A Little Learning is a Dang'rous Thing


Stark and barren, the night landscape suited his mood. A full moon allowed him to see the empty countryside. No one would be able to approach via the rutted lane without being seen miles in advance, he unconsciously noted with satisfaction. Late winter was not the time for a holiday in Yorkshire. But then he wasn't on holiday; he was hiding out, trying to protect the poor, drugged bastard now sleeping it off in the attic bedroom.

Ray Doyle was depressed and confused, his thoughts in a jumble as he stared out of the cottage's dirty windows. His career was down the tubes, and if Willis, his boss in MI6, hadn't been afraid of the illegal interrogation of the academic getting out, Ray knew that he'd probably have ended up in jail. But Willis was breaking too many laws for Ray's case to be handed to the authorities. 'Probably try and have me shot so that he doesn't have to deal with the publicity,' the tired man admitted to himself. Working for MI6 for the last five years had not been what Doyle had expected.

Needing more activity than staring out the window to keep him alert, he climbed the narrow staircase to check on his charge. The dark-haired man had not stirred and was not likely to for hours, especially considering all that he'd been shot up with. Ray decided to check out the surrounding terrain more thoroughly. If Willis' bully boys did manage to locate him and his charge a thorough knowledge of the area could mean the difference between escape or a shot in the back. He headed back to the ground floor and, pulling on his brown leather jacket and gloves, he left the building to walk the perimeter.

As he climbed the rocky, bleak landscape, he found it hard to believe that Jerry's family had managed to eke out any kind of a living raising cattle for beef and milk as long as they had. The farm had been in the family for at least three generations, but the changing face of agriculture had caused his dad to throw in the towel in the mid-sixties and head to the city to find work. They'd kept the farm for sentimental reasons and because the economy at the time had been so depressed that little would have been made selling it. His parents had had a struggle, but Jerry Biggins, an old friend from Doyle's art school days, was managing a successful career in advertising. As Jerry had told Ray the last time they'd bumped into each other, there wasn't much art to it but it paid the bills and was a damn sight easier than farming.

So, when Ray had decided to run, Jerry's old farmhouse in the Dales had come to mind. His old mate would not be on his short list of friends--they didn't run in the same circles--so that Willis and MI6 would be unlikely to trace them here. Provided the agency didn't know about his backup set of wheels, Doyle and his charge would be safe indefinitely. The problem was that they had to go back sometime, and Willis' reasons for wanting them dead would not disappear even if the situation resolved itself. Ray scanned the countryside from the top of the highest hill near the cottage. There was no sign of life for miles; hell, there weren't even any lights for miles. His gaze came to rest on the farmhouse lit by the half moon, drawing his mind back to the mess they were in.

Two weeks previously a small dictatorship in Africa had been overthrown. For Africa the revolution had been relatively bloodless, but it had left East and West jockeying for the dominant position with the new regime. So far neither had come out a clear victor, both sides hedging their support in case the new government proved to be less enduring than it's predecessor. MI6 had received word that one Dr. Bodie, who had lived and worked in that area of the continent as a lad, was more involved than was proper--or legal--for an Englishman. He'd been pulled in and subjected to rigorous questioning. So far so good.... But something had gone wrong.... Doyle wasn't sure what, but Willis had ordered the use of drugs, convinced, or so he claimed, that Doctor William Bodie knew more than he was telling. As the days progressed and nothing more was learned from the academic, Willis kept breaking more and more rules, until at last a man was killed trying to get away from some of MI6's muscle. He'd been a small time wheeler-dealer but hadn't done anything wrong--Willis' goon squad had just got carried away.

They'd hushed it up within the organization, but Doyle, being so closely involved in the case and Bodie's interrogation, had heard the truth. Willis, already on shaky ground for previous misconduct, couldn't afford an investigation into the man's death, and that left Dr. Bodie as a very dangerous loose end. Ray hadn't realized just how loose an end, or how far his boss was willing to go, until Bodie'd been given an 'accidental' overdose of drugs and almost died. Doyle had called in an MI6 approved doctor, he'd administered a stimulant, and Bodie had survived.

Expecting the man responsible for the overdose to be called on the carpet, Doyle had caught the anger in Willis' expression, but soon realized that it was directed at himself rather than the other agents who hadn't dared call for help. Willis had wanted the academic dead; Raymond Doyle had got in the way. The MI6 head would not soon forget.

There was now no doubt in Ray's mind. Dr. Bodie had been cleared, but Willis couldn't afford to let him go because once he was free he had enough prestige and contacts to require an investigation of his treatment at the hands of MI6. And that would lead right back not only to the illegal detainment and interrogation, but also to a man's death and several other laws the organization had ignored. When that happened, the head of MI6 would be on the block. So, to keep his job and his power, Willis was going to make sure that Bodie died by accident or in an escape attempt. Much easier to hush up a death than a living, outraged academic. Especially one who numbered several ministers among his acquaintances.

To that end Ray had been reassigned, and he suspected that one of his missions a few months down the line would prove fatal; as he'd tried to save the man, Ray realized that his boss would now consider him a loose end as well. Doyle had a feeling that he wouldn't be the first agent who had balked at Willis' amoral behavior to meet an untimely death. Two names came to mind without much effort on his part. Neither had been friends, but he'd worked with them both and thought of them as men of honour. Apparently, too much honour for Willis. 'How did I go so long blind to what was going on?' he castigated himself. Well, he was awake now. The only question being, was it too late to save himself and Dr. Bodie?

He had considered waiting to run so that he could make sufficient preparations to lose himself. With enough money and preparation he could remain lost; but, if he waited, he knew that the academic would be dead. Ray found that, as cold-blooded as he'd become over the last five years under Willis' tutelage, he still couldn't stand by and let a man be murdered, a man whose only crime seemed to be that he was one of the top experts in England on Western Africa and it's politics.

So Doyle had taken his reassignment without protest and requested a few days off, supposedly to spend with his latest bird. Willis had seemed glad to be rid of him, and he'd been given a week. That alone told Doyle that his boss wanted him out of the way. Willis never let anyone off without protest. The man preferred to run his agents into the ground until they were injured or so stressed out that they had to be given time off. Thinking about it, he figured that Willis kept his people exhausted and on edge so that they couldn't think clearly about some of the things they were ordered to do. He realized, looking back over the last few years, that he had followed orders blindly that he might have questioned had he been less depleted.

Ray had moved fast upon being given the time off. He didn't imagine that his boss would let the grass grow under his feet before getting rid of the man he viewed as a threat. So he'd called Jerry from a call box and made the arrangements to hide out at the farm. He'd also told him not to admit to having seen Ray in years. Jerry, always a bit of a rebel, and not at all fond of the organization his friend had chosen to work for after leaving the Met, was happy to oblige. Ray had waited 'til two in the morning, immediately after a personnel change, to make his attack on the safehouse where Dr. Bodie was being held. There were only two guards, and he'd knocked them unconscious without their identifying him. He'd been none too soon. One of the guards was from Willis' private goon squad and had been about to inject the academic with what to Ray looked like a fatal dose of the truth drug.

Attempting to cover his arse, Doyle had taken a blood sample from Bodie and dropped it and the hypo containing the drug through the letterbox of a old friend from the police labs. His instructions were to run the tests and keep the results hidden until Doyle contacted him or he heard that Ray was dead. If dead, then the test results, transcripts of Bodie's interrogation, and a letter outlining the events of the last two weeks were to be delivered to the highest ranking officer in CI5 whom his friend could contact. CI5 being the only organization that Doyle felt could take Willis on and stand any chance of winning.

George Cowley, the head of CI5, had had it in for Willis for several years. It all went back to the supposed assassination of an East German official by one of Cowley's agents. The CI5 controller claimed the agent was set up; Willis claimed he was an assassin who'd hired himself out to do the hit. The truth would never be known because the man had been killed trying to escape. Since then, the two men had been locked in a battle of political maneuvering, each trying to get an edge with the public and politicians to force the other out. Neither was yet the clear victor, but of late George Cowley appeared to be gaining the upper hand. That was why Doyle's boss was so desperate that the truth about the African investigation not come to light. It would be the final leverage needed to force Willis' resignation. Doyle wondered if his information, along with the professor's testimony, might be enough to tip the balance, provided they lived long enough to testify.

He shivered in the cold air and headed back to the farm house. If spring was on its way, you could have fooled him. Doyle decided to talk to the professor and see what he wanted to do before making any decisions. If Cowley managed to bring them in from the cold alive, he still had to keep them that way, and MI6's resources were greater than CI5's. They had some time, and a wait and see attitude would give them the ability to assess the situation. Letting himself into the cottage, he checked on his patient and then resumed the lonely watch through the window.

It was late afternoon before the man in the bed stirred. Ray brought him a cuppa and some toast. Setting them down on the bedroom's dresser, he helped the man to sit up in bed, propping two pillows behind him and settling him back. The academic was very weak, but clear, deep blue eyes gazed up at him. Ray turned away from the accusation of that look towards the breakfast he'd brought.

"How you feeling?" he asked as he handed him the tea and toast.

Bodie eyed him suspiciously, his eyes alert for the first time in four days. Ray moved back and perched his hips on the dresser, legs stretched out in front. Taking a deep drink, the man in the bed continued to watch him, making no comment. Doyle met his gaze openly with a slight smile. The professor's eyebrow lifted. "So, are you going to play good cop, bad cop, now?" he drily inquired. "When's your boss due to play the bad guy?"

"He's not. You've been cleared...."

Bodie interrupted, "So I can go home?"

A chagrinned look crossed Doyle's face as he suddenly found the room's one tiny window fascinating. He gazed at it intently as he replied, "I wouldn't advise it, mate. Right now they probably have an All Stations out on you, and they'll be sure to be watching your flat and friends. My boss wants you rather badly."

"Thought I was in the clear?" The dark haired man was suspicious and wary.

Doyle opted for the bare truth. "Three days ago, one Jose Hernandez was killed by a couple of my boss' goon squad. It was hushed up, but your release and the stink that you're bound to raise would drag it out into the open." Doyle stopped to draw a breath before continuing. Dr. Bodie simply raised his eyebrows and nodded his head to indicate that he was listening.

"Two days ago you were given an 'accidental' overdose of a truth drug. I called in a doctor and the stimulant he gave you saved your life. When Mr. Willis heard, he was furious--unfortunately, not with the man who'd given you the drug, but with me for calling in the doctor. Claimed you were never in any danger and that I over reacted. I found myself pulled off your case." Doyle glared at Bodie's obvious disbelief as he concluded.

"Last night I knocked out the two men guarding you as you were about to receive another dose of the drug--I shouldn't have to tell you that you wouldn't have revived from that shot. I got you out of the safe house and London. We're at an old friend of mine's family farm in the Yorkshire Dales. It's no longer a working farm, and they use it more or less as a holiday cottage during the summer months. We can hide out here for three or four months before anyone's likely to catch on. Provided that we're careful and only get supplies when no one's likely to notice."

"Yeah, right. Try another one."

Doyle wasn't surprised at the disbelief; in fact, after the way Dr. Bodie had been treated, he'd expected it. What surprised him was the hurt he felt at being proved right. He'd blown his future, and maybe his life, trying to save the man, and somewhere down inside he wanted Professor Bodie to repay him at least with trust.

Reading the MI6 agent's face, Bodie was surprised by his apparent hurt. 'He really doesn't expect me to believe that fairytale story, does he?' Bodie wondered. But apparently he did, for the man was continuing.

