Tomorrow's Life


Written for "Discovered in a Newspaper" and "Discovered in Graceland" on the discoveredinalj livejournal community.

The day after the sentencing was also the day after Bodie kissed Doyle in a lift. It was Wednesday, fresh and breezy. Their working partnership had crawled past its first birthday and was almost on its feet.

Everyone woke in their own beds.

"I said there'd be more of the bastards," was George Cowley's surprisingly un-measured response when the Met Commissioner phoned in the middle of the day with news of a brown holdall left on a luggage trolley in the middle of the concourse at Charing Cross. The bomb had been defused by the time CI5 got anywhere near, and it was a big one, a six-pounder packed with nails.

"Where are they getting this bloody stuff from?" said Bodie. "And more to the point, where was the bloody intell?"

Doyle stood, twiddling his biro, alongside the manager of an empty WH Smith's who had been haranguing him bitterly for several minutes about accents. What with one thing and another, Doyle was finding it hard to process what anyone was saying to him today. It felt like his stuffing had been knocked out and replaced with fast-moving butterflies. And questions that flapped noisily around inside his head like a flock of crows.

George was positively jogging towards them across the deserted concourse, his mac over one arm.

"You can leave this little lot to anti-terror," he said. "I want you two back south of the river."

Bodie's eyes ranged around the concourse, flicked to Doyle, flicked away again. "As in hang around doing bugger-all for hours on end?"

"No, 3.7. As in get your insubordinate backside down to SE24. Now."

Bodie drove, his shoulders tense. Doyle sat on his own tension, judging that it was not the right moment to ask those flapping questions. He knew he had at least three options. Either he shoved the whole memory into a black hole that would never again be investigated, or he kept quiet until it suddenly struck him that it was time to speak, or he waited until Bodie followed up his remarkable behaviour with something that didn't indicate chronic selective amnesia.

Alternatively, of course, he could say something right now. Except now was busy, now was repeated attempts at 50mph in a 30mph zone. Maybe tomorrow.

"Which way are you going?" he asked in the end, thinking that this was actually a good substitute for what he really wanted to know. Bodie shifted in the driver's seat, kept his eyes fiercely front. They were stop-starting along the south side of Trafalgar Square, heading for Whitehall.

"Millbank, Vauxhall Bridge," he said, as if it were so obvious that Doyle was an idiot to ask. Lately they had been in serious competition over who knew the quickest routes from A to B, and it generally hadn't been Bodie.

"I wasn't the bloody navigator," he'd say in his own defence. "I just jumped out of the plane."

There were three people on duty at the vigil outside South Africa house, and Doyle, as usual, had checked them out curiously and saw himself being checked out in turn.

The river was glittering as they drove over, Bodie skirting at speed around several buses merrily tailgating in the middle of two lanes of traffic. Further on, Brixton High Street was mobbed and Bodie's foot worried the accelerator as they sat in the jam.

"Isn't there a back way then?" he fumed as the engine growled and pedestrians crossing the front of the car glared at him.

"Hang a left," Doyle said.

"Hang a left, he says. Don't tell just happen to've done the Knowledge as well as everything else."

"As well as everything else what?" Doyle demanded, aggrieved at the sarcasm.

"Oh, come on, Doyle, you're a closet intellectual."

"Fuck off, Bodie, just fuck off."

"There, you see. I could never think of anything as intelligent as that."

They drove past the house on Tapwood Road and it seemed the same as when they had seen it five days ago -- black rubbish bags piled by the scrubby hedge, no sign of life inside, same Ford Cortina parked opposite. Come to think of it, they'd been bickering then as well, in the usual way. In the usual, back and forth, round and round, inconsequential and strangely comforting way.

One of the characters who lived here had been fingered as worth watching by an SAS man who'd spent six months undercover in a pub called The Castle. While the Castle was still doing good business, the SAS man had been lost to an executioner's Astra Magnum and Special Branch decided it wanted CI5 to handle the surveillance. To George Cowley's endless chagrin, what Special Branch wanted was what Special Branch got when it came to Irish connections. It was the one area where he couldn't supercede the hierarchy.

Doyle, all fingers and thumbs, fumbled the radio mic and it clattered against the dash, causing Bodie to heave his shoulders. "4.5, 3.7 .. in vicinity of target premises, over."

"Continue routine surveillance, 4.5." A pause for reflection. "If there's any movement, Doyle, there's clearance from Alpha to round them up. You've got Murphy and Sikes in Paxton Street."

