by Jane Carnall
Although these are three linked stories, this is not a trilogy. You may read each of these in any order. In each of them one of the three central characters of The Professionals, Bodie, Cowley, and Doyle, is dead before the story starts: a different one for each story.
Conceived while I was very depressed about end-year exams which is the only possible excuse (and not much of one, since I finished it after I knew I'd passed) so I'm sorry, OK?
If I Forget Thee -
He still lived in Liverpool, though a different district. CI5's computer resources had tracked him quite easily. From the two-up two-down streets of prewar housing, the address of twenty years ago; more than half demolished now. To the modern house on the new estate, no more than eight years old.
According to the records, he was sixty-three; had worked for forty years for the one company, and had taken early-retirement-read-redundancy last year. According to what Cowley had heard of him, he was a ruthlessly riteous man, and had demanded the same of his son.
Cowley's knee was aching, and he needn't even be here. He could have deputised it. He could even simply have wirtten a letter. He could, legally, have done nothing at all.
"Just wait here, he told his driver, unnecessarily, and got out of the car and crossed the road and rang the doorbell, a standard two-note chime.
The man who opened the door was Bodie's height, had Bodie's pale skin and dark blue eyes and dark hair. So this was what Bodie would have looked like in his sixties. It was a moment before Cowley could say, with the proper note of neutral enquiry, "Mr. Bodie?"
"Yeah, that's me. What is it?"
"My name's Cowley, George Cowley. It's about your son."
The other man's lips compressed, and he said tightly and angrily "You from the school? You'd better come in." He stood aside and Cowley, never one to correct a mistaken impression when it gave him what was necessary, stepped in to the minute hall, and, at a gesture from the other man, through to the small sitting room.
"Which one is it, then?" the man asked. "Luke or John? What've they been up to?"
"Neither," Cowley said carefully. "I think you'd better sit down, sir; it's about your son William."
"William?" the man said, looking genuinely bewildered. Then he did sit down, staring up at Cowley. "I think you've made a mistake, Mr. Cowley."
"Your son William Andrew Philip. Born 27th May 1948," Cowley said, feeling cold.
"Bill?" The man frowned. "Then they've finally found out what happened to him?"
"He ran away twenty-three years ago."
"Yeah. There were missing person notices out for him for a couple of years, but the police said they never heard anything. I reckoned he had to be dead, long time ago."
"He is dead." That fulfilled his duty. More than his duty. Why should he try to provoke some expression of sorrow from this man who hadn't seen his son in twenty-three years, who'd apparently forgotten him. "When he ran away, he managed to get aboard a ship, where he worked for three years. That would explain why the police force in this country was unable to find him. He jumped ship in Africa, where he spent the next six years. He came back to this country in 1971, joined the Army, and in 1976 was transferred to my department in the Home Office. He was killed last month, attempting to defuse a bomb planted by terrorists."
The building had gone up in a blaze of flame and blowing windows; entirely evacuated, apart from Bodie, still in the office on the first floor, still trying to disarm the bomb. Cowley had been standing by his car holding on to Doyle's arm, arguing with him, when it had blown.
"You mean he was in this country for fourteen years and he never tried to get back in touch with me?" the man was saying, sounding annoyed and offended. And then, "How come it took you so long to get in touch with me, if I'm his next of kin?"
"Because he named me as next of kin on his personnel form. It's taken us this long to find you."
"You?" The man looked at him. "Who are you, anyway?"
Cowley reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out his ID. "His employer. CI5." It obviously didn't mean much to the man. "Criminal Intelligence. Law enforcement."
"Yeah?" The man glanced up at the clock on the wall, and stood up. "Look, thanks for coming to tell me what happened to Bill, but you'd better go now. The kids'll be home from school in half an hour."
Bodie's mother had died when he was nine. The re-marriage could be more than twenty years old, probably was; it was useless, Cowley accepted finally and coldly, to try and find any grief there for the long-lost, long-forgotten son.
"Goodbye, Mr. Bodie," he said dryly, and let the man show him out. He went back across the street, and got into the car. "Back to London," he said briefly, and was silent for the rest of the drive.
Doyle was spending more time than ever around CI5 HQ. Particularly since Personnel had moved him; after all, he and Bodie had shared a double flat, and now 3.7 was dead, 4.5 didn't need a double flat any more, did he? He wasn't even sure he wanted to stay in CI5. Sometimes, sitting down in the Records department, working at whatever they gave him, he'd forget; he'd think of going for a coffee, he'd turn his head to say so to Bodie, and Bodie wouldn't be there.
That morning he had forgotten completely. He had got up to go and find his partner, only to realise, halfway up the stairs, that Bodie wouldn't be found. Doyle went back down to Records and resumed his interrupted task.