"Unfortunately for us, our threat to Willis doesn't diminish with the conclusion of the investigation into possible British involvement in the coup. You can cause a big enough stink over your treatment at anytime to threaten his current position." Ray shrugged, embarrassed at admitting the truth he'd denied to himself for so long. "He hasn't exactly played by the rules for several years now, and there are a lot of people gunning for his head, both in and out of the government. With your connections, you could stir up enough trouble to force him out." Ray paused before concluding, "He won't surrender his power without a fight. And the main strategy in this battle is either to prove you were involved in the revolution, something he's failed to do, or to eliminate you so that you can't file a protest."

At Bodie's continued scepticism, Ray lost his temper. "Look, I'm finished in MI6 and probably any other government agency. No one wants a turncoat. But for once, I just couldn't stand back and let another 'problem' be eliminated." He'd turned and faced the man at the beginning of his tirade, but, as his anger ran out, he turned again to look out the window.

"This has happened before?" Bodie latched on to the underlying meaning of what had been said or left unsaid. The academic, Ray decided, would make an excellent interrogator. He'd certainly hate to face him in a tutorial.

"Not with a civilian, no...at least I'm not aware of any," Doyle hedged. "But looking back there are instances with agents, both in our organization and other organizations, that...well, let's just say that knowing what I know now, look suspicious."

The dark haired man did not give an inch. Ray could read the academic's body language and expression like a child's book; he still refused to trust him. Ray paced in the confined space, finally stopping before the small window. He flung his arm in its general direction.

"Look, if you don't believe me, come and take a look out the bloody window. You'll see you're not in London any more."

"And that's supposed to convince me?"

"What the hell purpose would it serve to get you out of London? If you didn't reveal anything under the drugs, you're not likely to reveal anything now."

Bodie nodded and eyed the auburn-haired man before him. He decided at least to look out the window. He'd been looking at four white walls for so long that anything would be an improvement. Trying to get up from the bed, he found it took more strength and coordination than he currently possessed. The other man came over to the bed, helped him stand, and, with an arm about his waist, they walked slowly over to the window.

One look was enough to confirm one thing the curly haired golly had told him. They were definitely not in London, nor anywhere near it. Staggering a little, trying to get his legs to work again, Bodie found the gentle support provided by the green-eyed agent disconcerting. It brought to mind his treatment during his recent captivity. Most hands had been impersonal at best and, at their worst, harsh and brutal. But one pair of hands and one soft voice had provided comfort in the twilight haze that had become his existence.

The first day of simple interrogation he'd been open and honest. He admitted to knowing people in the country that had experienced the insurrection, but maintained that he had had nothing to do with it. Bodie supposed that once they'd thoroughly checked him out, he'd be released. The morning of the second day, it had become a nightmare. That bastard, Willis, had seemed to believe him, and then he'd said or done something that had set him off and Bodie'd found himself strapped down as truth drugs had been administered. After that events became a blur. They kept him heavily doped up most days, and it was only late at night that the effects had worn off enough for him to become aware of his surroundings, and even then only marginally. Then withdrawal from the drugs was often painful and left him shivering, shaking, sometimes even throwing up and unable to rest properly.

It had been the first night of withdrawal--at least he thought that was when--that gentle hands had appeared and held him while he threw up, wiped his face, cleaned him up, gave him a drink of water and, when he became so cold that he couldn't stop shaking, a warm body had pulled him close and shared its heat as a soft voice talked to him and told him stories to distract him from the symptoms racking his weary frame. The room he'd been kept in was almost pitch black at night so that he'd never clearly seen his comforter, only a vague outline as he came and went from the room, and the voice was always a soft whisper--almost as if the man was afraid of getting caught. Bodie decided to test a theory.

"So, you still keep a dog?"

Doyle was paying more attention to helping the weak man back to bed and answered without thought. "Nah. Can't take care of one properly when you're in the service," he stopped, realizing what he'd given away. Some of the stories he'd told to distract the suffering man had been about his dog when he was a kid. Bodie'd recognized and remembered him.

To Ray's surprise, the stiffness left the man he was helping into bed, and the eyes that looked up at him no longer held distrust. "You took care of me those last nights? Didn't you?"

Meeting the questioning look, Ray nodded before looking away. He found a lump in his throat that he preferred not to try to answer over.

Bodie grasped his hand and held on. "In case I didn't tell you then, I want to tell you now. Thanks. You helped keep me sane. But can I ask why?"

"Went to work for MI6 five years ago. Liked the man that recruited me at the time, but within the year he was replaced by Willis. Seemed okay at first, but he got worse as his power base grew." Ray stood up and began to pace, his misery and confusion evident in every move he made. His words were punctuated with sharp, abrupt movements.

"I joined up to serve my country. Not some amoral bastard who's more interested in building his political muscle than in protecting his country. The way he treated you was the final straw for me." Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he sat down on the bed beside the academic. Doyle wasn't aware of how his hand clutched at Bodie's. "After the first day and the security check, it was pretty obvious you weren't involved. I didn't like the use of drugs, but it seemed a reasonable precaution to make sure. Least that's what I told myself. But when he continued it beyond the first couple of hours, it just didn't make sense and I couldn't stomach it."

"I switched to night shift, and when I heard you in distress, I decided to do what I could to help. Even though I'd been ordered not to have any contact with you. Part of the psychology of isolating the prisoner to get them to talk," Doyle explained. "So, while the other agent slept--wasn't supposed to but he's a lazy sod and I took advantage of it--I sat with you and tried to help you through. Figured that the bastard would have to give it up as a lost cause eventually. When I realized that they'd tried to kill you with an overdose, I knew I had to act." Ray sighed and lifted his free hand to smooth Bodie's fringe down. "Unfortunately, I don't have any more of a plan than to hide out here for awhile. Not much of a thinker, I guess." His hand fell to the bed between them, his gaze dropped to stare at it. Exhausted as he was, clear thinking was fast becoming beyond Doyle.

It was Bodie's turn to reach out and squeeze his shoulder. "Seems to me you've done damn well--we're both alive, aren't we?" The academic gently shook Doyle's shoulder. "But you look more shagged out than I feel. Have you eaten anything? And when was the last time you had any sleep?"

Ray looked up and smiled. "I've eaten but I haven't had much sleep for days. Even when I wasn't on duty, I couldn't close my eyes and forget what was going on."

"Come on to bed then, sunshine." Bodie patted the bed beside him. "It's big enough for both of us."

"Can't. One of us should keep watch."

"Look, I assume the place is locked up?" At Ray's nod he continued, "Put your gun under the pillow and get some rest. If we're going to be stuck here for a long time with only the two of us, we're not going to be able to maintain a watch. We're just going to have to trust to the remoteness of this location and that your friend won't give us away."

"He won't. Hates my boss something fierce. Not sure why--he never would say--but don't worry, he won't give us away."

Bodie nodded, accepting the word of the man before him. "So come on. Believe it or not, even though I've done nothing but sleep for what seems like days, I'm still tired; don't think the drugs are completely out of my system. Do your nightly permutations, strip and come to bed. Shower in the morning." At the look of amusement green eyes cast at him, he asked, "What?"

"We've got an indoor bog, but the only other water we have is a pump in the kitchen." At the look of disgust on the professor's face, Doyle chuckled. "Sorry, Professor, but we're roughing it."

"Won't be the first time, mate. But before I head back to sleep, how about helping me to the loo?"

They got ready for bed and, even though it was barely eight in the evening, were both soon sound asleep.

Morning saw Bodie up before Ray. He had a lot of thinking to do. Not given much to trusting, his days in Africa had sowed the seeds of mistrust, and his life in academia had fertilized and watered them. 'Bloody academics could give lessons to Arafat on political maneuvering.' Still, he was surprised to find that he believed what the green-eyed agent had told him. 'Damn, got to remember to ask him his name,' he mumbled to himself. 'Should at least know the name of the man who saved your life.'

A small voice within challenged the truths he'd been told, but against that challenge were those nights held in comforting arms, and a gentle voice whispering in his ear telling him childhood memories and even the latest books and movie plots. 'That Star Wars film sounded like fun. Going to have to go see that when all this is over,' he made a mental note to himself. 'Too much time studying and researching, not nearly enough having fun.' He decided that if they survived this misadventure, that was going to change and he was going to recruit pretty green-eyes to help him in the endeavour. 'But back to the matter at hand,' he chastised, 'Can't recruit green-eyes for fun and sundry unless we both survive.' He smiled to himself at the thought of the sundry he had in mind. Bodie hoped green-eyes was his type. 'Doesn't hurt to ask,' he mused, 'But later, after all this is over. Can't afford the complications now,' Bodie decided.

Sitting down, munching on fried bread and sipping coffee, he developed a plan of attack. First he decided to write down everything he could remember about his interrogation, and then he would review the transcripts that the MI6 agent had brought along. He'd stumbled across them in a case file as he'd prepared instant coffee in the kitchen. 'No hope of a real cuppa,' he sighed. Bodie thought he'd given up roughing it when he left Africa almost ten years ago, but here he was again: cleaning himself with cold water, using candles for light, and drinking coffee that would better be described as swamp water. And he'd drunk some of that in his time too, although not by choice. Taking pen in hand, he got to work drawing up a report.

Bodie had risen with the dawn; Doyle's eyes didn't open for several more hours, and even then it was a good bit before he got up the energy to become vertical. Despite the circumstances, he felt good, much more clear-headed. 'A decent night's sleep does wonders for clearing a man's head,' was his thought as he got up and stretched. Despite the mess they were in, the day looked brighter. He mused that the depression he'd been feeling the last several months might well have been exacerbated by the long hours he'd been working.

He'd wondered where the professor was when he had first woke up, but the sounds of him stirring downstairs floated up to the loft. Ray found himself reluctant to confront the academic again, especially as he was still struggling with his own reasons for helping the man. Whenever he tried to focus on his own motivations, all his mind brought forward was the vision of deep blue, laughing eyes, and a little boy grin that had characterized the professor the first day they had picked him up for questioning. He wanted to see those eyes smile at him again, and he knew that boded ill for his own piece of mind.

'Lust is not a complication I need right now,' he scolded himself, but even as he said it he knew it was too late. Dr. Bodie's good looks and his smile, coupled with his dark, acerbic wit had got under Raymond Doyle's skin on that very first day. His silent fortitude as he suffered the agonies of withdrawal had only made the agent admire and desire him more. Ray had only felt like this one other time upon first meeting someone, and she hadn't lasted more than a couple of months, her career being more important to her than a newly acquired lover. 'Wonder how long the Professor would last?' Permanence, while something he knew he wanted, was as elusive as ever. He headed downstairs to see how Dr. Bodie was getting on.

He found the academic sitting at the kitchen table scribbling away, with piles of paper surrounding him.

"I see you found the transcripts I brought...and the other files," Doyle observed, walking over and fingering one of the folders.

"Yeah, I found them, but I'm saving reading them for later," Bodie answered abstractedly. "I'm trying to write down a coherent account of my time in MI6's custody. Don't think I'll have too much trouble with the first day, but after the drugs, events are blank or very confused."

"Well, start at the beginning with what you do remember and work from there." Doyle turned on the gas on the stove and lit the burner. "I'm glad the stove isn't electric. I'd hate to have to cook on a camp stove for however long we're stuck here." He lifted the kettle to find that it had enough water in it for himself and Bodie. "You want tea or coffee?"

"Neither, but I guess I'll try tea. The coffee was godawful enough."

"Prefer the real thing do you?"

"Not with this water. Whatever you make is going to taste pretty bad. Too heavy in minerals."

"Yeah, I noticed that when I made a cup yesterday." Doyle stretched, trying to work more of the kinks out. First one arm raised above his head, then the other rose to join it, hands gripped together, he pulled hard and long. He turned this way, then that, and moaned as stiff muscles protested his attempts to limber them up. 'A nice, hot soak would be sorely appreciated right about now.' He rubbed the back of his neck trying to ease the ache.