Doyle could see Bodie's nose and mouth in profile out of the corner of his eye.

What the bloody hell did you kiss me for, you lunatic? What was that all about?

"Round them up," he repeated, just so he wouldn't say the other words. "Murph and Bill ready to go."

Bodie looked over at him and scowled. So Doyle left him in the car and went for a walk down Tapwood Road.

Once upon a time the houses to his left had been rather pleasant three-storey Victorian terraces, but the area had lost its patina in recent decades and the properties were split into dingy flats, the topmost of which overlooked all four platforms of the railway station. A row of tower-blocks loomed at the other side of the tracks, between which you could see planes ploughing a furrow towards Heathrow. At the bottom of the hill by the pedestrian tunnel that led through to the station there was a barber's and a kebab shop. The high brick wall between road and rail was covered in the tags of local youth. A gritty wind blew about. Doyle leaned on the phone box outside the kebab shop and watched people crossing the road.

"I'll have a doner," Bodie demanded through the airwaves, "and tell them to ditch the salad. Can't stand the stuff." Doyle glanced back at the rotating spit behind the counter.

"It's not real meat you know," he murmured.

"Just get me a kebab."

Doyle tapped his R/T. "Sorry, mate. Didn't hear the magic word."

"Oh right. Just get me a fucking kebab."

Doyle sniggered, in spite of himself. He made sure they put plenty of shredded lettuce in and walked it back up the hill to the car.

"You know, don't you, that we're going to be here all night," Bodie said when he had finished, having painstakingly extracted each shred of lettuce and laid it in the open kebab bag on the dashboard, silent and meaningful. Doyle's jaw ached with the desire to laugh, but he didn't. He just hung out of the window to get away from the the onions and meat juice smell. He watched in the wing mirror as his partner got out of the car and wandered up the street to bin the bag. Bodie stretched, turning to look back down the hill and Doyle saw there was suddenly a little flicker in his eyes, as if the blue touch-paper had just been lit on a firework.

When he woke up on Thursday morning, Bodie was flat on his back on Doyle's sofa, legs hanging over the armrest, a candlewick bedspread wound around them. He remembered tipping himself backwards into the waiting cushions, and the rush of sleep coming at him from all sides. Yesterday's kebab had been so well shaken that he could still taste it.

Up the stairs, Doyle was sleeping the un-nerving sleep of the heavily-drugged, his body ranged awkwardly in the bed to best protect his right arm. Bodie nibbled at the inside of his bottom lip as he stood in the doorway looking. It had been murder getting him here last night, Doyle cross about many more things than just having dislocated his shoulder. Bitterly ungrateful the sod was, for everything Bodie had done.

Despite Cowley's clearance, they hadn't really expected to have to round up the occupants of the Tapwood Road house so suddenly. But the sight of wanted men on the horizon carrying uncoordinated luggage had occasioned a major push.

Feeney, whose name had been taken in vain by erstwhile drinking mates in the Castle, was last out of the front door. He decided, unlike O'Dowd and Meakin, that he couldn't out-run the two hard men who were pelting down Tapwood Road, had backed inside and tried the rear window before being cornered by Sikes and Murphy heading over the garage roofs.

Bodie, first off the mark, sprinted past the house after O'Dowd and Meakin, over the road, through the tunnel, across two platforms and then several hundred yards up the track before he brought down O'Dowd, who tried to bite him. He dragged him back between two moving trains, ignoring the outrage on the platforms which he was not sure was directed at O'Dowd, and found Doyle and Meakin on the ground in the tunnel. Meakin was only half-conscious, groaning and handcuffed, his glasses broken and blood pouring generously from the wound the twisted metal had made by his eye. Doyle was on his knees.

Bodie knew his shoulder was out, knew by the agony written on Doyle's face, which hit him like a body blow. Even while vaguely aware of people at the other end of the tunnel, he shoved O'Dowd down on top of Meakin and stuck his pistol in his belt.

"Get me an ambulance!" Doyle howled at him in rage. He was poised in what he thought was the best position to alleviate the pain, but the dawning realisation that there was bugger-all he could do gave Bodie a wrench in what Doyle generally thought of as his stone-cold heart, and it annoyed him. Never, in his life, had he reacted to the injury of an oppo with anything approaching empathy. You had to ignore their pain. Do the first aid as well as you knew how and leave anything dodgy to the pros.

"Now listen, Ray, I'm going to put the thing back in, all right?"

Doyle scrabbled to get away.

