Seated at the corner of the bar, she watched the two men enter the soft-lighted pub, only the flicker of her luminous eyes betraying her interest. She shifted on the stool, letting her skirt slide upwards across a tanned thigh - not too much, mind, just a hint of what was offered, just enough to tantalize. Hard to hide the sigh of boredom, though it didn't matter, sex was a meaningless sweaty exertion, work for a price. Still, this time the job held a hint of mystery, the need to be seductive, the targets weren't to know she was a professional. So it helped that these two were young and clean. A pair of predators on the prowl, one was like a big black panther with raven eyes; the other was slender and quick, all curls, long limbs in fluid motion.
But it was just another job, and she met dark- eyes' glance with softest of a come-hither look, sultry and disdainful. A catch, pale blue holding midnight blue for the space of a heartbeat, then slowly moving on, her eyes flickering to his friend, holding, then sliding across the room. But she could feel his motion, sense it, the quick nudge against the other man's arm, a shift in their stances, simultaneous and certain.
The pick-up was easy. They were ready to party, an unknown stress weighing them down, sliding from the corded muscles in their arms and shoulders with the oil of drink and laughter. They played off each other, preening for her attention, showing off separately, yet always together. Point and counterpoint. Cool and confident, dark-eyes sprawled with the easy grace of a large cat, massive power held in icy check, yet always a hint of the furnace ready to explode. Curly-top was quicksilver, mercurial, chiming laughter and toothy smile. He performed for her, but it was his friend's reaction that was watched for, gauged by; and it was given with the slightest tilt of the head or quirk of an eyebrow.
The sex was good. She barely had to fake her reactions at all. Perhaps it was the simple pretense of the night, the commercialization absent from the game. Perhaps it was dark-eyes' certainty of his own ability. Easy it was to slide into the comfort of his strength; all she had to do was close her eyes and float in the circle of his arms, muscles like braided steel. Curly- top surprised her, though, not in technique or experience, for she'd seen it all, but with the gentle sensitivity that seeped from his every pore. Willing to wait, he was; ready to take it slow, he let her pleasure overtake his own.
Drugging the champagne was simple. One in the bathroom, the other lazy on the bed, she had time to spare. The fireplace roared, the glasses clinked like miniature bells, the men slid into unconsciousness with barely a murmur.
The money was plentiful. The heavy sheaf of bills felt solid in her delicate hands. She smiled gratefully when her client offered it to her, absently, eyes fixated on the sleeping men with an air of satisfaction.
Dying was hard.
The first thing Ray Doyle noticed as his mind fought for awareness was the sensation of wetness. Slick, oily, sweaty, but with an animal musk. His memory was groggy, his sense of location skewed. He rubbed at his shuttered eyes with the damp back of an arm, and shifted against the crumpled fabric. Something solid filled his right hand, slippery with fluid, and he nearly dropped it as he struggled to sit upright. The motion brought him into contact with something else, something rubbery, slightly cool, though his legs were tangled with heat. Flesh, his mind decided, and he sighed behind still-closed eyes. They'd really done it this time...
His eyes opened. His hands clenched, one tightening on the metal handle in his grasp. He jerked up to a sitting position. His lungs froze on a silent scream.
Spilt red paint was his first wayward thought. Someone must have dumped a gallon of it on them...all over them. It was everywhere. He was covered with it, they all were. Bodie was sleeping half-sprawled across the girl, his large, long-fingered hands curled around her waist and neck. Her face was hidden in a wealth of blond hair now streaked with red.
Red. This wasn't paint. Didn't smell like paint. Tasted like...
Blood. His eyes were drawn like magnets to iron, forced irresistibly to the stained silver object in his right hand. His palm shifted upwards, his fingers uncurled, his mind refused to believe what it saw. The disbelief soon gave way to shuddering waves of emotion. He dropped the knife, fell forward with a tearing groan of horror. Taking the girl away from Bodie's grasp, he shoved the hair out of her face, away from her eyes...there were no eyes. Empty gaping holes stared blindly at him, white and red swirls of goo oozing from within. Her mouth was open too, a slash too wide, a red too dear for lipstick. She lolled in his hands like a rag doll. An empty shell, life bled out onto the sheets, she was scored with a hundred marks, like tiny bites, scrapes, marring the dead white flesh.
Dead. She was cold as the grave, skin like pale rubber. His heart skipped a beat.
She dropped from his blood-slickened hands with an unnoticed thump, Doyle's stomach hitting his throat. Bodie was unresponsive as his partner seized him, shook him, contorted to lift him up into his lap, their naked bodies tangling amidst the gore-soaked sheets.
"BODIE!!!" Doyle felt for a pulse, squashed his ear against the smooth chest, his own breath held in tormented lungs as he waited for a sign of life, of hope. And finally found it.
The sound of the air ripping into his lungs was loud in his ears, but the steady beat of Bodie's heart, the simple rise and fall of his chest, was the purest music he could ever have heard.
Bodie stirred, moaning softly, and Doyle began to shake him harder, rougher.
"Wwwaaa..." Bodie's strong hands grabbed at Doyle's wrists, shoving him down in an instinctive reaction as he broke to awareness. His eyes fluttered open to meet the other man's dilated green eyes, and the panic exposed there banished the last cobwebs from his mind.
"Ray?" he asked, his own eyes widening as they swung from his friend's war-painted face to the body sprawled beneath them both, and he froze, hands clutching at Doyle's forearms.
The rest of that morning passed in a blur of sirens and flashing lights. Men crawled over the scene, worker ants, an organized chaos that was both familiar and surreal. Half-dressed and sticky, Doyle and Bodie sat shoulder to shoulder on the couch, watching with weary eyes and sickened hearts. Both had made preliminary statements, but neither had been able to offer much light on the situation they had suddenly found themselves in. Even a quick whispered conference between them had yielded little of satisfaction, only an aching frustration and radiating rage.
Bodie was tense and quiet, Doyle was close to exploding. He ached to be on his feet, doing something, anything, except sitting here while his apartment was taken apart by officious strangers. He was an ex-cop, a CI5 man, a trained investigator....
"Cool it, mate," Bodie hissed in his ear. Doyle turned a fierce glare on his partner, but was met with weary understanding. Bodie wasn't one to sit around in times of trouble either, Doyle knew that. If the ex- merc had his druthers, he'd probably be up knocking heads around, instead of sitting here helpless. Bodie shook his head, the motion barely perceptible, a signal passing between them with nearly the speed of light. Not now, not yet. They'd have to wait it out.
Doyle let the flicker of his eyelids, the subtle shifting of his weight against his friend's side answer for him. The words didn't need to be said.
A commanding voice colored with a Scottish lilt broke above the clamour, and they both turned in conditioned response.
"Bodie...Doyle!" Cowley forced his way through the milling police to end up standing above them. Bodie made a move to come to his feet, but Cowley waved at him to remain seated. The younger man subsided uneasily, exchanging another darting glance with his sullen partner. Cowley stared down at them for a long tense moment as though memorizing the sight of them. No more than a flicker of his eyes betrayed any reaction to the state they were in, clothes hastily donned over blood-streaked skin, heavy black circles marring the skin beneath sunken eyes. They'd been tired enough the night before, now they looked like refugees from a battle zone.
They returned his gaze steadily, Doyle's eyes defiant, angry, Bodie's cool and impenetrable. The more emotion he felt, the less Bodie seemed to show. From the level of this freeze, the operative was close to his breaking point, and Cowley measured his words to that understanding.
"What happened?" he questioned quietly, his voice a soft burr. Bodie shifted in his seat, but it was Doyle who took the lead, responding aggressively.
"Dunno, sir. We went out to a pub last night after we wrapped up the case. Met this bird, chatted her up a bit then found our way back here and..." Doyle paused as abruptly as he had begun, and Bodie picked up fluidly, barely a pulse separating their words.
"...we drank a bit more..." A quick glance at Cowley's face there, and the older man met it blandly, waiting. Bodie swallowed hard, a very faint flush warming his cheeks as he continued. "Well, we 'played' around a little, and then...I think we passed out."
"Passed out?" Doyle was outraged, leaning forward in his seat, his green eyes sparkled dangerously. "Drugged more likely. We hadn't had that much. Just a few beers and some bubbly. The girl must have set us up!"
"She's dead," Cowley reminded him with quiet authority. Doyle's mouth opened, but it was Bodie who spoke first.
"So she was working for someone else."
"Who hired her to knock you out and then killed her," Cowley responded without inflection.
Doyle nodded, Bodie's mouth tightened. Then he shook his head, running a stained hand through his short, ebony hair.
"Damn bloody stupid!" he cursed.
Cowley nodded, finally sitting down in the chair across from them. "Aye, indeed." His voice could cut without a change in volume, the timbre was sharper than a scalpel. "I suppose you both had sex with this girl."
His men both looked a little shocked, he gazed sternly at them. He really didn't need to remind them that he was an experienced adult. They exchanged a quick glance, then nodded in swift succession. Cowley swore vehemently under his breath. "Do you have any idea what kind of trouble you've caused?" he demanded.
"Well, it wasn't our fault. We didn't kill her."
"Sure looks like it, though."
"We were set up!"
"Yeah - fell for it like a pair of bloomin' idiots."
"She seemed OK. Told us she was some kinda secretary or something." Doyle rubbed at the back of his neck. "I just didn't pay that close attention. She was..."
"Willing," Bodie finished with explicit calm. Doyle shot him an edgy glare, Bodie accepted it with equanimity before turning back to Cowley.
"Look sir, we messed up. We needed to let off some steam after the shoot-out yesterday with the Pilson gang, and we just didn't think clearly."
"You didn't think at all!" Cowley retorted. He sighed, and looked around the room. "Still, it's a rather difficult situation. And unnecessary for all of that. If they wanted to take you out, why not simply kill you and have done with it?"
"And if they wanted to kill the girl, why go to so much trouble?" Doyle leaned back into the couch, his eyes searching the ceiling as though it could give him an answer. "And why drug us?"
"If she did," Bodie said gloomily.
"Who else?" Doyle responded. "She's the only one who could have without us noticing, and we were both out cold on more than alcohol. For a while there, I thought you were dead too."
Bodie grimaced, the memory of waking up that moment just one more nightmare he'd carry with him for the rest of his life. "Yeah, but that still doesn't explain why. Or who."
"They wanted to embarrass us," Doyle posited. "Get us charged with murder, or at least tangled up in an inquiry." He frowned. "But we're not working on anything now, not with the Pilson case wrapped up."
"Something old, then? Revenge?" Cowley said thoughtfully.
Bodie shrugged. "Could be. It's a place to start." He began to get up, but Cowley restrained him with a hand on his shoulder.
"A place for Murphy and Susan to start," he said sharply.
"But, sir!...Wait a minute..." Doyle and Bodie's voices slid over each other in a harmony of frustration.
Cowley shut them off with a quick wave of his hand and sharp comment. "No, 4.5, 3.7, you're too personally involved in this. It's going to be hard enough to keep the local cops from holding you both on a murder charge. The last thing we need is the two of you getting into any more trouble."
They both glared defiantly at him, but he met them with uncompromising authority. "If you think of anything, pass it on to Murphy or Susan. Otherwise, stay out of it. That's an order."
He got two sullen, "Yes sir's" for his trouble, and he frowned sternly at them. Neither was ready to meet his eyes. He sighed. "All right, enough for now. Doyle, you obviously can't stay here. Pick up what you need, then bunk in with Bodie until we can assign you a new flat. Make sure you give the forensics team a blood sample before you leave. That'll be all." He got up and swept away before either could respond.
They remained seated for a few minutes longer, then got up together. After they'd suffered the sting of the needles, Bodie waited, silent and brooding, by the door while Doyle stuffed a small duffel bag, then slung it over his shoulder. Without a word, they slid past the suspicious glares of a pair of uniformed cops and out into the morning sun.
The drive was silent. They rarely needed words to communicate anymore, though they used them for amusement, played them like tools, sounded them like musical instruments. But when it really mattered, the words weren't necessary, they knew each other too well. Times like now, the silence was more expressive, the body language more evocative. So they didn't bother speaking, Doyle sitting quietly as Bodie maneuvered the car. Bodie leading the way into his flat, Doyle close at his heels. Doyle heading straight for the shower while Bodie roamed into the kitchen.
They completed the chores efficiently, alternating cleaning themselves with wolfing down nourishment, until they settled up in the living room, nursing steaming cups of tea. And then it was time for words.
"What now?" Doyle asked. He got a raised eyebrow for his trouble.
"You mean besides finding the bastard who did this and beating 'im to a pulp?" Bodie mused, his voice deceptively soft.
Doyle leaned back, stretching out his legs. "Yeh - 'sides that."
Bodie looked down into his tea, then shrugged his shoulders. "Cowley didn't say we weren't to come in today..." A faint smile uplifted the corners of his mouth.
Doyle's eyes glittered. "No, he didn't." He frowned abruptly. "I can't believe we fell for this. Stupid, stupid..."
Bodie agreed, tossing down the rest of his tea, then dropping the cup on the table with a clatter. "You can say that again."
"OK - we were stupid..." Bodie made a face at him, then leapt to his feet. Grabbing for his jacket he demanded over his shoulder.
"You comin' or what?"
"Right behind you, mate."
"Don't suppose you remember her last name?" Bodie drove with a strong, firm hand, pressing the speed limit to the breaking point.
Doyle frowned, shook his head, staring angrily out the window. "Don't think she ever told us. Didn't pay attention, though."
"Me neither." Bodie replied flatly, the self- condemnation carefully hidden in the velvet monotone. Only Doyle knew him well enough to read it. He turned to give his friend a careful look.
"Well, we couldn't have known, could we? We're not mind readers!" He sighed, his own insistent sense of guilt hovering in the vicinity of his gut.
"Suppose not," Bodie replied, lapsing into an uneasy silence. Doyle finally broke it a few blocks later.
"I keep wondering why someone would do this. It's crazy! If they wanted to hurt us, they had a perfect chance and passed it right up. Could be playing games with us - but this is a pretty sick game."
"Takes a lunatic to do something like this anyway," Bodie replied fatalistically. "I mean no one but a nutter is gonna cut someone up like that. Knew a couple knife-hungry mercs in Angola - both shoulda been shut up in a rubber room. Would've been if they'd been anywhere but the bleeding jungle."
Doyle shot him a look, the question obvious, but Bodie shook his head. "No, I can't see it. One's dead, and I lost track of the other years ago. 'Sides, no reason for either of them to come after me. Doesn't make sense."
"None of this makes sense," Doyle responded, fingers tapping the dashboard in frustration. "But you're right. This looks like it was meant for the both of us, her picking up the two of us at once, instead of one or the other. Not many birds willing to do that, yet it was more her idea than ours..."
Bodie pursed his lips in concentration, his jaw tightening. "So not likely it's something out of your past or mine, rather something from our time with CI5."
"Well, at least that narrows it down a bit, doesn't it?"
"Maybe..." Bodie was noncommittal as he maneuvered the car into a parking spot near CI5's present headquarters. "Still gives us five years' worth of possibilities." He shut off the engine and they exited the car in another bout of silence.
"Hey, heard you lads had a hot date last night!" The grinning greeting won a bad-tempered snarl from Doyle and a blank stare from Bodie. The unrepentant operative, built like a bulldozer and about as bright, loomed over the smaller men. They exchanged a disgusted glance, but couldn't pass up the chance to gather what free information they could. Smithson was only too happy to oblige, missing the fine-tuned glower that was slowly intensifying on Bodie's closed features. Doyle didn't miss it, though, his senses attuned to his partner like a radio antenna. Quickly darting in between the rampage of words, he finally made good their escape.
"Yeh...yeh...Smitty, a right muck-up this is. And Cowley's probably giving birth to a mule about now, so we'd better get in there and take our medicine." Seizing hold of Bodie's arm, he gave him a not-too- gentle shove towards the stairs.
"Have fun gents..." came the amused call from behind them, acknowledged with a wave over Doyle's shoulder.
Bodie wrenched his arm free, bolting swiftly up the stairs, ignoring the grin he knew was pinned to his back.
"Hey - no need to run, sunshine," Doyle told him, leaping up after him. Bodie simply glared at him, as they fell into matched steps on the landing.
"Bloody gossips. Worse than a house full of old maids," Bodie complained. Doyle wagged a finger at him.
"And a regular fountain of information, too. Which d'ya want - the secretary pool or the ready room?"
That brought out a true grin from Bodie; blue eyes twinkling, he strode ahead to seize the appropriate door knob. "The pool." And with a wave and bow, he was gone from sight. Doyle shook his head, hands on hips, sighed, then grimaced and walked on down the hall. Bodie would take the girls, wouldn't he? Priapismic monster, indeed. Well nothing for it now...someone had to tackle the men.
If they'd hoped to escape Cowley's notice, that desire had been in vain. The eagle-eyed controller missed nothing, especially not the presence of his most talented and troublesome pair of operatives. Doyle had barely dragged Bodie away from the comforting presence of the steno pool before they found themselves standing at attention before the boss.
"I told you to stay away from the case!"
"Weren't anywhere near it," Doyle responded cheekily.
"You didn't say not to come to work," Bodie seconded quickly, trying to hide a quick kick at Doyle's shin. Doyle side-stepped it neatly, still giving his boss his best innocent look.
Cowley frowned, but nodded. "Well, I'm telling you now. Go home ... to Bodie's flat ..." he specified pointedly, "and stay there. If you want to help, take some old case files from records and see what you can dig up. But no interference in Murphy's investigation!"
"That's an order, 3.7." A slight smile glimmered at the edges of Cowley's sharp eyes. "Unless of course, you'd rather spend some time with Macklin. Might not be a bad idea... given the mess you've just gotten yourselves into a little sharpening up wouldn't be amiss."
Both agents swallowed hard, then broke out with simultaneous, "Yes sir...No sir..."'s. They paused, exchanged a quick glance, then Doyle let Bodie respond for them both.
"That's all right, sir. We'll be happy to help out with the files."
Cowley barely managed to suppress his amusement. Steepling his fingers, he frowned at them. "All right, Bodie. You do that." Just as their expressions began to relax, he added mercilessly, "BUT you ARE due for some refresher exercises once this situation is cleaned up. Understood."
Their faces fell, but they took it quietly. "Yes, sir," Bodie replied. Cowley's eyes flickered to Doyle, and the young agent nodded sharply.
"Good..." The phone ring, and he snatched it up quickly while they waited anxiously. He listened, then nodded, responded with quick approval. "All right Murphy, keep me informed...Yes, they're here right now. Yes, I'll send them right over. Very good." He hung up, then fixed them with another stern look.
"Get straight out to your flat now, Doyle. The forensics teams are done, and Murphy would like you to check if anything's missing or been tampered with. He'll be waiting for you there. Make it snappy."
They agreed and disappeared with remarkable haste, leaving Cowley sitting contemplative at his desk. Did he believe they were innocent of this crime - yes, without question. These two he knew as well as he knew himself. They'd kill when they had to, and do it well. But not like this. No, this was a different kind of animal altogether, and he didn't like the smell of it at all. Nasty it was, and a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach unerringly warned him that it would only get worse.
Walking into that room was even harder than Doyle had anticipated. His skin itched, the sensation akin to having a thousand small insects crawling across his body. The salty musk of fresh-spilled blood was turning old and sour now, the stains turning to a brown rust. It seemed to be splattered everywhere, droplets crusted on every spare surface, clinging to the walls and furniture. Almost as though a child had been finger painting. But this wasn't paint - it was the sick remnant of a shattered human life. And he felt responsible.
Bodie was a solid presence at his back, his classic features settled into a grim mask, expressionless, cold. Doyle threw him a quick glance, easily reading the tenseness in the man's stance, the knots of muscle quivering in his wrists and shoulders, the nerve twitching in his neck. Not so bland as he appeared on the surface...even though it would take someone who knew him very well to see the signs. Doyle could, and it was a bittersweet comfort to feel his friend's emotions mirror his own, disgust, rage, frustration electric in the air between them.