Bodie, distracted from his writing by the MI6 man's stretching, tried not to let his interest show. 'Green-eyes has a very nice body,' he thought as he eyed him appreciatively. His stretching outlined muscles through the fabric of his tight-fitting jeans and thin, cotton t-shirt. As the agent continued to rub his neck, obviously in pain, Bodie found himself unable to resist temptation. He stood up and came up behind the green-eyed man; reaching up, he began a gentle massage of his neck and shoulders. It didn't take long for him to realize that the muscles were exceptionally knotted up with tension. 'Not surprising really considering.'

"Come over here and sit down. I can get a better grip that way." Bodie tugged him towards a chair.

"Going to strangle me for all you been through?" Doyle asked only half in jest.

Moving up behind the seated agent, Bodie began to kneed and squeeze the muscles of the man before him. Enjoying the feel of the body he was working on, he allowed his own body to move closer than was necessary. "I'm not angry with you, green-eyes. You were always polite to me that first day of questioning, and then you took care of me at night, so I don't have the least desire to strangle you. Now, some of your fellow agents, I couldn't say the same for. In fact," Bodie's kneading got a little rough as he finished, "there are a couple of them that I'd dearly love to get my hands on. Not to mention your boss...." His voice trailed off and he eased his grip on the agent's shoulders. "Sorry, didn't mean to take my anger out on you."

"'S'okay. Felt good and you got rid of most of the pain." Doyle rolled his shoulders and stretched again. "Thanks. You've got quite a grip on you, professor."

"Not a professor. Don't have a Chair. Just call me Bodie."

"Bodie? Not William or Philip or...."

"Know my names, you don't have to list 'em. I prefer just Bodie." Doyle nodded, but before he could speak Bodie asked a question, "So what do I call you? If I ever heard your name I don't remember it." He looked down at the man sitting with his back to him. He was still absent-mindedly rubbing the agent's upper back and shoulders.

"Don't know if I ever introduced myself. My name's Ray Doyle." He turned his head to look up at Bodie and found his face only a foot from his own. Both men felt a spark of attraction flare between them. Neither was willing to bring it out into the open just yet by saying anything, but they couldn't resist increasing the contact. Ray smiled and let his head fall back and rest briefly against Bodie's chest. Bodie tightened his grip and the massage became more of a caress, his hands slipping down from shoulders to Doyle's muscular chest. They froze in that position for a few seconds before drawing apart. Ray was the first to speak, as Bodie withdrew to prepare the tea.

"It's market day in the nearest town. I thought I'd go in and pick up provisions for the next couple of weeks. Should be easier to get lost in the crowd that way. Thanks," Ray said as Bodie handed him his drink. "Willis probably hasn't figured out I'm missing yet--I'm not due back on duty for several days so there isn't likely to be a notice out on me yet. You keep working on what you remember and trying to work out why my boss singled you out." Doyle added a spoonful of sugar to his tea took a sip and then added another. He grimaced as he drank the liquid. 'Bodie's right; this water makes anything taste awful.'

"Will do. You be careful and watch your back. He might catch on faster than you expect to who broke me out."

"I tried to make it look like you could have broken yourself out...."

"Not on those drugs...."

"Well, it might keep them guessing. Neither of your guards knew what hit them, that's for sure. Including the gorilla who was trying to give you another injection when I showed up."

"Nice timing that?"

"Wasn't a coincidence, if that's what you're asking. I hung around headquarters trying to pick up what info I could on the case and heard the instructions to Reynolds that he'd be relieved in the middle of the night by Martin. Martin being one of Willis' 'special' operatives, I knew what that meant. I would have preferred another day to get things ready, but baby-sitting not being one of Martin's normal duties, I figured you wouldn't be around if I took more time to prepare. Given more time, I'd have tried to stock up on more supplies and prepare some other escape routes. As it is, if we're forced out of hiding here it's going to be harder to find a place to go to ground, or a way out of the country."

"Well, more options would be nice, but living's nice too, so you won't hear me complaining. How we doing for money? I've got some stashed in a Swiss account if we get desperate and can get there to pull it out."

Ray did a double take at this information. Numbered Swiss accounts not being standard equipment for an academic. Bodie, seeing that look, smirked. Green-eyes had been a bit patronizing off and on and it was nice to throw him for a loop. "Comes from my days in Africa and the travel around the world my family did when I was a kid."

Nodding like he understood, even though he didn't, Ray confessed, "I've got a numbered account as well. After a few years in MI6, you tend to get paranoid and like to have lots of options available. Well we should be able to stay solvent. I've got a couple of thousand quid that I cleaned out of my savings late on the day before yesterday. If we're careful and can stay here, that should hold us for a few months. We'll have to make a decision by then as to what we're going to do."

"I'll pay half when I can get access to my bank accounts again. I hope it doesn't take that long, though. I'll lose my job if it does. I imagine my boss isn't too thrilled about the last week as it is. I don't suppose that your agency bothered to notify him where I was?" At Doyle's amused look Bodie finished, "Thought not. It's going to take a lot of fast talking to get me out of hot water. At this rate, no one will ever be calling me professor."

"S'alright, mate, you can always be professor to me." Finishing his tea, he stood up and stretched again. Bodie had backed up to give him room to move but not too much room. Ray Doyle's body was quickly becoming a magnet to his hands and body.

"I'd best get going." Bumping into Bodie to squeeze by him on his way out, Ray took his time to enjoy the sensation. He noticed that the professor was enjoying the contact as well. 'Background checks do have their uses,' he thought to himself. Dr. Bodie's had turned up the fact that he was bi-sexual. Doyle was now trying to decide if having that knowledge was a good thing or not. Ignorance in this case would have made his desires a bit easier to control. As it was, knowing that the professor was likely to be receptive to an advance was making it hard for him to concentrate on the task at hand. An emotional involvement at this point was a complication that they could do without. He grabbed his jacket and headed out the door with only a terse good-bye, his jeans feeling much more constricting than usual.

As he watched him go, Bodie worked on rearranging the fit of his suddenly too tight trousers. The attraction was there but, like the MI6 agent, the academic felt it was an added complication that they'd better avoid. 'Still...? Once this spot of bother is over,' he smiled as he made plans for that eventuality. It was a considerable time before he could bring his normally disciplined mind back to the task at hand and even longer before his trousers fit comfortably.

Two days later, Bodie threw down the pen and pad he was using to make notes, frustration and anger in every move.

"What's up, Professor?"

"Oh, for pity's sake, Doyle, I told you I'm not a professor. Don't have a Chair. In my field you need one foot in the grave to qualify."

"Bit of an exaggeration, that. Don't you think?" Ray kidded him. They'd talked a bit over the last few days about academic life and the difficulties of getting a promotion. The MI6 agent had been surprised at how devious and Machiavellian politics at a university could become.

That won an answering grin from Bodie. "I suppose, but it seems like it some times. Just call me Bodie. Okay?"

"Sure, Professor." Ray chuckled at the look of amused frustration that crossed the academic's face. He loved making the man smile and had spent the last couple of days doing his best to do just that; even in the midst of all their troubles, Bodie'd been laughing a lot. Doyle was unaware that he'd been laughing more than usual as well. They liked being together, and both possessed a wicked, dark sense of humour. He directed the conversation back to the mystery at hand.

"So, what's the problem? Found out why my boss has it in for you?"

Bodie had spent the first day writing down in detail everything he remembered about his interrogation. The first day was clear and detailed, but the last three confused and muddled; most of the time spent under the drug was a blur or totally blank. Their second full day at the farm Bodie'd spent going over the transcripts of the days spent in MI6's custody, and as the day had progressed, the dark-haired man had become more and more restless.

Doyle's run into town on the first day had gone smoothly, and they were now stocked with provisions for a couple of weeks. The second day he'd spent reading Bodie's notes and the transcripts. Something was bothering him, but he hadn't been able to put a finger on it either.

Finally, after getting up to pace, Bodie spoke. "My notes and the transcripts for the first day agree just fine. I don't have the detail they do, but the basic contents are the same, and with the transcripts to refresh my memory, I can recall almost everything." Doyle nodded his agreement and understanding. The academic continued, "But the last three days just don't add up."

When the professor failed to continue, Ray nudged him, "Yeah, what?"

"For one thing, there isn't enough material." Doyle's eyes asked for an explanation. "Well, look at the number of pages." Bodie waved a hand at the pile of paper on the table. "Three days of questioning under drugs doesn't equal a quarter of the material generated during the first day."

"Well the drugs..." Doyle began; Bodie interrupted.

"Look, green-eyes, even with the drugs there isn't enough material spread out over those three days to account for more than two or at the most three hours of questioning and that estimate is stretching it."

"Yeah, but by the end of your first day under the drugs, Hernandez was dead and so Willis was just stalling for the other two. Hell, the last day after their first attempt to kill you, they didn't even bother with questioning."

"Still, it's not enough." Bodie paced over to the table and pointed to several areas he'd highlighted. "Look here...and here...and again here. It's all repetitious. Almost word for word. A subject wouldn't answer like that unless he'd been programmed, and I guarantee you that I've not been programmed."

"So what are you saying?"

Bodie strode across the room in frustration, first staring out the small window, then pacing to the fireplace to adjust the fire. Finally, he replied, "I don't know, only that it doesn't add up."

"Well, what would you expect to see...?" Doyle decided to go at it from another angle.

"I don't know. You tell me. You're the agent."

Doyle mulled it over for a while. "First, I'd expect to see the same questions asked and answered that had been covered in your drug free interrogation. You want to look for discrepancies between the two. Then discrepancies would be followed up...."

"But there weren't big discrepancies, at least these transcripts don't show any. I was telling the truth to those Sods."

"So it should have stopped...."

"It should have, but it didn't."

"If it had, then Hernandez might still be alive, and you should have been released by the evening of the first day under the truth drug. The first couple of hours of interrogation were enough to prove you were telling the truth."

"Yeah, but I wasn't released and that's the real question...why? Why did they hold me and why didn't they follow up on what minor inconsistencies there were in my statements...?"

"But they were so minor...."

"But if it's all you've got...."

"You make the most of it."

"But they didn't." Bodie paced back to the table, pulled out a few sheets and shoved them at Doyle. "Look, here is a small discrepancy. I remembered my last day there as being on a different day of the week. Sunday instead of Tuesday. It's not much and, hell, it's been ten years, so I was probably shooting in the dark anyway, but that should have been followed up. It wasn't."

"No, it wasn't, was it?" Doyle's voice had an abstracted quality to it; Bodie withheld further comment, allowing him time to think.

After a few minutes, Ray asked, "You read that new book by that American author called The Hunt for Red October?"

"Yeah, I have, as a matter of fact, but how'd you get your hands on it? It's not in general release over here yet."

"Got a friend--"

"So what does that have to do with anything?"

"Well, there is this scene where the ships are after the Red October and the sonar man makes the observation that they are going too fast to be able to tell anything from the--"

"Yeah, I remember the scene. They aren't really looking, just driving...." Bodie's voice faded off and he stopped. After a few minutes, he looked up, a knowing smile on his face. "So you're saying that they weren't really looking for anything, just going through the motions...."

"They didn't pursue any discrepancies in your testimony because they never for a moment believed you guilty," Ray finished. "The drugs were a stall from the very beginning."

"Yeah, I'll buy that," Bodie nodded at Ray. "But we're back again to why. And I'll tell you something else, Doyle. I remember a lot more questioning going on during that first day under the drugs than is reflected in those transcripts."

"You're saying that they cut from the official transcript a lot of the questions that were asked while you were under? How can you know?"

"Been thinking about it...." Bodie shuffled through his notes from the first day of interrogation that he remembered under drugs. "Look here. I don't remember most of the day after they strapped me down and injected me, but towards the end of the day the drugs started wearing off and I know I remember being asked--actually grilled by your boss--about how I knew that General Macumba had outside support and that that support had to be from the West. Yet look at the transcripts; those questions aren't mentioned anywhere."

