Bodie swung the Capri over to the side of the road where Doyle was indicating, and slid to a halt outside the gateposts proclaiming the place to be 52 Staveley Avenue. The blue Datsun they had been tailing was parked haphazardly in front of them.
"Must have gone into the house."
They both squinted up at the building, a three-storey terraced Victorian affair that had seen better days. Right now it was deserted, bottom windows boarded up, garden overgrown with weeds and flowers run amok. The door stood slightly ajar.
Both men checked their weaponry, then Bodie made his way through the greenery and up the front steps, keeping -- as much as was possible given the situation -- out of any line of fire, till he reached the doorway. Cautiously he pushed the heavy door slowly open. The place looked undisturbed.
With a jerk of his head he motioned to Doyle to join him, and the two burst in together, Doyle diving for the doorway to the left of the stairway, Bodie taking the hallway. Silence.
Doyle made an upward movement of his gun to which his partner nodded agreement and in his turn indicated he was going down into the basement. They carefully began their separate forays.
Bodie found nothing of interest below stairs, though it had obviously been used quite frequently. Empty bottles and cans lay around and overlying all was the sour smell of urine. He wrinkled his nose in disgust and walked cautiously out into the small back garden. He surveyed the back of the house and the gardens of its neighbours but nothing disturbed the peacefulness. With a disgruntled shake of the head he went back inside to find out how his partner was faring.
Ten minutes later and there was still no sign from Doyle. Deciding to break radio silence Bodie tried the R/T. No reply. Puzzled, he made his way upstairs, wondering if Doyle had been caught unawares. An unlikely possibility, he decided. Ray was far too old a hand at the game for that to happen to him. Still, the unexpected could and did happen and even experienced agents made mistakes. It was better to take nothing for granted.
A thorough search of the whole building left him bewildered, and though he hated admitting it, anxious. He was quite prepared to accept that they'd been wrong, and the suspect they'd gone after was now well on his way, laughing up his sleeve. Well, you can't win 'em all. But that there should be no sign of Ray Doyle ... That was a different ball game. No sign of a struggle. He wondered if Doyle had left the building while he'd been out in the garden. Possible, but then why hadn't he replied when buzzed on the R/T? Bodie went back out through the front and over to his car, noting that the Datsun had gone.
"3.7 to Base."
"Base here. Where the devil have you been, 3.7? We've only been searching for you for forty-eight hours. Get your tail in here fast; Alpha's creating merry hell over your disappearance."
"Wha--" But the car's R/T had gone dead. Bodie considered calling up again and finding out what it had been all about -- none of it made sense -- then decided that since he'd temporarily lost both suspect and partner he might as well go back to CI5 headquarters. Let Doyle call in if he needed assistance. If not, he could damn well walk back.
Doyle came back downstairs fuming. Wherever their suspect had managed to hide himself, it certainly wasn't in the attic, and there was no way he could get out onto the roof or down onto an out-building. He wondered if Bodie was having any better luck.
Alert for anything untoward he silently descended the stairs to the basement, also finding nothing but the litter and the smell, and went out into the garden, checked it. Shaking his head in puzzlement he took the stairs two at a time back up to the hallway, paused, listening for any sound. There was none. Throwing caution to the winds he tried the R/T.
"3.7?" He paused. "Come on, Bodie, answer." The R/T remained persistently silent. Doyle eyed it with dislike and went out of the building back onto the street. Both Capri and Datsun had gone.
"Fuckin' 'ell!" But he was slightly puzzled as to why Bodie should take off without him. Come to think of it, he didn't even remember hearing the car start up. Anyway, there was nothing for it but to go back to Base. And give Bodie hell later.
He began retracing their earlier route, then realised he'd be quicker going over to his flat and collecting his car before making his way in to CI5. He therefore made tracks to the tube station they'd passed, and within twenty minutes was back on his doorstep. Even more angry. His own Capri was nowhere to be seen.
Christ, he thought, if it's been nicked the Cow'll do 'is nut. Knowing perfectly well he hadn't parked it elsewhere in a moment of aberration, he hunted up and down the street to check, then decided he'd better phone, and went into his flat.
He stopped inside the doorway, beginning to wonder if he was having an unusually realistic nightmare. It was his flat all right, but everything in it was...different. Furnishings, possessions, he didn't recognise a thing that belonged to him. He crossed over to the writing desk.
Doyle remained still as he heard the footsteps behind him, felt the muzzle of an automatic pressed against his neck.
"Don't try it," he was warned as he tensed, about to send an elbow back into his opponent's midriff. "Put your hands flat on the desk."
The man checked him over expertly, removing gun, R/T and identity card. "CI5, eh? Raymond Doyle," he read. "The boss'll be interested in this."
"Who the hell are you?" Doyle demanded. "What're you doin' in my flat?"
"Your flat?" His captor sounded slightly amused. "And I suppose you're a CI5 agent called Raymond Doyle?"
"You've got my I.D."
"You've got it wrong." The superficial amusement vanished completely. "You shouldn't play with fire, you know. Don't tangle with CI5." He shook his head pityingly. "You're way out of your depth, whoever you are. And for your information, I happen to live here."
"Yeah?" Doyle flung himself backwards, cannoning into his opponent, sending them both sprawling. He rolled and was on his feet in an instant, going for the fallen automatic, but the other man was equally swift, kicking out with both feet, sending Doyle flying. They both scrabbled for the weapon, fighting for possession of it as it went off, and Doyle fell back in shock as pain seared through his arm. Seizing his chance, the second CI5 agent sent him sprawling with another kick, before taking the gun butt to the side of Doyle's head.
He checked the unconscious man over, and roughly binding Doyle's arm where the bullet had gone through, handcuffed him, then went over to the phone and dialled.
"Smithson here. Found a bloke doing a bit of b&e. He's got a forged CI5 I.D. card on him... Yes, sir. It says..." he checked it again "...Raymond Doyle... Right, I'll bring him in."
"Where have you been for the past forty-eight hours, 3.7?"
There was an undercurrent of menace to Cowley's voice that added to Bodie's growing unease. Since stepping inside CI5's headquarters he'd had that prickling feeling down his spine that told him something didn't add up. Yet what? He'd met few personnel on his way to Cowley's office and those he had done he hadn't recognised. But the Old Man was his usual bloody-minded self. Or was he? Bodie decided to be very very careful.
"Sir?" His face expressed a bewilderment not entirely feigned.
"Ach, don't play the fool with me, Bodie, I know you of old."
"Look, sir, what's going on? I was tailing a suspect with 4.5--"
Cowley had made a swift movement, removing his glasses and letting them dangle from one hand. "I'm beginning to believe you must have received a blow to the head, 3.7. You know as well as I do that 4.5's been dead three months and that number is unassigned at present."
Bodie sat down rather suddenly on a chair and pressed his fingers to his forehead. Doyle dead? He was obviously in the throes of a nightmare and if he played along he would eventually wake up back in normality. "I'm sorry, sir, I just don't understand..."
"I think we'll have you checked out by the medical section." Cowley's voice seemed to have softened infinitesimally, but maybe that was just Bodie's imagination. "John Fenwick. Agent 4.5. Died as a result of gunshot wounds." Bodie looked totally blank. "You have no recollection of it?"
"No, sir," replied the CI5 man truthfully.
"I see." Cowley reached over to the intercom and made the arrangements with his secretary. Then, returning his attention to a silent Bodie, stated, "As you heard, I've arranged for you to have an initial check-up. You'll then be on indefinite sick leave pending further tests. They're waiting for you."
"Thank you, sir." Bodie left the room disbelievingly.
A couple of hours later he found himself driving in the direction of his flat. He reckoned that if, in his nightmare, CI5 was where it always was, his flat should be too. And he was correct.
Inside he wandered around for a while, fixing himself something to eat. Admittedly he didn't remember buying the food he found in the fridge but then, after all, it was only a dream. Perhaps if he had a sleep he'd wake up in reality. First things first, though. He dialled Doyle's flat. And got no answer. Sighing in exasperation he removed his jacket, kicked off his shoes, stretched out on the couch and was soon asleep.
Bodie woke to the sound of ringing in his ears, eventually identifying the noise as a telephone bell. He got up stiffly, rubbing at the crick in his neck, and lifted the receiver.
"3.7, Alpha wants you back at Base. We've picked up a suspect. Seems you're involved in some way."
Bodie decided his nightmare was still continuing. "Okay, I'll be there."
Twenty minutes later he was in Cowley's office, facing the Scotsman across the expanse of desk top. Cowley appeared to be engrossed in reading a computer print-out and spared his top agent only the most cursory of glances, telling him to sit down. Eventually he put down the papers, removed his glasses and stared hard at Bodie.
"Earlier today Smithson found an intruder in his flat. He was found to be carrying these..." He opened the desk drawer and brought out an identity card holder, a standard issue R/T and a Walther P38, laying them on the desk top.
Bodie felt his facial muscles stiffen even as he strove not to register any visible reaction. He had no idea of how he should be taking the information, but Cowley wouldn't get the reaction he expected. Bodie recognised the gun only too well. Fortunately for him the CI5 boss hadn't finished speaking.
Opening up the holder, Cowley continued, "It's forged, of course, but it's a damn good forgery. Incredibly he appears to have used his real name on it. Doyle. Raymond Doyle. We checked the computer file..."
Bodie's head came up sharply. So Doyle did exist in this place, even if he wasn't CI5 Agent 4.5. But in that case, who or rather what, was he? Cowley answered his question for him.
"You remember a year or so back we had that run-in with Walter and you killed Swetman?"
Bodie thought hurriedly. The name did ring a bell. "You mean Harry Walter?"
"Ah, obviously your memory is beginning to return -- a hopeful sign. Having one of my top operatives out of commission is a disadvantage." Cowley permitted himself a slight smile, which made Bodie, if anything, even more wary. "But to return to the matter in hand. Our records have revealed that one of his known associates, or perhaps I should say one of his intimate, very intimate associates, was one Raymond Doyle."
Bodie glanced down at the print-out on the desk top and then back up at Cowley, who was obviously expecting him to show some reaction. Reaction, therefore, there had better be.
"Do we have any other information on Doyle, sir?" he asked, finding it disturbing to talk about his partner as if he were a total stranger, and added as an afterthought, "and how am I involved?"
"I was coming to that. But to answer your first question, very little. Known to have knifed another youth as a teenager, suspected of involvement in the drugs scene, but no real criminal record. He's very clever in that. His present 'protector' is Harry Walter, who is not unknown to you. Now, as to what you have to do with the case, perhaps you may be able to tell me that."
Here it comes, thought Bodie.
"Doyle was brought in slightly damaged--" Bodie quirked an eyebrow at him "--merely a flesh wound and concussion: he resisted arrest. We're waiting for him to come round so that we can question him properly, but Smithson managed to get out of him that he was apparently looking for you."
"Me, sir?" Bodie frowned. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, it seems that he came round for a moment while they were seeing to the bullet wound, and Smithson says that he said your name quite distinctly."
"And you'd like me to question him, sir?" Bodie jumped in quickly. Eagerly. "When he comes round, I mean."
"Yes. Find out what his intentions were."
Something that had been niggling away in the back of Bodie's mind now popped up and struck him as being odd. "May I have his file to read before I see him, sir?"
Cowley nodded an affirmative, handing over the papers, and directed him to a room in the basement of the CI5 building.
Doyle was still unconscious when Bodie entered the room. Either that, or still drugged from whatever the medics had given him. His arm had been bandaged, though, and it seemed to Bodie that whatever this CI5 stood for, the people in it weren't sadistic in any way, just merely dong their duty. As they saw it.
He thought back over what he had read. Here, wherever 'here' was, Doyle had never been on the right side of the law. His associations all his life had been with known and suspected criminals.
Some turn-up for the book, thought Bodie with sour amusement. He had also discovered what Cowley's words had meant back in the office. Intimate associates indeed. Ray Doyle was a homosexual.
Bodie sat for a long while undisturbed, abstractedly watching his partner's sleeping form, tracing each feature in his mind's eye, well aware that Ray was, in his own way, a good-looking man. Good-looking? No, beautiful, Bodie admitted to himself, both in action and repose. Little wonder he'd attracted the attentions of men in this place, as he had done that of women -- and for all Bodie knew, of men -- in their own. Yet his Ray Doyle was no limp-wristed fairy. He smiled wryly, both at the image and at his unconscious use of the possessive, and silently acknowledged his feelings for Doyle he had at first refused to believe and then had tried to ignore for a long time now.
Clamping down on such dangerous sentiments, he turned to their present predicament, his brain sliding into overdrive, trying desperately to find some way out. He could feign partial amnesia for a while longer, at least until the medical people got the results of their tests and found nothing wrong, at which point Cowley might well smell a rat.
A further unpleasant thought struck him. Obviously a Doyle and Bodie existed here. In that case where was his opposite number, and how long did he and Ray have before the real Bodie turned up at headquarters and Cowley discovered he had one Agent 3.7 too many?
He also somehow had to keep Doyle out of CI5's grasp. It would not take long to get the truth out of him, probably in an unpleasant way. Bodie was only too well aware that if he did not come up with answers which satisfied Cowley, the CI5 boss would have no hesitation in turning Doyle over to other agents. It would simply take one injection for the truth to emerge -- Doyle would stand no chance -- and then both of them would be for the high jump. There just had to be an answer.
He sat for a while longer till the glimmerings of an idea came to him. It wasn't watertight, more of a long shot than anything else, but unless Ray fancied trying to shoot his way out of the building, they had little choice. Bodie examined the options again, and decided to stick to his original idea. And Doyle was now beginning to stir.
Going over to the couch, Bodie leaned close and gently shook his partner. There was a disjointed mumbling. He shook him again a little harder, and Doyle winced. Cursing himself for forgetting about the bullet wound, Bodie kept one hand lightly on Doyle's shoulder as the man gradually opened his eyes.
