The Check


"Your private lives are your own affair, gentlemen," Cowley said, his voice imperturbable but implacable. "Just as long as you don't let it interfere with your work." He nodded dismissal, and Bodie and Doyle retreated hastily and with ill-concealed relief. Not that they had really expected the pragmatic Cowley to object when he learned as he had been bound to do, that their relationship had become rather closer than it had been. A man who was not above using what seemed to be a casual incident was not about to scream outrage because the incident had turned out to be not so casual after all.

Outside, they looked at each other. Doyle shrugged. "Geneva, here we come."

Bodie grunted. "I don't like it, Ray. I don't trust Giorgio. He uses people -- even worse than the Cow does."

"Is that possible?" Doyle snickered.

"Ray, it suited him to accept a 'hands-off' situation back in Africa. He wanted you -- but just then it suited him not to antagonise me, because he wanted to recruit me. We go to Geneva, look like we're interested in signing with him, he's not going to be satisfied till he's had you -- unless you can fight him off, of course; but frankly, Ray, he knows more about dirty fighting than anyone else I know. All he needs to do -- in his view -- is send me off somewhere, bounce you, rape you -- and the rules of the Game say that nobody else would help you if your 'protector' isn't there. All I could do would be to fight him afterwards, and a lot of good that would do. He'd be bargaining on me not doing that -- just accepting that what's done is done. He's not a pleasant bloke, our Giorgio."

"You're sure I couldn't fight him off?"

"Ray, you fight too clean, even when you fight dirty. I don't care what you came up against as a copper, you never came up against anyone like Giorgio, believe me.

"But even if you could fight him off -- Cowley's orders are to try to make up a foursome. In other words, if Giorgio wants you, he gets you, whatever you -- or I want. Unresisting and not even a protest from me. Sven . . . he'll know -- oh, not everything, but he'll know we're not genuine. But he'll keep his mouth shut, he owes me too much not to. Ray -- you came to me willingly. But could you go willingly to anyone else?"

There was an almost anxious note in Bodie's voice that first surprised, then touched his partner.

"No," Doyle said quietly. "I don't suppose I would. Looks like I'll have to try, though."

"Yeah," Bodie said flatly.

Turning, they headed down the corridor. "We'd better see about tickets for Geneva," Doyle said gloomily.

Bodie nodded. "Better make it train tickets," he commented.

"Train?" Doyle almost yelped.

Bodie nodded. "We've got time -- and I got a lecture on keeping expenses down, the other day."

Geneva station was a multi-racial, multi-lingual maelstrom that the more experienced Bodie guided Doyle through with little effort.

"You know where we're going?" Doyle yawned, running fingers through his unruly hair in a vain attempt to flatten it slightly.

Bodie nodded brusquely, but said nothing. The older man felt for a moment as he had done in Africa -- he was just so much luggage, valued but an inconvenience. No -- not quite as he had been in Africa -- at least this time he was mobile.

"You been here before -- as a mercenary?" Doyle persisted. Again Bodie nodded, but this time he added,

"Where better for mercenaries to gather than the known neutrality of Switzerland?"

He turned in at the doorway of a small, unpretentious-looking hotel, and crossed to reception. "We'd like a room, please," he said. "Two or three nights -- I'm not sure how long we'll be here."

The business of booking in attended to, they rode the small lift to the third floor and found their room -- small, shabby, but clean. Bodie tossed his case onto the nearer of the twin beds. "We'll find Giorgio tomorrow," he said abruptly. "I want to be fresh and alert to face him -- we'll need all our wits about us."

Doyle nodded, accepting Bodie's suggestion, not averse to putting off the moment he would have to submit to the rough, experienced mercenary. He had no illusions that Giorgio would be as gentle as Bodie had been - -- or care whether his partner also enjoyed the encounter.

By mutual consent they slept in separate beds that night, not even exchanging a kiss; both knew that if they did, it would make surrendering to Giorgio that much harder. Doyle lay awake for some time, wondering how he could possibly go through with it, and fell asleep still wondering, his body, exhausted after the long train journey; it had proved impossible at such short notice to get a sleeper -- demanding rest. Bodie lay awake slightly longer -- wondering how he could manage to keep his hands off Giorgio's throat. Ray was his -- hell, Cowley had no right to demand this of them!

Giorgio's base was a dingy and run-down-looking hotel up a back street, and as they approached the entrance, Doyle muttered, "I thought everything in Switzerland was always spotless?"

Bodie grunted. "Everywhere has its slums, sunshine."

Reception -- a grubby desk -- was manned by a slatternly-looking woman who gave the impression of having had her annual wash fully eleven months previously. Bodie spoke to her in an idiomatic French that was too fast for Doyle to follow; the woman nodded to the stairs. "Neuf," she snapped.

Bodie gestured irritably for his partner to follow him up the stairs -- there was no lift here. As they went, Doyle realised that his previous uncertainty was changing to positive nervousness. It was one thing, he was discovering, to discuss what might happen at a thousand miles' distance; it was quite another to be facing this particular trial right now.