A month ago. Thirty-two days ago. He'd driven up and leapt out of his car and turned to race into the building where Bodie was trying to defuse the bomb, when Cowley had caught at his arm with surprising strength. "Don't be a damned fool, laddie - !"
And while he was still trying to get away, the building had blown, and Bodie in it, and Cowley had let go. Doyle couldn't remember having looked at him or spoken to him since. Cowley had hauled him in for an interview, a day or so later, had talked to him for a while, and Doyle had never met his eyes once, or said more than a muttered yes sir, no sir. At least Cowley hadn't talked about re-partnering him. Doyle would have half-killed him if he had.
Meantime, while he was waiting for Cowley to find him some real work, there were jobs to do in Records, in the armoury, in the car pool. Scut work, light work for operatives on sick leave or between real jobs. Doyle had only once had more than a fortnight of it before in his life.
If he had known that Cowley had been discussing operative 4.5 with Doctor Ross; if he had known that the point of discussion had been not whether he was any further use as an active operative without 3.7, after nine years close partnership, but what to do about this ex-Active operative; medical discharge immediately or to keep him on light duty until his fortieth birthday, only three months off, and then formally retire him. If he had known this, Doyle would not have done what he did, later that evening. He wanted to talk to someone about Bodie. He left HQ and drove towards Cowley's house, stopping to buy a bottle of malt whisky on the way.
In a way, being partnered with Bodie had been like being one half of twins; as a woman he'd known once with a twin brother had said, somehow there were things you never learned because your twin always knew how to do them. One of the things Doyle had left to Bodie had been talking to Cowley. Doyle knew Cowley had a soft spot for Bodie, though Bodie, told this, had always claimed that he'd never noticed any evidence of it.
He rang the doorbell; and automatically looked at his watch, giving himself a minute before he could conclude that Cowley hadn't heard, wasn't in, didn't want to get up to answer the door.
Cowley jerked the door open and stared at him. "What is it, 4.5?"
Doyle swallowed. "I - ah, I came to offer you a drink, sir." He'd practiced that line, because in his head it sounded like something that Bodie might have said, but out of his mouth it sounded lame. Stupid. He was holding out the bottle as if it provided an explanation.
Cowley stared at it, at Doyle, sandy brows drawn together. "What? Oh, you'd better come in." He shut and locked the door behind Doyle, then turned back to him. "What are you here for?"
"Wanted to talk to you. About Bodie."
"Are you drunk?"
"Then why are you here, 4.5?"
"Oh, Christ," Doyle said in total despair, "I don't know." Cowley hadn't even taken the bottle of Scotch from him; he set it down on the hall table and saw himself turning and opening the door and leaving, and hoping that Cowley would never mention this insane visit again. "I don't know how to talk to you," he managed. "Only I want to talk to someone. And there isn't anybody."
"God almighty," Cowley said impatiently, and still roughly, "Go on in to the room, then."
He'd been here before, of course. With Bodie. Never alone with Cowley.
Christ, Doyle told himself fiercely, he can't eat you. Cowley had been sitting on the couch; there was a glass of whisky on the table by it, and a book lying open on the arm. The Three Musketeers. Doyle sat down on one of the armchairs, back rigid, unable to relax.
"Have you had anything to eat lately?"
Doyle nodded automatically, watching Cowley, standing by the door, warily. He was trying to put into the right words; You liked him a lot, and I just wanted to talk about him.
"Breakfast and... well, breakfast."
"What did you actually eat?"
"Then before we make inroads on the Glenfiddich," Cowley said briskly, "you'd better come on through to the kitchen and have something to eat. Come on."
Somehow, Doyle's mental picture of Cowley had never included tins of soup or oven chips - more like lavish meals in expense-account restaurants. He wasn't hungry, he hadn't been hungry for ages, but he ate a bowlful of soup and a plateful of chips without protest.
Cowley's mental picture of Doyle had never included meekness; but then, he noted tiredly, Doyle had obviously not been feeding himself much lately. He'd always been skinny, his medical reports had usually had acerbic comments on 4.5 being consistently underweight, but now he looked scrawny. The battered cheekbone was standing out from his face.
I really don't want to have to send him in to Repton for a spell. But at least they'd make sure he ate, there. One more responsibility. Cowley looked him over again, reflectively. If I told him to pull himself together, I think he'd tear me apart.
It looked as if it was going to be a long night. "All right," Cowley said crisply, "let's try the Glenfiddich." He gestured Doyle to go ahead of him through the door, and followed. He disliked having any of his operatives behind him. Once was enough for being thrown down the stairs.
Any CI5 operative who ever drank with Cowley more than once, very rapidly learnt either to give up Scotch whisky completely, or else to learn to like it drunk with nothing but a glass. It wasn't that Cowley would have said a word, even about Scotch with lemonade, but that the incredulous icy blue stare was very hard to take.
