting voice jolted him back to the present and he looked up in time to see a slim, fair-haired young woman settle herself down at his table and arrange her drink and bags neatly beside her. He looked around them and saw that there were other empty tables she could have chosen and found himself wishing she had.

"Nice sitting out here like this, isn't it?" she said conversationally, trapping Doyle instantly when he agreed that it was by launching into the predictable make-talk by discussing the weather. Not in the mood for talking, Doyle made another mistake by mutely agreeing with her meteorological comments.

"Come from around here, do you?" she asked, in a sudden change of direction.

"No, not from here."

"Not a Londoner then?"

"No." He wasn't, not a born one anyway, and before he could stop himself he made his third mistake and began contributing to the so-far one-sided conversation.

"I was born in the Midlands but I've been mostly in London since I left school."

"I come from the sticks too, came to London for some excitement, I did. My name's Carole, by the way."

He couldn't have cared less but couldn't bring himself to be rude and so introduced himself.

"Ray." He returned her smile and tried to convince himself that he wasn't seeing all the signals he thought he was. There was nothing blatant about Carole; her personality was a little too powerful for his taste but she was modestly dressed and somehow didn't look as if she was a working girl.

"Are you meeting someone, Ray? I mean, I don't want to intrude."

"No, I'm not."

"All alone on a beautiful evening like this, criminal that is," said Carole softly.

Now he knew his first guess had been right. Up-market and classy but still a scrubber. Doyle's first reaction was a strong wave of revulsion but he kept in control long enough to stand up and make a reasonably civil farewell.

"Maybe it is but that's the way I prefer it. Goodbye."

Abandoning his unfinished beer he left the table and walked away, heading down towards the embankment, fighting the nausea that threatened to overwhelm him. At last he reached the river and, oblivious to passers-by, he leant against the wall, stared blindly out across the water and tried to stop the terrible trembling that shook his body.

The strength of his reaction frightened him. She was only a prostitute after all. He had spoken with enough of her kind in the line of duty not to be surprised or shocked by anything she might have said or done. She had been quite attractive; any other red-blooded man who had spent three years away from women would probably have jumped at what she was selling--whatever her price, he knew he would have been able to afford it.

Admit it, Doyle, he told himself harshly, she bloody terrified you! You're shit-scared of getting involved in a sexual scene. You're bloody hopeless! Inside his head the word echoed cruelly. Hopeless! Even if he had gone somewhere with her, nothing would have happened. Nothing. Ever since that last big fight when--his mind shied away from the thought, practice making it almost a reflex action. For nearly a year now there had been a whole lot of nothing. At first he hadn't bothered, hadn't cared, but then as time went by he found he did care--but still a big, fat nothing!

Turning away from the river he began to walk more or less in the direction of Bodie's flat. Not only claustrophobic but impotent as well. He could imagine Bodie's horror if he ever discovered the real truth about his new partner.



Summer ended abruptly and autumn began wetly; it rained constantly for the next three days. Bodie, who liked getting caught in the rain about as much as a cat did, hated it.

Waiting huddled out of the wind and wet in the doorway, Bodie looked up from his stopwatch in the direction that Doyle ought to be approaching from. The rain-washed street was deserted. Still, Bodie conceded, it was a bit premature to expect him just yet. The route he'd sent him on was at least five miles and the longest yet. He'd give it another five minutes then send out the hearse to bring back the body.

He spent the time checking through Doyle's progress chart that he had compiled over the last three weeks. For the first time he actually allowed a glimmer of admiration to peek through. It must have been obvious to Doyle that he had been put through the mill, that CI5 didn't really expect him to have progressed so far quite so soon, but he hadn't complained once. There had been the odd occasion when he'd seen Doyle close his mouth over a quick, explosive retort, or when he'd seemed to question the severity of a test, but each time he'd knuckled under and done what was asked. Not always successfully and not always very well--but at least he'd tried. Bodie had to give credit where it was due.

So far, Doyle had been full of surprises, physically at least. The lean, stringy body was surprisingly strong and had more staying power than first impressions led one to believe. After only three weeks the results of plenty of exercise, fresh air, sunshine and good food had banished the haunted, hunted look from Doyle's face. If only the recurring dreams would leave him alone Bodie was sure that Doyle's mental recovery would also speed up. But it wasn't just the dreams, Bodie acknowledged; the nightmares were only a symptom of a more serious condition and something would have to be done about the root cause of Doyle's unease before he could be considered for active duty with the department.

Cowley had not mentioned anything about Doyle suffering from psychiatric problems, and Bodie suspected that if he got a whiff of any mental trauma, Doyle would swiftly find himself out of the section. Or would he? The department had its own psychiatric specialist--Kate Ross; although Bodie had a deep dislike for and mistrust of the profession that had little to do with Dr Ross personally, he admitted that she seemed to serve a purpose. One or two agents had been told to see her professionally after a couple of very ugly operations had backfired with horrific results. Should he involve Ross? Later perhaps--if no other solution presented itself. Meantime, thought Bodie, what the hell can I do with a man who retreats into his room at every opportunity and emerges only at feeding times and for his scheduled exercises?

Despite invitations from other members of the squad and the odd genuine invitation from Bodie, Doyle had shunned all social contact, neither had he made any arrangements to see his own friends. After three years locked away from the finer things in life, Bodie was more than a little surprised at Doyle's total lack of interest in women.

The first time it happened he'd just thought that Doyle was too thick to realise what he was being offered, but in the end the girls were being so blatant even a Trappist monk would have at least suspected the motives behind their interest.

In an official situation he coped with the office staff and the few female agents in a perfectly normal way, but once the business was over he became distant and introverted, doing everything except melt into the wall in an effort to become invisible. The more the girls pressed, the further Doyle retreated. Wasn't just the girls though, Bodie realised in a sudden flash of insight; in every social encounter Doyle had done his utmost to remain in the background, retreating from any conversation as fast as he could without drawing any more attention.

Splashing feet drew him out of his thoughts and he looked up in time to see Doyle on the last few yards of his run. Instead of being confronted by a weary, bedraggled figure, though, Bodie saw a man almost bursting with excitement and lit up with an inexplicable inner joy. Apart from being a little breathless he didn't even seem to be tired.

"What are you hiding in there for?" Doyle enquired, his eyes and face transformed by a previously unseen smile. "Anyone would think you were scared of getting wet!"

Noting down Doyle's time, Bodie just shrugged. "Dunno what you're looking so cheerful for--you must be soaked to the skin."

"I am. Beautiful, isn't it! Love running in the rain--makes everything so fresh, clean." He drew in a deep breath. "Just smell it, all that clean, fresh air. How did I do?" he asked, peering over the top of the clipboard Bodie was busily scribbling on.

"Not bad, not bad." Actually, it was quite good and he had an idea Doyle knew it, but Bodie refused to let him see that he was impressed. "Not quite up to our standard yet but you're getting better."

"Blimey, go easy with the praise, won't you!"

Bodie responded to the teasing voice with a smile of his own. "Just 'cause you've managed to finish a little run on your own two feet rather than on your hands and knees, don't go getting any ideas."

"Hands and knees, Christ, I didn't even finish that first run." Unconcerned by the dismal failure of his first long run, Doyle laughed at the memory of Bodie having to scoop him up from the pavement where he collapsed, sweating and exhausted.

"Just goes to show what a decent bed and food can do for you. Prison life's never won anyone competitions in the fitness stakes."

Even as the words formed in his mouth Bodie knew he shouldn't say them--but it was too late. Immediately the happy sparkle in the bright eyes faded and the battered face turned to stone. Any mention of prison caused this reaction and Bodie only knew he had destroyed Doyle's happy, carefree mood with his remark. But even though he regretted breaking the cheerful mood, Bodie was irritated by Doyle's excessive reaction to every harmless comment.

"Look," he began, unsuccessfully trying to keep his voice calm, "I'm sorry if I'm thoughtless enough to keep making references to where you've been for the past three years--" Doyle's face became even bleaker and Bodie's patience snapped.

"It's a fact of life, Doyle," he shouted. "You've been inside one of Her Majesty's Institutions for three years. You know it and I know it. It was very unfortunate and I don't expect you had the time of your life while you were in there but neither of us can get away from it. You, Raymond Doyle, have been in prison for three long years. I don't blame you for wanting to forget about it but there's no call for you to get all twitchy and miserable every time I or anyone else is bloody daft enough not to cater for your delicate sensibilities. If you're going to act like Lot's wife every time the subject comes up you might as well get out now! If we're going to end up working together it's a fact we're both going to have to accept. You can't pretend it didn't happen because it did."

"A fact that we're both going to have to accept!" Doyle spat the phrase back at him. "That's rich, that is. It's just a fact of life that I'm gonna have to accept, is it?"

Bodie was rooted to the spot by the venom in the smaller man's voice, suddenly remembering his own hard-learned lesson that strength wasn't directly related to size.

"I haven't really got much choice, have I? Even if I did want to forget it'd all come flooding back the next time I looked in a mirror. I'll tell you something that'll make you laugh, you'll really love this, Bodie." Doyle's face twisted with bitterness and anger and Bodie knew that whatever he was going to hear, he wouldn't want to laugh.

"I don't look in a mirror to shave any more. In fact I hardly ever look at my reflection nowadays because every time I do see it..." A slim white-knuckled hand rose and touched the protruding cheekbone. "Once upon a time they used to brand criminals so everyone would know who they were and what they'd done. This--" Bodie watched as a finger stroked over the disfiguring bulge and the scarring that was still shiny pink. "This is a brand as far as I'm concerned, because every time I see it I remember how and where I got it. Forget! No chance!"

As if he suddenly realised that he was revealing too much of his inner torment, Doyle turned away and made a performance of picking up his track suit jacket and sports bag that he'd left on the floor. The movement didn't fool Bodie for a moment. He'd heard Doyle's voice waver and crack and seen the over-bright eyes. It was the first time that Doyle had made any reference to what had happened to him and Bodie guess there was a lot of pain bottled up inside, pain that needed to be released if it wasn't going to fester and warp his outlook, thereby destroying everything.

"How did that happen anyway?" Bodie asked mildly, illustrating the point by tapping his own, unflawed cheekbone. He knew that Doyle was going to have to talk it out with someone eventually. It was perhaps unfortunate that Doyle had not read the same psychology books, though--for he had obviously decided that he most definitely was not going to discuss it.

"It's none of your fucking business!" was Doyle's not wholly unexpected retort before he headed off towards the shower room at a brisk trot.

Unconcerned, Bodie watched him go, following behind at his own unhurried pace.

That's what you think, sunshine, he thought as Doyle disappeared through the locker room door. Maybe what happened inside that prison was none of his business but a little triviality like that was not going to stop him from finding out a few things. Pushing through the swinging door, Bodie saw that they had the shower room to themselves and Doyle was already minus his rain- and sweat-soaked T shirt.

As soon as he heard the protesting squeal of the door hinge, Doyle felt an icy hand clutch at his entrails and he spun around.

It was only Bodie.

He wiped the fresh sweat from his face and tried to still his pounding heart. He knew his hands were shaking but was powerless to prevent them. Dropping the shirt onto the seat, he looked sideways at Bodie, who had settled himself down on the opposite bench and was busily scribbling on his clipboard.

He's not even looking, Doyle told himself, but it was no good--the shaking wouldn't cease. Don't just stand there, Doyle, get undressed and get it over with before he does start looking, the voice inside his head told him calmly, and he knew it was the sensible thing to do...if only he could get his body to cooperate, he would.

Not looking up from his sheet of times and schedule, Bodie suddenly asked: "You met Macklin yet?"

Peeling off his second wet sock, Doyle refused to look up, forcing himself to keep calm and act naturally.

"No. Heard of him though," he said stiffly as he stood up and forced leaden fingers to slip his running shorts down.

"Oh well, you'll get a nice surprise on Monday then. I've asked him to run you through the department's fitness test. Want to see how much further I've got to push you."

Doyle had heard of Macklin's fitness exam from some of the other agents and knew that Monday was going to be a real toughie, but all he was worried about now was getting through the next ten minutes without disgracing himself. As if from a great distance he heard himself talking, his voice sounding tinny and unreal.

"Do you think I'm up to it?"

"No," Bodie said bluntly. "But it'll give a chance to see how much you've progressed and how much further you've got to go."

Unable to postpone the moment any longer, Doyle slipped off his briefs and walked into the communal shower.

"No one's expecting you to have reached the grade just yet," Bodie continued, looking up in time to see Doyle's stiff-legged walk into the shower. "You've come on pretty well--better than I expected, to be honest--but I want Macklin to see you in action; this training thing is more in his line than mine and he'll be able to see what needs working on."

The way Doyle was standing under the shower made Bodie look at the naked man worriedly. Had he strained himself, Bodie wondered.

"What's up?" he asked, not bothering to mask the concern in his voice. "Have you pulled a muscle or something?"

"No." Doyle could feel Bodie's eyes burning into his back and even though the water was hot he felt icy prickles all over his skin.

The abrupt 'no' did little to dispel Bodie's worry. Something was wrong here, he knew that much--but what? Standing up, he walked across to Doyle's towel, his eyes not missing the way the nude body jumped as he knocked against the bench. He held the towel out for Doyle to take, unprepared for the naked fear in the white face and wide-opened eyes, but the hand that grasped the towel was steady. It was so unexpected that Bodie found himself speechless, and he watched in stunned silence as Doyle wrapped the cloth around his waist and moved to the bench where his dry clothes were.

Doyle was scared of him...no, terrified! Doyle was terrified, but why? Bodie racked his brains trying to think what he had said or done to have caused such a reaction, but found nothing. Instinctively knowing that his closeness was contributing to Doyle's problem, Bodie moved back to his clipboard on the other side of the room and felt the tension ease fractionally as the physical distance between them increased.

"I'll meet you in the cafeteria for a cup of tea. Okay?"

"Okay," Doyle agreed, but Bodie had the feeling that he would have agreed to anything if it meant he was going to be left alone.

Musing over his cup of tea while he waited, Bodie tried to pinpoint what was bothering him so much--or rather, what was bothering Doyle. There were lots of little things that did not seem very important on their own but, now he put them all together, began to take shape like a jigsaw. Going backwards, Bodie mentally listed everything, starting with Doyle's very obvious fear in the shower room. It wasn't the first time they'd been alone together--so what was different, what had happened? He had never been in the locker room with him before; all the other times, Doyle had slipped away unnoticed or waited until Bodie had been involved with someone else. So what was so different about being alone together in that room? And the other day in the car...on several occasions Doyle had fallen asleep on their way home and until now Bodie had taken no notice of the physical jump Doyle gave each time he was woken up...that very first night too, Bodie remembered suddenly, he had leapt off that bed as if he thought Bodie was going to rape him or...

The jigsaw was suddenly complete.

God no, Bodie thought, surely not. But even as he sought to deny it, he re-ran everything through his mind, his surprising explanation fitting perfectly with Doyle's behaviour...the social withdrawal, his seemingly untypical attitude towards sex, his dislike of being touched unexpectedly, and his fear of being unclothed in front of someone.

Bodie recalled the records he had seen; Doyle had been involved in an extraordinary number of fights and 'incidents'. Having spent most of his adult life in a predominantly male society, Bodie was only too painfully aware of how some men, deprived of normal sexual outlets, could turn on each other for release. Already an outcast, the former policeman would have found few, if any, allies amongst the prison staff, and the inmates would have had free rein over the unfortunate man who represented the system that had put them there. The vulnerability of Doyle's position combined with his looks would have made him the obvious target if what Bodie suspected was true. How far would it have gone? His medical notes were, Bodie now realised, incomplete. A broken wrist, cracked ribs and a broken face said Doyle hadn't gone down without a fight...but that was over a year ago. What had happened since then?

Bodie pondered over Doyle's possible, no, probable reply if he questioned him, and knew he would have to wait until Doyle wanted to talk; it was no good trying to force out a confidence before it was ready. The problem was, when would Doyle decide he was ready to talk?



Bodie rolled over onto his face and pulled the pillow over his head in a vain attempt to block out the desperate cries that reverberated around the quiet flat.

"Come on, you bugger, wake up," he muttered through clenched teeth as he waited for the choked-off scream that usually heralded the end of this particular nightmare.

Another wordless scream reached his buried ears.

"Four bleedin' thirty in the morning," he groaned. "For chrissake, Doyle, wake up so I can get to sleep. Please!"

Being woken at all hours was fast becoming a habit.

Doyle's mental state seemed to be deteriorating in relation to his improving physical condition. At first, the dreams had only happened once a night with two or three peaceful nights between them; then they'd come every other night and now, for the second night in succession, they were trapping their victim every time he settled back down to sleep.

So far the nightmares had been a taboo subject; each morning Doyle had eaten his breakfast with an unfriendly, distant expression which discouraged any attempts on Bodie's part to discuss the cause of the dreams.

The training programme had been going very well up till now, but this afternoon, Bodie had seen the troubled expression on Macklin's face as he watched Doyle being defeated again and again because of his inattention and carelessness. The charts Bodie had been keeping on Doyle's progress were also beginning to reflect the downward trend--the impressive start was turning into a dismal decline.

Lack of sleep was the main problem. Doyle's reluctance to try and sleep was caused by the fact that each time he did succumb he would wake up, shouting and fighting and, not unnaturally, scared to drop off again.

A routine medical check yesterday had revealed that Doyle was beginning to lose weight again; the little he had gained on being released was being eaten away by exhaustion and lack of sleep.

Even through two closed doors and several inches of pillow, Doyle's garbled shouts and cries reached Bodie's ears. Should he go and wake him up, Bodie wondered. Did he really want to face a repeat of the previous night's arguments? Monday night had been bad enough without trying for a re-run. Doyle had made it quite plain weeks ago that he wanted to be left alone, but his obvious distress had worried at Bodie until he'd been compelled to go down the hall to Doyle's bedroom. His timing had been off and Doyle had shuddered awake the moment before he reached there and was already sitting up, rubbing the vestiges of whatever horrors had beset him, when Bodie burst through the door.

"What do you want?" Doyle had snapped out.

"Nothing. Thought I might be able to help, that's all," Bodie muttered, already regretting his impulse.

"Don't you know how to knock?" Doyle enquired nastily, turning his fear into anger because that way it was easier to handle. "I know this is your flat but I'd expected to be granted a bit of privacy."

"Pardon me for breathing," Bodie retaliated. "You can have all the bleedin' privacy you want, mate--all I ask in return is a decent night's sleep where I don't have to listen to you shrieking and hollering your head off!"

"I wouldn't say no to a decent night's sleep myself."

Bodie heard Doyle's voice crack and tried to cool things down; he knew it wasn't Doyle's fault.

"Look, I'm...sorry," he said carefully. "I know you're not doing it on purpose and I don't really mind--"

"I do!" Doyle was still struggling to hold onto his anger; he had a nasty suspicion that Bodie was building up to a good old all-men-together heart-to-heart and right now that was the last thing he wanted.

"Do you want to talk about it, get it off your chest?" Bodie offered.

"It was just a dream. I've already told you that I get them sometimes. I'm sorry they disturb you but--"

"I'm not talking about tonight and you know it," Bodie pushed.

"It was just a bad dream. What's wrong, are you going to tell me that CI5 agents aren't allowed to have bad dreams?" Doyle asked in a scathing voice.

"No," Bodie countered placidly. "Even the best of us get unpleasant dreams. It's an occupational hazard. You stick around and one day you'll get a front row seat on one of my screaming specials." Bodie stepped further into the room and sat down at the foot of the bed. Doyle glared at him with undisguised contempt.

"Do make yourself comfortable."

"The odd dream," Bodie continued, "is perfectly normal. I'm not sure that Ross or Cowley will think your record over the past few weeks counts as normal, though."

"You're going to tell them?" Behind the I-don't-give-a-damn-if-you-do, Bodie heard the note of worry.

"You're going to have to talk to someone."

"Fuck off!"

"And if you won't talk to me it'll have to be someone else."

"Talk about what?"

"You tell me."

"Nothing to tell. I just get a bad dream occasionally--I don't even remember what they're about, it's just a bad dream," lied Doyle, not even sounding as if he managed to convince himself of the untruth.

"Come on, Doyle, loosen up, it's not as if I can't guess what's behind all this. You're not the first bloke it ever happened to and I doubt very much if you'll be the last. It's behind you now though, and it's time to--"

Doyle had gone white, every drop of colour vanished from his face and for a second Bodie thought he was going to faint, his words dying unspoken as he waited for Doyle to move, collapse or whatever.

In a flash, Doyle was out of his bed and on him, heaving him bodily and almost throwing him towards the door; stunned by the sudden, white rage the smaller man had flown into, Bodie allowed himself to be pushed, a small coherent part of his brain telling him that it would be safer and less painful to cooperate.

"What are you talking about?" Doyle yelled furiously. "What do you know about anything? I'm not going to talk to you about anything. Do you hear me? There's nothing to talk about. Nothing!"

Doyle's voice was marginally below the point at which it would have been hysterical, and he shoved Bodie out into the darkened hallway. "They didn't do it. The doctors said they didn't do it so there's nothing to talk about, is there. Now get out. Get out and leave me alone!"

The door had been slammed in his face and Bodie had meekly returned to his own bed, awed by the strength released by Doyle's temper. Shocked and troubled, the remainder of the night had been passed in an uneasy but undisturbed sleep from which he'd woken up tired and unrefreshed. Doyle hadn't looked any better and Bodie accurately guessed that he hadn't managed or dared to go back to sleep. The day had gone from bad to worse and they had returned to the flat in the evening, tired and despondent.

After the disturbance of the previous night, Bodie had turned in fairly early but he had known that Doyle had probably fought against his tiredness, unwilling to give in to a sleep that he knew was going to be plagued by terror.

Another bloodcurdling scream, by far the worst so far, reached through the pillow.

Unable to ignore it any longer--he wouldn't even leave a wild animal to suffer so--Bodie snatched up his bathrobe and strode purposefully down the hallway, disregarding totally all of Doyle's pleas to be left alone. It had gone on long enough.

Opening the door and switching on the light, Bodie's initial fury died as he saw the curled-up ball tangled in the bedding. For a split second he thought Doyle had woken up but then realised that although he had reacted to the sudden light and noise he was still trapped, trembling and terrified, in his nightmare.

"Doyle," he called softly. "Doyle...Ray...come on, Ray, time to wake up."

The trembling only increased and the hunched figure made a jerky movement that looked as though he was trying to burrow into the mattress.

"Come on, Ray, snap out of it." Bodie reached over and touched a bare shoulder, intending only to shake the sleeper awake.

"No!"

Doyle uncurled and exploded into movement, throwing himself at Bodie and launching an all-out attack with flying fists, knees and elbows, the wild, uncoordinated frenzy taking them both down onto the floor where Bodie was barely able to protect himself from serious injury.

It was a few, painful seconds before Bodie realised that Doyle was still trapped in his dream world and set out to wake him up without either of them getting killed in the process. Hampered by his concern that Doyle shouldn't be hurt any more, the only way left for Bodie to immobilise him was to wrap himself octopus-fashion around the thrashing body and use his greater weight to pin Doyle to the floor.

Instinctively recognising the helplessness of his position, Doyle froze, his whole body rigid, and Bodie heard a small, heart-rending whisper that made him want to kill the bastards who had almost destroyed a young man.

"No...please don't...no...no." Doyle's voice was pathetically tired, almost as if he had given up hoping to be listened to, and he'd stopped fighting.

Cautiously, Bodie eased the vise-like grip, thinking again that Doyle was awake, and pulled away slightly, propping himself up on an elbow to look down on the trembling body he was still sprawled across.

"Hey--you awake?" Bodie lightly touched the man's arm, half expecting to be thrown off again, but not this time.

As his fingers skimmed up the bare flesh, Doyle went rigid and inhaled sharply, his eyes snapping open, finally awake. Seeing the confusion in the brilliant jade eyes, Bodie spoke softly, reassurance flowing easily as he sought to calm the trembling that was shaking Doyle's body.

"You're awake now. It's all over...everything's gonna be just fine. 's all right, no one's going to hurt you...just keep calm...relax...there's nothing to get worried about, I'm not going to hurt you--no one is...are you listening? Can you hear me?" Bodie asked, suddenly wondering if his good intentions and words of comfort were getting beyond the glazed, wide-eyed stare.

There was still no reply, so Bodie eased himself off Doyle but remained close by him on the floor, one hand cupping the warm skin on Doyle's shoulder, squeezing and rubbing gently with soothing, relaxing movements, touch reinforcing the protective and caring emotions that Bodie was projecting.

Watching as Doyle closed his eyes again, Bodie took hope from the fact that neither his touch nor his presence had been rejected. He was unsure of what to do for the best and racked his brains for any ideas. How should he cope with this? One wrong move and he knew he would lose Doyle forever.

The near-hysterical outburst of the previous night came to the fore of his mind. Something that hadn't sounded right, sort of out of place. He'd said that he hadn't been raped, that there was nothing to--no, he hadn't, thought Bodie with amazement. Doyle had said nothing of the sort. The doctors had said nothing had happened. Surely Ray would know if he had or hadn't; after all, Bodie thought as he continued to gentle Doyle, it's hardly the sort of thing you'd forget.

Beneath his hand the trembling was reaching mammoth proportions and the warm body shook spasmodically as Doyle drew in great gulps of air, fighting against the inevitable breakdown. Unable to react to such distress in any other way, Bodie drew Doyle into a loose hug, pressing the curly head onto his shoulder.

"Stop fighting, Ray...just let go...just let go..."

Unable to hold back any longer, the dam broke and Doyle found himself holding on to Bodie, sobbing his heart out, the concern the other man was giving washing over him in waves. He could feel that Bodie didn't mind and wasn't finding his loss of control demeaning, and finally allowed himself to relax enough and give way to three years' worth of suppressed pain, fear, loneliness and the overwhelming sense of betrayal.

All the time Bodie just held him, rocking him and stroking firm hands across his back and up his neck into his hair, talking softly all the time, just a lot of reassuring, comforting nonsense that actually meant nothing except that there's someone here, someone who cares.

Patiently waiting for the storm to blow over, Bodie began planning what was to happen next. There was no way Doyle was going to retreat back into his shell this time. Tonight they were going to talk.

Eventually the tears slowed down, the cries became soft hiccups and Doyle made his first attempt to draw back. Bodie only let him go a little way, holding him and turning him so they were sitting face to face on the floor.

"Here, it's clean, do you want to borrow it?"

Bodie received a shaky smile and soft hiccup by way of answer, but Doyle took the handkerchief and tried to repair the damage, not that a few half-hearted dabs and blows could improve the ravaged face much, though.

"I'm going to go and fix us both a drink. Come through to the living room when you're ready."

Bodie spoke softly, but there was no doubt in Doyle's mind--he hadn't been given an invitation but a nicely worded order.

Bodie waited until he received a nod of acknowledgement before getting to his feet and leaving the room.

Placing the coffees on the table, Bodie reached over for the whisky bottle and poured a generous slug in each mug, then set the bottle down onto the table. He had a feeling that they were going to need a little spiritual help to get through what was left of the night.

Another few minutes passed and still there was no sign of Doyle. Bodie sighed and covered his face with his hands, he just didn't know what to do. He didn't want to have to drag Doyle forcibly from his room, but he couldn't take any more repeats of the past few nights; Doyle couldn't either. If he didn't come out and start talking soon, Bodie knew that he would have to involve Cowley and Ross.

A movement in the doorway caught his eye; there was Doyle, dressed now in jeans and T-shirt, standing nervously at the threshold of the room.

"I'm not going to force you to come in and talk to me," Bodie said reasonably. "If you come in now I'll expect to hear exactly what's been bugging you. I don't want a fabricated story or a whole lot of 'nothing happened'..." Bodie's voice hardened as he set down the rules, "...you want to talk crap you can go see Ross and Cowley. For what it's worth I think you and I can make a good team, but I'll tell you now, 'good' isn't good enough. Take my lead and we'll be bloody good, the best Cowley's got!" Bodie smiled as he knew that what he was saying would come true. "I don't think the Old Man's gonna stand much of a chance when we start letting rip; play our cards right and we can make him rue the day he ever dreamt up partnering us two. But--" the smile vanished and Bodie became serious, "--being partners starts from now. Maybe there's nothing I can do to help, but I've got to know what I'm up against. I'll help you all I can, Doyle, but you've got to tell me what's wrong. I may be brilliant at most things but psychic I'm not."

Bodie finally threw down a verbal gauntlet.

"Come in and talk or walk out now--that's it."

For a few agonising seconds Doyle remained hovering on the brink; it wasn't until he stepped into the room and reached for his coffee cup that Bodie realised he'd been holding his breath.



CHAPTER FOUR

Sitting on the floor in the middle of his bedroom, Doyle watched Bodie's retreating back and considered his options.

Although Bodie hadn't said anything, Doyle knew the other man was expecting to be told what the problem was. All things considered, Doyle conceded his host had been remarkably restrained in not beating the truth out of him weeks ago. The screws had never been so considerate, banging on the heavy metal door and shouting abuse through the grille; one or twice it sounded as if the entire population of 'E' wing had been airing their none-too-polite sentiments in response to the screws' harsh orders to 'wake up and belt up'.

He could just imagine how Milton and his crony, Mr Magill, would have reacted to the past week's worth of nightmares. The night watch was considered to be an easy number by the screws. Everyone was locked up and expected to be asleep and it was an accepted thing that after the money had dried up the cards would be put away and the duty officers would take it in turns to get some sleep.

The dreams hadn't been so frequent then; they might come one or two nights in succession and then not reoccur for a week or two, but even so, fate decreed that when Milton drew night duty Doyle would wake the whole block with his shouts. There was only one thing Milton hated more than having a winning poker hand stopped and that was being woken up from an illicit sleep in the duty room because some inconsiderate prat--usually Doyle--had woken the wing up.

Climbing to his feet, Doyle tried to decide which fate he would prefer: the irate Milton or the calm confidence of the man who was waiting for him in the living room. Doyle came to the conclusion that Milton hadn't been all that bad.

His gaze fell upon the wreckage of his bed; sheets and blankets screwed up and tangled in a heap on the floor. He didn't even remember getting out of bed, let alone how he ended up on the floor, head buried into Bodie's shoulder, crying his eyes out. As a few, disjointed memories returned he became aware of various tender spots on his body: his left knee was aching and he was slowly seeping blood onto his pyjama trousers. He reached down to examine the injury and noticed that his knuckles on both hands were red and bruised looking. In his dreams he knew exactly who he'd been fighting. Memory of heavy weight pressing him down returned along with the feeling of utter helplessness, and he suddenly realised that this time it had been no dream, that the body had really been there, but instead of following its normal course, this time he'd received comfort and kindness, the hands that touched him only seeking to relax and calm.

The whole thing flooded back now; Bodie's touch and voice had pulled him out of the pit; shaken and puzzled to wake up in such a position he hadn't been surprised when Bodie began to pull back--but he didn't move right away, he'd stayed close, sprawled beside him on the floor with one warm, comfortingly heavy hand resting on his shoulder, the simple touch establishing a much-needed contact with a real, kind world.

As he waited, Doyle had accepted that the withdrawal and disgust at his behaviour wasn't forthcoming; Bodie was staying close in case he was needed, because he wanted to help. Horrified by the tears he knew were coming, he'd tried to fight them back, but Bodie had seen what was happening and had taken over, unexpectedly drawing him into an embrace and urging him to let go.

Remembering how he had cried and how Bodie had accepted even that, fresh tears blinded him. He couldn't remember the last time he'd cried like that, and doubted if he ever had; even as a child he had seldom sought refuge in tears. Only girls and cissies cry, his dad had told him. He could still feel where Bodie's hands had rubbed over his back as he'd tried to soothe him; he couldn't remember feeling that Bodie had been embarrassed by his outburst, all he could recall was Bodie actively encouraging him to cry, telling him how much better he would feel if he just let go.

In the bathroom he splashed cold water over his face, washing away the tears, old and new, and dabbed at the small cut on his leg. From the kitchen he heard the chinking of a spoon in a cup and sighed. He was going to have to talk to Bodie; he knew that he wanted to be part of CI5 and talking to Bodie was going to be his admission fee. But he didn't want to talk about it and spent most of his time thinking about anything else; now he was away from it, all the memories were growing grey and confused, particular memories--even the few more pleasant ones--were becoming elusive; the only things that were clear and growing more vivid and detailed each time were his dreams. At times it felt as if the dreams were true and his waking existence was nothing but bleak, colourless nightmare.

Slipping into some clothes, Doyle padded barefoot down the hall and came to a stop outside the partly open door. Sitting staring at the steaming coffee cups was Bodie, unaware that he was being watched. Doyle heard him give a loud sigh before he covered his face with his hands. Guilt flooded through Doyle as he saw how tired and worn out Bodie looked and sounded. The past month had been no easier on him; in many ways it had perhaps been worse. Sometimes having to watch another suffer and find yourself unable to help was worse than being the one who suffered.

Doyle stepped into the room and Bodie threw down the gauntlet.

"Come in and talk or walk out now. That's it."

Still unhappy with both choices presented to him, Doyle sat down in an armchair placed just on the edge of the soft pool of light and fussed around with his coffee, the heavy whisky flavour warming him through to his toes.

"What do you want to know?" Doyle's quiet voice asked after a long, uncomfortable silence.

"Everything."

"Why?"

"Because I need to know what's going on inside your head. I have to know if you're going to fall to pieces on me."

"Oh!" They subsided into silence again. It was time for Doyle to start talking.

"What do you think happened to me?" asked Doyle, still trying to put off the inevitable.

"You tell me."

"You must have some idea. I want to know what you know...or what you think you know. I saw all my files on Cowley's desk, you've read them and I haven't. What's in them?"

"Okay," agreed Bodie. He couldn't blame Doyle for being curious about the contents of the files. "You weren't anyone's idea of a model prisoner. Your behaviour was reported to be overly aggressive and your attitude left a lot to be desired. You got caught up in an inordinate amount of fights and scraps." Bodie swigged back the last of his coffee and set the cup back on the table with a thump. "There was nothing official logged, but reading between the lines I'd say you were subjected to a lot of...harassment. You never complained about it but I think I can work out what path it took."

Refusing to give in to the silent plea in the green eyes, Bodie would not make it easier on Doyle and come right out with what he suspected had really happened. He didn't want to be sadistic and he was gaining no pleasure from the other man's discomfort but he really believed that it would be better if the final, damning words came from Doyle himself.

"You think you can work it out?" Doyle mocked him. "Expert on it, are you?"

"I've been around; it happens. Happens more often than everyone in their nice, safe little homes realises, that's why it's such a hell of a shock when it happens to you."

"What do you know about it?" Doyle said, desperately trying to change the focus of the conversation and completely missing the flash of remembered pain and sorrow that passed across Bodie's face.

Abruptly Bodie stood up and snatched Doyle's empty coffee mug, the sudden movement making the smaller man flinch.

"More than you'd guess," Bodie mumbled softly and inaudibly as he filled up the tumblers with whisky.

Once again as they each settled down with a drink, the room became very quiet.

Doyle stared into his glass. Everything, Bodie had said. Such an insignificant word, everything--but then again, everything covered too much and he really didn't want to talk about everything.

"Where do you want me to start?" he asked.

Watching the unfocussed gaze, Bodie understood Doyle's dilemma. Where on earth would everything have started going so wrong...before his arrest...after the trial?

"From your committal," he suggested.

"They found me guilty and I was committed. I wasn't surprised, don't think anyone was really. I was sent to Ford--you know, the open prison just outside London. I'd been there a few times to interview prisoners myself--I always remember thinking it seemed a cushy life. Soon discovered the difference between visiting and living there, though."

"You made quite an impression on the place, didn't you?" Bodie ventured cautiously, recalling the report on Doyle's short but troubled stay there.

"Yeah, well...at the time I just wanted to hit something, hurt someone--the daft prat just pushed me once too often and I went off the deep end. If it hadn't been him it would have been someone else."

Attacking a prison warder was a serious offence, and it was only because the officer's injuries had not been too serious that Doyle had been let off with a severe reprimand, loss of privileges and transferral to an establishment that could cope with overly aggressive prisoners, instead of facing further criminal charges.

"What happened?" Bodie asked.

"At Ford?" At Bodie's nod, Doyle elaborated.

"I'd been warned to expect some pretty rough treatment. The screws tried to be fair but no one likes a bent cop, least of all the other inmates. It was pretty relaxed in the recreational rooms--you could come and go as you pleased to a certain extent. About the only thing you couldn't have was privacy."

Bodie could understand feeling that particular loss keenly; he valued his privacy and guessed Doyle did also.

"Most of the treatment I got was pretty...juvenile: being tripped up, knocked over, my dinner tray knocked off the table, someone's soup down my neck, my clothes inexplicably ending up in a puddle in the shower room--nothing serious but pretty hard to ignore week after week. After about four months I decided enough was enough. I'd been there long enough for the novelty to have worn off and I stopped being such a nice, quiet, well-mannered little convict. Most of 'em took the hint and backed off but there's always one, isn't there?"

Bodie agreed, there was always someone stupid enough to stay the course.

"Ben Johnson, pathetic little creep he was, a small-time embezzler who dreamed of being Mr Big. One of the screws, the one I thumped, practically encouraged him to keep coming down on me when I tried to get him to fuck off. I just snapped in the end, can't even remember what he did but I went for him. Mr Miles must've seen I'd cracked and tried to stop me but it was too late by then; I was so mad I just went berserk. I think I'd been wanting to hit something for a long time--he just happened to be it.

"They had to call the doctor over to sedate me and I ended up strapped in a body jacket in the padded cell. I ought to be grateful to that doctor, I suppose. He said I was just having a serious, delayed reaction to the pressure I was under while I was on trial."

Doyle could hear the slightly off-key gaiety in his voice and knew it was just nerves; if he thought it would throw Bodie off he would carry on talking about Ford forever rather than progress to the next point in the sordid tale.

"Any more whisky left?" he asked, needing the warm blanket of alcohol to cover his raw, bleeding nerves.

Bodie filled Doyle's glass but made no attempt to top up his own barely touched drink. He was not the one who needed Dutch courage.

"So," he prompted, "what happened when you got to Maidstone?"

"Wonderful place that. Every modern convenience that was around at the time it was built. Didn't go in for creature comforts two hundred years ago, did they! Should've been demolished before I was born."

The current state of British penal institutions was not what Bodie wanted to hear about and he said so. Doyle glared at him but refrained from further discussion of the merits and demerits of Napoleonic architecture.

"You ever heard of Bert Kingsley?"

Was there anyone in London who hadn't? Bodie wondered. The Kingsley brothers would no doubt find themselves immortalised in Madam Tussaud's one day, alongside Crippen, the Drays and Jack the Ripper.

"They put me in the same cell as him. The way his face lit up you'd've thought it was Christmas. He'd been on his own for the last few years but on account of the sudden upsurge in crime they'd run out of single, deluxe rooms with en-suite bath, and so they shoved me in with him."

Doyle took a long pull at his drink and drained the glass; he scarcely noticed Bodie lean forward and refill it.

"He was quite nice at first and I began to think all those stories about him and his brother were a bit exaggerated. He even told the others in the wing to lay off me. They all respected him, you see. He was The Man, as they say inside. Bert Kingsley, King of 'B' wing."

Bodie watched Doyle knock back the whisky and just hoped they'd get to the crunch before he became too drunk to talk.

"It was such a relief to be left alone I didn't see what was coming. Yeah, I know, I'm a bit slow on the uptake sometimes." Distanced by the alcohol, Doyle was able to look at his mistakes objectively. "Woke up one night, right at the crucial moment of a really terrific dream, you know what I mean?" he asked. "Christ knows who she was but she was really something...anyway--woke up and couldn't work out what was happening; it was pitch dark, couldn't see a fuckin' thing but I knew I was awake--thing was, I could still feel her hands on me, took me right over the edge, they did. But as soon as the bells stopped ringing I realised it was Kingsley. He'd twigged that I was having a hot little dream and decided to get in on the act. Nearly threw up over him as well, I was that furious, but he just got back into bed and said something about being friends and helping each other out. Sounded really hurt, he did, made me feel guilty as hell. He'd been really good to me up till then, showing me the ropes, keeping the others off my back, so I said I was sorry about yelling at him but I made it plain that I didn't go in for taking friendship quite that far."

The drink in the tumbler was going down steadily but Bodie could see that the flush spreading across the drawn face and the glitter in the bright eyes was anger--rather than drink-induced.

"It was only a few weeks later the same thing happened again but that time I woke up as soon as he touched me. He got very nasty when I told him what he could do with himself, kept saying I owed it to him for looking after my interests. From then on things just got worse, if I so much as twitched in that bloody bed he was down there offering to lend a hand. Then he took to lying in on his own bed and having his own little fantasies and telling me what he wished he was doing to me in wonderful detail...didn't leave much to the imagination. I decided to ignore the old faggot 'cause the more uptight I got the hotter he got!"

Doyle drained the bottle into his glass, then opened the second one that had somehow materialised out of thin air, and filled the glass to the top.

"'s not a bad drop of stuff, this, Bodie. Never really liked whisky before but this is slippin' down a real treat."

To illustrate the point, half a tumbler of the rich, brown liquid disappeared down his throat.

"What happened next?"

"Patience, Bodie, have a little patience," Doyle chided, his voice slightly thicker than usual. "Now, where was I? Oh yes, the old faggot getting' hot..." He took another mouthful. "Right, now then, next thing I know is everyone on the wing is being all horrible and unkind to me and dear, dear, sweet Bert isn't doing his 'I shall protect you, Raymond' bit any more. I'd got quite used to being treated like a human again so I really didn't take to goin' back to bein' treated like a leper. Then dear Bert drops his little bombshell and tells me that if I stop making such a fuss and let him have his wicked way with me he'll tell everyone to leave me alone again." Doyle's voice shifted upwards at least two octaves as he let Bodie know how he felt about that little revelation.

"I mean...what would you have done, Bodie? What would you have done? Me, I told him to go fuck himself." A harsh laugh came from Doyle's throat before being cut off abruptly as if in realisation that the story wasn't funny.

"It was downhill all the way after that. He kept the pressure up for a couple of months but then he had a rethink. Everyone must've guessed why he was telling them all to keep needling me, and he got to thinking that being seen to fail wasn't good for his image. Bert Kingsley always gets what he wants, and the fact that he wasn't must've been a severe blow to his ego. So--all of a sudden, dear, sweet Bert tells everyone to lay off his little Raymond and spends all day smiling at me and being horribly nice and smarmy. Course, the whole fuckin' block thinks I've finally given in and am letting the old faggot screw me senseless every night."

Doyle's whole face suddenly darkened and Bodie realised that the worst was still to come--if only the narrator was going to remain awake long enough to relate it.

"After a while I even got used to that. He'd have his little wanking trips and tell me all about it, and every now and then he'd get adventurous and start touching me up at night when I was asleep, and everyone just took it for granted he was knocking me off. I sometimes wonder if the old goat would have known what to do if I had said yes. So life settled into a routine of sorts until I saw a light at the end of the tunnel--or thought I did. Boy, was I ever wrong!"

The second bottle had just hit the halfway mark and Bode spared a moment to wonder what he'd do if Doyle ran out of drink before he ran out of steam.

"Why?" Bodie asked. "What were you so wrong about?"

"Kingsley was released about--oh, I dunno, fifteen, sixteen months ago. He'd done his nine years, told the parole board he was very sorry and promised to be a good boy in the future. Couldn't wait to see the back of him--fool that I was," said Doyle disparagingly.

"What do you mean?"

"Once he was gone the throne was up for grabs, wasn't it. It's not just a story, you know, about there being a baron, a sort of top man, on each wing. Even the screws don't mind, makes their job easier. A powerful baron like Kingsley keeps the wing in order, keeps everyone in their place and easier to control. Once Bert was gone there was one hell of a fight over who was going to take his place."

A premonition of what was coming next hit Bodie hard, and suddenly felt very sick. He'd all but forced Doyle to open up to him but now he realised that he really didn't want to hear. He wanted to say, 'Shut up, stop talking, go to sleep--have another drink,' but he couldn't, and if he could and did he suspected Doyle wouldn't even hear him.

Although his whole outward demeanour showed the effects of downing so much whiskey, his movements heavy and lethargic, speech thick and slurred, Doyle's eyes were like mirrors reflecting his soul, the oblivion he was seeking having not yet blanketed the ugly memories.

"I was so fuckin' 'appy dear Bert had gone I never saw what was goin' on. 'parently there were a couple of blokes 'oo wanted to be The Man and they were sloggin' it out between 'emselves. Opinion as to who should take over was split down the middle, so in the end they decided whoever got the most of old Bert's little businesses would win. Come as one 'ell of a shock to discover I was one of Bert's assets!"

Bodie decided that maybe he would have another drink after all and grabbed the bottle; Doyle looked at the empty place on the table with mournful eyes.

"Oh, 's all gone, Bodie. Got another one 'ave you? 's nice stuff. Pity it's all gone though."

After all he'd gone through, Bodie thought that Doyle was going to cry again simply because the bottle had disappeared.

"I'll get you some more in a minute, mate. You were sayin' about who was taking over from Kingsley," he prompted carefully.

"What?" Doyle blinked at him. "Oh yeah, 'most forgot. 's almost funny when I think 'bout it now...not at the time, though--wasn't funny then. They both--Richardson and Ward--tried the friendly approach...you ever been chatted up by two blokes before, Bodie?" He didn't wait for a reply but went straight on, words tumbling out in a sudden rush as if he just wanted to get to the end of the story and then hide away. "Scared me shitless. Every time I turned round, one of 'em was there, showing everyone 'ow friendly he was with me and trying to fool 'em all 'ow much I like 'im. Richardson was all right but Ward...he's really sick...Bert was twisted but Ward...kept on and on...always touching and hurting, trying to scare me into it...then one day he really cracked...'e's mad, should be in Broadmoor or Rampton, 'e should..."

Doyle's voice tailed away as the memory drew closer. Bodie watched, helpless to do anything to ease the pain. Doyle leant forward in the armchair, rocking slightly, arms wrapped around himself, face bloodless and eyes wide as he finally pushed the memory into being.

"There was some sort of industrial dispute going on," Doyle said, his voice no more than a hushed whisper, "so there were fewer screws than normal on duty...we were in the shower room...was morning time, Monday morning...he suddenly decided he wasn't going to wait any more and told his friends to hold me down. I tried to fight them but there were too many and no one would help me...or stop them...I tried, I really tried...I didn't want it to happen but I couldn't fight them all...just couldn't." The scene was so brilliantly vivid that Doyle experienced all over again the growing terror as the men advanced, cornering him in the bleak, white-tiled shower stall...

He had looked around frantically for the duty officer but he was nowhere to be seen. The other men--sensing what was about to happen--were almost falling over themselves to escape the vicinity, no one, but no one was trying to help him.

"Come on, Doyle," Ward leered. "You know what I want so why not make it easier on yourself?" Come over here and be friendly."

The odds were five to one and Doyle knew his only chance was to make enough noise to attract the guards' attention, but Freddie, Ward's sidekick, jumped in and increased the odds even more by clamping a huge hand over his mouth, almost smothering Doyle in his effort to silence his cries for help.

Lashing out, Doyle fought back with the ferocity of a cornered tiger, biting, kicking, punching for all he was worth. He had surprised them at first and he'd managed to hurt them, but not enough. Blow after blow to his unprotected midriff made him fold over into a protective ball; unable to fight back with any effect, he could barely summon the energy to resist their attempts to pin him to the floor. A hand had grabbed hold of his hair and tugged him down off balance and something very hard and very cold impacted with the side of his head with a sickening crunch; a brilliant, white-hot pain erupted and spread throughout his whole body. He knew he was hurt, but it all hurt so much that he was beyond feeling everything--except the cold floor beneath his bare skin and the heavy pressure across his legs and shoulder. From a long way off he heard Ward's voice, thickened with lust.

"You've hurt your face, Raymond, hurt your pretty face. It's a pity, that is, but never mind--maybe it'll teach you not to be so bloody vain."

And another voice replied, laughing, "Not his face you're interested in!"

There had been a whole lot of laughter then, it was the last sound he remembered. As everything faded away he could only hear the laughter and feel the hard fingers probing him and preparing him for the next, inevitable stage...

Bodie desperately wanted to do something to help but couldn't summon up the strength to move, was too frightened to reach out and touch the shaking man anyway in case it reminded him of another touch.

"Next thing I remember is waking up in Maidstone Hospital about a week later...everything hurt so much it was weeks before I could talk, my jaw was all wired up and everything was so swollen...no one said anything about what Ward had done to me, and I didn't even want to think about it...it was some time before I could talk and then someone from the prison came to take a statement from me...I pretended I couldn't remember...just didn't want to talk about it...was ages before I managed to ask the doctor...just couldn't understand why no one was saying anything. I really want to believe what he said, I mean, there was no reason for him to lie, was there?"

The bleary green gaze was turned on Bodie, who suddenly realised that Doyle wanted him to agree with him. No, Bodie thought, needed him to agree--but with what? What had he missed?

"Lie about what?"

"He said that I wasn't...that Ward hadn't...that the screws got there just in time to stop him...least that's what he said..."

"Don't you believe him then?"

"I don't know...just don't know...it was going to happen...after all that time with Kingsley it was going to happen...jus' couldn't stop 'im...nothing left...to fight...with...nothing..."

The halting voice whispered to a standstill, the alcohol finally winning the battle. Doyle was asleep.

Numb, Bodie watched empty tumbler slip from Doyle's slackened fingers and fall to the floor.

So, he thought, Doyle had been raped after all. Or had he? The confused, disjointed sentences had showed quite clearly that even Doyle didn't really know. He thought he had been, but the doctor said he hadn't. Maybe the cavalry had arrived in time--and maybe they hadn't! Could the doctor have acted on a misguided impulse and told Doyle a lie, believing Doyle's own lie that he couldn't remember what had happened? Any injury caused by Ward's penetration of the unconscious body would have healed before Doyle had regained his senses a week later.

Slowly, Bodie began to understand that it was the unsolved question of whether or not he'd really been raped that was at the root of Doyle's problems. He'd survived nearly two years of Kingsley's dubious and apparently harmless attentions without cracking up. If Doyle could know for a fact that he wasn't raped--or even that he was--maybe he could stop agonising over it and begin to put the past where it belonged.

Sighing quietly, Bodie eased himself upright and pulled the footstool over towards the other chair, carefully lifting Doyle's legs up onto it, then he propped a cushion under the sleepy head. Stretching cautiously, Bodie reached around to the back of his neck and massaged the annoyingly persistent ache. At least the rigours of the morning had not done too much harm to his still-healing injury, but he knew he wouldn't be comfortable if he tried to sleep in an armchair like Doyle was. Covering the sleeper with a light blanket, Bodie [missing phrase] dressed and making himself some breakfast.

By nine o'clock he'd come to the conclusion that Doyle was probably going to sleep for much of the day. In the last two hours he had only stirred once, and that was to twist around on the chair and burrow down into the soft blanket and cushion. Doyle looked so peaceful, his face free for the first time of the perpetual worry lines around his eyes and mouth, that Bodie didn't have the heart to disturb him.

It was about time they had a day off anyway, Bodie decided, so he telephoned the gymnasium and shooting range to let them know they wouldn't be in today after all.

Midday came and went and Bodie found himself wondering what the hell he was going to do next. He had tidied up the flat as much as possible without making a noise, read the papers, listened to the radio in the bedroom--very quietly--and generally just pottered around his home feeling very much at a loose end. How much longer was the little bugger going to sleep, he wondered.

It was nearly four o'clock before Doyle opened his eyes and saw Bodie, who had finally managed to fall into an uncomfortable, restless doze on the sofa. Very much aware of his pounding head, Doyle cautiously stood and wove none too steadily towards the kitchen. He was so thirsty.

"Stick the kettle on while you're out there," came a sleepy voice from the sofa.

"Didn't mean to wake you, sorry. Tea or coffee?"

"Coffee. How do you feel?"

In reply Doyle just pulled a face and continued his way to the kitchen, emerging a few minutes later with two mugs, one containing very strong, very black coffee.

They sat in awkward silence until Bodie asked how much of the morning's talk Doyle remembered.

"I've never been blessed--or cursed--with alcohol-induced amnesia. Remember everything except falling asleep." There was a quick flash of teeth as Doyle gave a rueful, embarrassed laugh. "Sorry about getting you up so early; what is the time anyway?" He looked up from his bare wrist to the brilliant sunlight outside.

"Four-thirty PM," Bodie said cheerfully. "Almost time to go back to bed again."

"Afternoon? Four-thirty in the afternoon? You mean I've slept..." Doyle stopped, trying to get past his headache and calculated the time involved.

"About nine hours all told. And," Bodie emphasised, "you needed every minute of it. God knows how long it is since you slept that soundly. Apart from which I decided it was about time we had a day off anyway." The glare which accompanied the latter part of his speech defied Doyle even to think that perhaps he was going soft.

"So--what do you fancy doing for what's left of the day?" Bodie asked, determined to spend some time with Doyle, having promised himself during Doyle's sleep that he would at least try and get to know the man he was beginning to accept was going to be his partner.



CI5's most hated man walked calmly into George Cowley's office.

Macklin was the person responsible for getting and keeping the highly trained personnel on their toes; he sharpened their reflexes and fine-honed their deadly skills. To get the best from the men he worked with, he had to force the worst out of them; he probably knew more about what made a CI5 agent tick than anyone--except Cowley himself, of course.

"Morning, sir, Dr Ross, Dr Willis," he acknowledged. "Sorry for being a little tardy but I wanted to watch Doyle's training this morning before coming over."

"How is he coming on?" Cowley asked right away, going straight to the reason for the meeting. They had all been watching Doyle's initial progress and his apparent decline was causing some concern.

"Well..." Macklin said reluctantly, "that's why I'm late. Doyle's performance yesterday was so bad I wanted to see him in action today. I didn't want to judge him by an off day. Bodie rang in about twenty minutes ago and cancelled his booking of the gym and range facilities today."

"What reason did he give?" asked Dr Ross.

"I didn't take the call but I don't think any reason was given, he just cancelled everything."

"Well," Ross smiled the smile of one who has been proved right, "it's no more than I warned you to expect."

"One day does not signify the end of everything, Dr Ross," said Cowley sharply.

"Doyle's physical condition has been going down over the last week, his lethargy and lack of interest in everything around him has been growing more noticeable with each day that passes," Willis chipped in, supporting his colleague.

"Doyle's tired," said Macklin, ignoring the department's medical experts and talking directly to Cowley. "I'll bet my life on it. He's out on his feet he's so tired. Bodie's had him going everywhere at double time and the man just doesn't know whether he's coming or going."

"I did warn you that Doyle's chances of lasting the course were less than favourable. There's a chance we can salvage something, develop his skills to the department's benefit--but as an active agent he is going to be useless," Ross insisted.

"I still feel we should not judge Doyle too hastily. You told me he would need time to readjust and I am still prepared to give him that time if I think the end result is going to be worthwhile," Cowley said firmly.

"I am also concerned about Bodie." Ross spoke earnestly, trying to convince Cowley of the futility of his efforts. "He is also under pressure; you've forced this pairing on him against my advice. Bodie is not suited to one to one partnerships."

"You said Doyle needed to be pushed, prodded into action and away from apathy." Cowley waited for Ross to agree. "Bodie, to my mind, was the ideal choice."

"William Bodie is an insensitive, callous, immoral thug and surely no one's idea of a perfect solution," Ross said forcefully, her eyes glittering angrily.

"There is no call for you to bring your personal feelings about Bodie into this, Dr Ross," Cowley rapped out, putting the psychiatrist firmly in her place. "I have the final word on these matters and I stand by what I have previously stated. Until I say otherwise, Bodie and Doyle will remain as a teamed pair. I still think it is too early to write Doyle off. On your own advice, Dr Ross, we agreed a twelve-week training period. Any final decision will wait until after that."

"I think that's fair," said Macklin. "It's only reasonable to accept a small backsliding. So far Doyle's doing exceptionally well."

"But Bodie has cancelled today's training," persisted Ross. "That's not backsliding, that's giving up. Bodie has pushed too hard, too fast, and Doyle has gone under--"

"It's quite obvious that as things stand today we cannot clearly judge Doyle's future worth to CI5. I suggest we adjourn this meeting until next Tuesday, a week from today. Then we will know whether Doyle has in fact given up, or if today is merely a hiccup."

"I disagree that the facts are not clear now, but I can't see that seven days more will make much difference," Ross said sourly.

"Sounds fair enough," Macklin agreed.

"A week--long enough to show further decline, or improvement," said Willis.



CHAPTER FIVE

So late in the day Bodie had no trouble finding a space in the car park.

"I was going to suggest it would be a good idea for you to do the driving for the next few weeks," Bodie said as he switched off the ignition. "But somehow I don't think you'd pass a breathalyser test right now. Perhaps we'll start that tomorrow."

A pair of bloodshot eyes and a very pale, pasty-looking face turned towards him. "Tomorrow?" Doyle said softly. "You reckon I'm gonna live that long?"

"Still feeling bad?"

"You could say that."

"C'mon then," Bodie said cheerfully. "A walk round the park and some fresh air in your lungs will soon blow the cobwebs away."

Bodie, full of energy after being cooped indoors all day, set off at a brisk pace, leaving Doyle no choice but to follow. Turning back to watch his partner's unenthusiastic progress, Bodie shouted, "How about a go out on the boats?"

"No."

"Spoilsport," replied Bodie. "Why not? Fancy a quick row around the lake, I do."

"No," said Doyle a little more firmly.

"Why not?" persisted Bodie.

"Because I feel sick enough already and I don't fancy bobbing about in a wooden boat just so you can pretend you're Captain Bligh."

"Bad sailor, huh?"

"Yes," said Doyle shortly, then softened his tone slightly. "Get seasick on the Woolwich Ferry, I do."

"You always this ratty when you're hungover?" Bodie enquired cheekily, the light in his eyes making it impossible for Doyle to think he was being serious.

"Dunno," Doyle replied, then laughed. "Can't remember ever drinking so much so quickly before." His face twisted into a wry smile. "Can't remember ever feeling this awful either." He rubbed a hand across his stomach and shook his head--carefully.

After two circuits of the lake and a wander through the deserted children's play area, Bodie decided that even if Doyle hadn't had enough fresh air, he had. The sun was rapidly going down and the little warmth that the autumn day held was going with it.

He looked across at Doyle, who was perched on the axis of the see-saw and looking across the lawns at a couple of boys playing tag on their bicycles. Since waking up, Doyle had been in a strange mood and Bodie found he was not sure how to cope with him. Over the weeks he had grown accustomed to the monosyllabic answers, and had almost given up hoping for some friendly, two-way conversations; Doyle spoke when he was spoken to, but today...Bodie struggled to pinpoint the difference. Doyle was still quiet, still unwilling to initiate conversation but somehow he seemed more...approachable, as if he was trying to let Bodie know that he wanted to talk, wouldn't mind talking--but just didn't know where or how to start.

"How do you feel about a hair of the dog?" Bodie asked. "I know a nice little boozer over the back of the park."

"It's a bit early, won't be open yet, will it?"

"Not far off opening time. Let's make an evening of it, grab a pizza first and then go on to the pub if you feel up to it." Bodie was reluctant to return to his flat, suddenly aware that once through the front door, Doyle would make for his bolt-hole and this new openness would be lost.

"A pizza?" Doyle thought about it. "Sounds more inviting than raw steak and bloody chips." It wasn't until he heard Bodie's deep chuckle that he realised he had voiced his thought.

"You knockin' my cooking?" asked Bodie, his whole attitude showing that he didn't really mind if Doyle was.

"Well...no...yes, I bloody well am." Doyle finally discovered a little bit of lost courage. "You're the worst cook I've ever met--and I've met some bad ones in my time. Can't you cook anything else? Is raw steak and oven chips all you can do?"

"No," Bodie protested, trying to look wounded by Doyle's scathing criticism and failing. "Rustle up a lovely sausage, egg and chips; bacon, egg and chips; bacon sandwich; sausage sandwich--"

"Okay, okay, I get the picture," laughed Doyle. "I thought Ann was bad but you're even worse. Come on, then, where's this pizza house? My stomach's beginning to remember what it's for."

Bodie led the way--wondered who Ann was.

In the restaurant, Bodie flirted shamelessly with the two waitresses. It was still only early evening and apart from themselves and a young couple in the opposite corner, the place was empty. As he joked and laughed with the girls, Bodie couldn't help but notice Doyle's withdrawal. It was clear that neither of the girls objected to Bodie's attentions but the younger, smaller one of the two kept smiling invitingly at the silent half of the handsome duo, almost begging him to join in the fun so she could respond to him too.

Bodie eked the meal out as long as he could, giving Doyle a chance to thaw, but at last conceded defeat and paid the bill.

As they left the restaurant, Doyle tried to avoid catching Bodie's eye. He knew that the girl had been trying to flirt with him, and he knew Bodie knew it too. Eventually the awkward silence became too much for him.

"Okay," he said, finally looking at Bodie and acknowledging his failure, "maybe my technique had got a little rusty. Hell!" Doyle said explosively, kicking a crushed Coke tin along the pavement, "'s been so long since I had to chat a girl up, think I've forgotten how. It's been longer than you think, too," he said, looking sideways at Bodie. "Haven't pulled my, 'What are you doing tonight, darling?' routine out of me bottom drawer for..." he paused frowned as he tried to work out the time involved, "...bloody hell, nearly four and a half years."

"Oh. Go in for celibacy, do you?"

"Nah. Fidelity...for all the good it did me." The tin received another, harder, kick which sent it scuttering noisily along the pavement and into the gutter.

"Married?" Bodie asked, knowing full well that Doyle wasn't. He knew he wouldn't have missed that bit of information.

"Almost," Doyle replied quietly, his voice softened by remembered sadness. "Didn't quite make it to the altar." The jaunty voice was at odds with the sad eyes, and Bodie couldn't contain his curiosity.

"What happened?"

"I got arrested."

There were times in his life that Bodie felt he could do without a brain, his mouth seemed to get along just fine without one.

They'd reached the pub by now and made themselves comfortable in a quiet corner, Bodie filling the stiff lull with getting the drinks.

"No thanks," said Doyle in response to Bodie's suggested refreshment, "I'll have a lemonade...Coke...anything long and cool but not alcoholic."

Returning with two pint jugs, one filled with beer and the other with Coke, Bodie sat back on the bench seat, furious with himself for ruining the smooth flow of conversation.

"Wasn't Ann's fault," Doyle said into the quiet. "Can't really blame her, she was only doing what she thought for the best. With her mother saying one thing and all the evidence backing her up, I didn't stand a chance."

"Ah," said Bodie cautiously, not wanting to break the reflective mood Doyle was in, "up against her mother, were you?"

"Fancied her as a mother-in-law about as much as she fancied me for a son-in-law."

"Bad, was she?"

"Bad!" Doyle took a long pull at the Coke, then smiled at Bodie as he remembered her. "Doesn't even begin to describe her." He laughed, a sharp brittle sound. "Mrs Harrison felt that Ann had rather let the family down when she got mixed up with me--if I'd been an inspector or something even higher I would've been a little more acceptable, but a poor, lowly detective constable was rather scraping the barrel. Bit on the high and mighty side was dear old Constance. She thought the end of the world had come when Ann and I started living together...just about cracked up when I got arrested."

"Where's Ann now, still around, is she?"

"I didn't see her outside the gates ready to fall into my arms. Did you?" Doyle said sourly. "Sunday matinee stuff--and not exactly Ann's style."

For all the bitterness in Doyle's voice, Bodie was certain he detected a hint of a crushed dream that just maybe Ann might have been there.

"Couldn't have been, could she mate?" Bodie pointed out. "Even you didn't know you were getting out."

"She wouldn't have been there anyway." Doyle didn't look up from his examination of the condensation on his jug. "Didn't exactly get the 'love you forever' routine when I went down. Didn't go to the trial or even visit me. I got a few letters...but that was all...couldn't even convince her I was innocent."

"How long were you together?"

"'bout...eighteen months, actually lived together for about a year of that."

"And she didn't believe you?"

"Had trouble convincing anyone, didn't I," Doyle said mockingly. "Judge and jury included. There were even times when I wondered if I wasn't going insane and forgetting that I really was guilty."

"Didn't anyone believe you?"

Doyle thought about it carefully, his face growing bleaker.

"Oh yeah, Mike Behan believed me--but when you think about it that's not so surprising--and my mum believed me. At least...she said she did...but then I never had much trouble convincing her black was white..." Doyle's voice trailed off and Bodie tried to imagine all the trauma Doyle had gone through, cut off completely from all emotional support.

"Must have been pretty rough," Bodie said, feeling hopelessly inadequate.

"It got rougher." There was no bitterness in Doyle's voice. It was a fact, not very pleasant and not very nice, but a fact nonetheless.

"What happened to Ann then?"

"Went to America with Mummy and her stepfather to recover from a broken heart."

Bodie knew that he didn't like Ann and fervently hoped that he'd never meet her--or else she was likely to end up with more than just a broken heart!

"What about your Mum, told her the good news yet?" He didn't understand the sudden anger that flared in the baleful green eyes.

"No."

"Why not? Should've told her weeks ago."

"I didn't tell her because I don't care much for Spiritualism," Doyle said flatly, his voice chillingly devoid of all emotion. "She's dead. Died just after I was transferred to Maidstone." Across the small table Doyle found he couldn't meet Bodie's probing gaze any more and dropped his eyes to look at the bubbles in his drink. He could feel his helpless anger welling up inside him and he desperately wanted to keep his mouth shut--stop talking--but as it had earlier this morning, everything just overflowed and all his hurt poured out. "My Dad died about ten years ago and that leaves John, my brother. He hates my guts because he's always hated my guts and because it's all my fault that Mum died. The shame," he said bitterly. "To hear him talk you'd think I never brought anything but shame on Mum and the family. It was bad enough that I broke Dad's heart because I refused to join the family business, rejecting the last, god-knows-how-many generations of Doyle traditions, and living in sin with someone who was worth ten of his bloody stupid wife, Carole. But--getting put away for something I didn't do and thumping hell out of some stupid, pea-brained, jumped-up screw who had a down on me and half of the bloody world was, according to the Book of John Doyle, the final straw. The fact that she had a massive stroke and was dead before she hit the ground had nothing to do with it. It's all my bloody fault!"

Every head in the small bar turned their way and Doyle suddenly realised he was shouting. The angry flush on his cheeks deepened and he quietly subsided back down onto his stool, pointedly ignoring everyone.

There really wasn't much more that Bodie could say after that and, wisely, he didn't even try. He downed his drink and went back to the bar, returning with half a pint for himself, a bottle of lemonade and two packets of crisps; he dumped them down on the table hard, the noise waking Doyle from his daydreams. "I'm going to play the fruit machines," he said, jumping up.

"Try the Space Invaders. You still need the target practice," Bodie replied.

In deference to the two elderly women seated at a nearby table, Doyle used a graphic visual display rather than a verbal retort to convey his reaction to Bodie's suggestion.

Sitting himself down at their table, Bodie watched Doyle root around in his pockets for some loose change, then slip a ten pence coin into the slot. The metal clunk and soft whirr sounded loud in the early evening lull in the pub; it would be another hour or so before the place began to fill up. Bodie was feeling very tired, and his neck was beginning to ache. Another coin was fed into the machine and he wondered how much longer Doyle would want to stay here. Bodie leant back on the hard bench, arching his spine and closing his eyes against the tiredness and painful tingles. The continuous thunk-chunk-chink made him open his eyes again, and he watched as coin after coin was spat out of the machine into the tray.

"It's hit the jackpot! Hey, Bodie," Doyle shouted gleefully, "it's hit the jackpot!"

In the corner of the bar, the balding man who had only just walked away from the machine hit his head on the bar-top and groaned aloud his misfortune. The tray was almost full and Ray was scooping up handfuls of ten pence pieces, shoving them into his pockets.

"Here," he pushed a handful towards Bodie, "put some in your pockets, I'm running out of room."

The machine finally stopped regurgitating silver.

"How much is it? No--no more," Bodie protested. "You'll make my pockets go all baggy."

"Dunno, let's see..." Doyle peered at the front of the machine. "Flippin' 'eck, it's thirty quid!"

The bald man groaned even louder.

"Have you got any room left for this?" Doyle asked, peering into Bodie's already-full pockets. Pushing Doyle off, Bodie backed away, leaving about ten pounds' worth of silver still sitting in the tray.

"Barman," called Doyle, "a drink for everyone in the house. I'm payin'."

Bodie winced at the terrible John Wayne impersonation, then smiled as he saw the beaming faces scattered around the pub. The ten pounds quickly vanished, but there was still enough to buy Doyle another lemonade and put something in the charity box. Recalling Cowley's lecture on the terrible life a breathalysed agent could expect, Bodie declined another drink but attacked the crisps with relish.

Once the fuss and excitement had died down, Doyle lifted his glass of lemonade as if he was about to propose a toast.

"I've played those machines for years and I've never won a jackpot before. You know, Bodie, I think that maybe my luck's changing. Cheers!"

Bodie smiled back into the animated, happy face.

I dunno, mate, he thought, you've been shut away for three years, persecuted, pestered and practically raped, your fiancee's emigrated, your mother's died and your brother hates your guts--all things considered, your luck couldn't get much worse!

"Cheers!" said Bodie.



By two o'clock the next morning Bodie was beginning to wonder how he could have been so wrong. He was so tired he hurt, every nerve and muscle in his body was crying out for sleep, sleep that was made impossible as Doyle's entreaties and pathetic cries wafted along the darkened hallway.

After all the talking they had done Bodie had hoped that the dreams would fade away--but it was not to be. The harsh voice reached a peak, then cut off abruptly and he knew Doyle was awake. Bodie was too tired to talk any more and he guessed that simply talking wasn't going to solve anything just yet, but he had to get some sleep.

Hauling himself out of bed, he made for the spare room, wondering what Doyle was going to make of his suggestion.

"Did I wake you again? Sorry," said Doyle quietly in response to Bodie's perfunctory knock as he stuck his head around the door.

"You okay?" Bodie asked, blinking against the brightness of the table lamp.

"Fine, just fine!" replied Doyle, his voice laden with heavy irony.

"I've got an idea that might work," Bodie offered cautiously. "It's doing neither of us any good being wide awake half the night, is it?"

"No," agreed Doyle warily, half suspecting he was going to be told to go and sleep on a park bench until morning.

"If we could wake you up before the dream gets a proper hold on you, we could both settle back down to sleep a lot easier, couldn't we?"

"If I could wake up. Do you think I don't want to?" Doyle snapped back. "I'd love to wake up if I could--but I can't."

"I could wake you up as soon as you start moaning."

"How?" Doyle asked incredulously. "You goin' to install one of those two-way baby alarms and whisper soothing words into it every night?"

"No."

"How, then?"

"I'll just lean over and dig you in the ribs."

"Do you think you're Twizzle or something? Got an extendable arm shoved up your sleeve, have you?"

"No. You come into my room, share my bed--"

"Get lost!" exploded Doyle.

"It beats traipsing up and down the hall twice a night. If you've got a better idea, let's hear it."

"No way!"

"Come on, Doyle," Bodie said calmly. "It's the best idea I've had in ages, and who knows, it might even work."

"I'm not gettin' in your bed!" Doyle's eyes were wide with alarm and he hung on to the bedclothes as if he thought Bodie was going to drag him forcibly to his bed.

"Partners," Bodie said firmly, "have to help each other. You trust me, don't you?" Doyle didn't answer and Bodie watched him carefully. "Look mate, I've never had to force anyone to get into bed with me and I'm not going to start now. The only reason I want you in my bed is so I can get a decent night's sleep. Believe me, Raymond, you have absolutely none of the qualities I look for in a friendly bedmate." Bodie looked over the parts of Doyle not covered by the sheet. "You're too hairy by half, and too skinny, apart from which you've got too much of the wrong equipment and not enough of the right." Bodie laughed, relieved and pleased to see some of the taut control in Doyle's body ease a little.

"I'm pleased to hear that at least," Doyle said wryly. "Was beginning to think I was irresistible."

"I can resist you, don't worry your head about that. Now are you coming--'cause I'm freezing my balls off out here," Bodie complained.

There was a heavy sigh before he was answered.

"Okay, but I can't see it's going to make any difference."

"We'll see, we'll see," Bodie said encouragingly as Doyle slowly began to get out of his bed. A sudden thought made Bodie shoot back along the hall and into his bedroom and start pulling drawer after drawer before pouncing on a pair of pyjamas. He usually slept in the raw but he supposed Doyle would feel happier with two thicknesses of material between them.

"Good lord, which hospital did you nick those from?"

Doyle's voice made Bodie look down at his candy-striped, cotton trousers before shrugging his shoulders.

"Can't remember now, I've had them for years."

"Looks like it."

Doyle stood by the door and looked around the room, seeing it for the first time. Like the rest of the flat it was tastefully luxurious, his bare feet sinking into the soft pile carpet as his gaze fell on the king-size bed that dominated the room.

Trying to feel comfortable in the loose pyjama bottoms, Bodie climbed back into the bed, snuggling down straight away.

"Come on, Ray, I'm not going to bite you," he said softly.

There was no reply, but Bodie heard Doyle cross the room and felt the bed dip and sway as he got under the covers. After a few minutes Bodie broke the silence.

"Do you always sleep flat on your back as stiff as a board?"

Again there was no answer but the bed shook as Doyle shifted his position.

"Will you do me a favour?" asked Bodie.

"What?" Doyle's voice was tight and full of suspicion.

"Turn the light off, please."

Doyle reached out to click off the lamp on his side of the bed and the room was plunged into darkness.

The swift rise of panic was halted by near superhuman effort but Doyle managed to force himself to talk normally.

"It's a bit hot in here, do you mind if I open a window?"

"Window's open already," Bodie mumbled into his pillow.

"Open it a bit more then, 's awfully hot in here."

The lamp was switched back on and Doyle was halfway to the window by the time Bodie's sixth sense told him something was wrong. It was not that hot.

Throwing the heavy, lined curtains back, Doyle almost fainted with relief when the light from the street lamps hit his face. Since that first attack of claustrophobia in his own room a few weeks ago he had discovered that blanket darkness was just as terrifying. All the time he could see, he was all right. In the darkness he knew that every second could bring the first groping touch of hot, sweaty, loathsome hands...

"You all right?" asked Bodie from his propped-up position in the bed, puzzled by Doyle's behaviour [missing line] not even attempting to open the casement.

"Yeah, fine. I'm fine." His relief at finding an outside light made Doyle forget his initial excuse and he made his way back to the bed without opening the window any further but leaving the drapes drawn back.

This time when the light clicked off, the room remained dimly lit by an amber glow from the street. Bodie opened his mouth to complain about the irritating light but shut it again firmly, swallowing the words before he uttered them.

No, he told himself. He couldn't be--could he? Scared of the dark--ridiculous! But what other explanation could there be? He was asleep before he came up with another answer.

The banging of a door woke him up next morning, and Bodie reluctantly opened his eyes. He would have sworn before Cowley and God that he'd only closed them seconds ago, but the bright sunlight pouring through the uncurtained windows told him it would be a pointless exercise.

The bed beside him was empty. That meant the sound he'd heard was probably Doyle going for his morning jog...the new sound of running water and unmistakable hiss/thunder from the shower made him alter that to returning from his morning jog.

They were in the car, with Doyle in the driving seat, before any mention was made of the previous night.

"You still look terrible," Bodie said. "How well did you sleep?"

Not taking his eyes off the road, Doyle replied, "Not very," but then he flicked a quick smile across the car. "Did you know you snore? I'm surprised your neighbours don't complain."

"That explains why I've never been invited onto the Residents' Committee. Next time just dig me in the ribs to shut me up."

Next time. The words had just slipped out but Bodie knew he meant it.

"How were you last night--no more dreams?"

"No."

"Did you actually go to sleep?" Bodie asked doubtfully.

"Off and on, just sort of dozed really."

"Because of me?"

"No...I don't know...perhaps... I always feel uneasy about going straight to sleep after..." Doyle admitted quietly.

"We'll try sharing a bit longer, it might help if I can wake you up before you get too..."

"I appreciate what you're trying to do but I don't want to start sleeping in your bed every night. I know you didn't even want to share the flat with me, so don't pretend you're happy about sharing your bed."

"Cut it out, Doyle," Bodie barked irritably. "Don't try dodging out on this. You'll be sleeping in my bed until I say otherwise. We both need some decent sleep and you being within arm's reach so I can poke you in the ribs is how we're going to get it. Okay?"

Jerking the car to an abrupt emergency stop that would have delighted any driving instructor, Doyle missed the suicidal dog and changed the subject.

Under the watchful eyes of Jack Prescott, Doyle carefully snipped the red wire.

"No, no!" Prescott groaned. "With this type of detonator you must always cut the wire leading from the timer to the detonator. If this was for real we'd be scraping you up into a bucket right now. Try again."

Another mock incendiary device was placed on the table and Prescott began his commentary.

"That's it...feel it with your fingertips. Unless you've got a date with an angel never, never rush opening any device. Tease it. That's it. No! No, gently--gently! That's better. Now check the detonator, identify the type. Now the explosive. The casing, Doyle, check the casing! Remember what I said about booby traps. Right, now choose your wire. Steady. Well done!"

Prescott glanced over the downbent head and caught sight of Bodie loitering at the back of the room.

"Come to take him away, have you?"

"If you've taught him all you know, yes." Bodie smiled as Doyle looked round at him.

"Well, he's tried. Red wires, blue wires, trip wires--what the hell's the Bomb Squad for?" Doyle asked peevishly.

"No one expects you to be an expert, Doyle," Prescott said. "It's just that you Glory Boys have a habit of getting to these little nasties first. I'm here to make sure you can identify the type and immediate danger. On the spot you'll have to decide whether you've time to evacuate the place and call the bomb squad, but one day you just might have to defuse it yourself--and you'll only get one chance."

"Point taken," said Doyle seriously.

"I'll want him back for another session, Bodie. He's still a bit shaky on the smaller devices, nothing a bit of practice won't help though. I'll give you a call in a few days and arrange a time, okay?" As he was speaking, Prescott was gathering his tools and equipment together.

"Oh, Doyle," he handed over a small metal object, "a present for you. The ideal agent's kit: screwdriver, knife, scissors, tin opener and corkscrew. The owner of one of these little gadgets is prepared for every eventuality."

Prescott dropped the shapeless piece of metal into Doyle's hand and then picked up his holdall and left, pausing only long enough to acknowledge Doyle's thanks.

"Neat little thing, isn't it." The two men examined the device, testing the various functions.

"You feel fit?" Bodie asked as Doyle tested the scissors on a piece of wire.

"Yeah. Why?"

"I've arranged a session in the gym, rounded up a couple of the lads to give you a tryout."

The new toy was folded up and they made for gymnasium.

"Where are you going?" Bodie asked as Doyle went to turn down a corridor.

"Changing room--to change!"

"Not this time, street clothes, street situation. This time it's not just an exercise."

"What do you mean?" Doyle asked warily.

"I know you're fit--well, fitter than you were to start with, and I know you know the basics, in practice you're good, but fights rarely happen on gym mats between people who really only want to test your strength. So today, if you don't want to get hurt, you'll have to fight properly."

They reached the door to the gym and the first thing Doyle saw was the sudden flare of appraisal in the eyes of the three men waiting for him, but none of them made a move towards him though they all greeted Bodie warmly.

"Wondered where you'd been hiding yourself," said the sleek black man.

"Trust you to wangle a cushy little number, 3.7," joked the tall, fair-haired one.

"This it then?" The last man jerked his head in Doyle's direction. "All three of us!" The richly even voice rose in astonishment as he looked Doyle over. "You sure he's up to it? Get seven years for manslaughter, you know!"

Doyle's back stiffened at the ridicule and his temper rose a fraction.

"Doyle, meet Murphy, Jax and Williams. He's all yours, lads."

Bodie placed a hard hand in the middle of Doyle's back and shoved him into the centre of the room.

The relaxed languor vanished; suddenly the smiling men were gone, replaced by stealthy, hard-muscled predators seeking their prey--Doyle!

Circled by the men, Doyle kept on his toes, turning, checking, waiting for them to make their move. At first they came one at a time, testing him, his reflexes, his aggression, then they speeded up the pace, allowing him less recovery time and then no recovery time.

"Come on, Doyle," Bodie shouted from the sidelines. "Fight them. Hurt them--they're hurting you! Stop holding back. Knee the bugger's balls. Follow it through. You got him down, now keep him there. Show some aggression. Hit him, you fool, don't tickle him--hit him! And again! Harder..."

Jax, Murphy and Williams kept coming; they were all sweating and showing some damage and through it all Doyle kept hearing Bodie's voice, the criticism and scathing comments steadily burning through his self-control.

"Are you fighting or dancing? No--no! Hit him! Get up, you idiot, can't fight flat on your back. Bloody well saw that coming! Surprise them, surprise us all. Be unpredictable, you fool. No--unpredictable, I said. Don't let them know...oh, I give up. Put some life into it, don't just lie there--get up..."

Doyle staggered to his feet, clutching at his stomach trying to hold the pain in and blinking away the pinpoints of bright light. They weren't playing, these friends of Bodie's. This was no technically perfect, freefall bout--more of a free-for-all. He kicked out sharply, caught one of his opponents dead centre, and was wholly satisfied with the softness that folded around his foot. One down, two to go!

"About time, too!" cheered Bodie. "Hurry up, they've only got half an hour left before Cowley wants them in the briefing room. If you make 'em late they won't like you, Doyle. Come on--move a bit faster. Get in first, you prat, shove him down. That's better, Doyle! Attack! They'll keep coming until you're down or they're down."

The tall, fair-haired man was the next to go; a hard chop in the ribs followed by a short, sharp kick made him stay down. Only the black man remained and the two men circled each other, dancing on their toes, watching, waiting for a wrong move and an opening.

"Well done, you're learning! Now, forget all about the Marquis of Queensbury, use anything to get an advantage--if you won't, he will!"

Jax leapt forward and for a second there was a flurry of fists and swift grunts as skin and bone met forcibly. Then they broke apart, neither having gained any advantage.

"Even a blind man would have seen that coming, Doyle. Be purposely unpredictable! Don't let him outguess you. Surprise is nine-tenths of winning. Attack him first. Don't wait--hit him. Stop backing off, go forward!"

Over a haze of exhaustion and pain the critical monologue continued. The comments weren't a bit helpful--in fact they were a distraction; a bit like a persistent fly buzzing in your ear, Doyle thought suddenly. What do you do with a pesky fly, he asked himself--swat it, of course!

When the end came it took Bodie completely unawares. He had been looking over at Murphy and Williams, who were straightening themselves out at the far side of the gym; he did not see the two men dancing closer and closer as Doyle backed towards him, nor the light of anticipated victory in the rich brown eyes of Jax, premature and unfulfilled anticipation as Doyle, with the speed of light, changed the focus of his attack, grabbed the unsuspecting Bodie by his arm and swung him around, using his hip as an axis, lifting Bodie off his feet and throwing him bodily at Jax, diving in and catching the winded man with a decisive neck chop which successfully kept him down.

"Well done, Doyle."

The words of praise made him spin round ready to fight again, but the other two men held up their hands.

"No thanks, mate, enough is enough," said Murphy as he rubbed his stomach.

Williams extended a hand to help Jax up while Murphy assisted Bodie to his feet. "You weren't exactly straight with us, Bodie, so I reckon you deserved that."

"Too bloody right! Next time you want someone to test Doyle out--don't call us!"

"Be purposely unpredictable--you sound as bad as Macklin," said Murphy. "Are you sure you're not gunning for his job?"

"Who's after my job?"

Macklin's silent arrival took them all by surprise.

"Er--Bodie here, Mac," said Murphy, "seeing as how he's doing such a good job with Doyle..."

"And bearing in mind that memo the Home Sec. put out about early retirement," chipped in Williams.

"We thought Bodie might be after a cushy number," finished Jax.

"A cushy number, aye," said Macklin carefully. "Well, if any of you want to apply for the post of my assistant I'll be only too happy to run through a few training programmes with you."

"Wouldn't want to put you to any bother, Mac."

"I'll pass this time."

"Thanks for the offer but I hear the Cow wants someone to sharpen his pencils."

It was a very hasty and inelegant retreat, but in seconds, only Bodie, Doyle and Macklin were left in the room.

"I hadn't heard that Willis had cleared you, Bodie," Macklin said, concerned by the way Bodie was holding himself and massaging his neck.

"Er...he hasn't," admitted Bodie, as he meekly submitted to Macklin's order to sit down, while the beefy instructor began to manipulate the tension Doyle's throw had caused in his healing and almost-forgotten injury.

"Then what the hell are you doing playing silly buggers in the gym? You know as well as I do that the doctor has to clear you before recommending training after a serious injury," snapped Macklin.

Doyle listened to the exchange with growing guilt. Serious injury? He hadn't known Bodie was hurt.

"There's no harm done," Bodie said hurriedly as he recognised the dawning expression in Doyle's eyes. "Doyle just took me by surprise, he was just--"

"Being purposely unpredictable," finished Macklin. "Don't go stealing my lines, Bodie. Invent your own! And I saw what happened." Macklin turned towards Doyle. "You're getting better but until you learn to attack, you're not going anywhere. Forget the police, forget all about minimum force for maximum effort. The people you'll be going after eat policemen for breakfast. You've got to get in first, don't wait for the trouble to start, get in first and finish it quick."

Macklin's hard gaze bored straight through Doyle's uncertain defences; this was no oft-repeated textbook lesson, this was the voice of experience. Doyle had known that CI5 was very different from the police but all his training up till this moment had held a slightly unreal air; he had been taught to shoot, fight, defuse bombs, even make them, and he'd been filled with hundreds and hundreds of relevant facts, names, places, policies, politics, but it had been like adults' version of the spy game he'd played with his friends all those years ago...suddenly, Macklin had made it very, very real.

Macklin saw the spark of awareness flicker into life in Doyle's eyes and knew instinctively that the young man had finally woken up to reality. Maybe now they would get somewhere.

"That's enough for today, boys," was all he said though. "Bodie, if your neck's bothering you, see Dr Willis, don't forget you've got your own retraining period coming up in a few weeks and I don't want you back until you're one hundred percent fit."

Macklin's friendly but unrelenting gaze quashed any comments Bodie might have wished to make.

"Doyle," Macklin turned back to the other man, "you're to see Dr Willis on Monday afternoon, aren't you?" Doyle nodded in agreement. "Well, keep an eye on Bodie. If you think his injury is still causing him discomfort make sure you tell the doctor. When it comes to the medical fraternity our friend here becomes positively tongue-tied."

Bodie denied it of course, at some length, but Doyle was left with the impression that Macklin had not been lying. But a serious injury? Doyle wondered exactly what was wrong with Bodie, and how badly he had been hurt. How had he been hurt--and how come he hadn't noticed? Tagging along behind Bodie and Macklin, Doyle followed them out of the gym and along the corridors, down towards the private bar at the rear of the building. He wasn't surprised to see his three opponents standing there, nor other familiar faces he'd seen at HQ; this small, noisy little haven from the rest of the world seemed to be exclusively for the use of CI5 personnel.

Once the loud routine of, 'Hi, hellos' was over with and their drinks were in front of them, Doyle managed to slip to the back of the crowd where he sat, watching and listening.

A sudden commotion at the door caused every head in the room to swing around in time to catch the spectacular entrance of four vigorous and energetic if slightly scruffy-looking young men.

"The hero of the moment returns," one of them yelled at the top of his voice.

"Heroes," corrected one of the group as he playfully swatted his companion on the back of his head. "We were all there as well."

"All wrapped up is it," asked a voice from the crowd around the bar.

"Go well, did it?" asked another voice.

"Like a dream," answered one of the four.

"Right, lads," announced a booming voice that any parade ground RSM would be proud to possess, "anyone with any outstanding expense chits should take advantage of the Cow's benevolent mood."

"How'd the Old Man take the news?"

The four men walked, unhampered, to the bar, puffing their chests up and almost cooing with contentment.

"Offered us all a drop of his best malt."

In the shocked but respectful silence that followed that announcement Bodie was heard to ask which drawer Cowley had removed the famous bottle from.

"Top drawer, of course!"

"Sorry, mate," Bodie said as he broke the news gently, "but he keeps the really good stuff in the third drawer down."

The room erupted into good-humoured uproar as the newcomers were welcomed into the crowd and the details of their successful job were pored over with great interest. The post mortem carried on for an hour or so and Doyle used the relaxed, free and easy atmosphere to good advantage. A subtle question here, a delicate manoeuvring of conversation there, and he managed to learn quite a bit about his partner. He took it all in, filing all the little comments and anecdotes away until he had time to go over them properly. After nearly six weeks he was surprised that there was so much he didn't know about Bodie.

Driving home, he thought over what he had learned. Bodie was well-liked and respected, though more than one person had hinted at some unpleasant sides to his nature. Good for a laugh and a great one for the girls, apparently--not that either trait had shown itself in the last six weeks; apart from that one night out with Ruth Pettifer, Bodie had stayed in every night. Because of me, Doyle thought guiltily.

The most important facts Doyle had learned, though, were quite interesting. Without asking direct questions--because he had not wanted to appear obviously curious or concerned--Doyle discovered that he was the first person Cowley had tried teaming with Bodie. For the last two years, Bodie had been a solo agent--and by all accounts, one of the best Cowley had--until four months ago when he had taken a fall through a skylight and come close to breaking his neck. For a few days there had been a big question hanging over Bodie's future; CI5 had no room for cripples. But with the luck of the devil, Bodie had apparently bounced back and was as good as new--almost!

Watching the traffic up ahead, Doyle managed to catch Bodie stealthily rubbing his neck when he thought he couldn't be seen.

"I'm sorry about aggravating it. You should've told me, though, I'd no idea you weren't fit."

Realising he had been caught out, Bodie stopped pretending and gave his neck a proper, hard rub.

"Nah, 's not your fault. Hardly feel it all now except when I'm tired. I'll be okay by the time Macklin's ready for me."

"When will that be?"

"Another four weeks. We'll both be ready for him then."

The certainty in Bodie's voice made Doyle look round, smiling.

"You think I'm going to make the grade, then?"

"With me teaching you, you can't fail."

Doyle was beginning to recognise that smug, superior tone.

"You don't mind being lumbered with a partner then?" Doyle parked the car and switched the ignition off. "...or with me?" he added quietly.

"How d'you mean?"

"Someone said that you'd told Cowley you had no intention of being partnered by anyone--that you work best solo."

