Today's Lesson


Bodie thinks that maybe he has been trained too well.

He'd be happy to forget his name, rank and serial number, but they are always the first and loudest thing he can shout.

Remembers he has been here a long while now. Lists everything from best to worst, just for the exercise. Starts with being self-aware enough to know that soon he won't want to be. All limbs and facial features still attached. Haven't puked up for about an hour. No blood in the puke. Nothing left to puke anyway. Only lost two teeth. Didn't swallow them. Can't move my fucking arms. Burning flesh. There's blood coming from ... blood and what the fuck all else. It hurts, it hurts, it fucking bastard hurts. They'll be coming back soon. I can hear them coming back.

Remembers too late he should have gone from worst to best. Grapples for something to latch on to, before they arrive. He is still thinking as the door swings open. Still thinking as the black wellington boot stands on his knee. Still thinking as the tap squeaks in the corner and the hose snakes across the tiles towards him, moving by itself, just as if it were alive.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women,and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

He isn't expecting to remember that. Father Gallagher breathing whisky fumes. Doing penance for ... well, for what, exactly?

Jesus ...

As if they are putting out a stubborn fire they train the hose on him and in no time his ears are full of water, which makes it hard to keep thinking. He wonders if they will get the bucket afterwards. They don't always like that game because he throws all the evil-smelling effluent back up at them. SAS training .... best in the bloody world! Learn how to projectile vomit at will! When necessary.

Twelve pints of lager, four rum and blacks and a dodgy chicken biriani! How are you keeping that in? You got a bloody cast iron stomach, Sergeant Bodie?

The water is slowing down now. He can hear it sliding through the drain.

This time he starts with the worst-case scenario and works backwards carefully. They don't find him in time and he gives up the information, then dies, horribly. He dies -- horribly -- but didn't give up a thing. They get to him and he never recovers ... but Cowley chews him out anyway. They get to him but Doyle isn't with them -- he had something better to do. They get ....

Unaccountably, Mr Farnsworth is tapping him on the head with a book. A dog-eared, brown-bound Hardy -- this book belongs to Will Bodie, Form Three.

Use your tiny imaginations a bit will you? Think about it! Ask your Mum and Dad. Today's lesson is that life is the occasional episode of happiness in a general drama of pain. Discuss, using examples. What are you laughing about, Bodie?

The tap squeaks off. There is a click. A low electrical hum is setting his teeth on edge, making them vibrate dully in his gums.

Quick, quick, you dozy fucker. Something good. Something very good.

Doyle has just turned him over and put a hand on each hip, pinning him to the floor. He's coming down on him like an angel, his hair all cherub-like, descending on him from above. It all has to be quick, even though Doyle generally likes to finesse. His eyes ... grey or something ... are smiling, but he doesn't think this is funny. He wants it to be good. Good enough to save him.

Come on, Doyle, for crying out loud, stop nancying about ... go on, go on, like that, like that damnit, go on ... suck me dry, send me away, make me come ... make it good, just .. make it ... good.

For a second or two it's good. Very good. Promising to be out of this world. He lets his eyes drift shut, clutching his fingers into Doyle's hair, holding him in place, but not even Doyle can work his magic that fast.

The humming is louder now and he opens his eyes again.

There is a man looking at him from above, looking at him long and carefully. The object in his hand, metal and rather neat, is held before his face.

The occasional episode of Doyle in a general drama of.... pain.

"Just break my fucking legs instead... anything," Bodie finds himself pleading. His voice sounds very small. He rolls over once trying to get away, finding the floor slippery, as if he has already turned to slime.

"The safe house?"

"Don't know. No."

"The safe house?"

"Didn't tell me."

Count the seconds. It's for the best. One, two, three, four, it's over. That one's over.

"Like it? Safe house?"

I'm trained to withstand this, didn't you know?

"You know what we're going to do, don't you?"

Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for... one, two, three, four, five ...

"We'll fuck you with it again, you stupid cunt. We'll burn your fucking knob off with it. Safe house?"

The hum is getting louder still. His left thigh is starting its involuntary shake. His guts are turning to liquid and a tear runs from each eye. With Doyle gone, not even Father Gallagher can save him now.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Doyle can't help dwelling on the fact that all Bodie had consumed in the twelve hours before he disappeared were three walnut whips and a can of Double Diamond. Silly sod.

He has spent upwards of a week toeing the line, the brooding extra party in a cumbersome trio. He has done his share of interrogation and working the phones, made two trips to Broadmoor and spent a day and a night on babysitting duty at the safe house. Not once has he lost his temper or hurled his coffee mug against the wall in bare, screaming fear and frustration.

By nine o'clock on a Friday night the upshot of it all is that they've made their way to an address in a backwater of Kentish Town -- purely on the say-so of a compulsive liar whose schizophrenic ramblings disturb everyone who meets him. The connections with their quarry seem tenuous, but they have nothing and no-one else to go on. Now they are here, standing outside the building, they all feel a need to get inside right away. George Cowley wants them to wait until he arrives. It's Doyle who reminds them of that fact.

"Mr Cowley said to wait," he says, pushing between Murphy and Jax. The three of them stand in a row.

"Your call, 4.5," Jax says.

Doyle is feeling a little giddy. "Well if he isn't in there, it doesn't matter," he says. "And if he is, then George can have me."