Doyle took a cautious sip, settling a little further back into the chair. Cowley picked up the abandoned glass of whisky and sat down again on the couch. He said nothing. Doyle had watched him conduct a dozen interrogations with exactly that brand of silence.
"You want to know why I'm here," he said at random. "I suppose... because I don't know what you wanted to see his dad for."
Very carefully, Cowley set down his glass and stared at him. "How the hell did you know that?"
"I overheard," Doyle shrugged.
"It's my job," Cowley said after a moment, quite stiffly, "to inform the next-of-kin. Since there was an unavoidable delay, while we traced his current address, I thought it best to inform him in person." He looked directly at Doyle, and knew that the other man would accept that story, though he knew it for a lie; would accept it and say no more and go away. Oh, God, the responsibility never stopped. "And," he said, still more stiffly, "I wanted to talk to someone who might regret Bodie... as much as I do."
"Could've talked to me," Doyle said, surprising himself.
They were both silent for a while. Cowley finished his glass and poured himself another dram, this time from the bottle Doyle had bought.
"Something I want to tell you," Doyle said, with an effort. "Bodie... always reckoned we should tell you. Bodie and me - "
"I know," Cowley said very quietly.
Doyle stopped short. Something he'd never thought about; never once for all the times Bodie had said that the two of them should make it clear to their boss that they were lovers. Not that he'd gone on about it once Doyle had shown he wanted no part of that. But Cowley knew - they hadn't hidden a thing from the crafty old bastard.
No one else had suspected. OK, they shared a flat, had done for years - a lot of unmarried operatives did. More secure in a lot of ways. And Bodie was always hugging him and grabbing at him, but Bodie was like that with practically everybody. He could swear that not even Dr. Ross had worked it out.
Cowley hesitated. "I know because Bodie told me."
"He went and told you behind my back?" Doyle said, outraged, sitting bolt upright in his chair. Then, with a small, self-betraying sound, he eased himself back down. For an instant he had forgotten that Bodie was dead, and as always the returning knowledge hurt. "Sorry," he muttered, "I keep doing that."
"Aye," the other man said, sounding bleached, "so do I. I'm sorry, laddie, I should have talked to you about him earlier, but - if you'll believe this, there have been times the past month when I've not wanted to see you, because - "
"Been times I don't want to see me either," Doyle muttered, too lost to think of the unexpectedness of Cowley talking to him like this. "I think I'm going crazy, I keep getting up to find him." He looked up and saw Cowley watching him, eyes dark with concentration. "Why did he tell you? When did he tell you? Why didn't he tell me he'd told you?"
"He told me just after that business with President Parsali," Cowley said precisely, finding the when easier to answer than any questions about why.
Doyle frowned. "Oh. But... we weren't, then. Not yet. Though Bodie said... he said that was when he'd decided he was definitely going to have a go." Bodie had made one abortive pass on their fortnight's leave, which had left Doyle so frustrated he'd carried it through himself, about ten days after they got back. Bemused, he stared at Cowley. "Why'd he tell you?"
"Because he didn't want me to find out. And he didn't want me to... wonder. I could have killed him," Cowley added abstractedly. "Or you. Then. I've been grateful for it since. Better to know, in the long run."
Doyle's mouth felt as if it had clogged with dust. You drunk, sir? he very nearly asked. Soft spot for Bodie - hell, the Controller had been in love with him. And Bodie had known. That explained a hell of a lot - Bodie's odd almost protectiveness of Cowley, sometimes, and his certainty in him. "Sorry," he said inadequately.
"Nothing for you to be sorry for," Cowley said abruptly.
Doyle poured himself some more Scotch. "What did his dad say?"
"Bodie's father had almost forgotten he ever had another son. He'd assumed Bodie was dead twenty years ago."
"Oh. Must have been... hell for you." Doyle felt fundamentally awkward, trying to express sympathy for Cowley. "Listen, there was another thing I wanted to tell you... I know you think the reason I've been resenting you the past month is because you wouldn't let me go back in for Bodie. I know I couldn't have reached him in time. Would probably have missed him; he was probably trying to get out. What I've been resenting... is that you didn't let me die."
"Suicide is wasteful," Cowley said. "Nothing excuses it but an imminent and painful death... courage is in stayig alive."
"What if I'm tired of being a fucking hero?"
"What if you are? What if I am? There isn't any way out. I lost a partner... forty years ago. I've been a cripple almost that long. You can retire from CI5, but you can't duck out of being alive. I don't intend to let you."
"If I retire, what the hell would it have to do with you?"
"You'd still be Bodie's partner."
No past tense. Well, Doyle still thought of it in the present tense. "He really meant a lot to you, didn't he," he said carefully.
Cowley sighed. Evidently there was no way out. "Yes. In a way, I let him go because he did. He didn't seem to mind the lies, but I did. So, when he came back to apologise after the last fight... I let him go."
