It was a dingy little pub, crammed between two warehouses on the dockside, with barely room for the customers to manoeuvre round the bar. The lighting was poor and the clientele tended to dress either in black or camo, so there was little to cheer the eye. The palest spot in the room was the white T-shirt of the man in the corner, who sipped his beer and watched the other patrons from beneath an unruly fringe of curls.
He was most interested in what was happening in the room behind the bar, but a nearby tableful of noisy louts kept distracting him. There was no chance of hearing anything interesting amid the din of the pub in any case, but it annoyed him when the nearest and largest of the louts kept obscuring his view of the doorway, making it hard to keep track of any comings and goings from the back room.
"Ah, that's nothin'!" the large man bellowed in response to some anecdote from his companions. His accent was not quite English but, slurred as it was by the beer he had been downing all evening, was hard to place. "You shoulda seen what we done to that bastard Corey when he double-crossed us. Now that was a punishment to fit the crime!"
His mates made noises of interest, while the curly-haired man shifted once more to get a clearer view of the bar.
"Sold us a lot of defective weapons, he did," the big man continued. "Guns that jammed, dud grenades and mines that went off when you primed 'em. This was in Somalia, see, and the local warlord was --"
Mercifully, the booming voice dropped a few decibels in volume as the story progressed, and the curly-haired man tuned it out. Something new had caught his interest. A man with short-cropped dark hair, black clothes, and a wary pout had just entered the pub, heading straight for the bar and speaking intently to the burly tender behind it. The barkeep turned away and opened the door to the back room long enough to stick his head through and summon the proprietor, a weedy fellow with a broken nose and dead eyes.
The newcomer spoke to the owner for a few minutes, not looking pleased, then pulled something from his pocket. The curly-haired man's gaze sharpened, but just as the package exchanged hands his view was blocked again by the big boozer, and he had no chance to estimate size or contents.
"So after Fitz got his hand blown off by a bad grenade, Marco said that was enough, and he called us all together. He told us --"
Annoyed, the curly-haired man got up and squeezed his way out of the corner.
The storyteller broke off to let out a wolf-whistle, and several heads turned. "Can't wait, eh, sweetheart? If you wanted it that bad, you only had to ask." He gave the passing man a slap on the buttocks.
The curly-haired man said nothing in response, but his jaw tightened at the burst of laughter that followed the big man's words, and he jerked the zip of his battered flight jacket higher as he headed for the front of the pub. In passing, he cast a quick glance at the man by the bar, but the package had disappeared and the pub's owner was returning to the back room, and the stranger had an eyebrow raised in amusement at his discomfiture.
Seething inwardly, he headed for the loo and stopped at the tiny telephone cubicle on the way. It wasn't entirely safe to use a public phone, but he was already late for his check-in and he couldn't afford to leave the pub yet. He crammed himself into the tiny space, wrestled the door closed behind him, and dialled impatiently, holding a coin poised over the slot. When a woman answered, he shoved the ten-p home and requested Detective Inspector Franks.
"Yes?" a curt voice growled.
"Doyle? You're late!"
"I know. Couldn't get away; I was following Moore. He led me halfway round the city before he came here. I'm at the Gunslinger, down by the docks."
"You think he sussed you?"
"Nah, or he wouldn't have come here at all. I held well back." He didn't mention that he had been forced to let Moore out of his sight for a few minutes to keep him from noticing the tail. As it happened, he'd picked his quarry up again with no difficulty, and no harm done. If Franks was going to refuse to give him proper backup on this case, he would have to accept a certain risk of failure. After all, Doyle was accepting a much greater threat to his own hide. "He's meeting with Derek again, and at least three other blokes I don't recognise. This is where the drop will be, I'm sure of it."
"I don't know the schedule yet."
"Then find out, man! This could be the biggest haul we've ever made!"
"In that case, perhaps you could afford to put some more men on it, sir. I'm swinging in the wind out here!"
"Don't preach to me, Doyle. Just because you've put a superintendent and two inspectors behind bars doesn't mean you're qualified to tell me my job. We simply don't have the manpower to throw bodies at this case -- not until we know exactly when the shipment will come in. Find that out and you'll get your backup."
Doyle slammed his fist into a sample of obscene graffiti on the wall of the kiosk, but he knew better than to argue with Franks. The DI had had it in for him before they even met. "Right, sir," he said flatly. "Have you found out anything about that other matter?"
"Which matter? Oh, the man you asked about. We've found one Bodie in London that matches your description. He's SAS."
"What?" Doyle's jaw dropped. "Why the hell is he hanging out with Derek, then? Christ, SAS aren't investigating this lot too, are they?"
"I should hope not! It's hardly in their jurisdiction. No, I think you should be careful of this Bodie fellow. He has a shady past. Used to be a mercenary and a gun-runner. He could well be doing some smuggling on the side. Watch out for him. If the SAS have a rotten apple in their barrel, I want to be the one to tell them."
Doyle pressed his forehead against the cool metal of the phone and closed his eyes. Now his investigation had been expanded to include a possibly corrupt Special Services agent just so he could further Franks' ambitions, and he still didn't have any backup.
"Your next check is in twenty hours. Don't be late."
Doyle stared incredulously at the phone as the connection ended. "Bloody bastard," he murmured. "Who does he think I am, James Bond?" He slammed the receiver into its cradle and wrenched angrily at the door of the tiny cubicle. He stumbled out into the passage only to bounce off the chest of the hefty merc who had goosed him just a few minutes before.
Meaty hands clamped on Doyle's shoulders. "Watch it, dearie!" A dirty chuckle rumbled through the bigger man. "Not in front of the children!"
Doyle was closed enough to smell the man's sweat and the sour beer on his breath and shirt. He tried to pull free with a mumbled excuse, but the grip just tightened.
"Come here for a little fun, did you, sweetheart?"
"No, just a quiet drink." Doyle glared up at his adversary, trying to restrain his temper. "Let me go." He clamped his hands over the thick wrists, ready to apply pressure that would loosen the grip.
"Oh, no, not till I've had my fun," the big man said.
Doyle raised a knee and the larger man twisted his hips to protect himself. But Doyle hadn't been aiming for the groin; instead he brought his boot down hard on the other man's instep, simultaneously pinching and twisting at the thick wrists. He managed to haul the heavy hands off his shoulders and shoved the unbalanced merc against the wall, making room for him to pass. "Oops," he said insincerely. "Did I step on your foot? Better watch where you're going." He slipped through the small opening and back into the bar.
Quickly taking inventory of the faces there, Doyle saw that the SAS man was still at the bar, the muscle-bound lout's mates were getting ready to leave, and two of the three men who had been meeting with Derek and Moore were now chatting quietly in the corner. Derek himself was ringing something up at the register, and the door to the back room was open. Moore was gone.
Cursing, Doyle shouldered his way to the door. From the threshold he could see no sign of his quarry. He headed quickly towards where Moore's car and his own were parked. Just as he turned into the alley, Moore came screeching around the corner, forcing Doyle to jump back. For a moment he was illuminated fully in the man's headlights, entirely too visible. At this rate, with no one for Doyle to split shifts with, Moore wouldn't take long to notice the surveillance. How did Franks expect him to learn the shipping schedule when he didn't even have the resources for a proper tail?
Doyle dashed for his car, still hoping that he could catch up with Moore and figure out the man's plans, but he stumbled to a halt as he reached the side of his unassuming brown Cortina. Even in the faint light of the alley, he could see that the vehicle was lopsided: two tyres slashed. He prodded a limp bit of rubber with his toe. Had Moore done it? That would mean the dealer had identified his tail, and didn't care if Doyle knew it. The case would be blown to pieces. On the other hand, in an area like this vandalism was commonplace enough.