"Someone's got a slack mouth," said Bodie slowly as he digested what Doyle was asking him.

Ever since he'd looked up from his talk with Lucas and McCabe about the operation and seen Doyle joining in with the conversation and relaxed atmosphere of the clubroom, he'd known something was coming up. It was the first time he'd seen Doyle initiate a conversation with anyone--when he'd heard his name mentioned once or twice he had suspected that at long last Doyle had begun to be curious about him.

It had pleased him to see Doyle was finally taking notice of other people and he wasn't bothered at what any of his colleagues might say about him--they only knew what he wanted them to know anyway--but he hadn't considered how his initial loud and indiscreet reluctance to take on a partner could undermine Doyle's slowly awakening self-confidence. There was nothing like knowing you were unwanted to make you feel even more unwanted than you already thought you were.

"But after all the time and trouble I've taken gettin' you this far I'll be buggered if I'm letting someone else step in and reap the benefit!"

As they walked into the building, Bodie wondered how something just said out loud on the spur of the moment could possibly be so true. He really meant it! Doyle was going to be his partner whether he liked it or not. Apart from appearing rather unimpressed by Bodie's ambiguous answer to his question, Doyle made no comment and, as Bodie had suspected he would, vanished into his own bedroom at the earliest opportunity.

Much later that evening Bodie showered in readiness for bed and then donned the awful, candy-striped trousers again before padding down the hall to Doyle's bedroom. He knocked and walked in to find Doyle already sitting up in bed reading a book.

"I'm ready," Bodie said firmly, "and I don't like being disturbed once I'm comfortable."

"So?" said Doyle, unhelpfully.

"So--you're in the wrong bed, aren't you!" Bodie knew Doyle had not forgotten and guessed that he was probably hoping Bodie would.

"Don't you think you're carrying this 'partners' thing a bit too far?"

"No."

"For christ's sake, we're working partners, I'm not married to you or anything, there's nothing in the contract that says I have to sleep with you!" Doyle protested.

"I'm not suggesting you're to love, honour and obey me--just obey and trust me. Now, come on!"

It was a complaining and reluctant man that followed Bodie back along the hallway to the dimly lit bedroom.

"Make yourself comfortable," Bodie instructed. "I'll be back in a sec," then he disappeared in the direction of the kitchen.

Doyle took advantage of his absence to open the curtains, hoping that if Bodie noticed, he wouldn't think it strange.

When he returned Bodie saw the opened curtains immediately but chose not to comment, trusting his own ability to wheedle the truth from his close-mouthed companion in time.

The second night started out quite promisingly as Doyle, worn out by successive interrupted, disturbed nights and prolonged sessions in the gymnasium and class rooms, fell asleep almost immediately. For some time Bodie found himself lying in the semi-darkness listening to the soft breathing beside him; a relaxing, hypnotic sound which gradually eased him, unknowing, into sleep.

He awoke from a wonderfully deep, dreamless slumber to an uncomfortable physical sensation.

"Get off me, you great lump!" Doyle hissed in his ear. "Get on your own side, will you? Move over!"

Strong hands and a bony knee emphasised the point by pushing his heavy sleeping body across the bed onto a bit of cold sheet.

"...got bony knees..." Bodie managed to mumble before slipping back to sleep, only to be woken again seemingly minutes later by Doyle's outraged whisper:

"Fuck off!"

"Mmmm, wha'?" Disentangling himself from the irate bundle of warmth, Bodie withdrew to the cold sheet.

"Keep your flaming hands to yourself!"

"Sorry," Bodie whispered as he realised what was happening. "I can't help it--I'm used to cuddling who I sleep with--"

"Well, if you think you're gonna start cuddling me I'm going back to my own bed--"

Bodie grabbed hold and pulled Doyle back into the bed.

"Whoa, not so fast! It's nothing personal, mate, it's not you I'm after, it's just...well, you know...I usually get to cuddle what I sleep with. There's no need to get uptight...after all, I'm bound to wake up before I get to the good bits, aren't I?" Bodie joked. "Now, lie back down, shut up and go to sleep...and I'll try to remember you're 5'8", skinny, hairy and male. Okay?"

They settled down again and for a while the room was silent except for the soft, rhythmic breathing from the two exhausted men.

The first glow of the new sun was painting the sky when the easy rhythm was disturbed as Doyle became restless, his breathing quickening as the dream took hold; trapped in his nightmare, he struggled to get free, his body twitching and shifting restlessly.

On the other side of the bed, still wrapped in his own peaceful oblivion, Bodie sensed the silent struggle going on beside him and reached across the bed to offer his own sleepy comfort.

The instant Doyle's fist connected with Bodie's nose both men were wide awake and sitting up, Doyle reaching for the light switch and Bodie holding his injured face with both hands.

"By dose, you broke my dose!"

"I'm sorry. You touched me and I just hit out... I'm sorry. Oh christ, you're bleeding over everything. Got any hankies?"

"In der ches' of 'rawers, 'op 'rawer."

Handing the hankies over, Doyle stood helplessly by the side of the bed apologising over and over.

"I'm sorry, I thought you were...I forgot where I was, I'm sorry...I just got used to hitting him every time he touched me...I'm sorry...I knew this would happen..."

"'s all right, jus' bel' up. Know you didn' mean it," Bodie mumbled through the wad of bloodstained cotton. "Oh, gob, I fink it's broken."

"I'll get you a cold flannel," Doyle said as he ran for the bathroom, emerging seconds later and replacing the useless handkerchief with a freezing cold, wet cloth.

"Have you got any ice cubes in your fridge?" he asked.

"'uckin 'annel's 'old enough," Bodie protested nasally, flinching as the icy water dripped onto his bare chest.

"'ink ith's 'opped now anyway." Carefully, he pulled the flannel away. Yes, it had stopped.

"Is it broken?"

"Nah, don't 'ink so," Bodie said as he gingerly touched his nose; it was very painful but he didn't think it was seriously damaged. "'s all right, jus' a bit tender. What time is it?"

Doyle turned the clock around to se. "Nearly six."

"'aven't got to be at the range till ten so get back into bed. Maybe we can still get some sleep."

"After what I just did?" Doyle asked incredulously. "I probably will break it next time."

"Won't be a next time."

Lulled into a sense of security by Bodie's confident voice, Doyle climbed back into bed--only to try and leap straight back out again.

"What the hell are you playing at?" he demanded to know as he pulled away from a pair of octopus-like arms.

"Got it all figured out, haven't I!" Bodie said. "You get all twitchy every time you're asleep and someone touches you. So, you're going to go to sleep with me holding you so you're used to me being here, an' I'm going to be wrapped round you so fuckin' tightly you aren't going to be able to twitch without me knowing about the second you do!"

Bodie pulled Doyle back into his arms and made sure they were snuggled up nice and tight, Doyle's back pressed hard against his own chest, and his arms secure around the trim waist, holding him there.

"And relax! Neither of us is going to sleep if you're as stiff as a board," Bodie whispered into Doyle's hair. "All I want to do is sleep, so don't worry...this way I know where you are and you know where I am, neither of us gets any nasty surprises. Now, go to sleep!"

It was not a very comfortable position, so Bodie made his reluctant companion move to accommodate him.

"Bend your knee...that's better. Now lift your arm up a bit. There, 's more comfy, innit!"

"No."

"Shut up and go to sleep."

"How can I with you plastered down me back? You're making me too hot," Doyle complained.

Bodie released him only for as long as it took to throw the top bedspread off.

"Now will you go to sleep?"

"Your elbow's digging in my side."

Bodie sighed and shifted his elbow.

"How am I supposed to sleep with you blowin' a flippin' gale in me ear?"

Bodie pulled back a fraction so they were almost, but not quite touching, back to chest, but still kept an arm resting around the trim waist with his hand loosely circling Doyle's wrist, ready to grab hold should he start getting jumpy again.

"Do we really have to sleep holding bloody hands?"

"Yes! Now shut up!" Bodie's tone clearly showed the limits of his patience were almost exceeded, and Doyle finally gave in. Too tense himself to sleep, Bodie was relieved to feel Doyle slowly slip into unconsciousness.

Again, Doyle's soft, rhythmic breathing had a soporific effect and Bodie felt himself falling asleep.

There was only one dodgy moment in what remained of the night, and that was when, for a few seconds, Bodie's fingers automatically began light, stroking caresses along the warm skin beneath them, but Bodie snapped back to full awareness and stilled his errant fingers as soon as Doyle began to fidget and pull away, the light touch obviously weaving itself into the fabric of his dreams and becoming something sinister.

"Ssh...ssh..." Bodie whispered, holding his breath. "It's all right...just go back to sleep...'s all right now..."

Holding the restless sleeper firmly, Bodie felt the tension sliding away, and breathed out.

Maybe his idea was going to work after all.



CHAPTER SIX

"Are you coming, then?" Doyle asked quietly.

"Might as well," Bodie replied as he rose from his desk. "Get it over with."

"You gonna tell him how you got that?"

There was no need for Bodie to ask what 'that' was supposed to be. Since his painful awakening in the early hours of Friday morning he had been sporting a beautiful black eye.

"I never could understand why they call 'em black eyes," Bodie said as he pulled a face at himself in the mirror while studying his injury. "Blue, green, yellow, mauve and every other colour in the rainbow, but there's not a single spot of black."

"Now the green's fading it doesn't look quite so bad."

"No, it doesn't--maybe I can just tell him I've got jaundice," said Bodie mournfully.

"In one eye?" Doyle asked.

After a final grimace at his reflection Bodie turned to follow Doyle down to the medical room where Dr Willis was waiting to give him another check-up and make sure Bodie was fit enough to begin his own training schedule in preparation for Macklin's fitness tests.

The medical section was like a very small, compact casualty hospital where the department doctors could treat a wide range of injuries from splinters through to broken bones. It saved a lot of time having the facility on the premises and, with the dangerous nature of the department's work, the section was well used.

Willis mmm'd and aah'd and fussed a lot, but he was a good doctor and he took his task of keeping his patients healthy very seriously. In a job where a pulled muscle or an ignored minor illness could lead to slower reaction times, injury and even death, he had to stay on his toes.

He lingered over Bodie's X-rays and poked and prodded his silently suffering patient.

"Are you sure you feel no discomfort when I do this?" Willis pushed firmly on the back of Bodie's neck.

"It feels okay, there's no pain at all."

"Hmmm." Willis flexed his fingers and probed an inch or so further down. "How about here?"

"No. Nothing."

Willis hmm'd to himself once more then moved away to his desk.

"All right, Bodie, you can put your shirt back on. Now, you can start a slow build-up, you've got another three weeks before Macklin can start on you but I want you back here the minute your neck starts paining you."

Bodie looked across the room to Doyle and smiled, making no pretence of listening to Willis' well-meant advice and never-ending list of dos and don'ts.

Then it was Doyle's turn. Bodie settled himself down in one of the chairs and concentrated half-heartedly on an old magazine lying there. Across the room it was Doyle's turn to be measured, poked, prodded and examined. The quietly spoken instructions to 'do that,' 'move this,' bend that,' 'breathe in' and 'blow out' and a smattering of 'hmms,' 'aahs,' and 'very goods' were the only sounds.

"Right, Doyle, if you would just step up on the scales for me."

Sensing that the end of the examination was looming, Bodie looked up from the article he'd been reading in time to see Doyle palming something and holding it behind his back as he stepped over to the scales.

Intrigued, Bodie got up and wandered over.

"Well done, Mr Doyle. You're gaining weight nicely, we'll soon have you up to par. I'm pleased that someone in this organisation appreciates the value of a properly balanced diet. Mind you," and Willis turned from the scales to glare at Bodie, "you are the first underweight patient I've had since I joined the section. Most of your colleagues' problems tend to lean in the opposite direction."

Bodie looked distinctly uncomfortable under the piercing glare and Willis tried to be fair.

"But then I suppose it's easier to gain weight than to lose it, isn't it, Bodie?"

By now, Bodie had moved close enough to see the object Doyle had hidden behind his back.

"Oh yes," he agreed, "much easier."

Especially when you're holding an eight-pound weight in your hand, Bodie thought. He looked up into Doyle's worried eyes. So, the little sod knew he'd been caught out, did he.

Just then the telephone rang and Willis moved away to answer it, leaving the two men standing by the scales whispering to each other.

"You say anything, Bodie, and so help me I'll hit you with it," Doyle hissed.

"Keep your hair on," answered Bodie, judging from the angry glitter in Doyle's eyes that he really meant it. "Dunno what you want to cheat for--I wish I had your problem," Bodie said earnestly. Willis was always nagging at him over his weight; had a weight fixation, did Dr Willis.

Standing by the desk, Willis was listening to the lab technician's voice while trying to work out what was happening over in the corner of the room. For a moment he'd thought Doyle was going to thump his partner with whatever he was holding behind his back. Willis's eyes opened wider as he identified the object; he looked over to table and checked which weight was missing.

"Yes, right, thank you," Willis said rather distractedly as the phone call drew to a close. "Well, I'll get back to you about it later on then, good-bye." He placed the receiver down and walked back to the scales.

"If you'd just get back on for a moment, Mr Doyle, I'd just like to check your weight again."

Bodie moved away as Doyle stepped back onto the scales.

"Oh, and just put the weight back over on the table, please. We don't want to get the wrong reading do we, Mr Doyle." Willis smiled, Bodie choked back a snort of laughter and Doyle sighed as he did as he was told.

"That's better," said Willis. "Amazing the difference a small lump of lead can make, isn't it? Nine stone seven pounds. You're still over a stone underweight. Have you looked at that diet sheet properly?"

"Yes, of course I have," Doyle answered.

"Are you following it?"

"Yes...well, sort of," Doyle finally admitted.

"Sort of isn't good enough. Your ideal weight is ten stone twelve pounds, but I'm not fussy, I'll settle for ten and half stone. Now," Willis indicated the chastened but unrepentant Doyle could get off the scales, "I'm due to see you both when Macklin has finished with you. Doyle, I'll want your weight to be at least ten stone and Bodie, we'll try for about eight pounds off yours, shall we?"

Feeling like naughty schoolboys escaping from a classroom, they left and took themselves off to the canteen to get their long-overdue lunch.

Standing in the queue, Bodie finally broke the silence with a mumbled threat about what he'd like to do with Willis's scales.

"Yeah," Doyle laughingly agreed. "And if I ever get my hands on the berk who compiled those bloody ideal weight lists I'll kill him."

"At least your problem's easier to handle, just keep eating. Me--he expects me to starve! Only eight pounds, he says. Only!" Bodie moaned. "I feel perfectly all right and I'm not overweight, just well developed."

"I've never been ten and a half stone in my life," Doyle added his moan. "About ten or ten four is my limit. Every time he sees me he makes some comment about how peaky and thin I look. I know I was a bit underweight--"

"Only a bit?" Bodie questioned the understatement.

"--but I've always been slim," Doyle continued, trying to ignore the sarcasm. "This is all muscle, you know, not an ounce of fat on me," he said, patting his enviably flat stomach.

Selecting their meals, Bodie carried the tray over to the table, leaving Doyle to pay and collect the cutlery. Just as they were sorting themselves out Dr Willis walked by, his look of approval fading as Bodie, with a devilish grin, took the plate of meat pie, chips and beans, and pushed the ham salad towards Doyle.



As the door closed behind Macklin and Dr Willis, Cowley summoned up the dregs of his patience and turned to Dr Ross.

"I would be grateful, Doctor, if you would enlighten me on this 'confidential' problem." Cowley's irritation was plainly obvious to the psychiatrist, and she calmly gathered her arguments.

"I was given to understand that my assessment of our agents' mental states was to be confidential except in circumstances where--"

"Yes, yes," Cowley snapped. "I'm perfectly aware of your brief, Dr Ross, could you get to the point. What have you to say that you felt you were unable to bring up in front of Macklin and Dr Willis? And please," Cowley begged ungraciously, "speak in layman's terms, otherwise we'll both still be here tomorrow."

"I always endeavour to speak plainly, Mr Cowley," Ross assured him in sugar-coated tones. "The problem is quite simple. Bodie."

"Bodie?"

"I have been observing them during training and study periods and it is my opinion, my professional opinion," she stressed, "that a working partnership between the two of them is doomed to failure."

"Macklin is of the opinion that Doyle is shaping up well."

"I agree, he has done much better than I initially expected but I doubt his progress is going to advance much more; in fact it's highly likely that he will backslide."

"Why?"

"Bodie is why, Mr Cowley."

"You keep saying 'Bodie'," Cowley replied, completely exasperated by Ross's confident, complacent and incomprehensible arguments. "I ask again, why Bodie?"

"There is no one answer, Mr Cowley, but I will try to explain the problem."

The psychiatrist ignored the heavily whispered, 'please do' and continued:

"Because of Doyle's treatment in Maidstone prison we knew he was probably going to suffer from some degree of trauma and we knew he would need a great deal of emotional support." Ross paused and waited for some indication that her audience of one was still with her. "We know that Doyle has had no satisfactory contact with his family and discreet observation has indicated that he has made no move to renew old friendships or strike up new ones. So far he has spent all day, every day with Bodie. The only social contacts he's made have come through Bodie."

It became clear to Cowley that he was obviously missing something Ross felt to be terribly important.

"So far I see nothing wrong with what you said. Doyle is leaning on Bodie--what is wrong with that? The man's still disoriented and Bodie is the only steady constant in his life--"

"Precisely."

Cowley was totally thrown by the doctor's triumphant exclamation. It appeared he had found the crux of the matter without recognising it.

"Please, Dr Ross, explain yourself."

"Bodie is the stabilising factor in Doyle's life. That is the problem."

Cowley almost gave up. Had he been given a choice between five minutes with Dr Ross or twenty-four hours with a hostile, rabid mass-murderer, the murderer would have won--every time!

"Doyle is leaning too heavily. Throwing them into such close contact is forcing Doyle to turn to Bodie for the emotional support he needs. We know that Doyle was suffering from nightmares while in prison and Dr Willis confirmed that he has not been sleeping well."

"But Willis said that the problem appears to be getting better. Both Bodie and Doyle have been looking more relaxed and refreshed of a morning--"

"Which means Bodie is also coping with Doyle's nightmares as well as the daytime problems."

"I still don't see the problem, if Bodie is coping." Cowley shrugged his shoulders.

"How long can he go on meeting Doyle's emotional demands? However you look at it, Doyle is demanding a lot from Bodie, he still needs a great deal of support."

"A need that Bodie is, apparently, meeting."

"For the moment, yes," agreed Ross, "but not for much longer. I was against this pairing from the start because Bodie is a loner. His personal records show quite clearly that he consistently shuns emotional involvement. He has friends, colleagues, acquaintances and a plethora of girlfriends, but no one who makes or is allowed to make any emotional demands. Bodie can work as part of a larger team, and he has on occasion worked in two-man teams but those pairings were always short-lived and always terminated by special request by Bodie."

The room fell silent as Cowley digested what he was hearing. Unfortunately, it did seem to be making sense.

"So," said Cowley slowly, "in your professional opinion, you are sure Doyle is eventually going to ask too much from Bodie and destroy the partnership."

"In essence, yes."

"And the end result...in your professional opinion?"

"The break could well be the final rejection for Doyle, the ultimate failure. I think we would lose him and possibly Bodie too."

"And Bodie?" asked Cowley. Doyle had been a risk from the beginning but he did not want to lose Bodie as well. The main reason behind teaming them had been an attempt to bind Bodie more securely to CI5.

"I am not unaware of your reasons for initiating this pairing and I won't repeat my thoughts on the matter, you already know them, but I suspect your plan to tie Bodie to CI5 with more than personal loyalty to yourself has backfired." Seeing that she had Cowley's complete attention she continued:

"Considering his dislike for involvement, Bodie has allowed himself to respond to Doyle's needs. Surprisingly, once the initial introduction period was over they got on extremely well and Bodie has taken the training programme very seriously; he's bullied and coaxed every inch of Doyle's progress and he's become very...protective." Ross struggled to find the right words. "He's looked after him...fussed over him...kept the other agents from trying all the usual new-boy tricks...he's allowed himself to...care."

"Is that so very wrong, Dr Ross?" Cowley asked quietly.

"In Bodie's book, yes. Caring means involvement and sooner or later he always shuns involvement. When he breaks away from Doyle, I think he'll know that as far as CI5 goes Doyle'll be finished. The combination of caring, involvement and guilt will probably make Bodie break away from CI5 as well."

It could happen. Even Cowley could see that. To lose Doyle would be a great pity--but to lose Bodie as well would be much, much worse.

Cowley dismissed Ross and told his secretary to hold all his calls; he needed time to think over Ross's damning prediction.

"Mr Cowley, Bodie is waiting to see you on a personal matter. Shall I ask him to call back?"

Bodie? What personal matter did he wish to discuss, Cowley wondered.

"It's all right, Betty, send him through now."

The door opened and Cowley got his first good look at the black eye everyone had been talking about. It would well be the most spectacular bruising he had seen in a very long time. It was rumoured that Doyle, tiring of his instructor's training methods and pushed beyond his limit had finally laid one on him. So far, Bodie had not denied the story and Macklin and Willis had only just finished reporting that the compatibility of the two men was becoming as obvious as the bruising--so if the story was true, it hadn't damaged the partnership. Unless, of course, Bodie wanted to talk about dissolving the team.

"A personal matter, Bodie?" Cowley prompted after he had stood awkwardly in front of the desk seemingly at a loss for words.

"Yes, sir. But not me--Doyle."

"Doyle has a problem?" Cowley was determined not to make the way easier; if Bodie wanted out he was going to have to say so.

"Well, yes and no...it isn't really a problem, it's just..." Bodie foundered helplessly. "It seems that Doyle was involved in a spot of bother, a nasty fight, about a year or so ago and he's troubled by...memories of the fight...apparently he was quite badly hurt and he doesn't really know for sure what happened. I just wondered if it would be possible for Doyle to see the reports regarding the incident."

It wasn't the problem Cowley had been anticipating and he felt himself relax a little.

"Which reports?"

"There must have been some kind of internal enquiry...and I think he would like to see his medical reports as well."

"I can't hand over Doyle's medical notes to you, Bodie, they're confidential."

"I don't want to see them, sir, but I think Doyle has every right to."

"So why are you asking for them and not Doyle?"

Bodie wouldn't--or couldn't--reply, but Cowley, a shrewd man, was sure he knew the answer. So, the thought, Ross was right. Bodie was learning to care.

"All right, Bodie," he said. "I will get the reports I think Doyle needs to see and I'll give them to you in confidence. Once Doyle has seen them I'll want them back. Call by my office before you leave tonight and I'll have them ready for you."

"Thank you, sir."

Bodie let himself out, his mind whirling with fresh doubts. Cowley had agreed very quickly to his rather strange request. He knew for a certainty that Cowley had already seen the reports and would of course know exactly what the outcome of the fight had been--was that why he was so unsurprised at the request, had he, in fact, been expecting it?

"Wanna watch it, Bodie, I can almost hear your cogs struggling into action." Doyle's voice, right behind, took Bodie by surprise. "That or you've taken to sleeping with your eyes open."

"Didn't see you, mate. Where're you off to now?"

"Jack Prescott, remember, he's going to have another go at teaching me how not to blow myself up."

"Course, I remember now, he's actually going to give you a live one to defuse, isn't he?" Bodie said seriously.

"Oh, yeah!" Doyle laughed. "You're kidding, aren't you. Aren't you?" he asked, as he was assailed by a sudden doubt.

"Of course, mate," Bodie replied to the anxious voice with a forced joviality. "Not going to let you near a real one, is he! Stands to reason. Course it'll only be dummy ones. Don't worry about it." Bodie threw an arm around the lean frame and gave it a quick hug. "There's nothing to worry about, just take your time. You're not nervous, are you? Steady hands and all that!"

"Of course I'm not nervous. Why should I be?" Doyle was suspicious of the overbright camaraderie. Bodie was just winding him up--wasn't he!

"No reason at all, sunshine."



Later that evening Bodie tapped lightly on the doorway to Doyle's sanctuary, for once waiting to hear permission to enter before walking in.

"Just wondered what you were doing," Bodie said, to excuse his intrusion.

"Nothing special," Doyle replied as he folded the newspaper away. "Just catching up with what Fleet Street's saying about the world."

"Wouldn't you be more comfortable in the living room?" asked Bodie. The spare room was very basic, only a bed, wardrobe and chest of drawers graced the small room, and Doyle had a choice of his bed or the floor on which to sit.

"I'm okay," Doyle assured him, and Bodie saw the wariness in the clear wide-eyed gaze that was warning him not to encroach too far into his territory.

"I was just going to make a drink, do you want one?" As an excuse, it was as good as any other; Doyle didn't appear to be overly suspicious, replying that yes, he would like a drink--coffee.

"Fine," replied Bodie. He turned to leave only to turn back, seemingly as an afterthought and tossed a squat, document-sized envelope through the air to land with a loud spat on top of the newspapers. "I managed to get hold of these for you...thought that you might like...want to read them...that they might help you come to terms with what happened to you...give you your answer one way or the other..."

Untypically, for the second time in one day, Bodie found himself waffling on like an idiot.

"Oh, hell," he said finally, "I'm going to put the kettle on. It's up to you whether you read what's in there or not."

Utterly confused, Doyle watched Bodie's hurried exit, then picked up the envelope, broke the seal and tipped the papers out.

His amusement at seeing Bodie behaving so ruffled and ill at ease died as a cold, sick feeling settled in the pit of his stomach. There were three reports: the internal enquiry, Officer Magill's statement and the admission notes from Maidstone General Hospital.

He stared at them blindly; his first reaction, once the shock receded, was to tear them up, burn them, destroy them completely. Why, he asked, had Bodie given them to him, what possible good did the stupid idiot think reading about it was going to do him? What possible good?

Unbidden, the embarrassed look on Bodie's face as he had thrown them over came back to him.

"...give you your answer...one way or the other..."

One way or the other.

Did he really want to know, Doyle wondered.

Of course he bloody well did a voice screamed from inside, and a smaller voice also demanded to be heard--but supposing the worst really did happen--could he accept that? Not really knowing, he could always tell himself that Ward had been stopped in time--but to discover, for an absolute certainty, that he hadn't--could he face knowing that?

He was sweating so much that his fingers, already stained by the newsprint, left smudgy marks on the pristine white paper the hospital notes were photocopied on. Suddenly, unable to read on, Doyle switched to Magill's report, the stark, clinical description of his injuries proving too much for him right now. If they went into as much detail as they had over his broken wrist, the first injury listed, he dreaded to think what he might find described in explicit, cold medical terms over the page.

Taking a deep breath and mentally bracing himself against what he might discover, Doyle began to read.



Alone in the kitchen, Bodie clattered about, keeping one ear tuned in to whatever might happen further down the hall. Because he wanted to take his time, the kettle boiled quickly of course, sod's law that is, Bodie told himself. How long should he leave it before going back? Would Doyle want him to go back? He had no way of knowing.

The envelope had not been bulky, so it shouldn't take Doyle long to read the reports.

Unable to settle, Bodie drank his coffee as he moved restlessly between the living room and kitchen. Before long, though, he had finished his, and Doyle's was growing cold as it sat on the draining board. Bodie tipped it away.

Back in the living room he poured himself a small whisky; as he rolled the smooth, fiery liquid around in his mouth he looked at the clock, then gulped it down. Twenty minutes. Surely Doyle had read it all by now.

In the bedroom Doyle shoved the papers away, tearing the envelope in his hurry to get rid of the distasteful reports--then tossing the package down to the end of the bed.

So--now he knew.

Cowley had read those reports.

So had a lot of other people. Bodie? Doyle didn't know. Even knowing that the reports had been one-sided--the Establishment's view and opinions were there, in black and white, for anyone with the right authorisation to see--did not ease the sense of injustice. Had everyone in that godforsaken, so-called House of Correction gone around wearing blinkers? Even admitting to himself that he had not been anyone's idea of a model prisoner, Doyle found it hard to understand how everyone from the Governor to the lowest-ranking screw could have misjudged him so. He hadn't been that bad--had he, he asked himself. Maybe he had. Once dear, sweet Bert had spread his malicious, mouth-watering gossip, there had been plenty of opportunity for Doyle to display his aggressive, antagonistic and anti-authority behaviour that the reports made so much of.

What the hell should he have done; lain down and let them take turns, for god's sake?

"Do you want that coffee yet?"

Bodie's quiet voice intruded on Doyle's very private, very bitter thoughts.

"You can shove your fuckin' coffee up your fuckin' arse!" Doyle shouted.

Immediately cursing the impulse that had forced him to see if Doyle was all right, Bodie withdrew, only to be called back.

"Oy!" Doyle leapt from the bed, snatching the envelope up and throwing it at Bodie. "You can shove this up there too!"

The anger that was burning through Doyle gave Bodie his answer. Well--at least now Doyle knew.

"Shout all you want, mate," Bodie said quietly, prepared to take the full brunt of Doyle's anger if he had to. "I don't blame you for being mad but if you really want to hit someone, we'll go down to the gym--Cowley isn't too keen on allowing us to wreck the furniture."

"Hit you...why'd you think I want to hit you?"

So used to fighting fire with fire, Doyle was thrown by the placid acceptance of his rage. He had always had a quick temper but his time on the Force had helped him to control it; but in Ford and Maidstone, everyone's tempers were quick off the mark. Two sparks could start an uncontrollable blaze among the closely confined prisoners. Inside, to back down meant losing--and there was no way Doyle was going to lose--ever.

"I don't want to fight you," said Doyle in a slightly bewildered voice. Puzzled, he had walked back to his bed and sat down slowly. Where had all his anger gone, he asked himself. He had been all set to wipe the floor with Bodie: and why--just because he gave him the reports that he had known existed somewhere but was too scared to look for?

"I'm...sorry...there's no reason to take it out on you...'s not your fault," Doyle apologised awkwardly.

"Come on, Doyle...you look like you could do with a drink--and no, I don't mean coffee."

"I'm gonna end up an alcoholic if you start pouring alcohol down me throat every time I lose my rag!"

"There's only about two inches left in the bottom of the bottle, mate, so I doubt if either of us is going to wind up drunk and incapable tonight. Come on."

Grateful that Doyle had calmed down, Bodie led the way into the living room and poured each of them a drink, draining the bottle into Doyle's glass.

For a while they sat in silence, only the television chattering away softly in the corner. Bodie started talking first, and Doyle found he didn't quite understand what was prompting the cautious speech, that is until he mentioned something about time healing most hurts, then he realised with a shock how Bodie must have interpreted his anger over the reports.

"Have you read that?" Doyle asked and pointed to the crumpled envelope that lay on the arm of Bodie's chair.

"It's confidential," Bodie replied. "Of course I haven't. It was given to me sealed. I didn't open it."

"Do you want to read it?"

"No." Bodie's answer was expressionless and definite.

"Aren't you curious?"

"No."

"Not even a little bit?" Were their positions reversed, Doyle wasn't sure he would be able to contain his curiosity.

"Should I be?" Bodie responded to the irritatingly teasing voice with icy sarcasm.

Immediately, Doyle regretted his teasing. Bodie really didn't deserve that sort of treatment.

"Do you think Cowley's read it?"

"I expect so. Why--does that bother you?"

"No," Doyle answered thoughtfully, "but after seeing what the Governor thought of me, I'm surprised Cowley ever considered me for CI5. According to Bryant," Doyle explained, "I was the most undisciplined, troublesome, warped individual who invited trouble, thrived on violence and deserved everything I got, which by the way," he added, "was not as bad as I thought. My virtue is still intact and my body still pure--despite Kingsley and Ward's efforts to the contrary."

"So you weren't..." Bodie only just managed to regain control of his tongue but, apparently unconcerned by such indelicacies, Doyle finished the sentence for him.

"Raped. 's almost enough to make a person believe in miracles, isn't it! According to that," the envelope received another look, "even the bumbling, cack-handed Mr Magill has his uses, he actually managed to get to the right place, a little late but still in time to stop the fireworks."

"What happened to Ward and his cronies?"

"Nothing."

"What?" Bodie exclaimed. "They half kill you and are allowed to get away with it?"

"Maidstone is full of very blind, very deaf, very stupid people, Bodie. By the time Magill clonked along the landing in his size twelve regulation boots the only person left in the shower-room was me. The way I was lying and the fact my trousers were somewhere around my ankles apparently aroused some suspicion but, by the time I came around and worked out what I thought had happened and developed a nasty case of traumatic amnesia, there wasn't much they could do."

"Surely there was an enquiry?" Bodie was quietly appalled that such a vicious and serious attack could happen in a secure institution without there being repercussions of some kind.

"Oh yeah, there's a report on that too in there." The envelope received another cold look. "There was some criticism of the screws fouling up the rota system and letting the fight happen in the first place, but most of the blame came down on my head," Doyle said bitterly.

"On you?" Bodie asked. "How did they work that out?"

"Being as how me and dear Bert were such bosom buddies--" Doyle saw the look of disbelief on his partner's face. "Oh yeah, according to the screws--who of course know everything about everyone--"

"Says who!" sneered Bodie.

"Says the screws, of course--you'll never catch them admitting otherwise. Anyway, I've already told you what happened after dear Bert left, haven't I? Well, they thought that I was in the running to take control, there was a lot of tension in the wing and they knew something was brewing. They decided the fight was the climax of the struggle for the top...and that I was the loser."

"So nothing was done?"

"I was put...somewhere else after being discharged from the prison hospital. Ward took over from Bert and peace was restored. Ward was happy, the screws were happy, Bryant was happy and I was out of it."

But not happy. The unspoken words hung between them, making Bodie wonder exactly where the 'somewhere else' was. He asked.

"'E' wing," was Doyle's unenlightening and reluctant answer.

"'E' wing?" Bodie asked. "What's that?"

"Maximum security."

"Solitary confinement!" Bodie said, horrified. "How long for?"

"The last eight months or so."

All at once Bodie understood Doyle's reluctance to mingle with crowds of people, his reticence when drawn into a group's conversation. Eight months' maximum security could do that to you, spending at least twenty-two hours out of twenty-four locked away in isolation, month after month; a person could easily forget how to converse freely with others.

Bodie knew that long-term inmates in maximum security wings were allowed to make their cells comfy with radios and televisions, pictures and other small luxuries--if there was someone outside to bring them in for you, but being completely alone, cut off--Bodie shuddered at the thought. He was a loner by choice--to be forced into isolation was an idea that sickened him.

"How did you cope with that?" he asked eventually.

"It was...okay. I soon got used to it. Was nice, being alone, no one bothered me, pestered me; even when I did see the others on the wing at exercise time we all kept to ourselves--everyone had their own reasons for keeping apart and the screws didn't encourage friendly conversation. After Bert and everything...being ignored was a nice change. I made the best of it."

Doyle knew he had glossed over the misery he had felt every date of each month that passed, but there was no point wallowing. Although unpleasant, 'E' wing had been a lot better than his first introduction to Maidstone. He could see that Bodie had been shocked by what he had heard, his indignation that Ward had got off scot-free somehow warmed Doyle; it was good to know that someone cared. He drained his glass and stole a quick look across the room to see what Bodie was doing. Unaware that he was being watched, Bodie was fiddling with the envelope, bending the corners, then rolling it into a tube, flattening it out and then rolling it the other way. That his hands were acting without conscious thought was obvious to Doyle. Bodie's eyes and face were guarded and shuttered, blocking out what his thoughts might be.

Bodie tried to imagine the enforced isolation; Doyle's voice had revealed only a glimmer of the loneliness he must have felt--'I soon got used to it...being ignored was a nice change'. Shuddering with horror, Bodie wondered how many times a day Doyle had had to tell himself that being alone was what he preferred.

Not for the first time, Bodie began to re-evaluate his opinion of the man Cowley had all but dumped on him.



"How much longer are you going to be?" Bodie demanded crossly. He had been in bed for nearly a quarter of an hour and Doyle was still fiddling around, flitting between his room down the hall and the bathroom.

"I'm just cleaning my teeth," the voice answered.

"Just leave 'em to soak, they'll be safe in the bathroom! Hurry up, I want this light out," Bodie yelled as he thumped a fist into his pillow then switched off the lamp on his side of the bed, leaving only the lamp on Doyle's side. The shade must have been knocked at some time, because instead of a soft, cosy glow a beam of brilliant white light poured unhindered straight from the bulb and into Bodie's face; even with his eyes shut the light was still annoying.

He heard Doyle enter the bedroom, heard the sound of the curtain being drawn back, then, just as Bodie thought he was about to get into bed, the soft footsteps left the room.

"Now where are you goin'?"

"I'm putting something away."

"Hurry up!" Bodie complained. This nightly ritual was becoming exceedingly irritating. Every night Bodie had to make a point of reminding his house guest where he was sleeping; left to his own devices Bodie knew that Doyle would slip into his own bed and hope against hope that his absence wouldn't be noticed. Once he had agreed that yes, tonight he would sleep in the double bed, Doyle would take his time getting there, just finish reading this, or I want to watch the end of that, cleaning his teeth, washing his hair--and then taking hours to dry it--anything to put off the inevitable--and then once actually in bed the rigmarole of settling down to sleep would start. Ever since giving Bodie the nosebleed and subsequent black eye, Doyle had not refused to let Bodie hold him--he protested at some length every night, but he didn't refuse the restraining embrace.

Tomorrow night, Bodie decided grimly, they would start going to bed as soon as dinner was over, that way they might get the light off before midnight.

The footsteps returned and moved towards the bed...and then away again.

Now what's he doing? Bodie thought desperately.

Resigned to another stalling tactic, he opened his eyes to see Doyle removing his bathrobe and draping it around a chair but still making no move towards the bed.

"What are you fiddling with now?" Bodie demanded, his temper finally getting the better of his desire not to get mad with the infuriating little bugger. "I want this fucking light off so's I can get some sleep!"

"All right, all right," Doyle answered rather distractedly, Bodie's tone of voice only barely penetrating the cloud of thoughts swamping him at that particular moment.

Unable to wait patiently a second longer, Bodie surged across the empty half of the bed and switched the light off.

"Bodie!" a surprised voice cried out, "can't see a bleedin'--ouch!"

A muffled thump and a stream of extremely coarse expletives poured from Doyle's mouth.

"You all right?" Bodie asked, quite unconcerned at first, no one could be that voluble if he was seriously injured, but then the swearing tailed off to be replace by a series of choked-off hisses and sniffs, and he repeated his question. The only reply was an increase in volume and frequency of the strange, strangulated noises Doyle was producing. Alarmed, Bodie turned the light back on.

Doyle was sitting on the floor at the foot of the bed, only his shaking shoulders and the back of his downbent head visible.

"Doyle?" Bodie called softly.

There was no answer, no indication he had even heard his name.

Bodie slipped out of bed and moved to where Doyle was sitting, crumpled, shaking and holding his left foot with both hands, his face hidden by his arms and upraised knees.

"What's wrong?"

The shaking only increased. Bodie was really concerned now and he moved to crouch beside Doyle, reaching out to touch the curly head gently.

"Hey, come on, what's up? What's wrong? Have you really hurt yourself?"

For a few seconds Bodie thought Doyle was crying and cursed himself for having given him the reports to read. For the last few days Doyle had wandered around in a very strange mood, not appearing at all relieved to know, finally, that Ward had not achieved his object. He had instead seemed more angry over what the Governor and screws had written about him--angry and hurt, very hurt, that anyone could have apparently prejudged and misunderstood him so badly.

The wheezes and shakes were reaching mammoth proportions when Doyle finally gave in to Bodie's coaxing hand and lifted his head up. For a second their eyes met--then Doyle threw his head back and roared with laughter, helpless, uncontrollable laughter.

So relieved not to have found tears, Bodie found himself breaking into a smile and soft chuckles, eventually laughing outright in response to Doyle's unrestrained mirth.

In the end, after several long minutes during which Doyle ended up sprawled, helpless and weak on the floor, the laughter subsided. Wiping away the tears from his eyes, Doyle took hold of the offered hand and allowed Bodie to help him up and steer him towards the bed.

"Oh god!" Doyle gasped, "'aven't laughed like that for years...stomach's killin' me...oh god, dunno what hurts more, me stomach or me foot!"

Sitting down heavily on the bed, Doyle twisted his foot round to examine its underside.

"Not even a mark--felt like a ten inch bleedin' nail!"

"What's so funny about treading on something sharp?" Bodie also checked the sole of Doyle's foot for injury and then turned to scan the carpet for the offending object.

"Nothing," Doyle answered, a fresh bubble of laughter making further speech temporarily impossible.

Bodie found the small silver shirt pin that had embedded itself, point upwards, in the carpet pile. "Come on--share the joke," he begged, setting the pin safely aside and returning to his own side of the bed.

His breathing still ragged, Doyle tried to explain. He collapsed back onto the pillows and allowed Bodie to flick the duvet across him.

"I was just thinking, see," he began, "about what I enjoy most about being free, outside. Just the little things, you know," he turned his head on the pillow to look at Bodie as he tried to make him understand, "like...I dunno, 'aving a bath at three o'clock on a Thursday afternoon just because I want one and not because it's my turn and I won't be able to for another day or so, and being the first person to read today's newspaper--not the twentieth to read the day before yesterday's. But what really cracked me up was thinking..." the green eyes sparkled anew and Doyle broke off with a fresh bout of giggles; Bodie waited patiently, "was...thinking how nice it was to get into bed...and then turn the light off...myself..." The explanation continued disjointedly as Doyle struggled against the wild desire to laugh again at what he knew was coming next. "...luxury of turning a light on and off...from your own bed...'s wonderful...never...never realised how wonderful until I couldn't do it...inside, screws turn the lights off...every night...always on the wrong side of the cell when it happened...bleedin' Bert always left his boots sticking out...and I always tripped over the damn things...was just thinking about...that when you turned the light out...and then I trod on...and it just...struck me...as being a...bit...oh gawd, it's...bringing tears...to me...eyes..."

Laughter being infectious anyway, Bodie couldn't stop himself from responding to Doyle's enveloping good humour, and they lay side by side, giggling like schoolboys in a dormitory, until they were laughed out. Finally and with a sense of ceremony, Doyle switched the light off and rolled onto his side, accepting with no discernible restraint Bodie's covering arm.

Hardly able to believe how things were turning out, Bodie carefully made himself comfortable, tucking his knees behind Doyle and resting his arm around the trim waist. Doyle's laughter had so relaxed him that he didn't tense up or raise his normal objections when his wrist was taken in a firm grip but instead relaxed into Bodie's protective embrace and slipped into sleep.

Even waking the next morning was a pleasurable experience. Bodie awoke first and was slightly surprised to find Doyle still sleeping soundly. Neither of them could have moved much during the night, and they were still cuddled up closely. Not only was it the first morning Bodie had woken to find Doyle still in bed, but it was also the first completely undisturbed night they had both had. It had been nearly a week since the last big nightmare that had so rudely and painfully woken them both up, but every night since then, Doyle's sleep had still been troubled and restless; only Bodie's soothing grip and sleepy reassurance had prevented the dreams from gaining a hold on the helpless sleeper.

Doyle's breathing changed rhythm as he slid, easily, from sleep to waking. Curious as to what he would do, Bodie remained still, but Doyle knew he was awake and uncurled himself, releasing his grip on the hand that was resting on his stomach, and stretching.

"Ummgh!" he grunted.

"Morning to you too!" Bodie replied, then asked, "Are you going running this morning?" when Doyle finished his bone-popping stretch.

"Mmm," Doyle answered. "When I've woken up properly." He yawned and rubbed his eyes then looked at the time--seven o'clock. "Why?"

"Thought I'd join you." Bodie's voice wasn't very enthusiastic.

"How come?"

"Macklin in two weeks is how come," Bodie said gloomily. "Gotta be nearly fit before I go near him or else he'll kill me on the first day."

"He seemed a nice bloke to me," Doyle said, not understanding the reason for the depth of Bodie's gloom.

"Do you think I could have that in writing?" Bodie asked as he slipped from the bed. "Then when he's finished hammering us to death I can show you what a fool you were. A nice bloke! Macklin?"

Hoisting his pyjamas to a more secure position on his hips, Bodie gave Doyle a final, disbelieving look and vanished into the bathroom, shaking his head and muttering, "Macklin! A nice bloke! Macklin!"



CHAPTER SEVEN

Feeling comfortable and relaxed, Bodie leaned back in the plush leather armchair and took a slow pull at his drink. The huge, ornate clock out in the lobby chimed out half past seven, and Bodie's forehead creased into a slight frown.

"Don't look so impatient, Bodie, I'll be with you as soon as I've finished with these breakfast menus."

The tall, elegant woman blew him a kiss as she glided across the bar and out into reception. Joanna was the sort of person who glided, Bodie decided appreciatively, never walked, always a sexy, sensuous glide.

But it hadn't been Joanna that had caused him to frown. It was taking Doyle one heck of a long time to finish dressing and come down to the bar. If he didn't hurry up the girls would arrive first.

"There you are," Bodie said. "Was beginning to think you'd got lost."

"Sorry," Doyle replied quietly. "Didn't realise you were waiting specially. Are they serving dinner?"

"Yes, but we can't go in yet, the girls aren't here."

"Girls? What girls?" Doyle's head swung around sharply.

"Joanna and...whatsername...Jo's friend...Terry. I did tell you," Bodie said defensively, because of the look of startled surprise in Doyle's eyes.

"You've mentioned a Joanna but this is the first I've heard about her friend."

"Sorry," Bodie said. "Must have forgotten to mention her. When I told Jo I was coming down here she said that her friend was spending her holiday here so I thought we could double date."

"Double date?" asked Doyle.

"Yeah. I've booked a table in the restaurant for eight o'clock. You don't mind, do you?" Bodie asked belatedly.

"It's a bit late to ask now, isn't it!" Doyle said irritably.

"Sorry if I've upset any plans you had but I thought that a good meal, and drink and a couple of nice girls would relax us nicely before Macklin tries to kill us off tomorrow."

"A light meal and an early night would be more sensible."

"So? Be sensible and go to bed early." Bodie winked and grinned lewdly. "I have every intention of going to bed early. I've also seen Terry and she looks like she might be agreeable to an early night if you play your cards right!"

Any answer Doyle might have wished to make remained unspoken as Joanna and her friend arrived and the conversation became dominated by introductions and the organising of predinner drinks for everyone.

Joanna and Bodie controlled the conversation, talking to each other and drawing the other two into a friendly, animated circle.

It was the first time Doyle had seen Bodie so relaxed, his quiet, unfamiliar laughter adding to the sense of cheerful well-being. That Bodie and the elegant Joanna had known each other some time was revealed by a few amusing anecdotes told mainly for Doyle and Terry's benefit.

The meal progressed slowly and Doyle was surprised to find he was enjoying himself. Terry came across as a very pleasant, intelligent woman and once they found a common interest they got on pretty well.

Managing to divert Joanna's attentions for a few moments by getting her to choose a liqueur coffee, Bodie glanced across the table to see how Doyle was getting on. At first, Doyle's usual stiffness and reserve had proved a little awkward but by degrees throughout the meal he had thawed and was now talking earnestly to Terry, looking more relaxed and at ease than when they had first sat down.

The drinks Doyle had consumed before and during the meal had no doubt helped considerably, Bodie decided. A snippet of the other pair's conversation drifted across the table... He hadn't known Doyle knew anything about art.

The coffees arrived and were duly drunk, rounding off an enjoyable meal.

"Did you know that we have a disco down in the basement, Bodie?" Joanna asked as they left the restaurant.

"Didn't have one last time, did you?"

"Not quite, it was still being converted then, but," as Joanna pointed out, "that was nearly nine months ago."

"As long ago as that!" Bodie exclaimed dramatically. "Seems like only yesterday."

"Liar!" Joanna laughed. "I suppose you're going to try and kid me that you've thought of me every day."

"Well..." Bodie smiled and then admitted, "not every day."

"Come on then, Terry, Ray, do you fancy going down for a dance?"

A hot, smoky, overcrowded disco was something Doyle wanted to avoid but Terry was pulling on his arm.

"Oh yes, I'd love to. Please come with us, Ray?" she asked sweetly.

Under the combined silent persuasion of three pairs of eyes, he capitulated and they entered the club.

It was as bad as Doyle had expected. The dimly lit room was throbbing with noise and bright lights and was packed to capacity. Most of the men present were plainly from the army barracks further down the road, and all seemed intent on having a wonderful time.

There were no empty tables, but Doyle managed to collect two stools for the girls to sit on while Bodie went to get them some drinks.

As they were waiting for Bodie to weave his way back through the crowd, Doyle could see Joanna was trying to talk to him and had to lean over and place his ear almost on top of her mouth to hear what she was saying. Through the heavy beat of a very energetic rock and roll number, he could make out about one word in three but he managed to catch her drift.

Apparently, so Joanna told him, the disco was usually closed midweek, but the NAAFI from the barracks had hired the cellar to promote easier relations with the local populace. Looking around the room, Doyle decided that the fathers of the local girls had every right to be concerned.

Bodie returned with a tray of drinks.

"Double," he shouted. "Save going through that lot again."

He had barely taken a sip of his, though, before Joanna was tugging him towards the dance floor. Passing his drink and his jacket over to Doyle, Bodie went. Having already removed his own jacket, Doyle spread them both over their stools and pulled Terry towards the dance floor.

In a perverse way Doyle was happier than he had been in the restaurant. Terry was a nice girl and he'd enjoyed her company but she had been making him increasingly uncomfortable. Everything about her revealed a tantalising glimpse of the sensual nature smouldering beneath the veneer of well-bred gentility. Down in the disco the noise completely stopped any intelligent conversation, and mime was the best way of conversing. The fact that the D.J. was a rock and roll fanatic and playing to a sympathetic audience also prevented any slow dances where, Doyle was sure, Terry would prove her ability to let her body talk for her. So, he danced and enjoyed himself.

Having decided that two dances at this pace were enough, Bodie pulled Joanna back to the stools where they sat and watched Doyle and Terry.

Bodie downed a good measure of his ice-cold lager. He should have guessed that his partner was such a good dancer; Doyle and Terry complemented each other and, looking around, Bodie noticed that he wasn't the only one watching them. Their lively interpretation of the jive had earned them a little more floor space, which they were using to good effect. The record came to an end and Doyle and Terry collapsed, holding each other up. Another record started and the space they'd worked so for was taken by other dancers.

Bodie held their drinks out for them as they made their way back to the stools. Terry sat down, as Bodie pulled Doyle closer to shout in his ear.

"All right?" he bellowed.

Doyle just grinned and nodded. He was having a good time and managing to quell his niggling doubts about Bodie's ulterior motives in arranging the double date. For all Bodie's talk about the delectable Joanna, Doyle knew that little if anything heavy was going to happen. Bodie had, after all, booked them into a double room, and surely he didn't intend taking Joanna to bed with them both!

Never having been keen on cavorting around a dance floor, Bodie was only too happy to let Doyle partner both the girls. There would be plenty of time to dance with Joanna when the D.J. finally decided his audience were tired, mellow and drunk enough to enjoy the inevitable smoochy numbers.



The first slow dance took Doyle by surprise; the way Terry melted into his arms and rested her head on his shoulder threw him for a moment and he stumbled, treading on her toes.

As the second smooch faded away, Doyle looked around for Bodie. It was past midnight and if they were going to face the assault course in the morning with any chance of success, they really ought to be thinking of turning in.

The dancers parted, and he saw Bodie, moving slowly around the same piece of floor, holding Joanna close and nuzzling lovingly at her neck.

Another intimate number welled up through the loudspeakers, and Terry shifted slightly, pressing herself so close that it was difficult to move without losing balance. In time to the music, Terry moved her body in a gentle, slip-sliding motion that made Doyle aware of every inch of his body that was touching hers.

Ever since his early teens, Doyle had always found it difficult to dance that closely with a partner. The music and the slow movements were hypnotically erotic and it was incredibly embarrassing to know that the girl could feel every inch of his arousal. With someone special it was different, it was almost a form of love-making, but with a stranger it could ruin an otherwise enjoyable evening.

By the end of the fourth dance Doyle didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Poor Terry had been giving it all she had, sliding, rubbing, nuzzling around his neck but so far she hadn't had much response. In fact, she'd had absolutely no response whatsoever, and a slightly bewildered look was beginning to replace her previous smouldering sensuality.

A bell rang behind the bar and the shout of 'last orders' went up. The D.J. played the last waltz and the party finally came to a halt.

Relieved that the end of the evening was in sight, Doyle was shattered when Bodie said that he'd see him at breakfast. Joanna, it seemed, had her own suite of rooms in the hotel, one of the perks of being the manager's secretary.

Doyle was speechless. It was now perfectly clear that this was what Bodie had been planning all along. When he'd first seen the double bed in their hotel room, Doyle had questioned whether the hotel staff wouldn't think it a bit strange with the two of them sharing it, but Bodie had shrugged it off, saying that all the twin bedded rooms were booked and as they were so used to sleeping together what did it matter, and that the staff had seen stranger things than two men sharing a bed.

Joanna and Terry returned from their hurried confab in the ladies' room, and latched onto the arms of their companions. Before Doyle could think of any plausible delaying tactics, Bodie and his companion had bidden them a cheerful goodnight and vanished.

Doyle groaned inwardly and turned to look at Terry, who was waiting expectantly at his side. She smiled and hugged his arm.

"Do you fancy a cup of coffee? I expect we can still order one from reception," Doyle stalled as his mind frantically searched for a way out.

"Mmmm. Love one," replied Terry. "Shall we have it sent to my room or yours?" she asked as they approached the reception desk.

"Er..." Doyle floundered. There was no way he was going to wind up alone in either room with Terry. "It's a bit daft asking for room service this time of night. We'd be waiting forever."

"I'm in no hurry," Terry informed him.

"Can we have a couple of coffees in the lounge, please?" Doyle asked the night porter, completely ignoring Terry's almost blatant invitation.

The lounge was empty, and it was a rather disconcerted young lady who watched her escort sit a respectable distance away from her on the elegant sofa. Terry was a well-brought-up young lady who had her own strict protocol. While she considered it permissible to indicate her warm and loving nature to a desirable young man and show him a metaphoric green light, actually to take the active role and press the starting button was not how a lady should behave.

The coffee arrived and was drunk in an uncomfortable silence. A few stragglers from the disco were hanging around the lobby in a noisy group. Some were waiting for taxis but two rather loud-mouthed squaddies were each trying to persuade the night porter to let them book into the hotel, while their girlfriends tried to hide their blushes and their faces behind one of the huge green leafy displays decorating the reception area. The church-going, upright citizen and father of three daughters was firmly telling the drunken revellers that his hotel simply did not allow that sort of thing to happen on the premises. Having put the squaddies firmly in their place, the night porter called over to the girls.

"Helen, Maria, would you like me to call a taxi for you? Your fathers would never forgive me if they found out I let you walk home alone at this time of night."

The girls gave up pretending they weren't with the soldiers and stepped out from behind the concealing greenery.

"You know how your dads feel about you walking out past the barracks late at night," the porter added for good measure.

In the face of such opposition, the soldiers decided to cut their losses, and headed back towards the barracks, drunk, alone and frustrated.

Watching this by-play from the lounge, Doyle wondered what Terry's reaction would be if he called one of the soldiers back and told the lucky man that he had an available room and a girl who was raring to go but that he just wasn't in the mood to satisfy her requirements. No! That wasn't called for, Doyle told himself. Not called for at all. There was no reason he should direct any bitterness towards Terry.

"Ray?"

The soft voice made him snap back to awareness. Terry was standing in front of him.

"Are you all right, Ray?" she asked, puzzled by the sad expression that had settled across his features. "You're not ill, are you?"

"Er..." Doyle's mind tried to shift into gear and catch up. Terry was giving him a way out. "No...I just feel a bit...you know. The meal was lovely but the dancing and beer on top of it might not have been such a good idea..."

At such short notice it was the best he could come up with, but it seemed to work.

"A bit of peace and rest will probably make you feel better. You're leaving first thing tomorrow morning, aren't you?"

"That's right. I suppose I ought to get some sleep. We've got a heavy day tomorrow."

"I'll say goodbye now, then, you'll be gone by the time I come down in the morning," Terry said brightly.

Relieved that everything wasn't going to get horribly complicated, Doyle stood up and gave her a brief hug and kiss on the side of her mouth.

"Goodnight and goodbye. It's been a lovely evening, it was nice meeting you," he said, and was surprised to realise that he meant it.

The quick embrace and sudden change of mood took Terry by surprise. Maybe he really was just feeling a bit off colour. Perfect gentlemen were so rarely come across that she found it hard to judge. Being of a naturally generous and unbegrudging nature, Terry decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"Perhaps we'll meet again. Joanna said that Bodie comes here from time to time."

"Perhaps we will," Doyle agreed, thinking of the army assault course only a few miles away. In the next few years he was going to be seeing quite a bit of this part of England--if Macklin had his way.

"I hope so," he added.

Terry returned a chaste kiss of her own and smiled. "So do I." Then she was gone, leaving Doyle alone in the quiet lounge.

Reaching his room, Doyle noticed, with no surprise whatsoever, that all of Bodie's things were gone.

Wearily, Doyle sank down onto the bed and pulled his shoes off, kicking them away, and tugging off the rest of his clothes, leaving them in an untidy heap beside the bed. Remembering to set his alarm for the next morning he fell back onto the bed and pulled the covers over his nakedness. Too tired to think about the way the evening had ended, he switched off the light and rolled onto his side to sleep.

But he couldn't get comfortable. He rolled onto his back, then onto his side again before turning to lie flat on his stomach. Doyle wondered if something was wrong with the bed, but discounted that; it was no softer for firmer than the one he'd been sleeping in for the last month. The bed was all right, it was just...so big. The root of the problem suddenly became clear. He couldn't get comfortable because he couldn't get warm enough. It had been ages since he'd last slept alone in a double bed, and the last few weeks he had grown used to sleeping with a warm-blooded living blanket wrapped around him.

Turning the light back on, Doyle padded to the wardrobe and pulled out a spare blanket which he folded double and spread over his side of the bed; then, taking the spare pillows he placed them on top of the covers down the centre. Satisfied, he climbed back into bed where, comforted by the heaviness along his back and warmed by the extra blanket, he slept.

Waking up was a bit of a shock.

One second he was fast asleep and the next wide-awake and grasping at thin air. Puzzled, Doyle blinked and looked around the pre-dawn gloom in the bedroom. Surely someone had been there, he had felt...something...a presence. The room was empty, though, no one but himself there.

Still puzzled, Doyle snuggled back down under the covers. It was strange, he thought sleepily; although he'd been sure someone was there the presence had not been disturbing like it usually was, in fact, it had been quite...nice.

Curling up to go back to sleep, Doyle's warm hand found something it hadn't come across for a long, long time. Hardly able to believe that his senses weren't deceiving him, Doyle threw back the covers to look. The sudden exposure to the cooler bedroom air caused the appendage to shrink back even more.

Barely remembering to breathe, Doyle touched himself gently, memory guiding his hand through familiar motions. Instead of the erection growing, though, the pleasurable sensations faded into nothing and the more familiar limp, sexless flesh rested in his hand.

Disappointed and frustrated, Doyle punched his fist into the mattress. This was ridiculous, he told himself, there was absolutely no reason why he couldn't get an erection. Of course there wasn't, the small quiet voice of common-sense told him, you just did! It had been so long since it last happened that he'd almost forgotten how it felt.

Forcing himself to be calm, Doyle rolled over to lie on his back, closed his eyes and took a series of regular, deep breaths. Waiting until he felt the last of the tension leaving his body, he moved his left hand to slide over his lower belly, stroking himself, touching the soft indentation under his hips where memory told his wandering hands that he liked to be caressed.

Enjoying the simple touch, Doyle eased his right hand over his belly to mirror the actions of his other hand, sliding them down until his fingertips brushed against the tangle of pubic hair. A gentle throb rewarded the careful touch. Another, stronger pulse encouraged him to reach further into the nest of hair and touch the heavy balls resting there. Beneath his fingers he felt himself tighten, pulse and grow.

Frightened to open his eyes just in case it was all happening in a dream, Doyle continued touching himself, revelling in the very real pleasure of pleasuring himself.

As his excitement grew he tried to recall the elusive dream that had first woken him up. Was it Ann, he wondered, had he been imagining her touch? But time had eroded Ann's image from his mind and he couldn't conjure up anything, her face, her scent or her hands to feed his fantasy.

Terry then? As his hands worked on his cock, Doyle recalled how Terry had danced with him, the feel of her breasts rubbing against his chest through the soft, silky material of her dress, her nipples brushing against him, little hard buttons of flesh rubbing...her scent, her voice, and the hard press of her as she danced against him...

Considering that he had waited almost a year, Doyle felt that perhaps it would have been nicer if it had lasted just a bit longer. All that fuss, all those months of worrying and wondering and then it was up and down again quicker than it took Roger Bannister to run a mile!

Stamina's what you need, Doyle! he told himself, stamina--and a bit of practice.

Peering at the alarm, Doyle could just see he had another few hours before he had to get up. Time for a bit more sleep--and who knows, he thought as he rolled onto his side, on hand still curled around his sensitive, sated penis, maybe even a bit more practice!



With a final, lingering caress, Bodie eased himself out of the warm bed, fending off a pair of silky, warm arms that sought to pull him back down again.

"Sorry, love, but it's time I wasn't here."

"Just five more minutes?" Joanna's sultry voice pleaded.

He was sorely tempted but the thought of what Macklin was going to throw at him for the next four days gave him the strength to fight off the temptation.

"Sorry, petal," he whispered regretfully, "but I'm gonna need some energy to get through the next few days."

"Spoilsport!" Joanna complained as she blew her lover a kiss. "You've got no stamina, Bodie; come on." She followed him from the bed and slipped her arms around him, pressing her naked body against his as she continued her efforts to tempt him back to her bed. "Just for a few minutes, please."

It was rather difficult walking into the bathroom with Joanna so firmly wrapped around him but he coped--just! Stretching out an arm, he managed to turned the shower on.

"I'm going to be late, Jo. Will you please let go so I can get in the shower?"

"No."

Short of prising her off with a crowbar there was little Bodie could do. So he decided on a compromise. Pulling her under the shower with him, he twisted around and took the warm, inviting mouth in a bruising kiss and allowed her expert hands to coax his far from reluctant flesh into life once more.



By the time Bodie finally reached the main lobby, they had only ten minutes to get to the training centre that was a good fifteen minute drive away.

Doyle wasn't there, neither was he in the restaurant having breakfast. Through the reception windows he could see their car where they had parked last night.

Taking the stairs at a run, Bodie hurried up to Doyle's room only to meet Doyle as he came charging around the corner, holdall gripped between his teeth as he struggled to finish dressing himself.

"Shorry 'f I've 'ept you waitin'," Doyle mumbled around the thick strap.

Bodie took the bag off him and they headed back down the stairs.

"What kept you?" Bodie asked, blithely omitting to mention that he too had been late.

"Sorry," Doyle muttered as he finished struggling into his jacket and patted his hair into place, "but I forgot the time..." Blushing furiously, Doyle kept his head down and grabbed his holdall back.

Delighted that his plan had worked, Bodie slapped his partner on the back and chuckled.

"Good morning is it--or was it?" he asked, grinning lewdly.

By now they had reached the car, Doyle having tossed his room key onto the reception desk as they shot past it. He knew exactly what Bodie was thinking and didn't feel in the least bit inclined to enlighten him. Waking up the second time this morning, Doyle had gone back over the arrangements Bodie had made and realised that the whole thing had been pre-planned. The unnecessary overnight stay at the hotel--they could just as easily have stayed at the barracks--and Joanna with her conveniently available 'friend,' the meal--which Bodie had insisted on paying for--and the sleeping arrangements. Doyle knew that Bodie had been quietly concerned about his reluctance to rejoin the social mainstream and had got used to the way Bodie always seemed to make a point of chatting up girls in twos and then feigning uninterest in both girls when Doyle hadn't taken the bait.

It wasn't that he didn't understand or appreciate what Bodie had been up to--because he did--but Doyle had, not unsurprisingly, found himself unable to confide in him and reveal that it was his fear of falling flat on his face when the final clinch came that held him back. To have to admit to Bodie that, on top of everything else, he was impotent had been too embarrassing even to contemplate--but now it didn't matter! Once he had thought everything through this morning Doyle had deliberately relaxed and slowly, patiently and lovingly repeated the carefully erotic actions that had sent him into the relaxed, sated sleep he had just awoken from.

Just thinking about the delicious loving he had given himself twice this morning caused a fresh hopeful sensation in the pit of his stomach--and brought a new rush of colour to his cheeks. Now that body had remembered how to operate it didn't seem to want to stop!

Recognising the cloudy, heavy-lidded eyes and rosy sheen on the freshly shaven cheeks for the rising sexual heat it was, Bodie laughed again, then pushed his foot down on the accelerator. They had five minutes left in which to try to keep in Macklin's good books.



Leaving his driver to park the car, Cowley carefully stepped over the debris to where Macklin was watching the proceedings out on the site through a pair of powerful binoculars.

"How are they shaping up?" Cowley asked.

Without taking his eyes from the scene before him, Macklin answered:

"Bodie's in good form, you can have him back on active service as soon as you want."

"And Doyle?"

Macklin lowered the glasses and turned to look at the man beside him, then handed the binoculars over.

"Technically he's good--bloody good."

"Practically?" Cowley asked as he watched his newest recruit completely obliterate his target.

"Practically..." Macklin said slowly. "We both know that only the real thing will show us that. In the mock-up, the trials, in the gym--he's all right."

"As good as Bodie?"

"Different."

"How different?"

Macklin didn't answer straight away, and Cowley dropped the glasses and turned his back on the simulated street battle. Against the backdrop of rapid rifle shots and distant explosions, Cowley repeated his question.

"How different? I need to know if he's going to hold Bodie up, slow him down, are they so different they won't work together?"

"In a way they're almost...opposites," Macklin said thoughtfully. "Once, twice in the mock-ups Bodie was 'shot' because Doyle didn't cover him adequately and, vice versa, Doyle's been 'shot' because he didn't anticipate the line of action Bodie took."

Cowley knew the training routine; after each run an inquest into what happened and why was held, and the agents would be faced with their mistakes or victories on film. Frame by frame they would analyse, criticise or justify their actions.

"The discussions showed that Doyle can be impulsive but on the whole is more cautious, takes a more defensive stance whereas Bodie, as we know, is more aggressive and more inclined to jump in both feet first and with his eyes shut."

Macklin paused and frowned slightly. "But I feel they're good together. Different--but good. Bodie needs a little of Doyle's caution and Doyle...well, he could use a bit of Bodie's forcefulness."

"Doyle is no good to me if he needs Bodie to nursemaid him."

"A nursemaid is something Doyle doesn't need," Macklin said, his face breaking into a smile. "Put Doyle into a position where he is being threatened and you'll see what I mean. He's a bit like one of those sixpenny bangers you buy for Guy Fawkes night. Small and doesn't look like much but, oh boy! light the blue paper and stand well back!" Macklin laughed outright. "There aren't many people who catch me out or manage to hurt me but he managed it--only once, mind you, but he did it. Knows how to fight dirty does our little Ray of sunshine."

Cowley raised an eyebrow at the strange nickname, but Macklin forestalled any comment by continuing: "Doyle's problem is that he thinks like a policeman."

"Time will cure that," said Cowley.

"If he survives long enough." Macklin's sombre comment was a chilling reminder of the possible fate awaiting any new agent.



Slumped, sweating and exhausted on his makeshift sandbag armchair, Doyle watched the informal meeting that was taking place on the other side of the butts. His ears were burning and the cold sweat had nothing to do with the exercise he had just completed. Macklin and the range sergeant were talking about him to Cowley--he knew it! Sergeant Blowers was no doubt reciting the list of blunders starting with how he blew his own safe house and shot the innocent passer-by and ending up with getting Bodie shot three times. At least he'd only got himself shot once. A head shot. Dead was dead; the thought didn't help to make him feel better.

It hadn't started too badly the first week; back at HQ Doyle felt he'd coped with Macklin's demands. Bodie had prepared him well. Halfway through their second week, though, he had begun to understand why Bodie had laughed when he'd said he though Macklin was a nice bloke.

Macklin was a sadist.

A bloodthirsty, merciless, ruthless, unmitigated bastard.

And a sadist!

Unaware that he was scowling, Doyle turned away from the three men.

"Don't worry, sunshine," Bodie said reassuringly; he had seen the little group as well and could guess what was going through Doyle's mind, "you'll be all right."

"Ta very much," Doyle replied sourly. "I suppose they'll overlook the fact that I blew all the wrong things up and shot the wrong targets."

"And got me shot and yourself killed," Bodie finished for him.

"Thanks for reminding me!"

"Look, Doyle." Bodie leant forward and rested a hand on a bony knee, shaking it until Doyle looked at him. "You've done all right. Macklin knows it and so does Cowley--and shape up, mate, 'cause God is coming over to talk to us."

Doyle scrambled to his feet and braced himself to hear the worst. If the last two weeks had been his final trial he knew it was hopeless to hope--

"My office, eight o'clock Monday morning," Cowley barked at them, and Doyle's heart sank; the whole weekend to wait before hearing the final inevitable decision. The head of CI5 had already turned away from them, towards his waiting car when he turned back and snapped at them:

"And may I remind you, 4.5, 3.7, that I demand punctuality as well as obedience from all my men." Then he was gone, his car fast disappearing away up the road.

Slightly puzzled, Doyle turned to Bodie.

"What was that all about?" he asked, hardly daring to think what he hoped it was.

"Really, 4.5," Bodie chided, "I would have thought it was obvious."

"Well done, 4.5," said Macklin as he gave Doyle a congratulatory thump on his back that knocked him even more off balance than he already was.

"4.5," Doyle repeated, testing the sound and deciding that he quite liked it. "I'm in," he announced in a breathless whisper, then shouted it. "I'm bloody well in!"

"Don't exactly pick 'em for their quick thinking, do you?" asked Sergeant Blowers.

"Or for their brawn!" Macklin gripped Doyle's upper arm and examined the muscle there before sighing sorrowfully.

"Nah--it's his face. Sucker for a pretty face, is Cowley--ouch!" Bodie cried out as the full force of Raymond Doyle, alias 4.5 and the newly authorised, card-carrying member of CI5 threw himself at him, toppling them both to the ground.

Macklin and Sergeant Blowers walked off, leaving them scrabbling and scuffling in the dirt, talking of the demerits of allowing such juvenile behaviour on army property.



Eventually, Bodie began to steer the elated, shocked, scruffy, worn-out bundle of clothes that was his new partner back to the barracks. On the way back to their room, though, they met up with another of Macklin's victims who were intent on finding something in the NAAFI bar to deaden their pain. Once they discovered that Doyle had just officially been accepted into their ranks they put their hearts and souls--not to mention a good portion of their wallets--into giving him a welcome none of them would forget in a hurry.

The drinking session ended when the bar steward threw them out an hour and a half after closing time. Accepting that all good things must come to an end sometime, the agents all weaved their way through the dark-windowed Nissen huts to their beds.

Almost falling through the doorway of the cupboard that was their room, Bodie and Doyle struggled to undress and climbed into their beds, sleep coming almost before their eyes were shut.

Bodie woke up once during the night to find himself whispering softly and stretching across the eighteen inches that separated them to pat a chilly shoulder.

"Ssh...ssh...'sall right, Ray...everythin's all right. I'm here. Ssh...ssh..."

Reassured, Doyle stopped fidgeting and settled down into a deeper sleep, trapping the palm on his shoulder by covering it with one of his own. When Bodie withdrew his hand Doyle murmured a sleepy protest but then accepted the blanket that was tugged up in its place.

They arrived back at the Royal Arms Hotel just in time to treat the girls to lunch before braving the windswept, deserted promenade and throwing stones into the crashing surf. Out of season, Hythe had very little to offer four young people out for a day's excitement, and it only took a few hours of the bracing sea breeze to convince them that a return to the hotel was their best option.

Without discussing it with Bodie, Doyle booked them back into the same double room and invited both girls to join them for dinner, just as they'd arranged a week ago.

The girls accepted, not that Doyle had thought they were likely to refuse, and made their excuses to take their leave to go and get ready. Dinner was still three hours away, but Doyle could already feel a rising bubbly excitement starting up inside him. Terry's little smile and expectant, burning gaze served to heighten his anticipation.

Not by a turn of a single hair did Bodie let on that he was quite frankly surprised by Doyle's behaviour. They had returned to the hotel on Doyle's suggestion and Bodie had had to agree that another evening--and night--with Joanna would be rather pleasant. Their reception had been rather cool, though, and although he knew Joanna was okay, Bodie got the distinct impression that Terry wasn't exactly overwhelmed that Doyle had wanted a return match--at first that is. After about thirty seconds, though, Terry's cool melted under the charm and undiluted personality of Ray Doyle, even Joanna had gone soft at the edges and Bodie found himself having to make an extra effort to keep her attention.

Watching Doyle throughout the meal, Bodie found himself wondering if they should have requested a more secluded table; the way the main course was going down it looked as if Terry was going to be dessert!

The D.J. of the previous week was thankfully having a night off, and his relief played a well-balanced mixture of old, new, funky and smoochy numbers; not that Ray and Terry seemed to notice, they danced slowly, holding each other close through everything. By ten o'clock, when Bodie looked up from investigating the smooth perfumed skin behind Joanna's left ear, the lovers had gone. Bodie waited until ten-thirty and then escorted Joanna back to the privacy of their bedroom for the night.



The slight movement beside him jolted Doyle out of his light almost-sleep. Turning over until she came up against the naked warmth, Terry gave a murmur of sated contentment and slipped back into a deeper sleep. Waiting until he heard her breathing deepen and even out, Doyle carefully shifted sideways, moving even closer to the edge of the bed than he already was--another inch would tip him onto the floor, though.

Sleep just would not come tonight. Even though everything had gone all right and he and Terry had played, explored and loved each other to the point of exhaustion, sleep just refused to claim him. Each time his body tried to slip over the edge of awareness into thankful oblivion, Terry would move and he would wake up with his heart hammering inside his chest and every muscle in his body tense and ready to lash out. It had finally got to the point where he was too tense even to try and fall asleep just in case he couldn't wake up in time to stop himself from hitting Terry the way he'd hit Bodie.

For the rest of the night he slept by snatching a few minutes whenever he could, but never once falling into the deeper, relaxing sleep that could be very dangerous for the restless Terry.

Around dawn, Doyle finally arrived at the conclusion that at some point in his life he must have been a very bad boy, because someone--up there in heaven--really had it in for him. If it wasn't one thing it was another--after three and half years of celibacy and a year of impotent fantasies and nightmares, he'd finally got around to making love with a girl only to find that he was too uptight to relax and unwind enough afterwards to actually sleep with her.

Life, he decided, just wasn't fair.



Switching the bathroom light off behind him, Bodie was surprised to see that the only light left on in his flat appeared to be the small lamp on his side of the bed. After his success with Terry, Bodie had half expected Doyle to insist on being allowed to sleep alone in his own room. Not once during the evening since they had returned to London had Doyle mentioned altering their sleeping arrangements and when he'd said he was going to have an early night, Bodie presumed he meant on his own. There was no movement to indicate Doyle was awake and Bodie quietly placed his clothes on a chair and slipped into bed.

"Bodie?" a sleepy voice mumbled.

"Who else?" Bodie asked jokingly.

"Night."

"Tired you out, did she?" Bodie whispered as he clicked off the light and turned onto his side.

"What?"

"Terry."

"What about Terry?"

"Forget it, mate," Bodie said as he curled around his partner and tucked his knees closely behind Doyle's.

"Forget what?" Although his body was asleep, Doyle's brain still hadn't shut up shop for the day.

"Nothing, sunshine. Just go to sleep. Goodnight."

"Goodnight."

He was just about to drop off when Doyle began to get restless, but before Bodie could do anything, Doyle snuggled backwards across the mattress until he found the bare warmth of Bodie's chest and snaked an arm behind himself to find Bodie's pulling it around to rest across his waist. Then, holding Bodie's hand loosely, he muttered a contented sigh and settled back into a deeper sleep.

Hardly able to believe the change the last month had made, Bodie took the unconscious movement as a token of Doyle's trust in him, and happily settled down against the relaxed form to sleep soundly.



CHAPTER EIGHT

The next morning Doyle was very much aware of a nervous, fluttery 'new-boy-at-school' feeling unsettling his stomach. In less than an hour he was going to receive his first briefing as an active operative. Last night and then even more so this morning he had listened intently to the half-hourly radio news broadcasts, but so far this wintry morn there had been no international scandals, outbreaks of terrorism or sudden, horrific upsurges in major crime that might require him to leap into action and save mankind. The closest incident of major crime mentioned in the seven o'clock bulletin a few minutes earlier had been about an arms discovery in a little Basque village somewhere in Spain--somehow he doubted that CI5 would be asked to assist in police enquiries--unless, of course, Interpol decided there was a link with a British cell and asked CI5 to assist them...

Turning into the department car park, Doyle glumly acknowledged that the most exciting task he had to look forward to would be chauffeuring Bodie home again tonight. Thinking of Bodie, Doyle looked up to see the glum, thoughtful expression that had been there ever since Bodie had woken up this morning.

Doyle couldn't think of anything he had said or done that might have upset his partner, and so far all his attempts at trying to lighten the atmosphere had fallen on deaf ears...not that he had tried all that hard, though--he had enough problems of his own without taking on Bodie's as well.

During the shindig at the NAAFI club, Tom Blowers, who turned out to be quite an amicable chap once he changed out of his sergeant's uniform into civvies, had expressed some surprise when Doyle told him that so far no one had tried any funny business, no practical jokes or such-like on him. Some of the tales Blowers imparted to the new agent had almost turned his hair grey and made him determined not to get caught out. No way was Ray Doyle going to allow himself to become the laughing stock of CI5.

"Once we've seen Cowley we'll have to go and sort the motor-pool out," Bodie said suddenly as they entered the building. "It's about time we got your own car sorted out; now you're on the active list you'll need your own wheels," he said tersely.

"Have you any idea what Cowley'll have us doing today?" Doyle asked hopefully.

"Ready to save the world, are you?" said Bodie unkindly, completely forgetting the burning enthusiasm with which he'd begun his first day.

"Something like that," mumbled Doyle.

"What did you do on your first day as a fully fledged copper?"

"Watched the flies in the charge room get stuck to the fly paper hanging from the ceiling," Doyle said, his prospects for this first day in CI5 looking even more gloomy.

"That all?"

"And carried the tray of tea and biscuits into the Chief Inspector's office..."

"Oh well, there was a bit of excitement then!"

"...and tripped over the carpet and threw the whole lot over his desk." Doyle laughed at the memory and his day suddenly began to look a little more cheerful. "You know, I often wonder if that had anything to do with my getting transferred to another section."

"If you throw a tray of tea and biscuits over George Cowley the only section you'll be transferred to is a bit of ground measuring six by two and six feet under!" Bodie said cheerfully. "But seriously, don't worry about today. You're not likely to die of excitement but at least you won't have to watch the flies on a bit of fly paper. In CI5," Bodie said in a confidently superior tone, "we shoot them--target practice, you know. We've got to keep our hand in somehow!"

Their arrival in the squad room did not go unnoticed and Doyle found himself to be the focus of some good-humoured banter.

"Tooled up, are you?" one of the men he'd fought in the gym asked him; he thought it was Murphy.

Already keyed up and with Sergeant Blowers' warning uppermost in his mind, Doyle had successfully coped with all the double-meaning banter thrown at him, but Murphy's question made him even more aware of the bulky weapon on his ribs and stiff leather band across his shoulders. On Macklin's and Bodie's insistence he'd worn the gun every day for the past two weeks, taking it off only to go to bed and, because Bodie had done so, when they had gone out with the girls. The one thing he'd noticed over the last few weeks was that no one ever mentioned or alluded to the fact that they were wearing a gun or knew that you were wearing one. To do so was considered a social gaffe in CI5's book of Agents' Etiquette--a bit like telling someone he's wearing smelly underpants.

Something of Doyle's confusion must have shown on his face because Murphy repeated the question and elaborated on it a bit more to Bodie.

"Both loaded up and ready to go, are you? Revolving pencils loaded and new cartridges in our rolled-gold Schaeffers!"

"Sod off, Murph," said Bodie as he pulled a face. "But you're probably right; paper-pushing and baby-sitting is going to be all I'm gonna see of the action--watch it, Puddle, where's the fire?"

Having only just caught up with the conversation, Doyle frowned at the inappropriate name.

"Loverly Lambeth! Seems the hot-shot Cowley's dumped on me's had a phone call from his favourite snitch," Lake replied as he yanked his jacket out from underneath Bodie. "Did you have to sit on it?" he grumbled, trying to smooth out the creases.

"Puddle!" yelled a loud voice from the doorway.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" Lake yelled back, pausing only long enough to give Doyle a friendly punch to his shoulder. "Watch this loon," he said quickly, meaning Bodie. "Before you know where you are he'll have a nickname for you and soon no one'll ever remember you were ever called anything else..."

"Puddle!" Williams' cry was taken up by everyone present and with a final grimace at Bodie, Lake answered his partner's call.

After another five minutes or so of shop talk, Bodie decided it was about time they made their way to Cowley's office, the tight, nervous expression on Doyle's face telling him not to prolong his agony any longer.

"Come on then, sunshine, let's go and see what Uncle George has got in store for us today."

Lake's parting shot suddenly became a lot clearer and Doyle smiled at the name. His mother had been the last person to call him Sunshine, and before that, his grandfather; "Little Ray of Sunshine"! At least it was better than being called Puddle! All of a sudden it occurred to Doyle that he didn't have a single clue as to what Bodie's forename was; he was opening his mouth to ask when the swing door flew open, letting a blast of smoke and flame erupt into the corridor, deafening and flattening him at the same time.

Bodie was the first to recover.

"Cowley! That was Cowley's office!"

Scrambling to his feet, his head still ringing from the shock-wave, Doyle followed him.

Confusion reigned for all of thirty seconds before Cowley appeared, unharmed and barking orders, causing everyone to jump immediately to his bidding. Everyone--except Doyle--seemed to have something terribly important to do, and so he stood quietly to one side, still holding on to the piece of charred wood that he'd picked up when he'd begun looking for the body.

"Yes, sir. Should I take Doyle?"

Hearing his name, Doyle glanced up in time to see Cowley look at him.

"Yes, it should be all right. Keep him occupied. Call in as soon as you find Murray," Cowley replied eventually, and Doyle guessed that Bodie was being sent out on a fairly unexciting task. Keep him occupied, Cowley had said. Keep him out of the way was what he had meant.

Feeling rather like a little boy tagging behind his big know-all brother, Doyle tried to look as if he knew exactly what he was doing and resisted the impulse to grab hold of Bodie's jacket as he rushed from office to office and then down into the car park. Doyle had started the engine and moved the car to the exit before he realised that he had absolutely no idea of where he was going.

"Carlisle Avenue, SE5," Bodie snapped back. "And put your foot down."

With a cautious disregard for the speed limit, Doyle headed for Westminster Bridge.

"Am I going to be told why we're going there before or after we arrive?" Doyle asked quietly, having told himself that it would be pointless to get annoyed simply because Bodie knew what was happening and he didn't.

"What?" Already intent on finding Murray and getting whatever information there was to be had from him, Bodie had very nearly forgotten that his chauffeur would also want to get in on the act.

"Murray, Peter Andrew," Bodie said crisply. "He's GPO technician and he's got a Grade A security pass. Log book shows he was in Cowley's office yesterday. The bomb was in Cowley's telephone so--"

"--we're going to get Murray who's in Carlisle Avenue," finished Doyle.

"Under Carlisle Avenue," Bodie corrected with a small, hard smile.

"Under?"

"As in down a hole...fixing cables," Bodie explained.

Doyle watched Bodie's conversation with Murray keenly. It was the first time he'd seen Bodie 'in action' so to speak, and felt that his partner's grim face and quick-fire questioning wasn't having the right effect. It must be very difficult to get into a heavy interrogation routine when your subject was a disembodied voice emanating from the depths of a dark hole in a suburban side street, Doyle conceded.

A tea cup emerged from the hole first, closely followed by the untroubled Murray, who calmly handed over his ID and suggested that CI5's security might not be all it was cracked up to be.

Heading back towards HQ, Bodie passed the bad news back to a none-too-pleased Cowley.

"Ease up a bit, Doyle," Bodie said as he finished reporting in. "There's no need to rush back. Our Leader is not very happy and security is going to get a right kick in the arse over this little fiasco."

"Because they didn't check the telephone man's ID properly?" Doyle asked.

"Because they shouldn't have bloody well let him in the building in the first place. Murray is the only bloke with the right clearance and has been for over a year now."

"Surely just having the one bloke is a bit limiting?"

"It was done purposely to stop exactly what happened today happening!" Bodie exclaimed.

"All right, keep your hair on!" said Doyle. "I was only asking."

"Sorry," apologised Bodie. "Well, a bit more than you were expecting for your first morning, isn't it!"

"Having a bomb go off in the boss's office wasn't the kind of excitement I was looking for, though," Doyle said with a smile.

"Baptism of fire," Bodie said grandly.

"Eh?"

"Took me two weeks to get out of HQ and another month before I got on a Grade A assignment."

"And here's me, new to the job, out on a Grade A before me ceremonial handshake from George Cowley," laughed Doyle.

"You've got high hopes, haven't you, mate? As far as I know no one gets more than one handshake from our Leader and you've already had yours."

"When?"

"Months ago," replied Bodie. "You mean the momentous moment isn't indelibly printed on your mind?"

"No." Doyle shrugged. "When months ago?"

"Your first visit to the building."

"I don't remember. Are you sure? I've mean I've heard he doesn't exactly give his handshakes away."

"Saves 'em for special occasions," Bodie chipped in. "If he ever briefs you and then shakes your hand as you leave--start worrying."

"I'd already heard that--that's why I was sort of looking forward to my first official one."

"Sorry, mate, but you've already had it--I saw it," Bodie added quickly. "Right after he introduced you to me and just before we went down to the Admin office." Doyle frowned and then shook his head as he failed to find the elusive memory. "Just after you came back from lunch with Betty," Bodie elaborated.

"Who's Betty?"

"Who's Betty!" Bodie said as he knocked his head against the car window in mock anguish. "The first bloke in CI5 to take iron knickers to lunch and he can't remember it! Just how much of that first day do you remember?" he asked suddenly.

Stopping the car to allow a neat, uniformed crocodile of juniors and their teachers to walk over a zebra crossing, Doyle frowned as he tried, for the first time, to recall that day.

"Not much," he finally said slowly. "Funny, but...I hardly remember the details at all."

"What can you remember?" Bodie asked, all serious now.

"Someone taking me from the prison in a car...without an escort..."

"Any idea who?"

"Dunno...all I remember is thinking it strange that there wasn't any escort...then reading Mike's letter...Cowley telling...no, asking me to waive my right to a public pardon...then John showing me into the street...dragging the cases back to the underground station..." Doyle's voice tailed away. Although the details were not clear, all the emotional turmoil of the day flooded back, the heavy depression, his overwhelming weariness and the swamping loneliness.

Bodie too was quiet. Not once, that day or since, had he ever considered the impact Doyle's sudden and unexpected liberation would have had on his state of mind.

"Units 3.7, 4.5, Situation Priority Grade 1. Newport Street Estate. Explosion involving 3.4. Assist 5.1 on arrival. Back-up already underway."

"3.7 responding," Bodie snapped into the radio phone. "Put your foot down, sunshine, that's Lake and Williams."

The order to drive faster was unnecessary as Doyle was already roaring down the road, his own problems pushed away and his full concentration on the job in hand.

By the time they arrived, the fire brigade had already done their work and the water hoses were lying idle. Pushing through the inevitable crowd, they made their way up the stairway and picked a cautious pathway through the fallen masonry and blackened wood.

There wasn't much they could do in the devastated flat and so, when Susan told Cowley about the telephone call in the caretaker's flat, they followed him down there. Maybe the call would have some answers for them.

Cowley's face became, if possible, even grimmer. The second bomb hadn't been an ugly coincidence then, but a planned, cold-blooded attempt to destroy CI5--and George Cowley.

Leaving the caretaker's flat, Bodie and Susan walked over to the shocked agent. Doyle watched them from a discreet distance; he had met Williams only very briefly a few months ago in the gymnasium, but they hadn't really talked, and Lake he had only seen for the first time a few hours ago. Feeling rather useless and left out, Doyle wandered over to where the car was parked and watched the firemen sorting out their equipment.

What a way to start a new career--the first day on the job some nutter tries to blow up the head of CI5 and succeeds in blowing an operative to smithereens!

Just at that moment a blanket-covered stretcher was carried from the stairwell to the waiting ambulance. Still distanced by shock and the speed of events, Doyle could only be amazed that they had found enough of Williams to put on the stretcher. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Bodie holding Lake back, stopping him from going over to the blanket-covered remains. Once he had stopped fighting to get away, Lake turned his face into Bodie's shoulder.

The ambulance pulled away, the absence of any flashing lights or blaring siren only emphasising the futility of its journey.

"Come on, Puddle," Bodie said softly, "there's nothing you can do here. I'll drive you home."

Pulling himself together, Lake shrugged off the arm around his shoulder.

"Home!" he shouted. "I'm going to find the creep that set this up! It was...was his flaming Christopher that did this--I knew that bloke was no good but would he listen--never gave him any good information, it's always rubbish--I kept telling...him that Chris was no good--but would he listen? Would he?" Shock and grief were replaced by anger and a desire for revenge. Lake was a hardened agent and he had seen friends die before; he would grieve later...in private...right now he wanted action--and revenge.

"I'll come with you," Bodie said, and moved to get in the car.

"No, you won't, Bodie," a hard Scots accent informed him. "Aren't you forgetting something--or rather someone?"

Doyle! Bodie thought. Yes, he had forgotten him.

"I'll go with Lake, sir. 4.5 can take the car back to HQ. I'll be of more use with Lake than baby-sitting Doyle."

Bodie pulled the door open and slid into the seat. Lake had already started the engine and was revving it impatiently.

"No, you won't. Stay with Doyle," Cowley instructed. "Lake, you'll call in if you find Chris Benton?"

"When I find him."

"You will report in before you approach him. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yessir," Lake snapped back.

The second Bodie slammed the passenger door shut, Lake was gone.

"Mathieson and King, 3.7, Control can't raise them on r/t to warn them of the current situation. They last reported in about forty minutes ago from Station Road, N.5. You and 4.5 get out there and find out what's happening," ordered Cowley. "Susan, you come back to HQ and start checking through the computer files. Well," Cowley glared at Bodie, "what are you still here for?"

