These Things Do Not Remember You
by Gwyneth Rhys
Who on earth ever held me like you?
I'd like to see someone try
Love by you and no other loving will do.
-- Joan Armatrading, Love By You
"I'm not your bloody girlfriend, Bodie."
Doyle blanched as he thought of those words. He'd laughed when he'd said it, a slightly bemused chuckle as if he were just struck with Bodie's streak of romanticism. He'd put the hard, round silver bracelet back in its blue velveteen jeweler's box, and looked up at his partner with laughing eyes. Bodie had merely smiled in return, that odd quirk of the right side of his lips, the hint of a smirk. His eyes had been unfathomable.
"Thought you might want a new one to replace the other. It seemed dear." He'd gazed at Doyle impenetrably, a mixture of need, disinterest and devotion. It was a familiar look, but one Doyle could never name.
"I do. It's great. You always give me the best birthday pressies." He'd moved his hand over Bodie's muscular forearm, the heavy limb of a strong tree. Then he stroked his hand up Bodie's neck, to his face. "I'd completely forgot it being lost. The last time you gave me a gift, it was something I'd just barely remembered looking at in a shop window. You pay attention and remember. That's a remarkable gift in itself."
Now, so many months later, Doyle looked at the bracelet, still lying in its midnight blue box, the color of Bodie's eyes. It gleamed its silver light as he turned it this way and that, reflecting the shaft of late evening sunlight coming through the window. He closed the lid and put it back in the drawer by his bedside.
Incapable. Absolutely incapable of touching the damn thing. He was afraid, perhaps for the first time in his life. As if somehow, if he touched it, put it on, cool and smooth against his skin, it would break down the wall. And the wall was crucial now to his survival.
Moving away from the bed, he stripped off his shirt and shoes, then the trousers. The bed was cold, the sheets so smooth and cool he felt as if he were lying on a looking glass. In summer it would feel just as cold, but now he could blame it on winter. Bodie had always made the bed warm. Doyle stayed to the right side of the bed, even after all these weeks. He would not let his hand lie against the middle of the bed, or touch the other pillow. He would not roll over in the midst of sleep to find himself on the left of the bed, or even in the middle. There was comfort in this control, in this ritual.
Sleep did not come hard for him. He was usually so tired these days that once he slipped into the bed, he had only to stare at the dark ceiling for some time before he would succumb, the peace which eluded him during daylight finally finding him. He usually did not dream of Bodie, and for that he was grateful.
But on nights like this, when he gave in to the temptation to look at Bodie's things, to see if he had the courage to touch them, dreams came back. He could almost feel the bracelet there in its box, as if it held some magnetic pull or shone a brilliant light against his eyes. Then Doyle would lie until he went fitfully into sleep, and he would dream of Bodie. Everything fades, he would think. Photographs, memories. But Bodie didn't fade.
Doyle glanced sideways at the drawer, and a sigh whispered through his body. He remembered the Conrad Aiken poem he'd stumbled on in one of Bodie's poetry books just a few days ago.
These things do not remember you, beloved
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
Doyle could feel that Bodie's touch had not passed, not yet. Each day the desire for Bodie's touch worked against his sanity, a battle he knew he would someday soon lose.
George Cowley sat with hands steepled in front of his face. His shoulders hung a bit low and his head jutted forward on his neck. He had the appearance of someone who was going through the motions that everything was just fine, but in whom everything appeared just a little off-kilter. His wispy blondish hair, usually impeccably combed, was tufted here and there. His tie, the Windsor knot done with the same perfection it had been done with for nearly fifty years, was slightly askew. The lines in his face seemed to have deepened somewhat in the past few months, and the bright blue eyes were lifeless, weary and red-rimmed.
Doyle watched him across the desk, seated in the chair he always took in Cowley's office, off to the left against the wall. Doyle's new partner, David Upchurch, sat in the chair right in front of Cowley. He was examining a photo, riffling through papers.
"It's not like it should be difficult to find the drugs," Upchurch was saying. "The music business is full of them, more like finding someone who's not doing them, that's the hard part."
"Which is why I'm not asking you to find someone who's doing drugs," Cowley snapped. Annoyance at Upchurch's ignorance seemed to radiate off him in waves.
"I'm asking you to find out exactly how they are coming in through this particular organization and tell me who the key players are. It's only an observation job and asking a bit of questions. So far we have every indication that the owner of this particular record label is involved with the Hong Kong heroin pipeline. One person has mysteriously disappeared who knew all about the financing for the label. Drugs Squad has asked our assistance on this case and I've offered it, partly because most of their undercover operatives have been marked."
Doyle had known Cowley for so long now that he had practically slept through the briefing, becoming alert only when Upchurch spoke, prompting Doyle to wait with mild glee for Cowley's snappish reply. Upchurch wasn't a bad agent, not at all, but he was young and often put his mouth in gear before he'd engaged his brain, a trait Cowley did not suffer well.
And more, Doyle knew, that habit reminded Cowley ever so much of Bodie. All the changes in Cowley's look and demeanor had come after Bodie's death, and sometimes Doyle wondered if Cowley weren't taking the whole thing almost as badly as he was himself. He reckoned that Cowley felt as though he'd lost a son, to some degree, so close had the two become. Their good-natured antagonism had in fact often reminded Doyle of his own relationship with his father, and if the feelings Cowley was now struggling with were anything like his own when his father had died, Doyle did not doubt that Cowley was battling to keep himself together.
The two operatives rose to leave, and Cowley briefly put up a hand to Doyle, motioning him to stay. Doyle had been expecting this for some time, so he sat back down and nodded at Upchurch, who closed the door softly as he left.
Cowley rose and poured a Scotch, then lifted an eyebrow in Doyle's direction and held the amber bottle aloft. Doyle nodded and Cowley poured him a few fingers of whisky, then carried the glass over to Doyle. He sat on the edge of his desk and motioned with the glass, then poured almost all of it down his throat. Doyle merely sipped at his.
"About the incident the other day with the counterfeit smugglers. You essentially walked in front of the gunman as he waved his AK-47 around."
"I didn't think he was serious. And I was right." Doyle downed more liquid and met Cowley's paternal gaze.
"Nevertheless. You deliberately violated your training and put yourself in immediate danger of being killed. And I don't think it qualifies as just doing your duty."
Doyle merely shrugged, his eyes traveling across the carpet, then staring out the window. He knew Cowley was well aware of things; that this talk was only a formality.
"Doyle. I can't have my best agent putting himself in such danger. Not when the cause is a misguided sense of self-recrimination for being alive."
Doyle thought about the statement. Best agent. Singular. It used to always be agents, plural. He had survived to somehow become a relic even within CI5, not just the agent who'd been here the longest, but the one with the best track record. The record the two of them had compiled. None of it was Doyle's doing alone. Now gone. All blown away on an ill wind.
"No, sir. I wasn't thinking, sir." I wasn't thinking as myself. Something was missing.
"There's more to it than you've ever told me, isn't there?" He walked back over to his cabinet and poured more scotch.
"Yes. Things were never quite as simple as I thought. We were...closer than you'd imagine."