Whoever had done it, it was clear that Doyle wouldn't be following Moore tonight. He would have to find some other means of transportation. First, though, he would get his gun out of the car. He wasn't supposed to carry it, since he had also left his police ID and licence behind, but he had no intention of leaving the weapon in an abandoned car for anyone to steal.
As Doyle dug in his tight jeans for the keys to the car, a sneering falsetto called out behind him: "Oh, Nancy-boy!"
Doyle turned. Muscles was blocking the mouth of the alleyway, and a couple of shadows loitering to either side revealed that he had his cronies with him.
After a moment's assessment of the situation, Doyle dug for his keys again. They outnumbered him by at least five to one; getting the gun out might be his only chance. But he had barely gotten the key within a few inches of the lock when a powerful arm wrapped around his neck.
Reacting instinctively, Doyle drove his elbow back and simultaneously kicked at the knee of his attacker. That loosened the hold enough for Doyle to pull free, but the others were closing in. Doyle set his back to the car and fought as fiercely and filthily as he knew how, using techniques learned on the back streets of half a dozen cities.
He got Muscles in the eye with his keys, twisted to take a punch on his shoulder instead of his jaw, and sent another man howling backwards with a quick snatch and wrench at his testicles. It was a surer move than a kick to the groin, which most men would instinctively block with their hips -- but it took him an extra second which he couldn't spare in such an uneven fight. Even as his latest victim staggered back and curled into a ball, Doyle's arms were wrenched behind him and a flurry of quick punches drove his breath away. He took a few kicks to his own groin then, powerless to defend himself since his arms were being held by two men, both bigger than he.
Muscles came forward with one hand clapped to his eye, which was streaming tears rather than blood; Doyle's aim had been off. He grabbed Doyle's chin in iron-hard fingers and breathed beer fumes into his face. "You'll pay for that, my pretty. I was gonna keep you to myself, but just for that, I'll let my buddies have a go at you as well." There was a snarl of agreement from the other men, except the one who was still groaning on the ground.
Despite the pain in his midriff and groin, Doyle tried to land another kick, but his captors pulled him off balance. A moment later Muscles planted a punch in his face that made the world go black for a few moments.
Through the roaring in his ears, he heard someone say in pleasant tones, "Five against one? Aren't you afraid he'll get loose and beat you up?"
Muscles pulled back in the middle of a second punch and turned to see who was speaking. Doyle tried to make his own eyes focus. It was Bodie, the SAS agent of questionable background, lounging against the corner of one of the warehouses.
As he saw Muscles' face, Bodie smiled sweetly. "Ah, I see he's already beaten you up. But it looks like the score's even now. Let him go, why don't you?"
"Keep out of this!" Muscles growled.
"But it's not at all the thing, you know." Bodie affected a posh accent. "Most unsporting, I must say!"
"You're a mate of Derek's, aincher?" Muscles demanded. "So you should know better than to butt in here. Just walk away and forget about it."
Bodie sighed. "No, I don't think I will." He pushed himself lazily away from the wall and took a ready stance.
Muscles jerked his head at one of the henchmen, the one who was not occupied with either Doyle or his own testes. It must have been the man Doyle had gotten in the knee earlier, for he limped visibly as he stepped towards Bodie. Everyone watching could predict that Bodie would take him. With a curse, Muscles abandoned Doyle and went to give a hand.
Bodie blocked the first man's blow and used the leverage to throw his weight back on the bad knee. As he flailed for balance, Bodie laid him out with a neat punch to the jaw. Then he sidestepped Muscles' charge, tripped him, and guided his face down to meet an uprising knee. The big man's own momentum knocked him out cold.
Feeling the hold on his arms slacken, Doyle took advantage of his captors' distraction. He got his right arm free and drove his elbow into one man's stomach, knocking him against the car. Then he got into a dirty tussle with the man on his left, which ended when Doyle let himself tumble to the ground and pulled his opponent after him. There was a satisfying crack of skull on asphalt, and the man went limp.
Bodie was there, finishing off the man who had held Doyle's right arm. The last fellow, who had half recovered from the pain in his balls, staggered into desperate flight down the alley.
Bodie surveyed the assortment of limp and groaning men and turned to Doyle as he clambered to his feet. "You're a nasty little sod when you're roused, aren't you?"
Doyle braced himself against the bonnet of the car and studied the dark man warily, unsure why Bodie had come to his rescue. He had heard some unpleasant stories about the games mercenaries played, and this might just be another part of the game. He was in no condition to weather another fight, if it came to that. "Well," he croaked, "you've got me. Now what do you plan to do with me?"
Though the light was poor, the rise of the erratic brows was clearly visible above Bodie's pale face. "Take you home, I suppose. Let's get out of here." He took Doyle by the elbow and led him out of the alley.
Doyle followed without resisting, though the words seemed to confirm his suspicion. He was just as glad to get away from the other men before they came to, and the car wasn't likely to do him much good at this point. He had lost his keys somewhere in the darkness. When they were clear of the alley, he pulled his arm free and squinted at Bodie through the one eye that still focussed. "What if I don't want to go with you?" he demanded, tensing for combat again.
Bodie seemed unperturbed. "I'll take you to a hospital, if you like. Always hated them myself. But you do need someone to patch you up, and I doubt you'll find a taxi in this area."
Doyle considered. Bodie was putting no pressure on him, and the man was, after all, an ex-mercenary, now working for Queen and country just as Doyle did. Perhaps Franks had placed too much emphasis on that shady past. On the other hand, there was still the matter of Bodie's dealings with Derek. Doyle had lost track of Moore, but he could pursue his secondary objective of investigating the SAS agent.
Doyle straightened his shoulders painfully, curling an arm around his ribs. "I hate hospitals too," he said. "We'll do it your way. Where's your car?"
Bodie pointed, and watched with quirked lips as Doyle hobbled in that direction. "Need a hand?" he offered.
"Nah, 'm fine. Just stiff," Doyle gasped.
"Get stiffer if you don't put something on those bruises," Bodie observed. "Nothing broken, I take it?"
"No, just thumps." Doyle sighed. "You came along just in time," he admitted reluctantly.
"Yeah, well, I saw them follow you out of the bar. That big bloke was none too pleased with you. Wasn't hard to guess what they were planning."
Doyle grunted agreement. If he hadn't been so distracted by his pursuit of Moore and his anger at Franks, he would have noticed it himself. "Did any of them leave before me?" he asked.
Bodie frowned. "Don't think so. Didn't really notice. Why?"
"Just wondering who slashed my tyres, 's all." It could still have been Moore, or a passing vandal. Muscles and his merry men simply added another possibility to the list. Doyle couldn't assume yet that his cover was blown with Moore.
"Young punks, I expect," Bodie suggested.
Doyle just grimaced. It was the least likely answer, he thought.
"Did they take anything?"
"Didn't break into the car at all, that I saw. I didn't have much chance to look, though. Lost my keys," Doyle reflected mournfully.
"These yours?" Bodie produced a set with a jingle.
"Thanks." Doyle accepted them with a suspicious glance. If he had known Bodie'd found his keys, he could have gotten the gun from the car, but it would be absurd to go back now. Had Bodie deliberately waited to return them?
"Here we are." Bodie unlocked the passenger door of a grey Escort and headed around to his own side. Sliding into the driver's seat, he twisted to offer his right hand. "By the way -- name's Bodie."