The other rooms had shown little sign of alteration, the crowd of technicians and officials having melted away. Only this one room was changed. Even the sunlight filtering in the open shades did little to dispel the gloom. Places could hold memories as well as people - this room was surely haunted. Doyle shivered despite himself, and felt a brush of warmth against his shoulder in response.
Bodie. A light tap of the bigger man's fingers against him, gone so soon he could have imagined it, but the fleeting touch had been enough. Doyle's back straightened, the muscles of his gut clenching. Get it over with and get out, he told himself roughly, grasping for the control he'd learned in years of training and experience. You've seen death before, there's no reason to be so spooked now.
Leaving his partner standing pensive at the end of the bed, Doyle began a careful circuit of the room. Nothing on the surface seemed out of place or wrong -- as long as you discounted the sheen of dried blood that littered every surface. But everything else seemed OK...
Dropping to his knees in the corner, he studied the milk crate full of paper files. He reached out a fingertip and nudged the tops of a few, they shifted too easily in place. Should have been more crowded, he'd had to stuff the latest set in place only a few days before. Shock dilating his green eyes, he grabbed the crate and pulled it closer, then rifled through the contents, knowing even before the confirmation of absence, just what would have to be missing.
His soft groan was more than enough to steal his partner's attention. Bodie was hovering over him in an instant, moving more swiftly than a man his size should be able to, leaning down to peer anxiously over Doyle's shoulder.
"What is it?" he inquired, noting the slight tremble in Doyle's hands as he gripped a sheaf of white paper.
"They're gone!" Doyle replied, dropping one handful and reaching for another, digging like a miner searching for gold.
"What's gone?" Bodie asked with slightly exaggerated patience, his own tenseness damaging the attempt at a tease.
"Some of my sketches. A couple portfolios full at least."
"Your sketches?" Bodie echoed, jerking back with surprise. He frowned darkly. "But..."
Doyle shrugged, pushing his way to his feet, forcing Bodie to take another step back to give him room to stand.
"Yeh - my drawings. Missing."
"But..." Bodie realized he wasn't making any sense, and he forced his jaw shut for a moment, then tried again. "What sketches?" he asked, his eyes widening at the sudden rose-bloom that lit up his partner's full cheeks. Doyle dipped his head away, stalking across the room to stare out the window.
"Ray?" Bodie asked, following him as far as the middle of the room. Doyle sighed.
Bodie grinned with a sudden thought. "Don't tell me, you drew your girlfriends in the nude..."
"No!" The denial was too quick, and Bodie felt a quick lance of concern.
"Ray?" he asked again, this time his voice dropped low as he moved closer to his partner.
Doyle stepped back past him, brushing up close, then turning to sit gingerly on the edge of the stained bed. He folded his hands in his lap and stared thoughtfully at them for a moment.
"I draw what I see, whatever's on my mind...you know..."
Bodie came to stand beside him, his large hand hovering over Doyle's shoulder. Doyle swallowed and turned to look up into Bodie's shadowed face. "I drew you."
"You drew me?" Bodie echoed, stunned.
Doyle shrugged. "Well, I look at you more than anyone else, don't I? So sometimes I drew you."
"You never showed me..."
"Well, they weren't that good anyway...just sketches, some not even finished." Doyle rubbed at the back of his neck. "Anyway, they're gone now. The killer must've taken them."
Bodie dropped like a stone to sit next to him. He spread his hands wide. "But why take some unfinished drawings of me?"
Doyle shrugged. He bit at his lower lip, then his expression darkened with anger. "I just don't know."
"Hey, found anything?" Murphy demanded brightly, bursting into the gloomy room. His eyes widened slightly at the sight of them seated hip-to-hip on the edge of the ravaged bed. Doyle appeared surprised by the interruption and only a sharp glare from Bodie stilled the teasing question that threatened to bolt from Murphy's lips. The younger agent bit at his lower lip, quickly sensing the heavy tension in the stale air. He tilted his head sideways, challenging them to answer his question.
Doyle scrunched his shoulders, then pushed himself to his feet, his hand pressing down on the ruined coverlets, then jerking away as though he had touched something burning hot. He unconsciously rubbed that palm against his jeans, while his mind formed the reply.
"No," he shrugged, feeling Bodie's gaze abruptly focus and drill into his back. He stepped between his partner and the other agent, crowding Murphy towards the door. "Not a bleeding thing." Forcing Murphy to retreat out of the room, he continued a patter of conversation.
"What about you? Got anything on the girl? She said her name was Cynthia, Cyn for short."
Murphy's expression, bland as it was, showed that he knew full well he was being pushed away. He tossed Bodie a pointed glance as the bigger man silently followed them into the living room, but was ignored for his trouble as Bodie turned to close the bedroom door behind him. He didn't understand why Doyle wanted to keep this piece of information to himself, but he was willing to follow his partner's lead, at least for the time being.
Obviously deciding on discretion for the moment himself, Murphy grimaced at Bodie's broad back, then swiveled to face Doyle who had come to a halt by the couch and was looking at him with impatience, waiting for an answer.
"This is my investigation," Murphy insisted, walking past Doyle to plop himself on the sofa.
"Yeah - and it was my bird who got copped."
"Our bird," Bodie muttered into his ear, a stage- whisper that Murphy heard - and appreciated. Doyle made a face at Bodie who ignored it, sprawling himself beside Murphy who had to shuffle over quickly to avoid being sat upon.
"Watch it," he complained, but got a bland stare in response.
Doyle was still waiting for an answer, and he wasn't in any mood to be ignored. "Well, did you get anything on the girl?"
Both Bodie and Doyle were now glaring at him, and Murphy gave in with relative grace. "Yeh - her prints turned up on file." He grinned with amusement. "You two picked yourself up a real pro. High class one at that."
"A pro?" Doyle was stunned. Bodie's expression remained blank but his eyes glittered under the drooping lids.
Murphy nodded, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Name wasn't Cynthia, though she used that as a working alias - Cynthia Green. She was born Henrietta Olafson, though. Her record shows a pair of arrests, one for soliciting and one for carrying drugs. Nothing major, just some weed."
Doyle groaned aloud, sinking down onto the arm of the nearby easy-chair. "Anything on her pimp - or if she had one?"
Murphy shook his head. "Nah. Near as we can figure, she was a solo operator. But we haven't had time yet to check that more thoroughly. High on the list though..." At the interest peaking in Doyle's face, he leaned forward and wagged a forefinger at him. "And don't think about sticking your nose into it, Ray. The locals already had a fit about leaving you two wandering around loose. You start roughing up the street and you'll find yourself sitting behind bars."
Doyle gave him a well-practiced "who-me" look, which was met with patent disbelief. The corner's of Bodie's mouth quirked upward, then he slid gracefully to his feet. "No thanks, Murph. We've got a date with several cartons full of paperwork." He tapped Doyle on the shoulder lightly, then headed towards the door.
"You do that," Murphy called after him. "And yell if you find anything."
"Yup," Bodie agreed, waiting by the door for Doyle to catch up with him. Doyle was slow to follow, he took another slow survey of the room before easing himself to his feet.
"Thanks, anyway, Murph," he said.
"Sure...and don't worry," Murphy promised, his voice abruptly hardening. "We'll get this bastard."
Bodie rubbed wearily at his eyes, blinking furiously in response to the fine sheen of dust that seemed to coat every surface in the file room. Tears welled, and he brushed them away haphazardly. Doyle looked up long enough to grin at him, and Bodie sniffed exaggeratedly.
"Don't know about you, but I could sure use a pint," he complained.
"This was your bright idea, remember?" Doyle teased back, even as he swallowed hard to moisten the arid back of his throat.
"Well, I'm 'aving another bright idea, mate," Bodie replied gruffly, slapping shut the manila folder in front of him. He yawned, stretching out long arms towards the low, dingy ceiling.
"And what's that?" Doyle asked, perfectly willing to steal a break for himself.
"A pint, that's what." Bodie smiled broadly. "Preferably with a sandwich and chips to sop it up."
Doyle rather liked the idea, but he couldn't pass up the opportunity to tease. Slowly shaking his head, he peered at his friend, letting his eyes drop to the other man's admittedly-flat stomach. "Got a worm in there or something? I swear you eat enough to shame a pregnant bird."
Bodie gave him an affronted look, then let his hard features relax into an expression of self- satisfaction. "Got an active metabolism. AND lots of muscle. Takes a lot of fuel to feed those." He flexed a biceps at Doyle.
"Which explains why none of the feed gets to your brain, don't it," Doyle grinned and got to his feet. Hands on his hips, he ignored Bodie's pout, gazing with mounting frustration at the nearly untouched stack of boxes. "Damn it, we've 'ardly made a dent in these."
Bodie's moved to his partner's side. "Answer's got to be in here, though. Unless it's some nutter from your time on the force, and my being there was just an accident."
Doyle shook his head. "No. I dealt with some weird cases, but nothing like this. Mostly hookers and drugs. If a pusher was out for revenge, he'd simply 'ave had us shot or knifed. This took lots of planning..." he paused, green eyes darkened to a steely gray. "This feels strange, Bodie... weird. Like the answer is right under our fingertips and we're just missing it." His voice rose on the winds of frustration, then slid to silence when Bodie answered with chilling calm.
"Could be right. It does feel personal." He turned and picked up his immaculately tailored coat from the chair, automatically smoothing away any dust that might have gathered on the fine cloth. "Anyway...do us some good to get out and 'ave a bite to eat. Clear the mind."
Those midnight blue eyes were gleaming warmly, and Doyle's mobile mouth quivered with a touch of returned amusement.
"Yeh - we're growing lads, after all. Cowley can't begrudge us our lunch now, can he?"
Bodie shook his head, squeezing by the other man as he donned his jacket. "Nope, and we can hardly be expected to go without a good lager either. This is dry work, after all."
"Oh - very dry indeed," Doyle echoed.
Fingers curled around a satisfyingly cold pint of beer, Bodie finally asked the question that had been nibbling at him all morning.
"Why didn'cha tell Murph about the missing sketches?"
Doyle glanced sharply at him, then shrugged, his eyes darting around the small pub before coming to rest on his partner.
"Not sure. Felt a bit violated, I guess. The killing was bad enough, but having those drawings taken... I just wanted time to think about it before I said anything."
Doyle's eyes fell to his plate, and he busied himself with his sandwich. The beef was a bit dry, but the bread was hot and fresh. And he -was- hungry. Taking a big bite, filling his round cheeks in the semblance of a chipmunk, he looked up to find Bodie studying him over the rim of his beer. Doyle let his eyes widen in an unspoken question and got a hunch of his partner's big shoulders in return. Doyle chewed rapidly, grabbing hold of his own foaming mug, perfectly ready to let that bit of conversation die a quick death. Still he couldn't help watching Bodie as the ex-merc's eyes strayed across the room, ever watchful, ever aware.
In profile the long curve of Bodie's cheekbone showed in sharp relief, the skin drawn tight and hollow down to the hard slash of his jaw, forming a nearly perfect triangle of bone. The expressive eyebrow was slightly lifted over the full-lashed eye, the mouth a surprising richness, despite the stern press of the lips, between the blunt chin and strong nose. Again, Doyle felt the itching need to render those lines in pencil and ink, to capture the edges of that seemingly bland, yet patently expressive face. His fingers flexed and curled unconsciously, his eyes fixating on the long line of jaw and the shadows underneath.
The intensity of Doyle's regard penetrated Bodie's awareness, and he turned abruptly to find himself the center of a penetrating emerald glare. Those eyes -- there were times when he felt like they could see straight through him. Doyle had an uncanny ability to sense the things about him that Bodie himself didn't want to know. It was soothing and disturbing at once, and he shifted uneasily in his chair, trying not to recognize the spark of heat burning its way across his skin. The intensity of Doyle's attention abruptly climbed a notch, forcing that banked fire to leap within his groin. Knowing he was fumbling, Bodie broke the contact between their eyes, recklessly taking a large gulp of his beer. Seeking the coldness of the fluid.
'Chicken,' he mentally accused at himself, knowing full well he was dropping long familiar shields into place, knowing equally well that someday Doyle wasn't going to let him do that any longer. And knowing, too, that a fierce part of himself would welcome that day of reckoning. But not now...not yet, even though it felt wrong to have anything unspoken between him and his partner. His best mate. After all, they'd already shared just about anything two people could, hopes and fears, past and present, days and nights. Everything....
The beer burned his throat, and he coughed roughly, desperately trying to keep the alcohol from flowing into his lungs. Closing his eyes, he took a second, more careful sip, letting the simple physical emergency cover the dangerous direction his mind had wandered towards. Doyle was still watching him, the scorching level of his gaze cooled down to a soothing mixture of amusement and concern. Bodie grimaced wryly at him, then lifted an eyebrow.
"So you thought of anything?"
Doyle blinked with surprise, his agile mind racing backwards to try to find the source of this apparent nonsequitor. He found it, and mutely shook his head, biting at his lower lip. He took a drink, surveyed the room, then sighed.
"Can't think of a thing. Why steal a couple hundred drawings of you?" Doyle didn't realize what had just come out of his mouth until Bodie's jaw metaphorically hit the floor, beer sputtering out of his mouth.
Doyle groaned inwardly, shrugged outwardly. "Well, that's not so much! Been five years, after all. And I do 'em in spurts. Several at a time. Got lots done while I was in the hospital that time, not to mention all those weeks of recovery time. I was bored!"
Bodie had to agree with that. "Don't remind me. Drove me up a wall, you did." He narrowed his eyes at Doyle. "How come you never showed me any?"
Doyle glanced away, then back, his jaw twitching. "Eh...I'm not that good. It's just a dumb hobby..."
"No way, mate!" Bodie waggled his fingers at him. "I saw some of the ones you did that weekend we went fishing at Oxford. Looked pretty good to my eye."
"Well, that's because you wouldn't know real art if it kicked you in the arse!" Doyle retorted, unable to keep himself from smiling.
Bodie took up the argument with willing relief, and they haggled happily over the remainder of their meal. But the welcome relief didn't last long, they were left with the crumbs of their lunch and the descending weight of too many unanswered questions.
"Ought to get back to the records, I s'ppose," Bodie said glumly.
Doyle nodded, looking particularly unpleased with the idea. He glanced at his watch, then darted a measuring glance at his partner, his expression brightening.
Bodie liked that look, it meant they were probably on the same wavelength. Still, there were objections that had to be raised before they were dismissed, so he jumped in with both feet first. "Cowley'll have us both for dinner if we go off investigating on our own. Better to leave it to Murph and Susan."
Doyle shook his head. "They haven't got 'alf the connections I do."
"You mean they don't know anywhere as many disreputable blokes as you," Bodie teased.
"Oh - and who are you to talk about knowing dis- rep-u-ta-ble types?" Doyle drawled with equanimity. "I seem to recall meeting a few less than savory persons from your high-falutin' past."
Bodie tossed a glance upwards as though berating the universe, or at least the ceiling, for forcing him to put up with this, then he brought his attention back down with a wry grin.
"But none quite so -interesting- as some of - your- friends, mate."
Doyle grinned back, unrepentant. "I always have interesting friends, sunshine..." he replied, only barely holding back the obvious "present company excluded." But it was there in the glitter of his teeth and the sparkle of his eyes. Bodie winked at him, then rose to his feet.
"Well then, don't you think you ought to introduce me? Not polite to hold out on me?"
Doyle laughed, leaping to his feet. "I certainly wouldn't want to be rude, now would I?"
The roles and procedures were second nature now. They didn't need to plan; they moved with the grace of a well-practiced ballet. Doyle took an aggressive lead with the hookers and pimps they cornered that afternoon; many of them still remembered his face, if not his name. Bodie stayed mercilessly quiet, his few uttered comments slicing the air like a well-cut knife. Dressed in black to match his hair, his skin was a translucent white. He looked like a vampire in the dim light of the pubs - a brooding presence barely seen, always felt. On rare occasions his lips curved in a feral grimace, emanating a mixture of menace and amusement so sheer it made even Doyle shiver. But Doyle wouldn't have traded his dark shadow for any other. Even at the worst of times, he knew Bodie would cover his back with a passionate intensity. "Take care of your own" was the ex-merc's code, and somehow over the long years together, Doyle had become his "own."
The deceptively slight Doyle was quite capable of matching his partner's menace. But his was a quicksilver, darting temper, fire to Bodie's ice. More than once Bodie's cool hands had to hold him back, Doyle's slim frame trembling with unsuppressed rage. But the touch of Bodie's skin on his was an instant balm, he could lean back into that impenetrable, bottomless well of strength for the time it took for the world to focus again before his eyes.
But answers were few and far between. None of Doyle's rough-and-ready bluster or Bodie's soft-spoken intimidation broke a chip off the wall before them. No one knew Cyn well, few knew her at all. Those that did had little to add; she worked alone. No pimp, no major contacts, she had fielded a small, select clientele gleaned from the best clubs of the city. As to who or what had led her to pick up a pair of CI5 men in a middle-class pub - no one could give them a clue. So it was a frustrated and tired pair of men who wearily entered the last destination on their list of sources.
This one was Bodie's contribution. A pub owned by a retired jungle-rat, it was a haven for ex-mercs, soldiers, hired guns, all skirting the edges of the law. Bodie rarely came here, in fact it had been months since his last visit. There simply hadn't been a need, all aside from the fact that Cowley kept his lads hopping from one crisis to another. Still, the atmosphere was familiar, if not pleasant, and he walked across the shadowed room with arrogant ease.
Doyle stayed a close step behind his partner, his entire body tingling with uneasy anticipation. He could feel the covert attention they were receiving, feel the darting glances, the low hum of whispers, and worse yet, the silent cold appraisal. A piece of the jungle set down in the middle of civilized London, it was like stepping into a totally different world. Bodie strode ahead of him, focus narrowed on the bar, and Doyle had to quicken his step to keep up. Like it or not, this was Bodie's show - the ex-merc had let his partner take the lead the rest of the day, now it was Doyle's turn to watch and wait.
Bodie slid onto a barstool, pausing infinitesimally to wait for Doyle before shouting out an order to the harried barmaid. She turned to shout to him to wait, but one look at his face - and Doyle's - and her attitude shifted to one of attentive appreciation. Shrugging off the calls from the other end of the bar, she sidled down to lean towards them.
"What'll it be?" she asked, letting them take a good long look at her attributes. Both men did -Bodie never one to pass up a chance to peer shamelessly down a pretty girl's cleavage - but this time, his notice of the lovely auburn-haired girl was perfunctory at best. Done because it was habit to do it, not because of any true interest. Bodie did smile though, and the resulting softening of those hard, chiseled features hit home. The girl simpered; Doyle shook his head, with minor irritation. They were both focused now, the frustration of the long fruitless day coming swiftly to a head. They both wanted results, and they wanted them fast.
Bodie ordered a couple of pints, but he took no more than a sip of his. Swiveling around on his chair, he scanned the room, exchanging a silent nod with one or two of the more friendly known faces, returning a few glares with an icy blast of his own. Few could match him for the intensity he could exude when he chose to. The others looked away first, a couple actually leaving their seats to move away. That brought a hint of a curve to the ex-merc's lips, an amusement that he swallowed quickly as his dark sapphire eyes finally lit upon the desired quarry.
Tilting his head at Doyle, he got up and started to move across the room. The man he was looking for hadn't seen him yet, the large graying head was buried into an obviously highly interesting conversation with a pair of smaller men. Bodie was perfectly happy to have the element of surprise on his hands. Tank was unlikely to be cooperative despite the long acquaintance between them; Bodie had beaten the crap out of him the last time they'd come across each other. Still, if anyone knew what Bodie needed badly to know - it would be this big bruiser of a mercenary.
