A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing
by Lezlie Conch
Dedicated to Annette and Sharon
Ray Doyle jammed the knife into the lock on the desk drawer. When careful finagling failed, he resorted to brute force. The wood splintered under the assault, but the lock finally broke. Doyle jerked the drawer open, belatedly noticing the mess he'd made of Bodie's desk. The overwhelming guilt this engendered was deeply felt, but the second passed.
The contents of the drawer were overturned on the desktop, and Doyle began sifting through the contents. It was a brutal, swift process. Routine bills and adverts quickly went into the no-interest pile, though rarely in their original condition and never in their original envelope. The personal letters and other communications that caught his eye joined the pile of papers and personal effects collected from the rest of the flat.
After every scrap of paper had been examined, Doyle deserted the desk, taking only what interested him. He left the desk drawer on the floor and papers strewn over the desktop. Doyle settled himself on the settee and prepared to sort through the evidence. Slow and careful, he told himself, and no snap decisions, since no appeals were possible.
It took 15 minutes.
Bodie unlocked his flat and walked into utter chaos. The place had obviously been done by professionals. Books were pulled from the shelves, furniture was disarranged and what was in his desk was now on it. He was reaching for the telephone, bending for it technically since it was on the floor beside the overturned table, when his partner sauntered out of the kitchen.
"Christ, Doyle, when did this happen? And why wasn't I told?"
Doyle took a swig of beer and looked around the room, as if noticing for the first time its condition. "I had to be thorough."
"You did this?" The all-too-familiar tingling began in his hands. This happened every time he wanted to strangle Doyle. "Well, you can clear up this mess."
"You have some explaining to do." Doyle set his beer down and crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Bodie addressed the heavens, much in the manner Noah must have. "What did I do to deserve this?" There was no answer. Instead, Bodie righted his favorite chair and flopped into it. "Get me a beer, then we'll start at the beginning."
Doyle tilted his bottle, draining the last few drops. "You're out of beer." He sat on the settee and propped his muddy feet on the table.
Bodie gripped the arms of the chair until the tingling passed. "I should kill you for that."
"But you won't." The total confidence in Doyle's voice and manner irritated Bodie.
"Don't be so sure." Bodie used his best threatening voice, even throwing in a darkly dangerous glare.
Doyle laughed. "Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting your reputation. You like people to think Genghis Khan was a direct descendant, don't you. The man without a heart."
"Sounds like you need a reminder."
"You're a fake," Doyle sneered. "I know exactly what you are." A pile of envelopes were thrown on the table. "You're sensitive!"
"Sensitive! Who are you calling sen. . . " Bodie's voice trailed off when he saw the return address of the top envelope. Greenpeace. "I donated a few quid as a legopener for Melissa." A filthy chuckle followed. "It worked a treat."
Doyle silently handed him another envelope.
"So I send a few quid every month to a starving kid -- "
"Six kids," Doyle corrected as he carefully placed pictures of six grateful, smiling children on the table.
Bodie took a deep breath. "I thought I was paying child support. I've screwed my way around the world, mate."
Doyle picked up the rest of the envelopes and read off the names, tossing each one towards Bodie when he finished. "Committee for a Nuclear Free Future, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Wildlife Preservation Fund, Women's Equality League." The recitation halted. "Do I need to continue?"
Bodie hung his head. Doyle had him dead to rights.
"When did this start? I mean, you were a mercenary in Angola, for Christ's sake!"
"Not exactly," Bodie muttered bleakly.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Bodie shifted uncomfortably. "I was in Africa, but I wasn't a mercenary."
"What?" There was a dangerous look in Doyle's eye.
"I was a . . . missionary." It was barely audible.
Bodie clenched his jaw. "A MISSIONARY."
Doyle's eyes bugged as his jaw hit his chest. Finally a nervous chuckle broke the shocked silence. "That's a good one, mate. You really had me goin'."
"It was no joke." It was time to come clean. Besides, he was tired of pretending, especially to Doyle.
It was strange, but he felt relieved. The pretending was over. No longer would he have to utter crude, sexist remarks; pretend indifference to the suffering of his fellow men, or react stonily after slaughtering criminals whose only real crime was coming from a bad socio-economic background -- at least in front of Doyle. To the rest of the world he had to remain Bodie the Merciless, but with Doyle, he could be himself.
"I went to get away from my father. He was third generation army and was determined that I was going to be the fourth. But I didn't want any of it. I wanted to be a hairdresser." A groan of misery told him Doyle was listening. "He wouldn't sign the papers to let me take the apprenticeship, so I ran away -- "
"To join the missionaries?" There was more than an edge of disbelief in Doyle's voice. "I've never seen you go to church."
"Do all that is in thine heart. First Samuel 14.7."
Doyle looked stricken.