Cowley gave a slight shake of his head, a look Ray had seen a thousand times before. "Oh, lad, I've seen more than you imagine. Young men in the military often get that way, develop feelings for one another they wouldn't any other time..." He stopped himself and smiled patronizingly. "Listen to me, an old man in my dotage with everything to say and nothing behind it. But of course you weren't just like anyone else."
Doyle smiled at the old man's perspicacity. He truly liked Cowley, in spite of the numerous, sometimes violent, differences they'd had. "No, we weren't."
Cowley put down his glass and went back behind the desk. "I think someday we'll both get on with it. But right now, I can't afford to have you taking any more chances. You've a new partner to train, and I need your work very much." He put on his reading glasses, signaling the end of the discussion.
Doyle rose and put the glass on the desk. He did not speak, but inside he could hear the almost wondrous tone in his voice if he had. Half of me is gone. How do I work?
Upchurch was waiting for him in the hallway. Acknowledging his presence with barely a nod of the head but no eye contact, Doyle continued down the hall toward the exit. He knew perfectly well that Upchurch had every idea about what was happening in Cowley's office. The only reason to talk privately to Doyle would be to dress him down for his actions.
"I was going to get the car, but then I thought I should wait, that maybe there was a change in plans?"
Doyle shrugged. "No. Go get the car. See you in the car park." He took an abrupt turn into the men's toilet and left Upchurch fluttering in the hall. When Doyle finished, he went to the car park and stood by the door, checking his watch in a bemused fashion to see how long it would take Upchurch to settle on one car, sign it out, and pick Doyle up.
His heart dropped into his shoes when he looked up from his watch to see a silver Capri Ghia pull smartly up in front of him. Upchurch swung the passenger door open and leaned through from the driver's side, looking up at Doyle.
Doyle stood rooted to the spot, his chest constricted, his breathing labored. Finally he gained his feet and stormed around the car, hurled open the driver's door and ripped Upchurch out of the car, slamming him into the back side. He poked a hard finger into Upchurch's chest to punctuate his words.
"I don't know what the fuck you're playing at, but if you do that again I'll bloody kill you. Do you get that?"
Upchurch shouted back, "What the hell are you on about? What's got into you? Stop poking me!" He grabbed at Doyle's hand but Doyle swept it out of his way and then backhanded Upchurch across the face, lightly.
"Do that again and you'll find out how hard it is to live without a left hand." He turned on his heels and strode away, hearing the car door shut.
"What the --" Upchurch sputtered, when someone else's voice cut in.
"What did you expect?"
He could hear silence, and then faintly, "Oh. This was Bodie's car. Why didn't anyone bloody tell me?"
Doyle did not wait for Upchurch and another car. He found his own and drove home.
The comfort of ritual took many forms. At night, when he came home, he would putter around the flat for a few moments, then sit down with a beer in hand and pull out the file folder that carried the report of Bodie's death. He would read it meticulously, going over each dry, emotionless sentence. The bullet, the detail of the shattered bones it had left in its wake, the destroyed muscle tissue, the exploded arteries. The type of jacket casing, the velocity of the weapon itself. The exact moment of Bodie's death, and its cause. Then Doyle would shut the folder.
He had, for reasons he could not begin to fathom, the need to comfort himself in this report. He'd stolen it from Cowley, although he suspected Cowley had long since sussed who had it and why. The cold clinical detail was a balm. It reminded him that what seemed like a nightmare was in fact true, but it took away the emotion, made it clean and neat, a tidiness that appealed to Doyle's orderly mind.
There was no pool of blood and tissue contained in this file. He did not have to look at a face he loved, covered in blood, eyes wide from shock and surprise. No mouth worked desperately to speak, and he himself did not have to try to sop up the blood pouring from a shredded artery, knowing it was futile because that was the least of the damage. There were no faint words of love choked behind an unheard voice. These papers were safe.
There were few common denominators to death. Each person handled it in their unique way. Intellectually he knew that, but he could not seem to speak it in words. It was part of the wall he'd put up as soon as he'd seen the ambulance drive away with Bodie. To keep himself safe behind the wall, he must be alone, however hard others tried to breach his defenses. Doyle did not want help.
Ray perceived them working silently against him. Paranoia, he knew; just one more out-of-control emotion to bundle with all the others he was feeling. The only person he'd trusted now gone, he saw suspicion and collusion in everyone.
He'd effectively maintained his wall, and it was safe, until Bodie's brother had come to visit. Then the bricks were chipped at.
Bodie had never been close to Thomas, that much was clear from the beginning, but he was pleasant enough whenever Thomas had tried to renew their familial ties. This had not, however, translated to brotherly love, and Doyle had been shocked to see Thomas come to claim things that were Bodie's, ostensibly to take them back for the family.
Doyle had not responded to Thomas' request to remove those few possessions that Bodie had kept with him throughout his vagabond life: the guns, both antique and new; the military books, some from the turn of the century; the few small objets d'art Bodie deemed worth his time.
Instead he'd sat down and watched as Thomas had gone through Bodie's flat, their flat really, for Doyle had all but moved in, keeping his only for appearance's sake. Thomas had looked at the clothes in the wardrobe.
"These will go to charity, I imagine," he'd commented in the nasal Liverpool twang that had managed to leave Bodie, but not his brother. "And Da will no doubt want the books and the guns. A fair bit of money, there. You'd never want them, would you?" he'd asked offhand, completely dismissing that Doyle might actually answer yes.
Doyle had stared emptily at him, amazed at how practical Thomas was in the face of events. He could not be so calm and distanced for a family death.
"If you touch one more thing in this flat I'll crush your skull like a grape," Doyle had finally said, feeling as if his voice were coming from somewhere else, as if it were Bodie speaking from inside him.
Thomas has stood there, mouth opening and closing, saying nothing. It had fleetingly reminded Doyle of how Bodie's mouth had worked open and closed as he lay dying, trying so hard to tell Doyle something.
The brother had flapped his arms disgustedly, muttering under his breath as he walked in tiny-stepped circles round the room, penguin-like, head down and eyes fixed on the pattern of the carpet. Doyle, for his part, sat on the bed, wearing his intractability like a dark heavy cloak. No one would remove Bodie's things, no one would touch them, and he'd be damned if embarrassed relatives or meddling bosses had any other ideas.
He knew with smug certainty that Thomas would no more ask why Doyle thought he had rights to these things, than Cowley would broach the subject of why Doyle had continued to stay in Bodie's flat long after Bodie had died. Doyle could not explain the sense of presence he felt in the flat; he had merely let Cowley know that he would be staying there.
Finally he had faced Thomas and told him to get out, feeling a faint shimmering hope, as though Bodie were here by his side. He could not explain to any of them the way he felt Bodie sometimes, a glimmer of warmth inside him. It was here in Bodie's things, their substance bearing his touch, his smell. He could not part with them, yet still he could not touch them, sometimes not even look at them.
When Thomas had left with the hint of promise that things were not over, Doyle had gone to the drawer that held the bracelet, for the first time since Bodie's death. He had thought to put it on. He'd never had the chance, having put it away only a few weeks before Bodie's death. It had never left the box, and now Doyle could not wear it. He'd stared at it then, everything ruined by Thomas' visit, the feeling so great inside him the wall could come crashing down that he'd dropped the box inside the drawer without even closing its lid.