"I can do this," Bodie insisted, not at all sure he could.

"Get off me!" Doyle screeched. "Get your hands off me, Bodie. You're not to touch me. Jesus Christ, get this fucking lunatic off me!" The last was directed at Murphy who had appeared in the other end of the tunnel.

"Bodie?" Murphy said, deeply uncertain. He came trotting up and trained his gun on the two men writhing on the grimy tile floor. "Now then...something tells me this isn't a really brilliant idea."

"Mate, I can do this," Bodie repeated, eyes locked on, "Just keep still."

Doyle's teeth ground together, and he breathed in and out through them, his eyes popping in distrust.

"So help me, Bodie, I will kill you for this. I swear I will fucking kill you." The same words had occurred to him two days ago in the lift, but this time his whole body was shaking in the effort not to scream and in any case threats were meat and drink to Bodie .

"You know I can do it," Bodie said, "You know I can."

Blanking out the bloody empathetic impulse, he got Doyle on the ground and did it there and then, the three manoeuvres he had watched the field doctor do on desert patrol when Jimmy "Gorbals" McSween got trodden on by a reversing camel, the dozy git.

Doyle yelled and cursed at him, his voice bouncing off the walls of the tunnel, and then he lay there completely still with his eyes shut.

For an illogical second Bodie thought he was dead.

"There you are," he said. "Fuck. There you are, you bastard. Told you I could do it... Doyle..."

Within half a minute more, though, much more impressively than Jimmy McSween, Doyle was sitting, and within two more he was up and walking. He even managed to help sandwich Feeney and O'Dowd into the car, and used the injured arm to aggressively wave away suggestions he should join Meakin in hospital.

"Give over," he had said, shying away from them all like a nervous horse, "If anyone else even tries to touch me I'm bloody shooting them."

In the hours following the arrests, the arrival of what seemed like a whole team of lawyers to CI5, a spectacular argument between Cowley and the Home Office, and the final release of the three Irishmen to the Met anti-terror boys, Doyle had teetered in the background, pale as a ghost. Bodie felt like a teenager too afraid to ask for a date when he persuaded Murphy to tell Doyle that he thought he should go and see the Squad doctor. Doyle went, but not without a seething glare in his direction.

Bodie had taken him home, pondered silently the wisdom of washing down super-aspirins and Mogadon with such a generous slug of Johnnie Walker, decided he would have done the same himself, and then watched him slur his complaining way to sleep. And here he was, hours later, his face milk-pale and with bruisy rings under his eyes. Bodie sat on the edge of the bed carefully.

"Anytime," he said into the quietness of the room, and he meant it, too. He meant everything by it.

Doyle stirred at the sound of the voice but his eyes remained shut. The tip of a pink tongue made a feeble attempt to lick and then retreated. He swallowed twice, uncomfortably, made a sound like a chesty cat and then settled into another wave of sleep. Bodie cracked his knuckles, rather hoping the familiar irritation might rouse him further, but when it didn't he got up.

Doyle slept three more ragged hours until the phone rang to tell him a pub bomb had gone off in Marylebone.

Waking on Friday was a nervous affair.

Doyle was in Bodie's bed. It was minimally the closest to the bomb scene, which they left at midnight, and Doyle hadn't felt like arguing, although it occurred to him that perhaps Bodie was planning to kiss him again.

And if you do, bright-eyes, this time, for sure, I will lamp you. And then I'll report you. And then you'll be transferred out and that will be the end of it....

Bodie, though, was too locked into Professional mode to indulge in anything except strict adherence to form and duty. He didn't want this gig, felt he'd done his time with the IRA, and that as long as the Squad were rattling round the edges of this latest little campaign, there were other, more shadowy affairs going on unregistered. But if George Cowley was saying jump, then he would jump. That much Doyle knew.

"I'm on the sofa," Bodie had said, after they'd finished eating fried egg sandwiches standing up in the kitchen. "It'll kill your arm," and he delivered the kind of swift, kind smile that confounded anyone who thought they'd sussed him.

Then he put his head round the door, that smile a lot less kind, but still surprisingly warm, as Doyle was peeling off his jeans. "And do us a favour....don't make the sheets sticky."

The head was back yet again what seemed like a few minutes later, although by then it was approximately morning and the city outside the door was not quite sure if panic or Dunkirk spirit was the order of the day.