Bodie placed a hand over Doyle's mouth, cutting off any speech. Then, praying that the place wasn't bugged, bent low close to Doyle's ear and whispered, "Ray, listen to me. Don't say anything. Agree to everything I say, or we won't get out of here." He straightened and looked down to see if Ray had understood.
There was a slight crease between Doyle's eyebrows, but the man said nothing.
Bodie removed his hand from over Doyle's mouth. "Do you want anything to drink? There's some water here."
Doyle nodded in reply, and pushed himself more upright to take the proffered glass.
"I think we can do a deal." Bodie looked hard at him, willing him to say the right thing.
Doyle looked slightly blank, but nodded again.
"Good. Stay here. I'll be back in a minute." Bodie got up and went out into the corridor and into an adjoining room where he contacted Cowley. Still mentally crossing his fingers he said, "I think I may have a deal with him, sir. He may be willing to provide us with information from the inside of Walter's organisation. I think he's on the level, sir."
"You're a fast worker, 3.7." There was a grudging note of admiration in Cowley's voice. "And what was he doing in 5.9's flat complete with weapon, R/T, and forged I.D.?"
"I don't know yet, sir. I thought the other matter was more important. But I'll work on it."
There was a pause at the other end of the line and Bodie held his breath, wondering if Cowley would buy his story.
"Would you get more information out of him under more informal circumstances, 3.7?" Cowley's voice had a fullness to it that Bodie could not pin down.
"Er...yes, I suppose so, sir." Stunned at Cowley's playing completely into his hands unasked, Bodie was more than willing to go along with the idea -- whatever it was he was agreeing to.
"Very well. Doyle is released into your charge till he is recovered enough to be sent back as a mole. Good hunting, Bodie. It should be worth it." The line went dead.
Bodie stared in bewilderment at the receiver he still held. That last bit of conversation had been totally beyond him. He had had the strangest feeling that he and Cowley had been talking about two totally unrelated matters. It was as though he were on quicksand, sinking deeper in by the minute. Why Cowley had so suddenly and so readily decided on Doyle's release was a mystery, one which he would try and solve at a later date. Of paramount importance now was to get them both out of the building and away from CI5 and its controller.
Once in the Capri heading in the direction of Bodie's flat, Doyle turned to his partner. "Would you mind tellin' me what the 'ell's goin' on?"
"I wish I knew." Bodie concentrated on negotiating a traffic snarl-up. "I'm still waiting to wake up from this nightmare. I thought I was going crazy. CI5, Cowley, the same and yet...different. I'm supposed to have been missing for forty-eight hours and you're -- well, you're not in CI5. If it wasn't for Cowley, I'd say it was some incredible practical joke. But the Old Man'd never go along with it."
"This is no practical joke." Doyle indicated his wounded arm.
"I know. This sounds daft, Ray, but it's like we're in the same place, but a different time. Or something,'' Bodie stated half-disbelievingly.
There was a silence while Doyle thought about that. "Pull over a minute."
"I said, pull over a minute."
The car stopped on a double yellow line.
"Well?" demanded Bodie.
"It's a bit like a Star Trek episode I saw once."
Bodie shook his head despairingly. "Is that all you can say?"
"Yeah," Doyle continued, ignoring his partner, "it was a sort of parallel universe; they got beamed there by mistake."
Momentarily diverted, Bodie couldn't help asking, "And what happened?"
"They had to get back to their own one. They made it," Doyle offered, hopefully.
"That was television," Bodie told him. "This is reality. At least, I think so," he added doubtfully, half to himself.
"Wait a moment." Doyle was not going to be put off. "You said it can't be a practical joke. So, what's the alternative? Things aren't the same. I went back to my flat after you abandoned me to go after Redman--"
"What d'you mean, I abandoned you? I didn't go after Redman. I came back into the house and you'd gone. Vanished. So I went out to the car and contacted Base and that's when it all started going crazy."
The two partners stared at each other.
"I couldn't find you," Doyle said quietly. "I went over the whole place and outside into the back and you weren't there. And the car'd gone, too. Exactly when couldn't you find me?"
Bodie retraced his movements in his head. "Remember I was in the basement? I had a look outside in the back garden, then I came back upstairs. It was after that you weren't there."
"And I went into the garden too," Doyle mused. "That's maybe when it 'appened."
Bodie cocked an eyebrow at him. "I think we're off our heads. Parallel universes! What was it you were going to say about your flat?"
"Oh, yeah... What you said about me not bein' in CI5. After I couldn't find you I went back to my flat to pick up my car, only the car wasn't around and the flat wasn't mine either. That's when this--" he touched his arm "--happened."
"I still think it's all a bad dream," Bodie stated firmly, trying desperately to convince himself.
"If it's your bad dream, why am I in it along with you?" Doyle demanded. "And I'm 'avin' it too, remember."
Bodie was silent, then, heaving a sigh, he asked, "Okay, so it's really happening to both of us. We're in another universe according to you, so what do we do to get out of it?"
"Well...we can try goin' back to the house and retracing our movements -- together, this time."
"'Ave you any better ideas?"
"Not at the moment."
Bodie turned the Capri around and headed back through the traffic till he reached their north London destination. He drove down the street and parked outside number 52. Behind the brokendown gateposts an empty site stretched back between the houses.
Doyle leaned against a gatepost and rested his forehead against his hand. "It's not possible. The ground's been undisturbed for months."
Bodie walked warily into what had been the front garden. "Come on. We can still walk over the site and see what happens."
"Right pair of nutters we'll look," commented Doyle as he followed his partner, "trampin' through the rose bay willow 'erb."
"Never mind," Bodie consoled him with suspect concern, "I'll tell 'em you're from the Flat Earth Society an' I'm your latest convert."
Doyle threw him a disgusted look. "You been readin' the 'Reader's Digest' again?" he asked unkindly.
Both men walked slowly across the derelict space and tried to gauge where the back door of the house had been. They stuck close together, not quite believing in what they were doing, yet loath to separate just in case the impossible had occurred. After about twenty minutes Bodie called a halt.
"Doyle, how are we going to know if we've been successful?"
The curly-headed man looked enquiringly at him.
"I mean, we could go on pratting around here forever, and not know if we are where we should be."
"The 'ouse isn't 'ere," Doyle reminded him.
"You don't really expect it to spring up about your ears, do you? And anyway, it was still here when we both left the place, so how do you explain its disappearance? I tell you, Ray, the whole thing's so...so out of this world that maybe if we go away things'll right themselves."
Doyle shrugged. If the truth be known, he was only too happy to stop. His arm was beginning to ache and he was very tired. "Why not. Where d'you suggest we go?"
"Not back to Base, anyway. We'll go back to my flat. There was food in the fridge I hadn't bought, so if it's no longer there we're home and dry."
"Sure you didn't eat it before you came out?" Doyle asked laughingly.
Bodie glared at him. "No, course not. Well," he admitted sheepishly, "not all of it."
Bodie cautiously unlocked the door to his flat, gun held ready for action, and let himself in. In silence he moved through the place, eyes searching for the slightest alteration of detail, ears alert for any unexplained sound. Satisfied there was no-one about, he collected Doyle from the entrance and they went into the kitchen, where Bodie opened the fridge door and peered inside.
"No," he said dispiritedly, "it's the same as when I left here. And there're other things in this place I don't recognise. We must still be in your looking-glass world."
His partner sat down on a kitchen chair and leaned an elbow on the table. "Looks like we're stuck 'ere, for the moment at least. You'd better tell me all you found out about us and CI5." A thought occurred to him, as it had to Bodie earlier. "Bodie, d'you know what 'appened to...them?"
"Eh?" Bodie was in the throes of making coffee and wasn't really paying much attention to his partner.
"I said, where are our other selves? The 'us' of this place. In particular, the occupant of this flat."
Bodie placed a mug of coffee in front of Doyle, took his own mug and sat down at the table. "That's a question I've been asking myself for the last couple of hours. And I haven't come up with a satisfactory answer yet. I'm just hoping he doesn't turn up here for a while. As for you, or rather, your double..." an unholy grin crossed his face, "...you're not going to like this, Ray." And proceeded to inform Doyle of what he had read in the CI5 file.
Doyle was in turn horrified and outraged: shocked at the paralleling of incidents in his life in a kind of twisted parody, and outraged at Bodie's obvious delight in proclaiming him, in the form of his alter ego, to be gay. It didn't fit well with his self-image, nor did he appreciate Bodie's sense of humour at that moment. Worst of all it made a mockery of those bitter-sweet desires he'd buried deep in his heart. Where they would stay for all time. Bodie's reactions were all that he'd have expected; now he could never tell him the truth.
Evening found them no further forward in their plans other than a suggestion from Bodie that they head for the hills whilst the going was good, to which Doyle pointed out that they couldn't leave the country, for even if Bodie could find a passport in the flat, he certainly had no means of obtaining one. And if this C15 was anything as resourceful as theirs, they didn't stand much chance of remaining at large for any great length of time wherever they went. Nor did he wish to spend the rest of his life posing as a petty criminal with unnatural tendencies. He was also tired, his arm was painful and he was going to bed.
"Where?" asked Bodie.
"I'm not sure it's safe for me to offer you a share of my bed," uttered Bodie virtuously, trying hard not to laugh.
"Well you can sleep on the couch, then. I'm not," retorted Doyle, heading for the bathroom.
Later that night Bodie lay quietly, aware of the restless movements of his partner.
"Ray?" he whispered into the darkness. "Is it the arm?"
"Yeah. Sorry if I disturbed you."
"I thought you'd taken the pills I got you? Didn't the painkillers help?"
There was a silence. "I didn't take 'em."
"What?" Bodie sat upright and switched on the bedside light. He turned and eyed his partner grimly. "You mean my beauty sleep's been ruined 'cause you couldn't be bothered taking your pills? I was right, mate. You should've slept on the couch."
Doyle made a grimace of apology, keeping his eyes closed against the light.
Bodie had another look at him before getting up and fetching a glass of water and the requisite tablets. "Here, take them." He tapped Doyle on the shoulder and waited while he raised himself against a pillow, before thrusting the glass under his nose.
The painkillers were swallowed without a murmur.
Bodie got back in and switched off the light, resisting the insidious urge to pull Doyle into his arms, and kept firmly to his side of the bed, as the chemicals gradually had their effect on the smaller man's body, and Doyle's breathing became even. Eventually Bodie, too, drifted off into sleep.
Holding his torn, bloodstained shirt with distaste, Doyle realised that if they were to be stuck there for even a short while, both of them were going to need a change of clothing. A hunt through various drawers and the wardrobe in the bedroom produced some: a little baggy as far as he was concerned, but it would have to do for the present.
At that moment Bodie appeared in the doorway and looked his partner up and down. "You applying to join a circus?" he asked, a grin flickering across his features.
"Sod off," Doyle told him amiably. "If you will wear such stuff..."
"It's not mine," Bodie reminded him.
"It's his, which's probably much the same thing," Doyle returned.
His partner crossed over to the chest of drawers and rifled through a pile of shirts. "'Strewth, I'd never wear something like that." He brought out a white lawn shirt with blue stitching and promptly held it against Doyle. "Oh, very you, sweetie," he camped.
"Bodie..." Doyle warned, grabbing at the offending article, but a sound behind them had him diving for the nearest available cover, while Bodie whirled round, gun at the ready.
The young man in the doorway froze. "Take it easy, will ya, Bodie. I didn't know you were here, honest. I jus' came to collect a few items..."
"Like what?" Bodie did not make the mistake of asking the intruder his identity.
"...but I see you didn't waste much time." He nodded to where Doyle was picking himself off the floor. "I'm not surprised you kicked me out. I guess you had him lined up and waiting. You never miss a trick, do ya?"
Bodie's face darkened. "Collect whatever you came for and get out. Leaving the key," he added, noticing what the man was clutching.
Their visitor tossed the key onto the unmade bed and quickly went through the clothing, hauling out various items. He snatched up the shirt Bodie had been holding from where it had been dropped and stuffed the lot into a carrier bag which he produced from his jacket pocket. The two agents watched him in silence.
Picking up the bag, the young man turned to Doyle. "You're not his usual type," he told him appraisingly. "He goes for the young meat. Maybe you can take care of yourself better -- you've got muscles as well as a pretty face. You'd better be able to -- he can play rough." He scurried out of the room, casting a scared glance at Bodie, who followed to make sure he left the flat.
Hearing the front door slam, Doyle sat down unsteadily and began to laugh, which turned into a cackle as Bodie came back into the room.
"Likes 'em young, does he? And plays rough, does he? Sounds like you're a bit bent too, mate."
Bodie scowled at him, reholstering his gun. "You think it's funny, do you, Doyle? Christ, no wonder Cowley made those remarks. He probably thought I'd get you into bed to make you talk -- having beaten you up first, of course. That must have been the ex-boyfriend."
Doyle drew his eyebrows together. "Terrific. So as long as they think you're screwing me through the floor, they'll leave me alone?"
"Only till your arm's completely healed," Bodie reminded him. "After that I'm supposed to send you back into Walter's set-up as a mole. And of course I can't do that. I don't know what we can do -- I still think we should go to ground somewhere."
"'Ang about," said Doyle thoughtfully. "If you could find out anything about 'Arry Walter and his organisation, I could go in if it came to it. CI5 must have a file, even if they've nothin' definite against 'im."
Bodie's head came up and he turned on his partner. "No way, Ray. You mad? First off, there's another Ray Doyle kicking around somewhere -- with Walter at this minute for all we know. Second, you won't have the inside knowledge the Doyle of this set-up has -- even if you read up a hundred files and anyway, you won't recognise Walter's people when he would. And thirdly," he paused for breath, hunting around in his mind for a clincher to his argument, "you'd be fair game for any queer in that outfit. D'you really fancy being screwed by one of them? Do you?"
Doyle shook his head mutely.
Calming down a little, Bodie continued, "We can't stay here, not knowing who or what's going to turn up next."