"How do you know that about Macumba, by the way? Guess work?"

"Not on your life, sunshine. I worked for him now and then when I was roaming around Africa. He's a cautious old sod. No way would he make a move on the old regime without a guarantee of outside help."

"So, why not the Communists? They'd be much more likely to stage something like that."

"True--actually very true. Know your stuff, you do, except for one thing: his village was razed and a lot of friends and several members of his family, including one of his wives, was killed in the attack, oh, I guess it would be twelve or thirteen years ago now."

"Know about that raid. It was attributed to a rival tribe. That's all in the records."

"Yeah, but what wasn't in the records was that Macumba and a couple of his men arrived at the village the night before within an hour or so of the attack, and that a few of the villagers were still hanging on to life. They identified the attackers as a Communist supported group trying to make trouble among the various factions. That particular faction was under direct orders from the Kremlin. Macumba didn't have the power or support to risk challenging the Communists back then, but he's hated them with a passion ever since. The wily old bastard's kept that hidden and let them think that he believed the lies about who was behind the massacre. He couldn't afford to have them going against him at the time, or any time since for that matter. The only way he'd make a move now is if he had a guarantee of outside western support to get rid of the Communists."

"You're talking covert aid."

"Damn right."

"Yeah, but anybody in the British government caught doing that would find his goolies in a vice."

"Too bloody right!" Bodie thought and stopped for a minute before concluding. "However, anyone able to help negotiate a treaty between Macumba and Great Britain would find his political power strengthened considerably...."

"Provided he didn't get caught by a professor who's too well informed for his own good...."

"And who has a big mouth to boot." Bodie returned to his pacing as he continued. "Signed my own damn death warrant, I did. Told Willis the morning of that second day when I thought that he was getting ready to release me that I didn't blame him for looking for support for Macumba coming from England because the General wouldn't have made a move without it." The academic groaned. "Then I proceeded to tell him he was barking up the wrong tree looking at my level because the General wouldn't act unless someone in the British government was behind him. That I was too low level for him to risk playing his hand."

"God, Bodie, you might as well have bent over and said bugger me."

Bodie grinned at that comment, thinking that he'd like to do that right now but couldn't afford the distraction. He got back to the main point quickly before green-eyes could spot his distraction. "Well, how was I to know your boss was helping him. Besides, I wouldn't think that was his department?"

"Shouldn't be. He's probably helping some minister jockey for power with the payoff being his power base increases or he moves up the ladder. He might have political ambitions, but I doubt it. That's too subject to the winds of change."

"So, Willis is giving intelligence reports either directly or through someone in the British government to Macumba and his group so that they could over throw the current dictator...."

"Dictator, Bodie? Don't you mean president?" Ray drily observed to the academic.

"Yeah, if I said or wrote anything publicly--president. But a despot's a despot no matter what he wants to be called. And Kinch was pure despot. So now we know."

"Knowing's one thing, but proving it is something else. And we don't have one shred of evidence. It's all guess work."

Bodie flopped down on the couch and sighed. Doyle sat on the arm beside him and concluded, "Getting proof's going to be damned impossible. If Willis is up to something like this, he won't be leaving any records laying around for anyone to find."

Ray stopped and thought about it a while. "I hate to say it, mate, but we just might have to leave England indefinitely. Arrange some false IDs and head to Australia or Canada or maybe even the U.S., if we can get some fake work permits and visas."

"Together?" Bodie was tired of ignoring the subtle undercurrents that had existed over the last couple of days.

Ray looked over and met the questioning gaze before answering. He hedged his bets, "Yeah, together's fine with me. Up to you though."

Nodding, Bodie decided to take a chance. "Yeah, I'd prefer together. Hadn't realized how lonely I've been until the last couple of days. It'd be nice having someone around."

"That's settled then." Preparing to rise, Doyle shifted up and patted Bodie's knee.

"Not so fast." Doyle sat back and waited. "Do you want to give up England?" Bodie asked.

"Not really, but if it's between that and breathing, I'll take breathing every time."

A smile greeted his statement. "Won't argue with you there, but there is an alternative...."

"No way is my ex-boss stupid enough to leave a trail...."

"Didn't think that he was, but I've got an ace up my sleeve." Ray nodded for him to continue. "Macumba owes me a favor. Actually, even without that he was quite fond of me, watched over me like one of his sons when I worked for him. I think if I could contact him and tell him what's happening, he'd make our safety part of his deal."

"He'd shop Willis and his pet minister to save you?"

"Don't know if he'd go that far.... He won't risk his country for one or two men, but then he wouldn't have to. All he'd have to do was threaten your boss and the minister with either going public, the deal falling through, or going to the yanks, and that would bring them in line. Willis might not have kept records and proof, but you can bet your arse that the General did. Like I said, he's a cautious old bastard."

"So we head to Africa?"

"Ah, there's the rub...."

"There always is, old son, there always is."

"The General is going to be in the best position to negotiate for our safety before the treaty is signed, and he's coming here in two or three weeks to finalize the negotiations...."

"No way can we get false IDs, passports and get there by then."

"Know that; and not to mention that the borders into and out of the country are closed down and probably will be for several more weeks to come. There are ways in, but none that we can guarantee getting there and in to see him before he leaves to come here. Especially if your boss learned during the interrogation that I know the General and he owes me a favor. We can't count on those last transcripts giving us any clue as to what he really learned.

"Our best hope is, as he only did the interrogation during that first day under the drugs, that that's the only one we have to worry about. Don't think he'd risk one of his agents finding out what he was up to, do you?" Bodie queried.

"You're right about that. He doesn't trust his left ball to talk to his right. And since he was grilling you towards the end of the first day, and that got interrupted by news of Hernandez' death, it's likely that he doesn't know much. Still, we can't risk him figuring out that we're trying to contact Macumba."

"So we've got to catch him when he first arrives in this country. I'd send a letter but you never know who's working for whom in the new government and Willis is bound to have one or two men on his payroll. A letter from me would be guaranteed to get to the General but it's also one of the most likely names to be intercepted by any MI6 agent."

"How the hell are we going to intercept him when he first gets here and how did you learn about him coming?"

"Little blurb in the paper you brought back from shopping yesterday."

"Yeah, that's right. I remember reading that but it didn't mention any names."

"Didn't have to. Who else is it likely to be?"

"True, and I'm sure that there will be more publicity as the time approaches. You know all that shit about the new leader wanting to establish ties with Great Britain and the West in exchange for foreign aid."

"It's not going to be easy to see him. Once the communists realize that he's planning on dealing with the West, they are probably going to try to assassinate him and blame it on a rival faction. And what better way to make England look bad than killing him here right under our noses." Bodie shook his head; this was not going to be easy.

Doyle was thinking along the same lines. "You know what else?" Bodie looked up in question. Ray elaborated, "Ten to one, CI5 is chosen for security. They do this sort of thing a lot, and Willis much prefers to let them take the blame if anything goes wrong. I know a bit about how they operate, but not nearly as much as if Willis was providing security."

"Yeah, but that also means that their agents aren't as likely to be able to identify you."

"There is that," Ray nodded in agreement. He found that he'd had enough for one day. "Bodie, my head's spinning; let's get out and go for a walk. Need to get away from this for a bit. How 'bout you?"

The professor nodded his agreement. They had their answers, but they were a long way from providing them with any security.

Dusk was coming on quickly and the temperature was dropping from chilly to downright cold as they walked the hills around the farm.

"Nice place to defend, this," Bodie observed after they had been walking for fifteen or twenty minutes. "Only easy vehicular approach is via the dirt lane and that can be seen for nine-tenths of a mile."

Doyle, about to agree with Bodie's assessment of the defensibility of the farm, found himself side-tracked. "Nine-tenths?" His skepticism of this exact estimate showed.

The academic shrugged. "From the top of that hill," he pointed to indicate where he meant, "Where the track becomes visible to the farm house, it's nine-tenths of a mile, give or take a few yards, of course."

"How the hell can you know that?"

"Got good at estimating distances when I was in Africa. You can measure it with a car if you like. Make you a bet--a night on the town in London. I pay if the mileage counter doesn't scroll to between nine-tenths and one mile, you pay if it does."

"Sure of yourself, professor."

"I reckon I win either way," Bodie smirked at Doyle, giving his body the once over, not too subtly this time.

Doyle, seeing that look, grinned back. "Yeah, I see your point. 'Course, by the time this is all over, neither of us might be able to afford it."

"Spoilsport," Bodie grumbled. "But you're probably right."

"'S'okay. We'll either go dutch or, if we're both broke, we'll do something cheap. Agreed?"

"Agreed. I'd like to see that "Star Wars" film you were telling me about, or any other film for that matter. Been too caught up in my work to enjoy much."

"Know that feeling. Barely had the chance to get a leg over in the last few months."

That stopped Bodie and had him wondering if he'd been misreading the signals that Doyle was giving out. "Birds?" His voice held a query that Doyle was quick to pick up on.

"Bi. Same as you." Doyle grinned. "'Cept in my line of work, I have to be a lot more circumspect."

"Could see where you would. Been with many of late?"

"Not since I joined the Met eight years back...."

"'S'long time that? You sure you're still...."

"I'm sure and getting surer every day." Doyle didn't explain any further, figuring that the professor was smart enough to gauge his meaning.

He was, if the smirk on his face was any indication.

Two and a half weeks later, Bodie, though appearing outwardly cool, was waiting impatiently in the lobby of the General's hotel. The plan was simple and straight forward enough. He and Ray had checked in under assumed names two days previously, Bodie having called in a few old favors to find out the location where the new government head would be staying while in London.

Ray couldn't believe that he'd be at a public hotel. "Doesn't make sense, mate. Too dangerous."

"Not when you know the General. His life is at risk the minute he leaves his country for England. The Communists are going to know what he's up to and attempt to stop him, one way or another...."

"But he'll be a sitting duck...."

"He's going to be that no matter where he stays. By establishing such a public presence in this country he achieves two things. The first is that if he is killed, it won't be quietly hidden in some out of the way country house. Thus England and the Communists will get the bad press. Us for not being able to protect him, and them for making the hit. They'll try to pass it off as some rival faction, but you can bet the General's people will fill the press with innuendos insinuating their responsibility. Secondly, it forces the hand of those in the British government that have been supporting him. They can't deny his presence and still negotiate the treaty. They've got to take a public stand because the General will soon be a very public figure in our country.

"And then there's Macumba's other more personal quirk." At Ray's raised eyebrow he went on to explain, "He loves jazz. You should have seen his record collection even back in the early seventies in the middle of a bleeding war. He won't pass up the chance to visit as many of the major jazz clubs as he can while he's here. My bet is that after an agreement's reached, he's scheduled at least four or five days of R and R so that he can hit the night spots. Once his name is on the dotted, killing him won't have much impact. He's probably got two or three successors lined up back home for a smooth transition."

"They'll fight among themselves then--"

"Nope. The General didn't recruit men interested in money and power. Especially not to his inner circle. That's why it's taken him so long to build his power base. He looked for men who really cared about their country and its people; and he didn't merely take their word on it, but watched for them to prove themselves. No, mate, you can bet that before he leaves to come here they'll have the succession all ironed out, and there won't even be a hiccup back in his country if he's killed. But if the treaty isn't signed before he dies, then those left back home won't have the British support they need to hold the new government together. That's why he's moving so fast to get an agreement; it'll buy his group time to stabilize things back home."