"With all due respect, sir, I think I'll be of more use on this operation--"

"You'll stay with Doyle, Bodie! Now, get going--and when you find Mathieson and King tell them I'll want to know why they aren't wearing their personal r/ts." Cowley turned away and beckoned for his car to come over to him. "When Lake calls in Benton's location you and Doyle will be his back-up."

"Yes, sir," Bodie responded sulkily, still annoyed at not being allowed to join Lake right away.

From where Doyle had parked their car the whole scene had been clearly visible if not audible. He hadn't been able to hear what his partner was arguing about, but Doyle did not find it too hard to guess.

The top-speed drive to Station Road was conducted in near-silence, Bodie speaking the barest minimum to snap out directions. They were still two streets away when they heard the explosion. Doyle pressed his foot to the floor and their car nearly flew the last few hundred yards.

The car was a ball of flame, but through the heat haze, in the driving seat they could just make out the shape of a body.

Doyle saw the other agent first and rushed over to help him, and although barely alive, Mathieson managed to gasp out the name of the informant who had sent them there. Billy.

While Bodie notified HQ, Doyle pulled Mathieson's notebook from a pocket in the torn and charred jacket.

It took only a few minutes for the CI5 forensic team and George Cowley to arrive, and Doyle took the time to decipher Mathieson's log. The dead man had been an ex-policeman and his log was laid out in a familiar way, the abbreviations making some sort of sense.

Bodie had given up trying to make anything out in the log book and was therefore surprised when his chauffeur told him he knew Billy's address.

"We'll tell Cowley where we're going when we're on our way," Bodie said as they hurried over to their car.

As they pulled away, though, Cowley happened to look up. Bodie saw the irritation on his face and the gesture for them to come back--but Doyle, who was manoeuvring the car through the narrow space left between the forensic team's cars, didn't.

"Bodie!" crackled the r/t. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Flat 15, Walcot House NW3, sir." Bodie repeated the address that Doyle had found.

"I take it there is some significance to the address?" Cowley asked, the anger in his voice being overtaken by a more weary resignation.

"Mathieson and King had an informant who lives there. Doyle deciphered Mathieson's log book and reckons it was this Billy who tipped them off about Station Road. Sir." Bodie added the 'sir' as an afterthought.

"All right, but be careful. Remember Benton's flat was booby-trapped." The r/t clicked off.

"Put your foot down, Sherlock," Bodie said. "Let's see if we can't give Billy the shock of his life."

"Control to 3.7," crackled the r/t.

"3.7 responding," replied Bodie promptly.

"5.1 has reported a sighting of Christopher Benton's car at the railway sidings, Thornton Fields. He is awaiting your back-up before moving in. 3.7, 4.5, respond."

"3.7, 4.5 responding." Bodie clicked the handset off and logged down the call. "Billy'll have to wait."

"Lucky Billy," said Doyle as he slid into a controlled skid for a U-turn before shooting off in the other direction.

The sidings were huge, most of the buildings derelict shells, and an air of desolate decay hung over the area.

Doyle drove on past the empty sheds and alongside the railway track. Way over on the other side of the vast open space two trains rattled and clattered past each other and the drama that was unfolding.

"Over there!" Bodie pointed out Lake's car.

Once their car was parked they stepped out, careful to watch out for anything untoward.

A harshly whispered, "Over here," led them to Lake, who pointed out the battered, rusting car parked haphazardly further down the dirt track.

"That's Chris's car. It was spotted by the local police about half an hour ago, so I reckon he's around here somewhere--probably hiding in one of those carriages."

"Where's the police now?" asked Doyle.

"Told them to seal the area off and only let your car through. We can do without them getting under our feet."

Throughout the conversation, Bodie's and Lake's eyes never rested for longer than a split second on any one place. They were continuously searching, checking, evaluating, rechecking.

"We'll work our way through from this end. Doyle, you come with me." Bodie was already swinging up to climb into the first carriage.

"Wouldn't it be quicker if I started on the next carriage?" Doyle suggested, more than a little irked by Bodie's tone of voice.

"Follow me or go and wait in the car," Bodie snapped back, not bothering to look down on Doyle as he began checking the first corridor. Although Doyle had reacted well in training, an agent's first experience of a Grade A could be a very telling matter. He couldn't afford to spare the time or concentration to wonder how Doyle was coping.

"Well?" he demanded after a very brief pause.

There was no verbal answer, but Doyle climbed in behind Bodie, drew his gun and waited for his next instruction. He was very much aware that this was the first time he had drawn his gun in a 'live' situation. A small click drew his eyes to Bodie's gun. The insignificant noise had been Bodie releasing the safety. Swallowing hard, Doyle did likewise.

"Watch the other end and cover me as I go along." Bodie waited until Doyle moved into position before setting off, checking each compartment. Doyle kept his eyes alert for any movement that might pose a threat, edging his way down the corridor, side-stepping into the empty compartments, giving cover but staying safe--just like it said in all the manuals.

In a few minutes they were climbing into their second train and the procedure was repeated. In the third, they took it in turns to cover each other, alternating between checking the compartments and covering the corridor.

Doyle found Benton in the fourth train.

The inelegant, graceless sprawl of death was covered in a blanket of money.

Lake was sickened by the presence of the money rather than the luckless Benton.

"That's inflation for you," Bodie said cryptically, once Lake had moved away back to his car.

"Huh?" asked Doyle.

"Inflation," Bodie explained. "Used to be thirty pieces of silver. Now..."

"Close on to a thousand pounds, I reckon," finished Doyle as he watched a young PC scoop all the money into a plastic bag.

"Why do you think they left it behind--the money. It's genuine stuff," Doyle wondered out loud.

"He can't have been dead more than an hour. Maybe the police car that spotted Benton's motor in the first place frightened them off."

"Possibly," agreed Doyle. "Unless of course we're dealing with a nutter."

"A nutter with a thousand quid to chuck away!"

"It could be revenge is more important than money, and it looks like this is all some revenge trip. Someone's after blood, Cowley's blood--"

"--and anyone else's they manage to drag along. Terrific!"

Stepping past the department's forensic team, Bodie admitted to himself that Doyle could well be right. A nutter. Unpredictable, unstable--and bloody hard to outguess.

"Bodie!" Lake called them over to his car where he was talking to Cowley over the radio, his face a rigidly controlled mask that hid the anger and anguish he was feeling. Replacing the handset in the car, Lake turned to speak to them, but his attention was suddenly taken by a flurry of activity over by the railway carriage. The policemen manhandling the dead body had accidentally dropped Chris from the train doorway to land in a heap by the siding.

"With one thing and another, it's just not been his day, has it!" Bodie remarked casually.

Doyle thought the remark in rather bad taste, but Lake smiled briefly at the black joke.

"Cowley wants us to go to Billy's address; bearing in mind how he," Lake jerked his head towards the stretcher bearing Chris's body away, "was rewarded for his efforts, chances of Billy drawing his pension are pretty slim."

"Okay," Bodie agreed, already moving away to his car. "If you get there first wait for us," he ordered.

"Just don't be late!" Lake yelled back as he switched on the ignition and roared away with a tremendous squeal of tyres amid a cloud of dirt and dust.

With Bodie in the driving seat this time, they arrived only seconds behind Lake. For a few moments, three pairs of eyes subjected the neighbouring buildings to an intense scrutiny, then:

"All right," said Bodie as he began to move out of the car.

In the entrance hall it was decided that Bodie would take the front way to Billy's flat while Lake covered the back. It was not until Doyle made a play of clearing his throat that the other two agents acknowledged his presence. Bodie and Lake exchanged looks before Lake turned to take up his position at the back.

"Stick with me," Bodie said tersely as he moved towards the stairwell.

They climbed the stairs in silence, each alert for the least indication of danger, but they reached the fifth floor without incident.

Pressed flat, one each side of the door, Bodie drew his gun and listened to the sounds emanating from the flat. A radio, someone moving about...and a hairdryer. Billy was still at home--or so it seemed.

Ready, Bodie indicated to Doyle that he should announce their presence. The first knock went unanswered; a second, harder knock followed by Doyle calling Billy's name resulted in the dryer being switched off. Doyle called out again.

"I'm just coming," a voice finally replied. "I won't be a minute."

All was quiet until the unmistakable sound of a sash window being opened up broadcast Billy's intent to the men waiting outside.

Bodie's shoulder charge made short work of the flimsy door and they burst through just in time to see a jean-clad backside disappear through the window out onto the maintenance scaffolding. Leaving Doyle to call Lake on the r/t, Bodie climbed out after Billy.

A swift look at the shaky boards on the scaffolding, and Doyle ran back down the hallways and staircase, guesswork telling him that one of the corridors must lead onto the fire escape that Billy was probably heading for. The old building was like a rabbit warren, and it took three dead ends before he managed to find the doorway onto the metal fire stairs. He burst through the doors just in time to see Bodie and Lake corner a short, fair-haired young man.

The youth was easily subdued, and in fact offered no resistance at all; he only cowered away from them all, clearly terrified and scared for his life.

Keyed up with grief and frustration and high on adrenalin released by the excitement of the chase, Lake badly needed to let off some energy but, as Billy didn't provide the opportunity, he turned his need for action into scathing criticism of the late arrival.

"Get lost, did you?" Lake sneered unpleasantly. "Lose your nerve when you looked out of the window or something?" Turning his back on Doyle, Lake pulled Billy to his feet. "Still, I suppose we ought to be grateful you got here at all--looks like we might have needed you, seeing how tough chummy here is. Come along, Billy," Lake said, his voice switching from mocking derision to suspect amiability, "we just want to have a little chat with you."

"A chat!" squeaked Billy. "You've got no call to treat me like this if all you want is a chat. Who are you?"

"Who were you expecting?" Bodie asked.

"Are you police?" Billy's quivering voice said that he had already discounted that possibility.

"No," Lake informed him, the grin on his face growing fractionally larger as Billy's fear increased.

The procession made its way back through the halls that Doyle had run along. Once back in the cramped, untidy bedsit, Billy was thrown back onto the unmade bed where he made a final attempt at bravado.

"Look, who are you and what do you want from--"

Lake's glare caused the rest of his sentence to remain unspoken.

Bodie thrust his ID under Billy's nose and then indicated the other two that were being held for inspection.

"CI5," Billy gasped, "you're CI5!" The fear and tension drained away, leaving him limp and weak.

"Know many CI5 blokes, do you?" Bodie asked coldly.

"One or two," Billy answered cheerfully.

"One or two? How many exactly?" pushed Lake.

"A few. Two, only two--Mathieson and King, that's who I know." The fear had crept back into Billy's voice.

"Knew," Bodie corrected.

"Huh?" said Billy.

"What he means, Billy," Lake explained crisply, "is that you knew two agents. Knew as in 'did know' as in 'don't know any more'."

From his vantage point by the door it became increasingly obvious to Doyle that either Billy was an excellent actor or he didn't know what Lake and Bodie were talking about--and he doubted that Billy was any good at acting.

While Bodie and Lake concentrated on grilling the hapless Billy, Doyle continued to check out the flat. That Billy was still alive, though a relief, was definitely worrying Doyle. Williams' informant had not been so lucky. Was Billy in any immediate danger, Doyle wondered.

At that moment Lake, finally losing his patience with the evasive replies, dragged Billy to his feet and threw him across the room where he landed heavily on an armchair.

Bodie stepped in smoothly between the almost incoherent boy and Lake.

"Now, come on, Billy. We're asking you nicely to give us some straight answers. Where can we find this Parkes fella?" Bodie said as he tried to cool the situation down.

"I dunno, I dunno," squealed Billy. "No one place...anywhere--out in the street, anywhere."

Under the combined glares of two extremely powerful, intimidating interrogators, Billy was fast becoming so scared Doyle guessed that before long he wouldn't even be able to remember his own name. His interruption was clearly not welcomed by the two established agents, but Billy turned to Doyle as if he had been thrown a lifeline.

"I really don't know," Billy repeated in a slightly calmer voice. "It's like he always finds me."

"Where are you when he finds you? Out shopping, walking to your local, in the job centre, where?" Doyle asked gently.

Much preferring the manner of the smaller, quiet man who looked to be in a totally different class to the high-powered gorillas pinning him to the armchair, Billy responded to the friendly prompt and tried again.

"Around the High Street in the shopping centre and once, the time he told me about Station Road, in the car park by those warehouses off the High Street...yeah, that's where," Billy said with growing confidence. "I think he works somewhere behind the High Street...got his own office, I think."

Acknowledging that Doyle had won Billy's confidence, the two men backed off, Lake just relieved to be finally getting somewhere and Bodie to watch the clever way in which Doyle used his charm to guide Billy's memories along the right tracks. DC Doyle had obviously had a lot of experience with the Mr Nice and Mr Nasty method of interrogation. Content with his role of Mr Nasty, Bodie merely watched Mr Nice play his part to the end.

At last, Billy's memory had revealed all it could and he collapsed back into the armchair and watched the whispered conference on the other side of the room, his sense of impending doom not being lessened by the glowering looks and barely audible references to himself.

"No," Doyle said firmly, "it's a waste of time taking him in. Look what happened to Chris," he reminded them. "Leave Billy on the street and maybe Parkes will find Billy--who knows! Keep tabs on him and let him go."

"And if whoever killed Chris gets to him first?" Lake asked sourly.

"If we're watching Billy properly, we'll be there in time, won't we," Doyle answered quickly.

"Okay," Bodie added. "First we'll take Billy in--get everything we can from him checked out with computer control, then we put him back on the street."

"Okay," said Lake.

"Fine," compromised Doyle easily.

Once Billy had been handed over to their back-up, Lake left to handle the unenviable task of visiting Williams' widowed mother, leaving the other two men free until Billy had been dealt with at Headquarters.

"Lunch?" Bodie asked as Doyle started the car up.

"Good idea," Doyle replied and then looked at his watch. "More like dinner. Lunch was over and done with hours ago."

"Dinner!" exclaimed Bodie. "Shit!"

"What's up?"

"Dinner," Bodie explained. "Jo came up to town to see her sister today and I'd arranged to take her out for a meal. Damn, she's not gonna like being put off again."

"Again?"

"Yeah. We were supposed to go out to this place after the last time I met her at the hotel. She wasn't too pleased then; can't see her being overjoyed about tonight either." The vision of the only good thing about Macklin's army-style weekends flickered and faded from view. The obliging friendly Joanna was not the sort that took being stood up lying down!

"Make a detour past my place. I've got her sister's number on the pad by the phone," Bodie ordered crossly.

Parked outside the building, Doyle shouted out for him to hurry up, reminding him that they still hadn't had anything to eat.

Alone for the first time since getting up that morning, Doyle took the opportunity to relax a little. His first day was certainly turning out to be very different from the one he had expected. Although Bodie had made it quite clear at the start that he didn't relish being stuck with an inexperienced, untried agent on such a difficult operation, he had at least accepted and acted on the few pieces of information and advice that Doyle had felt able to offer.

Finally allowed the time to reflect on his actions, Doyle felt pleased with the way he had handled Billy. Doubtless the other two men would have extracted the small but not insignificant scraps Billy had to offer, but Doyle was sure that his intervention had speeded things up a little.

"Come on, Bodie," Doyle muttered under his breath as he drummed his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel. All in all, he reflected happily, day one was taking on a promising shape. None of Sergeant Blowers' ghastly predictions had come about--yet! Suddenly, inexplicably, the sergeant's dire warnings of horrible happenings crowded out all Doyle's comfortable sense of well-being.

The tale of how one poor, unwary agent was caught out unfolded as Doyle sat, frozen at the steering wheel. They had tricked the poor man into believing that the unsavoury youth trailing behind the visiting foreign dignitary was a suicidal, left-wing activist determined to handcuff himself to the dignitary at the first chance he got, and then detonate the explosive hidden beneath his coat. Determined to make his mark in CI5, the unsuspecting man grabbed the youth, knocked him out with a single, powerful punch and then proceeded to rip the youth's clothes off to get at the non-existent explosives. Apparently the dignitary didn't take too kindly to the way Britain's fascist secret police brutally assaulted his nephew. The young agent was, so Blowers informed Doyle, never seen in CI5's hallowed halls again.

"Doyle, get in here!"

The r/t crackled unexpectedly. After a second's hesitation Doyle leapt into action. Bodie's voice had been--strained; trouble, perhaps.

Three steps from the front door to the flat, Sergeant Blowers' warning flashed loud and clear through Doyle's mind. Anywhere...any time...

The headlong dash slowed to a more cautious pace. Doyle was prepared to meet anything. Murderers, robbers, terrorists--practical jokers. Anywhere. Any time.

His gun drawn, safety catch released, Doyle opened the door. The hallway was empty, as was the kitchen. Through the open door he saw Bodie sitting by the telephone, watching him. Doyle knew that had anyone else been in the flat, the cautious blue eyes would have been firmly fixed on the intruder. Even more certain the sergeant's prediction was coming true, Doyle entered the room, gun ready to shot the balls off anything that moved.

Having pointedly ascertained that the only occupants of the flat were Bodie and himself, Doyle calmly flicked the safety back on and moved away from his position against the wall.

"What's up then?" he asked, trying to and not quite succeeding in keeping the knowing smile off his face. There was no point in letting Bodie know he had already guessed what was happening. Let the children have their little game.

"Phone's got more plastic in it than it did this morning," Bodie said rather too calmly.

"That all!" Doyle said offhandedly, but then realised he would have to alter his tome if he didn't want Bodie to know the game was over. "How many numbers did you dial?"

"How many d'you think? One."

"Ah well." Doyle looked at the phone. "You want me to do it?" he asked politely.

"Wouldn't dream of it, no. Go to the pictures, go on."

"Nah," Doyle said after he'd considered the idea for a second or two. "I've seen everything that's on locally anyway." He reached for the phone with one hand and fished out his pocket wonder-kit with the other.

"Careful," Bodie warned. "Might be some kind of mechanism." A booby, he mouthed silently.

Doyle had to look away; one more second under that overly innocent gaze and he knew he would burst out laughing.

"Oh yeah--you mean that thing I always got wrong at bomb-disposal school."

Gently, Doyle unscrewed the phone and started to part the case from the body. "Tripper's probably on the bell--or if we're really unlucky, on the dial," he said, suddenly remembering that he never did quite manage to defuse one of those properly. He lifted the case away. Surprise, surprise! "It's on the dial. Don't mess about, do they? There's about a pound of plastic explosive in here."

"Let's have a look," Bodie said, and he carefully turned the phone around without moving his finger.

"Looks straightforward," Doyle said as he scrutinised the device and identified it. "There's a miniature detonator." Confident that he could remember all of Prescott's instructions, Doyle began to defuse it.

"I feel like that kid with a finger in the dike."

"That's just what you are, mate. You keep it stuck in there," replied Doyle rather distractedly. He wished Bodie would shut up; he couldn't remember which wire he should cut first. "Hold your breath, sunshine," he muttered. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. Doyle chose a wire and snipped.

"You were very lucky, mate. It could have been the last cheap rate call you ever made."

With a relieved smile, Bodie released the dial, then immediately called Cowley on his r/t and told him about the bomb Doyle had defused.

Doyle only half heard the conversation. Now that he had cut the wiring away he was getting his first proper look at the detonator. Across a suddenly yawning void, Bodie's voice confirmed what Doyle's eyes were showing him.

The bomb had been live!

Doyle's stomach dropped through to the building's basement and his heart missed a beat or four. It was only when his ears started buzzing and the lights flashed black and white in front of his eyes that he remembered to breathe.

Thankful that he was already on his knees, Doyle sat back on his haunches so that the table top hid him from Bodie's eyes. He twirled the detonator in decidedly shaky fingers, examining the dainty, precision device, barely able to absorb that he had been that close to the end of everything. He couldn't put it down to skill, though. Choosing the right wire had been pure chance; he had been so sure it was a put-on.

Christ! If he had cut the other wire...

Returning to reality, against the background of a loud, tuneful, chirruping bird and the gentle hum of city traffic, he heard Bodie finish reporting in and knew that if he didn't snap out of it Bodie would realise that something was up.

"D'you wanna drink?" Doyle asked, his voice sounding distant and breathless to his own ears.

"Yeah, let's have a drop of the good stuff before I hide the bottle," Bodie replied.

"Huh?"

"Cowley, Phillips and half of CI5 forensics are about to descend on us, so--"

"We hide the good stuff." Doyle caught on.

Hampered by legs that were still decidedly shaky, Doyle had only managed to get as far as standing up by the time Bodie had poured the drinks out.

"Cheers," said Bodie, then added, "To life!" and chinked glasses.

"L'chaim!" Doyle returned, and then allowed the smooth malt to banish the last of his shakes. "Did you get your number?" he suddenly asked.

"That's a point. I'll have to call her later. We'd better not touch that any more." The phone received a hard stare. "As much as she's going to want me to go up in a puff of smoke when I cancel our date--I don't think she'd want me to go that far!" The rest of the room came under another searching glare. "I wonder if there are any more little surprises waiting for us?"

"How did they get in?" Doyle asked as they both began to check the doors and windows. "I thought these places were supposed to be secure."

"So did I," said Bodie grimly. "The alarms would have gone off if a window or door had been forced."

"Forensics will be able to tell if the wiring's been tampered with, won't they?"

"Should do," Bodie answered.

A series of squealing brakes and slamming car doors announced the arrival of the forensics team--and Cowley.

"You go and let Cowley in while I tidy up."

"What?"

"The bedroom, dimwit," Bodie shouted back from the other room. "Didn't have time to make the bed, did we. Can just see Cowley's face when he claps eyes on the bathroom, too."

"You were last up and last in the bathroom," Doyle responded virtuously. "Should have left it how you found it, shouldn't you!"

Leaving Bodie darting around the flat tidying away everything he didn't care for Cowley and the massed ranks of CI5 to see, Doyle obligingly took his time opening the front door.

Once the forensics boys were all engaged checking out the rest of the flat, Cowley asked for and got a more detailed report. When Bodie described the competent manner in which his new partner had coped with the bomb, Doyle felt a hot flush creep over his cheeks. Although Bodie had taken getting his digits tangled up with a pound of plastic explosive in his stride, he wasn't mean in handing out praise where he thought it was due.

Half expecting--hoping for--a few words of praise from the All-Powerful Cowley, Doyle was rather disappointed when, at the end of Bodie's report, Cowley dismissed both of them and promptly turned his back on them. A new, hotter glow burned Doyle's cheeks as he crossly asked himself if he had really been expecting a pat on his head and a lollipop! Defusing bombs was, clearly, a part of everyday life for a CI5 agent.

After being moved from his third seat in as many minutes by a busy forensic man, Doyle joined his partner out in the kitchen.

"Have a sausage," Bodie offered.

"Ta. Got any potatoes, peas and gravy to go with it?"

"Bread'n butter."

"I'm starving," Doyle complained plaintively.

"So am I but if you think I'm going to start cooking while those gannets are still here you can think again, sunshine."

"How much longer are they going to be?"

"Not much," Bodie answered as he attacked the last sausage. "We're still on standby, anyway."

"And I still haven't had any dinner."

"Well," Bodie said thoughtfully, "Cowley doesn't want us at HQ tonight, and I doubt that Wakeman will be found much before tomorrow--"

"Who's Wakeman?" Doyle asked, interrupting what Bodie had been about to say.

"Cowley was just telling me. Susan and Puddle found Billy's contact. Parkes is only a wire man and a supplier. Said he was paid by a bloke called Wakeman to do the phone in Cowley's office but that he didn't do any of the others."

"So who's Wakeman?" Doyle asked for the second time.

"Cowley knows the name, but the big puzzle is that Wakeman and all of his team are either dead or out of action."

"What was his game then?"

"Not too sure," Bodie said slowly. "Cowley knows but he's not saying much. I get the feeling Wakeman was a sleeper--or that he turned, and Cowley was involved in it."

"And Wakeman's dead?"

"Yes, but Intelligence reports have a listed sighting of one of his 'pals', a Philip Catrell, only a few months ago, so that's who we're looking for."

"We?"

"Well, not us exactly. Cowley wants us ready as back-up."

"Oh!"

Once again Doyle realised with a thump that he was still very much the untried agent.

"Don't look so down," Bodie said as he playfully punched Doyle's arm. "It's not been a very organised day but at least you've not made any cock-ups."

"That's what you think," Doyle said, and immediately wished he hadn't, but rescue in the form of a busy forensic man burst into the small kitchen.

"You got anything to drink, Bodie? This is thirsty work."

"Tea, coffee," Bodie offered generously. "Orange squash."

"Plenty of milk in the fridge," said Doyle blandly.

It was clearly not the answer the man had been hoping for and he left the kitchen in a huff, muttering to himself and anyone within earshot, about a particular tight-fisted workmate.

"Anyway," Bodie said suddenly, "as I was about to say before you butted in--seeing as how we've got some time on our hands this evening, how about you putting on your chef's hat on and giving me a break, not to mention a decent meal for a change," he added hastily with a cheerful grin on his face.

Doyle considered it. Ever since that first time he'd cooked a meal he had pointedly refused to attempt anything apart from hot drinks and supper snacks. At times he had felt a little guilty at letting Bodie do all of their main meals and wondered if he shouldn't perhaps offer to try again--but Bodie had accepted his silent reluctance to cook so well that he'd found it difficult to offer his services.

This was the first time Bodie had asked him for anything and Doyle suspected that if he refused it would also be the last.

"Why not--perhaps I could come up with a variation on flash-fried steak and oven chips!"

"Wouldn't be difficult."

"Okay. What do you fancy then?"



The jarring clamour of the telephone bell jolted Bodie out of a beautiful floating dream in which he was safe, warm, happy and loved. The dull pre-dawn light was still cruel to his eyes and he struggled to get a hand free to answer the phone. Still disoriented, he was puzzled by his inability to reach the bedside phone. Not only was someone in the way, but the arm that wasn't wedged between the two bodies was being held tightly, the strong grip refusing to free him.

Inured to the constant noise always present in prison, Doyle slept on, waking only when Bodie shook him in an effort to free his arm--but then erupting into sudden movement, curling into a protective ball while his fists and muscles clenched in preparation for a fight.

Having freed his arm, Bodie grabbed the phone and pinned Doyle to the mattress by dint of leaning on him. The instant Doyle came fully awake, though, the resistance melted away and Bodie relaxed his guard.

"3.7...yeah...Chalmers Road Industrial Estate...got it." Bodie replaced the receiver. "Morning, sunshine."

"Is it?"

"Rise and shine. Cowley's laying on breakfast for us the other side of town."

Realising that the call was to return them to duty, Doyle wasted no time in pulling his clothes on.

"They've found Catrell then?" he asked a few minutes later as they pulled the front door shut behind them.

"Maybe," Bodie replied as he slid into the driving seat. "Lake's found a caravan he's thought to have been using, and it looks like someone's in it."

The speed with which Bodie tore through the deserted (and not-so-deserted) streets made Doyle wonder if he would survive his second day as an active agent.

The industrial estate was discreetly busy. To an untrained eye all appeared normal; the run-down buildings and gutted warehouses looked as boringly uninteresting as normal but Doyle saw the armed rooftop observers and perimeter security immediately. They were waved through the gasboard road block without having to slow down.

A few hundred yards further down the road they saw Cowley and Lake and pulled up close by.

Forestalling whatever Bodie had been about to say, Cowley snapped out his orders without taking his eyes from the binoculars.

"See Phillips over there," he said. "He's got some equipment for you."

Doing an about turn, the two men walked quickly over to the department's explosives expert.

"At last," said Phillips. "What kept you?" he asked sarcastically but, on seeing the glowering look Bodie sent him, changed his approach. "Have you ever used either of these before?"

Bodie reached out for the smaller of the two gadgets.

"No, but I've seen this working."

"This is a metal detector, isn't it?" Doyle asked, examining his gadget.

"It's a bit more than just a metal detector." Phillips then quickly explained the uses of the two sensors and the operating procedures.

"But why us?" asked Bodie. "What's wrong with the Bomb Squad?"

"Because, Bodie," Cowley suddenly appeared behind them and answered the question, "if there is anyone in that caravan it's up to CI5 to get him out and if there isn't then it's probably booby-trapped.

"So?" Bodie asked, the logic behind Cowley's reasoning escaping him.

"So, Bodie," Cowley continued, "you will give Doyle cover as he checks a path to and around the caravan and, when you reach the caravan--"

"If we reach the--sorry, sir," Bodie backed down under the icy glare.

"When you reach the caravan, should it prove unoccupied you will check it out or--"

"Nab whoever's in it," finished Bodie.

"Move off when you're ready," Cowley ordered in clipped tones before returning to his observation of the solitary, sorry-looking caravan.



The first thing Doyle became aware of was the noise. A distant but irritatingly pervasive clamour. Without warning his world tipped over to one side and a solid object landed heavily on his legs.

"Gettoff 'im, you great oaf!"

"I'm trying, I'm trying."

Doyle recognised Bodie's voice and realised who it was that was cutting off the circulation to his feet--Bodie was no lightweight.

"Tell your mate to slow down for Christ's sake," Bodie said, his voice strangely distant. "He's only stunned--he's not dying or anything."

"Not according to Cowley, old friend."

Above the siren and Bodie's voice, Doyle identified Lake. "Doyle's dead--and so are you. Official."

Everything was becoming increasingly unreal to Doyle as he lay there listening to Lake relating the manner of his apparent demise. Surely his head wouldn't ache so much nor his legs protest so strongly at the painful treatment Bodie's backside was still giving him. He wasn't dead--to prove it he moved his legs in an effort to dislodge his partner.

"Watch it, I think Sleeping Beauty's coming round," Bodie said as he finally managed to get enough leverage to lift himself off the bed.

Unable to do much else, though, he only shifted forward a few inches and remained perched on the edge of the stretcher. Ambulances were not designed to carry crowds, and even the ambulance man had been surprised at the number of agents that had crowded into his vehicle.

"Come on, sunshine." Bodie encouraged Doyle's progress to full awareness by gently patting the side of his face.

"'m'wake," Doyle mumbled thickly. His own voice, like Bodie's and Lake's, had a peculiar, hollow ring to it. "I'm awake," he repeated a bit louder and shook his head to try and clear the ringing in his ears.

"I can see that, sunshine. Can you hear me?" Bodie asked.

"What?"

"Can you hear me?"

"No...yes--but not properly."

"It's the explosion," Bodie explained.

"John who?"

"Explosion!" Bodie shouted.

"What explosion?"

The ambulance came to an abrupt halt and the rear doors were wrenched open. Bodie was pushed down onto the opposite stretcher and a red blanket was placed over him, covering him from head to toe. Suddenly Lake was holding a similar blanket all ready to place over Doyle's face. The alarm must have shown in his eyes because Lake hesitated momentarily to explain.

"Just play dead while we get the two of you inside. We'll explain later--okay?"

After receiving a rather unsure nod, the blanket was lowered and Doyle's world became a red, stuffy place filled with a jumble of confused but oddly familiar sounds.

After what seemed like hours to Doyle but was only minutes later, the blanket was removed and a pretty young Oriental nurse was there, asking if he was all right.

During the journey into the hospital Doyle remembered what had happened, the mad dash away from the caravan--the crack of rifle shots and the wall of air that had lifted and thrown him head over heels.

"What happened to Cowley?" he asked Bodie.

"Pardon?"

"Cowley? What happened to him?"

"Cowley?" Bodie shouted back.

"Yeah?"

"He's fine. They've taken him through to intensive care."

Bodie's answer only confused Doyle. Maybe the explosion had shaken Bodie's brains up as well as his ears.

"What for?" Doyle asked. "Why take him there if he's all right?"

"All part of the plan," Bodie said sagely. "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?"

"How bad's the bad?" asked Doyle, suddenly suspicious of the innocently twinkling blue eyes.

"The good news is that it won't affect your pension but the bad news is--you're dead, mate, and so am I."

"I don't feel dead," Doyle said after giving it a moment's thought. "I just might die of thirst in the near future if I don't get a cup of tea and a couple of aspirins--but I don't think I'm dead yet."

As if on cue, the nurse returned with two cups of tea.

"Here we are, gentlemen. Doctor will be through in a few minutes to check you over."

Once the tea had been sorted out, the doctor was there, checking out their assorted bumps and bruises.

"Your hearing will come back to full strength within a few hours," he assured both of them. "It's only a distortion caused by the shockwave. You're both lucky you weren't any closer or perforated eardrums would have been the least of your worries!"

Once the doctor had gone, Lake popped his head into the room.

"Catrell's arrived," he announced. "He's on his way up."

"Come on, Doyle." Bodie jumped up and yanked his partner off the bed.

"What's going on?" Doyle asked, angry at being kept in the dark for so long.

"Cowley's laid a trap so Catrell will try to finish him off here in the hospital," Bodie explained as he peered along the corridor through a narrow crack in the door. "Here he comes." He drew back and pushed the door to as Catrell walked on by. "Right, come on then."

Quietly, the three men eased out into the deserted corridor. Outside the ICU another agent was standing, gun drawn, peering through the window blinds; without looking away from the window, he spoke to them, giving them a running commentary on Catrell's actions.

"He's inside. Cool as a bleedin' cucumber. Outside Cowley's room. Going in. He's shut the door."

"Move in!" ordered Bodie.

Catrell didn't stand a chance. His confidence had been his downfall and the combined forces of a not-so-ill Cowley and his minions soon overpowered and subdued him.

All the excitement was over and Catrell was being escorted to the waiting cars. Lake and Bodie were in a quietly jubilant mood and held the handcuffed man between them.

Following behind, as he had been for most of the last two days, Doyle was the only one who noticed the strange reaction of the tall, elegant woman that walked past.

Non-reaction would have been a better word, Doyle thought. Surely the sight of an obviously bruised and somewhat battered, handcuffed man being frog-marched along a busy hospital corridor would have aroused a little curiosity or consternation.

Puzzled, Doyle stopped and did an about turn to follow her, his intuition alerting him to some as-yet-unidentified danger.

The nearer they got to the ICU the more Doyle knew he was right to be following her. Up ahead she paused; Doyle heard the voices coming from around the corner--Cowley and Phillips.

From her shoulder bag the woman drew a small handgun and calmly took aim.

"Drop it!"

Doyle's voice cracked out and the woman twisted suddenly, clearly startled, her finger automatically completing the job it had been instructed to do. Doyle's gun echoed the shot and the woman gave a startled cry before crumpling to the floor, holding her shoulder.

Behind him, Doyle heard the swing doors burst open as Bodie and Lake arrived on the scene.

"She's Wakeman's sister, Lisa Wakeman," Bodie announced into the sudden quiet. "Trying to follow in big brother's footsteps by the look of things," he added.

Too numbed from the shock of the bullet lodged in her shoulder, Lisa Wakeman was in no condition to present any problems and the second clearing-up operation was set in motion.

Now that the immediate panic was past, Doyle found that the expected shock at shooting the woman didn't hit him. His system had clearly had as many shocks as it could cope with in one day.

Further down the corridor, Cowley was complaining, loudly, about the bullet that had passed through the overcoat he'd had over his arm.

"A perfectly good coat. Ruined," he said. "Ruined!"

"Well," Doyle heard himself say. "Look on the bright side--at least you haven't got blood on it as well."

For a split second the hustle and bustle in the corridor stopped. No one moved or spoke and Doyle began to wonder what happened to people unwise enough to cheek George Cowley.

"Hrmph!" Cowley vocalised, and after pinning Doyle to the spot with the glare he normally reserved for Bodie's sometimes caustic comments, strode away along the corridor, leaving Doyle wondering if the world was ever going to start turning again.



Late in the night, Cowley was still working at his makeshift desk as he finished checking the reports on Wakeman and Catrell.

The more immediate work done and out of the way, he turned wearily to his next task. From under a pile of papers he retrieved the red ink pad and stamp that his secretary had placed there in readiness. Three times he printed the damning word in luridly appropriate ink across each file. Deceased. Deceased. Deceased.

One and half operative units wiped out in a single morning. Two units really, Cowley realised grimly. Today, Lake had been working purely on momentum--automatic pilot--his training seeing to that; but now that the action was all over, Lake would have time to think, time to grieve, time to fall apart.

Cowley sighed and pushed the files away. Some good had come from the day's disaster, though; Doyle had more than proved his potential to the Department. As first days go, Cowley had to admit that Doyle's had been impressive. But even so he knew that the hoped-for partnership still had a long way to go.

It was standard practice for all established agents to prepare an additional report, totally separate from the operations one, on the actions of any newcomer to the squad. Reading through them, Cowley had seen Lake and Bodie's opinions on Doyle's behaviour.

Both men had clearly shown, without any resentment, that it had been Doyle who had guided the path their actions had taken. Not only had he deciphered Mathieson's log book after Bodie had discarded it as illegible, but he had gained Billy's confidence at a crucial moment, as well as recognising the danger in the elegantly dressed Lisa Wakeman. Admittedly Bodie and Lake were right behind him following Susan's radio message, but their arrival would have been too late.

Foolishly off his guard and completely without protection, he had let Wakeman have him in her sights; only Doyle's timely intervention had saved his life.

Doyle had worked well, but on his own--not part of a team.

Cowley mentally reviewed the training period and came to the conclusion that Bodie had achieved his task of turning Doyle into a useful operative--but the bonding of two halves to make a working partnership had not happened--yet.

Pushing his chair back, Cowley got up from the desk and collected all the papers that needed to be secured in the safe. Locking the paperwork away, he finally switched off the light and left his office--his mind still mulling over the intricacies of trying to match individuals into effective teams. He had three good men, men with a wealth of experience and potential. Lake's and Doyle's futures were predictably sound, the only maverick was Bodie. Cowley knew that he had to find the right partner if he stood any chance of keeping Bodie for much longer--if Doyle didn't work out perhaps he ought to try Lake.

Stepping out into the crisp night air, Cowley pulled his coat on and walked across to his car. No, he decided as he slipped behind the steering wheel. Bodie and Lake didn't 'feel' right in the way Bodie and Doyle did. Time was all they needed, he was sure of that. Time for Doyle to learn how to trust, and for Bodie to learn that to care need not be a recipe for disaster.

The problem resolved, Cowley drove out of the car park, heading for home and peaceful, undisturbed sleep for what was left of the rest of the night.



CHAPTER NINE

The road leaving the airport was heavily congested, the heavy rain and oncoming darkness not really helping. Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, Bodie made his bad mood perfectly clear. Unable to do anything, Doyle sat still and watched the slow progress of the never-ending line of cars.

"Christ," Bodie mumbled. "How much longer are we gonna be stuck here?"

Doyle didn't bother to answer.

From behind them a blue flashing light and droning siren heralded the imminent arrival of an ambulance. As if by magic, the jam of cars melted sideways, up onto hard shoulder and pavements to create a path for the vehicle.

Watching the progress of the flashing light in his rear view mirror, Bodie quickly steered his car to follow immediately behind the ambulance.

With the help of their pathmaker, the car sped on down the road, leaving all the other slow thinkers sitting in the rush hour traffic jam.

Arriving eventually outside HQ, Bodie pondered aloud on the form their next assignment was going to take.

"Maybe the Minister's granddaughter needs collecting from school," he said. "Or else we might be told to escort the post van to the sorting office. Or--" he continued excitedly, "maybe it's our turn to lick the stamps!"

Again, Doyle didn't bother to answer. He had found the last few weeks interesting if not exactly enjoyable. But protecting--or baby-sitting as Bodie called it--fairly low-level ministers and foreign diplomats, or observing the activities of particular addresses and people from a discreet distance, was not the type of work his partner had any great love for. Of that Doyle was in no doubt, because Bodie had told him so. Repeatedly.

"I want to see John in the armoury," Bodie said as they entered the building. "Will you sign in for me upstairs?"

Once Doyle had agreed, Bodie turned off to go down into the basement. The squad room was almost packed, Doyle noticed as he slipped in to the room next door to add his and Bodie's names to the list of 'operatives in residence' board. Just about everyone was in, it seemed, because there were only a few lines spare on the board, the rush of activity tailing off with the departure of all the different heads of state and their accompanying entourages.

All of a sudden the congenial buzz of conversation was interrupted by raised voices. For a moment the crowded room was quiet and then, into the stillness, the indignant voice repeated its question to his audience.

"I'd just like to know what Cowley's trying to achieve, that's all. I mean--what possible good can come from recruiting that sort of bloke?"

"If you can't beat 'em--join 'em," said one voice.

"Cowley's got his reasons--maybe he means to use him as a plant, undercover--that sort of thing." said another.

"Set a thief to catch a thief, that's probably what the Cow's after."

"I still don't like it," the original protester said firmly. "How can we trust a bloke that's already proved he can't be trusted?"

About to enter the room and find out what everyone was talking about, Doyle was frozen to the spot just outside the door as another voice added its contribution to the debate.

"Doyle's all right. He's done his time, paid his dues to society and all that crap. If Cowley sees fit to trust him I don't see that we can't."

"All right, Puddle," said the angry voice. "You trust him--you work with him--but I'm damned if I will!"

The room was suddenly filled with clamouring voices, some agreeing with Lake, but mostly with the other man.

Outside, Doyle finally managed to get his feet to work and walked woodenly, resisting the impulse to run, into the toilets, the nearest place where he could be alone in private to absorb what he had overheard.

He locked the cubicle door and leant on it, closing his eyes, screwing them up tightly, angrily, refusing to let the moisture overspill and form tears.

Quite wrongly he had thought it was behind him. He should have known that the stigma of prison would cling on to taint all he touched. For what seemed to be a lifetime he had been protesting his innocence, refusing to be forced into becoming what others believed he was; refusing to be beaten by a pack of lies.

Slowly the numbing rage receded and his thoughts moved along more coherent, dispassionate lines. Why should they believe him to be innocent? Hadn't he agreed to Cowley's suggestion that he waive his right to a public retrial--hadn't he agreed not to tell too may people about his change of fortune? Of course he had! No one had asked him about his immediate past. Foolishly he had told himself that they didn't know--and if they did they would realise that the judge and jury had got it all wrong.

Doyle, he told himself, you are a fool!

Someone came into the toilets from the corridor, and he immediately recognised one of the voices that had been raised against him.

"...load of rubbish. I thought this was supposed to be a rigidly upright, law-abiding incorruptible organisation." The unmistakable sound of two zips being unfastened and the following noises were as audible as the conversation which continued relentlessly.

"It was bad enough when his partner joined the squad, but at least he had the sense not to shit on his own doorstep."

Whether the man had come to the end of his argument or merely noticed the closed cubicle door and become aware of unknown ears, the conversation stopped and the two men finally left the small room.

After a few minutes, Doyle unlocked the door and crossed over to the wash basins where he splashed a handful of cold water over his face.

What, he wondered, had that last little comment meant? Although no names had been mentioned, Doyle knew that this time they had been talking about Bodie.

Re-entering the corridor, Doyle turned away from the squad room. Quite by accident he found himself outside the computer room. Peering around the door, he found the place almost deserted, and only a few operators seated at the odd terminal. One of the girls looked over at him.

"Want any help?" she asked.

"No. Is it okay if I do a couple of searches myself?"

"Go ahead," the girl answered. "Just yell if you need any help."

Without meaning to, Doyle found himself tapping out the names he had read on his partner's ID: William Andrew Philip Bodie, gave a possible date of birth, sat back and waited for the few minutes it took the computer to check all the National Criminal Records Offices for any matches on the names. One by one the answers flashed up on the screen. Nowhere in the country was there any record of one William Andrew Philip Bodie.

It had only been a thought after all, Doyle told himself. Again he tried to work out what the man had meant--perhaps Bodie had been involved in something abroad.

"Excuse me, love," Doyle called to the girl. "Does this thing have access to International Computer Banks?"

"No, sorry. All international requests have to go through the duty officer. Why, do you need something?" she asked.

"No, it's all right. I just wondered."

I just wanted to check my partner out, he thought quietly. About to leave the room, a sudden burst of curiosity flared and Doyle returned to the keyboard and tapped his own name out.

In seconds his full record was flashing up on the screen. Every meticulously recorded detail. His description. His age. His photographs. A summary of his court case and its outcome. Everything was there. Not a single word had been amended or deleted to show the reversal of the conviction.

Having been expecting a 'no trace' message, it took Doyle a while to see the flashing strip across the top of the screen but it soon demanded his attention. He read it: "This person is subject of a Home Office 'A' notice. All enquiries on this file are automatically recorded. No action is to be taken on the subject except the express permission of Home Office Department Code XXX."

Doyle cleared the screen and left the room. A flashing light on another terminal attracted its operator's attention; the girl responded to the message flashing across her screen by reach for a telephone.



Emerging from the overcrowded, overheated squad room, Bodie greeted his partner warmly. "Thought you'd got lost, sunshine. I've just booked us off duty until tomorrow--fancy coming down to The Three Kings for a pint and a game of arrows?"

"Fuck off!" Doyle growled as he shoved Bodie aside.

"Oi!" Bodie protested, his good mood vanishing almost as fast as it had come. "What's got into you?" he yelled after Doyle's retreating back. "Doyle? Doyle!"

Running to catch up, Bodie grabbed hold of an arm only to let go quickly to block the retaliatory punch from the unrestrained arm. "What the hell's got into you?"

"Are you going to tell me you don't know?" Doyle hissed.

"Don't know what?"

"Ah--forget it!" Doyle twisted away and continued his way along the corridor to Cowley's office. "Is he in?" he demanded of the secretary.

"Unless you have an appointment--no."

"Is he in?"

"You can't see him now." Betty held her ground.

"Come on, Doyle," Bodie said placatingly. "Can't go bargin' in on Cowley, he'll have you scrubbing the ablutions for weeks."

"I've already told you to sod off, Bodie, and I'm going to see him," Doyle insisted and moved towards the door.

The phone on Betty's desk buzzed and, trusting Bodie to restrain his partner's progress, she answered it.

The room was quiet until Betty replaced the receiver.

"Mr Cowley says to send Mr Doyle straight in," she said, her calm exterior expressing absolutely no surprise that Mr Cowley was anticipating the arrival of one rather agitated and disgruntled agent.

Too angry to wonder how Cowley had known he was outside, Doyle walked into the office.

Uncertain of what was going on and only aware that something had happened in the last half hour to make his new partner see red, Bodie followed. If his presence was unwelcome no doubt someone would tell him so.

"You have something you wish to discuss with me, 4.5?" Cowley asked straight away.

"I most certainly have," Doyle snapped back. "You..."

"Sit down, 4.5," Cowley interrupted.

His train of thought broken by Cowley's quiet order, the authority in the soft voice was impossible to ignore. Doyle sat down.

"Why have you--" he began again.

"Bodie, either come in or get out," Cowley said. "Do you have any objection to your partner's presence?" he asked Doyle.

Biting back the vulgar response that leapt into his mouth, Doyle managed to indicate that Bodie could stay if he wanted to. He drew breath to try again.

"Now then, 4.5," Cowley said smoothly, "what was it that was so urgent?"

Realising that an incoherent babble was not going to impress Cowley, Doyle tried to control his tongue and temper.

"Why did you lie to me?"

"Lie?" asked Cowley. "Could you try to be a little more specific?"

"About my criminal record. You said it would be destroyed--but it hasn't. It's still there for everyone to see!"

"And you have just seen it yourself, I presume."

"Yes."

"It took you longer than I thought, to become curious," Cowley said.

"You still haven't said why you lied," Doyle persisted angrily.

"I lied to you because at that moment in time it was what you wanted to hear."

"What--why?" asked Doyle, his anger giving way to a bewildered jumble of questions. "I don't understand why you--"

"I have already told you why, Doyle. It was, quite simply, what you wanted to hear. Surely your common sense would have shown you that a 'live' record is infinitely more precious than a false one. Unfortunately there are far, far too many policemen who are not as incorrupt as yourself."

"So you've slapped an 'A' notice on it!"

"Yes."

"So as well as being a known convicted, bent copper you've also labelled me a 'snitch,'" Doyle said, the disgust at the additional slur on his name perfectly obvious, but Cowley remained unperturbed.

"The 'A' notice is not exclusive to informers," he reminded the angry young man, "and is the most effective way of placing a 'Hands off without permission' notice on your file. It also allows this department to know immediately if anyone anywhere in the country requests computer access to your file."

"I don't like it."

"I'm not asking you to."

"Why didn't you tell me what you intended doing?"

"Because," Cowley replied, "I assumed you would realise how valuable your record was and reach the obvious conclusion yourself." The lie sounded convincing enough, and Cowley could see Doyle's anger ebbing away as the inference that he had somehow disappointed his boss sank in. Sitting back in his chair, Cowley rode the unexpected feelings of guilt with ease. The Wakeman affair had caused a lot of upheaval and the loss of three seasoned men had thrown everything a little out of synch. Doyle's first month on the squad had hardly been conventional; there had been no easy step by step progression to lead him up to the hectic and often dangerous way of life in the squad. In at the deep end on his first day, and never once within sight of shallows since, Cowley thought with grim amusement.

It was inexcusable however, Cowley admitted, that Doyle should have been left to discover his file on his own, but it had been one of the things he had been about to discuss with Doyle the morning the Wakeman affair had blown up, quite literally, in their faces. That, and of course, he remembered suddenly, Bodie's professional records.

"The others on the squad..." Doyle said quietly, breaking into the silence that had settled over the room. "The others..." he started again awkwardly. "They think my record is true, don't they?"

"I have not discussed it with them."

"If they think it's true...how can they...I mean, how do you expect me to work with people who don't--can't trust me."

"Who's said they don't trust you?" Bodie chipped in?

"No one," Doyle answered. "Yet," he added. "At least, not to my face...but I know some of them don't like it...that they don't want to work with me."

"Who?" demanded Bodie.

"Who, is really irrelevant, Bodie," interrupted Cowley. "It was perhaps remiss of me not to have foreseen this problem. It was my intention to ensure the squad knew about Doyle's background as well as how important it is to keep the information from becoming public knowledge, but...with Wakeman and the Commonwealth Conference things have been pushed aside."

Bodie listened to Cowley's rather stilted speech with amazement. It was the nearest he had ever heard the Old Man come to making an apology! And the experience was utterly wasted on Doyle, who was unaware that he was listening to history in the making. But Bodie's happy mood was soon shattered by Cowley's next topic.

"There was one other matter that should have been attended to on your first morning, Doyle." Cowley saw but ignored the sudden jerk Bodie gave in realisation of what the 'other matter' might be. "As I said at your first interview, once you are graded onto the squad you have the right to see your partner's professional history; the copies that had been prepared for you to read were destroyed in the explosion but a replacement file will be ready for you by tomorrow morning."

Bodie had completely forgotten about his file. Never having been allocated a permanent partner before, he knew that no one except George Cowley and probably that hard-nosed bitch, Ross, had ever read his history. He had wondered why, on that fateful morning a month ago, his black mood had cleared as fast as the smoke from Cowley's devastated office; now he knew why--he'd known that his file had been part of the crisp, black cinders that littered every crevice; each page burnt beyond salvation. He should have known they would have only been copies!

"The Drugs Squad," Cowley said suddenly, "have requested our co-operation with certain aspects of the Behan Operation--"

"Mike Behan?" asked Doyle.

"Yes. The papers he left have shed some light on--"

"I want in on it!" Doyle interrupted.

Bodie was slow to make the mental connection between Behan and Doyle.

"That is out of the question," Cowley answered flatly. "I have already selected the teams and their first briefing is to be held tomorrow morning. During the briefing I will--"

"Why is it out of the question--after the way Mike stitched me up I want to get everyone else--"

"4.5!" Cowley barked. "Your involvement in the operation is not open for discussion--I am merely attempting to let you know that at the briefing tomorrow I shall give the others the background to Behan's confessions. I will tell them that you were framed and wrongly convicted."

"I know the drugs scene--the people Mike knew, his contacts--I can help!" Doyle insisted.

"But they'll know you, sunshine," Bodie added, having caught up with the conversation. "That's why you can't go in."

"Precisely," agreed Cowley. "If you become involved in the new enquiries you might just as well tell your life story to one of the Sunday scandal sheets--the cover we are trying to establish for you will be destroyed."

"It'll be destroyed anyway at the briefing tomorrow."

"No," said Cowley, "only my men, only CI5 agents will be told of Behan's testimony about you--I can't risk revealing everything to the Drugs Squad team--"

"Behan might not have been the only one on the take," said Bodie.

Doyle spun around ready to deny that anyone else could have been involved in the corruption but his angry protest died in his throat as he realised that he hadn't even suspected his so-called 'friend's' involvement. How many of the awkward, embarrassed or horrified voices of his colleagues had been hiding their relief at his removal from the squad?

"Which is why neither of you will take any part in the operation--is that understood?" Cowley waited until he received a begrudging affirmative from Doyle.

Outside Cowley's office the two men walked side by side in a thoughtful, moody silence, Doyle inwardly fuming about the unfairness of life, and Bodie already trying to guess what Doyle's reaction to reading his file was going to be. Over the last four months or so he had discovered quite a lot about Ray Doyle--and he knew that Doyle was not going to be favourably impressed by his partner's history.

They reached the main doors without speaking and it was Doyle who made the first move as he tried to pull himself out of a well of self-pity he knew he was in danger of falling into.

"Who's treating who?" he asked.

Bodie looked at him blankly, and he explained. "A pint, a game of darts, the Three Kings--remember?" Doyle said brightly. "It was your suggestion," he reminded Bodie. "Oh, never mind--come on, I'll pay," and he moved off in the direction of the pub.

For a second or two Bodie stood and looked after the retreating back and knew beyond any doubt that after tomorrow Doyle would never dream of making such an offer.

Already bracing himself for the forthcoming rejection, Bodie decided he would make the first move.

"No, thanks," he call out. "I've just remembered something I've got to do--I'll catch you later." Turning away, he strode over to his car, climbed in and roared away out of the car park before his amazed partner had time to say anything.



As soon as he opened the door, Lake regretted the impulse that had made him stop by for a drink. The bar was packed with hordes of revellers, all of whom seemed to be full of more than just Christmas spirit. But the heat of the smoky room was infinitely preferable to the crisp, cold night air.

Fighting to gain the barmaid's attention, he suddenly saw a familiar face. On the other side of the room, tucked away in a corner almost hidden from view by the ten-foot Christmas tree, was Bodie.

After ten minutes and about a hundred 'excuse mes' Lake arrived at the alcove with two drinks.

"Where's the lamb, then?" he asked as he placed the full glass down in front of Bodie, causing him to start in surprise.

"Who?" said Bodie as he thanked Lake for the drink.

"The lamb," Lake explained. "You know, Mary had a little lamb, followed her everywhere--" Bodie's face became a comical blank as he looked up at Lake. "Oh, for god's sake--Doyle, bonehead! I was asking you where Doyle is."

The amusement on Bodie's face drained away and Lake knew that he had misjudged his friend's mood yet again.

"Dunno," Bodie said with polite formality. "I haven't got any pockets in this jacket!"

A loud burst of raucous hilarity from the other side of the room prevented any further conversation for a few minutes and the tension between the two men eased. Lake made himself comfortable on one of the stools and the two men watched the merry goings on in the room. Slowly, as their tension lessened, an air of depression took its place, and they carried on, drinking companions in depression and silence.

About half past ten, the largest party of noisy drinkers left to go on to a night club, and signalled to the others that the evening was drawing to a close. By the time 'last orders' was called, the room was nearly empty by comparison.

Bodie collected their last drinks and sat down heavily after having a nasty experience with one of the prickly, needle-like fronds sticking out at an odd angle from the Christmas tree.

"Merry Christmas, Bodie!" Lake cheered, and raised his glass.

"What's so bleedin' merry about it?" Bodie grumbled.

"Come on," Lake smiled across the small table at him. "You've got to at least make an effort."

"Why?" Bodie demanded to know.

"Because! That's why."

"That's no answer."

"Well at least I'm trying," Lake snapped back angrily.

All at once Bodie remembered that he was not the only one in the world with partner problems. Puddle and Williams had been partners for nearly three years--

"How's things going?" he asked gruffly.

Lake didn't pretend to misunderstand and the well-hidden misery and loneliness were suddenly all too visible in his eyes.

"Everything's fine, everything is all going smoothly and then I turn around to tell him something...and he isn't there," Lake said softly. "Don't seem to be able to stop myself doing it. It's not as if I could forget that he's...dead. But I keep expecting to turn a corner--open a door--walk into a room and find him sitting there." Lake tipped the last of his drink down and thumped the glass back down on the table. "I never thought I'd miss the aggravating, vulgar-minded sod this much. I never realised how much time we spent together--I had to clear my stuff out of his flat today, took me two trips in the car, then there was the stuff he'd left at my place--god only knows why we had two flats because he was either staying with me or I was staying with him. His family have taken everything, every--bloody--little--thing. I've got nothing, nothing! Not even a photograph, a keepsake, nothing!"

The depth of Lake's loss was a revelation to Bodie. He could still remember Williams joining the squad a few months after himself and Lake, and he had seen them knit together and become the polished, slick, professional partnership that had been destroyed totally by Lisa Wakeman and Philip Catrell.

"Do you know what Cowley asked me when we arrived at Chris's flat?" Lake demanded to know of Bodie. "Do you know what the first thing Ken's brother asked me--do you?" he said angrily. "Did--he--have--a girl? That's what they wanted to know. Was there anyone apart from his family that cared about him?"

Bodie couldn't see why such an enquiry about Ken's girlfriend should be so upsetting.

"Everyone went out of their way to tell Ken's family and Helen how sorry they were--and what a waste, such a terrible waste of life his murder was," Lake continued bitterly. "They tried to spare them all the messy little details like identifying his body, his parents don't hold with cremation so someone had to find an undertaker that was prepared to put what was left into a decent coffin--"

The publican chose that moment to give a belligerent cry of, "Glasses, gentlemen, please!" He caught the glass thrown at him--just--and glared at Bodie. "Why don't you take 'im home--he can chuck his own glasses around as much as he likes there!"

Bodie pushed Lake towards the door and out into the street. They stood, breathing in the fresh, nicotine-free air; Bodie saw Lake sway and reach out to steady himself on a lamppost.

"How much have you had to drink?" he asked, realising that his companion appeared more intoxicated than he should have been after what they had just drunk.

"A fair bit," Lake answered quietly.

"You're pissed."

"Probably," agreed Lake without any particular enthusiasm.

"How much have you drunk?" Bodie asked again. Lake looked up at the stars in the heavens for a few moments before finally turning his attention back to Bodie.

"Not that much really," he admitted. "Just haven't eaten all day--didn't feel very hungry."

"Christ, what the hell are we going to do with you?" Bodie muttered; he had not intended Lake to hear him.

"That's what Kenny used to say," Lake said brokenly. "What the hell am I going to do with you, Puddle, he'd say. You know what happens when you get drunk, Puddle--that's what he'd say. Guaranteed. Every time."

"What does happen when you get drunk then?" Bodie asked gently, unsure how close Lake was to breaking down completely.

"Maudlin, Bodie. Very, very maudlin. Used to let me cry on his shoulder when I got a bit down, he did." Lake sniffed. "He was a good bloke, Bodie... Best friend I ever had. There's not many blokes who'll let another bloke weep all over them. Partners...he was the...best partner..."

Bodie took control and steered Lake towards his car. There was no protest as keys were fished out of pockets and he was driven home. Numbly, Lake allowed Bodie to let them into his flat and put him to bed.

There was nothing else Bodie could do. He guessed Lake would sleep through until morning and decided to go home himself; he could always check on him early next day. About to leave, Bodie was almost through the bedroom door when Lake called to him.

"Thanks, Bodie... I'm sorry about getting so...thanks anyway," he finished awkwardly.

"That's all right, Puddle. You can do the same for me one day."

"Christ, I hope not!"

Bodie was halfway though the door before he worked out what Lake had meant. He turned.



For a while Bodie drove without any destination in mind--around the centre of London through the brightly lit streets that were never empty of cars or people--past the lions and the fountains and on down past the offices of government.

None of the sights or sounds touched him. He drove mechanically, his thoughts locked into the maelstrom of emotions that Lake had evoked. No one had ever turned to him for such comfort before, and he had never seen anyone, friend, colleague or even an enemy so vulnerable or defenceless.

Lake had needed someone and he had been there; Bodie felt sure his presence had helped--not that he had been able to do much except listen and then pour Lake safely into bed--but he had helped, just a little. It had felt strange to be in a position to offer comfort, even more strange to have had it asked of him, and he had given what he could--all he had, in fact--and Lake had quietly taken it. But it hadn't been enough.

He was driving towards home now, his speed and consideration for pedestrians and other drivers impeccably correct--and totally without conscious thought.

Feeling awkward and unusually tongue-tied, Bodie had made one mistake with Lake and at first he had been unable to understand the anger that had momentarily replaced the hurt in Lake's eyes. As he clocked off the ignition after neatly parking outside his flat, Bodie was suddenly able to place the reason for that anger.

Even distanced by greater losses and disappointments, Bodie could still remember the sense of outrage his mother had evoked when she offered to replace his cat, Ginger, with a kitten; as if anything could ever replace the love and affection that the unfortunate Ginger had both given and received.

A new cat could never have replaced the one that had died any more than a new partner could ever replace Williams.

Walking up the stairs, Bodie remembered something else; his mother had bought another cat and he had grown to love the new Ginger just as much as the old one--until he was put down because his new dad decided he was allergic to cats.

Letting himself into the flat, Bodie heeled his shoes off and walked softly into his bedroom.

Standing in the doorway, he looked for a long time at the man fast asleep, the bright winter moonlight and amber streetlights pouring through the uncurtained windows giving him a clear view.

It felt...odd, Bodie decided as he continued to watch Doyle sleep, to come home and find someone there. It wasn't something that happened very often.

In the street a taxi drew up and began to disgorge its noisy occupants onto the pavement, the slamming doors, engine and party-bright voices sounding loud. The men were almost shouting and, in the bed, Doyle began to stir. The braying voices of his neighbours faded as they began to cross the road into the flats but as the group finally entered the building all the sounds died away. Doyle moved restlessly once more before settling back down to sleep.

Without really understanding why he did it, Bodie crossed over to the window and drew the curtains. They were heavily lined to create darkness at midday to enable him to sleep when his duties allowed. Until Doyle moved in he had always slept in the dark.

Almost at once Bodie heard Doyle begin to move in the bed.

"Are you awake?" Bodie whispered.

There was no answer except for another movement and a soft murmur.

"Doyle? Don't piss about. If you're awake, say so." Bodie's voice was a little louder; if Doyle was messing him about he'd wrap the curtain around his neck.

Feeling unaccountably guilty, Bodie opened the curtains. By comparison to the darkness it was almost daylight now, and Bodie saw at once that Doyle had turned to face where the light should have been and curled into a ball, his face worried where it had been relaxed and peaceful only moments ago.

Moving to begin undressing, Bodie's shadow passed over Doyle's face. On a shuddering intake of breath, Doyle jolted awake.

"Bodie?" he asked urgently.

"Nah--Santa Claus--go back to sleep, little boy."

"What time is it?"

"Quarter past two."

"Where've you bin?"

"Out!" Bodie replied shortly.

"Sorry," Doyle apologised sheepishly. "I sound like my dad, don't I! I used to dread getting home late and finding him sitting behind the back door waiting to catch me out."

Undressed, Bodie slipped in under the covers.

"Been with Puddle," Bodie offered across the pillow as Doyle turned away into his normal sleep position. "Bumped into him and...he wanted to talk, needed to. You didn't wait up for me, did you?"

"Course not," Doyle lied easily. "Now, belt up and go to sleep--and don't you dare put your hands or feet near me until you've warmed them up."

"This is my bed," Bodie said in an aggrieved voice."

"Go to sleep!" Doyle ordered.

The alarm was the next sound they both heard. After a few sleepy peaceful minutes Doyle sat up and pushed the covers away as he climbed out of bed. Bodie pulled them back up to his ears.

"Rise and shine," Doyle said brightly.

"Shuddup!"

"Don't go back to sleep, Bodie. Come on--up!"

"Umgh!" Bodie grunted and burrowed down under the covers.

"Coming for a run?"

"No."

"Do you good."

"So will another half hour's sleep--fuck off!" Bodie retrieved the duvet that his aggravating partner had twitched away.

"I'll be back in twenty minutes."

"'bye!" Bodie said hopefully.

"Coffee and toast."

"Thanks, mate, I'll have a bowl of cereal as well."

"You'll be lucky, I was hoping you'd have it ready for me."

"Fat chance."

Returning, sweating and breathless, Doyle was greeted by the pleasant aroma of fresh coffee and burnt toast and his smug, shower-fresh, clean-shaven, impeccably dressed partner.

As he munched his way through his toast, Bodie found himself consciously looking at Doyle as a long-term partner and possible friend for the first time. Lake had talked until the early hours of the morning about his partner and Bodie had listened. At first he'd told himself that he was only supporting a colleague in distress, just being there for Lake to talk to, but as the night had gone on he'd found himself listening for an entirely different reason--almost a selfish one.

Until last night, Bodie thought he had known Williams well. A good man, sharp, on-the-ball, always reliable, great hand-to-hand combat technique and a hit with the girls. But he hadn't known him at all, not really. Only now, after listening to his closest friend talking non-stop for hours on end, did Bodie feel he was close to really knowing the man.

Bit by bit, anecdote after anecdote, one incident and disaster at a time, Lake had slowly told the way in which their partnership had taken shape. It had taken them years to become a unit, to act and know instinctively that the other would be there to help, to laugh with or save each other. Years of hard work, blood, sweat and even a few tears--all destroyed by one ugly trick of fate.

Never having been that closely involved with another person's life, Bodie had been surprised at the depth of the ties between Lake and Williams. More than friends, closer than brothers even, they had shared everything, good times and bad--even girls as some of the light-hearted remembrances had revealed.

But the closeness was now demanding a price that Bodie wasn't sure he ever wished to pay. CI5 was a dangerous business and he had already contributed toward more wreaths than he cared to think about. He had learnt a long time ago that caring only ever resulted in pain. Lake had known this, though, and had told Bodie how he had fought against being teamed with Williams, but had learnt to care and was prepared to pay the cost--not that he had much choice not to do otherwise!

"Anybody in there?"

Bodie was jolted back to the present to find Doyle peering worriedly into his face.

"Huh?"

"I said, is there anybody in there? I've asked you three times if you want any more coffee and all you've done is look straight through me," Doyle explained. "I was beginning to think rigor mortis had set in."

"Sorry, I was...thinking."

"Did it hurt?" Doyle joked.

"I will have another coffee, thanks," Bodie said abruptly.

Puzzled, Doyle poured the coffee out and passed it over, all the time wondering what was wrong.

"What's up?" he asked as he decided to jump straight in.

"Nothing."

"Balls!"

"There is nothing wrong," Bodie said patiently.

"And I said, balls!" Doyle snapped out. "You're a moody bugger at the best of times but even I can see something's really bugging you."

Bodie opened his mouth to deny the allegation but the expression on Doyle's face stopped him dead. Ray was really worried! He wasn't asking just to be nosy, he was genuinely concerned.

"Do you think we can make a go of this like Cowley wants us to?" Bodie suddenly heard himself asking.

"What?" The question was unexpected and shook Doyle a little. "A partnership, you mean? Well, I don't see why not. We've managed all right so far, haven't we?" he finally answered.

"Do you know why Cowley has teamed us?" Bodie asked cryptically.

"Because..." Doyle groped for an answer. "I suppose he thinks I'm so green I need someone experienced to help me out."

"But why me?"

"You were...available, you didn't have a partner and I needed one--I dunno, I've not given it much thought," Doyle said irritably, now even more puzzled by Bodie's odd mood.

"I have," said Bodie slowly. "I've been giving it a lot of thought."

"Where were you last night?" asked Doyle; up until Bodie had vanished from outside Cowley's office everything had been fine, he was sure of it.

"Last night? I've already told you I met Puddle--but it doesn't really matter where, except it gave me time to think," Bodie answered. "Cowley knows me, probably better than anyone else, and he knows the type of person I am--not that he's ever held it against me," he joked, lightening the sombre mood momentarily. "I have strong suspicion that he's banking on this partnership keeping me in CI5."

"How?"

"Personal loyalty and what it entails. All the partnerships on the squad, if they last the training period they hold fast through everything. No one wants to leave a partner behind," Bodie explained. "One man can resign or get himself invalid out or killed without disrupting the organisation--but if you lose half of a team you lose everything."

"And you think you're so indispensable Cowley's trying to tie you to CI5 using me as the string." Doyle couldn't keep the note of derision from his voice.

"I don't think I'm indispensable--but I think Cowley reckons I am."

"And what is so special about you then?"

"What's special about you, sunshine?" Bodie returned. "We've all got something Cowley wants--but you haven't answered my questions. Do you think we're going to make a go of it?"

Doyle realised that Bodie was being serious and that he was expecting a truthful, considered answer.

"Yes," he said confidently. "Don't ask me why but I think we can do it. I can't see any reason why we won't--can you?"

Bodie tried to think of one, just one valid reason--but he couldn't.

"No. God help us both, but no, I can't think of any reason either."

"Why do I get the impression that you're not exactly overwhelmed with the prospect of working with me?" Doyle asked lightly, hiding his concern about Bodie's all-too-apparent doubts about their future.

Because I don't want to watch you die--Bodie only just managed to stop himself saying it out loud, but his face must have betrayed him because Doyle altered his voice, wiping away the sarcasm, the air of unconcern, and repeated his question.

"Do you want to work with me?" he asked. "Because now's the time to speak up. However much Cowley wants us together I can't see him forcing you to work with me if you really don't want to."

Bodie knew that Doyle was right. If he refused outright there was no way Cowley would be able to justify keeping them together.

"Don't you have any doubts?" he asked Doyle.

"No," was the prompt answer.

"Why not?" Bodie was curious to know. Nothing that had happened to Doyle in the past three years had encouraged him to trust people--friends or strangers--but he seemed prepared to accept him at face value. "You don't know the first thing about me and I practically know your life history."

The conversation he had overheard came back and Doyle realised with a shock that it was true. All he knew about Bodie was his name, address and present occupation.

"Well," he said consideringly, "if by the end of this conversation you're still of a mind to make a go of it I'll be reading your papers later on this morning, won't I!" He looked Bodie straight in the eye. "Am I going to find any surprises?"

"Depends on what you're expecting really, doesn't it?" Bodie replied.

Doyle nodded in agreement. The way Bodie turned his attention back to his breakfast gave Doyle the hint to leave the subject alone--for a while anyway.

Walking along the corridor towards Cowley's office, Bodie brought the matter up again.

"What are you expecting?" he asked, suddenly curious to know.

"You've been CI5 for...three years, isn't it?" Bodie nodded. "Before that...the way you enjoyed mucking about on the ranges...the army. You came on the squad from the army." Doyle paused and looked Bodie over very carefully from head to toe. "Probably a boy soldier or cadet or whatever they call 'em nowadays. A career soldier," he summed up, then once more recalled that cryptic reference to Bodie's past. "And here and there--a few...surprises," he added carefully.

"Close," Bodie said as he reached out and knocked on Cowley's door, opening it on the command to 'Enter.' "But you're right about a few surprises," said in a whispered, rueful voice as they crossed the room to stand before Cowley's desk.

The interview was brief. Doyle was handed a slim folder and told to return it as soon as it had been read. If he had any questions he was to ask Bodie. Dismissed, Doyle left the room alone with the folder tucked under his arm.

Once the door had closed behind Doyle, Cowley indicated that Bodie should take a seat.

"How is Doyle shaping up?" Cowley asked.

"So far he's done all right, taken everything in his stride--but the work we've been lumbered with the last few weeks has been pretty routine." Bodie took the opportunity to voice his complaints over the duties they had drawn. "Baby-sitting a bunch of dishwater diplomats didn't exactly give him much scope to display his talent," Bodie finished sourly.

"And off duty?" Cowley ignored the sarcasm in the young man's voice.

"Off duty?"

"Socially," Cowley elaborated. "How well has he...adapted to his new way of life?"

Bodie wondered why he should be so surprised that Cowley would want to know about Doyle's social life. He knew that he was still being watched by Ross and Dr Willis; over the last month or so Bodie had become quite used to suddenly finding Ross's eagle-eyed, see-all gaze centred upon either himself or Doyle. The woman unnerved him; she had a similar effect on Doyle too, Bodie had noticed.

"He hasn't exactly thrown himself into any kind of wild social whirl," he finally answered. "As far as I know he's not made contact with any old friends from the force or otherwise. He's not tried to contact his family either."

"What is he like to live with?"

Bodie pondered on which answer he thought Cowley wanted to hear.

"Quiet," he said slowly. "Keeps himself very much to himself. He's pretty easy to get along with--so much so that it's easy to forget I'm sharing the place with anyone."

"Is he still troubled by nightmares?"

Cowley watched the careful nonreaction with interest. Bodie knew what he was talking about--that was clear enough--but any surprise was swiftly replaced in the clear blue eyes by a cautious, appraising look.

"This is a silly question, I know," Bodie said, "but I know Doyle never told you or Ross about his nightmares--so how come you know?"

"His medical report from Maidstone mentioned that he was prone to suffer such dreams. There was a recommendation that he should receive some form of counselling to help alleviate the problem."

"Then why wasn't he?" Bodie asked angrily.

"He was released from Maidstone and I suspected that once he was clear of that environment he would be all right."

"You suspected!" said Bodie disbelievingly.

"Ross agree with me," Cowley replied. "Were we wrong?"

"No!" Bodie shouted. "But you could've at least warned me what to expect--"

"You appear to have managed well enough," Cowley broke in. "After a few initial problems Doyle's health and mental attitude appears to have made a remarkable recovery."

"Small thanks to you and Dr Ross!"

"Indeed?" Cowley questioned quietly, but immediately switched the conversation to a different topic. "In your opinion as the person who probably knows more about Doyle than either Ross or I, do you consider him ready to start living independently?"

"There's been a flat available for months," Bodie suddenly accused. "You've deliberately kept him in my flat so as to keep an eye on him."

"A flat is available now," Cowley agreed, "but accommodation had been instructed to put Doyle's allocation on 'hold' until I instructed them otherwise.

"So he could have moved out any time!"

"I knew that you would let me know if you found living with Doyle to be impossible," Cowley said placidly. "When neither of you pestered the office or me I surmised that the situation was proving agreeable to you both."

Bodie was rather surprised to realise that not once had he questioned the time it was taking the accommodation people to house Doyle, but Cowley's question still had to be answered, though. Did he think Doyle was ready to live on his own? He was undecided; half of him said no, but the other half argued that alone Doyle would stand more chance of establishing himself, in his own home he might feel freer to contact some of his own friends.

"Yes," he finally replied, "I think he's ready."

"You don't sound too sure, Bodie." Cowley had not missed the worried expression that passed fleetingly across Bodie's face.

"I'm not," he said honestly. "But I can't see that keeping him cooped up with me day and night is going to help him much more. From a couple of things he's told me I get the impression that he's not naturally so...introverted...retiring; out on his own maybe he'll feel easier about picking up on his old way of life."

"You're probably right," Cowley agreed. Bodie had only confirmed what he had suspected. "I'll get the office to inform Doyle about his flat then."



Further down the hall, Doyle was having a tough time trying to find somewhere quiet so he could concentrate on Bodie's papers. The squad room, duty office and all the smaller offices were full of men and women, milling around. The briefing Cowley had arranged had resulted in just about every available operative being in the building. The whole department was buzzing with anticipation and the arrival of a bunch of senior Scotland Yard drugs squad officers in the car park confirmed everyone's suspicions.

"I told you it was a drugs case," Doyle heard someone say--he glanced up and identified John Day. "It's not often the Drugs Squad lads ask for our help so it must be something big?" Day's voice held a questioning note and Doyle suddenly found himself the centre of attention.

"I've felt something bubbling under the surface for months now," Day said to Doyle after checking that the whole room was watching the two of them. "Been a lot of funny goings on, hasn't there?" Day crossed the room to stand by the desk Doyle had sat at to read.

"Has there?" Doyle returned mildly, then turned a page over, dismissing Day casually.

"I daresay we'll find out what's happening once the Cow gives us the briefing," Day said smugly.

Doyle suddenly identified Day's soft country accent as being the loud voice he had heard being raised yesterday against his presence on the squad.

"I daresay you will," he said coldly, pleased to see a flicker of apprehension on Day's face as he became aware of the icy glare and underlying rage in the quiet reply.

"Yeah..." Day stumbled and lost his train of thought but then remembered their audience. "I expect we'll get some answers to some questions we've all been wondering about."

"What questions would they be, Day?"

Bodie's voice matched Doyle's for temperature but it had more effect on the room full of people because they all knew Bodie's temper--Doyle was still little more than a stranger to them, still only a piece of hot gossip.

Bodie repeated the question but Day still failed to voice any intelligible reply.

"I will tell you one thing, Day," Doyle offered. "You're late for your briefing--it's three minutes past nine!"

Nearly half the people in the room checked their watches before mouthing obscenities and moving towards the door.

A safe distance away, Day turned back before he left the room.

"Aren't you coming then?" he sneered.

"Any reason why we should?" Bodie's voice covered Doyle's own, similar reply.

"Your little friend's the one with all the drug connections--isn't he? Should have thought Cowley'd have him using his...shall we say...expertise," Day said, snickering at his little joke. "Still, maybe he thinks it's best to keep temptation out of--"

Bodie's stance shifted fractionally and Day wisely beat a dignified if somewhat hasty retreat. The few remaining people suddenly became occupied with other more important matters and drifted away from the storm brewing in their midst.

"Read it yet?"

"Not had much chance, have I?" Doyle snapped back and shrugged off the warm hand that had gripped his shoulder, keeping him firmly but unobtrusively in his seat. "And I'll thank you not to do that again."

"Do what?" Oh," Bodie said and grinned sheepishly. "Well, Cowley doesn't hold with brawling in the ranks."

"I didn't intend brawling with anyone, I was just gonna lay 'im out--period!"

"Ah well, now if I'd known that I'd've let you hit him," Bodie apologised. "Still," he added, "it's Cowley's fault for not spilling the beans about your background or at least letting you do it yourself."

"Well they're all going to find out now, aren't they?"

"Look on the bright side--once the briefing is over the stain on your wonderful, honest, clean-living, noble, law-abiding character will be gone forever and you'll be at the top of everyone's social list."

"How d'you work that out?"

"Stands to reason," Bodie explained. "Such a nice bunch of lads, they'll be tripping over themselves to show you that they don't hold the past that you never had against you. Especially the women--be fighting over you, they will--trying to make up for all your hardship."

"You reckon?" Doyle said hopefully, caught up in Bodie's enthusiasm.

"Any of them you find too much to handle--you know where I live," Bodie offered. "Which reminds me--when you've read that lot you can go down to the accommodation office; the keys to a flat are waiting for you and we've got the day off to move you in."

"A flat! Where?"

"You read me life's story and I'll get the keys and address from the office, then I'll give you a hand to pack your stuff and shift it, okay?"

Without waiting for a reply Bodie was gone, leaving Doyle staring, open-mouthed, behind him. His mind was full of things that needed to be done if he was to move home today; vying with the thoughts of things to buy and do were thoughts on the briefing room full of people. Now, instead of treating him like a leper they would probably wonder how anyone stupid enough to get himself so thoroughly stitched-up could get a job with CI5.

He read Bodie's file automatically. He took everything in, but nothing touched or amazed him. Maybe it would later--but there was too much buzzing around in his head for Bodie's past history to bother him.

Bodie re-entered the squad room in time to see Doyle close the folder and lean back in his chair, stretching the kinks from his back. Doyle looked up at him then at the bunch of keys swinging from his hand.

"Fort Knox, is it?"

"As good as, sunshine. This..." Bodie peered at the crumpled paper tag, "is the key to the Yale lock on the front door." He held up the next key on the ring. "Front door security lock...front door alarm lock...fire exit security lock...kitchen window...bathroom...living room...study--that's posh, I've never had a flat with a study...bedroom door...wardrobe...security safe--security safe! I've never had one of them either."

"Where is this humble abode then?" Doyle asked as he took the tangled knot of keys from Bodie's hand.

"Off Kensington High Street, just round the corner from the park. Come on, mate, let's get going--don't want to read it all again, do you?" Over-conscious of the other people still left in the squad room, Bodie felt uneasy about saying the address out loud. It would mean nothing to Doyle, of course, but everyone else would still remember the previous tenant.

"Hyde Park?" Doyle asked as he followed him out of the room, causing Bodie to pause a second at the tight quality at odds with the expressionless face.

"No--Holland Park--near the Commonwealth Institute," Bodie added.

All Doyle's enthusiasm vanished as swiftly as it had come.

"What's wrong?" Bodie asked. Doyle only shook his head and shouldered past him, striding along the corridor to Cowley's office where he handed the folder back into the care of Cowley's secretary.

"Do I have any choice?" Doyle asked quietly as they crossed the tarmac to the car.

"Over what?"

"Taking the flat--have I got to have this one?"

"You haven't even seen it yet, it's a palace compared to mine--even got your own balcony. It's got some great furniture in it, too--bleeding' great pinball machine in the middle of the living room."

"You sound like an estate agent, are you really that keen to get rid of me?" Doyle said laughingly. "How do you know so much about it anyway?"

Bodie swore quietly; he would have to tell Doyle before someone else did. "I've been there a few times," he explained. "It used to be Williams' place."

The car was quiet until they arrived outside Bodie's flat.

"That's not why I'm not keen on the place--I didn't know Williams, so moving into his flat doesn't worry me...it's just the area. Used to live near there--only a five-minute walk from the Institute."

"With your bird?"

"Ann? Yeah, with her," Doyle said quietly.

"Thought you said she was in America, though."

"Only went there for a holiday. To forget all about me--get it all out of her system!"

Feeling hopelessly inadequate, Bodie climbed out of the car and they entered the building in a solemn silence.

Within fifteen minutes Doyle had all his belongings packed into two of Bodie's suitcases and stood them ready by the front door alongside the cases he had collected all those months ago from his brother's house. The speed with which Doyle was ready to go amazed Bodie. He had known women take longer to pack their handbags.

Doyle drove the car and Bodie was about to comment on their circuitous route when he saw Doyle's eyes fix on a block of fashionably expensive apartments. Following the line of Doyle's gaze, Bodie looked closely at the third floor flat, the only one that had a light shining out on that floor.

"Nice place," he commented dryly.

"Mmm..." Tearing his eyes away, Doyle looked back at the road and refused to be drawn any further.

Three minutes later they arrived outside Doyle's new home.

Doyle gave the flat a good look over, investigating all the rooms and cupboards, discovering what was hidden behind concealing doors and in cupboards and drawers. Covering his territory.

Bodie waited awkwardly in the lounge by the window. Without Williams' personal belongings, the untidy piles of books and papers, photographs and other ornaments and mementoes, the flat looked cold and uninviting. Aware of what had once been there, he was only too conscious of what was missing.

"Where's the linen cupboard?" a rather breathless voice shouted down the spiral staircase.

"I think it's in the wall between the bathroom and bedroom," Bodie shouted back as he recalled a dim memory of hunting for a dry towel on the one occasion he'd used the upstairs shower; as the memory gained substance Bodie looked at the settee with remembered disgust. After a long, tedious observation in a frozen, muddy trench in the Kentish countryside the three of them, Williams, Lake and Bodie, had returned to dry out, thaw out and flake out here. Williams and Lake took the bed upstairs and left Bodie to fight with the bed-settee. It had taken him a good ten minutes to work out how to open the thing without severing his fingers and then he discovered that a spring in the centre of the mattress was broken and had spent the night jumping every time he speared his nether regions on the protruding metal.

"It's empty."

"What?" Bodie jumped, he hadn't heard Doyle come back downstairs.

"Linen cupboard--all the cupboards, come to that. I thought these places were supposed to be furnished?"

"What's all this then?" Bodie said, indicating the furniture in the room.

"Furniture," Doyle agreed. "But nothing else; there's a bread knife and a milk saucepan in the kitchen, a bald loo-brush and broken bog-roll holder in the bathroom and not a blanket or pillow in sight--not even a dustpan and brush."

It had been three years since Bodie had moved into his first CI5 flat, and that had been from a private place where he had already accumulated most of the necessary domestic equipment.

"Now you know what your wages are for, don't you," he said cheerfully.

Several weary hours later Bodie deeply regretted his offer to help his partner with his shopping. While Doyle piled the next load of parcels and packages on the back seat of the car, Bodie rested his head on his aching arms; he'd thought that the duvet box and bag of sheets had been awkward enough to manoeuvre through the crowded shops but the last trip with the vacuum cleaner had just about killed him. He hated shopping at the best of times and always made a point of doing it only when it was really necessary and he never but never ventured near any shopping precincts the week before Christmas. It just wasn't safe!

"Have you finished yet? You must have run out of cheques if not money by now!" Bodie asked. "There is a law about deliberately writing rubber cheques, you know." He didn't want to pry into Doyle's financial affairs but, peering into the loaded car he began to calculate what Doyle had spent. "Are you on a different rate of pay to me, or something?" he asked. "Or do you have a rich relative hidden away somewhere?"

"Let's just say I'm on to a good promise, shall we!" Doyle answered as he set the front seat back and climbed in. "One more stop at a supermarket and then we can get back to the flat."

"You haven't got to buy everything today, Doyle. Give your cheque book a rest, for god's sake. Tell you what, drive us home and I'll cook us some dinner. We can take all this stuff back to your flat tomorrow."

"We're on the Embassy job first thing tomorrow morning," Doyle reminded him as they drove off in the direction of the supermarket. "If it takes off like Cowley's predicting we're going to be too busy to fiddle around getting the place straight. Makes sense to get it all done today while we've got the day off, doesn't it."

Bodie had to agree that it did, but it didn't stop him complaining when he saw the length of the queues in the shops.

Much, much later Bodie began to think life wasn't so bad after all. They had ended the day with a celebratory meal which christened the pots, pans, crockery and cutlery they had brought home from the shops. Settling back on the settee that was much more comfortable as a settee than a bed, Bodie listened to the bustling domesticity as Doyle cleared away the remnants of their meal.

"I'm going to miss you," Bodie said as his partner finally emerged from the kitchen and slumped into an armchair.

"Why's that? It's not as if I'm going anywhere."

"I'll have to wash me own dishes now, won't I," he said plaintively.

"Buy a dishwasher!"

"Got a better idea--cheaper too. You come visiting regularly--I'll even let you do all the other housework."

Doyle responded by tossing a cushion to hit him square in the face, the offending object was returned somewhat forcibly and a mock fight broke out, only to be stopped when Doyle realised the coffee mugs were in danger of being knocked over, and the room was restored to order.

"I suppose I'll have to get going," Bodie said mournfully. "'s all right for you, all cosy and snug in your little nest."

"What are you on about?"

"Going home!" Bodie moaned. "Listen to that wind howling--bet it's raining too."

"How're you getting there?" Doyle asked smoothly. Bodie smiled politely and reminded his partner about the invention of the car.

"You're not taking my car! How am I going to get to the Embassy tomorrow if you drive off with it tonight?"

Already halfway through buttoning his jacket in preparation for facing the wintry elements, Bodie swore. Profusely.

"You can walk to the tube or catch a bus," Doyle suggested, his face creasing into an amused smile. This was the first time that sharing a car had proved awkward.

Once Doyle had rather rudely vetoed the suggestion that he should drive Bodie home a solution was easily reached. Placing the phone back on the hook, Bodie unbuttoned his coat and settled back down on the settee.

"They'll be here in about ten minutes, so I've got time for another drink, haven't I?" Bodie hinted.

Once the ring pulls had been popped and disposed of, the two men relaxed back and awaited the arrival of the taxi.

His eyes roaming around the flat, Bodie assessed the difference the fleeting tenancy had so far made. Chairs not quite straight, curtains drawn and soft lights on, glasses and a few cans of beer about. Nothing much really--but enough to make the place look lived in. Over by the front door though, Bodie could see the cases that had sat on the floor of his spare bedroom for the several months. Still locked; Doyle had made no attempt to open them, although the other cases containing his clothes were unlocked and half unpacked in the small bedroom upstairs.

"It's going to be strange when you've gone," Doyle said quietly, almost to himself, and when Bodie asked him what he meant he became embarrassed and fidgeted in his seat. "This place...it's just... Oh, I dunno," he said tiredly, running his fingers through his hair.

"It's a nice place. You'll soon settle in," Bodie said.

"Yeah," Doyle agreed. "We'll have to work something out with the cars though," he suggested.

"Sometimes we'll need both, the times we don't we can just pick each other up and drop 'em off afterwards. It'll work itself out, don't worry about it. Seeing as I live closer to the embassy than you, you can pick me up tomorrow morning, okay?"

Doyle agreed and an awkward silence descended on the room and they waited for the minutes to tick by. Eventually, to the relief of both men, the door buzzer went, announcing the arrival of Bodie's taxi.

Doyle saw him out and then locked the door before walking back slowly to the living room. The battered suitcases caught his eye and he dragged them into the centre of the room, snapping the locks open and lifting the lid to his old life.



It wasn't until he checked out the living room for the third time that Bodie realised what he was looking for. He still didn't find it, though. It was as if Doyle had never set foot in his flat--there was absolutely nothing that had been left behind by his temporary lodger; no forgotten book, toothbrush, toiletries or bits of clothing. Nothing to say he had ever been there and nothing to say he was ever coming back.

Getting into bed was another oddly unsettling experience. Through habit, he did not close the curtains and it took him over an hour to remember that there was no longer any reason why he should suffer the glare of the street lights. Climbing back under the covers, Bodie found the room to be terribly dark and the bed cold and empty.



CHAPTER TEN

Full of the joys of spring, Bodie sprinted up the stairs, taking them two and even three at a time, breezed along the corridor and burst into the--for once--quiet sanctuary that was the squad room. The room's only occupants, Doyle and Lake, eyed Bodie's noisy and overenthusiastic entrance with sinking hearts.

"Good morning!"

Lake closed his eyes and fell back into the tatty, threadbare waiting-room reject. Doyle just winced and covered his ears with his hands.

"I see that The Times has reported the first spring cuckoo." Bodie refused to lower his voice.

"You read The Times?" Lake said disbelievingly.

"Nah," Bodie conceded, and then admitted wryly, "Heard it on the radio on me way in."

Taking possession of the chair next to Doyle, he leant over to take a generous swig from Doyle's coffee cup. "By the way, thanks for last night, mate." Bodie winked and then drained the last of the coffee. "I do wish you'd remember that I like sugar in mine," he complained, as he pulled a face.

"Then I suggest you buy your own--and while you're at it you can get me another one," Doyle said placidly.