"Doyle," he responded automatically, then cursed himself for using his real name. Still, there were hundreds of Doyles in London. So long as they kept it on a surname basis, Bodie wasn't likely to learn anything about him. Doyle tried to ignore the fact that he had identified Bodie with only a surname and physical description, while the SAS surely had information resources superior to the Met's.
Bodie started the car. "Where to, then?"
"I don't know where you live."
"Oh." Doyle frowned. He was using his own flat, since Franks had said the budget wouldn't extend to complete cover. "Er -- d'you mind going to your place? Me landlady's bound to evict me if I come staggering in all bloody at this hour of the night." It sounded a poor excuse, but Bodie merely nodded and pulled away from the kerb.
After they had cleared the dockside area, Doyle mused, "Why the ruddy hell did they have to pick on me, anyway? I never did them any harm."
Bodie cast him a quick sideways glance. "They thought they could provoke you, is all. Stay cool -- that's the name of the game."
"I was cool!" Doyle protested. "I didn't pop the bastard in the face when he pinched me on the arse!"
Bodie grinned, an engaging expression that started with a flattening of his nose and spread outward to transform eyes and mouth and brows. "Anyone could see you wanted to."
Doyle sighed. "Still doesn't answer the question, though. Why me?"
Bodie shrugged. "Well, you don't look much like the usual clientele they get in there. Suppose that makes you fair game."
"All I wanted was a bloody drink. I didn't realise the place was that rough. I've a friend wants to buy a pub not far from there, and it looks nothing like that place." Maurice had been driven out of the Met by the same prejudice Doyle was getting from Franks -- no one wanted a subordinate who had put his last commanding officer in jail.
Doyle was hoping to get out soon himself. His second interview with Major Cowley had gone well, he thought. When this investigation was over, Doyle would tell Franks what he could do with his precious ambitions for the undermanned Drugs Squad, and devote all his energy to qualifying for CI5.
Bodie was still explaining what Doyle had done wrong. "They're all mercs, at the Gunslinger. You look like a city boy, that's all. The way you dress, and -- your hair."
"What, just because I have curly hair that makes me a pansy?"
"It isn't the curls, it's how long you wear it. Not like a merc at all. Anyone could see you're not one of them."
"'M I what?"
"One of them."
Bodie's amusement faded. "I used to be," he said. "So I know how to get along. But now I'm a sober, responsible citizen, with a respectable address. And here we are." Bodie ended the conversation effectively by pulling into a parking space.
Doyle found the stairs difficult, partly because of the throbbing between his legs and partly because his left eye was swollen half-shut, impairing his depth perception. Bodie put a hand under his elbow for support, and Doyle had to concede he was grateful for the contact.
Bodie had an impressive array of locks and a good but unobtrusive security system, Doyle noted with envy. He wouldn't have minded taking similar precautions with his own flat, but he couldn't afford such a system on a copper's salary. In the SAS it probably came with the job. Once inside the door, Doyle paused to get his bearings. "You live here?" he asked in surprise. The place was impeccably neat, hardly lived-in at all. Somehow it wasn't what he'd expected of an ex-gunrunner.
"Make yourself comfortable," Bodie offered generously. "Like anything to drink? I've some lager in the fridge, or Scotch if you prefer."
Doyle lowered himself hesitantly onto the sofa. He was about to accept the offer when an idea struck him. "Haven't you got anything stronger?" he asked, in a tone bordering on a whine.
Bodie snorted. "Stronger than whisky? What do you want, vodka?"
"No, I mean . . . some other stuff. You know."
Bodie's face closed up, the laughter gone from his eyes. "No, I don't have any 'other stuff,'" he snapped. "I never touch it. If you do, you must be stupider than you look."
Doyle shrugged ingratiatingly. "Just asking, mate. Where's the bath? I could use a quick wash."
"Through there." Bodie waved. "I've got a first aid kit in the bedroom, I can give you a hand."
"Ta." Doyle slipped into the bathroom, leaving the door open a crack, and considered his bloodied face in the mirror.
Bodie had passed the first test, but it wasn't conclusive yet. Just because he didn't use drugs himself, or have any in his home, that didn't mean he was above dealing in the stuff. Doyle had never yet met a dealer who was also a user; those who dabbled probably ended up broke in short order, like anyone else who fell for the fatal attraction of drugs.
Doyle excavated a couple of plastic envelopes from his jacket pocket. Both contained a small amount of white powder. For a few moments Doyle contemplated the packet with the blue dot in the corner, then he shook his head and put it away. He had been forced to buy the stuff himself, shelling out a pretty penny for it on the street because Franks had scoffed at his suggestion that it might come in useful. But he didn't want to get high now, or ever if he could avoid it. The other packet, containing harmless talc, would serve his purpose well enough tonight -- so long as Bodie didn't look too closely at his pupils.
Doyle nicked a razor from the shaving kit on the corner shelf and shook his powder out on the edge of the sink, scraping it into a neat line. He could hear footsteps approaching beyond the door. Timing his move carefully, Doyle bent over the white line with one nostril pinched closed just as the door swung open behind him.
A hard hand fastened on his shoulder and jerked him backwards. The razor clattered against the wall. Doyle looked up with an expression of bewilderment as Bodie took in the scene. With a curse, the dark man shouldered him aside and brushed the powder into the sink, running the tap furiously.
"Oy!" Doyle protested. "You know 'ow much I paid for that?"
Bodie spun around and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. "You bloody idiot! I said I never touch dope, and I won't have it in my flat either. If that's your game, you can take it somewhere else."
Doyle held up his hands innocently. "Sorry, mate. Just trying to take the edge off my headache, that's all. Not like I'm some filthy addict or anything. I didn't realise you were such a prude about it."
Bodie's mouth tightened dangerously. "Get out!" he snapped. "Get out of my flat."
Doyle stumbled back into the sitting room, hiding a grin. Bodie had passed the second test; he was almost sure now that the SAS agent had nothing to do with Moore's drug deals. The discovery gladdened him, for he was beginning to like Bodie. But he had effectively quashed any possibility of a friendship between them, and now he was going to be tossed out on his ear. He would have to ring Franks and get another car delivered to him, at the risk of blowing his cover and receiving yet another lecture on the current budgetary restrictions.
Pretending annoyance, Doyle stalked towards the door. But his one-eyed vision betrayed him, and he tripped over a corner of the couch. The coffee table caught his ribs just where Muscles had pounded them, and he folded onto the floor with a cry of pain.
The agony had just receded to the point where Doyle could think straight when a pair of strong arms hauled him up and deposited him on the couch. "Come on, then," Bodie snapped. "Let's see the damage. I thought you said nothing was broken?"
"Wasn't," Doyle gasped, as he was briskly stripped of his jacket and shirt. "Might be now. Oh, Christ!" He flinched away as Bodie's fingers probed impersonally at his ribs.
"Tender, eh?" Bodie's grim expression lightened a little. "You're going to have some lovely bruises in the morning. Not to mention how that eye will look in a day or two." He rocked back on his heels and stared at Doyle measuringly. "All right. I said I would patch you up, and you're in no fit state to be on your own tonight. But first --" He snatched up Doyle's jacket and dug through the pockets, finding the real packet of coke at once and shooting him a look of disgust. "Empty your pockets."
"Show me what's in your pockets. Unless you want to end up on your bum in the cold with no place to go and no way to get there."
Grumbling, Doyle climbed to his feet and turned out the pockets of his jeans, not without a little nervousness. He hoped he had left everything incriminating at home. He knew his wallet was bare of any indication that he was a copper, but Bodie didn't give it a second look. The rest was innocent enough: keys, change, a comb, his multi-tool, and a few scraps of paper with scribbled notes that hopefully would mean nothing to Bodie.