"How far would we get without money or transport? That Capri is too obvious." Doyle refused to be convinced.
Bodie shrugged. "Okay, I'll go back to headquarters and stall for time. They want to do more tests on me this afternoon anyway. I'll tell Cowley you're coming across but I need more time to get the information we need from you. How's that?"
Doyle pulled a wry face. "Could be worse. Think he'll buy it?"
"Why not? Everyone in this bloody place seems to be bent. Cowley could be too, for all I know."
"Then stay out of his clutches," Doyle told him.
Bodie duly departed in the late morning for his medical tests and to try and convince Cowley he needed more time alone with Doyle. After he had gone, Ray cleared away the remains of their meal, and as an afterthought, remade the bed as well as he was able with one arm more or less out of commission. He still felt tired after his broken sleep of the previous night and the duvet and pillow looked inviting. There was still the printout of Ray Doyle's file to read, however. Bodie had had Cowley's permission to take it away with him since it contained no classified information, and Doyle wanted to see for himself exactly what sort of a man he might have to portray.
Taking off his shoes he lay down on the bed and opened the buff-coloured folder. He tried making a few notes but his arm began to ache, reminding him that once again he had conveniently forgotten to take the painkillers the CI5 doctor had provided. Instead, he closed the folder, pushed it out of view under the bed, and was soon asleep.
Some time later the sound of a door opening impinged on his consciousness and he half-awakened. A dark form loomed over him, blocking out the bright sunlight.
"Go back to sleep," came a low, familiar voice.
He was vaguely aware of a weight settling beside him. Reassured, he relaxed back into slumber.
He woke again with daylight fading, and after a second's disorientation became aware of Bodie sitting beside him on the bed, using the headboard as a backrest, checking over his S&W .357.
"You were all out," the man said. "A bomb wouldn't have wakened you after you went back to sleep."
Doyle stretched comfortably, taking care not to put any strain on his bad arm. "I feel a lot better for that. You got back early, didn't you? What 'appened? Did they finish the tests?"
Bodie laid the revolver on the bedside table, picking up his drink, and half turned to look down at Doyle, his eyes studying the man's face. "You're good-looking, you know that?"
Ray blinked. "Will you cut it out. I'm bein' serious. What happened?"
"So am I. Deadly serious."
"Christ, Bodie. We may be the biggest queers in this world, but that's no reason to start actin' that way. So knock if off and answer my question."
"What've you got against being gay? It's not so bad." Bodie shifted slightly and rested an outstretched hand on Doyle's shoulder.
"Uh-uh. If you think you're goin' to spook me into reactin', think again, sunshine. I know you're just 'avin' a go at me and I'm not playin' your game."
Bodie laughed. "I wasn't thinking of games. They're not really my scene, whatever you may hear. I prefer willing cooperation. If you don't fancy me, what are you doing on my bed?"
Stung into indignation, Doyle snapped back, "I was tired. There's nothing else for me to do till the arm heals properly, you said so yourself."
"Of course," Bodie agreed. "So you had a sleep. Well, Goldilocks, take care I don't eat you alive."
Doyle looked up in Bodie's direction and was riveted by the longing plainly written on the man's face. "Bodie?" he queried, puzzled and slightly alarmed.
Bodie set down his whisky glass with deliberation and swiftly turned, rolling half on top of Doyle, gripping his shoulders, brushing his lips against Ray's, sliding his tongue into Ray's mouth as the man's lips parted in his shock. Almost involuntarily Doyle's whole body tensed.
Lifting his head slightly, Bodie gazed back at the dazed green eyes. "You're not really trying, tiger," he murmured. "You gotta earn those stripes."
"Tigers have yellow eyes," said Doyle inconsequentially, and erupted in an explosion of kicks and punches, fighting to get Bodie off him, while the heavier man used his greater weight to contain Doyle's efforts, gripping more tightly. Doyle gave a cry of pain and collapsed back against the pillow, his face agonised.
"Now," said Bodie serenely, when Doyle made no further moves, "who the hell are you and what are you doing here?" He kept a tight hold on Doyle's arms.
Doyle's world was fading in and out. His arm was once again as painful as ever, more so due to the pressure Bodie was applying directly to the healing bullet wound. He tried to tell the CI5 agent that he'd explain everything, it was all very straightforward, honest, if only he'd let go of his arm, but somehow he couldn't translate his thoughts into sound.
"Maybe this'll persuade you." Bodie's voice was still menacingly reasonable. He released his hold on Doyle's good arm and reached over for his Smith & Wesson, then placed the muzzle against Doyle's skull. "Well, tiger?"
Doyle opened pain-darkened eyes, trying to focus on Bodie's face. "Not...you..." he gasped through clenched teeth, fighting the nausea.
"What?" Bodie menaced, tightening his grip. Doyle's body convulsed and went limp.
Bodie didn't move at first, wondering if he was being conned, but the form under him remained slack and Doyle's whitened face told its own story. Bodie backed off, still keeping his gun trained on the man on the bed. He already knew that the unconscious man carried no kind of identification, and after all Bodie had been through recently, he was in no mood to mess around. This was possibly a matter for CI5. And then perhaps not. He'd had enough of Cowley's interference in his life in the past and had no intention of informing his boss of anything more than he needed to.
Still hefting the gun, he walked warily back up to the bedside and visually checked over the body. Whoever the man was, he had genuinely lost consciousness and Bodie had the feeling it hadn't been from fear, more as though he'd been in pain. And his words had made no sense. Bodie surveyed his prisoner as he had done earlier. He wasn't his usual type, certainly. Bodie preferred them younger, prettier. This man must be around his own age and though oddly beautiful, very male. He had possibilities, though, whatever his own inclinations, if Bodie could persuade him...
But business first. Sticking his gun behind him in his trouser waistband, Bodie none too gently began stripping Doyle of his clothes. It was as good a way as any of immobilising his captive -- the man was unlikely to try and escape wearing nothing but his dignity -- and the discovery of the bandage on Doyle's arm confirmed Bodie's reasoning as to Doyle's collapse.
Correction, thought Bodie. Business and pleasure. It was pleasant indeed to admire his captive's body -- Bodie ran a finger through the dark body hair -- and there might well be more pleasure to follow. Doyle did not stir.
Bodie's foot made contact with the folder shoved halfway under the bed. Picking up the printout Doyle had been reading, and collecting his whisky bottle and glass, he removed his gun and settled himself in a chair to examine the contents whilst waiting for Doyle to regain his senses.
He finished flicking through the pages as Doyle began to come to. Bodie took up the revolver and rested it on his thigh.
"Well, tiger, I'm still waiting for an answer." He watched in amusement as Doyle suddenly became aware that his clothes had gone and made an effort to control his reactions, valiantly ignoring his naked state.
Doyle pushed himself up on his good elbow and waited till his head had stopped spinning, then glared back at his captor. "You're not Bodie."
"Wrong." Bodie shook his head sadly. "Let's try again, shall we? Your name."
"Doyle," said Doyle shortly.
"Ah-hah. Raymond Doyle, perhaps? As immortalised in this printout?" Bodie tapped the folder he was holding.
"Tell me then." Bodie's voice was sweet reason. "I'm in no hurry."
Doyle took a deep breath and started to explain. Bodie's expression remained amiable throughout the narration, a fact which filled Doyle with foreboding. He had to admit that he himself had never heard a more unlikely tale. Eventually he fell silent.
Bodie looked over at him and Doyle wished that the man was within fist range, or failing that, that he had a bedcover to put over his nakedness.
"Ten out of ten for effort," remarked Bodie. "They didn't say in your file you were good at storytelling. Had much practice at telling fairy tales?"
"If you don't believe me," Doyle snapped, "ring up headquarters and find out if Bodie's been in today for medical tests."
"Oh yeah, that'd be great. Ringing up to find out if I've been in for tests. They'd take me for a right nutter, then. But perhaps that's what you want, you and whoever it is that's masquerading as me. It won't wash, tiger."
Doyle played his final card. "Okay. You think I'm the bloke that file's about. If you've read it you'll know that he's queer, right? If I'd been lying on your bed for that reason, d'you think I'd've reacted to you the way I did?"
Bodie reflected on this. "You have a point there. You're not gay, whatever you are. But then maybe the file's wrong."
"Would CI5 make a mistake over that sort of information?"
Bodie grinned disarmingly. "You'd be surprised. But I agree -- p'raps you're not this guy after all." He tapped the folder again with his finger.
"Fine. We're gettin' somewhere at last. I'll have my clothes back."
"Feeling a bit exposed, are we? Pity, I like you like that. Well, get into bed, tiger. I don't feel inclined to trust you completely yet. And don't get any ideas. You wouldn't make it." Bodie lifted the gun from his lap and waved it in Doyle's direction.
Doyle decided to comply for the moment and got off the bed and then under the duvet. It hampered further movement but it was better than being eyed by the man sitting opposite him who looked so disturbingly like his partner. Ignoring the ache in his arm he reached behind him with it to arrange a pillow more comfortably, and winced as he jarred it against the bedside table, stabs of pain shooting up through it.
"Have a drink." Bodie poured a measure of whisky into his glass and walked over to Doyle, handing it to him, the S&W never faltering from its line on the man in the bed. Doyle looked up with suspicion at Bodie, who, with a shrug and a "Suit yourself", set the drink down beside him and moved back to sit at the end of the bed.
Picking up the glass with his left hand, Doyle whirled the amber liquid in it around for a moment before taking a swig. "Better 'n painkillers any day," he admitted.
"When's my double returning?" asked Bodie pleasantly.
"Dunno." Doyle was all caution.
"Pity." Bodie switched subjects without a falter. "I meant what I said earlier. About you." Doyle's grip on his glass tightened. "And," Bodie continued conversationally, "I need a new bedwarmer."
"Yeah, I met the last one," Doyle remarked, adding snidely, "right one 'e was, with 'is pretty face an' a nice line in fancy shirts. Not my scene, mate."
"No? But then you've never tried it, have you? Or have you? C'mon, with a face and a body like yours, you must've had a few offers."
Doyle's denial was emphatic.
"What about your partner? Hasn't he--"
Bodie shook his head sadly as if unable to understand such a wasted opportunity.
Doyle put his empty glass down. "D'you believe me now? About everything?"
"Not quite. But then I have a suspicious mind."
A combination of tiredness, antibiotics, and the aftereffects of being manhandled by Bodie, all overlaid with the whisky, suddenly combined to make Doyle very drowsy. He leaned more heavily against his pillow, and let his head tilt back against the top of the headboard. His eyes closed.
"What the hell did you put in that drink?"
"Nothing. I don't adulterate malt scotch."
With an effort Doyle attempted to sit upright again. A hand was placed at the back of his head to help him up, and as he opened his eyes, Bodie's face appeared close to his, the blue eyes framed by dark lashes. As Doyle was about to speak, Bodie's lips descended on his, softly brushing against them, then he repeated the action, his tongue teasing. Doyle tried to jerk away, bracing his hands against Bodie's chest, but was held fast, Bodie's hand still tangled in his hair, his other hand at Doyle's back, pressing him closer. Doyle wrenched his mouth away from the kiss.
"Pervert," he hissed. "Get your hands off me."
"Relax, tiger." Bodie was infuriatingly in control as he moved his hand to turn Doyle's face back to him. "Stop fighting it." He kissed Doyle again, this time his tongue slipping into Doyle's mouth, probing, demanding a response. The body in his arms was as taut as tightly-strung wire.
All Doyle wanted to do was to relax, give in to the sensations that were beginning to turn his bones to water, his nerves to fire. He wasn't totally surprised to find himself responding to the man's attentions, but the implications frightened him. He was grateful for the concealing bedcovers, for he doubted he could feign indifference much longer: his body was rapidly betraying him and the man holding him was far too much like his partner for Doyle's peace of mind.
The sound of a key turning in the lock drove them apart, Bodie leaping to his feet and taking up position by the closed bedroom door, snatching up his gun as he did so. He looked warningly over at Doyle.
"Don't try anything."
The door opened and Bodie stopped in the doorway, giving a silent whistle as he took in the sight of Doyle sprawled against the pillows.
"Wow..." He let his jaw drop, his tone joky, masking the desire he felt on seeing Doyle that way. "Talk about an un-dress rehearsal."
Ray flushed and remained silent, willing his partner to realise what was going on. But Bodie was too involved in making the most of the situation.
"You're definitely not going anywhere near Harry Walter and his mob, sunshine, they'd never keep their hands off you." He walked into the room as he spoke and was brought up short by the revolver's muzzle at his neck.
"Over by your partner," came the voice.
Bodie obeyed, then turned round, a look compounded of amazement, recognition and delight at the incongruity of it all crossing his face.
"It's a good likeness," said the man by the door. "You could be me."
Bodie addressed himself to Ray. "I see Madame Tussaud's called while I was out. Never seen the walking, talking ones before." He looked more closely at Doyle and then back over at his double, his brain forming conclusions he didn't like. He drew his eyebrows into a frown, a scowl settling on his features.
Despite the whole situation being balanced on a knife edge, Doyle could feel the laughter welling up inside him. The sight of the two men trying to outface each other, superficially identical save in manner, was bordering on farce. It proved too much for his already-weakened self-control, and he gave a half-suppressed snort of laughter. Both men turned their attention on him and the atmosphere in the room was suddenly much less tense, though Doyle was not sure he appreciated the appraising looks given him by two sets of blue eyes.
"I could do with a stiff drink," remarked Bodie, nodding in the direction of the whisky bottle. "I presume you have no objection to me helping myself to your whisky?" He didn't wait for a reply, collecting the empty whisky glass from where Doyle had placed it on the bedside table and poured himself a measure.
His counterpart lowered his gun. "You were telling the truth after all, tiger -- unless it's a brilliant plastic surgery job. Yeah, I know all about you," he added in answer to Bodie's look of enquiry, "your partner was most...co-operative..."