"Is this the thanks I get for getting you out of a sticky situation--some people have no gratitude." Bodie's voice suggested that he was sorely wounded by his friend's response but the smug grin on his face declared that it was not so.

"You enjoyed yourself then?" Doyle asked.

For an answer Bodie collapsed back into his chair and sighed mightily.

"I take it that means yes."

"And then some," Bodie said happily. "Any time you get stuck in that sort of situation I'll be only too pleased to help you out."

"She didn't mind?"

"Mind! Five minutes after I arrived she'd forgotten what you looked like. How did it go with the delectable Delia?"

Doyle echoed Bodie's own smug, satisfied sigh.

When Doyle had asked him if he had any plans for last night he had been both pleased and disappointed. It had been almost two months since Doyle had moved into his own flat and in all that time he had only met his partner socially once, and after having spent virtually every minute of the preceding three months in his company, Bodie had felt the loss keenly. But it wasn't Bodie's company Doyle had been asking for. It seemed that Doyle had finally broken through his reserve and was making steady progress through the lives of several young ladies simultaneously.

Bodie recognised that he had been--temporarily anyway--dethroned as the top Romeo in the department, but he was gracious in his defeat and when Doyle requested his assistance was only too pleased to step in, thus the tricky situation of two beautiful young ladies waiting to be escorted to two different theatres at opposite ends of Shaftesbury Avenue at the same time had been resolved.

"What was the play like?"

"Play?" Bodie frowned. "Dunno, wasn't really paying much attention to what was happening on stage." He smiled as he remembered what he had been paying attention to.

"It wasn't the pink silk lacy dress with the rosebud bra?" Doyle demanded to know.

"Bra--what bra? She wasn't wearing one, mate. She doesn't need one--anyone could see she doesn't need a bra, and no it wasn't pink...more a backless, frontless mini diamante evening...strap. Beautiful," he finished. Behind him, Bodie heard the door open and as soon as he saw the look that flashed over Doyle's face he guessed who had come in. He was right.

After pointed saying good morning to Bodie and Lake, Day moved past Doyle, knocking against his chair as he went to collect a drink from the vending machine.

"Anyone got any change--this bloody thing won't take fivers."

Out of habit, Bodie and Lake dutifully checked their pockets and found them lacking the correct coins.

"Here you are," Doyle said silkily and slid the coins across the table.

"Er...ta very much," Day mumbled ungraciously, and fed the money into the slot. The machine still refused to produce anything and the reject button was punched rather forcefully. It refused to refund the money as well.

"One of the coins must have been bent," Doyle suggested, his face bland.

Day flushed and thumped the side of the machine; Lake and Bodie were unsuccessful in their attempts to keep their faces straight.

As Lake moved to answer a ringing telephone Day continued his efforts to make the machine cough up something.

"Doyle--it's for you."

Whilst Doyle talked on the phone, Day gave up the battle of man versus machine and left the room in disgust.

Bodie watched, a worried frown marring his face as Day slammed the door shut behind him and then he looked over to where Doyle was still talking quietly.

Lake saw the frown and wondered if Bodie had heard any tales that Day had been carefully repeating to selected ears throughout the department.

"He hasn't taken to Doyle, has he," he ventured, unsure of how far he should stick his own neck out.

"What? Who?" Bodie dragged his attention back from watching his partner.

"Day," Lake said. "He doesn't like Doyle very much, does he?"

"Day's a prick!" was Bodie's bald statement.

"Agreed," chuckled Lake, but then he sobered and decided to make sure Bodie knew what was going on. "But he still doesn't like Doyle--and he's making waves!"

"What do you mean?" Bodie was suddenly intent on his answer, recognising the carefully regulated voice and bland facial expression which meant that Lake was deadly serious.

"He's being very careful but he's chucking a lot of muck around and all of it's hitting your mate." Lake hesitated. "I take it he's not said anything to you?"

"He's obviously got more sense than I credit him with," said Bodie grimly. "What's he saying then?"

"Nothing specific, just general shit-stirring. He's been a bit vocal on how Cowley seems intent on ruining CI5's reputation by employing people with dubious backgrounds and..."

Lake hesitated again and Bodie had to prompt him to finish. "...and he's been suggesting that Doyle got himself...involved...mixed up...sort of...sort of..."

"Sort of what?" Bodie asked, wondering what the hell was coming next.

"Oh christ!" Lake stared down at the table top. "That Doyle put himself about...that he made life easier for himself by letting some of the other inmates..."

"Letting some of the other inmates what?" Bodie demanded, his voice a cold, chilling whisper of sound.

"Fuck him!" Lake spat out, then shut his eyes and waited for the roof to fall in. After a few minutes, during which the world continued turning and Doyle's voice was the only sound in the room, Lake risked opening his eyes and started breathing again.

"Nothing specific!" Bodie repeated. "How specific was he, for fuck's sake!"

"Look, Bodie, I just thought that if you didn't know, you ought to--I can't see either Cowley or Doyle being too pleased if they hear what's being said," Lake said defensively.

"Okay, okay." Bodie backed down, holding his temper in check. "How long's this been going on and where's he getting his information from?"

"Last few weeks he's been spouting off about Doyle's drug connections--ever since he started on the big drugs caper. The blokes are working quite close to some of Doyle's old drug squad colleagues."

"Has he blown Doyle's cover? None of the Met. boys are supposed to know that he's clean."

"All right, he's a prick," Lake whispered back. "But he's not got that much of a death-wish. He knows Cowley's orders over Doyle's record but it's not stopped him from fishing for any more dirt on the man."

Begrudgingly Bodie found himself agreeing; Day was not that stupid.

"The rest of it--how does he know about that?"

"It's true?" Lake's eyes widened in surprise and Bodie knew he had been careless.

"What do you think?"

Lake's eyes swivelled around to watch as Doyle continued talking and laughing into the phone.

"With his looks he wouldn't've found it easy. Being an ex-copper they would have jumped him every chance they got. Between the hard boys and the faggots he wouldn't have much peace--but I don't think he would have given in--not without one hell of a fight--"

Just then Doyle turned towards the window and the sunlight shone directly on his face, highlighting the misshapen cheekbone. Turning back, Lake saw that Bodie had followed his eyes and his thoughts. "So it's not true. Not Day's version of it anyway," he finally worked out. "So what did happen?"

For a moment or two Bodie wondered whether he should tell Lake the whole story, but quickly realised that it was not his story to tell; but he had to counteract Day's malicious tongue, so he told Lake what Doyle's life inside had been like, outlining only briefly the sexual harassment, the anti-police antagonism and the final, attempted sexual attack that had been very nearly murder.

Listening to Bodie's cold recital of facts, Lake knew that a lot of the story was missing but his own knowledge of prison society, learnt through the years of contact with the dregs of humanity that populated the prisons and criminal world, fleshed out the tale.

"What's going on?" Doyle's voice took them both by surprise. Seeing the startled and embarrassed looks he chuckled. "God, you two look like you just got caught with your hands in the biscuit jar!"

Lake and Bodie smiled awkwardly.

"Look, mate," Doyle said eventually, when he realised the two men were not going to let him in on their conversation, "are we doing anything?"

"Now? No, just standby--why, what's up?"

"Nothing much, just I've got to go somewhere. That was Bob Craig from the Home Office; he wants to see me about something before he goes off on leave tonight."

"You might as well shoot off now. Take your r/t and if anything comes up I'll collect you on the way."



Sod's Law, of course. Barely five minutes after arriving at Craig's office the r/t crackled into life. Leaving the room at a trot, Doyle had a large flat package thrust into his hands.

"They're yours," Craig shouted down the corridor after him. "You left them in your drawer in one of the recreational rooms."

In the car, ignoring the puzzled look on Bodie's face, Doyle shoved the portfolio onto the back seat and promptly forgot about it as they took off from a standing start to 60 mph in thirty yards.



After a hectic start, though, the excitement quickly died down and a monotonous surveillance routine started up.

A simple toss of a coin won Bodie the opportunity of trying to get some sleep in the back seat of the car.

"One day," Bodie complained as he struggled to squeeze his length onto the back seat, "the Cow is going to let us have state cars with collapsible seats."

"Or even reclining chairs with posture springs," Doyle chipped in, flexing his back and shifting his own position.

"Ah, the simple pleasures of life," Bodie said with feeling as he settled onto his side, shoving the portfolio away from his face, its awkward shape causing it to fall right back and hit him on his nose. "What's in this thing anyway?" he snapped irritably as he pushed and shoved it sideways where it finally came to rest on his knees.

"Just some stuff Bob Craig gave me, that's all," Doyle said vaguely, his attention suddenly taken by a movement at one of the windows as if someone was trying to look out into the street. They were parked a safe distance away, the house's occupants wouldn't be able to see them.

"Come in, 4.3," Doyle spoke into the handset.

"4.5," crackled back in response.

"Anything moving back there?"

"Upstairs bedroom light's just gone out, I reckon Sunny Jim's off to bed. Why? What's up your end?"

"Twitchy curtains in the front bedroom but no lights," Doyle said, his attention still on the front of the house.

"Okay, 4.5, we'll keep our eyes peeled. Out."

The r/t clicked off and the car fell silent until Bodie's voice came from the back seat.

"Did you draw these?"

"What?" Doyle spun round in his seat to find Bodie lifting sheets of paper from the portfolio and holding them up to the dim street lighting.

"They're not bad," Bodie said approvingly as he flicked through the sketches.

"Just put them back!" Doyle made a snatch for the sketch pad but missed as Bodie held it just out of reach. Perhaps unwisely, Doyle lost his temper. "Just leave them alone, they're nothing to do with you--now give 'em here!"

"What's so special about a few little scribbles then?" his partner taunted.

Pride made Doyle speak out in defence of his work.

"They're not scribbles and they're mine, now get your greasy mitts off them!" Leaning right over into the back seat he managed to grab his pictures and shove them untidily back into the case, swiftly tying the cords, closing it.

"4.5, 3.7, he's coming out the back way, over." Even before 4.3 had finished speaking, Bodie was back in the driving seat, the engine was on and they were pulling smoothly away from the kerb. The chase was on and the sketches were forgotten.



Dawn was breaking as he dropped Doyle off outside his flat, the order from Cowley being to get some sleep before reporting back for another hopefully less hectic surveillance detail. As the door clicked shut, Bodie remembered the sketches but managed to stop himself from jogging his touchy companion's memory.



Fresher but still exhausted, Bodie dried himself off and shrugged into his dressing gown. Pouring himself a drink, he carried it and the portfolio over to the couch and sank down onto it. Undoing the ties, he carefully tipped the contents onto the seat beside him. Looking at the water colours and the one oil painting, Bodie could quite understand why Doyle hadn't wanted anyone to see them. They were awful! Ugly blotches of wrong shades in peculiar positions all over the paper. Next, he turned to the sketches he had first seen in the car. There were three pads, two of which had something drawn on every page and one of which was half full.

Being unable to draw a straight line without the aid of a ruler, Bodie found he was impressed with the fresh, vividly real pictures, the simple style of lines and shading that filled each page.

Turning the pages through, he found the pictures to be disturbing and looked through the books a second and third time in an attempt to pin down the reason for the odd, hauntingly lonely feel of the sketches.

One of the last pictures really brought home to him how Doyle's isolation had affected him. It was a sketch of a brick wall. It filled the page, each brick shaded and shaped with such meticulous care that Bodie felt he had only to touch the paper in order to feel the rough texture of bricks on his fingers as easily as he could read the graffiti that adorned it.

He tried to imagine staring at a wall so long he felt compelled to draw it.

The rest of sketches were an insight into prison life. Neat, cramped cells, huge, heavy metal doors with each rivet, lock and hinge drawn in fine detail, a view along the never-ending metal landing, winding staircases, views of the outside world framed by ugly steel bars.

The detail of inanimate objects was in striking contrast to the people that were sometimes included. Always vague, always indistinct, always unrecognisable. But then Bodie noted with surprise the small portrait almost hidden away on the corner of a page. Flicking back through, Bodie found more of them, each one tucked away on the edge of another picture as if it were an afterthought, a doodle.

Instinctively he knew that this was Ann. Turning the pages, he tried to see the obvious attraction that the woman held for Doyle but the small sketches revealed only a woman's face...not an unattractive face but nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. Paying closer attention, because he was curious to find out all he could about the woman who had turned her back on Doyle when her love and support was probably desperately needed, Bodie discovered that each picture had a small flaw, something the artist never quite managed to get right. Ann's eyes were either totally lifeless, lacking in any expression or in some cases simply not finished, that final touch never--quite--being applied with the same attention to detail as appeared everywhere else.

Returning the pictures and sketch pads to the portfolio, Bodie tied it up and placed it to one side. In the morning he would put it back into the car as if he had not touched it. For some reason he felt uneasy about letting on that he had peeked. Looking through the drawings had, in a way, been intruding on Doyle's privacy--rather like reading someone's personal diary--and from the way Doyle had reacted in the car he obviously did not want people looking at his work.

With the images Doyle had committed to paper swirling through his mind, Bodie feel into a restless slumber that was filled with a confusion of hazy, mixed up not-quite-real troubling dreams...



The clanging doors and sound of heavy boots on metal walkways echoed back and forth through the enormous building.

He passed door after door, each one the same, each a doorway to apathy and misery, until he reached his own.

He opened it.

The cell's occupant looked up at him uninterestedly then away again. A brief flash of emerald and Bodie felt a tug of recognition.

"What's your name?" he demanded to be told.

"Doyle." The reply was begrudging and the speaker seemingly had little interest in discovering who was asking.

Swinging himself up onto the top bunk, Bodie felt tense and relaxed all at the same time. Behind the closed door the screws were getting everybody banged up. The final, loud and seemingly endless call of numbers and names finally came to an end and the lights clicked off.

In the darkness he heard Doyle climb into bed, but there was something he wanted to know before he went to sleep.

"What are you in for?" he asked. It was a bit like being in hospital, after a few hours you always knew more than you really wanted to know about the other bloke's ailments.

"Nothing--I'm innocent," Doyle replied, a deep chuckle in his voice as he said it.

Bodie joined in with the joke.

"Oh yeah--me too. It was this other bloke--honest!"

The ice was broken and they both laughed. It was comfortable...easy.

"This other bloke, see," Bodie felt the need to explain, "got himself mixed up with the wrong sort of people."

"This bloke who just happens to look, think and sound like you, do you mean?"

Bodie had known that Doyle would understand.

"That's right."

"So what did you...uh, I mean what did this other bloke do then?" Doyle corrected himself.

"This and that."

"And the other?"

"Oh, plenty of the other," Bodie chortled vulgarly. "Got himself caught up with some smugglers."

"What--contraband whisky and cigarettes?" Doyle asked; the romantic notice of the noble historic smuggler clearly appealed to him.

"No. Drugs and guns."

All at once the warmth left the small, dark cell.

"Disprins and pea-shooters, you mean?" Doyle asked coldly.

"Heroin, cannabis and Armalites." The words fell like lead weights into the silence.

"A drug pusher and a gun runner," Doyle said in disgust. "What did you do in your spare time--rape little girls?"

"No! No!" Bodie cried out in protest. "It's not like that!"

"Of course it is--you just said so. You were smuggling drugs and guns. You knew what you were doing!" Doyle accused, then started banging on the door, calling for a guard to come and let him out.

Through the darkness Bodie tried to deny his guilt but Doyle wouldn't listen, he just kept pounding on the door, demanding to be let out, calling out to anyone who would listen that he was not going to share anything with a drug pusher and gun runner, pounding and pounding until at last a key was turned and the door began to open.

"No!" Bodie shouted in desperation. "Don't go...please don't leave me...you don't understand...don't go... Ray! Ray! Ray!"


The name still on his lips and his hand outstretched, Bodie jolted awake. The darkness of his bedroom confused him and for a second he thought he was still in that cell and that Ray had gone--but then he awoke properly. Drawing his hand over his sweating face, he dropped back onto the pillow and took some deep breaths. Only a dream, he told himself with relief, only a dream that was already fading away leaving only cooling sweat and a feeling of unease.


The next day, stuck outside another moderately innocuous suburban semi for hour after hour, Bodie found he could remember every single second of his dream. For some reason it just would not fade away into the void that dreams usually conveniently faded into. He didn't, as a rule, attempt to analyse his dreams; it wasn't often he remembered enough about them to do so, but this one was different.

The awful, terrifying feeling of being left behind, being deserted or abandoned, was not new to his nightmares; neither was the knowledge that somewhere, out in the dark, someone was waiting, watching.

The cause of his unease was sitting only a few inches away dutifully paying attention to all the incredibly unenthralling comings and goings in the street. Behind Doyle, on the back seat, rested the portfolio. Neither of them had mentioned it, but Bodie had seen the speculative glance that had flared in his partner's eyes when he opened the car door earlier that morning.

But knowing the cause did not even begin to resolve the problem.

If, of course, Bodie ruminated, there was a problem. It had been nearly two months since Doyle had read his file; two months in which he had neither referred to or questioned what he had read. At no time had he given any hint as to how he felt about working so closely with a man who had been, to all intents and purposes, deeply involved in the two areas that were guaranteed to turn most men's stomachs. Drugs and guns.

Bodie sighed as a wave of depression swept over him. All his working life he had peddled life and death--legally or otherwise. What would his life have been like, he wondered, if he had stayed on at school that extra year and finished up with the 'A' levels his mother had so desperately wanted him to get.

"Oh for crying out loud!"

"What?" Jolted back to suburbia and the boring surveillance detail, Bodie looked around him in surprise.

"Oh--back with us are you?" Doyle asked sarcastically. "All that deep breathing and sighing, I thought you'd fallen into a coma!"

"Sorry," Bodie apologised lamely.

"What's up, you've had a face as long as a mile all morning?"

"Nothing, just...thinking."

"Look," said Doyle, "there's a big depression over London right now, more specifically it's sitting right over your head. Now," he repeated patiently, "what's up--and don't say nothing because it's bloody obvious that something is."

The silence was almost deafening and it stretched out for several long minutes.

Eventually, and only because he knew Doyle would not, Bodie spoke. "Look," he said haltingly, embarrassment fighting with irritation, "you're not the only one in the world to have a few problems, you know." The words were formed before he could stop them and he could only curse himself when he watched the tentative openness that showed only rarely, drain away from Doyle's face.

"Pardon me for intruding then," Doyle sniped back, his hurt feelings showing themselves by his expressionless face and eyes.

"Oh for--I'm sorry," Bodie said and turned in his seat to smile warmly, his eyes asking for...something--forgiveness, understanding, Doyle didn't know what, only that the gloom and bad feelings in the air had been banished. "I must have got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, just ignore me."

"I usually do--and whose bed was it?"

"Ahh--a gentleman never kisses and tells."

"Karen?" asked Doyle.

"Would you mind if I said yes?"

"No, of course not, why?"

"I did you a favour the other night," Bodie said, "helping a mate out of a spot of bother is what mates are for, but I thought you'd been seeing quite a bit of her, wasn't too sure if you'd take kindly to me seeing her again."

Doyle chuckled, a deliciously warm, rare sound. "Yes, I have seen quite a bit of Karen but you can, as the saying goes--have too much of a good thing--besides, I haven't the energy for Karen and Delia."

"Oh, I see, getting the cast-offs, am I?"

Laughing, Doyle agreed. The mood broken, the atmosphere in the car became more relaxed and the rest of the duty stint passed without incident.

Signing off, they left the suburban backwater to the next pair of luckless agents and made their way home.

Outside Doyle's block of flats, the remembered portfolio in his hands, Doyle looked across to Bodie.

"What did you think of them?"

Quite how Doyle had known he had looked at them defeated Bodie, but he answered cautiously, recalling the way the other man had reacted to his looking at them in the car the previous evening.

"They're...not bad," he answered noncommittally.

"I dunno what's in here myself," Doyle said as he untied the laces and poked about inside. "What the--these aren't mine."

"Thank christ for that!" Bodie said with relief as Doyle peered at the lurid oil painting and wishy-washy water-colours. "I would have found it hard to be polite about them!"

"You'd 'ave tried, would you?"

"Artists are supposed to be very sensitive about their work, I didn't want to bruise your ego." Bodie reached over and twitched one of the pads out of Doyle's grasp. "But I did like these, I thought they were quite good."

"Only quite good?" Doyle raised an eyebrow.

"Better than I could do anyway," Bodie said, refusing to bolster the artist's ego any more.

"You're right though," Doyle said ruefully as he shoved everything back into the portfolio, "they're nothing special; didn't want to do the damn things anyway," and then in answer to Bodie's puzzled look of enquiry, "The occupational therapist at the hospital kept on at me to do something creative, it was these or basketry. Then once I got back to the prison I kept it up. Something to do, I suppose."


Driving back to his own flat, Bodie decided that he would call Karen as soon as he got in. He felt in the mood for some uncomplicated relaxing company. Doyle's parting comment had left a chill that had settled deep inside. Quite innocently Bodie had remarked that it had been generous of the screws to allow Doyle, a prisoner, to sketch in the halls and along the landings.

"Oh they didn't. I can't draw from life, not even to save my life. It's one of the reasons why I gave up thinking art school. I can only draw from memory."

Bodie could only think of the graffiti-strewn brick wall. Somehow, knowing how it had been done only made it that much more horrific.



Closing the completed file, Dr Ross placed it on top of the others and opened the one remaining on her lap. Shuffling through the papers she then passed some photocopied sheets across the desk to Mr Cowley.

"Finally," she said, "we have the problem of the 4.5, 3.7 pairing."

Quickly scanning over the pages he had been given, Cowley spared a moment to peer over the top of his glasses.

"Is this 'problem' specific or general in its nature, Doctor?"

"Mister Cowley," Ross began, but was interrupted before she could really break into her stride.

"Doctor Ross, your persistence in giving pessimistic opinions on this teaming is becoming rather tedious." Cowley glared across the desk, daring--perhaps even willing--the psychiatrist to interrupt him. "You are the only one who doubts the success of this pairing. All the evidence to date has proved your earlier misgivings to have been wrong. To all intents and purposes 3.7 and 4.5 are adjusting well and are becoming a productive, viable unit."

"'To all intents and purposes,'" Ross quoted back. "I agree with those observations--"

"Then what is the nature of this 'problem'?" Cowley only just managed not to shout.

"Mister Cowley, I have explained before that this is not a 'single' problem, it is a mixture of events, personalities, lifestyles and past experiences. The problem is a combination of all these things but it is possible to break the facts down into specific areas."

Acknowledging that she had Cowley's attention if not his favour, Ross proceeded to state her case.

"Bodie's behaviour since joining the squad has differed greatly from the past in that he has 'allowed' Doyle to form an attachment that is more than strictly professional. He has also begun to be slightly more approachable on a social front to other members of the squad."

"In other words, he's made friends with Doyle and other squad members," Cowley summed up, cutting through the jargon.

"Yes--but this behaviour is contrary to what is 'normal' for Bodie," Ross stuck to her guns with tenacity. That George Cowley considered psychiatrists useful only when they agreed with him was a major problem that she was determined to overcome.

"In addition, contrary to what he says, I do not believe he is happy with the teaming. I still feel that he is best suited to solo assignments. Although he is sublimating the irritation of having to work so closely with another agent, the reluctance could surface at an inconvenient or even dangerous moment for both men concerned."

"Sublimating the irritation," Cowley echoed. "Well, he is doing it very effectively. Macklin and Willis are both of the opinion that Bodie is actively enjoying his association with Doyle." The reports the instructor and doctor had given earlier had been cheerfully optimistic, a direct contrast with Ross' gloomy predictions. "Bodie has been both supportive and encouraging to Doyle. Now I know you feel these characteristics are not normally present in Bodie's make-up, but the facts speak for themselves. Bodie has never been known for quiet suffering--if he found Doyle to be an irritant there is no doubt in my mind that he would say so--to anyone and everyone who would listen!"

"I disagree."

"Very well, Doctor. Please tell me why you disagree," Cowley said wearily. "But please try to be brief."

"During the assessment interviews I held last week Bodie was clearly disturbed by one specific aspect of the teaming. Never having been assigned a permanent partner before, Bodie knew that the only people in this department who knew the full details of his past working experiences were you and me. Now, of course, Doyle also knows."

From the sudden change of expression on Cowley's face, Ross knew that he was beginning to grasp the root of the problem. Bodie's past had always been a problem--to Bodie.

"And Doyle's reaction to his file has upset him?"

"He didn't say so--but then he never does; with Bodie the important things are always left unsaid," Ross said and Cowley knew just what she meant.

"You've discussed this with Doyle?"

"I did question him about his knowledge of Bodie and his reaction to what he read was what I would have expected of him. He accepted that it was in the past and that Bodie had clearly been too young and too naive to have understood what he was mixed up in. Doyle had dismissed those years of Bodie's life as being unimportant, and to have questioned him further would have aroused his curiosity and possibly created more problems for Bodie."

"I agree," Cowley said, unsurprised to find himself doing so. Bodie's overdeveloped sense of guilt was about the only facet of his personality that they ever agreed on. The eighteen months the teenage Bodie had spent drifting around the ports of North Africa and Europe were in no small way directly responsible for his deep involvement with the security services. Hired as a deck-hand, he had become a very small, but very necessary part of the illicit trading organisation between the sea ports bordering friendly and not-so-friendly countries. At seventeen, the excitement and seamy glamour given off by the crews on board the decrepit coasters and tugboats were all the incentive that the runaway had needed to climb aboard. Reality had taken a long time to filter through and by then it was too late to escape. Trapped by the lies of the older, established crew, the boy was too frightened to leave and with each trip the horror and guilt increased.

But eventually luck and a force 10 gale in the Channel forced the Algerian-registered ship into Folkestone Harbour; after that, escape had been easy. Not wishing to attract any attention to its hidden cargo the ship left, minus its deckhand, as soon as the storm abated.

It had been a casually delivered question by Cowley during the mopping up of a very messy siege-situation in the first months of Bodie's life in CI5 that had surprisingly revealed his motivation for joining first the army, then the department.

Shaken and shocked by his narrow escape, Bodie had accepted the whisky Cowley had rescued from the broken, bullet-marked drinks cupboard. An empty stomach and lack of sleep coupled with relief that it was over and he was still alive all helped to make the alcohol go straight to his head. Before passing out, Bodie had confided to a rather startled Cowley that it would have been poetic justice if he had been killed by one of the hundreds of guns he had helped to smuggle into the country.

The next day Bodie had been put through the toughest debriefing of his life. Every day of the eighteen months Bodie had spent on board, every port, every name, every date, every detail was prised out of him. Expecting dismissal and possibly even prosecution, Bodie had tried to resign but Cowley had refused to let him go. After two weeks of virtual home-arrest, Cowley had visited him with the results of the investigations.

It had been impossible to convince Bodie that he had not committed any crimes and that he was not going to punished, prosecuted or even fined. For ten years he had carried the guilt of knowing he had helped to supply terrorists with guns and ammunition, pushers and suppliers with their poisons, and profiteers and money-makers with the opportunity to get rich on human misery. He knew he was guilty and nothing Cowley said was able to convince him otherwise.

"I agree," Cowley repeated. "So I take it that Doyle realises that apart from being a very junior member of the crew, Bodie was not directly involved with the actual trafficking of drugs and arms."

"I think he understands Bodie's role better than Bodie does himself. The guilt Bodie feels about those months is the main reason--in fact the only reason--why he ever became involved in the security services. Bodie feels that he must atone for what he thinks he did--he is quite blind to the fact the other crew members must have banked on his ignorance and naiveté to keep him quiet.

"But that sole purpose is something which makes Bodie very special to CI5. Now I agree that he is not too keen on people discovering his contacts with the runners, but he has never objected to the rumours that have circulated the department about his experiences."

"That's because they are rumours. Doyle knows the truth. And that is the one thing Bodie is incapable of facing, the truth. Regardless of how you, I or even Doyle see the truth, Bodie can't bear to face it himself." Satisfied that at least one of her points had been made, Ross sat back in her chair to gather her reserves for the next round.

"Very well," Cowley said after a few minutes' quiet thought. "I concede that 3.7's attitude to his past is a hurdle but I am optimistic that as in the past it will not prove insurmountable. Now--your next point?"

"I am still unhappy with 4.5's mental state." Ross spoke firmly. "In may ways 4.5 and 3.7 are very similar in that they always seem to project an air of emotional stability, but you must agree that I am qualified to advise you on such matters."

About to refute that, Cowley subsided as he recognised that Ross was only stating the truth. "Very well, Dr Ross," he said in a neutral voice, "please advise me which aspects of Doyle's mental state disturb you."

After spending a few moments looking through her notes, Dr Ross checked to ensure she had Cowley's complete attention before starting.

"I believe your main reason for selecting Doyle was his usefulness in the area of undercover work, using his record and real identity to gain access."

"Not the main reason, Doctor, but one, yes." Cowley nodded his head, trying to follow the path she was clearly trying to lead him down.

"Perhaps it's just as well it is not the main reason then," she said smoothly, "because I doubt that he will ever, voluntarily, renew any contacts he made whilst he was in Ford or Maidstone prisons."

"You seem very sure of that."

"I am. Very sure," was the confident response. "He refuses to discuss any aspect of his life as a prisoner. He pointedly withdraws from any conversation in which prisons or prisoners figure and any attempt to coerce him into such a discussion is met with evasion, resistance, increasing agitation and on one occasion distress."

"Distress?"

"It was a few months ago now, but it was when I first realised how reluctant he is even to think about his life inside, let alone discuss it with me. He stormed out of my office, refused to continue the interview and then missed several appointments that I made to see him again. It was only when I pointed out that his continuing employment in the department depended on his co-operation that he finally, but very reluctantly, agreed to meet with me again."

"Which aspects of his life in Maidstone were you questioning him on?"

"I asked him if there was any truth to the rumours about him and Albert Kingsley."

"Just like that?" Cowley asked, appalled by Ross' uncaring attitude.

"I saw no reason to cover the question with a lot of pointless soft talk."

"And what did he say?"

"Just 'No,' but that was after he had stormed out of the office then failed to turn up for several interviews. He simply refuses to discuss the matter." Ross' voice clearly showed how unreasonable she considered Doyle's behaviour.

"Are you really surprised that he won't talk to you about it?" Cowley demanded to know. "Have you even considered why he won't talk to you about it?"

Surprised by Cowley's almost palpable outrage, Ross sat back in her chair, blinking under the onslaught of the icy blue eyes. "You're a woman!" Cowley almost shouted across the desk. "I am not in the least bit surprised that he refuses to talk to you. Have you ever had any training on counselling the victims of sex attacks--"

"Really Mr Cowley," Ross interrupted, "my training is perfectly adequate in all the relevant areas and I do know what I am doing. Doyle must talk to someone about what happened to him. Maybe the rumours about Albert Kingsley are just that--rumours, but it is an irrefutable fact that he was subjected to an extremely violent attack that was only just prevented from becoming rape!"

"The report also states that Doyle cannot recall the reason for the attack nor the men responsible for it."

"He's lying!"

The room fell silent, and the two antagonists stared across the disk at each other as they regained control of their tempers.

As the heat began to fade from the almost-argument, Cowley engaged himself in a pointless reorganisation of his neat desktop and Ross waited patiently for the next round to begin.

"Very well," Cowley finally said, "I agree that Doyle is very probably lying about the attack." The basilisk glare dared Ross to award herself any points. "But he quite clearly does not wish to discuss it with you. At this moment in time there is no need to force him to confront any of his former inmates. Should such an occasion arise we shall have to reconsider, but for now I do not see that this problem is affecting his work."

"I still feel he must be made to talk to someone about the attack, and also about the Kingsley business. The rumours are unpleasant and ugly but Doyle will neither denounce them nor admit that they are even partially true--"

"How do you know that he hasn't?"

"Pardon?"

"How do you know that he hasn't talked about it to someone else?"

"Who?" Ross asked in amazement.

"Bodie," suggested Cowley, immeasurably pleased to have rendered the woman speechless at last.

That Ross did not consider his suggestion very likely was obvious, and she spent the next ten minutes outlining exactly why she felt Bodie was ill-equipped to handle such a delicate affair.

Cowley listened and shrugged off nearly all her arguments. Although Ross felt she knew all the personal details about the men and women in her care, Cowley knew that she didn't; she knew only what he felt she needed to know--and that wasn't necessarily everything.

Eventually Ross had said all she wanted to say and Cowley had listened to far more than he had intended to, the discussion on Doyle drew to a conclusion, with the understanding that they were unlikely to reach an agreement.

Collecting her files together, Ross swept out of the office, leaving Cowley to reflect on the unsatisfactory outcome.

His own knowledge of people and personalities had been learnt through experience with only a sprinkling of official schooling throughout his varied career. Supposedly Ross was far more qualified than he to know what was going on inside Doyle's, or anyone in the department's, minds, but in this instance Cowley knew that she was wrong. Maybe Doyle did have a few problems, but Cowley knew that if this was so, Doyle would only talk to whom he wanted--when he wanted, if, of course, he had not already done so.

Pulling himself from the threshold of exhaustion that Kate Ross always left him on, Cowley gathered the necessary files for his next meeting of the day. Psychological profiles and problems were soon pushed to the back of his mind as he turned his attention onto the slow-moving but promising joint operation with the Drugs Squad.



Turning left off the main road into the quieter one-way system, Bodie launched into the story he had been saving all afternoon for this precise moment. He thought that he had Doyle's full attention, but when he reached the part about Cowley's reaction to finding the trouserless Murphy revealing his outlandishly speckled underpants to the Minister's wife, he realised that his audience of one was not listening.

How can you hate someone you've never met? Bodie asked himself. How can you compete with a memory? He knew what he was doing and was even angrier with himself as a result. Did he really care that every time they drove down this road Doyle went off on yet another trip down memory lane? The answer was simple. Of course he bloody did! Why else would he save all the juiciest stories and most ridiculous jokes to tell them only when he wanted to distract his partner's attention from the flats that he used to live in. With Ann, of course. Sometimes it worked. More often than not, it didn't.

When the brakes slammed on, Doyle landed hard up against the dashboard.

"Jesus!" he complained as he sat back into his seat. "Did you hit it?"

"Hit what?"

"How the 'ell should I know? Whatever you slammed your bleedin' brakes on to miss!"

"Nothing." Both hands on the steering wheel, Bodie gripped it so tightly the strain stiffened his arms up to his shoulders.

"What?" Confused, Doyle looked around them, trying to work out why they had stopped so suddenly.

"Why don't you go and knock on the door?" Bodie asked, staring coldly across the car.

"What door?"

"Hers!" Bodie jerked his head towards the block of flats and derived a small measure of satisfaction from the guilty start on Doyle's face.

"You're blocking the road," was all Doyle would say. The driver behind them began to blast away on his horn.

"Are you getting out?"

"No, now move off you mad bugger!"

"You're quite sure you don't want to get out?"

"Quite sure--now shift this bleedin' car!" The noise from the blocked vehicles was growing louder and louder and windows up and down the street were being opened. In the flats, net curtains twitched as the people who did not want to betray their curiosity tried to see what all the commotion was about. If the curtain on the third floor moved he would kill Bodie. Slowly, very, very slowly.

Feeling that he had made his point, Bodie keyed the ignition. The engine coughed, whirred and died. Doyle sank down in the seat. On the third attempt the engine sputtered into life; it did not sound very healthy, but the car moved and that was all Doyle was interested in.

They didn't talk until the front door of Doyle's flat was shut and they were both nursing drinks, trying, without much success, to appear relaxed and at ease.

Bodie broke the silence. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that," he apologised gruffly.

"No, it's me that should be saying sorry. I just hadn't realised how...obvious I was being."

"No, I've got no right to tell you to stop thinking about her--"

"Course you 'ave. It's bad enough you got lumbered with a partner you didn't want without getting one who goes all moody every time he passes--"

"Cut it out, mate, I was in the wrong and I'm saying sorry, all right," Bodie snapped back, the apologetic tone of moments ago covered by held-back anger.

"I don't believe this," Doyle said and started chuckling, then before Bodie could misinterpret his humour, said, "Are we really arguing about who can say sorry?"

The humour of the situation took a little longer to filter through Bodie's belligerence but eventually they both relaxed; disaster was averted.

"Seeing as I'm here and I'm hungry, what are you going to feed me with?"

"What did you do before you met me?"

"Spent a fortune at takeaways and endured the company of fussy but clever women who knew how to treat a growing lad with a healthy appetite."

"Yeah, but what did you do about food?"

"Pillock!" Bodie lobbed an over-stuffed cushion across the room. "Come on, let's have a butchers at what you've got in the kitchen."

Resignedly following Bodie, Doyle complained out loud. "The only reason you haven't told Cowley you want to go back solo is because you can't find anyone else daft enough to cook for you!"

"Ah!" Bodie said, and turned a pair of guileless blue eyes towards him. "You guessed."

Later on Bodie risked bringing up the subject of Ann Holly up again.

"Are you sure she still lives there--I mean, they're pricey those flats, I know you were sharing the place, could she afford to carry on living there once you'd...left?" he finished lamely.

Without looking up from the meal he had been pushing around his plate for the last ten minutes, Doyle replied quietly that yes, he was sure she was still living there.

"It's her flat, well her mother's really I suppose, so there's no rent or mortgage to worry about--but even if there was she could afford it."

Bodie looked up sharply; Doyle sounded as if he resented the fact that his ex-fiancee had no financial problems.

"Got a bit of money, has she?"

"And class and looks--what more could a girl want?"

"Money, class and looks," Bodie said cautiously. "What did she want with you then?"

"That's what her mother used to ask!" Abruptly Doyle pushed his chair back and crossed the room where he busied himself filling the bowl with hot water, bubbles and dirty dinner plates.

Conveniently ignoring the growing pile of crockery on the draining board, Bodie leant back in his chair and considered the little Doyle had told him about Ann; precious little really, considering how much time he seemed to spend in a dreamworld thinking about her.

"How close did you come to getting married?"

There was no answer but Bodie was not one to give up easily. "Long engagement, was it?" he said in a voice that held more than a hit of mockery. "Insisted on being engaged before letting you past first post? Yeah," he said knowingly, "a girl like that, good looks, classy, bit of money in the family vault--bound to have high principles."

Doyle sighed and threw the dishcloth into the bowl.

"Seeing as you're so interested Bodie, I'll tell you," he said flatly. "Maybe you should go and get a pen and paper so you can take notes, I mean, I wouldn't want you to miss any of the details."

Bodie refused to let Doyle's anger faze him. He calmly returned the angry stare.

"Too right, mate--if I'm going to get the chop because you're too busy daydreaming about the love affair of the century to watch my back properly--then I do want to know all the details. What's so special about this bird then? She can't be worth that much if she ditched you the first time the going go rough."

"Shut up!"

"--suppose you'd already been married when you were arrested, what would she have done then, divorced--"

"Shut up, Bodie!" Doyle shouted. "Shut up, you don't know anything about her, you don't know what you're talking about, just leave it, all right!"

"So tell me," Bodie said quietly. "Tell me why she's so special. Tell me why you don't just go to see her and tell her that you were stitched up?"

The silence stretched on. "Well?"

"Well what?" Doyle asked.

"Well--why don't you go and see her, talk to her?"

"No."

"Why not?" But Doyle chose not to answer; a sudden thought occurred to Bodie.

"Has she married someone else, found herself another fellow?"

"No!" Doyle's rejection of that idea was very definite.

"You're very sure of yourself. Reckon she's been pining away for you do you, saving herself for you?"

"No." The answer was just as adamant as the first but a smile tugged at Doyle's mouth as he tried, unsuccessfully, to picture Ann pining away for anyone. "But I just doubt very much if there is anyone else."

"Put her off that much did you?"

Bodie's voice was so incredulous that Doyle just had to laugh. He finally gave in to the inevitable, succumbing at last to the clever technique of his partner. He sat back down at the table after pouring them each a beer and told Bodie all about Ann.


After the beer was gone the whisky bottle was unearthed and after a short discussion on the lines of drunk driving, exorbitant taxi fares and the broken springs in Doyle's bed-settee, the two men wound up in a comfortably familiar position in Doyle's bed.

Feeling wonderfully relaxed and sleepy and just a little bit drunk, Doyle wriggled down under the covers and rearranged Bodie's hand so it didn't rest so heavily on his ribs.

"So," Bodie continued, truly puzzled by the intricacies of the tale Doyle had revealed that evening and not wholly convinced he wasn't being subjected to a monumental put-on, "that dance you met her was the first time she'd been out socially since Roger jumped off the cliff?"

"No, no, Roger was the one that drowned, Philip was the one that fell off the cliff."

"I thought Philip was the fella that jilted her." At some point during the evening the whole story had become very confused.

"No, that was Trevor."

"Let's see if I've got this right," Bodie said as he shifted his head around on the pillow, trying to find a position where Doyle's hair didn't get up his nose. "Trevor jilted her, Roger drowned and Philip threw himself off a cliff."

"Trevor didn't exactly jilt her--he just called the wedding off without saying why," Doyle explained patiently, too sleepy to object to Bodie's persistence. "Roger was drowned during a freak storm and Philip fell off a cliff by accident. Now shut up and go to sleep."

For a while Bodie considered the fate of his Doyle and the luckless Roger and Philip.

"Lucky old Trevor," he whispered softly. "I wonder what he knew that you didn't." He gave Doyle a gentle squeeze, a sudden flood of unrecognised emotions making him want to hold and protect the sleeping man, to keep him safe, happy and...

Curling up even closer to length of bare flesh, Bodie made himself more comfortable. Doyle was sound asleep, his breathing regular and soothing to Bodie's ears, his heartbeat pulsing away gently against the arm draped across his chest. Doyle, Bodie decided, was nice to hold: warm, firm, silky and supple all at once.

Floating towards sleep, Bodie found his thoughts drifting to Ann again. At one point he had almost begun to feel sorry for her but the story had become so unbelievable that he could only wonder what the next instalment in her life could be. Surely no one deserved to be that unlucky. But, if the tale was true then, Bodie decided, she deserved everything she got for treating Doyle so badly.

All night long Bodie dreamt of Ann. Weird, disjointed senseless dreams that bordered on near-nightmares. By dawn he knew that she had filled his dreaming hours, that the dreams had been unpleasant--but he couldn't recall one second of any dream.

Washing the sleep from his eyes, he decided that he never wanted to hear her name uttered ever again. So later that morning as, bleary-eyed, they both dragged their hungover heads around the local supermarket, he was totally unprepared for the way his stomach plunged and his heart missed a beat when Doyle uttered the name.

"Ann."

"Ray?" she answered, disbelieving. "Ray!"

"Hallo, Ann." His feet rooted to the spot, Doyle watched recognition dawn, surprise turn to bewilderment then, unbelievably, to pleasure.

"Ray! I can't believe it." Now over the initial shock, Ann took a second look at the man standing before her. "I... You've changed so much I almost didn't recognise you." Doyle saw her eyes linger on the most noticeable change.

"What on earth happened to your--" She raised an elegantly manicured hand to brush the damaged cheek.

"Something hit it," Doyle answered shortly, catching the hand and holding it firmly, almost afraid to let go.

"When did you get... I mean how long have you been... I'm sorry, Ray. I didn't mean to embarrass you, but what are you doing here, I never expected to--" Confusion and embarrassment warred equally and the conversation faltered and stopped.

The meeting was what he had hoped for, but now it was happening Doyle found himself floundering, his prepared speech vanishing from his memory as reality hit home hard. It was impossible to stand in front of the cooked-meats counter in Sainsbury's with Bodie on one side and the shop assistant's ears flapping on the other and tell Ann that he wasn't the criminal she thought, that he had been framed, pardoned and was now respectably employed by a very important, very secret government organisation.

Divining the nature of the problem, Bodie broke the awkward silence by introducing himself.

"Hello, my name's Bodie. You must be Ann--I've heard a lot about you." He smiled warmly and held out his hand, all politeness and formality.

A cold hand barely touched his in return and a pair of steel grey eyes reminded him that his own were probably bloodshot and his clothes looked as dirty and rumpled as they felt.

"I really must go, Ray, I'm in a bit of hurry--"

"Can we meet later, I'd like to--"

"I'm flying to America this evening, I won't be back for about a week."

"I'll call you then?" Doyle asked. After a moment's hesitation Ann answered that he could, then she was gone.

Standing in the aisle, Bodie watched Doyle watch her go before turning his mind to more important matters.

"Greenback or smoked?"

"What?"

"Bacon," he elucidated, pointing at the displayed produce. "Which one and how much? This young lady is ready to leap into action to provide you with anything your heart desires." The uniformed girl blushed until her cheeks were as red as the pimples that glowed on her chin.

The rest of the shopping was done by Bodie, Doyle seemingly in too much of a daze to think about such mundane matters. Back outside Doyle's flat Bodie sorted out the shopping, then thrust a carrier bag full towards his partner.

"That's yours and this is mine, I'll see you tomorrow morning then."

Doyle took the bag, and looked at it as if he was wondering where it had come from.

"What?" He stood on the pavement, clutching the bag of groceries to his chest and stared as Bodie threw his half of the shopping onto the back seat of his own car before getting in and starting the engine up.

"Wake up, Doyle," he snapped irritably. "I've already wasted half of the day steering you round the shops. I've got plans for this afternoon--and I'm picking her up in three quarters of an hour--so I'll see you tomorrow."

"Oh, yeah, okay," Doyle agreed finally as he watched Bodie's car tear off down the road.



After emptying the contents of his carrier bag into the fridge and larder, Bodie quickly leafed through his address book. Carole was less than delighted with the precipitate summons.

"You could have called and let me know last night, Bodie," she complained.

"Ah, come on, Carole, didn't know myself until a few moments ago," he lied glibly.

"Well--"

"Go on!" Bodie encouraged, hearing the capitulation in her voice.

"I've only just got up, I was working until three this morning, I've just run a bath--"

"I've not had a bath since Tuesday," Bodie said longingly. "Boiler's broken," he sighed. "I hate boiling kettles to wash 'n shave," he piled the pathos on. "And they're not coming to fix it until next Tuesday!"

"Well... I suppose you could always come round here--"

"Thanks, Carole, run a bit more hot in and I'll be there in five minutes."

Driving around to her flat, Bodie tried to push the uncomfortable, niggling feeling that he was ruining the sexual anticipation he knew he should be feeling. Carole was a nice girl but... A nice girl but what? he asked himself. But he had been meaning to spend the first day off in three weeks with Doyle--not that they had arranged anything, well--nothing definite anyway.

Carole opened the door wearing, Bodie guessed, only a thigh length dressing gown and a splash of delicate perfume.

It was some time before any thought of Ray Doyle returned to disturb him and by then he was pleasantly sleepy and in Carole's bed for the second time that day. Fast asleep beside him, Carole lay, arms and legs spread with careless abandon, taking up a good two thirds of the bed. Carefully pushing the sleep-heavy body to one side, he decided that as a considerate bed-partner he would have to go a long way to find anyone as accommodating as Ray Doyle.

The thought tickled his outrageous sense of humour and he was unable to prevent a low giggle from breaking out. Pulling Carol towards him, he tidied her arms and legs up and settled down to sleep. His last thought was that Carole's neatly cut hair was neither as long nor as silky as Ray's...



CHAPTER ELEVEN

Drawing up outside Doyle's block of flats, Bodie parked neatly but left the engine running.

"Coming in?" Doyle asked.

"No, I've arranged to meet Carole this evening and I've just about got time to get home and change before I pick her up."

"Oh!" Doyle's face dropped. "See you tomorrow then."

"Are you doing anything tonight?" Bodie asked suddenly. "Why don't you come along too--we're only going to the pictures and maybe a meal after--I'm sure Carole won't mind."

"Well," Doyle hovered, undecided. "If you're sure she won't mind," he said, feeling disinclined to spend another evening alone.

"Of course she won't, I'll pick you up at half seven on my way to her place, okay--see you later!" Bodie waited until Doyle slammed the door before speeding off with a cheery wave.

Returning a little over an hour later through the one-way system leading into Doyle's road, Bodie, freshly washed, shaved and spruced up, found himself behind a black taxi that parked inconsiderately in the centre of the road to allow its passenger to disembark. He wondered if Doyle knew she was back.

Bodie watched the cab driver carry her luggage into the lobby of the building then storm back into his cab with a miserable face after counting the money she had so efficiently dropped into his hand. The posh voice and address had obviously led the driver to expect a handsome reward for his exertions.

Climbing back into his cab and ignoring the line of cars he had held up, the driver finally moved off. About to do likewise, Bodie narrowly missed denting his front wing when the door of a parked car unexpectedly swung open and its occupant, a tall middle-aged gentleman, climbed out totally unaware of the accident he had nearly caused. His attention obviously elsewhere, the man did not see or hear the abuse Bodie directed towards him.

Doyle was ready to go as soon as Bodie arrived but Carole was neither ready nor, as he quickly found out, in a particularly good mood.

"Really, Bodie, you could have let me know--this is the third time you've done this to me," she complained.

"I thought you liked Ray?"

"I do," Carole said. "He's a nice person, it's just that I rather thought I was going out with you, not you and your friend."

"He wanted to see the film, why can't he come and see it with us?"

"Why can't he go and see it with his own girlfriend?"

"I don't think he's seeing anyone at the moment. Look," Bodie said sweetly, grabbing hold of Carole as she snatched her jacket angrily from the hanger, pulling her close and kissing her softly, petting and gentling her. "We'll just go to the pictures with him, see the film and then drop him off at home before we go on somewhere else, okay?"

"Oh...all right, but not mmnhg!" Bodie smothered her agreement with a long, breathless kiss. "Oh, Bodie, I do wish you wouldn't do that!"

"Do what?" he asked innocently, his eyes sparkling, alight with mischief.

"You know damn well what," she retorted, laughing now, her anger almost gone. "But really, next time--just you and me--please. Just leave your friend at home."

Bodie found her persistence annoying, he really couldn't see what she was making a fuss about.

"Okay, okay, I give in. Next time I'll find a baby-sitter for my poor lonely friend," he said mockingly.

"I really don't understand why he can't find his own baby-sitter, why doesn't he have a girlfriend? He seems nice enough, why is he so lonely that you feel obligated to drag him everywhere with you."

"I don't drag him anywhere," Bodie fumed, " and what's more, I do not feel obligated to look after him, he's a friend, that's all, a bloke who's just feeling a bit low who happens to be between girlfriends at the moment." Carole's unwillingness to understand Doyle's problem was beginning to irritate Bodie beyond his patience. "If you don't feel like going out tonight just say so!"

"And you'll go to see the film with Ray," she sniped at him.

"And I'll go to see the film with Ray. Just the two of us," Bodie agreed icily.

"Well I hope you'll be very happy together. You make a wonderful couple!" Carole turned away and opened the door. Bodie took the hint.

"I don't believe this," he stormed. "What are you getting so wound up about--anybody would think I'd invited him to come to bed with us instead of the pictures!"

"The way you've been carrying on it wouldn't surprise me," Carole shouted back.

"Exactly what did you mean by that?" Bodie asked, his voice so cold and hard that Carole flinched as if his words had actually struck her.

"Just what I said," she answered bravely, only barely managing to stop herself from stepping back to escape the tiger she had unwittingly unleashed in her living room. "It really wouldn't surprise me if you did invite him to bed with us. You called me Ray the other night," she said hurriedly as Bodie stared at her. "You were stroking my arm and you kissed my shoulder--I thought you were awake but then you pulled me back towards you and kissed me again--then you called me Ray, you said it twice, you thought you were kissing--Bodie!" She screamed and ran towards the safety of the kitchen, her eyes wide and frightened. Bodie started after her but quickly regained control of his senses. He stared down at Carole, seeing her very obvious fear and realising with a shock that he was the cause of it. Stepping backwards toward the door, he smiled, a smooth cheerless smile that was a mockery of his normal smug grin.

"If you didn't want to see the film you should've said. There was no need to go to extremes, you know." He reached the door. "I'll tell Ray you're not feeling too good but that you send your love. See you sometime then, okay?"

Carole nodded, a sharp jerky movement of her head without taking her eyes off him for a second.

They were halfway up the road before Doyle managed to clamber over into the front passenger seat and repeat his question.

"She's got a bad migraine," Bodie answered curtly as he mashed the gears yet again.

The evening was not a success. The film was awful, the projectionist managing to get the lip-synch movements right only half an hour before the end, not that they could concentrate on the rather intricate plot anyway--the crisp-crunching, sweet-rustling restless bunch of moronic young trendies that had turned up in force had seen to that.

After the film finished, Doyle followed a very moody Bodie back to the car and allowed himself to be driven home in silence. Outside his block he tried--one last time--to break through the cloud his partner had hidden behind but Bodie had shrugged his concern off. Knowing that he had somehow soured things between Bodie and Carole made him awkward and uneasy; Bodie had been so sure that Carole wouldn't object to his presence and Doyle now knew that that had not been the case.

Still furiously angry with Carole for resorting to such a callous method of dumping him, Bodie didn't realise that Doyle was still completely unaware of what had taken place in Carole's flat. Her spur of the moment accusation was still sending shock waves through his mind. Dropping Doyle off outside his flat, Bodie drove home, still seething at the lying little cat's revenge. Why, he wondered, had she chosen that little scenario? There were easier ways to end a relationship.

Pouring himself a drink, Bodie began to find it amusing. He could just imagine what Doyle's reaction would be if he told him. He knew he never would, though. He didn't know why--he just knew that he never would, he wouldn't see Carole again either, she could sharpen her claws on someone else. Unsettled, sleep took a long time to come and, when it finally took hold, it was restless and uneasy, his dreams haunting grey affairs that were out of focus and impossible to follow, the substance of each always just too far away or too vague to reach, dreams that held so much promise but which, on awakening to the alarm's clamour, left him feeling alone and mildly depressed.

At HQ the next day Bodie spent a good twenty minutes wandering through the offices, locker room and rest rooms before stopping someone and asking them if they had seen his missing partner.

"What is it with Doyle," Murphy asked. "You're the third person to ask me that today."

"Who else is after him?"

"Cowley--but he was also asking if you'd managed to drag yourself in yet as well, and Doctor Willis."

Checking first with Cowley's secretary, Bodie wondered down to the medical room and poked his head around the door just in time to catch the tail end of Willis' favourite lecture and the expression of polite interest that sat awkwardly on his partner's face.

"...Well, you've heard me say all of this before, haven't you, Doyle?" Willis said. "Hop up onto the scales, I'll just check to see how your weight's coming on--you still look too slim for my money. Whatever Macklin says, I say you need pounds as well as skill to cope with a determined adversary. Just slip your shoes off while I get your record sheet from the file."

As the doctor stepped into the adjoining office, Bodie slipped into the room and quietly closed the door.

"What's with the medical--you ill or something?" he asked worriedly.

"I'm fine," Doyle said as he undid his trainers and stepped onto the scales. "Oh shit!" he groaned as he looked at the reading. "I'm going to get another lecture on wholesome eating habits."

"Let's 'ave a look. Well," Bodie said, grinning from ear to ear, "it's getting better."

"I've been ten stone or just under for a couple of months now, it just won't go up any more," Doyle complained.

"Try eating a bit more."

"I don't have the ability to gorge myself like some people I could mention."

"How's this?" Bodie asked as he peered at the scale.

"Ten and ha-- What are you doing?" Doyle said in amazement, then grinned as he saw Bodie's foot resting on the platform just behind his.

"Here we are then," Willis said, re-entering the room. "Good morning, Bodie. Well that is an improvement I must say!" Surprise at the scale's measure clearly showing on his face, Willis blinked and re-checked the measure, looked disbelievingly into Doyle's innocent wide eyes and then swiftly over to the table where the lead weights were all neatly and correctly placed. "Well this does surprise me, I must say that I thought you were still under your optimum weight and it's not often I make a...mistake. Mr Bodie," Willis said, smoothly, "are you aware of the fact that your foot is resting on the scale? Thank you. Now let's see what it says."

Sheepishly, Bodie backed away and left Doyle to the mercies of the damning scales. "That is more like it, Mr Doyle," Willis said crisply. "You are still to my mind underweight and I shall record the fact on your file."

"You are still passing me fit for active duty though, aren't you?"

Stepping down and retrieving his shoes, Doyle's eyes followed the doctor around the room. Worried, he repeated his question, Bodie chipping in with his own concern about his partner's duty status.

Willis regarded the two men closely and made a mental note to inform Cowley and Ross of the incident. He toyed with the idea of standing Doyle down just to see what they would both do.

"I am not satisfied with your weight, Doyle, but I agree with you that at the moment it does not appear to be affecting your performance. However," he added as the two men relaxed, "do not consider the matter closed. If for any reason your weight drops below ten stone I will recommend that you be removed from the active list."

Summarily dismissed, the two men escaped out into the corridor.

"What did he drag you in for?" Bodie asked as they made their way up to Cowley's office.

"I don't think he had anything better to do--no bullet wounds or broken bones to patch up!"

"Now, now, 4.5," Bodie chided. "There's no need to sound so bitter. We can't have you fading away or getting blown away by a puff of wind can we?"

"I'll blow you away if you don't belt up."

"Oh yeah--you and whose army?" Bodie jostled against Doyle, making him stumble on the stairs.

"Just me!" Doyle retaliated, shoving Bodie across the stairwell then hooking a hand into the waistband of his partner's trousers to pull him even more off balance. It was the signal for a schoolboy scuffle to break out and they tussled and giggled on the stairs, each preventing the other from moving to escape until...

"3.7, 4.5," a voice barked out, stopping them in their tracks. "What is the meaning of this?"

"Sorry, sir," Bodie apologised as he attempted to tuck his shirt back in.

"Sorry, sir," Doyle echoed, tugging his jacket back up onto his shoulders.

"I will not have brawling in the halls of CI5, is that understood?" he snapped.

"Yes, sir, sorry, sir," the two men chorused. The sight of Doyle unconsciously sniffing and rubbing the back of his hand across his nose made Cowley feel like a headmaster scolding two mischievous, scruffy schoolboys, their embarrassment and efforts to straighten out their faces and clothing only heightening the illusion. He dismissed them, ordering them to await him in briefing room two, but not before Bodie caught sight of the smile that twitched at the corner of his boss' mouth.



A short while later they were heading across town to an insignificant old building almost hidden from sight just off a busy main road. They parked along the side of the building and walked quickly towards the battered looking door. Bodie pressed the buzzer and spoke his name into the rusty security intercom.

The door buzzed and they entered a different world. The contrast to the drab, rundown exterior was remarkable, sophisticated surveillance equipment was in evidence everywhere and their I.D.s were thoroughly checked before they were allowed to proceed any further into the building. As they walked down to the interrogation rooms in the basement a sudden scream of metal, gears and protesting machinery echoed in the stone stairwell.

"That," Bodie said in response to Doyle's query, " is why we are walking down to the basement. They've spent almost a million pounds on electronic surveillance and security equipment but refuse point-blank to improve the lift that was installed when the building was built."

The noise stopped as suddenly as it had started. "It's safe enough to use, I suppose," Bodie added, "but it has a nasty habit of getting stuck. About two years ago I got stuck in there for over an hour with Ruth and Susan," he sighed. "It took them an hour to realise we hadn't rung the alarm bell!"

Refusing to acknowledge the smug grin on his partner's face, Doyle elbowed his way past him and out into the corridor. The strict security was even more in evidence down here. Having had their I.D.s verified yet again, they finally reached their destination. Day was waiting for them, and they both eyed his rumpled and battered appearance, the bruising around his lip and eye darkening nicely.

"You took your time getting here," he snapped at them.

"Came as soon as we could," Doyle said placidly. It was obvious that Day was tired and in some pain from his injuries and this helped Bodie to be a little more tolerant. Doyle didn't bother to answer at all, he just returned the icy stare he was receiving.

"Cowley told you what we want, did he?"

"Not really--things are a bit hectic back at HQ, what with the bomb outside the Old Bailey, the Prime Minister's car being rammed in Downing Street and your little party last night. He didn't have much time to brief us properly. What's going on?"

In answer, Day indicated that they should follow him. The room was full of electronic surveillance screens and devices, the banks of televisions showing the goings on in each of the interrogation rooms. In front of each screen, an operator monitored the discussions taking place.

"We pulled in six men last night in connection with the Christmas case. At first we thought that the Drugs Squad had blown it but then I noticed something in this man's records."

Doyle and Bodie exchanged glances at the man's pompous tones and then looked at the screen. "I thought that Doyle might be able to tell us something about him."

Ignoring the coolness in Day's voice, Dole peered at the image of the man sitting at a table in one of the rooms.

"Who is he?"

"Are you saying that you don't know him?" Day asked.

"I wouldn't ask if I already knew his name, would I!" Doyle returned sharply. "Why do you think I know him anyway?"

"You won't have seen him for nearly four years. Take another look. Are you sure you don't know him?" Day insisted.

Doyle looked again. Four years ago; that would take him back to the time he was arrested. What the hell was Day up to now, he wondered.

"I've had another look and I don't know him. I've never seen him before. Now," he turned to Day, "tell me what's going on."

"It's strange that you don't know him," Day answered snidely. "Specially since he was based at the same station you were."

"He's a policeman?" Bodie asked, staring at the skinny, nervous looking man on the screen.

"No," said Day. "He was a motor mechanic at the station, he looked after the repairs and the garage, did a bit of driving. He worked there about a year in all, left about two weeks after Doyle was arrested."

Refusing to rise to the bait, Doyle asked why they had pulled the man in.

"The Drugs Squad team raided a 'shop' last night, only it turned out to be more than just the shop. It's a factory store house and pushers' warehouse. Things got a bit hairy for a while and they had to call us in. We found him, Alan Weston," Day pointed to the screen, "hiding in a cupboard."

"And just because he happens to have been employed at the same station as Doyle you dragged us halfway across town to let us know."

"I wouldn't bother Cowley or you if it was just that," Day said smoothly, smiling at Doyle. "It was Weston's reaction to a question that made me think Doyle might know something. I'll show you."

Day asked the operator to wind the tape back and the scene on the screen changed to reveal a stormy interview taking place between Weston and Day. Weston was pacing up and down the room, his face white and running with sweat, his movements fast, jerky and barely controlled.

"...I don't know what you're talking about. I was only there to get some stuff. I always buy my supply there, but I don't know anything about them others. I've never seen them before."

"You used to work for the Met. police, didn't you?" Day asked quietly. "Were you a junkie then? How did you get your supplies while you worked at the station? Did anyone know you were a junkie?"

"No. No," Weston said, shaking his head.

"You were already on drugs when you worked for the police weren't you, Alan?"

"Yes," Weston admitted. "But no one knew, I'd've lost my job if they'd found out."

"Who supplied you then while you were at the station. Who?" Day pushed.

"No one, no one."

"Come on, Alan, someone did, just tell me who."

"No, no." Weston stopped pacing and leant against the wall, closing his eyes. "No, I can't tell you." He wrapped his arms around himself and sank, groaning, to the floor. "Please," he begged, "I need some really bad. Please!"

"Tell me what I want and I'll see you get something to help you," Day coaxed. "Tell me who your supplier was."

Weston whimpered and shook his head, refusing to speak.

"You must have got to know quite a few people while you were working there. Get to meet many of the police officers did you?" Weston nodded this time. "Didn't the Drugs Squad use that station as a base for their operation?" Weston whimpered again but he didn't move.

"Did you ever meet an old friend of mine," Day asked gently, "he was there with the Drugs Squad about the time you were--Ray Doyle's his name. Oh, you do remember him!"

Weston's eyes opened wide and he shook his head frantically, the whimpers and cries growing alarmingly.

"Tell me about Doyle," Day pushed. "Did he know you were a junkie?"

Bodie switched the tape off as Doyle went for Day, then pulled the two men apart and hustled them out past the eagle-eyed operators and into an empty interrogation room.

"Just what do you think you're up to?" Bodie demanded to know as soon as the door closed behind them. His question was ignored by the two men as they squared up to each other, Doyle's face contorted into an ugly snarl.

"You just won't let up, will you?" Doyle growled. "You won't let things be. You keep on pushing and poking around, you're determined to find some dirt, aren't you? It doesn't matter that Cowley believes me, that the Home Secretary believes me, that I've been cleared and pardoned officially. You know that Mike Behan confessed to framing me! Why are you so determined to prove everyone wrong and me guilty. Why!"

"A death-bed confession!" Day sneered. "How very dramatic, how very convenient. I wonder how much someone paid him to do it!"

For a second Bodie thought his partner was going to launch himself across the few feet separating him from Day but after a few moments Doyle, his whole body trembling with rage, turned his back on him, clearly trying to control his urge to lash out--to hurt as much as he was being hurt.

"What," Doyle demanded coldly, "do you mean by 'convenient'?"

"Just that," Day snapped back, his attention divided equally between Doyle's back and Bodie's glowering presence. "Why did he wait so long to develop a guilty conscience. He knew he was dying for nearly a year before he finally did. If the 'guilt' was troubling him that much why didn't he confess earlier?" Feeling more confident that Bodie was prepared to act as referee, Day continued, "I hear his wife's just bought a lovely little bungalow down in Cornwall, didn't realise a widow's pension could run to that sort of money."

"If you've got a point to make, Day--make it!" Bodie ordered.

"All right," he said. "How does this sound--" He waited until Doyle turned back round to face him. "You're a liar, Doyle--and what's more I'm going to prove it. You've been very clever getting this far but you don't fool me for one second."

"What proof have you got to back this up, Day?" Bodie wanted to know. "You can't go round making allegations of this sort without--"

"Oh I've got proof, Bodie--and he knows it," Day gloated as he stared into Doyle's white face. "Maybe D.I. Behan was bent, but there's no reason why he should have been the only one--and that man in there--" he jerked his head towards the other interrogation rooms, "Weston, he knows something--he certainly knows Doyle--and I'll make damn sure he tells me everything he knows."

"Are you going to make this official--drag Internal Security into it? Do you really think you're going to find anything Cowley overlooked?" Bodie wanted to know; he cast a puzzled glance over to where Doyle stood, white-faced, a frozen mute statue.

"What do you take me for, Bodie," Day said tiredly. "Of course I'm making it official, I couldn't do otherwise, could I?" Both men turned to Doyle, waiting for him to say something, do something--anything--but he remained motionless, his eyes fixed on the tiny barred ventilation window. Eventually Day shrugged his shoulders, nodded to Bodie and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

Long minutes passed before Bodie moved the few steps to stand at Doyle's side; he reached out and gripped a thin shoulder and felt Doyle draw a long shuddering breath then hold it a few seconds before slowly releasing it.

"Not again," he whispered. "Dear God, not again."

"Come on, mate," Bodie said awkwardly. "I've never known the Cow to be wrong about something as important as this."

"But," Doyle said slowly, as he turned to look at him. "But there's a first time for everything--is that what you were going to say?"

Usually so expressive, Doyle's face was unreadable and Bodie found himself lost, wondering for a brief moment whether Day really had stumbled onto something; the doubt must have shown on his own face because Doyle's expressionless mask crumpled, revealing the fear and hopeless dejection that he was feeling.

"I've never asked you outright, Doyle," Bodie began, "because I didn't think there was any need, and I'm not asking now because you've given me reason to doubt you--but," Doyle looked at him unblinking waiting for the final blow to fall, "but I have to ask you now, especially if Day's going to push this thing." The cool, level stare was unnerving but Bodie finally voiced his question.

"Are you guilty?"

"The judge and jury thought so," Doyle answered, "my former friends and colleagues didn't have too much trouble believing I was guilty, my family made all sorts of sympathetic noise but I could tell they didn't really believe me! You know, Bodie," Doyle laughed, a harsh, ugly sound, "until George Cowley told me I was innocent even I believed I was guilty. After all," he reasoned, smiling at his partner, "could all those people be that wrong, could they? Mike Behan--who was he anyway--just a friend, just a bloke I once knew, maybe he thought he'd just do an old friend a favour so he very kindly wrote a nice tidy death-bed confession--fooled everyone didn't he--certainly fooled George Cowley." Doyle laughed again, seemingly highly amused at the joke he had pulled on everyone and Bodie felt as if he had been punched in the gut. Sickened, he turned to leave.

Doyle stopped him, his voice cracking, breaking, the laughter completely gone.

"No!" he cried out. "No!" Bodie turned back in time to see Doyle drive a fist into the solid brickwork. He heard the crunch of bone. "I didn't do it!" He hit the wall again. "I didn't," and again, "I didn't!" Bodie reached out in time to stop the fist pounding into the wall a fourth time.

"Okay, okay," he murmured, pulling Doyle away from the wall, "you didn't do it, I believe you."

"You do?" Doyle asked, his voice quietly desperate.

"I do," Bodie agreed."

"Why?"

The question threw Bodie for a second or two and he found he had no logical reasoned answer. "Because I do, dunno why," he said honestly. "But I do believe you."

The confidence in Bodie's voice was reassuring and Doyle found himself beginning to relax a little, but the relaxation only made him realise how much damage he had done to his hand; it throbbed painfully.

"Come on," Bodie tugged him towards the door, ruffling the curly mop of hair affectionately. "They've got a first aid room upstairs somewhere--let's go and get that fixed before we try and sort out this mess."

Out in the corridor they bumped into Lake, who was limping past the door.

"Hey, Puddle," Bodie called out, "you any idea where the first aid room is in this place?"

"It just so happens that I do--I'm on my way there myself--and the queue forms behind me," he added as he saw the sorry state of Doyle's hand. "What does the other guy look like?"

"In need of a plaster job and a fresh coat of paint," Bodie said as he walked the wounded towards the stairs.

"Oh, no," said Lake, "not them, it's on the third floor--I'm using the lift." As soon as he pushed the call button the machinery screamed into life. Pushing his mistrust of the lift to one side, Bodie followed his companions into the spacious but antiquated car and closed the doors. They passed the basement levels, ground and first floors, the machinery's scream changed to a different agonised note, the car juddered, halted, started again and finally stopped completely somewhere between the second and third floors.

All three of them stared at the floor indicator, willing the little arrow to move up onto the three, waiting in expectant silence for the reassuring scream of gears and weights.

"Fuck it!" Lake said eventually, and totally without heat, already resigned to a long wait.

"Fuck it," Bodie echoed as he slid down the wall to make himself comfortable on the floor. Sliding down a little more carefully, Lake shifted his injured leg out of Bodie's way and calmly opened the emergency telephone cupboard to tell whoever answered it that the main lift had broken down again and would someone please try and come to get them out as soon as possible.

Still standing up nursing his sore hand, Doyle stared from one man to the other in amazement. Lake looked up at him then across at Bodie, who was in the process of turning his jacket into a pillow behind his head.

"This his first time, is it?" Lake asked.

"I did tell you about this thing, Doyle, didn't I! You may as well make yourself comfortable--it'll take them an hour at least to get us out of here." Bodie looked back at Lake. "Yeah, his first time--I reckon he thought I was just making it up."

"Did you tell him about the time you got stuck with Ruth and Susan?"

"Yeah," Bodie sighed. "Pity they're not here now--wasted of bloody time getting stuck with you two."

"Just hold your noise, Bodie," said Doyle as he settled himself on the floor next to his partner. "It could be worse--you could 'ave got stuck with Cowley."

"Or Macklin."

"Or Evans with his perishing cigars."

They tried to outdo each other by naming the worst person to get stuck with, going from the sublime to the ridiculous as their suggestions became more outrageous.

"Well," Lake said finally, as their laughter quieted down, "at least we missed getting lumbered with Day--he's been a right bloody pain recently."

"Oh I don't know," said Doyle. "I wouldn't mind having him all to myself for a few hours in a locked room." The humour vanished in a flash and all three sobered up.

"What's he up to?" Lake asked. "He's dancing around like a flea on heat right now--seems pretty excited about something." As soon as the words were spoken Lake felt the atmosphere in the cramped compartment change. "What's going on?" he asked of both of them. "Is he still trying to stir up trouble for Doyle?"

"He's doing his level best," said Bodie grimly.

"You know why he's got it in for you, Doyle, don't you?" Lake said quietly. Doyle shook his head and Bodie looked up interestedly. "Before he joined CI5 he worked in army intelligence out in Hong Kong. A friend of his was murdered trying to break into a smuggling outfit--when they caught the murderer he turned out to be a policeman, seems the bloke realised Day's pal was onto him and shot him full of pure heroin, so not only does Day hate pushers, users and suppliers, he also hates bent policemen. The way he carries on I think he blames just about every bent copper for his mate's death, it's nothing personal against you, you understand--it's just something he feels very strongly about."

"If he's neurotic about bent coppers he's got no right to be in CI5!"

"Maybe he is going a bit over the top where Doyle's concerned--but he is a good man--give credit where it's due. Once he's investigated Doyle and found nothing he'll give up, he's only making sure."

Neither Doyle or Bodie found Puddle's words particularly reassuring though they didn't say so. Bodie changed the subject and they all welcomed the fresh topic, leaving the uneasy thoughts about Day's accusations as far behind them as they could.

At last the sound of something happening above began to filter down to them and via the emergency telephone Lake informed them they were going to have to hand-crank the car back down to the second floor to get them out. The car juddered and shook a couple of times until suddenly, with a muffled bang and a painful cry, the car was plunged into total darkness.

"What the--" Bodie began, only to stop as his arm was gripped painfully tight.

"Oh wonderful!" Lake could be heard swearing from the other side of the car. Bodie guessed that the swearing was being directed to the poor unfortunate at the other end of the emergency line. While Lake was clearly so busy on the other side of the left, Bodie tried to release the painful grip on his upper arm.

"Ray," he whispered underneath Lake's irate dialogue. "Jesus, let go, you're cutting off the circulation!" He managed to prise the fingers away but they clutched desperately at his hands; he could feel the whole of Doyle's body shaking beside him.

"Ss..sorry... I'm sorry," Doyle mumbled.

Bodie's mind was racing. Doyle was clearly petrified, the grip on his hands was still just as strong, the initial shock of being plunged into total darkness had not worn off.

He's afraid of the dark! Bodie realised incredulously--and not just afraid either--he's bloody petrified. Suddenly Bodie remembered the nightly pantomime that happened every time they had slept together; every night out of habit and preference, Bodie would close the curtains before going into the bathroom, and every night Doyle would open them again.

Without warning Doyle released his hold and withdrew slightly, moving away.

"Would you believe it," said Lake. "The stupid bugger only went and dropped a wrench into the fuse box, the whole bloody works are jammed up now--it's gonna take 'em another thirty minutes at least to get us out."

Whilst joining Lake in expressing his opinion of the average British workman Bodie wondered what the hell he should do. Cautiously he stretched out a hand until he touched Doyle; he felt him flinch at his touch and heard the soft indrawn breath. Feeling blindly, Bodie worked out that Doyle was sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest and his arms wrapped tightly around himself, he was trembling continuously. Still carrying on the banter with Lake, Bodie shifted his position slightly and slipped an arm around Doyle's shoulders, then found a tightly clenched hand with his free arm and prised the fingers loose, holding the hand firmly; rubbing the back of it with gentle circular movements of his thumb he pulled the stiff body to lie closer alongside him, his actions offering comfort and reassurance while he continued talking to Lake without giving a hint of what was taking place only feet away from him.

"You gone to sleep on us, Doyle?" Lake asked unexpectedly. Bodie felt Doyle tense up even more and went to say something to cover up if he wasn't going to answer but it was all right.

"I've been considering the idea." Doyle's voice was nearly normal and Bodie didn't think Lake would notice the difference.

"I wonder if we can put this down as overtime," Lake pondered aloud.

"No chance," Doyle offered. "Cowley's more likely to put this down to time off. We'll come out of here owing him a couple of hours!"

"You're probably right," Lake agreed morosely. "Hang on a minute, was that an earthquake or are we really moving?"

They were moving. Shaking and juddering every inch of the way, the car moved downwards until voices on the other side of the door told them they had arrived. Scrambling to their feet in the blackness, they were ready to be liberated from their dark prison.

Blinking in the bright neon-lit corridor, Bodie shrugged back into his jacket and pushed through the welcoming committee. Further down the hall he put a hand on Doyle's arm, stopping him.

"How's the hand?" he asked. "You really ought to get it seen to."

"It's okay, a bit sore but nothing's broken," Doyle assured him, flexing it to prove the point.

"Ah, there you are--Doyle, isn't it?" a tall, forbidding-looking man asked. "Let me see that," he said and before either man could react he took a hold of Doyle's bruised and swollen hand and began manipulating it. "Oh, I'm Doctor Webster, Mr Lake said that you were coming along to see me about this--how does this feel?"

"Ouch!"

"Ah hah," the doctor said in the say that all doctors do. "And how about this? I see." Doyle's wince and sharp intake of air through gritted teeth told him all he wanted to know. "It's not broken but if you want to make sure you'd better drive over to the medical section at your HQ."

"It's okay," Doyle said, gently pulling his hand out of the doctor's painful grasp. "I know it's only bruised--just looks a lot worse than it is, that's all."

Having ascertained that his medical skills were not needed, Doctor Webster nodded politely and moved back along the corridor to escort the limping Lake up to the first aid room.

"You sure you're all right?" Bodie asked worriedly. Doyle was more than just a little pale around the gills.

"Jesus--he's got hands like a bleedin' vise!" Doyle swore as he nursed his injured fingers. "If it wasn't broken before I bet it bloody well is now--I think he's crushed it. Did you see the size of his hands?"

Bodie made sympathetic noises as they returned via the stairs to the ground floor.

"We might as well return to HQ," he said as they walked back to their car. "I can't see any point hanging around here--can you?"

"No," Doyle said shortly. "Besides, I want to know if Cowley knows what Day is up to."

"He doesn't."

"You sound very sure of yourself," Doyle said.

"I just know George Cowley," Bodie answered carefully. "If he had even the slightest doubt about your involvement in this drugs business you'd be out so quick your feet wouldn't touch the ground."

"You reckon?" Doyle said glumly.

They were summoned to Cowley's office as soon as they entered the building. The first thing Doyle saw as he entered the office was the video tape.

"You have seen this tape," Cowley said. "You are aware of its implication, Doyle?" His face was unreadable and Bodie saw the colour drain from his partner's face.

"Yes, sir," Doyle said quietly.

"Have you anything to say about it?" Again Cowley's voice was impossible to read as he spoke without the slightest inflection that could be construed as a hint of how he regarded the film.

"No, sir."

"This man Weston, Alan Weston--did you know him?"

"No, sir."

"Even though you've been told he was employed at the same station as you were at the time of your arrest?"

"I don't know him, sir."

"You're sure about that?"

"I don't know him," Doyle repeated stubbornly.

"How do you account for the fact that he knows you?"

"I don't know him," Doyle repeated again. "I don't recognise him or his name--and I've no idea why he thinks he knows me."

"Knows you!" said Cowley. "He was already agitated when Day began to interview him, he became positively incoherent when your name was mentioned--why should the mere mention of your name have that effect on a man you say you don't know?"

"I don't know, sir."

"You are not being very helpful, Doyle." A measure of irritation had crept into Cowley's voice.

"I don't know the man!" Doyle suddenly shouted. "A lot of people worked at that station--I don't know everybody that ever worked there, maybe he does know me but if I ever met him or spoke to him I don't remember him and I don't know why he thinks he knows me!"

"If he was working at the same station when Doyle was arrested he's got more reason to remember Doyle than the other way around," Bodie added. "It's not every day that a policeman gets arrested, is it--he's bound to remember Doyle--it must have made quite an impact on the place after all!"

Cowley waited quietly, watching and listening intently to both men. Doyle was understandably worried by the day's events and was reacting exactly as he would have expected him to, but it was Bodie's reaction that he found the most interesting.

What Day thought he had uncovered certainly appeared very damning for Doyle, all his arguments--though based on supposition, conjecture and very little fact--were plausible and they would be stupid not to check into it further. Cowley knew that, and so must Bodie--but it appeared that Bodie had already made his decision. Armed only with the same facts they all had plus nine months' close contact with Doyle, he had clearly decided that his partner was innocent.

Bodie had learned to trust.

There were very few people that could claim to have Bodie's complete and utter trust; Doyle had joined a very small, exclusive club.

"Very well," Cowley said eventually, when Bodie finally paused in the defence of his partner, "the matter will have to be followed through of course but in the meantime I want to two to get down to..."

Doyle listened in amazement as Cowley began to brief them on their next assignment. He had been expecting to be carted off back to the interrogation centre or at least to be stood down, suspended while Day continued his investigations. It wasn't until Bodie nudged him towards the door he realised that the briefing was over and he didn't have a clue as to what they were supposed to be doing.



Having drawn the short straw, Doyle ended up spending the night across the road from a smart block of service flats in his car while Bodie was comfortably asleep at home in his own bed. By the time Bodie joined him at eight o'clock the next morning he was too cold and tired to care about anything. That absolutely nothing untoward had happened throughout the long night was no surprise to either man.

"Sleep well, did you?" he asked sourly as he took in the bright-eyed well-rested smugness of his partner.

"Lovely, thank you," Bodie returned politely. "No ghoulies or ghosties turned up then?"

"Not one--though I did witness some interesting goings on in a blue Volvo estate over there; could 'ave been arrested for being a peeping tom!"

"Yeah, Mac said things got a little lively--said to tell you that you ought to try being a radio commentator, reckoned you have a 'very descriptive turn of phrase' was the expression he used."

"Get him going did I?" Doyle laughed. Finding himself a reluctant spectator to a truly mind-boggling display of what two people of opposite sex but like minds could get up to in a car, Doyle had enlightened the nightwatch at HQ with a step-by-step account of the couple's antics. When the windows of their car had steamed up Doyle would not have been in the least bit surprised to discover Mac suddenly turning up and offering to clean and polish the car's windows in time for the grand finale.

"Is she moving around yet?" Bodie peered up at the window."

"Hasn't drawn the curtains back--postman arrived half an hour ago, she's got two letters, an Access statement and a telephone bill."

"My we're getting efficient aren't we," Bodie said; then: "She's up, the curtains were just pulled back so she's probably going in to work. We'll follow her and try to make contact, then you can shoot off home to get some kip before checking the firm out."

More disgruntled than he wanted to admit about the surveillance detail Cowley had put them on, Doyle's ill humour was only slightly appeased by the promise of sleep.

"Baby-sitting!" he snorted. "Who is she anyway? No one," he answered himself. "A nobody. A toffee-nosed, poor-little-rich spinster whose only joy in life is imagining terrifying encounters with sinister masked men in underground car parks!"

Bodie sat quietly as Doyle moaned and complained about their assignment; he knew as well as Doyle did what was really disturbing him, and it wasn't Susan Grant's mysterious masked man.

"I dunno who Cowley thinks he's fooling," Doyle continued, "anyone with half a brain can see there's nothing in this. Why doesn't he just come right out and stick me on suspension, at least that way you won't be lumbered with following some toffee-nosed tart around."

"Give it a rest, Doyle," Bodie snapped irritably. "The Old Man's not stupid. If he wanted to suspend you he would--he wouldn't waste time sticking both of us on this job just to keep you busy!"

Doyle emitted a low grunt, whether of denial or agreement Bodie was none too sure but at least it ended that particular conversation and they sat side by side in a silence that was only broken by the odd sarcastic or barbed comment.

At last, the woman emerged from the building and began her drive to the office. Doyle watched in stony-faced silence as Bodie went into action and made contact.

Waving Susan a polite and friendly farewell, Bodie climbed back into his car and moved off to park in a side street.

"And that, my son, is how the experts do it," said, grinning idiotically across at Doyle, wanting desperately, without realising it, to see the despondent gloom leave that weary face.

"I'm very impressed," Doyle intoned flatly.

"Yes," said Bodie with false cheeriness, "I can see that."

"Well," Doyle said with a sigh as he twisted around to get out of the car, "I can't hang around here all day, call me later on this afternoon to fill me in on the day's exciting events." Slamming the door shut, he turned and moved off to the end of the road where Bodie watched him hail a cab.

Echoing Doyle's heavy-hearted sigh, Bodie climbed out of the car and opened up the boot to take out the brand new light fitment he'd bought the night before and went to repair the damage he had deliberately caused to the girl's car.



CHAPTER TWELVE

Setting the alarm to allow himself six hours' sleep, Doyle snuggled down between the covers and closed his eyes. An hour later he got up and made himself a cup of tea in the hope that a hot drink would help to relax his tired body. Sitting on the settee, idly sipping at his drink and listening to the noises down in the street, he deliberately forced his mind away from the happenings of the previous day. Maybe, just maybe, he reasoned, if he didn't think of it nobody else would either.

He wondered if Ann was back from America yet. On calling her office a few days ago he had been informed that her return had been delayed due to business commitments. The secretary's snooty tone had not encouraged him to leave any messages. His fingers dialled her home number without conscious thought--he had called her flat so many times over the past few weeks that he no longer expected an answer.

"Hello, Ann Holly."

The tea cup was resting on his lips and he almost choked on a mouthful of hot liquid.

"Hello?"

Doyle swallowed the tea and tried to speak, separately trying to say something--anything, but his voice failed him.

"Hello?" Ann said again. "Is anyone there? Hello?" There was a short silence in which an irritated sigh was heard and then the line went dead.

"Hello Ann, Ann?" He finally managed to get the words out but it was too late. Swearing, he slammed the phone down. It was a conspiracy, he decided bitterly. Nothing but nothing ever went the way he wanted it. All his plans for getting back with Ann were falling to pieces around him. He had known that it wouldn't be easy but he hadn't expected it would be this hard either!

Going back to bed, he relaxed his mind by daydreaming his own reunion with her but, even in fantasy, the picture of Ann--waiting damp-eyed and beautiful outside the prison gate--refused to gel, so he tried another one. This time, in true Hollywood style, the dream flowed like magic along its way. He saw her walking along a sunlit pavement, her pretty face sad and her eyes dull and listless as she trudged along her weary way with her shopping. Buying an enormous colourful bouquet from an old flower woman, he crept up alongside Ann, who was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't see him.

"Ann," he said softly, reaching out to touch her hand. She turned toward him, her face and eyes lighting up in recognition, the love she felt radiating from her.

The dream followed its programmed course and soon they were lying together in their old bedroom, the pictures on the walls and the scent on the sheets as familiar to him as the warm, graceful body that he held in his arms. Replete and comfortable, they slept.

The dream had been so vivid that it took Doyle a moment to remember that a dream was all it had been and that Ann had never been there. He rolled over and turned the buzzing alarm off, the feeling of having just lost something precious still strong enough to depress him. He lay there a while, thinking about getting up and trying to recapture a little of the happiness he knew he had felt during his sleep. He was still lying there dozing and dreaming when the phone rang.

"Ray? Where the hell have you been. I've been looking all over for you." Bodie didn't sound pleased.

"What?" Doyle blinked and looked at the clock. "Oh shit! I'm sorry, I must've fallen asleep again," he apologised.

"Have you been to Companies House yet?"

"Ah--no...no I haven't and they'll be shutting up soon."

"You been asleep all day?" Bodie asked and Doyle had to admit that he had. "Well, there's no harm done," he said finally, "and if you're that tired you might just as well stand down for tonight."

"What about night surveillance on the Grant woman?" Doyle asked guiltily.

"I'll do it--I'm taking her out to dinner tonight."

"Reckon she'll invite you for breakfast then, do you?"

"Maybe, if not I'll make sure it's a late night and then tell Mac to send one of the new boys over to watch her place."

"Okay," Doyle agreed. "I'll get round to Companies House first thing tomorrow morning and then come over to you. Where will you be--outside her work place?"

"Yes. I'll see you tomorrow then."

Doyle had only replaced the handset when it rang again.

"Doyle?" It was Cowley and he carried straight on into the reason for his call without giving Doyle time to draw a breath. "Alan Weston died a few hours ago. The doctors think it was probably a heart attack induced by prolonged drug abuse. There will be an inquest of course, but you are not required to attend it. I have instructed Day to make whatever enquiries he feels that are necessary regarding Weston's employment the Metropolitan Police, but I do not consider that he has enough evidence of collusion between yourself and Weston to initiate through Internal Security. Do you understand, Doyle?" Cowley asked. He waited only long enough to hear Doyle's bemused acknowledgement before ringing off.

So, thought Doyle, I.S. was not going to be called on--yet--though the threat was still there. Cowley had clearly given Day permission to continue his investigation. Mentally worn out, Doyle groaned aloud and collapsed back onto the bed. What should he do now? Bodie had, unfortunately as it turned out, given him the night off when he could really do with some work to keep his mind occupied. The rest of the afternoon and a whole long empty evening was stretched out in front of him. If he didn't find something to do he knew he would go quietly mad sitting there waiting for Day to ferret around until he found some more mud to throw.

He busied himself getting showered and dressed, then wandered around the supermarket before it closed. He did keep an eye out for Ann--just in case, but this was no rose-tinted dream and there was no sign of her. Home again he pottered around, moving piles of 'things' from one side of the room to another, half-heartedly tidying up. In the bedroom, at the back of a cupboard, he found the portfolio. Sitting back on his heels, he thumbed through the pages, pausing every so often to linger over one particular sketch or another before suddenly seeing, for the first time, the tiny cameos he had unconsciously doodled around the main pictures. Small sketches of Ann, some half completed, a few only roughly outlined and one or two more or less completed ones. He flicked back through the pages, amazed that he had drawn her so many times without realising it and frowning at the few he had obviously finished--they weren't very good at all, he acknowledged. For some reason he had never been able to capture Ann's likeness on paper. Scrabbling around in the bottom of the cupboard again, he found a few pencils and a small packet of charcoal. He settled himself down on the floor in a comfortable position, his back leaning against the bed, turned to a blank page and began to sketch Ann as he had seen her the other week with Bodie.

It was only the fading light that made him stop. Once he had to move to switch on a light the mood was gone and he could only look back over his work critically. There were three pictures in all and he wasn't particularly satisfied with any of them. He hadn't had much practise since leaving the prison and it showed. He spent some time tidying a few bits and pieces up, adding a little final detail or shading where it was needed, the charcoal gliding over the paper almost of its own accord. Doyle had never really thought that much about Bodie's appearance before and had never noticed how curly his hair was--at first he'd shaded in a smooth cap but it had looked so very wrong that he'd had to alter it. Not exactly curly like his own, of course, more...wavy, not straight like Ann's. He fiddled around for a while longer before putting the pad away.

After fixing himself something to eat, Doyle found he was still feeling very restless and unable to settle. The prospect of the whole evening with just his own company and the television didn't fire him with any enthusiasm. He debated whether to call Ann again, then his nerve failed after it had rung a brief three times without being answered. He flicked through his telephone book trying to choose a companion for the evening--Joanna, Delia, Claire? None of them, he knew, would find his strange mood agreeable so he was stuck with his own company--but he still couldn't face remaining indoors alone.