Doyle then walked to the table where the chess board was and kicked wildly at it, sending its pieces and the board flying. He stared mutely at the mess, its clutter adding the rest of the flat's disorder. Doyle left the pieces of the game lie on the floor; he had no intention of touching them to clean up the mess. He hid from touching the chessboard as he hid from the bracelet. He strode back to the bedroom and lay there all night, thinking of moves, of gambits.
He had begun teaching Bodie chess shortly after their relationship had moved from friends to lovers. When Bodie had finally grasped the rules of the game -- and that had been a difficult task, for he kept questioning each rule -- he and Doyle had become good playing partners. Bodie was a conceptual thinker in the game, could see moves ahead, could look at the board as one big picture. This was part of the reason he'd had trouble grasping the mundane things like which piece could take which, or move where. Doyle was more linear, and it spiced their games. Bodie had, naturally, bought them a fancy chess set.
In the weeks after Thomas' visit, Doyle would take out the bracelet occasionally and examine it, as he would all the other things Bodie had given him. The things Bodie had left behind. There was the sumi painting brush and papers which Doyle had never quite got around to using. The new motorcycle jacket and leathers for racing. The silver pen Bodie had given him when Doyle had off-handedly mentioned how much he liked writing letters to the family who had spread out so far and wide, to America and Canada. So many other smaller treasures. Bodie had been an extravagant gift-giver.
Doyle had never really said thank you in so many words. It wasn't expected by Bodie.
"You know when you get daredevilish like that it just makes me wild," Bodie had whispered to him as he got out of the car. Doyle had raised a quizzical eyebrow at him and grinned. They'd had a wild ride of a day -- car chases, gun battles, a standoff. Doyle had finally broken the seige by slithering through a ventilation duct to surprise their quarry, much to Bodie's amusement. "Always knew that skinny little body of yours would come in handy," he'd muttered under his breath as they shoved the two gunmen into their car. He couldn't let it go, either, for the rest of the paperwork, the evening, their dinner at Doyle's local -- all prime opportunities to make wise about Doyle's frame.
Ray jerked his head minutely in the direction of his flat. "Coffee?" Bodie nodded slightly and turned off the engine. He left the car parked half in and half out of a space, jutting into the street. Bodie couldn't be bothered to find a more spacious place to park; he assumed everyone would go around him.
There had been something different from the beginning of that night, Doyle knew. He enjoyed the feeling, it pumped him up and made his heart race faster, an expectation of something, anything. It could be said he was an adrenaline junkie, but what he really enjoyed was the anticipation of anything unexpected. The feeling that something was coming, the wonder at it.
Bodie didn't think about things, he just did. It was so much of the reason he preferred Bodie's company over anyone else's. With Bodie, Doyle never knew what would happen next. Anything could, and often did. It was getting in a car and not knowing where the drive would take you, not knowing how fast or crazy the ride would be. Bodie was the car and the driver, and Doyle wanted always to be the passenger, to be taken anywhere.
Doyle poured Bodie coffee and handed him a mug, noticing an unusually heavy seriousness cloaking his often silly partner. He turned his head slightly, looking at Bodie, inviting an answer.
"Sometimes the daredevil scares me a bit," Bodie said, hopping up on the kitchen counter, sipping from the cup. "Just a hangover from the shooting, I know, but puts the frighteners on me all the same."
Doyle scrunched up his face and shook his head lightly. "Wouldn't take that much of a chance, you know that. Don't ever want you screaming at me again like you did in the ambulance, especially."
Bodie smiled into his mug. Then he lifted a hand and placed it on Doyle's right cheek, his thumb stroking the mismatched bone there. Ray did not flinch or move back. He'd made it as clear to Bodie as he could when he'd responded to the daredevil comment in the car, and Bodie read the response correctly.
"You follow paths all your life, don't you?" Bodie said distantly, as though he weren't talking to Doyle necessarily. "And somehow they all connect, work into one another. Somehow I always knew the path we've followed as partners would lead here." He leaned forward, cupping Doyle's chin in his free hand, gently placing the mug in the sink with the other. He brought his mouth forward, softly testing Doyle's lips with his. Ray responded equally softly, teasing, rubbing, nipping.
Doyle leaned back and looked at Bodie then. "Waiting for the right time. Funny, isn't it?"
"What?" Bodie asked, his hand sneaking up the front of Doyle's green t-shirt, feathering over the chest hair hidden there.
"Knowing. Both knowing. Just waiting."
"The journey, not the destination."
Bodie grabbed him tightly then, clenching arms around him, kissing him with such fervor Doyle could barely breath, could not control the hands that sought every inch of Bodie's flesh, could not see where he was going as Bodie led him to the bedroom, the room spinning white before him as he fell down into the bed, into Bodie's desire.
Doyle hovered over Bodie's body, taking in each inch of it as he slowly drew clothing away from his new-found lover. Each new patch of skin revealed made Ray pause, run his palm flat over it, memorizing the lines, the marble-smooth coolness, the ripple of muscle and tendon. Bodie lay beneath him with a pleased smile, eyes nearly closed as Doyle continued his exploration of this new country, this universe beneath his hands.
When he tired of letting his hands dictate the pace, he turned his mouth to the search, testing Bodie's mouth, his neck, clavicle, and hard, pink nipple. His journey finally took him to Bodie's dusky sex, and he plunged his mouth over Bodie's cock, absorbing each new sensation, straining to please his lover. Bodie gasped aloud, followed by repeated sharp intakes of breath as Doyle plundered whatever inhibitions Bodie'd ever had, finally choking out Ray's name, moaning it over and over as Ray took him to the brink repeatedly before finally allowing him release. Bodie came silently, bucking and rocking against him, breath having left him long ago and unable to call out anymore the name that formed repeatedly on his soundless lips.
Doyle had not even taken his own clothes off, they hung on him in disarray and he hastily worked off his jeans and wool jumper, Bodie slowly coming round beneath him. When his eyes opened, Bodie stared up at Doyle's cock, reaching up with gentle smooth fingers to tease it over and over, stroking the silky head, amusing himself with Doyle's moans and trembling knees. Ray was happy to oblige Bodie's teasing nature, until Bodie finally flipped Doyle over and took the offered flesh into his mouth, his strong hands moving down to Doyle's arse, pushing Ray even closer to him, farther into his mouth.
And after that, Doyle found their life together mirrored that first time; they were quiet, almost serious, but with moments punctuated with passion. Doyle relished this direction their path had taken; he would sometimes sit up in bed watching Bodie sleep, the careworn look usually surrounding him erased by night and the comfort of Doyle. Throughout their partnership, Ray had relied on their unvoiced communication; here he encircled himself with the solace of it. He'd never been with anyone who instinctively understood his needs, his desire for time alone, his sense of completeness in his job. There were none of the usual explanations required with Bodie.
And to know the same of another human being was a small revelation to Doyle. He kept it in front of his heart like an amulet with a protective spell, occasionally examining it before putting it back for safekeeping, perfect in its hidden light.