"If you know about me, you'll know what's happened to us," said Bodie, "and you'll know that all we want to do is get the hell out of this place and back to where we belong. What happened to you, anyway? You've been missing for forty-eight hours."
"He said that, too," the CI5 agent told Bodie, referring to Doyle. "You nicked my car."
Bodie looked bemused.
"Look," continued the double, "I'll explain my side of the story and we'll see what we can work out. Leave tiger here to have some rest."
Tiger? Doyle could almost see Bodie's brain assimilating the appellation and was torn between telling the owner of the flat to do something impossible with himself, and keeping away from any conversation that might remind that man of his earlier actions. He therefore remained silent and glowered at them both. Once they had gone, he could retrieve his clothes and feel considerably less vulnerable.
Bodie followed his double into the kitchen, still holding on to his glass and the whisky bottle. The man seemed disposed to believe them, which was half the battle, and now he could stop pretending to be someone he wasn't. Perhaps between them they could find some way of preventing Doyle being sent to join Harry Walter and his thugs. Not that there might not be a different sort of threat right here in the flat. But that would have to wait. He couldn't afford to make an enemy out of someone who might help them. And right now he was intrigued in spite of himself as to what had happened to the CI5 agent.
"You said I nicked your car," he began, once the man had brought out a glass and helped himself to his whisky.
"Yeah. I was tailing a gunman and he went to ground in Staveley Avenue. Number 51. Big three storeys and a basement affair."
"Number 51?" A look of surprise crossed Bodie's face.
"Yeah. You know the area?"
"There's an empty site next to it. They knocked down number 52 a couple of years back. Pity. Must've been nice houses once. Anyhow, I went in after him," he took a swig of whisky, "exchanged a couple of shots, and then -- nothing."
Bodie looked at him expectantly.
"Ab-so-lutely bloody nothing. Thought at first I must've hit him, so I took a chance and went up the stairs after him, and he wasn't around. I went over that place with a fine tooth comb and not a whiff of the bugger. He'd vanished. Went back out to radio in and the damned car'd gone. Your partner says that's much the same as happened to you, only you came out and went off in my Capri. And he says you've been here a couple of days now. Well, I went into that place what I thought was this morning, only now I find it isn't. At least we can all be crazy together."
"How come you didn't go back to CI5?" Bodie asked, aware of how incredibly lucky they'd been.
"What? Go straight back and tell the Old Man his top agent had made a balls-up of a simple job like that, and managed to lose his transport into the bargain? No way. I thought I'd come back here first and plan my next move, only...there was tiger stretched out on my bed..." He fell silent and downed the remainder of his drink.
Bodie clenched his fists, then deliberately relaxed them. "You'd better keep your hands off Doyle," he said mildly, "if you don't want your teeth halfway down your throat. He's not like that."
"Not like what?"
Bodie recognised himself at his most infuriating. "Not queer. Gay. Whatever you want to call it." There. It was said.
A smile played about the double's lips. "No, I agree. He's not gay. But you don't need to be gay to experiment a little. Have you never chanced your arm?"
"Leave him alone."
"I think he should be the judge of that. You're not his...protector... Are you?"
"I'll protect him," said Bodie sharply, wilfully misunderstanding the other man, "from you. You'll have to go through me to get to him."
"Unless he says otherwise?"
"I could quote you my old outfit's motto." The CI5 agent looked at Bodie, assessing just how far he could push him.
"It was my motto, too. Just you remember that."
At that moment Doyle appeared fully clothed in the kitchen doorway. "Any chance of some food? I'm bloody starving."
"It'll have to be a take-way," stated the owner of the flat, "unless you fancy fish 'n' chips."
"Chinese," said Doyle.
"Chicken and chips," said Bodie simultaneously, and they all laughed.
They sat through the meal discussing every possibility they could think of for returning the two supernumerary agents to their own universe. Bodie suggested that their only chance was to try returning to number 51 instead of the empty site next door, and they agreed to do that first thing the next morning.
"Otherwise," added Bodie's counterpart, "you're in the shit. I know Walter's organisation. You wouldn't last five minutes, Doyle, even with a few lessons." He smiled wolfishly.
Ray looked down at his plate in anger and embarrassment. "Can't you just 'lose' me?" he asked finally. "Then me an' Bodie can disappear without bein' missed. You'd still be 'ere, so they wouldn't know about the switch."
"It's more than my job's worth, to lose you," stated the CI5 agent flatly. "Cowley'd have me kicked out for incompetence even if he didn't smell a rat, not after you'd been specifically released into my custody. And I'm not about to put my job in jeopardy, not even for you, tiger."
Bodie shook his head tiredly. "Maybe the whole question'll be academic after tomorrow morning. Let's leave it till then, shall we? I'm about ready for bed."
His counterpart looked at him in amusement. "And I suppose you've been sleeping in my bed, too?" He gave a slight shake of his head. "What a waste of an opportunity. But," he continued smoothly, as green and blue eyes turned to glare at him, "I don't see why I should give up my bed now I'm back. You can sleep on the sofa."
Doyle continued to glower at him. "If you've any ideas about sharin' the bed with me, forget it. I'll be sleepin' on the floor in the next room."
"Don't you trust me, tiger?" was the wounded reply. "Or don't you trust yourself?"
Doyle could feel himself blushing and cursed inwardly for letting the man's words really get to him. He got up abruptly and took his plate over to the sink, savagely turning on the hot water tap. Anything to remove himself from the man's immediate presence with its unspoken predacity, and Bodie's battened-down fury.
"Okay," came the placatory answer from behind him, "I'll leave you two my bed and be all noble and sleep on that uncomfortable sofa. I must be getting soft in the head." He stood up, pushing the chair away, and took his plate over to Ray, resting his free hand momentarily on Doyle's back. "Just behave yourselves, mind."
Bodie sat glowering at him.
With a crash the kitchen door flew open and two gunmen came diving through; a third stood in the open doorway, his automatic pointing unwaveringly at Doyle. The three CI5 agents made no move; there had been no warning, no sound, nothing. These men were good at their job. One pressed his gun against the back of Bodie's head, while the second helped cover the two men by the sink, beckoning to Doyle.
"You. Come wiv us an' no tricks, or boy wonder 'ere loses 'is 'ead."
"Who are you?" Bodie's double tried stalling them. It was a useless exercise but better than nothing. "What's he got to do with you?"
"We don' want no mess wiv CI5. We jus' come for our bit of lost property." The heavy obviously fancied himself as a wit, but even as he spoke the trigger finger tightened on the gun against Bodie, who sat very still indeed.
Doyle nodded and walked forward, careful not to give anyone cause for firing. He allowed the gunman to handcuff his hands behind him, then said quietly, "Okay, I won't cause trouble. Let 'em go."
He was hustled out of the room, the remaining heavies watching for the slightest movement as they backed down the hallway, the two CI5 agents still in full view.
"Try followin' an' you'll buy it," yelled one gunman as they raced through the opened front doorway.
Then Bodie was up out of his seat, gun drawn, heading for the front door. "Damn them. Bloody damn them." He was caught and held from behind as he reached the entrance and turned on his twin, holding the gun between them.
"Let go," he said with controlled violence.
"Don't be fuckin' stupid, you can't do anything. Stop playing the fuckin' hero. They were Walter's men. And if Walter has got Doyle, you can't help him."
"You going to stop me?"
"Think with your brains, not your balls." The CI5 agent saw understanding in Bodie's face. "D'you think you can toddle off to Walter's house and demand him back? You could have a bloody search warrant for all the good it'd do you. Face it. Doyle's gone for good -- you won't find him now, or when they've finished with him. He's a dead man."
Bodie stared back at the familiar face in hatred. "Tell me where I can find Walter; then I'll get out of here."
"It won't do any good. I can give you the name of a contact, and where to find him, but you can't get hold of him tonight, anyway."
"What about CI5?"
"What about CI5?"
"You've just had a potential informer snatched. Surely Cowley'll want him back?"
"Cowley can't touch Walter and Harry Walter knows it. The Cow'll half kill me, but he'll cut his losses. No, you'll get no help from that quarter."
Bodie bowed his head. "It seems I've got no choice," he said quietly. "Okay, I'll listen." And he tried not to think about the likelihood that he'd never see Doyle again.
His twin placed a hand on his shoulder. "You should've told him," he said gently. "You know your chances in this job."
They kept questioning Doyle, asking him who he really was, why he was trying to pass himself off as Ray Doyle; was he an undercover agent for CI5? To all of which he answered as much of the truth as he could, and in the end all of it, only they wouldn't believe him. And in between there were terrible blanks, when he wasn't sure of who he was or what he was doing there, and in the end he could not remember anything at all.
Wearily Bodie sat down on the park bench. He had another five minutes yet before his twin -- he still found it impossible to call the man Bodie -- was due to meet him. Time enough to collect his thoughts and review the ever-decreasing possible options.
He was tired. Bone-weary tired, and nothing to show for it. Merely a feeling of helplessness that sapped his energy, and an ache in his heart for what might have been and never would be now. For there was no trace of Doyle. He had wasted no time in following up every lead, every possibility and had by turns come the heavy, or played it cool with snitches and narks and those who had an inquiring interest in the world around them. It had made no difference, and for once in his life he felt defeated.
He saw the silver Capri draw up, so he got up and wandered over casually, got into the passenger seat and leaned back against the headrest, closing his eyes, as the car moved out into the traffic.
Neither man spoke for a while, the driver concentrating on the shifting patterns of traffic, and Bodie allowing himself the luxury of relaxing for a few moments.
Eventually he answered the unspoken query, shaking his head slightly. "Not a bloody murmur. Nearly a month now, and nobody's heard or seen a damn thing." He sat up straighter and looked at his companion. "I can't believe that. What's with Walter that everyone's blind and deaf?"
Bodie's counterpart shrugged slightly, keeping his eyes on the road. "I've called in almost every favour that's owed me. If you haven't heard anything, then there's nothing to hear. Walter is Mr Big, y'know. Even Cowley treads warily where he's concerned, 'specially since we haven't been able to nail him with anything. Perfect law-abiding citizen is Harry Walter.
"Look," he went on, "why don't you face facts. Walter doesn't mess about. And have you realised it's not just your Doyle that's disappeared? We haven't heard a whisper about his Doyle either."
Bodie's mouth set in a mutinous line. "I'm not giving up," he stated firmly, daring the other to disagree. "Someone's got to know something." He punched a fist against the palm of his hand. "Two men can't just bloody well disappear from the same set-up and vanish into thin air. Walter can't be that powerful -- there's got to be cracks in the system."
"With Walter? You gotta be kidding. We'd've nailed him years ago otherwise. He's fly. You think the disposal of a couple of bodies is beyond him given the resources he has?" The CI5 agent turned the car off the main road and came to a halt in a gravelled car park. From where they sat, the green expanse of one of London's commons stretched away downhill to meet the southbound traffic on its way to the Surrey countryside. "Change of subject: how're you doing?"
"I'm okay," said Bodie flatly. "An' thanks for the cash. The room's okay."
"Look," his double returned to the main topic of concern, "there are another couple of things that might be worth checking out. But," he added as Bodie looked round at him, "I'll do it myself, you hear? I want you to lie low for a while; some people are beginning to ask awkward questions. I don't want anyone adding two and two and coming up with the right answer."
"No-one'd believe them," Bodie asserted, catching the drift of the man's remarks. "I wouldn't believe it myself, after all."
"Maybe not," the CI5 agent was not appeased, "but if word gets back to Cowley, he'll start asking even more questions. Questions I don't need. And he won't rest till he's ferreted out an answer that satisfies him. So cool it, and let me take over."
Bodie looked at him tiredly, the corners of his mouth pulled down, his brows set in a frown that creased his forehead. "I don't like feeling helpless," he said moodily.
"I don't give a toss about your feelings when it comes to my neck. I keep asking myself why the hell I'm doing this for you and your partner. I must be plain daft."
"You've just said why. If you don't, I'll just go stirring things up till the shit hits you." Bodie was uncompromising in his reasoning.
"There's that." The double's lips quirked in a smile and he relaxed, pleased not to be accredited with any altruistic motivation in his actions. They could be honest with each other. "But I'm also doing it for him in a way. If you'd stuck around, I'd've had him. Yeah," he went on with consummate certitude, "I'm not making a secret of it. And if by some miracle we got him back, I'd still do my damnedest to get him into bed."
The anger and outrage flared in Bodie's eyes, but he refused to rise to the bait. He really had no option: if he didn't agree to cooperate, then he might lose the chance of the other man's help, and without that, for all his confident words, he was totally lost.
"Okay," he agreed grudgingly. "I'll stay quiet -- for the moment."
The CI5 agent relaxed against the bar, enjoying his pint. He was glad to be off-duty; the day had been tiresome. Cowley had been hassling him more than usual, even allowing that at the moment he wasn't exactly his boss's blue-eyed boy. Bodie wondered if Cowley had heard some talk on the grapevine to make him suspicious. Well, if Doyle's partner kept himself out of sight as he had been told to do...
He downed some more beer. The pub itself didn't have much to recommend it, was little more than one step removed from the spit-and-sawdust type to be found in the backstreets of any large town, and the company as rough. Not that it mattered to him; he could take care of himself. You could pick up interesting companions in such places: the good times he'd had out of it more than made up for the occasional misjudgement. And right now he had a very definite reason for being there.
His train of thought was broken by someone pushing past him to catch the publican's eye, demanding a lager. Bodie turned, ready to snarl at the stranger who had so disturbed him -- and stared. His contact had been right. The face was etched in his memory and there were no doubts: Doyle. He gazed at the curly-headed man, desire flaring through him, catching him unprepared and leaving him breathless and aching.
As if aware of the agent's scrutiny, Doyle turned his head and caught Bodie's look. He stared back, a mixture of defiance, wariness and calculation in his eyes, as if taking Bodie's measure, weighing him up. And totally without recognition.