Doyle shook his head, certain he wasn't hearing right. "How long...?"
"That would have been about three or four months before you and he...."
"I mean, how long were you two...." Doyle shook his head. "You were - weren't you? Were you?"
"For nearly five years," Cowley said patiently. "Now d'you understand why I've a responsibility to keep you alive?"
It was very late, and Doyle was very tired, and he had drunk a surprising amount of Scotch. So had Cowley. "Yes. But it cuts both ways, doesn't it?"
Cowley didn't answer, and Doyle lifted his head, suddenly very heavy, and stared at him in the dimness of the room. "If you've a responsibility to me, because you loved Bodie and Bodie loved me, then I have to you, don't I, because I loved Bodie, and Bodie loved you?" Silence, still. "Don't I, George?"
A longer pause. "Aye, Raymond, I suppose you do."
I Sent A Letter
Doyle was exhausted. It was the end of a hellish week. He climbed the stairs to his flat slowly, let himself in, picked up the mail (two bills, letter from Cowley, bank statement) and put it on the kitchen table. He undressed and fell into bed, too tired even to dream.
He woke with a great start six or seven hours later, unable to think about what was bothering him. The case? No, it was finished, thank god; he and Bodie had two full days off. They had neither of them had much sleep for the past five days, what with the operation breaking the day after Cowley's heart attack -
Oh Christ. Doyle got up and staggered through to the kitchen. There was a letter addressed to him in Cowley's familiar handwriting, lying on the table. Cowley had died six days ago. he had been buried yesterday. The envelope was postmarked this morning.
He read it through, put it tidily and unthinkingly back in the envelope, and sat staring blank-eyed at the kitchen wall, phrases echoing in his head. "...Bodie is on probation...", "like a loaded gun with no safety catch", "You know what is likely to happen to him if he is forced out of the Squad." And more; deadly phrases.
He couldn't show the letter to Bodie.
He couldn't show the letter to anyone.
Take care of Bodie. Jesus H. Christ, sir, he imagined telling Cowley, do you think I haven't tried?
Blasphemy, he could hear Cowley snapping back, nothing but blasphemy.
Tucking the envelope behind the clock, he picked up the phone and dialled Bodie's number. It rang several times before his partner answered, sounding cross and sleepy. "Oh, s'you. What d'you want?"
"Thought you might like to come round for a meal tonight," Doyle offered, putting exactly the right note of injury into his voice.
Bodie grunted. "Yeh. Okay."
"Come about seven, all right? Bring a bottle."
"Yeah." Bodie didn't sound exactly appreciative, but at least as if he were trying to suppress ill temper. He rang off; Doyle looked at the time. He had two hours and he really wanted to go back to sleep.
"Damn you, Cowley," he muttered; the familiarity almost made him grin.
But by the time Bodie rang the doorbell and Doyle let him in, he had cleared off the kitchen table, done most of the washing-up, and had a lasagne baking in the oven. Bodie looked better-tempered than he'd sounded. "Smells great," he announced, rubbing his hands together, "when's it going to be ready?"
"Another ten minutes. What did you bring?"
"Pissporter," Bodie said inelegantly.
German medium dry white. Doyle wrinkled his nose at Bodie, put the bottle in the fridge, and tried to remember where he'd put the glasses. In the end Bodie found them.
"What's up with you, sunshine?" he asked, sitting down at the table.
"It's been a hell of a week, that's all," Doyle shrugged, half an eye on Bodie.
Bodie grinned, leant back in his chair, hands tucked behind the back of his neck. "Yeah," he said lazily, "still, two days off, can't be all bad, right?" He looked impervious, cheerful, tired but ready for sleep with no nightmares. Doyle stood considering him for a moment; it was a Bodie he'd seen often enough before, the man of action who didn't give a damn about anything but his next meal, his next drink, and his next fuck.
It might even be real; despite having known Bodie nine years, Doyle couldn't say he knew for sure that Bodie did care very much about anything or anyone. Bodie reacted to any deep-felt emotion with a snarl; his idea of emotional help was to make the other person angry. He'd done it to Doyle, twice. Doyle was not sure he'd ever manage to forgive Bodie for provoking him into hitting his partner.
Bodie was giving him an odd look; Doyle shrugged and turned away, putting the frozen peas on, giving the salad a final shake. Cowley had cared about Bodie. Cared more than Doyle had realised, and he'd guessed the Controller had a soft spot for his partner a good many years ago.
Lasagne, peas, salad, wine, and plates on the table, Doyle helped Bodie to about half the lasagne, took a smaller portion for himself, and watched his partner make inroads on the salad and peas.
That couldn't be all. That pose couldn't be real. Doyle was feeling shaken by Cowley's death; Bodie must be feeling something. If (according to the letter) he'd known Cowley for six years before Doyle had met either of them. He must.