The first time Doyle had realized he could not think without Bodie had nearly cost him his life.
Doyle did not yet have a new partner, had in fact not really been cleared for duty. He was lounging in the rest room when they received a massive callout. At the Dover hovercraft dock, the smugglers of so much counterfeit currency they weighed it rather than counted it had been tipped to an impending seizure by CI5. They had also been armed and took two hostages before retreating into an unused building, at which point the rest of CI5 were called out.
Doyle arrived at the scene with a mild sense of interest. It was his first time in the field since Bodie's death, and the detachment he felt surprised him. His great strength, and greatest weakness, Cowley had always said, was that he cared too much. These days he found himself amusedly noticing that he didn't care at all. He watched the situation disinterestedly, listening as negotiators tried to talk them out, listened to the suspects' demands. Cowley was growing more fretful by the hour, and nothing seemed to be happening.
It was there that he had felt it then for the first time, a recognition that he could not act alone, had not acted alone in fact since the day he had first been partnered with Bodie. He thought for some time, watching events, about how he would have dealt with this were his partner here. They rarely thought in separate terms. Even when they thought and functioned as individuals, the other man's feelings, action, beliefs were as much a part of the process as breathing. Doyle knew Bodie's cowboy tendencies; his strength lay in action. Bodie was no good at talking.
Watching Cowley on the special phone they had set up with the smugglers, Doyle decided not to wait. Not to talk. He drew his gun and walked silently to the building in plain sight of everyone. He could hear faintly the shouts of others, and Cowley especially calling him back. Circling the building he went for the door in the back, a sense that he was protected and guided floating around him, glimmering. He felt a confidence he hadn't in months. Confidence because he was thinking like Bodie would.
After that, things became fuzzy. He'd been shot at, he remembered that. Nothing else. They told him he caused enough confusion that they were able to storm the building in his wake, but Doyle had doubts. He could not have done it alone.
What he clearly remembered was the feeling of vague disappointment at being alive, at being in one piece. As though he'd gone through a door, only to find himself in the same room he'd just left. Bodie had been there, he was certain, and yet he was alone again, empty, with the coldness washing over him.
Murphy had circled him like a stalking animal, talking at him the whole time. "Unbelievably stupid," he'd said, over and over. "You've forgot you don't have someone watching your back, Doyle. You haven't even been cleared for duty."
Doyle had laughed at that. "I'm an airplane now, is that it? Must be cleared for takeoff?"
"Such a wag. Pack it in, Doyle," Murphy had barked. "Cowley is going to have your hide for this. It was just stupid, plain stupid. We can't afford to lose you, too."
Doyle had smiled bitterly. How right you are, he thought. Didn't matter. He had his own agenda.
Ray patted the lanky agent's shoulder. "Don't worry, Murph. Just forgot all my training, got a little overeager, that's it. All right?"
Murphy nodded without showing a trace of belief. Doyle knew Murphy no more believed him than Doyle believed it himself. But the ice was thin here, and Ray must skate carefully. They flew back to London in the helicopter, Murphy's silent, scrutinizing appraisal clinging to him the whole trip.
"You're really thinking of a house?" Bodie inquired, waving his sandwich in Doyle's direction.
"Well, I'm not getting any younger, don't you think?" Doyle answered distractedly, flipping thorough a sheaf of papers that held descriptions of houses.
"Mmm," Bodie said around a mouthful of cheese and pickle. "I don't think, that's what Cowley always says."
Doyle scrutinized him from the side, a bemused smile flickering across his features. Bodie was swerving wildly, as usual, driving one-handed while trying to eat and drink on their way to an unpleasant little area on the South Bank.
"So why are we going to talk to these blokes, anyway? These Sheehan blokes?" he asked, turning his attention to work. "I mean, Cowley makes them sound like they're the Krays or something."
"They are. Have their soiled little fingers in everything, from what I hear. You remember Marty -- Martell, the fella who got us that American 180 all those years ago? Used to deal with these two all the time, from what I understand."
"Thought you weren't supposed to know who he dealt with," Doyle said knowingly.
"Ah, Marty was into all that cloak and dagger stuff. Didn't mean anything, though." He nodded his head in the direction of the papers, stuffing the last of the sandwich in his mouth and, not waiting until he swallowed it, took a swig of soda, gulping the whole thing down. "Where you looking?"
"Oh, all over. Can't really afford anything where I'd like to live. This one looks good, but it's in St. Albans."
"Oh no!" Bodie whined. "Look, I'm not driving thirty-five bloody miles into work every day just so you can play Squire Doyle. And I'm sure as hell not taking the train."
Doyle smiled to himself, running fingers through his hair and looking out the window as they now sat stalled in traffic. He liked the way Bodie assumed that wherever Doyle was going, Bodie was, too. It comforted him and made him feel almost giddy, as if he were a schoolboy with a terrible crush.
"Well, this one's in Richmond, and the one I like best is in Kew, not far from the gardens. More parking on the street, and a garage, so the car won't get biffed like the other day."
"Cost a packet," Bodie mentioned off-handedly.
"Yeah." Doyle thought for a moment. "But you know, I've been putting a lot away all these years, and the inheritance Mum left, well... I mean, it's not like I had much of a life these last seven, CI5 sort of sees to that. Not much chance to spend it save for the odd holiday in Bermuda or Majorca."
"And of course you'd have a lodger to help pay the mortgage." He smiled mischievously at Doyle.
"I would, wouldn't I?" Doyle laughed back. "Like how you just assume you're along for the ride."
Bodie rolled his eyes. "What put this in gear, anyway? Are you going all domestic on me?"
Doyle closed his eyes and smiled faintly. "Well, maybe just a leetle," he said sing-song, holding his thumb and forefinger up, a millimetre apart. "Keep thinking of how at my age, mum and dad had already settled down in Derby, had two kids, and a really nice life together. They were happy. I guess it has some kind of pull on me, that desire to be settled. Never been this comfortable, either, suppose."
Bodie was silent for a time, pulling his car up at the address they were looking for. He surveyed the area, full of litter, graffiti-sprayed walls, and unhappy-looking children kicking a battered football around. "Well, whatever makes you happy, I'm for it." He got out of the car. Doyle smiled to himself again. The closest thing he'd probably ever get to a declaration of love.
They locked the car and went inside the building, searching for their quarry. Bodie's usual bull-in-a-china-shop tactics were out of place here; this seemed the kind of locale one kept one's CI5 credentials close to the vest.
There seemed to be no-one around. "They were expecting us, right?" Bodie asked, concern knitting his forehead.
"Well, I thought so. They were supposed to be doing some kind of deal with the Cow. That's all I know. Something they were supposed to give us." The two gently pushed open a door to what looked like an office. Bodie scanned the room. "Betting shop?" Papers were scattered everywhere, the room was a mess.
"Not much of one," Doyle commented acidly. "What's going on here?"
"Dunno, but I don't like the look of it. I don't want to hang about here, if that's all right with you."
"I am in complete agreement," Doyle answered, holstering his gun. They closed the door and walked to the front of the building. Doyle heard a distinct gasp from Bodie.
