by Kitty Fisher
"Oh, hello!" The welcome was barbed with sarcasm as Anson turned in surprise to greet the visitor. "I didn't think that we'd be seeing you around here again."
"Why not? I'm not barred from setting foot on government property you know."
"Aren't you?" Anson's voice grew even lazier; the mouse who was now a cat and thoroughly enjoying the role reversal. "I'm not so sure about that; perhaps I ought to speak with your parole officer, just to be on the safe side."
Green eyes darkened, blankly acknowledging the hit. "It's amazing," Doyle's rough voice was layered with honey, "I'm away for a couple of years and I come back to find that absolutely nothing has changed -- not even your brain-cell count."
They were alone, the rest-room empty but for a lounging Anson and the slight figure taking up the doorway. Anson smiled widely. "Yeah, it's difficult to improve on perfection. What are you here for? Come to give us a few tips from your mates inside?" The smile became a wide, humourless grin. "Or are you after your old job back. Now that would be a laugh; I don't think even the Cow's desperate enough for that."
Anson's sense of humour certainly hadn't improved with age and, remembering why he was here, Doyle bit down on the hasty comments that niggled on his tongue. There were clearly no answers to be found in this room. He sniffed, muttering: "Anson, you crack me up," as conceding the field, he exited the room.
Anson's laughter following him through into the corridor, Doyle slammed the door behind him and leant on it. He was breathing hard and could feel that his hands were shaking. The loss of control was only slight; he'd learned the hard way how to curb his temper. After all, that particular lesson had cost two years of his life.
Levering unsteadily away from the door, he walked to the end of the corridor and paused; the layout had altered and ridiculously, in a building in which he had worked for three years, he was lost. It had changed too much, the few offices left to CI5 hidden in a wasteland of corridors and dust.
Cursing, he turned left; he couldn't risk waiting around for Anson to stop laughing and start thinking about getting his old adversary chucked out. Not that there had ever been any love lost between them; Doyle had enjoyed Anson-baiting too much for that, impatient with both the other man's slower wits and his cigars.
God, Bodie had hated those cigars.
The pain lanced through him and he closed his mind on the thought, taking a deep breath, telling himself: Take this slowly; one step at a time, you cretin, this is only the beginning.
There were worse dragons than Anson to be faced.
Jamming his hands into the pockets of his shabby cotton jacket he turned another corner and suddenly came upon a door marked with the faded inscription -- GEORGE COWLEY. Unconsciously his spine notched straighter as he walked the few paces to the half-glass door and there, with only briefest of hesitations, turned the handle.
The outer office was painted an aptly dour shade of institutional green. But the autumn sun brightened the small room, shafting across the dusty air to make him frown at the figure behind the desk. He winced at the sharply indrawn breath.
"Hello Betty, how's things?" Doyle closed the door gently and smiled with a degree of honesty at her. She had at least tried to visit; not that he'd allowed himself the luxury of seeing her. "You look great."
"Ray! I'm fine...how...when..."
He almost smiled at the loss of her usual poise. "It's all right; I'm out. I thought the Governor would have sent Cowley a personal message of condolence by now."
"Not that I know of." She stood up and walked around her desk. "I'm so glad." And to his surprise she wrapped her arms around him in a hug.
"Hey, don't..." His hands hovered two inches away from her Cashmere clad back and he swallowed hard.
"Idiot." Betty stood back, holding him still under her scrutiny. After a long moment she blinked and retreated swiftly to the safety of her desk. Composed, intelligent, defying him to comment on the over-brightness of her eyes, she asked: "Well, when did they let you go?"
"Yesterday." He came and half sat on the corner of her desk, picking up a stray pen off the neat order of her papers, avoiding her eyes. "Where've they moved Bodie to?" The tension was quite clear in his voice.
"It's all right. I'm not going to make a nuisance of myself." Doyle looked up and for a second she saw the cost of time written across his erratic features. He smiled lopsidedly and went on very softly. "I just need to know that he's O.K."
"Didn't he visit?" She cut herself short at the laugh that contained not a hint of humour.
"No love, he didn't."
She tried with difficulty to hide her compassion. Three years commuted to two. Intensely private at the best of times, he'd been walled up behind barbed wire since...the incident. Perhaps it was just as well.
"Do you want to see Cowley?"
"'spose I might as well, as I'm here." And all at once, he was the old Ray Doyle.
Her stomach lurched. It shouldn't have happened, none of it should have happened. She buzzed him through, saddened, but not surprised, when the Controller showed no reaction at all.
"Have you received the balance of your pay?"
"Yes, where's Bodie?"
"What about your belongings?"
