The Gemini Factor
[N.B.: The author has not actually had the opportunity to see "Who Dares Wins," so some inconsistencies are to be expected. Caveat lector.]
The first few times I struggled up to consciousness, I didn't even realise anything was missing. I was too preoccupied by the lances of pain in my head, the churning nausea in my gut, and the way the room kept swooping crazily around me. I progressed as far as figuring out that I was hurt and in a hospital, and one time when I managed to croak, "Where--?" to a nurse, she told me it was St. Joseph's, but that didn't really clear up my profound sense of disorientation.
When I came properly awake for the first time, the activity in my skull had receded to something that could truthfully be termed a headache, and I had a chance to think properly. I was alone, lying in a hospital bed with flower-printed curtains on either side, a dingy grey wall beyond the foot of the bed, and a high plaster ceiling networked by cracks. An older building, this hospital. St. Joseph's--the name didn't ring any bells. I wondered what city I was in. Then I wondered what country. Then I started to ask myself the real questions, and I panicked.
Fortunately a young nurse came by soon and saw that my eyes were open. "Awake, Mr. Bodie?" she said, bustling to my side. "How are you feeling?"
I latched onto the name like a lifeline. "Bodie? Is that my name?"
I saw the expressions flit across her face--puzzlement, alarm, uncertainty, then a false smile meant to be reassuring. "A little disoriented, are we? That's normal. You've had a blow to the head."
"I'm not disoriented," I snapped, which was not strictly true--the bed still had a disconcerting tendency to tip as if it wanted to get rid of me. "I can't remember my name."
Her smile faltered. "Just wait a moment, sir, and I'll get a doctor," she told me, and disappeared to get help.
I wanted to call her back, make her answer my questions--if she knew my name, what else could she tell me? But she was clearly unsure of herself and as frightened as I was, so I let my head drop back against the pillow and traced the lines in the ceiling and whispered to myself, "Bodie. Bodie." I wondered if it was spelled the obvious way. I wondered what the rest of it was. I wondered--God, I wondered everything! I felt so lost, as if I was floating free in space, reaching out for something to grab onto, anything that would give me an identity.
A silver-haired doctor appeared and commanded my instant attention. "So, I understand we have a little amnesia here," he said soothingly.
"Yes. Doctor, can you tell me--" I began.
"Do you remember your name?" the doctor interrupted.
I glared at him; that was supposed to be my line. "Bodie," I responded. "She called me Bodie." I waved at the nurse hovering at the edge of the curtain.
The doctor shot the nurse a sour glance as if she had been giving away national secrets. "Can you remember the rest of it?"
"No," I admitted. I saw the doctor's eyes flick toward the foot of my bed, and I realised in a glorious burst of inspiration that my chart must be there--a paper with all sorts of information about me! I pushed at the covers and tried to reach down the bed, which promptly began to imitate an unbroken horse.
The doctor pushed me back against the pillows. "Just relax, Mr. Bodie. There's nothing to be alarmed about--a temporary loss of memory is not at all uncommon in cases like yours. We'll answer all your questions in a moment, but first I'd like to establish just how much you do remember."
That meant I would have to deal with a lot of questions before I got any answers. I glared at him.
"Do you know where you are?"
"A hospital. St. Joseph's?"
"Quite, but what city?"
I bit my lip, glancing from the doctor to the nurse. "London?"
A shadow passed over the doctor's face--what did it mean? "What makes you say that?" he asked non- committally.
"Your accent," I said. "And hers."
"Yes. Well, very good. You are correct, this is London. But from now on, would you please just tell me what you actually remember, and leave your guesses out of it."
"I don't remember anything!" I snapped, hating him. Then I began to wonder how I had been able to recognise their accents. And what did my own voice sound like?
"Do you know what year it is?"
I didn't, but helplessly, I tried to guess again. "Er, nineteen...s-s-sixty...no, seventy--? I don't know."
"It's 1983. Do you know your age?"
I looked at my hands. Strong, square-fingered, callused--I wasn't an old man, and I wasn't a child, but beyond that I couldn't say. I felt certain I was right-handed, though. "I don't remember anything," I whispered miserably. "Please, what's my name?"
The doctor cleared his throat. "Very well. According to our records, your name is William Andrew Philip Bodie. You are thirty-two years old. You were brought in three days ago with multiple abrasions, contusions, and a nasty concussion gained in a car accident."
"Car accident? Was anyone else involved?" Had I been driving? Was I responsible for the crash? Did I have a friend who was now dead, or lying on the verge of death in this very hospital?
"No, you were alone in the car when it went off the road."
"Was I drunk?"
"There was a small amount of alcohol in your bloodstream when you were brought in, but not enough to impair your reactions significantly. I believe your--er, friends--are looking into the possibility of foul play."
Someone might have done this to me on purpose? "What friends?" I demanded immediately.
At that very moment, someone else came around the edge of the curtain: a lithe young man with a round face that seemed disproportionately large for his body, haloed by riotous brown curls that strengthened the effect and made his features leap out at you. He had a rough, uneven face that seemed forbidding for a moment, but when he saw me sitting up in bed his frown transmuted at once into a glorious smile. "Bodie!" he cried. "Feeling better then, mate?"
Stunned by the power of that smile, I could only stare at him. The doctor murmured quickly, and in a moment the nurse was urging the curly-haired man away. I reached out my hand, wanting to call him back--someone who knew me, someone who liked me, someone who could tell me about myself!--but the doctor stepped in my way.
"He'll be back in a moment," the doctor assured me. "As soon as Nurse Evans has explained the situation to him. This will be a shock to Mr. Doyle as well. First let me just check you over. How badly is your head hurting?"
He took my vital signs and shone a light into various orifices and listened to my heart and lungs, and pronounced that I was recovering nicely. The concussion, he told me, had been fairly serious, but there was no fracture of the skull nor evidence of intra cranial bleeding, so he was sure the amnesia would only be temporary. Perhaps Mr. Doyle could help to jog my memory.
Doyle, I repeated to myself. My friend's name was Mr. Doyle. And mine was William Bodie.
"...but only for a few minutes," the doctor was saying. "You need to rest."
And then he was gone and the curly-haired man reappeared, suddenly hesitant and unsure. His green eyes were wide, traveling quickly and intimately over my face, and his solemn expression seemed to accentuate the lines in his face. I realised that most of the asymmetry in his features came from a misshapen cheekbone; it must have been broken some time in the distant past. But all that had been immaterial when he smiled. I wished he would smile again, and be as confident and happy as he was in the first moment he had seen me. I could use some of that assurance myself.
"Hallo, mate," he murmured in a much more subdued tone, stepping to the side of the bed. He wore an old, stained T-shirt and faded jeans that looked ridiculously tight, and, incongruously, a neat tweed jacket over all. Suddenly I realised what that jacket was meant to conceal, and I stiffened.
"What is it?" he said at once. "Bodie?"
I looked at him suspiciously. Was he really a friend of mine, or could he be an imposter?
"Bodie, for chrissakes, what's wrong?" he demanded. "You're looking at me like I just crawled up the drain or something!"
I saw the real distress on his face and doubted my instincts. But why--? "Why do you have a gun?" I asked.
His shoulders eased a little. "Is that all? I always carry a gun. So do you. It's part of the job, mate."
"What job?" I remembered the callouses on my hands and realised that some of them came from frequent martial arts practices. And this man, Doyle--although he lacked the beefy solidity usually associated with heavies of the more unsavoury type, the easy way he moved and took in the room at a glance told me that he was trained. And as much as I was alarmed by these discoveries, I was more frightened that I had the skill to recognise such things. What line of work was I in, anyway?
"You really have forgotten, haven't you?" said Doyle, sinking into the chair beside my bed. It was the side away from the entrance, I noted absently, where he could see anyone approaching.
"Everything," I admitted. "Who are you?"
He flinched at that, and his face closed as if a door had slammed. Green eyes met mine sadly. "I'm Ray," he said. "Ray Doyle, your partner. We're best mates."
I swallowed. He had gifted me with that beautiful smile, and all I gave in return was suspicion. "Partners in what?" I asked.
He sighed, apparently becoming resigned to telling me the most basic facts of my life. "CI5," he told me, and pulled a wallet from a pocket of his jeans. I wouldn't have thought anything could fit into those pants once he'd got them zipped. He handed me an identification card with his picture and name on it. The back side held a lot of small print, which I pondered for a while, wishing my eyes would focus properly. It all seemed to be about CI5 having the power to do anything it damn well pleased, regardless of the usual limitations on search and seizure.
"So--" I licked my lips uncomfortably"--we're legal?"
Doyle blinked for a moment, then chuckled. "We're on the side of the angels, sunshine. Would I lead you astray?"
Cheered by this revelation and by Doyle's humour, I smiled as I handed back the ID.
"Your's should be around somewhere, too," said Doyle. He investigated the small drawer in the bedside table. "Here. They've got all your things for you." He pulled out another wallet and flipped it open to a similar card.
There it was: William A. P. Bodie, accompanied by a picture of an undistinguished dark-haired man with a menacing look. I lifted my head and glanced around the room quickly.
Anticipating my needs, Doyle lifted a small mirror from the wall and held it before me. I compared the man in the mirror with the one on the card. Neglecting the purpling bruise at my temple and the bandages round my head, there was an undeniable resemblance. It certainly appeared to be a picture of me, except that I hardly felt as cocky and powerful as this man appeared. My face was regular and pleasant and not very memorable. I almost laughed at this thought, since of course there weren't any faces I could remember, no matter how distinctive they might be.
I flipped through the rest of the wallet, finding a few pound notes, more forms of identification, scraps of paper with names and numbers that meant nothing to me, and several business cards. One was for a dentist, showing that I had an appointment on September 9, 1983. I frowned. "What's the date?" I asked.
"Eleventh of September," Doyle answered promptly. "Wednesday."
"Oh, well, too late," I said, and tossed the appointment card aside.
Doyle glanced at it. "Hah! I knew there had to be a reason you went off the road like that--you were trying to get out of having your teeth cleaned!"
"I'd take a nice stay in hospital over a quick trip to the dentist's any day," I returned quickly. Then I began to study the rest of the drawer's contents.
There was a ring of keys, some of which were immediately identifiable: care keys, several door keys, one that might have gone to a mailbox, and two that probably fit padlocks. There was also a handcuff key, which presumably matched the cuffs which were also in the drawer. Then there was a folding pocket-knife with several utility attachments, all showing signs of use. I must have had this for a while. Those items and a handful of lose change were all that remained to connect me to my empty past.
"Your gun and your RT are waiting for you at home," Doyle concluded. "Couldn't have them lying about in hospital."
I was stymied for a moment by the term 'RT,' until the words 'radio transmitter' floated to the top of my brain. "Home?" I prompted.
"Your flat. Selected, secured, and paid for by CI5," he supplied. "It's about as comfy as you would expect for a place chosen by bureaucrats on a budget."
This brought up another difficult question. "Have I got...any family?"