As he got close enough to be noticed, Bodie had second thoughts about involving Doyle. This wasn't going to be pretty, and Doyle was not prepared for it.... Bodie almost choked on a sudden burst of laughter. If he needed to be concerned for anyone, it certainly wasn't Doyle. His partner might look like a seven stone weakling, all thin limbs and hair - but Doyle was one hell of a fighter, quick, fiery, merciless - and he was more than ready to get down and dirty when the situation warranted. If there was anyone Bodie felt safe having at his back, it was Doyle. The smile of appreciation resulting from that thought was the first thing Tank saw when he finally realized that his previously attentive audience's attention had wandered and his head turned to see the approaching pair of men.
"Bodie!!!" Tank screamed, bolting up out of his chair and barreling at the smaller man. Bodie was ready for him, he bent aside like a sapling in the wind, one hand slicing the air to strike Tank hard in the gut. The large merc gasped like a beached fish, but was up quickly for air, his blind rage focused like a missile on his target. Bodie's hands lifted in ready posture, balancing carefully on his feet, barely a second passing before the battle resumed.
Doyle had been taken by surprise, and he hesitated yet a moment longer before getting involved. Not knowing the background of the situation, he didn't know whether this was something Bodie would want to handle on his own, or whether he'd expect Doyle's help. There were things that were personal - that you had to do for yourself, and yet, bloody blast it, this was Doyle's partner who was staggering now under the assault of those over-sized meaty fists. A low growl built in Doyle's belly, erupting from his mouth in a fountain of fury. He moved like lightning, leaping up and over, coming down on top of the merc's broad back with a heavy thud.
It was like trying to ride an elephant. A very angry elephant. Doyle wrapped his arms around the other man's tree-trunk of a neck and hung on for dear life. The merc barely paid attention to him, still battering at Bodie who ducked and weaved, then burst forward with his fists. Bodie might appear small relative to Tank, but he was still a powerfully built man, and his strength was focused with ice-cold clarity. Punch...punchpunchpunch...punch...punch... Tank staggered backwards, blood seeping from his nose and mouth as Bodie's blows fell with a carefully timed rhythm. The pressure and weight of Doyle clinging to his back tossed him further off balance. His big arms swung dangerously, wildly, managing to cuff Bodie on the side of the head. The CI5 man saw stars, but his own motion was already engaged, and even with lights flashing before his eyes, his body delivered with a swift economy of motion.
Tank's head snapped back, he stumbled, his feet gave way, and down he tumbled...right on top of a startled Ray Doyle.
"Oooof, bloody 'ell," Doyle groaned, shoving ineffectually at the heavy weight crushing the air from his lungs.
Bodie was standing over them, shaking his head slightly, trying to clear his vision. Another shout from his partner broke through his daze.
"Gerr'imovameeeee!!" came the stuttered demand. Bodie's eyes focused, and he slid to his knees beside them. Doyle was squirming beneath the big merc's unconscious body and the sight was enough to bring tears of laughter to Bodie's dark eyes. He was probably hysterical, a small part of his mind chimed, but he just couldn't help it. Assisting Doyle in rolling Tank off of him, he grinned toothily. Doyle pulled himself up to seated position, hands rubbing at his sore ribs. He took in that gleaming expression of amusement on his partner's handsome face, and he responded with a fierce scowl.
"Oh, you think that's funny, don't you?"
"Nah, mate," Bodie shook his head, though he practically had to bite his bottom lip to keep from exploding with laughter. Doyle's scowl deepened, but Bodie forestalled him by extending a hand to help him to his feet. Doyle sighed, and reached out to close his hand over Bodie's upper arm, even as Bodie's strong grip closed over his. Leaning on each other for balance they got to their feet, then turned to look down at the still unconscious hulk on the floor below them.
"So, who's the truck."
"Tank," Bodie replied.
Doyle threw him an unamused glare. Bodie smiled wryly, then gestured widely. "His real name is Theodore Grussman, but everyone calls him Tank."
"I can see why," Doyle said, rubbing gingerly at his sore chest. Bodie struck him lightly on the arm with the back of his hand.
"Come on, give me a hand," Bodie demanded, leaning down to seize Tank's arm. Mumbling under his breath, Doyle bent down to help. Together, they dragged the big merc over to his chair and dumped him into it. One quick glance from Bodie, and the other two men fled gratefully in the direction of the bar. The CI5 men took their chairs, sitting down and contemplating the still-dazed merc.
Tank moaned, nearly falling out of his chair as he came to. Bodie steadied him with a none-too-gentle hand on his shoulder. Shaking him roughly, Bodie demanded his attention.
"Come on, Tank, wakey wakey...we 'aven't got all day." Tank stirred, opened his eyes, and tensed to resume the attack when he found himself gazing into Bodie's blue eyes.
"I wouldn't..." came a cool, certain voice in his other ear. It was followed by the gently click of a safety catch being released, and Tank turned to find himself eyeballing the business end of a large handgun. Over the top of the weapon, he looked up into a large pair of glittering green eyes, framed by a riot of soft brown curls. The vision was somehow contradictory, and Tank hesitated...just long enough to watch those emerald eyes harden.
"As he said...I wouldn't," Bodie purred, pressing his fingers into Tank's shoulders. Tank turned towards his ex-colleague, and growled.
"One of these days, Bodie..."
"Maybe," the ex-merc shrugged equably. "But not now. We've got some questions, and you're just the man to provide the answers." The accompanying smile never touched the wary midnight stare, the result was menacing. Tank swallowed hard, gazing from one intent face to the other, before responding with customary bravado.
"And why'ud I 'elp you, you bloody bastard?"
"For old times sake, eh..." Bodie shook his head, then leaned in closer. "Or how about because you'd like to go home in one piece."
"How about because you'd like to stay alive," Doyle chimed in, holding his weapon a few steady inches from the other man's chest.
"And 'oo're you?" Tank sneered at him. "Bodie's girlfriend or sometink?" He turned back to Bodie, who merely shook his head ever so slowly.
"Nope... He's my partner, and I'd appreciate it much if you didn't get him mad." He grimaced emotively, "Gets messy."
"Nah, I'll keep it simple this time. Too busy tonight to have the best kind 'uv fun." Doyle broke in, sighing with frustration. Then he grinned sweetly. "Well, maybe just a little. You know...gotta stay in practice."
Bodie shook his head again. "OK, mate, but you explain it to the boss this time. He'll 'ave us both sweating peanuts if you..."
"All right...all right," Tank slapped a large palm on the table. "Cut the act. Just tell me what you want, Bodie."
The partners exchanged a quick grin, then Doyle leaned back in his chair, casually resting the gun against his knee. Bodie leaned forward across the table.
"Someone decided to play a nasty trick on my friend and I last night. Killed a girl we were with. I want to know who's in town who has a liking for cutting up birds."
The laughter bubbled out of Tank's chest like water breaking through an earthen dam. His body shook with it. Bodie let it go on for a moment, then he clamped a powerful hand down on the merc's shoulder.
"Who's in town, Tank. Come on, if anyone'd know, it'd be you!"
"What d'ya think I am, a bloody tourist bureau?" Tank demanded between chuckles.
"You're still in touch with most of the lads."
"Perhaps..." Tank responded slyly. He looked from Bodie to Doyle and back again. "So tell me more about this bird of yours. Or was she 'is?" Tank nodded his head towards the curly-haired ex-cop.
"Ours," Bodie replied coolly, ignoring the sharp glance he got from Doyle. Tank stared at him, then laughed again.
"So that's the way of it..." Tank growled with amusement.
Bodie ignored him, fixing him with an icy stare. Tank suffered for a moment longer than most people would have the nerve to, then he blinked and looked away.
"Well..." Doyle demanded, his fiery temper rising.
Tank shrugged. "No one."
"Ahh, come on, Tank," Bodie argued. "Gotta be someone."
Tank shook his head, wincing at the pain the sudden movement caused. Rubbing at his jaw, he frowned.
"Not that would do something like that. You know the way of it, Bodie. If someone has trouble with you, they'll take it straight to you. The bird might cop it if she got in the way, maybe, but no one would aim for her, and not you. Well...almost no one."
Bodie glared at him again, and Tank protested vigorously. "Look, Krivas is locked up on the Moors, La Page is dead. Kreitman is still over there, far as I've heard, and Poole got iced a couple years ago in Johannesburg. I'm telling you, it's not any of the mercs I know."
Bodie frowned, drumming his fingers on the table. Even though he'd been expecting the answer, it still frustrated him. Doyle didn't look any happier, even if his grimace was tinged with resignation. This had been the last option of a tiresome day, and they were left no closer to an answer than when they had woken up to a living nightmare at dawn.
The particular sketch had been chosen carefully, slowly, time well-spent. The rest of the present task had been shockingly simple...a pleasure. The woman had been easy to track, easier to trap, a doe meandering to her death with wide-eyed innocence. And now only one last touch remained to finish the planned presentation. The rubber-gloved hand held the thin sheet of ink- covered paper with tender delicacy. The face drawn upon it, lines etched in black, stared up with smug assurance, seeming alive. Those blue eyes, drawn in smudged gray ink, glittered. The hand trembled with a gust of rage, fingers squeezing, wrinkling the edges of the fragile drawing.
Breath was drawn in sharply, control sought, found, held. The piece of paper was positioned carefully, laid across the unmoving chest of the pretty blond woman. A lovely china doll, asleep on her bed, resting in a slumber that would never end, and the picture of a darkly handsome man to complete the scene.
A task well done.
The idea of returning to a dusty room full of files did not appeal to either agent. Bodie drove grimly through the city streets, angling in the direction of CI5 headquarters, yet circling far out of the way. Doyle's attention was pinned to the asphalt rolling beneath the car wheels. He had little to say. He had settled into a dismal mood, and was wallowing in it. Bodie didn't bother trying to pull his partner out of his depression, though his own mind was crystal clear, his emotions shuttered behind the hard cold focus, his nerves jangling with awareness of every sensation.
But there was nowhere else to go, the thought of returning to his quiet flat even more distasteful than facing the seemingly endless mounds of paper. So Bodie eased the car towards headquarters, finally pulling into the parking lot and maneuvering the car into a space almost too tight. He nudged Doyle's arm with his elbow.
"Come on sleeping beauty, time to wake up!"
Doyle groaned and stretched, then frowned menacingly. "I wasn't asleep."
"Coulda fooled me..." Bodie began to tease, squeezing his large frame out the door. He had barely stood up when a pair of hands closed on his arm. His words shut off into a shout of annoyance...
"William Bodie?" demanded a gravely voice.
"Who wants to know?" Bodie replied shaking himself free and turning as quickly as he could in the confined space between cars. Doyle had caught enough of the change in his partner's voice to react, he was out his door a split second later.
"Detective Constables Kohler and Smythe, Harris and Scobell," the portly, fair-haired man facing Bodie replied, briefly flashing a warrant card. Bodie squinted at it, pushing forward to crowd the smaller policeman out into the open aisle of the parking garage. The constable attempted to hold his ground, but the expression on the CI5 man's face was forbidding, the dark-lashed eyes colder than ice.
On the other side of the car, Doyle was similarly forcing another officer, this one gaunt and wrinkled, to back up, until the four men met, squared two against two, behind the car. Two more blue-suited constables slid in to frame Bodie and Doyle into an enclosed square.
Satisfied to have Doyle standing poised at his side, Bodie crossed his arms across his chest and pinned the constable closest to him with a suspicious glare, demanding explanation without a word.
The policemen exchanged nervous glances, but puffed out their chests, drawing clumsily on the weight of their authority.
"William Bodie and Raymond Doyle, I must ask you to come with us for questioning regarding the murders of Henrietta Olafson and Deborah O'Neill," the blond one said, his voice ringing with arrogant authority, obviously pleased with the opportunity to take down the two CI5 men.
"What?....Deborah?" Bodie and Doyle exclaimed at once, chins jerking up in surprise.
"Please come along, sirs, we don't want any trouble, now..." the cop was continuing, but neither agent was paying him any attention. Their eyes met, shadowed blue fusing with blazing green; their minds raced, wheels spinning, electric currents racing like lightning. Again Bodie deferred to Doyle, and Doyle broke into the cop's spiel with abrupt insistence.
"When? And how?"
The cop stopped in mid-syllable, his mouth closing then opening in surprise. Doyle pressed the stolen advantage. "Deborah," he demanded. "What happened?"
The cop swallowed hard under the weight of those two well-practiced glares, then asserted himself roughly. "I think that's for you to tell us, isn't it. Now come along with ye," he waved at the squad car parked haphazardly at the far edge of the parking lot. Bodie and Doyle exchanged swift glances, silently weighing the situation. They could probably take these four cops down without breaking a sweat, but was it worth the trouble? Technically, they were on the same side, though Doyle felt the kinship much more keenly than his ex-merc partner. To Bodie, anyone getting in his way, was simply that - in the way. And he had no patience with the local police force despite his partner's own history with the Met.
"Does Mr. Cowley know about this?" Bodie asked, unmoving, his very solidness serving as silent resistance.
"He will be informed," the younger cop broke in, eyeing the two agents with unconcealed distaste, mixed with a healthy portion of fear. CI5 had a reputation that was well-earned, the attitude of the regular law enforcement towards it generally one of envy and distrust. Words such as thugs and goons were among the nicer commentary, and none of the officers had been pleased to be stuck with this assignment. For their part, the two CI5 men easily read the attitudes of the officers facing them, and Bodie's perverse sense of humor soon asserted itself.
Reaching under his coat, he swiftly drew his weapon, levering the muzzle at the nearest cop for a split second too long before letting it dangle from his fingertips.
"Shouldn't you disarm us before you take us into custody, constable?" he asked mildly. Doyle fought a grin, the strike of pure panic on the officers' faces had been sheer and immediate. But Doyle also knew better than to trust that bland tone in his partner's rich voice, that was the calm before the storm, the rattle before the bite. Bodie was tensed for action, and Doyle was sensitive to it, felt it tingle against the back of his neck like a static charge.
Doyle instantly moved closer to Bodie, even as the cops struggled to match Bodie's movement, pulling out guns with clumsy hands, obviously far less comfortable with the weapons than the deadly ex- mercenary.
"Take it easy," Doyle warned softly, closing his hand on Bodie's arm. He glared into his partner's apparently sleepy blue eyes, not mistaking that relaxed appearance for anything more than a subtle disguise. He squeezed Bodie's biceps, then raised both his hands in the air before him.
"Everyone just relax. And put the guns away," Doyle gazed sternly at Bodie. "You too, Bodie, put the gun away. We're all on the same side, remember. Just take it easy."
Bodie grimaced, the tenseness of his stance never relenting, but he nodded sharply and slung the heavy gun neatly back into its holster beneath his brown leather jacket. The cops followed more slowly, their eyes never wavering from the big dark man, even when he let his hands fall empty to his sides, only the slow, reflexive clench of his fingers betraying the shuttered emotions.
Doyle let out a long slow breath, then forced out a conciliatory smile. "Good. Now, are we under arrest?"
The blond officer shook his head. "No." He swallowed hard, wetting his dry lips with a darting tongue, his eyes flitting from one CI5 man to the other. Bodie was a statue, poised, but silent, muscles tense but frozen. Doyle was seemingly at ease by his larger partner's side, his face open and friendly beneath the thick shock of curls. A study in contrasts, but the eyes were the same, hard glittering gem stones, sapphire and emerald, both intensely aware. "No," the cop repeated. "Our orders are to bring you in for questioning."
Doyle nodded. "All right, let's go inside." He started to move towards the elevators, but was stopped as another cop stepped in front of him.
"The car is that way," the officer inclined his head to the right.
"We ought to check in with Mr. Cowley," Doyle argued, but the policemen were adamant. "I'm sure the Inspector will be contacting him, but our instructions are to take you in to the station. This way please." This was the blond one taking the lead again, and Doyle met his gaze for a long moment before shrugging and turning back to his left.
"Whatever you say, officer..."
Bodie was slower to follow, then he uncurled himself, came to life with an abrupt fluidity. In two steps he was at Doyle's side, settling into pace with his slightly shorter partner with the ease of long familiarity. Fury seethed beneath the bland surface, only his trust in Doyle drawing him to follow the other man's lead.
"No...as I already told you, I haven't seen or talked to Deborah in almost a year." Doyle sighed, shifting in the uncomfortable wooden chair. Only too aware of standard interrogation techniques, he waited sullenly for the next round of repetitive questions.
"She dumped you," the Inspector drilled.
Doyle nodded, shrugged, glared up defiantly at the bulky, gray man hovering over him. This had been going on for a couple of hours, and he was reaching the limit of his tolerance. Never a patient man to begin with, Doyle's explosive temper was raging at his heels. He bit at his lower lip, only barely stifling a bitter comment. But the inspector only pushed harder.
"Must have bothered you, her tossing you out like that."
A burst of perverse amusement bubbled out of Doyle, and he broke out into laughter. Shaking with mirth, he finally regained control enough to speak clearly. "Look - if anyone got 'tossed out,' it was her, not me. My job isn't exactly easy on relationships. I had to keep breaking dates. I even had to abandon her on a street corner in downtown London one time because I'd been called in on an emergency. She got mad about that, and I can't really blame her. So we broke it - no big deal. It may not have been the most friendly of break-ups, but it wasn't that acrimonious either. We simply went our separate ways. I haven't seen her since, there was no reason to."
"Then explain how a sketch you drew of your partner ends up resting on her belly after she's been knifed to death!"
"I DON'T KNOW!!" Doyle yelled, exasperated, nearly leaping up out of his chair. Then gasping for a deep breath, hands clenched into fists, he slumped back into the chair and stared blindly at the ceiling. "I just don't know!"
Bodie met all but the simplest of questions with stone-faced silence. He'd been interrogated by experts far too many times to be tolerant of the London police's fumbling attempts to draw him out. Spitting out his name, occupation and ID number, he then snapped his mouth shut and refused to say another word. Even the implied threat of violence did not make a dent, he responded with arrogant amusement glimmering in his eyes, the corners of his mouth uplifting in a disdainful smirk. The faster they rained questions on him, the deeper he retreated, until he appeared catatonic, his eyes unblinking, staring, focused solely on the far wall. A shove on the shoulder barely budged him, he wavered, then remained still, absorbing the blow without response. Someone who knew him well might have read the clenching of the jaw, the thinning of the pouty lips, but to anyone else, it was as though he'd faded from the world leaving no more than a physical shell behind. Frustrated and angry, the inspector finally gave up, leaving the motionless ex-merc sitting alone in a darkened room.
Cowley was furious. White-skinned, sheer-eyed angry. He stalked into Doyle's cell with thin-lipped control. The younger man took one good look at his boss' expression and shrank back into his chair.
"Did I, or did I not, tell you and that irresponsible partner of yours to stay off the streets?" Cowley stared mercilessly down at Doyle's place face. The huge green eyes dilated even further, though the posture tightened with instinctive defiance.
"You did, sir," came the unapologetic reply.
"Then would you please explain to me just what the two of you were doing?!"
"Trying to find out who killed the girl," Doyle shouted back.
"I told you to leave it to Murphy!"
"Do you think that no one else in this organization is capable of doing his job besides you and Bodie?"
"No!" Doyle shook his head, his curls rippling with the movement. "But..."
"Don't 'but' me, Agent 4.5. Do you have any idea of the kind of trouble you're in right now?"
"Yes, sir," came the certain reply.
Cowley suddenly paused, and sighed aloud. He smoothed down his hair, then moved in closer to the still seated Doyle.
"The second girl who was killed...Deborah...you knew her?"
Doyle nodded, his expression tightening, grim and hard. "Yes, I dated her for a while. But I hadn't seen her in close to a year."