So now Bodie was killing time in the lobby hoping that no one from MI6 was around who might recognize him or Doyle beneath their disguises--beards, glasses, and, for Doyle, a temporary hair tint--and that he'd be able to get close enough to the General to either speak to him or slip him a note. Doyle had contacted a friend that he trusted and found out that no notice to the other services or the Met had been put out about either himself or Bodie. Willis was trying to keep it in-house. Macumba's swift public move had distracted MI6's head from them, and he appeared to be concentrating on the General's visit. Once that was over, Bodie had little doubt that he and Ray would again get Willis' full attention. They were too dangerous to his power base to be allowed to live.

Bodie watched the two CI5 agents in the lobby tense up. That must mean that Macumba was on his way back from the dinner meeting. The academic glanced over at Doyle to see if he had spotted the change. The green-eyed man nodded slightly to indicate that he had. 'Ray was a damn good agent,' Bodie thought to himself, 'and Willis was a fool for using him the way he had.'

Another glance at his partner and he noticed how tense he was. The MI6 agent was worried about him, Bodie could tell. Their only major argument had been about the academic's being the one to try to contact the General. Doyle did not like the idea of a 'civilian' taking such a risk and had been rather patronizing about the situation. Bodie'd fought hard to keep his temper under control and his mouth shut. He stood a better chance of getting Macumba to listen if he could get close enough than a stranger like Doyle did. It was just getting close enough initially that was the rub and where the danger lay. Ray didn't want him taking that risk. He was being too damned over protective. But Bodie conceded that the agent didn't have all the facts. Doctor William A. P. Bodie was, after all, merely an innocent university lecturer.

Bodie sighed to himself, wondering if he should have been totally honest with Doyle. He wasn't the hapless academic that the MI6 agent imagined, but he hadn't been about to tell him that. Even Bodie's family had never known the truth of what he'd done during those three-and-a-half years he'd traveled around Africa. He wasn't about to start talking now. Doyle didn't know it, but he'd been one of the three men who found the General's village that night it had been destroyed. The General and his son had been taking him back to visit Mac's wife and the young man's mother. She had lived just long enough to tell them the truth. That night the General had sworn them to secrecy because he knew he couldn't take on the Communists, but it had just about killed the General to do so.

Bodie'd given his word not to speak, but had said nothing about acting. He'd gone back to base with the General and returned the next morning with the troops to 'discover' the village massacre. Two days later, he'd disappeared from the General's camp, to return in a week and inform Macumba that the three Communist leaders and their Russian puppet-master had been shot by a sniper and were dead. The General made no reply, but the look of satisfaction in his eyes told Bodie all he'd needed to know. Yes, the General owed him one, and they both knew it. And poor Doyle thought that the academic would be shocked by the violence and political maneuvering involved in his work for MI6. 'If only he knew,' Bodie thought, 'It isn't me who's likely to be shocked by the truth.'

Scanning the lobby automatically for other security personnel, Bodie didn't spot any. There were, however, a couple of business men who caught his eye. Tough looking characters. He'd hate to face them across a boardroom table. They'd been arguing some kind of merger details in the lobby for the last half hour or so. Apparently, whomever they were waiting for was late.

A limousine pulled up to the front of the hotel and the CI5 men in the lobby went out to join their two counterparts emerging from the car with the General. Two in front, two at the back, they made an effective shield. They were also going to make it damned hard to get a word with the General, or a note in his pocket with a number for him to call to reach Bodie. The note wasn't the preferred alternative, but if he couldn't get a private word he'd have to take a the chance.

That was, if the security men would let him get in the lift with them. Close quarters like that would be the place to slip the note into the General's pocket and hope he noticed it as he cleaned out his pockets in preparation for bed. It had been his habit, when Bodie had known him, to make notes and put them in his pocket for dealing with before bed or first thing the next morning. Bodie could only hope that that practice hadn't changed with the addition of more aides.

Good security procedures wouldn't let anyone ride with him, but going by the General's attitude this morning, and his dressing down of George Cowley, he wasn't going to allow CI5 to intimidate and inconvenience the other hotel guests. 'No storm trooper behavior' was how Mac had put it. Bodie'd had to fight hard not to laugh; the General hadn't changed much in the last ten years. And Cowley did not look happy, grinning and bearing it. Macumba had always hated pomp and fuss, and apparently still did. General Macumba had been a plain man who liked simple pleasures; his major vice was jazz music, and his primary goal in life had been to make his country a better place to live for all its citizens. He had also been one hard-headed so and so who didn't suffer fools lightly. That's why he and 'Bodie L'Emmerdeur' had got along so well.

Getting up swiftly and stretching, looking for all the world as though he were bored and needed a break, Bodie threw down the magazine he'd been pretending to read and moved casually towards the lifts. As he glanced once more at his partner, he froze, fear in his eyes. Uncannily, before he could even say a word, Doyle had caught on and turned towards where he was gazing. One of the two business men was now standing only a couple of yards away from Doyle and had drawn a gun and was aiming it at the General's party. The MI6 agent moved swiftly but not swiftly enough. The soft ping of two silenced shots seemed to fill his hearing as they took out the leading two CI5 protectors. They collapsed to the ground, blood oozing forth, seriously injured or dead; Bodie didn't know which and didn't have time to worry. He moved.

As Doyle moved to take out the shooter, Bodie ran towards the General, knocking him to the ground in a flying tackle. As he took the General down out of the line of fire, the agents behind him drew their guns. Before they could turn and locate the newest threat, they were cut down by shots coming from another direction. The assassins were taking no chances and had planned to catch the General and his guard in a crossfire. The hotel lobby offered little in the way of cover.

As the unmistakable smell of blood filled his senses, he slipped in the bright red liquid pooling around him on the floor. Instinct alone propelled Bodie to grab one of the injured agent's guns from his limp hand and, sighting the other assassin, he didn't even pause, but aimed and fired, hitting the man right between the eyes. Somewhere in the back of his mind, an analytical voice was telling him a body shot would have been better, but with the assassin sheltering behind a potted plant, Bodie'd decided that he couldn't risk only injuring the man and letting him have another go at the General. There was precious little cover where they were lying and he doubted the man would miss if given the chance.

Bodie quickly rolled to his feet, every nerve alive and twitching, afraid that at any minute he or the General would be felled by a possible shot. He looked fearfully for Ray, a gnawing ache inside telling him that losing the MI6 agent at this point would hurt a lot. He was relieved to see that Doyle had taken the other man out. Turning, he grabbed Macumba by the arm and pulled him to his feet. Bodie noted abstractedly that the General had avoided most of the blood, only a few scuffs on his shoes. His own knees and lower legs were damp from it, also his palms, making him glad that his dark trousers would hide the nature of their stains until he had a chance to change. He wiped his hands on his trousers and then grabbed the General's arm, herding him towards the back exit.

As the General began to recover and resist, Bodie turned and whispered harshly. "Mac, it's me, Bodie, and we've got to get you out of here. They may have back-up. Come on."

Braced on his feet, the General took a long, hard look into the academic's eyes, nodded, and moved forward to follow him. Bodie stooped down and picked up two more spare guns to go with the one he still held. Starting to put them into his pockets, he paused as Macumba held out his hand for one. They exchanged a long, hard look Bodie gave in and handed one of the guns over to his old commander. "Sure you haven't forgotten how to use one?"

"I practice weekly, kid, and while I can't out shoot you, I am capable of wounding a man at fifty feet."

They moved quickly, meeting Doyle by the service door. Both men had been shaken by the violence that had come so unexpectedly and felt the need of a touch for comfort. Bodie gave Doyle a one armed hug and Doyle patted his back in return, glad to have made it out alive and uninjured. The three men took off at a run down an alley for the car park two streets away where a rented car was hidden.

A bedsit on the outskirts of London which they had rented the week before was their destination. Bodie drove the General was in the front seat between the two men. Doyle began to talk, ignoring the General.

"We've got to get him out of that uniform. Otherwise we might as well paint a bullseye on his arse and parade him in front of Buckingham Palace."

Before Bodie could respond and remind Doyle that he was talking about the new leader of a small African country, the General interrupted, laughing, "I see you still run with men who don't respect pomp, Billy."

"You know me, Mac, never had much time for bullshitters. He's right though, we need time to talk and we won't have it if some beat copper or nosey parker spots you in that outfit. It's not exactly inconspicuous."

"T'wasn't meant to be. It was meant to project an image. However, as that image has temporarily become a liability, I'm amenable to changing it. One of you gentlemen will, however, have to acquire a change of attire for me. As your friend observed, I'm not exactly inconspicuous in this uniform."

"I know a shop near the university that will be open. The clothes are rather...ummm...exuberant however," Bodie responded.

"Ah...perfect!" the General exclaimed clapping his hands and rubbing them together. "I'm rather tired of khaki, grays and browns; exuberant would be most welcome. And now, if you'd introduce me to your...?" The General's voice questioned Doyle's identity and relationship to Bodie.

Before answering, Bodie glanced over at Doyle and thought, 'I wonder about that myself.' He also noticed that green eyes appeared distracted. Something was bothering him, but Bodie decided he'd give him a bit to mull it over before button-holing him about it. They'd only been working together a little over two weeks, but in that time Bodie had come to know his temporary associate quite well, and he recognized all the signs of a brood coming on. Doyle would talk when he was good and ready and not before.

Catching the General's eye, he realized that he'd been wool gathering instead of answering his inquiry. "Mac, this is Ray Doyle. Doyle, this is General Lucas Macumba. As for what's going on...well that's going to take awhile to explain, and we should try to find somewhere private where we won't be interrupted before we go into the details," Bodie concluded.

"Mr. Doyle."

"General." They nodded at each other as Bodie pulled up in an alley not far from a lighted, heavily trafficked street.

"Turn left at the end of the alley, the shop's about halfway down on your right. You'll have to go, since some of my students hang out in this area and I don't dare be seen here. Not to mention that the stains on my trousers might attract attention," Bodie directed his partner.

Ray nodded, noted the General's sizes and headed off. "Something bright," the General had said, "like a jazz musician might wear."

The men in the car watched Doyle walk down the alley and proceed on to the street before either spoke. Both were lost in thought, reliving the past and wondering about the future.

Mac was the one to break the silence. "It seems that I owe you my life again, kid, but how did you...?"

"I didn't. We were there to try to talk to you. Believe it or not, I need your help; but it's a long story and one I'd rather cover with Doyle around to tell his part. We just got in the way when they tried to hit you."

"You were both very efficient in my defense."

"Doyle's MI6." Bodie saw the subtle tightening of the General's jaw and continued, "I trust him, with my life."

At that the General turned and raised his eyebrow. "I didn't think you trusted anybody?"

"He saved my life a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps I should have said that he was MI6. He's wanted by them now. We both are."

"Seems like you've got quite a story to tell, Billy, but we'll wait 'til your friend gets back. I've got a few areas that I could use your advice on myself," the General confided. "It should prove an interesting night."

Deciding that small talk would be in order until they got to the bedsit, Bodie asked about the General's wives, children and grandchildren. They chatted amiably about the General's family and Mac expressed his sorrow over the deaths of Bodie's parents, his father to a cancer, and his mother not long after had succumbed to pneumonia. As Doyle turned into the alley and carefully approached the car, Bodie concluded, "I really wasn't surprised when she died. What she and my father had was special. I don't think that she wanted to go on without him, and with her faith I'm sure she's with him elsewhere." He paused as he watched Ray approach, then spoke abstractedly, almost as though he'd forgotten that the General was there. "I'd given up on finding that kind of love...until recently...." His voice faded off and he didn't finish as Doyle pulled open the door and climbed into the back seat.

He grinned at the General as Bodie started the car. "Well, I'm not sure what most musician's wear, but there were a few on the street and I bought an outfit similar to the one that a sax player was wearing." He held it up, looking positively gleeful, for the General to see. Bodie grimaced but Mac laughed.