All his doubts rose again. Could he respond, even just submit passively, to any other man but Bodie? He wasn't gay; what had happened with Bodie had just . . . happened because they were so close, trusting each other, needing each other. So could he allow any other man to paw at him without reacting as a typical heterosexual male, and hitting out?

He glanced at Bodie's set face, seeing behind the uncaring, cynical mask the pain that filled the ex-mercenary's mind, and gritted his teeth. One split second of hesitation from him, and Bodie would undoubtedly break Giorgio into tiny pieces. So -- the success of this mission was up to him. Like it or not, he had to submit to whatever Giorgio wanted, and make it look like he was really willing.

Bodie stopped at a door bearing the dirty off-white 9 and knocked -- a brisk tattoo that followed a definite pattern.

The door opened -- Sven. He stood to one side, letting them in.

Bodie glanced round. "Where's Giorgio?" His voice was completely expressionless.

Sven gave a little gesture, half shrug, half something else. "Dead."

"Dead?" Bodie stared at him. "Someone break his neck?"

"No," Sven said. "A traffic accident. He walked under a car." This time he did shrug. "Too long of living in the forests and wild places - -- he forgot about traffic. The noise is not unlike the wind in the trees if your mind wanders."

Bodie sat down, his face a curious mixture of relief and frustration. Sven hesitated, then said, "I do not understand -- why are you here? You already have a job."

Bodie grunted. "Sometimes a man feels like a change . . . Sven, do you know anything about Giorgio's next planned assignment?"

"Yes, but it is of little value. Giorgio's employers will approach someone else when they hear of his death -- and whoever they approach may not carry out the job as he would have done."

A door leading to an adjoining room opened; both Bodie and Doyle jumped, whirling at the sound. Sven remained motionless, still watching Bodie's profile intently.

Cowley stood there.

Bodie's jaw dropped. He looked from Cowley to Sven, who nodded apologetically. "I have already given Mr. Cowley what information I have," he said quietly.

"You? But -- " Bodie glared at the Controller of CI5. "Is Sven working for CI5?" he demanded.

"Not directly," Cowley said coldly, conceding Bodie's right to an answer. "He gives me information as it comes to him . . . but he is not employed by CI5."

Bodie's face darkened dangerously. "Sven reports to you," he repeated, deceptively quiet. "Sven reports to you. So you order Doyle and me to come here, you order Doyle to let Giorgio fuck him so we can discover . . . what? Nothing! Because you already know it all! Well, let me tell you, sir, that if you try to pull another stunt like this one, I will break your blasted neck!" He swung on his heel and stamped out.

Doyle threw Cowley a disgusted look and followed his partner without saying anything. The precision with which he shut the door was more eloquent than the expected slam.

Sven looked at Cowley. "I'm sorry you didn't get all the information you wanted, sir."

"Hmm?" Cowley had moved to the window and was looking down into the street. Bodie came out first, striding down the street without a backward glance. Doyle appeared a moment later and with three quick strides caught up with his partner, catching his arm. They spoke for a minute, then, side by side, went off down the street. "Oh, I did," he said casually. "I discovered what I wanted to know."

Bodie, the hard man, was taking this relationship seriously, and now Cowley knew exactly how far he could push his best agents. And that was information of the highest value to him.

There was a jaunty swing to his shoulders as he, too, left the room leaving Sven to finish tidying up Giorgio's operation -- and to wonder where his next job would be coming from.

Doyle practically had to run to catch up with his fast-striding partner. "Hold it mate!" he exclaimed. "You're not in a race!"

"Damn Cowley!" Bodie snarled. "He was just using us, Ray -- playing games with us -- he didn't need us!"

"Maybe he felt he needed to check up on Sven -- if he was giving straight info or feeding CI5 duff gen."

Bodie's stride faltered. "Yeah, maybe." He stopped for a moment, considering it. "Yeah, it would make sense at that, if he's just recruited Sven recently." He turned and walked on again. Doyle accompanied him in silence.

After a minute, Bodie asked, "Wanna go straight back or have the night here, catch tomorrow's train?"

"Have the night here," Doyle replied promptly.

They reached their small hotel and went up to their room. Inside, Bodie reached urgently for his partner.

Doyle returned the fierce embrace, startled at how pleased he was at the possessive quality in Bodie's kiss.

"You really meant that, didn't you -- about breaking the Cow's neck," he said hoarsely as they broke apart to breathe.

"You're damn right I meant it!" Bodie growled. "Dammit, Ray -- far as I'm concerned, you're not just a cheap one-night stand. It -- this -- means something, and well -- hell, I won't let Cowley or anyone else spoil it!"

Doyle kissed him again, gently. "Me, too," he said.

Their eyes met, Bodie's suddenly alight with laughter. "Ray -- hell, let's stay for two or three days. Cowley owes us it."

Doyle grinned. "Yes," he said. "Let's. Now stop wasting time."

He began to pull the unresisting Bodie towards the bed.

--THE END --

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