In deliberate provocation, like a hunter waiting for an unknown quarry, Doyle filled his glass, filled Bodie's, and lifted it in a toast. "To George Cowley."
Bodie's expression flickered, very briefly, and then the grin was back on his face again and he lifted his glass in return. "I'll drink to that. To the old sod, wherever he is."
"Best commanding officer I ever had," Doyle said quietly.
"Yeah. But then you were just a flatfoot till you met him," Bodie said smartly, and added "Hey, did you know Macklin's slated to take over?"
"That mad bastard?" Doyle hadn't heard, and it was a piece of news calculated to stop him thinking about anything else. He pursed his lips, considering it. "Well. Better than someone from outside."
They talked on about Cowley's probable and possible successors, Bodie seguing smoothly from that to generalised CI5 gossip, what there was of it that had nothing to do with Cowley's death; having strayed off subject, he stayed off it rigidly.
And then, out of the blue, as they were talking over a long-past operation, Bodie asked "Did the Cow write you a letter?"
Doyle felt his left hand, not holding his wine glass, twitch. "Why d'you think he would?"
"Oh, I got one, s'all. Thought he might have written you one."
"Yeah," Doyle said, and shrugged. "Wished me luck, hoped I'd stay on, that sort of thing."
"Yeah? That's just about what mine said, except he didn't wish me luck," Bodie grinned, and added casually "Can I see it?"
"I chucked it out," Doyle said, just as casually. "Hate keeping old mail around."
Bodie was looking at him, cold and quiet and intent. "You're lying," he said softly, and must have read a reaction in Doyle's face, because he stood up and came round the table, moving quickly, taking hold of Doyle's shoulders with fingers that bit. "You're lying, Doyle. You didn't throw the letter out. Where is it?"
"Hey," Doyle said, trying to sound equable and goodhumoured, "come on, mate. It's not that important."
Bodie's fingers closed more tightly. "Let me put it another way. Where's that letter?"
Doyle shoved his chair back, hard, striking Bodie in the stomach so that he groaned and all but doubled up, keeping his grip on Doyle enough to pull the other man back with him, and they landed on the kitchen floor in a fierce gouging fight, Doyle still hardly able to believe it and fighting on instinct. When Bodie pinned him down hard, knees holding him helpless without leverage, he kept his eyes fixed on Bodie's face, which was still impassive.
"You're lying, Doyle," Bodie hissed. "I've known you nine bloody years, I know when you're lying. You going to tell me where you put the letter or do I knock you out and search the whole fucking flat? I'll trash the place if I have to."
"Bodie - " Doyle swallowed. "Just tell me one thing. How long had you known Cowley?"
"None of your fucking business," Bodie snapped. There was a pause. "Fifteen years. On and off. More off than on. Where's the letter?" He jabbed a hard finger into Doyle's neck muscles, but not as hard as it might have been; lying there shaken and bruised, Doyle understood that in some way, Bodie didn't want to hurt him. He almost laughed, except that he didn't really have the breath to spare; bruised and aching and pinned down to his own kitchen floor, and he was certain Bodie didn't want to hurt him?
"What's so bloody funny?"
"I was just thinking," Doyle choked, "that you really don't want to hurt a hair on my head." Bodie must have shifted his weight back a little, because Doyle found space to laugh, and did, immoderately. Bodie stood up, and Doyle managed, eventually, to scramble to his feet. Bodie was still watching him with a cold fierce unamused concentration.
"Look, why don't we go through to the other room and talk," Doyle started.
He was never aware afterwards of having given himself away, but Bodie grunted, sudden understanding and acknowledgement, and turned and jerked the clock off the wall. It looked as if he meant to put it down on the table, but Doyle lunged at him, trying to grab the envelope, and the clock fell, the glass face breaking. Bodie fought him off easily, holding the letter out of Doyle's reach, pinning Doyle up against the wall at last with his shoulder as he opened the envelope, pulled out the sheet of paper and read.
There was a date five years ago written at the top right-hand corner of the sheet; the letter began without salutation.
By this time you've known Bodie at least four years, so it won't surprise you, I think, when I tell you that he is on probation for the next year. My orders; I have never been sure whether, if I'm dead, Bodie would be safer inside or out of CI5. If I have been killed, I want no vendettas. If I died a natural death, I am still concerned about Bodie's future in CI5. He can be like a loaded gun with no safety catch; and he operates primarily on personal loyalty. To me, and, I believe, to you.
That made Bodie one of the best men in CI5 - so long as I was running it, and so long as you were his partner. If he can transfer some at least of that personal loyalty to my successor (I find myself hoping, not all of it) and if you stand by him, then I hope he may continue. You know what is likely to happen to him if he is forced out of the Squad.