"Right. Plant yourself there, and no more nonsense." Bodie disappeared into the bathroom to flush the coke, then returned and laid his equipment out on the coffee table: glass of whisky, icepack, basin of water, gauze, liniment and antibiotic ointment. He dabbed at Doyle's cut face first with water, then with a stinging antiseptic, while Doyle sipped at the whisky and tried not to flinch.
Doyle accepted the ministrations quietly, with an odd sense that he was rendering himself into the other man's care. It felt good, somehow. He shivered as blunt fingers spread ointment on his ribs, and looked up to find a steady gaze regarding him. Bodie's eyes, he realised with a thrill, were a subtle dark shade of blue, not obvious at first glance but quite stunning on closer inspection. Doyle shivered again and looked away hastily.
"Come on, then," Bodie said brusquely. "Bedroom."
"Eh?" Doyle looked up, startled. Had Bodie caught that fleeting surge of desire, so brief that he scarcely recognised it himself?
"Give you a rubdown with this liniment. Otherwise you won't be able to move tomorrow."
"Oh." Doyle shuffled uncertainly towards the bedroom, trying to figure out what was happening here. He hadn't felt any attraction to a man since the wild days of his adolescent experiments, and after his close brush with gang rape earlier tonight he certainly didn't want to get into a heavy scene. Yet somehow Bodie's nearness, his warmth and strength and the intoxicating scent of him, were getting to Doyle in a way he had never felt before. He felt an unaccustomed flush rising to his face as he stripped off his jeans and stretched out on the bed.
Bodie's touch was not particularly sexual, but heat seemed to spread outward from his hands. It was wonderfully effective at easing Doyle's aches, but not so good for his peace of mind. He lay in an odd combination of physical relaxation and mental tension, waiting for some sign of Bodie's intentions.
When the hands had worked out all the aches from Doyle's torso, they moved down to his buttocks and began a movement that clearly bordered on the sexual. Uneasily, Doyle pushed himself up onto his elbows. "Bodie . . . "
The hands stilled. "Not your scene, is it?"
Doyle turned his head to meet blue eyes that seemed strangely vulnerable. "It isn't that," he said awkwardly. "'S just -- guess I got kicked in the balls one time too many, that's all."
"Oh." Bodie sat back. "Yeah, I suppose that must hurt."
Doyle nodded. "Don't particularly want to increase the sensitivity down there just now. But . . . maybe some other time? This was nice. You've got . . . good hands." This was ridiculous, he thought. He wasn't bent, and he didn't have any further reason to investigate Bodie. Why was he doing this?
The gentle smile that lit Bodie's face seemed reason enough. "I'd like that," he said softly. "Now . . . do you think you'll be all right in here? With me, I mean. I could sleep on the sofa, if you're worried I'd thump your ribs in the night."
Doyle's heart fluttered nervously. "No. 'S your bed. Nice of you to put me up -- I wouldn't thank you by throwing you out of your own bed. Anyway, I could use the company."
Bodie's smile deepened. "All right, then. You get to sleep. I'll just finish off me ablutions and be back in a few minutes."
Doyle lay back on the mattress and stared at the ceiling, wondering what the hell had gotten into him. He should be getting a replacement for his car, trying to find out where Moore had gone -- a dozen things instead of lying here remembering a pair of strong hands on his body. Franks would not be pleased.
Rather to his surprise, Doyle was asleep before Bodie returned.
Doyle roused at some point during the night, when a thrashing body pulled the covers away from him. He groped blindly for the duvet, but a terse bark of "Snipers. Get down," made him open his eyes and look about. There was no threat in the quiet bedroom. A second mumble including the words "high ground" confirmed that Bodie was merely having a nightmare, and Doyle spared the man a sympathetic glance as he tugged at the duvet. He had had some nasty nightmares himself, especially since he joined the Met; what must it be like for Bodie, if all Franks said of his past was true? Doyle was going to leave the man to work out his own damnation, but suddenly a plaintive cry rose: "God, no! He's only a kid!"
Murmuring something soothing, Doyle pushed himself across the bed to wrap his arms around the bigger man. Bodie jerked and repeated, "only a kid," then seemed to settle into a more peaceful sleep. Doyle raised one leaden arm to pet the ruffled hair before sinking back into oblivion himself.
"Mmmph." Doyle burrowed his head further under the pillow.
"C'mon, tiger. Up and at 'em."
"Go 'way," Doyle mumbled, freeing a hand to swipe at the intruder. The movement jarred his stiff ribs, and he groaned piteously.
"Up, Doyle," the voice repeated more harshly. "I have to leave in a little while, and you can't stay here while I'm gone. Besides, if you don't move about, those aches will just get worse."
Doyle groaned again and rolled over, experimenting with opening his eyes. Eye. The left one wouldn't obey him.
Bodie helped him up to sitting position, and chuckled as he met the one-eyed glare. "Cheery in the morning, aren't you? A regular ray of sunshine." Then, catching Doyle's startled look, he said: "What is it?"
Doyle glanced away. His imagination was too sluggish at this hour to come up with a believable lie. "'S my name," he revealed.
"Oh. A drop of golden sun, eh?" The sour look he received just made Bodie grin harder. "Have to say it doesn't suit you, mate. Not this early in the day, in any case."
Doyle grunted and pushed the covers aside, levering cautiously to his feet.
"Have a hot shower," Bodie suggested. "That'll help. You can use my gear if you like."
There was a strange intimacy to it, using another man's shampoo and razor. Doyle remembered the events of the previous night and his breath quickened. It was insane! He didn't even know the man. He had no business getting into something like this, not now, not with a possible suspect.
He kept his face blank and unrevealing as he emerged from the bathroom, only to find a similar expression looking up at him from the other side of a plate heaped with sausage, scrambled eggs, and tomato sauce. Doyle glanced with disapproval at the cholesterol-laden feast and helped himself to a mug of coffee and a wedge of toast.
"I've been thinking," Bodie said slowly.
Doyle looked up, alerted by the tone. He had heard this speech before -- had delivered it himself, more than a few times.
"I don't think this would work," Bodie mumbled to his plate. "If my boss finds out -- well, I don't want to lose my job."
"Same here," Doyle admitted. He met Bodie's gaze squarely. "It's been nice, though." He swallowed the last crust of toast and finished his coffee. "I'd better be going if I want the garage to get around to my car today. I'll, er, see you around sometime, eh?"
They parted stiffly, and without exchanging numbers.
Bodie sat at the back table in the Gunslinger, sipping at a half-pint of bitter and watching the door to the back room with an eagle eye. Derek seemed to be avoiding him, though Bodie couldn't imagine why. Their current dealings were very one-sided and entirely to Derek's benefit. But the barman insisted Derek couldn't see him just now, so Bodie had to wait.
It was still early, and the pub had little custom: just two men conferring seriously in the opposite corner. Probably planning an op, Bodie guessed. Only the first stages, of course -- any details would be worked out in a more private setting. He hoped it wasn't something that would require the intervention of the SAS. In any case, those two were quite sober and not likely to afford Bodie any distraction tonight. Not like the little band of thugs he had found to take out his aggressions on the last time he had to pay off Derek. That had been amusing; a sweet little punch-up all in a good cause, and Bodie had walked away without a mark.
To be fair, though, the skinny fellow the idiots had decided to play their tricks on had done his fair share of reducing them to inert lumps. Bodie had been surprised at how easily the slighter man put two of them down and took the fighting edge off the others. Surprised enough to feel a certain curiosity about the man, and a desire to know him better.