Despite his misery Bodie had to chuckle. "Don't worry, I'm not going to convert you. We helped out at a medical station mostly, but I handed out my share of Bibles."
"KRIVAS!" Doyle threw the name out as a challenge. "I suppose he was a missionary, too?"
Doyle shook his head. "Now I know you're lying." Triumph lit his eyes. "There's no way that man was ever a missionary."
"Krivas was with one of the American groups," Bodie explained patiently. "And a thoroughly bad lot they were. One of those American TV preachers supported them. They had tons of money, but spent it on themselves. Krivas fronted his first drug deal with some of their money."
"But he hated your guts!"
"It was . . . The Game." Bodie's eyes became haunted.
"BINGO?" Doyle slapped his forehead. "You played BINGO in the jungle?"
Bodie sighed. "Yeah, we needed to raise money. Some people, like Krivas, took it very seriously."
"Krivas hates you because of a BINGO game?" The disbelief was gone, replaced by numb acceptance.
"Yeah, it was a bad situation all around." There was a faraway quality in Bodie's voice, as if he was reliving the events. "I was the caller that night. Doctor Martin got called away. I tried to get his attention before he went out the door, you see he didn't say who he wanted to play his card." Bodie could see the poised, expectant faces waiting for the next number, smell the mix of medicine and jungle rot, taste the tepid fruit punch, and feel the little round numbered ball in his fingers. "It all happened so fast. I called out to him, `Before you go'. Suddenly Krivas was shouting BINGO. He thought I was calling B-4, but really -- "
"You were saying before. Yeah, I get it." Doyle was looking at him as if he were crazy.
"He got upset," Bodie said defensively. "Krivas was the worst Bingo player in Africa. He never won."
"You fought over that?"
Bodie shrugged. "Tempers were short. Besides, we were both after the same nurse."
Doyle suddenly sobered. "Is she the one you loved?"
"Yeah." Bodie was relieved when Doyle didn't pursue the subject. Krivas hadn't exactly shot her in the face. He hadn't shot her at all. But he did lure her off to the City for a dirty weekend.
"This still doesn't make any sense. How did you get from the missionaries to the paras?"
Bodie chuckled. "Chance. When I got tired of the heat and the diseases, I came home, only to find that my father was ill. I told him I'd been in Africa, but I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd been a missionary, so I stretched the truth a little."
Bodie ignored the comment. "Somehow he got the impression I'd been a mercenary." He looked hard at Doyle, hoping to make him understand. "He was an old man, Ray, and it was the first time he'd ever been proud of me."
"The paras?" Doyle prompted.
"Dad called up some old friends, some strings were pulled, and I found myself in the military." Bodie shrugged. "One thing led to another. Everyone knew I was supposed to have been a mercenary, so I had to live up to the part. Luckily I was a fast learner."
Doyle abruptly got to his feet. Bodie followed suit, determined not to let Doyle leave until they settled this. Bodie counted on the height advantage he had over Doyle to help him make his point. That extra eighth of an inch came in handy. But Doyle was wearing his boots, the ones with the 3 inch heels. This time Doyle towered over him.
"Is this the end of our partnership, Ray?" Bodie stood his ground and glared defiantly up at Doyle. He could practically see the wheels spinning in Doyle's devious mind.
"I should dump you. What if somebody else found out? Then where would I be?"
"How could you be so cold, especially after all we've meant to each other?"
Doyle looked at him blankly.
"How close we've been," Bodie hinted, finally wagging his eyebrow. Still no response. "Christ, Ray, we've been lovers."
"We have?" Unfeigned surprise lit the green eyes.
Bodie hoped the hurt didn't show on his face. "I know we never talk about it after it happens, but I though it was because of your masculine self-image problem, not because you didn't bloody well remember!" Bodie sighed. "Three years ago, after the Christmas party?"
"Christ, that was you? I was pretty wasted." At least Doyle had the decency to sound apologetic.
"Then three months later, we were on that stakeout . . . "
"Oh, yeah. I was so hot for it I would've humped Macklin's dog."
The knife twisted deeper in Bodie's breast. Resolutely he pressed on. "How about that time I moved in and took care of you when you got out of hospital?"
Doyle looked confused. "Those were pretty powerful drugs, Bodie. It's all pretty hazy."
"Last week," Bodie ground out, deciding not to bother with the dozen or so times over the last two years. His battered ego couldn't take it.
"Now I remember. It was after the match . . . no, that was Monica. You were after the cinema!" Doyle sounded pleased with himself.
Bodie turned away a defeated man. Pain had always been a part of their strange relationship, but he used to console himself with the idea that his own macho posing was keeping them apart, and that once he revealed his true self, Doyle would feel freer to express himself, and that someday the words love and caring could become part of their lives. His hopes were ashes at his feet.