"This is something different!" Cowley had been harrumphing yesterday once his boys had finished the first round of crunching glass and picking about in the sodden debris of tables, chairs, metal and clothing of the mashed saloon bar. He was sure, from Intelligence and from his gut, that the job was not courtesy of an active wing that had somehow crept under the radar. Instead, Cowley bandied about the words that spiced up his working life...mavericks...breakaways... No coded warnings, not looking to target off-duty squaddies or those with any conceivable loyalist sympathies. Sights trained instead on Joe Public and his missus. So far without any luck.

"If they'd left those bastards with us," Murphy thought out loud, when Cowley had stomped out of another impromptu emergency brief and left them contemplating their cold cups of coffee and multiple copies of the early editions. "We could have stopped yesterday happening."

"Well you see," Doyle said, "the job now is to stop today happening."

"If today doesn't happen, though, I bet Cowley won't pay us," Sikes suggested.

"I wouldn't worry," Bodie told him, "you won't need to get paid if tomorrow doesn't happen either."

"Fuck off the lot of you," Murphy had grumbled. "Just fucking fuck off."

Doyle rolled carefully over in the bed, pressing his face into the pillow for a second. He inhaled something that brought him an unexpected reminder of romance, something he was always falling into and never seemed to enjoy. It was the tail end of a goodly squirt of....bloody hell, was that Aramis? Odd, not a scent he ever remembered having smelt on Bodie before, and yet it was instantly recognisable. Was the randy blighter on the pull even now?

In the night Doyle had got up for a slash and had stood hovering over the sofa looking at the slightly ruffled back of Bodie's head, his bare shoulders rising and falling in a deep, quiet, controlled slumber. Doyle had wanted to cuff him sharply and demand to know what he hell he had been thinking. If there was a sliver of him that also wanted to smooth out the ruffles, feel the curve of the skull under his fingers, Doyle wouldn't give it elbow room.

It had been in between the first and ground floor that Doyle's grasp of what constituted normality turned to dust. Bodie had just stepped across the space. Out of his space, across the empty space, into Doyle's space. One step, a hand, a kiss. There had been no joke, not the merest glint in his eyes. Doyle remembered thinking they had turned black. He had to blink before he saw them blue again.

It was too bloody ridiculous. As far as Doyle had observed, Bodie didn't go around kissing anyone like that, so gentle and calm. As gentle and calm as the way he slept, apparently free of demons and indigestion.

"Come on, sunshine," said Bodie's head around the door. "We need to be up and out. Full squad briefing at oh-nine-hundred. Shake a leg." His face had set itself in the way it did when he was trying to control wayward emotions, or when he was trying hard not to let his beret slip. He watched Doyle unfold himself from the bed. "And don't get all nancy about breakfast. If an egg sam was good enough for you last night, my son, then it's good enough for you now."

Doyle exploded into noisy laughter. He loved Bodie as sergeant-major.

On Saturday Doyle woke in the most comfortable berth yet again, although an hour and a half nodding in a CI5 armchair hardly counted as sleep and had played hell with his twanging shoulder. Bodie was on the floor across the squadroom with his head on a pile of towels.

After getting permission from Special Branch to interview Feeney in the holding cells at Paddington Green, Doyle had spent four hours there with Cowley and got back to CI5 at one in the morning before setting off with Bodie and three others to see if you really could stash enough sten guns for a small war in a Clapham basement without anyone being any the wiser.

It turned out you could. Machine-gun parts, too. Not to mention boxed-sets of .22 calibre rifles lovingly nestled in straw. Bodie had been very interested in all the hardware and how breakaways had got in on the trade route. What he wanted, with silent, pointed zeal, was to find the owner of the Astra Magnum that had been used to murder the SAS man. Doyle had only been interested in why Paddington Green hadn't come up with the information sooner, especially since there would be no shopping on Oxford Street after the bomb in ladies' swimwear.

Cowley had put most of the squad on package-watch, but Doyle's car had beaten everyone else to the swimwear call by dint of driving the wrong way down Tottenham Court Road and then parking on the pavement outside British Home Stores.

"Fourth floor, but it might be nothing," a security guard told them in the stairwell.

"Everyone's out up there, right?" Doyle demanded, peering down at the faces looking up at him from the ground floor.

"The manager told us to assemble but stay in the building. So we assembled."

Bodie took a glance down, too. "Good assembling," he approved. The sound of sirens came to them in a muffled echo up the stairs.

"Where is this thing exactly?" Doyle said.

The guard leaned over the rail and hailed someone, whose clicking heels preceded her up the stairs. "Pink and orange bikinis," she said. "There's a rack of them."