Doyle's mouth curved, but sadly--not a real smile. "No. Your parents died when you were a kid, and you're married to the job, same as me. But don't worry, sunshine, I'll take care of you."
I was taken aback by the endearment and the reassuring way he patted my hand. It was the second time Doyle had used that pet name without even thinking, in a tone only slightly ironic. Just how close was my friendship with this man? Did it go beyond friendship? I found it hard to imagine being intimate with a man, but that could just be my spotty memory. It wasn't so hard to picture myself with women, but the images were all faceless. There was no way I could ask Doyle straight out without risking a lot of pain and embarrassment for both of us, whatever the answer was. Better to wait and see what developed, I decided.
Doyle was watching me as if he knew exactly what was going through my head, and after a moment he leaned forward and began naming out each of the keys in my hand. One of the Yale keys was for his flat, which made me glance up at him in speculation. He didn't know about the padlock keys, and said that I always liked to keep secrets, even from him. I fingered the smooth metal pensively, wondering if I would ever be able to remember all of my secrets.
Then the nurse was there, telling Doyle he had to leave. My head had started to pound quite badly, so I knew she was right, but Doyle saw the panic in my eyes and immediately assured me that he would be back the next day, with grapes.
"Grapes?" I said blankly.
"Your favourite kind," he promised.
I fell unwillingly back to sleep while trying to unravel the puzzle of Doyle knowing more about my taste in food than I did.
The nurses roused me several times in the night to make sure I hadn't slipped into a coma, which was annoying, but after each visit I quickly sank back into dreamless sleep. The next time I drifted back to consciousness of my own accord I found I had another visitor. An older man with a thinning thatch of faded blond hair was gazing pensively down at my bed. Father? I wondered briefly--but Doyle had said my parents were dead.
Then the man noticed that I was awake, and the momentary tenderness in his sharp blue eyes was quickly covered by a grim look. "Well, 3.7," he said heartily, "feeling any better this morning?"
I recognised the tone, and the code designation had appeared on my CI5 identification. My shoulders braced back involuntarily. "Yes, sir," I responded promptly.
His brows rose. "Ah. You remember me, then?"
"Er, no, sir." I swallowed. Everyone seemed disconcerted when I guessed at truths that I couldn't actually recall, yet I could hardly help trying to fit my world back together. "Are you...my commanding officer?"
His expression blanked again. "I'm your employer," he corrected. "CI5 is not a military organisation." After a moment, he extended a hand. "George Cowley."
I returned the firm, dry grasp, resisting the urge to introduce myself in turn. 'Nice to meet you' hardly seemed appropriate, under the circumstances. "Er, thank you, sir." Officer or not, his bearing seemed to demand the honorific.
He lowered himself into the chair at my bedside, favoring his right leg. "I see amnesia has had a salutary effect on your attitude, 3.7," he said drily. "No, don't bother trying to answer that. I trust that by the time you regain your usual flippant manner, you will also have recovered enough of your memory to give me a proper report."
I unraveled that carefully. So I wasn't usually very respectful, was I? But he didn't seem annoyed. "Was I, er, working on something for you?"
Cowley frowned. "No, you were off duty. The question is merely whether your accident was genuine or contrived. I don't suppose you recall if you were forced off the road, or if the car had been tampered with in any way?"
"No, sir." I couldn't even remember what sort of vehicle I had been driving.
"Well. The forensics team found that the brake line was severed, but they couldn't tell whether it occurred before or during the accident. Unfortunately, it was raining quite heavily, so they couldn't check for leaked fluid along the road."
I nodded wisely at this. Cowley seemed to be considering quite seriously the possibility that someone had deliberately caused my accident. Had they intended to injure me, or kill me? Was it someone I knew--or had known, before my memory was scrambled? I seemed very unfair, that I should have to deal with a possible attempt on my life when I was having enough trouble simply reconstructing it. Then again, judging by my job and my callouses and my reaction to Doyle's gun the previous night, I probably dealt with threats to my life on a regular basis.
Cowley's head lifted at the sound of footsteps, and annoyance flickered across his features. "Shouldn't you be on duty, 4.5?" he demanded.
Apparently this code referred to Doyle, who had just appeared round the curtain with a grocery bag in the crook of one arm and a stack of magazines in the other. He pulled up short when he saw my other visitor. "Oh, hallo, sir. Er, I was just heading out to have another look over the crash site, only since the hospital's along the way and Marc Gordon said he couldn't meet me there until after 1.00, I thought--"
Cowley raised a hand. "Don't strain your imagination trying to make up excuses," he said in a resigned tone. "I was just leaving. My duties are not so easily put off." He levered himself to his feet, nodded to me and began to limp out of sight.
"Give my best to the minister," Doyle caroled after him.
I thought I heard a murmur of "best what?" drifting back, but Doyle only grinned. Clearly, I wasn't the only one with a flippant attitude, but Cowley didn't sound unduly bothered.
Doyle claimed the seat Cowley had just vacated, juggling his parcels. "How's the head?"
"Much better today," I said. "Memory's still as foggy, though. What's in the bag?"
Doyle chuckled, a sound like water gurgling down a sewer pipe. "Feeling more yourself, I see," he said as he began to unload his burden.
"If only I knew who that was," I murmured half to myself as the gifts spread out across my lap. The magazines proved to be several copies of Mayfair and one sporting goods catalog that ran heavily to rifles and small arms. The bag contained food: grapes (apparently my taste ran to small red grapes, the kind with no pips), digestive biscuits, cheese, and--
"Aha!" I exclaimed, seizing the box of chocolates. No one had to tell me I was fond of these. I dug my blunt fingernails impatiently under the plastic wrapping.
"You are doing better," Doyle commented as he stole some of my grapes. "Doctor says your head injury wasn't bad," he continued with his cheeks bulging. "Says you probably just need to have your memory jogged, and it'll all come back to you."
"I know, he gave me the same lecture." I lifted the top off the box and nobly offered Doyle the first selection.
"So that's what I'm here for, to job your memory."
"Aren't you supposed to be working?" I pointed out.
He shrugged. "Lunch break. Have to keep up my energy for an active lifestyle, you know." He snatched some more grapes. I was beginning to suspect that red seedless grapes were more Doyle's favourite than mine. "So what do you want to know?"
I rolled my eyes. "Everything! You can start with my life history."
"Well, you're out of luck there, mate, because you're a secretive bugger. But I'll tell you what I know. Shouldn't take to long anyway." He tugged open the package of digestive, making them scatter across the bed sheets.
"Messy little sod, aren't you?" I commented mildly. I was getting a feel for the tone I should be taking with Doyle, the rhythm of the insulting banter coming to me almost like a returning memory, although it was nothing so specific.
Doyle suppressed a grin, and I remembered the dazzling effect of that first smile he had flashed at me. "Just trying to provide familiar stimuli," he returned as he brushed crumbs to the floor. "You're always complaining about my table habits."
"My life history," I prompted. "In one hundred words or less."
"Less, probably." Doyle collected his thoughts. "You grew up in the North--Liverpool, I think. Your Mum died when you were small, and your father was a right pain, from what I gather. When you were fourteen-- maybe when your father died, I'm not sure--you ran away."
"To the circus?" I guessed, trying to sound light and unconcerned. Actually it was frightening to hear my life laid out this way, as if it were a stranger's. Nothing sounded familiar, and my throat was getting tight.
"Better than that; you ran away to the sea. First a tramp steamer, then you joined the merchant marine and sailed about with them for a few years. I know you spent some time in the Orient. Then you bunked off and joined a bunch of mercs."
I blinked. "Mercenaries?"
He nodded. "Rattled around fighting dirty little wars in Africa for a while--Angola, Biafra, Egypt. Then gunrunning in Jordan and later East Germany.:"
That certainly sounded like a stranger's life. I wasn't even sure I could find Biafra on the map. I stared disbelievingly at Doyle.
He caught my expression and shrugged. "You don't like to talk about those years much--except to tell tall tales of the hardships you endured, whenever anyone else complains about lousy food or hot weather. So after that," he went on, "you decided to turn legit. Came back home and joined the army--3rd Paras. Spent a while in Ulster trying to round up Provos. Then you were seconded to the SAS, and after a year with them you came to CI5."
"SAS," I murmured, feeling something stir at the back of my brain. This part of it sounded a bit more reasonable, easier to believe than years spent in darkest Africa.
"That's right. You've been five years with CI5, same as me. We've been partners the whole time. I suppose the work suits you, or else you're slowing down in your old age, because you never stayed in one place this long before." He gave me a minute to respond, but I couldn't think of anything to say. "Of course, some of this is guesswork on my part. You never gave out more than the bare bones. I suppose the Cow could supply a few details; there must be more in your file."
I wasn't hearing more than half what he said. "A mercenary?" I murmured, still stunned.
I was a fighter, I had known that already. I had deadly reflexes and I carried a gun. I suppose I must have realised last night that I had killed men, but now I had to face the knowledge that I had fought and killed for money. Just how dirty had those little wars been?
"Bodie?" Doyle laid a gentle hand on my arm.
I raised my eyes to meet his level green gaze. "How many--" I swallowed an enormous lump in my throat. "Ray, how many people have I killed?"
His face stiffened with shock; he hadn't expected that reaction. And what did that say about my conscience?
"You're better off not remembering, sunshine," Doyle said at last, softly.
I flinched away from his hand on my arm. Good God, what kind of monster was I?
Doyle tried again. "Look, Bodie, you were just a kid. You were looking for excitement, and you didn't know what it all meant. You were too damn young for that business; it's a wonder you even survived. But you got out of it. You figured it wasn't for you, and you started looking around for something better. And now you're fighting for us, the good guys."
I stared through him blindly.
"You're not a soulless killer, Bodie. You've got a conscience, strong morals. You're loyal and honest and hardworking and the best bloody partner I ever had. You've saved thousands of innocent lives since you've been working for CI5--maybe hundreds of thousands, and I mean that literally. Not to mention all the times you've kept my neck from the copping block. C'mon, mate, don't take on like this. I'm the one who's into brooding and guilt trips, not you!"
Into this scene of suspended horror bustled a plump, cheery nurse with an empty wheelchair. "Mr. Bodie, Dr. Royce has you scheduled for physical therapy now. Here, let's get you out of that bed--"
Doyle hurried to lend a hand as I was transferred from bed to chair. I roused enough from my miasma of self-loathing to snap that I was perfectly capable of moving three feet without support, but as soon as my foot touched the floor I began to lose track of which way was up. I ended up slumped in the chair with my hands clamped white-knuckled on the arms while the room spun about me.
Eventually the world stablised and I found Doyle staring at me anxiously. I knew his concern was only partly for my physical condition. "Get back to work, Doyle," I rasped.
His brow furrowed in distress, but after a glance at his watch he had to agree with me. "I'll be back," he avowed. "Soon's I get off."
"Fine," I mumbled, out of charity with the world. I was no longer at all sure that I wanted to remember my past.