It had been a mistake, though. Doyle was tough, certainly, but no more than should be expected from a street rat. The man was a dope-head, and probably shiftless too, judging from his worn clothes. He'd made some feeble excuse to get Bodie to take him to his own flat -- not for the sake of company, either, because he had pleaded pain from his injuries when Bodie made an advance. By the next morning Bodie had returned to his senses, and pushed the fellow out of his flat as quickly as he could. To his relief and mild surprise, Doyle had never reappeared looking for a handout or a place to doss. Bodie couldn't afford entanglements of that sort; not with the trouble he had already gotten into.
Damn Derek, anyway! He was as bad as those idiots who had attacked Doyle, unable to tell the difference between the jungle and the civilised world. Mercs did things in the jungle that no Londoner could ever understand -- violent things, cruel things, sometimes sexual things. Those deeds weren't meant to be brought back to Britain. It was just as absurd for Derek to hold Bodie to account for his past as it had been for half a dozen thugs to attempt a gang-rape in an alley.
Bodie understood the difference; he had left his past behind him and even weighed in on the side of law and order when it suited him. But his captain in the paras wouldn't understand that, wouldn't be able to overlook what Bodie had done in another world and another time. The British armed services took a very dim view of sexual relations between men, and the fact that Bodie hadn't indulged in the practice since he joined up would not make them forgive his previous record. Derek was sharp enough to realise all this and venal enough to use his old acquaintance with Bodie as a weapon.
Bodie gulped the last of his bitter with a grimace. Trust Derek to water down even the cheapest beer, he thought. It was possible that he would still be allowed to stay with the SAS even if Captain Harding had him discharged from the army. But technically he was still in the paras, merely seconded to the SAS. Most likely if any of Derek's vaunted 'proof' made its way to Bodie's senior officers, he would be out of a job.
His obvious recourse would be to rejoin his old merc squad, or what was left of it. There was money to be made as a soldier of fortune, if one was cautious, quick, and clever. But, after all, Bodie had developed a taste for civilisation and didn't relish the thought of returning to the jungle, so he paid what Derek demanded. So far the little weasel had been clever enough to stick to monetary demands, and only in amounts that Bodie could afford, thanks to the savings he had squirreled away. If Derek started asking for information, or anything that could endanger Bodie's mates, he swore he would chuck the whole business.
Still no sign of Derek. Bodie stirred from his seat and went to the bar for a packet of crisps and a refill, wondering if the liquor in this place was any better than what was on tap. But as he waited at the end of the bar for the barman to spare a moment's attention from the News of the World or whatever had him so engrossed, Derek's voice came wafting clearly from the back room. Bodie thumped his empty mug down with a curse and rounded the end of the bar, heading for the half-closed door. When the barman belatedly tried to interfere, Bodie tripped him neatly into the edge of the door, then slipped through it himself.
The back room was cluttered floor-to-ceiling with cases and bottles and tanks, and bags of empties lined one wall. It was even more dimly lit than the pub itself. Bodie stepped quickly aside once he was through the door, so he wouldn't be silhouetted against the light. Then he paused to get his bearings.
Derek was at the far end of the room, just slamming a telephone receiver onto its cradle. He let out a few round curses that Bodie recognised from his days in Africa, then reached for his jacket. Pulling it on and checking the pockets, he went out a back door.
The barman, having recovered his balance, charged belatedly into the room. Bodie set a calming hand on his shoulder and moved to block his view. "It's okay," he said with his most charming smile. "I just needed a quick word with Derek. I'll be going now."
The heavy man shifted and tried to see past Bodie, but he was being gently urged back into the pub. Just at that moment they both heard the front door jingle as new patrons entered, so the barman reluctantly drew back to his post, glaring as Bodie crossed to the public side of the bar, laid down a generous tip and, still smiling, headed out.
He circled at once to the back of the pub, stepping carefully down the stone steps towards the water. There was the door Derek must have come through, with a rusted iron stair leading down from it. But where --?
Bodie stiffened as he saw a shadow on the far side of the building, slipping across the docks. Derek paused when he reached the corner of the warehouse, as if he sensed that someone was watching. But Bodie was well out of sight and quite motionless, so Derek continued onward after a moment. He pulled open a side door of the old brick warehouse and darted inside.
Bodie followed cautiously, watching for signs that anyone else might be approaching or already in the warehouse. Derek was meeting someone, of that he was sure -- probably the person he had spoken to on the phone. And from the little snake's wary manner, Bodie guessed that Derek was up to something illicit if not downright illegal. If he could get something to hold over Derek's head, he would have the leverage to drive a real bargain and get himself free of the man's threats forever.
The dockside face of the warehouse had no windows, and the door Derek had slipped through was solid metal. Bodie certainly wouldn't go that way without knowing what was on the other side. He scouted around until he found a door that did have a window, used his jacket to muffle the breaking of the pane, and reached in to unlock it. This was a warren of small offices connected to the main body of the warehouse. Bodie ghosted through the darkness, testing doors and feeling for danger with every sense as he tried to work his way back to the area Derek had disappeared into.
At last he found an entry to the warehouse proper. The draught of unheated air and the sense of empty, echoing spaces made him pause as soon as he stepped inside. A few lights were lit at the far end, near where Derek had entered; otherwise, the place was in darkness.
He spiralled in towards the lights under cover of the girders that dotted the building. The place was dusty and seemed almost unused. The only crates occupying the big building were squarely underneath the lights, in an area where the dirt littering the floor had been disturbed. For the rest, there were only a few forgotten cranes, jacks, and one rusting forklift hulking in a corner.
Bodie headed for the forklift, which offered the best concealment within view of what was evidently the stage for the upcoming events. He had caught sight of Derek now, pacing restlessly among the crates and checking his watch at frequent intervals. No one else appeared to be here yet.
However, as Bodie slipped around the cab of the forklift, he learned that he had been mistaken. There was one other person here, who looked up in shock at Bodie's appearance.
Equally surprised, Bodie gaped at the curly-headed apparition. "Doyle? What the hell are you doing here?" In his astonishment, he barely remembered to keep his voice down.
Doyle rose smoothly to his feet, glancing towards the oblivious Derek. Then he turned eyes upon Bodie that seemed to glow in the dark and said, in an amazingly sultry whisper, "Waiting for you." And he drew Bodie into a passionate embrace.
Still stunned, Bodie had only begun to realise that Doyle felt wonderful and tasted better when he sensed something amiss near the small of his back. A moment later, Doyle had drawn the gun from Bodie's waistband and was holding it pressed against his ribs. Bodie could feel the safety being thumbed off. He swallowed, knowing there was already a round in the chamber.
"Now," Doyle breathed into Bodie's ear, "you're not going to make a single sound. Got that?"
"Who the hell are you?" Bodie whispered, torn between passion and a tearing sense of betrayal. It seemed Doyle was more than a simple drug addict after all.
"That's for me to know and you to wonder," Doyle returned. "Now get down and stay quiet." He pressed Bodie into a crouch, still holding the gun steady, and with his free hand pulled something from his pocket.
Whatever it was slipped free and clattered on the hard-packed floor of the warehouse. Both men tensed and peered over the rim of the forklift to see that Derek had turned their way suspiciously.
Derek produced a pistol from his own pocket and advanced on the forklift. "Who's there?" he demanded. "Come out where I can see you."
Bodie cast a quick glance at Doyle and saw that the other man didn't want to be discovered any more than he did. Whatever Doyle was up to, he wasn't working with Derek. Praying that Doyle wasn't trigger-happy, Bodie rose smoothly to his feet and leaned on the snub-nosed bonnet of the machine. "It's me," he announced baldly.
Now there were two guns pointed at him from different directions. Bodie didn't even dare look down to gauge Doyle's reaction, for that would have revealed the other man's presence.