"Doyle." Bodie reached out and put a hand on Doyle's shoulder, staying him. There was no reaction to the name. Ray glanced down at Bodie's hand, then looked back at him, before paying for his awaiting drink and applying himself to the task of downing it.
Bodie was not to be put off. "Doyle?" he said again, tentatively, not relaxing his grip on the man's shoulder.
Doyle set his drink down carefully on the bar top, and turned again to face him. "You talkin' to me, mate?" he asked, with a faint air of puzzlement. "You got the wrong bloke. Name's Forester."
"Okay. Forester." Bodie decided to be cool about this. "But you see, I recognise your face. You're the spitting image of a...friend of mine, who's missing. And when I saw you..." He let his sentence tail off.
Doyle looked at him speculatively. "That so? Maybe I can help -- let's go an' find somewhere a little quieter." He let his gaze travel over Bodie's features -- no more than a flicker of eyes, but Bodie began to understand, and find grim pleasure in the thought.
"Fine," he said quickly, finishing his drink. "Wanna come back to my place? -- car's outside. Or d'you want another pint first?"
"Nah." Doyle straightened up from leaning on the bar top. "Let's go." And he made his way out of the pub, not looking to see if Bodie was following.
Outside, the CI5 agent caught up with him and walked over, indicating his car. Reaching it, Doyle stopped him as he moved to unlock the driver's door.
"What did you 'ave in mind? I don't come cheap," he warned. "Quick blow job, or somethin' else? If it's the somethin' else," he looked pointedly at Bodie's leather jacket, "I'm not into SM. If that's the way you get it off, then sorry, but no way."
Bodie seemed to consider all this. "I've a fantasy," he said finally, softly. "You're a very close friend; I really fancy you. An' you're willing." His voice dropped to the merest murmur. "I wanna fuck you."
"Yeah, okay," Doyle was off-hand, "if that's what turns you on. An' as long as you got somethin' to make it easier. I'm not a pain freak."
"Oh, I've got something," Bodie assured him. "I want to make it good -- for you too." He closed his eyes and braced himself with one hand against the car roof as the ache coursed through him again, his groin throbbing.
Doyle looked amused. "You got it bad, 'aven't you? As long as it's good for you, that's what counts. You pay me enough, I'll make sure you get a good time. So what are we 'angin' around 'ere for?"
"I want you to stay the whole night," Bodie continued.
"What?" Doyle wasn't sure he'd heard correctly. "Listen, mate, I've got a livin' to earn. I can't spend the night in your bed just so's you can wake up to another face in the mornin'. Or d'you fancy yourself as Superstud?"
"I'll pay you," said Bodie mildly. "You won't go short, either way." And he smirked.
"I wanna talk to you, tiger." Bodie watched with interest the patterns created by the droplets on the shower curtain. He had to raise his voice to be heard above the noise of running water.
"You say somethin'?" The shower ceased and Doyle pushed the curtain aside to emerge still dripping. "Think I'm clean enough now?" he added cheekily, referring to Bodie's insistence on a shower before anything else. And looked round for a towel.
"Let me do that, tiger." Bodie took a towel and began to dry Doyle's body, his movements unhurried and sensually thorough.
"If it turns you on," Doyle trailed his fingers down Bodie's cheek, "to turn me on, I don't mind. You're payin'."
Bodie stopped at the fresh scar still livid on the man's arm. "How did you get this?"
Doyle looked puzzled. "Accident, I s'pose."
"What d'you mean -- you suppose? Don't you know?"
A frown creased Doyle's forehead. "I'm not sure... I don't really remember." Something was niggling at the back of his brain, but he just couldn't pin it down.
Bodie rested the towel on Doyle's shoulders. "How come I hadn't seen you around before tonight?"
"Dunno." Doyle shrugged. "Been there a couple of times."
"What did you do before you became -- before you did this for a living?"
"Why all the questions?" Doyle was becoming irritated, especially as he found them impossible to answer to his own satisfaction. "I thought you wanted a bit of action?"
"My fantasy, remember. I'm the one that's paying, so I get to make the rules."
"Okay. We'll play it your way. What d'you want me to say?"
"I'm being serious. I'm asking you to tell me what you remember."
The frown deepened. "I honestly don't know. Why d'you ask?"
Bodie sighed. "Never mind, tiger. Just you think about it. I'll pursue that side of things in the morning." Doyle's body was having too great an effect on his senses for him to continue the conversation. Regretfully he let go and pushed Doyle in the direction of the bedroom.
Bodie came back into the bedroom flinging his discarded towel into a chair, and found his partner for the night sprawled untidily across the double bed, wearing nothing but a cheeky grin.
Doyle looked up at him. "Payment, sunshine," he stated succinctly.
Bodie obediently found his wallet and laid several notes on the bedside table. "That now, and the balance in the morning. Maybe a bit extra -- if you're good."
"Oh, I'll be good," Doyle reached out to touch Bodie's swollen shaft, "I can promise you that."
"Uh-uh," said Bodie, deliberately moving away from Doyle's fingers, "hands off. This is one trick I'm going to win."
He pushed Doyle back down onto the bed, relaxing the weight of his body on top of Doyle's, as a hand snaked out to trace rough caresses down his back.
"Easy," he warned. He traced the outline of Doyle's mouth with his tongue, licking at the full lips as they parted under his touch and he gained entry to the welcoming mouth.
How different you are, tiger, he thought, from the last time. Then, Doyle had been unpractised and unwilling. Now he accepted Bodie's kisses with an expertise, whether genuine pleasure or feigned, that had been lacking before.
What did they do to you in the weeks you were missing? Perhaps it would be better for all their sakes if they never found out. He turned his full attention back to the lithe body beneath him.
"Christ." It was little more than a whisper. "Never met a bloke who could turn me on like this." The green eyes were hazed with growing lust. "An' you're payin' me...?"
"Listen, tiger," Bodie told him, "I want to turn you on. 'S no fun otherwise."
"Jus' carry on the way you're goin', mate." Doyle shifted under the weight on top of him. He let Bodie touch him everywhere with hands and mouth, exciting him till Doyle was gasping with pleasure and frustration. He watched avidly as Bodie smeared the lubricating jelly over both of them.
Bodie knelt between Doyle's parted thighs and grinned at him. "Okay, tiger, here we go." Grasping Doyle's ankles he raised the man's legs, resting them against his shoulders as he entered Doyle, thrusting slowly but inexorably till he was fully sheathed in the pliant body. Keeping control, he leaned forward, resting his hands on Doyle's shoulders to kiss him deeply, then drew back, enjoying Doyle's ecstatic expression. Almost immediately he leaned forward again, bending Ray's body over till he was almost doubled up beneath him. Balancing himself on toes and fingers, Bodie pushed downward.
Doyle gave a gasp and closed his eyes as the sensations shot through him. He reached out blindly and gripped Bodie's arms as the bigger man raised himself and thrust downwards again.
"Give it to me," Doyle snarled, opening his eyes to look entreatingly at Bodie.
"Not yet, tiger." Bodie laughed softly. "Not yet. Not till I'm ready..."
Just as Doyle thought he might die of pleasure Bodie moved back slightly to kneel again on the bed. Doyle let his cramped limbs slide down over the man's upper arms and hooked his feet around Bodie's back to steady himself. Pushing away Bodie's hand as it reached for him, he took hold of his own erection, his strokes matching the thrusting of Bodie's body. Both were lost now in the desperate need for completion and even as Bodie felt his orgasm trigger, bringing its own annihilation of conscious thought and action, he felt the body under him convulsing, and a warm stickiness pulsing between their bodies.
An eternity later he found himself slumped on top of Doyle, his head resting against Doyle's cheek. His last memory as he drifted off to sleep was of Doyle settling him more comfortably against his warm body.
He awoke the next morning with a sense of satisfaction. He'd got a real turn-on from fucking Doyle clear through to his soul. Not that Doyle hadn't earned his money. In the early hours of the morning he'd woken to Doyle's touch, and that man had used the skills he'd acquired to bring Bodie to a second pleasurable climax, leaving him contentedly replete before sinking into deep sleep with Doyle's body once more pressed against his. But now -- Bodie was suddenly aware he was alone in the bed.
He opened one eye hurriedly and scanned the room, stopping at the fully-clothed figure hunched in the chair. At least Doyle hadn't taken off back to wherever he came from, along with Bodie's wallet.
It had been a calculated risk on Bodie's part, and it had paid off. Walter's brainwashing -- or whatever had been done to Doyle -- couldn't have been all that thorough. Doyle didn't behave like the hustler they had tried to make him into.
Bodie opened both eyes and favoured Doyle with an unshaven grin. "See you're still around, tiger. Want the rest of your payment? You earned it." He glanced round and was surprised to find the notes lying where he had placed them. Doyle made no move to collect them, so Bodie threw off the covers, stretched vigorously, and walked across to the window, throwing wide the curtains. He turned round to find Doyle looking at him with uncertainty.
Doyle gave a deep sigh and said, "You're...Bodie...aren't you?"
Bodie wondered whether Doyle had really remembered, or whether he'd simply sneaked a look through his jacket pockets and found his I.D.
"What makes you say that?"
"I'm...not...sure." Doyle's expression became one of agonised worry. "It's like bits an' pieces floatin' round in my head. Memories I can't pin down -- not sure if they're real in the first place. It started last night when you brought me 'ere...the questions you asked me..."
"Go on, tiger." The tone was surprisingly gentle.
"This mornin' I woke up and it was like I'd been 'ere before. Been in this place; in your bed. Only you were...somebody else...and so was I... And that scar on my arm you asked me about -- I'm nearly certain it was from a bullet -- but how or when I got it... Doesn't make sense, any of it. I think I must be goin' crazy. I'm sorry. I'll jus' take my money an' go." He got up in a lithe movement and crossed to the bedside table. "Keep the rest. I reckon I owe you for a fantastic time..."
Bodie was over beside him in a couple of strides, holding him back. "Wait, tiger. Don't go just yet. You're wrong -- it makes a helluva lot of sense to me. You see, you're right -- my name is Bodie. And you're Doyle, as I told you last night, not Forester -- you've been missing for over a month."
He could see that Doyle was having difficulty in taking all this in. He'd have to ease up. No sense in tipping Doyle over the edge by telling him too much at once. Doubtless he'd remember more as his memory gradually returned. And time enough to tell him about that other man -- his partner. The one who was desperately crazy about him. Bodie smiled inwardly. He wasn't on duty for another thirty-six hours; he and Doyle would have a little fun together first. Doyle was obviously willing.
The fact that Doyle in his right senses might strongly object worried him not one whit. Life was too short, too uncertain for Bodie to have too many qualms. Besides, he reckoned it would be justifiable payment for all the efforts he'd made in helping the man's partner. And Doyle was safer here than on the streets.
Doyle was still watching him closely, trying to keep some sense in his suddenly topsy turvy world. Bodie draped an arm about his shoulder.
"C'mon, tiger, you're not going anywhere for the moment. Breakfast first, and then we'll see what else you can recall."
He hadn't been in the place since they'd taken Ray, Bodie realised as he stepped into the hallway of the flat. Whatever information its occupant had, it must be important if he had insisted on Bodie coming there. It was possible the whole sickening wait was over -- Doyle's body had been found and that was that. But Bodie was an optimist by nature, and refused to believe the worst without some sort of evidence.
His twin was watching him.
"You heard something?" Bodie demanded, wanting to get down to business right away.
"Yeah. I found him."
Bodie wasn't sure of what exactly he was being told. Was this good news or bad? He kept quiet and waited for some further explanation.
"Or rather, he found me."
Did this mean that Doyle was okay? Bodie was inwardly on a short fuse, keeping tight control of the desire to take his fist to that oh-so-familiar face.
"He's okay," said the other man, sensing some of Bodie's anger, "sort of. Physically...okay. Mentally -- a bit...confused. It's him all right though. No doubts about that." There was a slight quirk of the lips. "I just thought I'd warn you before you see him."
"Where," Bodie exploded, "is he?"
"In there," indicating the living-room. "Don't --" the twin grabbed Bodie's arm, holding him back as he tried to push past "-- expect a fond reunion. I had to persuade him to stay and meet you -- told him you were a possible...client...I wanted him to meet. That I had recommended him..."
Bodie's eyebrows drew together in a frown of bewilderment and distrust of this smooth-talking man. "I want to see him," he stated, overtly belligerent.
"Be my guest." The CI5 agent gestured with exaggerated politeness towards the closed living-room door, and allowed Bodie to go past into the room.
He closed the door carefully behind him and looked at the man who rose from his seat to face him. It was Doyle all right: thinner, looking tired, but alive. Bodie closed his eyes for a second in deep thankfulness. He found he desperately wanted to put his arms around the slighter man and hold him close, press his lips against Doyle's mouth and let them both drown in his love. But fantasies were just that, and this was not the moment to tell Doyle that he loved him, and wanted him because of it. So he simply walked a little closer and said gently:
"Hallo, mate. It's good to have you back." And punched him lightly on the shoulder.
Doyle watched him, eyes hard and wary. "You 'is twin or somethin'?"
Shaking his head, Bodie asked, "Don't you know me, Ray? I'm your partner. We worked together."
"We worked together?" Bodie could see Doyle trying -- unsuccessfully -- to work that one out. "Go on. You -- a hustler? Nah, no way."
Bodie didn't want to believe he had heard aright, and at the same time wanted to laugh at the idea, though god knows it was no laughing matter for him or Doyle.
"No," he said quietly, shutting out the implications of what he'd been told, "I mean that we were the good guys. You an' me -- we were partners working in a crime-bustin' outfit. Like him." He cocked his head in the direction of the kitchen where he could hear the other man moving about. "Not here. Something happened -- never mind what -- and we were trying to get back to -- where we worked. Only you were snatched by a mob that thought you were somebody else, and I've been looking for you for weeks."