I've known Bodie for more than ten years. I urged him to apply for transfer to CI5 from the SAS because I thought I could control him. So far, I have succeeded. I was very apprehensive about what would happen when I was no longer there to keep him from running loose, but your friendship with him gives me hope.
Don't let him go. Take care of him. Or, by God, I'll come back from my grave and haunt you!
Cowley's neat, tight signature, and beneath it, scrawled at the foot of the page in hasty handwriting, And if you can, tell him I loved him.
Bodie crumpled the letter up and chucked it across the kitchen, letting Doyle go. he took two steps to the middle of the room and stood there as if frozen. He was trembling.
"Bodie - "
"'Tell him I loved him'," Bodie repeated, levelly, thinly. "Christ, the old bastard, the old bastard - "
"Bodie, he did care about you - "
"He could have told me five years ago! "
Cautiously, Doyle padded forward and put his hands on Bodie's shoulders. He wasn't sure he understood. "Listen, I'm sorry."
"Sure you are," Bodie said nastily. He turned round and looked at Doyle with lipcurled contempt. "You didn't even know, did you?"
"I knew Cowley cared about you. Hell, Bodie, I knew the old man meant a lot to you, he meant a lot to me."
"Fifteen fucking years," Bodie said harshly, "and the cagey old bastard waits till he's dead before he tells me he loves me. He hauls my ass out of Africa, he transfers me out of the SAS, he screws me over fifteen years and he never said one word about loving me, never even trusted me."
There didn't seem to be anything to say to that. Doyle only stood there as Bodie went out into the hall; Doyle heard him grabbing down his jacket from the pegs and putting it on. He was leaving, and Doyle knew with a sudden chilling awareness that if he let Bodie walk out now, he'd never see him again.
He went out into the hall and slung his own jacket roung his shoulders, saying casually "Where are we going?"
Bodie glared at him. "How should I know where you're going," he said at last, corrosively.
Doyle shrugged, moving towards the door. "With you."
"Cowley's orders?" Bodie snarled.
It was vitally important, literally, that he be able to give the right answer. To Doyle it seemed an infinity of time, though the car he heard turning down the street outside was still turning when he answered, "Cowley's not the only one who loves you, y'know."
It was a dull grey day in November. Grey concrete, not an inch from his nose. Bodie half on top of him, crushing more than half his breath out.
Cowley had flung himself down at the first shot, Bodie had landed on him before the second shot mingled with the echoes of the first in the concrete canyons. "Sniper," Bodie muttered in his ear, just as Cowley thought it; What the hell, Cowley thought, getting his breath, what the hell is a sniper doing here?
"Gett off me, 3.7," he said, still breathless, "I don't need your help." There was shelter in the angle of the walls; he rolled there, once Bodie's weight was off him, but Bodie didn't move, nor Doyle, who had flung himself down all sprawled and messy with the back of his head blown away, Cowley saw, and red life pooling on the grey concrete.
It was a dull grey day in November. The sky was overcast, and a few spots of rain fell; visible, not in the dull roughcut grass, but on the shiny coffin-lid. The priest was reading the office for the dead over the open grave; Catholic ritual, though the dead man had not attended Mass for years, and had died... with his sins on him.
There were three contingents of people at this burial. They were not gathered into separate groups, but they were easily perceptible. There were the relations of the deceased, technically the chief mourners, but their solemnity was formal; it had never been a close family. There were a dozen or so acquaintances and friends, wearing less formal mourning but looking more genuinely bereaved. And the last group, standing usually in twos, mostly expressionless.
The watcher who categorised the mourners at the gravesite let his gaze travel at last to the dark man standing at the foot of the grave. Of all the expressionless faces there, his had been wiped clear; his normally-pale skin was white, deathly-white, set into a rigid mask against which his eyes were black as bits of coal. Not pretty this mourning; a terrible containment.
"Ashes to askes; dust to dust," the priest intoned. Bodie reached down and took up a double hadful of mud and grit, flung it violently down on the coffin lid, and turned away, ignoring all the other people who were there.
Cowley watched him go a moment. People were behaving as they behave once the deceased is buried; muttering quietly, as if someone would be offended by ordinary speech. The others from CI5 had made plans for a drink at someone's flat afterwards; he wasn't sure whether anyone had dared invite Bodie, but he was certain that Bodie wasn't going. The friends, from the police and less reputable places, were some of them being gathered in with the CI5 contingent, some with the family - who were going back to some cousin's house nearby for tea - and a few simply leaving as they had come.
Once before, Bodie had walked away from someone he loved, dead on the concrete at the water tower's foot. Cowley had followed him then.
And this time. he had always said that he wasn't a brave man; but for all the reasons there were not to follow Bodie now, fear was the least.
Like the other solitary mourners, Cowley went down to the lych gate and out to where he'd parked his car on the side road. Most of the others had gone already. Cowley opened the door, and got in, glancing at his watch. He'd wait half an hour.