They had looked at each other. "Wait for the bomb squad," Bodie mouthed.

"We might need to evacuate," Doyle said, already taking two of the stairs on his way up.

"Keep them all assembled," Bodie advised the security guard. He touched his R/T. "Have we got the bang boys anywhere near, over?"

"ETA ten minutes, 3.7, the traffic's snarled-up on all routes."

The girl in the heels was watching him as if he were in a film being acted out before her eyes.

"Move along now, darling," Bodie said, "Or we might be scraping you off the stairs."

He caught up with Doyle at the double doors that led to the fourth floor and told him ten minutes.

"Search and verify it is then," Doyle said cheerfully, setting off across the sports department. In the far left corner, with windows on two sides, was ladies swimwear. Bodie prowled over, peered out and saw what he expected - a street packed with gawping onlookers.

"Come on you hopeless bunch of plods," he muttered, "Get them back."

Doyle parted the rack of orange and pink bikinis delicately and Bodie joined him, close enough for Doyle to get the faint impression of Aramis once again.

A squat, lumpy leather bag was on the floor in the forest of polyester.

"Big enough, heavy enough," Doyle said. "I'm not bloody touching it."

"That's my boy," Bodie grinned, and tucked one hand over his shoulder so Doyle could see the fingertips if he strained his eyes sideways.

They had retreated as far as the tennis rackets when Bodie's R/T gave an ominous crackle.

"Patch-though from Central, 3.7...confirmed receipt of coded five-minute warning. Repeat....five-minute you copy?"

Doyle felt like he got down those four flights of stairs quicker than he'd ever got down any stairs, even the ones in the away section of Pride Park when he was being pursued by half a dozen enraged Chelsea fans to whom he had just foolishly yelled "Cockney wankers!".

And as fast as he went, he felt Bodie on his shoulder. It was almost like they carried each other down.

Out on the street, after the explosion that made the building shudder and glass rain down on the abandoned cars and buses, they sat side by side against the wall, knees touching. Doyle's karma was sufficiently rattled by the plume of smoke coiling into the air over the West End and the background silence trailing its way in and out of the standing vehicles to make him reckless.

"So," he said, "the other day..."

"I don't think these mad paddies know what the hell they're doing," Bodie interrupted him, "do you?" He abruptly got up from the ground and did a bit of half-hearted pacing. "You'd think they'd have managed at least a small body count after three attempts, know what I mean? Dublin will bloody re-call them at this rate."

Bodie turned and looked down at Doyle sitting in a patch of sunshine, and he extended a hand towards him.

"What do you reckon?" he said.

Doyle took the hand and let it pull him up. Bodie had braced himself to be in complete control of their momentum. For a crazy moment Doyle thought he was about to be spun off into a waltz down the street because Bodie's other hand was suddenly on his waist. Mind you, with Bodie it was probably more likely to be a rhumba.

"What do I reckon about what?"

Bodie's brows knitted. He wasn't talking about the Irish question and he couldn't quite tell whether Doyle realised.

Doyle realised all right, but he didn't know what he reckoned. The man he'd blagged a dozen birds with had kissed him in a lift, and it was the single best and most meaningful kiss he'd ever been on the end of. What was he supposed to reckon about that? It was no good Bodie asking questions. Doyle was looking for answers.

When he opened his eyes on the squadroom and Bodie in his towels his head was spinning slightly. They were in one of those periods when time seemed to speed up and slow down at will, all natural delineation of day and night, today and tomorrow, gone. It was even more marked than usual, because Doyle had been out of whack to begin with.

Some time soon this would all slow down, he told himself. There's only so much gelignite that these bastards could have, after all. Feeney and co had grassed up another two characters and they were out there, exposed. It was only a matter of time. Then he and Bodie could stop waking up in the wrong place and things would get back to normal.

Normal, though...where exactly are we on normal?

As he rose to standing and picked a delicate way over to poke a socked toe in Bodie's ear, it never occurred to him for a moment that things could get any worse.

"What day is it?" Bodie murmured, lifting his head sharply, his expression indicating that he was half inclined to grab hold of the sock and get it in a half nelson.

"It's tomorrow," Doyle said, swinging his foot away, "and that's all you need to know."

The next good chunk of sleep, in yet another borrowed bed, took Doyle part-way into a pleasant dream, in which he seemed to be looking out over endless green fields from a slowly-ascending lift. In the dream, at least, his bad shoulder wasn't twanging. He was unusually comfortable, tucked into pillows with a warm body next to him.