After checking in with HQ and making sure that everything was going all right with Bodie's plans for the unsuspecting Susan Grant, Doyle found himself heading towards a pub he had begun to frequent. Ordinarily it was not his choice of 'watering hole,' but he had stumbled on it more or less by accident a couple of months ago. That first time, Bodie had been with him and they had both been starving hungry, hot, tired and thirsty after an eventful, hectic day trailing a couple of IRA bomb-makers around the lowlights of London. By the time they had been relieved by Murphy and Johnson, the 'Brewers Arms' had been the first place they came across that sold food and drink and was open.

It was the sort of neighbourhood that supported boarding houses, bedsits and Salvation Army hostels and most of the customers seemed to be transients--labourers, drifters--people looking for somewhere to spend their dole money. Without saying anything to his partner, Doyle had visited the pub again a few nights later. So far he'd to struck up a conversation worthy of note but he was carefully building his identity. After his third visit the landlord had greeted him with a smile and drew him a pint of his usual without waiting to be asked--he was a regular customer!

"Evening, Ray," the barman said as he walked up to the bar. "Watch your toes--don't get trampled in the rush now! Lord, but it's busy tonight," Tommy laughed and wiped the imaginary sweat from his brow as he served Doyle with a drink.

"Can see that," Doyle answered as he looked around the room; apart from three old codgers playing dominoes in the corner and Mad Mary propped up next to the door to the ladies' loo, the place was empty. There were as many people behind the bar serving as there were waiting to be served. "Where is everybody?"

"Bleedin' unfaithful lot!" Tommy bemoaned. "They've all gone up to the Five Bells--got a stripper there tonight 'aven't they?"

"Don't take on so, love," consoled a brassy painted-up, cinched-in woman, "as soon as she drops 'er drawers they'll be back."

"If it's competition," Doyle offered, "maybe you should sign a stripper up to come down here--pinch the Five Bells' customers in retaliation."

Tommy's eyes lit up. "Now there's a thought, what do you think, Ivy?"

"I'm not 'aving no flirty bit flashing what God gave 'er in my bar, Thomas Mahone," Ivy informed her husband forcefully but then her eyes twinkled and she looked across at Doyle. "But there is something to be said for being a bit...different. I hear some pubs have these special 'Hen Nights' for the girls--you know...with a male stripper."

"Wot!" Tommy was outraged. "You mean a bunch of women all sit down to watch a bloke--a man--take 'is clothes off! That's...that's...disgusting!"

The unholy glint in Ivy's eye was unsettling Doyle. "Ooh...I dunno..." she said, completely ignoring her husband and winking at their customer. "D'yer fancy the job, sunshine?" she offered suggestively. "I'll pay you well for your trouble."

"Now look here, Ivy," Tommy broke in and dragged his good wife back towards their living quarters where he could be heard demanding to know where she had got to hear of such immoral goings on.

Chuckling to himself, Doyle moved over to the Space Invaders and began to test his skill. His score had reached a ridiculous 150,000 and he was on his fourth free game when the other 'regulars' began to drift back from the Five Bells with tales of the Mata-Hari-Annie and the wonderful things she could do to a pork pie. One or two people who recognised him drew him briefly into their groups to tell him the delights he had missed and, as the evening began to draw to a close, Doyle realised that he had actually enjoyed himself. Although he was quite pleased he had not had to sit through Annie's erotic performance, he found the second-hand tales amusing and the casual way that he had been included into the conversation warming. Without offering any information about himself, these people had accepted him. Odd snippets of conversation and half heard sentences led him to believe that a high proportion of the clientele had a finger--or two or three--in some racket or another, and he was pretty sure that he had seen at least one pusher trading his wares behind the large broken-down jukebox. Not that he could act on anything he saw, though, he could only watch and listen and wait. Eventually, if he was patient enough, careful enough and--the biggest if of all--if George Cowley thought it was worth blowing his cover for, he could act--but until then he had to sit and wait--and be friendly.

Being completely honest with himself, Doyle knew that this was really only a trial run and that nothing was likely to come out of his contacts with this particular pub, but it was a start. Someday, Cowley was going to ask him to establish himself as Ray Doyle, bent ex-cop, for real and then he would have no choice over where or when. At least this way he was doing at his own speed where, when and how he chose. So far he had offered very little information on himself and had been obviously vague when asked about his background. He knew they were curious about him but that was what he wanted, he would let little bits of background slip out piecemeal until they had the picture of him that he wanted--but on his terms and in his own time--not George Cowley's.

Emerging from yet another version of Annie's pork-pie routine, Doyle noticed that the atmosphere had undergone a drastic change. The friendly bonhomie had gone, to be replaced by a cool, somewhat icy nervousness as everyone watched the progress of two heavily built men across the room. From the corner of his eye, Doyle saw the pusher and his customer slip out a side door, a few more followed but with less discretion and glowering looks at the intruders.

The policemen reached the bar and Tommy moved to serve them--all the other staff suddenly finding things to do at the other end of the bar. Doyle's attention was drawn to the bald spot on the older man's head. It looked horribly familiar. His heart sank as the man turned slightly to talk to Tommy. He knew him, and Doyle was pretty sure that Detective Constable Henry Wilson would recognise him as soon as he saw him. He looked over to the door--if he was luck he just might slip out unseen... A strong hand gripped his arm tightly.

"Don't even think it, mate," his companion hissed. "As soon as you move towards that door you've 'ad it. Just stand still--Jimmy, move over here behind Ray." Held fast by the grip on his arm, Doyle could only watch as Jimmy complied with the instruction. "Sup up, Ray," the big man advised him. "You'll really attract his attention if you pass out--here, take this." This, was the man's own glass of whisky. The hand gripping his elbow pushed upwards and Doyle had the choice of drinking it or tipping it down his shirt. He drank it.

"Fuck it!" the big man hissed. "Bastard's comin' over, Ray," he warned.

The sudden weight on his shoulder turning him around still made him jump slightly but at least he was prepared.

"Well, well, well, I thought I recognised that curly mop. As I live and breathe! It's Ray Doyle, isn't it?" Wilson breezed, very loudly and very intentionally. "Hello, Ray. How's things?"

"Fine, thank you," Doyle replied tightly. Behind Wilson he could see everyone who hadn't already escaped out of the side door watching and listening to the drama unfolding before them--their appetite already whetted by Mata-Hari-Annie--a showdown with the Old Bill would round the evening off nicely.

"How long have you been out then?" Wilson asked loudly. "Thought you went down for seven years?"

"Eight, actually," Doyle grated out, refusing to be intimidated.

"Eight! My, my. Doesn't time fly--it hardly seems like yesterday... Tell me, Doyle, I've not heard the news today--you 'aven't escaped, have you." Amused by his own joke, Wilson laughed loudly, but when he'd finished his demeanour underwent a sudden change. The mock friendliness was replaced with a stern 'no nonsense' attitude and he grilled his victim mercilessly, uncaring of who was watching or listening.

His skin crawling with embarrassment, Doyle allowed Wilson to drag the details that Bob Craig had set up for him all those months ago for just this eventuality. Jimmy and the man who had tried to shield him moved away slightly to at least grant him the illusion of privacy, but the bar was far from private and Wilson was not renowned for his soft tones. Eventually, though, Wilson seemed satisfied with all the answers and Doyle began to think that the ordeal was over.

"Does your probation officer know what type of pub you frequent? Not exactly mixing with the right sort of people, are you? I dunno...can't help thinking there's something funny about you being in a place like this--maybe you ought to come back to the station while I check your details out."

Grateful that he'd at least had the sense to leave his I.D., gun and wallet locked in his car, Doyle allowed himself to be indignant enough to protest.

"You can't just take me in for nothing--I know my rights!"

"Of course you do," agreed Wilson. "But surely you remember that I can take you in on suspicion?"

"Suspicion of what!" Doyle asked, realising suddenly that the man was serious and that he could just possibly spend tonight locked up in the local nick.

"I'm sure I'd think of something by the time we reach the Station."

"Come on, Mr Wilson," Tommy said, butting in at last on the conversation. "You know as well as I do 'e ain't done nothin'. Leave the lad alone."

"You said you didn't know him when I asked you," Wilson accused.

The publican only shrugged. "Thought you were just being nosy--didn't realise you were goin' to give the poor bloke the third degree, did I? Come on," Tommy smiled rather stiffly. "Leave him alone--come up the other end and I'll fix you a drink--on the house."

"That sounds remarkably like bribery to me, Tommy."

"You know me, Mr Wilson--would I do a thing like that?"

Wilson snorted rudely but, with a final searching stare towards Doyle, moved off to claim his promised free drink.

Left alone at last, Doyle was surprised to find another drink being pushed towards his mouth. At the bar, Ivy was smiling at him, she nodded and winked in his direction while making an obscene gesture towards the backs of the two policemen.

"Bleedin' bastards!" Jimmy said softly. "Think they rule the bleedin' world, they do."

"Come in here often, does he?" Doyle asked.

"No," answered Jimmy. "Thank christ. They don't get much change out of folk in 'ere--don't usually bother us as a rule, you just struck unlucky tonight."

"Unlucky? I'll say," Doyle repeated bitterly.

"Know 'im of old, do you?" asked the big man. "He seemed to know you pretty well."

Doyle's mind was running into overdrive. It was not how he had intended things to happen but it was just possible that D.C. Wilson had done him a big favour; at least the worst part was now over.

"I met him a couple of times before...before I went...away," he said carefully.

"Where'd you go, anywhere nice?"

Doyle didn't answer immediately, it had been perfectly obvious exactly where he had meant by 'away,' obvious to Jimmy too--of that Doyle was certain.

"Didn't he say something about Ford?" said Jimmy.

"Yeah," Doyle allowed himself to grin self-consciously. "Had a bit of a disagreement with a screw." He didn't elaborate any further, letting the two men read what they wanted into it, and knowing full well that if any of them had contacts either in or just released from Maidstone they'd soon know all they wanted to about him--and quite a bit he'd rather that they didn't.

Leaving the pub a short while later presented another problem. Two whiskies and two pints of beer--it would be just his luck to find Wilson waiting around the corner to breathalyse him--also, his CI5 car did not fit in at all with the identity that had just been so publicly revealed and, if that wasn't bad enough, Doyle realised that most of his money was in his wallet--which was safely shut up with his I.D. and gun in his car. Sorting through his pockets, he discovered he had just enough money to catch a bus and tube to get home. He started walking.

Doyle arrived home just after one o'clock and called HQ to see what, if anything, was happening. He dialled Bodie's home straight after.

"So didn't get invited to breakfast then," he said smugly as soon as Bodie picked the phone up.

"Give over, Doyle--she's a nice girl."

"And nice girls don't invite big bad wolves to breakfast then--you must be losing your touch, mate," Doyle joked.

"She had a bit of a scare this evening--"

"Why, what did you do to her?"

"When we left the restaurant," Bodie continued, ignoring his partner's interruption, "there was couple of heavy boys waiting by my car."

''What were they up to?"

"Dunno, could 'ave just been trying to pinch a car to get home but they seemed more keen on doing me over than nicking my car."

"What was Susan doing while this was going on?" Doyle asked.

"When I'd chased them off I walked back to the car--she was just standing there looking like she'd seen a ghost. She was pretty shaken up and when I asked her what was wrong, she wouldn't say but when I pushed a bit harder she said that some man had jumped out of the shadows at her--"

"But you didn't see him?" Doyle added, his voice dripping sarcasm.

"I was too busy with the other men to notice what was happening behind me--anyway she told me about these weird phone calls she's been getting and this man that keeps calling her name in the car park where she lives. Just now she reported it to the police."

"You don't believe her?" Doyle asked in amazement. "I reckon she's a bit touched mate. A poor lonely little rich girl who's going off the deep end."

Doyle's voice sounded harsh and off-key. Bodie had already heard his partner's acid tongue but rarely had it sounded so ugly.

"What's up?" he asked gently, the sudden change of direction surprising himself as much as Doyle.

"Nothing," Doyle said and immediately regretted it. Bodie seemed to have developed an uncanny knack of knowing when something was troubling him.

"Don't say nothing, mate--I know you too well by now...and where have you been tonight anyway? I tried to call you about twenty minutes ago and you weren't home."

"Are you checking up on me?" Doyle exploded down the phone. "Has Cowley got you sniffing around me as well?" Angry and furious with himself as well as Cowley, Day and now Bodie, Doyle let all his pent-up fears and frustrations pour down the telephone wire to Bodie's defenceless ear.

"Why don't you just wire me up so you'll all know exactly where I am and who I'm talking to every second of the day--or maybe you already have--shall I go and have a look under my bed?"

"Ray--"

"Fuck off, Bodie."

"Ray--"

The phone slammed down, leaving Bodie staring in open-mouthed amazement at the handset. Slowly he replaced it.

Well, Bodie thought, maybe he should have expected that. Apart from the short ride back to HQ from the interrogation centre, during which Doyle had been moody and totally unresponsive, they had not been able to talk about anything Bodie knew they ought to; Day's fresh probing into Doyle's arrest and imprisonment and the final damning proof that CI5's newest recruit suffered from claustrophobia.



When the door buzzer sounded at 6:25 that morning Doyle was relieved. Now he at least had an excuse to get up and he didn't have to lie there any longer trying to convince himself that he wanted to go back to sleep. Shrugging into his robe, he slouched down the hallway to let Bodie in. Even knowing why his partner was calling so early, Doyle still found the inevitable conversation a more pleasing alternative to another nightmare.

Though he was half prepared for it, Bodie was still shocked by the stark, wide-eyed pallor that greeted him, but wisely decided not to comment on it. Instead he followed Doyle back towards the kitchen and Doyle sat down opposite him before talking.

"Bad night?" he asked, the unsmiling blue eyes and raised sardonic eyebrow daring Doyle to answer with a facetious comment.

Knowing himself to be defeated already, Doyle nodded in weary agreement.

"Did you get any sleep?"

"A few hours I suppose."

"You told me you'd stopped having those nightmares," Bodie said flatly.

"I had," Doyle replied. "I haven't had one for...ages before tonight."

"How long ago was the last one then?" Bodie demanded.

"Are you going to make something of it--are you going to go running to Ross with a report on your partner's nightly neuroses?"

"Nightly?" Bodie picked up.

"No--not nightly," Doyle snapped, irritated. "Not even very frequently--not now, but last night was just..."

"Last night was just...?" Bodie said softly. Doyle's confusion increased and Bodie guessed that perhaps he wasn't the only person who didn't understand. "Look," he spoke carefully as he led Doyle toward the settee and pushed him down onto it, settling himself beside him. "Now I know that it's not a straightforward fear of enclosed spaces--am I right so far?"

Doyle nodded tightly but didn't speak. "And I think there's something about the dark?" Again Doyle nodded. "But it's not just the dark because you were fine last month when we sat outside that barn down in the country, weren't you?" Bodie thought out loud, remembering the hours they'd waited hidden in the bushes for three pitch-black nights without the benefit of an obliging moon or torchlight. "That first night you slept in my room, you were fine until I turned the light out. Then you leapt out of the bed to open the curtains--to let the streetlights shine in the room?"

"That's right," Doyle agreed quietly. "It's not...just a room--or just the dark...it's...it's, oh I don't know."

"Yes you do," Bodie encouraged. "It's not just a room or the dark..."

"It's just...the two together...a small room...and total darkness...it just...I can't help it...sometimes it's worse than others--when I know that I'm on my own...when I know for certain that I'm the only one in the room it's not so bad...but sometimes...sometimes I know...or if I think someone is in there...it just catches me...not knowing where they are--not being able to see them..."

"Does anybody else know about this?"

"Christ, no! Can you imagine Ross getting her teeth into that!" Doyle shuddered. "I've never...been too keen on the dark--it's just that the last few years have made it worse." They sat in silence for a few minutes, Bodie lost in thought trying to imagine the additional horror even a mildly claustrophobic person would have to endure in prison--and Doyle's fear of sharing an enclosed dark space with another person. Every night must have been an ordeal. "...The simple pleasures in life...being able to switch a light on and off..." Doyle's confession all those months ago had told him if he had only realised it.

"Are you going to tell Ross?"

"I don't know," Bodie answered truthfully.

"Thanks, partner!"

"Look, Doyle," Bodie explained. "How can I just say 'no' after what you've just told me? Supposing we get into a situation in a...an enclosed dark space," Bodie continued ruthlessly. "How am I going to concentrate on the job if I'm worried about you cracking up on me?"

"I wouldn't crack up," protested Doyle. "Not on the job."

"Can you guarantee that?" asked Bodie. "Well? Can you?"

"I wouldn't risk your life, Bodie. I know I wouldn't crack--I just know I wouldn't," Doyle insisted, shaking Bodie's arm fiercely.

Staring into intense, angry eyes, Bodie found that he believed him; Doyle certainly believed it and although all the evidence was to the contrary, Bodie knew that he trusted his partner. 'I wouldn't risk your life.' No one had ever said that to him before... Maybe the day had got off to a very early and rather shaky start--but it was getting better and brighter every minute.



When Doyle arrived outside the offices of 'Associated Charities' just after midday, Bodie was more than pleased to see him.

"Another five minutes and I would have died of starvation!" he complained as Doyle opened the car door and got in. "What have you got me?"

"Something that could be very interesting--totally irrelevant to the job in hand--but very interesting anyway."

"Eh?"

"A little cuckoo in the nest," Doyle elaborated generously.

"Cuckoo-bird-chicken-chicken sandwich, got it!" Bodie exclaimed, fixing his patient but intelligent look firmly on his face.

"Eh?" This time it was Doyle's turn to lose track of the conversation.

"You were supposed to be bringing me some sandwiches," Bodie reminded him. "Remember?" he asked hopefully.

"Sandwiches," Doyle repeated dumbly and Bodie's heart sank into his empty stomach. Taking pity on the forlorn, starved waif beside him Doyle tugged the packet of polythene-fresh-when-they-were-buttered-yesterday sandwiches out of his pocket.

"Would I forget?" he asked innocently. "But getting onto more important matters, that old boy you wanted checked out, Henry Laughlin," Doyle continued in a more serious vein. "He's the odd one out. Political oddball. Got himself caught up in the Hungarian uprising and sent to Lubianka. Nowadays, under the kind auspices of 'Associated Charities,' he's running something called 'Freedom Incorporated.'"

"This is liver sausage!" Bodie complained after peering between the slices of bread.

"He's dedicated to helping politicals all over the world and...guess what?"

"He likes liver sausage?" Bodie hazarded a guess.

"He doesn't think too highly of us, CI5 that is."

"Why," Bodie asked patiently, "did you get me liver sausage. I hate liver sausage."

"And--he's always writing to the editor of the Times about--"

"Liver sausage sandwiches?"

"--the evils of secret organisations. Written reams and reams on the subject and I think Miss Grant is leaving work early this afternoon--mustn't keep you. Cheerio." Doyle escaped from the car only seconds before the unfortunate sandwich.

"You want to watch that," Doyle said, leaning down and peering into the car. "Dropping litter on the public highway is an offence. You could get arrested." Keeping half an eye on the woman as she climbed into her car and manoeuvred out of the tight parking space, Doyle gave an apologetic smile. "Sorry about the sandwich--I didn't know you didn't like it."

Bodie smile back, happy at that moment to forget his lunch.

"Should have said--might 'ave known you'd be thick enough to pick the one thing guaranteed to make me puke," he said lightly.

"I'll make it up to you tonight if you like--do you want to come by my place for a meal?"

Bodie didn't have to think about his answer. "Love to--once I've swapped places with the night team. Be over about eight--see you later," and with a final wave Bodie followed Susan's flash red Lotus into the traffic.



The meal was as good as Bodie had known it would be and he finally admitted defeat, pushing his plate away.

"That was really good--you're a good cook, mate," Bodie said as Doyle gathered up the plates and piled them beside the sink. "Where did you learn to cook like that?" he asked curiously, guessing that a casual scrutiny of the odd cookery book was way below Ray Doyle's level of skill.

"Me mum..." Doyle thought for a moment and then shrugged his shoulders and laughed self-consciously. "And school--nearly went on to a catering college at one time."

"What stopped you?"

"Well...just didn't turn out that way. I had to get into college or some kind of job pretty quick because my dad wanted me to work for him..."

"And you didn't want that," Bodie divined.

"No I bloody didn't," Doyle said forcefully. "I hated working for him, loathed having to go into the workshop during the school holidays. Then, when I was due to leave school he decided he wanted to semi-retire and use me to make up the hours he couldn't do. My mum knew how I felt about the business and stood up for me--but he only agreed to let it drop if I got myself started somewhere else pretty quick." Doyle's face was bleak as he remembered the endless arguments his decision had caused. "When it came down to it," he finished up, "the catering college couldn't take me until Easter but the police college took me in September. If it had been the other way round I could have been a rich restaurant owner and superb chef by now."

Bodie found himself wondering if all those years ago Doyle had got into the catering college, whether they would ever have met.

"Dunno about a superb chef--but you're a bloody good cook." He looked at his watch--Doyle caught the action.

"Why don't you call her?" he said sarkily. "Check that there were no spiders in her horlicks."

"Give over, Doyle," Bodie said without any heat in his voice. He knew Doyle thought the observation was just Cowley's way of keeping them out of the way, but Doyle didn't know Susan. "I think I will call her though--won't be a minute."

"You're only doing it to get out of the washing up--you can't fool me, 3.7," Doyle joked.

Clearing up the kitchen, Doyle listened unashamedly to the one-sided conversation, admiring the smooth patter of his partner even as he was irritated by the intrusion of work into a pleasant, relaxing evening.

"All quiet on the western front," Bodie announced as he re-entered the kitchen and took the tea towel that Doyle was holding out for him. "It's like old times, this is," he added as he began drying the plates.

"What is?"

"This. Us," Bodie explained. "The warming bustle of domesticity after a hard day's work. Never tried living with anybody before, sharing a flat...you know," he said, suddenly embarrassed by what he was saying. "Not for as long as you stayed with me anyway--had a couple of girls stay for a few weeks, a month even--but they both drove me nuts. Couldn't stand either of them for long." Bodie had a feeling that he was beginning to ramble but was unable to stop himself now that he had started. "But it wasn't like that with you...it was good. Place seems a bit big now that there's only me in it."

The kitchen was quiet save for the noise of plates and cutlery being washed and dried.

"Know what you mean," Doyle said eventually without looking up from the sink. "For a while it was nice being on my own here--seemed like I'd been surrounded by people, bodies...for so long it was great to have somewhere to get away from everyone. But lately...I can't help feeling a bit isolated when I come through that door and lock it behind me. It'd be nice to come home and find someone already here--or know that they'll be home sometime during the evening."

Somehow, Bodie had known that Doyle would understand perfectly.

"What would you think about us...I mean there's no reason why we shouldn't...is there? We work well together--we know we can live together... Even Cowley could see it would be saving him money--"

Bodie's voice stumbling and quiet was almost obliterated by the ringing telephone. Doyle leapt to answer the red phone that was the direct link to Headquarters. "Yes, he's here, switch it through," he said before handing the receiver over to his partner and hurriedly whispering that Susan Grant had dialled his private number being intercepted by the vigilant switchboard.

"Hello, Susan... Okay, love, now calm down...now slowly, start from the beginning..."

Doyle had his partner's coat ready by the time he hung up.

"She's really rattled this time," Bodie said, his concern evident. "She was damn near hysterical--I'd better get over there. Do me a favour and tell control I'm on my way over--I'll be in radio contact once I reach my car. See you later," and then he was gone.

Driving as fast as was safe, Bodie had time to think about the idea that had only just found voice. Why shouldn't they share a flat? Considering all the hours they spent in each other's company and homes it would make sense. No serious problems had surfaced during the months they had lived together before Doyle got his own flat--if anything, once Doyle's sleeping problems were solved everything else had just slotted neatly into place. Living alone had never bothered him before meeting Doyle but now, going home alone after a day's work or even a satisfying night out with an obliging girl friend, he was always conscious of being alone once he locked the front door on the rest of the world. After months of puzzling about the cause of his periodic depression, Bodie had finally come to the conclusion that he no longer enjoyed--or wanted--a life alone.

Pulling up neatly outside the block of flats, Bodie resolved to push his partner for an answer as soon as the whole business of who was putting the frighteners on Susan Grant was over.

Doyle checked in with control at fifteen minute intervals. After three hours, the operator informed him, rather acidly, Doyle felt, that 3.7 was a grown man and was probably coping nicely with the 'subject' without any help from his partner at the massed ranks of CI5.

The filthy chuckle only added to Doyle's annoyance and he threw the handset disgustedly across the room where it landed safely on an armchair. He waited another hour before deciding it was unlikely Bodie would come back now and became more and more annoyed with himself for being so annoyed that a silly, witless upper crust female had so obviously slipped past Bodie's better judgement.

He had barely warmed the sheets up before his telephone alerted him to the fact that Susan's mysterious caller had suddenly and rather alarmingly gained human and visible form.

After examining the body, Doyle cast a few surreptitious looks toward the poised though slightly ruffled demeanour of Susan Grant. She was holding on to Bodie as if afraid she might collapse without his support and Bodie--Doyle gave him his due--was being gently firm with her, carefully guiding the conversation away from the dangerous topics--like why he had a gun. Clearly shaken, Susan was quite willing to let her guardian angel guide her through the mess her life was in.

Because of Bodie's low profile, Doyle was unable to speak to him and had to leave with the corpse, following it to the mortuary where sometimes the saying 'dead men don't tell tales' is proved wrong. But this was not one of those times and the corpse refused to oblige them with any helpful details.

Sifting through the dead man's clothing, Doyle became convinced that he was a professional hit man. Whoever he had been, the dead man had taken pains to make identification difficult. Another squad man came to itemise the possessions; Doyle recognised him as one of the more recent additions to the team.

"Have they finished with him yet?" the young agent asked.

"You're...9.7 aren't you," Doyle checked.

"9.4," 9.4 corrected him. "Glen Andrews, 9.7's old Cooper."

"9.4," Doyle acknowledge. Someday, he though, he'd divine the logic behind Cowley's numbering system. "No, they haven't; they've only just opened him up--looks like he was a vegetarian--full of ratatouille or something like that." He didn't miss the blink or sudden indrawn breath and felt the devil take hold of him. "I just popped out to get a cup of tea and I've some sandwiches here--do you fancy one?" Andrews went impossibly pale and sat down rather heavily onto a chair.

"Don't faint in here, mate," Doyle exclaimed, alarmed. "You close your eyes in this place and before you know it you're stretched out on a slab with a name tag tied onto your big toe."

Unfortunately Doyle's r/t sounded, demanding his presence at HQ and he had to leave Andrews to the ordeal of witnessing the autopsy. It was several hours before the corpse's fingerprints were identified and a name given to Susan's attacker. With little else to do, Doyle found himself hanging around the computer room; it was there that Cowley found him. With one look, Cowley cleared the area around Doyle, everyone suddenly finding something to do on the other side of the room, if not elsewhere. Sitting in the chair next to the younger man, Cowley tapped the slim file with his glasses.

"I was surprised to discover that you have made your first attempts to make use of your cover story--surprised but pleased." Cowley allowed himself to be honest with Doyle. "I am aware that it is not a task you undertake lightly and I'm sure that at some point it will prove useful to me, and to CI5."

Doyle listened carefully, wary of this openness.

"Was there any particular reason why you chose that pub?"

"No," Doyle said, choosing his words with caution. "No special reason--just happened on it one night with Bodie and realised it would be as good a place as any to start."

"Do you carry your ID when you go there?"

"No," Doyle replied, "and I parked my car a few streets away with my gun safely locked away inside it."

"So if Sergeant Wilson had taken you in for questioning there would have been nothing to link you with CI5?"

"Nothing," Doyle answered flatly, certain now that he could expect no help from Bodie, or Cowley, if he were ever arrested.

"Good--make sure there never is, Doyle. Whenever possible you are to avoid getting involved in police business. We were lucky last night that none of the officers at Miss Grant's apartment recognised you but in the future you will make sure you leave the scene of any incident involving the police."

"Yes, sir."

"The fewer people who know about your new circumstances the better."

"Yes, sir," Doyle intoned.

"Is Wilson going to present you with any problems?" Cowley asked.

"I don't think so," Doyle said after a moment's thought. "If anything I think he's done me a favour. He wasn't very tactful or discreet about recognising me and the whole pub was treated to an earful concerning my sinful misdeeds." Doyle's voice was bright, too bright, and Cowley didn't miss the carefully hidden distress but he let Doyle believe he was fooled. "By the time Wilson left the pub only Ronnie Briggs would get a warmer welcome than me!"

"Indeed," Cowley intoned, allowing a glimmer of amusement to colour his voice. "Very well, Doyle, maintain your contact with this pub--keep your eyes and ears open but don't be too hasty to act; use your discretion." Cowley stood up and began to go. Believing the interview over, Doyle relaxed. "Just make sure to log any visits in your diary, Doyle. Keep an up-to-date profile on any contacts you make--it may be that nothing at all will come from it but it won't hurt to have a record." Cowley didn't miss the barely perceptible stiffening in Doyle's back nor the sudden spark of anger in the man's eyes, but he had not time to waste worrying about Doyle's insecurities at this point. "Oh and one other thing," he added. "Bob Craig wants to see you at 2.30 this afternoon; it seems there are still one or two things that need sorting out. You can stand down from duty for the remainder of today--report in at 8 a.m. tomorrow."

"But what about Bodie?"

"What about Bodie?" Cowley asked, impatient to be away to more urgent matters.

"Susan Grant--what if he needs back-up?"

"If 3.7 requires back-up, Doyle," Cowley snapped icily, "no doubt he will request it."

"Sir--" Doyle began.

"4.5, as from now you are officially 'stood down.' In the event of an emergency you will be called out but for the time being you have an appointment at the Home Office, do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," Doyle answered woodenly; he understood only too well. Once Cowley was safely out of earshot Doyle allowed himself to swear--quietly but strong. Oh yes, he understood all right. First of all Day starts stirring up some mud, then Cowley put both of them onto a piddling surveillance job that was almost certainly a dead end, then, when the surveillance finally looks like it might develop into something, Doyle--and not Bodie--is effectively taken off the case. Oh he understood all right, Doyle thought bitterly. So much for Cowley's assurance that Internal Security weren't going to be involved.

Bob Craig met a very different Ray Doyle that afternoon. Over the past year he had seen that young man's quiet, bewildered disbelief change into confident self-assurance. The cold, unyielding man who discussed his compensation settlement with such a clinical detachment was unnerving to say the least. The financial matter dealt with, Craig hesitated before broaching the next topic.

"My office took a call from a D.S. Wilson this morning--Mr Cowley had already warned me that a computer check on your record had been made the previous day..." Craig faltered under Doyle's unrelenting stare.

"And?" Doyle prompted.

"I've still to return his call...I wanted to check out the story you gave him first--before I contact him."

"I told him what you told me to last year," Doyle said. "You're my probation officer--I'm not working--living in digs--I just kept to what we agreed."

"Did you give him an address?"

"No, just said it was a men's hostel in Vauxhall--he'll probably take it to be either the Salvation Army place or that doss-house by the bridge."

"Are you likely to meet him again?"

"It's possible," Doyle answered wryly.

"Well if you do--if he pushes you for an address, in fact if you ever get pushed for a cover address make it the Salvation Army hostel--and let me know straightaway--I know the Warden at Vauxhall and he'll put your name in the register--okay?"

"Okay."

"Well--do you have any questions?"

"Just one," Doyle replied. "How much longer is it going to take this compensation thing to go through?"

"It's only been a year, and I did warn you at the beginning that it would take time--there are always lengthy arguments about this type of financial remuneration--but I expect a final figure to be reached within six months or so--maybe in the New Year."

The news didn't exactly cheer Doyle up--the way his luck was running at the moment, by the time the courts decided how much compensation he deserved for his wrongful imprisonment, he could well find himself back inside serving another sentence for something he didn't do!

After his appointment was over Doyle once again found time hanging heavily on him. Unable to think of anything to do with himself or someone who would be pleased to see him, he drove towards home. As always his eyes picked out two particular sets of windows on the block of flats halfway round the one-way system. Today, after weeks of closed windows and no lights, both the bedroom and kitchen windows were open. Doyle had parked the car and locked it before conscious thought took over. What had started as a purposeful stride towards the main entrance slowed to a complete halt as he stared up at the open windows. Just because they were open, he reasoned to himself, didn't necessarily mean that she was home--and perhaps turning up out of the blue wasn't such a good idea. Indecision caused him to turn and walk back towards his car. Maybe he should telephone her first. Standing beside the car, keys in his hand, Doyle wavered; other people entered and emerged from the building--one or two glanced at him as if they knew him before turning away to continue their business--but no-one seemed to remember their former infamous tenant.

Glancing up and down the street, Doyle tried to pinpoint the reason for his sudden nervousness. He couldn't see anyone watching him--for all that he could feel their eyes on him. Someone was watching him--but who, he wondered.

Critically his eyes scanned the curtained windows; the long street with its parked cars; even the few pedestrians came under close scrutiny--but he drew a blank. He couldn't see him but all the same, Doyle thought grimly--he knew he was there.

Doyle's mind buzzed furiously; it couldn't be Day, that would be too risky, so would any other member of the squad, so--he reasoned--it had to be Internal Security, whatever Cowley said about not bringing them in on it.

There was nothing he could do about it except rage impotently--if he complained they'd probably just find someone more secretive to follow him. All he could do was act normally, behave carefully, and hope to God he didn't do something unwittingly that would bring the wrath of Cowley and Internal Security down on his head or a smile into Day's face.

What about Bodie? Did his partner know about the surveillance, Doyle wondered. Was Bodie in on it, keeping tabs on him and reporting back to Cowley? It would certain go a long way to explaining the number of off-duty hours they spent in each other's company. Conveniently forgetting the occasions he had just asked Bodie to join him for a drink or a meal, Doyle thought of all time times Bodie had 'dropped in because I was passing' to ask him out for a drink--even those late night telephone calls after a rough day took on a sinister meaning. Was Bodie following orders to make sure he was where he was supposed to be?

The answers to all the questions racing around inside his head were not going to be found easily, Doyle acknowledged. It was unlikely they would expect him to be aware of the surveillance yet--but if he altered his behaviour in any way they would know he'd found out: so--everything would continue as before, except now he wouldn't fall into line with their plans quite so willingly.

Deciding it was unlikely they had bugged Ann's flat--yet--Doyle entered the block.

Across the street a man climbed out of his car and began to follow Doyle into the building; halfway up the path he hesitated as Doyle had done, then, obviously having come to a decision, turned and almost ran back across the road and entered an identical block. Minutes later, the curtains directly opposite Ann's windows moved slightly as the man adjusted his binoculars.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN

It would have been better, Doyle realised with a sinking heart, to have telephoned first. Neither of them were prepared for this meeting and what little conversation there had been was stilted and awkward; it was as if they were strangers.

"Well," he said quietly once Ann had stopped jumping nervously around her kitchen as she fixed a pot of tea that neither of them particularly wanted. "How have you been keeping? You look well."

"Oh, fine. I've been fine. Busy--work's pretty hectic now that John's retired."

"Promotion?" Doyle asked.

"Yes, last year," she replied. "You must remember John Hawes--well, once he retired Mr Simms offered me the position."

"That makes you...chief editor?" He vaguely remembered the hierarchy of the firm that Ann worked for.

"More than that," she corrected. "International Editor. My work is split between our offices in America, Canada and Europe, we're even negotiating opening an office in Australia at the moment."

"Quite the little globe-trotter, aren't you." Doyle raised his bone china tea cup to toast her success.

"Well," she said, smiling and relaxing a fraction, "you know how much I always wanted to travel."

Yes he did now, he remembered suddenly, he also remembered wondering how his future wife's wanderlust was going to fit in with his unpredictable statutory leave and salary.

"And what about you?" Ann asked politely once she felt her career had dominated the conversation long enough. "How have you been? When did you... Oh dear, I'm sorry... I didn't mean...what I meant was..."

Lulled into a false sense of security, Doyle felt the trap spring shut; his expression must have alerted Ann because she became flustered and stood up, knocking over her cup. Dropping down to mop up the spilt liquid, she fumbled for some tissues. Numb, Doyle could only watch her; he had not thought of what to tell her; hadn't even considered the fact that she might still think of him as a convicted criminal. He had stupidly been convinced that she would just know the truth when she saw him. Ann took the wet tissues into the kitchen to dispose of them, giving him more time to think; time to think how it looked to Ann. He quickly counted up the years and months and realised that his original earliest release date would be about now. Ann probably thought he had only just been released from jail.

"Ann..." he reached out to hold her, tightening his grip as she tried to move away. "Ann, please...listen to me...Ann!"

Still trying to pull away, she began to cry. "Please, Ray...just...let me go...please..."

"Ann," Doyle spoke gently. "Just listen to me please..." He released her and moved away, giving her room. "I was given a full pardon," he said quickly when he recognised the beginnings of a very real fear in her eyes. "Just under a year ago. It's true, Ann... I promise...I'm not lying to you. They finally found some evidence to clear me and I was released. I was innocent, Ann. Innocent--I always told you I was--now will you believe me..." Incredibly, Doyle felt his eyes burn and fill with moisture. Embarrassed, he turned away, wiping his eyes angrily and sniffing moistly.

"Ray..."

"I just wanted you to know..." he said. "I needed you to know," he repeated desperately.

"Ray?" A featherlight touch on his arm turned him around. "Ray... Oh my poor Ray..." she cried. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry." Then he was holding her and she was crying into his shoulder while he hid his face and his own tears into her sweet-smelling hair.

After clearing away the light meal that Ann put together, they settled down together on the sofa in a position that reminded Doyle of so many pleasant evenings in the past that had begun this way. Her legs tucked neatly to one side, Ann rested against him, her head nestled on his shoulder and her hands clasped tightly around him.

"Why didn't you let me know before, Ray? Why wait until now?" she asked in a small voice.

"I...I didn't know how," Doyle answered truthfully. "Didn't even know if you'd ever want to see me again--give me a chance to explain--"

"Ray--don't," Ann cried out sharply and twisted round in his arms to hold him even tighter, burying her face into his neck. "Please don't...please forgive me for not believing you... I'm so sorry I let you down--"

"Ann--"

"I'm truly sorry," Ann repeated, crying yet again. "I tried, I really tried," she wept.

"Come on, Pet. I'm not blaming you--no-one believed me. You weren't the only one." Doyle tried to sound convincing but he found it surprisingly hard. It was true that no-one had believed him. That was why he had been convicted--but deep down inside he believed that Ann should have trusted him and her betrayal was more painful than all the others.

She took a lot of consoling but eventually talk turned to the present; the guilt and pain of the past was swept to one side.

"So," Ann smiled. "Tell me more about CI5. The newspapers make it sound very sinister and mysterious."

"It's not that much different from police work; long hours, rotten shifts, cancelled leave and lousy pay."

"It sounds like just your cup of tea," Ann joked, but then she became serious. "It's very dangerous, though, isn't it," she asked. "I remember reading about that man who was shot during that assassination attempt on President Mbutawe--they said he was CI5...and then some months ago all those men were killed," she continued, her face paling as she realised how dangerous he new job was. "The newspapers claimed it was some kind of vendetta against the person in charge of CI5--the Home Office denied it of course, but it was CI5, wasn't it?" she asked urgently.

"It's like most jobs, love," Doyle evaded. "Unless you're careful any job is dangerous--and I'm always careful."

"But this Bodie person," Ann persisted. "He sounds a perfect fool--why have they lumbered you with him?"

"Maybe I've exaggerated Bodie a bit," Doyle conceded with a laugh; everything he had told Ann about Bodie had been true but, taken out of context, the long list of crazy, idiotic stunts and ridiculous behaviour did make him out to be a regular wally. "Just wait until you meet him. You'll like him, he's very easy to get along with."

"He sounds an insufferable fool to me!"

Remembering too late how fast Ann was to judge people and how stubbornly she stuck to first impressions, Doyle realised he had made a slight error. Still, he reasoned, it wouldn't take Bodie long to set her straight.

"...and then I can call Mummy and tell her your news."

Doyle came back to the present with a bump.

"Pardon? Who are you calling?" he asked, reaching out to stop Ann using the phone.

"Why... Ray, really." She shook her hand free. "Weren't you listening to me. I said that I would call Mummy and tell her the good news."

Doyle couldn't picture Constance viewing his return--full pardon or not--with any favour.

"Ann. Just put the phone down...please."

"Why? Whatever's wrong?"

"You can't call your mother. You can't tell her anything...please."

He held out his hand and gently tugged her back towards the sofa. "You mustn't tell anyone--I probably shouldn't 'ave told you either--no. I shouldn't," he forestalled her protest. "I can't tell anyone. As far as the rest of the world is concerned I'm still a convicted man, a bent policeman. Only about a dozen people know that I'm not and it's got to stay that way. Do you understand?"

"No!" Ann looked frightened again, as if she had suddenly thought that perhaps he had been lying to her after all and Doyle realised that he would have to tell her everything.



"Why on earth did you agree to that?" Ann demanded to know. "You should have a full public apology. They've no right to make you pretend that you're guilty when you're not!" Outraged at the injustice of it all, Ann paced back and forth across the living room, her face alive and her eyes glittering angrily and beautifully. Doyle soaked up the visual and emotional balm and enjoyed watching her being so vocal, so protective towards him. "How did they make you agree to keep quiet? Surely your counsel advised you against agreeing to their demands?"

"I didn't have a counsel," Doyle replied. "And to be quite honest, I don't really remember agreeing to anything much--the whole day is just a big blur to me now. I can't remember very much about the first day or so when I was released--it all happened so fast I just couldn't take it all in."

"Then why don't you--"

"But I trust Cowley," Doyle continued. "Up to a point anyway. And I really don't mind. There are times when it gets a bit unpleasant but on the whole I understand Cowley's logic. He tried to explain. "Keeping my record open gives me a perfect cover for some of the work CI5 sometimes gets involved in."

"You mean undercover work?" said Ann. "Oh, Ray, look what happened last time you went undercover!"

Doyle sighed and pulled Ann into a comforting embrace as tears flowed again. When the outburst fizzled to a watery halt, Ann wiped them away and with genteel sniffs announced that whatever Doyle said, she believed that Mr Cowley had taken unfair advantage of him and was wrong to treat him so.

"What on earth does your mother think of all this?" she asked finally when she accepted he was not going to change his opinion of Cowley's treatment. "Surely she can't be happy knowing that everyone still thinks you're the lowest of the low--Ray? ...What's wrong? ...Ray?..."

"Oh...nothing...I'd forgotten you wouldn't know..." he stumbled. "Mum...died...a few months after I was sent to Maidstone..."

"Oh...I'm sorry."

Doyle was relieved that his news didn't herald another cloudburst; Ann had been about as friendly with his mother as he had been with hers.

Conversation became awkward again, each new line meeting with embarrassment or renewed guilt and Doyle decided that they had talked enough for one night. Standing, he said his goodnight and moved to leave. Ann reached out her hand, preventing him from opening the door straightaway. The hallway was narrow and only barely illuminated by the light from the living room.

"Ray?" she hesitated. "Thank you for coming by... You...you will come again?"

"If you want me to," he answered huskily.

"Please...oh, yes please..."

They moved together slowly, kissing each other tentatively at first but then with rising heat. It was Ann who made the first move, stepping backwards and pulling him with her as she moved towards her bedroom. Doyle needed no further invitation. Trembling, sensitised fingers undid blouse and shirt buttons. Manicured nails teased a path along ribs and down a naked back even as the clip of a satin bra was unfastened, the sweet weight of her breasts pulled against taut elastic. Trousers, skirts and pants vanished as if by magic and they finally lay down on the bed, kissing and touching and crying from the beauty of it.

Slowly, reverently, Ray caressed her with hands and lips. Licking, sucking and loving her. Remembering those things only a lover would. Pleasuring her and being loved in his own turn. It had always been good between them. Each knowing and enjoying what pleased their lover the most. Their loving was slow, careful and intensely pleasurable. Ann led him onwards, upwards. Guiding him, urging him on with her heels and hands. Pausing and pulling at him, deeper and deeper into herself. Her breathless voice telling him to love her, more. Harder. Now. Nownownow! Her muscles spasmed and locked him tight inside her. Unable to move, he could only remain still as his body exploded before they both relaxed, mindless and boneless for long minutes.

Slipping to one side, Ray rearranged limp arms and legs to lie comfortably as they continued to kiss and nuzzle against each other's skin.

"Mmmm..." Ann murmured appreciatively as she licked along the line of his chin and neck. "You taste delicious...all salty and tangy...beautiful."

They lay in a relaxed tangle, playing, loving and whispering silly trivialities until Ann drew their attention to an odd noise.

"What is it?" she asked. "Can't you hear it?"

As soon as he listened, Doyle recognised the bleeping immediately as being his r/t. He leapt out of bed, trying to remember how many minutes ago he had first heard the intrusive sound. It was in his jacket, which was lying in a heap by the bedroom door.

"What is it, Ray?"

"Ssh," he admonished as he freed the machine from his pocket. "4.5," he said rather breathlessly into it as he waved Ann into silence.

"Control to 4.5. Intruder has been apprehended at Location Blue. Alpha is on site and is bringing him back to HQ. You're ordered to report in to take part in interrogation."

"Ray--" Ann whispered urgently.

"Ssh. 4.5 to control. I'm on my way. Are there any injuries at Location Blue?" he asked worriedly as he hunted around for the rest of his clothes.

"Negative, 4.5," the detached voice informed him, then with slightly more relish added, "3.7 copped the bugger in Nightingale's bedroom. Rumour has it that Nightingale's not too happy the excitement happened so early in the evening--seems to have ruined her plans for givin' 3.7 a road test!"

Even allowing for exaggeration on the part of Control, Doyle felt a malicious glee that Susan's plan for Bodie had gone awry.

"Ray!" Dressed and hunting for his other shoe, Doyle remembered Ann.

"Sorry, love--you heard him--I've got to go in to HQ."

"Well... Really!" Standing beside the bed, stark naked and furious, Ann presented a beautiful picture.

"Just like old times, isn't it?" he joked half-heartedly. She had never been best pleased then either.

"Do you really have to go?"

"Yes, I do. I'm sorry..."

"Ooh..." Ann sighed and then resigned herself to the inevitable. "Go on then--just...come back soon--please?"

He leant forward and kissed her.

"You just try keeping me away."

At the door a cry from Ann stopped him dead.

"Oh damn!" she said angrily. "I'd almost forgotten--I'm going to New York the day after tomorrow. I'll be gone for a few weeks."

"I'll try and come back later tomorrow, okay? But I can't promise..."

"All right." Ann kissed the frown away from his brow. "I'll expect to see you tomorrow--sometime--if I'm lucky. Just like old times," she teased.

"Just like old times," he agreed, then kissed her quickly and left.

Waving back up towards Ann's window, Doyle unlocked his car. Not oblivious but in no mood to really care, he ignored his audience and blew a kiss. Up at the window Ann obligingly returned the kiss while modestly clutching a robe around herself.



Doyle arrived HQ only moments before Cowley and the captured intruder, and while the man was swiftly fingerprinted and photographed he was brought up to date with events. From being a simple surveillance matter, the job was turning into an intriguing mystery. So far two very professional hit men had failed in their attempts to murder or even kidnap Susan Grant--but why she should be a target was still very much of a puzzle. Bodie was very suspicious of Henry Laughlin--but even Cowley admitted that it could amount to little more than a lonely old man's obsession with a younger, attractive woman.

The prisoner did not give them any information--except for his name, and no one was taking any bets that was genuine.

Doyle persevered with the interrogation for several hours, but it was obvious that Raymond Miller felt very safe with his non-co-operation. Both Cowley and Murphy, who took turns in trying to beat him down, conceded that short of outright physical torture or drugs they were not going to get him to talk, and those were steps Cowley was extremely loath to take.

Because they had so little to go on, Laughlin found himself the focus of CI5's surveillance team. For over twelve hours a group of men stuck in a cramped, stuffy transit van had been forced to listen to Henry Laughlin's routine, dreary life. The argument with milkman over his missing pint of milk; Henry's muffled but electronically amplified complaints about the sock that had lost its partner and the routine visits to toilet and bathroom were duly recorded, listened to and logged.

The phone call to the solicitor changed everything, though. CI5 swung into action and though Laughlin was furious at their intervention he realised he was powerless to stop them. Things moved with alarming speed all at once as Miller was murdered and Bauer, after failing to get the tapes once again, tried and nearly succeeded in kidnapping Susan.

By the end of the day, though, everyone seemed happy enough. Laughlin had his precious tapes and was reunited with his daughter, and all of the loose ends were tied up.

Watching Susan walking away with Henry, Bodie caught himself feeling oddly protective towards her. He'd got to like her more than just a little in the short time he'd known her, and he hoped that Henry wasn't going to try and pull too much 'fatherly' weight too soon. She had had enough upsets in her life just recently.

"Bodie!" Cowley's call from the far end of the rose arbour attracted his attention. "You and Doyle can make your way back to HQ to file your reports on this before going off duty. Report back to me 9.00 a.m. tomorrow."

With both men in their own cars the drive back took on a Grand Prix flair--through the emptier country roads anyway. Arriving outside the building only seconds between them, they both raced for the same parking space. Doyle won by a whisker which left Bodie forced to hunt further afield for another place.

Entering the large cupboard which served as their office, Bodie found his partner hard at work with one and half pages of his report already written.

"Don't do it too fast," Bodie chastised, "or the Old Man will always expect it."

"Shut up, Bodie!"

"If you're that keen you can do mine too. What are you doing tonight?" Bodie asked as he sifted around in his desk, half-heartedly looking for something to scribble his report on. Doyle?"

"Ssh!"

"I asked you what you were doing to..."

"Belt up, will you, I'm busy," Doyle muttered abstractedly. "Do your own report and shut up." Scribbling furiously, he didn't look up.

Bodie was just beginning to get stuck when Doyle threw his pen into the desk tidy, collected up his papers and shouted: "Goodnight--see you in the morning!" over his shoulder and left before Bodie had a chance to react.

Skimming through the bare essentials for his report, Bodie was finally able to throw it into the tray. It was highly likely the typists' supervisor would throw it straight back--probably via Cowley--but, eager to quit the building, Bodie found it easy to shrug off tomorrow's cares.

Driving through the traffic to Doyle's flat, he ran through his carefully prepared arguments. Apart from the odd hairy moment, the past few days had given him plenty of time to think about sharing a flat with his partner. So far he hadn't come up with any problems, and he was sure Doyle would see it the same way. After all, even he had said that he was no longer enjoying living alone.

Ringing the door bell a second time, Bodie wondered where his partner had sot off to so quickly.

"Hello?"

The intercom crackled just as Bodie was about to turn away.

"Hello," Bodie said into the mouthpiece. "It's me. Let us in, mate?"

The door opened, he entered the building and walked up to the first floor flat, where the sight of Doyle dressed up to the nines stopped him in his tracks.

"Wow!" Bodie's wide-eyed exclamation was completely lost on his partner, who was fighting a losing battle with his tie. "What time are you due back in the window then?" he asked as he wandered round Doyle inspecting the phenomenon properly from all sides.

Manfully ignoring the sarcasm, Doyle pulled the tie apart and started all over again.

"Give it here," Bodie said, slapping Doyle's fumbling digits away. "Let go and let me do it. You'll be here all night otherwise."

Standing nose to nose almost, Doyle stood with his hands on his hips, chin up in the air, peering down his nose at Bodie's intent face as he concentrated on getting the knot tight. "There, all done."

"Thanks, mate," said Doyle, and automatically loosened the knot.

Bodie stepped back and sniffed loudly and dramatically before peering around behind the armchairs and sofa.

"What are you looking for?" Doyle asked, mystified by Bodie's behaviour.

"I think a cat must have got in while you weren't looking."

For a few seconds Doyle actually began scanning the room for the cat--then the penny dropped.

"Oh, very funny," he said as he picked up his jacket.

"You got an invite to Buck House or something?" Bodie asked when it became obvious that Doyle wasn't going to offer any information. "Didn't know you had a tie--let alone a suit." Bodie took a handful of fabric and proceeded to examine it closely.

"Just because I don't turn up to work wearing suits and blazers," Doyle countered loftily as he snatched his sleeve back, "does not mean I don't know how to dress when the occasion demands it."

"And what's the occasion then?"

Bodie had to repeat the question twice more before Doyle, who was busy hunting through cupboards and drawers for a clothes brush, answered.

"Going out."

Bodie had worked that out for himself and said so.

"Going out to dinner," Doyle elaborated--rather grudgingly, Bodie thought.

"Who with?" he asked, but answered himself. "Ann?"

Taking the brush out of Doyle's hand, Bodie swept non-existent lint from the back of the jacket with hard, forceful strokes that almost rocked him off his feet.

"You called her," he said flatly. He didn't see the puzzled look in Doyle's eyes. "First date then?" Bodie forced out, the gaiety in his voice at odds with his stern face and hard strokes down the dark back. "Hope you have a nice time."

"Second actually," Doyle said, turning to take the brush back. "And yes, we did have a nice time, thank you very much." He put the brush back in the drawer.

"You've already seen her then--everything all right, was it?" Stupid question, Bodie thought. It was bloody obvious everything had gone okay--why else had Doyle been so cheerfully energetic and eager to get home? "When?"

"Last night. Why?" Doyle was puzzled by Bodie's strange behaviour and couldn't understand his partner's obvious lack of enthusiasm. He'd told him how much Ann meant to him, had even hinted at how much he wanted to see her again, however hard he tired to pretend that he didn't. "It went all right, Bodie," he said quietly, thinking perhaps that Bodie was concerned about Ann's reaction to him. "Once I explained everything..."

"You told her!"

For some inexplicable reason Bodie's tone irritated Doyle. "Of course I told her," he snapped. "What was I supposed to do--pretend I was on a few weeks' leave from the chain gang!"

Picking up his keys and an enormous bunch of roses which he dared Bodie to comment on, he moved to the door. "I'm going now," he said pointedly, "and I want to lock up."

Bodie stepped out into the hallway.

"I'll see you tomorrow morning then," he said. "Pick you up about half eight."

Locking the door securely, Doyle spoke over his shoulder. "I'll pick you up instead."



Bodie wasn't a total fool and he didn't need to have it spelt out. Wandering along the road towards his car he waved a distracted hand as Doyle took off towards Ann's flat.

If he didn't come home tonight Bodie was pretty sure it would be the first time--since he'd known him anyway. Over the past six months or so they had overlapped girlfriends once or twice--more than once or twice, Bodie realised now he actually gave the matter some thought, and had discovered a few remarkable facts about his partner's sleeping habits--namely that he liked to sleep alone. The night Carole had gone home to Bodie's flat had been quite a revelation--knowing that the two men were friends, Carole had been more than willing to kiss and tell. The saucier and more personal revelations apart, Bodie had been amazed by Carole's complaint that while Doyle was generally considered to be a good catch, the girls' room committee had voted him to be a lousy bedmate.

"...and then, just when you're feeling nice and warm and sleepy, he calmly announces that he's going home..." Carole had said. Doyle, it seemed, was not one to stick around for breakfast.

Bodie had not consciously courted Doyle's ex-girlfriends, but when they came his way he was never slow to ask them a few pertinent questions--and they all made the same complaint. Doyle was famous as the 'love 'em and leave 'em' CI5 stud.

Unlocking his car, Bodie got in and began to drive home. If Doyle was so confident about getting back together with Ann, he reasoned, he was hardly likely to give much consideration to having Bodie as a flatmate. Arriving home he wondered how long it would take for Doyle and Ann to move in together.



"What are you doing tonight?" Doyle asked his partner as they began to wend their way out of the CI5 building.

"Nothing much--wouldn't mind seeing the late film--why?" Bodie enquired, puzzled as to why he had been asked. Compared to how they had spent their time together before Ann had turned up, now they hardly ever saw each other socially. Whenever Ann was in town--and that was far too often for Bodie's liking--Doyle would be off the second their duty was over, to return the next morning bleary-eyed, grey with exhaustion and not exactly raring to go. It seemed Bodie wasn't the only one who had noticed how tired and listless his normally ebullient partner was after a night spent with Ann. Only the other day he had walked into the rest room to find everyone taking bets on whether Doyle had got his oats the night before.

"Do you want to come over for a meal?" Doyle invited.

"I thought you were seeing Ann."

"I am," Doyle agreed. "She's coming over as well. Thought it might be nice for you and her to meet at last."

It wasn't the first time Doyle had tried to arrange a meeting between his two friends but it was, however, the first time Bodie did not have an excuse to cry off--not without making it obvious, anyway.

"Yeah. Okay. Haven't had a decent meal in ages," Bodie joked weakly. "What time?"



By the time they reached the coffee stage even Doyle knew that something was wrong. Bodie's behaviour had been impeccable, which relieved one small worry from his mind, and Ann was being charming and polite. But no one looked or sounded relaxed. He had been so sure his two friends would get on together, and the fact that they weren't was worrying. As always when he was tense, his appetite deserted him and he barely touched his food--which was made known to him when Ann paid a visit to the bathroom.

"Unless you ate something when you first got home this evening," Bodie accused, "you've had nothing except a stale cheese roll and two mouthfuls of lasagne all day!"

"Don't nag, Bodie!"

"You should eat something. What's the matter, suddenly gone off your own cooking, or aren't you feeling well?"

"I feel fine," Doyle said wearily. "Christ, there are times when you sound just like my mother."

"You'll only have Willis on your back if your weight drops," Bodie warned, and Doyle glowered across the table at him.

When Ann emerged from the bathroom Bodie pushed his partner towards the armchair and announced that he and Ann were going to clear away the dinner things.

"We can't allow him to work himself into the ground, can we, Ann?" he said silkily and passed her a tea towel. I'll wash and you can wipe."

Making sure Doyle stayed in the chair with a small after-dinner brandy, Bodie ushered Ann into the tiny kitchen. Sipping at the drink, Doyle sighed and closed his eyes. Already tired, the tension of the evening had drained him of energy. Maybe once the pair of them got to know each other, he thought wanly, they would get on better.

It was a good thing that he could neither see nor hear what has happening in the kitchen.

"When do you go back to America?" Bodie asked as he filled the bowl with hot, soapy water.

"Not until mid-December," she answered as she dabbed at the water splashes on her dress. "I'm actually going to see Sydney next, though."

"Sidney who?" Bodie enquired. "Afraid I'm not up on these modern authors."

"Sydney, Australia," Ann said icily. "I'm leaving from Heathrow on Saturday morning."

"That's a long way--like travelling a lot, do you?"

"Oh yes! Of course, it's not quite like being an ordinary tourist--getting on a plane is rather like catching a bus to me, except when I have to travel tourist class if there are no other seats available--then I just hate it. Why the airlines insist on forcing people to travel in such crowded planes I really can't fathom. It's so uncivilised," Ann confided to him.

Having only ever flown tourist class or in military aircraft, Bodie could see that he had nothing in common with Ann on that score.

"How long will you be away?"

"Oh, not long. About three, possibly four weeks. I hope to be back by the end of August."

The washing up was nearly finished before conversation started up again.

"I really think that we should try a little harder to be friends, don't you?" Ann said stiffly as she carefully dried the last plate.

"Why?" Bodie asked bluntly--rather amazed that she had come out with it so boldly. "I know you don't like me--and you'll be relieved to hear that the feeling's mutual!"

"Because," Ann said coldly, her voice hardening and her face becoming even bleaker and more distant than normal, "because Ray wants us to be friends."

"And you always want what Ray wants."

"Yes."

"Then, my dear Ann," Bodie said smoothly, "where were you when he needed you? Where were you when the going got really rough?"

Ann gasped as if she had been struck.

"How dare you say such a thing to me," she protested.

"I'll tell you how I dare," Bodie said, "and you'll listen to me, won't you. Won't you!" he repeated and grabbed her wrist before she could escape; he pulled her towards him and held her. "You ditched him, you toffee-nosed little snob, because you couldn't bear to think that you could possibly get involved with a drug pusher--with a corrupt police officer. You ditched him," Bodie hissed angrily, "even before the courts found him guilty. If you loved him so much how could you have done that to him?"

"Let me go, you great..." Ann wriggled and kicked at Bodie's ankles. "Ow! You're hurting me, she protested.

"Then stop kicking me," Bodie demanded.

"Just leave me alone," Ann cried. "Leave us alone! I can make it up to him. I can make him happy."

"You'd damn well better not make him unhappy!"

"Is that a threat?" Ann asked incredulously.

"If you want to take it that way." He shrugged non-committally. "You've hurt him enough in the past--all I'm asking is that you don't hurt him any more."

"He loves me!"

"I know he does," he said quietly. "Why else would he want to risk getting his teeth kicked in again? But you," he said, "you haven't said that you love him. You've said that he wants you. Loves you, that he wants us to be friends--but what about you?" Bodie saw a flicker of fear cross Ann's face. "Do you really want him or is this whole thing just your way of saying sorry? Now that you've finally had your nose rubbed in the truth and know that he was innocent, you're feeling guilty." Bodie saw the bolt strike home.

"He loves me, Bodie," Ann said quietly but in a determined voice. "Yes, I know I let him down badly, and yes," she admitted to herself as well, "I do feel bad about that, but that's not all. I can make all this up to him. I can help him forget all the bad times. He needs me." She looked Bodie squarely in the face. "I think he needs both of us, don't you? For that reason alone I think we should make the effort."

Bodie had to agree; he had no other choice.



Wandering into the dimly lit bedroom, Ann wasn't surprised to find Ray fast asleep. Feeling something akin to guilt she stood by the bedside watching him closely as she slipped her clothes off and laid them neatly across a chair. Looking around the room, she spotted a towelling robe and shrugged into it, making a mental note to bring her spare one over next time she came. In the bathroom she used Ray's toothbrush without hesitation and added that to her list too; if she was going to make a habit of staying overnight it would, after all, be the sensible thing to do--in fact she was rather amazed that she hadn't already done so. Rinsing her mouth and drying her hands, Ann realised with a shock that this was the first night she had stayed at Ray's flat and, thinking further, realised that he had been intending to take her home. It was only because he had been so tired he'd fallen asleep leaning against her on the sofa as she and Bodie made polite conversation that she had insisted he went straight to bed as soon as Bodie left.

Back in the bedroom she slipped the robe off her shoulders and crossed over to the bed, frowning as she saw the deep furrows in Ray's face. It wasn't the first time she'd noticed them. The warm, living blanket she had such fond memories of was very far removed from the restless, twitching man that now shared her bed. In the past, in their past, their nights together had always been comfortable and untroubled, with both of them sound sleepers. The changes in Ray that had been hardly noticeable at first were becoming more apparent as time went on. The pleasant, amenable man who had always been prepared to compromise at worst, or even give in, had changed almost beyond recognition. Before, Ann had been confident of her ability to get Ray to agree to anything within reason, but once or twice over the past month she had realised she had lost that control and could no longer make him dance to her tune. The cold, hard-edged bitterness underlying his cheery personality was new too--and it frightened her. She felt a similar edge hidden beneath Bodie's charm--similar but different. Was that CI5, she wondered, was the bitterness part of the 'job' that they both seemed to enjoy so much?

Slipping between the covers, Ann moved to lie closer to the sleeping man only to freeze when he flinched at her touch.

"Ray?" she whispered, but there was no answer.

She moved closer again only this time he moved away from her outstretched hand and mumbled into the pillow.

"Ray! Darling, what's wrong?" Leaning across the bed, she tried to turn him back to face her.

"No! No!" Doyle protested, trying to push her hands away. "I don't...don't...don't...please!" Stunned, Ann listened to the troubled murmurings as they became only unintelligible sounds. This too was something new to her. The troubled nights broken by Ray's restless movements and sudden shuddering transformation from sleep to wakefulness were becoming increasingly familiar, though.

"Ray...hush up, love. Ssh! It's all right," she promised, knowing full well that she had no idea of what was wrong or what could be troubling him. "Ssh...that's better!" And she rubbed her hand across his shoulder and down his arm. She saw the blow coming just in time and managed to throw herself backwards, the draught on her skin letting her know how close she had come to misfortune.

Doyle woke up just as she slipped off the bed to land with a thump on the floor.

"Bodie? Bodie?" he cried out, confused and disoriented. Then: "Ann...Ann..."

"I'm all right," she answered shakily as she climbed back onto the bed. "Were you dreaming? Was it a bad dream? Are you all right?"

"A...dream. Yes...bad dream," Doyle agreed, lying back on the pillow with his eyes closed as he waited for his racing heart to slow down. "I'm sorry...did I...I didn't hit you, did I?" he said, suddenly stricken in case he could have injured Ann as he had Bodie that time before.

"No. No," Ann assured him. "You missed me, you didn't touch me--really!" She cuddled up close and found herself taken in a bruising hug.

"I'm sorry," Doyle apologised haltingly. "You must have...did you touch me? Only sometimes I do get these dreams...and I don't like being...touched...not when I'm asleep anyway," tried to joke. He had been frightened of this. Going to bed to make love was different, but going to bed to sleep with another body beside him was proving almost impossible. Over the past month he had made love to Ann several times but he had stayed all night on relatively few occasions--only when he had been unable to think of a plausible excuse as to why he had to get up and go home.

"What sort of dreams?" Ann asked curiously.

Doyle gave a harsh laugh. "Bad ones usually."

"What do you dream of?"

"I don't really know," he answered. "I never seem to remember once I'm awake--I just know that...that something's frightened me--terrified me...and I can't get away."

"You were very restless just before you woke up."

"I think that's normal for me. Bodie says I get very twitch and start moving around, mumbling and moaning and generally being a bloody nuisance." Doyle tried to make light of it: he really didn't want to get involved in lengthy dream analysis at one in the morning.

Ann only had a moment to wonder how on earth Bodie could know about the dreams before Doyle's hand began to roam freely over her skin, arousing and driving mundane thoughts from her mind.

"Must've been asleep when you came to bed," he apologised. "Sorry! Mmm! You feel so good," he sighed as her hands found him. "So...good..."



Crouching behind a pile of sturdy wooden crates, Bodie checked then reloaded his gun. From around the corner came the sound of running footsteps and Doyle's voice shouted out: "Freeze!" The footsteps kept going and Doyle's gun barked once, twice. Emerging around the side of the building, breathless but otherwise safe, Doyle indicated it was all clear.

Stuffing his weapon back into his shoulder holster, Bodie strode across to his partner. There were one or two things that needed saying before the rest of the squad arrived.

"You fucking--stupid--idiot!" he bellowed. "What did you think you were doing? You could've got us both killed!"

Guilt already wrapped around him like a clinging blanket, condemnation was the last thing Doyle needed.

"We got him, didn't we!" he shouted back.

"We could've got him alive if you hadn't been having forty winks in the car."

"I was not asleep," Doyle denied hotly.

"Jesus fucking christ!" Bodie swore. "So who the fuck was snoring then--me?" he demanded to know.

"I was not asleep..."

"Your eyes were shut--your eyes were fucking shut!"

"The sun was bright, it was so low in the sky it was near blinding me."

"You were supposed to be watching the door--"

"And you should've been round the back, so what the hell were you doing up front with me?"

"Bloody good job I was, mate," Bodie hissed, "or else you'd have been dead before you opened your eyes."

"For the last fucking time," Doyle yelled, "I was not asleep!"

"Well," Bodie finished nastily just as the rest of squad and Cowley's car arrived on the scene, "you were doing a bloody good impression of a man who was!"



With their ears still burning from Cowley's tongue-lashing, Bodie drove them home.

"Thanks," Doyle said awkwardly into the silence that hung between them.

"What for?" Bodie asked grimly.

"For not dropping me in it. You didn't have to take all that from Cowley."

"So you were asleep then?" Bodie said gruffly.

"For the last fucking time, Bodie, I was not asleep! The sun was bright and I had only just closed my eyes when you knocked on the window."

"Oh for fuck's sake," said Bodie, totally exasperated by his idiotic partner, "you've been wandering around with your head in the clouds for weeks. If you're not daydreaming you're half asleep--and even when we're on a job I get this feeling that you're not all there. Jesus, mate," Bodie ended, "get your act together before you get yourself or me killed."

"Bodie..."

"Don't mess around, Doyle," Bodie cut in. "You know it's true--either get yourself sorted out or..."

"Or what?" Doyle asked quietly. "Or what?"

"I don't want a partner with his brains in his balls," he finished crudely.

"What exactly do you mean by that?"

"You know damn well what I mean. Ever since you started seeing her you've been...different. Christ, Doyle, I'm all for you making up for lost time and enjoying yourself but..." Bodie faltered, unsure of exactly what he was trying to say. "But after a night with Ann you usually look as if you've not slept a wink. Don't get me wrong, mate. You two want to go in for the sexual Olympics that's fine by me, but for fuck's sake, just make sure you've got enough energy left for the job," he finished forcefully.

Doyle didn't answer. He couldn't because he knew Bodie was right. With all his defences raised high, the only option left to him was attack.

"What were you doing round the front anyway?"

"Eh?"

"Back there--you were supposed to checking the back so what were you doing checking on me?"

"It's a bloody good job I did, isn't it, or you'd be dead right now."

"Why were you checking up on me?" Doyle persisted; over the last few weeks he had carefully noted when he thought he was being watched and had worked it out. Even though he hadn't actually seen them he knew they had been there--every time he went out with Ann, to her flat, the times she had gone home with him--the only time his skin hadn't pricked in warning had been when he was with Bodie.

"I was not checking up on you," Bodie answered. "I could see there was no way out the back and was coming to warn you about the cellar exit when all hell broke loose."

"That sounds a little weak, don't you think?" said Doyle sarcastically.

"What are you getting at?"

"Come on, Bodie. I know they're watching me. I'm not so far gone I haven't noticed, you know."

"Who's watching you?"

"Don't pretend you don't know!" Doyle spoke scathingly. "The only time I'm not watched is when I'm with you--is that because you're watching me for them?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Bodie said in a puzzled voice.

"I know about the surveillance, Bodie," Doyle said patiently. "I've known for a couple of months. It started back in March just after Day pulled that Weston bloke in. All I want to know is when am I going to get hauled in front of Internal Security? How much longer is Cowley going to fart around making both of us do these stupid, piddling jobs?"

"You're not under surveillance, Doyle," Bodie said, but it was obvious he wasn't believed. "I'd know if you were, wouldn't I!"

Surprisingly, Doyle half believed his partner's denials--the puzzlement in the blue eyes was genuine, Doyle was sure of that.

"I can check it out. It should be easy to find out if I.S. is watching you," Bodie offered.

"No!" Doyle said urgently. "If you do that they'll know I'm on to them and they'll change their operation--at least the way things are at the moment I know where I stand."

"Are you really..." Bodie didn't complete the question--he didn't need to.

"Do you think I'm making it up?" Doyle demanded to know. "My idea of fun, is it?"

"There's no need to bit my head off," Bodie said, trying to keep his temper in check. "If someone had been following us around for a couple of months I'm sure I would have noticed."

"Me," Doyle corrected. "Me, not us. They're watching me."

"But you're with me more hours than you're not--how come I've not noticed them?"

"Because they're not there when you are," Doyle said coldly, accusingly.

"Meaning?" Bodie wanted to know.

"Meaning whatever you like," Doyle said, making it quite clear why he believed the anonymous 'they' were not there when his partner was.

"Doyle," Bodie grated out through clenched teeth, "there is no one following you. No one is watching you. Not me, not Day, not Cowley and not Internal Security. If anyone was watching us--watching you--I'd know."

Doyle refused to believe him. Bodie had one last try as they arrived outside his block of flats.

"Look, mate, it's been a rough couple of weeks, we're both tired, overworked, maybe you're just over-reacting to something you think you've seen."

"You think I'm imagining it, don't you!"

"No...not exactly." That was it--exactly--but Bodie didn't think Doyle wanted to hear that. "Don't you think you might be getting a little...paranoid?"

It was the wrong word to use.

"Paranoid!" Doyle yelled back at him. "First I'm falling asleep on the job, then I'm imagining things and now I'm fucking paranoid! Thank you and a good night to you too--partner!"

"Doyle! Doyle...Ray!" Bodie called after him, but he refused to answer. Deciding against following him, Bodie drove towards his own home. Without intending to, he found himself rerunning the past few months through his memory for an out-of-place face or car, searching for memory that wasn't there. He spent the rest of the evening thinking back, checking and double checking, but still he found nothing. Maybe Doyle was paranoid, he decided eventually--yet one more quirk in his partner's personality.

He'd check it out though--discreetly. Just in case!



CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Shifting uncomfortably for the umpteenth time on the squeaky vinyl chair, Bodie yawned and stretched, trying to ease the crick in his neck and the stiffness in his muscles and meeting with little success. The doors at the end of the corridor crashed open as Cowley arrived.

"A complete write-off!" Cowley said immediately. "You're supposed to have lightning-fast reflexes, man," he sniped. "'A little accident' is how you reported it. Bodie, I've just seen the car--it looks as though you drove it into a brick wall!"

"Sir..."

"A complete write-off! Do you think cars grow on trees, 3.7? It'll come out of the department's budget--as if it wasn't tight enough already. You've no respect for property, any of you."

The Scotsman was well known for his shrewdness: his attention even to minor items on expense chits was famous and Bodie could only imagine the pain and outrage he was feeling at losing what had been an almost brand new vehicle.

"Sorry about the car, sir," he grated, "but at least no one got killed," he pointed out when Cowley finally paused to draw breath.

"Aye." Cowley clicked his tongue with irritation. "How is Doyle?" The question, casually delivered, could almost have been an afterthought.

"Managed to avoid killing 'im as well as writing the car off, sir."

"Don't get smart with me, Bodie," Cowley scolded and Bodie bit down on his smouldering anger. "Mild concussion and small contusions, or so I was informed."

Well, Bodie conceded, at least the Old Man had been concerned enough to enquire.

"Yes, sir, Doc's just stitching him up now."

Just then the door to the treatment room opened and a very pale Doyle, propped up by two tiny nurses, entered the room.

"You can take him home now, Mr Bodie," the sister informed him. "But Doctor says to have someone keep an eye on him for tonight at least."

"Bloody hell, mate--you look even worse than when you went in there!" Bodie exclaimed. "You sure he's fit to go home?"

"He's just a bit shaken up, he'll be all right in a few hours, but call your doctor or bring him back if there are any problems."

"Doyle?" Even Cowley looked at his battered agent and wondered whether he had the strength to walk as far as the car park.

Concentrating on fastening his jacket one-handedly, Doyle noticed Cowley for the first time.

"Sir," he acknowledged with a start; then: "Sorry about the car, sir."

"Aye...sorry indeed. Still...cars cost about as much as it would to retrain another agent--except new cars are easier to come by."

Having reassured himself that Doyle was not seriously hurt, he turned to go but stopped at the door. "Your young lady, Doyle--I believe she's abroad at the moment?"

Not bothering to ask how Cowley knew he was even seeing Ann, let alone her whereabouts, Doyle gave an affirmative nod of his head--then wished he hadn't as the pounding at his temples increased.

"In that case, Bodie," Cowley turned to address the other man, "take him home and look after him. I don't want to see either of you until Monday morning. Goodnight."

"Wha'? Hey! My old son," Bodie cheered once he had gone, "we've cracked it--a long weekend! The Old Man's going soft."

Following Bodie along the corridor at a more sedate pace, Doyle couldn't see what there was to be cheerful about and said so.

"Come on, Doyle, a whole weekend--when did we last get a whole weekend off?"

"And unless you plan to wrap your car around another flamin' brick wall it'll be the last one too. Christ almighty, you could 'ave killed me!"

"It was an accident, no one's fault. It's a bloody good job I was driving--anyone else would have written the car and themselves off!"

"So you made do with the car and only half killing me!" His head was aching abominably, bruised muscles were beginning to make themselves felt and the cold, unpleasant numbness of his injured arm began to wear off.

Realising that as well as feeling as bad as he looked, Doyle was still suffering from shock and in no mood for joking around, Bodie dampened his relief that they had escaped so lightly and got a free weekend into the bargain, and escorted his friend home.

Only taking an interest in the proceedings when they reached the front door, Doyle found the energy to protest.

"Bodie, I want to go home. Mine, not yours."

"Just belt up and go in," Bodie ordered. Doyle did, but with little grace and complaining all the way. "Why did you want to go home, any special reason?"

"No," Doyle sighed. "I just feel...I wanted to go home, Bodie. I feel bloody 'orrible."

"Precisely...so you can stay here and have a good, long soak in a bath, can't you!"

The logic behind his partner's plans finally filtered through to Doyle's tired brain. Home was nice, home was home, but his home only had a nice modern shower stall, and right now his aching body needed a hot bath.

"Right," Doyle smiled, feeling a bit more cheerful.

When it became obvious that Doyle wasn't going to move without help, Bodie led the way to the bathroom which was soon hot and steamy, helping him to strip and lower himself into the bath.

Watching the tension lines ease imperceptibly, Bodie smiled as Doyle leant back, his eyes closing.

"Just keep that arm on the edge, out of the water."

"Yes, Mum," Doyle said dutifully.

"Don't go to sleep there."

"No, Mum."

"I'll 'Mum' you in a minute, Doyle," Bodie laughed. "Now, is there anything you want before I go and start dinner?"

"Well..." Doyle said dutifully.

"What?" Bodie asked warily.

"Me hair." Doyle tweaked at a limp curl with his good hand. "It's all matted with blood...it'll itch like hell if I don't rinse it out."

"Blood in your hair!" Bodie bent down to inspect Doyle's scalp. "What was that stupid doctor doing leaving you--"

"It's only from scratches, Bodie. Just pinpricks really, from the windscreen--my arm got the worst of it."

"Well, it'll teach you to wear a seat belt in future," Bodie said once he'd confirmed Doyle was telling the truth. "Okay, bend your knees."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Knees," Bodie repeated. "Bend them--so you can tip your head back."

"Phew! You had me worried for a minute. Thought you were turning kinky on me. Hang on, I think we've got a problem."

"What's up?"

Doyle's injured arm was the problem. The bandage extended from knuckles to elbow, the whole of which had to be kept out of the water, which was extremely difficult when tipping his head far enough back to wet it without losing his balance. They eventually found a way, though. Bodie held Doyle's head steady, cupping it in one hand in the water and washing the bloodied curls with the other.

Taking care not to splash any of the soap into his partner's eyes, Bodie gently stroked the waterlogged curls, rinsing them clean, all the while holding Doyle's head securely in his hand, stopping him from going completely under the water. He couldn't remember whether he had ever washed someone else's hair and found himself enjoying the sensations, fascinated by the way it floated around Doyle's face in the water and clung to his own fingers as he combed through it.

"Mmm! That's nice," Doyle murmured, totally relaxed and more than half asleep. "Beautiful!"

The dreamy voice jolted Bodie back to the present.

"Come on, sunshine, can't fall asleep in the bath."

Helping Doyle to sit upright, Bodie yanked out the plug and held out a towel.

"I can't stand up...give us a hand, Bodie." Unable to gain a purchase on the steamy damp bathroom tiles without soaking his bad arm, Doyle needed to be half lifted out of the bath. "Ow! Ouch! Watch it! That hurt," he complained as his various bumps and bruises made themselves known.

Wrapping a bath towel around Doyle's shoulders, Bodie gave a heavy sigh.

"I suppose you need another towel for your bloody hair!" Nodding mutely, Doyle agreed, and Bodie fetched another towel. "You can dry yourself?" he asked.

Even through the sarcasm, though, Doyle guessed that if he said he couldn't Bodie would even do that for him too.

"Could do with a hand with my hair," he admitted half truthfully. "It's a bit difficult with one hand."

It was a matter of minutes before he was comfortably seated on the rug by the armchair clad in Bodie's bathrobe--he had declined the candy striped hospital pyjamas--wedged between his partner's knees as his head was patted dry by surprisingly gentle hands.

Bodie even combed it too, and took great care not to pull or drag on the hair where his scalp was tender.

By the time they got to bed Doyle was feeling so much better that he was able to really enjoy being so thoroughly pampered. All the worries caused by Day and Internal Security, the tiredness from nights when Ann's presence or bad dreams had kept him awake and the tension that had followed him and Bodie around over the past few weeks seemed very far away; he was content to lie back and let Bodie do all the fussing and worrying for him. He slept better and more soundly than he had for months.



Bodie woke up slowly; he could feel himself climbing through the muzzy layers from sleep to consciousness and was aware enough to know that something wasn't quite right. He didn't want to wake up. He was quite sure about that. It was nice here: warm and cosy and safe; lovely; it was really lovely; lovely and warm; cuddled up; cuddling someone lovely and warm. He snuggled closer to the warmth, loving it. So right. So very, very right. It was getting hotter. He was getting hot and the lovely warm feeling was growing too. He pulled the warmth closer, easing his heat on the sweet softness. It wasn't enough, though, and he moved, trying to hold more, trying to grasp even more of that lovely, loving warmth to him. Touch was not enough. He needed...more. Taste! A lick of moisture on his tongue, salt-sweet, raw and smooth. His hands moved, marking territory, laying claim to what he wanted. It still wasn't enough. He needed...more... He opened his eyes.

The shock was as effective as a bucket of iced water and Bodie withdrew even as his tongue flicked out to steal another taste of Doyle's flesh.

Recognising the withdrawal, Doyle muttered a sleepy protest and inched backwards until he came up against Bodie's chest, whereupon he sighed and settled back to sleep.

While his brain told him to move away from Doyle--quickly--his body and other ideas and he was horrified to feel himself curl closer to the sleepy warmth, appalled at the way he tucked his knees up tight against the back of Doyle's legs, even pushing the relaxed legs apart to trap himself more securely between the sleep-heavy limbs and tugging Doyle's hips backwards to press the bare buttocks against his own pulsing maleness.

Unable to stop himself, Bodie began undulating gently against Doyle, easing and inflaming the rising need that was growing more urgent with each movement.

Doyle's sleepy grunt of protest at the tight band around his waist was all that stopped Bodie's headlong fall into what was promising to be a beautiful, exhilarating climax.

Breathing heavily, sweat breaking out over his body which made both men slippery and sticky, only increasing the delicious feel of flesh on flesh, Bodie forced himself to break away, rolling to the far side of the bed, freezing when he thought the abrupt movement had awoken Doyle and not relaxing until he was sure he had settled back into a deeper sleep.

Dragging his hands over his face, Bodie tried to pull together shattered nerves as his heart and respiration slowed and the burning urgency lessened to uncomfortable, aching frustration.

Slightly calmer, he shifted slightly to sit up, moving with great care so as not to disturb the sleeper. Thankful for once for the light that streamed through the uncurtained window, Bodie stared for long minutes at Doyle's face. It was some considerable time before he could make any sense of the thoughts that swirled around his head.

Once the first shock began to fade Bodie found himself questioning why. Why Doyle? Why now? Why anyone come to that but especially why Doyle?

Moving stealthily, Bodie slid out of the bed and padded along the hallway to living room, scooping his bathrobe up as he went. Three o'clock in the morning was probably too late--or too early--to start a serious drinking bout, but he felt he needed one. The first couple of inches of golden warmth slid down his throat with little noticeable effect. The refill took a little longer to disappear and by the third round he was actually sipping at the whisky, taking time to savour the taste, rolling it around in his mouth as the confusion in his mind slowed its whirling, frantic panic.

Ray? he thought in amazement. Never in his whole life had he ever felt so much as a flicker of sexual interest in another man. Especially not since... With the ease of long practice, Bodie's conscious mind pushed hidden subconscious thoughts back behind the wall. Why Ray? Why not? Bodie tried to picture waking up in a similar position with any of this other colleagues--Murphy, Jax, Puddle-- and found his only reaction to be amusement. Thank god! he thought fervently. He couldn't imagine ever sleeping with any of that lot--so how come he was so keen to sleep with Ray then? How many times had they shared a bed over their year together when either one of then could easily have driven home or slept on a couch. Ah! Bodie reasoned to himself, Ray's couch was bloody uncomfortable and his own was a good nine inches too short. But, his conscience argued, why bring him home tonight. Admittedly Doyle had enjoyed the bath but it would have been easier to wash his hair in a shower but... But, Bodie finally admitted, he'd wanted to look after him, he'd wanted to care for him and make sure he was comfortable...and happy...just as he had for nearly a year now. He wanted to care for his partner.

And he did.

Care!

Doyle was his partner. Cowley had given him to him.

Doyle was his!

The anger that welled up inside was as big a shock as the sensations that had initially woken him. Bodie slammed the tumbler down on the table and swore, quietly but vehemently. Damn Cowley! he thought bitterly. Damn the man with his intricate, devious schemes. Cowley's Grand Plan had worked all right, had worked better than Cowley would ever know. Would never know! Never! All the scheming to bind him to a partner, to snare him with bonds of loyalty had backfired. Cowley had chosen well. Too damned well!

The anger was easier to handle, the emotion more familiar. Bodie knew how to make anger work for him.

He didn't return to bed until after dawn with his plan of action already firmly mapped out, the battle lines drawn up. The solution had been ridiculously easy. All Bodie had to do now was make sure Ray got what he thought he wanted. Marriage and CI5 made poor bedmates and Doyle would leave the squad--if not the department completely.

Once Doyle was no longer his partner, Bodie could resign, and to hell with George Cowley and his damned loyalties.

By the time Mr and Mrs Doyle realised their mistake it would be too late.

Lying in the bed alongside his oblivious, gently snoring partner, Bodie felt his resolve falter. But when he reached out to touch a bared shoulder, Doyle flinched and moved restlessly, hammering home a reminder of why Doyle disliked being touched.

Ruthlessly Bodie forced the longing inside him away, refusing to allow himself the luxury of even daydreaming about the remote possibility that just maybe...

From the other side of the bed Bodie watched Doyle sleep.

It was considerable time before he put a name to the dampness on his face.



From the observation room Cowley watched the events happening down on the warehouse floor grimly, his mind analysing the scene in a completely different way from the woman beside him but arriving, regretfully, at the same answer.

To one side of them Macklin groaned in amazement and wrung his hands through his hair.

"What the hell happened there?" he asked of no one in particular.

"Bodie let him fall," Ross answered clearly, her normally emotionless voice tinged with disappointment.

"Only a few weeks ago--a month ago--Bodie would have been there," said Cowley worriedly.

"A few months ago Doyle wouldn't have needed any help. He's way below par," Macklin added.

"They're not communicating," Ross said thoughtfully.

"How do you mean?"

"Almost from the beginning--well," Ross added not unfairly, "since Bodie accepted him as partner, I've noticed that in tight, fast-response situations, they only need the barest minimum of verbal communication to agree on a course of action."

The three watched the men being put through their paces. Macklin had noticed the uncanny way the two operated, he'd noticed something else, too.

"Do you ever hear them when they're fooling around, either before a job or just after when the tension's easing off? Bodie'll start to tell a joke--"

"--and Doyle will finish it for him. Aye," Cowley said, smiling. He had noticed that; most people had.

"Look at them!" Ross gestured to where the two agents were huddled together. "They're planning their attack on Towser, and they're having to use speech to do it. Something is very wrong down there.

"I'm open to suggestions as to what exactly is wrong, doctor," Cowley said briskly. "How far below par is Doyle?" This was addressed to Macklin.

"Well," the fair-haired man spoke slowly, choosing his words with care, "physically, he's fit--fit enough by my standards anyway. Dr Willis is of the opposite opinion."

"Why?"

"The usual story, Doyle's weight is down again and Willis feels that the weight loss is a reflection of Doyle's emotional state."

"It most probably is," Ross added.

"And if he's emotionally...unbalanced at the moment, his whole biological make-up is likely to be equally unbalanced--"

"Just hold it there," Cowley ordered. "One psychiatrist in the department is quite sufficient," he said, glaring from Macklin to Ross. "I was under the impression that Willis had passed Doyle as fit. Is that right?"

"That's correct," Macklin agreed.

"And you say he is below par. Are you refusing to pass him as fit?"

"No."

"Dr Ross?"

"No."

"So everyone is prepared to allow 4.5 to continue on duty?"

"Yes, sir--but with grave reservations." Ross and Macklin nodded in agreement with each other. "It's quite obvious that something is happening within the pairing, something is causing friction. But even allowing for the loss of effectiveness they are still a formidable team."

Cowley watched the two men as they finally out-manoeuvred Towser and succeeded in pinning him down to the dusty floor.

"I agree that they're good," he said as the two men let out banshee victory cries when Towser admitted defeat, "but I'm not happy with the way things are. This 'something' that's causing friction--could it be the girlfriend?"

"Ann Holly?" asked Ross. "Very likely. In fact, almost certainly. It seems wedding bells could be looming up sometime in the near future."

"Marriage?" Cowley asked in amazement; he hadn't thought things were that serious.

"From what Bodie was saying last week it seems probable," said Kate Ross smoothly.

"Bodie said that?" Macklin said in surprise. "I've not heard Doyle mention anything."

"And he's not thought to mention it to me either," said Cowley, "and he knows the procedure. The girl will have to be vetted."

"Well," Ross said, slightly defensive in the face of such open-mouthed amazement, "the way Bodie was speaking I took it as a foregone conclusion. He seemed quite positive about it. Made some joke about having to drag Doyle to his tailor to stop him arriving at the altar in jeans, if I remember right."

"Hmm," Cowley thought for a minute before voicing his suspicion. "Will Doyle want to continue in the department once he's married the girl?"

"Marriage and CI5 don't fit together too well," said Macklin.

"Form the little 4.5 has told me about Miss Holly I don't think she would be content to take the back seat to her husband's career. I got the impression that Doyle was under some pressure from her to resign from the police when they were nearly married before."

"But Doyle enjoys being on the squad," Macklin protested. "I don't think he's even thought about turning his back on Bodie."

"Maybe Bodie's turning away from him." As soon as the words left his mouth Cowley knew he was right. So did Macklin and Ross.

"What was it you said all those months ago, doctor?" Cowley said quietly. "Bodie always shuns personal involvement. Well, this time he made a mistake--and he knows it."

Macklin finished off Cowley's line of reasoning.

"Somehow, Doyle's got under Bodie's skin and now Bodie is trying to pull away before he gets hurt. He knows if Doyle marries the girl he'll leave the squad--"

"So he's building up the wall between them, he's pulling away first, before Doyle does."

Problem understood.

It might be understood but it was still unsolved, and it would have to be faced.

Standing alone in the observation room Cowley watched the two men gather their equipment together and help Macklin and Towser put the mats and training gear away. Each taking one end of a mattress, they dragged and carried it over to the storeroom. The job finished, they did not immediately return to the centre of the room but stayed leaning against the wall and door talking earnestly and deeply for several long minutes. Cowley continued to watch as Bodie shook his head in a very definite manner before turning his back on his partner and walking away. Doyle called after him, once, twice, before turning his own back to the room and punching his fist into the mattress with a force that rocked his body.