He waited the full half hour, and five dragging minutes longer, before the passenger door was yanked open and Bodie got in, leaning back against the seat with his eyes shut and pulling the door closed. Cowley said nothing, putting the car in gear and starting.
"You're all I've got left now," Bodie said after a while. Cowley did not answer, but spared a moment from the road to glance at Bodie. The other man's eyes were wide open and staring out of the window, face set and white. "And that's the way you wanted it all along."
He said nothing more, all the way back to Cowley's house. Twice Cowley considered going to Bodie's flat instead; but he drove on. He could not leave Bodie alone now, not responsibly, not even if it made Bodie hate him.
When the car stopped, Bodie did not move, until Cowley had got out, gone round to the passenger side, and opened the door. Then, stiffly, he unfolded his legs and stood up out of the car. "You want me tonight then?" he said quietly. Cowley looked up at him. There was a small, murderous smile on Bodie's face.
Having no answer, Cowley turned away, hearing the passenger door slam shut behind him, and Bodie's footsteps following. In the hall, Cowley hung his coat up, paused to let Bodie do the same, and let the way into the sitting-room. "Sit down. D'you want a dram?"
"No, I don't want a bloody drink."
Cowley sat down in one armchair; Bodie in the chair opposite, leaning back, his eyes on Cowley. "Why did you do it?" he asked at last, his voice quite quiet and reasonable. "Why did you partner us?"
"You were my best team. You and Doyle. I thought you would be."
"You had no right partnering me with anyone," Bodie said, still quiet, still reasonable. "A man's got a right to know his partner's going to jump when he gets shot at. Jump for him, not for his boss who just happens to be walking alongside."
"You're saying I shouldn't have been there," Cowley said carefully. Bodie was bitter and fragile, under the overlay of calm. It was beginning to look as if he should have called Kate Ross in, to hell with what else might have come out. "Perhaps you're right. But we none of us could guess there would be a sniper on top of that building. That wasn't your fault, nor mine, nor Doyle's."
Bodie shook his head. "Know that. Yeah. But I still jumped to get you clear. Not Doyle. Not my partner. You. So why did you partner him with me, sir, why did you give me a partner at all, when you always knew which way I'd jump?"
Cowley shook his head. "I didn't," he began, and Bodie interrupted him, savage with contempt.
"Hell you didn't, you know me back to front, you knew who came first with me - why did you have to risk Ray's life? He wasn't hit the first shot, it was the second, and I jumped the wrong way. You didn't even need me. Didn't save your life, didn't want to save his."
"Yes, you did."
I love you, Bodie had said once; and looked at him with eyes the mirror-image of now. It hadn't come as a complete surprise; Cowley had noticed, about a year after he recruited Bodie, partnered him with Doyle, that the ex-SAS sergeant showed every sign of developing a, well, a crush was all you could call it. It had amused him then; and when Bodie, hopeful and happy, had offered - had said what he had said - Cowley had found it, besides amusing, rather touching. And turned him down, politely and firmly enough that Bodie had never offered again. He had merely made it quite clear that he was available, anytime Cowley wanted. That too had been rather funny, and a nuisance, but an endearing one. Cowley had never thought of it as dangerous, till now.
"I didn't realise the way you felt for me," Cowley said very carefully, "until a year after you and Doyle were partnered. By that time it was clear that you and Doyle were my best team - the best in CI5. I couldn't afford to split a team that worked that well."
"Then you should have stayed out of our way."
That was, unfortunately, absolutely true. Cowley bit down hard, not saying it, knowing it wouldn't help. "Listen, Bodie. That sniper wasn't aiming for Doyle. The first person who walked round that corner would have been shot at. Could have been you, could have been me."
"Ray was killed," Bodie snarled, the veneer of calm all gone now. "He was killed because I tried to save you."
"He was killed because there was a lunatic on the roof with a gun," Cowley said, harshly. "How do you know he wasn't killed first shot?"
"Because he's not an old army man, like you, sir, down on your face at the first sound of gunfire, and he's not a bloody fool like his partner, standing there not knowing which way to jump and then going the wrong way."
"I repeat, 3.7, since you jumped almost as soon as the first shot, how do you know he wasn't killed then?"
"I saw him," Bodie said angrily. "I saw him, just when the gun went off, just standing there, same as me. Then I saw him go down, out of the corner of my eye, just as I was going to knock you out of the way. Only you were already down out of harm's way, and I saw my partner being killed, and I didn't even know it."
"You landed on top of me before the second shot. If you saw Doyle go down just as you did, then he must have been shot lying on the ground."
"Nah, you saw the way he landed, you saw - " Bodie choked. "You saw him. He was dead when he went down. You know the way dead men land - "
"You're saying," Cowley said, scalpel cutting, "that you killed him."