Doyle gestured emptily; tension making the movement awkward. "Yeah, I've got everything including a parole officer. Look I only want one thing; Bodie's address."
Cowley leant back and stared at his erstwhile agent. There was nothing in his face to express anything other than distaste at the unwanted presence. "You should leave, your affairs are quite in order."
The echoing words burned. "Oh that's rich, Cowley, that is. But you see I've given up taking your advice, so don't talk about my affairs." He leant on the desk, white faced and seething. "And as for order, I think you should sort out your own devious mind before you can even begin to question mine." Doyle blinked hard and stood back, trying for a semblance of calm. "I'll ask politely, one last time -- George -- because I think I have a right to know: What is Bodie's address?"
In silence Cowley stared at Doyle, then reaching across to uncap a pen he wrote on a notepad, the nib scratching slowly across the paper. Still silent he tore the page free and held it between the outstretched fingers of his right hand. "He won't thank you."
"If you think I want his thanks you must be more warped than I thought and that would be bloody difficult." And reaching across to snatch the piece of paper, Doyle was gone before the controller could summon a reply, the sound of two slammed doors echoing loudly in the silence.
By the time the taxi stopped outside of the address Cowley had so reluctantly parted with, the uncertain March weather had decided that it was going to sleet. Paying off the grumbling driver, Doyle turned up his collar and made a run for it across the pavement and up the wide set of stairs that led to a dark blue door.
Well that wasn't exactly true, as there were eight bells clustered on a metal panel so Bodie's own door was further inside, though this was close enough. Doyle leant his shoulder against the rough London bricks and tried to steady himself. Just because someone might answer the doorbell's summons didn't mean that he shouldn't ring it. After all, he was here to talk to Bodie. Or at least try to.
Somehow the wind was managing to drive the sleet under the canopy that arched over the door. Doyle shivered, absently wondering what had happened to most of his clothes -- like his belongings, only a few of them had been returned. He could do with his sheepskin. Nice and warm that had been. Though when he remembered who that particular garment had been a present from, he closed his mind like a trap.
The doorbell. Ring it.
He stretched out his hand and thumbed the illuminated tag that stated '6'.
Two years, eight months and twenty-four days since he had last seen Bodie. Longer since they had spoken, for the last glimpse of him had been at the trial. The cool impassive features finally breaking into a semblance of life when the sentence was announced. At the time he thought the emotion was a faint residual sympathy for the man who had been his partner. It had taken nearly a year of waiting for every visiting time, waiting to see Bodie's face, each time being disappointed, before he'd come to realise the emotion had probably been closer to contempt that the judge hadn't put him away for life.
Despite himself, he pressed the door-bell.
With a clatter of the handset being picked up, suddenly there was his voice. "Hello?"
Doyle tried to loosen the knot tension had made of his vocal chords. He coughed, dryly, "Bodie?"
There was a silence, almost as if the other man was identifying his caller by arcane means.
"It's me -- Ray." Doyle announced himself and shivered, continuing hurriedly, despising the need that made him close to begging. "I only want to talk to you, honest. Please, let me in?"
The buzzer sounded, making Doyle jump. Wiping his mouth on the back of a damp hand he pushed the door open, letting it bang shut as he headed for the stairs.
Bodie was standing outside his flat, keeping the door open with one hand whilst he nursed a can of beer in the other. He appeared neither overjoyed, nor surprised. He did raise an eyebrow though, "Why didn't you take the lift?"
Doyle shrugged, "I don't like them much, not anymore." He stopped about five paces away from the light and warmth of Bodie's flat. Of Bodie. Five paces from the object of two long years obsession.
"Too reminiscent of enclosed places?" Bodie's lip curled in what could only be interpreted as scorn.
Doyle remembered the cell which had housed him and another man. Built by the Victorians for single occupancy, in the liberal eighties it was considered adequate for two. There had even been talk of fitting in a third prisoner, but a near riot had changed the Governor's minds about that. Too many memories, too recent in his mind, but in the end all he answered was: "Yes."
"Why are you here?"
"Shouldn't you ask how?"
"Not really. I suppose they finally let you out and I also suppose that you went and plagued Mr. Cowley until he gave you this address. He'd know that short of getting you thrown out it would be the only way to get rid of you." Bodie didn't make this obstinacy sound like a virtue. He shrugged. "I suppose you'll want to come in to do this talking?"
"For God's sake, you look like some bloody tramp, come in."
The flat was all thick carpets and antique furniture. The sound of the T.V. a murmur in the background, the football commentator turned down very low. Doyle stood in the middle of it all, awkward in his damp, crumpled clothes.