"I don't believe it!" he bellowed.
Doyle looked in the same direction his partner was glaring.
"The car's bloody gone! Someone nicked the fucking car!" He grabbed for his R/T and began stalking around the sidewalk, head down and muttering into his hand. Doyle trailed off behind, listening to Bodie call for someone to bring a fresh car. Then Bodie wheeled abruptly about, and stalked back into the building. He shoved the R/T back inside his leather jacket and muttered to Doyle, "Not staying out here where every Tom, Dick and Dirty Harry can keep and eye on me." He pushed open the door of the office they'd just left and stopped suddenly.
"Where--" he began, and Doyle heard at that instant, as he stood hidden around the corner of the wall from the assailant, two gunshots echoing through the empty building. He watched as Bodie flew backwards, shock and fear passing like black clouds across Bodie's face. His instinct battled for one or two brief seconds with his need to go to Bodie, but he quickly drew his gun and whipped around the corner, bringing his gun up, catching the shooter momentarily unaware. Doyle fired six rounds straight into the man's chest. He could not have told anyone then what the man looked like, what he'd been wearing, even what kind of gun he'd had. The man fell to the floor and that was all Doyle needed to know. At the time he had not noticed another figure lying supine on the floor in a pool of blood.
He knelt down beside Bodie, seeing the blood flowing darkly, pooling around his lover. Doyle could see the wide gaping wound in Bodie's chest and knew he'd been shot near the heart, much as Doyle himself had been not long ago. Doyle took off his jacket and put it over the wound, applying pressure in a fruitless effort to stop the bleeding. He pulled out his R/T and fumbled the buttons, finally getting through to HQ and begging for an ambulance.
Bodie blinked a few times, staring straight up at Doyle. His mouth opened and closed repeatedly, but he could not seem to make a sound, and Doyle stroked his head with blood-soaked hands, murmuring over and over, "It'll be all right, it'll be okay. Just hang on."
Finally Bodie grasped a piece of cloth from Doyle's shirt and pulled. He managed a faint sound. "Sorry," was all that came out.
"No, Bodie, nothing to be sorry about. Shh. You need to save your strength. Don't talk."
But Bodie persevered, a distant look in his eye, he was focused somewhere above Doyle's head. "Let you down."
"Never," Doyle whispered, resting his face against Bodie's cheek. He heard wheezing gasps and then Bodie was still.
"Ray" he gasped, and then stopped. Doyle closed his eyes, unable to bear what that silence meant. He could feel Bodie's body go completely slack beneath his, what resistance there had been flying away with his last breath. In the distance Doyle could hear the clanging, horrible sound of an ambulance bell.
He knelt on the floor, his bloodied palms lying flat on his knees, his back rigid and head bowed down as he looked at his partner still. He remained that way as the attendants came crashing in, as they began to take Bodie away, as CI5 and local police personnel spread through the place like ants and worked the homicide scene, until a warm hand clamped down on his shoulder and Cowley's gentle, plummy voice cut through to him and said, "Here lad. Here. Move over here."
After a time he blinked and looked up at his boss, who looked mournfully down at him. Doyle had no idea how much time had passed since the last breath shuddered through his partner's body. Cowley softly placed his hand under Doyle's elbow and indicated he should rise. Doyle absently followed the instruction, and stood looking around confusedly. Cowley moved him over to a chair inside the office. Doyle suddenly realized where he was and bolted up, tearing out the front door, chasing after the ambulance which was moving slowly up the street, pushing its way through the crowd of onlookers. He watched it go. "I don't think," he heard Bodie saying.
No, you didn't, Doyle thought angrily. You just went in like you always do, barging ahead without thought. Without thinking of me. Again he felt Cowley's presence behind and him and turned. His knees buckled under him and he came to the same kneeling position, hands tucked up under his arms, clutching his chest, head bowed to the ground.
"It's all right, laddie," he heard Cowley saying above him. "Let me take you home."
Upchurch was looking passively at him, calmly observing him as he paced around the warehouse. Well, let him watch, Doyle thought. He was completely unconcerned about anyone's opinion -- whether it was Cowley, Upchurch, Murphy or anyone else for that matter.
The younger agent peered into the boxes the two had opened. "Well," he muttered finally, "least we know they weren't smuggling anything in the records."
Doyle graced him with a withering stare. "Compact discs. CDs. They're not records anymore." He looked around at the stacks of boxes in the warehouse. "Just because those boxes are clean doesn't mean anything." He shoved a foot against a tall stack and they came tumbling down. "Ooops." He began ripping tops open and inspecting them.
"I'm still unclear about this, Doyle." Upchurch looked slightly peeved. "What exactly are we looking for here? I thought it was drugs."
"And that's why you're still green, son." He rummaged around some more. "The thing about Cowley is that he never quite says what he means. Very cagey, our guvnor. D'you remember that scheme a bit ago, the one with the counterfeiters? The three who took hostages at the Dover dock?"
Upchurch drew his head back and looked warily at Doyle. Everyone had heard about that escapade, Doyle knew, but he continued in spite of Upchurch's sudden embarrassment. "The recording industry moves in up and down cycles. Right now it's a down cycle. Yet McLaughlan has managed to finance some very expensive new acts, a lovely new headquarters with a spiffy view of the Thames, a new place in the Home Counties, etc., etc. Interesting, don't you think? Cowley thought so. If he' s buying and providing a means to smuggle, he's buying it with something."
"One of those jokers at the Docks fingered him."
"Got it in one." Doyle looked at him with bemusement. "You're getting the hang of this. There's hope for you yet!" he said happily.
Upchurch scanned the warehouse. "There's money in here?"
"Who knows. This is just a place to start. You'll find, my young friend, that this work is a lot of boring, bothersome, petty detail. You only hear about the glam bits. Believe me, sorting through cardboard boxes is more our speed."
"Let's call in the dogs."
Doyle fixed him with a lazy smile, the skin around his eyes crinkling. His smile muscles almost felt rusty, he realized. It had been a while. "Good idea. Let's call in the dogs."
Three hours later they left the warehouse happily, the dogs having had a successful sniff, locating a stash of inks, papers, and parts of equipment for printing. Upchurch, having never seen a counterfeiting operation or equipment, wanted to stay behind, so Doyle obliged him for a while before tiring of the whole charade and angrily ordering Upchurch into the car.
He knew his moods appeared mercurial to everyone around him, but he could no more stop them than stop the rain that pattered down on his windscreen. Mercurial was a word Bodie would have used, he realized wryly. He'd even begun picking up the sod's vocabulary.
It had amused him no end to find out Bodie's interest in literature and poetry. "You must be jokin'!" Doyle had exclaimed, trying to imagine his hulking partner holding little books of sonnets and reading flowery phrases.
"What's wrong with it?" Bodie had defended casually. "Got started with Da, you know, all that Rudyard Kipling and Tennyson masculine nonsense. Thought it was interesting and kept going. It's fascinating, to create a world with words in such a small, compact idea. It's no different than your interest in paintings," he'd prodded.