Half an hour of testing and torture established that my left knee, which had been wrenched in the crash, was essentially intact. I was advised to keep off it for a few days, until the dizziness passed; a fall could twist the weakened joint badly. And there were certain kinds of exertion I should avoid for the next two weeks, and when I did start exercising again I should wrap the joint firmly.
The poking and prodding was sufficient to distract me from my other worries, and when I did have a moment to think again I found that I had achieved a certain peace. So my past was shady--checkered even; it might explain my memory loss. Doyle had said I disliked speaking about my history; perhaps I didn't even want to think about it any more. Dr. Royce's lecture on amnesia had included a mention of possible psychological causes, although I hadn't paid much attention at the time.
But whatever my life had been like up to now, I could always change. It might even be easy, if the amnesia proved permanent. Plenty of people re-evaluate their priorities and change their lives around after a serious illness; I could do the same. I would give up the violent line of work I was in, forget the mind set that prompted me to study every visitor for concealed weapons and chart a room in terms of defensible positions and lines of attack. I would devote myself to making the world a better place. I would leave CI5--
Then my only friend in the world, who happened to be a member of CI5, came back for a visit, and all my plans went out the window.
Doyle was determined to cheer me up that evening. He stuffed me full of chocolates and regaled me with stories of the past five years: funny stories, in which one or both of us came out looking a right idiot; ribald tales of double dates, interrupted liaisons, or occasions when we had tried to steal each other's current bird; amusing character sketches of other agents, their mannerisms and foibles and the practical jokes we had played on them; and more serious stories of times when we had saved each other's lives, or the life of someone else, or even the better part of London's population.
By the time the nurses chucked Doyle out, I was ready to follow him to hell and back, whatever I thought of my own past or my profession. I dropped off to sleep without resolving any of my inner conflict; once more I was reduced to hoping it would all come clear when my memory returned.
I woke to dim lighting and the small, subdued sounds of a hospital at night. The man in the bed to my right was snoring musically. I didn't know what the time was, but it felt like the dead small hours of the morning. I wondered what had awakened me.
Footsteps were approaching--hard-soled shoes, not the soft orthopedic runners the nurses wore. A man appeared around the edge of the curtain and smiled broadly at me. I noticed the bulge below his armpit and thought he must be a fellow agent, come to visit me.
Then he was reaching into his jacket, still smiling, and I realised how unlikely it was for someone to visit at this hour. As the gun appeared I was already moving. I rolled out the far side of the bed, taking half the sheets with me, and before he could circle round I pushed myself feet-first under the bed towards him. I scissored his legs out from under him; as he fell the gun clattered against the wall. I kicked him in the face and lunged for the weapon, reaching it first.
The gun had fired when I tripped him; the report echoed in my ears along with the shouts of disturbed patients and staff. By the time I sat up with the gun in my hand the stranger had leapt to his feet and was disappearing around the curtain again. I surged up and followed him without thought, training the muzzle between his shoulder blades and tightening my finger on the trigger. But an orderly was moving into my line of fire, and a moment later my attacker ducked behind a piece of hospital equipment. By the time I rounded the corner, he was gone, and dizziness was overtaking me.
I sagged against the wall, then let myself slip down to the floor. My heart was thumping like a frightened rabbit. A nurse ran towards me, straight in front of the gun I still clutched--a Walther PPK, I noticed automatically. I pointed it at the ceiling and thumbed on the safety.
"Mr. Bodie, what's going on!" she cried shrilly. "Are you hurt?"
The floor began to tilt alarmingly beneath me, and I wished for a handhold. "Call Doyle," I croaked.
Doyle arrived within fifteen minutes. I had no idea how far he had had to travel, but from his wild-eyed look I guessed that very little of the trip had passed below the speed limit. When he showed up I was settled in bed again, with the gun at my side and a doctor probing nervously at my leg. In the few seconds of excitement I had probably violated every rule the physiotherapist had laid down concerning using my knee.
:What happened?" Doyle demanded breathlessly as he reached my side.
"Someone tried to shoot me," I said shortly. I pulled out the pillow from behind my back and showed him the black hole neatly centred in it.
"Are you all right?" He scowled fiercely at the doctor, who was unhappy enough already.
"Fine. I pulled my knee running after him, that's all." I spoke wearily. All my fine resolutions about changing my life, avoiding violence, and never killing again had gone out the window as soon as my attacker had pulled a weapon. He had gotten away only because I couldn't get a clear shot: if not for the danger of hitting a bystander, I would have put a bullet in the back of an unarmed man without hesitation. And even now I couldn't make myself regret it.
"Is he all right?" Doyle demanded of the doctor, not taking my word for it.
"No further injuries, so far as I can tell," the doctor replied. "The knee is swelling up, but an ice pack should help." He retreated gratefully from the scene of the violence.
Doyle sighed in relief and turned back to me. "Alright, who was it?"
"How would I know?" I returned in annoyance. "He could have been my next-door neighbour for the past ten year, and I wouldn't have recognized him. This was his gun," I added with a wave at the offending weapon. "Fraid I got my prints on it, though."
"We'll check it anyway," Doyle decided, and sent an orderly to get a plastic bag for the evidence. "Maybe we can trace where he got it. Can you describe the man?"
I closed my eyes, trying to remember. "About five foot ten, heavy build. Short dark hair--not sure if it was black or brown, there wasn't much light. Couldn't see his eye colour either. No glasses, beard, or mustache--long sideburns, though, I think."
"Did you see any identifying marks?' Doyle pressed.
"You mean aside from the mole on his left buttock?" I snapped. Then I forced myself to take a deep breath. "Sorry. Guess I'm still wound up."
"'S only natural," Doyle said mildly, but I had seen his momentary flare of temper in response, quickly suppressed. "What was he wearing?"
"Black denims, white button-down shirt, dark leather jacket." I sighed. "Not much help is it?"
"Shoes. Did you see his feet?"
I had gotten quite a good look, actually, when I was sweeping them out from under him. "Boots," I replied. "Motorcycle boots, I think."
Doyle nodded. "Witnesses downstairs said he left on a motorcycle. Couldn't give me the type or the number, though."
I was impressed. Even hurrying so quickly to get to me, he had found time to suss out the basics. I guessed that he would make a minute, methodical study of every aspect of the event, despite the fury and anxiety I sensed just below the surface of his calm.
The orderly appeared with the requested bag and an ice pack for my knee. Doyle turned from his inspection of the bullet that had flattened itself against the steel frame at the head of the bed. "Can you walk on that leg?" he asked with a frown.
"Sure." I shrugged. "They let me up to go to the loo today. Twice."
"Right. Well, you're not staying here tonight."
I brightened. "Will they let me out?"
"They better. First the crash, now this...I think someone's after you, mate. Can't have you lying in an open ward. Maybe a private room, that we could secure--"
"I feel fine," I insisted. "I'd rather get out."
"Out it is, then." He glanced around the bed and considered. "They had to cut your clothes away after the crash, but I've got a tracksuit in the boot of my car that you can wear. Meanwhile--" He handed me the Walther in its plastic shroud. "Tuck that under your pillow for emergencies."
"Yes, Mum," I said, enormously relieved at the prospect of escaping the gloomy ward.
Doyle reappeared in a few minutes with the tracksuit and told me to dress while he argued with the doctor. Eventually the release papers were drawn up. I hesitated with the pen in my hand, having no idea what my signature looked like. I produced a shaky 'William Bodie,' while Doyle frowned over my shoulder. As the sky lightened to a chilly grey, he bundled me into his white Escort and drove off. I felt giddy with freedom, though I suspected it would have been frightening without Doyle at my side.
Doyle picked up the radio in the car and reported my change in status to headquarters in crisp terms I only half understood.
"Are you taking me home?' I asked, wondering if I should be recognising the streets we drove through. The world was still anonymous, unfamiliar.
Doyle threw me a glance. "Thought I'd take you to my place instead. At least I've got food in. Besides, you shouldn't be alone, not with a bum knee and a crack on the head and some nutter out to get you."
I couldn't think of any objection to this, although from the number of excuses Doyle had produced he didn't expect me to like it. It did make me wonder again about the exact nature of our relationship. On the one hand, there was his rough, easy affection towards me and the pet names he had used. And he'd been almost frantic with worry for me when he arrived at the hospital after the shooting. But all of that could reasonably be chalked up to a particularly close friendship. In the stories he had told last night, there had been no indication that either of us ever veered from the straight and macho. Still, he could hardly have implied anything else, in a public ward with other patients on either side.
Whatever kind of instinct had prompted me to come fully wake at four a.m. deserted me by the time we reached Doyle's flat. He helped me up the half-flight of stairs to the door and let me collapse in a comfortable armchair while he pottered about in the kitchen. I had fallen into a light doze by the time he brought out a cup of tea.
"Here you go, sunshine," Doyle said with a pat on my shoulder. "Drink that down and we'll get you to bed."
I wondered if there was more than one bed here, and what I should conclude if Doyle intended to share. But the tea roused me enough to bring other desires to the fore. "Rather have a shower," I mumbled.
"Sorry, mate. One of those dizzy spells of yours and you'd be flat out. Don't want to risk banging your head or twisting your knee again, do you?"
"I stink," I objected. "Smell like a hospital." I also smelled of the fear-sweat which had pumped out of my skin after the crisis was over, but I wasn't going to mention that. Doyle, if he noticed was tactfully silent on the matter.
He sighed at me, apparently much affected by the wistfulness on my face. "Right, well, I suppose there's room for two, if you insist."
Which brought my other concerns right to the fore.
I didn't get up the bottle to say anything until we were actually in the bathroom and Doyle was about to pull the tracksuit over my shoulders. I grabbed his wrists.
"Ray, how--are we--" I gulped. "You and I. How close are we?"
He looked at me with an unreadable expression. "What do you mean?"
Dammit, he was playing coy, and I didn't know what that meant! "Do we often shower together?"
The green eyes held a hint of mischief. "Bodie, trust me, I've seen everything you've got, and you've seen mine, even if you don't remember."
I scowled in exasperation.
Doyle relented. "If you're wondering if we've...slept together--" He didn't seem to find it any easier to talk about than I did. "We've experimented a few time, okay? Had a bit of fun. But never anything heavy, and we didn't make a habit of it. I'm not expecting anything from you now."
I nodded. "Okay."
He smiled at me, a sweet expression that transformed his face in an entirely new way. "We're not going to do anything until you have your memory back, Bodie. That way you'll know the score, and you won't have to take my word for it." Then, as if sensing that I was still uncomfortable, he stripped off his own shirt before reaching again for mine.
I stopped him a second time, but not because I was worried about my own body. There was a smattering of scars across Doyle's lightly-furred chest. My eyes were particularly drawn to an old gunshot wound, surrounded by fainter surgical scars where they had gone in to repair the damage or remove the bullet. The star-shaped pucker was on the left side of his chest, just between the sixth and seventh ribs.
I brushed the pale blemish with my fingertips. "That must have been nasty."
:Nicked my heart," Doyle said lightly. "But they got me put back together again, good as new."