Bodie was lounging against the door, expressionless.
Courage held tightly in both hands, Doyle plunged straight in, "Bodie...it wasn't how you were told, I didn't betray you."
"After two years," Bodie drawled, "I thought you might change your tune." He took a long swig of beer. "And if that's all you've come to say, you may as well not have bothered, because I've heard the tapes of you and Marikka and I've seen the reports in full. You were on your own in this. Though why you had to be so jealous that you threw her to the wolves..."
"...I was set up." Doyle straightened, fighting the hollowness of despair. "I didn't do it, not like you think."
"I've heard the tapes."
"Tapes," Doyle took a deep breath, "can be doctored."
"By who?" Bodie asked the question that had dogged him in every moment of doubt at Doyle's culpability, yet the words came out full of disbelief.
"Of course, how simple of me not to think of that!" Bodie levered off the wall and put his can down, a nerve was pulsing under the taut line of his jaw. "I can really see the old man setting up the dismantling of CI5. Do you know how much power we've got left? Just about enough to give a parking ticket, except we can't even do that because they don't issue us with the right paperwork."
"He miscalculated, though he's still got power enough."
"Political power." Bodie spat the words. "Do you think he cares anything for that?"
Doyle stopped himself from replying. It was pointless, Bodie would never believe the truth. It had taken Doyle the three worst years of his life to come to terms with it himself.
He was aware of the anger that lay so close to Bodie's composed exterior and he suddenly knew how truly futile this attempt was. Bodie would believe anything Cowley told him; that was just a fact of life. Doyle couldn't just leave it though and with a last ditch attempt, he tried once more, forcing himself to speak before the weight of misery stilled his tongue. "I honestly thought I was doing the right thing. I--"
"The right thing for what, for Marikka? Oh, I expect she'll be up there thanking you for that little present. And did you think that killing Willis would really serve any purpose?"
"I didn't kill--"
In the sudden silence, Doyle could hear his own heart loud in his ears.
"I'm not." The words dropped like lead into the quiet. "I've only ever told you the truth: I wasn't there when the plans were made to set her up; I only asked Marikka Schuman the relevant questions; I didn't kill Willis and I was fucked over royally by Cowley at the trial. I'm sorry, Bodie, but it's true."
Bodie turned finally and looked him in the face. "And I suppose that you had nothing to do with the headlines, or the newspaper reports; the revelations that broke both CI5 and Cowley."
"Broke...he looked all right to me!"
"I suppose you think the wheelchair suits him."
"Oh." Doyle blinked. "I didn't notice it."
"Bloody hell, go blind as well as stupid inside, did you?" Bodie was shaking his head. "Why don't you leave? I don't think I want to hear any more." And he took a couple of steps towards his unwelcome guest.
It no longer shocked Doyle to be on the receiving end of Bodie's animosity, but throughout the whole affair he'd not once been afraid of him. Through nausea, he realised that that had changed too.
Despite unease, Doyle lifted his head and held his ground. "I know you won't do it, but if you ever feel a niggle of doubt, try accessing Cowley's own files. It won't be easy, but I'm sure one of the girls in computers will be obliging enough to have a bash at it for you. You might be surprised by what you find."
"I doubt it."
"Please, Bodie. If I have to beg I will, but look at those files..."
"I already have."
"Then you must know I'm telling the truth!" Doyle stepped forwards and impulsively took hold of Bodie's arm, as if the contact could clear the mists from Bodie's eyes. But the muscles in the strong arm hardened under his fingers, the touch obviously totally repellent. There was no warmth in the narrowing gaze, only a remoteness so distant that Doyle shook his head in denial. "Bodie...?"
"Yeah, I looked at them. I actually almost believed you at the time, so much so that I did what you asked."
Doyle closed his eyes for a second, letting his hand fall to his side. The room was spinning dizzily around him but he forced the words past parched lips. "So you believe me?"
"I believe that you are a liar, a murderer, a traitor and considering how much I once let you mean to me, a bastard. The truth is all there, exactly as the reports tell it. I can only think you supposed me incapable of accessing his files. Well, you were wrong."
"Yes, I was." Doyle's voice almost failed as reality was finally rammed home. Foiled at every turn. Comprehensively out-thought and out-manoeuvred by an ageing fox who understood better than anyone and who planned ahead more skilfully than Doyle had ever considered. Fighting to breath normally, he wondered if perhaps it would have been more merciful of the judge to give a life sentence after all. At least then he'd never have known the absoluteness of the betrayal.
"If you're going to faint, do it outside."