"And you gave her a sketch of your partner?" Cowley asked, his voice softened into a persuasive burr. But Doyle had been asked these questions a few times too many, his reply was flat and practiced.
"No. The killer must have taken the sketches when he murdered Henrietta."
Cowley's expression hardened. "And why didn't you tell Murphy they were missing?"
Doyle swallowed hard, his eyes darting away to search the shadowed corners of the room. Slowly, reluctantly, he looked back and answered. "I was going to!" Cowley looked disbelieving, but Doyle met his gaze with fierce honesty. "I would have told him tonight. I just wanted some time to think it out for myself first." That was a partial truth, and Cowley accepted it as such. He nodded his head towards Doyle, silently urging the man to spit the rest out. Doyle had to take a deep breath, then he nearly shouted. "Well, it was...embarrassing."
Cowley shook his head. "Aye, man, and do you think this is going to get any less so for you...for either of you? Keeping important information to yourself is only going to make things worse."
"Yeh...yeh..." Doyle agreed half-heartedly. The pause lengthened, then Doyle spoke out heatedly. "Look, we didn't kill the girl. Hell, we were chasing all over bloody London this afternoon. We were miles away from Deb's flat."
"Perhaps, but it'll take some time to prove it. Somehow I doubt the people you were interviewing are going to be running forward to testify on your behalf," Cowley warned.
Doyle grimaced at that unwelcome bit of truth. "There's no reason for them to lie. Look, sir..."
"Relax, Doyle. I've got McCabe and Lucas on it already. Any names you and Bodie can come up with, along with approximate times, will help."
Doyle nodded, then spit out a series of contacts and locations. Cowley jotted them down, interspersing a series of brief questions, noting the answers with sharp jabs of his pen. When Doyle was done, he pocketed his notebook and pen, then turned towards the door.
"Wait! When are we getting out of here," Doyle called after him.
Pausing at the door, Cowley looked back over his shoulder. "Not for a while."
Cowley grinned with abrupt amusement. "Maybe it'll teach you to obey orders next time, 4.5. The cops can hold you for 24 hours, we'll have you out sometime tomorrow. Good night." He opened the door and marched out, leaving an outraged Doyle standing bereft in the middle of the room.
Doyle childishly made a face at the closed doorway, then began to pace around the tiny room like a caged tiger. His face was caught in a fierce scowl, his hands clenching at his sides. Green eyes sparkled with glints of frustration, the easily-surfacing temper boiling helplessly. He hated being unable to do anything to affect the situation, and being cooped up in this gray metallic box of a cell did little for his peace of mind. He paused long enough to slap a hand against the wall, and then the door opened.
Two blue-uniformed cops led in a dark-clothed figure, the pale skin luminescent against the brown of his jacket. Bodie's hands were cuffed before him, his elbows jutting out at uncomfortable angles. But his feet moved with an uncharacteristic shuffle, and his normally alert eyes were blank, empty black pools. His face could have been chiseled from white marble, there was no color to his skin. No spark of resistance, no flare of personality lit his expression. It was as though his soul had been ripped from his body - nothing of the essence of his self remained in the still- handsome flesh.
Doyle absorbed his partner's appearance in a split-second, and his reaction was like the triggering of a bomb. Bodie's name died on Doyle's lips, the sound barely a whisper, lost in the wind of the explosion that followed in its wake. The fiery agent was across the room before anyone would have known he had begun to move, he knocked one of the cops to the floor with a hard-thrusted fist. Stealing Bodie from the other, he cried out, "What 'ave you done to 'im, you bastards!!" The other cop, his hand still hanging in mid-air, lost from its grip on Bodie's arm, reared back, his eyes widening in surprise. The fury radiating from the green-eyed man was deadly intense; the officer took an involuntary step back.
"Nuh...nothing!" he answered, raising his hands before him. "We didn't do anything. Honest..."
Doyle glared unbelievingly at him, advancing, crowding him towards the still open door. The policeman glanced at the unconscious form of his own partner and swallowed hard, eyeing the enraged madman before him with open fear.
"Look, we didn't hurt him. He just clammed up tight when the Inspector tried to question him. But no one laid a hand on him!"
Doyle didn't pause, that one look at his partner's shuttered expression had been more than enough. His anger was a living flame, he didn't stop to question why it mattered so much. For, of course, it had to matter. Bodie was his partner - that was all Doyle needed to understand. They'd hurt his Bodie...vengeance was a necessity, a hot knife blade twisting in his gut. Doyle poised on the balls of his feet, his hands clenched reflexively, he tensed to attack...
And was shoved aside abruptly as Bodie barreled past him, striking the officer in the gut with both fists, the handcuffs serving only to double the blow, two deadly hands thrusting at once. The man gurgled, doubled over, jerked back against the wall, and folded into a crumpled heap on the floor.
Stunned, Doyle watched as Bodie dropped to his knees, delivered a quick, slashing blow to the copper's neck, then began to rustle through the uniform pockets with desperate fingers.
"Bodie!" Doyle reached for Bodie's shoulder, which froze under his touch, then pulled slightly away. The dark head didn't turn, instead a soft sigh of satisfaction echoed in the small room as the determined man found the object of his search. Fumbling in his haste, he nearly dropped the key, but he managed, finally, to free his hands from the silver cuffs. Both they and the key clattered against the wall as they were tossed ruthlessly aside, and then Bodie was on his feet, aiming for the half-open door.
Doyle was staring at him, wide-eyed, but the quick darting run forced him into action.
"Bodie?" he hissed after his partner, following him out into the hallway. Bodie had leapt across to the far wall, and was eyeing the length of the corridor with rapid, intense eyes, his entire body poised for a fight. Doyle could feel that tension, felt his own body quiver in response, so keyed to Bodie that he automatically mirrored his partner's emotions. His expression, his eyes, were all filled with an unspoken question, but if that silent query was noticed, it was mainly ignored, Doyle favored only by a familiar tilt of the sleek raven-haired head and a defining slash of an elegant hand through the air.
Doyle's reactions were instinctive, and his reflexes moved him into position even faster than his mind could raise an objection. But object it did...and this time he reached out to take hold of his partner's arm as the man bolted past him. Bodie nearly stumbled at the sudden grab on his arm, and he turned, hands raised to his defense. He struck out at Doyle before his eyes fixed on the other man's face, and his hands clenched in upon themselves as they dropped away, a mere inch from impacting with Doyle's face.
Doyle moved in, pressing himself into Bodie's space, until they were tasting each other's breath.
"What the 'ell are you doing?" the ex-cop demanded.
"What d'ya think?" the ex-merc responded, his voice issuing low, heavy, dragging harshly in his throat. "I'm getting out of here."
"But we can't..." Doyle protested, only to be cut off; Bodie's eyes blazed at him with startling intensity; a terrifying mix of panic and rage boiling in the sapphire depths, twisting the mobile mouth into an animalistic snarl.
"I bloody well am!" Bodie broke away, twisting on his heels to glare at his surroundings. "No way I'm staying locked up in some cage. You want to stay, you stay, but don't expect me to sit around playing patsy for these damn-fool bastards."
"Bodie..." Doyle reached out, but Bodie was already running away, bulldozing down the corridor like a rampaging elephant. Doyle glanced back at the two policemen groggily stirring in the cell behind him, paused for the length of a single heartbeat, then bolted away after Bodie like a startled gazelle. No matter the cost, no matter the consequence, there was no way in heaven or hell that he was going to let Bodie run off into danger on his own. He didn't understand what had forced his usually icily-controlled partner so close to the emotional edge, but that only made it all the more imperative that Doyle stay by his side. He'd get the answer sooner or later, but in the meantime, someone had to watch Bodie's back until the man cooled off, and that someone was going to be Doyle.
Cowley glared daggers at the puffed up Met Superintendent, his lilting burr of a voice all the more chilling for its softness.
"This is a CI5 investigation. You had no right to arrest two of my men, especially without informing me first."
Blanton was unswayed by the CI5 controller's anger. He hated and feared the CI5 'supercops,' certain that they were a bunch of misfit thugs, killers who found a way to operate within the edges of the law. He'd lost a good case to them once, a case that could have meant a sterling opportunity for advancement. Instead, he'd been left in the dust, looking the fool, with one of his men dead and another wounded. CI5 had dumped the blame on him for interfering in their operation, and that injustice had stewed within him for many months. He wasn't giving this case up, no matter the authority the CI5 chief thought he had. This was his chance to prove how dangerous these agents were, to embarrass CI5, and he intended to seize it with both hands.
"This is MY case," he replied possessively. "Deborah O'Neill's murder..."
"Connects directly to the death of Henrietta Olafson which is a CI5 matter," Cowley interrupted.
"Only because two CI5 men are the prime suspects in both murders," Blanton responded, his voice sharp- edged with satisfaction. He saw the point hit home, Cowley's jaw tightening.
"All the more reason why this must remain an internal CI5 matter. We are investigating..."
"Covering up, you mean," Blanton broke in again. His brown eyes hardened as he leaned across his desk. "You won't get away with sweeping this under the rug this time. The death of a prostitute is one thing, but Miss O'Neill was a fine, upstanding citizen with a family who wants answers...answers that I intend to provide."
Cowley nearly struck out, his fists clenched at his sides, yet his voice remained stonily quiet. "No one is sweeping anything under any rug, Inspector. There is no reason to believe that either Bodie or Doyle had a hand in these deaths, but if...IF...they did, then they will be charged and punished to the full extent of the law. However..."
This time the interruption came from the phone, and both men jerked in response to the shrill tones. Blanton grabbed the receiver, barking his name into it. He listened, his eyes widening, then he bolted up out of his seat.
"Damnit! Get out word to all stations, with a warning. These men are to be considered armed and dangerous...but I want them found and captured, preferably alive...NOW!" He hung up the phone with a satisfying clatter, then turned a bitter smirk on Cowley.
"Your two fine operatives just broke their way out of jail. I've got three men on their way to the hospital, one with what looks like a broken jaw..."
"What?!" Cowley's voice finally broke high, his skin bleaching pale. Before Blanton could say another word, the CI5 chief turned on his heels and raced from the room. The door slammed shut behind him, leaving Blanton to sink into his chair, his face breaking out into wide, eager grin. This was even better than he could have hoped.
The London streets were hard and cold, long stretches of dirty concrete that smelled of car exhaust and burnt plastic, refuse and unwashed humanity. A bitter, damp chill permeated the air, sending shivers down Bodie's back, but to his mind the wetness of his clothes stinging his skin was a hot memory, dust-edged sweat burning at his eyes. The narrow tunnel of asphalt blurred into sun-soaked red-gold sands, a row of parked cars wavered against the image of brown-tipped bush and heat-seared rock. The roar of an engine was the battle cry of the lion, the screech of tires mimicked the howl of the hyena. He moved with drilled patience, darting with bent joints and tensed muscles, eyes alert, ears open, waiting, watching for the first sign of danger.
Faintly, he was aware of Doyle behind him, his mate's harsh breathing a rhythmic accompaniment to his own, the familiarity undisturbing to his skewed sense of location. It didn't seem odd that Doyle would be running beside him, anywhere, anytime, for without Doyle, Bodie would have felt incomplete. But now he felt a peculiar sense of fulfillment, every sense tingling with satisfaction, rising on a hard rush of adrenaline. His mind proffered the mirror image of reality, and he seized it fiercely, feeling the dry wind in his hair, the sun beating on their backs as he and his partner ran, a pair of predators on the prowl, hunter and hunted, sensing danger behind and prey before them.
He turned a corner, barely recognizing it as such, the training drilled so deeply that the actions were subconscious. Bodie backed up against the dank wall, checking for movement in the shadows, ears registering, transforming the sound of police sirens into the growl of a desert tank, then flicking a hand at Doyle, urging him deeper into the alley. Doyle hesitated, poised with arm half-outstretched, then twirled and ran in the indicated direction. Bodie followed a moment later, his long legs eating up the ground as he stole the lead.
They darted through the city streets for nearly an hour, until Bodie was satisfied they'd lost their pursuers. He moved solely on instinct, a homing signal in his brain closing in on a barely remembered position of security. Doyle followed, his quizzical expression beginning to register his growing sense that his partner's mind wasn't as clear as it seemed, but unwilling to take chances with the dangerous man's stability on a public sidewalk. And Bodie had a firm destination in mind. Though he slowed to a rapid walk, he kept up a strong pace, driving them both relentlessly.
At last, he drew Doyle into a small alley, squeezed between a pair of overflowing dumpsters, and came up short at a blank metallic door. The lock was rusty with disuse, but Bodie's key worked, and a powerful thrust of those massive shoulders forced it open. Doyle barely needed to blink as they went from the misty darkness of the street to the pitch-darkness of an unlit staircase.
Reaching out to grab at the slimy brick wall, Doyle cautiously made his way down the stairs, using Bodie's footsteps as a guide. A quick click was the only warning before light flooded the well at the bottom of the stairs, and Doyle stumbled, rubbing at abruptly blinded eyes. Blinking through moisture, he watched Bodie fumble with another locked door, then gasped when Bodie propelled him into another small room. The door clanked shut behind them, the bolt slamming home, then Bodie brushed past Doyle only to come to a full halt in the center of the enclosure, gazing around him as though lost.
"Bodie?" Doyle's voice sank into the brick walls, drowned by an unnatural silence marred only by the sounds of the air rushing through their lungs. Bodie didn't respond. His dark eyes flickered towards Doyle, but they weren't focused, looked straight through him. Doyle's stomach flipped like a beached fish.
"Bodie..." Doyle tried again, this time reaching out to tentatively brush his partner's wide shoulder with his fingertips. Bodie jerked, blinked rapidly, staggered. Doyle reached out and took firm hold of him, gratified to find those deep eyes closing in on his face.
"You all right, mate?" he asked. Bodie didn't reply, gazed fiercely at Doyle for a moment, then closed his eyes and slumped gracelessly to the floor. Or would have, if Doyle hadn't grabbed for him. Stopping the fall, he stumbled under the weight of his friend's unconscious body.
"BODIE!" Doyle cried out, slowly bending down to ease the other man to the floor. His green eyes lingered on a large mattress resting against the floor a few feet away, and he twisted around in an attempt to seize Bodie beneath the armpits. It took a long struggle, but he maneuvered the ex-merc close enough to rest his head on the edge of the mattress, the remainder of his long-limbed body splayed out on the concrete floor. Doyle crouched beside him, fumbling for a pulse, sighing with relief when he found it.
Wrapping his arms around Bodie's shoulder, cradling the sleek dark head in the crook of his arm, Doyle anxiously began to scan the room, searching for inspiration. None was forthcoming. This was the barest of cells, a pair of army trunks and an old beaten-up oak wardrobe completing the spare furnishings. A second door half-opened on the edge of a chipped porcelain basin and toilet; the only light was provided by the harsh yellow globe of a unshielded light bulb suspended by wires from the ceiling. Doyle clutched at the man in his arms, and swore unhappily under his breath.
"Damn it, Bodie! What the bloody hell is up with you?"
Bodie's reaction was immediate and startling, he bolted upwards, striking the bottom of Doyle's chin with the crown of his head.
"OOOWW!!" Doyle shrieked, falling backwards to land in an undignified sprawl on the neatly folded blanket behind him. Bodie twisted to look down at him, surprised by the yell, blinking down at Doyle with wide blue eyes.
"What's tha matter?" Bodie demanded. And a breath later, his eyes automatically having taken an inventory of his surroundings, "How the hell did we get here?"
Rubbing gingerly at his jaw, Doyle's ire rose, sparks igniting in his green eyes. "What do you mean? YOU tell ME! You led us here, remember?"
Bodie turned, recognizing the gritty edge of rage in his partner's voice, and wary of it, though still unable to grasp the reason. "I did what?" he asked, voice low and husky.
Doyle blinked at him, working his jaw before sitting up beside his partner. He leaned forward to stare into bemused eyes, a powerful rush of concern overwhelming the previous rush of anger, leaving him fighting for control of his contrary emotions.
"Don't you remember?" he asked, holding Bodie's eyes fiercely. Bodie didn't break the shared look, though his head shook slightly. He swallowed hard, his mouth tightening as he geared himself to ask the requisite question.
Doyle paused, struggling with the sense that Bodie was playing with him, but the other man's body language was too revealing; he sat like a child bravely facing punishment, braced for the axe to fall. Doyle tried to find appropriate words, but found himself settling for an answering, worry-edged question.
"What's the last thing you remember?"
Bodie frowned, his lips pursing into a forward- thrust pout. His eyelids dropped, thick lashes fanning over pale cheeks. He shook his head. "Being questioned by that bleedin' Inspector at the station..." He paused, then lifted shadowed eyes to Doyle's face. "That's all mate...I remember him yelling at me to confess to killing those girls, but it just goes...black after that." Silence fell for a moment, then Bodie dropped his head again. He whispered, "I'm sorry, Ray."
Doyle's gut melted. A rush of extraordinary tenderness overwhelmed him as he reached out to touch Bodie's shoulders with both hands. The other man jerked, his instinctive reaction to pull away from contact, and Doyle hesitated, biting down hard on his emotions as he drew his hands back awkwardly to rest in his lap.
"They brought you into the cell I was in, and you..." Doyle stumbled, then forced the words out in a rush. "You didn't seem aware of your surroundings at first, then suddenly you attacked the guard. You insisted on escaping from the police station, and then led me on a merry round of London until you brought us here, wherever here is." He tilted his head down, seeking the return of eye contact. It didn't occur. Instead Bodie leapt to his feet to prowl the tiny room.
Doyle clenched his fists, remaining seated, letting Bodie find his own way. He wanted to do more, to reach out, to ease the tension in those hunched shoulders, but he didn't know how. Bodie had always been the cool one, the hard, controlled earth of the partnership. Doyle was the one who flared into emotion, fire and ice raging though his veins like floodwater, and he had come to depend on his partner's solid practicality even more than he had realized. To see it shaken, to see Bodie trembling so openly, was the emotional equivalent of an earthquake to Doyle, and he staggered on uncertain ground.
Bodie finally slumped down on one of the big black trunks, and buried his face his hands. When he looked up, his face was under complete control, only the haunted, bruised eyes indicative of the turmoil within.
"I'm sorry, Ray," he repeated, his voice a shaky echo of itself. He licked at his lips, his jaw tightened, and his voice rose in volume and certainty, an echo of self-reflexive humor adding a bitter edge to his words.
"I think 'shell-shock' is the operative phrase." He grinned wryly, the expression close to a grimace. "I must've thought I was back in Angola for a while there. Hope I didn't create too much of a mess."
"Angola..." Doyle breathed the word, understanding knifing him in the chest, like breathing shards of glass. His green eyes went wide as he stared at the other man.
Bodie saw the unspoken questions register in Doyle's face, and he grimaced openly. Shrugging his shoulders, he tried to play it lightly. "Well, you know, just a few bad memories. The inspector must've set me off, reminded me of something, and there you go..."
"Does it happen often?" Doyle had to ask, for even though he'd never noticed... God, he felt guilty for having never considered...But Bodie was already shaking his head, his expression lightening as he stepped onto firmer ground.
"Nah, mate," he grinned more easily, "almost never. Hasn't happened for years." He rubbed at the back of his neck and sighed. "It's just been a tough couple of months. Losing those men to the terrorist group, then the whole disaster with Pilson, and then these murders...I'm just tired." He shrugged again, then forced himself to meet Doyle's watchful gaze with apparent openness. "It won't happen again, I promise."
Doyle's expression was filled with the doubt, and Bodie rushed to reassure him. "I won't let you down, mate..."
"I know!" Doyle interrupted him, waving his hand vigorously. "'S not that, Bodie, not ever...I'm just concerned about you. Have you talked to anyone about this?"
"What? You mean like Dr. Ross and her bunch of headshrinkers?" Bodie responded caustically.