Derek stepped forward slowly, squinting in the dim light. "Bodie?" he said incredulously. "What are you doing here?"
Bodie took the offensive. "I came to give you your payment. Fifteenth of every month, remember? You were the one who insisted on the schedule. The least you could do is show up to accept my money."
"What?" Derek was bewildered. The barrel of the gun lowered a little, but not enough.
"I saw you heading this way," Bodie continued, "so I followed you." He pulled the envelope from his jacket and held it out. "Now will you just take this so I can get out of here? I have a date tonight, you know."
Derek reached for the packet, his gun drooping to point at the floor. Bodie's free hand, concealed by the cab of the forklift, made a hidden gesture.
Doyle's response was gratifyingly quick. In a flash he had his gun over the edge of the forklift and aimed at Derek. "Police, Derek!" he barked. "Drop it!"
Derek didn't drop it, but snarled and started to lift his weapon towards Bodie. A single shot rang out, and Derek was clutching his hand while the gun thudded to the floor.
Bodie sprang forward to immobilise Derek. Wrenching the man's arm behind his back, Bodie realised that Doyle had neatly creased his wrist with a bullet. He glanced up at the curly-haired man in respect. "Nice shot, for a copper."
Doyle didn't respond to his quick grin. He retrieved his handcuffs from the floor where they had fallen and came forward to snap them on Derek's wrists. He pushed the publican against the forklift and began to search him briskly. When Bodie bent for the dropped pistol, Doyle snapped quickly, "I'll take that."
Bodie straightened and gave Doyle a frown. "I'm on your side, mate. SAS. I can show you my ID if you like."
"I don't care if you're the Queen of fucking Sheba," Doyle spat. "You've blown this whole sodding operation, you realise that? Two months I put into this investigation!"
Bodie blinked. "What are you after him for?"
Doyle picked up the extra gun and aimed one at each of the two men. "Drugs. That's a heroin shipment in those crates there --" he jerked his head "-- and I've been waiting for the pick-up."
Derek cursed, his head down.
Bodie felt an incredulous smile creeping across his face. "A drug investigation? You're not really a coke-head at all, are you? That was just a put-up job. You meant me to walk in on you just then."
Doyle said nothing, his gaze dropping uneasily.
"But why were you investigating me?" Bodie asked.
"You've been dealing with Derek," Doyle pointed out. "Giving him money. I couldn't be sure -- still can't be sure -- that you aren't in on this deal."
"Oh, come on!" Bodie scoffed. "I'd no idea Derek was up to all this. He's just an old acquaintance of mine. I owe him some money and I'm paying him back, that's all."
Derek muttered something, but Doyle paid him no heed.
Bodie opted for a change of subject. "So the big pick-up is tonight, eh? And you're going to take them all on your own? I must say, I don't think much of the way you do things in Scotland Yard."
"I'm with the Met, not the Yard," Doyle growled. "And I'm not on my own. Backup's on the way." He gave Bodie a dark look. "Stay right there. Don't move, either of you." He stalked a few steps away and paused by a support girder near the neatly stacked crates. "It's over, Trish," he said in clear tones. "We've been blown. I've got Derek here, and the shipment, but Moore will twig something's wrong as soon as he shows up. Better tell Franks to move in now."
"You little sod!" Bodie exclaimed in admiration. "You've bugged the place."
"'Course I did," Doyle sneered, sauntering back to watch over Derek, with one wary eye and one gun muzzle still trained on Bodie. "I want evidence to convict the whole lot of them: Derek, Moore and his cronies. Would've had them too, if you hadn't come in ham-fisted like that."
Bodie's jaw dropped at this injustice. "Well, if you had warned me what you were about --"
"Didn't know if I could trust you, did I?" Doyle interrupted. "I still don't, come to that. You just stay over there, mate, where I can keep an eye on you."
Bodie sighed and stepped back obediently next to Derek. "When's your backup due to arrive?" he asked after a few minutes.
Doyle was frowning, obviously concerned about the same matter. "Any second now, I expect," he returned. "So don't get any clever ideas -- either of you."
Bodie watched Doyle fidgeting for another span of time, then said idly, "Don't know about the Met, sunshine, but where I come from we like an operation to be timed a bit better than this. Where was your backup waiting -- Outer Mongolia?"
Doyle opened his mouth for a sharp retort, then stiffened as the sound of motors penetrated the warehouse doors. "Here they are now."
Bodie cocked his head. "No sirens?"
Doyle scowled, obviously getting the same bad feeling that was running up and down Bodie's spine. He listened for a few more seconds to the sound of car doors slamming and footsteps.
"In there. Check it out," said a man's gruff voice.
Doyle jerked his gun urgently at Derek. "Get behind the forklift -- now! And don't make a sound. You too, Bodie."
The three of them ended up crouching together behind the scant cover of the rusting machinery. Doyle's attention was divided between Derek and the men entering the warehouse; evidently he trusted Bodie at least enough to put him lower down on the list of priorities.
The first two that appeared through the door were large, muscular types, apparently bodyguards. They fanned out automatically and circled the stacks of crates, eyes and guns facing out toward the shadows. They were followed by an older man with a hard face, carrying a briefcase.
"No one here, sir," said the bodyguard with the broken nose.
"Where the hell is Derek?" the older man demanded of the empty air. "I told him to be here."
Bodie felt Derek shift next to him and quickly grabbed for the man, wrapping a hand over his mouth and nose. "Softly, mate," he breathed into Derek's ear, before he loosened the grip enough to give the man some air. Doyle met Bodie's eyes and gave an approving nod.
"Something's wrong," said Broken Nose.
"Perhaps. Perhaps not," said the older man. "Henry, step outside. Tell John to go next door to the Gunslinger and find out what happened to Derek. Have the lorry driver pull back until we give the signal."
Doyle mouthed a curse as he saw the fish beginning to slip from his net.
The older man looked around the warehouse suspiciously while Henry ran his errand, then waved a casual hand at one of the crates. "Check out the merchandise," he ordered.
"Right away, Mr. Moore," said Henry, turning to pry at one of the wooden containers. Broken Nose continued to sweep the shadows with his eyes, clearly on edge.
Derek squirmed in Bodie's grasp, lurching into Doyle and pushing him off balance. Still keeping his right hand clamped over Derek's nose and mouth, Bodie added his left arm in a chokehold, putting pressure on the arteries in Derek's neck until he subsided, face purpling. Doyle regained his crouch and cast Bodie a glare that made him feel strangely sheepish.
"Looks like it's all here, Mr. Moore," said Henry, delicately touching a whitened fingertip to his tongue. "Good stuff," he approved. "Should we call the lorry in and load it up?"
Moore hesitated for a long moment, and Bodie saw Doyle stiffen like a hunting dog on point. Clearly the dealer was smart enough to suspect a trap, but those crates held a fortune in heroin. If greed persuaded Moore to overlook the danger, Doyle's operation might still be successful -- provided that the promised backup really did arrive.
Broken Nose swung around to look at his boss. "Probably a setup, sir."
"Yes, of course," said Moore at last. "Cover the crate again, Henry, until we find out what happened to Derek."
Derek had collapsed weakly, apparently unconscious, so Bodie loosened his grip. He didn't want to kill the publican unnecessarily. But some of the weakness was apparently feigned, and Derek broke into struggles again. One foot struck the side of the forklift, and a metallic thud rang through the darkened warehouse.
Doyle breathed a curse, reversed one of the guns he was holding, and brought the butt down sharply over Derek's ear. Then he handed Bodie's gun back to him. "Get out of here if you can," he said in an undertone. Gripping the other pistol tightly, he called out in an authoritative voice, "Police, Moore! Hold it right there."