When he could get his breath, he turned to Bodie and goaded, "He's got your wicked sense of humour, kid." Turning back to Doyle, he chuckled, "Well, I won't be blending into any crowd, but I doubt that anyone who knows me would recognize me at a casual glance. Hide in plain sight. You must be a fan of Poe, Mr. Doyle?"

Doyle smiled back and nodded at the bag. "There's some braids that you can attach at the back of your head to go with the clothes. Should add to the overall effect."

The General only continued laughing as he quickly changed clothes into a bright yellow, African-print tunic and loose-legged, black pants. Looking at the hairpiece, he decided that it would have to wait till he had a mirror and better light to apply it properly, unless...? He handed it to the MI6 agent, asking, "Mr. Doyle, if you'd do the honours?"

A big grin crossed his face, but his voice was calm and collected as he replied, "My pleasure, General." Doyle carefully worked the fake hair into the General's, using the pins he'd purchased along with the hair. It wasn't perfect, but from a distance would fool the casual onlooker. He finished as they pulled up to their temporary home. The street was very busy and the General got several second glances, but no one connected the eccentrically dressed man with the missing African leader.

An hour later, Bodie had cleaned himself up and they'd exchanged information; all three men were very unsettled. Bodie noticed that something was still bothering the MI6 agent. He finally decided to confront him.

"Look, Doyle, I don't know what it is but it's obviously important, so tell me."

Ray didn't try to deny it; Bodie'd come to know him too well over the last few weeks, but he was still having trouble accepting the conclusion that he had arrived at. It didn't make sense...yet...? He met the academic's look and turned away, unsure of how to phrase what he had to say.... His suspicions.... He didn't want to be unfair or misleading and he wasn't positive, but, still, he was almost sure....

Watching his partner struggle with something, Bodie forgot about their audience and went over to stand close beside Ray Doyle. He patted his back a couple of times and absent-mindedly turned the contact into a gentle back rub, speaking quietly, "Doyle.... Ray...? Trust me."

He finally turned to look at Bodie, and started to talk, "I'm not sure...that's why I didn't say anything but...." Bodie waited quietly for him to continue, their heads close together; neither was aware of the General's interested gaze. "There were lot's of people in and out of that lobby as we waited. Probably a couple of hundred or more over the hour or so, it being supper time and all, so I didn't notice too closely when the hit men arrived, but I'd almost be willing to swear...not that it'd stand up in court mind...but I could have sworn that I recognized one of the men that they spoke to. His face was familiar; I'd only seen it once, but I'm almost sure that I saw him leaving Willis' office a week or so before all this started." Both Bodie and the General looked jolted at the information. Doyle finished up, "That one I took out.... I got a good look behind his Glasses. I recognized him as a KGB agent that works at the embassy. So tell me," he challenged, "What is someone that works for, or who's at least had contact with Willis in the last month doing making contact with two Russian assassins right before they tried to make a hit?"

"You sure, mate?" Bodie was still at his side, but his hand had moved up to squeeze Doyle's shoulder.

"That's just it. I didn't get a good look tonight. By the time I noticed him talking to them, he was turning to leave. But, yeah, I'm pretty sure."

The General finally spoke, nodding, "As you've deduced, my friend, I had help and support from inside the British government before I was willing to make my move. Since then however, I've noticed a cooling in the people I have dealt with. This doesn't surprise me because I'm being much less cooperative than they had expected. What's your favourite term, driving a hard bargain? Perhaps between my recalcitrance and the danger that you two pose, the minister and Willis have decided to cut their loses and deal with one of my successors. The instability created by my death before the treaty is signed would make their position stronger, and my people would have to give further concessions. I would think that your Mr. Doyle is correct in his identification. The question is, who do we turn to to get us all out of this alive?"

Doyle spoke before either of the other men could. "Cowley. George Cowley. He's honest, a man of his word, and only cares about politics so much as it lets him do his job without interference; and he hates my ex-boss and would be happy to see him out on his ear. But if we're going to do something, we've got to talk to him very soon and without anyone else being aware of it. How--"

Here Bodie interrupted, "I've been watching him and his men over the last few days, and I've listened to you talk about him for a few weeks. His leg's been acting up, so he'll likely use a driver whenever he's done at the hotel." Bodie checked his watch twice, finding it hard to believe that less than two hours had passed since he and Ray had rescued the General. "If we're lucky, he won't be finished yet, and I'll ambush his driver and take his place. Murphy's the one who's been driving him in the evening and in the dark our builds and hair are enough alike that I stand a chance...."

"Bodie, you've already taken enough risks. You're an academic, not trained for this sort of thing...." Ray stopped abruptly as the General laughed and interrupted.

"You meant what you said about not telling anyone about your time in Africa, I see. But really, Bodie," for the first time Mac used Bodie's name, emphasizing to his friend how serious he was, "I've watched you with this green-eyed shaman. He needs the truth. If this is to work, he can't be worrying about you while he does his job."

Bodie nodded but sighed. He pushed Ray down to sit on the bed and sat beside him, the only chair in the room already occupied by the General. "I don't have time to explain or go into details, Ray, but I can take care of myself. I was fifteen when I ran away to see the continent but looked twenty, and within six months I was working as a mercenary. That's how Mac and I met. I spent my last two-and-a-half years there working solely for him as one of his bodyguards and aide-de-camp. I was very good at what I did and only left because I got word that my father was ill."

"But there isn't any record.... Willis would have stumbled across...."

"I used the name Billy L'Emmerdeur. Billy from Billy the Kid, my first name being William, and L'Emmerdeur was a nick name that--"

Mac interrupted with a chuckle, "--you earned."

"There's no need...." Bodie's look of chagrin sparked Doyle's curiosity.

"So what's L'Emmerdeur?"

Bodie shot a disgusted look at the General as Mac elaborated, "It means he who gets his friends into shit."

Meeting the African's look Doyle let loose a deep, rumbling chuckle. "He is that. Did you name him, sir?"

"Let's say I contributed. I like to think that he named himself."

Bodie just shook his head, knowing that Doyle would never let him live it down. He continued, "It was Mac's idea to use an alias and only he and one or two others knew my real name. They don't have cameras and fingerprints nor heavy duty records out in Africa. So no name--no record. And I did enough hacking around during the first six months or so to establish a history of several jobs and did some undercover work for Mac that also would help to fill in the time. Tell you more about it later, sunshine, once we get this taken care of." Bodie patted Ray's knee and stood up. "Let's get going. You drop me off at the hotel if it looks like Cowley's still there, and I'll bring him back here to talk to the General."

"I will ride along as well...." as Bodie and Doyle both turned to protest the General raised his hand. "You have an extra gun or two and I did not get to my position by standing back and letting others take all the risks. We are in this together." Bodie looked angry, but knew when Mac made up his mind he was more stubborn than any overloaded camel he'd ever run across. Doyle shrugged and let Bodie take the lead.

They drove slowly past the hotel and spotted Cowley's driver and car at the back of the car park. He looked as though he were getting ready to leave. Bodie moved swiftly. Knocking the man unconscious, he pulled him into the bushes, rapidly exchanged clothes and tied him up, loading him into the boot of the car. Bodie climbed behind the wheel and pulled the car onto the street in front of the hotel. Fortunately, the driveway up to the front door was crowded, so that it wouldn't look too suspicious for Murphy to pull up to the less well lit street at the front. Now, he hoped, Cowley would come to him. He sat and waited, motor running. Seeing that there was little more they could do, Doyle pulled out and headed back to their room. After about ten minutes, the silence and Ray's worry hung heavy. Doyle felt compelled to cross examine the General.

"Is he as good as he claims?"

"You are worried?"

"Of course I'm bloody well worried. All our lives are at stake if he's caught or killed."

"Ah. That's part of it, but not, I think, the important part. Is it, Mr. Doyle?"

"I don't know what you--"

"I have watched Billy with many men, and never before have I known him to give his trust in under six months, and even then only rarely. Even as a lad he trusted no one." As Doyle started to interrupt, the General held up his hand to forestall his protest. "I know that it's unusual circumstances that have brought you together, but believe me, the jungle will produce even more unusual events than what you have found yourself in of late. Yet he never trusted anyone, except perhaps myself and my son, as I can tell he trusts you. There is something between you, is there not?"

"We're just two men trying to stay alive the best way we can," Doyle's voice held a quiet protest.

"You don't have to be truthful with me, my young friend, but I hope that you are truthful with yourself." Their stop at a light gave the General a chance to look Doyle hard in the eyes as he replied to the earlier question, "And as for how good he is or was, he was the best with weapons, strategy and unarmed combat. Because his father's research took them to many third world countries, his mother thought it wise that he know how to defend himself. She made sure that he took martial arts courses from the time he was a small boy, and as he got older she ensured that he learned about guns as well. Many of the countries they lived in or traveled through were dangerous, and his abilities saved his family from harm on more than one occasion."

"Why'd he leave you then? I mean, if he was so good and all, I would have thought you would have wanted to keep him."

"I wanted to very much, but I encouraged him to go when he heard about his father for many reasons. He is white and we are trying to get rid of the colonial mind set. I couldn't keep him and not promote him up in the ranks. Yet by promoting him, it would maintain the idea of white rule. For another, as good as he was, he never lost his ability to care. Perhaps because he was so young, or maybe I took him under my protection early enough that he was not fully exposed to the worst that men could do. For whatever the reason, I knew that he had to either harden or get away. I preferred him to get away from the death and killing and make a better life. My position was not always as secure as it is now, and if I fell, my white lackey would be one of the first to suffer.

"So when word came about his father, I encouraged him to bury his past, return to his family, and further his education. I have a son and friends in England, and I kept abreast of his progress from afar. I'm glad that he has done so well, but I'm surprised that academia is enough to keep his interest."

Ray nodded to himself and commented, "You could be right there, sir. He tries to hide it, but throughout all this mess, I think he's been having a good time."

"Your life is on the line as well, and you also seem to be satisfied with what you're doing?"

Dropping his guard a little in exchange for all the General had told him, Doyle replied, "It's hard not to when you're working with Bodie."

The General smiled to himself. It seemed that Bodie had found himself a partner at last. He wondered just how far the two men would let the relationship go. Macumba suspected, based on the interaction that he'd observed, that if they weren't careful it would progress from friendship to something more physical. Their Affiliation reminded him of his youngest son by his second wife when he was falling in love with she who would become his only wife. Despite their mutual protests of being only colleagues and not liking each other, they always seemed to be close together, and as time progressed were often seen touching. 'That is one of the best marriages that any of my children has made. Perhaps these two...?'

Bodie waited calmly for the CI5 controller to come to him. He didn't have to wait long. Within twenty minutes the sandy-haired man left the hotel, giving final instructions to his men as he limped out. He scanned the street and, spotting his car, made his way over towards it. The CI5 controller surprised the ex-mercenary by walking around to the front and getting in beside him.

George Cowley had been distracted as he got in the car. One agent was dead, two in critical condition, and the other seriously injured; he also had one dead KGB assassin and another still unconscious in the hospital; and on top of all that the General was missing. Taken away, apparently voluntarily, by the two men who'd saved his life. Two men whom no one had a clue as to who they were.

Macumba's staff was up in arms and Cowley didn't blame them. An All Stations had turned up nothing, and no terrorist group was taking credit for kidnapping the African leader. None of it made any sense, and it was giving him a major headache that proceeded to get worse as he turned towards Murphy, only to find a stranger with a smile and a gun pointed at him.

"Good evening, Mr. Cowley. General Macumba would like a word with you in private. I think that you will be very interested in what we have to say."

Cowley only nodded. He could pull the gun that he had concealed at his ankle, but that would get him no nearer the General. And based on the descriptions that the few eye-witnesses were able to give, this was one of the men who had saved the General's life. He would go along for the ride. For now.