I looked up at his eyes and saw the remembered pain and fear there, mirroring my own. "Was I there?" We were partners--had I failed to cover him properly? Or had this happened before I knew him?
"Not when I was shot," Doyle answered. "You showed up in time to stop the bleeding and call an ambulance. Saved my life." He grinned. "Caught the shooter, too, while I was still in hospital."
I swallowed. "I don't know if I want to remember that."
He took my hand warmly in one of his own. "That's okay, sunshine, I don't remember much about it either."
I managed a shaky smile and lifted the tracksuit top over my head. I watched as Doyle looked over my body, which must be as familiar to him as his own. His gaze stopped on the small round scar I had discovered this morning, high on my left shoulder.
"Funny, I never noticed--" he began, then his voice choked off oddly. He stiffened and raked me with a comprehensive glance, then turned me around with unexpected roughness, his hands tracing briskly down my spine.
I was just about to ask what was wrong when Doyle's arm snaked around my neck and took me in a choke hold. The other arm pressed against the small of my back, keeping me off balance so that I couldn't fight, even if I hadn't been so bewildered.
"Who the hell are you?" Doyle hissed in my ear.
I gasped against the suffocating grip. "What? Ray--"
"Who are you?" he spat more loudly, and jerked the arm tighter, nearly making me black out as his forearm pressed my carotid.
"I'm--Bodie!" I croaked. "You said--"
"You're not Bodie," Ray growled in a tone of low scorn. "You don't have his scars! Did you really think I wouldn't notice?"
"What?" I lifted my hands weakly to the arm that was strangling me.
"You bastard! Where's Bodie? What have you done with him?"
"I'm not--I don't know--you said I was Bodie!" I wailed. Terrible fear flooded into me, and it had nothing to do with the knowledge that Doyle could kill me with one twist of his arm. It wasn't fear of death, but fear of nonbeing, of loss of identity, of never having existed. It was that horrible emptiness which had grabbed at me the first few minutes I awoke in hospital, which had only receded when Doyle appeared and claimed to know me, to be my friend.
Now, according to Doyle, I was no one.
He released me suddenly and I slumped to the floor, a dull protest twinging in my knee. The world roared black and red behind my eyes, and I could hardly hear Doyle as he shouted at me.
"You're not Bodie, dammit! I know Bodie, and you're not him! Where is he?" He gave me a shove between the shoulders for emphasis.
I curled into a ball, horrified. "I don't know--can't remember--I don't know who I am..."
He left me there.
I don't know how long I lay curled there; I had lost all track of time. But I supposed it couldn't have been as long as it seemed. When Doyle returned, I was sitting on the edge of the toilet seat, staring blankly at the tiled floor. He stopped in the doorway and glared at me. I could feel the heat of that hostile gaze on my skin before I raised my eyes.
I swallowed. "I'll...go..." I bent to pick up the top of the tracksuit, and then remembered that it wasn't mine. I had nothing of my own.
Doyle's arched brows drew into a straight line across his forehead. "Go where?" he asked.
I shook my head. "I don't know." I couldn't think beyond the realisation that I didn't belong here, that I was no friend of Doyle's, that neither he nor anyone else that I knew of had any reason to care about me.
"The hell you will," Doyle snapped, and crossed the small room in two quick strides. He grabbed me by the chin, not ungently, and tilted my head toward the light, studying the bruise on my temple. Then his hands worked at the bandage wrapped higher up on my head. I knew what he was seeing, because I had studied it in the mirror that morning, at the same time that I discovered the scar on my shoulder and a few others scattered about my body--but not the scars I was supposed to have, not the ones Doyle was looking for. Was there even anyone who could explain to me how I had collected those marks?
Doyle's mouth twisted as he saw the shaved area, the complex of stitches and ugly-looking bruises. "Well, you certainly didn't fake that concussion," he muttered, tying the bandage back into place. "You really don't remember anything about yourself?"
The gentle tone made me search his eyes in puzzlement. "Nothing at all," I replied. "I really thought I was--I really believed--"
"You're not Bodie," Doyle said harshly. Then his tone lightened again. "So it's hardly surprising I couldn't jog your memory, is it? We'll have to see what else works to help you remember."
I swallowed. "You're going to help me? But why? I mean, I didn't trick you on purpose, but--"
"Are you sure of that?" he interrupted.
One hand gestured down my body. "It was obviously a deliberate deceit. You not only look like Bodie-- exactly like him!--but you were in his car, wearing his clothes, carrying his ID."
I caught my breath. "You think I did this on purpose? Tried to take over Bodie's life?"
"You--or someone. And we have to try to figure out who, and why. Y'see, sunshine, you're the only clue to where Bodie is. So until we have him back, you can forget any ideas about skippin' out the door and wanderin' the streets." Doyle stepped back and considered me, his expression less unfriendly than I might have expected. The pet name had had a definite sarcastic tone this time, but I was heartened to hear it nonetheless. "C'mon, get up, then," Doyle commanded me. "The Cow's on his way. He'll decide what to do about this."
"The Cow--Cowley?" I guessed.
"Yeah, I called him. So we'd better get you looking a little more presentable, hadn't we?"
I glanced at the bath, curtained in anticipation of the planned shower. "Can I still get clean?"
"Eh? Oh--" Doyle glanced at the shower in distaste. "You're still likely to fall down, and you don't want your bandages getting wet. How about a bath instead?'
"Fine," I said gratefully. I didn't miss the significance of the fact that Doyle was willing to share a shower with Bodie--though he claimed his intentions were chaste--but not with me.
Doyle pulled the curtain aside and spun the taps. "You'll have to be quick about it. Cow'll be here in twenty minutes."
I nodded and stood up shakily on my good leg. "Ray...thank you." I was vastly relieved to know that I still had a connection with someone, however tenuous.
His smile this time was more a baring of teeth, with none of the warmth that I had glimpsed over the past two days. "Don't thank me yet, sunshine. If it turns out you did have something to do with this et-up, I'll rearrange that pretty face for you, and no one will mistake you for Bodie again."
The bath was no more than a brief dip, but it did wash away some of the hospital smell. Perhaps more importantly, it gave me another chance to study my unfamiliar body, and it gave Doyle an opportunity to see the extent of my injuries. I had bruises and small glass cuts all up and down my torso, and much of my left leg was a fascinating shade of magenta.
When I climbed out of the water with Doyle's help, the tracksuit had been whisked away and clean clothes pulled out instead. The cords and polo-neck Doyle had produced fit me very nicely, except for a slight gap around the waist. A glance at Doyle's slim hips told me these could not possibly be his clothes. Perhaps Doyle and Bodie had done more than simply fool around a time or two, if Bodie had a store of clothes at Doyle's flat. But that was no longer my concern.
The near fit was significant, though. I had probably lost a bit of weight in hospital, accounting for the slight looseness in the waist; that meant that before the smash-up I had been very close to William Bodie in build as well as face. I paused and looked up as I was sitting to tie the laces of my trainers--or Bodie's trainers, I supposed. "Is the resemblance really that close?" I asked hesitantly.
Doyle scowled at me. "Bloody near perfect," he said. "Even your voice sounds like Bodie's."
I straightened up, one shoe still untied, and leaned close to the mirror over the sink, twisting my head to try to see my own profile.
"What the hell are you doin'?" Doyle demanded.
"Looking for surgical scars. Plastic surgery," I expanded.
Doyle caught his breath and came closer, studying the borders of my face carefully. "Don't see any," he said at length. "Looks like you nearly lost an ear at one point." He laid a finger on my left jaw. "Got sewed back on pretty neatly, though. "You were luck." He knelt down to fasten my trailing laces himself and propelled me into the sitting room.
I sat on the settee to await Cowley's arrival, Doyle watching me from across the room with a ferocious frown. I knew it indicated deep thought as much as animosity, but if he learned I had had anything to do with Bodie's disappearance, I would be in trouble.
And that worried me. Bad enough when I believed that I had spent years in Africa as a mercenary; at least when I thought I was Bodie I had known I was working on the side of the law. Now I couldn't be certain of it. I was a fighter; that much was clear from my reflexes and my scars. But whose side was I on? And how had I gotten involved in a plot to replace a CI5 agent?
The door buzzer heralded Cowley's appearance, and I stiffened in apprehension of his reaction. Doyle conducted the older man into the sitting room, and he took in every detail with one sweeping gaze.
"I heard about the attempt on 3.7's life last night," he said directly, "but I was told you had the matter well in hand. What is this all about, then? You insisted that I come out here..." He frowned at me, as if something was not quite right in my demeanour-- which I supposed it wasn't. "Are you all right, Bodie?"
"That isn't Bodie," Doyle said in harsh tones.
"What?" Cowley's eyes went from me to Doyle and back again.
"I said it isn't Bodie. Take off your shirt," he commanded me shortly.
Swallowing, I pulled the polo-neck over my head, with a wince for the sore muscles involved.
Doyle moved over to stand next to me, gesturing at my abdomen like a corporate soothsayer displaying his charts. "Bodie has knife scars here and here from that business two years ago. He doesn't have a bullet scar like this in his shoulder. And all the other marks are wrong, too. You can check them against his file, if you like; they must be on record."
"Why didn't the hospital notice this?"
"They weren't trying to identify him. Why should they? His ID was in his pocket. Or rather, Bodie's ID was in his pocket."
"A ringer." Cowley glared at me, and I sank back into the cushions, pulling the shirt back on to protect me from that gaze.
"A deliberate set-up," Doyle concurred. "So the question is, where is Bodie? And who's this?" One hand waved casually at me.
"Well?" Cowley demanded. "Speak up, man. You've been caught. We can make this a real interrogation if you want; we have the legal authority, and if you refuse we can have recourse to drugs. Better to tell us the truth now, and it will go easier with you. Who are you?"
"I don't know." My voice wouldn't work properly; I cleared my throat. "I don't remember."
The snapping dark eyes narrowed, assessing me.
"His injuries aren't faked," Doyle put in, defending me reluctantly. "Neither was the car crash. He got a nasty knock on the head. The amnesia is plausible."
"That's not what Dr. Royce said," Cowley snapped. "He said the concussion wasn't so severe and he couldn't understand the amnesia."
"He couldn't understand why it persisted," I put in nervously. I didn't feel that I had much right to join this conversation, but I had to stand up for myself. "He said that temporary amnesia was quite normal, but it should have cleared up in the presence of familiar faces."
Cowley nodded slowly. "And you haven't seen any familiar faces."
"In fact, we've been telling him a lot of things that aren't true," Doyle pointed out.
"Hmm, yes, I see," Cowley mused, still looking me up and down like a piece of meat at the market.
"There are no signs that his appearance was surgically altered," Doyle added quietly. "He must be a natural double for Bodie."
"Aye, he is that. Almost perfect in appearance. The voice is a bit different, though."
I looked up quickly. "Different how?"
Cowley considered. "The timbre is very similar, but the delivery--"
"I thought it had to do with the amnesia," Doyle said. "A throwback to childhood, or something. But Bodie's accent always has been all over the map with his mood."
"What sort of accent have I got?" I demanded. "Can you tell where I'm from?"