Doyle had known he was right. Still, it didn't seem in character. Until he suddenly remembered Bodie on the R/T -- "palely loitering," he'd said. And another time, even father across that ocean of time. "Beckett would like that."
Bodie the erudite scholar. It was amusing, and made Bodie even more attractive. The idea of uncovering Bodie's secrets over time had appealed tremendously to Ray; it was the detective work of learning his lover. Doyle had gone to Bodie's flat that night and for the very first time scrutinized the volumes that lined the shelves. Almost all poetry; English and American literature; some classic plays; some of the great classic books of Greek and Roman times. His eyes had been wide open then, seeing Bodie clearly. Everything he'd expected, and yet nothing he'd dreamt of.
Eventually he could feel Upchurch's eyes on him as he tooled the car through the rain-slick streets of London. "Are you planning to drop me anywhere in the vicinity?" Upchurch asked snidely.
"Oh," Doyle said sadly, unhappy to be drawn out of his reverie. Memory was the only thing he had left anymore; he became sullen when his opportunity to dwell there was taken from him.
"Are you going back? We're supposed to go find McLaughlan."
"Yeah, right. Right." Doyle took the next left and began his trip to MacLaughlan's new offices.
The building was still in the process of being filled and many floors were empty, but activity hummed nevertheless. Flashing their CI5 ID with abandon, they were greeted by the man himself before they'd even stepped out of the lift. Clearly word spread fast to the head of the company. "I have nothing to say to you," he intoned. He was youngish, sandy long hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, his clothes impeccably casual yet clearly tailored in Italy. He drew himself up with arrogance, although he was a bit shorter than both Doyle and Upchurch.
"Save the sad story," Doyle snapped and stuffed his ID into his pocket. Upchurch began putting his away and Doyle tsked at him. "Never use your gun hand for anything but your gun," he said under his breath, completely ignoring McLaughlan.
"You have no right to come in here and disrupt my staff. What are you here for, anyway? You can't just come barging in here--"
"That's where you're wrong," Doyle countered, wheeling him into his office a few paces from the lift doors. "Remember a little incident a few weeks ago with some paper hangers in Dover? It would have made the news."
"What's that got to do with me?" the executive asked casually. "Really. You can't think I'd be involved with something like that."
"No?" Doyle asked. "Let's see...your last four or five major acts have collapsed inside Britain and Europe, and not even made it across the Atlantic to the States. None of your older established acts have been burnin' up the charts, either. Yet you've got all this," he said, waving his hand around the room, "fairly recently. Your capital is grossly overextended, with profits not matching your outlay. You must be having some kind of success that Inland Revenue can't detect."
McLaughlan made as if to sit at his desk, but his hand quickly went for a drawer. Doyle neatly sidestepped Upchurch and reached over in a lightning-fast move to smash the drawer on McLaughlan's fingers just as he reached for a gun. The man screamed and reeled backwards against Doyle, swearing and sputtering. "Naughty," Doyle said, wagging a finger at him.
Suddenly McLaughlan kicked out and landed a blow on Doyle's crotch, disorienting him just enough. Somehow Doyle hadn't pegged him as a fighter. He could hear Bodie scolding him for something like this. "Laggard. You're getting soft," Bodie had once opined when someone had got the drop on Doyle. Even memory nagged.
McLaughlan bolted for the door as the startled Upchurch fled after him. Doyle collected a deep breath, trying to get the hideous pain in the pit of his belly under control, then dashed after them both. McLaughlan had grabbed the gun after all, he realized. Neither of them were in sight as he rushed out of the double doors. He tore down the hall to the stairs and raced down them, hearing ahead of him the running steps of Upchurch and their quarry. By the time he burst out the doors into a loading area he caught a only brief glimpse of Upchurch heading round a corner. He carried on after them until he saw McLaughlan back against a chain fence, waving the gun in their general direction.
Letting out a low, dirty chuckle, Doyle uncocked his gun and holstered it as he walked forward. Upchurch looked back and forth between his captive and his partner, agitatedly bopping up and down as he tried to form words. Finally he squeaked out, "What are you doing?" to Doyle.
Ray merely smiled as McLaughlan still waved the revolver at them. "A Mexican stand-off is what they call it," Doyle commented to Upchurch, who was mouthing formless words again. Doyle held palms towards McLaughlan and continued walking toward him. "Let's stop the charade, okay? You're dead to rights." He was very close now, and McLaughlan was growing more hyper.
"Get away! I swear I'll shoot you."
Doyle laughed loudly. "Can't you come up with anything better?"
Upchurch was nearly trembling now, a mixture of anger and fear crossing his dark features. "DOY-ul" he called in a sing-song cadence. "What do you think you're doing? He's got a gun!"
Ray shrugged. "So do you." He advanced on McLaughlan and the other man waved the gun wildly, panicked. Doyle quickly grabbed it by the barrel just as it came in contact with his chest. Upchurch charged the other man and knocked him flat, McLaughlan's skull cracking dully on the cobblestones. That faint shimmering warmth coursed through Doyle again before he thought to assist Upchurch, and they hauled McLaughlan back through the building to their car, the executive's head bleeding profusely and his legs wobbling under him through most of the walk.
Cowley sat with his face hidden behind his hands, a glass of whisky on his desk. He took a few deep breaths, pinched the bridge of his nose, and finally looked at Doyle.
Doyle could see peripherally the old man looking at him, but he continued to gaze out the window. Not much of a view, yet another modern, ugly, shapeless building across the way, but with enough interest to keep his attention away from the hiding he knew he was going to get.
"I think I may have to take you off active duty."
Knowing a response was expected, Doyle nevertheless chose to remain unresponsive.
"Doyle?" Cowley's voice, as agitated as he must have been, remained fairly gentle.
Finally Ray put his attention to Cowley's face. The controller seemed to have aged years in the past few months. Doyle briefly wondered if he'd shown such signs himself. "Yes sir, whatever you think's best."
"You're not going to argue with me?"
Doyle wondered if he could detect a trace of disappointment at that. "You're probably right."
"It's not simply that you've not been yourself, lad. It's that you're..."
"Suicidal? I know that's what everyone thinks."
Cowley closed his eyes again, clearly pained. After a time he opened them. "No. But putting yourself at needless risk, in order to assuage some guilt you feel over Bodie's death?"
"I keep hearing him in my head, or my heart, you know?" Doyle asked idly, as if he were talking to himself alone. For all intents and purposes, he couldn't really care less if Cowley had been there or not. It could have been anyone, but the Old Man made a good father confessor. "It's like I can't think without him. Or I think too much like him, but without the way we tempered each other. That was it, you know. He was the action man, I was the thinker. When we were together, we were like a -- a whole. Now I'm missing a part of...something." He'd thought to say soul, but Bodie would have vetoed that. He didn't believe in such things as souls.
"You've lost half of a great team, yes--" Cowley began before stopping dead.
Doyle felt a bubble of hysteria rising up inside him, and then he was giggling almost, a high-pitched sound that would make anyone who knew him deeply afraid for his sanity. The giggle turned into a cackle. Finally he spoke. "I've lost me mind, you see? Well, half of it, anyway."