He heard a dull thump that may or may not have been real. Opening one eye he let go the lift and the fields and became aware that Bodie was sitting bolt upright at his side, the sheets of the borrowed bed pushed away. He was poised, one foot on the floor. Every muscle was taut, expectant.

"Bomb," Bodie said into the dark.

"Eh?" said Doyle, still happy in his sleepy world. Confused by having a bed-partner in reality, missing the comforting warmth already, he reached out a hand, but it closed on air.

"Car bomb," Bodie said.

Doyle struggled to a seated position, his confusion punctured. "You sure?"

The silhouetted profile turned to him, dripping with disdain. "I think I know a car bomb when I hear one," he said witheringly. "What's more, it's close. You coming?"

And he hopped out of Murphy's bed.

Doyle got after him, suddenly finding an ability to get dressed in under ten seconds and striding out across Murphy's lounge in the semi-dark with his holster dangling off one shoulder. The owner of the borrowed bed sat up on the leather sofa under the window and said, "Where's he off to?" in a resigned fashion.

"Bodie says there's a bomb," Doyle found himself saying, "What kind of a neighbourhood is this, anyway?"

"Bodie says, Bodie says," Murphy repeated, rising from the sofa in an obedient trance. "It could be posh round here, you know."

Outside all three of them followed the sound of a burglar alarm. It took them past Royal Oak tube and under the flyover, Doyle running in the middle of the road, in the lead now, Bodie panting into his R/T behind, Murphy bringing up the rear. They passed a couple coming the other way at a trot and Doyle flashed his I.D. There was smoke coming from behind a row of darkened shops, a sickly yellow colour from the streetlights, and a smell of burning oil.

"Think you're right, sarge," Doyle murmured as Bodie reached his shoulder.

"Of course I'm right," Bodie replied, and touched a hand against Doyle's back.

The fog of fractured sleep cleared from Doyle's head as they cantered round the corner. He checked off everything that loomed up before him and worked out what it all meant. A small car-park containing three whole vehicles, a grey Austin, a sports car and a white van. The remains of another car, perhaps coloured red. Body parts. A little wooden hut. About three people nearby, one in a brown-checked dressing-gown. Not hostile. A small device, perhaps, but enough to take out windows all along the parade of shops. Two other damaged cars. As he took in each of these things he heard Bodie saying the words almost simultaneously through his R/T.

"Let's get them out of here," he said to him, motioning at the three figures, their faces bathed in the oranges of lamplight and burning engine fuel. "I don't like the look of this."

Bodie regarded him with a mixture of impatience and admiration. The way he saw it, they'd called it in at their end, three emergency services were on their way and all they needed to do was avoid contaminating the scene. But then again, if Ray Doyle didn't like the look of something........

The figure in the dressing-gown suddenly broke ranks and padded cautiously over the road, peering at the grey Austin Maxi, which had been shunted out of its original space by the blast.

"My car!" he explained as Doyle reacted. "Look there, my car!"

"Hold on a moment," Murphy began.

"I'd like you to stand back, sir," said Doyle, his arms opened reflexively as if parting an unruly crowd. The man stood his ground, pointing.

"Come on, Doyle," Bodie said, nervous now.

"Move away," Doyle repeated, still walking forward towards the man in brown and white checks and slippers and now holding out a hand to him as if he were standing on the edge of a precipice. There was definitely something underneath the car, which looked like a white plastic carrier bag, wrapped around something. Rubbish perhaps...or not. Doyle was consumed by the need to get the man away, and he knew the look on his face was agitating Bodie.

"Back off!" Bodie snapped at both of them, riding a wave of self-preservation and backing off himself to the other side of the car-park by the small hut that had been knocked slightly off its perch by the blast. At the same time as he understood why Doyle had nothing but the safety of the man in the dressing-gown at heart, he was angry that he didn't retreat.

Over and above the sirens of three panda cars and a fire-engine which had rounded the corner about two hundred yards away, Bodie heard a ticking sound, like a tumbler turning inside a safe.


An almighty bang caused the first of the oncoming panda cars to swerve and crash side-on to a row of dustbins.

After a rush of hot air and debris had billowed over him, Doyle found himself in the gutter. The night air reverberated between the buildings, everything flaming red and blue. Murphy was coughing and spluttering somewhere close as if he'd swallowed a bag of sand.

"That wasn't my car!" Doyle heard behind him. "Not mine!"