Doyle nodded seriously, and Bodie sighed. "No way! Last thing I need is the Lady Calculator breathing down my neck. If she started tearing into my past, I'd spend the rest of life on a couch...and not doing what a big healthy boy like myself oughta be doing on one!" Bodie managed a convincing leer, the blue eyes twinkling like twin sapphires, and Doyle couldn't help the twitch of his lips in response. That expression was irresistible, as Bodie well knew, but Doyle was not finished with his own examination.
"Even so, nothing, Doyle. Let it be, OK?" Bodie interrupted, rising to his feet to make a circuit of the room, Pausing a few feet from his still-seated partner, he brought his focus back onto the presence. "'Sides, we've got enough to worry about in the here and now?"
That was the obvious truth, and Doyle reluctantly gave up on any further discussion of Bodie's past and its effect on him, but only for the moment. Drawing out bits and pieces of the other man's history was a slow, tedious and sometimes painful process. Doyle knew he'd have to fight for each faint glimpse, one small step at a time. But on this he could be patient; he would always be relentless. If he had to worry it out of Bodie a tidbit at a time, then so be it. He'd let it go for the moment, there'd be another chance later.
A quick darting glance from those dark-lashed blue eyes told Doyle that Bodie certainly knew that Doyle wouldn't forget this, but a flash of relief relaxed his chiseled features when Doyle acquiesced to the change of subject.
"That's for sure," Doyle agreed wryly. "Cowley is going to be on the warpath when he discovers that we skipped out."
Bodie groaned aloud, that consequence had not yet dawned on him. He looked up to find a similar expression of dismay on Doyle's marred features, and their eyes caught, both unable to resist sharing a grin, sheepish though it might have been. And at once, they were back in perfect synchronicity.
George Cowley was on a rampage. CI5 personnel scurried like leaves before the wind, no one daring to risk the blade of his wrath. Emotions were running high, for Agents 3.7 and 4.5 were popular with their compatriots. Bodie for all of his arrogance was a drinking buddy par excellence, more than willing to bear his share of the rounds, and Doyle, for all his abrupt moodiness, would always give a hand where needed. Besides, they had always been the best, Cowley's top team, admired and imitated by the younger agents, respected by the older ones. So this was a personal quest for each and every member of the Squad, no one believing for a moment that either man was capable of the crimes, but certain that disaster would strike if anyone but another one of their own caught up with the errant pair.
That understanding made Cowley's fierce demands easier to bear, and the men and women of CI5 snapped to it with little or no complaint. Bodie and Doyle's apartments were searched and watched, their favorite haunts examined, the multitude of girlfriends, present and past, put under strained surveillance. Yet the hours passed empty and unrevealing, and tensions fired. Tempers flared. Worry fed frustration fed anger, the entire squad tenser than they'd been since Ulrike's terrorists had cost the lives of two of their men. But the pair at stake here were the best of the best, and they had melted into the city like ghosts, leaving not a single trace to mark their passing.
This couldn't have been better. The escape made things easier, the city was in an uproar. CI5 was running around like a stampeding herd of cattle, the police were up in arms. The next target had been easy to trace, and simple to dispatch. No one noticed the killer's absence, the job took less than an hour to complete.
Surely, it would have been more enjoyable to drag it out. To take the time to bleed away the life slowly, to show finesse in the craft. The knife could be a subtle weapon, sheer and clean, artistry in motion. This foolish, starry-eyed bitch deserved her punishment, for she'd let herself be used, degraded herself in response to a handsome face and a charming smile. The price was only fair due. Yet, there was a small element of regret spoiling the satisfaction as the carefully designated sketch was laid across the knife-scored breast - the girl seemed so small, so slight, and her only crime had been weakness, a blinding fault of character. Still, the task was done, and the rewards were worth the cost. A few useless lives cut short to force the hand of the law. It might take time for the hounds of justice to sniff out that pair of rabid wolves, but sooner or later, their time would come.
It couldn't come too soon.
"We're the targets, we have to be!" Doyle circled back on the obvious, gnawing away at the problem with obstinate determination.
"Yeh - but why the girls? Why not just take us out?" Bodie argued yet again.
"Maybe we're too dangerous, the girls are safer victims?" Doyle didn't quite believe it as he said it, and Bodie was already shaking his head.
"Maybe if he met us on a street corner, but we were out cold last night. Easy pickings!" Bodie's voice easily betrayed his opinion of their stupidity and getting caught so easily. Literally with their pants down - it rubbed raw at his professional pride.
Doyle grimaced, sharing the self-disgust. But it got them no closer to an answer.
"So the girls matter in this somehow," he responded. "Maybe someone wanted to kill Deborah and I was a convenient scapegoat..." He sighed and leapt up to pace the room again, finding the holes in the idea even as he proposed it. Bodie laid back on the bed and growled at the ceiling.
"I don't know, Doyle. We're dealing with a nutter anyway. Can't really expect him to act with any sense."
"No." Doyle was adamant. "Even most nutters have a reason for what they do. The reason may not fit with reality, but it is consistent in and of itself. And this was all too well planned. There's a definite reason, I just can't see what it is. But the bastard's trying to tell us something..."
"Maybe he just doesn't like birds," Bodie said caustically, then he sat up and rubbed at his eyes. "Look, this isn't getting us anywhere. Let's get some shut-eye, and deal with it tomorrow. We don't have enough info. Tha's what we need."
"So what're we going to do? Go out on the street and start asking everyone who walks by?" Doyle challenged, his temper on edge.
"Oh that's real good, Doyle," Bodie replied, equally short-tempered. "With the police out hunting for us, and probably our own mob as well."
"That's your own fault, not mine," Doyle crankily replied, walking over to drop down beside Bodie on the bed. He barely stifled a massive yawn.
Bodie rocked forward to hug his knees. His irritation fled, a low sadness creeping into his tone.
"I'm sorry. If you want to turn yourself in to the coppers, go right ahead. I won't stop you. Probably be for the best anyway."
"What?" Doyle blinked, sat up straight, turned a wide-open stare on his partner. Running a hand through heavy knots of his wiry hair, he leaned close to Bodie.
"P'r'aps it would be, but I'm not going anywhere without you."
"No way," Bodie kept his chin tucked into his knees, his voice aiming for the concrete floor. "I won't be locked up. They'll have to shoot me first. I won't take that, Ray, not again..." His mouth slammed shut, his full lips pursing as though he could suck back the betraying words, but they had already slipped through.
"Again?" Doyle seized on it as Bodie had known he would. Doyle'd never let anything past, especially not something like this. "When...Bodie?"
The ex-merc sighed, ran a rough hand through his short-cropped dark hair, smoothing down the silken strands.
"The Congo, OK? Got caught on a mission in a border war, and paid the price." He jumped up to cross the room in quick, ground-eating strides, heading for the relative shelter of the bathroom. "'S not important. Got traded out, returned to England and joined the army. End of story." The bathroom door clanged shut behind him as a definitive exclamation point, and Doyle rested his chin thoughtfully in his hands. Another tiny piece of Bodie's past, the thin words covering an avalanche of pain, and if he knew his partner well, the subject would be fully closed.
Doyle's prediction was absolutely true. When he left the bathroom, Bodie's walls were fully in place. He grunted in response to any conversational gambit, quickly divested himself of jacket and shoes, then curled up on the far side of the bed, turned his head to the wall, and dropped rapidly off to sleep. His partner eyed him with frustration and concerned irritation, but quickly followed suit. They shared the wide mattress without comment or complaint. They'd done so before, would almost certainly do so again.
Bodie was an expert at snagging sleep whenever and wherever he could get it, but Doyle found it more difficult. His mind wouldn't let go, tearing away at the situation, reviewing it over and over. He shifted restlessly, inevitably snuggling closer to his partner's big warm body. Doyle pressed up against Bodie's back, spoon-fashion, nuzzling his face into Bodie's neck. That at least felt good. Knowing he wasn't alone in this nightmare made all the difference. Bodie could be difficult, irritating, impossible even, but he was the best companion Doyle had ever had. Below their often wrangling relationship was an unbreakable bridge of absolute trust. Sighing noisily, Doyle wrapped himself up against Bodie and finally dropped off to sleep...
And awoke an unknown while later to find his human hot water bottle shaking, moaning, twisting wildly. Bodie groaned, hissed, then flung himself backwards on top of Doyle, who gasped in response.
"Mmmph...BODIE!" Doyle yelled at him, pushing, shoving Bodie back over to sprawl beside him. The bigger man was slow to respond, then abruptly bolted to awareness, jerking up to a sitting position, fists clenched.
"Bodie?" Doyle called out again, this time with heartfelt concern. Those massive shoulders were shivering, the dark-haired head bent downwards, chin tucked into his chest. Doyle automatically reached out to wrap his arms around his partner, and Bodie instantly stiffened. But Doyle wasn't going to accept refusal this time, he only tightened his hold, drawing Bodie into a powerful embrace.
The resistance melted out of Bodie, and he slumped, half-turning to nuzzle his face into the curve of Doyle's neck. Ray squeezed him, drawing one hand up to stroke the back of Bodie's head, fingers lacing through the short silken hair. He lowered his chin, resting in close to Bodie's ear, then rocked him gently.
Bodie was still struggling with the cobwebs of the nightmare, blood pounding in his temples in a familiar rush of adrenaline. Images still wavered before his eyes, blood-soaked sand, broken bodies, heat turning everything rotten. The smell of decaying flesh burnt into his nostrils, coloring every breath he took. The only thing that penetrated the strands of horror was the protective warmth of Doyle's body, the steady beating of his heart. Bodie clung tighter, seeking the clean, male scent of his partner, focusing on it - on the feel of Doyle's wiry strength, furry chest, steel- banded arms... Sensations of life rather than death, a safe port in a storm, and Bodie needed him so terribly...
"Shhh..." Doyle stroked the man in his arms, long sweeping strokes of large hands across Bodie's back and shoulders. Despite the sick ache of his concern, he felt like he was flying in a wave of exultation. Bodie'd never let him this close - not to what truly mattered. Bodie had always been there for him, and had shared good times and bad with the solid weight of his loyal presence, but when it came down to the things that touched inside the taciturn ex-merc, then Doyle had always found himself frozen out. Marikka, the bombing that had nearly killed Claire, the girl Krivas had killed - in every case Doyle had found himself on the outside looking in, standing in the cold beyond a barrier locked and soldered shut. To have that barrier let down, even just for a few moments, it was a heady delight, and as guilty as he felt at taking advantage of Bodie's pain, Doyle couldn't help treasuring the sensation.
His caresses grew stronger, his hands seeking out to touch as much as he could of Bodie's body. It felt so good, the skin a soft coating over bone and powerful muscle, the flesh like braided steel. Ray rubbed at the bunched muscles of Bodie's shoulders, kneading the flesh, then ran sensitive fingertips down the long line of his spine, sweeping his flanks, then sliding back upwards. He nuzzled into the elegant curve of Bodie's neck, rubbing his cheek against the satiny underside of Bodie's jaw, wallowing in the closeness, the warmth, the cosy feel of being so intimate with his partner.
Bodie lay entangled in Doyle's embrace, his face buried in a soft mop of hair, his skin tingling with Ray's gentle caresses. The sense of comfort battled with the remnants of fear, washing over him in soothing waves, banking up the horror and panic, until the pressure broke and it flooded back in a violent reverse tide. Riding the wave was a rush of need, blazing white hot, it clenched his muscles, tightening his grip painfully on his partner's body.
"Boommppphh," Ray gurgled as the air was abruptly forced from his lungs, his chest crushed in a massive embrace. Before he could reach for another breath, Bodie had shifted, pressing him down against the thin mattress, covering the slender body with the broad weight of his own. The mouth that had been buried in his curls came alive, trailing hot moisture across his forehead, temples, along the battered cheekbone, then dropping to fasten on Ray's mouth. Any chance of thought, of resistance, was lost in the passion of that kiss. It seared Ray to the bone, fire arrowing its way to his groin and spreading through every nerve ending. No one'd ever kissed him like that before, with so much need, so much desire. Bodie drank from him, suckling, nibbling at his lips, his tongue, swooping down to taste the depths of his mouth, stealing the air from his lungs.
He couldn't help but respond. He wanted to respond. He clutched for the back of the dark-haired head and seized slippery handfuls of too-short dark hair, then settled for the bunching muscles of shoulder and upper arm, digging in with encouraging fingers, pressing downwards with forceful hands, upwards with hungry chest and groin. God, it felt good, better than he could have dreamed. Bodie needed him, not just wanted, but needed - and how Ray Doyle had wanted - needed - that. To get this close to Bodie - oh yes, it was past time, at last...
So it was with a deep inner sigh of utter satisfaction that Ray gave himself up to Bodie's frenzied lovemaking. He wasn't one to easily give up control, but this was worth the price of apparent surrender, and he'd have his turn in time. That much he promised himself, and yet - this in and of itself was a heady delight. Being the focus of Bodie's unleashed, utterly masculine, powerful sensuality was like riding a hurricane, electricity pulsing through his veins at every touch of those big hands. The remnants of their clothes were ripped away with rapid frustration, tossed aside, both quick to drown in the sensation of bare flesh upon flesh.
Doyle kissed and stroked every available inch of Bodie he could reach, feeling the heavy body above him jerk and twist as he found sensitive points, narrowing in on tiny puckered nipples and the curve of the groin below solid hipbones. He was rewarded with the fierce pressure of hot hardness against his thigh, a low soft moan burrowing into the hollow of his throat as his slender hands curled downwards into a wiry nest of black curls. But before his hands could explore further, the body covering his moved. Doyle protested, his words cut off at the first syllable by the searing demand of Bodie's mouth. Bodie took him in a kiss, then lowered his head to seize upon a small brown nub, teeth grazing, then moving on before Doyle could fully react to the caress.
Ray found himself covered in nibbling kisses, hot swipes of a broad tongue, down to his belly and then back up again, one large hand claiming his hip, the other his shoulder, holding in him place as the sweet torment continued, Bodie seemingly determined to taste every inch of Doyle's chest and abdomen.
"Oh...God, BODIE..." Ray hissed, writhing under the onslaught, scraping his own hands through the satiny dark hair, over the slick skin, cupping his arms and legs wide to cradle his partner's body upon his own, his hips bucking upward. That motion brought jutting hardness against hardness, and the contact tore a moan from twin throats. Bodie slammed him back down, and Doyle arched back up, rubbing against each other like a pair of cats begging to be petted, seeking the friction of skin against skin, nerve ending stimulating nerve ending, falling into a rhythm that was as natural as the beating of their hearts. Until it climaxed into fiery abandon, arms and legs tightly tangled, hips grinding together, mouths clamped, lungs sharing oxygen, hearts stilling in syncopation, then rushing into rapid patter, as one followed the other into release, scalding each other's flesh with a flood of hot fluid, greasing the already sweat-slicked contact between them.
They collapsed together, still entwined. Bodie buried his face into Ray's chest, the tenseness of his muscles finally slumping into limpid fluidity, exhaustion both emotional and physical, finally overcoming him. Cradled in his partner's loving embrace, his eyes flickered shut, his heartbeat slowed, he surrendered to sleep.
Doyle took a while longer to follow his partner into slumber, this moment too precious to give up, the openness of Bodie's trust so apparent, so desired and welcome, that it - and the man who had finally offered such a valued gift - were held with wonder and total attention to detail. Every sensation was stored away in memory like diamonds in a safe box, carefully secured for harder times to come. But he was worn as well, and the demands of his mind and body for rest soon came to the fore. Shifting to ease Bodie into a more comfortable position against his side, Ray settled down and slept.
Ray shivered as he came awake. He was cold, and he reached for a source of warmth that should have been there. His fumbling hand came up empty, wriggling across bare mattress, and he stumbled to full awareness, twisting over and blinking up at the hot glare of the light bulb hanging unshielded from the ceiling. A big shadow blocked him for an instant, then a heavy weight of cloth hit him in the face.
"Come on, Doyle, move your arse." The mattress sank down beside him, making him slide towards the edge. He pushed back, fighting to sit up and disentangle himself from the pile of clothes dumped on his chin. Blinking, he came up to find Bodie sitting beside him, fully dressed, hands expertly checking the menacing black steel shape of a Walther PP 9mm automatic handgun. Doyle catalogued the weapon instinctively, even as he opened his mouth to protest.
"Move where?" he demanded.
Bodie gave him a disgusted look. "Still asleep, Doyle?" he barked. "We've got a killer to catch, remember." Leaping up, he stalked across the room, dropping lithely to bent knee beside one of the big iron trunks. The handgun disappeared inside his jacket, then he fiddled swiftly with the combination padlock.
Muttering under his breath, Doyle pushed himself to his feet, wincing when bare flesh hit the cold concrete. His toes curled up in protest, and he hugged the pile of clothes against his chest. Bodie ignored him, and Doyle threw his partner a glare of pure frustration before stalking into the bathroom. So that was the way the close-mouthed bastard was going to play it. Pretend that nothing had happened. Doyle knew he shouldn't be surprised.
Still, he took advantage of what little the tiny cubicle had to offer, grimacing through a shower of lukewarm, rusty water, and shrugging into his jeans of the day before, plus a big black pullover sweater that had seen better days and must have been Bodie's - it hung loosely over his shoulders and around his waist, only pulling tight in the biceps. He fussed with his hair, rubbing at the damp curls briskly with an old towel, then frowning menacingly at his own half- shattered reflection in a cracked mirror. He had basically two choices, he finally decided, not happy with either. He could go along with Bodie or he could create a scene. But dragging information out of a Bodie who didn't want to give it...the prospect was hardly appealing.
"Rather go to the dentist for a root canal," he told himself bitterly. Still, the memories were sweet, more delightful than they had any right to be. Doyle was no prude, and he'd done his share of experimenting, especially when he was in school. Artists tended to be a bit gay, in both senses of the word, and he'd played with the best of them. Yet, he'd always preferred women, appreciated them with utter sincerity and devotion. He loved the way they smelled, the way they felt, all silken smooth and fluid curves, the way they tasted - everything about them. So why had the sudden burst of passion with his all-too-male partner managed to be the best sexual experience of his life? Perhaps because it had been more than simply sex? Doyle wasn't sure he wanted to follow that line of thought. Especially since he still had to cope with the rest of the package.
And then there was the bare fact of their present situation. That, briefly forgotten and soon recalled, hit Doyle like a fist in the gut; to put it quite bluntly, they were in deep shit.
Which of course, meant that they needed to be in focus, and they needed to be working together in perfect synchronicity. And that meant in turn that they couldn't let the events of the previous night go undiscussed. They had to talk, whether Mr. no-comment out there wanted it or not. Decision finally made despite the butterflies doing dances in his stomach, Doyle squared his shoulder and burst back into the main room.
"Here!" Bodie thrust something big and cold at Doyle's chest, and he recoiled in surprise, even as his hands automatically caught the heavy object. His mind catalogued it immediately, along with a faint glimmer of appreciation. A perfectly clean, apparently brand new, Smith and Wesson .38 revolver. Nice, nice, nice... He handled it deftly, whistling softly under his breath, before looking back up at Bodie, who was now holding out a large box of bullets.
"What have you got down here, a bloody munitions depot?" he demanded.
That actually won a glint of amusement from his stone-faced partner. "Something like that," the big ex- mercenary replied. "Better to be prepared." He handed Doyle the box, then went back over to pick up his own favorite weapon, a long, slender light-weight rifle. Deadly, automatic, and convertible. Bodie handled it with more affection than he would one of his girlfriends. The Armalite fit into his hands as though it was an engrafted extension of them, turning his solemn, almost contemplative expression into icy focus. He then lifted glittering blue eyes up towards his partner's watching face, and a smile wove itself into the unspoken menace of his demeanor.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Ready for what?" Doyle returned, sitting down on top of one of the trunks. He loaded the revolver without thought, hand going through the familiar motions by rote. "They've probably got the police, CI5 and maybe even the bloody army out looking for us by now. We've got no working leads. What are you planning to do...just go wandering around the streets with a rifle in your hands? If we don't end up shot by some trigger-happy copper, we'll almost certainly end up in jail again."
