Night Must Fall
"And it's really sad, because Yoda dies, Daddy. Are you sure you haven't seen it?"
The boy swung on the arm of the chair, gazing innocently at the sheaves of paper on the desk, where his father was working. Slim, dark, grey-eyed...
"I've read the book," his father replied quietly, and he smiled a little sadly, as he stared through the window at the summer day beyond. "I remember what happened..." His voice trailed away, and he saw again -- another sunny afternoon, so long ago...
Bodie was sitting against the wall, loading yet another clip, his eyes darting around the building, alert for attack. Doyle had one leg drawn up to his chest, clutching at it in pain, desperately trying not to cry out. The other was stretched before him, and there was a large red stain spreading from the once-white strip of cotton tied above his knee.
Bodie glanced across at him, grey eyes full of concern. "Let me take a look, Ray."
"I'll be all right," snapped Doyle. "How are we for ammo?" Bodie wouldn't lie.
"Got three clips left--not enough to hold 'em. I'll make every shot count."
"What's this 'I'll'?" Doyle demanded. "We're a team, remember?"
"You can't even sit up straight, let alone shoot, Ray!"
"Can still out-gun you," Doyle remarked tersely. "My leg's shot, not my arm."
There was a gleam of admiration in Bodie's dark eyes. Trust Doyle...
"Masochist," he teased. Then, "Hope the others got the message."
"Yeah," breathed Doyle, wincing as another wave of pain burned through his knee, and he cursed the situation they found themselves in.
A simple pick-up, the informant said; Rod Barker, wanted in connection with a series of armed robberies, would be at the Sussex farmhouse. What their source HADN'T said was that he would be meeting the rest of his gang there... In two minutes, the hunters had become the quarry...
Bodie had yelled at Doyle to get clear, and the silver Capri had rocketed down the lane, only to be blocked by Barker's right-hand man, Taylor, who wielded a shotgun from the back of a tractor. The C15 vehicle had broken through the nearest gateway, and bounced its way to the only available cover, a wooden outhouse when Taylor had blown out the rear tyres...
Doyle had been in the middle of shouting for assistance over the radio when the car slewed out of control and ended up in the ditch behind the barn. Bodie had shoved him clear, and fired ineffectively at Taylor and two others, who were racing in their direction. Taylor returned fire, Bodie rolled. Two more shots rang out in quick succession... The second, from one of Barker's men, had taken Doyle in the leg, just above the right knee. Bodie felled the guy with a bullet between the eyes, had caught hold of Doyle's denim jacket and literally dragged his partner to safely, firing all the time, hitting no-one.
That was late afternoon.
Now the rays of the sun were turning mellow, casting everything in molten gold--dust dancing in the warm air within the building, the wreck of the Capri, Ray Doyle's agonised features.. .golden-brown like honey, and the sweet taste of summer in the evening breeze...
Doyle had knotted a strip of cotton around the wound. Blood was still seeping through the makeshift dressing. Bodie kept watch, and loaded Doyle's gun, glancing at his partner frequently.
"How many d'you make?"
"Five--seven maybe," Bodie replied.
"Oh, that's okay," breathed Doyle. "For a minute there, I thought we had a problem."
"We do. No wheels." Bodie indicated the car. "How's the leg now?"
"Still oozing, but I don't think it's broken."
"Keep watch, and I'll take a look for you."
He crossed to where Doyle sat, handed over both weapons, before crouching to inspect the injury.
"You're right. This handkerchief's not going to hold," Bodie said, as he stripped his jacket. He drew the pen-knife from his pocket and deftly cut a length of material from his own shirt. "Here."
"Bodie," Doyle protested.
"So owe it to me, sunshine. I'll claim it on expenses." "And the car?" Doyle winced as Bodie began to wrap his wound. Bodie grinned. "We can try."
Doyle stiffened as his partner fastened the surrogate bandage, then caught his friend's shoulder. "Doesn't it worry you?"
"What?" asked Bodie.
"We may be about to die."
Bodie shrugged. "Like this all the time in Angola." He sat down beside Doyle and took back his hand-gun, caressing the smooth barrel.
"You'd end up, holed up, maybe hours--sometimes days. No back-up. Snipers'd pick us off, one by one. I'd pray then--there's no atheists in a foxhole--and I'd promise that if I survived this time, I'd change my ways, renounce firearms, war--usual stuff. And I'd survive, thank whatever had heard me, and go out and kill again."
"D'you regret it?"
Bodie thought for a moment.
"Right up until I joined Cowley, I regretted a lot of it." He turned to Doyle, meeting his anxious blue eyes. "Now, I wouldn't change a thing." He stopped, afraid that he'd said too much.