"You all right?" another, calmer voice said in his ear, and someone put a hand to his elbow. Doyle blinked at the grit in his eyes.

Bloody Bodie, not even an exploding car could induce panic in him.

"You all right, mate? What went up?" he said stupidly, realising that the Austin Maxi was still in one piece. There was a pall of smoke across the car-park.

"Parking attendant's hut, sir," said the young policeman who was helping him up.

"Oh do me a favour..." said Doyle, a sucking tide of fear rolling over him, "do me a fucking favour...." and he staggered as he regained his feet, pushing the copper aside.

The hut was spread over the whole car-park. There were hunks of charred wood on the ground and bits of paper floating down like snow.

"What've we got?" shouted another one of the coppers.

The smoke was clearing sufficiently now for Doyle to see the side of a white van smeared in red, and a dark shadow lying on the concrete. Murphy, still hacking, was weaving about on the spot nearby.

"Partner," Doyle said. "My....silly sod was standing by the hut."

When he slipped on the ground by the van he felt bits of fallen shrapnel cutting right through the knees of his jeans. His shoulder was agony, almost as if it had popped out again.

"You're all in one piece, Bodie," he said straight off, although the thundering beat of his heart against his chest told him this couldn't be true. "You're going to be fine."

Bodie knew he'd turned over in the air. One second looking at Ray, the next some kind of eerie somersault had delivered him face up, spine down, spread-eagled on wet ground. He didn't hear Doyle, or Murphy, who was clearly shouting. His eyes flickered open and shut, open and shut, fighting against a red tide. He left the ground painted in blood and splinters.

"Ow," he whispered against Doyle's hair in the ambulance, and didn't even hear himself, "my fucking ears hurt."

Doyle woke up in the hospital several times on Monday, but did not count most of the time spent with his eyes shut as sleep. Cowley disturbed him once when he sat down on a chair, which was unusual for him because he liked to keep his leg stretched. The proximity of another human, one who he had no reason to associate with comfort, dragged Doyle out of a painful doze.

"No," Cowley said, when Doyle bounced awake with a sharp intake of breath. "No, they haven't told me any different. I came to let you know that the bomb-maker blew himself up at the scene by accident, possibly while loading the device. The one that caught Bodie was wired to a timer, but it wasn't supposed to go off then."

"You're bloody right it wasn't supposed to go off then!" Doyle barked.

"No," agreed Cowley once again, looking at the floor. "More stuff was found in one of the flats over the shops." He extended his leg. "We think there's just the one more member of this gang out there, and it's looking likely he's implicated in the Castle murder." He levered himself up. "I don't know how we've got away with this."

"Got away with it?" Doyle echoed, well aware his tone was loudly insolent. "Did you see the size of the piece of shrapnel in the back of his head?"

Cowley drew himself up. He had seen. "No civilians have died," he said, clipped and impersonal. It really wouldn't do to get as emotional as Doyle, although he was close to it. For Cowley, he was very close to it. He got to his feet. "I'll see you later."

Doyle tottered back along the corridor. There was one doctor and two nurses in with Bodie, who was lying propped on one side, the top of his head and upper torso wrapped in layers, lips whiter than the bandaging. So waxy white they made Doyle feel like throwing up.

There was no discernible brain damage, despite the depth of the metal piece that had been removed.

Bodie wouldn't wake up though.

"Thick skull," Sikes later offered by way of comfort.

Doyle stood with his hands on his hips staring out of the squadroom window.

"What is wrong with you, Doyley?" Murphy asked from behind. "I know you're knackered and it's rough seeing the silly arse out for the count, but I have to tell you,'ve been acting weird for about a week now. Looks suspiciously to me like you've got some wench on the go and you're pining for her. Is that what it is? Some wench you haven't told us about?"

"Yeah that's it," Doyle responded on the turn, drumming up what he hoped was an acid look, "Some wench."

"Go on then," Murphy encouraged, anxious to jolly 4.5 out of his unhelpful gloom, "what's she like? Blonde? Big tits?"

"Gorgeous and panting?" Sikes asked hopefully.

"Not blonde, no," Doyle said.

"But gorgeous, right?"


"Blimey, don't tell Bodie then, he'll be in there so fast..."

"No," Doyle said, glancing at the clock on the wall to see how long it was before he could go back to the hospital, "No, I won't."

Waking up in his own bed on Tuesday, at a time when he might reasonably be expected to wake up in his own bed, caused a prick of unwelcome heat in both Doyle's eyes. As had become his custom since the lift, if not before, his first thoughts on regaining consciousness were the where, why and when of Bodie.