Moore's two bodyguards had spread apart out to approach the forklift from two different directions, but they froze when they heard Doyle's words.
Doyle rose slowly to his feet, the pistol trained on Moore. "Tell your men to put their weapons down, Moore."
The older man stepped forward, squinting at Doyle in the poor light. "You! You've been following me, haven't you?"
"That's right," Doyle growled. "I set this trap. Now drop the guns and get your hands up. This warehouse will be crawling with police in a few minutes." Slowly, Doyle stepped around the forklift, into the open.
Bodie closed his eyes in despair. This was carrying the bluff a bit too far, he thought.
Moore seemed unintimidated by Doyle's claims, and no more than wary of the gun he was holding. His bodyguards picked up on this attitude, and their drooping guns rose again.
"You don't look like a copper," said Broken Nose derisively. "Let's see some ID."
"Drop your guns first," Doyle returned.
"I don't think he's a copper at all, Mr. Moore," Henry said. "What's he doing here alone, with a gun and no ID?"
Doyle halted his forward progress and changed his tack. "Does it really matter if I'm with the law or not? I have a gun pointed at you, Mr. Moore, and I can get off a shot before either of your men can take me."
"You can shoot," Moore said slowly, "but will you? If you are a constable, you wouldn't shoot an unarmed man. If you aren't, you might shoot me anyway. Really, I don't see that I have anything to lose." He made a quick signal with his hand near his leg.
Bodie saw the instant when both gunmen prepared to fire, and he started to rise from his crouching position to cover Doyle. Seeing the threat, Doyle collapsed neatly back into a shoulder roll that took him partly into the protection of the forklift. Coming out of the roll, he fired off one shot -- at Moore.
Bodie was surprised to see Moore fall to the ground, his face contorting in agony. He hadn't really believed Doyle would shoot either. Broken Nose had fired at Doyle and missed as he rolled away. But Henry was still in position to make a shot, and he had only hesitated a moment when his boss went down. With an angry shout, he tensed to pull the trigger. Bodie put a bullet into Henry's shoulder and he went down, his bullet missing Doyle by a yard.
Moore was writhing on the ground, cursing and holding his leg. Henry was unconscious. Broken Nose had disappeared.
Bodie circled the forklift cautiously, alert for any movement. Broken Nose must have darted behind some of the crates, but it was impossible to hear the sound of anyone moving over Moore's groans. In a flash of irritation, Bodie wished Doyle had killed the man, unarmed or not.
Without looking, Bodie knew that Doyle had darted out from behind the forklift and was scouting the crates in the opposite direction. He moved to complement Doyle's search pattern.
There weren't many crates, but they were stacked rather haphazardly, providing cover in several different places. Bodie rounded each corner with care, extending every sense to try to feel out his opponent before they actually came within sight of each other. He was halfway around the lefthand stack of crates when he glimpsed something through a gap that caught his attention. Moore had stopped writhing and pulled a small .22 out of his coat, taking aim at someone out of Bodie's line of sight.
It wasn't hard to guess what Moore's target must be. Bodie snapped his gun up and shouted "Doyle!" in urgent warning. But before he could get off a shot, something crashed down on Bodie's head and the world flickered around him.
There was an arm around Bodie's throat -- the same hold he had used on Derek a few minutes ago. The muzzle of a gun prodded him in the small of the back, urging him to his feet. He swayed dizzily, wondering what had happened to his gun.
"Come out, little copper!" Broken Nose called from behind Bodie. "I've got your mate. If you don't want his brains blown out, you'd better toss your gun and come out with your hands in the open."
Doyle appeared around the opposite line of crates. He took one look at Bodie and threw his gun to the floor. Then he stepped out with his hands held wide.
Out of the corner of his eye, Bodie could still see Moore taking aim at Doyle. He tried to call a warning, but the arm around his neck tightened viciously.
Three things happened at once. Moore fired at Doyle, who grabbed his arm with a choked cry and fell to the ground. Someone came crashing through the door; Bodie thought for a moment this might be the belated police backup, but the newcomer wielded a gun and called no warning, and the man holding Bodie wasn't reacting as to an enemy. And at the same time, Broken Nose tightened his chokehold so that blackness fluttered at the edges of Bodie's vision. In a few seconds he would be out, and there was nothing he could do.
Dimly, Bodie saw Doyle roll over and pick something up. Broken Nose shouted unintelligibly over Bodie's head. Doyle raised the pistol lefthanded and fired once at Moore, then aimed at Bodie and fired even as Broken Nose shifted his footing for an attack. Something buzzed past Bodie's ear, then he was dragged to the ground by Broken Nose's dead weight.
The newcomer had frozen for a few seconds, trying to sort out what was going on, but now he had rounded a girder and had a clear shot at Doyle. The young copper, unaware of the danger behind him, was climbing to his feet with one hand clamped on his bloodied right arm.
Bodie flopped uselessly, trying to disentangle himself from the limp body underneath. He saw a gun out of the corner of his eye and reached for it, every movement seeming damnably slow. Doyle's eyes widened as he saw Bodie aim towards him. The newcomer hesitated for a fatal second between shooting Doyle or Bodie; then he crumpled with Bodie's bullet in his gut.
Doyle whirled and saw the danger he had missed, then after a moment turned to check on his other enemies. Bodie saw Doyle's sharp gaze touch on Broken Nose -- dead; Moore -- motionless; Henry -- stirring weakly; the forklift which concealed Derek. Seeing the minute relaxation in Doyle's stance, Bodie let fall the gun he had grabbed and raised a hand to the throbbing at the back of his head. It hurt, so he pulled his hand away and tried to gather himself together. He got to his feet and found he could balance if he concentrated, then shivered as he got his first good look at Broken Nose. The man had a neat hole in the middle of his forehead.
"Bloody hell, Doyle," Bodie complained, "you took a risk. He was holding a gun at my head -- what if he'd pulled the trigger when he fell?"
Doyle was at the door, opening it a crack to check for the approach of any more of Moore's allies. "After I shot Moore, he changed his aim. The gun wasn't pointing at you."
"You could have shot me as easily as him! You were using your off hand!"
Kicking the latecomer's gun out of his reach and kneeling to check the seriousness of his wound, Doyle tossed Bodie a quick grin. "Handgun champion in the Met, five years running. Couldn't miss at that range."
"Christ." Bodie raised a hand to his head again, then stopped himself as he remembered it would only hurt more that way.
"I did tell you to get out of here, if you recall. Not my fault you stuck around to get bashed on the head."
Bodie merely grunted in response, irritated that he had been made hostage even for a few seconds. He retrieved his own gun from where he had dropped it and went to check on Henry, stuffing a handkerchief under the man's jacket.
Sirens sounded outside, and Bodie looked up. "It's about bloody time! I don't think much of the way they do things in your outfit, sunshine."
Doyle looked thunderous. "Tell you the truth, neither do I."
A flood of eager young coppers came through the door -- where they would have been perfect targets, Bodie noted sourly -- and closed on Doyle and Bodie.
"DC Doyle," Doyle identified himself wearily. "I'm with DI Franks. It's all over here. Have you called an ambulance?" Several suspicious frowns centred on Bodie. "No, he's okay. He's with me."
A hefty, balding man in suit and tie entered the warehouse, followed by an anxious woman who ran straight to Doyle's side. "Ray!" she cried. "Are you all right? Oh, you're hurt!"
Doyle let her peel back his sleeve. "What the hell happened, Trish? You're late!"