Cowley said nothing, and Doyle realized in the silence that he'd said everything he needed to.
"It happens to men in situations like this, they get close in other ways that go beyond partnerships. Isn't that what you were saying before? As if somehow waving it away would make it, I dunno, safe. It's not safe, George, not by a long chalk. Bodie was everything. Everything. He was part of my mind, the other part of me that balanced life out. Now he's gone. What do you do when everything is gone? Not little scraps of things to start over with. Every thing."
Again Cowley remained silent. He rubbed at his temples. "I'll let you stay on for now. I'll review your status with the full supervisory team in a few days. When that is determined I will contact you."
"Fair enough," Doyle answered, rising. Somewhere inside him he felt an apology rising forth, almost like the hysteria. Bodie again. Bodie wouldn't want the old man unhappy. "I'm sorry, sir. I've no experience for this."
Cowley looked up at him, bloodshot eyes rimmed in red, his hair unkempt and his tie partway undone. "Nor I any to offer you," Cowley said, and Doyle knew then that Cowley had never felt this way for anyone before, and that part of him envied Doyle for having had something more tangible to hang onto. He accepted this and closed the door.
When he reached the flat the door was open. His first instinct was to reach for his gun, but then he withdrew his hand empty from beneath his jacket, suddenly unconcerned.
He peered in and heard the voice of the landlady, then saw Thomas reflected in a mirror above the stereo on the far wall. Standing still in the doorway, he crossed his arms over his chest and waited for them to notice him. Eventually the landlady turned and saw him, making a startled little noise which Thomas reacted to quickly. Doyle thought unkindly that all the features on Bodie that were so handsome came out somehow rather rodentlike on Thomas. The eyes were beadier, the nose more pointed, the lips thinner and more pursed.
Slowly Doyle dragged his gaze to the landlady and motioned quickly with his head towards the door. "You can leave us alone, I'll take it from here." She was used to dealing with CI5 types, and she nodded twice and scuttled towards the door. Beginning the words of an apology, Doyle cut her off. "If he comes back, I'd prefer you not let him in again. No matter what he says, he hasn't a right to be here." She closed the door and left.
Thomas moved towards Doyle and Doyle took one quick step forward, which brought Thomas up short. Doyle slammed a fist out and shoved Thomas hard in the chest, then grabbed his shirt front. He shook twice.
"Listen to me. These are not your things. They're my things. They're his things."
"He is no longer here, though," Thomas whined, and began a fruitless effort to peel Doyle's fingers from his shirt. When Ray was ready, then he'd let go. "You have to admit you have no claim to them." Something seemed to click in Thomas' brain. "No legal claim, that is."
The grip released and Doyle hurled Bodie's brother against the wall. Thomas grabbed at his head and rubbed his palm over the back of his skull. "You know nothing!" Doyle shouted. "You know nothing about your brother and you know nothing about me. I want you the hell away from here!"
Thomas stepped over the undrawn line of Doyle's and moved to pick up an object from the table. Doyle suddenly grabbed the closest thing to hand: Bodie's epee. He swung it from its pointed end, the hilt smashing into a glass figurine, a wine glass left on the table, all the other things lying there. He continued swinging it across the room at everything within reach, as Thomas cowered backwards against the wall.
"I knew him! These things knew him! You didn't!" Doyle bellowed at him. "You knew nothing about him. You have no rights to his life." Then quietly, calmly under his breath, "I have his life. I have it." Doyle was alone now on this ride, into a deep dark void. Thomas was not really in the room with him anymore.
He'd known for some time that when the flood came it would be unstoppable. Now that it had come he was drowning in it, the tide pulling on him, an undertow of black rage. Finally he thought he could tread water, and he wrapped hs arms around his chest, folding inward, pulling himself inside.
After some time he became aware of Thomas' labored breathing, his own tense grip on the epee. He suddenly swung it up in the air, caught it by the hilt and pointed it at Thomas. Breathing shallowly, quickly, he whispered, "I want you gone. I want you gone for good. Bodie stays here."
Doyle lay fully clothed on the bed, on top of the bedcovers, though it was past three a.m.
He had taken the blue velveteen box out of the drawer and now it lay clasped, unopened, in his hand. His arm was outstretched on Bodie's side of the bed, and the fist surrounding the box was white-knuckled. Bicep quivering, forearm flexed to its maximum, he lay like that for hours, squeezing the box.
Tonight he had picked up the chess pieces.
Thomas had called, leaving a message with the service that he wanted to discuss -- like rational adults -- what to do with Bodie's things. Clearly the shouting match hadn't deterred him. Doyle had returned the call, leaving a message on Thomas' answering machine that there was nothing to discuss. "Please don't underestimate me," he'd said politely. "If you persist, I can arrange a detailed file on you and your drug smuggling activities that could put you away for some time. Do you understand?" And he'd hung up. He could only imagine Cowley's face if he found out about that. It made him smile. Bodie would have appreciated it.
In spite of all his anger and bravado, Ray had begun now to feel threatened. All of them presented danger to the wall around him. Between the previous conversations with Cowley, and now the continuing presence of Thomas, he'd felt some of the bricks and mortar crumble.
That night Doyle wandered around the flat until he found himself picking up the chess pieces and the board. He'd done rather a bit of damage to it by kicking it so many times, and he folded it and put it on the bookshelf. He cleaned up the broken glass, and other detritus left from the fight. Then he'd fixed himself a neat Scotch and flipped through some of the books he hadn't dared to look at, the ones he'd bought as gifts for Bodie.
Finally he'd taken the long slow steps to the bedroom and removed the box. This time he did not open it before putting it back; instead he'd clutched it desperately in his palm. After some hours, as dawn began to creep around the edges of night, he pulled it up in front of him and relaxed his grip. He opened the top and stared at it, then took it out, its metal cold and smooth against his skin. He slipped it over the bones and tendon of his wrist, the silver taking on the inky blue of the room's darkness, the midnight color of Bodie's eyes.
Doyle closed his eyes, a sensation of weightlessness coursing through his body. He let go into it, that same shimmering feeling he'd been experiencing now humming through his body. Then eventually he drifted off to a half sleep, his left hand covering the right wrist, wrapped around the bracelet.
"You fall asleep too easily," Bodie had told him once. "I can't stand it. You can kip anywhere."
"You said yourself you've camped out in worse places," Doyle had countered.
"But not like you. You fall asleep no matter what."
"Nah," Doyle had said gravely. "There's times I can't sleep. Things that worry me, mostly. Time I hit Paulie Coogan. Stuff like that. I think and think until it hurts. Wish I could be a bit stronger like you sometimes. Guess worrying is my lot."
Bodie had looked at him quizzically, clearly suprised. "Really? You think not agonizing is a sign of strength? No." He'd moved a hand over Doyle's, twisted his fingers with Ray's. "You have no idea then."
Doyle had asked him with his eyes.
"That you're strong. Maybe the stronger one. It takes strength to care about other people, you know. It takes none to care nothing."
"Is that a double negative?"
Bodie had started laughing, the silent shaking that signalled a deep laugh. Doyle liked how Bodie's laughs and smiles were often quiet and subtle.