A week, you bastard. A week and you said nothing. Now look at you.

He should have known Bodie would manage to turn his life upside down without even saying a word. And then relinquish all responsibility for the outcome by getting himself blown up. If that wasn't an example of a typical Bodie behaviour pattern then...well, he didn't know what was.

Just for a brief period yesterday evening it had seemed like he was coming out of it. But apparently he decided he didn't want to, and then there had been a succession of bomb threat calls, which much later turned out to be from a nutter but which managed to shut down Waterloo, Embankment tube and Victoria coach station anyway.

Doyle had walked back from the hospital, tracking his way through Bloomsbury and Covent Garden, up the Strand and as far as Northumberland Avenue before he got stopped for I.D. There was a Sunday-feeling about the streets, and what sounded like a small battalion of helicopters low-flying overhead. He no longer had any clear idea of where they were in the calendar. Yesterday, today, this week, last week.

In the morning he told Bodie that the whole city seemed jittery.

"You asked me what I reckoned," he said. Standing up by the bed with a cup of coffee, having done several circuits of the second floor, he looked curiously at the unmoving jaw, sculptured from marble. Bodie hadn't had very much to say for himself for the last seven days, and Doyle had considered that this might be because he felt like a right Charlie. Alternatively, of course, now that he had the unpleasant luxury of a period of rumination, Doyle wondered if perhaps he was just too fearful to say anything. Too hopeful. "Well, whatever you were on about," he went on, "the answer's yes. Yes, alright? Yes. Now bloody wake up, I'm sick of this. Murphy thinks I've got a new bird on the go. And I've got a bone to pick with you." The last of the coffee tipped down his throat. "Cowley says we're ongoing. Cabinet's in emergency session. Situation unresolved." He approached the bed. "No? Not interested?" He flicked the empty cup and it landed on the floor. "How about our situation unresolved, eh? How about that? This is your big chance, sunshine."

"Ears," Bodie said, just as Doyle was on his way out of the door.

"You what?" Doyle turned and saw his eyes all black again.

"Itch," Bodie fussed in a gravelly voice.

Either he was about to count to ten in Japanese, or something really was irritating him. Doyle poked his head out into the corridor and yelled, "Oi!", something he later apologized for.

"You got itchy ears, mate, that it?" he said, coming back over to the bed.

Bodie put out a hand and stroked his forearm about four times. "Ah," he said, and Doyle kept the hand there as he watched him drift off again, staring at it, not even wanting to blink.

"Well it's something," Murphy observed when they were sitting in the car heading towards the Castle. "He never did make much sense, even without a bloody great hunk of metal in his head." Glancing over at Doyle he shoved the car into fourth. "So, your new romance then...that on the cards?"

"Well supposing half the Provos in London aren't queuing up in this place to take romance. Always good, isn't it?"

"Blimey," Murphy said, impressed with the sudden spirit in Doyle's voice. "This could be going somewhere then? Could know...serious?"

Doyle wound down his window and let some air across his face. He suddenly grinned wide enough to make his face hurt. He knew he shouldn't be grinning when they were in the middle of what was feeling increasingly like a siege. It was a grin of near-hysteria, and he had the sensation of sucking up a lungful of entonox. His reply, when it came, was almost shaky.

"Well, I wasn't sure at first," he said, tasting the dirty, dry London air and feeling unaccountably fond of it. "Seemed like a bad idea and too much trouble. But...well....between you and me, Murph, I think I may have cracked it. Know what I mean?"

"Wish I did, mate," Murphy admitted, throwing the car left, enjoying the way Doyle clutched at the roof. "But if I was you, I'd crank it up to the next level as soon as possible. 'Cause you never know what's going to happen. Sort it tomorrow, I would."

Doyle shut his eyes. It took away the heady, out-of-control feeling, pushed away the upcoming encounter, damped down the adrenaline. He put himself back in the lift, just for a few seconds, long enough to remember it.

"No," he said, his eyes opening on to the closed back-entrance of the Castle as Murphy swung the car alongside. He patted his holster, a nervous tic. "Tomorrow can deal with itself. I'm going to sort it today."

-- THE END --

August 2007

"Believe me, wise men don't say 'I shall live to do that', tomorrow's life's too late; live today. Non est, crede mihi, sapientis dicere vivam, sera nimis vita est crastina: vive hodie"
(Martial, Epigrammata)

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