Bodie's jaw tightened. "Oh no, I won't." His mouth snapped shut, a quick flash of emotion betraying itself in his eyes. Doyle had learned long ago that they were the true measure of this man; the twin sapphires responded like a barometer to the winds of Bodie's nature. Now they were shadowed, half-covered by heavy black lashes. Bodie was hiding.
"No, you won't what?" Doyle was not going to let him off the hook. Too much was at stake.
Bodie's mouth worked, then he shrugged, though his jaw remained jutted forward.
"I won't go back to jail. They'll have to kill me first." His voice was low, but chiming with certainty as he repeated his oath from the previous night. Doyle looked up sharply, tucking the loaded revolver into the top of his jeans before getting to his feet.
"You bastard!" he hissed, walking over to stand looking down at his partner.
Bodie glanced upwards, startled at the fury glaring at him out of wide green eyes.
"Ray?" he asked, but he barely got the syllable out before a pair of hard palms struck at his shoulders. He reeled backwards, landing flat out on the mattress. Doyle pounced down on him, straddling him.
"You are not going out there to get yourself killed, do you hear me?"
"Ray...Ray!! Oh for God's sake, RAY!" he protested, shoving at the other man. "Come on...ger' offa me!" Doyle finally did stand back up, but he was still tensed for a fight, hands caught into fists.
Bodie rubbed at his jaw, grateful to find his teeth were still intact. Then he waved at the mattress beside him. "Come on Doyle, sit down. Sit DOWN!"
Doyle glared at him, then did as requested. They stared at each other for a moment, then simultaneously spoke each other's names.
They stopped, then Bodie sighed and gestured for Doyle to go first. The anger bled out of Ray as quickly as it had erupted, he slumped, focusing an anxious stare on his partner's face.
"Don't shut me out, not now. The only way we're going to make it through this is together."
"I'm not..." Bodie stopped in mid-utterance, fixated by the brilliant glare that burned at him like sun-drenched jade. He felt like a butterfly pinned to a wall, his first instinct was to run. He jerked, muscles tensing, but a demanding hand took hold of his arm.
"Bodie!" Doyle insisted.
"Ray..." Bodie shook his head, mute, struggling. "I don't want to shut you out. I just... Look, can't we just deal with one mess at a time?"
"We can't go out there until we know where we stand with each other." Doyle sighed, rubbing at his mouth and chin. "I'm not asking for declarations of undying love and devotion..." A spark of mischief suddenly glinted in his eyes, seeming to reflect off his teeth. "...Not that I wouldn't mind, but..."
"Is that all you're concerned about?" Bodie responded, grinning broadly as a flood of relief burst through him. After sharing foursomes and threesomes with his partner, Bodie wasn't in the least bit surprised by the previous night's foray into passion - it had felt more natural than breathing. He'd certainly had more than enough experience in his past with the more unusual aspects of human sexuality to be bothered by this. While he never found it easy to admit to caring for someone, if it gave him an excuse to avoid one of Doyle's detailed and meticulous investigations into the subjects of his nightmares - the horrors of his memory that made dying preferable to spending a night behind bars - he was more than willing to play.
"What?" Doyle's mouth dropped open in surprise. Bodie reached out and nudged at the bottom of his chin.
"Close your mouth, sunshine, or you'll catch a cockroach or something in there."
"Bodie!" Doyle spoke his partner's name as only he could, with rising intonations of frustrated affection. The man so-named could only respond with affection of his own, the first true smile since the previous afternoon warming his face.
"Look, what do you want me to say? That I care about you? If you haven't figured out that much by now you're a lot dumber than I gave you credit for. That we're stuck in this together? Knew that too. How this is all gonna work out? I don't know. But one way or another we've got to find that killer before anyone else finds us."
Bodie's ability to see the world in childishly simplistic terms sometimes startled Doyle, especially since it was usually accompanied by a startling perceptiveness. It was as though he could slice through all the smoke and mirrors, even of his own emotions, and fixate on the bottom line. As simple as his moral code: look after your own, don't hurt innocents, hit the bad guys before they hit you... Bodie went his own way, and he never gave up. His enmity and his loyalty were both absolutes, and Doyle knew better than anyone just how precious a gift he was being given. Tears began to prickle at his eyes, and he fought to choke them down.
"Ray?" Bodie caught the tremble of his partner's mobile mouth, and the finger that had poked at the other man's chin, now moved up to caress the corner of those lips. Doyle leaned into the touch, instinctively reaching up to close his hand over Bodie's. Their fingers tangled, squeezed tight, and one of those rare flashes of near psychic communion struck them, enfolding them into a private space all their own. It could have lasted an hour, more likely it was a few seconds, it felt like an eternity. And then they broke loose, Doyle blushing vividly, and Bodie's eyes averting.
"Bodie, you know I..." Doyle struggled to match the other man's burst of openness, but the words caught in his throat. He'd thought it was Bodie who would have trouble expressing his feelings, but he'd been wrong. He hadn't reckoned on Bodie's blunt honesty or his own... Fear? Was it really that simple? He loved the man sitting beside him, perhaps he always had. But saying it aloud was hard. Then Bodie turned and their eyes met, and Doyle realized he didn't need to say it. Not now, at least. There'd be time later on for him to stretch his courage. Right now... right now they needed to stop being maudlin and start trying to figure out how to save their lives.
As though reading his mind, Bodie's expression settled into concentration. "We'd better get going. It's almost noon."
"Noon?" Doyle reacted with surprise, glancing sharply at his watch. He hadn't realized they'd slept that long. And as though in confirmation, his stomach chose that moment to growl loudly. Bodie chuckled.
"Noon. And I'm hungry! I've got a car stowed away nearby. Let's grab some grub and then figure out the next move. I don't want to give this bastard a chance to kill someone else before we get to him." Bodie's expression turned grim, and Doyle matched him.
The color-coded CI5 files were spread out on the elegant oak table, two grainy ID photos coming to rest beside each other as though drawn together by an invisible magnet. Cowley's eyes focused on them, his entire body tensed with the need to escape from the stifling confines of this office and get back to the search for his missing men.
William Andrew Philip Bodie and Raymond Doyle. Chalk and cheese, he'd called them once. The Bisto Kids. Batman and Robin. Holmes and Watson. Whatever allusions one made, the bottom line was still there. These two were inseparable, closer than most married couples, bound together by CI5 ordinance and years of experience. He'd watched their disparate personalities meld into a whole that was more than the sum of its parts. An awful cliche, but in this case, painfully and obviously true. Together they were nearly unbeatable. Doyle was the fire and brilliance, fierce and relentless. Bodie was the earth and the muscle, strength and silent menace. So often it seemed that Doyle was the sensitive one, so ready to wallow in a moral morass, Bodie playing the hard-eyed thug with consummate ease, and yet...yet...there was a depth to the big dark man, a protectiveness and tenderness that showed in rare flashes like sunlight glinting off a well-cut diamond...
Cowley's reverie was broken by a softly obscene muttering from the frowning Minister. Thick fingers thumbed through the scattered documents, the brown eyes narrow beneath scrunched eyebrows. Finally the gray- haired official looked up at the CI5 controller and spoke with barely restrained panic edging his voice.
"How could this happen?"
All Cowley could do was shrug. "We don't have enough information to say for certain. We do know someone is murdering women who were involved with Agents 3.7 and 4.5; but that is all. I've got people working on it, but frankly, the attitude of the Met is not helping."
The Minister frowned, gazing back down at the files before him.
"Given the record of these two, especially...William Bodie...I must say that I share Superintendent Blanton's concerns. A mercenary soldier, gun-runner...God knows what else..."
"Who served with distinction in both the Paras AND the SAS. And his record with CI5 is nearly without blemish." Well, as clean as it could be for someone as individualistic as Bodie. He wasn't always an easy subordinate, but he was loyal. And Doyle had kept him in line when needed. So Cowley delivered his praise of Agent 3.7 with hardly a flutter of conscience. Still, it didn't seem to make a dent.
"Maybe, but if he's innocent, then why did he break out of the police station? We've got two constables in the hospital, and Superintendent Blanton is screaming bloody murder!"
Cowley sighed, trying to reign in his temper, which seemed ready to strike anyone and everyone in reach.
"No one was seriously hurt. If Bodie or Doyle had wanted to cause permanent harm, they certainly could have. But they didn't. I don't know what possessed them to pull an escape, but my guess would be that they decided they'd have a better chance of success if they investigated on their own. Given the Met's track record on this so far, I can't really blame them." That didn't go over well either; the Minister's mouth was drawn into a tight, thin line. "Look, Bodie and Doyle can be difficult," Cowley admitted. "They're trained to think for themselves, and to act upon their own initiative. They had relationships with the women who have been killed, so no one wants to catch this killer more than they do." His voice rose, punctuate and certain.
"Assuming that they aren't responsible for the deaths themselves," the Minister challenged.
"No, I don't believe that," Cowley shot back, his voice resolute.
The Minister shook his head. "The evidence..."
"Is circumstantial. I know my men; I've seen them perform under incredible stress. They're not guilty of these crimes. I'm far more concerned about some idiot constable trying to catch them at gun point and getting someone shot by accident. This is a CI5 matter, the police should not be involved."
The Minister remained silent for a moment, then grimaced. "I'm sorry, George. Even if I accept what you say - that these men are not responsible for the killings - the situation is extremely complicated. The families are screaming for action, the Met is crying cover-up, and we've got two potentially dangerous suspects - your men or not - running around loose. The press is going to get hold of this soon enough, D-notice regardless, and they'll make a meal of it!"
Cowley leaned forward, blue eyes sparking as he opened his mouth to speak, but the Minister stopped him with an imperative wave of his hand.
"I've just read their files...these ARE dangerous men. Doyle has a record of physical violence, including the still-questionable death of Paul Coogan, and Bodie..." He shook his head. "We can't take the risk of leaving them out there wandering around on their own. Bring them in, George, as soon as you possibly can. There is no way I could stall the Met, even if I wanted to - and given the history of these two agents, I'm not sure I do. I want them safely put away until this can be resolved one way or the other." His voice sharpened. "BEFORE someone else gets hurt."
"We're doing the best we can," Cowley replied, fighting to control the rush of frustration and rage that threatened to overwhelm him. His blue eyes turned into icicles, his manner chilled. Stiffly raising his chin, he spoke in an almost too-soft tone. "But Agents 3.7 and 4.5 are extremely well-trained and experienced. Doyle knows the underside of London like the back of his hand, and Bodie is a jungle-trained guerrilla fighter, an expert at surviving on hostile ground. They've already melted into the city - I doubt they will be found until they want to be found. But as I said - we will keep looking."
With that, he reached out and gathered up the files, not bothering to note which pieces were piled into which folder. Then rising swiftly to his feet, he turned to leave the room. He only made it halfway; the sound of the phone was shrill, harsh. Cowley barely suppressed his surprise. He paused, looking back over his shoulder as the minister answered sharply, then frowned heavily.
"It's for you."
Cowley eyed the ebony plastic with a mixture of hope and resignation. He wanted good news, but could only expect the worst. Stepping over to the desk, he took the receiver and held it to his ear.
"Cowley. " His voice was firm, the Scottish lilt not masking the sheer authority in his tone. He listened, then nodded sharply.
"Where? When? Yes, I'll be there."
The minister stared at him, questions in his eyes, as he replaced the receiver. Cowley firmly held his own council.
"Good day, sir," he offered politely, then he turned and finally made good his escape.
Both ravenous with hunger, they had been unusually quiet in their pursuit of gaining first transportation and then food. Bodie's long-hidden car was old, rusty, and rather unpleasant on the nostrils, but it ran like a dream. The engine roared to life at a touch, power screaming to be let loose. Doyle grinned at the sound, received the like in return. Not everything was in the appearance; this would do them well for now.
They found the solution to their second immediate need in a small dockside pub. The mid-day rush done and past, they were easily able to snag a corner table. Placing their backs against the wall, they each devoured a plateful of fresh fish and chips, eased down with tall glasses of dark ale. It was only when stomachs were full that they turned to the more serious questions at hand.
"What now?" Doyle had to say it.
Bodie grimaced, but let it pass. Doyle shrugged, but his eyes never wavered.
"It's all about the girls," Bodie said.
Doyle frowned. "It's about us. We're the common denominator."
"Yes, but we haven't been attacked, not straight out. Whoever this bastard is, he's killing the girls, right?"
"Yeah." Doyle had to agree with that though he didn't see where Bodie was going with it. So Bodie explained.
"So he's likely to go on killing birds. Especially since we're not to be found. Not easily, at least."
Light dawned, a bright sparkle in Doyle's green eyes. His expression turned feral in the dim light, a hunting cat poised for the kill.
"So if we can figure out which girl is next then we can wait 'im out."
Bodie grinned, mirroring his partner's predatory gleam.
"But how do we know which one he'll go after...there are a lot of them." Doyle's mobile features sank abruptly. He bit at his lower lip.
Leaning back in his seat, Bodie watched Doyle for a moment, eyes lingering on that lip, wet and slightly swollen from the pressure of those slightly crooked teeth. Then with a gentle shake, bringing himself to focus, he sighed.
"Yes, but what really bothers me is how were they chosen. And why those women in particular? Who knew we were seeing them?"
Doyle pounced on Bodie's questions.
"It has to be someone who knows us, right? The possibility of them knowing the girls other than through us is rather unlikely."
"Possible," Bodie countered, though his expression showed clear doubt. Doyle ignored it with a wave of his hand.
"Simplest explanation is that it is someone who knows us well." Doyle scowled, and Bodie's face cleared into apparent blankness. Their eyes exchanged understanding, underscored by shared fury. If this was someone they knew, it was a betrayal. Something personal. Something potentially dangerous. Bodie said it first.
"Someone in CI5."
The decision to contact Cowley had followed naturally. They both instinctively trusted the old man. If anyone could protect the women at risk, it was the CI5 Controller. But this was also a gambit in the game created by a killer, a move designed to bring a hidden enemy into the light. If Cowley came alone and nothing happened - then perhaps they were on the wrong track, perhaps not. But if things went wrong - then they knew for sure.
Doyle placed the call. The switchboard operator was excited to hear from him, her voice rose shrill. He evaded the questions, insisted only on talking to Cowley. It hadn't taken long, and the conversation had been mercifully brief. Explanation and recriminations could wait until they were face to face.
They set it up carefully. Bodie's skill with a rifle made him the obvious one to take cover. Doyle would be the bait. The big ex-merc hadn't been happy about that aspect of the situation, but he had confidence enough in both his own abilities, and those of his quick-witted partner, to let it slide without overt comment. A few shadowed looks weren't missed by Doyle, but he, too, let it go without words. And then there was only concentration, both focusing tightly on the task ahead of them.
So they were planning to come in from the cold. Cowley would do all he could to protect them; he favored these two. CI5 was mobilized, the wolf pack circling to protect its own. But this could not be allowed - no - these two must fall. And soon. The previous deaths were wearing thin. Oh, at least one more was necessary to even the score, but then.... Then it would be time to watch these two tumble into their own destruction. Accompanied by a feral smile of satisfaction, a deliberate hand reached for the telephone. Moments later, a breathy voice was speaking.
"Superintendent Blanton, I thought you should know..."
Cowley waited anxiously by his car, his narrowed eyes circuiting the small park. Framed by a rows of multi-story buildings, it reminded him of a walled garden, a raft of green in a concrete sea. Two more of his men were nearby, one resting with apparent ease on a bench, another jogging energetically around the far edge. Still seated behind the wheel of his car, Ruth Pettifer was alert, her intelligent gaze shielded by a pair of dark sunglasses. They were ready - though he wasn't sure for what. But an ancient instinct was stirring within him, chiming a warning. Danger...danger...something was not right.
Still, this was Bodie and Doyle, and if he thought he knew any of his operatives, he knew these two. He knew them better than they knew themselves, had watched them develop and grow with the eagle-eye of experience. That they were innocent of these murders was obvious, yet the motive behind the killings was still obscure. Cowley couldn't focus on it, it shimmered just outside the range of his vision, tantalizing him. Surely it was partly to discredit his two agents, perhaps to discredit CI5, and yet - why murder innocent woman whose only connection to the Squad was a minor relationship with one of its top agents? And why use Doyle's sketches in such a manner? Personal to these two, then, the acts aimed at the two agents. But WHY? For what purpose? It had to be more than just madness, there was method and planning here. These were careful and deliberate acts...
Cowley sighed and rubbed at his eyes. He was tired; hadn't slept in a couple of days. When this was over, he'd have to take some time off to recover. Now if only 3.7 and 4.5 would show up. They were late...
"Hello, Sir." Cowley instantly recognized the voice, and the familiar face abruptly popped up over his left shoulder.
"What? DOYLE!" He hadn't realized he'd been so caught up in his thoughts as to allow Doyle to sneak up on him like that. He shook his head, snapping himself back into focus. His pale blue eyes burned as they settled on Doyle's face.
"Sorry, sir," Doyle said irrepressibly. He really wasn't sorry, the amused glint in his green eyes gave him away. Cowley was too pleased to see him to be truly angry, but he scowled fiercely nonetheless. He glanced quickly around him.
Doyle's amusement snapped off, replaced with a grim sadness.
"Watching. Just in case."
"In case of what?" Cowley snapped. "Do you have any idea of the kind of trouble you've caused? Most of the London police force is out looking for you. The Minister is having fits. There was another death last night."
"What? Who?" It was Doyle's turn to snap. His features hardened into a cold mask as anger, fear and frustration boiled in his eyes.
"One of Bodie's ex-girlfriends. Claire Gunderson. The same as the others." Cowley's voice softened as he delivered the bad news. The memory of the girl's scarred, bleeding body swam before his eyes, he swallowed it hard. There was little time for grief now, that would come later. It always did.
Doyle shook his head, fighting with his temper. His words were bitten off through gritted teeth.
"Another of my sketches?"
Doyle turned and slammed his palm against the side of the car. He trembled with barely concealed rage. "Damn and blast!" He took a deep breath, barely seeming to notice any pain in his hand, though the skin reddened visibly. Then he turned back to his waiting boss.
"And I suppose it happened after we...broke out."
Cowley leaned in towards the younger man, emphasizing his words with a sharp stab of his hands towards Doyle's chest.
"And what on earth were you thinking, lad? I told you to stay put. I'd have gotten you both released the next morning. Did you think you and Bodie were the only ones who could solve this? Couldn't you have waited just one night? You've only made things a lot worse for yourselves now."
"I know!" Doyle exclaimed, running a hand through the sun-glazed tumble of his curls. His mouth worked, then settled grimly.
"Bodie..." he paused, seeking for a way to explain. "Bodie didn't take well to being imprisoned. He had a ... a flashback." He met Cowley's gaze, willing him to understand, and Cowley did, with a fierce pang of sorrow.
"The Congo?" he guessed, and grimaced when Doyle confirmed it.
"Aye, and I should have known. Bad, was it?"
"Yes. He thought he was back there, and I couldn't let him go alone. He could have gotten hurt."
"Or hurt someone else," Cowley finished for him. Doyle frowned, but didn't argue.
"Yeah. But he's OK now. He came out of it after a while. Actually, he did surprisingly well. All instinct, I guess. Brought us to a bolt hole he must have been keeping for years. Even I didn't know about it."
Cowley almost chuckled at the edge of pique in Doyle's voice. But his expression remained grim.
"Are you sure he's all right?"
Doyle responded with absolute certainty.
"Yes. I'm sure. We talked about it. Well, as much as Bodie will ever talk about his past."