Doyle looked away, gazing through the windows at the opposite end of the outhouse. Clear blue sky, crisp white clouds etched there... A promise of more days like this to come...
"Beautiful day," Bodie said quietly.
"Hmmm." Doyle looked past the window, remembering words... He spoke them softly. "'Twilight is upon me...
"'...and soon night must fall."'
Doyle turned back to his partner, staring, surprised.
Bodie smiled. "I saw that movie, too. 's a good film." His expression was serious as Doyle caught his breath. "Ray?"
"Do you know--my biggest regret?" asked Doyle unsteadily. "I never told you how much you mean to me." He laughed nervously. "God, that sounds awful, but--you know what I mean."
The corners of Bodie's mouth lifted a little. "Yeah, I know what you mean." He paused. "Since we're being honest, I never told you how I feel."
"You -- us," Bodie amended hastily.
"Oh?" Doyle raised a quizzical eyebrow, scanning his partner's face.
"I'll admit it, then. I care about you. Never thought I could, but I do.
Now," he teased, "who sounds like Barbara Cartland?" And Bodie bowed his head, fiddling with his gun.
Doyle sighed heavily. "I'm glad... 's good to know--" even if it was too late... "Bodie, would you do something for me?"
"Depends." Bodie's voice was almost sullen. "What?"
"Put your arm round me--"
Bodie looked up then, startlement in his grey eyes.
"I'm scared, Bodie."
Bodie wriggled closer and slid his arm around the bony shoulders. "So am I, sunshine," he murmured.
Doyle's arm came around his waist, and in a moment they were hugging each other, silently, drawing strength from one another.
"As we're being honest," Bodie said at length, "I have to say, I've wanted to do that for a long time."
"So've I," Doyle admitted, "and more."
Bodie leaned against him, cupping Doyle's chin with his free hand and planted a brief, chaste kiss on Doyle's lips.
Doyle smiled. "Again, Bodie."
And when he obeyed, Doyle caught the back of his dark head in a firm grip and held him, as he took the kiss, gave it back and plundered Bodie's mouth with his tongue.
"This is crazy," breathed Bodie. "'s gonna sound terrible."
"Say it anyway," urged Doyle, with a mischievous grin.
"All right--I want you--I love you, Ray." Bodie shook his head in disbelief. "When we get out of here, we're going to have a long talk, about us, and then I'm going to make love to you."
"And I'll let you. Then I'll do the same to you, and we'll give Cowley a heart attack, when he finds out," Doyle continued.
"Your place or mine?"
Doyle's reply was lost in the dull WHUMPING sound as a crude petrol bomb landed on the straw-strewn floor by the window. It was followed by several more, tossed at the sides of the building. Soon the whole of one wall was ablaze.
"No hope for it, we'll HAVE to shoot our way out," coughed Doyle, as he dragged himself painfully across the ground. "You run, I'll cover."
"Like hell I will! This place is a tinder-box. You stay, and you'll fry. Could you get to the ditch, if I cover you?"
"I'm not leaving without you!"
One of the beams came down, showering them with sparks, singeing as it fell.
"Together. Come on, sunshine."
Bodie hoisted Doyle to his feet, checked the crude bandage, and slid his arm around his partner's waist.
"Will it bear weight? It's a short sprint, love." "Yeah," gasped Doyle, uncertain as to whether he'd make it. Bodie kicked open the door. "GO!"
Doyle stumbled into the darkening smoky evening, weapon in hand, and suddenly the air came alive with gun-fire. He was staggering towards the ditch, and the wrecked Capri, scarcely pausing to return fire... Behind him, Bodie was shooting rapidly, picking off their attackers with desperate accuracy... He saw Doyle struggling and began racing towards his partner as a bullet caught Doyle's shoulder, twisting him, throwing him to the ground... Bodie dived to cover the prone body, firing at their would-be killers, determined to make a stand for himself and his beloved partner...
When he came round, it was to wake in a hospital ward, and be met by a grim-faced Cowley.
"Sir," he whispered, "where's--"
"He's in post-op at the moment." The voice was cold and hard, which didn't bode well.
"How is he?"
Cowley wouldn't meet his eyes for a moment, which set even more alarm hells jangling inside.
"Not good. He was hit several times. Shoulder, back, leg..." Cowley's voice trailed off.
"Can I see him?"
Cowley frowned. "No, laddie. Even I was turned out. He regained consciousness for a few moments, that's all."
"Did--did he say anything?" he swallowed painfully.