He nodded at the gun that the man continued to point at him as he drove. "Ach.... You can put that thing away. I'm anxious to see the General myself. It seems I have you to thank for the fact that CI5 has yet to suffer having our charge assassinated while in our care." The thank you was grudgingly given and Bodie could hear the disgust in the older man's voice. He didn't blame him; his men had got sloppy.

"You're welcome," he rubbed salt into the older man's wounds. Cowley's glare indicated that he was aware of Bodie's meaning.

"They've paid for their carelessness...."

"More than enough. Did any survive? One was heart-shot, but I didn't have time to take stock of the other three."

"Last report was that two would survive. We're waiting to see on the third. The forth, as you guessed, was dead when hit." Cowley decided to do his own probing. "Who shot the KGB agent?"

Bodie grinned at him and shook his head once to show that he knew what the old SOD was up to. 'Why the hell not? If we don't trust him we might as well pack it in.' "I shot him. He was going for another shot at the General and there was precious little cover."

"Considering the angle and lighting that was a damn fine shot. You know you hit him right between the eyes. Risky that--don't you think?"

"A bit, but with the lighting and that damn potted plant, I couldn't be sure that a body shot would incapacitate him. If I didn't take him out, he might have had the ability to get another round off."

Cowley thought over the statements, and the set-up of the hotel lobby, and realized that the man beside him was right. He experienced an emotion he wasn't used to--he was impressed. That kind of split second decision and marksmanship meant that this man was one of the best he'd run across in a long time. He wondered who he worked for and if he'd consider changing affiliations. "So, who do you work for?"

"Don't work for anybody. Well at least not about this. I'm just trying to stay alive...."

Cowley shot him a sceptical look. Upon seeing it, Bodie elaborated, "It's true. I'm not an agent. Now my partner...."

"The one who took out the other shooter?"

"Yep. That's the one."

"Witnesses report he's very good at hand-to-hand. Dropped an experienced KGB operative in under thirty seconds and he's still out. Severe concussion. The hospital thinks he may come to by morning but they aren't sure. So who...?"

"Well, he doesn't exactly work for anyone right now either." Bodie was getting a kick out of baiting Cowley. He found himself liking the older man when Cowley let out a snort and a rather rude word under his breath. Bodie smiled, deciding to have mercy; after all it was going to come out shortly anyway. "Up 'til about three weeks ago he used to work for Willis in MI6."

George Cowley was nothing if not sharp on the uptake. "Ray Doyle. And you must be Dr. William Bodie." There was no question in his voice.

"Got it in one. Wish my students were as sharp."

"Not hard as Willis has been turning this city quietly on its ear looking for first you, and then later Doyle."

"Thought that he hadn't made it official?"

"He didn't, but I've got my sources. So you were helping the General overthrow the previous government?"

"Nope, that was what Willis was doing. Me? I was just stupid enough to open my mouth and let him know that I knew someone from the British government had to be supporting Mac or Mac wouldn't have made a move. Mr. Willis did not want that bit of information circulated among the ministers who used me as their consultant on West Africa. And, apparently, there was a death at the hands of some of his agents."

"Hernandez. Damn, I knew that bastard was involved some how. We just couldn't get a handle on it."

"Yes, well, he decided that my continued existence was a liability that he could do without. Unfortunately for him, Doyle was a man with a conscience who couldn't stomach seeing me killed to protect his boss' political position, so he got me out and we've been in hiding since."

Bodie parked the car and turned to Cowley. "I can tell that leg's giving you gyp, but it's less obvious if we walk the quarter mile to where we're staying. Can you make it?"

"Don't worry about me, laddie, I'll do just fine. Care to tell me how you know about my leg?"

"Been staking out the hotel for a couple of days before the General showed up. Watched you having problems with it."

"Two days! How the hell did...? Ach, never mind. Seems you two should have been working for me. You certainly did a better job than my men." As they walked along, Bodie pulled out a flask and passed it over to Cowley.

The sandy-haired man raised his brows in question. "Might help the pain a bit." Bodie nodded down at the leg in question. "It's late and it's going to be an even longer night before it's done."

Pausing in his walk to take a deep drink, Cowley actually had a smile on his face as he handed the flask over to Bodie. "That's a fine single malt, lad."

Bodie grinned back from ear to ear. "Thought you'd appreciate it, sir." He motioned for them to continue.

They entered the bedsit to be met by Doyle's angry tirade. "Damn it, Bodie, what took you so long? Should have been here half an hour ago."

Cowley and the General stiffened at the angry words, but Bodie only smiled and nodded towards the CI5 head. "He took awhile to come out. Couldn't very well go in and ask him to hurry along so that I could kidnap him quickly, so you wouldn't worry. Now could I?"

Doyle snorted but smiled, "Nah, guess not, but I was worried, sunshine."

"No need to be. I'm working on taking good care of meself, I am." Bodie smiled back at Doyle and then got serious. "I've told him," here he nodded at the CI5 controller, "a bit about it, but we'd best start at the beginning and give him a detailed run down. All the facts and our theories." Here Bodie looked hard at Ray. Beyond this point there would be no turning back nor running; once George Cowley was involved they'd have to play out the hand that he dealt them.

Doyle nodded his agreement and started to talk.

A long time later, George Cowley sat back on the bed and stretched. Bodie and Doyle were on the floor, their backs propped up against a chest-of-drawers and the General was back in the rickety armchair.

"That's quite a story, lads, and you've absolutely no proof...."

"They might not have, but I kept records and tapes of my dealings with the minister and Willis. That should support their claim." The General pointed out.

"Aye, it'll help, but still...."

"You don't believe us?" Doyle questioned.

"No, I believe you, but my belief isn't enough to send Willis to jail or even get him out of power. If it were, you could be sure that he would have been gone long ago. No, you've handed me quite a conundrum, and we've got to work out a way to get all of you out of it alive."

"What about my going public with the details of the help I received?" The General questioned.

"Well, that would certainly get the minister in trouble, but tieing the information and weapons that were supplied to you to Willis and MI6 is going to be harder. Not to mention the stink that would be raised would delay the signing of the treaty with your government for several months, at the very least. I wouldn't give much for your life expectancy in that case. Once the agreement is signed, then the Russians have little to gain by your death; until then, it's in their best interests to try to destabilize your country by eliminating you."

Cowley decided to think a bit, but found himself curious about the academic. "Well, most of my questions have been answered except for one thing. Would you care to tell me, Dr. Bodie, how, when the shooting started, you were not only able not to go running for cover in fright, but acted to save the General, and got off a shot from a prone position that one of my best marksmen would have had trouble making?"

Bodie sighed to himself and stood up, realizing that his past was no longer going to stay safely buried. He stretched his stiff muscles, glancing first at the General and then at Doyle for support; he was unaware that he came to attention as he made his report. "I was a mercenary who served under the General for two-and-a-half years of my time spent in Africa."

"You couldn't have been more than sixteen when you started?"

"That's correct, sir. The General took me under his protection and helped to train me. I served him until an illness in my family required my return."

"Why become a university lecturer?"

"Went back to school to make my dad happy when he was dying, found that I liked it, and decided to continue."

Cowley, becoming aware of Bodie's rigid stance, waved him to sit back down. "Ach, relax man. You've lost none of your survival skills."

"I've a few friends in the military who have allowed me to keep up with current weapons, hand-to-hand, and my marksmanship. In exchange, I advise them on African affairs. Mentioned to one about six months ago that I thought you'd be making a move soon." Bodie nodded at the General. "That comment started the whole ball rolling when the balloon went up last month. Guess they suspected I had some inside information."

"Well, lad, let's hope it works out in the long run. Now I've got an idea, but it's going to be risky for you and Doyle especially. Are you willing to give it a go?"

Bodie and Doyle exchanged looks, then turned to Cowley. Bodie answered for both of them. "We've got a better chance with you than anyone else. Let's hear it."

The plan itself was simple; setting it up had been the hard part.

CI5's controller and the head of MI6 were in a late morning meeting dealing with the previous nights fiasco when Cowley took General Macumba's call. After breaking off, he informed Mr. Willis that the General had arranged to return to CI5's protection along with the two unknown men who had saved his life. The meeting was to take place in forty-five minutes, so he would have to cut their meeting short.

Willis knew it was taking a risk but he had no choice those men couldn't be allowed to live. Desperate, he had to assume Cowley wouldn't bug his own office, he called his men using his own R/T and arranged the hit. Every word was recorded, and Willis for once was too rattled to be cautious in his phrasing. He knew that he couldn't afford for Bodie, Doyle and the General to live long enough to talk to CI5's controller. The top men on his special squad were assigned the task.

Bodie, Doyle and a black man in uniform were gunned down as they walked towards George Cowley and several CI5 agents. Unfortunately, Willis' hit squad turned to find several more CI5 agents with the drop on them, and after their colleague's death last night, most of the CI5 agents were hoping for resistance. Disappointingly, the MI6 men gave up without a fight. At least they'd accomplished their mission, or so they thought. With the three men dead Willis could lie about the reasons for the executions.

"Bloody hell, that hurts. Suppose I should be grateful that they didn't use hollow points. Bet my ribs are bruised," Doyle griped as he sat up and struggled to remove the heavy vest he was wearing. "Wish they'd come up with a vest that absorbs the impact."

"You know, for a dead man, Doyle, you certainly do complain a lot...for an agent, too. This is all supposed to be in the line of duty. Hey you.... Jax, isn't it? You okay?"

The black man in the General's uniform moaned and complained, "I'm not okay unless someone got the number of that lorry that hit me. I bloody well hope I don't have to play sitting duck again anytime soon."

Doyle ignored their interaction and replied to Bodie's earlier comment as he watched Cowley approaching them. "Line of duty, my arse. In case you haven't noticed, I've been off Willis' payroll for damn near a month and most of my savings are gone." He groaned as he rolled over and struggled to his feet. Bodie gave him a helping hand, although not much better himself. "Not even getting paid to act as the Judas goat."

"In case it's escaped your notice, I've not been paid for any of this either. You at least got paid for the time I was being interrogated."

"Never got to collect that paycheck." Doyle sighed, feeling the real world come rushing in now that they were safe. "But at least you've got a job to go back to. Me, I'm likely to be out on the dole. Isn't a self respecting security branch that's going to want someone who turned on his boss. No matter what that boss was up to. All...."

Cowley decided to interrupt Doyle's moaning. "Don't speak so fast, laddie. I think we might find a place for you in CI5." His gaze included Bodie also as he continued, "Actually, Dr. Bodie, if you feel like a change of pace, I wouldn't be averse to having you try out for CI5 as well. You and Doyle made a good team on this case, and I can always make use of good men." At the stunned looks that greeted his offer, he fought down a smile. If these two did come to work for him he doubted that he'd often take them this much by surprise or that they'd let it show like this if he did. He savoured the moment, "Well think about it and let me know. Good work. You too, Jax."

He turned and walked away to arrange Willis' arrest. Today was a day he'd been looking forward to for two long years, since the day Willis had set up one of his CI5 agents to take a fall. As he left, he debated whether he'd let Willis kill himself or force him to stand trial, but eventually decided that the bastard didn't have either the integrity nor the courage for that act. George Cowley smiled at Murphy as he climbed into the car. The young man was still sulking at being bested by a mere academic. Little did he know that, based on what the General had told him, he'd better get used to the idea. Bodie was going to be showing a lot of his agents that a bright mind doesn't necessarily mean a weak body. The smile did not leave the controller's face as he thought to himself, 'CI5 could do with a bit of a shake up, and Bodie and Doyle were just the pair to do it.'