The green eyes were wide and anxious. It took all Bodie's self-control not to grab his partner and hold him safe. He silently cursed life for its unfairness in dealing with the man in front of him; but cursing wouldn't help their situation, so forget it.
"Believe me, sunshine," he contented himself with resting a hand on Doyle's shoulder, "you're my partner Ray Doyle, not some bloody faggot out on the streets. They must've done that to you somehow -- put the suggestion in your mind and then let you go."
Doyle turned away from Bodie's grasp on his shoulder and went over to sit on the arm of the sofa. "'S funny," he said, running a hand through his curls abstractedly. "When 'e brought me 'ere it was like I'd been 'ere before. In another life almost, I told 'im. Wasn't the first time I'd been in 'is bed" -- Bodie tensed at that but Doyle was too lost in his own thoughts to notice the other man's reaction -- "but it wasn't the same as 'im an' me.
"I don't know if what you're tellin' me's the truth. But I feel like I know you. Oh, I don't mean jus' the fact you look like 'im" -- meaning the double -- "it's a gut feelin'. I trust you," he said wonderingly, "an' that frightens me 'cause I can't remember ever trustin' anyone but myself."
Bodie took a deep breath. He had to take this very very carefully. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, sunshine. D'you trust me enough to stick around? We've got to get back to -- where we came from and I can't -- won't -- do that without you. Maybe you'll get your real memory back when we're home-- " -- at least I hope so, Ray. Christ, I hope so.
Doyle still looked unsure and Bodie was suddenly afraid. Afraid that what he'd said wasn't enough to convince his partner he was telling the truth; that Doyle would simply walk out and go back to whatever hell he'd been living. Not that Bodie would let him. He had no doubts in his mind that he'd restrain Doyle by force if he had to stop him leaving. But it would make the situation impossible: Doyle would lose the trust he said he had for Bodie, would become uncooperative, using every opportunity to escape from his apparent captor. Bodie would do it though, if it came to it.
He said nothing, however, sensing that Doyle needed the silence to think things through and make up his mind.
Doyle finally looked up at him. "If I stay -- what d'you want from me?"
Bodie was thrown by this. His eyebrows quirked in puzzlement and he cocked his head enquiringly at Doyle.
"Nobody helps me for nothin'," Doyle told him tiredly. "You say we were partners. If I stay, will you sleep with me?"
"Is that an enquiry or a request?" The words were out before Bodie could stop them.
Doyle's reply was a flat monotone. "I jus' want to know what's expected of me."
"Listen to me, sunshine," he had to deal with fast, Bodie realised, if he were to secure Doyle's unquestioning trust -- he'd sort out his own feelings later, "that's not what you're here for. I told you, you're my missing partner and I want to get us back, nothing else. Okay?"
"And what about 'im?" Doyle motioned with his head towards the doorway.
"What's he got to do with it?"
"Does that 'old good for 'im too?"
Bodie took a breath. "That's -- up to you." It tore him up inside, the idea of the CI5 agent making it with his love, but he daren't make Doyle's decision for him. Any seeming interference might raise doubts in Doyle's mind about his probity.
"Okay, I'll stay," Doyle was decisive, "but I'm warnin' both of you -- keep your 'ands off me. The moment either of you makes a move, I'm off out of it."
Bodie smiled as he felt some of the deep dread he'd been carrying around for ages now, lift.
"Welcome back, Ray," he said softly. "I wish it were 'welcome home'."
No smile answered his, but the hard look in the green eyes softened. Then Doyle got up and went over to open the door.
"Stay 'ere," he told Bodie.
"Where're you going?" Bodie still wasn't absolutely certain Doyle wouldn't just up and leave despite the fact that his implanted 'memory' appeared to be coming apart at the seams.
"Kitchen. An' keep out of it." He closed the door behind him.
A warning not to interfere? Bodie was over by the door in a couple of strides, opening it quietly. He was very much involved, and had every intention of giving Doyle assistance if the situation warranted it.
Doyle came in quietly and cornered the CI5 agent between the fridge and the sink unit.
"You knew," he accused him bitterly, "who I was two days ago; before you even brought me 'ere. You've really mucked me about, 'aven't you? All a bit of fun for you."
Bodie eyes narrowed. "Don't complain -- you enjoyed it. You even got paid for it first time round. You," he continued as Doyle tried to answer him, "listen to me. I knew who you were; I told you who you were. You didn't believe me. 'Oh no,' you said, 'I'm not Doyle, I'm Forester.' Did I leave it at that? Did I hell! I brought you here, kept you here, contacted your partner to come over... I didn't have to, did I? You'd've been none the wiser, and without me he'd never have found you. I reckon I earned my bit of fun -- and you were more than willing, so just cool it. If you --"
The phone rang, breaking in on the tirade, and Bodie pushed past Doyle, who made no attempt to stop him answering it. When the caller had rung off, he came back, collected his jacket and said:
"I gotta go in and see Cowley. Stay here till I get back and don't do anything stupid." He let himself out, totally ignoring the open sitting-room door.
Bodie heard the front door slam, and walked into the kitchen to find Doyle leaning against the fridge, a scowl stitched across his face. Knowing his partner of old, Bodie said nothing. He crossed instead to the fridge, automatically hauling out what he could find in the way of edibles. As usual, he was starving.
Putting the remains of a pork pie, an opened packet of bread and a hunk of cheese on the table, he plugged the kettle in and sat down, motioning to Doyle, who hadn't moved, to sit too, telling him he wanted to discuss the options for getting back, even if the prospect of that seemed to be as uncertain as ever.
"Okay," said Doyle, as he plonked himself down on a chair, "I still don't know what it's all about, so tell me."
Bodie did, in between mouthfuls of food.
Doyle finally asked, "Well, what d'you suggest?"
Bodie swallowed his last piece of pork pie before answering. "I still think Staveley Avenue -- that's where we got into this mess -- is our best bet. And if that doesn't work, then we get out of London and quietly disappear. The longer we stay here, the more chance there is of their Cowley finding out what's been going on."
Something had been puzzling Doyle. "You tell me I'm a CI5 agent too, even if we're from another....universe. Why did Walter let me go?"
Bodie thought this over. "Dunno. One of life's great mysteries, as they say. Maybe he thought you were round the twist, if you told him the truth. He must've realised you weren't his Doyle -- and you weren't a plastic surgery job either. P'raps he's got a warped sense of humour -- messed your brains up first, then sent you back into the big bad world knowing how you'd react. If I ever get my hands on him..." His fist clenched and he deliberately relaxed it. Looking across at Doyle he saw that his partner had not touched the food.
"C'mon, sunshine, eat up," he advised, "we're off to Staveley Avenue."
"'E did say --" began Doyle.
"I'm not hanging around here waiting for him to come back. There's nothing he can do for us. So what are we waiting for?" Bodie helped himself to a slice of bread and watched with approval as Doyle did the same.
Bodie had just left CI5 headquarters when the call came over the R/T. He wondered fleetingly what Cowley was going to come up with this time: since Doyle's abduction he'd been under the black cloud of Cowley's displeasure, a disapproval reinforced by his apparent lapse of memory, for which no amount of medical testing had provided an answer. He did briefly consider ignoring the call but that was playing with fire. Cowley encouraged independence, but would not tolerate what he would see as disloyalty. Then you were out of action -- permanently. And Bodie valued his skin enough not to cross his controller too often.
Cowley acknowledged his response, then asked, "Are you aware, 3.7, that you have a double?"
Bodie remained silent for a second, his thoughts whirling furiously, wondering when Cowley had found out. "Is this some sort of a joke, sir?"
"Don't be funny, 3.7. I don't like to find my agents being impersonated, particularly when I hear this one has Doyle with him."
"What's all this about, sir?"
"Harris spotted them leaving Highbury tube station. He recognised Doyle from his description, and of course he recognised you, until he remembered you were at headquarters. So he reported in."
"I see, sir." Bodie had already altered his course, heading northwards. From their location he knew where those two hellraisers were headed and he somehow had to reach them before the rest of CI5 did.
"Want me to bring 'em in, sir?" He managed to sound just the right note of concerned outrage at the idea of someone passing himself off as William Bodie, CI5 agent 3.7. "Hell, sir, I've a personal interest in it."
Cowley acknowledged this. "Harris will need a back-up. He'll make no move till you contact him. But I'll have no unnecessary violence, 3.7. I want them alive for questioning."
"Understood, sir. Where's Harris now?"
The Capri swung smoothly into the long street as Bodie and Doyle turned the corner into it from a side road. The CI5 agent had already directed the unfortunate Harris to stay out of sight a couple of streets away, telling him he had a score to settle with his double and Doyle, and if Harris knew what was good for him he would have no objections.
As he spotted the Capri Bodie grabbed Doyle's arm, halting him. They couldn't run for it -- there was nowhere to run to. Helpless with anger and frustration he stared bitterly at the corrugated iron sheeting that enclosed the site. Through the entrance gap he could see the demolition men at work. Even as he watched, another wall cracked and fell in on the shell that had been number 51. It had not occurred to him that the place might be pulled down so soon, and with it went his last hope of returning to normality. So he waited as the car drew to a halt beside them and his double came leaping out.
"You bloody fools," the man snarled, "you've really fucked it up now. You're been spotted -- and I'm supposed to take you in."
"Try," said Bodie, ready for anything.
The CI5 agent ignored this provocation. "You've had it here." He cast a glance over at the site as if trying to make up his mind on some matter. Then: "Here." He took a key off his key-ring and handed it to Bodie. "It's the key to a lock-up. You'll find one of our cars in it, unlocked. The ignition key's taped under the bonnet. Take the car and get out of London. Lose yourselves. It's the best I can do. As it is I've probably blown my credibility with Cowley." He gave them the garage's location.
"Thanks, mate," Bodie's words were heartfelt, "for everything. Come on, sunshine." He glanced at Doyle who was waiting patiently taking no part in the exchange, then turned back to his look-alike. He found he felt genuine regret at leaving that man to face Cowley's wrath. "What'll happen to you when Cowley finds out you've lost us and the car's gone."
"Luck of the game." His double did not seem too perturbed by the thought. "Cowley can't prove anything. He doesn't know I've a key to that place. And I'll keep him sweet."
Bodie pulled a face. "I wish I knew how you do it. Our Old Man'd crucify me."
The double grinned. "Easy," he said. "Tell you a secret: sleep with him."
Bodie's jaw dropped and a look almost of horror passed across his face. "You...sleep -- with Cowley?" he managed, obviously aghast at the idea.
"Why not?" The CI5 agent was amused by his reaction. "I admit I don't usually go for older men, but it's had its uses -- and I reckon I owe the old bugger a favour or two. He's fond of me in his own way -- even if he'd sacrifice me without a thought."
Bodie shuddered inwardly at the thought of what he might have been called upon to do had he continued with the masquerade.
"You two goin' to stand 'ere all day jawin'?" Doyle cut in, growing tired of the conversation. "Or can we get goin'?"
"Yeah." The double looked at Doyle. "'Bye, tiger." He clapped Bodie on the shoulder. "You take care of him." He left without another glance in their direction. He'd give them as long as he dared before calling down CI5's thunderbolts upon his head.
The car was still following them. It was just their bloody bad luck to have been spotted, whether by CI5 or some other interested party Bodie didn't know, nor was he particularly concerned with their identity. He was more interested in losing the tail that was sticking to them as if put there with Araldite. He'd shaken them off driving through the city and out through suburbia into the countryside, and then they were back, just when he'd thought he and Doyle were free.
He glanced again in the mirror: they were definitely gaining on him. Well, whoever it was had a better car than the one they'd nicked from CI5. He wasn't helped either by the narrowness of the road, not that a motorway would have been much use. As he rounded the bend he cursed in exasperation. A farm tractor complete with trailer was taking up most of the roadway. He hooted a warning at it but that seemed to make matters worse. The driver's attempts to make room for the car to pass caused the trailer to swing wildly, and Bodie had to drop back.
Doyle sat up straighter in the passenger seat and turned to look out of the rear window. "They're fuckin' shootin' at us!" he yelled, disbelief in his voice. As he spoke, Bodie heard the dull crack of splintering glass, and the back window frosted.
Keeping one hand on the horn, Bodie approached the farm vehicle again, then made an attempt to pass: not an easy job with the trailer on one side and a drainage ditch on the other but he made it. As they pulled away the car yawed violently. Fighting the steering he knew the gunmen had hit one of the tyres.
"We'll have to ditch this and make a run for it," he ground out. "Those trees'll be good cover." And he nodded towards a small copse ahead of them. He checked in the wing mirrors: their pursuers were having the same problems with the tractor -- he suspected the driver hadn't been aware of the shots -- and that gave him and Doyle a few minutes' grace. Pulling up by the woodland he was out of the car and over the fence as fast as Doyle, who was slightly hampered by the rifle he'd taken from the boot of the car when they were in the lock-up, and they raced deeper into the cover of the trees.
As Bodie ran he could hear the shouts of the men and the whine of the bullets. The undergrowth wasn't dense enough to hide them completely from view but up ahead was a thicker tangle of bushes and trees. With Doyle not far behind him Bodie made for it, diving through the foliage -- and then there was nothing under his feet and he was falling; rolling and sliding down the steep bank to land feet first amidst broken branches and rotting debris in the green-scummed water. After the initial disorientation he realised it must be part of an old pond or broad ditch of an enclosure. At the same time he drew his gun, thankful that it hadn't got wet, and looked up in time to see the same fate befall his partner.
Doyle, unaware of the cause of Bodie's sudden disappearance, had come haring through the bushes, caught his foot in a trailing tree root and tumbled down the slope, joining his partner. The rifle went flying and both man and weapon landed with a loud splash in the water, spraying Bodie with detritus. The rifle sank.
Hauling Doyle more or less upright Bodie hissed at him to keep silent, at which Doyle favoured him with a glare as if to indicate it wasn't his fault they'd both landed up as sitting ducks.