Doyle blinked. "Further south than Bodie, I'd say."
Cowley nodded. "Well educated, too. Oxbridge, almost."
I blinked at that. I hadn't even considered the matter very much. I tried to imagine attending a university-- it seemed plausible, but nothing specific came to mind. Doyle's flat, though cramped, had not seemed terribly squalid to me; the life I was accustomed to couldn't be much more affluent.
Doyle rubbed his nose thoughtfully. "Marc Gordon didn't think the brake line was deliberately cut. But he said it was odd that there was no blood on the windscreen or dash. Couldn't see how that head injury came about."
Cowley looked at him sharply. "What are you getting at?"
"Well--" Doyle glanced at me "--that accident could easily have been fatal. Should have been, probably. We were all joking the other day about--about Bodie's luck." His voice roughened suddenly. "If he got knocked on the head before the crash, when he wasn't even in the car--"
"I see what you mean," Cowley said. "Our man here was probably not intended to survive."
I sat straighter. "That means I wasn't in on the plot!"
Cowley's expression was cool. "Or you were double- crossed by your associates."
"The gunman, last night..." I breathed, putting it together. So I hadn't been a willing participant--I hoped.
"The question is," Doyle said, "was he after John Doe, here, or Bodie?"
"Bodie certainly has his share of enemies."
Doyle nodded impatiently. "But if they had just learned that their decoy survived the smash..."
"His face didn't ring any bells for me, though," I admitted unhappily.
Doyle shook his head. "They might not have known about the amnesia. Couldn't have done, if they thought a hit was needed at all. So they sent in someone you wouldn't recognise."
"That implies an organisation of a certain size," Cowley said cautiously, playing the role of devil's- advocate.
"It would have to be, wouldn't it? Planning something like this, the replacement of a CI5 agent? But what did they want, and what have they done with Bodie?" Doyle began to pace the room, distracted by worry.
Cowley's concentration, on the other hand, was merely deepening. I could almost see the wheels turning in his mind, working out the deeper implications of the plot and how to counter it. "It might be connected to something we have on hand just now," he said at length. "I'll take a close look at any operation Bodie's been involved with for the past month. In the meantime--" he snapped his fingers decisively "--we'll pretend we haven't recognised the imposture. Once they get word about the amnesia, they'll think they're safe again.
"What if they decide to make sure they're safe," I interjected, "and get rid of me?"
"You're under the protection of CI5," Cowley snapped. "This flat is secure, and I'll put surveillance on it as well. Meanwhile, Doyle, your first priority is to find this man's identity."
"Sir, shouldn't I be looking for Bo--"
Cowley cut him off. "This is the best way. Trace John Doe, and you'll find the people who are behind this masquerade."
"Why not bring the whole squad in on it? We could cover the available leads faster. You'd do that for any other missing agent."
Cowley nodded. "And I'll do it now, as far as possible, but I won't broadcast the fact that we know Bodie has been replaced. For now, if we pretend we still think this fellow is Bodie, both of them will be safer. We don't want the men who've taken Bodie to panic and dispose of him."
"But they might be planning to kill him anyway! Investigating on my own will take too long!"
"Calm down, 4.5, and use your head. Why do you suppose they went through all this rigmarole of replacement?"
"Well, to get someone inside CI5," Doyle began.
"So they kill their operative before even planting him?"
Doyle stopped "Revenge, then. You said it yourself; Bodie has plenty of enemies."
"Why not simply kill him, then? Why go to the bother of replacing him, then kill the replacement? No, laddie, they wanted us to believe Bodie was dead, so we'd bury him and look no further. They want something from Bodie. Something that will take time to get. And that's our opening."
"But they could be doing anything to him! What if they torture him to get what they want?"
"They've already had him a week. You'd best get on your bike and find him. The first clue--" Cowley pointed at me "--is right there."
"How am I supposed to find out who he is?" Doyle demanded.
Cowley looked sour. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you your job, Doyle. Start with his fingerprints. If they're not on record, see what else you can learn about him."
"Give him your gun."
"What?" Doyle gaped.
"Hand your gun to the man." Cowley scowled. "You can unload it first, if you feel you must."
Doyle disappeared momentarily into the bedroom to retrieve his gun and ostentatiously removed the clip and the round in the chamber. Then he handed the weapon to me. A Browning 9-mm, I noticed, quite nice.
"Break it down," Cowley said to me.
I looked up.
"Go ahead, lad, let's see what you can do!"
I understood then; he wanted to see what my skills were. Well, I certainly knew how to take a gun apart. In a few seconds I had it in pieces on my lap. "Needs cleaning," I commented.
Doyle flushed under Cowley's disapproving glance. "I've been busy, with Bodie in hosp----" He broke off.
"Aye. Well, it's obvious the man knows one end of a gun from the other. And he carries a gunshot scar. There must be a dozen more such clues to start from. So get to it, lad!" Cowley turned on his heel and stomped out the door.
I reassembled the Browning and handed it wordlessly back to Doyle.
He looked down at me darkly while he thought over Cowley's words. Then he appeared to reach a decision. "You can stay here today. Food's in the fridge. There'll be someone watching, so don't even think of trying to run." He pushed the clip back into the gun with a snap.
"Run? With this leg?" I said weakly.
His expression softened. "You have a headache, don't you?"
I nodded, which was a mistake.
"You really do look like Bodie," Doyle mused. "He gets that same dimple between his eyebrows when his head hurts. The medicine the doctor prescribed is on the table. I have to go now."
"Tell me if you find anything?" I asked tentatively.
"I will. For what it's worth, I believe you don't remember anything. And you're scared to death, aren't you?"
I swallowed. "Look, I'll cooperate all you want. Even if it turns out I was in on the plot--even if I have to do time, or something. Just help me find out who I am, and I'll tell you everything I can." There was one thing I had thought of, but it hadn't seemed wise to share it at the time--"Ray," I said impulsively.
He paused in the midst of his preparations to leave. "What?"
"What if...Cowley said they couldn't be counting on me as a ringer, because they set up that car accident immediately after the replacement. But what if I was already in place before that?" I gulped. "What if I'd been spying on CI5 for a few days or weeks, and already gave them what they wanted?"
Amazingly, Doyle smiled. "That occurred to me," he said, "except that I know Bodie was Bodie just a few hours before the accident. No way you could have counterfeited that, sunshine."
I flushed, wondering just what sort of proof he was referring to.
Doyle stiffened suddenly and shrugged a jacket on over his shoulder holster. "Take some of those pills and get to sleep. Maybe you'll remember something when you're rested."
He left without further comment, and in a sudden inspiration I realised why Doyle's manner with me was constantly blowing hot, then cold. Whenever he looked at me, he saw Bodie--and a very uncertain, lost-looking Bodie at that. He couldn't help but be gentle at those moments, until he remembered that I might be an enemy. I might have been a willing instigator of this plot to steal Bodie.
The disturbing thing was that my attitude to myself varied almost as quickly.
"James." A hand shook my shoulder. "Wake up, Jim."
I rolled over. "Hmmm?"
"Wake up, man. I brought you a sandwich." Doyle was leaning over me as I lay in his bed. He set a plate on the bedside table.
I rubbed at my eyes. "Sorry," I slurred. "Drugs made me sleepy. What's--"
Doyle started laying a kit out on the bed. "Have to get your fingerprints. I'll push them through the system as fast as I can. Eat your sandwich first, James."
"Why are you calling me that?" I asked, lifting a corner of the bread to see what was inside. Cheese and bacon.
"Does it sound familiar?" Doyle asked, watching me closely.
I considered. "Not really."
"What about Jim? Jimmy?"
I shrugged. "They're names. I've heard them before. They don't do anything special for me. Why?"
Doyle sighed. "I had a look at Bodie's file." His mouth curved mischievously. "First chance I've ever had. I learned a few things--he'll be angry when he finds out..." Then he fell silent, probably wondering if Bodie would ever have the chance to find out.
"Bodie's file," I prompted.
"Yes, well, it said he used to have a brother. Named James. With the same birthday."
With the drugs in my system, it took a few seconds for this to penetrate. "Twins?" I dropped the sandwich.
Doyle nodded. "Don't know if they were identical or not, though."
"So, that must be me, right? James Bodie." I rolled the name in my mouth.
"Maybe not. "There's more. According to the file, little Jimmy died when Bodie was four, in the same accident as his mother."
"So maybe you're someone else entirely." He shrugged. "Or maybe the records were wrong."
"Maybe we were triplets," I suggested ironically, "and I was stolen away from the maternity ward by gypsies."
A dimple appeared in Doyle's cheek. "Something like that, I expect. You done with that sarnie yet? I'd think you'd be hungrier after a few days of hospital food."
I was hungry, now that I was awake, and I made short work of the remainder of the sandwich.
"Right, then, wipe your hands off and get your prints onto the page there." Doyle pushed the fingerprinting kit toward me.
I rolled each of my fingers in turn on the ink pad and pressed them to the paper as the labels indicated.
Doyle handed me a washcloth when I was done, to wipe my inky fingers. "Well, you've been through that before, obviously."
I looked down. I hadn't even thought about what I was doing. "Oh, bloody hell," I breathed. "Does that mean I'm a criminal?"
"Or a copper. I did so much of this in the Met I used to dream about it."
"How long before we know?"
"Depends. If you do have a criminal record, it should come up within a day or so. If not, there are several other databases we can search. Some of them are computerised, some aren't. Could take a few weeks to eliminate all the possibilities. Then we could try asking if the Yanks have anything, or Interpol, but by that time I hope we'd have found the answer anyway."
I swallowed. Two more days, and I would know if I was a criminal or not. Unfortunately, in my present state of uncertainty, it was hard to believe that no news was good news. "Have you found out anything else?"
Doyle shrugged. "Well, Cowley assigned a few people to help with investigating the attack last night. I've been through all the witness reports, and it doesn't look like we can get much of a lead on the motorbike he was riding. Nothing on the fellow's gun yet, either. But we got a good description from an orderly, enough to make a drawing from." He pulled a mimeographed copy of a police sketch from his back pocket. "Does this look close?"
I considered the face. "Everything seemed just a little out of proportion, as it usually does in such drawings. "I suppose," I conceded. "It's not a very distinctive face."
"No." Doyle refolded the sketch. "That's probably why he didn't think he needed a mask. You could go through some mugshots, though, if you feel up to it."
"Sure," I said, with more confidence than I felt. It wasn't exactly a memory, but somehow I knew what looking through books of photos was mind-numbing and would make my headache ten times worse.
Doyle grinned at my lack of enthusiasm. "Tomorrow," he said. "The doctor said you have to rest today, and we have enough other leads to work on." He picked up the fingerprint kit and the crumb- bespattered plate. "Get some more beauty sleep, and don't talk to any strange men while I'm out."
For the rest of the day, I pottered around Doyle's flat, drinking tea and looking for anything that might stimulate my memory. The shows on the telly were familiar in a vague sort of way. I was apparently not a cricket fan, however, since I could make neither heads nor tails of the match that I followed briefly. Wracking my brains for anything resembling a real memory brought my headache back, so I took some more pills and lay down again. The next thing I knew it was morning.