The building, a three-storey house, is quiet and dark, hemmed in by a scruffy churchyard and a building site that used to be a pub. They have to force entry, and, without even agreeing, it is done silently. They are surprised to find the inside pristine and empty of all furniture, painted white. The smell is of new carpet, sawdust and real coffee, brewed and savoured quite recently, which leads them to the kitchen. The washing up -- mostly glasses and cups -- has been done thoroughly and everything stands dry on the draining-board. The cupboards contain nothing, the refrigerator is not connected. In a drawer they find matches, cigarettes, knives and insulating tape. Empty wine bottles are lined up like soldiers on the floor.

They glide from room to room, Doyle always in the lead, and then split up at the bottom of the stairs. Jax and Doyle ascend to the first landing together. Doyle goes on, driven up to the third floor which is full of rolls of wallpaper. Murphy, a natural bloodhound, thinks he can smell suffering but doesn't say so. He's the one who notices the door under the stairs, outlined by bluish light as if aliens have landed on the other side.

"Locked," he says when Jax appears on his shoulder. He still has his hand on the latch. They can both hear something. It sounds to them like a generator, or an alien spaceship hovering in mid-air.

All Doyle hears is the sound of two shots, splintering wood. When he gets to the basement stairs Murphy is halfway down them, but coming up, and Jax is shouting from below, "Don't let Doyle down here!"

Doyle gives Murphy a look that might have been quizzical if he had not been moving so fast. He tries to barrel through him and is surprised and hurt to be resisted.

"Leave it out," he says, impatient. Murphy relents at once and lets him go, slipping past and thudding back up the bare treads of the stairs to the hall.

Doyle knows Murphy is on his way to call an ambulance. He jumps the last four stairs on to a corridor and skids into the white-tiled basement. The blue is coming from a long striplight on the ceiling. It buzzes loudly. Ten or twenty flies have died in there. Jax is in the corner, laying his coat over something.

"Doyle..." he says, looking up, warning him off.

Bodie has crawled from one side of the room to the other, his hands cuffed behind him. There is a trail of slime. He has made it to the corner, a long journey, and lies with his knees drawn up and his forehead pressed into a puddle of blood and puke on the tiles, weary. He is drenched and Jax's coat only covers his legs. Doyle knows what they have done to him, even though he can't see it yet, and he will have to face it in the hospital later when Bodie will not wake up. The blow to the head is substantial. They don't know he did it to himself.

Jax and Murphy stand at the other side of the basement, by the tap, and they stare at it, and each other, instead of at 4.5 and 3.7. While they wait for the ambulance, and for George, Doyle kneels on the sodden, poisonous floor and holds the battered head in one hand, keeping the fingers of the other pressed down on the pulse. Bodie's skin, his skull and even his hair, inky-black and shiny as a wet sealion, are icy. It is the chance for Doyle to stare at him intently, as if he were about to draw. He always wanted to draw Bodie, but never said so for fear of having a pencil poked in his eye. They can't do anything about the cuffs so Murphy goes back up again to call the fire brigade.

"What's this all about then?" is what Doyle asks in a scolding tone. "Just look at the state of you .... are you trying to wind me up or something?"

"Take it easy, Doyle," Jax says. "He won't have given them anything. I'd always put my money on Bodie ... he's got the form, hasn't he?"

"Shut up," says Doyle. He hunkers down over Bodie, thinking that he would like to kiss him on the top of the head. Bodie has peppered Doyle with these tender moments over the last few months and Doyle has even stopped snarling about it.

Oi, wake up, sleeping beauty, d'you want a cuppa?

Cowley arrives after the ambulance and before the fire brigade. Bodie's shoulders remain locked even when the cuffs have been cut off by a stricken-faced young fireman, the CI5 contingent standing guard on the pavement, arms crossed. Cowley is straight as a ramrod, taking every finger they have laid on his man as a deep and wounding insult, and he puts his hand on 4.5's shoulder and motions at the ambulance.

"You go with. I'll meet you there."

They hear Bodie when the stretcher is loaded.

He moans repeatedly over the next hours and days because he doesn't want to be touched. Not anywhere, by anyone. Even under the cosh of the heaviest medication he lashes out when contact is made. They let him sleep while they anxiously push drugs through and Doyle blathers on about the Liverpool Spurs game, sick at heart. Bodie searches through the gloom for something.

On a day of Indian summer when the nurses are complaining of the heat and Doyle has been to get him an electric fan, he discovers a way out of the gloom. Before he has time to verify that he is safe, he is hit by a flashback. It's vague and nebulous, dampened down by the strong overlay of chemicals that tranquilize and confuse him, but it will be raging clearly soon enough, he knows that. He knows he and Doyle are going to have to start dealing with it the moment he opens his eyes.

The world arriving makes him feel sick. The room pitches and tilts for a while before a hazy nausea descends that will never seem to go away. A familiar face, framed by wild hair, slithers into view. Doyle is looking shaky and bedraggled. The light eyes -- grey or something -- are beyond warm, but he is sitting well back from the edge of the bed, his hands in his lap.

Bodie has never been very sure of what this was all about -- him and Doyle -- only that it stopped him from becoming unhinged. At this moment, he can't be sure what Doyle sees before him. His crabby old oppo, perhaps, laid low by a bunch of sickos. Or his mate at the sharp end, who, while he might not be able to father children anymore, may yet turn out to be a hero. Or his uncannily perfect partner, who from now on won't be touched.

You'd better love me, Doyle. After all this, you'd better bloody love me.

And Doyle does.

To distraction.

-- THE END --

September 2006

Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home