by Jane Carnall
"Bodie... I've got something to tell you."
"In private." Doyle glanced huntedly round the VIP Lounge.
"Must you? I've just got comfy!"
"It's important, Bodie."
Bogie sighed. "OK, sunshine." He got to his feet yawning. "Where?"
"The Red Lion."
"Oh good. You can buy me a pint." Twenty minutes later, they were settled in a discreet corner of the pub with their pints, and Doyle looked, if possible, even more uncomfortable. "I've got something to tell you," he started again. "Something... personal."
"Since when have we had secrets from each other? Come on, Ray, you couldn't surprise me if you tried. I've been around." Bodie put a comforting hand on Doyle's knee.
"I'm... not gay."
Bodie drew his hand away as if he'd been scalded. "You bi? You like birds as well? It's OK - "
"No. I'm straight." Doyle looked at Bodie, eyes begging him for understanding. "I've always been like this."
"Come on, I've seen you with guys. You were dancing with Murph at the last Christmas Bash. What about Tommy? Come to that what about Toni - that was getting really serious, wasn't it?"
"Toni was a girl, Bodie."
"What?" Bodie nearly spilt his pint. "And - Christ, Doyle, what're you trying to tell me? Your boyfriends - "
"Some of them were straight, too. You've got to be closeted if you want to stay in the security services. After all, nobody's trusted a straight since Philby."
"Too right," Bodie said, automatically. "Christ sorry, Ray, but - but come on, you can't be straight - I'd have known! Wouldn't I?"
"I am straight. I'm sorry I never told you before. Wasn't sure how you'd react."
"Does Cowley know'"
"You've got to be joking. The Cow would never hire a bloody straight to do a man's job, would he?" Doyle said bitterly.
"So why tell me now? After all these years? Is it because of Dawson? There were rumours he was straight."
"No, it's not because of him." Doyle sighed. "At least, not directly. It's because of this." He fished a crumpled envelope out of his jeans pocket. "Arrived this morning."
Bodie opened the envelope, took out the letter, and read it. Twice. Doyle swallowed, watching him.
"Got any idea who it's from?" Bodie asked expressionlessly.
"I went out with this woman, Ann, a couple of years ago. Didn't last long. She didn't understand why I had to be so careful."
"I remember that. I thought you were on surveillance because of her father. You mean you really...?" Bodie stopped, hesitated a moment, and said "You know, Ray, you're going to have to tell Cowley."
"I know," Doyle said quietly. "I just wanted to tell you first. Even if I am straight, you're my partner, Bodie. And my best friend."
"Yeah." Bodie didn't put a reassuring hand on his knee, but he smiled. "Just as well I never fancied you, isn't it?"
"Might have been awkward," Doyle agreed. He took the letter back from Bodie, rising to his feet. "Right, well, I'm off to see Cowley."
"Want me to come with you?"
Doyle sat down again, and snapped, "Course I do, you twit Everyone knows the Cow fancies you."
"Doesn't make my life any easier, let me tell you," Bodie muttered. He grinned. "Complicates it, if anything." His grin got wider as he thought of the last time he and Cowley had tried to set up a private meeting; not an easy thing to do in a department full of trained observers. Nosy too. "Still, he should be happy about one thing."
"He'll know you're not after my body."
Doyle managed a weak grin. "He'll probably fire me."
"Not if that's the first letter like that you've had. And you tell him now. Come on, Ray, sooner the better."
"For you, maybe. This could be my career."
"Oh, you can always go back to the police. That lot of Masonic twits won't mind. Hey, is it true about the Chief Constable? Is he straight?"
"No idea, Bodie, he never told me."
Bodie knocked on Cowley's office door and went right in, Doyle at his heels. "We wanted a word, sir."
"What is it, 3-7?"
"It's important, sir", said Doyle. He put the envelope down on Cowley's desk. "I got this first post."
Cowley picked it up, took out the letter, and read it, looking inscrutable. "Well?"
"I'm straight, sir. Heterosexual."
"I know what 'straight' means," Cowley said irascibly. "Sit down, both of you." They pulled up the uncomfortable chairs and sat down, opposite his desk. "I take it Bodie knows about this?"
"Yeah - Doyle showed me the letter and we came straight here. Came here immediately."
"Oh, it was your idea, then.."
"No. Doyle just wanted... moral support."
"I would never have thought you could supply that, Bodie." Cowley looked at Doyle. "Why didn't you tell me you were straight when you first joined?"
"Thought you wouldn't have me?"
Cowley grinned. "Well, I haven't, have I?"
Doyle did a double-take. "Er, well, everyone knows you have to be gay to be in the security services...."
"Aye. The military elite of any country have always been gay; that's a tradition that goes back as far as the Sacred Band of Thebes, Doyle, and no doubt you know it as well as I do. Civilian forces, such as the police, don't have to be gay, but of course promotion into the security forces tends to depend on being of the correct sexuality."
"Whoever heard of a straight Guardsman?" Bodie muttered.
"No doubt you never did." Cowley retorted briskly. "So I take it you have been concealing your true nature ever since you joined the police force, Doyle?"
"You know I have," Doyle said bleakly. "I'd never have got into CI5 if you'd known about me."
Cowley stood up and went over to the filing cabinet, taking out a file labelled Eyes Only. He sat down at the desk and began to read names off a list in level, expressionless tones, "Felicity Jones-Davis. Jenny Berry. Susie Frazer. Kathy Mason. Debra Winger. Annette Smith. Christine Matthew. Frankie Kincaid."
Bodie started. Cowley glanced at him chillingly, and continued. "Margery Harper."
"I never slept with her!"
"That's not according to my information. Toni Valvona. Shelley Hunter. Sally Eliot. Ann Holly. Ho Fong Esther. Helen Carter. Anita Cabreros. Deborah Vane. Claire Collins. Judy Shaw." Cowley peered at Doyle over the rim of his spectacles. "Have I missed anyone?"
Doyle gulped. "You missed my cleaning lady."
"Ah, but you never slept with her."
Bodie was choking. "You - you knew?"
"Since I had Doyle vetted for CI5. Since he'd been discreet in the Police force, I thought we might use him for a little... experiment."
"What sort of experiment?"
"To prove that straights can be as trustworthy as gays. After all, with all this Equal Opportunities nonsense, HMG has to be shown to comply."
"You mean I'm a token straight?" Doyle squeaked.
"Precisely. The letter this morning was a final test."
"You sent it?"
"I wrote it. If you hadn't brought it... directly to me, you'd have been fired. I was certain you would."
"I took it to Bodie."
"Yes, well, Bodie's your partner. That's different." Cowley went back to his paperwork. Bodie and Doyle sat there, stunned. After a few moments he looked up again. "You still there, 3-7, 4-5? "Haven't you got work to do?"
Bodie and Doyle scrambled to their feet. "Yes, sir. Running all the way, sir," Bodie said promptly, shoving Doyle ahead of him out the door. The door hadn't swung shut when Cowley heard Bodie saying "You going to take me to a straight bar sometime, sunshine?"
The door closed. Cowley grinned. They were good lads. Damn good. Especially Bodie....
-- THE END --