There was a long silence while both men strained ears and eyes, waiting for the slightest sound or movement that would reveal their pursuers. But nothing stirred, and the birds resumed singing after their earlier disturbance.
"Bodie," whispered Doyle out of the corner of his mouth, "what the hell are we doin' 'ere?"
Without relaxing his concentration Bodie replied, "You dropped the rifle. I'm not offering us up as target practice with only the Magnum left."
"What rifle?" came the whisper again.
"What the hell --" this time Bodie risked a glance at his partner "-- are you on about? The rifle that's under our feet, mate, somewhere in the mud."
Doyle was becoming narked. "Don't come the heavy with me, Bodie. I don't know what bloody rifle you mean. I don't know what we're doin' 'ere, apart from gettin' bloody pneumonia, that is."
Bodie began to wonder. The sudden cessation of shots; Doyle's reactions... It was just possible that --
"Listen, Doyle," he said urgently, though they might have all the time in the world -- or none, "what's the last thing you remember happening to you?"
"You mean," Doyle asked him, "before I found myself crouched in a pond full of dirty water?"
Doyle thought about it while Bodie maintained surveillance -- just in case. "Three men in the flat, one pointing a gun at your head and telling me to go with them. Did that happen or have I gone off my head?"
"Nope. That happened all right. And nothing after that?"
Doyle shook his head.
"I think, sunshine," Bodie told him, "that we may be back where we belong. Home, sweet home."
"You really think so?"
"Yeah." Cautiously Bodie waded further along the bank till he found enough purchase to pull himself back up the slope. He waited until Doyle had followed suit, then slid forward under a convenient bush. Doyle joined him.
"We had three blokes on our tail," Bodie murmured, "all armed."
Ray's eyes widened slightly at this disclosure and he nodded in understanding. Bodie listened again to the woodland sounds, and they waited.
By mid afternoon both men felt sure that no-one was still out there waiting for them to make a move. CI5 men, if CI5 men they were, were good -- the best -- but as the pair of them had silently acknowledged time after time, there was nobody outwith the squad, and none in it on the operational side, save Cowley, who could out-think or outmanoeuvre the Bodie-and-Doyle partnership. So they made their way warily to the edge of the trees and looked about them.
"Our car's gone," remarked Bodie, meaning that that was one more piece of evidence to support his theory.
"They could've driven it away," cautioned Doyle.
"Doubt it. They'd shot out one of the tyres. Wouldn't've bothered to do anything with it. We'd better find the nearest station. If we are back, everything should be as it was, and we'll have to go back to town to check that out."
The journey back didn't take as long as might have been expected. A passing farm truck had stopped and given them a lift into the nearest town right to the station, and they'd waited for the next train back to London. Bodie had kept a weather eye open for any undue interest shown in them by uniformed officials but nobody did, and they reached Doyle's street without anyone bothering them. Not, Bodie reflected, that he would have been surprised if someone had, given the fact that the two of them were somewhat damp and smelt of stagnant pond water.
As they turned down the road, Doyle gave a sharp intake of breath as he spotted the metallic gold sheen of his Capri parked exactly where he had left it that fateful morning -- whenever it had been.
"Looks like you're right," was all he said. Reaching the car they stopped, and he continued, "Either we can go up and get the spare car keys or I'll open this thing up, fiddle with the wires, and we'll go and see if your car's in Staveley Avenue."
Bodie shivered suddenly. "You know, I don't think I fancy going near that place for a while. I don't want to risk a repeat performance."
"Don't be daft," Doyle said reasonably. "We won't go near the 'ouse. If you leave the car there, try explainin' to Uncle George why you won't collect it yourself. Look, if you don't fancy it, I'll drive it back."
"No way," retorted Bodie promptly. "'S my car. I've still got the keys. Let's go and get it over with. C'mon, Doyle, open up this tin can of yours and we'll see about the flat afterwards."
They found Bodie's car where they'd abandoned it outside number 52.
Gazing up at the deserted building from the safety of the pavement, Doyle mused, "Strange that the house is still 'ere in our time."
"And its next-door neighbour," muttered Bodie rather grimly.
"Why d'you say that?" Doyle asked him, unable to find an explanation for Bodie's remark. Number 51 had existed, he could recall, in that other world.
Bodie shrugged and shook his head. "No reason. C'mon, let's get away from here." And he waited till Doyle was back in his own car and on his way, before driving off.
They returned with both cars to Bodie's flat. Bodie entered it with some well-hidden trepidation but it was his place all right. The thought of staying there, however, made him uneasy and he said as much to Doyle.
"Mind if I stay over at your place tonight, Ray?" he asked. "I'm going to get the Cow to assign me somewhere else. I'll tell him this place's got mice."
"Okay by me," Doyle assured him, understanding some of Bodie's reluctance to remain in the flat, "but bring some food." And waited while Bodie collected clean clothes and a few tins and packets.
"You got the spare key to my flat?" Doyle reminded him as they were about to leave. "Otherwise I'll have to do my Raffles act."
Bodie smiled sweetly and produced the key from his pocket, dangling it on its string in front of Doyle.
The two of them went back to Doyle's flat. Bodie made a great play of unlocking it quietly, then bursting in, gun drawn, ready to take on uninvited guests.
Doyle waited on the landing, an exasperated expression on his face: he considered the whole charade totally unnecessary. The flat was obviously his: his car outside it, and when he entered, his belongings in it; everything just as he had left it even down to the coffee mug on the draining board. But he went through the place checking it over, just to humour Bodie, and because he was trained to expect the unexpected.
A bath and shave, a change of clothes, and some hot food made Doyle feel a lot more civilised, and he suspected Bodie felt the same. Both men were somewhat subdued during their meal, each thinking about what had taken place. At last Doyle broke the silence with:
"We got back too, didn't we?" Since he was speaking his thoughts aloud, Bodie was at a loss for an answer and looked at Ray, bemused.
"You know. Like Captain Kirk."
"Oh...you and your Star Trek again. What d'you suppose really happened to us?"
Doyle shook his head. "Wish I knew. Gives me a funny feelin' jus' thinkin' about it. Maybe it was the house, but I don't think so. Look where we came back."
"You mean it's us, then?" Bodie was not at all happy with the idea. He had enough to contend with in life without waking up every morning wondering which universe he was in.
"Uh-uh. Nothing like that's ever happened to us before, has it? Probably never will again. Just a combination of circumstances."
"Dunno how you can be so bloody cool about it, Doyle," said Bodie sourly, and finished his meal in silence.
Over his coffee Doyle mentioned, "We ought to contact Base."
"Can't it wait," Bodie was in no hurry for a confrontation with the boss of CI5, "till tomorrow? What are we going to say to Cowley?"
"That depends," said Doyle thoughtfully. "From the look of things 'ere, I don't think much time can have passed, or he'd've had the boys in, crawlin' all over the place lookin' for clues and messin' my things up. And the cars wouldn't still've been around."
Bodie agreed. "But there's still the matter of what we tell the Cow if he asks why we've been out of contact."
"Oh yeah, that'd go down a treat, that would. 'You see, sir, we got stuck in another dimension and've only just got back.' I can just see him buying that, can't you? First stop, Ross and her bag of tricks; next, the funny farm."
"Well, you think of something."
Bodie couldn't, and sat silent for a while, brooding over his coffee. To be honest, he was not too concerned about what explanation they would finally give Cowley to account for their silence; he was more interested in finding out just how much Doyle really remembered of what had happened to him.
"Ray," he began, "you said the last thing you remember from that other place was the heavies taking you away. D'you remember anything before that?"
Doyle looked over at him. "Course I do. You had a double, didn't you? An' there was another Doyle somewhere, too, only he was a petty criminal..." He trailed off, recalling that that other Bodie had wanted him -- badly. If only...
"Yeah." Bodie had picked up on his last sentence. "He was bent, wasn't he? In every sense... Just as well, sunshine, you didn't have to pretend to be him for very long. Could've been...awkward."
"Leave it," Doyle warned, in no mood for his partner's idea of a joke.
Bodie finished his coffee. He couldn't help the needling. It covered the hurt he thought he'd quashed over what his double had done to Doyle. Not that he knew for sure, but the look-alike had said enough to leave Bodie in little doubt. He wondered if Doyle really had no recollection of what had gone on.
"D'you know," he started again, "he found you, not me?"
The green eyes were totally without guile. "Did 'e? Hope you thanked 'im, then." Doyle got up as if to indicate the subject was closed. He wished Bodie would stop reminding him about that other man, and wondered what his partner was getting at. Bodie seemed to be hinting at something; probing as if to find out how much he could remember -- which was very little. No way was he ever going to admit to Bodie that he'd quite happily have been his lover, for real, no matter what universe they were in.
He walked through into the living-room and drew the curtains against the fading daylight, then into the bedroom to do the same.
Bodie followed him through. "He was gay too, y'know," he said, following on with their earlier conversation as he came up behind Doyle.
"Piss off, Bodie," said Ray tiredly as Bodie placed his hands on Doyle's shoulders, standing as close as he dared. "Just 'cause they're all ravin' queers back there, doesn't mean you 'ave to carry on with it now we're back. Joke's wearin' a bit thin."
Remembering his twin, Bodie decided it was now or never. He pulled Doyle back into a rough, clumsy embrace, aware of hard muscle under the softness of the material. Doyle immediately wrenched himself free and turned to face him.
"I," he said dangerously, "warned you. Bad enough 'im puttin' 'is 'ands on me every flamin' time 'e was around. I'm not takin' it from you as well."
"Oh yeah?" Bodie snarled, rebuffed. "Don't suddenly come over all righteous with me, mate, telling me to keep my hands to myself. Where did he put his hands? Tiger."
Doyle stared silently at his partner, remembering the kiss of that other Bodie. Tried to ignore the shivering in the pit of his stomach, the sweet ache spreading to his groin at the memory.
"Yeah," snapped Bodie, throwing caution to the winds. "I want you, sunshine. The difference is he fancied you. I don't. I --"
Doyle's fist lashed out, connecting with his partner's jaw. As Bodie went down, he kicked out, knocking Doyle off-balance. Both men fell heavily, remaining where they were on the floor, winded.
Bodie finally staggered to his feet ruefully rubbing where Doyle's fist had landed him one. He wished, not for the first time, that his partner's temper was a little less volatile. If he was honest, though, Bodie admitted silently, he'd deserved that punch. They were even now. He looked over to where Doyle had fallen. The CI5 agent was rubbing a hand against his head, dazedly trying to pick himself up.
Bodie lurched over and stuck out a hand. "C'mon, sunshine, we're quits. Help you up."
Doyle glared at him, trying to decide if this was just another ploy on Bodie's part, but his temper had dissipated with the scuffle and deciding his partner's offer was obviously quite genuine, he grasped the proffered hand and Bodie hauled him to his feet.
Swaying slightly, Ray put his hand to his bowed head. "Ooh," he moaned, "shouldn't've got up so fast. Dizzy." He clutched at his partner.
Bodie put an arm round him, supporting him; holding him closer than he needed to, making every moment count in this unexpected proximity.
"Lean on me, Ray," he ordered, "it'll pass in a minute. Didn't mean to pull you up so fast -- not good for the old system." He pulled Doyle closer into his arms, senses crying out in triumph and terror as the man's body came to rest against his and Doyle's wayward curls brushed against his cheek. Bodie could feel his body reacting to Doyle's nearness, engorging flesh protesting against restricting cloth. He should break away, put sanity between himself and the desirable body before Ray realised... But he was beyond caring; his body was awash with pleasurable sensation and he was lost.
And Ray was still partially slumped against him. "Bodie?" he said quietly; said it with puzzlement and concern.
"I can't help myself," Bodie blurted out helplessly, trying to explain. "I love you." And he waited for the heavens to fall.
Instead, there was a sigh of contentment, and Doyle tilted his head back to look at Bodie, searching his partner's face with his gaze. Bodie did not relax his hold, nor did Ray make any move away from him.
"It feels very...comfortable...to be here," Doyle said finally. "Why didn't you say something sooner?"
Bodie gazed at him mutely, afraid that he was totally misinterpreting Doyle's words.
"Stupid sod," murmured Ray, crooking one arm about his partner's neck, his other hand tightening its grip on Bodie's shoulder. He leaned forward and touched his lips to Bodie's, gently increasing the pressure, teasing with his tongue as Bodie responded.
Eventually they broke the kiss, needing to breathe. Bodie held the slighter body close against him, resting his hands on Doyle's buttocks, pressing their groins tightly together, thrusting slightly with his hips, enjoying the sensations his actions produced. He realised with awe and pleasure that Doyle was in much the same state as himself. Both men were breathing in ragged gasps, control slipping quickly. Bodie made a vain effort to regain some sanity.
"We're crazy," he whispered.
"Yeah," Doyle agreed huskily. "Tell me somethin' new." His hands had slid between them and were busy unbuttoning Bodie's shirt to trace the body contours.
"But--" Bodie tried again, being distracted by the touch of Ray's hands on his skin.
"Do you want..." Ray traced Bodie's jawline with his tongue, "...to make love..." he bit his earlobe gently, "...or not?"
Bodie moaned then, hauling Doyle's shirt out from his jeans and sliding his hands under it against Doyle's warm body, making slow, rhythmic caresses over his back. One hand then attacked Doyle's waistband, opening fastening and fly, freeing hardened flesh. Tantalisingly he returned to his exploration of Doyle's back, slipping hands lower to move over buttocks and thighs. Doyle arched against him helplessly, fingers digging into Bodie's shoulders.
"Not so fast, sunshine," he gasped.
Bodie drew back a little to look at the flushed face, the green eyes burning with pent-up desire. Regaining some control he lightly gripped Doyle's shoulders and wordlessly indicated the bed. Ray nodded, ripping off his shirt, kicking off the remainder of his clothing, before helping Bodie remove his, touching the man everywhere with lips and fingers as he did so, till Bodie was trembling with need, half afraid that Doyle's attention would bring him to climax there and then, but lacking the will to make him cease.