"The receiver broke down. We had to send back to the station for another. DI Franks said we should sit tight until it arrived. I was afraid something might be wrong, but . . . and then someone called in a report of a shot fired in this vicinity."
"A shot," Bodie snorted. "I should think so."
Trish barely spared him a glance. "I am so sorry, Ray! If I had guessed -- but we had no way to know what was going on."
Doyle scowled. "Wait, you said the receiver broke. So you didn't get any of this on tape? Did you at least stop the lorry getting away? Christ, you mean there's no evidence at all?"
The heavyset man, who had been touring the warehouse's gory attractions, interrupted bitterly. "It hardly matters. Moore's dead in any case. Two dead and three injured, aside from yourself." He bent a disapproving scowl upon Doyle. "What do you think this is, Doyle, the OK Corral?"
"I did try to get him alive, sir," Doyle pointed out. "Shot him in the leg. But then he shot me and I had no choice."
"Ray, you must do something about this arm," Trish insisted, drawing him towards the ambulance attendants that had just arrived.
Bodie started to follow and found his passage blocked by the senior officer that had chewed out Doyle. "You," he said blackly. "You're in this up to your neck, aren't you?"
Bodie stiffened to attention, sensing trouble on the horizon. "No, sir. I was caught up in it by accident. I'm SAS, sir, I can show you --"
"I know who you are. You've had dealings with Derek, haven't you?"
"Nothing illegal, sir. Just some money I owed him from a few years back." A thread of tension coiled in Bodie's gut. If they found out what had really happened between him and Derek . . . Bodie cast an appealing look towards Doyle, but the other man was thoroughly distracted by the wound in his arm and Trish's motherly cooing.
"You've a lot of explaining to do, Mr. Bodie," the older man said. "I think you should come down the station with us. Sergeant, take this man in for questioning."
"That really isn't necessary, sir," Bodie protested. "I'd be happy to cooperate --" He gave up with a sigh as the sergeant's hand fastened on his arm. Doyle was nowhere in sight.
By the time four hours had passed, the level of adrenaline in Bodie's system had receded enough that the tremor in his hands was hardly visible. He had given his description of events three times to different people, with the last statement on tape. Now he was waiting in the bland white interrogation room, guarded by a fresh-faced young PC who clearly suspected he was Public Enemy No. 1. To be fair, Bodie suspected the other man was no more than a year or two younger than he was, but somehow Bodie felt infinitely older, world-weary and battle-scarred. After the way Inspector Franks had glowered, Bodie supposed he should be relieved not to be thrown in a cell at once. But so far he had not been charged with anything, and he hadn't asked to make a phone call since he was still hoping he could get out of this without his superiors hearing anything about the matter.
A tap at the door announced the arrival of DC Doyle, looking even more disreputable than usual with his arm in a sling and bloodstains on his shirt. Faint bruises were still visible around his left eye from the brawl a few weeks ago, and for the first time Bodie noticed that his other cheekbone had been broken sometime in the past. In the harsh fluorescent light, Doyle looked pale and exhausted, with puffy bags under his eyes.
He nodded to the PC babysitting Bodie. "Right, then, Wolfe. I'll take it from here."
Wolfe stood up and glanced uncertainly at Bodie. "Are you sure, Doyle?"
"Has he offered any violence?" Doyle asked in dry tones that made Bodie narrow his eyes.
"Well, no, but --"
"I'll be fine."
"All right, then." Wolfe reached for the doorknob. "Say, Doyle --"
"Did you really charged ten armed men with no gun of your own?"
A faint flush rose up Doyle's neck. "Six men."
"Five!" Bodie retorted.
Doyle looked abstracted for a moment. "Yeah, only five. And I did have a gun."
"And you had help!" Bodie added.
A dimple appeared at the side of Doyle's mouth. "Oh, that was meant to be help, was it? I couldn't tell at the time."
"Doyle," Bodie growled warningly, earning a nervous look from Wolfe.
"Go on, Harry, get out of here. I have to talk to Bodie."
Once Wolfe was gone, Bodie felt a little of his tension drain away. "So, why are you here?" he asked. "Shouldn't you be in hospital?"
"Flesh wound," Doyle replied succinctly, moving his arm to demonstrate that the sling wasn't really necessary -- but Bodie caught the slight wince around his eyes. "As for why I'm here, I came to get you out. Come on, mate, time to go." He pulled Bodie's own SAS-issue handgun from the recesses of the sling and tossed it on the table.
Bodie stood up warily. Getting out certainly sounded like a good idea, but he hoped this wasn't some mad jailbreak -- he didn't want to be a fugitive from the law when he'd never really done anything illegal. "Er -- did you clear this with that inspector bloke?"
"Who, Franks?" Doyle snorted. "Not bloody likely. I had to go over his head. But once I talked to the superintendent and confirmed everything in your statement, he agreed there was no reason to keep you here."
"Franks won't love you for that," Bodie pointed out.
"He hates me as it is. Why in hell do you think my backup was so late?"
Bodie's eyes widened. "You don't really believe that, do you?" If Doyle's superior really wanted him dead, he was in serious trouble.
"I dunno. Nah, I suppose not. Too obvious. But he does keep givin' me tougher assignments, hopin' I'll screw 'em up."
"Nasty. In your job, failure could be lethal."
"Don't I know it? Listen, Bodie, seriously -- thanks. I couldn't have done it without you. Probably I'd've ended up bleeding my heart out in that fuckin' warehouse, and Franks and company still would've been late."
Embarrassed, Bodie shrugged. "All in a day's work for the SAS, you know."
"Yeah, I know." Doyle shifted his weight uneasily. "Bodie . . . that fellow Derek. He was blackmailing you, wasn't he?"
Bodie tensed. "Nah, I just owed him some money, like you said."
"Yeah, right. You know Franks had already called your unit's captain before I persuaded the super to let you go?"
Bodie groaned and slumped back into his chair. "Bloody hell." That was it; the whole story would come out now. Even if Franks hadn't figured it out, Derek would probably spill everything just to get back at Bodie. Hard Case Harding would toss Bodie out on his ear. It would be back to the mercs, he supposed, the dirty little wars and petty fights that no one should have to die for. And the constant struggling for dominance among the squad -- you could never trust anyone in the mercs, not even your best mate.
Doyle was saying something over Bodie's head. " . . . since the day I first joined Drugs Squad. Has to do with the reputation I got earlier, I guess. Anyway, I've decided I can't stick it any more. I'm getting out. Joining this new mob that's starting up -- CI5. You heard of it? Anti-terrorist lot."
"I heard they were just a poor man's SAS," Bodie scoffed.
"Well, I've met the controller a couple of times, and he doesn't strike me as a poor man's anything. Nothing shabby about George Cowley. He'll be good to work under, I think. Be nice to have a boss I can really admire."
"Bully for you, mate," Bodie grumbled, still contemplating his imminent unemployment.
"What I'm saying is, maybe you should join up too."
Bodie raised his head. "Eh?"
"Join CI5. Cowley's looking for good men to form the core of his squad, and you'd fit the bill nicely. The, er, variety in your past would just be another plus to him. If you told him all about it, there'd be no grounds for blackmail, would there? I bet he'd take it better than your SAS superiors would. You're having a little trouble with them now, aren't you?"
"'Course not," Bodie snapped. He wasn't, really -- not yet anyway. "Not as bad as your trouble."
Doyle gave him a quick glare for that, but there was a strange undertone of affection in his glance. "Well, think about it. Might be just the thing for you. And who knows -- we could even end up working together, eh?"
Bodie found himself in the hallway, not even sure how he had gotten there, watching Doyle's back recede and contemplating the other man's closing words.
-- THE END --