"C'mon, sonny Jim, rise and shine," Doyle announced from somewhere near my feet.
I unglued my eyelids and blinked at him. "What time--"
"Seven in the morning. You slept right through. Didn't even wake up when I came home."
I rolled my head on the pillow, noting that the headache had improved. The other side of the bed was disturbed, clearly slept in. I must have been dead to the world. Now that I was awake, my body had something to say about the tea I had drunk the previous afternoon. I slid my legs over the edge of the bed and straightened carefully.
"How do you feel?" Doyle asked.
"Better," I said slowly. "Not as dizzy."
"And the leg?"
I flexed it cautiously, tried a little weight on it. "Stiff, but not painful."
"Good. Feel up to coming in to Headquarters today?"
I looked up in surprise. "But...I'm not--"
"You're not an agent, but no one else knows that. And I'll see that you're discreetly escorted at all times and not handed any national secrets--" Doyle grinned fiercely "--just in case."
I scratched at the stubble on my jaw. "Sure, I suppose I could do that. Whatever will help."
"Get yourself up and dressed, then, and come have some breakfast." Doyle turned toward the bedroom door, already dressed himself. "There's shaving gear in the bathroom."
Ten minutes later, I wandered into the kitchen wearing the same clothes Doyle had given me yesterday--they had seen little enough use, after all. He handed me a mug of coffee and a plate of eggs and toast.
"Had a dream last night," I said reflectively, hissing as I burnt my mouth on the coffee. "It came back to me while I was shaving."
Doyle looked up, alerted by my tone. "Remembered something, have you?"
"I'm not sure. It could be a memory, or...maybe just a dream. There was a woman in it--"
"Oh, that sort of dream," Doyle said knowingly. "I've had those myself. Pretty, was she?"
"She was my mother," I said firmly.
"I see. Not that sort of dream after all."
I went on, ignoring him. "I couldn't see her face, though; I just knew she was my Mum. I was very small, in the dream. My brother was there, too. Billy. I could see his face, just like looking in a mirror."
"Billy, eh?" The corner of Doyle's mouth twitched upward. "Bodie hates his first name. Anyone who tries to use it gets slugged in the eye."
I sighed. "Well, I don't know if this was a memory or just a dream based on what you told me yesterday. My mother called me Jimmy, but I thought it was odd because even in the dream I was sure it wasn't my name."
"But you couldn't remember your real name, eh?"
"No." I looked down at the tabletop. I had come to the conclusion yesterday afternoon that there was probably some reason I didn't want to remember, possibly connected with my involvement in Bodie's disappearance. To cover my discomfort, I attacked my food again. The coffee was just the right temperature by now. "Did you find out anything else yesterday?" I asked.
Doyle shook his head, slurping from his own mug. "Nothing on the fingerprints. We know where the gun came from--stolen; but that was nearly two years ago, and there's no clue who's had it since then. I looked for the death certificates for James and Sandra Bodie, but there's some hold-up there--confusion from when the records moved offices five years back- -so I can't say yet if it's possible they didn't really die." He looked at me measuringly. "I thought if you're up to it, we could try some tests today, see what skills you have and maybe where you got them. You know how to handle a gun--we'll see how you are on the range, and so on."
"But how will you explain that, if I'm supposed to be Bodie?" I asked.
"Oh, every time an agent is injured, there's a period of reassessment and retraining. It's a right pain to go through, I can tell you, but it gives us our excuse. Anything you do that's different from Bodie can be explained away as part of the amnesia."
So I let Doyle pack me off to CI5 HQ, which was located in an older building in Whitehall that had clearly never been designed for the purposes. Nevertheless, the security was tight, and I glanced nervously at the armed guards in the front hall as Doyle led me by. No one questioned my presence--in fact, I got several friendly greetings and concerned questions about my recovery. Doyle brushed by everyone as if we were in some hurry, and I offered vague replied to the questions.
He took me to an infirmary first, where a doctor changed the bandages on my head. He asked no questions about the state of my memory once Doyle had delivered a few sharp words on security and need- to-know. To my relief, the new dressing was much smaller, and the doctor said I could probably dispense with bandages altogether after another day or two. Unfortunately, that would just expose the moth-eaten state of my haircut. I supposed I would be wearing hats for a while.
Next we went to the small firing range in the basement, where Doyle checked my proficiency with various weapons. The place itself was unfamiliar to me, but I recognised all the procedures we went through: the careful paperwork for each weapon and round of ammunition, the ear protectors, the range protocol and basic precautions. I was decent with a handgun, but not at as Doyle, who shot the centres out of the targets next to mine. I did better with a rifle, as far as we could tell on an indoor range, and I was also competent with dart-guns, bows and crossbows of several kinds including the highly technical. I identified each of a dozen guns by maker and calibre and style, and rattled off their characteristic ranges and muzzle velocities. After several minutes of argument, Doyle got the armoury to hand over a long- barreled automatic rifle with an odd-looking scope-- but they wouldn't give us any ammunition.
I caught my breath as I hefted the weapon. "Oh, lovely," I murmured with pleasure. "This is an 180, isn't it? American. Laser sight, the very latest. I've used one of these."
"Where?" Doyle asked.
I looked up, drawn from my reverie.
"Where have you used one before?"
"I--I can't...I don't..."
"Pick it up, sight it, get the feel of it. Close your eyes and reach for the memory. What were you shooting at?"
"Target," I said as a vision came clear in my mind. "Outdoor range, very big."
"Who was with you?"
"I'm not--no one--I don't know."
"What were you wearing? A uniform?"
"Fatigues." Strangely, I could see the boots perfectly in my mind's eye.
"What? No. I'm not sure." I opened my eyes and stared at Doyle miserably. "It's gone."
He bit his lip with frustration, but laid a calming hand on my shoulder. "That's all right. We've learned a lot already." He carried the 180 back to the armoury.
"What have we learned?" I asked when we were alone agin.
"You've had training," he said. "Good training-- you're no self-taught amateur with those rifles."
I considered this. "You think I was in the army?'
"Could be. Hard to tell army training from any other on the range, except that you shouldn't have seen that laser scope rifle in the army."
"But I was in some organisation--probably legit, wouldn't you say?'
"Either that or you're a very high-powered criminal. Professional assassin, by the looks of it."
I paused and set a hand against the wall as dizziness threatened once more.
Doyle watched me closely. "But that doesn't sit very well with what I've seen of you. My guess? Yeah, you probably are legit. But that still doesn't get us much closer to finding out who you are or where Bodie is." He rubbed the side of his nose. "How are you feeling? How's the leg?"
"Fine," I said with surprise. "Hasn't given any trouble, except on the stairs."
"Do you think you might be up to a little exercise?"
I remembered the physiotherapist's warnings. "Why, what did you have in mind?"
"Well, like I said, there's only so much we can tell from the way you handle a gun. But fighting style, that's a lot more personal. We've got a trainer here with pretty broad experience--could probably tell us the names of all your teachers after a few minutes of sparring."
"Well, if we wrap my knee and go easy, I think I'd be okay. But you sound like you think this is a bad idea- -like you expect me to say no."
Doyle studied the scuffed heels of his trainer. "Well, this fellow...Bodie hates his guts."
"Oh." I frowned. "Does he hate Bodie?'
Doyle shrugged. "Hard to tell. He thumps everybody."
I grinned, beginning to get a mental picture of the type of man we were discussing. "You mean he'll beat the stuffing out of me."
"Oh, he's good, but he's not crazy. If we warn him your knee's weak, he won't push it. It's just, when he's getting agents ready for an op..."
"He can be a hard case, I get the idea. And every punch he throws is for your own good. And every punch you land just makes him grin harder."
Doyle raised his head and looked at me closely. His mouth curved upward, the first genuine warm smile I had seen from him since yesterday morning. "I knew you'd had real training! He said.
Doyle left me in front of Bodie's locker while he went in search of Brian Macklin, CI5's resident torturer. It was only as I was pulling on Bodie's tracksuit that it occurred to me that this Macklin, if he was so clever, would probably be able to tell that I wasn't Bodie. But I couldn't point this out to Doyle when he reappeared, because he was accompanied by a tall, wiry blond man who regarded me with cold blue eyes.
"Doyle says you want to find out how much you remember," Macklin said slowly as he watched me stretching out my back and legs.
"That's right," I said uncertainly. Then I remembered Bodie hated Macklin, so I tried to look more truculent. I thrust out my lower lip like the picture on Bodie's ID, and earned a startled double-take from Doyle.
Macklin took in the bandage and the stiffness of my movements, and shook his head. "You're too soon out of hospital," he said shortly.
"We're not talking about a full-scale reassessment here, Brian," Doyle cajoled. "Just a little light exercise."
"So? He can exercise with you."
"Ah, but the doctor said we should try to job his memory any way possible. And sessions with you are so memorable." Doyle bared his chipped teeth in an unfriendly grin.
Macklin snorted, glancing suspiciously between the two of us. "Right, then--on your feet, Bodie."
We started with very simple moves which had more to do with Macklin testing my injuries than my skills. He had me practice several falls to see if the dizziness would be a problem, but my head cleared quickly enough as soon as I rolled to my feet. So Macklin moved on to easy sparring, with carefully pulled punches and kicks and aborted arm-locks.
At first I felt dreadfully awkward, not at all as confident as I had been on the firing range. I recognised Macklin's intentions as he telegraphed them--deliberately, I guessed--and I knew he was moving slowly, but still it took several seconds for the countermoves to filter to the top of my brain, and by then it was too late.
"Sorry," I grunted for the third time as Macklin got me in a headlock and curled his leg behind mine for a take-down. He didn't follow through, but released me and stood back.
"You have forgotten a lot, 3.7," he growled.
"'S coming back to me," I protested rubbing my neck. "Give me time."
He snorted again. "You try him, Doyle. I want to watch."
Doyle moved in a lot more forcefully than Macklin had, and didn't pull his blows nearly as much. I wondered if he was accustomed to sparring hard with his partner, or if this was one of the swings of the pendulum where he was angry with me for not being Bodie. When his fist thumped a sore spot on my ribs I started to get annoyed, and I reacted faster, no longer thinking about my moves but letting them flow naturally. To my surprise, Doyle took the next fall. I glanced at Macklin and saw wry amusement on his lips. Then Doyle attacked me without warning from behind, and I rolled away from him awkwardly.
"Enough!" I cried as I felt a warning throb from my knee. When I was sure Doyle wasn't going to pull another surprise on me, I flexed the joint carefully.
"Never turn your back on your opponent," Macklin pronounced in an odd voice--not as satisfied as he should have been, if I knew his type. "You've had enough, now hit the showers. Doyle, I want a word."
They were both waiting by the locker when I had washed away the sweat, and Doyle had a rueful look on his face. "He's onto us, sunshine."
Macklin was looking at me like a snake that had crawled into his bedroll.