Strength. Somehow he was supposed to be the strong one. Bodie expected it of him. How could he deliver on that expectation any more? His eyes fluttered open briefly, half expecting to see Bodie lying on his side, moving light fingers through Doyle's curls, with that enigmatic smile on his face. But he saw only the empty pillow. He curled his hand around the bracelet tighter, and fell back into sleep.
In the morning he woke and went about everything as usual, his hand drifting to the hard, tubular silver to reassure himself it was still there. He had arrived as usual at headquarters, even knowing that sometime in the next few days Cowley and the others would make a decision as to his fate. But there was no anticipation in him; he'd felt months ago, as the ambulance had pulled away with Bodie's lifeless form, that his fate had been made. He was one-half of a whole; a missing piece that did not function properly without the other; light without dark.
Almost to the restroom to check the day's duty roster, Doyle heard Cowley behind him and turned. The old man motioned to him quickly with two quick jerks of his fingers and Doyle did as he was told, following Cowley to his office. The controller wasted no time and tossed him an address.
"You shouldn't have too much trouble with this," he said dryly and Doyle found himself smiling in spite of the comment. "You're familiar with the ongoing war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government? Good. I have reason to believe some of the Tamil guerrillas are buying weapons through a contact here in London. You know how I detest others fighting their wars on British soil. We have a connection who has some information regarding that recent explosion in Notting Hill Gate, and I need you to debrief him, find out what he's got. This is not a dangerous assignment," Cowley said warningly.
"This a restaurant?" Doyle asked, looking at the address. Anything closer to action would not be forthcoming for him these days, not the way Cowley was doubting his sanity. Well, that was fine, Ray couldn't blame him. There were days Doyle doubted his sanity himself.
"Yes. I'd appreciate a report from you as soon as possible. You don't, by the way, need to take Upchurch with you."
Doyle heard the unspoken castigation but shrugged it off.
"Will do. Have a report for you by five at the latest."
"Good," Cowley said, moving off quickly, Doyle following him out of the office. Ray meandered down the corridors and to the car park, then slowly steered towards Russell Square, near where the restaurant was located.
It was to his complete surprise that he found more than cooking going on in the back kitchen. He had cautiously opened the doors, looking for someone who might direct him to his party, but when he could find no one he wandered through the kitchen, the narrow and cramped aisle of which hid him from view of the two men making what looked like a bomb on the floor. Doyle stopped, his adrenaline shooting up, and drew his gun. He was suddenly, acutely aware that he was alone, and there was no one here to back him up.
He dove behind a stainless steel counter as the two men, angrily shouting at each other in a language Doyle couldn't identify, ran out the back. They did not attempt to fight with him, there were no bullets pinging against the back of the counter, and Doyle heard the heavy swooshing sound of a door closing. He heard something else as well, unidentifiable. Poking his head around the corner he spied where the sound was coming from. Of course they hadn't bothered shooting, instead they'd set fire to the kitchen. They must have thrown some kind of oil around, or perhaps even petrol, because he could smell an acrid fume and the flames were going up quite speedily. In the middle of it all stood the bomb.
There was simply no way for him to determine how far along the bomb was in its development stage. Frantically he searched for a fire extinguisher, but he could find none. He ran for the front exit, flames coming up quickly behind him through the doors. It would not take long for an old building like this to go up completely, he realized. Just as he got to the door at the front he heard a scream, a woman's voice.
It wasn't even close to lunchtime, he couldn't imagine anyone being there besides the two who'd been working on their chemistry experiment. Doyle almost felt a chuckle rushing up inside him, that bubble of hysteria that seemed to be there under the surface all the time. Cowley had certainly been correct; someone at that restaurant had information on Tamil terrorists, all right.
He looked around wildly to see where the screams were coming from and saw from behind the window that fronted onto the street a woman trying to get past the flames, trailing a small child. He paused for a split second. It was always Bodie who had the derring-do approach. It would be Bodie who would go in, a cloth in front of his nose and mouth, grab the woman and child and haul them out of there. But Bodie was not here.
Doyle's left hand wrapped around the bracelet, its cold clean shape distinct beneath his fingers. Doyle ran inside, arm in front of his mouth, eyes stinging from the smoke.
It was surprising to him how in broad daylight it could be so dark inside. The smoke was thick and acid, it burned his lungs and he fought just to stay upright. It was not far to the woman, not at all, but it seemed like he had lead attached to each leg. Coughing and sputtering, he reached her at last and grabbed the child out of her hands, removing the only breathing protection he had. He threw his coat at her and she put it in front of her face, and Doyle yanked hard on the child's hand. He had to detour around a small wall of flame, each step bringing more acrid smoke into his lungs. It was only when he had reached the door that he realized she was not with him and had remained behind that wall of flame. He hesitated a moment; after all, he'd got the child out, that was the important thing. Frozen, he stared back at the woman, lost for a moment.
Bodie had never really said he'd loved him, but Ray knew it nonetheless. It had been there in everything he'd done while they were together, the words he'd used, his admiration. "Brave bastard," Bodie had said once, his eyes alight with what Doyle knew was love. He could see it as if through the smoke, could see those eyes alight. Knew that the little things he'd done to win that admiration were much like this -- making a choice, putting someone else's life ahead of his. Taking the step forward when everything screamed at you to stay back. Suddenly he knew. Bodie was here, in his heart. He could think, could act exactly as he always had. He was no longer dark without light; everything was whole again.
He turned and made his way gingerly back to the woman, nearly blind this time as the vicious smoke conjured by the burning plastic and carpet penetrated his lungs and stole what little oxygen he had left. In the distance he could hear sirens; the fire brigade was arriving.
Dropping to the floor he crawled the last few paces towards her, motioning at her to drop as well. She was too terrified to follow his directions, the coat pressed desperately in front of her mouth and nose, until Doyle reached her and pulled hard on her skirt, forcing her to drop down. He grabbed her about the waist and began inching forward through the flame until they were near the door, when he grabbed her, pulled her up and shoved her forward. He felt something then, just as he moved for the door, a wave of soundless pressure, and it occurred to him that the explosive substance, whatever they'd been using, had gone up. Then the sound followed, a heavy boom, and he was pitched forward, fire and glass and debris flying along with him.
Doyle hit the ground with a thud, his face striking the pavement, pain like nothing he'd ever felt before rippling through his body on the shock wave. Then numbness, and he could not feel his arms or legs, only searing fire in his lungs and a sharp, digging sensation one one side of his head. He was dimly aware of a voice beside him as a medic turned him over on his side. "Come on," the voice said frantically, and Doyle realized the pain was just a mask they'd put in front of his face to make him breathe. He smiled behind the plastic, closing his eyes, taking no breath. There was a time to fight and a time to give in.
Doyle wished only to give in, then. Again the voice begged. "Come on! Breathe!" Feeling crept in to his arms, his hands; a tingling sensation. He could feel something cold, steel-like. The bracelet around his wrist. Bodie's gift. Bodie. The rest of him felt on fire but that bracelet was so cold.
It doesn't remember you, Doyle thought idly, darkness falling inside his skull, his heart. But I do. I do.
-- THE END --