Cowley did smile at that.
"Good. Then we can deal with that later, once we've solved this particular mess you two have gotten yourself into. Better bring 3.7 in, 4.5, we've got a lot of work to do."
Before Doyle could respond, the air was split by the rousing whine of police sirens. Three cars spun around the corner, fanning out to surround Cowley's car. Doyle stood his ground, moving just enough to alter his relaxed stance into something tenser - the balanced readiness of a sprinter at the start line. His fists clenched once, then opened, coming to rest by his thighs. He slowly turned his head, swiveled his hips, bent his knees ever so slightly. Ready - and waiting.
Cowley stepped past him, not needing to signal his agents to move in, they were already on their way. Pettifer was at Doyle's side in an instant, Murphy was loping across the grass, his hand hovering near the open front of his jacket. Doyle glanced in his direction, a quick jerk of his head signaling him to slow down. Murphy did so, barely perceptibly, but his hand dropped to his side.
Blanton flew out of the third car and honed in on Cowley. His broad face was bent in a sneer as he looked past the angry CI5 controller to the silent, renegade agent behind him.
"Protecting wanted killers now? The Minister will hear about this!"
"Protecting nothing! My men didn't kill those girls, which you would see if you had a grain of intelligence in that mass of oatmeal you call a brain!" Cowley raged. "This is a CI5 matter, and Doyle chose to come in of his own free will, and he does not deserve to be treated like a common criminal."
"Maybe not common, but he's a criminal nonetheless. And he will be treated as one. This is MY case, Mr. Cowley, and you will not be allowed to cover it up. The world is going to know what kind of monsters CI5 hides! You're under arrest for murder, Mr. Doyle, so I'd suggest you come along quietly."
"No." Doyle's response was a certain whisper, the single, calm syllable hidden beneath Cowley's explosion.
"He's not going anywhere with you. And if you have any questions about that, I'd suggest that you have that talk with the Minister. This is a CI5 investigation, and you will leave it to us."
"The Minister wants those two killers of yours put behind bars where they belong, and that's exactly what I'm going to do..." Blanton beckoned towards two of the uniformed officers to approach Doyle; in response, Pettifer and Murphy moved to frame Doyle. But he shook his head and stepped forward to come face-to- face with Blanton.
"I wouldn't do that, if I were you," he said solemnly.
"Wouldn't do what?" Blanton sneered. "Throw you in jail where you belong."
Doyle sadly shook his head, glancing back over his shoulder at Cowley. Something in his agent's eyes stopped Cowley's reaction, he bit off the words threatening to erupt from his throat. His eyes narrowed as Doyle turned back to gaze at Blanton with total self-possession.
"I'll only say this once, Superintendent. Take your men and leave now...while you still can walk away."
Blanton stared at him, eyes hazed with fury. "Are you threatening me?"
Doyle shrugged. "I'm warning you." His eyes hardened. "Which is more than you deserve, but since we're supposed to be on the same side..."
"I'm never on the same side as you lot..." Blanton's voice rose upward into a shriek of surprise when the rear view mirror of his car shattered suddenly behind him.
Everyone but Doyle dove for cover. Cowley, Murphy and Pettifer all had their weapons out in an instant, crouching down behind the cars, eyes searching for the source of the shot. The uniformed coppers dropped to the ground, one dove behind a car. Blanton fell half to his knees while Doyle remained standing upright and unmoved.
"Doyle!" Cowley cried out.
Agent 4.5 grinned wolfishly. "Don't worry, sir, Bodie never misses what he aims at, you should know that!"
Understanding dawned on his CI5 colleagues, and they all scrambled back to their feet. Pettifer and Murphy were barely restraining grins, but Cowley was furious.
"Where is he?"
Doyle shrugged. "Nearby...but not too close. Bodie's best with a sniper rifle. He'll have good cover...somewhere." He turned on Blanton, mercilessly. "Better watch yourself, mate. Unless you'd like to take up dancing as a new career." He slashed his hand through the air, and a series of shots pinged against the ground at Blanton's feet. He yelped and jumped, his feet leaping up and down in a parody of modern dance, while lead pelted the ground around them. Then as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped.
"I'd suggest that you leave - NOW!" Doyle said, his voice still remaining low and steady. The menace was there in his eyes and manner, freezing his eyes into green ice. Blanton twitched as though to attack him, but was forced backwards by another shot. This one stung his shoulder then broke into the glass of the car window. Gasping, Blanton turned and ducked into the car, shouting rabid orders at the top of his lungs.
Tires squealed as the police cleared the area, and Doyle was not far behind. Brushing past Cowley, he raced across the edge of the park and then across the street.
"DOYLE!!!" Cowley screamed after him, but it was too late. Doyle had disappeared around a corner before Cowley could signal one of the others to follow him.
Doyle drew the car up against the corner and waited. He barely saw the big dark figure as it slipped out of the shadowed doorway, but the sound of the door opening was loud in his ears. That was all there was, Bodie didn't say a word. Doyle indulged his partner's silence, sliding the car into gear and away from the curb without a word.
They drove for a while, almost aimlessly, both lost in their own thoughts. Bodie rarely brooded, but when he did it was a sight to behold. In profile, his face was a study in contrasts, the hard slash of the cheekbone at sharp right angle to the forceful jaw. But the mouth grew even more lush, the bottom lip protruding even further than usual. The vivid eyes were half-hidden below a field of dark lashes, splayed across a too-deep hollow. They looked bruised, lack of sleep and emotional anguish playing havoc with naturally pale skin. Doyle barely resisted the temptation to reach out and try to soothe away the shadows; his hands hovered over the wheel, guiding the car with unconscious ease.
It was Bodie who spoke first. A low growl that drew deep from his gut, anxiety not quite masked by the practiced lightness of his tone.
"We could skip out, you know. I've still got contacts overseas."
Doyle slammed hard on the brakes, ignoring the blare of a car horn behind him. He swerved the vehicle over to the side of the road, slammed it into park, then turned fiercely towards Bodie.
"You mean 'run away'?"
Bodie shrugged, leaned back in the car seat.
"Why not?" Tilting around to meet Doyle's alley cat eyes, his manner grew somber. "This bastard's got to be an insider, CI5 or CI5-connected. And he's obviously smart and experienced. We've been wandering around like a pair of lost sheep, and Cowley doesn't seem to be doing much better. Anyway, that super's out to get us, no questions asked. So even if we get the sonuvabitch, and I want him - what then?"
"Once we find the killer, we'll bring him in. Cowley will take of the rest; he knows we're innocent."
"Maybe," Bodie shrugged expressively.
"I won't run." Doyle said stubbornly. "And I won't let you either."
Bodie almost laughed aloud. Midnight eyes sparkled dangerously. "And just how do you think you'll prevent it?"
It was Doyle's turn to shrug his shoulders. "However I have to." His jaw set tight, his voice hardening. "I won't let you run out on me. We're in this together, one way or the other."
"Never said otherwise," Bodie replied softly. "I said 'we' didn't I?" But he wouldn't look at Doyle, his eyes were fixed on the distance, staring through the glass window towards the street. Seeing, but unseeing at once. Doyle reached out and grasped his shoulder, silently urging Bodie to look at him. Ever so slowly the dark-capped head turned, and blue eyes met green.
Doyle let the moment hover a while longer, then when he spoke it was in a bare whisper.
"Stay with me. Running away won't solve anything. We can get through it if we stick together. Bodie..."
"I know." Bodie cut off Doyle's words, perhaps not quite ready to hear them. He let his eyes speak for him, his heart and soul leaking out of two damp sapphires. "I just wanted to put it on the table. It's a possibility. We don't have to stay in England. There's a big wide world out there. Sometimes running away is the only option - if you want to stay alive. And free."
Ray felt like he was drowning; it took all of his concentration to absorb the words. The emotion echoing between them was too strong. Had it always been that way? It had never been so clear before. So real. The unspoken was still not quite spoken, but it had form and substance now. He bit at his lower lip, followed Bodie's eyes as they drifted downward to his mouth, he let his own eyes follow suit. He wanted to kiss those generous pouting lips, but it wasn't time. Wasn't the right place. Giving them both a silent promise for later, he squeezed Bodie's shoulder then let go.
"Maybe, but we're not there yet. We've still got Cowley - and most of CI5 - on our side. And we're nothing to be sneezed at. We've tracked and beaten worse than this before, we can do it again."
Bodie suddenly grinned; sunlight glittering on white teeth.
"That's true enough." His expression sombered, a knife-edge of determination sharpening his words. "We've spent too much time reacting, Ray. We've been played by an expert here. It's well past time we took some initiative."
Doyle grinned, though it was not a pleasant expression. The curl of his lips did not affect his eyes, didn't touch his voice or the tension in his wiry frame.
"Agreed. So what now?"
"Call Cowley first. He can start tracking within CI5."
"We better avoid the RT's and phones, though," Doyle cautioned.
Bodie nodded. "Yeh - but there are other ways."
"And then what?" Doyle asked. Bodie gestured towards him.
"You're the detective..."
Doyle grimaced, leaning back in the seat. He ran a hand through sun-tinted curls, then rubbed wearily at the back of his neck.
"We should try to get a step ahead of this bastard. Figure what he's going to do next and then beat 'im to it."
"That shouldn't be too difficult." Bodie replied.
Doyle simply looked at him.
Cowley didn't want to leave headquarters, but he could feel his exhaustion tugging at him. He hadn't slept in far too long, and with the advancing years, his ability to continue for long stretches without rest was fading. If he didn't sleep soon, he knew his ability to make the right decisions would begin to suffer and he couldn't risk that, for too many lives were at stake. Especially now, when the two men he would first have chosen to stand in his stead were lost somewhere in the metropolis, on the run from the police.
Murphy and Pettifer were solid. Perhaps less instinctive than Doyle, less experienced than Bodie, but they would hold steady. He could leave things for a few hours, at least, in the dark of the night. His leg ached, his eyesight was wavering; eyes sore from the anxious rubbing of fingers that wished they could do more than page through endless reports that said nothing. It was time to go home.
The house was shuttered, but the heat inside was welcome after the damp chill of the fog-burdened air. He let himself in with absent-minded familiarity, dropping his coat over the back of a chair and switching on the ceiling light with a quick flip of a forefinger. He turned - and froze.
"Hello, sir!" Doyle grinned at him brightly, perched like an exotic bird on the edge of the big oak desk. Bodie stood behind him, hands thrust into his pockets, his expression dour, defiant. Cowley gaped at them for an instant, his world wavering then abruptly focusing with sudden acuity.
"DOYLE! BODIE! What in the blazes do you two think ye are doin' here?" he demanded, advancing on them across his own living room, the pain in his leg now forgotten.
"We need to talk, sir," Bodie replied, his back straightening into ramrod military posture. It was instinctive, he did it without removing his hands from his jacket pockets, the resulting stance a strange mixture of repose and formality.
"Aye, I'd say we do," Cowley growled. He paused a foot away to study them both carefully. "And since we're here, we might as well get on with it." They both drew in sharp breaths, and he let them relax minutely before fixing them with a fierce stare. Bodie's shoulders hunched, Doyle's chin lifted upwards, their feet drew them unconsciously close together. Cowley let them suffer for a moment, then let it pass. They knew breaking into his home was pushing things, but the exigency of the moment was such, he would let it go. They knew he was doing so, the warning did not need to be spoken. Satisfied, he turned and gestured towards the couch.
"Well, sit down both of you." They hurried to obey, settling down hip-to-hip on the couch. He took the big armchair by the fireplace. Even though the hearth was unlit, the spot was a favorite and he relaxed into it gratefully.
Once they were seated, Doyle took the initiative.
"There's a problem inside CI5..." he blurted out.
"Och, lad, do ye think I'm a fool?" Cowley interrupted. He sighed, briefly closing his eyes, then focusing wearily again. "Someone had to inform Blanton of our meeting this afternoon - only my staff and the CI5 phone operators knew about your call."
"More than that," Doyle pursued relentlessly. We think the killer is an insider too."
Cowley's eyes widened. He leaned forward. "Are you sure?"
Doyle and Bodie exchanged glances; Bodie shrugged.
"We can't think of any other explanation. There's no other connection between the girls than Ray and me. They never met each other, but each of the 'relationships' were listed on our security reports. Except for the unh...for the first one, of course." Bodie grimaced, looked to his partner for support.
"Well, it stands to reason that only someone in CI5 would be able to make the connections. And be able to track down their addresses. If someone on the outside had been following us for that long, we'd have twigged to it." Doyle punctuated his sentence with a rapid movement of his hand, slicing the air.
"What about mutual friends, acquaintances - old friends or enemies? Family?" Cowley questioned.
They both shook their heads.
"We've thought about all of that, but it doesn't make sense," Bodie replied. "None of it makes any sense."
"That's just because we can't see the reason. There's always a reason, even if it's one we wouldn't think was one." Doyle argued. Bodie turned to look at him, and Doyle shrugged widely.
"Reason is only important right now if it brings us closer to finding the killer," Cowley broke in. He pushed himself up out of his chair and walked over to a side table to pour three glasses of scotch from a large crystal decanter. Handing out the glasses, he sat back down in the chair and sipped thoughtfully. Finally he looked up at the two agents poised together on his sofa.
"Who in CI5 would you trust - who do you think is not involved."
"Murph," Bodie answered without hesitation.
"Susan," Doyle chimed in quickly. "And Ruth."
Bodie grinned. "Lucas for sure...he hasn't got the brains."
"Nor McCabe." Doyle chuckled.
Cowley added pensively. "And I know I can rely on Betty, which makes six. Five agents and one staff member who can be eliminated."
"Six agents," Doyle broke in. "I trust Jax."
Bodie nodded, then shook his head. "I find it hard to believe any of the agents are involved."
"There are some we don't know too well, especially the newer ones." Doyle responded.
Cowley frowned. "They are all vetted by Dr. Ross before they are accepted, but the same goes for the support staff."
"Now there we go!" Bodie chirped. "The Doc did it!"
Doyle groaned while their boss fixed him with a glare. Bodie's face fell, his lower lip thrusting outward. "Well, there's no reason why it couldn't be. A woman could do these murders perfectly easily. All she'd need is a sharp knife and some experience."
"Perhaps," Cowley replied, "but I sincerely doubt Kate Ross is our perpetrator here."
"But we do know it's an insider, right?" Doyle asked. His green eyes were sparkling with intent, and it didn't take long for his partner and ever-shrewd employer to catch on.
"Yes, which narrows the field considerably," Cowley agreed.
Bodie grinned, but the expression wasn't pleasant to watch. His teeth glinted beneath stone-cold eyes.
"So we throw out a little bait and see who bites."
They talked long into the night. Only when all three were satisfied they'd done as much as could be done, did they retire to get some sleep. Bodie and Doyle were faintly uncomfortable dossing down together in Cowley's spare room, the presence of their boss down the hall inhibiting a discussion, much less a resumption, of the newest aspect of their relationship. Both were much too tired to do anything but sleep, anyway, so with uncertainty marring their closeness they turned back-to-back on the bed and slid into an uneasy slumber.
But the unconscious mind is often clearer in its desires, and their bodies soon sought the comforting warmth of the other. Too few hours later, Bodie struggled to awareness, only to find himself draped with a lanky human form, one hand clenched tightly around his shoulder the other pressed warmly against his thigh. Doyle's breath was hot against his bare chest, the mouth wetly open against the edge of his collarbone in the semblance of a kiss. Bodie wriggled slightly, feeling his nose tickled by the feathery edges of unruly brown curls, but Doyle only clutched him more tightly, fingertips digging into the hard bulge of Bodie's biceps. The motion of their bodies against each other was stimulating, Bodie's nerves tingling with the reflection of memory - only the echo of knowledge of their location slowed down the rising tide of desire.
"Doyle...Ray!" Bodie managed to free his right arm, wrapping it around Doyle's back. The muscles twitched, wanting to pull the heavy warm weight closer to the skin that so desired it, but a red tinge of embarrassment fought back. He shook Doyle, lifting a knee to gain footing on the mattress and so to dump Doyle off to his side, but that knee found itself sliding up and against a source of incredible heat - hardness - and the still slumbering form blanketing him moaned aloud. Hips thrust downward, and an echo of his partner's groan forced its way from Bodie's throat.
"Ray!" he called out again, desperate now, his eyes flickering to the shut, but unlocked doorway. Maybe it was still early enough...maybe Cowley was still sound asleep...maybe...
The sharp rap of knuckles on wood was the only warning they got, and Bodie jerked upward with sudden terror. Unceremoniously dumped over onto his back, Doyle broke abruptly out of dreamstate into utter confusion.
"What, Bodie!?" he called out, his hands and hips reaching blindly for what he knew should be there. Bodie silenced him with a sharp elbow in the diaphragm, and Doyle gasped aloud.
"It's after noon gentlemen, I would suggest that we get moving." Cowley's voice was coolly imperative, his gaze blank as peered into the room. "I'll expect you downstairs and ready to go in an hour. There are spare towels in the bathroom." Then he was gone, leaving Doyle still gasping for breath and Bodie crouched beside him, fighting the temptation of his fair skin to blush hotly with embarrassment.
"What'd you go and do that for!" Doyle complained when he found his voice again.
"You were laying all over me like a bleeding blanket!" Bodie complained. "What if he'd found us like that?" He scrambled out of the bed, reaching for his cords and yanking them on.
Only now coming awake, Doyle groaned, wriggling over to the edge of the bed. "I was cold," he complained. He blinked weary green eyes up at the man towering over him. "You stole all the blankets."
"I did not!" Bodie retorted. "You just got amorous in your sleep. A randy sod, you are." Before Doyle could protest Bodie had flung his jeans into his face. "Come on, doesn't do to keep the old man waiting. I get the shower first."
"Hey...you'd better leave me some hot water!" Doyle called out after him as he hurried from the room. "And I'm NOT..."
Doyle's words strangled off mid-sentence, even before the door closed shut behind his partner; he knew that was not a subject to be arguing about with Cowley on the prowl. Struggling into tight denim, he promised himself a return to the subject later. Preferably when they had at least a good eight hours, off duty, alone...and out of reach...
The plan itself was quite simple. But not too much fun for the agents who had to take the apparent fall. Cowley cornered them, his ire red-hot, scathing, for all of its pretense. Lucas quivered, McCabe looked sheepish, Murphy quite stoic, but all three were literally quaking in their boots by the time their boss was finished.
"Three of you, and you can't pick up one man. Is Bodie that much better? Maybe I ought to send the lot of you back to nursery school! Letting him slip past you in the first place was bad enough. But then, when you do spot him, what happens - you fall all over each other like a bunch of bloody amateurs while he escapes as easy as you please. Just because Bodie's one of us is no reason to let him walk all over you. I gave you an order, I expect you to follow it to the letter! I want him - and Doyle - found and brought in - not let out for a Sunday drive!"
"Sorry, sir," sounded in triplicate. Cowley glared. Murphy shrugged. Lucas blinked, McCabe muttered under his breath. He was fixed with a furious glare, he took a step backward, crowding into his partner as though the physical contact might somehow offer protection. Lucas steadied him, blinking a visibly blackened eye. Cowley turned his eagle's gaze on him in turn, then onto Murphy whose fair skin reddened. Satisfied, the CI5 Controller shook his head and sighed, then turned to the watching huddle of agents in the corner.
"And don't the lot of you have something better to do than eavesdrop? I want Bodie and Doyle found. Today! Before the Met beats us to it. CI5 takes care of its own, by God. Jax, Pettifer - I want the two of you to take over stakeout on Ms. Jamison since these three idiots blew it last night." Barely waiting to hear the chorus of "yes, sirs" that followed him, he spun on his heels and strode off to his office, leaving the unfortunate trio to face their comrades.