Doyle seemed to sense Bodie's predicament, for he ended his exquisite torture, and steered his partner to the bed, onto which they collapsed with relief. Both lay unmoving for a few seconds, simply looking at each other, then Bodie moved forward to kiss Doyle deeply, his tongue probing, exploring. His hands traced relentless circles of fire over sensitive skin. Releasing Doyle's mouth, lips bruised, Bodie licked Ray's throat, then the line of each collar bone. Doyle let him take his time, the green eyes watching him trustingly, doing no more than resting a hand on Bodie's flank.
Bodie's hand stilled a moment at the scarred arm, reaching out to trace the outline of the wound with one finger.
"Does it still bother you?" he whispered.
Doyle smiled back at him lovingly. "Nah," he said, "but you can kiss it better if you want."
Bodie grinned at him and swiftly kissed him again on the lips. His hand strayed further down Ray's body, gliding over the flat belly, fleetingly brushing the muscled thighs, teasing Doyle. His mouth fastened on one nipple, then the other.
Doyle's head was thrown back, his underlip clenched against his teeth. He whimpered in frustration as Bodie worked his way down the fiercely aroused body, refusing to touch Ray where he longed for it. Bodie stroked his fingers up the inner sides of the parted thighs, following with mouth and tongue, cradling the testicles in his hand, rubbing softly, ignoring the straining erection. Ray was groaning now, hoarsely telling Bodie to put an end to the torture.
Equally aroused himself, Bodie let his gaze travel over the sweat-slick body. Green eyes opened, pleading with Bodie's blue ones. Bodie smiled, a curiously gentle smile, holding himself in check.
"I want to hear you ask for it," he whispered softly. "Ray, beg me for it." He slid fingers up Doyle's inner thighs again, stilling in the dark body hair of the groin.
Doyle's body arched. "Bodie!" he shouted in a whisper.
"Go on," Bodie ordered, intensely aroused, knowing that Ray Doyle was almost beyond control, "say it. Tell me you want me to do it."
"Anything," Doyle gasped. "Anything..."
Bodie laughed softly at that, reaching out a finger to caress the erect shaft. "One step at a time, lover." He straddled Ray's chest, resting his hands on the man's thighs and luxuriously slid his tongue up Doyle's erection, before closing his lips over the tip. Even as he did so, Ray's body arched again, forcing himself deeper into Bodie's mouth, and went rigid as he thrust and thrust again into the enclosing wetness, climax sending him spinning into a vortex, shouting Bodie's name...
"Christ, you're a noisy bastard," said Bodie eventually, indulgently, moving up to wrap an arm around Doyle's chest, claiming the parted lips in soft, light kisses.
"You wait," gasped Doyle, starfished on the bed, eyes closed, his body gradually relaxing in the tingling aftermath of pleasure.
"Promises, promises," murmured Bodie, as Doyle rolled over onto his side, pushing Bodie onto his back, covering Bodie's mouth with his own, his tongue thrusting deep inside. His hand moved down to grip Bodie's straining organ. His partner bucked as Ray's hand closed about him, stroking up the shaft with insistent rhythm. Doyle watched Bodie's sweat-streaked face as the man's head lolled back, his eyes closing in exquisite anguish. He increased the pressure of his hand, making Bodie's whole body squirm.
"Well?" he demanded softly. "Do you want it, or don't you?"
Inarticulate sounds came from Bodie's lips as he groaned in frustration.
Ray laughed wickedly at his partner's helplessness. "Who's makin' the noise now, lover boy?" He stilled his hand. "What've you got to say, Bodie?"
The word came out as a low moan.
"Can't hear you."
"Please, Ray..." cried his partner, "for chrissake please..."
"I'll do it for you, lover,'' Ray whispered harshly, caught up in the intensity of the moment. He planted a kiss on Bodie's lips, then swiftly moved across, resting on Bodie's thighs and stomach, closed his mouth over Bodie's erection, letting it slide deep into his throat, then almost releasing Bodie before claiming him once more.
With a convulsive jerk Bodie came, hips thrusting violently, held down by the weight of Doyle's body across him, shouting his pleasure. Ray held him till the spasms died, then released him, giving the now-softened organ a valedictory kiss, before turning to wrap himself about his partner's sated body.
"The neighbours," he said after a moment, the words muffled against Bodie's cheek, "'ll think we're killin' each other."
Bodie turned languorously, raising himself slightly to look down at his lover's face.
"Thin walls," Doyle explained, amused, reaching out a hand to stray his fingers through Bodie's ruffled hair. "An' we weren't exactly quiet."
"Your problem, sunshine," returned Bodie laconically, ruining the effect with a grin, "you live here." He lay back down, touching his lips to Ray's, sliding a hand into the tangled curls. He couldn't get enough of being close to Ray. "Give me a chance, sunshine, and we'll really give 'em something to talk about."
"Is that a promise?" Ray breathed, laughter in the green eyes mingling with renewed desire.
"We," said Bodie smiling lazily, and letting his hand slide down Ray's spine to mould them groin to groin, "have the rest of the night to find out."
"Oi, you two," the security man called to them as they strode past his glass partition, making for the stairs, "the guvnor says 'e wants to see you."
"Does he?" said Doyle nonchalantly. "When was this, then?"
"Yesterday afternoon sometime. I made a note of it in the duty book. Phoned down and said 3.7 and 4.5 were to see 'im when they came in."
Doyle nodded to him. "Thanks, Charlie."
"You been bad lads?" Charlie continued, making the most of getting one over on the flash boys of the operational squad. "Your radio playin' up or somethin'?"
"Somethin' like that." Doyle gave him a cool smile and rejecting the lifts as a soft option, went up the stairs two at a time, closely followed by Bodie.
"What," Bodie halted on the stairs below the second floor landing, "do we tell him?" He still hadn't been able to come up with a convincing alternative to the truth -- not that he'd had much opportunity, he'd had his mind on other matters -- and Doyle was not disposed to help him.
Ray leaned against the banister of the landing. "I told you," he said. "The truth."
Bodie looked away from him, gazing down the stairwell, not really seeing the geometric pattern of stairs and landings below him. "The truth," he echoed. "D'you know what the truth is, Doyle?"
"What d'you mean?" asked Doyle not following Bodie's train of thought. "We both know what happened to us; we didn't dream it."
"And d'you know what happened to you from the moment Walter's mob took you till you got back here?" Bodie turned on his partner, savagery in his voice.
Doyle sensed something was wrong. He held Bodie's gaze. A couple of people passed them, making their way down to the next floor, and he waited till he heard the doors on the landing below them swing back into place, before answering his partner.
"We had all this yesterday," he said quietly, "an' I don't remember."
Bodie stared up at him. "Amnesia," he murmured to himself.
"What?" said Doyle.
"Amnesia," Bodie repeated. "I've seen it happen before. Accident, shock -- you don't remember what's happened. That's what you've got, sunshine." He was pleased with his diagnosis. Though he'd tried to squash the thought, he was relieved that Doyle had made love with him because he'd wanted to, not because of any residual false memories.
Doyle was looking thoughtful. "You could be right. I've tried to think back, and it's one big blank. So you tell me," he added to Bodie's horror. "What did happen to me that you're so bothered about you won't leave the matter alone?"
Gazing at him Bodie found he had no words. He hadn't seen until too late the trap he was digging for himself. Now he was about to fall right in, dragging Doyle down with him; destroy their partnership, their friendship, their love. Destroy Doyle as a person. Teetering on the edge of the pit, he had one last chance to pull them to safety.
"Well, Bodie?" Doyle was watching him like a hawk, and already the silence had lasted far too long.
"I don't know, either," said Bodie finally, very low, "I honestly don't know." Promises were usually broken in the end, he'd found, so he wasn't going to promise anything. But one thing he was sure: he would never tell Doyle what he knew or could guess of the missing weeks. "You couldn't be found, and I thought maybe they'd killed you." Impulsively he reached out and closed a hand over Doyle's where it rested on the banister rail. "God, I was worried as hell."
Doyle looked at their joined hands and said nothing. Neither did he try to pull away.
"Ah, good morning, Doyle, Bodie," came the familiar voice as Cowley walked through the swing doors and onto the landing.
Doyle whipped round and Bodie came up the remaining stairs fast.
"Morning, sir," he returned brightly, wondering how much of the tableau Cowley had noticed. If he had seen anything, he gave no sign of it.
"Come with me," he told them and marched at a brisk pace in the direction of his office. Giving each other a look, the two agents trailed after him.
"Right," said Cowley, once inside his office, "I've a report here I wish to discuss." He opened up the file he'd set down on his desk and settled his glasses more firmly on his nose. "And why were you out of radio contact for nearly twenty-four hours?" he added almost conversationally.
This was it, then. Doyle wandered over to a window and looked out beyond the stream of cars passing below to a patch of grass edged with trees, their vivid green contrasting strikingly with the grey of tarmac and concrete.
Bodie had found his answer. It was easy after all. "R/T failure, sir," he declared.
"No, sir," came quietly from across the room. Doyle moved away from the window and came over to face his boss. And as Bodie gaped at him, he proceeded to tell Cowley what he could recollect of their experience.
Cowley listened in silence, not taking his eyes off his two top operatives. When Doyle had finished, the head of CI5 turned to Bodie. "I take it you concur, Bodie?"
After the initial shock, Bodie had been listening with less than total concentration, envisaging a meeting of George Cowley and that other Bodie, and wondering who would come off best. And thinking about that other Cowley's tendencies, congratulating himself all over again on his lucky escape. But it wouldn't do to let the Cow realise he hadn't been paying attention. So he gave a rather subdued "Yes, sir" in answer to the question.
"An interesting tale, Doyle." Cowley leaned back in his chair. "Apart from its sheer incredibility, is there any reason why I should believe you?"
In reply, Doyle stripped off his jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeve. There on his right arm was the still livid scar from the bullet wound he'd received.
"That, sir. You know I didn't have that scar twenty-four hours ago, and medical records'll confirm it."
Cowley got up and came round his desk to examine the wound more closely. "Hmm, better let the medical section have a look at that to make sure everything's all right." He glanced at Doyle and then at Bodie. "Your story is so extraordinary I'm almost inclined to believe it. The other matter can wait; I want a full report from both of you by tomorrow morning. Doyle, have that arm seen to right away."
Once back in the corridor, Bodie heaved a sigh of relief. "You took one helluva risk, Ray. I thought he was going to send us straight to Ross until you came up with your scar as proof." He struck a dramatic pose. "'Then will he strip his sleeve, and show his scars, and say: These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'"
"Oh, very apt," murmured Doyle, amused. "So you don't see us as 'gentlemen in England now a-bed'?"
Bodie nearly choked.
"Damn." Doyle suddenly turned back in the direction of Cowley's office, telling Bodie to wait for him.
He eventually returned, his face a study in disgust and ill humour. Bodie stared at him in some surprise, wondering what had caused this sudden change of mood. He wasn't left in doubt for long.
"Bloody Cowley," snarled Doyle. "Know what 'e's done? I remembered I'd lost everything: I.D., R/T, automatic, the lot, an' I put in a requisition. Know what 'e said? It's all my fault they're lost; I should be more careful with government property. 'E's goin' to dock my pay to cover the loss." He thumped the wall in his bad temper.
Bodie struggled -- unsuccessfully -- to keep a sympathetic expression on his face, being well-used to Doyle's concern over his money.
Doyle scowled at him, calming down after his outburst. "It's the bloody unfairness of it," he complained.
Bodie nodded in agreement, choking down his laughter. "Yeah, I know," he managed, sniggering. "Look, Ray, we've got your arm to see about, a report to write, and I want a meal. My stomach's beginning to complain."
They walked down the corridor together as far as the swing doors. Doyle paused.
"You didn't ask Cowley for another place," he reminded Bodie, reaching for the door handle.
Bodie caught the outstretched hand, and stayed it. "I didn't think it was the right moment. I'll ask him when we put the report in tomorrow. In the meantime --"
" -- you're comin' 'ome with me," stated Doyle, finishing the sentence for him.
And they smiled at each other.
Cowley sat back and awaited Bodie's reaction to his pronouncement. 3.7's waywardness over the past couple of months had irked him, and he had had no hesitation in making his displeasure felt. Now the time had come to ease up a little, allow his agent the opportunity of reaffirming his loyalty to his controller.
"You going to let me deal with him, sir?" Though nothing showed in his expression, inwardly Bodie felt exasperation tinged with regret. Three weeks ago he'd thought he'd settled the matter. Now it was going to start up all over again.
"Why?" asked Cowley bluntly. "You had the...misfortune...to lose him once. But twice, letting him slip through your fingers..."
"I know, sir," Bodie agreed heavily, unable to resist it, "looks like bloody carelessness."
"I don't want it happening a third time." Cowley felt Bodie had taken the hint. "I want some answers from that young man, otherwise we hand him back to Walter on a plate, however much he demands our protection."
"Yes, sir. I'll go and collect him now."
As he left Cowley's office Bodie wondered what he could do to help Doyle, especially now it seemed his partner was no longer around. Somehow he'd have to get him away from the whole set-up: his tiger couldn't survive in this society's concrete jungle, for all that he'd been a first-rate predator in his own.
He peered in through the rectangle of glass set in the door. Doyle was seated at a table, facing away from him, his slumped shoulders indicative of his mood. As Bodie opened the door and stepped into the room Doyle turned to see who had entered.
The two faced each other, blue eyes expressing momentary disbelief and then growing amusement; green eyes truculent and suspicious.
Bodie surveyed his catch. Now he was closer he could see the difference. A sewer rat rather than a tiger, but ultimately a challenge more in keeping with his own nature. Life had its compensations after all.
"Okay, Doyle," he said lazily, matching Doyle's wariness with momentary appraisal, "from now on the key word is cooperation."
-- THE END --