The warning was like ice chilling Doyle's blood. White-faced, gaunt with misery, he took two steps backwards and collided with the wall. He found words, though they came out roughened, full of pain. "I'm not going to faint on you. Don't worry, I'm going."
Doyle nodded, suddenly very weary of everything. Without looking in Bodie's eyes he headed towards the door, not trusting himself at all.
It opened before he reached it.
Cowley was wheeling himself into the room, the expression on his face as close to gloating as made no difference.
"Doyle. I thought you'd be gone by now." He clearly thought no such thing.
"He's just going, George. Aren't you..."
Doyle watched as Cowley wheeled himself inside the flat and in a routine obviously long rehearsed, Bodie lifted him carefully from the metal frame and lowered him into an armchair. The expression on Bodie's face was so tender that Doyle almost called his denial out loud; there was no doubt as to the intimacy of these two men's relationship. And even less doubt about how Cowley was still the one manipulating all their lives.
Bodie straightened and turned to the man in the doorway. "I could forgive you a lot of things, but not this. Not this..."
"Don't mind Bodie, I can still walk a bit when I'm not too tired." Cowley could clearly afford to be magnanimous now that his final victory was so complete. "I'm not a complete wreck, am I Andrew?"
"No." The smile was almost too sweet for Doyle to bear. "Not a wreck at all." And Bodie bent over and kissed Cowley full on the lips.
Bitterness rising in his belly, Doyle clutched the door-frame. The explanation for all he had suffered so simple, so absolutely unexpected. "Bodie, don't you see what--"
"I see all I need to. You'd better go. We're going out to dinner and both of us need to change our clothes." Bodie was suddenly at the door, threatening. "Don't come back."
Two paces back and Doyle was staring at a closed door. For the first time he examined the small identification tag by the bell. There were two names on it. Of course.
Without thinking, he headed for the stairs. But a voice caught him back, "Ray!"
The use of his real name was almost too much, bringing back feeling when he thought all of it dead. He half turned, pausing with one foot on the stair. No longer even vaguely able to tell what Bodie would say or do, he waited.
Bodie was standing in the doorway to his flat, the so-well remembered features smooth, distant.
"He wants to know if you're all right for money?"
The question was a slap in the face. And it hadn't even come from Bodie. Doyle caught his breath and mutely shook his head.
All Bodie did was shrug and watch as the slight figure disappeared down the stairwell, before stepping back into the flat and closing the door.
There was a red Porsche glistening wetly in a shadowed alleyway off Tottenham Court Road. Even as drunk as he was, Doyle had it hot-wired and on the street before anyone had time to notice. He was soaked; cropped, greying curls dripping sporadically onto his clothes, though the discomfort and the cold hardly registered.
It took quite a lot of concentration to keep the car on the road and off the curb, though the effort at least kept his mind off Bodie and off Cowley. And more particularly off the two of them together.
At the end of an Oxford Street sheened with rain he headed north, sightless eyes keeping more by intuition than design to between the painted lines that curved and straightened into the distance.
Shifting in the seat, he levered a bottle out of his pocket and took a long pull of the rum. Real Jamaican spirit -- the fastest way to oblivion this side of death. This was his second bottle. How he could still function at all was a mystery that would almost have made him smile. If he could remember how.
The car had a full tank of petrol and as he drove, gradually the brightness of the inner city tailed off into his rear-view mirror; his speed gathering despite the rain as the road widened and the pain in the centre of his being flowered.
Bodie and Cowley. The bastard. No sacrifice too great to achieve what he wanted. Doyle knew he should have seen what was happening, known that there would be reasons under the reasons that Cowley hid from the world. But the two of them together.
His foot skidded off the accelerator, making the car lurch and swerve, its speed too great for easy co-ordination. After a breathless moment he had the car back under control, though he'd lost himself in the process. In the break from darkness to light as oncoming cars flashed past him, tears caught briefly in the headlights, splashing unheeded to his chest, their image blurring with the reflection of the rain spattered screen.
The rum wasn't working. He could still remember when Bodie had loved him. Remember when it had all seemed so easy.
He took another swig of the pure fire. Instead of granting oblivion the spirit was making him sober. With a sob he flung the bottle onto the floor, putting both hands on the wheel as his foot hit the floor.
The speed helped. The world turning in a kaleidoscope of colours that left no room for thought, no room for anything at all.
There was another bend, there, far too fast. Too much speed, but what the hell, he was soaked in it, revelling in the freedom that swept him higher than flying, higher than drugs, higher even than the pain of seeing that kiss. The corner was coming, rushing nearer and nearer, promising so much, so much. As the road curved away, far away, he was finally smiling, laughing out loud as the pedal ground into the floor.
-- THE END --