"So?" I asked. "What could you tell? What training have I had?"
Macklin's brows lifted in surprise, and he looked at Doyle.
Doyle shrugged. "I told you, even Cowley believes the amnesia is genuine."
"I'm not an enemy of CI5, I just want to know who I am," I snapped, tired of the eternal suspicion. The 'light' workout had left me feeling more sore than I had since leaving the hospital, and my headache was returning.
"What do you think, Brian?"
Macklin's expression became more thoughtful than hostile. "It's hard to tell, since he's still stiff. I suppose I can believe the amnesia story; I could almost see him remembering moves as we went along. Most of them were pretty basic, though, until he started to lose his temper with you."
Doyle grinned. "Making agents lose their temper is Macklin's favourite teaching method," he informed me.
Macklin shot him a narrow glance. "That leg lock he surprised you with--I've seen a few others use it. It's not very common. There's an SAS instructor who uses it a lot."
Doyle blinked. "SAS? But Bodie never uses it."
"It's not really appropriate for someone with Bodie's build. Or yours," he added to me. "It only worked because Doyle wasn't expecting it."
"Could say that of most successful moves," Doyle pointed out.
"SAS," I murmured, standing frozen with the tracksuit bottoms half off.
Doyle pounced. "You remember something/"
"Not...really. But it feels right." I looked up at him. "When you told me Bodie's history, the SAS was the only familiar part. And black fatigues...yes, that's it! I'm sure of it!"
"Can you remember your name? Rank? Anyone you've worked with?"
Half-formed images dissolved in my mind, and I gazed at Doyle in desperate frustration.
"Never mind, with this clue we'll soon have you pegged. Get those clothes shifted, sunshine, and we'll tell Cowley what we've learned. "And, Brian-- thanks."
Macklin was still wearing a startled look when we left the gym.
Doyle led me through a warren of disjointed hallways until we came to a more nicely furnished place. A secretary with four phones on her desk looked up and brightened immediately at the sight of us.
"Oh, good! Mr. Cowley just asked me to find you, Ray. You can go right in."
Doyle looked surprised, but didn't break stride. "Thanks, Betty," he said, and pushed open an office door.
Inside, Cowley was standing behind a much larger desk which was also well-endowed with phones and other communications equipment. On the near side of the desk, leaning aggressively towards Cowley, was a second man who made me freeze in the doorway. As soon as I saw the broad shoulders, even before he turned, I knew what his face would look like. Every feature was familiar, and I knew he was in a vile passion as easily as I knew the weather from looking at the sky.
The old emotions came rushing in before I quite remembered the facts. First I recalled a deep respect and almost fanatic loyalty to this man, even before his name came to mind. Then, just as I remembered that he was Colonel Hadley of the SAS, I felt an up welling of disappointment, anger--almost revulsion-- in my stomach. The betrayals that had caused this change in attitude were just coming back to me as he looked up and spoke. My thoughts seemed to be racing a million times faster than the slow pace of outward events.
"So, George," said the Colonel in chill tones. "You're recruiting. That's why you wanted the file, isn't it?"
Doyle stopped in his tracks. "You know--?" he began, than cut himself off at a sharp gesture from Cowley.
I stared at my old commander, wishing the past could be undone, wishing that he hadn't driven me to an untenable position, or at least that he had acknowledged I had no choice but to resign. But the bitterness was still there in his face.
"You look like hell, Skellen. You haven't already given CI5 the right to get you knocked about, have you?" Hadley's head turned again. "Well, I wish you joy of him, Cowley. I hope he won't disappoint you as he did me." He straightened his shoulders and marched toward the door. I stumbled out of his way dazedly. As he passed me he paused. "Good afternoon, Peter. Give my best to your wife. Do you really think she'll approve of CI5 any better?"
Then he was gone, his words echoing through my head and blotting out the slam of the door.
My wife. Jenny! Something like a sob tore from my throat, and my knees buckled. Doyle's hands caught me and guided me to a chair.
Oh, God, how could I have forgotten Jenny! And yet, how could I bear to remember? After that terrible incident where she and our daughter had been taken hostage, almost killed, she had moved out and threatened me with divorce. But Hadley had spoken to me, insisted that I was invaluable, talked me out of resigning. I had tried to get on without Jenny, somehow, until Hadley broke the camel's back by giving me an assignment which required that I seduce a woman--the wife of an agent in MI5.
And then I was unemployed, unlikely to get any sort of recommendation from Hadley, my skills and training the sort that would only get me another dangerous job and make Jenny run further. And then...
A hand stung my face sharply, making my head rock. Then again, on the other cheek. And again--
I caught Doyle's arm before he could land another slap. He stared into my eyes warily.
"Here, laddie, drink this down," said Cowley from somewhere to my left. A tumbler of amber liquid appeared, and I let it burn my throat, distracting me from pain elsewhere.
"You've remembered, haven't you?" Doyle demanded, crouching in front of me. "You've remembered everything."
Their voices passed over my head. "Och, it hardly matters if he remembers now, Doyle. We know who he is. Peter Skellen, lately of the SAS."
"So he's not Bodie's brother?"
"No relation to Bodie at all."
"Did you see the way he looked at me?" I moaned into my hands. "He despises me! He'll never forgive me. And neither will Jenny. God. So now I'm alone, unemployed, running out of money--"
"Skellen. Snap out of it, man!" Cowley pushed his face close to mine and glared fiercely. "If you remember all that, can you remember what happened to Bodie? Where is he?"
"Bodie?" For a moment I couldn't remember what the name meant. Then it came back to me: Bodie was a picture on a card. Bodie was a man who looked like me, who might have been me, except that he still had friends, a career, a life.
Unless, of course, he was dead.
"What happened the night of the car crash?" Doyle demanded, his voice gone rough with urgency.
"Crash," I murmured, to let them know I was tracking the words. "I was...I don't know. I don't remember."
"Goddammit!" Doyle cried, smacking his thigh in frustration. He leaped up and paced the room, venting several more curses in a lower tone.
"What was the date?" I asked. "When did the accident happen?"
"It was no bloody accident! Doyle shouted.
"Quiet, Doyle." Cowley was watching me keenly. "It was on the seventh. A Friday."
"Friday. Friday night." I struggled for memory until my head pounded. "On Thursday I visited the training grounds...asked Davy if he knew of any jobs open...I can't recall Friday at all."
"You'd better!" Doyle declared, twisting one hand in my collar.
Cowley blocked him with one arm. "Calm down, 4.5! The man is obviously in shock, and you aren't helping." He stepped back, rubbing a hand over his face. "Och, it's not as if I didn't have enough to worry about already, with the Hamad negotiations coming up...You should have told me he was with you today, Doyle. I'd never have allowed that meeting to take place. I knew there was some bitterness between him and Hadley, but I hadn't realised it was this bad."
I shook my head wearily. "No. If he hadn't been here, I might not have remembered a thing."
"We would have helped you recall," Cowley said, almost gently. "I have your files. That's what Hadley was here for."
Doyle looked up. "How did you know, sir?"
"The fingerprints. The results came in two hours ago, and I called Hadley with a request for Skellen's file. He overreacted, apparently thinking I was poaching on his ground."
"Dammit, I don't belong to Hadley!" I yelled, surprising myself. My head thumped. "Not anymore."
"Don't worry about Hadley," Cowley said firmly. "Worry about Bodie. Try to remember. How did you get into this mess?"
"I don't know. I can't remember. I never heard of Bodie before I woke up in hospital."
"Was there anything before last Friday that could have been connected to this?"
"I don't know. No! Everything I tried was a dead end. My future was in the sewer. I had no idea what to do, or where to go." I rubbed my temples. "I still don't. And my head is killing me."
"All right." Cowley moved away, looking slightly sour. "That's it for now. Take him back to your flat, 4.5."
"Sir--" Doyle began.
"He needs rest. He needs to calm down and get over his shock. Perhaps then he'll remember what happened last Friday. In any case, it apparently wasn't premeditated--not on Skellen's part, anyway. Put him to bed, give him one of those pain pills, and we'll try again when he's calmed down. That will be all, Doyle. I do have other matters that need my attention as well."
His face set in rebellious lines, Doyle took my elbow and conducted me ungently out of the office. Betty looked puzzled as I was hastened past her desk and into the stairwell. "Listen, sunshine," Doyle hissed in my ear, "if you know anything, anything, that could help us find Bodie, and you're keeping it from me, I'll make that Hadley look like your sweet maiden aunt. You get me?"
"Peter," I said wearily. "My name's Peter."
He released my arm with a disgusted hiss and clattered down the stairs and out to the carpark. He didn't say a word during the entire drive back to his flat.
There was a bad smell in the air, making us cough. I tried to hold my breath, but after a while I had to breathe. I huddled in the corner by the bed.
Footsteps pounded in the hallway; people were shouting. Billy crept to the door and listened to the voices outside. I curled up tighter and covered my ears.
Billy was tugging on my hand. "C'mon. Have to get out," he told me.
I pulled the hand free. "No. Mum said stay here."
"Gotta leave!" Billy insisted. "Fire! They said, I heard. Fire!"
There had been a fire at Grandda's house, last winter. We all got to sit and watch the pretty orange flames crackling around the logs. Nobody had to leave. I shook my head again.
"No. Mum said stay. If Da comes back and we're gone..." I didn't want to say it. Billy had been as scared as I was last night, maybe even worse. We had both crawled under the bed and listened to the shouts and thumps. I didn't want Da to be angry again.
"Gotta go now, Jimmy!" Billy yelled, and tried to pull me out of the corner I had wedged myself into. I hit him, hard, in the stomach. He howled at me and stomped away to the door, glaring over his shoulder. Then he opened the door and slipped out.
The bad smell got worse. No one was shouting or moving in the hallway anymore, but I could hear a roaring, snarling noise that scared me. It sounded like some huge monster was eating the entire building. I crawled to the door, but the smell and the noise were worse there, so I went back to the bed and curled into a ball.
Then Mum was there, with the man that had made her leave me and Billy alone in the flat. Mum had been frightened when he was talking to her; I didn't want to go near him. But he picked me up and covered my face with his handkerchief so I could hardly breathe.
Mum was crying, screaming for Billy. I was crying too. Then the man grabbed her arm and started to run with me squeezed against his chest. It was hot, and smelly, and the monster was roaring behind us down the hallway--
I woke drenched in sweat and curled into the tightest ball my stiff muscles could manage. It took long minutes to slow my breathing and force myself to relax. I staggered to the kitchen and comforted myself with the ritual of making tea, thinking of the dream as I poured and stirred and sipped.
Then I reached for Doyle's phone.
I had no trouble recalling the number, and in a few seconds a familiar "Hallo?" sounded in my ear.
"Da?" I breathed, suddenly uncertain.
"Peter? What's wrong, son? You sound terrible."
"I am--I mean, I've had a bit of trouble lately, but that's not why I was calling. Why--"
"What sort of trouble?"
"I was in a car crash. Hospital for a few days. Da--"
"Good God, Peter, why didn't you call me?"