"He asked after you... said he had a message for you. He told me to say he meant every word of what he'd said..
"I know," and he smiled, closing his eyes to stop the burning tears. "He also said you'd understand--'twilight is upon me'--WHAT are you doing?" But he was moving to get out of bed, knowing that his worst nightmare was coming true.
"I've got to see him. I've got to..." and he lurched against Cowley's restraining arms.
He was dimly aware of the doctor catching his other arm and pulling him back into bed.
The doctor was talking. "I'm afraid..."
He didn't need to hear any more. The simple message had been enough--the doctor's presence merely confirmed it: his partner, his would-be-lover, was dead...
"Right at the end, they have a party, and Ben, and Darth Vadar, and Yoda are all there. But they died." The little boy looked to his father for wisdom. "I didn't understand that bit, Daddy."
"No, son," he replied, and smiled sadly. "Neither did I."
"Andy! Ray! Tea-time!" The woman's voice carried up to them.
"Good! Come on, Daddy," cheered the child, as he dashed headlong down the stairs. His father followed slowly, still favouring his injured leg, even after so long. The rich scent of pot-roast filled the air, but he had no appetite.
June watched, noticing the signs, and sighed inwardly. Her eldest child stormed into the kitchen and barged carelessly into his younger brother, who was washing his hands ready for tea.
"Watch it, Danny, or I'll splash you," growled the younger boy.
"You and whose army, Squirt?"
"Don't need an army to take you on, Daniel James Cook, can do it all by myself," and he threatened with his fists.
"Big shot, huh, Andrew Philip Doyle?"
"Cut it out, kids, or I'll slap both of you," Doyle ordered tersely.
"Sorry, Dad," said Danny unrepentantly, and he pushed the smaller boy ahead of him into the living room, to settle their dispute.
June came to his side, and closed her arms about his waist. "Oh, Ray," she murmured, hugging him.
Doyle responded half-heartedly, before pushing her gently aside.
"I've got to go out. I shan't be long." He kissed the pale forehead under the dark fringe. Grey-green eyes, filled with pity and sorrow, watching him leave...
It had been weeks before Doyle was released, and then he had been invalided out of C15. Even if his knee had been perfect, Doyle's spirit was shattered--dead and buried along with Bodie.
He hadn't gone to the funeral--was still bed-bound in the hospital, so even the last act of respect, of love, had been denied him.
Cowley had visited him often, and Doyle was never short of visitors. It seemed that everyone on the squad had known how Bodie and Doyle had felt for each other--except them.
Kate Ross had counselled him, Cowley and the other agents had supported him, but without the unique presence of Bodie in his life, Doyle was adrift, anchorless, lost... Almost three months after Bodie's death, he chanced to meet June Cook at the supermarket. They stopped to chat, speaking of the past: June of her husband, Brian, one of the two C15 agents killed one Sunday morning on a routine operation; of her apology, for treating Doyle so badly when he brought her the news.
For his part, Doyle asked about the children, Danny and Natasha, and spoke hesitantly of his own injuries--and of Bodie. Two months later, they were married, and Doyle had found a job in a security of company. It was all the stability he could have asked for...but there was no Bodie.
Doyle stopped the car at the gate, got out and locked it. Old habits died hard. Carefully, he pushed open the wooden wicket, and limped down the path.
The sun was sinking rapidly, setting fire to church window and polished stone alike, and the sky was pure and golden.
He halted where the paths crossed, and moved onto the grass, a short cut to the stream which bisected the cemetery. He came to a stand-still at the foot of the grave. HIS grave. Bodie's grave. With difficulty, Doyle knelt there, bowing his head. And because there was no-one else to see, or hear, he wept; for his friend, and for the love they had shared and not recognised. Time had no meaning for Bodie now... for either of them...
When Doyle raised his head, it was to see the last of the day-glow fading at the onset of night. Before him, and overhead, the first tiny glitter of stars. With a heart-felt sigh, he leaned forward, using the headstone for support, the way he'd once used Bodie...
It was too dark now, to see the legend on the stone, but from long practice, he traced it idly--delicately, as he would his lover's lips.
The name was scribed in full--William Andrew Philip Bodie--and the dates he had graced the earth with his existence. Beneath, the usual citation--gave his life in the service of his country--and finally, with a sad smile, Doyle traced the last part of the inscription...
Cowley had looked at him strangely, when he'd made the request, but he hadn't asked why.
Doyle turned his tear-stained face again to the west, and the stars, and the gathering darkness--truly, twilight WAS upon him--and touching the words again, he knew their terrible truth... 'NIGHT MUST FALL'.
-- THE END --