It was just possible, Cowley mused consideringly, that Bodie had met his match. Doyle quite clearly did not want his partner to walk away from him.

Leaving the building and walking towards his care, he decided not to start the vetting procedures until Doyle formally declared his intent. For some inexplicable reason Cowley found he was quite unwilling to accept Bodie's declaration of his partner's intent.



Determined to find the reason behind Bodie's persistent bloody-mindedness, Doyle was in no mood to linger in the draughty shower room. Cleaner though still unrefreshed, he threw on his clothes and followed Bodie out of the training complex at a brisk trot. Just lately he was always following Bodie, always a couple of steps behind, and only ever catching up when it was obvious Bodie had no option but to allow it. Reaching HQ only seconds behind him, though, he found Bodie was nowhere in sight. The deceptive tattiness of the reception area, deserted except for the electronic, computerised wizardry that allowed the ever-present security man to look like the lethargic, innocuous person he most definitely was not, offered him no clue.

"Where did he go?"

"Who?"

"3.7."

"Lost him have you?"

"Oh...fuck off!" Doyle said sourly, the man's sarcasm only serving to irritate him further.

"You blokes," the security man called after, "think you're so bloody wonderful, but you can't even keep tabs on each other!" The man's voice followed him up the stairwell.

Their office was empty, only Bodie's jacket draped over a desk indicating that once again, Doyle was just a few steps behind his partner. The sound of raucous hilarity rumbled its way along the corridor form the operations room. Doyle opened the door and walked through.

Carter noticed him first. As soon as he saw the double-take in the man's eyes he knew it was too late to retreat and he steeled himself to carry on. Carter nudged the man next to him, who was crowing like a constipated chicken; following Carter's nervous glance, the man choked down his mirth and kicked the chair leg of the man next to him.

That he, Doyle, had been the source of everyone's amusement was blatantly apparent. The laughter stopped within seconds of people becoming aware exactly who had entered the room, everyone's embarrassment too great even to attempt an effort of normality.

"Must 'ave bin one hell of a joke," Doyle said quietly. "Anyone care to share it?"

No one spoke and in a moment of icy, insane clarity, Doyle wondered why everyone had stopped breathing.

"Isn't anyone going to tell me the joke then?"

"You intending to add it to your repertoire?"

This, from Day--who else, Doyle thought--brought more than one nervous snigger.

"You going to tell me or what?" Doyle turned to face the agent, realising that this moment had been a long time coming. He was aware of people moving about, leaving the room. There were no cowards in CI5 but no one deliberately got caught in the fallout. From down the corridor he could hear raised voices, he thought he could hear someone calling his partner's name.

"Keen on sharing things, are you, Doyle?" said Day as he eased himself to his feet and stepped away from the table. "I mean, I've heard that you are...generous, that is."

"And what else have you...heard?"

Someone touched his arm and he flung them off without taking his eyes from Day.

"I've heard a lot about you, sunshine!" Coming from Day's lips the nickname sounded warped, twisted. "Very keen on sharing...things!" Day's eyes roamed insolently over Doyle's body, a small, almost imperceptible flicker of tongue showing through the smiling mouth. "a little bit here...little bit there...sharing...things." Day saved the best until last, enjoying the moment and uncaring of Cowley's orders. "Met an old friend of yours the other day. Got to talking about you. He said next time I saw you I was to give you his...regards!"

From behind, Doyle heard another snigger.

"This 'old friend,'" Doyle asked, "got a name, has he?"

"Said how much he missed you," Day said casually as he measured how much further he could risk pushing Doyle. "You cheered his days up no end, he said--poor old Bert--bet you cheered his nights up too."

It was so fast he didn't see it coming. Doyle was pumping his fist into his abdomen for the third time before the pain from the first one registered.

Day was fighting him off, pushing and punching at Doyle while someone was trying to grab his arms from behind. Doyle fought them both, fought them all.

A riot in the operations room was not the best way to keep their Controller in the right frame of mind and so everyone piled back into the melee, trying to break it up before the disturbance reached the office at the far end of the corridor.

Pinned to the floor by half a dozen of Cowley's finest, Doyle was still fighting them, struggling against he weights that secured his arms and legs, bucking against the weight that settled heavily on his back.

"Doyle! Doyle!" Somebody was touching his face, trying to turn it; he bit the fingers hard. "Ouch! Jesus, Ray! Pack it in, mate. Ray, pack it in before someone gets hurt!"

It was Bodie. Doyle turned to look at the owner of the bitten fingers. Bodie was there on his knees looking worried--frightened even--and he wondered why. He saw Bodie nod to someone behind him, above him, and felt the weight on his back lift off a few inches; the body hesitated before shifting any further but Bodie made an impatient movement with his head and all the restraining hands left him.

"Get him out of here before Cowley starts sniffing around," a voice barked roughly. Doyle tensed again, but it was Day who was jerked to his feet and hustled out of the door. "Everyone else can get out too--go on! The fun's all over now. Sod off!" Bodie dismissed everyone else and helped Doyle to his feet.

Stunned by both his temper and a blow to his head, Doyle just stood there, rocking slightly, as first Bodie and then Lake tried to disguise the evidence. Pulling a hanky from his pocket, Lake pressed it into Doyle's hand and then pressed the hanky and hand over a nose which was bleeding slightly.

There was a slight commotion at the door.

"Cowley's on his way down to see the rota boards. Quick!" an urgent voice announced. For a moment the men, with the exception of the cause of it all, panicked.

"Into the side room, then we can get him out through the rest room when Cowley's not looking," Lake said.

They only just made it. To avoid being seen they had to get down on their hands and knees and crawl below the half-glass partition to reach the door that led back into the corridor.

Totally unaware of the goings on only a few feet behind his back, Cowley gave his attention to the rota boards.

Waiting until Cowley moved over to the duty operatives desk, the three men scurried across the few feet of exposed floor to escape into the corridor. They were out of the building and halfway across the car park before they began to believe that they had got away with it.

Lake turned and gave Bodie a meaningful look; he didn't have to say anything.

"Thanks, Puddle. He owes you one!"

"Forget it. Just take him home and keep him out of trouble, Bodie, for all our sakes!" Lake said quietly before squeezing Bodie's shoulder and moving away. He didn't really want to get involved; he knew all about dealing with a partner's problems and he didn't want to know--not any more.

"Come on, Ray," Bodie said gruffly as he unlocked the car door. "Get in and I'll take you home."

"Oh, you are talking to me then!"

Bodie ignored him and waited for Doyle to get in the car. "Do you need a doctor?" he thought to enquire. Doyle had after all very nearly single-handedly fought off a small army

"No."

"Are you all right now?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, christ!" Bodie drew in a deep breath and tried to gather the threads of his patience. "Are you going to have a fight with me now?"

"If you want one, why not?" Doyle demanded to know. "Might clear the air a bit. Who knows, you might even stand still long enough for me to hit you!"

Driving down the street, Bodie had to negotiate between some buses before he could answer. He hoped the delay would help him think of something to say.

"Tell you what," Doyle said in a brittle voice, "how about a compromise? Instead of a fight let's 'ave an argument."

Bodie could feel the tension in the man next to him and realised that Day had been the final straw and the things they had avoided talking about all summer had finally bubbled to the surface.

"Hell," Doyle went on in his partner's continued silence, "even an argument would be a novelty. How long is it since we last talked?"

"What are you on about? Never stop talking, you don't!" Bodie joked lamely.

"Oh yeah! We talk about the job, we talk about Cowley, we even talk about Anson's fuckin' cigars but when do we ever really talk?"

The silence continued as the car moved along the streets, Bodie desperately trying to think of a way to turn the conversation and Doyle mopping the remaining blood spots on his face and wondering where the hell everything had started to go wrong.

"How long has he been spreading it around?" Doyle finally asked, sounding much calmer.

"Has who been spreading what around?" Bodie asked, still trying to stall.

"How long," Doyle said with care, "has Day been telling everyone about Kingsley and me?"

"Oh, that!"

"Yeah, oh that!" Doyle said bitterly.

"Since you joined the squad."

"Shit!" Doyle swore without any real heat. "Was half hoping it was only recent. When did you first hear it?"

"Not long after you'd told me what had really happened. And as far as I can tell he's only talked to the squad; he's got more sense than to spread it any further."

"Does Cowley know?"

"What do you think?"

"He knows." Doyle thought for a few minutes. "Do you think he already knew or would the rumours going round have been the first he knew about it?"

"I don't know for sure but I'd say he knew about Kingsley before you left Maidstone," Bodie said quietly. "You said to yourself that everyone on the wing thought Kingsley was screwing you. Stands to reason that the story would get about--nice juicy bit of gossip...plus..." Bodie stumbled again, "well...you've never...denied it--except to me, of course...you let them believe it, and since you left Maidstone you've never talked about it to anyone apart from me."

"That fuckin' pervert!" Doyle hissed. "I bet he'd just love to know how he's still mucking my life up."

They arrived at Doyle's flat and although he didn't really want to stay while his partner was in such an odd mood, Bodie felt reluctant to leave him. Doyle's mood kept swinging back and forth between anger and depression and although Bodie knew the depression was not deep enough to be dangerous, he knew that the anger was.

Deciding that alcohol would be easier and less painful to administer than a thump on the head, Bodie poured them both a drink, but when he turned with the glasses the room was empty. He found Doyle in the hallway staring at his mirror image.

"What do they see?" Doyle asked aloud. "What do I do that makes them look at me?"

It took Bodie a second or two to realise that Doyle wasn't really talking to him, that he was asking himself the question as he stared at his image, trying to see what they saw.

"It keeps on happening...even before I went inside...just didn't understand what they wanted before...too naive, I suppose. Do you think I look queer?"

The question took Bodie completely by surprise, and he took too long to answer for a denial to sound believable.

"What does 'queer' look like?" Bodie finally managed to say, his heart pounding as he realised how horrified Doyle would be if he ever guessed how his partner felt about him. He stared into the mirror straight into the reflection of Doyle's eyes. Beautiful was a word which sprang into Bodie's mind. He tried to turn the word into handsome, but beautiful was better.

"You're...good-looking," Bodie said carefully. "Slim--fit--an attractive man. I suppose if a...man was...that way inclined...he might think you worth...approaching."

"Good looking!" Doyle mimicked him, "with this!"

Bodie touched a finger to the damaged cheek, shocked at his daring and recklessly giving in to his need to reach out and touch.

"Makes you look...different; exotic."

"Exotic!"

"Special, then," Bodie said, relaxing slightly as Doyle permitted the touch and even turned his head to allow to allow Bodie's fingers to trace the scarred tissue as it disappeared into his hairline.

Unconscious of what he was doing, Doyle closed his eyes and moved his head slightly, encouraging Bodie's fingers to linger in their fleeting caress of his skin. Bodie was forced to apply more pressure with his hand to prevent Doyle from noticing how much he was trembling. He slipped his hand along the curve of Doyle's skull and down the tense column of his neck, turning the action into a firm, relaxing and, Bodie hoped, an asexual massage--asexual, that was, from Doyle's point of view; certain not from his. Totally oblivious to the storm Bodie was encountering, Doyle relaxed into the massage, encouraging him to continue with soft moans of contentment as the tension was eased away.

His eyes open again, Doyle saw only his own reflection looking back at him, imperfection and disappointment seemingly etched onto his face.

"Nah," he said softly, "how could anyone call that exotic?" He touched the cheekbone with a finger and pulled the skin taut in an attempt to even it out. "Ann says that a good plastic surgeon should be able to do something with it."

"What?" Bodie was astonished to discover that the scar caused his partner so much anguish that he would consider such drastic action. "What on earth do you want to go mucking around with that sort of thing for?"

"It does make me look a bit odd. Ann says it makes me look..."

Doyle's voice trailed away as he was suddenly overtaken by a burst of self-consciousness.

"She said it made you look odd?" Bodie asked, more than prepared to make her a present of her own damaged cheekbone if she so wished.

"Not in so many words," Doyle admitted. "She does have tact--sometimes." He laughed softly, wistfully. "She keeps looking at it, but she's never touched it. Not once."

Bodie laid a finger across the mark again, a thrill of unexpected pleasure surging through his nerve endings at the knowledge that he was doing something for Doyle that Ann couldn't or wouldn't do. And Ray was letting him, encouraging him even.

"What do I do about Day?" Doyle asked later that evening. "If Cowley gets to hear about this afternoon's debacle we'll both be on the carpet."

"Day's hardly likely to tell him--from what I heard he was asking for it, deliberately provoking you."

"He asked for it all right."

"Most of the squad don't share his opinion of you--"

"Most?" Doyle picked up on the word.

"You've still got to charm a few of 'em, sunshine--but no one listens to him and more--"

"The whole bloody room was listening when I walked in on him!" protested Doyle.

"Come on, Doyle!" They'd all been stuck up there on standby all day. They'd've listened to Percy Edward's bird impressions if he'd been there."

It had a ring of truth; Doyle had to admit as much. After a few hours you'd find yourself listening to anything to keep yourself awake, and a nice piece of spiced up gossip, however untrue, was as good a way as any of passing the time.

As Bodie got ready to go home for the night Doyle asked him about his plans for the next evening.

"Why? I thought Ann was coming home tonight."

"Well, yes, I think she is but--"

"By tomorrow night she'll be over her jet-lag and all ready to tell you what she's been up to in all those foreign parts, won't she. It's been a few weeks--I expect you'll both have a lot to talk about," Bodie said brightly.

"I suppose so. But I thought..."

"Well, I must go. Want to get me eight hours in. See you tomorrow. Goodnight."

"But, Bodie...'night," Doyle called out lamely as the door slammed shut behind the swiftly retreating figure.

Wandering through the flat, locking up and turning the lights off, Doyle thought about Ann, wondering when she would arrive at Heathrow. If her flight didn't get in until very early in the morning she might still be too tired to want company tomorrow evening.

He didn't once question the reasons why Ann's imminent return did not fill him with happy anticipation. Neither did he think it strange that he wanted to spend tomorrow evening relaxing and unwinding in his partner's company.



As he had known it would be, the conversation was soon steered back towards the coming festivities. He didn't want to discuss it, Ann knew it and so did Bodie, and he was beginning to feel picked on.

"For the last time," he raged quietly, "I don't think going to visit Constance is a good idea."

"You'll have to go and see her sometime, Doyle," Bodie said politely.

"Why?"

"Oh, Ray, really!" Ann exclaimed.

"Because you have to," Bodie insisted. "Stands to reason, you can't hide away forever. You'll have to see her and explain everything. She'll have to know eventually."

"Why?"

"Because!" Bodie said meaningly as he winked across the small table at Ann, who blushed prettily and smiled back at him. "My round, isn't it--same again?" He picked up the empty glasses and moved towards the bar, leaving Doyle tracing the circles of liquid on the table top and scowling fiercely.

"Darling, please!" Ann begged sweetly. She knew her mother was expecting her to go home for Christmas and after Bodie had told her how Ray had spent his first Christmas out of prison she felt obliged to do something to make this year happier for him. "Bodie's right, darling. Once we tell her the truth about those dreadful things that happened everything will be just fine. Just like before. Oh, please, Ray! Please say you'll come. You know that you'll be welcome, Mummy and Harry will just love to see you again."

Doyle didn't particularly feel like placing a bet on that. Dear Connie and Happy Harry would do all they could to make him feel about as welcome as a fertile flea, only Ann couldn't see that. Had never been able to see that.

"So, when are you off then?" Bodie asked as he plonked their drinks down on the table. "Don't forget to get your good suit pressed; got to make a good impression on your future in-laws, haven't you!"

Ann simpered and took a delicate sip of her drink and didn't notice the filthy look her intended gave his partner.



Life was very hectic in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The Christian sprit of goodwill towards all men seemed to affect all the heads of state, and military leaders of all denominations at the same time. They all converged on London--it seemed to share their goodwill--before vanishing back to their respective homes, castles, places and fortresses prior to the Christian world closing down for Christmas.



Deliberately, and very purposefully, Bodie did not allow his partner a moment in which he could really talk to him about anything outside their work.

In fact, it wasn't until the squad's party was almost half over that he sought his friend out. Doyle was talking to Puddle with no sign anywhere of Ann when Bodie found him.

"Where is she then--where's my lovely lady?" Bodie asked.

"Gone to--powder her nose," Lake answered discreetly.

"That's all right then. For a nasty moment there I thought you'd let one of this lot of rabble walk off with her."

"She's got too much taste to do a daft thing like that, haven't you, love?" Doyle slipped his arm around Ann's waist and pecked her cheek as she returned.

"To do what?" she asked.

"Run off to my love-nest for a night of unbridled passion with me, my dear," Bodie said in his best Rudolph Valentino style.

"Don't listen to him, beautiful!" Lake added. "You'd end up washing his socks and making him bacon butties all night."

"Give over, Puddle," Bodie laughed and thumped his friend o the back. "Anyway, Doyle, when are you two off to see the in-laws then?"

"In-laws! You've not said anything about getting married!"

"Well, we've not actually--" said Doyle.

"He, listen everybody, listen!" Lake raised his voice to be heard above the noise of the party. "Shut up and listen--I've got an announcement to make."

"Puddle!" Doyle failed to stop him.

"Everybody listening? Right. Got an important announcement to make. Doyle's getting married!"

From then on it was pure bedlam, congratulations rained down on the 'happy couple' from every direction. They were parted from each other by sheer force of numbers; Doyle was borne to the bar to be given celebratory drinks and Ann was swept around the dance floor by a succession of men keen to dance with the newest squad 'wife.'

By the time the party came to an end they were officially engaged.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN

The phone rang at odd intervals throughout the whole of Christmas Day. Bodie stopped what he was doing each time it rang out to look at it...and waited for it to stop. He didn't feel like talking to anyone and he most definitely did not feel up to coping with joyous greetings and seasonal salutations. He half wished that the red phone, the direct line to HQ, would ring, but if it did it would probably cancel Doyle's leave too--and he didn't really want that either.

The phone shrilled again, longer this time as though the caller knew someone was there. The ringing went on and on. Bodie just glared at it as it continued.

"Fuck off, Doyle!" Bodie shouted at it. "Jus' fuck off an' leave me alone!" The phone was suddenly silent. Bodie stared at it for a few more seconds before slumping back into his chair and topping his glass up. "Tha's right...you jus' fuck off an' leave me alone, see if I care. You see if I..."

It took a lot to make Bodie drunk. It was an expensive habit that he didn't pursue very often, but then it was Christmas after all. He didn't usually pay much attention to Christmas and, since freeing himself from his own family ties had single-mindedly refused to get drawn into anyone else's. Except for the last year, of course. To fend off the feelings the memory initiated, Bodie took another long swallow before allowing the thoughts to solidify into the chain of events. It had all been Cowley's fault. And Puddle's--not forgetting Murphy...good old Murphy!

"Bet Doyle's looking forward to next week, eh?" Murphy had said. Bodie hadn't understood and said so. "Christmas," Murph had said, waving his arms around like some demented windmill and smiling broadly. The one-word explanation had still not made all that much sense to Bodie, who was prepared to conclude that Murphy had already been afflicted with the seasonal insanity.

"Good of the Old Man to give you two the holiday off--not even on standby, you lucky sods! Must be the Christmas spirit--probably opened the bottle a bit early, eh!" Murphy had chortled. "It's only fair, I suppose, even the other lads reckon Cowley's being pretty decent letting Doyle off this Christmas--Christ, I don't suppose he's had much to celebrate the past few years!"

It was only then Bodie realised that it was going to be Doyle's first 'free' Christmas for four years--and everyone, it seemed, was expecting him to do something about it. Uncertain of what to do and resenting the widely held belief that he should be the one to do it, Bodie had eventually gone around to visit Doyle at his new flat.

For one reason or another they didn't get round to discussing Christmas until much later that evening. Helping his partner to 'rearrange a few bits of furniture' had turned into a mammoth task, the whole house being shifted around until Bodie was quite certain that some bits had ended up exactly where they had started from.

"All you need now is a tree and some tinsel," Bodie had ventured as an opener.

"Nah," Doyle dismissed the suggestion casually and sent to get them something to drink."

"No."

"Christmas is for families." Bodie recited the phrase people often quoted at him and did at least try to sound as if he meant it.

"You going to see yours?" Doyle asked.

"No."

Doyle just shrugged at his answer and changed the subject.

"What are you going to do?" Bodie asked him again a little later on. Doyle sighed before answering.

"Hadn't given it that much thought--how long did you say we have off?"

"Three days."

"Three days--what can you do in three days for heaven's sake?"

"Celebrate Christmas," Bodie said recklessly.

"How?"

"Same way as everyone else, I suppose. Eating, drinking and...watching the telly! How did you want to spend it?"

Doyle went very quiet for a few minutes before replying and at first Bodie didn't want to listen too closely, but it soon became apparent that Doyle was quite lost in his memories as he relived past Christmases. Childhood tales and reflections of a family life that was quite unknown to Bodie were slowly revealed; simple, touching tales that were sometimes bittersweet and occasionally, childishly magical. Of the Christmases spent in prison there was no mention and Doyle refused to be drawn. The shutters on that part of his life were, as always, well and truly closed.

It took Bodie a few days to work out his plan and it went off beautifully. The wonderful 'Family Sized Christmas Hamper' that he 'won' in some unspecified lottery cost him a considerable portion of his monthly salary and the invitation to spend Christmas in decadent comfort and willing arms, but it had been worth it. Doyle had responded to his partner's cry for help and unearthed a recipe from somewhere to cope with the turkey, Christmas pudding and all the other trimmings it took them the three days to eat and drink.

They had stayed at Doyle's new flat the whole time, not straying outside the front door once, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, and enjoying themselves. It had been the closest Bodie had come to a 'family' Christmas for many years. The last too, he thought bitterly.

The phone rang once more during the evening and started again about mid-morning on Boxing Day. Bodie continued to ignore it. Eventually he covered the phone with a pile of pillows and took himself off to bed to sleep away his overdose of Christmas.

The dream was so familiar that he already knew the ending. He followed the set pattern easily, remembering with boring ease each turn of conversation, shift of tension, but this time the analytical part of his mind rebelled against the routine and forced a few changes, subtle changes that were, at first, barely noticeable.

"What are you in for?" he asked his cell mate.

"Nothing--I'm innocent," Doyle answered quietly.

"Do you really expect me to believe that?" Bodie spat out as he pulled at the other man's shirt, forcing him to look up.

"It's true," Doyle insisted.

"Don't make me laugh."

"It's all lies, I didn't do anything!"

"I suppose it's all lies about you and Bert Kingsley too?"

Doyle paled and tried to pull away but Bodie held on to him.

"Don't..."

"Don't what?" Bodie demanded of his prisoner. His own prison garb was gone, replaced by the trim, serviceable serge of an officer.

The change of clothing changed the rules.

The power of his new position ran through Bodie like an electrical charge, adding fuel to his growing anticipation and increased awareness of the man he held so closely.

"You're a bent copper, Doyle," Bodie sneered. He gripped Doyle's chin, forcing it up. "And you know what we do to bent coppers, don't you?" He jerked Doyle forward, bringing him into hard contact with his own body. He could feel Doyle's trembling body down the whole, hot, aching length of himself.

"Did you say 'don't' to Kingsley when he did this?" Bodie rubbed his groin against Doyle's. "And what about when he did this?" Bodie slid his hands about the taut body to cup Doyle's buttocks, pulling him forward to increase the sensation centring nicely in his own body but before he could force it through to completion Doyle was snatched away from his arms.

"Ray!" he cried out, protesting his loss.

"He's not yours," the man snarled. "He's mine, aren't you, Ray?" The man had his arm resting loosely across Doyle's shoulders. Doyle smiled at Bodie before answering:

"That's right," as he turned into the larger man's embrace. Stunned, Bodie watched as the stranger pulled the unresisting Doyle to him and repeated the coarse movements he had made himself only seconds earlier--the only difference being that Doyle was not passive this time and he watched helplessly as his Ray responded to the rough handling. Held captive by the spectacle, Bodie looked on as Doyle's body was bared by knowing hands, the sight of his obvious arousal adding more fire to Bodie's own lust. Unable to bear the lack of physical stimulation a second longer, Bodie loosened his own clothing, freeing himself, his hand starting a fast and furious beat immediately. He closed his eyes at the moment of climax and fancied that he heard a cry from Doyle. He couldn't help himself responding to the sound and he opened his mouth to call his partner's name as he came. He was still pulsing stickily into his hand with Ray's name on his lips when he woke up, every ugly second clear in his mind.

"Bodie!"

He shook his head to clear it but Doyle's voice could still be heard--although edged with irritation rather than passion--but just as clearly as in his dream.

"Bodie! I know you're in there, if you don't come and let this chain off I'm going to kick the bloody door down!"

Bodie froze. He couldn't possibly face him now; not after...

"Bodie. You've got until I count to three to convince me you've got a good reason why I can't come in!"

Shakily clambering out of bed and shrugging into a bathrobe, Bodie moved towards the hallway, his brain going into overdrive. Inspiration hit as he opened the bedroom door. He stepped into the hallway and continued an imaginary conversation with no one in a voice calculated as being just loud enough to carry to the cracked open front door.

"...okay, I'll just get rid of him, just wait a bit...no, there's no need for you to get up--I'll just get rid of him." Reaching the door, Bodie slammed it shut, careless of Doyle's nose or fingers, released the safety chain and opened it again with a belligerent expression firmly fixed on his face.

"What the bloody hell do you want? Who the fuck do you think you are knocking on my door at this time of night?"

"Bodie, it's four-thirty in the afternoon," Doyle said sweetly.

"So?" Bodie demanded. "What do you want? Make it snappy--there's a mate." Bodie softened his voice a little and nodded towards his closed bedroom door.

"You've got company?" Doyle asked, feeling rather foolish now that he was here.

His voice heavy with irony, Bodie simply said, "You noticed! Someone gave you a brain for Christmas!"

"Sorry. Interrupt something did I?" Only now did Doyle realise why his partner had taken so long to answer the door; the smell of sex still strong enough to carry across the draughty hallway.

"We've established that I've got company and that you did interrupt something," Bodie said patiently. "But I still don't know why you were intent on doing a shoulder charge on my front door."

Intent now only on getting away, Doyle began to back towards the stairs.

"Just wanted to tell you that your phone's not working--I've been ringing and ringing you, yesterday and today; knew you were in so I reported the fault," he added generously.

"What did you want that was so important?"

"Oh...nothing." Doyle had reached the beginning of the stairwell. "Just wanted to wish you a happy Christmas, that's all and to invite you over for dinner tomorrow."

"Dinner? I thought you were staying with Ann's family?"

Doyle wrinkled his nose. "Yeah, well...had enough of them. Came home this morning."

"I dunno about tomorrow--"

"Ann's staying on for a few more days, won't come back to town till Thursday at the earliest," Doyle added, realising unconsciously that his partner wouldn't come if he thought Ann was going to be there.

"What time?" Bodie asked.



Bodie arrived half an hour early--and was let in by Ann.

"Hello, Bodie," she said in the moment of surprised silence. "Ray had a phone call from someone about twenty minutes ago and had to go out."

"From HQ?" Bodie asked.

"No, I don't think so. It was a Bob someone. I think Ray said he was with the Home Office."

"Bob Craig?"

"Yes, I think that was it," she replied as she led Bodie into the living room. "Here, let me take your jacket. Would you like a drink?"

Bodie let her take his jacket and moved towards the small drinks cabinet to help himself.

"Glasses are in the middle cupboard and I think you'll find some mixers in the cupboard underneath," Ann called out from the hallway. Bodie already had a glass in his hand and had not needed to be told where anything was, being as he was as comfortable in Doyle's home as he was in his own--something his hostess noticed as soon as she came back into the room.

"I'd forgotten, you're probably quite familiar with Ray's flat, aren't you," she said, accepting a glass of dry martini. The flash of colour on his hand drew Bodie's attention to the new jewellery adorning the manicured finger.

"All formal now, is it?" he asked as he held her hand to look closer at the ring.

"Yes." Ann twisted it on her finger. "Ray wanted to buy me another ring, a new one, but I told him that I still wanted to wear this one." She moved away to rest her glass down before going out into the kitchen.

Bodie followed her. "Another ring?" he asked curiously.

"Yes. This one was my first engagement ring, the one Ray bought me the last time...I could never bear to get rid of it."

"Surprised you kept it all this time," Bodie said unthinkingly.

"Why shouldn't I?" Ann spun on her heel.

"Well..." Bodie groped frantically for an agreeable answer, he could hardly say what he really thought she should have done. "I thought you girls were supposed to chuck it in the river or pawn it when love's dream goes sour," he said with a disarming smile.

Saved by the bell, he thought with relief as the phone rang. They both reached to answer it, Ann's hand closing on the receiver first. Bodie acknowledged she could answer it with a brief nod and stood back. Had it been the red phone, of course, there was no way she would have been allowed to answer it.

"Hello. Yes, he arrived about ten minutes ago. All right. Bodie--it's Ray." She held out the phone for him to take.

"Hello, mate," Bodie said.

"Sorry about this, Bodie, but I'm not going to get back for another few hours." He sounded tired and irritable.

"What's up, Ann said that Bob Craig had called?"

"Yeah, the whole compensation business comes up before the board in a few days and he needed to get some papers prepared--and some berk has gone and lost half the bloody file so I've got to go over everything again!"

"Need any help?"

"Nothing you can help with, mate. I've just got to plough through a mountain of papers to check what's missing. Sorry about this," Doyle apologised again. "Mucked my plans right up it has, especially with Ann suddenly flying off to America tomorrow. Look, why don't you two go ahead and have dinner, I'll try and get back as soon as I can--" Doyle's voice became distant and voices could be heard in the background, then the mouthpiece was muffled as he spoke to someone in the room with him. It was only a moment before he was talking down the phone again. "Bodie, I've got to go, sorry about this evening. Tell Ann I'll see her tonight when I've finished here, bye." The line went dead and Bodie replaced the receiver.

"He had to go, said he'll see you tonight," he said awkwardly. Wonderful, he thought, a perfect evening--just Ann and him--recipe for disaster.

"Did he say anything about dinner?"

He could lie, of course. The thought was very tempting.

"Yes, said we were to go ahead without him."

"Well, if you came for dinner the least I can do is feed you," Ann said lightly.

Bodie suddenly recalled the few things Ray had ever said about his fiancee's cooking and tried to withdraw from the predicament he found himself in.

"It's okay, love. I don't want to put you out."

"Really, Bodie. It's no bother, besides, it'll make a pleasant change to have a chance to cook something without Ray fussing around in the kitchen." The sarcastic tone Ann used took Bodie aback and it obviously showed because she laughed, a genuine laugh this time. Not a genteel giggle, but a warm rich sound that Bodie couldn't help but respond to.

"Honestly, Bodie," said Ann as she went back into the kitchen and started rummaging through the vegetable racks and fridge. "The way Ray goes on you would think he was the only person in the world able to cook a decent meal!"

"He is a good cook--miles better than me," Bodie defended.

"He told me you were lousy in the kitchen."

Had he, indeed, Bodie thought, surprised to realise that the pair must have talked about him. "I think lousy is a bit strong!" he said, slightly wounded.

"Oh, don't worry, Bodie. I always take everything Ray says about other people's cooking with a big pinch of salt--no one ever matches his standards. Have you honestly never noticed how fussy he is with his food?" she asked. Bodie had to admit that apart from thinking that Ray never ate enough, he hadn't. Ann wasn't surprised. "It took me ages to work it out--and even then it was Helen, his mother, who told me. You'll never get him to admit it, but he's got a real 'thing' about eating food prepared by other people. If he cooks for himself he'll usually eat the pattern off the plate but give him a meal prepared by someone else and he'll eat enough to be polite or to stop himself from feeling hungry."

"I've seen him eating out--and he eats at my place," Bodie continued to defend Ray although he knew that what Ann was saying had more than a grain of truth in it.

"But what does he eat? In a canteen or restaurant he will opt for a salad or something really basic like an omelette, rolls or sandwiches. Things which take relatively little cooking. And, at your home, when you do the cooking, I'll bet that Ray is in the kitchen with you, watching, helping to get it ready?"

"Well...now that you mention it," Ray admitted. "Can't say that I'd really noticed before but yes--he's always under my feet--I usually just back out and leave him to get on with it." The told-you-so expression on Ann's face gave Bodie food for thought. He considered he knew his partner well and had got to know all about his moods and peculiarities and it was a shock to find that he didn't. What else was there that Ann knew and he didn't?

When Doyle finally arrived home several hours later he was greeted by the unexpected sight of his fiancee and partner deep in conversation seated at the dining table with the remnants of dinner still around them.

"Hello, love." Ray leant down and give Ann a peck on her cheek. "Sorry I was so long--had a nice meal?" Testing the atmosphere, he was doubly amazed to discover how relaxed they both were--a total contrast to their usual encounters.

"Lovely," said Bodie. "We even left some for you. It's in the hot plate keeping warm--shouldn't be too dried up; we only ate about an hour ago. Sit yourself down and I'll get you a plate." Bodie busied himself in the kitchen serving up his partner's portion of the scrumptious meal Ann had prepared. "Careful, it's hot," he added as he put the plate in front of Doyle.

"It looks interesting--who cooked?" Doyle asked innocently and looked up to find two pairs of inscrutable eyes looking at him.

"Ann," Bodie said finally. "With a little help from me--it's delicious. Almost ate your bit as well, didn't we?" This last, addressed to Ann who agreed, caused the pair of them to smile broadly.

"I'm not really very hungry--you can have it if you want and I'll just have a sandwich." Doyle was very bemused. He knew that he was missing out on whatever was amusing his friends--but something inside stopped him from asking them to explain the joke.

Guessing that Doyle was picking up the undercurrent of their amusement, Bodie decided that tactical withdrawal was the best course of action and said his goodbyes, arranging to meet his partner at the morning briefing.

After Bodie's departure, Doyle ate his supper in silence, puzzling over the strangely warm atmosphere between Ann and his somewhat moody partner. He had fully expected to arrive home to find Bodie already gone or the two protagonists fighting for points.

"Bodie was in a strange mood," he said finally as he helped Ann to tidy the kitchen.

"Was he?"

"Didn't you think so? I'd got the impression that you two didn't really get on too well." He was probing carefully but Ann understood the reason behind the casual question.

"Whatever made you think that? Bodie's a charming man." Ann smiled and kissed her fiancee on the corner of his downturned mouth.

Charming was not a word he would have expected to hear Ann use with reference to Bodie. On the few occasions they had met, Doyle had always felt like a representative of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force--and just about as unwanted and ineffective! Suspicion, unwanted and ugly, reared its head. "Trying to chat you up, was he?" he asked with a nonchalance he didn't feel.

"Ray!"

It wouldn't be the first time, love," Doyle defended himself. "Leave him alone for five minutes with any of my girlfriends and he'd always start with his charm--trying to convince them to ditch me for him."

"He was trying nothing of the sort! Honestly, Ray. I'm surprised at you. How could you accuse a friend of doing such a terrible thing?" Ann was really upset at his accusation and moved around the flat in a cloud of pique. Doyle tried to patch things up but only succeeded in making it worse. "Of course we looked as if we were having a good time!" Ann raged. "What on earth were you expecting--steak knives at twenty paces? What's got into you--I really don't understand why you're so upset that Bodie and I were actually enjoying each other's company for once...wasn't that what you wanted? Do you really think so little of him that you believe he would seriously try to make a pass at me--"

"Of course I know he wouldn't--"

"Maybe you think I made a pass at him--" Ann shouted.

"Ann--"

"Is that it. don't you trust me not to get too friendly with your friends?"

"Ann--"

"That is it, isn't it. You don't trust me!"

"Of course I--" Doyle tried to patch things up but it was too late.

"No!" Ann's voice cracked out, cutting his denial off. "You don't trust me. You really can't bring yourself to believe that I won't let you down again. Like last time..."

"Ann, please...I didn't mean anything by what I said. I'm really pleased that you two are getting on better--" But Ann wasn't listening.

"I know that I hurt you badly," she went on. "But I'll never do anything like that again. You can't really believe that I could. Do you?"

Doyle pulled her into his arms and cradled her gently as he soothed her.

"Oh, love...sshh...come on, there's no need to get so upset. I know you wouldn't hurt me again. It wasn't your fault last time... And I'm really pleased that you and Bodie are getting on better now... Come on," he coaxed, brushing away her tears with a gentle finger. "Dry your eyes. Can't spoil what's left of tonight, can we? I can't have you flying off to the other side of the world with a box of damp tissues now, can I?"

"New York is hardly the other side of the world," Ann said quietly as she slowly responded to the gentle teasing.

"Come on, then let's finish up here and go to bed. We can talk in a bit more comfort there."

"Talk?" Ann queried as her body began to respond to the way Ray was caressing her.

"Of course," he said once he'd finished a very thorough kiss. "You've still got to tell me what Dear, Sweet Constance said about our engagement once I'd left the house."



"Get your fucking head down!" Bodie hissed angrily, causing Doyle to withdraw from his exposed vantage point. "Get back here."

"But I can see better from up there."

"So can they!"

"I can't see anything from here!"

"Neither can they," Bodie added dryly.

"Shift over," Doyle urged. "Let's 'ave a look."

"Shut up and stay put--we can't both see!"

"Bodie!"

"Doyle, shut up. They're not going anywhere and neither are we until Cowley arrives with the back-up."

"Are you sure they're all in there?"

"I'm sure--oh, go on--take a flamin' look for yourself." Bodie gave in and rolled away from the slit in the masonry. "You can just make them out--third window from the left. I counted four heads."

"Yeah," Doyle agreed eventually. "I count four too. How much longer before back-up gets here? They look pretty restless to me."

Shifting himself to peer across the wasteland between themselves and the holed up gang, Bodie carefully considered the gang's options. "It'll be suicide if they try to break and they know it."

"Oof...Bodie, do you mind?" Crushed beneath his partner's not inconsiderable weight, Doyle could barely find the breath to complain. Satisfied that the men in the opposite building had no way out, Bodie took the time to enjoy the feel of Doyle pinned, squirming and helpless beneath him.

"I did say there wasn't room for both of us to look," Bodie said smugly.

"I...believe...you...now get...off me...you weigh a bleedin' ton!"

"There's no need to get personal," Bodie said in an offended tone.

"I'll get...more than...bleedin' personal if...you don't shift yourself!" Doyle's wriggles sent a delicious shuddering through his partner's entire body that almost took his breath away. Though sorely tempted to give in and enjoy the sensation, common sense prevailed and Bodie regretfully slid off Doyle's back. "Thank God!" Doyle sighed in relief. "I had a bloody great rock digging in my side." He extricated the small stone and balanced it on Bodie's nose.

Removing the offending object before it could damage his eye, Bodie settled himself down, preparing himself for long wait. It was going to take their back-up a good forty minutes to arrive.

"Ann get off all right, did she?"

"What?"

"She said she was flying to America this morning?"

"Oh that. Yes, she left this morning, she's probably half way there by now," Doyle answered abstractedly, his attention wholly on the nervous bunch across the way.

"Bit of a surprise."

"Huh?" Doyle grunted once Bodie repeated the question for the third time... "Oh yes, it was a bit sudden," he agreed.

"Not her flying off somewhere; she's always packing her bags to fly somewhere. No, what I meant was I was surprised to see her at your place last night--particularly when you'd said that she wasn't going to be there." Bodie wasn't too happy with the way that had sounded but Doyle was so distracted that he needn't have worried.

"Like I said--a bit sudden." Doyle's response was vague and careless but something in Bodie's manner caught his attention and he realised that things weren't quite right. "I'm sorry that I didn't get a chance to warn you. I did try phoning but there was no answer," Doyle's tone became accusing. "I did consider asking HQ to put me through on the hot phone but I thought that might be going over the top a bit." Bodie had the grace to look shamefaced. "It's a bad habit to get into," Doyle continued, "not answering your phone--could get a bloke into all sorts of trouble."

"I did hear it ring a couple of times," Bodie admitted, "but I was in bed and just couldn't be bothered to wake myself up enough to get to the other room." After his little confession it was quiet until, "How did Christmas go? You haven't said anything about it."

"Well..." Doyle said slowly. "It could have been a lot worse--not much, but it could have been worse."

"How much do they know?"

"Everything. I did consider not telling them but Cowley gave the okay. It made things a bit easier, for Ann, but not that much."

"What do you mean?" Bodie asked.

"We explained to Constance and Harry, Ann's parents, about the need for secrecy because of CI5. She was more than a little chuffed at the thought of having a son-in-law who's something-we-don't-speak-about-for-the-Home-Office, but none too keen on the posh friends and neighbours finding out that the same son-in-law is an ex-convict with a criminal record for doing nasty deeds!"

"She won't do anything stupid, will she?"

"No. Connie may be a class one snob, but she's no fool. Besides, Cowley gave me some Official Secrets Act forms for them to sign."

"You threw the Official Secrets Act at them!" Bodie said in amazement.

"It was Cowley's idea," Doyle defended.

"Bloody hell!"

"Yeah," Doyle laughed. "The old snob nearly busted something when I told her she had to sign."

"What did Ann say about it?"

"Not much," Doyle conceded, the humour gone. "I don't think she liked it, but there's not a whole lot she could do about it. It was the Official Secrets Act or letting her mother believe that I really had been guilty as charged all along."

"So," Bodie said eventually, breaking into the silence that fell between them. "Everything's settled now then, is it?"

"All what's settled?"

"The wedding...and everything," Bodie said lamely.

"There's no rush."

"What are you waiting for?"

"I'm not waiting for anything--I just can't see the point of rushing around."

"Well, yes...I can see that, but you have made some plans?"

"What sort of plans?" Doyle asked.

"About...well, about where, when, that sort of thing."

"What is this? Have you got a burning ambition to be a bridesmaid or something?" Doyle asked nastily.

"You are going to marry her?" Bodie asked, suddenly wondering if his carefully orchestrated plan had gone wrong.

"Why, what's it to you?"

"Just interested, that's all," Bodie said brightly, "want to know how long I've got to save my spare pennies to buy you a pressie."

"Don't kid me, Bodie. You just want to know so's you can save up the petrol stamps to get me a set of those free glasses." Doyle laughed easily.

"So," Bodie pushed again. "When's it to be?"

"Oh for--I don't know. We haven't talked about it. Sometime. Is that all right with you?" Irritated now, Doyle couldn't help but wonder at his partner's probing. "What's up? Scared I won't invite you or something?"

Thankfully, at that moment the back-up squad arrived and their thoughts and energies turned towards the serious matter of winkling the four men out of the building without causing any unnecessary bloodshed.



Doyle replaced the phone on its rest and took a sip of his long-cold coffee. Pulling a face at the taste, he went through into the kitchen to make himself a fresh cup. Already feeling ill at ease, Ann's phone call had done little to dispel his ever present sense of impending doom. After nearly a week's absence the sound of her voice had raised his spirits a little; and after a succession of boring, fruitless days at work as well as the tension between himself and Bodie, the sound of her voice had been a much needed balm on ragged nerves. But, by the end of the transatlantic call, depression was overtaking him again.

Get a grip on yourself, he told himself sternly. Stop moping about, get out and go somewhere; do something! He considered his options: he could visit the Brewers Arms--or, he could call Bodie. Neither choice attracted him very much. Bodie had been behaving very strangely of late, one minute friendly and chatty and the next, snapping his head off. Today had been the worst ever, Bodie's mood chopping and changing so rapidly that Doyle was almost spinning in confusion by the time he had been dropped, without so much as a 'goodnight,' outside his block of flats.

That left him with The Brewers Arms: Doyle shook his head; that was out, too. Tommy and Ivy were a nice couple--in small doses; the perfect landlord and his lady. Only problem was, Ivy was clearly enjoying the role of surrogate mother whilst Tommy was trying to inveigle his way into his confidence, thereby gaining even more access to the criminal underworld than he already had. Thomas Mahone, Doyle had realised glumly, was too much of a coward to become a real true-to-life villain and so did the next best thing--he encouraged the criminal fraternity to use his 'facilities' to arrange their jobs, thus experiencing the thrill of the crime at a safely legal distance.

On his infrequent visits to the pub, Doyle knew that Tommy pointed him out as a Category 1 man, a 'hard man' to other lesser mortals in the pub. So far no-one had confronted him--but then who in their right mind would pick a fight with a known ex-maximum security prisoner?

No. He wasn't in the mood to parry words with Tommy tonight; the way he was feeling he just might give in to the impulse to do something unpleasant--and permanent--to Tommy.

So much for his social life, Doyle thought bitterly. Rather than spend another evening sitting in feeling sorry for himself, he decided that he might as well go over to Ann's flat and see if that letter she was asking about had arrived. Afterwards he might drive on over to Bodie's place...

It was dark when he let himself into the flat, so he switched the lights on as he scooped up the letters on the mat. One from the bank, and several other businessy looking ones, but no sign of the letter she said she was waiting for. Putting them neatly on the table, he moved through the flat, checking that everything was secure. Alone there for the first time, Doyle found himself examining each room in detail. Nearly four years had passed since he had last been completely alone in there and it came as a surprise to realise that little in the flat, or even Ann's life come to that, had changed very much. New curtains throughout and a new shower unit in the bathroom were the only immediately visible changes. The arrest and imprisonment of her fiancee had barely caused a ripple in her elegant lifestyle. Had Ann been torn so abruptly from his life four years ago, Doyle thought soberly, he thought that it would have devastated him. How, he asked himself, had she found it so easy to cast him aside as soon as the allegations started flying? He had offered to move out of the flat to save her from being exposed to the unavoidable press coverage of the sorry affair--but he hadn't really expected her to agree quite so readily.

What would she do now, he wondered as he switched all the lights off and locked up, if she knew Internal Security was watching him again? Walking out into the street, he flicked an uninterested gaze over the building opposite. Even though Bodie persisted in denying it, he knew they were there. If he really made the effort, he could even work out which flat they were using--there were only so many possibilities. But he wouldn't give them the pleasure of acknowledging their presence. He didn't even discuss it with Bodie any more, there didn't seem to be much point.

A sharp blast on a car horn made him look up to find Bodie parked alongside where he was standing; lost in his thoughts, he hadn't seen him arrive.

"'lo, mate," he said, his greeting sounding as lifeless and cheerless as he felt even to his own ears.

"What's up--you look like you lost a fiver and found a penny!" Bodie asked carefully, ready to back off should Doyle respond with another acid riposte.

"Ah...nothing, just...nothing," Doyle finished lamely. "Coming round to see me, were you?" He smiled, a genuine smile that transformed his features.

"Yes. Thought maybe we could go out for a drink or something."

"Don't fancy a night boozing--what sort of 'or something' did you have in mind?"

"Dunno, nothing in particular. What do you fancy doing? Ann isn't back yet, is she?"

"No, just checking the place out--picking up some mail. You going to drive on to my place then?"

"Okay, want a lift?"

"My car's over there," he pointed to a row of cars and groaned in dismay as he saw how neatly he had been boxed in by a flashy red sports number and a mud-spattered old style jeep.

"Oh, nicely done!" Bodie applauded. "You don't seriously think that you're going to be able to get out of that, do you?" He sat back and watched as his partner crossed over to the cars and examined the situation from all angles. "Serves you right for being an untidy parker," Bodie shouted through his window.

The whole operation took a lot of manoeuvring back and forth but, eventually, Doyle cleared his car from the space with only the tiniest crack on his rear offside light. Needless to say there wasn't a mark on the bumper of the dirty jeep. In a perverse way, Bodie was grateful to the jeep's driver; his partner's moans about 'inconsiderate road-users' broke the ice on what was their first purely social evening together in almost a month.

Sitting comfortably in an armchair and nursing a drink, Doyle milked the situation for all the sympathy he could get. "...I wouldn't mind, but it's only the dirt on that thing that's keeping it together! That and the rust, of course."

"Give over, Doyle. It's only a few years old, they're meant to look like that. It's a working vehicle--not a 'Sunday Car.'"

"Bloody thing's always parked out there. Flamin' driver never parks the damned thing properly."

"Give over," Bodie said a little more forcefully, his patience with the subject almost gone. "Anyway, about coming over here tonight--"

Doyle looked at him sharply.

"I thought," Bodie said firmly, refusing to let his partner's warning look put him off. "I thought it was time to talk about some things."

"What sort of things?" Doyle asked. He had a good idea but didn't want to face them unless he was forced to.

"You. Me. Us. The department." Bodie waved a hand around trying to cover everything."

"Couldn't be a little more specific, could you?" Doyle asked with icy politeness and Bodie's patience finally broke.

"Look, Doyle, you're not blind, and you're not thick either. You know that things aren't going right in this partnership as well as I do."

"I wasn't aware that we weren't working properly," Doyle said defensively.

"Oh, we're working all right," Bodie agreed. "We're just not working as a team anymore."

"You reckon?"

"Yes, I do. You know it's true, Doyle." Doyle was the first to back down from the eye-to-eye confrontation.

"And you think that it's all my fault?" he asked as he paced jerkily up and down the living room. "Of course, you wouldn't admit that some of it just might be your fault!"

"Look, Doyle. I didn't come here to argue--"

"Well, that's nice to hear!"

"--but we've got to talk this out before--"

"Before you go running off to Cowley?"

"Before one of us gets killed. It's going to happen, Ray. Sooner or later, it's going to happen."

"Why?" Doyle demanded defiantly, refusing to admit that Bodie just might be right.

"Because--oh, for crying out loud--stop prancing up and down and park your arse on the chair. Just listen to me, for once just listen will you?" Exasperated, Bodie appealed for his partner to sit down. With poor grace and a scowl that would in all probability sour cream, Doyle did. "Have you given any thought about what you're going to do once you're married?"

"Yes," Doyle answered seriously. "We had a long talk. Didn't rush anything and I think we covered just about everything. Mind you--I couldn't just turn around and tell him he was a good few years too late, could I?" Doyle flashed a cheeky grin that failed, just, to reach his eyes.

"Eh?"

"Me dad. Not that long before he died he gave me the 'What mummies and daddies do on Saturday night' talk."

"Can't you be serious for once," Bodie snapped impatiently.

"Oh I am, Bodie. Believe me, I am."

"You want me to spell it out for you?" Bodie said, mustering his patience. "It's a rule, an unwritten rule, that in CI5 no married men are operative on the active squad. Once married you'll be shifted onto the B squad."

"Downgraded."

"No. Not downgraded. The B squad works just as hard as we do but in a different way--you know that."

"Bit unfair, innit?"

"On who? You, your partner or your wife? If you stay in this squad, Ann will always be wondering when--if--she'll ever see you again. I'll be wondering whether you're more anxious to get home to her rather than covering my back and you'll be stuck in the middle making no-one happy."

"It doesn't have to be like that. Callahan's married and he's still on the squad."

"He works solo."

"Once things settle down it'll be okay."

"Always providing neither of us gets killed while things are 'settling down,'" Bodie pointed out bluntly. Doyle slumped back into the armchair, looking thoroughly dejected. Having succeeded in knocking Doyle down as far as he dared, Bodie began phase two of his plan. "It's inevitable that things will change for you. Look how far you've come since that day I picked you up from Maidstone. It's only been what, eighteen, nineteen months? You're not the same man any more. You've rebuilt just about everything you had before. Friends, good job, bit of money, you've even got the woman you loved and wanted to marry back. You've achieved everything you set out to. Ann loves you--you love her; it's only natural that you want to think about her and be with her more. It's no small wonder that you've not concentrating so well on work; I understand, so does Cowley; the only person who thought that everything would carry on smoothly was you. But, now you've just got to admit to yourself that things just can't."

"It was you that collected me from Maidstone?"

"What?"

"It was you. Yeah, I remember now."

"You'd forgotten?"

"No... Well, yes. The first few days are a bit hazy but I'd forgotten it was you."

"Doyle..."

"Yeah, I know," Doyle said warily. "I'm evading the issue again. Look, I know I'm not thinking too clearly at the moment but, as you've pointed out, I do have a lot on my mind. I don't want to...break off this partnership. To hell with Cowley's unwritten rules. There's no reason why I can't go on working with you after I'm married."

"You weren't listening, Doyle. If we're having trouble working and communicating now, do you really think it's going to get better once you've got the little wife waiting at home with your supper?"

"You're asking me to choose between having you as a partner or Ann as a wife?"

"Of course I'm not asking you to choose," Bodie said at once, horrified at the way Doyle had interpreted what he was saying; he hadn't allowed himself to say that, had he? Sick to his heart, he pushed on. "What sort of choice would that be? Ann would win hands down, I know that."

Bodie was so adamant, so earnest, that Doyle couldn't help but wonder if perhaps it was all true. He seemed to have wanted Ann for so long that he had forgotten how things had been before she entered his life. A nice home, pretty wife, promising career--what more could he want—what else could he want? If only he could be as sure as Bodie was about his career maybe he would feel more settled. But for the time being anyway, it was easier to accept Bodie's reassurances than face his own anxieties.

Bodie declined Doyle's invitation to sleep over and drove himself home. Mentally exhausted from an evening of manipulating his partner's consciousness, he stripped off and stepped into a hot shower as soon as he got home, falling into bed where he was too tense to relax. His whole body ached with tiredness and his mind continued racing on with images of what had happened, what was going to happen and, briefly before he could force the thought away, what might happen. It was done, for better or worse, it was done. Doyle was going to leave. Falling asleep, Bodie's thoughts drifted along what path his own future was going to take once he left CI5 and England.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Over the next few weeks, Bodie observed several things which suggested that Doyle had understood the point of that particular conversation. Although he acted as if nothing had been said between them and refused even to discuss the subject any further with him, Doyle had been checking on the work details and manpower of the B squad. On two occasions recently Bodie had seen his partner conversing with the other squads' members; he was especially pleased when he saw him with Mark Greenwood, recently married and just as recently transferred from the A squad.

He would not have been so happy, however, if he had been able to hear the conversation.

"It's all right," Mark had said quietly in response to Doyle's carefully worded enquiry. Everyone knew Doyle was planning to marry and, as the recently 'hitched' CI5 employee he had been waiting for Doyle to 'have a quiet word' with him. "It's still not a nine to five job--the wife gets plenty of opportunity to moan about being abandoned--but it's...safer," he said honestly.

"Safer?"

"Safer," Mark agreed. "Life still has its moments, of course, but the jobs, our assignments are inclined to be less...hazardous. You've still got to be on your toes," Mark added quickly. "Slow reflexes can still get you killed--a low security risk uses the same calibre and velocity as your high security risk...but..."

"But what?" Doyle prompted.

"But...nothing. It's the same job; the same department; the same procedures; same people--even the same lousy restroom and friggin' coffee--but it's not the same!" he ended angrily, crumpling the plastic coffee beaker and tossing it away in disgust.

"What were you expecting? You were on the A squad for how long--two years, wasn't it? Surely you knew what you were letting yourself in for?"

"It was my choice," Mark agreed. "But it wasn't a proper choice--more like an ultimatum." At Doyle's prompting he agreed to explain what he meant. "'Bout four months before I married, me and Kevin--he was my partner--had a spot of trouble. Kev was badly shot up and I got a flesh wound--nothing serious, but painful and messy for all that. Anyway we both survived, although Kev's injuries were such that he lost about three inches of bone in his left thigh and was invalided out of the department. It could have been worse, he could have been crippled--paralysed even, the fact that he wasn't was the beginning of the end as far as my Bev was concerned. Started dishing out ultimatums. In the end it came down to me leaving CI5 or losing her."

"You're still here though--and you're married, so what happened?"

"We compromised!" Mark said with a wry smile. "After a month of watching me job hunting she finally accepted that while I'm bloody good at doing this type of work there's precious little else--that's legal--that I can do!"

"So you agreed to accept the lower risks of the B squad?"

"Eventually, yes. I wanted Bev and I couldn't think what else to do so I stayed with the department."

"You don't sound too happy about it."

"Oh! It's okay mostly. The work's not bad, the adrenaline's not there so often but, every now and then the advantages of being in the back line really hit home," he said heavily. "Every time one of you lot, one of the front line boys get shot--or even killed--I go home to Bev and give her a long, hard hug and tell her how much I love her. And," he added in a much softer voice, "every time the boredom gets to me, or the job I'm on falls to pieces because it was never there in the first place, I remember those hugs...and what they usually lead to and...I still moan and swear at Cowley and whoever else I can think of but, I know that deep down I don't really mean it." Mark smiled and laughed softly. "You know, I'm really pleased you asked me about it, Doyle," he added after a moment's quiet reflection. "I think that I've only just realised how much I don't mind missing out on all of the adrenaline highs; I thought that I did but talking to you has made me realise that Bev means a whole lot more. I think I could manage without CI5--but I want Bev for always." Mark became conscious of the fact that he was sounding very wistful and romantic--hardly the sort of image expected of a CI5 man, and looked at Doyle warily, waiting for some kind of sarcastic remark. Doyle noticed the change in atmosphere and managed to pull himself together to say the right things. Afterwards he couldn't remember what he had said but it must have been what Mark had wanted to hear because the man had been friendly enough when they parted company. Watching his retreating back, Doyle felt depression wash over him anew. Far from dispelling his doubts, Greenwood's rose-tinted view of love, marriage and CI5 had only accentuated them. He suddenly felt very envious of Mark and Beverly Greenwood; it all seemed so easy for them.



Ann's return home from America was not the exciting romantic reunion she had been looking forward to. At first she had been too tired from the frantic schedule she'd been keeping and jet lag to notice how quiet Ray had been. Slipping a robe around herself and knotting it securely, she padded into the kitchen where he was already up and making breakfast.

"Morning--sorry if I woke you up," he apologised. "Go on back to bed, you don't have to get up for another hour or so yet."

Ann just shook her head and sat down at the breakfast bar, only just managing to muffle a yawn with her hand.

"Coffee?" Doyle asked.

"Mmm, yes please," she answered automatically. It wasn't until the first sip passed her lips that she realised how much she didn't want the hot, strong-smelling brew. She pushed it away. The kitchen was illuminated by a strip light that was merciless--the best light in the flat for applying make-up, but the worst for exposing how rough you really felt. She thought Ray looked terrible. "Did you sleep much last night?" she asked him. "You were even more restless than usual; what's wrong, Ray?" she added quietly.

"I slept okay," Ray said defensively.

"Oh, Ray!" Ann swept her hair away from her face. "I woke up several times. Maybe you were asleep but you were so restless, so tense: even asleep you're uptight. Fidgeting and talking in your--"

"Talking?" he demanded urgently.

"Talking...mumbling," Ann amended hastily. "I couldn't understand anything, just mumbles really--but you can't possibly feel refreshed or rested after such a night. You look as if you haven't slept a wink!"

"I'm all right, Ann," he snapped tiredly.

"Well you don't look it!"

"You don't look so hot yourself," Ray said in a different tone of voice, puzzled by the sudden change of colour in Ann's face. "Are you feeling okay?"

About to reply that she felt absolutely fine, Ann suddenly decided that she didn't. She reached the bathroom just in time. He settled her back into bed once the nausea had passed and helped her to get comfortable.

"Are you sure you're all right, I've got to leave in a few minutes but I could call the doctor for you before I go?"

"I feel better already--and I've already got an appointment with the doctor for this afternoon."

"Why--what's up--you never said you weren't well?"

"Don't worry," Ann scolded him lightly. "I've just been feeling a bit low lately. I'm probably a little anaemic or something and Dr Thomas will take great delight in prescribing a course of those revolting iron tablets he saves especially for me."

"You've been working too hard."

"It's my job--and I like it."

"You still push yourself too hard--"

"Don't nag, Raymond Doyle!"

"I'm not nagging!"

"Take it from me, my love, you are nagging! Now, off with you or else we'll have Bodie pounding on the front door again waking my neighbours up," she scolded gently.

Remembering the last time he'd overslept and Bodie'd had to hammer on the door, he moved. "I'll try to call you tonight to find out what the doctor said but--"

"But you can't promise," Ann finished the familiar chant. "Don't worry, darling," she called out as he headed for the door. "I'll try to save you some of my iron tablets."



The job they were on for the next few days allowed them no time for socialising or the making of private telephone calls. The rota they fixed allowed them to snatch a few hours sleep now and then but, conscious of being on the job and shuffling of bodies in a cramped space, no-one could snatch more than a brief respite from the tedious observation.

Unable to sleep, Doyle still took his turn on the lumpy mattress in an attempt to relax his tense muscles and force his mind away from the dangerous tedium of the venture. Since his talk with Bodie he had been going over and over the paths available to him. Several times he'd decided on a course of action only to change his mind as another direction became possible. He was getting more and more confused and disturbed at the way things were happening and the feeling that he was losing control over events was getting stronger. Everything was happening too fast.

Lying in the gloom on the far side of the room, Doyle cracked open his eyes and surreptitiously watched Bodie as he talked to the other men or took his turn on the headphones or binoculars. Even Bodie was looking a little frazzled around the edges. Over the last few months Bodie's moods had been as unpredictable and swift to change as his own; one day bright and breezy, calm, smug and self-assured; and the next, sharp bitter and arrogantly independent. There were times when they worked well together but equally there were times when Bodie became the hard, unyielding loner of their first few weeks.

Turning over, trying to get a bit more comfortable, Doyle sighed. If it wasn't already bad enough that Bodie and he were swinging up and down with their moods, Ann too was suffering a few highs and lows of her own. Trying to get time together to talk things over was almost impossible. He had been working long and irregular hours for months now and a day off always seemed to happen at Ann's busiest time. Her work load had doubled since their engagement and, if the office rumours proved true, was likely to increase even more once the boardroom changes were announced. Christ! he thought tiredly, the way things were going he would have to make an appointment to see his own wife soon!

Across the room, Bodie lowered the binoculars and handed them to Lake before tiptoeing through the equipment-strewn floor to pour himself a coffee. He took the last half inch of lukewarm liquid without complaint and sat down on the wooden bench. Another sigh from Doyle drew his attention; he continued to watch him, safe in the knowledge that Lake was watching the building across the carpark and Henderson was captivated by the pornographic magazine the last watch had left behind. He relaxed as he saw the moment Ray finally slid into sleep, and saw his clenched hands fall open, curly slightly, the tension draining from the taut body. God knew how much he needed the rest--Bodie thought. All of them did, but it was clear to Bodie that on top of all the problems the job was causing, Doyle was wrestling with his own very personal troubles.

Checking that Lake and Henderson were still giving their attention to the surveillance, Bodie allowed himself to relax against the wall. He'd been watching Doyle closely since that talk they'd had; he'd observed carefully each time Doyle had made enquiries about the B squad and watched him watching them as the went about their lower-graded security tasks. He knew Doyle was having trouble seeing himself in such a role--even Bodie had to admit he couldn't see his partner happy with such work. But what was the alternative?

"Bodie," Lake called softly. "Take over for me--I need to take a leak."

Bodie took up position at the window. Staring over at the deserted looking building, he noticed for the first time how the whole room was reflected in the dirty, cracked panes of glass; to look at the building he had to stare through the reflection of his sleeping partner. Whilst his eyes watched the building for the slightest sign of movement, another part of Bodie's mind was enjoying being able to watch his unknowing friend.

The alternative? Bodie wondered again, the problem never far from his thoughts. Did he really want to force Doyle into taking a course of action that he knew was wrong? Doyle wouldn't enjoy working on the B squad, he was too good at the work he was doing now, he realised grimly. And Ann, Bodie considered her; over the meal they'd shared just after Christmas they'd talked quite a lot about things that Bodie in particular had wanted to hear, Ann not realising how the conversation had been carefully guided. He'd learnt a lot about Ann that evening, in some ways more than he'd wanted to because, by the time he'd left her he'd known, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that however much Doyle loved, or thought he loved Ann, she came nowhere close to equalling his feelings. They had been close once, years ago. Maybe close enough to have made a successful marriage, but quietly Bodie doubted even that. Subsequently he had suffered more than one twinge of guilt since that evening: left to their own devices Bodie guessed that the couple wouldn't have made it together as far as Christmas, let alone got themselves engaged. And, left to themselves, Bodie knew they still wouldn't get to the altar. Neither of them seemed in any hurry to get the arrangements going and Bodie suspected that unless someone stepped in and booked the church and honeymoon neither Ann nor Ray would.

A door opened behind him; in the room's reflection, Bodie saw Lake coming back in. Not knowing they were being observed, Lake and Henderson exchanged a look which told Bodie that their moody behaviour wasn't going unnoticed. Lake bent over Doyle, checking that he was asleep, his shadow falling over the sleeper's face. Bodie tensed and prepared to act when Doyle, sensing the nearness of someone, curled in tighter on himself. Lake stepped back hurriedly--he hadn't meant to disturb Doyle--and pulled another face at Henderson, who could only shake his head before sighing heavily and returning to the simpler pleasures of the centrefold in his hands.

The door opened again; this time it was Murphy, closely followed by two other men. None of them looked very pleased at being there and they all slouched into the room with poor grace.

"Your prayers have been answered, you lucky buggers--the experts have arrived to take over the highly skilled, incredibly demanding task of watching over the inhabitants of Unit 24A of the Barkingside Industrial Estate. While you go trotting off home to your orthopaedic, silk sheeted, sweet scented, dorma-downed-duvet covered bed--"

"Somebody shut him up, for Christ's sake!"

"We, the Saviours of CI5--otherwise known as the Knights of St. George--" Murphy droned on.

"Please," Henderson begged, "hit 'im before I kill 'im." He threw the magazine and scored a direct hit dead centre on Murphy's nose.

"Ouch...we the Knights of St. George will continue--ouch, that bloody well hurt!" Murphy chucked the holdall back across the room where it was neatly fielded by Lake. "...will continue to fight for honesty, peace, prosperity and the American Way!" Murphy finished gamely.

"That last bit was a bit off, wasn't it?"

"Is this your way of telling us we can sod off 'ome?" Lake asked.

"Yes...and no," Murphy said. "You...and you," he pointed at Lake and Henderson. "You can both go straight-to-HQ-do-not-pass-go-and-do-not-pick-up-£200. You and..." Murphy looked around to find Doyle still fast asleep in the corner of the room, "...him can go home to your comfy beds--"

"Jesus!" Lake swore. "Some people have all the luck."

"Some of us have it, Puddle," Bodie crowed.

"And then," Murphy continued, "at the appointed hour of noon tomorrow you will both present yourselves at the establishment known as Death Row for a meeting with your Maker!"

"What!" Bodie exclaimed in dismay.

"Luck like that you can keep, Bodie," Puddle shouted gleefully.

"Macklin?" Bodie asked, needing to hear the worst.

"None other," Murphy confirmed. "And rather you than me, mate. Don't be late--he said to tell you how much he's looking forward to seeing you two again."

"Fucking hell!" Bodie groaned.

"Couldn't 'appen to a nicer couple of fellas--shall I wake Sleeping Beauty and tell 'im the good news?" Lake started to bend over to shake Doyle awake.

"Leave him!" The command froze everyone and they all turned startled faces towards Bodie. "I'll wake him, okay? Just leave him!" Bodie said smoothly.

"Anything you say, Bodie." Lake backed off.

The new watch busied themselves taking over the observation as Lake and Henderson collected their things together. Bodie waited until everyone was busy before bending down to wake Doyle.

Watching the building across the car park, Murphy could see everything going on in the room behind him. He saw how Bodie held tightly onto Doyle's arm as he took a grasp of his shoulder to shake him awake; he saw clearly how the muscles in Bodie's arms and back tensed as they held the sudden, almost violent jerk of Doyle's body as he woke up. After a few seconds both men relaxed, Bodie stroking Doyle's arm before releasing it and stepping back.

"Right, we're off--"

"Wondered what the smell was!" said Murphy.

"Don't fall asleep on the job," Puddle advised as a parting shot.

"I'm sure the excitement of it all will keep us awake," said one of the men who had just found Henderson's pile of magazines.

"Give my love to Macklin," Murphy called out.

"Macklin?" Doyle asked sleepily.

"Pick your feet up, Doyle," Bodie said as his partner tripped up a step.

"Why did he say that?" Doyle was waking up now. "Why does he think--"

"Wake up, 4.5. Why else would he ask us to pass on his regards?"

"Oh, no!"

"Oh, yes!"



Driving around the one-way system leading to his road, Doyle saw Ann's car only a few hundred yards ahead of his. By the time he drew close, she had parked and was unloading some shopping bags; she saw him and waved.

"Are you coming up?" she asked as he drew level with her. He hadn't intended to, was in fact looking forward to a good eight hours sleep before bracing himself to face Macklin tomorrow. He parked behind her car and helped her in with the shopping. Maybe he could get away early if he pleaded tiredness; he knew that they desperately needed to talk but was just too tired even to think straight. How could they begin to talk things out if he was still so undecided about what he wanted to do?

"Just jump the bags in the kitchen, I'll be with you in a minute," Ann called out as she vanished into the bathroom.

In the kitchen Doyle shrugged off his jacket and began unpacking the bags, shoving things into the freezer or fridge and putting the items he couldn't find homes for on the breakfast bar for Ann to sort out. That done, he plugged in the kettle and got the coffee underway. One of the packages on the breakfast bar drew his attention. It was not something he'd ever bought but he certainly knew what it was. The coffee forgotten, he picked up the small box. Ann came in at that moment: he stared at her in disbelief.

"Ann...?"

"I just remembered it was in there," she said softly. "I didn't mean for you to find it."

"You didn't mean for me to find it! Ann..." He couldn't find the right words. "Ann, do you...do you really think that... You really think that maybe you're..." He was unable to say it, shock and a surge of emotion causing a lump in his throat that threatened to choke him.

"I might be. I took a specimen to the hospital this afternoon. They say the result won't be through for about a week--I couldn't wait that long so I bought that."

"Is it...I mean... How reliable is it? Do you really think... Oh, Christ, Ann!" Ray dropped the pregnancy test onto the table and took Ann in his arms. "I'm sorry...I can't believe it...it's...it's... Does the doctor think that you really are? How long before we'll know for sure?" Tiredness forgotten, Doyle cradled her gently, kissing her softly. "I just don't...can't quite take it in... How come you're so calm?" he demanded to know, softening the question with another tender kiss.

"I've had two days to get over the shock--you should have seen me when I left the surgery--"

"You had no idea?"

"Well, maybe it was in the back of my mind, especially after I was sick the other morning, but it was still a shock." They laughed together and hugged again.

A meal, which neither touched, was prepared and then thrown away and the rest of the evening spent curled up together on the couch engaged in long dreamy conversations about their own childhood and what they wanted for their child. Before going to bed Ray retrieved the box from the kitchen and put it in the bathroom ready for the morning.

"I suppose it makes a change from reading a bedtime book," Ann teased as they snuggled close under the covers to read the explanatory leaflet that come with the kit. It was quiet while they read it.

"Mmm, well, it seems reliable enough. They certainly cover themselves against any mistakes," Doyle said dubiously.

"It is straightforward," Ann said. "If the result shows I'm pregnant than it's 99.9% certain that I am, but, if it comes out negative it doesn't mean that I'm not--"

"Just that you're not far enough advanced for the test to work."

"Thank you, Doctor Doyle," Ann teased. "And then I'll just have to wait for the hospital result--"

"Or buy another pregnancy testing kit--"

"Or buy another pregnancy testing kit," Ann agreed.

"They must make a fortune out of people who can't wait for the hospital results!" Doyle complained.

"They very probably do," Ann agreed and plucked the leaflet out of Doyle's fingers with one hand as she switched the light off with the other.

"What are you doing?" he asked breathlessly a few moments later.

"If you really have to be told that, my love, then that box in the bathroom is a complete waste of money!"



Bodie was more than a little surprised to find Doyle on his doorstep, almost bursting with energy and enthusiasm a little after eight thirty the next morning.

"A jog! Now?" he asked, wondering if his partner had gone mad.

"Yes. Cummon, loosen up those muscles, flex your joints--" Doyle answered.

"I'll loosen up your bloody joints--" he threatened as he let Doyle into the flat.

"A nice 10-mile run and then we'll come back here and I'll cook us both some breakfast."

"You cook some breakfast and then I'll wave you off on your run."

Doyle ignored that aside with ease and took himself into Bodie's bedroom where he promptly began opening drawers and cupboards until he found what he was looking for.

"Get dressed. London is waiting to greet you," he said brightly as he threw underpants, T-shirt and track suit at his partner.

"Doyle!" Bodie followed him into the hall in time to see him pulling a pair of trainers out of the cupboard. "You haven't forgotten where we're going this afternoon, have you?"

"Macklin." Doyle smiled. "Hadn't forgotten."

"Then why the hell do you want to go and knacker yourself--and me--before we even start with Macklin?"

"Where have we been for the past two and half days?" Doyle said patiently. "When was the last time you did anything more energetic than fiddle your expenses?"

"Doyle!" Bodie held up a hand in surrender. "Point taken." He grumbled as he dragged the T-shirt over his head: "But you've still got to explain why you're bouncing up and down on my carpet with more life in you than you've shown for the past six months?"

"Virtuous living and a clear conscience," Doyle replied cheerfully. "Plus, of course, a good night's sleep; half the morning is nearly gone already and I've been up for hours."

"Bully for you!" Bodie mumbled as he was pushed towards the front door and out onto the street. "Where are we going?"

"Up to the common, round it, down to the embankment and back, okay?"

"No, it's not okay," Bodie grumbled--more because he knew it was expected rather than because he meant it.

They ran easily, side by side, in a companionable silence, their efforts becoming more relaxed as the cobwebs blew away and they eased into a comfortable rhythm.

Back at the flat Doyle collected a change of clothes from his car then followed Bodie in to take his turn in the shower.

Keeping his promise, Doyle made breakfast for them both, a pleasantly informal affair which happened with a minimum of fuss, newspapers and radio three. All too often breakfast was a hurried piece of cold toast and indigestion and both men really enjoyed the quiet luxury of a proper meal.

Engrossed in an article in his paper, Bodie got himself in a mess with the marmalade from which he extricated himself by dint of wiping his fingers on the editorial, something about which Doyle complained mightily when they swapped papers.

By the time they finished clearing away they still had another hour to kill before Macklin would start trying to kill them.

"The condemned men ate a hearty breakfast," Doyle said bleakly, the afternoon's prospects only just beginning to dent his happy glow.

"Huh--and this from the idiot who once said that he thought Macklin was a nice bloke!"

"Are you ever going to let me live that down?"

"Nope. Going to remind you every time you get too cocky."

Walking down the steps of the building towards their parked cars, Doyle mumbled something not quite audible about unforgiving elephants.

"Whose car?" Bodie asked.

"Yours."

"That's what I like about you, Doyle. Democratic to the end--why mine?"

"Because we know that Macklin is going to try and make mincemeat out of you and will make mincemeat out of me. You're going to be a damn sight more mobile than me at the end of this little caper!"

Bodie was forced to agree. Macklin never exactly went easy on him but the man did seem to enjoy pushing Doyle to his limits and beyond.

"You're your own worst enemy," Bodie said as they climbed into the car and set off towards the pub near the training shed. "You're too defensive with him. The reason he pushes you is because he's trying to make you more aggressive, more of an offensive fighter."

"What about you?"

"Oh, I'm naturally offensive," Bodie quipped with a grin. "No, physically me and Macklin are about equal; he's got a longer reach but I can fight dirty and he knows it. I've also got about the same staying power so it makes a bloody hard job for him to wear me down without knackering himself. Now you--well, different story, isn't it," he said. "You puzzle him. He can't understand how you've managed to survive eighteen months without getting mangled by some of the big 'uns we've had to put down. Come to that," Bodie added, "I think you've surprised just about everyone--even me on occasions!"

"How come?" Doyle asked curiously.

"Look at yourself," was all Bodie said. Doyle did briefly in the car mirror before repeating his question again a little more forcefully. "Well, not what you'd call 'powerfully built' are you?" Bodie said a little reluctantly, not too sure how Doyle would like hearing the truth. "You're easily the smallest bloke on the squad."

"I'm only an inch shorter than you!" Doyle protested.

"And about three stone lighter. You've got about as much fat on you as a whippet!"

"Don't you bloody well start on about my weight--"

"Willis is another one who can't understand how you've survived. Why the hell do you think he's always moaning about your weight? Like a lot of people he believes that you need muscle and body weight to back up physical skills."

"Cobblers!"

"I agree," Bodie said mildly, "but then you don't often let people see how you actually work on the street, do you? Macklin, Willis, Cowley, the other lads, they see you in the gym. How many have seen you in action? Me, Puddle and Murphy--that's all. We're the only ones who've seen how you do it."

"And what's my secret then?" Doyle asked, no really expecting a sensible answer.

"You go straight for their balls and throat and get the upper hand in the first minute. If it's not over in two or three minutes you lose."

Doyle opened his mouth to laugh--but closed it again in surprise. That was what he did. His opponents were rarely his size or smaller and instinct and training had taught him to attack hard and fast to gain the upper hand. The only times he came off worst were when he failed to gain the first all-important advantage.

"Yeah, well," he shrugged it off, "Macklin just doesn't bring out my aggressive instincts."

"Yet," Bodie said meaningly. He had known Macklin--and others like him, for years and yew that the instructor was there specifically to drag out those aggressive instincts. He'd find Doyle's Achilles heel one day. Bodie only hoped that he'd be there to see it.

By the time they reached the pub Doyle's high spirits had returned and even the run-down, dilapidated aura of the empty roads didn't dampen them. By comparison Bodie felt old and tired, though he did manage a moment of well co-ordinated macho lechery when the amply proportioned barmaid leant down in front of him. High on his own little cloud, Doyle missed it but Bodie shared the moment with a friendly stranger.

Slowly, but all too fast for both of them, the minutes ticked by until they had to leave to reach the sheds in time. They were just going when a bunch of rowdy bikers arrived.

"Will you look at that!" Doyle exclaimed and went into positive ecstasies over the merits of the shiny machine propped on its stand.

Behind them in the pub Bodie could hear the bikers being told to get out; the venom of the leader's reply didn't bode well.

"Come on, mate. Let's shift before war breaks out." Bodie pushed his partner towards the car.

"I used to have one just like that," Doyle said, still looking back over his shoulder at the bike as they drove off. "Beautiful, isn't it. Ann hated mine, wouldn't even try riding on it," he continued longingly even when the bike was out of sight. "Would cost me a small fortune to buy another one but I wouldn't mind--can't see Ann agreeing to it though. Sold my old one for peanuts! I asked my brother to sell it for me after I was sent down and bastard all but gave it away." Even after all this time Doyle was still indignant about the way his brother had treated him.

"Why don't you get one if you want it so much?" Bodie asked. Doyle thought about it for a moment then dismissed the suggestion.

"Nah. A car's much better, more comfortable. Besides, I'm getting too old to keep mucking about with bikes." The words were harsh and bitter and didn't sound a bit like Doyle. Bodie wondered whose words they were.

They arrived at the sheds.



By mid-afternoon Doyle's high spirit was all that was keeping him on his feet. He was simply in too good a mood to allow anything Macklin or that Neanderthal Towser did to get to him. It was Bodie's turn now and Doyle watched, only partially interested in the proceedings. It was some time before he raised himself from his rose-tinted daydreams to begin to wonder what Macklin was up to. The grunts and 'whooshes' coming from his partner were beginning to sound laboured and pained. From the corner of his vision the instructor saw Doyle's interest sharpen and he began a new tactic. His altered style had already taken the edge off Bodie's attack and Macklin knew the man was tiring and hurting. Holding nothing back, the instructor swept Bodie back across the hard concrete floor away from the padded mats. By the time Bodie picked himself up, Doyle was standing alongside him, daring Macklin to stop him from defending his partner.

"That was a quick rest, Doyle," Macklin said harshly. "You surprise me, I'd thought you were out for the rest of the afternoon."

"Thought wrong, didn't you," Doyle answered as he stepped in to tackle the older man again.

Aware only that the rules had somehow been changed, Bodie fought his body's demand that he sink back onto the floor.

Then Towser joined in too.

The afternoon dragged on, Macklin alternating the combat sessions with gruelling exercises and lengthy runs around the streets. When the light faded he took them into the gallery where they had an interminable session on the ranges which, even with the protection of ear defenders, left their ears ringing and heads pounding. Eventually they were allowed to sleep. They woke some time after dawn to the assurance that they had slept for eight hours, although neither man believed it, preferring instead to believe that Macklin had somehow managed to move the hands on their wristwatches forward.

Towards the end of the second afternoon Macklin took them back into the shed for another bout of hand to hand fighting. Halfway through the session Macklin decided to take a few more risks--if he got the reaction he expected it would be worth it--whatever the outcome. He concentrated his energies on Bodie, pushing and provoking him until only the knowledge that the instructor wasn't really trying to kill him was all that stopped Bodie from retaliating with all his deadly skills.

Exhausted and sore, Doyle fixed his thoughts on the fact that the ordeal would be over in only a few more hours. He'd overheard the telephone call Towser had related to Macklin; Cowley was coming to brief them in another few hours. All he had to do was hang on--just a bit longer.

Over on the mats Macklin could see that Doyle had lost interest in what was happening and wondered whether he could have made a mistake. He decided on a drastic last ditch attempt to prove his suspicion.

Bodie reared back in surprise as the blade whipped across his chest. In amazement he looked down at the slashed shirt and small nicks where the point had cut him.

"What the--" Bodie gasped.

"What are you up to?" Doyle demanded. "You're not supposed to kill us, you fucking idiot! Cowley wants us alive and kicking, not maimed and bleeding!"

"Recovered, have you?" Macklin sneered. "Got your second wind?" he asked as he lunged again at Bodie, who barely danced away in time.

"Give over, Mac!" gasped Bodie breathlessly. "Knives aren't exactly playthings, you know. You cut me with that thing and I'm liable to bleed all over you," he said," he said warily, uneasy about the way the instructor was behaving.

"Cowley'll be none too happy if he finds you've gone overboard and killed us before he gets here, will he?" Doyle said angrily.

So, thought Macklin. Somehow Doyle had known that the session was due to finish soon, that probably explained his lack of interest. "If I've managed to hurt either of you it's because you're not fit to be sent out on assignment anyway--Cowley will probably thank me for not letting you balls the job up! Come on, Doyle," Macklin goaded. "Stop letting your partner do all the work. You can't expect to get away with letting him carry you for much longer!"

Distracted by the tangled undercurrents of emotions and lethal knife, Bodie saw the swinging belly-blow too late to avoid it. As his partner folded painfully around Macklin's fist, Doyle was there easing him down onto the floor and inserting his own body between the instructor and his victim.

As the pain receded to a manageable level and his lungs began working effectively, the logic and reasoning of Macklin's strategy became clearer to Bodie. Too groggy to do anything and uncertain of who needed his help more, Bodie pulled himself to a safer seat and watched the instructor reap the reward for his efforts.

Even though he had been expecting it, the viciousness of Doyle's unrestrained attack almost caught him off balance. The outcome was inevitable. In total control of his emotions, taller, heavier and far more refreshed than the exhausted agent, Macklin let the fight continue until it was obvious Doyle couldn't hope to win before he twisted him around and held him hopelessly off balance; forcing him to concede defeat verbally.

"You can both rest up now. Cowley is coming here in a while to brief you both." Macklin's voice was level and impersonal with all trace of the biting sarcasm and sneering taunts of the past two days gone as if they had never been.

Still slightly breathless himself, Bodie helped his partner move over to the corner of the shed where a mattress lay invitingly. Conscious of aching bodies, they eased themselves down, their need to rest in peace and quiet more urgent than their need for hot food or drinks.

"Ray," Bodie asked softly. "You okay?"

"He's a bastard!" Doyle hissed venomously. "A lousy stinking bastard!"

"Seconded," Bodie agreed. "But I actually asked if you were okay?"

"I'll live--you?" Doyle replied after taking a moment to consider his bruised and aching bones.

"I've survived worse; nothing a hot bath and a piece of elastoplast can't put right."

Doyle turned towards his partner and examined the slashed shirt with its dark spots of dried blood. "Jesus--he's fuckin' mad! He could have seriously hurt you."

"He knew exactly what he was doing," Bodie said wryly. "And he's a bloody expert when it comes to handling knives; believe me, if he'd wanted to hurt me he would've done."

"What the hell did he think he was going to achieve by cutting you up?" Anger surfacing again at the stupidity of what Macklin had tried to do, Doyle was shaking as his fingers gently traced the red weal on Bodie's chest.

"Exactly what he got," Bodie said tightly and moved away from the searing heat of those nimble fingers. Lying back on the mattress, Bodie closed his eyes and tried to make his tense muscles relax.

"And what was that?" Doyle asked curiously, his fingers following Doyle down, checking that the cuts were only surface scratches.

Bodie shifted onto his side--effectively dislodging the unwanted hand. "You, of course. He wanted to make you mad enough to let go."

"So he went for you with a bloody knife!" Doyle said disbelievingly. "Why the hell should he do that, why not just go for me with the damn thing? Makes more sense than trying to stick it in you!"

"It worked, didn't it," Bodie said abruptly.

Doyle thought about it for a minute. "Suppose so--but I still can't understand why he thought going for you would make me so mad. Christ, but it's cold in 'ere--where's that bloody draught coming from?"

Lacking the energy to try and find the source, Doyle settled for the next best thing. Resigned to his fate, Bodie allowed his partner to use him as a draught excluder and let his tired body fall into an exhausted sleep.



Macklin was running through some gentle exercises, flexing sore muscles and easing the tension from others. Cowley waited patiently for the routine to finish before walking up to him. He handed over the tracksuit top and a towel.

"Well?" he asked, coming straight to the point. "How are they?"

"They'll do," Macklin answered as he finished dressing.

"I need better than that," Cowley snapped irritably.

"They'll do," the instructor repeated. "They're the best you've got--though I don't advise you to let them know it."

"You've changed your tune. Two months ago you were recommending standing Doyle down and terminating the pairing."

"I was wrong."

"Wrong?" Cowley asked. It wasn't often Macklin admitted such a thing.

"I know. It's not like me to change my mind so completely but," he said smoothly, "we were looking in the wrong place. There's nothing wrong with Doyle. He's quite able to hold his own with anybody--given the right motivation, of course," he added.

"And what might that be?" Cowley asked.

"Bodie," the instructor said crisply. "Though it's not as simple as that," he added in fairness. Give him a good enough reason or something he truly believes in and he'll fight with everything he's got. There's a lot more to Raymond Doyle than meets the eye. Bodie knows that; and so, I suspect, do a few other people. Those that really know him seem to either respect him or keep their distance."

"And Bodie?"

"He believes in himself. And Doyle."

"And you think they're the best the squad can offer?"

"Bodie always was good. Now...he's better--and Doyle's just as good."

"Where are they?" Macklin pointed the older man towards the shed. Walking quietly through the gloomy interior, his approach didn't disturb the sleeping men. Drawing back his foot to kick the mattress, Cowley paused, had second thoughts and aborted the movement. Sound asleep, the men were defenceless, their faces were totally relaxed and unguarded. Lying on their sides, spoon fashion, with Bodie's arm draped loosely of Doyle's waist, they looked very comfortable. Moving around the mattress, Cowley saw that the hand draped over Doyle was being held. His movements unsettled one of the sleepers; Doyle fidgeted a little, settling down only when Bodie inched closer and snuggled up along his back. Already fighting with disbelief at the way they were cuddled together and the implication of their actions, Cowley was even more astounded when Bodie nuzzled the back of his partner's neck, kissing him briefly before settling into a deeper sleep.

Treading carefully, Cowley retraced his steps and left the shed. They would be busy enough over the next few days, he reasoned; let them sleep while they could.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Unable to concentrate on the wad of reports scattered across his desk, Doyle looked over at his partner who, to all intents and purposes was totally engrossed in his reading. Doyle forced his attention back to his own reports and tried to memorise the vital information; the list of President Parsali's enemies was endless. Two pages later, he gave up and checked on the time again.

Hearing the door click shut, Bodie looked up to find the room empty. Surely, he thought incredulously, he can't have to go again! What on earth was Doyle up to? he wondered. All of a sudden the memory of the licking Doyle had taken from Macklin earlier that afternoon returned. Maybe he was hurting too much to sit still. The fool, Bodie cursed silently. How did he think he was going to be able to concentrate on the job if he was hurt so badly he couldn't sit still in a chair for more than twenty minutes! Leaving the office to find his partner and drag him bodily along to the doctor if he had to, Bodie went searching. Drawing a blank in every room, he finally returned to their office.

"I thought you'd got lost!" Doyle said sourly in greeting as Bodie opened the door. Speechless, Bodie sat down at his desk and picked up the next report. He tried to give the history of political discontent his full attention but he had barely settled down to it when the door clicked shut behind his partner yet again. Bodie checked his watch--only thirteen minutes this time. What was he up to? Overtaken by curiosity and just a little worried, Bodie followed him. He needn't have bothered being so cautious, though; totally unaware that he might be being watched, Doyle made straight for the public payphone booth in the main reception hall.

Wondering why on earth Doyle had chosen not to make use of the perfectly good phone sitting on his desk in the office, Bodie managed to get closer.

In the closed-in booth Doyle counted the rings. He was just about to hang up when it was answered. He pushed his coin home.

"Ann, it's me."

"Ray--just a second...let me put this down, I've only just come through the door... Hello, have you been trying to get hold of me?" she asked.

"Only this evening. I missed you at your office--you'd just left."

"Are you coming over?"

"Can't," Doyle said wryly. "I'm working. Probably won't be able to get away until late sometime Friday."

"Oh, Ray!"

"I know, I know. I'm sorry, love, but there's nothing I can do about it. How are you anyway...anything?" he asked hopefully.

"I'm fine, really and no," she laughed. "Nothing!"

"Oh." Doyle let out the breath he was holding and leant his head back against the glass pane. "I don't about you but this waiting is killing me," he complained.

"Patience, darling, have some patience. We should know by Monday--"

"Monday!" Doyle said in despair. "You said a week--"

"I only took the sample to the laboratory on Monday afternoon, they probably didn't touch it until Tuesday, then someone's got to type the report and post it to the doctor's surgery--"

"That won't take till Monday, surely?"

"Well, perhaps not. The doctor said I could ring on Friday after the second post--but he couldn't promise the result will be in by then."

"But Monday," Doyle groaned.

"Well, I've got plenty to keep me occupied until then, there is just so much happening at the office at the moment--"

"Could you get away this weekend?" Doyle cut in, not really wanting to hear Ann's office gossip.

"I suppose so...why?"

"It's just... Well, if we've got to wait until Monday I'm going to go mad sitting at home and I thought maybe we could go away somewhere."

"You're sure you'll get the time off?" asked Ann doubtfully.