Bodie exploded out of his seat and came for Cowley. The older man's head was no longer where he expected it to be, and Cowley's fist landed in Bodie's gut. He was down and dazed and Cowley had him in a neck-lock. "You think you killed him," Cowley repeated quietly, and when Bodie started to fight him, made the lock a little tighter. "Listen, Bodie. You're wrong. You didn't kill him. A gunman killed him. A bullet in his brain killed him. Not you. Even if you'd jumped to knock him out of the way, it might have been too late. Are you listening to me, Bodie?"
The younger man could neither shake nor nod his head, so Cowley loosened his grip on his throat enough to let him speak.
"Yeh - " Bodie croaked. "Didn't kill him. We did."
Cowley's grip tightened again, and Bodie let out a half-strangled groan. Cowley let go of him - he couldn't have held that necklock much longer anyway - sat back on his heels, and said, quietly and levelly, "Doyle was ahead of you. Just far enough that he's who the sniper saw first. That if you'd tried to knock him out of the way, you'd probably have both of you fallen into range. Doyle was just ahead of both of us, Bodie, and that was coincidence, it wasn't anyone's fault, it could have been you or me."
Bodie rubbed at his throat. "But we killed him," he said reasonably. "You and me. I let him think he had a partner. You had no business partnering me with anyone."
"I had no business getting in your way. But partnering you with him was my job, 3.7."
"Feel proud of yourself, do you?"
"Not over this, no. I liked Doyle. He was a good man."
Bodie leant forward; Cowley did not flinch back, not even when Bodie snarled, right into his face, "Liked him, did you?"
Cowley's leg was aching fiercely. "He was a good man. Give me a hand up, 3.7."
Bodie scrambled to his feet. Cowley glanced up at him, and saw the small murderous grin. He had been afraid of many things, in a long life, but never of Bodie. Not even now; he was petrified of what damnfool thing Bodie might do, but he could not bring himself to be afraid of Bodie. He should; it might keep him alive.
Bodie had drawn his gun. The mouth was cool against the side of Cowley's face. Despite excellent peripheral vision, Cowley could not quite see Bodie's hand, but from the slight movements of the metal against his skin, he deduced that it was shaking.
"I could shoot you dead," he said quietly. "You know that?"
"Yes," Cowley grunted. It would be a damn stupid thing to do, but Bodie was just on edge enough to do it.
"You liked Doyle. The way you like me?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Did you watch him, the way you watch me, when you think I'm not looking? Did you fancy him?"
"Liar." The gun moved sharply, warningly, against his skull. "Wouldn't take me when I offered, sir; why not?"
"It wouldn't be appropriate." Cowley swallowed. "A commanding officer shouldn't get involved with his men."
"Shouldn't get involved? Back three years ago, sir, you went chasing round London interviewing everyone you could lay your hands on - my sensei, my partner, even my girlfriend - the one person you never asked why I was falling down in training, sir, was me. Why's that? Didn't want to get involved? Solve my problems long-distance? You could have done that with a rifle, the time we risked our necks on another of your crafty schemes. Listen, I've seen the way you look when I touch Doyle - when I touched Doyle - did you think we were lovers? Did you think he was getting what you wouldn't admit you wanted? Did you?"
"I would have expected either of you to report it - " He was interrupted by the mouth of the gun, shoving hard against his head.
"Think I'm made of ice, do you? No, I was not about to climb into bed with Doyle. You want to know why? Because I was in love with you, and see you wondering if I was screwing him every bloody chance we got, I wasn't going to do that to you, it was bad enough walking in there and telling you about every trick I screwed - " Bodie's breath was coming hard and short. His gun-hand was definitely shaking now. Cowley sweated.
"I loved you," Bodie repeated, as if it were the most unfair thing in the world, and the gun slid away from Cowley's head, and Cowley's hand whipped up to grab Bodie's wrist, hold the gun safely away from either of them. He used Bodie's arm as leverage to get himself to his feet, despite the other man yanking at his grip.
"Give me the gun, man, and let me sit down - " Cowley snapped, making himself sound exasperated, instead of half in shock.
Bodie let go of it. Cowley sat down, feeling several centuries older. "I did like Doyle," he said cautiously, feeling his way. "I wasn't jealous of you two. I'm deeply sorry that I got in your way."
Bodie said nothing, looking down at him with a mask wrenched askew by grief. Cowley sighed. "Would you have killed me, Bodie?"
The younger man sat down abruptly in the chair behind him, and put his head down in his arms. His breathing was still shaky; it took a moment before Cowley realised that Bodie was crying. He did not know what to do; to touch him, put a hand on his shoulder, was what he would have done with any other agent, in any other circumstances. He did not want to lend fuel to Bodie's fantasies.
With a creeping feeling of bewilderment, he understood. That Bodie was crying not because Doyle was dead, but because despite it all, he was still glad that Cowley was alive.
-- THE END --