A hand tugged at his sleeve. "Hey," Doyle's voice was softer. "It wasn't that bad. I know you didn't last very long, but we both got off."
Bodie allowed himself to be pulled around. He looked up into Doyle's eyes. There had to be more than indifference behind that green fire.
"I'm beginning to remember a weekend in . . . "
"Derby," Bodie supplied helpfully.
"Right. We were . . . " Doyle trailed off, as if the thought was just out of reach.
"Eyeballing Max Peterson." Hope rose, a phoenix from the ashes.
"We were driving the Cortina."
"Oh, yeah. We stayed at the . . . "
"Bent Man," Bodie supplied helpfully.
"It was right on the tip of my tongue. Max was a good boy all weekend, giving us lots of free time to kill." Doyle looked pleased with himself.
"He had a heart attack on Friday, but we didn't tell the Cow until Sunday." Bodie impulsively wrapped his arms around Doyle. "You remember!"
Doyle impatiently shrugged off the embrace. "Yeah, yeah, let's not get mushy about this." He looked at Bodie warily. "All this talk about missionaries doesn't change the fact that you're sensitive."
"Why does it matter, I'm still the same person." Pride, when it came to Doyle, was too expensive a commodity. He'd done without it for years.
"You see, Bodie, it just won't work." Doyle looked down at him apologetically. "There can only be one sensitive person in this partnership and I'm it."
"I don't understand."
Doyle sighed impatiently. "Listen, if you're standing around being sensitive after a shoot-out, who's going to notice me doing this?" Doyle stepped back. All expression momentarily disappeared from his face. Then, his eyes filled with a shimmer of tears, and he tilted his head, catching the available sunlight at exactly the right angle. The piece de resistance was the way he blinked back the tears as he turned away, as if he didn't want anyone to see.
When Doyle turned back, the expression was gone, but not the lump in Bodie's throat. That vulnerable look got him every time.
"Imagine how confusing things will be if you start getting morally indignant in Cowley's office? You'll ruin my tantrums." Doyle looked pensive. "Maybe the Cow will let me work with McCabe. He's got just the right touch of primitiveness."
"But, Ray -- " Bodie's world was crumbling.
"Sorry, Bodie. You were the best. I mean, nobody did insensitive lout better than you." Doyle chuckled fondly. "I'll never forget your line in Cowley's office 'other than that the honeymoon was fine.' That was classic."
Bodie grabbed Doyle's arms and shook him. "But, Ray, nobody will ever find out I'm sensitive! I swear it! You've got to give me another chance."
A blow to the solar plexus doubled him over.
"You've lost it. Just listen to yourself." Doyle stepped over him. "See you around."
Almost retching from the pain, he caught hold of Doyle's boot and hung on. "I'll do better next time. Give me one more chance."
Doyle's slow, but steady progress toward the door finally stopped. Ignoring the painful friction burns, Bodie managed to get to his feet.
"Okay, let's hear it." Doyle tapped his foot. "I'm just too good to you."
Bodie took a minute to compose himself. His future with Doyle depended on this performance. His concentration was fierce. Rude, insensitive thoughts filled him. Soon, he began to feel bigger and bulkier, until he physically matched his mental image. By the time he was ready, his knuckles were dragging on the ground.
His eyes were full of fire when they snapped open. He grabbed Doyle's shirt front, roughly hauling him forward.
"Listen, you little prick." He tossed him across the room. "This partnership isn't finished until I say so, do you understand?" He looked down at Doyle's sprawled figure. "Now you get this place cleaned up, then get your arse out of here."
Doyle shakily got to his feet. "That wasn't bad, but y -- "
A right cross interrupted him. He was out cold.
Bodie rushed over to his fallen lover. Gently, he picked him up and carried him to the settee where he guiltily wiped away the trickle of blood from the split lip.
Hitting Doyle was the hardest thing he'd ever done, but he had come perilously close to cracking toward the end. Maybe this senseless act of violence had preserved the partnership.
Doyle would probably be out for a good half hour. The little bugger never could take a punch, Bodie thought fondly.
He sat down beside him and waited.
The gloom of the flat fitted his mood. He had Doyle, but only a small piece of him. He used to think he was slowly breaking through the walls Doyle so carefully maintained, but obviously he had been deluding himself.
A slow tear leaked from his left eye. He winced as the salty liquid made contact with the friction burn. Why did he put himself through this? His only recompense was a few hurried encounters that meant everything to him and nothing to Doyle.
But he would fight to keep what little bit Doyle allowed him. After all, he was a victim of love.
Blue-eyed and charming,
Aloof from the common herd.
Till involvement strikes.
-- THE END --
[Story also contains a picture by TACS '88 titled "Bodie the Good" of Bodie in suit and polo neck, hands clasped and a halo above him, glowing, whilst Doyle stares at him with a belligerent expression]