Bodie, Doyle and Cowley joined the watch just as dusk began to settle in a soft mist of cool moisture that beaded instant dew over every surface. Doyle hid himself against the side of the house, using the overhang of the roof as a slight protection against rain, but it never broke into the cleansing downpour. Instead fog clung wetly to every surface, forcing him to snuggle into his trench coat, wrapping his arms around himself as he shivered.
Cowley and Bodie stayed close to the front of the house, the elder man braced against a large oak tree, the younger man crouched in the bushes beside the front door. From his vantage point, he could see through a crack in the curtains, reassuring himself of the safety of the woman inside. He hadn't known her long, but he'd enjoyed their association. As dedicated to her career as he was to his own, they'd taken great pleasure in the easy play of an unrestricted, uncommitted relationship. No strings, no questions, just delight in the other's warmth and good humor. Yet, now, crouched in the damp soil below her windowsill, Bodie found himself faced with the fact that he cared far more than he had thought. Oh, he was not in love with her, and never had been. But she was dear to him - he knew that their relationship had already been sliding into an solid friendship, one that he valued and needed. If she got hurt because of him...pain sliced at him, sharp as any knife blade, and his mouth tightened into a thin line. Anger, primal and insistent rose, red and burning hot. He wanted to get his hands on this bastard; his clenched fists itched to feel flesh and bone breaking beneath their force.
Like any small organization, the gossip mill was quick and effective within CI5. Nothing might leak outside, but word traveled inside faster than the speed of light. And one pair of listening ears found more pleasure than concern in the news. The name of the woman involved was on the list so carefully prepared. So the ears listened closer and absorbed more of the whispers; a few meticulously plotted questions brought welcome answers.
Bodie had sought to protect his latest whore, and Cowley had hopes of roping in his rogue agents using her as bait. There was a certain symmetry in that; the killer couldn't hide a smile of triumph. Now was the time to finish the task at hand. One more death would seal their fates, bring the wolfpack crashing in upon itself and set the avenger free at last.
Getting out of headquarters was easy, a convincing flight to the bath and a pale-skinned return soon guaranteed the escape. The night was dark and foggy, headlights barely penetrating the gloom, as though the elements themselves were aligned with the cause. The drive was slow as excitement mounted. Tonight it would come to an end for them all.
A petite woman with long brown hair strode up the driveway briskly. Her black raincoat flapped at her calves, thin strands of hair plastered almost to her waist. Face hidden by shadows, only the faint gleam of the streetlight lit her figure as she stepped up to the door.
Cowley frowned in Bodie's direction, but the dark form crouched in the bushes was still. Jax and Pettifer were out of sight behind the house, while Doyle peered around the corner of the building, one green eye, half a chin, a few damp curls and the lengths of his fingers poking out from the gloom. From his angle he caught a flash of hall light on the woman's face as she was easily admitted into the house. Bodie heard only voices, both female, welcoming, warm with familiarity. He relaxed, a quick signal to Cowley easing the older man's stance. But Doyle was still wrestling with that faint glimpse of a face. The tilt of the chin, the line of a cheekbone and fullness of mouth. He knew it - somehow - somewhere - he had seen it before.
"Thanks, Lysette." Linnie accepted the glass of red wine with unfeigned gratitude. She settled into the softness of the couch gracefully, her small feet barely reaching the floor. Her host smiled warmly at her, curling up in the big armchair to her left. Lysette was not much taller than her new friend, but she was larger proportioned, heavily endowed in hips and bust, her hair a riot of thick auburn curls. Freckles sprinkled her nose between a pair of large green eyes. But she was as generous in nature as form, and she offered the willowy young woman beside her an open grin.
Linnie swallowed the sweet, fruity wine, letting the alcohol support her determination, then she smiled in return. Their talk was loose chatter, wandering from the computer class they shared to the weather, and finally settling on the topic dearest to any pair of women - men.
"So you know Bodie?" Lysette asked, emerald eyes wide with surprise.
Linnie stretched out a slender leg, only a slight upturn of her mouth betraying amusement.
"A close friend of mine dated his partner for a while," she replied lightly.
Lysette laughed. "Doesn't surprise me. A real lady-killer, that one."
"Both of them, from what I saw," Linnie answered, her mouth pursing over the lip of the glass. Lysette only giggled louder, nodding her head. Linnie took a last sip of her wine, then frowned down at her wristwatch.
"Oh dear," she muttered.
"What is it?" the other woman asked, abruptly concerned.
"I just forgot to call home and let my Mum know where I am. She worries if I'm not straight home. Would you mind terribly if I borrowed your phone?"
"No, of course not," Lysette leapt up to lead her into the kitchen. "Here, use the one on the wall there. I've got to run to the bath anyway. If you want more wine, it's in the fridge."
"Thanks..." Linnie waited until she heard the door close behind the other woman, then she reached for the phone. Teeth glittered behind red lips as she dialed the carefully memorized number.
She was reaching into her purse as she spoke.
"Inspector Blanton, please..." And by the time she was finished speaking swiftly, two objects had been placed on the countertop. Replacing the phone she picked up the long silver knife by the luminescent enameled handle. The blade flashed, echoing the sparkle in her diamond-hard eyes as she stabbed it upward, then downward. The tip penetrated the thin sheet of paper, digging into the countertop below.
She leaned over...and smiled. The point of the knife was embedded in the thick lines of black ink that illustrated a man's throat.
Shivering in the damp, Doyle's mind was racing furiously. Something about that petite shape, the aristocratic, fine-boned face...he knew it; if only he could remember. Images flashed before his eyes as he briefly squeezed them shut. Her eyes were hazel; fleeing from brown to green and back again at a moment's notice. He'd seen her smile; he'd seen her angry. But she wasn't one of his girlfriends. So where and how?
It tantalized him, frustrated him. He clenched his fist in a coat pocket. His knuckles turned white. So close...
And then a flash of light from a nearby window caught the corner of his eyes, and he turned. Dropping to a crouch he squeezed up below a windowsill and lifted up to peer ever so carefully over the edge. Her hand lifted, something metallic bright clasped tight - and then came down hard. Her face was illuminated in profile, the peach-toned skin like alabaster in the cold fluorescent light...
He moved like a scalded cat. Feet slipping in the wet earth, he stumbled against the house, pushing against the dank wood, forcing himself out and around the corner. Not wasting an instant to reach for his RT, he cried out into the darkness.
"It's her!! Hurry, damn it!!!! BODIE!!!"
He hammered at the door, then jumped back. Using his left leg as leverage he kicked out at the door jam with an experienced kick. The lock groaned, then gave way in a shriek of splinters. It flew open, light spilling out across his body as he leapt across the threshold.
Linnie knew her time was short the instant she heard the door break in. But she was small and she was quick - and very prepared. The police had been primed and ready - her call should bring them here in a matter of minutes. Blanton had been easy to manipulate, his hatred for CI5 making him the perfect tool. With any luck she'd be gone, leaving Doyle a corpse to explain. If not - well, she'd been ready to sacrifice herself from the beginning. Though not before she won this one last battle.
The silly fool never knew what hit her. Lysette ran straight into Linnie, terror stark in her eyes at the sight of her broken front door. She gasped, turning to her 'friend,' only to find herself facing the slash of knife.
Lysette screamed as the blade sliced across her cheek, blood welling thickly from the cut, then streaming warmly down her chin. Her hands came up in unconscious defense, the thin flesh little barrier against the fury of the silver knife wielded with cool efficiency, yet unsteadied by rising rage.
She was driven backwards easily, her shrieks catching in a dry throat, turning harsh, then stuttering into agonized silence. Backwards stumbling feet hit the edge of a table and she fell with a loud crash, knocking a ceramic lamp to the hard wood floor. Amid a field of shattered pottery, Lysette tried to slide backwards, but a thin, amazingly strong grip closed down on a handful of her hair and tugged her upward. Breath rushed into her lungs, then outward again in a violent flood of sound, rising in a horrified wail.
"FREEZE!" A male voice sounded low and urgent behind her, but Linnie had already moved into position. Dragging Lysette upward with the strength of pure will, she pressed the blade down across her victim's throat.
"Back off," she hissed, her face half-obscured by a waterfall of straight brown hair. "Put the gun down or she dies now."
Bodie leapt up out of the bushes and ran after Doyle, one hand reaching for his gun, the other waving generally in Cowley's direction. The tails of his long leather jacket flapped across his thighs as he took the doorway in one huge stride. The light was briefly blinding, then his eyes focused on the back of his partner's shoulders. Bodie didn't need to see beyond Doyle to know that things had gone horribly wrong, the tense coiled stance of the other man's body told him all he needed to know. Gun clasped securely in his right hand, he stepped sideways, half-turning, a graceful change of momentum that brought him firmly to his partner's side.
Barely a quiver of reaction acknowledged his presence; Doyle's attention was intent upon the two women in front of him. He was still holding his gun up, but his arms had spread wider, his legs shifted into a more open posture. His voice radiated calm, soothing and rhythmic.
"Now take it easy, everything is going to be just fine. Eleanor, it is Eleanor, isn't it?"
The only reply was a stifled giggle from the shockingly small woman holding the knife and a soft moan of anguished protest from her victim. Bodie stiffened, every sinew in his body aching with need to rush forward. To fight, throw a fist, do something - anything - other than simply stand here helpless. Doyle threw him a quick glance of warning, just a flash of green eyes, a tilt of the head, but the communication that bound them was instant and total. Bodie forced his muscles to release just slightly, rocking back on his heels, poised and ready, but not quite prepared to spring. Yet.
Doyle was immediately refocused on the women before him. He raised his hands further, tilting the gun muzzle downward.
"You remember Eleanor, don't you, Bodie?" Doyle tried again. He pushed a smile, baring his teeth. "She used to live with Janie. Remember?"
"Oh yeh..." Bodie only faintly recognized the girl, more accustomed to her voice on the radio than the sight of her face, but he followed his partner's lead. His dark eyes never left the tiny woman's visage. It was caught halfway between a smile and a snarl, the eyes glittering, feral. Bodie knew that look; had even seen it face him in the mirror once or twice. Blood lust, berserker rage, hatred... even as Doyle desperately tried to reason with her, Bodie's stomach sunk with the knowledge that she was beyond reason now. Beyond reach. This would end in death, the only question was who would die.
"Eleanor, you don't need to do this. Why don't you put the knife down, and we can talk..."
"Burn in hell, you bastard!" Her voice rose high, breaking, dropping into an unnaturally low octave. A sound reminiscent of a sob ripped from her throat, the knife hand twitched, scoring Lysette's white throat with a thin red line. A tiny droplet of blood oozed, pooled, then trickled down across her collarbone like a silent tear. Her body shuddered, and Linnie's grip on her convulsed, thin arm squeezing like a boa constrictor across her diaphragm.
It was a response of sorts, and Doyle took it as encouragement. He balanced forward, leaning in a spare inch closer.
"Why, Eleanor? Why are you doing this?"
Bodie's ears tensed for the response, then caught motion out of the corner of his eye. Falling back a half-step, he turned to see Pettifer moving silently down the hallway. He waited until her eyes met his, then he slowly shook his head. She slid back up against the wall, then stopped in place, waiting and ready. He blinked at her, catching a quick nod of her golden head in response, before turning his attention back to the crisis at hand.
She was laughing now, cold as the north wind. The sound ripped through Doyle like an Arctic chill. She smiled, and his skin crawled. Her blazing eyes focused on his face and the bitter mirth shut off like a closed faucet.
"Why don't you tell me, Raymond Doyle?" she taunted.
He looked at her in confusion, shook his head, expression innocent, inviting.
Her chin lifted up from Lysette's red hair, a few bright strands sticking waywardly to her cheek. She ignored them, still staring wide-eyed at him. She was nearly his height, yet seemed so much smaller, the wealth of her fawn-colored hair rippling around her thin body like a cloak with every move. But her hand held the knife with assurance, expertise, the grip was painfully steady.
"Oh you know well enough. Janie told you everything didn't she? Had a good laugh or two at my expense, didn't you? Didn't you!"
Doyle reacted with sudden shock, understanding flooding him. He reared back, instinctively moving closer to Bodie's silent, solid presence at his side. Bodie's eyes flickered towards him, but Doyle was seeing only memories, and a cold taste of knowledge that sliced as deeply as the silver knife that pressed into Lysette's innocent throat.
"You and Janie..." he croaked, and Linnie laughed.
"Of course," she trilled with abrupt happiness, which shattered abruptly into bitter rage. "Until you seduced her away. Took her away from me, and then abandoned her. She'd never have left if it wasn't for you."
"No...no," Doyle muttered, but she was gone, the dam broken now. It all flooded out of her in a foaming sea of buried hate and jealousy. Memory twisted to fit a broken world view, hurts healed with a raw bandage of hate. She frothed with it, loss too painful turned into self-hate turned into murderous rage bent outward. Incoherent, she stumbled from accusation to accusation, against Doyle, against Bodie, against Janie, against Lysette, against the world.
"No," Doyle was shaking his head now, trying to find some coherence, some handle he could hold onto. "No, Janie didn't leave because of me; not really. Yes, we broke up, but she's always wanted to travel. The job was a great opportunity...Eleanor, please...she never told me about you. I never knew!"
"Liar!" she screamed above him. "Liar liar liar liar liiiiiii...."
Sirens blared as three police cars squealed into the small circle. One spun sideways, bumping up against the curb with a wrench of metal. Dark-suited forms spilled out, a tall rangy man in the lead, his dark hair slicked down into his eyes as the rain began to pour from the cloud-filled night.
Cowley stepped in his way, hand held up before him.
"Wait!" he called out.
Blanton nearly snarled at him.
"Out of my way, Cowley! I know they're in there. How many women have to die before you stop protecting those monsters of yours."
"They're not...Och man, are ye a really such a blooming idiot?" Cowley's accent intensified with the force of his anger. "My lads are no' guilty of these crimes, and ye know it as well as I! The situation in there is tricky enough as is without you bursting in. My people are doing the best they can, and unless you want another death on your conscience, I suggest you slow down and think before ye act."
Blanton glared at him, as though the simple force of his presence would move the older man from his path. Cowley met the glare equal strength, Lucas and Murphy silently falling in beside him. Furious now, Blanton was forced to move back, but as he did so, he gave a quick signal to his men. They flooded around the three CI5 men, and Blanton moved with them, circuiting the equally enraged Cowley. The CI5 Controller was quick to follow, catching up with Blanton just as he reached the doorway to the house. They struck shoulders in the narrow entranceway, both turning to face each other, fists clenching, only to find their own battle superseded by another.
"Please, Eleanor, let Lysette go. She's not part of this."
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut Up!" She was hysterical now, caught between laughter and tears.
Doyle was continued to plead with her, but she ignored him.
"All your fault. You and him - he's all you've ever really cared about. Janie knew that, she told me before she left. She went away because of you. Because you only loved him and not her, and I loved her, but you stole her away from me!" Tears ran openly down her cheeks now, her voice breaking. Doyle slowly inched forward, calling out her name softly, hands spread wide, Bodie remaining tense and grim by his side. The big dark man's gun never wavered in his hands, pointed unerringly at the killer - the young woman - yet never fired. If she fell, her weight would pull her backwards, the knife would sink deeper into Lysette's throat. It was already scraping the sensitive skin raw, blood soaking her thin green blouse. He couldn't take the risk...
And even if he could? She was so tiny, fragile. His hands would easily span her waist; her bones were slender; her body sapling thin. It went against the grain of his being to kill a woman like this, and yet... She was mad. All sense of reality gone. Doyle was struggling still to touch a kernel of sanity, his attempts only pushing her further away.
"Janie...sweet Janie..." she was moaning now, pressing kisses into Lysette's fiery hair. She rocked her, even as she pressed the knife closer against the scarred, bleeding skin, sobbing again and again. "Janie...MY Janie..."
"Eleanor..." Doyle started up again, but a commotion behind him stilled his words. He turned his head, surprised to see the Superintendent bearing down on him like a runaway train, Cowley dragged in his wake. Doyle's eyes widened, he opened his mouth to question, but again he was overtaken by events.
Bodie never took his eyes of Eleanor and Lysette. Whatever might be happening behind him didn't matter. He took one step closer even as Doyle instinctively turned, the madwoman's eyes flickered to him - and then beyond him. She smiled, suddenly sweet, almost gentle, and then...
The motion was so slight, Bodie almost missed it. But the result was catastrophic, blood gushed like a fountain of red wine. Lysette gurgled, toppled forward; in the same moment Bodie's hand jerked, his finger squeezed, the gun fired. The bullet struck Eleanor between the eyes, blasting a neat hole in her skull. She twisted backwards, an echoing fire following Bodie's. Two more bullets struck, wounds flowering in her chest and abdomen as she collapsed. Pettifer leapt forward from the hallway, even as Bodie fell down to his knees. Doyle twisted back around, everything seeming to slow into single freeze-frames of action. Light bulb flashes of reality, burnt into images too vivid and bright to be forgotten, colors garish, clashing, angry.
Bodie gathered Lysette to him, ignoring the flood of her life as it spilled across him. Doyle dropped beside him, reaching out to help. Their guns dangled from hands beneath a precious, dying burden; the cold metal useless at the last. Pettifer and Cowley circled around to check on Eleanor, then studied her in silence. Blanton stood forlorn in the doorway, his face blanched of all color, as though it had all leaked out to join the gushing fountain that had been Lysette's throat.
Bodie and Doyle held her between them, watching her die, between them, helpless. Ending this as it had begun.
The charcoal-limned sketch lay abandoned on the smooth marble counter. Bodie paused by it, the edge of his vision caught like that of a man staring into a mirror. He looked down to see his own eyes gazing solemnly up at him, the pinprick of a gash marring the edge of his throat. He was kneeling in the drawing, half-turned to the side, one leg drawn up against his body, enclosed within his arms. His chin rested on that uplifted knee, his expression somber, yet not sad; a faint curl upwards of the edge of his mouth softened the look, changed the stare of the dark-shadowed eyes from one of cold menace to pensive awareness. He looked ageless in Ray's drawing, a youth with ancient eyes, but the man who stared at his own mirror image felt simply old.
Bodie picked up the thin sheet of paper, held it between thumb and forefinger. A faint sheen of charcoal rubbed off on his fingertips, he ignored it. Men wandered around him, he didn't move, a silent rock in the center of a flood. Only when he sensed the presence of the artist did his focus shift. Midnight eyes lifted to meet with mottled jade; Doyle's face was haggard, his awkward cheekbone standing in sharp relief above a mouth too thin.
They acknowledged each other with barely a tilt of their heads, hardly a blink, though their feet brought them close enough to touch shoulders.
Doyle looked down at the now-ragged drawing in his partner's large hands and air whistled past his teeth. He took it from Bodie, turning it sideways in his long fingers, artist's hands marred with calluses of a fighter - and killer, thickened flesh built to withstand the recoil of a handgun.
"Bodie..." There was little he could say. "I'm sorry."
"Me too." Bodie's acknowledgment wasn't bitter; only empty. Jaw clenching around words that meant even less when spoken than when thought, Bodie turned away and walked back out of the kitchen. Doyle moved instinctively after him, then paused, standing hesitantly in the hallway.
Bodie strode towards the broken doorway, shoulders set back, posture ramrod straight. Tight. Tense. Distant. But when he reached the broken doorway, he stopped as suddenly as he had started. He stood still, even the breath caught in his lungs, then he slumped, eyes squeezing shut in a silent expression of anguish.
Doyle didn't need to see his partner's face to feel his emotions. He could read the set of those shoulders like a road map. Now he was the one who moved, swift and graceful, certain - he was at Bodie's side in the length of one breath.
They squeezed out the doorway together, down the short steps and up across the driveway. Their feet fell into an automatic rhythm, moving in synchrony, step by step. Together, they walked back out into the night.
-- THE END --