"Yes. Par--" Doyle checked himself. "The job should finish some time Friday afternoon." He knew exactly what time: Parsali's jet was due to leave Heathrow at 3.45 p.m.

"Where shall we go? A hotel?"

"No," Doyle said thoughtfully. "Somewhere quiet, just us."

"There's the cottage," Ann suggested. "Since they finished building the motorway the drive only takes a few hours. I could give Mrs Walker a ring and ask her to air it for us for Friday night--I'm sure she wouldn't mind."

"Sounds nice," Doyle agreed. "We could drive down to the beach on Saturday."

"For a paddle! It's much too cold for that," said Ann.

"Build some sandcastles then," Doyle laughed.

"Sandcastles? Have you forgotten, Ray? It's only stones at Eastbourne."

"There is some sand--when the tide goes out," Doyle said cheerfully. "Sandcastles, Lego houses, model aeroplanes--"

"What are you on about?" Ann asked.

"The baby of course," Doyle explained patiently. "A father does have his responsibilities, you know."

"Oh, Ray," Ann laughed helplessly. "It'll be years before it'll be old enough for half those things--and why are you so sure it'll be a boy?"

"Don't be so sexist!" Doyle said in mock outrage. "It's not fashionable to be sexist. Girls can build aeroplanes and build Lego houses if they want to."

"All right, but before you start planning our child's life let's get this weekend out of the way. Will you pick me up in your car when you finish work?"

Doyle thought about everything that could conspire to delay his departure from London. "No. I think it would be easier if I meet you down there. That way I won't keep you hanging around if I get held up."

"You're sure you remember the way?"

"I haven't forgotten..." the pips went. "That was my last ten pence, I'll try and call you before Friday if I can. See you at the cottage."

Creeping back into the office, he saw that Bodie was still engrossed in his reports. Sighing heavily, he resigned himself to ploughing through his share of the research material.

Across the room, Bodie read the words in front of him, automatically taking in the relevant points. He had stayed watching only long enough to realise who Doyle was talking to, but he was still curious as to why Doyle had needed the privacy of the booth to talk to Ann--he wasn't usually so coy.



When they found the man's cruelly tortured body, Doyle's first thought was that his peaceful weekend might now not happen; but at least they knew they were up against a very real threat instead of some undefined, possibly hostile protesters: Someone else knew that Parsali was coming to England. Quite apart from the fact that the murdered man had not know the location of the alternative venue it was also approximately an hour's journey nearer to Heathrow. If all went well, Parsali should still leave their jurisdiction and protection in good time.

Bodie drove the car out to the conference venue early on the Thursday morning. Doyle was quiet for the whole journey, all Bodie's attempts at conversation either falling on deaf ears or gaining only a very limited and subdued response.

Several times during the journey, Doyle wanted to tell Bodie about the baby but, each time he opened his mouth to say something the words just vanished, leaving him floundering. Somehow he just knew that Bodie wouldn't exactly welcome the news--however hard he must try to give the impression that he was pleased. Troubled by his own problems and feeling guilty that he couldn't share them with his partner, Doyle did not notice the puzzled looks his partner was giving him or the effort Bodie made to try and cheer him up.

After they arrived at the venue they spent the rest of the day checking it over, going through the house and grounds and watching the security systems being installed. The security boffins decided that all the windows had to be locked shut--something which the untypical spell of warm weather they were enjoying made very uncomfortable and everyone became hot and irritable.

Already restless and edgy, Doyle was not best pleased with his partner's choice for their sleeping quarters. The panelled corridor was stuffy, gloomy and dark, the part he had chosen being windowless.

Bodie had selected the corridor for its privacy more than any other consideration. Upstairs the rooms were bare with no carpets or curtains and downstairs was taken up by the surveillance men--two of whom Bodie knew from past experience smoked constantly and snored extremely loudly. By the time Doyle's discomfort and nervousness seeped into his consciousness he was already comfortably settled and, being thoroughly fed up with his partner's moody abstraction, not inclined to put himself out and move.

"How much longer are you going to fiddle around?" Bodie asked gruffly through a layer of sleeping bag.

"You going to sleep?"

"That's the general idea," replied Bodie, his voice heavy with sarcasm.

"Oh," said Doyle, surprised. "It's not that late--you tired?"

"I've set the alarm for 5.30, Doyle," Bodie said patiently. "So, I'd like to get some sleep--if that's okay with you?" he added caustically.

"I'll turn the main light off--this little one won't bother you, will it?"

"No." The little flashlamp cast a warm glow over Doyle's part of the corridor. Tired enough to leave Doyle to sort out his own worries, Bodie made himself comfortable and settled down for the night.

"How do you think tomorrow will go?"

The question brought him back from the very brink of sleep.

"Tomorrow," Doyle repeated in response to his surprised grunt. "What do you think."

"Bloody nearly today!" Bodie grumbled, but still he rolled over and peered out from his sleeping bag. "What's bothering you about tomorrow?" he asked quietly. "You seem very...edgy."

"I'm not edgy," Doyle said in surprise. "I was just wondering...about the set-up...security...and everything," he finished lamely.

"The place is secure. Nothing can pass through the cordon now without tripping any one of half a dozen alarms. The army boys are bringing him in, we will listen to his boring speech, then escort him back to his little helicopter and it will all be over. Nothing to it." Bodie spoke in a low monotone. He'd said the same thing several times already and was getting irritated at Doyle's persistence.

"Nothing to it," Doyle repeated. "If that's so, why are we here?"

"To make sure there's nothing to it. We are the final check, the fail safe if you like. Because, in the unlikely event of someone managing to penetrate the road blocks, bypass the security gates and fences, slip unnoticed past the exterior guards, gain entry to the building without alerting all the other alarms and interior guards, successfully getting past Jax and Kennedy on the door and manage to bust into the conference hall with his gun, knife, machete, grenade or whatever, we'll be there to stop him! Won't we!" Bodie finished on a rising note and then drew a calming breath before lying back down and covering his eyes with his arm.

"A kamikaze kill, one or two nutters prepared to die for their belief might risk it. God knows there are people out there with reason to hate Parsali enough."

"Kamikaze or not," Bodie said quietly, "we're here and we'll stop him, stop them. It's what we're trained for--what we're paid for."

"Paid--to kill?"

"Paid to protect. If that means we have to kill, we kill. It's all part of the job."

"Do you really want to waste your life trying to protect someone like Parsali?"

Bodie sat up and turned angrily on his partner. "I'm paid to do a job. A job I've been trained for--a job I've chosen to do. I'm here because I choose to be here. I don't know Parsali. I don't want to know the man. I'm here to protect him, to protect what he stands for and if someone tries to kill him I'll do what I'm trained to do and I'll protect him to the best of my ability. And if you don't feel the same way you can pack up and get out now--right now!"

The harshness of Bodie's response pulled Doyle up sharply. In the stillness that followed Doyle finally understood why the married agents were removed from exactly this situation. All day his mind had been full of 'what ifs.' What if he should be killed in the morning? Ann would be alone, pregnant; his child would grow up fatherless, a bastard. What if he were maimed in some way; how would Ann cope with that and a baby?

"I'm sorry," he said suddenly. "Just ignore me. I'm getting twitchy in my old age," Doyle joked feebly.

"It's not like you to be so wound up," Bodie said when he realised that Doyle was only suffering from an attack of nerves. "What's the problem?"

"Nothing...and everything," Doyle said tiredly. I just feel...something's wrong. Dunno what...there's just something that doesn't feel right. It's making me feel...nervous, I suppose." Doyle knew that now was not the right time to tell Bodie about the baby. It was bad enough with himself getting uptight over it--and he knew that if Bodie had any suspicions that his mind wasn't on the job he would be pulled off the operation--and he didn't want that. Not yet.

The alarm woke Bodie at 5.30. Doyle was already gone, his sleeping bag neatly rolled away and the clothes-hanger his suit had been on swinging free on the picture rail. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Bodie tidied his own things away and went in search of breakfast and his partner. He found Kennedy nursing a mug of steaming tea in the kitchen.

"Your partner," Kennedy informed Bodie," is not the most popular person here this morning."

"What's he been up to now?" Bodie groaned. Having sat up talking until gone two with Doyle, he was in no mood to face any more aggravation.

"What hasn't he been doing! He woke me up about two hours ago trying to give me a bleedin' heart attack. The sod was outside testing the locks on the bloody windows--damn near took his eye out with a bullet before I got the sleep out of my eyes. Then, not satisfied with waking me and Jax, he goes and tests the electronic sensors and wakes up everyone in the lower hall."

The kitchen door swung open to admit a couple more men, neither of whom looked awake or happy.

"Bodie, can't you keep that partner of yours under better control! The way he's getting up everyone's nose he won't survive until Parsali's chopper arrives!"

Everyone, it seemed, had a complaint about 4.5. Bodie listened to a seemingly endless stream of them before escaping into the grounds. He finally found Doyle walking along the perimeter fence.

"You were up bright and early."

"Someone had to be," Doyle said sourly. "Did you realise that there were only six people on watch last night? A place this size! The house was full of sleeping men, anyone could've--"

"All the electronic surveillance stuff was on. There were enough guards about and you know it," interrupted Bodie. "I hope you realise," he went on, "that you've managed to get up everyone's nose this morning."

"So?" Doyle shrugged it off. "At least everyone's awake."

"Parsali doesn't arrive until midday, for Christ's sake. It's only just gone six now! What's with all the panic?"

"There's no harm in being cautious," Doyle said defensively, knowing full well that he was over-reacting but powerless to stop himself.

"Agreed," said Bodie. "But what can go wrong?"



Watching the helicopter leaving the field with Parsali safely inside it, Bode remembered his words, spoken almost in jest, earlier that day. He shrugged his shoulders; it had after all been okay in the end, no-one was killed. Watching the ambulance move off away from the house he amended his thought. None of them had been killed. None of the 'good guys,' anyway, and when he thought about it that was all that really mattered, to him.

The panic over, the speeches had been hurriedly finished off, and now, with Parsali on his way home the other delegates were being ferried to less grand modes of transport. Between the hovering chauffeurs, ministers and bodyguards, Bodie could see Cowley holding a terse conversation with Kennedy and the chief electronics man and he took care to keep out of their way. Moving slowly through the house, he eventually saw Doyle enter the hall through the French windows. Amid the chaos and confusion he looked relaxed and surprisingly cheerful.

"I knew it wasn't just nerves," he said to Bodie and they drifted through the rooms trying to keep ahead of Cowley and his wrath. "Last night and then again this morning, ever since we arrived yesterday afternoon, I knew something was wrong. They were here all the time."

Pleased that Doyle's mood had improved, Bodie let him prattle on, knowing that it was Doyle's way of relieving his tension. Maybe some of his partner's edginess had rubbed off on him, though, Bodie thought quietly. Already keyed up because of Doyle's behaviour, his own senses had been doubly heightened and so, when he made eye contact with the familiar man descending the stairs he had been alerted the second the smiling recognition turned to surprise and then alarm. That split second had saved Parsali's life--and very probably his own too.

"I was beginning to think I was cracking up," Doyle was saying, obviously relieved to have found a reason for his behaviour. "Do you think the lads will ever forgive me for messing 'em around this morning?"

"I doubt it," said Bodie dryly.

"Well." Doyle shrugged. "Expect I'll survive without 'em. Managed all right so far." The last came out with more bitterness than he meant and he continued quickly before Bodie could pick up on it. "What are you going to do now?" he asked Bodie.

"What?"

"Two weeks' leave, Cowley said, remember? Starting when Parsali's plane leaves Heathrow."

"You reckon we're still going to get leave after this mess?"

"He's still alive isn't he!" said Doyle indignantly. "Anyway, I've made plans. So," he asked again. "What are you going to do with yourself?"

"Don't know," Bodie said thoughtfully. There were a lot of things he could do in the next two weeks--only he had a hunch that the person he'd most like to do them with had plans which didn't include him. "What about you?"

The happy spark went out like a light from Doyle's eyes as he thought about the coming weeks. "Get away for a bit. Spend some time with Ann, sort a few things out..." Untypically, his voice faded away as his thoughts overtook him.

"What's up?" Bodie asked, concerned to see Doyle looking so unhappy. "Got some problems?" he asked quietly. All the funny moods of the past few days and the secretive trips to the phone box suddenly added up to major problems for the engaged couple.

"Nothing I can't handle," Doyle snapped back defensively; too defensively, Bodie thought.

"Not about to call everything off are you?" Bodie asked. He'd meant to sound surprised and amused at the lovers' tiff but the question seemed, to Bodie's ears anyway, to be slightly desperate.

"No," said Doyle quietly as he examined the barrel of his gun before slipping the safety catch on and securing it in his shoulder holster. "Got to marry her now, haven't I."

It could have been a joke, Bodie told himself as he watched his partner vanish up the stairs to reclaim their bags from the upper corridor--but he didn't think so somehow. It was late afternoon as they drove back to headquarters to make their reports before Bodie had a chance to ask him about it.

"Did you mean that?" he asked carefully. "What you said about...you know, having to..."

"Having to marry Ann?" Doyle asked when Bodie trailed off into an embarrassed silence. "No, not really. I suppose we would have got married sooner or later anyway--it's just brought things forward, that's all." He shrugged.

"You mean that you're...that Ann's...expecting a baby?"

"That's right," Doyle laughed. He'd never seen Bodie look so uncomfortable before, he was almost blushing. "Ann and me--unless, of course, you know something I don't," he joked.

"How the hell did you manage that?" Bodie asked.

"Bodie!"

"No, you great berk!" Bodie answered, rolling his eyes heavenwards. "I know how, what I meant was how?"

"Mistakes do happen, you know."

"I know that but--oh, for crying out loud--" Bodie laughed with Doyle and the awkwardness between them vanished. "Haven't either of you heard of family planning clinics?"

"'Course we have," Doyle said scornfully. "Ann's on some pill or other: Her doctor seems to think that her flying between the States and Australia has mucked her cycle up...plus she wasn't well just after Christmas--it can all affect a woman inside, you know."

Bodie was suspicious of Doyle's superior tone; he thought that perhaps he wasn't the only person in the car that had had blind faith in letting the girl take all the precautions. "So she's pregnant then," he said after a moment's quiet thought on the near misses he might have had himself.

"More than likely," Doyle agreed.

"You're not sure?"

"Ann's pretty sure. She's as regular as clockwork usually, she's been feeling a bit off colour and all that. We're waiting to get a result from the hospital."

"Should've tried one of those home testing kits," Bodie said with the easy conviction of one who reads all the literature at the chemist's whilst waiting for his prescriptions.

"We did," Doyle said. "Only it gave a negative result."

"So she's not pregnant then."

"Blimey," Doyle said. "Can tell you've never had to use one. It's all there in the small print," he said knowledgeably. "They are supposed to be pretty reliable but the packet does warn you that all a negative result means is that perhaps you're not pregnant, the pregnancy isn't far enough along to give a positive result."

"Oh," Bodie said. He'd never had cause to be that interested to read all the advertising splurge. "When do you--does Ann--get the hospital result?"

"Today, I hope. Maybe tomorrow morning and then again we may have to wait until Monday!"

"Nerve-racking, eh?" Bodie asked as his partner ran his hands through his already tousled and tangled hair. "So you're going away for a quiet weekend to talk babies and weddings then?"

"Yeah." Doyle sounded less than delighted at the prospect. "Ann's family has a small house down near Eastbourne they use some weekends. It's a nice place, miles from anywhere, quiet, just what we need. We used to spend a lot of time there before--" As always when his thoughts turned towards that dark period, Doyle cut them off abruptly in mid-sentence. "Haven't been there for a while, though. It'll be nice to see the place again."



Pulling up outside the compact little house later that evening, Doyle wondered whether coming had been such a good idea. In the past he had some good times here with Ann, happy times. Curled up together on the enormous bed that almost filled the attic room, they'd spent long hours talking, planning and loving. It was in this house, after one such weekend, that he had proposed to Ann all those years ago. It was also returning from a few peaceful days away from the frantic wedding preparations happening in London that he had been arrested and all their dreams had been shattered. No, he thought, maybe coming back here wasn't such a good omen after all.

He was surprised to find the house empty although it was prepared for its weekend visitors. Picking up the key from its usual hiding place, he let himself in; the place was warm and the smell of something delicious was wafting through from the kitchen. There was a note from the ever-reliable Mrs Walker addressed to 'Miss Ann,' telling her about the casserole. Doyle gave the bubbling pot a stir and then turned the oven down low; there was no telling what time Ann would arrive.

In the bedroom he unpacked the few things he'd brought down and took a quick shower. Time dragged slowly and still Ann didn't arrive; he tried ringing her office and flat without success and could only guess that she was on her way. Tense and unable to settle he decided to drive down into the village to the little off-licence and buy some drink--the way he was feeling he knew he was going to need a drink before the weekend was over.

Returning from the shops a little later with enough alcohol to both drown his sorrows and, if need be, wet the baby's head, he was totally unprepared for the sinking feeling in his stomach as he saw Ann's car just ahead of his. He pulled in behind her as they stopped in the narrow driveway. Feeling like a condemned man being led to the gallows, Doyle picked up the bottles and went to greet his fiancée.

"Was beginning to think you weren't coming," he said tautly as he opened the front door for her.

"I'm sorry. Something...unexpected came up this afternoon and it was late before I could get away. Where have you been then?"

"Off licence--I'm glad you're here though, was just trying to figure how long I should wait before calling the hospitals!" he said sarcastically, his mood and temper worsening by the second.

"It'll be months before I need a hospital, Ray," she said quietly as they entered the house.

"You've got the result then?" Doyle said, hear in mouth.

"Result?" Ann puzzled. "Oh, I see what you mean--no, not yet. We'll have to call tomorrow morning," she said, then, "What's that smell?"

"One of Mrs Walker's casseroles. I think she's still trying to fatten us both up." Leaving Ann to unpack and freshen up, Doyle sorted the dinner out and laid the table up. The meal was a quiet affair, both of them seeming to have decided that eating was preferable to talking but, eventually, neither of them could eat any more and they knew they had to talk.

"So," said Doyle carefully, choosing a safe topic--or so he hoped. "What was it that kept you so late? Finally decided to make you Chairman of the Board, have they?" he joked, taking the sting out of his words by smiling gently.

An was quiet for a moment and she took her time folding her serviette and pushing her plate to one side before answering. "Not exactly," she said, obviously having arranged her thoughts to her satisfaction. "They have asked me to take over as Head of the American operation next year when George Hollis resigns." Having delivered her quiet bombshell, Ann sat back.

"American operations!" Doyle was amazed. "You were expecting something like this?"

"I've been hoping for it for the last few years. George did tell me some time ago he wants to retire when he's 65 but I wasn't certain that he would be able to persuade the Board to elect a woman to the post."

"And he has...persuaded them?"

"It would appear so."

"But..." Doyle foundered helplessly. "You can't accept it."

"Why?" Ann challenged coolly. "Because I'm a woman?"

"Because you're pregnant!"

"We don't know that for certain."

"Agreed--but just assuming you are--what then?"

"I don't have to take up the position until January next year. If I am pregnant the baby will have been born by then."

"But you'll have to go to the States. You can't just...up and leave the baby...and you can't start flying all over the world with it either!"

"I don't even know if there is a baby yet! Perhaps it's just a false alarm, besides--anything can still happen...and if I do have a baby I'll engage a nanny."

"A nanny!"

"Oh, Ray, please!" Ann closed her eyes and rubbed her temples to ease her tension. "Let's wait until we know for sure one way or another. We can't decide anything until then."

Having brought the conversation to an end, Ann started clearing away the dinner things, making it quite clear that she needed no help. Too angry and confused to even want to clear the air between them, Doyle left her to get on with it and adjourned to the lounge to watch the television.



"Thought you'd be long gone, mate," Jax said cheerfully as Bodie walked into the rest room. "Saw Doyle vanish out the door a couple of hours ago like a bat out of hell. I advise you to do likewise, mate, otherwise the Cow might decide to cancel your leave along with everyone else's."

"What? Something on, is there?" Bodie asked, only just noticing that the building was nearly buzzing with operatives from both the squads.

"The joint op," said Jax, pulling a sour face. "Day's jumping around even more than usual, seems he's been tipped off about some big drop that the top bloke's going to be involved with."

"So, Cowley's getting ready for the kill. An 'all hands' job, is it?" Bodie asked casually, but Jax knew him too well.

"Not exactly," he said carefully, "everyone already seconded on to the joint op, all the drugs squad boys and just one or two of us lot, unlucky imbeciles that Cowley found hanging around the place.

One or two more 'unlucky imbeciles' walked in to the rest room at that point and they greeted Bodie enthusiastically.

"Where's Doyle?" Murphy asked straightaway, failing to catch Jax's hurried semaphore.

"Eastbourne," Bodie said after a quick look at his watch.

"How the fuck did he manage that--I thought the Cow had everyone on a fifteen minute standby!"

"No," Bodie said stiffly, "not everyone."

"Ah, well..." Murphy said, having finally understood why Jax was making weird gestures behind Bodie's back. "Just as well I suppose. There's no reason why Doyle would want to get mixed up with this...drugs case."

"No," Bodie agreed. "No reason at all."

No-one moved until after the door to the rest room had slammed shut with Bodie safely on the other side of it.



Lying curled on his side, Doyle knew they should talk but couldn't think how, or where, to start. On the other side of the bed, Ann shifted and he knew that she was awake.

"Ann?" he whispered. There was a long pause during which he guessed she was trying to decide whether to feign sleep or admit that she too was awake.

"What do you want?"

"You really want that job, don't you?" Doyle said softly.

"Yes. I've wanted it for a long time."

"Even though it means spending so much time in America?"

"Yes," was her unhesitating reply.

"Being pregnant'll really muck things up for you then?"

"It won't make it very easy," she agreed softly.

Doyle turned over and put his hand on her shoulder, pulling her round to face him. She resisted for a moment but then moved to lie on her back, staring up at the moonlit ceiling.

"Couldn't you...stay as you are...for a few more years, at least?" Doyle asked.

"Ray," Ann said firmly. "This is my career you're talking about. I worked very hard for a very long time to get to this position. I can't tell them to wait for a few years! The job is there now, it's mine now. It won't be there in a few years. I can't turn it down, Ray, I just can't."

"Not even for the baby?"

"Stop it, stop it!" Ann cried out. She sat up, snatched up her dressing gown and began fighting with the sleeves as she left the bed.

"I just don't understand how you can even think about swanning off to the States!" Doyle raged at her. "How can they expect you to agree to go? Okay," he said angrily, "they don't know about the baby yet, but they know you're getting married. What on earth do they think I'm going to be doing while you are--" Doyle stopped in amazement. "What was that?" he asked as Ann's angry words sunk in.

"I said," she repeated icily, "that I haven't told anyone at the office about the engagement."

"Why not?"

"Because...because there seemed to be no reason why I should. Our relationship has nothing to do with my professional career."

"Just when did you intend telling them?" Doyle asked mildly.

"Oh, Ray...please! I'm so tired, I can't really think straight any more."

But Doyle was beyond being 'reasonable.' "And what do you expect me to do while you're pursuing your 'career'?" He spat out the word contemptuously. "You haven't given one second's thought as to how our 'relationship,' as you put it, is going to affect my career. You've not even asked me what I intend doing. You don't give a damn about the fact that I'm going to be pushed off the squad to work with the other married off 'has-beens,' that I'll probably be assigned to a new partner because Bodie won't want to join the baby-sitters and bodywatchers brigade. You really don't give a fuck about me, do you! All you care about is your own precious fucking career and to hell with anyone else!"

Faced with the angry tirade, Ann collapsed in tears back onto the bed, her whole body shaking as she broke down, crying and sobbing. Shocked by Ann's reaction to his temper, Doyle tried to calm her down. The words of comfort, however, just wouldn't come to him and all he could do was pat her shoulder and make soothing noises. Eventually she let him remove the towelling robe and pull her back into the bed but, pulling away from him she positioned herself on her side of the bed as far away from him as possible.

"We're both tired," Doyle said softly as he retreated to his side. "It'll look better in the morning," he promised with little faith and even less conviction.



The woke early the next morning, the argument still very much on their minds making them both tense and irritable. Worse still, they found they were both clock-watching.

"What time does your doctor's surgery open?" Dole asked quietly.

"About now, I think. The receptionist should be there anyway. Should I ring now?" she asked.

"No reason why not?" Doyle answered. They had to ring and find out sooner or later. He prayed that the result would be in--the way they were going the tension would have them murdering each other if they were forced to wait until Monday!

There was a delay while Ann hunted for her pocketbook to get the surgery number and a further delay as the line was repeatedly engaged. When she finally got through to the receptionist, though, Doyle found he was unable to sit and listen to the conversation and he retreated into the kitchen where he could hear her talking but not make out the words. He opened the back door and stepped outside to gaze out over the fields. Behind him he heard footsteps as Ann, her call over, came out to him. He turned to face her but found her expression unreadable. "Well?" he asked nervously.

"Well, what?" Ann asked, clearly in the mood to tease.

"Well--yes or bloody no!" Doyle's patience snapped and he shouted at her.

"Bloody no!" Ann shouted back at him and promptly burst out laughing.

"No?" Doyle could hardly believe it.

"Yes." Almost hysterical with the relief from tension, Ann was incapable of being coherent.

"Yes?" Doyle was totally bewildered by her answers. He grabbed hold of her and pulled her close, cupping a hand behind her head and forcing her to look at him.

"Yes," she repeated between tearful gulps. "Yes, the answer's no. I'm not having a baby. I'm not pregnant. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not..." The tears finally won out over the laughter and she clung tightly to him. Fighting conflicting emotions of relief and disappointment, Doyle held her as they rode out the storm.

So engrossed were they in their relief that it was all over, neither of them saw the man watching them from the other side of the far field.



By the time he arrived at HQ, Bodie was more than ready for Cowley. Peremptorily summoned, with no apology for the suddenly cancelled leave, and ordered to present himself for a meeting with no hint of what it was about, he was feeling very uneasy. It was obvious that the recall hadn't affected Doyle; that alone was enough to set the warning-bells going and so he was not surprised to see Day or the drug squad officer waiting outside Cowley's office. Inspector Mellish refused to catch his eye as he walked in--but Day smiled.



"So," Ann said cheerfully, "what do you want to do now?"

"Sleep!" Doyle said and collapsed forward to rest his head on his folded arms on the table top. "I'm so tired I could sleep for a week," he mumbled.

"You poor darling--I think you've been suffering more than I have," she said solicitously as she rubbed a gentle hand over the top of his head, ruffling his hair. "You didn't sleep much last night, did you?"

"Last night," he agreed. "And the night before that, and not that much the night before that either. God, I'm really kna--tired," he amended at the last minute.

"Lord, but you can look pathetic when you want to," Ann said and kissed him on the tip of his nose. "Go on, go back to bed. I want to pop into town and get some things I promised for my mother. You might as well catch up your sleep--you hate shopping with me."

"No, better not. We really need to talk, Ann--"

"Yes, I know," she agreed. "But there's no hurry and besides, you're so tired I could talk you into doing just about anything now," she said briskly. "Off to bed with you."

"God, you're bossy!" Doyle said as he allowed her to push him towards the stairs.

"Well come on, move a bit faster."

"And you nag," he protested.

"Bed!"

"I love strong women," he joked and stole a kiss. "All right, all right, there's no need to push, I'm going. They're going to love you in America, the place is full of bossy women," he said, thinking he was far enough away to be safe. Ann's hand flashed out and caught his rump. "Ouch!" Rubbing a hand over his stinging buttock, Doyle vanished speedily into the bedroom.

Ready to leave to go shopping, Ann noticed at the last minute that the morning's fine drizzle had turned into a downpour. Reluctant to go into the bedroom and risk disturbing Ray, who had settled down to sleep, she picked up the jacket he had left over the chair the previous evening and slipped it on over her slacks and jumper; the hood would at least help to keep her hair dry until she got into the car. Opening the front door, she released an exasperated groan. Ray had boxed her car in last night. She was about to yell for him to wake up and come play musical cars when she felt his keys nestling in the pocket of her borrowed jacket and decided, at the last minute, to use his car.

Driving an unfamiliar car and peering through a rain-lashed windscreen, she did not see the man on the other side of the orchard as he moved his own vehicle out onto the road and followed her along the empty roads into town.

Keeping a cautious distance, the man could hardly believe his luck. As his excitement grew he could feel his heart beating faster, sending extra energy and vitality around his cold, weary body. At first he'd waited for the girl to emerge from the cottage to join Doyle but, when he set off without her the man knew that this was the opportunity he had been waiting for. Leaning over to the passenger seat he tugged at a battered case and released the catch. He checked the contents; yes, everything was there--all he needed now was five minutes alone with Doyle's car. Laughter bubbled up inside him and he had to let it out: Giggling and smiling, he followed the white Capri through the lanes. It was perfect, everything was going so well, even the awful weather was on his side, the wintry rain and chilling wind keeping people home in the warmth.

He followed the Capri into a small carpark behind a shopping centre. Parking on the opposite side of the parking area, he watched as the Capri's driver got out and hurried towards the centre.

As soon as the coast was clear, the man left his vehicle and crossed over to the white car with his box of tricks held firmly under his arm. Working fast, the man told himself that nothing could go wrong this time: this time he would do the job himself--just to make sure. Finishing off, he stepped back from the car, examining it carefully; where his hands had touched the bodywork there were grimy finger prints and using his sleeve, he wiped the marks off. He couldn't risk Doyle noticing anything suspicious.

Pleased with his efforts, he hurried back to his own car and waited for Doyle to return. He spent a patient, happy hour thinking of how life was about to change for the better, how everything would be different once Doyle was out of the way for good and once Ann was free to be with him--as she should have always been. His train of thought was interrupted as he saw the familiar hooded figure moving quickly across the road back to the Capri. He watched Doyle as he unlocked the car and put some shopping not the back seat. The man's excitement died suddenly, horribly, as he saw Doyle look up at the sky and notice that the rain had actually eased off a little. As Doyle took off his jacket and threw it into the car the man shook his head in disbelief.

"No," he whispered, shaking his head in denial. "No, nononono--" Fumbling with the door catch, he finally managed to push it open and he almost fell from the car. His legs were numb and he had to force himself to move across the car park. In desperate, panicked slow-motion he saw her get into her car, key the ignition and start to move away. As the engine started he managed to cry out to her. "Ann! Ann!"

Pushing her hair from her eyes and searching for the way out of the car park, Ann was only barely aware of the man running towards her. Her last thought when she finally saw him was that he looked frightened.

Charles Holly's frantic bellow of "Ann!" was all but drowned out by the thunderclap explosion that tore the car apart. Knocked down onto the gravel by the shockwave, he crawled on his belly towards the inferno, rising to his knees with his hands stretched out helplessly towards the flames when it became too hot to move any closer. No, he told himself over and over. It wasn't true, it just couldn't be true. He'd seen the bastard getting into his car; it wasn't Ann in there, it just couldn't be. It was a mistake, a terrible, terrible mistake; his eyes must have been playing tricks on him, he decided finally, too numb to think any more. He'd go to the cottage, he thought tiredly: He'd go there now and get Ann; he knew she would be waiting for him. He climbed to his feet and walked away from the flames.

As shoppers and shopkeepers poured into the car park to investigate the explosion, no-one paid any attention to the old man getting into his battered Land Rover.



As tired as he was, Doyle awoke after barely an hour and found himself wide awake, restless and unable to get back to sleep. The knowledge that there was no baby on the horizon was such an overwhelming relief that his mind was too busy thinking ahead, unmaking all the plans he'd made when he thought family life and its attendant responsibilities had caught up with him to even think about lying idle in his bed a moment longer. Hungry also for the first time in well over a week, he went downstairs and attacked the disappointingly small larder for anything edible.

Seated at the breakfast table and munching his way through a mountain of hot toast, he wondered how he would break the news to Bodie. He was very aware that Bodie, for all that he'd said at the time, was not looking forward to the dissolving of their partnership. Yes, he thought happily; Bodie would be pleased, Ann's mother, Dear Constance, would be pleased, her stepfather, Harry, would be happy because Constance was happy and, best of all, Ann could depart with no regrets to America to start organising harried executives--unable to contain his joy, Doyle laughed out loud--everybody was going to be happy!

Thinking of his immediate plans, and the rest of the weekend, Doyle knew that they still had to talk, but they both knew what they wanted; Ann would go to America and he would stay with Bodie. Tonight, he decided they would go out for a meal where they could plan things, talk and warp up the engagement for once and for all in a civilised and amicable manner; then, tomorrow, they could go home, Ann to her mother to break the good news and he to Bodie's flat. He didn't even think that Bodie might have gone away somewhere to spend his own leave relaxing, he knew Bodie would be there.

Pleased with life, the world and his own good fortune, Doyle finished the toast and put the kettle on for some fresh coffee. Just as the kettle came to the boil he heard a car turn into the drive and, smiling, he put another cup on the tray for Ann.



Pulling up outside the cottage, Holly saw his daughter's car. It's all right, he told himself, she's there, she's got to be there! Even so, he felt his heart begin to race and his mouth go dry. "No," he said sharply, "she's all right...I wouldn't hurt my baby...not my baby..." He lifted the heavy brass knocker and knocked loudly. Inside the cottage he heard the door bang and then footsteps coming towards him. He held his breath.

The laughing voice and smiling face that greeted him cheerfully hit him like a blow and he could only stand and stare, helpless, as Doyle opened the door wide.

"Lost your key, did you? Lose your head if it wasn't screw-- Oh, sorry," said Doyle. "Thought you were someone else..." Expecting to see Ann, he was taken completely by surprise to find a stranger on the doorstep.

"Ann..." the stranger croaked.

"Ann?" Doyle asked, wondering if he'd heard right. "Ann Holly? She's out right now...shopping in town," he explained as the man just stood there looking at him. "She'll be back any time now--" Holly tried to push past Doyle. "Hang about," Doyle said warily, holding him back. "I just said she isn't here. Who are you? What do you--"

In the same fraction of a second he realised that the stranger was not rational, Doyle tried to push him back out the door and understood far, far too late that the man wouldn't, couldn't be stopped. Already off balance, Doyle tumbled backwards with Holly on top of him, his arm twisted painfully beneath him; he felt the bone crack and knew that the stranger was going to kill him.

Blind rage and utter despair made Holly blind to everything; his only contact with reality was the warm softness under his hands and he held on tight.

"Ann... Ann," he shouted into Doyle's face. "My Ann...where's my Ann, you bastard...where's my Ann?" When Doyle didn't answer Holly's fury grew and his grip on Doyle's throat became tighter still, making any response impossible. "Answer me," he screamed, lifting Doyle and shaking him like a doll. "Tell me, where is she...what have you done to my Ann...tell me...tell me...tell me."

Unable to breathe, Doyle only knew he was fighting a madman for his life and he was losing. Desperate for air, his ears ringing and his vision dimming, he fought weakly. An abrupt flash of pain and a brilliant white light tumbled him into a safe darkness and he went willingly.

The sudden limpness of Doyle's body beneath him only enraged Holly further.

"No!" he screamed. "No...not like that...not that easy, not for you...you can't get away that easy!" he raved, shaking the limp body. "My Ann, she's mine, do you hear me, mine! You can't have her, she's mine!"

Doyle's head rolled limply back and Holly threw him onto the floor. He knelt there, staring first at Doyle and then beyond him into the rooms of the cottage. He could hear voices.

"Ann?" he whispered hopefully. Crying, he shuffled to his feet and stumbled into the kitchen. It was empty; one hand swept everything off the dresser top crashing onto the floor and he kicked at the table, sending it flying. From a rack he grabbed a large-bladed knife and turned into the small sitting room towards the voices. He found the radio and threw it across the room, smashing it against a mirror which shattered, showering the room with glittering fragments.

"ANN!" he screamed desperately, over and over and over again, slashing at fabric and woodwork in time with his cries.

Moving towards the stairs, he kicked Doyle's body out of his way. Ornaments and pictures were knocked awry or slashed as he made his way through the upstairs rooms. Using the knife, he hacked his way through the wardrobe and cupboards as if to reassure himself that no-one was hiding in there. With no other room to turn to, Holly collapsed face down onto the double bed, his hand still stabbing blindly, ripping pillows, mattress and linen. "Ann... Ann..." His cries grew weaker and the knife which had become wedged in the twisted bedsprings was released. As his rage ebbed, though, so too did his strength and Holly fell into an exhausted sleep there on the bed in the devastated cottage.



Cowley's face was grim as he passed the photographs across the desk.

"The second picture is dated on the reverse, three months before Doyle's arrest."

"Who is this Conroy? What's his connection with this 'Christmas Man'?"

"Conroy," Inspector Mellish informed Bodie before Day could open his mouth, "is a private pilot. Belongs to a small outfit that puts on aerial displays, trick flying, that sort of thing."

"As a sideline, of course, to his main job," added Day, "which is to import or export whatever people will pay him to import or export--legal or otherwise."

"And Conroy is connected to this operation in some way?" Bodie said. "If Conroy is mixed up in it and you think these photos implicate Doyle, why weren't they produced at Doyle's trial?"

"Because," Day informed him icily, "we only found them last night. We finally pulled in Albert Winterton and, to save his own skin, he put the finger on Conroy. Then," Day explained, "last night, two of our blokes did a little reconnoitring of Conroy's flat and turned up these little beauties, pictures of your mate, Doyle, being very chummy with Conroy."

"All these pictures prove is that Doyle was at a party nearly five years ago and that Conroy was there too!" Bodie said with little real belief that his comments would shake Day's conviction.

"Just one more piece of 'circumstantial evidence,' Bodie," Day said snidely. "To go with all the other 'circumstantial evidence'--"

"That's quite enough," Cowley reprimanded him. "I must admit that this evidence, in light of everything else, is very damning for Doyle; just another coincidence perhaps," he added as Bodie made to interrupt. "But, nevertheless we must investigate it fully and see if there is any real link between Conroy and Doyle."

"Where is Doyle now?" Mellish asked.

"With his girlfriend, Ann Holly, somewhere in Sussex. Control has the details," Bodie said vaguely.

"Holly?" Mellish said thoughtfully; he raised a bushy eyebrow and looked askance at Day. "Ann Holly," he said again. "Bit of a coincidence, isn't it?"

"What's a coincidence," asked Day, puzzled.

"Holly," said Mellish slowly. "Just hearing it like that... Holly, The Christmas Man...struck me as a bit odd...maybe some sort of link there..."

Day lit up as he realised where Mellish's train of thought was leading. "Yes," he said. "Wasn't Doyle involved with this Holly woman at the time of his arrest?" he asked Bodie urgently.

His heart sinking, Bodie had to admit that things were beginning to look very black for his partner. The coincidence was acceptable but the number of coincidences linking Doyle with the drugs case was getting unbelievable. It couldn't be true, though, he thought numbly; he was prepared to stake his own reputation on Doyle being innocent--surely he wasn't being fooled along with everyone else. The momentary doubt surfaced for a few ugly seconds, causing him to lose track of the conversation buzzing Cowley's office.

Lost in his own thoughts, he didn't take much notice of the incoming telephone call at first...

"...ambulance on the way there now? To which hospital?" he heard Cowley saying. "You're sure...what time did this happen? ...The local police...yes--one moment." Cowley put the call on hold. "Bodie get on to control, I want Doyle's address in Sussex immediately." He returned to the call. "Keep the press away. We'll be there directly. Control will radio you the address as soon as we are under way." Disconnecting the call, Cowley took over the call Bodie was making to control and ordered the helicopter be readied for immediate takeoff.

"Gentlemen," Cowley said, reaching for his coat. "We may well have our answers sooner than we expected; a car has just been blown to pieces in a shopper's carpark in Eastbourne--Doyle's car." Not giving anyone a moment to recover, Cowley went on. "Inspector, I'll be in touch with you. Day, come with me. Bodie, you can stay--" he didn't get any further.

"I'm coming with you. Sir," he added as a deliberate afterthought. Cowley hesitated for a second, wondering whether he ought to make a stand and then decided he would lose anyway and so conceded with poor grace, unwilling to waste time arguing.



Holly woke up suddenly; for a second or so he was completely disoriented but then the memories came crashing back in on him. This time, though, there were no tears and his grief seemed older and more bearable, shock having numbed his senses to a more tolerable level. He clambered up from the bed and staggered shakily into the bathroom where he put his head under a running tap; shaking the water from his eyes, he grabbed a towel and moved back into the bedroom.

The devastation shook him. The ruined bed and pillows had spilled out, covering the room with feathers and stuffing; torn clothes littered the floor. As he leant against the wardrobe, something slithered out onto the floor, catching his attention and he snatched it up and flicked through the pages. The first thing he saw was a sketch of Ann. He smiled at the simple drawing and touched the faint lines of her hair with a gentle finger. He rolled the sketch pad up and stuffed it into an inside pocket.

He moved around the bedroom touching things, picking up bits and pieces he knew were his daughter's running his fingers over the small make-up case and jewellery box, sniffing at her perfume bottles, feeling the silk of her blouse between his fingers. Her presence in the bedroom calmed him, soothed away the grief and covered over the painful memories. Here, in the bedroom he could almost feel her, see her and, bit by bit, his mind locked away the hurtful thoughts until he couldn't remember exactly what had happened--except that it was bad, very bad...he'd got Doyle, though. He remembered that clear enough, remembered the way his body had suddenly gone limp beneath his hands. He laughed out loud; yes, he thought, he'd got that bastard, all right. Doyle had paid for daring to mess around with his daughter!

Thinking of Doyle made him think about other things, practical things, and he started planning again. Doyle's body was lying at the bottom of the stairs; he couldn't leave it there for Ann to find--and he didn't want her upset. He knew that she must never find out how hard he worked to keep her safe. He had to hide the body before she came home.

Holly hurried back down the stairs; his mind whirring into action again, he only saw what he expected to see--Doyle lying dead at his feet. He didn't notice the gentle rise and fall of his victim's chest. Staring blindly at Doyle, Holly wondered how long he had been asleep upstairs...wondered how long he had before Ann came home...he had no time to waste.

Stepping over Doyle, he went outside and reversed the Land Rover up to the front door. Coming back inside, he tugged the rug away from the walls and rolled it around Doyle who, out cold, didn't even murmur, and then he dragged it outside and heaved it into the back of the vehicle. Without a backward glance at the cottage Holly drove out onto the road.

He drove mechanically, unthinking. He wasn't panicked or nervous and no one seeing him would have thought he had a care in the world. Even getting caught in a minor traffic hold-up only ten minutes form his home and safety didn't faze him. A helicopter clattered noisily into sight and landed only a few fields away. After a short additional delay there was a wail of police sirens and a small convoy of cars headed down the road towards him and back along the road he had just come from. No one in the convoy paid the slightest attention to the battered Land Rover with the carpet-roll bundled in the back.

The hold-up over, the policeman waved the cars on again and, with a polite nod of thanks, Charles Holly continued on his way home.

Pulling up outside his house, Holly quickly checked to see if anyone was about. The house was empty but he could hear the clatter of machinery and voices coming from the farm side. He knew he had to hide the body quickly and decided to put it temporarily inside the house. He pulled the rug, with Doyle still hidden inside, and dragged it over his shoulder to carry it through into the privacy of his home. Once indoors, Holly knew the best place to hide it. He had only ever used it in emergencies once or twice over the past twenty years; it was small but it would be ideal. Since his parents' death several years ago no one else in the family knew of its existence.

He carried his heavy load through to the library and dropped it onto the floor: the layers of thick carpet blanketed any sound Doyle might have made. Working fast, Holly's fingers found the right point in the panel and slid it back, then he dealt with the mock inner wall.

Intended as a hidey-hole for contraband in centuries past, it was too small to take the body wrapped in the rug and so Holly unravelled it, grunting and labouring over the dead weight. So sure that he was handling a dead body, Holly was never aware of the fact that Doyle was still breathing, still warm; all he knew was what his memory told him--that Doyle was dead and he'd felt him die under his own hands. Pushing a final leg into the space, Holly grunted in relief and slid the wall into place, then the wooden panel.

He stepped back to admire his work and noticed the scratches on the woodwork where it slid behind the other panels. Frowning, he searched the room for something to cover it. The bureau was ideal. He set the decorative flower arrangement sitting on top of it to one side of the floor and then, pushing and sweating, managed to move it up a few feet to cover the worst of the marks. Breathless by the time he'd finished, he rearranged the flower vase on the bureau again and slightly reorganised the rest of the furniture to make the room look right. Pleased with his efforts, he picked up the rug and left the room.

In the kitchen he calmly set about making himself a cup of tea. He thought about eating something but decided against it and chewed on some indigestion tablets instead in the hope they would relieve the pain in his side. Sitting in his kitchen supping his tea, Charles Holly felt oddly at peace with the world. Looking through the window, he saw that the rain had finally stopped and the late-afternoon sunshine was warming everything up nicely. For a moment he forgot all about an, and Ray Doyle, his efforts of the afternoon, and he walked out into the sunshine to enjoy the fresh air.

With no direction in mind he wandered aimlessly until, at the end of a tree-lined lane, he leant against a gate and stared out into the sunny paddock, enjoying the sight of the horses playing, running about. As he watched, a young girl wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt, her ginger hair caught up in a tight pony tail, ran into the field with a handful of grass for the horse.

He laughed out loud at the way the little girl kept encouraging her horse to 'eat it all up so you can grow big and tall.' She was totally unafraid of the huge animal and, when the grass was all gone she looked round for more.

"'s all gone, daddy," she said, looking straight at him. "It's all gone, daddy." The words echoed around the empty field, leaving Holly blinking in surprise.

"Ann!" he called out. "Where are you, poppet?" He climbed over the gate to look for her. "Don't hide, poppet," he said worriedly. "Don't hide from daddy...Ann...come back here...Ann," he called. "Ann...don't hide from daddy...please, Ann...come back..."

Holly sank to his knees, groaning aloud as the pain in his chest suddenly expanded, flaring hotly outwards, engulfing him. Hugging himself to ease the pain, he felt the forgotten sketch pad in his pocket and he drew it out, leafing through the pages with numb fingers. He found the sketch of Ann again and, for a moment, forgot his pain as he smiled at it, caressing her face with his fingers. Then the pain gripped him again and he clenched the pad with whitened fingers. As the wave ebbed slightly his gaze fell on the page just visible underneath...another picture of Ann, a larger one this time taking the whole page up. His fingers moved over the ripples in the sheet that covered her slightly, coming to a halt as they traced over bare skin. As he stared at the picture, seeing it properly, he felt the pain inside tear him in two and his cry of agony was mixed with his scream of rage.

"NOOOOOOOO!" Holly fell face down into the grass, the pad falling and landing under his face. Paralysed, his eyes wide and desperate, Holly lay staring at the picture of Ann, eyes soft and sensual, lying naked for the eyes of the world to see her... "No," he sobbed, "not my Ann...not...my...Ann..."

Struggling, Holly managed to wrench the pad away from his face and he pushed it way where the wind whipped at the pages, tearing them free from the binding and scattering them around the field. As the first sketch of his daughter flapped past his face he tried to reach for it but the wind tugged it just out of reach; he was trying to crawl for it when the final burst of agony seared through him and his hand fell, lifeless, onto the grass.



Their helicopter landed on a school playing-field and they were greeted by a group of excited-looking uniformed policemen. A chubby-faced superintendent detached himself from the throng and introduced himself. To Bodie's immense relief, he got straight to the matter in hand and gave them all the information as their cars sped away towards the cottage.

"There was only one body removed from the car," the superintendent said. "So far, two witnesses have said they saw a young woman, early thirties, auburn hair, fair skinned, about five foot tall get into the car. The vehicle blew up approximately thirty seconds after it started moving.

"And the house?" Cowley asked.

"We're nearly there, it's just around the next corner...here it is, we get out here and it's about one hundred yards further up the lane." Superintendent Fox signalled the driver to pull over and they all got out, Day soon joining them from the second car. "My men have surrounded the house as per your order, Major Cowley," said the superintendent. "No one's approached it at all and it looks peaceful enough. There's one car parked in the driveway and the front door is slightly open."

"Thank you," Cowley said, then turned to Day. "I want you to approach the house with caution--if Doyle is in there I want him out in one piece!"

"Sir," objected Bodie. "You can't seriously think Ray had anything to do with the car--and even if he had, do you really think he's going to be sitting in there waiting for us!"

"Day will enter first, Bodie. Those are my orders!" Cowley barked and his expression gave no room for discussion. Simmering, Bodie forced himself to calm down and moved into position, ready to follow the moment Day signalled.

After checking the exterior, Day gingerly approached the open front door. He beckoned Bodie closer to give him cover as he went in. Cautiously they entered the house. Somewhere to the right of the hallway a badly tuned radio was playing, static whistling and distorting the sound. Broken china strewn across the floor crunched beneath their feet; as they moved through the small house, they was the destruction but, for the moment ignored it--they were looking for something more important than broken ornaments. Only when they had checked the house out thoroughly did they relax fractionally and give the all clear for Cowley to enter.

"Looks like everything that could be broken has been, sir," Day said quietly, shaking his head in answer to the unspoken question.

"I don't understand this, at all," Cowley said as he viewed the destruction. "None of this makes any sense," he waved his hand around the room. "If Doyle is involved with Conroy--"

"He isn't!" Bodie growled menacingly.

"If he is involved," Cowley repeated, "and he knew we were on to him he could possibly try to run out, break away somehow, but this...this doesn't add up," Cowley puzzled aloud. "Why kill the girl in his own car? Why smash this place up? There are far easier ways to cover your tracks than this."

Bodie had no answers for him and if Day had any he was wise enough not to voice them in Bodie's presence.

The forensic team were there in double quick time and both the burnt-out car and the house were given a meticulous examination.

Returning to the cottage after viewing the remains of the car, Cowley, Day and Bodie--who was still tagging along, refusing to be left behind--the Met Superintendent Fox and Mrs Walker, the woman who 'looked after' the cottage for Ann's family.

Although very distressed at the terrible accident that had befallen 'Miss Ann," Mrs Walker was able to give them one more piece of information to puzzle over. She'd gone through the smashed rooms carefully and had announced that nothing had been stolen...except for one loose rug which went in the entrance hall.

"A rug?" Bodie asked, wondering if he'd heard right.

"A rug," Mrs Walker repeated. "A beautiful one it is too. Mrs Harrison bought it when she lived in India with her first husband--although she was Mrs Holly then, of course--it came from one of the northern provinces where Mr Holly was--"

"You're sure it's missing?" Bodie interrupted. "It's not just been moved to one of the other rooms?"

"It's missing, I tell you. I remember it being there on Friday and it's not there now," the old lady insisted. "Why on earth should Miss Ann move it--it's been lying on that floor near on forty years!"

"How big is it, Mrs Walker?" Cowley asked quietly.

"Oh my...I don't know..." Mrs Walker became flustered, fresh tears welled up in her eyes and she sniffed. Cowley handed her a clean, neatly pressed handkerchief. "It stretched from just past the door mat to about...there...a foot from this door, and it must be a few inches less than the width of the hall...look, you can see where the edge tiles are more polished--that's how big it is."

Cowley made soothing noises to calm the woman as he gestured for a policewoman to come and take care of her.

"Just a rug missing," Saunders, one of the department's forensic men, said thoughtfully. "By the size of it--big enough to wrap a body in," he ventured.

"What would he need the rug for if he intended blowing her up in the car?" Day mused thoughtfully--forgetting for the moment that Bodie was still glowering beside him--and staring at the empty space the rug had once occupied. "All seems a bit pointless--why'd he need a rug?"

"To wrap a body in?" Cowley said grimly.

"But the girl was killed away from the house--"

"Another body," Cowley said.

"Doyle?" Bodie asked, a deep fear finally finding voice.

"Someone blows up Doyle's car and kills the girlfriend by mistake. When he, whoever he is, realises his mistake, he comes here to the cottage and kills Doyle, wraps the body in the rug and takes him off." Day laughed, a sour laugh that grated on Bodie's nerves. "Oh, very nice and tidy. Agatha Christie would have had fun inventing a plot like that."

"I think it's a bit early to start jumping to conclusions," Bodie forced himself to say with more calmness than he felt. One step slightly off line and he knew, without a shadow of doubt, that Cowley would have him packed off to London and away from all the investigations.

"Do you have a better explanation?" Day sneered.

"Back off," Bodie snapped. "We don't know what happened and we won't until we find Doyle--"

"Presuming he's hanging around somewhere waiting to be found--"

"That's enough!" Cowley hissed. "It's bad enough that one of our men is missing in suspicious circumstances without the sight of two more involved in a slanging match! You, get down to the town, check out the shops Miss Holly visited; find out what she bought, who she talked to, whether anyone was with her at all." Dismissing Day, Cowley turned to Bodie. "You, stay here until the forensic team have finished and then return with them to London and take them into Doyle's flat. I want it searched thoroughly--do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly," Bodie snapped back. A thorough search, he thought, the bile rising in his throat. It would mean ripping the flat, Doyle's home, to pieces. Nothing would be left untouched. Everything that Doyle had would be revealed to almost public viewing--nothing would be left untouched. Doyle, Bodie knew, would hate it.



Bodie arrived, with the team, shortly after midnight to find Cowley and Day waiting for him. Using the spare key that Doyle had given him for emergencies, he opened the door and let everyone in.

Cowley indicated that the team should wait outside until he called them and then closed the front door.

"You're familiar with his things," Cowley said to Bodie. "Before the team come in and start stripping the place I want you to look through and see if there's anything out of place...anything missing."

"You mean South American travel brochures, bank statements, missing suitcases, that sort of thing?" Bodie said tiredly.

"Don't be facetious, Bodie," Cowley said sharply. "You won't help Doyle with that attitude."

As Bodie reluctantly checked through each room Cowley followed closely; Day kept his distance but stayed within earshot as Bodie was questioned on his partner's behaviour over the past few weeks.

"Hmmm..." Cowley said thoughtfully as Bodie's report ended. "I've heard that he seemed edgy from other sources too. Have you any idea as to the cause...Bodie," Cowley warned as he saw the younger man's expression change. "Don't even think about holding anything back. What is it--come on, man, out with it!"

Deciding he might be about to hear something interesting, Day came closer.

"Doyle..." Bodie began awkwardly. "He...he and Ann... I don't think things were working out quite as they had planned..." His voice tailed off as he guiltily realised that neither Ray nor Ann had actually planned anything. "I think...they think--thought that she was...pregnant. It wasn't planned and I'm not sure Ray was all that happy about it." Bodie finished and slumped down into one of the armchairs and stared belligerently at Cowley and then at Day, daring them to come to the wrong conclusion. Surprisingly enough, though, Day's only comment was not what Bodie had expected.

"I can't see Doyle blowing up his car just to get rid of a baby and a girlfriend. He must 'ave heard of abortions even if he hasn't heard of family planning!"

"You could argue that she refused an abortion and was insisting he marry her," Cowley suggested.

"Nah," Day dismissed the suggestion. "Not in this day and age. Ten or twenty years ago perhaps, but not now. She was old enough to know her own mind and Doyle...well, presuming she wanted to name his as the father and sting him for child support, it wouldn't cripple him financially." Day sat himself down in the chair opposite Bodie--Doyle's favourite chair--and looked Bodie square in the face before continuing. "No, I think what's happened is that Doyle got wind of the fact that the Joint Op was moving onto some big names and started getting nervous. Why kill the girl?" he asked. "Maybe he wanted to start running and she refused to go with him. Maybe he couldn't trust her with the truth about his involvement...who knows--except, of course, Doyle himself."

"You've forgotten something," Bodie said, too weary and worried now to get angry. "What about the rug? If Ray killed her--whose body is wrapped in the rug? What about the stains the forensic boys found in the hallway?"

"An unidentified stain that could be human blood," Day said patiently. "My money's still on Doyle fixing the girl and trying to confuse things by ransacking the place and fooling us into thinking something happened to him."

"Until the lab results come through we'll still concentrate on Doyle--there's precious little else to go on," Cowley said. "Bodie, you stay here and supervise the search. Keep me informed...Day," he turned to the other man. "You've still got Conroy's home and office under surveillance?"

"Yes, sir."

"Just supposing, for argument's sake, Doyle and Conroy are connected. Conroy's aircraft would be an ideal vehicle for a man on the run to leave the country in. Double the surveillance and keep me posted as to developments."

As Cowley and Day left the flat they let the forensic team in. Grim-faced, Bodie watched as the men set about their task. They all knew Bodie; knew it was his partner's flat they were taking apart, 'carefully, and mind the furnishings!' Cowley had ordered before leaving--but it made little difference to the way they did their job.

Helpless to prevent any of it, Bodie paced restlessly from room to room, his brooding stare burning into the men's backs. There was little conversation, none of the jokey back-chat they usually indulged in; no-one made lewd comments about the contents of the bedside cabinet or joked about the more personal possessions Doyle had put away in cupboards and drawers. Even the discovery of a dog-eared instruction sheet for a home pregnancy test-kit didn't raise the titter it normally would have done, it was simply bagged and tagged and put onto the ever-growing pile of 'suspicious evidence' on the living room floor.

For the best part of an hour Bodie held his tongue and his patience but he was unable to restrain himself when one of the men pulled out a large suitcase--one Bodie had last seen in the corner of his spare bedroom when Doyle had been his 'house guest.' "Leave that!" he barked, causing the man to jump in surprise.

"Fuck off, Bodie." Flushed and sweating from effort and tension, Kelly just snarled at him. "Just keep out of it," he warned.

"Don't do that," Bodie said in a deceptively soft voice. "You don't have to rip it apart--there's no need to gut everything."

"Just trip the locks, Kel," said one of the other men in an effort to defuse the situation. "They're only cheap cases, shouldn't be difficult." Taking hold of Kelly's knife, the younger man worked at the locks and soon had them open.

"Okay, Bodie," Kelly said placatingly, "let's see what he wanted to lock away in here...strange place to put this stuff," he said with disappointment. Sickened, Bodie watched the contents of the case being tipped out and sifted through by Kelly. There was nothing special in there--nothing special or important to anyone but Doyle.

As Kelly pored over the contents his colleague delved into the back of the cupboard and pulled out a second case. This one was not locked, merely strapped shut, and Bodie recognised it as the other case Doyle had dragged back from his brother's house the day of his release form prison. He recalled seeing this suitcase the day Doyle moved into this flat and had offered to unpack it for him. 'Leave it,' Doyle had said. 'I'll do it later, there's nothing important in it.' Nothing important? Bodie knew otherwise. The two cases were all that Doyle had left of his previous life, all that he'd wanted to save when he lost everything else. They were important. "There's no need to read them!" Bodie snarled as he noticed Kelly sorting through a pile of letters."

"They're bleeding love letters!" Kelly crowed delightedly. "No romance though, done up with an elastic band, should have been a pink ribbon at least..." he laughed unkindly.

"Look at these," the other man said as he sorted through the second case. "Certificates, master marksman and everything...didn't realise he was such a good shot," he said, admiring Doyle's skill.

"Yeah, she reckons he was a good shot, too," Kelly snorted crudely as he sorted through Ann's letters.

"Good lord...he even kept his school reports...hey, listen to this one--"

The tension of the past hour found an outlet as the innocent keepsakes and mementoes were pulled from the cases.

"...must learn to curb his temper and channel his thoughts more effectively..."

"Kids' books!" Kelly said in disgust. "Why keep a bunch of kids' books?"

"...Raymond must learn to apply himself and concentrate on academic subjects..."

"...Hendon Police Training College, Passing Out Parade, March 1968--looks like the whole bloody lot of 'em are about to pass out! That looks like him, there, third from left in the middle--not smiling is he!"

"Listen to this...Mr and Mrs Henry Harrison request blah-blah to the marriage of Ann blah-blah to Mr Raymond Doyle...St. Barnabas Church, September 10th 1972--when was he first arrested?"

"Hmm..." Kelly answered, looking up from the pile of documents from the Police Training College, "Oh, sometime in August...yes, August '72 I think. Look at this one...she sent it to him while he was being held on remand. 'Darling Ray,'" Kelly read out. "'I really can't believe that this is happen--'"

"That's enough!" Bodie shouted as he snatched the invitation cards and letters out of their hands. "There's nothing of interest to you here and you bloody well know it!"

"Back off, Bodie," warned Kelly, rising to his feet.

"You've done your job and you've found nothing so get the fuck out of here!"

"I said back off and I meant it," Kelly said. "You're only here to observe so bloody well OBSERVE and keep out of our way!"

"I'm all for job satisfaction," Bodie said, "but I think you are enjoying poking your nose into Doyle's things, you've had the time of your fucking life pulling this place apart--"

"Pulling it apart?" Kelly countered. "We've hardly touched the place. I'll show you 'pulled apart' if you want me to. Start with the mattress shall we? Cut that up and see what's inside? Take the wallpaper off the walls to see what's hidden underneath, tip the flour and sugar and cornflakes into a pile on the living room floor shall we? I'll fucking well give you pulled apart if that's what you want!"

"Keep it down, Kel," the other man urged softly to his partner before turning to Bodie. "I appreciate that it's hard for you to watch us do this but it's got to be done."

"Oh yes," Kelly laughed bitterly. "We've got to see what the rat left behind before he jumped ship--they always leave something--"

"Kelly!" entreated his partner. "It's finished. Let's close up--"

"Finished! We haven't even started yet. I'll show Mr-Bloody-Wonderful here how we do a real search!" Kelly lifted the photograph frame and smashed it against the wall without dropping his eyes from Bodie's. "Might have something hidden under that picture." The glass shattered and, free from the frame, the photograph of Doyle's passing out class fluttered to the floor by Kelly's feet. Stepping forward, he ground his heel into it and the sound of crunching glass seemed very loud in the quiet room.

Kelly fully expected Bodie to take a swing at him and he wasn't disappointed. The fight caused more damage to the flat than the search had.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

...He fought every inch of the way but it didn't help; gradually, step by step, he felt himself moving nearer and nearer to the door. Already frantic, his fear grew even more unbearable as it began to open. Spurred on by growing terror, he managed to throw his weight against the door--he had to keep it out...keep them out...it mustn't get in...he couldn't let it get in... The door shook, rattling its hinges and he doubled his efforts even though he knew he was going to fail; his strength finally gave out and the darkness, suffocating, powerful and unrelenting, rushed in, sweeping over him and dragging him down...

Jolted free of his dream, Doyle found the nightmare continuing. Darkness still pressed in all around him and he shook his head, trying to clear his confusion. It was the wrong move and he felt his world tip and sway sickeningly; his ears buzzed furiously and his skin prickled with cold sweat as he lost the battle to keep the contents of his stomach.

Eventually, the dizziness faded slightly and the pain became less sharp--but the darkness remained. Using his good arm, Doyle eased the broken one to a more comfortable position across his chest. His whole body ached and he knew he was hurt badly--but how it had happened and who did it to him was lost and he felt too confused and hurt to struggle for the memory. He wiped away the itchy, dried blood from his face and felt the brush of lashes against his fingers. His eyes were open--but the darkness was still total; moving his head as much as he could without being overwhelmed by the spinning, sickening feeling as he searched desperately for a glimmer of light.

There was none.

It was a nightmare, his worst nightmare, and yet he knew he was awake. The knowledge was scarcely reassuring. "Who's there?" he croaked. His voice fell into the darkness and he waited for an answer. None came. Blind, he listened for some clue as to where he was--who was with him. His own breathing, raspy and fast, was deafening and, as a fresh wave of terror washed over him, he held his breath--straining to hear who might be out there in the darkness. For a tense moment he lay frozen, listening, his lungs burning as he held his breath back. Sick and dizzy, he let it go with a whoosh and a cough which shook his body, making him groan in pain. Just as the noise passed his lips he thought he heard something--he froze, skin prickling and the hair on the back of his neck bristling. "Who's there?" he whispered after a moment's complete silence. Doyle's heart raced as he thought desperately of what he should do. He had no idea where he was, how he got there or--even more terrifying--who was there with him. "Who are you?" he croaked painfully into the darkness. "What do you want?"

His voice bounced straight back at him from the thick walls. He had no way of knowing he was alone in his dark prison and, in his confused state, had no idea that the sounds he could hear were of his own making. Suddenly, fear became panic; he had to get out; had to get away; had to get back into the light. His strength recharged by the adrenaline surge, Doyle managed to move; he got his knees beneath him and tried to lift himself up but his head hit the ceiling before he could straighten up. Lashing out with his arms, he found that all the walls were close--very close. Under frantically searching fingers he felt the crumbling, gritty stonework and the spongy dampness clinging to the bricks. The truth of his position finally hit Doyle and he fought to get out. "Bodie!" he cried out as he scratched at the crumbling plaster. "Bodie! Bodie!" He was unaware of everything except the desperate need to escape his prison, his movements were wild and uncoordinated and, driven by panic, he hit his broken arm against the unyielding bricks. The flash of brilliance in the darkness was as welcome as the oblivion that swept over him.

The next time he awoke the darkness didn't surprise him and he just lay there, huddled against a wall, and waited. He was no longer sure what was real and what was not. Everything was dark, nightmare and reality merging over and over until he no longer had the energy to even wonder why it was happening.



Lake rang the doorbell a third and then a fourth time. Eventually, Bodie's voice growled at him via the security intercom. "Who the bloody hell is it?"

"Just be grateful I'm not Cowley and let me in--it's pissing down out here." Lake waited another few minutes before he heard the door buzz free. On the second landing the door to Bodie's flat was ajar and he walked in. "Careless, 3.7," he admonished. "I could have been a hitman out to get you."

"More likely to be the Man From The Prudential!" Bodie said lightly when he got his first glimpse of what his visitor was wearing. "Strewth!" he whistled. "Fucking hell, Puddle. Who'd you pinch that get-up from?"

"It's mine!" Lake replied indignantly. "Nothing wrong with it...just a bit..."

"Dated. Old-fashioned," Bodie supplied.

"Well, fits the image. Been doing some low key leg-work for the Old Man--could hardly go in looking like an undercover copper, could I?"

"Working on what?"

Damn, Lake thought, furious with himself. "Just sniffing around a few characters he hopes might lead to something on the drugs thing."

"Grasping at straws, is he?"

"Bloody feels like it," Lake complained, gratefully accepting the proffered drink. "Something's happened in the set-up and we don't know what. Everyone Day's had under observation over the past six months is running about like so many headless chickens!"

"What's happened?" Bodie asked curiously.

"God only knows!" exclaimed Lake. "We can't get to the bottom of it--had word there was going to be a large drop somewhere along the Kent or Sussex coast in the early hours on Monday morning. We had coast-guards and radar stations keeping watch for us. Then, about five o'clock yesterday a small plane on a scheduled flight from Brittany, en route to Biggin Hill, makes a slight detour, circles around The Downs for thirty minutes, then returns, top speed for Brittany without touching down. The French police radioed through that the plane was clean."

"They ditched the stuff in the Channel."

"Certainly looks that way--though we've no proof. Something must have gone wrong with the drop; no one met them so they ran back to France and ditched the lot as a precaution."

"Are they being held in France?"

"No. One of the passengers, 'a respectable businessman'--if you can believe that--said he remembered an urgent business matter he hadn't dealt with and ordered the pilot to return," Lake finished sourly.

"Just like that," Bodie said in disgust. "What's Day's verdict on what went wrong?"

"Oh, he...um..." Lake hedged. "Well, he thinks that they were tipped off on this side of the Channel. Although he hasn't actually said so in my hearing I understand he reckons that someone..."

"Someone...meaning 4.5?" Bodie enquired.

"Probably," agreed Lake. "Someone, probably Doyle, has alerted everyone over here that we're getting close--not that we really are!" Lake said. "We're no closer or further forward than we were three months ago--but don't quote me on that, Bodie, that's just my personal, uninformed opinion. Day, Mellish and Cowley are playing this very close. No one knows any more than they really need to--I shouldn't even have told you what I have," Lake finished wearily.

"You do know that I'm under observation?" Bodie asked quietly.

"Yeah--wasn't sure if you did, though."

"Be bloody stupid not to be--under the circumstances," admitted Bodie. "Phones tapped too. Cowley told me when my suspension was made official."

Lake grinned at Bodie's rueful tone. "Yeah, well, Cowley was asking for it. So, by all accounts, was Kelly. How's the eye, looks very...colourful."

"Not so bad now it's opened up a bit. How's Kelly?"

"Mobile, but limping; he asked me to say sorry for him being such a prick--hadn't meant to get at you like that. He doesn't know Doyle that well and only knew what he'd heard on the grapevine since he came on the squad."

"Didn't know him! Christ--Doyle's been on the squad for almost two years!"

"Calm down, Bodie," Lake said. "You can't blame him. Neither of you mix with the rest of us very much--and you've got to admit...Doyle has always been a bit...stand-offish."

"With most of the squad accusing him of being a fucking drug pusher and the other half believing him to be a sodding nancy boy I'm not bloody surprised!"

"No-one really thinks he's queer, Bodie," Lake protested.

"Oh no. They just think he let Kingsley fuck him to make life easier for himself. Christ...are they still on about that. I'd thought that bit of gossip had died a death by now!"

"Come off it, Bodie. A juicy titbit like that? Doyle could screw a whole row of chorus girls in the middle of the day room and they'd still say he had his eye on the bloke heaving the bloody curtain up and down! It's just gossip--livens up a dull day, that's all. We know he's not really queer."

Do we? Bodie though morosely. It would be ironic if, after all the months of quiet lusting after that body, they found out Doyle was gay. But what did his lusty thoughts make him--a hopeful homosexual--a man who had dreams about what he would do to his partner when, if, he ever got the chance--if, that is, he wasn't already dead and lying in some unmarked, unknown grave. His thoughts forced him back to reality; what about Ann? For the first time since Doyle's disappearance he actually thought about his partner's fiancée.

"The Coroner's Inquest. When is it--on the Holly woman," he clarified.

"It's scheduled for ten on Tuesday morning."

"In Eastbourne?"

"No, Horseferry Road. Cowley's slapped a 'D' notice on it. Nothing has shown up in the press except a report on a traffic accident. The full inquest will be held over until after Doyle's...until we find Doyle. The family want her body released for burial, there's no reason why it shouldn't be."

"Have you seen the post mortem report?" asked Bodie.

"Yes." He shouldn't have, of course. Both men knew that. Bodie didn't ask how he came to see the report. "She wasn't pregnant, you know," Lake said. "And, according to the family GP, she knew she wasn't. She had telephoned and got the negative test result Saturday morning."

So, thought Bodie, I wonder if Ray knew--knows--he corrected.

"Bodie," Lake said with a warning in his voice. "You're not thinking of going to the court, are you?"

"What if I am?" Bodie asked and Lake knew that his mind was already set.

"Bodie...you're on suspension. You turn up at the court, interfere with the proceedings and Cowley'll hang you up by your balls!"

But there was no turning Bodie from something he'd decided on and, after a period of pointless arguing, Lake gave in. "Have you got anything to eat," he asked, changing the subject. "I'm starving," he added, trying to look pathetic and rubbing a hand over his rumbling stomach.

"I expect there's something in the kitchen," Bodie said. "But only if you take that bloody jacket off--it's making my eyes go funny!"

After watching Bodie move aimlessly around his kitchen for a few minutes, Lake pushed him to one side. "Here, let me do it." He organised some food for both of them, guessing that they were probably equally in need of a good meal. "Blimey!" he said in surprise when he'd rummaged around the food cupboard and fridge. "Is this all you've got in? What the hell is this...vegetarian cheddar? Natural yoghurt and...I don't know, what's this?" Lake held out a container with some brown sludgy stuff clinging in dried, suspicious looking clumps to the sides of the jar.

"That...dunno. Something Ray bought. Tastes better than it looks," Bodie answered vaguely.

Lake dropped it into the bin along with the aged yoghurt pots. "This looks more like it; bacon and tomato...got any eggs? How about some dripping? I'll knock up a quick fry-up."

"Dripping?" Bodie asked. "Er...no, don't think so. There's some corn oil in that cupboard; I think Ray chucked the dripping pot out when he was living here. The frying-pan's in the back of that cupboard somewhere."

Careful to keep his eyebrows firmly in place, Lake kept quiet his amazement at the apparent revolution Doyle had fought--and won--in Bodie's kitchen and breezed around, chattering away nineteen to the dozen in an effort to keep his attention.

Finding it easier to let Lake get on with whatever it was he thought he was doing, Bodie slumped down at the small table and pretended to read the newspaper. He would have preferred to be alone but Lake wasn't entirely unwelcome. The observation on his flat was low key enough that it didn't intrude--apart from his knowing it was there; as if Ray was likely to turn up here, he thought bitterly. And what was Lake doing calling round? Was he acting on Cowley's orders? He didn't think so. He watched as Lake carefully cracked the eggs into a sizzling pan.

"One pan of heart-attack coming up," Lake joked as he caught Bodie watching him.

Bodie was confused; no, he wasn't here on Cowley's orders and, he realised, when Cowley found out he'd stopped by he would be for it--so why the hell had he stopped by? Bodie asked him.

Lake blinked in surprise at the sudden question. He finished dishing up the food and put the plates down on the table. "Returning a favour," he said softly. "You did ask me to," Lake said, looking straight at Bodie.

Suddenly, Bodie remembered 'You can do the same for me one day' and Lake's agonised reply, 'Christ! I hope not.' The words had been spoken late one night when Bodie had taken home a rather drunk and very unhappy Lake after his own partner's death.

"You think Ray's dead," Bodie said tonelessly.

"I don't think he's sold out, Bodie. Nor do I think he's been pulling the wool over our eyes the last few year," Lake said firmly, but gently. "You saw that house, you've seen her body, Doyle's car...it's been four days! Do you really think they'd have wrapped him up and carried him out in a rug if he was still alive and kicking?"

"He's not dead!"

"Bodie...be reasonable. I hope he's not dead as well...but if he isn't dead, where is he? The bloodstains the forensic boys found match his blood type. If he is alive he's hurt--how badly, only God knows. The state that place was in--Christ! If it wasn't smashed it was carved up--"

"Don't!"

"Bodie..." Lake said. "Face it, Bodie...chances are that he is dead."

"Who?" Bodie snarled angrily. "And why? For crying out loud...WHY?" At last Bodie was forced to admit his fears out loud. Yes, he knew that already, Ray was probably dead. Hearing someone else say it only confirmed it.



With Cowley's knowledge, if not his permission, Bodie arrived at the Coroner's Court in time for the hearing. He sat at the back of the room and listened as the formalities were observed. He guessed that the fragile-looking weeping woman was Ann's mother. She was being supported by a bewildered and tired-looking man who comforted her softly in an unmistakably American accent. Apart from the court officials and the CI5 men, the couple were completely alone. When it was over they stood up and just remained by their seats, clutching at each other.

"Mrs Harrison, Mr Harrison," Bodie said quietly. "My name's Bodie, I worked...I work with Ray Doyle. I just wanted to tell you--"

"Ray, have they found him?" Mrs Harrison asked urgently.

"No, no...not yet. But I'm sure he'll turn up soon. "I don't care what they say," she turned accusing eyes towards Day, who was watching them from the other side of the court. "Ray wouldn't hurt my Ann...he couldn't hurt her...he just couldn't..."

"Hush, now, sweetheart," Mr Harrison said anxiously, not sure how this brooding man with a very bruised and swollen face stood where his missing partner was concerned. The interviews they had had with the other men had been upsetting enough. Bodie recognised the cause for the man's anxiety and tried to reassure them.

"Everything was going so well for them," Mrs Harrison stumbled on. "I know we weren't too pleased at first...but then Ray explained...Official Secrets Act, he said... We had to let people think that awful trial...and prison...everything...we kept quiet about everything, didn't we Harry...Official Secrets Act... It was very hard...we wanted to tell our friends...but Ray said we couldn't...it was hard...but we tried...didn't we, Harry?" She broke down completely and her husband looked beseechingly at Bodie for help.

"Come with me," he said kindly. "I'll get someone to take you home."

Suddenly a commotion started outside the guarded doors of the courtroom. A uniformed policeman entered the room and crossed hurriedly over to Day.

"A man outside, sir," the P.C. said hurriedly. "Trying to enter the court--says he knew the dead girl, says he was engaged to her--"

Bodie and Day reached the outer door at the same time; snatching it open they burst into the corridor. The scene that greeted them was not what either of them expected. Two CI5 men and one of the Court bailiffs had pinned an angry looking man up against the wall--and it wasn't Doyle.

"I just want to know what happened!" the man cried out. "Let me go!"

Day signalled the men to release him. Suddenly free, the man stumbled before regaining his balance.

"Who are you, what's your name?" Day snapped out.

"Look, I don't know--" the man protested in a plummy voice.

"No, you don't, sonny," Day said coldly. "Name?"

"Trevor?" Ann's mother's voice sounded loud in the still corridor.

"Mrs Harrison, oh thank god, Mrs Harrison!" the man turned to Ann's parents. "Please, I only came to find out... Mother told me that Ann had been killed--I had to know--"

"Had to know what?" Bodie rapped out. "Mrs Harrison, do you know him?"

"Yes...yes, oh Trevor, what are you doing here?" she said anxiously.

"Mr Day, please!" said Ann's stepfather. "Let him go, he's a friend of the family; a close friend."

"Mother said I shouldn't come here," Trevor said to the Harrisons. "But I couldn't stay away. When I heard about the car I couldn't help but think--" The young man suddenly swallowed his words and gulped nervously.

"Think what?" Day asked.

Trevor gulped again as he realised the seriousness of his situation. In the scuffle the jackets of the men holding him had gaped open and his eyes widened impossibly at the sight of their guns. "Oh no," he muttered. "I can't... I can't...he'll kill me. He'll kill me...like... I can't...can't..."

After giving terse instructions for Cowley to be notified of the turn of events and for someone to take care of the Harrisons, Day, closely followed by Bodie, hustled the man along the corridor and into a small interview room where he was pushed down into a chair. Over the man's head Day locked eyes with Bodie in a grim contest of wills: Bodie refused to be beaten and eventually Day conceded defeat, allowing him to remain in the room.

The waited in a grim silence until a sharp knock drew all three men's attention; the young man jumping nervously, Bodie and Day unsurprised and expectant. Day cracked the door open and held a whispered conversation with whoever was outside. Bodie waited and the young man looked even more nervous and dripped perspiration. Eventually the whispered conversation was over, Day shut the door and turned his attention on the sweaty man.

"Trevor Scott-Willis," Day said crisply. "Former fiancé of Ann Holly. A respectable accountant from a respectable family background. The Harrisons speak very highly of you." Trevor relaxed a little and mopped the moisture form his face. "So," Day continued. "Why on earth have you turned up here causing all this fuss? Not exactly 'respectable' behaviour, is it?"

"I...I had to come..." he said hesitantly. "Mother told me about he car--the papers said it was a car crash...but Mother said...Mother said..." he faltered.

"What exactly did 'Mother' say, Trevor?" asked Day.

"She...she's been helping Constance...Mrs Harrison...since Sunday, since the police broke the news. It wasn't a car crash...Mother said it wasn't a car crash...and her boyfriend...another one...he's gone, hasn't he you can't find him...I was scared, but I had to find out...I couldn't bear wondering any more..."

Over the man's head, Day and Bodie looked at each other; there was no animosity between them this time, only puzzlement. They let Trevor ramble on, guessing he was too scared to respond to formal questions.

"...The first time... I didn't think anything about it...but then, after Philip--it could still have been a coincidence...there was no mention of anything suspicious...and then when he went to prison--I saw him then...he saw me and he laughed at me...said that I was the lucky one...then I knew, I just knew. But who could I tell, who would have believed me? He was gloating, laughing at me...he's mad...mad! Really mad!"

Bodie felt a prickle of unease run down his spine.

"What do you mean by mad? Do you mean angry--or insane mad?" Day asked, clearly sharing Bodie's unease at this odd turn.

"Most of the time," Trevor explained, "he's okay. Acts...you know, normal. But...but then, sometimes, you only have to look at him and know...I think he's really sick--he's insane, completely insane--he just tricks people into thinking he's normal..."

Day tried to make some sense out of the man's rambling statements.

"You said he was gloating about the trial--what was he gloating about?"

"I don't know for sure... Christ, he scared me so much I just wanted to get out of his way, right out of his way before he decided to kill me too."

Over Trevor's oblivious head, two pairs of stunned eyes met.

"So Ann's not the first person he's murdered?" Day asked; he heard but ignored the sharp gasp from Bodie but couldn't spare him a glance. "How many others?"

"I...I'm not sure... I don't know...not for sure."

"Yes, you do," Day barked. "He's gloated about it--you said so yourself. Stop messing me around!"

"I've no proof," Trevor stammered. "I can't prove anything, it's only what he said to me...he asked me if I realised how lucky I was, and wasn't I pleased he'd only told me to clear off...that he hadn't...hadn't made me...disappear like the others... I didn't believe him at first but then I remembered, they never found his body...and now...they're not going to find this one either..."

"Didn't find whose body?" Bodie said quietly, a faint ugly tingle of familiarity ringing various bells in his memory. A conversation, half forgotten and never taken seriously was slowly becoming clearer to him.

"Thorpe, Roger Thorpe," Trevor said. "They found the other one; Philip at the bottom of a cliff; an accident the reports said but it wasn't an accident--I'm sure of it."

"Philip was found under the cliff--slipped over the edge on an early morning run and Roger Thorpe was drowned on a fishing trip in some loch up in Scotland," Bodie told Day, hardly believing what was happening.

"Who the hell are they?" Day asked. "And why did Doyle want them dead?"

"Not Doyle!" Trevor gasped in surprise. "No, not Doyle--he's probably killed Doyle as well!"

"Who the hell are we talking about then?" Day asked exasperatedly.

"Him!" replied Trevor. "Him, her father; Ann's father."



Cowley's office was fairly bristling with barely contained emotions: the computer search on Charles Holly had turned up some remarkable coincidences. The files had been there all the time--waiting for someone to find them and George Cowley was already planning the enquiry into why it had taken so long! Conroy, the object of Day's recent intensive observation, was, it turned out, married to the sister of Charles Holly. The photographs of Doyle with Conroy had been taken at a family celebration: the silver wedding anniversary of his fiancée's aunt and uncle. The information on Charles Holly confirmed everyone's suspicions--he was an ex-RAF officer whose service had been abruptly terminated in the late fifties when he had been declared 'medically unfit' and summarily discharged. The information eased out of Ann's bewildered mother told them that her ex-husband's mental health problems had been made worse when he was dismissed from the service; he'd suffered several breakdowns, each worse than the last. Unable to cope any longer with her husband's unpredictable behaviour, Constance had left him--taking their young daughter with her. The divorce had been a long and ugly affair made worse by Charles Holly's demands that his daughter be returned to him. Because of his unstable mental condition Holly was denied both custody and access by the courts and following another more serious breakdown he was committed to a mental institution. With her ex-husband now firmly out of her life, Constance Holly returned to her own family and began building a new life for herself and her little daughter.

Trevor Scott-Willis, visibly shaken to find himself involved in the unfolding drama, filled them in on Charles Holly's continuing dangerous obsession with his daughter. He told them how, shortly after the announcement of his engagement to Ann, her father had confronted him, warning him that the cost of 'interfering' with his daughter would be high. Convinced that Holly would carry out his threat and ashamed of his cowardice, Trevor had left Ann without any explanation, never once thinking that he ought to inform someone of Holly's dangerous behaviour.

From a safe distance over the years, Trevor had seen the tragedy that hit all the men who became involved with Ann--watched the tragic events in silence because he was still terrified of Holly: only now, when it was too late for Ann, had he talked--his fear of Charles Holly still strong but superseded by the fear of what the grim-faced CI5 men would do to him if he kept anything back.

Cowley had listened to Scott-Willis's account of Charles Holly. He didn't doubt the young man's word at all; everything he said only confirmed what he had long believed: Ray Doyle was innocent, his only 'crime' had been to fall in love with the wrong girl. There was little doubt left in anyone's mind that Charles Holly was insane.

Following Cowley's orders Bodie handed Trevor over to someone to take him home and hurried back to the small office where he entered without knocking.

"Bodie!" Cowley snapped. "I gave you orders to see Mr Scott-Willis got home safely."

"Yes, sir," Bodie agreed smoothly. "I handed him over to Doug Johnson, he'll be returned to his mother in next to no time."

"Bodie, need I remind you that you are on suspension? You are not involved in this investigation--"

"With due respect, sir," interrupted Bodie, "unless my partner is still under suspicion of being responsible for Miss Holly's murder--"

"Which in the light of Scott-Willis's statement seems highly unlikely," admitted Day wearily.

"Och...sit down man and stop glowering!" Cowley waved Bodie to a chair and slumped back into his own chair. "We are assuming of course that Holly was aware that Doyle and his daughter were engaged again, there is still a possibility that he is not aware--"

"He knows," Bodie said. "He's been watching them for the best part of a year at least."

"Just a minute," Day said. "You're telling us that Doyle knew he was being watched?"

"He knew," Bodie said. "He told me. He asked me if I was keeping tabs on him as well."

"As well?" asked Day.

"As well as you," Bodie replied.

"I've not been watching him," said Day.

"That's what Cowley said," Bodie answered grimly. "And that's what I told Doyle--only he didn't believe me, he thought I was lying to him--"

"He reported that he was being watched?" Day queried in amazement.

"I reported it," Bodie said. "I told you," Bodie nodded at Cowley, who nodded back at him. "I went back and told him that he wasn't under observation. He wouldn't believe me--or maybe he believed I was being kept in the dark about it."

"Who did he think it was?" asked Day.

"You," Bodie said crisply. "Or, more to the point, internal security under your instructions."

"He thought it was I.S. and so he did nothing--for a whole year?" Day asked incredulously.

"He thought he knew who it was and knew there was nothing he could do to stop it," Bodie said tiredly. "Then, after a while, he stopped mentioning it, I think he just got used to it...just tried to ignore it."

"Jesus, Bodie--why didn't he report--"

"Report what--that you'd put I.S. to watch him?"

"But I didn't, there was no watch--"

"I know that now!"

"When was the last time Doyle mentioned to you he knew he was being watched?" Cowley asked.

"Ages ago, last summer...about July."

"He wasn't overly concerned about it?"

"No," Bodie said, just about sick of it all. "I think he was just resigned to it. He knew Day wanted to hang him and there was nothing he could do he hadn't already done to try and convince everyone he was telling the truth."

Cowley and Day each looked a little sick themselves. All the facts had been there just waiting for someone to put them together in the right order.

"And Holly," Cowley said after a few moments' awkward silence. "You've got the connection between him and Conroy sorted out?"

"Yes, sir," responded Day. After nearly eighteen months' hard work, half an hour's computer time had tied up all the loose ends. "Conroy runs a small aircraft business in which Holly is a silent partner. Conroy apparently does all the donkey work and Holly supplies the finances and business connections. On paper it's only a small pocket-book company and supposedly Conroy's only source of income. Holly's family is very wealthy and money has never been a problem but Conroy comes from a very different background. His lifestyle does not fit with his declared income--even taking into account the money he got when his wife died last year.

"All along we've known that the man we were looking for was a financier; Conroy does the work and Holly provides the backing. Holly is our 'Christmas Man,'" Day ended bitterly: there was no feeling of success left after the mess they found themselves in; because of his conviction that Doyle was the missing link in the chain he'd spent too long looking in the wrong direction.

They now knew why Monday's drop had not happened; not because of some tip-off but because the Christmas Man had not arrived to make the payment. Everyone, it seemed, not only CI5, was looking for Charles Holly.

"When was the last time Holly was seen?" Cowley asked.

"Friday afternoon, a neighbour from his London apartment said she saw him getting into his car--an old farm-style jeep; said she got the impression he was going away for a few days. He has a large house in Friston--only about ten miles from the cottage 4.5 and the girl were staying at: Murphy is checking it out now; he'll be reporting in soon."

"I'm going there," Bodie said, getting to his feet and making for the door.

"You're on suspension, Bodie," Cowley barked. "You'll go nowhere without my say-so!"

"Sir!"

"Murphy will call in if there's anything to report."

"But sir--"

"Bodie!" Cowley's voice stopped the younger man in his tracks. Murphy chose that moment to call in his report and that was the only reason why Bodie remained in the office.

"I've found the jeep and the missing rug," Murphy reported. "The house is empty and there's no immediate trace of the suspect or 4.5."

"Keep looking," Cowley ordered. "Organise a full search--I'll be with you shortly." Breaking the connection, Cowley called the control room and issued a flurry of instructions. The three of them left the building for the helicopter base at a brisk speed: suspension or not, Bodie was with them all the way. Eager to be away, Cowley had not the time or, in all honesty, the heart to push the point any more.

The helicopter landed in an open field and they were met by Murphy and the superintendent of the local police force. Ducking under the whirling blades, the three men went straight to the waiting cars.

Murphy launched into his report as soon as the cars were moving away. "The house is empty and the outbuildings. There are more buildings still to be checked out on the far east of the estate--they're being done now."

"There's no-one there at all?" Bodie asked.

"A couple of men came up from the village when they saw the police cars arrive. Father and son, Sean and Julian Ede. Senior works for Holly as a groundsman and caretaker, Junior works with the livestock."

"Livestock?" Bodie asked as they sped along the rapidly darkening lanes toward the house.

"It's a pig farm," Murphy reported with the faintest glimmer of amusement. They arrived at the house just as the mobile lighting unit was being set up. "We'll need that to check the outbuildings thoroughly--not all the huts have electricity. I'll show you where the rug was found."

Steering the car past the sprawling red-bricked house, Murphy took a sharp turn and drove them down a narrow tree-lined roadway which, after several twists and turns, opened out to reveal a collection of dilapidated whitewashed buildings. By now the light was almost gone and the men were searching the low buildings by flash-lamps.

"According to the stockman, these buildings aren't used very much; mainly for storage and occasionally as quarantine pens. The rug was found just behind here--Mrs Walker identified it." Murphy led them to a large metal container. "Holly must have tried to burn it; looks like it was too thick and acted as a damper on the fire."

"How far has the search extended?" asked Cowley.

"All the outbuildings have been checked out but a finger-search will have to wait until tomorrow, same for the fields. The farm covers over three thousand acres; and most of it is pasture and woodland, but the biggest source of income is the pigs."

His heart sinking lower every minute, Bodie walked back along the dark lane towards the lights of the house. The place was swarming with people although bands of white tape across each doorway prevented them from entering the house. Showing his ID, Bodie walked through the lower rooms watching silently as the forensic boys searched for the slightest evidence that anything untoward had taken place here.

The house was richly furnished with both period and modern furniture; heavy oak sideboards and cabinets decorated with silver and crystal filled the receptions rooms, the kitchen was right up-to-date, very 1970's with stainless steel and bright Formica, and the armchairs in the drawing room were modern, comfortable and expensive looking.