Ray Doyle was depressed and confused, his thoughts in a jumble as he stared at the door of the posh restaurant waiting for the man he hadn't seen in over six weeks. Based on his past experiences, he hadn't realized that he could miss anyone so much. Especially not someone that he'd only known and worked with for a little over three weeks; but he missed Bodie.

He sipped his drink from his position at the bar, hoping that Bodie wouldn't be too late; he hadn't been able to commit himself to an exact time. With the state he was in--nerves, fear, expectation, each warring for supremacy--Ray realized that he'd probably be drunk as a lord if the professor was more than twenty minutes late. 'Wonder if having this night on the town was such a good idea?' he questioned himself. They'd mostly ignored the issue of their attraction for each other during their time together, realizing that it was a complication that would not only muddle their working relationship but that could jeopardize their testimonies if a relationship were revealed. So, by unspoken agreement, they'd never gone beyond mild flirtation, the underlying consensus being that they'd deal with it when the case was resolved.

Resolution, however, did not allow for the mandates of real life. They'd both spent a couple of days in heavy debriefing, not allowed to communicate with each other, and then Ray had been sent back to MI6 to resolve his situation there. He'd wondered about his reception in his soon to be ex-organization. Opinion had been mixed. About a third treated him like a traitor, a third didn't give a damn, and a third welcomed him, glad to be rid of Willis and his 'special' squad. That had taken another week to clean up all the loose ends, and he'd tried to contact Bodie only to find that he'd returned briefly to the university and then was on a short sabbatical to aid General Macumba in his negotiations with the British government. They'd exchanged phone messages, but never seemed able to be free at the same time to talk, much less meet for a drink.

Once finished with MI6, Doyle had been sent straight to CI5 training. A new group was just starting and Cowley wanted him operational ASAP. CI5's training camp allowed no time to contact anyone, and so he'd left a message that he'd get in touch with Bodie when he was done. Six weeks later, he was out and the first pay phone he saw he used to call the academic. The professor had sounded abstracted and distant, but had agreed to collecting on the bet they'd made. One night out on the town at Ray Doyle's expense; Dr. Bodie was very good at estimating distances.

Ray had hoped that Bodie would have been as happy to talk to him as he had been to hear the academic's voice. The restraint that he felt between them on the phone had hurt more than he wanted to acknowledge. Dr. William Bodie had obviously returned to his old life and Ray Doyle was merely a chapter that needed a footnote before he could close it. Anger, hurt and frustration tumbled around within him. How could someone who had come to mean so much to him feel so little. In less than three weeks, Ray had got into the habit of making sarky comments just to make Bodie laugh, or turning to his side to make a cryptic observation that he knew Bodie would understand without a lot of explanation. Even in the heat of battle as they fought to save the General's life, he knew how Bodie would move and Bodie had known how he would respond. They'd made a dynamic team, and the CI5 training programme had only served to highlight that for him.

The other trainees were good, but not as good as Bodie, and the times he'd been partnered he'd found himself wasting valuable time trying to explain something that should have been obvious. He sighed to himself, remembering the last three weeks. He hadn't made any friends there. If they wrote a report on how well he'd done in the team simulations, it would read, 'Doesn't work and play well with others.' Doyle was aware that he'd been less than patient with his partners and quick to make cutting remarks if they preformed under par, 'But, damn it, Bodie wouldn't have had to have everything laid out twice for him.' Doyle slammed his drink down on the bar, furious at himself, CI5, his fellow trainees and most of all Bodie. 'His Bodie! Damn it!'

He'd turned his back on the door in frustration as the memories of the last few weeks and his expectations for the upcoming meeting overwhelmed him, and so jumped when he felt a hand stroke him between his shoulder blades.

"Easy does it, mate. They'll make you pay if you break that glass." Bodie sat down on the stool next to his.

Ray turned to look at him. He wanted to be casual or smile politely in greeting. He wanted to show Bodie that he could survive just fine without him. He needed to hide the need he felt, but two months without the academic had taken its toll. The hunger for the other's presence was too strong to hide. It was writ large across his face and deep within his eyes. Their eyes met and they stared for a long time.

Bodie was better at hiding how he felt, and Ray couldn't be sure from his expression what the doctor was thinking. He managed to collect himself and started to speak when he felt Bodie's hand slide across his back to squeeze his shoulder. Bodie spoke first, "Let's get out of here."

"They should be ready to seat us soon," Ray stood up and turned to inform the Maitre d' that his guest had arrived, "I'll just go and tell them you're here now...."

Bodie reached out and caught his arm, "No, Ray, I meant out of the restaurant. We need to talk. Can have our night out on the town tomorrow."


"They've got quite a queue waiting; tell them we were called away on an emergency. Show them your shiney new ID if you'd like."

His companion gave him little leeway to argue, but pulled him towards the door, his hand tightly gripping Doyle's upper arm, stopping only to tell the Maitre d' that they'd been called away on an emergency and not to keep their table.

"Do you know how many strings I had to pull to get those reservations...?" Ray began to grumble.

"This way, sunshine. My car's in a car park a just down there."

"Bodie!" Before he could say more, Ray found himself pulled down an alleyway. Midway between the two streets, at the darkest part of the alley, he suddenly found himself pushed up against the wall and his mouth covered by Bodie's. Shock held him still at first, but he was quick to respond, the longing and need of the last weeks ripping through his normal control. The dark-haired man used his body to press Doyle hard against the wall, and Ray could feel the pressure of both their erections trapped between them. He felt like a teenager getting his first good butchers at a Mayfair; he'd come up like a rocket.

It was heaven! He allowed his hands to come up and rub his companion's back, slowly they slid down to Bodie's arse, and, gripping both mounds in his hands, he pulled their bodies even tighter together. "Oh, god," more moan than words. Doyle felt like he'd never known what real sex was before now.

Bodie was not idle. One hand cupped the side of Ray's head, the other his arse, enjoying the feel of the firm flesh. The first to pull back, he took several long, deep breaths to calm down before he spoke.

"You stupid, idiot. How could you let yourself get into such a state?" Bodie scolded his mate.

"Me! I'm not the one who acted like he was talking to the ladies aid society after not having spoken in almost two months."

"What the hell was I supposed to do? Had my boss and his boss and the Vice-Chancellor right there in the meeting with me, and the only reason you were put through was because I'd told all the department secretaries that if Ray Doyle called, I didn't care if I were in a meeting with the Pope, they were to put you through. Was tired of calling your number just to hear your voice on that bloody machine." That confession won him a smile from Ray. Bodie decided that that speech was too long to go without a kiss, so he swooped down and proceeded to kiss Doyle for several more minutes before continuing.

"I made sure that you didn't get off that phone without a time set up for us to meet didn't I? Bloody Cowley sending you off to training on your own, not letting you wait for me."

Another kiss distracted Doyle from the meaning behind Bodie's statement. The academic continued his explanation, "The Vice-Chancellor was furious, by the way, because he wanted me to be speaking at an international conference right about now, but I told him that I had a prior commitment."

Doyle decided to interrupt for a kiss. He kissed Bodie's lips, his tongue sneaking in to explore his mouth. He let his teeth gently grab Bodie's lower lip and pull, then it was back to kissing, as he sucked his lover's tongue into his mouth. It seemed incredible to him that this was the first time they had kissed. It seemed right, natural, like they'd been doing it all their lives. Pulling back, he let his lips wander over the dearly missed face, over to the exposed ear--his tongue tracing the rim--then down to nip at his partner's neck. He tasted wonderful.

"Missed you, Bodie. Hurt when you sounded so distant, was afraid that once you got back to your life that what...."

"Stupid prat." It was Bodie's turn to kiss and nuzzle his neck. Doyle moaned under the stimulation. "What did you want me to say? That I missed you like hell. That nothing was as good without you there to share it. That the laughter had gone out of my life. It's all true, all that and more."

The words were a balm to Ray's soul. Something else Bodie had said finally registered. "Training...? Wait! For you? You're joining CI5?" He couldn't keep the happiness out of his voice.

Bodie looked chagrinned. "You were right when you said that despite the mess we were in, I was enjoying myself. I missed the excitement, and as much as I liked getting my doctorate, I've been finding things a bit boring of late. Not enough challenge. Between being able to work with you and feeling that I can make a difference in CI5, not to mention the excitement.... Well it wasn't a difficult decision to make."

"But you went back to teaching?"

"I'd made a commitment and I had students that I couldn't leave hanging, so I agreed to finish the academic year before resigning. Suppose I'll never make professor now."

"'S'alright, you'll always be professor to me, love." Doyle was back to chewing on Bodie's neck. He hoped that Bodie didn't have to speak in front of a group any time over the next few days. Despite the darkness of the alley, he'd swear that there were at least two love bites on the professor's neck. 'Maybe I should move my attentions down to an area a bit less exposed,' he snorted at the thought, 'As if I really need a reason to explore new territory.' He began to undo the tie around Bodie's neck and the shirt buttons beneath.

"Hmmm...nice." Ray nibbled at the exposed part of his mate's chest.

Bodie, about to say something, stopped suddenly and took a deep breath, "Say that again."

"Say what? Nice?"

"No before that. You called me love."

Doyle smiled. He suddenly felt high. He could tell how much that one word meant to his partner and he gave the gift joyously. He leaned in and whispered into Bodie's ear, "Love. My love." Then moved his mouth back to sucking and biting Bodie's neck.

"My love, too, sunshine. My love, too." Bodie groaned into a curl covered ear. They held on tight for several minutes, each letting his hands explore the other's body.

Concerned about something, Doyle pulled back to ask a question. "You sure Cowley will let us work together?"

"Made it part of my deal. Told him no Doyle, no contract. He didn't seem to mind too much. After all, we've already proven that we can work well together."

"So when do you start?"

"First thing Monday morning. 'Fraid I'm going to be stuck shuffling paper for a month or two though. Not another training program for eight to twelve weeks, so you'll be on your own for a bit."

"Nah, word is that Cowley always breaks 'em in slow. So the new trainees are likely to be shuffling paper as well. 'S fine with me as long as we can do it together."

"Together's nice. Your place or mine?" Bodie questioned.

"Mine's a mess. They just moved me into my new CI5 flat. It's about fifteen minutes away."

"Mine's neat as a pin and on the other side of town, at least an hour's drive."

"Hope you don't mind stumbling over boxes. Let's go." Ray Doyle stepped out of Bodie's embrace and motioned for him to lead the way. They'd never make it across town and neither wanted to call their new boss to bail them out for a morals violation for getting caught getting it away in a car.

Ray groped Bodie's arse just before exiting the alley. The Professor turned and gave him a smile and a wink. Doyle hoped they'd make the fifteen minutes to his place.


Excerpt from a report from head CI5 training center to Controller CI5.


Don't know what you did to make Doyle fall into line, but whatever it was, I suggest you do it to any other hot shots that think they are too good for a partner. He and the new recruit, Bodie, that you suggested I pair him with, are performing excellently in team simulations. They are fast and efficient and require a minimum amount of communication to get the job done. This ability to minimize time spent on planning has allowed them to finish the exercises in a significantly shorter time than their fellow agents. They will finish the course well ahead of any of the other pairings.

I know that you generally like to pair a more experienced agent with a new agent, but I would recommend that in this case you make an exception. Their ability to work together gives them an edge that a different pairing might not. A natural team like this is rare and should be encouraged.


P.S. I thought you trusted me, George. Bodie's too good not to be a ringer, so who did you steal him from and why can't you at least tell me?

George Cowley sat back from reading Jack's memo and laughed. Bodie and Doyle were already setting CI5 on its ear. He couldn't wait to get them out on the street. A satisfied smile briefly crossed his face before he got back to work.

A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

A Little Learning

(by Alexander Pope)

-- THE END --

Originally published in Variations on the Theme of B and D, Keynote Press, 1997

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