Seating himself carefully in one of the huge chairs, Bodie sighed. He felt useless; what on earth was he doing here? he asked himself. What was the point of haring around the country in top-speed helicopters?

"Bodie," Cowley called as he entered the room and found Bodie more asleep than awake. "Bodie!" he called louder.

"Mmm?" Slowly, Bodie managed to dredge up an answer of sorts. He wasn't asleep--he was just finding it hard to function.

"These were found on the ground outside; do you recognise them?" Cowley held out a bundle of wet papers limp and mud-smeared; Bodie identified them easily.

"Yes," he said hoarsely. "Ray's sketches." He took them and leafed through the sorry-looking collection. The outside pages were stuck together, they must have been lying on the ground during all the rain of the past four days; but the middle pages were almost undamaged. Once again Bodie found himself looking at Doyle's sketches--it was uncannily like peering into his partner's soul and he could most feel what sort of mood Doyle had been in as his pencil had flashed over the paper: there was Ann, perched on a bar stool in a room overflowing with Christmas trees, decorations, holly and mistletoe; another of her lying asleep with her hair spilling out across a smooth pillow. Doyle had been experimenting with new techniques since Bodie had last browsed through his work; several pages were devoted to cartoons and they were an even better barometer from which to gauge Doyle's ever-changing mood. Simple in style, they were all blunt and direct in their humour, sometimes outrageous, occasionally bitterly critical, a few whimsical fancies and a few odd incidents of CI5 life that Bodie recognised and knew had always tickled his partner's funny bone. Even in cartoon form there was no mistaking the look of embarrassed outrage on Puddle's face as he walked through a pile of dung left behind the ceremonial horses in Whitehall after Trooping the Colour last year. As before, around the edge of each page there were lots of little half-finished pictures, rough outlines and cameos. Little cartoons and drawings that Ray had toyed with and, on looking closer, Bodie realised that a lot of them were of him--in fact, most of the edge drawings were of him, the cartoons instantly recognisable but the sketches less so--to Bodie's eye at least.

Folding the pictures up and sliding them into the plastic bag, Bodie watched the sketches being tagged for identification by the forensics men.



Bodie declined the lift of a car back to London; he'd stay until they found Ray. He was here, somewhere, Bodie knew it. He sat in an armchair, dozing off at times all through the night and at dawn he went out with the first search team as they began the painstaking fingertip search of the Holly estate.

At nine-thirty on Wednesday morning, five days after Ann had been killed, they found her father.

Bodie looked at the body in despair: Where the hell was Ray? Unable to face his colleagues' sympathetic, knowing glances, Bodie returned to the house. They knew as well as he did that finding Holly dead meant the slow search for Doyle's body would continue to drag on.

When the call from Cowley came through Bodie bucked against his orders. "I'm staying here," he told the distant voice. "There's no point me going with the body, I am still on suspension, after all--"

"You'll do as you're ordered, Bodie," Cowley snapped. "I can't spare anyone else," he added with unexpected understanding. "I don't want the local police to take over anything to do with this operation--call me once the coroner has a preliminary report." The line clicked and went dead before Bodie could protest any further.



His lips tightly compressed, Bodie looked down at the body lying on the table. Stripped of his clothing and bereft of dignity and privacy in his death, Holly's body was prepared by the coroner's assistants. Deft fingers measured and recorded his height and weight, small crosses were placed on a simple sketch showing the location of bruises and cuts. The preliminaries over, the doctor moved in to begin the examination proper.

As always, Bodie braced himself mentally and physically for what was about to happen. It was something he knew he would never get used to.

"Mr Bodie," the doctor said quietly as his hands worked. "There is really no need for you to be present for this--the constable will witness it. His clothes are all over there, you might as well check them and get them over to your labs."

Pausing only to spare the green-tinged constable a sympathetic but relieved grin, Bodie left the room.

Sifting through the contents of Holly's pockets, Bodie found a small wallet packed with photographs of Ann. He noticed at once that not one of the snaps had been posed for--most of them were of fairly poor quality as though taken hurriedly. One or two caused Bodie to frown, there was something about them...the angle... He telephoned through the HQ immediately.

"There's a block of flats directly opposite where Ann Holly lived. It looks as if Daddy had a camera fixed up to take shots of her. Start on the third floor...looks like the right height, maybe the fourth--check it out," he said tersely. "Hold on..." the next snap caught his attention. "A window with vertical blinds."

Bodie sorted through the rest of Holly's wallet and pockets then made a cursory check of the rest of his clothing; the lab boys would go through the clothes fibre by fibre if they had to. He was looking at the mud-caked trousers when he was stung. Startled by the unexpected sharp pain, Bodie dropped the garment on the floor. His thumb had a small puncture mark and, sucking it, he gingerly picked the trousers up again, shaking them gently. There it was, a lethal-looking thing covered with sharp, needle-fine bristles. It was caught in the leg's turn up, its bristles trapping it securely in the woollen fibres.

Carefully, Bodie checked the rest of the clothes and then bagged them up and signalled for the forensic boys to take them away.



"Death from natural causes," the coroner said eventually. "He had a history of heart complaint and suffered a massive heart attack; he's been dead--approximately--around four to five days. Difficult to be more precise, the body was lying in open country, the weather has been very mild, very wet...he's badly decomposed."

"There are some marks on the body that might interest you, look," the doctor pulled the concealing green sheet from Holly's legs. "Here, and here, the bruising is well defined and the skin has been broken." Leaving the legs uncovered, the doctor pulled out Holly's right hand. "And these here, clear finger marks...and again, here." Holly's face was uncovered. "Bruises and scratches. Someone had a good try at gouging his eye out!"

"Any ideas as to what caused the marks on his body?" Bodie had to ask--even though he knew the answer already.

The doctor looked at Bodie before saying carefully, "I could perhaps offer an educated guess."

"An educated guess," Bodie nodded in agreement, understanding what the doctor meant.

"The man that's missing...Doyle?" Bodie nodded. "How big was he in relation to Holly?" Bodie looked at Holly and made a rough guess. "So, Doyle was a head shorter and maybe two or three stones lighter," the doctor paused and then called his assistant over. "It'll be easier for me to demonstrate... Carole, would you stand like this...now, push me away...try to imagine that I am throttling you--now push me away." Carole's hands gripped the doctor around his wrists, tugging and pulling at them. "You're getting desperate, Carole...you're panicking..." Carole's hands moved up to his face and made as if to claw and scratch at his face. "I'm choking your life out, Carole...that's it...well done, that's enough. Thank you." Releasing his hands from his assistant's grip, the doctor rubbed at the redness left by her hands. "That is how I think Holly gained his bruises, Mr Bodie."

"That is your educated guess," Bodie answered hollowly.

"I've been in forensic medicine for a number of years, Mr Bodie. I've seen these marks before; I'm almost certain that this man has made a very serious attempt to strangle someone who managed to some extent at least, to fight back."

"Holly was fifty-five years old, overweight, flabby and with a weak heart!" protested Bodie. "Doyle's thirty-one, fit, strong and highly trained in hand-to-hand combat--how the hell could someone like...like this strangle him?"

"The bruising on Holly's upper torso appears confined to his right side, the left side is virtually unmarked. It is more than likely that Doyle was incapacitated in some way and only had the use of his left hand."

'Incapacitated in some way,' Bodie thought grimly. Even blindfolded with one hand behind your back you should have been able to take him--how the fuck could you let someone like him get you, Ray!



Bodie passed the report back to control and headed back to the farm. The driveway in front of the house was still full of cars, vans and people, there was even a tea-waggon serving soup and sandwiches for the teams of searchers. Inside the house it was quiet, only a few people milling about. Day found him in the sanctuary of the drawing room.

"We pulled Conroy in," he announced in a subdued voice. "Now all we have to do is listen to him--he doesn't know Holly's dead and so he's telling us everything he knows--hoping we'll be grateful and go easy on him. He's also spilling everything about how Holly stitched Doyle up four years ago."

"Bit bloody late. Still," Bodie said harshly, "better late than never, I suppose!"

"Bodie--"

"You couldn't leave him alone, could you?" Bodie accused. "Never once did you concede the possibility that he just might be telling the truth."

"All the way through this investigation Doyle's name kept cropping up," Day retorted angrily. "What was I supposed to do? Ignore the facts? Pretend the facts weren't there? Come on, Bodie," Day said tiredly, all his anger suddenly draining away. "Even now the links are still there--only now," he said quickly, forestalling Bodie's interruption, "only now we can see those facts differently. Christ, out of all the birds in London why'd he have to get involved with his daughter." Day paced the room, taking his frustration out on the carpet. "Boy, Holly must've really flipped when he realised that not only was his daughter cavorting about with a man but that man was a flamin' policeman and, what was worse, on the drug squad...Christ!" Disgusted with himself, Holly and the world in general, Day collapsed into one of the armchairs.

"That's Doyle," Bodie said humourlessly. "Certainly knew how to pick 'em, did Doyle." Too late Bodie heard himself using the past tense and, sharing Day's disgust, threw himself into another chair. In the relative quiet of the drawing room the two men shared an uneasy truce as they each took the time to recharge their exhausted reserves of energy and battered defences.



By Friday morning most of the possible sites had been explored without any success and the searchers were preparing to move further afield. The last place on the Holly estate they were still working on intently was a large lake on the north boundary. Bodie watched the divers as they sifted through the muddy lake bed. He'd seen the technicians a few days earlier taking their samples of the evil-smelling mess found in the pig pens. If they had to find Doyle anywhere, he begged silently, let it be in the lake, or in a shallow grave--anywhere but in the mess taken away in bottles, jars and bags to be examined under microscopes.

By early afternoon, wet through and thoroughly chilled, Bodie returned to the house. The drawing room, which had been taken over by the CI5 men as 'theirs,' was occupied by a grim-faced Cowley and an even grimmer Day. Not particularly wanting to see either of them, Bodie drifted aimlessly around the house. Staring out through the mullioned windows, he watched the distant activity. He still felt cold, only he knew it was nothing to do with the weather outside. He was still finding it hard to accept and, probably until they found his body, he wouldn't be able to fully accept it.

Absently he rubbed at the small inflammation on the pad of his thumb; sighing heavily, he wandered on to the next window and the next depressing view. He knew that Cowley wanted all the squad men to return to London and leave the search in the hands of the local police; but he couldn't leave, not yet. Cowley would just have to understand and accept that, he thought; besides, Bodie reasoned, he was still officially on suspension.

Forcing his depressing thoughts aside, Bodie began to really look at the house he was in, seeing it as a visitor would and not as a 'scene of a crime.' If things had been different he could almost envy Doyle marrying into such an obviously wealthy family--if things had been different! Small wonder really that Constance Harrison was not impressed by her only child's choice of husband. Charm and sex-appeal didn't rate too highly with women of her background; only family, wealth, influence and the old school tie. Bodie chuckled to himself; he'd only seen Doyle wearing a tie a few times and he was damn sure it didn't remain neatly knotted for even half of the evening! Bodie found he had very little sympathy for the pathetic Constance; coping reasonably well with the sudden death of Ann, she had only been temporarily shattered when her ex-husband's involvement was fully revealed--she had, to Bodie's mind, been far too anxious to make sure that the 'D' notice would prevent the full details of the family scandal leaking out to the press.

It had been Cowley's diplomatic evasion of her questions that let Bodie know he wasn't the only one hoping against the odds that they might still find Doyle alive. If Doyle was dead, there would be no reason to keep the full truth from the press--and, ironically, Ray could still get a public acknowledgement of his innocence--albeit posthumously.

Continuing his wanderings through the house, the reached the gallery-like corridor leading off the main entrance hall before anyone spotted him.

"Proof," Lake's voice cut into his thoughts. "Proof positive, as if we ever needed it, that crime does occasionally pay," he said cynically.

"No," Bodie disagreed lightly. "All this," he waved a hand around the gallery, "been in the family for generations--centuries even. Holly..." Bodie shrugged. "Just a bad apple."

"I wouldn't be too sure of that, if I were you. This house and its occupants have probably all been involved in smuggling since the year dot! Probably a family of 'wreckers': smugglers, wreckers...Holly's just the end of a long line."

"Smugglers," Bodie said, distracted and oddly cheered by Lake's arrival. "This far inland?"

"I've been talking to that superintendent, he's not as daft as he looks," Lake said conversationally. "Local history buff. That lake over there used to be fed by a river that went on down to the sea. It's only about two miles away, you know. No time at all in a boat."

"What happened to the river?"

"Changed course; dried up...not sure," Lake said vaguely.

"Smugglers..." The thought made Bodie uneasy but he was unable to say why.

"Born in the wrong time, I was," said Lake cheerfully. "Can really see myself wearing a Stewart Granger shirt and swashbuckling all over the countryside..."

As Lake prattled on about his harmless fantasies, Bodie's mind was buzzing furiously...if only he could-- "This house was really used by smugglers?" he asked, interrupting Lake's happy musings.

"What--oh, er...yes." Surprised by the fierce expression on Bodie's face, Lake found himself asking, "Why?"

"I'm not sure...it's just something you said..." Bodie was thinking furiously. "What the super. told you, that's documented fact, you're certain he wasn't just spinning you a line?"

"He's genuine, Bodie. I'm sure of it."

"Smugglers...they'd bring the contraband up the river from the coast...they'd have to store it somewhere..."

"Secret caves," Lake suggested.

"Caves; tunnels--even hidden cellars or secret passages!"

"The house is old enough for all of those. Christ!" Lake said, wide-eyed. "We've been looking in the wrong fucking place!" he shouted, realising at last where Bodie's thoughts had been leading him to.

As Lake dived out of the door, Bodie was already tapping on the wooden panels and walls.



While Lake organised a team to search the house again, Bodie prowled restlessly from room to room, his eyes scanning the walls, assessing their thickness and whether or not a hidden passageway or bolt-hole could be hidden there.

Ray was here, Bodie thought fiercely. All along he'd known Ray was close. The irony of the situation did little to ease his bow-taut nerves. All this time they'd been looking in the wrong place--he was here, Bodie knew it. The superintendent who had first alerted them to the possibility of a smugglers' hideout was giving the search team a brief rundown on what sort of things to look for and the most likely places--unable to concentrate on the history lesson and desperately aware of the imperative to hurry, Bodie feverishly began his own search. Six days they had been looking; if he was in the house he was well hidden as there had been no sounds to reveal his whereabouts--six days...the thought burned in Bodie's mind. Was it too much to hope for...

The search progressed through the house and Bodie found himself in the library. Crowded with furniture and each shelf full of books, dusty but immaculate tomes, some of which were undoubtedly as old as the house they were in.

Bodie felt a tingle of sensation on the back of his neck...he scanned the room intently. His intuition didn't fail him often--and there was something wrong with the room... He began pulling books from the shelves, searching for some lever or button that would cause a panel to move away. Careless of the value of the books, he threw them onto a table; he worked systematically along the shelves. At some point Lake joined him and they worked silently, urgently; unconsciously aware of the imperative to hurry.

Halfway round the room Bodie paused--the central table was overloaded with discarded tomes; he threw them instead on top of a writing desk. Going back to the shelves, something made him turn again to look at the desk...no, not the desk...beside the desk.

Forgetting the shelves, Bodie stepped over to the large bureau: he stared at the flower arrangement that decorated it as he absent-mindedly rubbed his sore thumb. There was something about the flowers...his thumb throbbed anew as he touched the sore spot, drawing his attention to it...his eyes returned slowly to the flowers: it was a colourful display of dried and silk flowers, a simple arrangement to please the eye and add to the beauty of the room. Bodie ran his hands lightly over the display; they rusted in protest and pricked and scratched him back. He recognised on prickly stem: mindful of the sharp points he sucked at the small hurt on his thumb.

About to turn back to the shelves, Bodie stopped dead...the arrangement looked...uneven. Floristry never having been a required skill in the army or in CI5, Bodie was at a loss to identify what was wrong. "Puddle, come here...can you see anything...wrong with this thing?" he asked, unwilling to ignore his intuition but reluctant to make a fool of himself. "Hang on, what's this...this one's broken off. The stem looks a bit like this one, don't you think?"

Comparing the broken stem to the one beneath the wicked-looking teasel, Lake agreed.

"Found one of those things caught up in Holly's clothes...in his trouser leg turn-up!"

The two men looked hard at the chest-high bureau. The arrangement was level with their shoulders. As one they moved to pull the bureau away from the wall.

"Christ," Lake groaned. "It's bloody heavy..."

"It's moving, just...push...once more."

"Holly couldn't have moved this by himself--"

"Bingo!" Bodie yelled in triumph. The panel behind the bureau was scored with horizontal lines across the top and bottom. Squeezing into the narrow space, Bodie began feeling for the catch.

Bodie's yell brought the others running, the superintendent arriving swiftly to tell Bodie what to look for. "Let me," he said after Bodie fumbled uselessly for a moment or two. "I know what to feel for." After a few seconds' consideration Bodie moved away and let the uniformed man in. "Somewhere there should be a catch...providing the mechanism still works..." The superintendent ran his fingers over the ornately carved panel. "Sometimes a simple spring--ha!" Something moved under his fingers, then the panel moved slightly. There was some fumbling before it was moved to one side and hidden behind a neighbouring panel. They were now faced with what looked like a plastered wall. The super crouched down to examine it. "Seen one of these before...very clever," he said. "The wooden panel is only camouflage...this is the real entrance...a slight pressure is all that should be...needed..." He pushed against the wall. "If only I could find the right spot...usually off-centre...simple balance mechanism really--" The wall moved suddenly and the superintendent was pitched forward into the darkness, falling on his hands and knees.

"Well?" a single breathless voice asked.

"Phew..." The super sniffed. "Can't see a damn thing...smells...pitch black in here...I need a torch."

Bodie grabbed at a cigarette-lighter and elbowed the man out of the way, pushing in past him. The lighter gave only a dim glow but, at the edge of its reach he could make out a shoe. He held the light up and there was Doyle.

"Get some more light in here!" he yelled. Doyle wasn't moving, the noise and the light not causing him to stir at all. Heart pounding, Bodie inched in, keeping his head down and shuffling into the space. He took a tentative breath. Although foul, he couldn't smell the unforgettable odour of death... "Ray?" he said softly. He stretched out and touched Doyle's leg, shaking it gently. "Ray?" he whispered, almost afraid of disturbing the sleeper.

"Is he alive?" A voice called into the gloom. "Bodie, is he alive?"

"Ray?" Hands shaking, Bodie tried to find a pulse. "Ray?"

"Bodie?" the voices all clamoured anxiously.

"I...I don't know..." he shouted back, suddenly angry. "I don't bloody know!" There, he felt it beneath his fingers. And again. "Yes...yes, I think so... Yes!"

Then the light was there and, after what seemed an age, a doctor and an ambulance. Carefully, Doyle's unconscious body was placed on a stretcher and hurried out to the vehicle. The searchers returning from muddy, waterlogged fields for a hot cup of tea and a sandwich could only watch as the ambulance roared past them.



Sitting at Doyle's head, Bodie watched anxiously as the ambulance crew, under the doctor's instructions, fixed up a drip and oxygen mask, then cut away the soiled clothing. With soft pads they swiftly cleaned the worst of the filth away and then wrapped the still body in warm blankets.

The doctor recorded his patient's heart rate and blood pressure, and peered into Doyle's eyes--his grim look didn't lift once and Bodie's fear returned.

In the harsh light of the ambulance the week-old bruising was still black and blue, covering most of Doyle's throat, and the image of the coroner demonstrating what might have happened to Doyle was all too vivid for Bodie.

"Will he make it?"

"We'll know more later," evaded the doctor.

"How is he?"

"Not that good," the doctor admitted quietly. "He's badly dehydrated and I suspect a serious concussion. I think he's been unconscious for a long time."

"He'll make it," Bodie said--and the doctor wondered who he was really talking to.



CHAPTER NINETEEN

Gowned and wigged, the judge leant heavily on the pulpit as he delivered his sermon. All alone in the front pew he had no option but to look up at the judge as he preached of the fires of hell and the eternal damnation of souls and knew that out of the entire congregation it was his soul, his evil ways that were being denounced. In the stalls behind the pulpit the choir were shocked into pious indignation as his misdeeds were listed: faces he recognised but names that only half formed in his mind joined in with the condemnation being heaped upon him.

He refused to bow his head with shame, he wouldn't give them the pleasure of seeing him throw himself on their mercy.

Then, the sermon was over and he waited for sentence to be pronounced. But, one by one the congregation filed out past him; Mum, John, Kevin, Uncle Jack, Dad, Julie, Carole. Names, faces, more names and even more faces, friends from school days, from college, Don Taylor, Mike Behan, friends old and new. As the people in his life went by they all left him alone without a sound passing from anyone's lips and in their eyes he could see that he had already ceased to exist.

Unable to stop himself, he followed them out. He recognised the scene that greeted him only too well. The funeral cars stood polished and gleaming by the cemetery gate as the family gathered around the soon-to-be-filled grave. As he approached the grave they all, as one, turned their backs on him. He would have stopped, unable to go on, if it hadn't been for a light touch on his arm and a soft voice whispering in his ear.

"It's all right, everything's going to be all right, I promise," the voice said and, for some reason, he knew he could rely on that soft promise and it gave him the courage to take a few more steps forward. But then realisation struck and his new-found courage faltered.

The grave was his.

They were all waiting for him to climb down into the grave. It was deep and dark. Hands pushed and pulled at him, urging him towards the rickety stepladder and with no other option left he began the descent. The further down he went the colder and darker it became. He tried to rise up again but the hands pushed him down. The darkness welled up and swallowed him and he felt helpless. Way, way up he could just see a glimmer of light but he knew that any attempt to reach it would be thwarted by the reaching hands and he would be forced back into the darkness...



From his seat Bodie watched everyone arrive and take their places. Positioned deliberately at the back, he could see everyone but remain unseen. He watched as the late arrivals identified which group they belonged to and moved swiftly to join them, relaxing infinitesimally as they merged with them and then peering with haughty condescension at those arriving even later.

Not sure why he was even there, Bodie didn't join any of the groups and those that saw him didn't feel inclined to approach him. Alone, he sat through the memorial service. His view of the polished coffin with its single glorious wreath was suddenly blocked out as the mourners, family, friends and an odd mixture of police and CI5 rose to their feet as the ceremony ended.

The first to arrive at the small church, Bodie was the last to leave. Breathing in the damp air, he shook off the melancholy claustrophobia that churches always gave him. Not in the least bit religious, such places still managed to make him feel small, insignificant and frighteningly vulnerable. He was never comfortable in a church and could rarely be persuaded to pass through its door but, this time, for Ray, he'd done it.

The coffin had been carried to a spot near the outer boundary of the cemetery and the mourners were gathered around it to watch as it was lowered, slowly, into place.

The family were the first to leave, closely followed by the rest. He listened to the subdued chatter, the banging and slamming of car doors and the revving of engines. Eventually he was alone; the vicar seeing him standing there and assuming he wanted to be left to say his own solitary farewell, returned to his church. Bodie waited until the gravediggers had completed their job and covered the grave before approaching the spot.

It started to rain again, heavier than before. Already the ink on the condolence tags attached to bouquets and wreaths was beginning to smudge and run. Looking at the tributes, Bodie suddenly doubted the wisdom of being there: his motives were, to say the least, suspect and eventually he was forced to admit them to himself. At first he'd tried to tell himself that he was there for Ray. He wouldn't do this for anyone else but, as his partner and...best friend he knew that Ray would have expected him to be there.

His conscience wouldn't believe the lie and he was obliged to face the real reason.

Quite simply he had come to make sure she was dead--really dead. He'd come to her funeral for his own sake to make sure that she was finally out of Ray's life. At last, at long last he admitted the depth of his jealousy. He would never have let her win, he wouldn't have let them continue the farcical engagement to its conclusion: he would--Bodie knew--have got rid of her. One way or another.

Charles Holly, pathetic and insane, had simply beaten him to it.

Accidentally, brutally and permanently, Charles Holly had achieved what Bodie hadn't even known he intended doing. He wouldn't have killed her, though--but his method would have been no less subtle or brutal.

A burst of anger burned through him as he realised that even now Ann might still win. A ghost might prove harder to get rid of; a fond memory can remain faultless, perfect and beautiful forever--only life had the misfortune to sour.

Dead, Ann Holly might well prove unbeatable.



Quietly slipping into the ward, Bodie crossed to the bed in which his partner lay, still unconscious and still connected to all the different monitors, drips and medical paraphernalia. Settling himself into the chair alongside the bed, Bodie found himself checking over the sleeper for any changes that had taken place since he left only ten hours ago--ordered home to eat and sleep or risk being barred from the ward.

There didn't seem to be quite so many things attached to or stuck into Doyle's body. The respirator which had been placed in readiness beside his bed had gone, the threatening pneumonia succumbing to the influx of antibiotics into his bloodstream. The stark whiteness of the surgical cap covering his head and the plaster cast encasing his right arm from knuckle to elbow made the colourless face appear almost translucent. His breathing sounded easier, that awful rasping replaced by the normal, regular respiration of a sleeper.

Without warning, Doyle stirred, he moved slightly and made a small sound in his throat. Beneath pale eyelids, Bodie could see the rapid eye movement of the dreamer. Doyle's face twisted and the moaned again but through pain or distress; Bodie couldn't tell. Stretching out, he took Doyle's left hand, intending only to reassure him but Doyle's agitation increased and his voice, husky and cracking, grew louder, attracting the attention of the medical staff who rushed over.

"Talk to him, Mr Bodie," the doctor urged the worried agent. "He's beginning to regain consciousness, talk to him, let him know he's safe."

With the doctor, three nurses and all the electronic devices attached to Doyle suddenly making different noises, Bodie found himself too uneasy to sound very reassuring.

"Ray," he said hesitantly, and then again a little stronger. "Ray, come on mate, wake up...can't lie around here all day...Ray. Wake up, Ray..."

As suddenly as he had started, Doyle became still, only the rapid movements under the closed lids betraying whatever awareness he had.

"Keep talking," the doctor ordered. "Don't let him slip back..."

"Ray...Ray, mate, time to get up, sunshine... Can you hear me? Ray? Open your eyes, sunshine...Ray? Please Ray?" Frightened that somehow he was still going to lose him, Bodie forgot about the others' presence and kept up a monologue, asking, imploring and then nagging at him to please wake up. He took hold of the hand that had been snatched away as he spoke. At first, the hand, like Doyle's whole body, was stiff and unyielding, but, eventually, he gave in to the comforting, soft caresses and relaxed, his fingers curling at first tentatively, but then more decisively around Bodie's, finally holding on so firmly Bodie was unable to move his fingers or withdraw his hand from Doyle's grip.

How long he kept talking he didn't know but eventually the doctor put a hand on his shoulder and told him he could stop.

"He didn't wake up," Bodie said, worried. "Shouldn't he have woken up by now?"

"He is still in a coma--although not as deeply as before," the doctor told him as he finished checking his patient's vital signs. "The surgery on his skull to relieve the concussion was a success and he came through the operation well; we've managed to prevent pneumonia from developing any more and his throat is healing well. He's going to be fine, Mr Bodie," Doctor Kline said reassuringly. "This time next week he'll be up and about--if perhaps feeling a little fragile," he added honestly. "In two weeks' time at the very worst he will have a broken arm and--"

"But you've been expecting him to wake up since Sunday!" Bodie interrupted. "It's Tuesday and he's still out--what's wrong with him?"

"It's not always possible to predict exactly when a patient will wake up--"

"You've been saying that since Sunday--"

"Mr Bodie please! Lower your voice!" The doctor glanced round the room. "Nurse," he called out. "Stay here with Mr Doyle, call me as soon as the EEG registers any increased activity. Mr Bodie, would you please come through into the office."

Not waiting to check that Bodie would follow, the doctor detached the sheets of paper-printout from the EEG and left the bedside, turning only when he reached the glassed-off area that made up the I.C.U. office. "Mr Bodie?"

With a sign, Bodie extricated his fingers from Doyle's sleep-heavy hand and followed.

In the small room the doctor and another man were looking over the scroll just removed from the EEG; a pile of similar sheets littered the desk.

"Well..." the second man said eventually. "It looks more encouraging...an improvement certainly...yes, definitely," he said.

Kline introduced the two men. "This is Mr Bodie, Ray Doyle's partner. Doctor Carson has been running the EEG on Mr Doyle."

"You were present when this reading was taken just now," Carson asked urgently.

"When he almost woke up--or seemed like he was going to, yes," Bodie said. "I'd been with him about ten minutes before he began...twitching."

"Twitching--explain?" the doctor ordered brusquely.

"Well, he was quiet at first...breathing normally and then, all of a sudden he...he jumped, he moaned very quietly and I noticed and I noticed his eyes were moving very fast under his lids--"

"Did he open his eyes at all?"

"No."

"Just before he jumped, what was happening in the ward?"

"Nothing..." Bodie said slowly but then thought again. "Wait...just before...you were talking at the far end with some of the nurses and someone must have cracked a joke--everyone started laughing--up until then it had been very quiet in there," Bodie told Kline.

"Then what happened?" asked Carson. "Did something else happen?" He was looking at the peaks in the reading. "About a minute or so after the initial jump to awareness?"

"Well, nothing...nothing that I remember," said Bodie, puzzled.

"There's a second jump here, a minute or so after the first one, did you notice that?"

"I'm not too sure...the first jump gave me a surprise--he'd been so still...he made a noise, a sort of moan... I didn't know if he was hurting or what--his face looked scared...he looked frightened. "I touched his hand...I tried to hold it but he snatched it away--"

"Perhaps he was just agitated?"

"No," Bodie said. "He snatched it away. It was as if he didn't want to be touched..." Bodie ended lamely, remembering too late that Doyle never liked being touched unless he was wide awake.

"And then?" asked Carson.

"Doctor Kline told me to talk to him and I did. I don't know how long for."

"Hmm, interesting," Carson murmured as he pored over the scroll. "Interesting," he repeated. "Strange...but still, I suppose--"

"What?" Bodie asked anxiously. "What's wrong?" I thought you said he was recovering, that he's going to be okay?"

"Physically he is," Kline agreed. "But--"

"Mentally?" Bodie asked. "You said the head injury wasn't serious!"

"Initially I thought not, however--"

"I agree with Doctor Kline's initial prognosis," Carson interrupted. "I am sure the problem is not physical, merely psychological."

"What does that mean?" Bodie asked fearfully.

"Well," Doctor Carson started, then paused and looked at Kline for permission to continue. "This is the fourth time Mr Doyle has begun to surface--to wake up, you might say. But, each time he has slipped back into this coma state. His condition, his physical condition, is improving all the time but he remains in a state of deep unconsciousness. He responds, quite violently, to touch and to sounds. Usually once patient reaches this level of awareness they do wake up--"

"But Ray hasn't," Bodie said bleakly.

"Indeed," Carson agreed. "Each time, instead of opening his eyes and waking up he falls back to the deeper levels of consciousness."

"You're making it sound like he's choosing to remain in the coma," Bodie said angrily.

"I suspect that he is--now wait a moment," Carson said, forestalling Bodie. "Let me explain further. I suspect quite strongly that for some reason he is choosing to remain unconscious."

"Why would he do that?"

"Any number of reasons," Carson said quietly. "Shock in itself can have a devastating effect on a person. The trauma of his attack, the shock of his injuries all piled on top of the nature and duration of his ordeal in the hidey-hole--"

"Yes, but...he's free now. He's recovering--"

"Does Mr Doyle know that?" Carson asked softly. "I suspect not."

"He might think he's still trapped in here?" Bodie said, aghast.

"I do," Carson agreed. "I am also concerned about his condition when he was admitted to this hospital. His injuries, though obviously painful, were not that serious. The concussion and damaged throat were aggravated by the lack of medical care and compounded by dehydration but, even so, they didn't warrant the depth of coma he was in."

"He had been kept prisoner--virtually buried alive," Carson went on. "I think he retreated into himself in an attempt to escape the prison he was faced with. Being trapped, injured and helpless in that manner would be enough to cause any normal person to react so."

Any normal person. The doctors' words echoed mockingly around inside Bodie's head. To speak up now could effectively ruin Doyle, but to keep quiet could do him even more harm in the long run. That the information would remain confidential was, Bodie knew, a false hope. They would have to tell Cowley--and Ross.

"Supposing..." Bodie cleared his throat and began again. Ashamed of what he was doing to Doyle, he didn't notice that Cowley and Day had appeared behind him in the doorway. "What you said about any normal person being affected by something like that. What if the person already suffered...suffered from claustrophobia."

"Claustrophobia!" Carson said in surprise. "It wouldn't bear...surely you don't mean--"

"If someone with claustrophobia found themselves trapped like that what would you expect to happen to them?" Bodie asked, already half dreading the answer.

"Doyle, you mean?" Carson asked. "Well...it would certainly explain a few things--"

"But what has it done to him?" Bodie asked urgently.

"Let me get this right," Carson said firmly. "Doyle suffers from a mild form of claustrophobia?"

Bodie hesitated. "Not...not exactly that mild," he admitted.

"I see. How badly?"

A sound distracted Bodie and he spun round to see Cowley and Day. Neither man said a word but Bodie knew that they had heard everything. Turning his back on them he spoke to the doctor. "I'm no expert and I've never come across it before but I don't think it's classic claustrophobia as I've always understood it. Doyle's okay in small rooms or in lifts. I've never noticed him worrying whether the door is open or shut...but...sometimes. Well, it's two things really. Sometimes, if it's dark--pitch-black dark with no light at all, well, then if the room is...shut in, if he can't get out...he panics--well I've never seen him really panic but...I get the feeling that if he ever found he really couldn't get out of somewhere he would...he might panic."

"How does he cope with this fear in everyday life?"

"Doesn't seem to bother him that much," Bodie answered. "As far as I can tell it only really bothers him when the two come at the same time--a confined space and darkness--living in a city, working as we do, in two years we've not had to work in a situation like that. In bed at night, at his place he always leaves the landing light on, at my place there's a street lamp almost right outside the window--it never gets that dark."

"He won't sleep in total darkness?" Carson asked.

"Can't or won't," Bodie said. "I think can't."

"Have you ever removed the light source while he was sleeping?" Carson asked intuitively.

"Yes," admitted Bodie reluctantly.

"And?" the doctor prompted.

"He became...disturbed."

"You are sure he was asleep at the time?" Bodie nodded. "What happened?"

"I opened the curtains again and let the streetlight in. He calmed down, he woke up but I don't think he knew what woke him."

"Have you witnessed any other reaction of this fear?" Carson pushed--realising as Cowley did, that it was only because of his concern for his partner that Bodie was talking about it at all; he suspected that once Doyle's recovery was assured he would clam up and refuse to give any more information.

"Yes," Bodie grated out and bit by bit related the incident when they were trapped in the lift.

"And the other man," Carson asked. "He was unaware of the condition Doyle was in?"

"No--he made some comment after a while, asked if Ray was asleep or something."

"And after that, what happened?"

"Ray joined the conversation--he sounded a bit...strained, but I don't think Lake noticed."

"So there was no panic attack once he released the grip he had on your arm?"

"No."

"And later, afterwards?"

"Afterwards...nothing." Bodie turned then to face Cowley before continuing bitterly. "Life got a bit hectic workwise then and it was days before the subject was even mentioned."

"So you have discussed it with him then?"

"Not in any detail, he couldn't really explain it himself...didn't seem to understand it--he was more concerned to know whether I would report it to Ross--and Cowley, of course."

"And," Cowley interrupted, "as you have said nothing to me, nor I suspect to Dr Ross, you clearly decided against reporting it."

"That's right," Bodie said grimly. "I decided it wasn't worth the bother--it's not been a problem and I believe that Ray would cope with a bad situation if he had to, he's bloody good at his job and training would overrule any fear if he might have--"

"And if his training didn't help it would be your life on the line," Cowley guessed astutely.

"More than likely," Bodie agreed.

"That's not good enough, Bodie, and you know it--you should have passed this information on to Dr Ross--"

"Really, gentlemen," Dr Kline butted in hurriedly. "You can discuss CI5 policy another time; right now my priority is with my patient!" Sharply reminding everyone why they were there, the doctor, for the moment at least, closed the discussion on Doyle's claustrophobia.

Leaving Cowley to discuss whatever it was he came to see the doctor about in the first place, Bodie returned to Doyle's bedside. This time he spoke softly to Doyle for several minutes before tentatively touching the lax fingers. Almost at once his hand was taken into a steely grip, Ray murmured something and curled slightly to his side facing where Bodie was sitting.

Using his free hand to ease the kinks caused in the tubes in Doyle's arm and nose, Bodie smoothed the pillow and brushed back one chunky, wayward curl that had escaped from the surgical cap. Poor Ray, he thought, he'd have a large bald spot to cover until the operation site healed over.

"Bodie?"

Surprised because he'd not heard the man's approach, Bodie turned to see Day standing beside him.

"No, stay where you are," Day said softly. "Don't disturb him--I just wanted to have a word with you..."

Having decided long ago that he didn't particularly care what Day thought or said, Bodie turned back to his partner.

"I thought you might like to..." Day hesitantly started. "I thought you'd like to be able to tell Ray something from me when he comes round." Day waited for Bodie to comment and when the silence only stretched on he began again. "Holly's house--and the London flat, the one opposite Ann's place, gave us a lot of information--it confirmed one or two things we weren't sure of. Holly was mad; mad as a hatter but bloody clever: he managed to fool everyone. He seemed to be able to control things just enough that they didn't get out of hand. He kept a diary...thing's a bloody mine of information. Diaries, lists, telephone numbers, addresses--he wrote everything down, all his schemes...you'll have to see them sometime--every page is a month's work in itself for the drug squad and customs men." Day shook his head in reluctant admiration for the madman that had run rings around the drug squad for nearly a decade. "He kept a diary on his daughter, too. Photographs, school books, pieces of her clothing. I spoke to Mrs Harrison about him--seems he's always been obsessed with Ann every since his first breakdown; tried to kidnap her when she was a baby, lots of ugly court appearances over custody when the divorce came through, but then he seemed to drop out of the picture. Mrs Harrison thought he'd given up, forgotten about them even, but he hadn't. He just began watching her from a distance. The London flat is packed with photos of her, he followed her all over the world by the look of things. Photos are all dated, catalogued and filed. There's a whole drawer of shots of her with various men, Doyle too," Day said bitterly. "He's even mentioned in the diaries. I read the weeks where he was arrested and framed--Holly did set it up although framing Doyle wasn't what he'd intended at all!"

Something in Day's voice made Bodie look up. "Well?" he asked.

"Murder was more like it," Day said. "Remember Weston?" Bodie nodded. "Seems he did have a good reason to remember Detective Constable Doyle--he'd been paid to kill him. He was a mechanic at the station Doyle was working from. Doyle was driving a car which, because he was going undercover, he returned to the pool. Weston fixed the brakes but it was Inspector Taylor and not Doyle who drove the car out of the station that night. Doyle's alibi went bang same time Taylor was killed. Holly only had to alter a few minor details and Doyle was well and truly banged to rights!"

"Just like that!" Bodie was appalled that Doyle's downfall had been so easily arranged.

"Yeah," Day said, sighing heavily. "Just like that."

Swearing under his breath, Bodie raged quietly, only Doyle's warm grip preventing him from hitting something--preferably Day.

"Yeah," Day said quietly. "I'll be off--do you need a lift anywhere?" he offered.

"I'm staying here," Bodie said without looking round. Concentrating only on his partner, it was some time before he realised that Day still hadn't left and was hovering around the foot of the bed. "You forget something?" he asked sourly.

Day jumped, startled by the sudden question and the venomous look flashed his way. "What? Oh... Yes, well, not really--guess it can wait." He fidgeted and flushed pink, clearly discomfited.

"If you've bloody well got something to say--say it!" Bodie snapped. "You've not been shy about speaking your mind in the past."

"I had my reasons, Bodie," Day retorted, stung but refusing to let the other man make him feel any more guilty. "I'm as pleased as you are that Doyle's been cleared of all suspicion but I was right in my belief that he was mixed up with the racket in some way--"

"It's a pity your 'investigations'," Bodie managed to make the word sound almost obscene, "didn't show up Holly's insanity before Ann was murdered and Ray damn near strangled!"

"Sooner or later it would have come to light," Day defended, knowing he'd not failed in his work. "Maybe their engagement was the final straw that pushed Holly over the edge. He was slowly losing his grip on reality but Doyle coming back like he did into Ann's life was more than he could take. The shrink reckons that the bomb in the car was meant for Doyle. Holly thought it was him in the car when he detonated the bomb. When he found out he'd killed his daughter he just went berserk--I don't suppose Ray knew what hit him..."

"No, I don't suppose he did," Bodie agreed sarcastically, turning away from him and hoping he would have the sense to take the hint and leave.

The rest of the morning passed slowly. The nursing staff checking on Doyle's condition at regular intervals took little notice of Bodie as he sat quietly, unselfconsciously holding onto the patient's hand. Once, fingers hot and cramping, Bodie tried to withdraw them but Doyle's grip had tightened, keeping him there.



...The silence as he climbed towards the light was as terrifying as the dark but he felt compelled to keep climbing. As he got closer and closer his fear, impossibly, doubled. Were they still there? Would they force him back or, worse still, would no-one be there?

Undecided, he hovered; what was worse, the suffocating, heavy darkness or the bright, cold isolation of the light?

He turned back into the warm darkness but found he couldn't reach his sanctuary any more. Scared and unwilling, he moved upwards towards the light. He wanted the dark! He fought his rise upwards, struggling against the inevitable. He could hear noises--growing louder and louder and then he could feel hands on him; he tried to pull away and get back to his sanctuary but he couldn't escape them. The voices became clearer and he could hear his own name being called. One voice, closer than other others, troubled him, eh recognised the gruff tones and struggled to identify the speaker.

"Come on, Ray," the voice urged. "Please Ray...come on... Come on, Ray."

Bodie? It was Bodie; but something was wrong...whatever could be wrong, Doyle wondered. Everything was so confused and muddled and he couldn't think straight, couldn't imagine what was causing Bodie to sound so anxious.

"Ray!"

No, Doyle realised, frightened; Bodie sounded frightened. What was wrong, had the job gone wrong? Flashes of memory sparked images in his mind and he saw the dark corridor and his friend's angry face as he shouted at him. "I'll do what I'm trained to do and I'll protect him to the best of my ability. And, if you don't feel the same way you can pack up and get out now, right now!" Was Bodie angry with him? Then he was running, guns were booming everywhere, deafening him, and he was after someone...running...running...the man was just ahead of him...in slow motion Doyle watched as the man stopped running, turned and raised his gun...



"Ray? Ray?" Bodie cried urgently as Doyle stopped threshing about and became frighteningly still. "Ray?"

Doyle's eyes suddenly snapped open; wide, frightened and unfocussed. Reaching out, Bodie stroked the side of his face with gentle fingers and slowly the tension and fear seemed to drain away and heavy eyelids drooped and closed.

"Ray?" Bodie said softly. "Can you hear me, Ray, are you awake? Come on Ray, please...say something," he pleaded.

Slowly Doyle's eyes opened again and he turned towards him. Bodie smiled, the grin turning into a huge beam when a weak smile tugged at Doyle's lips in response.

"Hello, sunshine," Bodie choked past a large lump in his throat. "Decided to wake up at last, have you?"

Doyle looked at him with huge, sleepy eyes. "Mmmm," he mumbled. "Mmmnn what's 'appenin'? Wha's wrong?"

"What's wrong he asks!" Bodie said in amazement. "You lie there like a corpse for nearly a week and then wake up and ask what's wrong!"

Confused, but warm and comfortable, Doyle could see that Bodie was all right after all and he felt too tired to worry about it any more. Bodie was okay so everything was all right.

"Hey," Bodie tapped Doyle's cheek lightly. "Don't go back to sleep, mate."

"'m tired..." Doyle mumbled.

"Ray?"

"'m tired, Bodie..." Ray grumbled as he tried to go back to sleep. "You're all right...so everything's okay... 'm tired..." He finally realised where he was, the noises and the smell filtering through to his brain; hospital. Somehow he wasn't surprised. "He got...me, didn't he," Doyle whispered.

"He certainly did, sunshine," Bodie agreed.

"Must 'ave been...blind...point blank...poor shot...'

"Shot?" Bodie said, puzzled. "Ray?" But there was no answer as Doyle had finally managed to drop off--into a normal shallow sleep, the doctor hurried to inform him.

Doyle drifted in and out of consciousness for the rest of the afternoon before slipping into a sleep the doctors said would last most of the night. Bodie went home to get some sleep himself but he was still not happy with Doyle's condition. His partner had seemed totally unconcerned at finding himself in hospital and seemed to think he had been shot. It had taken a few mumbled comments about Parsali and the conference before the awful truth dawned on Bodie. If Doyle thought he had been injured on the job it would mean he had forgotten about going away with Ann...

Bodie hoped he would remember without having to be told.

After a few hours of restless sleep, Bodie, still tired and unrefreshed, returned to the hospital. He found Ray, this time in a small side ward and was cheered by the proof that the worst was over and intensive care was no longer necessary. The door creaked loudly as he went in and Ray's eyes opened slowly.

"Mornin'" he said in a husky voice. "Not 'here to shove...food down me throat, are you?"

"What?" Bodie stopped dead.

"Every time I...open my eyes they leap...out of the woodwork...and say...eat this...drink that, swallow...this..." he moaned.

"You're feeling better," Bodie said cheerfully. "I can tell."

"If it's not...food and drink...it's bleedin' needles..."

"Your voice sounds awful," Bodie said with concern. "You sure you should be talking?"

"Yeah," Doyle croaked. "'s long as I don't...overdo it."

"Make sure you don't," Bodie ordered. "Anyway, how are you feeling this morning--apart from a sore throat?"

"Fuckin' awful...if you...must know," Doyle said with a cheeky grin. "What the hell 'appened to...me. Feel like...I've been 'it by a steamroller!"

"What have the doctors said?" asked Bodie, unsure how much Doyle knew.

"The doctors?" Doyle pulled a face. "Oh...mmm...that's better...oh, very good...coming along...nicely," he mimicked. "Everytime I ask a...question they...the tell me to rest and...get well."

"Oh," said Bodie, his heart sinking.

"Don't you...bloody start!" Doyle rasped. "What...'appened?"

Bodie drew the small armchair up to the bedside. "What do you remember?" he asked.

Bit by bit, Doyle related all he remembered of his part in Parsali's conference. Keeping his face neutral, Bodie listened without letting on his dismay. Doyle's voice tailed off as he came to the point where he was chasing the would-be assassin across the lawns.

"...Running like blazes...then he stopped and...he stopped and turned to face...me. I remember his turning and looking at me." Doyle frowned as he struggled to remember. "His gun was...was in his hand...he lifted it and, and, nothing! I can't remember anything after that--it's just a blank; what happened? Did he get away, did I blow it?" he asked anxiously.

"No," Bodie reassured him, careful to keep the extent of his amnesia from him. You got him, we got both of them and Parsali got away safely--"

The door creaked loudly again and the doctor, followed by a couple of nurses, came into the room and Bodie found himself being ushered out by the Ward Sister who made it perfectly clear that visiting time didn't start for another four and a half hours.

Finding himself at a loose end, Bodie wandered into headquarters; he wasn't sure whether or not he was on suspension or annual leave but he had an idea that Cowley would soon let him know. He wasn't wrong.

"Brawling, Bodie," Cowley informed him icily, "is not the sort of behaviour I expect from my men. You were present as an observer at Doyle's flat because I wanted you to be a witness to what would or would not be found there. It is not unusual for one half of a team to be present in such circumstances and I had thought you were professional enough not to have been drawn into such petty tomfoolery! Do you really think those men enjoyed prying and poling into one of their colleagues' flats?"

Bodie didn't answer; he stood, back straight, eyes front before Cowley's desk. "Well, man?" Cowley demanded a response.

"Sir?" Bodie enquired with almost insolent politeness.

"I will not tolerate brawling, Bodie," Cowley said firmly. "Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, sir," Bodie snapped back.

Cowley stared hard at Bodie for several minutes as if considering forms of punishment and Bodie waited patiently. But, instead of another lecture Cowley suddenly changed direction, giving Bodie no warning and no time to prepare a defence.

"Doyle's claustrophobia," Cowley said. "You should have reported it immediately you were aware of it. By not doing so you jeopardised your own life and the lives of others. It would also have been in 4.5's best interests that you alerted the department to the problem."

Bodie managed not to flinch from the scathing voice. Knowing Cowley as he did, he should perhaps have expected this.

"Maybe it was wrong not to report it but at the time I didn't think so. Okay, he's got a problem but it's his problem. He's never let it interfere with the job. Doyle's convinced that he could handle a situation and so am I, he's been well trained."

"An irrational fear is not predictable, Bodie. How can either of you know for sure what would happen if something triggered it off."

"You can't chuck him out simply because he's claustrophobic--it's a problem--yes, I agree--but he copes with it. If he hadn't taken so long to regain consciousness no-one would even know about it--that's how big a problem it is!" Bodie said tightly, barely holding onto his temper.

"Perhaps," Cowley said thoughtfully; he found Bodie's defence of his partner very interesting. Over the last months he had been watching the pair of them with increasing anxiety. Doyle's commitment to CI5 and to his partner had flourished even though his personal life had seemed erratic and unsettled, but meanwhile, Bodie's deepening commitment had suddenly levelled out and Cowley thought he had seen evidence he was about to take off leaving Doyle, CI5 and even England far behind him. Something had unsettled Bodie, confused him even, Cowley thought. "Perhaps when he finds out all that has been going on he might wish to terminate his employment with the department anyway," he said, allowing the impression that he would accept Doyle's resignation to filter through.

"And move on to what?" Bodie asked furiously. "Holly's not left him much to go back to!"

"A fresh start," Cowley suggested.

"Where? He won't resign--if you want him out you'll have to sack him--and if he goes so will I!"

"Considering your behaviour recently that could be arranged!"

Both men stared hard at each other, neither prepared to be the one to give way. But, surprisingly, Cowley looked down, relaxed into his chair and waived a hand towards the easy chair beside his desk.

"Oh, sit down, man," Cowley sighed. "You've been to the hospital this morning--how is he?" he asked as he poured them each a drink.

"Recovering. Slowly," Bodie said, taking the drink. "He's still a bit confused, seems to think he was injured somehow during the Parsali business."

"I see. And what do the doctors say?"

"Not much. His memory may or may not return; he could remember everything or just bits and pieces. Right now they've said it's best not to tell him the truth, it'll be best if he's given the chance to remember for himself."

"So he is unaware of Miss Holly's death?"

"So far, yes. He hasn't even mentioned her," Bodie replied. "But since he's still drugged up to his eyeballs that's hardly surprising. He'll soon start asking questions and then he'll start wondering why we're being so evasive," he said bitterly. "He'll know the truth soon enough."

"I daresay he will," Cowley agreed. Mellowed slightly by the whiskey and with the crackling tension between them less now, Cowley broached the subject of Doyle's claustrophobia again.

"And in your opinion it doesn't affect 4.5's performance," he ended.

"It hasn't--so far. I can't say it never will; as you said, it's an irrational fear and by definition unpredictable, but people can learn to control their fears."

"With help," Cowley agreed. "I've already spoken to Dr Ross. She has suggested that Doyle will most probably need professional help to recover from all that has happened. It would have been a traumatic experience for a person who didn't particularly have a phobia about being confined in the dark."

"Will he get help?" Bodie asked.

"We can provide it, of course. It will be offered to him. If he wants to remain on the squad it's essential that he co-operates to the full."

"Not Ross," Bodie said, knowing how much his partner disliked the woman.

"No, this is out of her field," Cowley agreed, only barely preventing a grin from appearing on his face. He knew how the men felt about her and he even agreed with them--although the woman was useful to him on occasions. "I'll get her to organise everything but she won't be directly involved," he assured. "In the meantime," he looked at Bodie and chose his words carefully, "you are still on suspension following your behaviour the other day. I don't want to see you back here until Monday morning."

"Yes, sir," Bodie said, relieved to have got off so lightly. That meant he could spend the next three days with Ray at the hospital.



Once Bodie had left the office Cowley returned to his desk and began to plough through the paperwork waiting there. But his attention kept wandering and shortly he gave up, closing the files and locking them away.

Bodie and Doyle, he thought. It had started as an experiment two years ago: against the advice of several people who all predicted disaster but it had been a success--if only a limited one. Last year he had thought it a total success, a few weeks ago less so and then he had nearly lost both of them; Doyle to a wife and family commitments and Bodie--to only Bodie knew where.

Cowley knew he had relied on Doyle's vulnerability to bring out his partner's protective instincts and to give Bodie a reason to stay in CI5 where hopefully, he would increase his own commitment to the department. But something had gone wrong. Somewhere along the way the Grand Plan had gone awry.

With nowhere else to turn Doyle had remained with the department and thrown himself into his work. Having nothing to distract him, his involvement had been a consuming one which had wavered only slightly when the engagement and impending nuptials had been announced.

Bodie's commitment had been strong when Doyle's was and had wavered at the same time. If Doyle did resign Cowley knew he would lose Bodie too--but then without Doyle holding him down, Bodie would have left two years ago.

Ruefully, Cowley acknowledged the flaw in his plan. Two years ago Bodie's loyalty had been to Cowley first and the department second. It was fast becoming obvious that Cowley and the department had been relegated to second and third places with Doyle way ahead of both of them.

Cowley sighed tiredly. It wasn't exactly what he'd set out to achieve but it was close--and in time maybe Doyle's conscience and commitment might rub off onto his partner.



CHAPTER TWENTY

Looking up from his book, Bodie smiled as he saw the eyes that were blinking sleepily at him. "Decided to wake up, have you," he teased.

Doyle returned the smile and then stretched and snuffled until he was really awake. "Mmmmn...nothing else to do," he said. "Sleep, eat, eat, sleep...they won't let me do anything else. Good book, is it?"

"Passable--better than watching you snore." The last few days Doyle had done little but sleep and regain his strength. The bruising around his neck had faded to a smudgy yellow that was only obvious now in a good light, the other visible signs of his ordeal being the half-cast on his arm and a bald patch on the side of his head that already was no longer such a startling pinkness; a week's growth and an abundance of surrounding hair almost covering it.

"Are you going to take me out to The Beeches?" Doyle asked.

"Yes, they're expecting you Monday morning. I'll bring a bag of clothes and some things from home for you to take."

"What sort of place is it?" Doyle asked casually as he fidgeted with pillows and bed covers.

"I've never been there as a patient, only as a visitor--went and saw John Henry when he was up there for a while recovering from a bad job. Seemed a nice enough place; it's just a hospital that's reserved specially for the services. We use it, so do MI5, MI6 and Special Services. It's well protected and used to dealing with security personnel."

It was in fact a beautiful building in acres of wooded, secluded countryside with a security network equalled only by Buckingham Palace. It was a hospital, a convalescent home, a hospice and, in a few cases, even a prison of sorts.

"Can't see why I've got to go there," Doyle grumbled. "I could stay with you."

"I go back to work Monday," Bodie reminded him.

"I could stay with Ann."

Bodie gave a nervous twitch at that. It was the first time Doyle had mentioned her.

"I'd 'ave thought she would have come to see me," Doyle said nonchalantly. "Has she been in touch, have you spoken to her?"

"No," Bodie replied, his heart sinking. "There's a 'D' notice on the whole Parsali business, besides, you don't want to worry her while you're still feeling so rough. Leave it a few more days until you're feeling better before trying to contact her."

"Okay," Doyle agreed immediately. "You're right, she'd only start moaning about the job again."

Bodie noticed Doyle frown and saw the worried look appear in his eyes. "What's up?" he asked, dreading the answer.

"Up? Nothing...I just... Oh hell! I don't know... I just thought that there was something I should... You're right. I won't call her until I feel better." Shrugging the worrying feeling aside Doyle changed the subject.



By Sunday Doyle felt well enough to leave his bed and get dressed, but it wasn't until he discovered how exhausting those simple tasks were that he began to understand why everyone was treating him as if he were a fragile invalid--he was a fragile invalid!

Perspiration ran down his face and his shirt clung damply to his body as he sat on the chair in the shower room, resting before summoning the necessary energy to walk back to his own room at the far end of the hospital corridor.

En-route to his room he made a strategic detour to the deserted day room and collapsed into one of the large armchairs rather than run the risk of falling at the feet of the nurses. Shaking and dizzy, he leant back onto the cool vinyl and closed his eyes; he felt terrible, he decided, feeling very sorry for himself. His head throbbed, his neck and shoulders ached constantly and his broken wrist was bloody painful. He should, he admitted ruefully, have taken the painkilling medication offered earlier but, trying to convince the doctors--and of course, Bodie--that he was feeling so much better, he'd refused. Not that his sacrifice had been rewarded, they were still bent on sending him to The Beeches.

A frown appeared on Doyle's face as he strained to recall what he'd heard about the place. A private convalescent home for the likes of us, Bodie had described it. Doyle wasn't too sure. During his two years in CI5 he'd heard the place mentioned a few times--no one seemed to want to go there, preferring instead to recover their strength and health elsewhere. There was a reason why they wanted to send him there he didn't know about, Doyle thought to himself. Even Bodie, who normally hated even the thought of hospitals and convalescence homes, seemed keen to get him there.

Out of the way, a small voice told him.

Feeling slightly better after his rest, Doyle made his way back to his room where he collapsed with such obvious relief that the nurse repeated her offer of some medication. Sheepishly realising he was fooling no one, Doyle gave in and swallowed the tablets. As the pills took effect, the swimming not-quite-awake-but-not-quite-asleep feeling rolled over him. He dozed, eyes shut but all other senses operating normally, letting him know what was happening outside; the bang and clatter of the breakfast trolley returning to the kitchen, the harsh ring of the telephone at the nurses' station and subdued conversation. He heard everything from his safe, drug-induced cocoon. He listened, and he thought. Why did they want to send him to The Beeches?

The question nagged at him over the next few days. He had a bad feeling about it and knew that something was wrong, very wrong. Bodie knew something, Doyle decided eventually. When he'd made his report he'd seen the way Bodie had stopped taking notes; seen the carefully blank expression his partner had adopted.

"What happened next, Ray?" Bodie had asked in a very level voice--and Doyle had been unable to remember. It was maddening, but the last memory he had was of his quarry turning to face him and pointing the gun at him. Bodie hadn't seemed concerned that he'd clearly forgotten what happened next, only relieved--which only served to make Doyle even more nervous.

Think, man, think, Doyle berated himself, knowing that somehow it was desperately important that he did remember. Had he done something wrong, he wondered. He was sure he'd fired at the man...but if he had fired what had happened to him? Who had attacked him? Who? How? When? In ever-decreasing circles his mind raced around the questions without finding any answers, his mind only giving in under the constant, regular influx of tranquillisers and sedatives.



Bodie walked towards Doyle's room with little joy in his heart, knowing that as soon as his partner arrived at The Beeches he would have to be told about Ann's death. It wasn't a task he was looking forward to and, over the past few days as Doyle recovered he'd hoped that the memory would come back but, so far it was clear that his partner still believed he'd been injured while protecting Parsali.

Curiously though, Doyle had asked very few questions. Apart from once asking why Ann had not visited him, Doyle hadn't mentioned her again. Bodie thought that he had accepted the 'D' notice story rather quickly--is if perhaps on some subconscious level he really didn't want to know the truth.

Opening the door to Doyle's room, he was greeted with the sight of his partner standing in front of a mirror with a very worried look on his face. Seeing his friend enter the room, Doyle smiled. "Come to spring me, have you?"

"Yes, hurry up--got the bedsheets hanging out of the window down the corridor and a fast car waiting downstairs," Bodie joked, pleased to see Doyle so cheerful.

"Just trying to make something with this mess...must be the first time in my life I've ever been grateful for my hair growing so bloody fast!"

"Nother week and it'll be as long and curly as the rest of this bird's nest," joked Bodie as he tweaked a fat curl with his fingers.

"I'm ready to go as soon as you are," Doyle announced.

"Not so fast, the doctor's coming by to have a word with you about a couple of things--"

"I thought I'd ring Ann before we leave. Is there a call box or phone somewhere I can use?" Stuffing the last of his things into a bag, Doyle didn't notice the look on Bodie's face. "I think I ought to let her know where I am. I won't tell her anything about the hospital--I'll just say it's work, she's used to that."

"Ray--"

"I can't help feeling I've forgotten something," Doyle went on. "Everytime I nearly remember...it goes again. It's bound to have been something important and she's going to moan and bitch about it...but I still think I should ring. Bodie...what's wrong?" Clipping the bag shut, Doyle swung it off the bed. "What is it?" he asked as his partner continued to gape at him. A grim sense of foreboding washed over him. "Bodie...?" he said fearfully.

"Ray...here, give me that and sit yourself down." Bodie took the bag and set it on the floor.

"Bodie?"

"I have something to tell you," he started.

"Something so bad I have to sit down?" Doyle tried to joke.

"Ray--"

"Okay," Doyle interrupted. "You want to talk--just let me make one quick phone call to Ann and then we can talk."

"Ray, no--you can't."

"What do you mean, I can't," Doyle snapped back, irritated and clearly edgy. "I'll phone who I bloody well like when I like!"

"No," Bodie said as he tried to calm him down. "I need to talk to you first."

"Can't it wait?" Doyle snapped and tried to push past him to the open door. Bodie slammed it shut and leant on it.

"No, it can't," he said slowly.

Watching Bodie barring his exit, Dole felt the knot of tension inside him tighten. He didn't want to hear what Bodie had to say. He couldn't work out exactly what was wrong but nothing had felt right for days now. Obviously something terrible had happened and he knew now that it concerned him. What on earth had he done? The sweat was prickling along his back, soaking his clean shirt and he was aware of his quickening pulse. Whatever it was he knew he didn't want to hear it.

"Well it'll have to wait, won't it. Shift out of the way, Bodie!" Attack always was the best form of defence and he saw with some satisfaction the realisation in Bodie's blue eyes the knowledge that the patient was in no mood to be humoured. "Get away from the door, Bodie," he ordered. "I'll make my call and then we can have our talk. There's no need to make such a big deal out of it--I just want to talk to Ann, I've remembered that we were supposed to be going away for the weekend," he said, relenting a little. "I've got to let her know why I stood her up--might as well get it over with," he joked weakly.

At the mention of Ann, Doyle noticed his partner's start. It wasn't the first time he'd seen that look in Bodie's eyes when he mentioned her. "Look," he said placatingly. "I know you don't like her and I know you think I'm being stupid wanting to marry her, but--"

"I liked her," Bodie protested.

"Come on, Bodie. You can stop pretending, I know you don't like her--right from the start that much was obvious. Even Ann knows that you resent her in some way--"

"Ray...stop it. Just...come and sit down and shut up for a minute... Please!"

"Bodie?"

"Ray. Please?"

"After I've made my call!"

"She's dead, Ray," he finally blurted out. "That's what I'm trying to tell you. You can't call her, Ray. She's dead. I'm sorry...but she's dead..."

The room became silent and still as Bodie waited for Doyle's reaction. The silence stretched endlessly. As he heard the words a part of Doyle's mind accepted the truth of them. He would have liked to believe he'd misheard or that Bodie was lying but he knew that he would not lie about that. But, even though he knew it was the truth his mind still refused to admit it believed.

Bodie watched the colour drain from Ray's face and he waited, not knowing what to expect. He knew Doyle had heard him and guessed he'd understood but the total lack of response was unnerving.

"It was the day after Parsali left England; you went away with her to that cottage near Eastbourne." Bodie spoke softly. "She was in your car on Saturday morning when...it happened."

"My car," whispered Doyle. "My car? A crash?"

"No. He was trying to kill you," Bodie said quietly.

"Me?"

"Ann borrowed your car and he mistook her for you. He put a bomb in the car. She didn't stand a chance, Ray. It was over in seconds, she probably never knew what happened--"

"In my car?" Doyle repeated. "I was there?"

"No. You'd stayed at the cottage..."

Doyle's eyes were unfocussed, distant and he began to grasp some misty memories of that morning. "I...I went back to bed..." he said as if in a daze. "Ann...she wanted to get some...some shopping. I was...tired...hadn't slept much but...after ringing the doctor we were so relieved...so happy..." Doyle wandered back across the room and slumped down onto the bed, rubbing fingers into his temples. "We were so bloody relieved...knew that everything was going to be okay then. I went to bed...but I couldn't sleep...I remember hearing--" Doyle's face screwed up as if in pain and Bodie crouched down beside him taking hold of one trembling hand to offer support. "Heard a...a car...I thought it was Ann coming home so I opened the door..." Doyle tightened his grip on Bodie's hand. "I thought it was Ann," he repeated desperately. "But it wasn't...it wasn't..."

"Can you remember who it was, Ray. Can you describe him?" Bodie probed gently.

"No...I don't know him...I don't know..."

"Describe him, Ray." Bodie pressed, knowing that he would have to do this sooner or later.

"Big...filled the doorway. Tall...thickset, grey hair and eyes...those eyes. He's mad. I could see he was mad and then...and then... Nothing! I can't remember...Bodie!"

"Sshh, it's okay," Bodie soothed.

"What happened, Bodie? I can't remember what happened."

"What's the next thing that you can remember?" Bodie asked.

Doyle thought furiously. "I'm not sure...I don't know..."

"Do you remember waking up here?"

"Here...yes. I think so...but...I don't know...just dreams I suppose...just dreams..."

"Dreams about what?" asked Bodie anxiously.

"Who was he, Bodie? The man at the door, who was he--and Ann, what happened?"

"Slow down, Ray," Bodie begged.

"I need to know what happened. Tell me what happened. How long have I been here?" Doyle asked suddenly.

"Er...a week today," Bodie answered. "But it took us six days to find you--"

"Find me?"

"Holly had hidden you so well we couldn't find you--"

"Holly?"

"Ann's father. Charles Holly--"

"Her father--I thought he was dead!"

"Unfortunately he wasn't. He died two weeks ago, the day after he murdered Ann and tried to kill you--"

"Two weeks ago!"

"Ray, we didn't know to even start looking--it wasn't until the inquest on Ann that we even knew to look for her father--"

"Inquest?" Totally lost, Doyle was reeling under each new shock.

"We found her father's body four days after the bombing--it took us another two days to find you and then you were unconscious for another four days--"

"She's been dead for two weeks!" Doyle croaked, his voice breaking. "How long were you going to leave it before telling me?"

"Ray, the doctors felt you weren't up to being told--"

"And now I am?" he asked icily.

"You were obviously starting to remember--we were worried that something might trigger the memories off--"

"So you drew the short straw!" Doyle snapped out. "You should be pleased that she's dead--"

"Ray!"

"She liked you about as much as you liked her," Doyle informed him. "So don't worry too much--forget the mock sympathy. She's dead. That's it, isn't it. Over-and-out. The wedding was off anyway," he quipped lightly. "She said once that I ought to marry you, did you know that? She thought we were made for each other, she even had this ridiculous notion that you were jealous of her--did you know that?"

The brittle matter-of-factness alarmed Bodie more than the torrent of abuse pouring from Doyle's mouth. Now that the initial shock had receded, the pallor had been replaced by a sweat-sheened flush and sparkling, glittering, fever-bright eyes. Doyle was still far from well and the news was taking a heavy toll.

"Sit down, Ray. Calm down a bit," Bodie soothed. "Just hang on a minute while I get the doctor--"

"Calm down!" Ray yelled at him. "Calm down! You haven't told me anything yet. What the hell is happening? Why won't someone tell me what's been going on--this is so unreal...I can't believe this is really happening--why have you taken so long to tell me? Why didn't you tell me this days ago?"

"You're not well, Ray," Bodie tried to explain. "You're still not well, you've had a rough time of it and we wanted you to recover before we broke the news."

"Recover!" Doyle shouted. "You could have told me days ago. Christ...two weeks! Two bloody weeks and I didn't even know!"

"Ray, there was no point in telling you before now--"

"No point!" Furious, Doyle glared at him.

"You've been ill, you're still not well," Bodie shouted over Doyle's angry voice. "There was nothing for you to do--nothing that you could do."

"Nothing..." Doyle repeated, suddenly quiet, the contrast in his mood unexpected.

"Nothing," agreed Bodie softly, sensing that the crisis was over. "Everything's been sorted out now; her father is dead; Charles Holly was the Christmas Man. We've got the evidence to prove he was insane and that he was the one who framed you before. We know now that he meant to kill you five years ago but someone slipped up and your Inspector was killed instead; you were left to carry the can with no alibi," Bodie explained into the hush. "When you met up with Ann again he just waited for the right time to try and kill you--only he made another mistake and got Ann instead."

"By mistake..." Doyle said in a hollow voice.

"Charles Holly had been watching you for years because you were interfering with his daughter, Ray," Bodie went on, hoping his partner was listening and taking it all in. "That's why so many things seemed to link you to the drugs ring. Holly was the money behind it all. He had his men watch you. The drug addict--Weston--you remember him? Holly got him to fix your car to arrange an accident; only Weston didn't realise it was a pool car and you'd signed it in before going undercover. DI Taylor drove it out of the garage after your last meeting with him and died instead of you. That's why Weston remembered you so well--Holly had hired him to murder you."

"Murder me...so...he's killed two people trying to...trying to get to me..."

"He was insane, Ray. Completely insane where his daughter was concerned."

"Ann..." Doyle said, shaking his head in disbelief. "I...I..."

"It was over in seconds, Ray. There was about fifty pounds of explosives in the car--she shouldn't have known anything about it." Bodie stopped talking when Doyle lifted his head to look at him.

"Christ," Doyle spat out viciously, his face twisting. "You make me sick! Is that supposed to make me feel better?" he sneered. "She wouldn't have known anything about it, Ray," he mimicked. "How the fuck do you know what she felt?"

"Ray--" Bodie said, trying to calm him down again.

"Don't Ray me, you bastard!" Doyle snarled, slapping Bodie's hands away. "Get out...get out...just get out of here..."

"Ray. Look, Ray, calm down, you're not doing yourself any good getting uptight--"

"I'm not uptight!" Doyle all but screamed at him. "Just...get out...leave me alone--take your fucking hands off me!"

"Just sit down, Ray. Let me call the doctor to give you something." Bodie tried to manoeuvre Doyle back towards the bed. "He'll give you something to calm you down a bit--"

"Take your fucking ands off me!" Doyle strong-armed Bodie away. "I don't want any fucking tranquillisers!"

"It's just shock, Ray. Will you please try and be reasonable?"

"Reasonable!" It had been the wrong word; already furious, Doyle exploded and lashed out at his partner. He didn't feel the jarring pain in his wrist as the solid plaster cast impacted on the side of Bodie's head.

Bodie did. It didn't knock him out but the blow was hard enough to make him see stars. Senses reeling, Bodie crashed to the floor as Doyle snatched open the door and made good his escape. Bodie let him go, thinking that he needed some privacy, some time alone to regain control and recover from the shock.

Head spinning, Bodie slumped into a chair and waited for Doyle to return. Didn't handle that too well, did you Bodie, he thought to himself. There must have been an easier way to have broken the news, he thought tiredly.

Bodie walked over to the door and checked the corridor--no one in sight. Sighing, he went back to the chair--he'd give him five more minutes on his own before going to look. That decided, Bodie settled himself back into the chair to wait. Sleep, the farthest thing on his mind, swept over him--his exhausted body and taut nerves succumbing to the unlooked-for rest. Had it not been for the noisy arrive of a ward orderly a brief half hour later he would probably have slept he day away.



With outrage and anger spurring him on, Doyle left the hospital at a brisk pace. It was only several hundred yards down the road that his strength all but gave out and he was forced to rest on a convenient wall.

After the fourth passer-by looked at him with suspicion before detouring so they didn't have to walk too close to him, he began to take stock of his situation.

Sweating and trembling, he guessed he looked as rough as he felt. Another old woman veered across to the other side of the pavement tutting to herself and frowning at him.

Stupid old bag, he thought sourly. Probably thinks I'm just another addict sweating it out. "What's up, ducks," he called out after her. "Never seen someone sitting on a fuckin' wall before?" He shouted at another woman standing by the bus stop. "Am I hurting you by sitting here?" he demanded. "Am I?"

The women clucked like a bunch of nervous chickens at the acid questions. A bus came along and they all clambered aboard, hurrying to get away from the lunatic on the wall. As the vehicle pulled away from the stop, Doyle could see them looking at him, tongues wagging and heads nodding.

"Fuck 'em," he muttered to himself. He shivered as a fresh wind whipped through the light jacket Bodie had brought in for him. He wasn't dressed for roaming the streets and, even worse, there were spots of rain in the wind. He was going to get soaked.

Hands pushed into his pockets, he got off the wall. Where to now, he wondered. Back to the hospital--and Bodie? No, not now. Later perhaps. But he was cold and needed warmer clothes. Home then.

As if on cue a bus pulled up that he knew passed within a few streets of home. Legs shaking with effort, he boarded it and sorted through his pockets for some money--he was sure he remembered picking up some loose change. The walk from the bus stop to his flat was slow, his desire to hurry away from everything and everyone was almost gone. He was nearly home; once indoors he would be able to unwind and relax with the whole, ugly world and its messy problems safely on the other side of the front door.

He had to beg the skeleton key from the caretaker's wife. Looking so unwell, he had no trouble convincing her he had the flu and had managed to misplace his keys somewhere.

The door swung open and immediately he knew someone had been in there. All the doors onto the small hallway wee shut. Quietly he moved down the passage and pushed the kitchen door open. Everything looked tidy...yet different. The bathroom was the same--the shampoo and toothbrush put at the wrong end of the shelf...silently he went thorough each room in the flat. Everything was neat and tidy...too tidy and he knew that the place had been turned over very thoroughly.

Somehow the search didn't bother him--only the thought that someone else had tidied it up for him. Hoping perhaps that he would never know, Doyle wondered calmly.

His calm was shattered, though, when the bedroom door swung open. On the bed were his cases, locks broken and contents bulging out. His chest tightened and he felt a hot prickle behind his eyes as he realised that they had gone through everything. Fighting back his breakdown, he checked the cases thoroughly to make sure that everything was there.

Hands shaking, Doyle found the invitations for the wedding that had never taken place and now would never happen, ever. He tore them all in half. The letters were next, then the photograph album and certificates. Calmly, he tore everything in halves and quarters before showering the pieces over the bed and carpet. He didn't stop until the cases were empty and the bedroom floor invisible under a layer of destroyed memories.

Turning his back on the debris, dry-eyed and outwardly serene, Doyle pulled a warmer coat from the wardrobe and walked out of the flat.



Breathless, Bodie ran up the last set of stairs and burst onto the landing. He saw the door standing wide open with the key swinging in the lock and almost collapsed with relief.

"Ray?" Bodie called out as he entered the hallway. There was no answer; he retrieved the key and closed the front door. "Ray?" he called out again, his tension returning as he drew a blank in every room. "Oh shit!" he groaned in despair when he found the mess in the bedroom.

Mentally kicking himself for not having packed the cases away properly and put them out of sight, Bodie sank down onto the bed. "Christ, Ray...I'm sorry," he whispered. He had tidied the rest of the flat up during the days when Doyle had been recovering but the cases he hadn't touched. However hard he tried he had been unable to pack everything neatly back into the two cases. Everything had been tipped out onto the floor and pulled to pieces during the search. Letters had lost their envelopes, pictures had lost their frames; albums had burst open and bundles had become untied.

The cases, Bodie knew instinctively, had barely been touched since Doyle first packed them up over five years ago. For some reason his partner had chosen to save these possessions when his whole world had crumbled around him. They were important to him--or at least they had been before CI5 had poked and pried into them.

Standing, Bodie kicked at a pile of torn paper in disgust. Now thanks to the department Doyle had nothing--not even a suitcase or two of five-year-old memories! Bodie moved; he had to find Doyle. He was sitting at the wheel of his car and revving the engine before he realised he didn't have the faintest idea where to start looking.

It took less than one hour for Bodie to cover the few places Doyle just might have gone to. There hadn't been many places to look; Bodie's own flat, the two pubs they frequented when off duty and the small wine bar just off the Embankment.

Hoping that just maybe Doyle would have gone in the headquarters--after all, Bodie reasoned with himself, where else could he go?--he went there.

Lake saw Bodie moving up the corridor checking out each room in turn.

"What's up," he called out cheerfully. "Lost someone have you?"

"Doyle," Bodie snapped. "Seen him, have you?"

"Er...no," Lake replied, startled. "Thought you were supposed to be taking him to the funny farm this morning?"

"He had other ideas," Bodie said offhandedly.

"Where is he then?"

"If I knew that I wouldn't be wasting my fucking time looking for him, would I?" Bodie bellowed and pushed past to check the locker room.

"'lo, Bodie," Murphy called out as the dark head appeared round the door. "What's got up your nose?" he asked casually as he closed his locker.

"Doyle," Lake answered for him. "Seems he's gone walkabout and Bodie's looking for him."

"Doyle? I thought he was being shipped out to the funny farm this morning--"

"The Beeches," Lake agreed. "That's right--" he stepped out of Bodie's way as he moved on down the hall to the next room. "Only Doyle seems to have had other ideas...what made him take off?" he asked as Murphy joined him following after Bodie.

"He wanted to telephone Ann," Bodie said bluntly. "I had to tell him. Everything...understandably he was...upset." Bodie would have laughed if he hadn't been feeling so miserable. "Upset...that's a bloody understatement! I didn't handle it too well...and things got a bit out of hand. I thought it best to leave him alone for a while. It was a mistake," he finished harshly. "When I went to look for him he was gone."

By now they had reached the rest room and Bodie threw the door open with such force that it slammed back into the wall, jerking everyone in the room awake.

"Well...he must be somewhere!" Lake said weakly.

"Well done, Puddle," Bodie said, his face twisting into a sneer. "I had worked that out already."

"He can't have gone far--he's not fully recovered. I've heard it'll be months before they even think about letting him back onto the squad. What sort of condition is he in?" Murphy asked.

"Physically or mentally?" Bodie asked, voice dripping with contempt. "I don't know--how would you feel if you'd survived being beaten, damn near strangled and shoved in a hole for a week with no food or water? How would you feel if you'd just been told that the girl you wanted to marry had been blown to bits in your car--that it should have been you that died--that your future father-in-law was a fucking psychopath that would do anything to stop you from seeing his daughter? I really don't know, Murph," Bodie ended. "You tell me, because I'd really like to know."

Recognising that whatever he said was bound to be the wrong thing, Murphy wisely kept his mouth firmly shut.

Into the corridor, completely ignorant of what had been going on, wandered Day. Seeing the group standing blocking the door, he shouldered through them whilst trying to unwrap a chocolate bar: intent of separating melting chocolate from cling sliver paper he walked straight into Bodie.

"Oooff...sorry mate," he apologised distractedly. "Oh. It's you. Left Doyle at the nuthouse, have you?" he asked in an innocent voice surprisingly free of malice.

No one stopped Bodie from landing a powerful hook onto Day's jaw. No one even breathed until the swing doors at the far end of the hallway swung shut behind 3.7's retreating form. No one offered to help Day get up from the floor, either.

The stunned silence ended with Murphy breathing a very loud and very visible sigh of relief.

"Well done," Lake said as Day, shocked and bleeding, rose to his hands and knees. "You ever thought about joining bomb disposal--you're a natural at defusing explosive situations."

The whole room joined in the relieved laughter and began to relax.

"What the hell brought that on?"

"What's happening?"

"Where's he off to now?"

The squad all started asking questions at once.

"Why did he hit me?" asked a bewildered Day. "What did I say?"

"Shut up." Murphy pushed Day away. "You bleed over me and I'll flamin' well punch you out as well!"

The rest of the squad were all clamouring to know what had happened and so Lake told them.

There was no surprise at the news that Doyle had reacted badly to hearing the news but they were all puzzled that Bodie didn't know where to find him.

"What about his friends, his family--Bodie must have some addresses?" several of them suggested.

"Oh of course," Lake said mildly. Then, "What friends?"

The quiet question made one or two of the men frown as they began to realise that Lake was trying to tell them something.

"Tell me, Dave," Lake addressed one of them. "You're an ex-copper. Have you ever worked with a colleague who was caught on the fiddle, another copper who was kicked off the force for taking back-handers?" Warily Dave Cooper nodded his head. "Was he a friend, did you ever socialise with him?"

"Yeah...once or twice."

"What about after he was kicked out?"

"Not bloody likely!"

"Why not?"

"Professional suicide--that's why!"

"Professional suicide," Lake repeated quietly. "We all know that Doyle's so-called criminal record is still live, don't we. As far as the world outside of this room is concerned 4.5 is still a criminal. Everyone except for us thinks he's bent--and I do mean everyone. His old colleagues on the force, even his family. No one out there will touch him with a fucking barge pole!" His voice rising with his temper as he spoke, Lake was shaking with rage as he finished. "Friends...what friends--I haven't seen any of you lot falling over yourselves to welcome him."

"He's never put himself out to be the life and soul of the party," Day was heard to mumble.

"Do you honestly blame him? Some people around here have made him as welcome as a tart with fucking VD! Do you really think he doesn't know about the filthy gossip that's been passed around--why the hell would he want to socialise with people who are prepared to believe he let some old lag fuck him around in prison?"

"Then why's he never denied it?" Day asked nasally through a bloodstained handkerchief.

"Why don't you ask him that yourself if you're so bloody eager to know?" Murphy snarled.

"Back off," Day warned, rising to his feet. "What is this anyway?" he demanded to know. "So what if Doyle's wandered off--he's a grown man, he can take care of himself--and don't give me that shit about how we should all feel sorry for him because his girlfriend's dead. So what? He's got eyes, he should have noticed what was going on--"

"Shut up!" one of the men growled from the back of the room.

"He was a detective!" Day shouted over the angry voices. "And then Cowley hoisted him onto us. If he was as bright as Cowley thinks he is how come he didn't see it coming--"

"Somebody shut him up!" another voice called.

"And don't go bleating on about his criminal record--he was given a choice," Day continued. "He agreed to forgo an official pardon."

"How often has the Cow had you agreeing to something that five minutes before you'd sworn you'd never do?" Murphy demanded angrily over the rising voices telling Day to belt up.

"It was Doyle's choice. He chose to--oof!" Once again Day crashed to the floor as another sidewinder blow hit him.

Amidst the cheers, Lake sucked his knuckles and stepped over the prone body. "Right, let's see if we can't organise a search and find 4.5 before the Cow realises he's gone walkies."

Leaving enough people to cover for any emergencies, the squad took to the streets, fanning out to cover the area between the hospital and Doyle's home.

Calling in on his r/t nearly an hour later, Bodie was amazed to hear the Operation Walkabout was well in hand.



Alone in his office, Cowley listened to the chatter on the r/t frequency. He didn't use the open channel very often and only a few of the men even knew he had the facility but, at times, it proved extremely useful.

He had arrived outside the restroom unnoticed in time to witness Day digging his own grave. At times feelings and tempers ran high amongst the squad and arguments were not uncommon, but he was careful to ensure violence between the agents was kept to a minimum. Breaches of the rules were dealt with promptly and severely but in this instance, prudence had prevented Cowley from announcing his presence.

The fact that Day had been asking for it for a long time also helped. The animosity between Day and 4.5 had been strong but there had been nothing Doyle could do to dispel it. The stories put around by Day were ugly and distasteful but, Cowley conceded fairly, they were not entirely fabricated. Rather than confront Day, 4.5 had turned his back on the problem--and thereby allowed it to fester and get out of hand.

The open channel crackled into life once more.

"I've checked with the brother's neighbours, seems that the whole family are on holiday--they've gone skiing in France or somewhere, been gone the last week or so. Shall I wait out here in case he comes this way?" Susie asked.

"No, there's little point. He's hardly likely to turn up there now," Dave Cooper answered from the control room.

"Where to now then?"

"God knows...come on back into town, call again when you're close to base."

"3.7 to base."

"Go ahead 3.7."

"Holly's apartment block is a blank. I'm going over to check the shopping precinct, I'll check out the coffee shops and restaurants. He can't still be walking around, he must be resting somewhere."

"Okay, 3.7. 2.4 is already working along the High Street."

"Tell him to check that old pub just behind the Post Office, up past the market place, I went there with Ray only a month or so ago--he might have remembered it."

"The pubs will be closing in another half hour so we'll have fewer places to look then."

"Keep me posted. 3.7 out," Bodie signed off.

Listening to the exchanges, Cowley frowned. Something Bodie said had caused a bell inside his head to ring. Trying to catch the elusive memory, Cowley thought hard--he had it. Quickly he pulled the right file and checked the address. It was only about three miles from Doyle's flat.

Acting on instincts that rarely failed him, Cowley reached for his hat and coat and ordered his driver to meet him at the door. Driving fast, they made it to the pub just in time to hear the landlord shout "Last orders!" Telling his driver to go round the block until she was called, Cowley walked towards the door of The Brewers Arms and peered in. He had known Doyle would be in there. Over the last year Doyle had quietly submitted reports on his visits to the Brewers. After the incident with the local CID it had taken him a month or so to return and even longer before he visited on a regular basis, but as far as Cowley could make out Doyle went to the pub whenever his fiancée had been working abroad or when Bodie had other engagements.

The reports, as requested, were detailed, giving full information on everyone he talked to whom he thought might prove interesting. At first they had been several pages long as he identified and described his contacts and filled in any background information on the dubious clientele that frequented the establishment. It had fast become obvious to both Doyle and Cowley that nothing of earth-shattering proportions was ever going to come from the inhabitants of The Brewers.

At times Cowley suspected his operative of using the reports as an exercise in creative writing: the physical descriptions of certain people being so vivid and Doyle's explanation of their antics so explicit and so different from the formal, blunt approach of his usual reports that Cowley was left with the impression Doyle liked writing the reports; the relaxed atmosphere and friendly bonhomie of the place almost spilling off the pages.

Peering through the grimy windows at the nicotine-yellowed walls and poorly lit interior, Cowley saw little that looked comfortable or relaxing. Sitting slumped on a high back settle was Doyle, eyes closed and face drawn and pale. As he watched, a plump middle aged woman leant over him, shaking his shoulder to wake him up. Cowley saw his eyes snap open and the woman hurriedly step back and guessed that she was telling him it was closing time. Realising that there was no way he could enter the pub without drawing attention to himself, Cowley backed away from the door and waited for Doyle to come out.

Doyle was the last to leave and came through the door with the woman at his side.

"Are you sure you're going to get home all right?" the woman asked anxiously. "Let me call you a cab?"

"'s okay, Ivy," Doyle said in a tired voice. "Just need a bit of fresh air...clear my head a bit."

"More like a week in bed!" Ivy grumbled at him. "You're in no state to be walking around the streets."

"'m okay, Ivy, like I told you earlier--I've just been a bit under the weather--"

"Look more like you've been under a bleedin' bus!" snorted Ivy. "Off you go then, love. Take care, ray. You sure you don't want me to call you that cab?"

"I'm fine. Really. See you, Ivy... Bye..." Doyle waved with his good arm and turned away from the door.

Cowley waited until Ivy had gone back in and the road was clear before waving at his driver to bring the car round. Quickening his step, he soon caught up with Doyle.

At the light touch on his arm, Doyle turned slowly and regarded Cowley carefully with no evident sense of surprise. "Afternoon, sir," he said, slowly realising that some sort of greeting was called for.

"Doyle," Cowley acknowledge, taking in the unsteady gait and sweat-streaked face. "How's it going, lad?" he asked gently. "Been drinking, have you?"

"Wouldn't serve me," Doyle said conversationally. "Made me have a cup of coffee...wanted a drink--but she gave me coffee."

Cowley smiled at the puzzlement in the husky voice. "And how are you feeling now?"

"Oh...fine...everything's fine...'cept...I've got a terrible headache...but, I'm...fine," Doyle answered, struggling with the words. "How are you...sir?" he asked politely.

Taken by surprise, Cowley blinked. "Oh...I'm fine too--but I am rather tired. Do you mind if we ride in the car...that's it, laddie. Mind your head."

As meek as a child, Doyle allowed his boss to manoeuvre him into the back seat of the car. Climbing in alongside him, Cowley murmured "The Beeches," to his driver, then turned his full attention to his passenger. Doyle was flushed and perspiring heavily, he looked more asleep than awake and seemed to be completely oblivious to the strangeness of his situation. Shock, Cowley recognised.

"I'm ever so hot..." Doyle mumbled quietly, moving restlessly in his seat. "Open a...window...I'm too hot..."

"Okay, laddie. Is that better? Do you want to take your coat off?" Cowley opened the window and helped ease the chunky jacket off; there were a few awkward moments as they both tried to draw the sleeve over the plaster cast. Doyle hissed and fell back in his seat, breathing heavily.

"Is it paining you?" Cowley asked.

"Hurts like hell...all the way from my fingers to my neck..."

"Is that more comfortable?" Cowley asked after rolling the discarded jacket up and turning it into a support for the broken wrist.

"Mmm..." Doyle mumbled. "Where are we going?" he asked unexpectedly just as Cowley thought he had dozed off.

"A place where you can have a rest," Cowley said cautiously. "A nice quiet place where you can rest until you feel better."

"The Beeches?" Doyle asked. "That's where Bodie as going to take me..." He eased himself into a more comfortable position. "That's where we were going this morning...but...I left him behind. Sorry...will you tell him I'm sorry...but he...should have told me...should have told me before..."

Cowley was amazed as Doyle wriggled around even further and settled himself down to rest finally pressed up against the older man, his curly head resting on the neatly suited and rather stiff shoulder. Catching sign of his driver's amused eyes as she watched her passengers, Cowley outstared her with ease. When she turned her attention back to the road Cowley allowed himself a small but exasperated smile as he twisted around to ease Doyle into an even more comfortable position. The remainder of the journey was uneventful with Cowley daring his driver to make any comment--after all, it wasn't every day that the Controller of CI5 could be found in the back seat of his Rover cuddling one of his operatives as he slept with his head neatly tucked on his shoulder.

Their arrival at The Beeches was with a minimum of fuss, Doyle not waking up until they had passed through the security gates. Still sleepy and not too aware of his whereabouts, Doyle was admitted and put to bed immediately, the doctors already working on ways to repair the damage caused by his earlier exertions.



Cowley arrived back at headquarters at six o'clock and found an extremely worried group waiting for him.

As there had been relatively little happening to keep everyone busy, Cowley had kept the news of Doyle's location to himself. Quite apart from making work for over-trained, under-used hands, he had reasoned that it would do them all good to worry about Doyle for once.

"Sir," Bodie said st