"It wasn't important. This is. Da, why didn't you tell me I had a twin brother?"
There was a resounding silence at the other end.
"Billy. You told me he was just an imaginary friend, a memory I made up. But he wasn't, he was my brother. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Peter, it's not--"
"And that's not my name, either, is it? My name's Jimmy. James Bodie."
"We can't talk about this over the phone, Peter. I"ll tell you everything, but in person. "Shall I come to your place?"
"No, that won't work," I replied, thinking hard. I didn't feel I could invite him into Doyle's flat.
"You said you were in a smash--I don't think you should be driving, Peter."
"No, it's just--I'm not at home." I remembered a pub that I had seen just a short distance form the flat. It should be open by now. "Look, I'll meet you at the Swan's Neck in Islington, all right? Twenty minutes."
I hung up before he could agree. I couldn't believe my father had lied to me. But if I was understanding my confused childhood memories, he wasn't really my father. I dropped my head into my hands and tried to rub the ache away, but the bruises were still tender.
I wrote Doyle a note explaining where I was and headed for the door before I remembered the surveillance on the flat. I didn't think I could explain the situation to this other agent. Perhaps I could persuade him to let me drop by the local for a pint, but--
I turned off the alarm on Doyle's windows and went down the fire escape.
My father--the man I had always thought of as my father--showed up when I had been waiting for half an hour. I saw him with new eyes: the stocky build, the iron-grey hair, the mobile eyebrows. I had always thought I looked rather like him, but that couldn't really be the case, could it?"
His eyes widened when he saw my face. I had borrowed a cap from Doyle's closet to conceal the dressings on my head, but the colourful bruises above my eye were still visible.
"My God, Peter, you look like hell!" he exclaimed. "Why didn't you tell me when this happened?"
I wanted to ski straight to my questions, but I supposed he had a right to know. "I had amnesia for a few days," I replied shortly.
He sank into a chair opposite me. "The hospital should have notified me."
"They thought I was someone else. It's a long story. But I'm getting my memory back now. If fact, I'm remembering things I never even realised before. Like some things from my childhood."
He swallowed. "What do you remember?"
"The fire. Billy wanted me to come with him, but I stayed in the flat. Then mum came, with--it was you, wasn't it? But I never saw you before that night!"
"Peter, I can expl--"
"You really aren't my father, are you?" I couldn't sit still through this. I pushed my chair back from the table.
"Peter, wait!" His hand clamped on my forearm. "Let me explain. I really am your father."
I looked at him. "And Billy?"
He sighed. "Billy was your twin brother, yes. I was his father too. He died in that fire."
"No--" I swallowed the denial. I wanted to hear his explanations first. "Tell me what happened. The truth."
My father--Dan Skellen--released me and sat back in his chair, taking a deep breath. He waved to the barmaid and ordered a couple of bitters. "All right. The truth, Peter. I never wanted to keep it from you, but your mother thought it was best. She and I were teenaged sweethearts. And like a lot of kids, we were careless. Just about the time I left for university, she found out she was pregnant." His eyes closed in pain. "She wasn't completely sure if I was the father, or another man she'd been dating. I don't think she loved him, but she found him--dangerous, exciting. He was older, brooding, the sort of man women love to think they can convert. And in any case, he had a job and a place to live. At the time, he seemed a much better bet to take care of a budding family than I was. So she told him the child was his, and he married her.
"Except it wasn't a child. She had twin boys. Twins run in my family--I have twin sisters, two pairs of cousins--when I heard that, I was sure the children were mine. But it was too late; she was married, and I was a struggling student away in Manchester. I don't think Philip Bodie suspected that they weren't his sons. But whether he guessed or not, he was...not a good father or husband. The dark temper that attracted your mother when she first met him got turned against her more and more often. I only heard rumors, from half the country away, but I know he drank and he beat her, and I think he terrorised you and your brother as well>"
I flinched away from the vague memory-of-a-memory that had come to me in a dream, the echoes of shouting and the breaking glass.
My father went on. "When I graduated from university, as soon as I got a job I went to see your mother. I told her to come away with me. I promised to take care of her and both boys, but she was terrified. Of Philip, of admitting to her parents that she was in trouble...I don't know. She said that Philip would follow wherever she went, even if she told him the boys were mine. She had a terrible black eyes, and she jumped at every sound, afraid that Philip would come back while I was there. So I persuaded her to come out with me and talk in the pub down the street. She tucked you and your brother into bed and left--just for a few minutes.
"When we came back, the building was on fire. It was terrible how quickly it took hold. Dozen's of people died in that cheap block of flats. There was a great scandal about graft in construction and violation of building codes. But all that came later. As soon as Sandra saw the fire, she screamed and ran inside. No one could stop her. All I could do was follow. She made it to the flat and found you hiding there, but no sign of Billy. She insisted on searching every corner of the flat, but the fire was getting closer every minute. Finally I forced her to leave.
"Outside, it was confusion everywhere. Nobody was paying attention to us. I realised that if we slipped away, everyone would assume Sandra and both boys were killed in the blaze. Philip Bodie wouldn't come after us because there would be no one to pursue. Your mother was in shock, almost hysterical. It wasn't hard to persuade her. I got you both away from there and we started a new life together." He downed the last of his bitter and stared at the patterns of foam in the glass.
"So you were never really married to Mum," I said.
His head came up. "Not then," he said slowly. "I got her false documents to make everything look okay, but she wouldn't marry me until after Philip died. We had a secret ceremony when you were fifteen. Technically, we were only married five years before your mother died."
"Then, my sisters...they're--"
"Illegitimate," he confirmed. "Technically, at least. Does it bother you?"
I only had to think about it a moment. "No," I said. "It's more important that--they really are my sisters. And you're--"
"I'm your father, I'm sure of it," Dan Skellen told me. "I'm sorry, Peter, I should have told you years ago."
I had been about to tell him that my brother was still alive, but at these words I looked up. "Why Peter?"
"It was one of the names you were christened by. James Peter Michael Bodie. We made it Peter James Skellen."
"So my documents are false, as well," I murmured, and a slow, boiling realisation came to me. "Hadley knew. He must have done. They researched every facet of my past before they let me in the SAS. They must have known Peter Skellen didn't exist, but they didn't tell me. And Bodie--they knew about Bodie, and never told either of us a thing?"
My father looked puzzled. "What about Philip?"
"Not Philip," I corrected. "William Bodie. My brother."
"But he was killed in the fire."
"Oh, no." I smiled grimly. "You were so busy spiriting Mum away you didn't bother to find out the truth. Billy left the building before the fire spread very far. He was probably running about looking for Mum while you were packing us out of the county." I leaned forward, glaring at him. "Billy spent fourteen years with that drunkard, and you told me he never even existed!"
My father's face looked like chalk. "He survived?"
"That's right. He thought Mum and I were both dead. When Philip Bodie died, he ran away to sea. He must have lived a hell of a life, and all because his real father didn't even care enough to find out he was alive!"
"Oh, my God.." My father was so pale I wondered if he would faint.
I sat back in my chair, feeling a bizarre roil of emotions within me: anger at my father for lying to me and for being wrong about Billy; deep regret for all the years I could have spent with my brother; satisfaction that I had managed to shock my father into realising what a terrible mistake he made all those years ago...Just then, a strangely familiar face caught my eye from across the room. After a moment I realised it was my own image, reflected in the mirror behind the bar. I had the same pout about my mouth and the same dark light in my eyes that had appeared in Bodie's ID photo, and suddenly I remembered where else I had seen that expression. I caught my breath as memory flooded back.
Before I could make sense of the new onslaught, a prickle between my shoulders warned me of danger. My father's eyes darted to something behind me and widened in startlement. In a purely reflex action, I lunged from my seat, knocked the table over, and pulled my father down behind its protection.
Two bullets thumped into the barrier of the table. The air of the tiny pub echoed with the roar of the gunshots and the screams of the interrupted revelers. There was a third shot, and a voice rose behind me carrying a note that I recognised as pain rather than fear.
I risked peering over the edge of the table to fix the gunman's position. He was only a few yards away, although the space between us was cluttered by terrified patrons crouching on the floor. He wore a nylon to conceal his features, but I guessed it was the same man who had attacked me in the hospital. I ducked as the muzzle swung towards me, and another bullet pocked the table.
So this attack really was for my benefit. The gunman must be counting on making a swift strike and getting out before the police could arrive, and before any of the other patrons gathered their wits. If I managed to prolong the confrontation, there was a better chance of catching him alive--but also a better chance that more bystanders would be hurt.
Beside me, my father was wild-eyed and shivering with shock. Even aside from my fears for his safety, I felt sick at the thought of his witnessing a bloody firefight. He had never really approved of my chosen profession, any more than Jenny had. I had tried to keep job and family separate, but in the end Jenny had seen the violence that was part of my life, and she had rejected me for it. How would my father react?
I [pulled myself back to the present with a wrench. Over the screams and shouts, I could hear the clatter and crash of tables being thrown aside. The fellow was trying to get closer to me so that he could shoot over the makeshift barricade--and my father was sharing its protection with me. I had to do something quickly.
I grabbed the table's single iron leg with both hands and crouched to spring. "Stay here!" I yelled at my father. "Stay down!" Then I lifted the table and charged.
With only a brief glance to guide me, I stumbled over several cowering people before I ran into someone standing. I knew it was the right someone because his gun went off just the other side of my oaken shield. Then I blundered into a chair and felt my weak knee give way. The gunman, the table and I all tumbled to the ground.
There was a heave, and the table turned over on me. One of its protruding feet knocked me dizzy as I struggled to get up. I fell back and watched helplessly as the gunman clambered to his feet and took aim carefully and deliberately. I heard the shot and flinched automatically--but I wasn't hit.
Then gunman sagged to his knees before me, dropping his weapon, then vomited blood over his shirt and collapsed completely. A few yard behind him stood Doyle, his gun leveled and his face set in grim lines.
I sagged back for a moment, overcome with gratitude for Doyle's impeccable timing. Then I crawled to my attacker's side and checked his neck for a pulse, but there was none. I gave Doyle an all-clear nod, and he holstered his gun.
Doyle raised his voice above the furore in reassuring bored-policeman tones. "All right, everyone, it's all over. The police will be here soon. Please calm down and clear away from the body. Do not leave the premises." He leaned over the bar to suggest something to the bartender.
I pulled the nylon away from the dead man's face and nodded to myself; it was the man from the hospital.
"Skellen, you stupid bugger," came Doyle's voice acidly from behind me. "What in hell did you think you were doing, sneaking out of my flat? I warned you--"
"I left a note," I protested weakly.
"Good thing you did, too, or I'd have been two minutes too late. We put a guard on you for a reason, you know--or have you conveniently forgotten that someone was trying to kill you?"
"This is the same man--the one that came after me in hospital."
"I'm glad to know it. I'd like to ask him some questions, but that seems a little pointless now." He nudged the body with one toe. "Dammit, if you hadn't been such a fool we might have taken him alive--then we'd have a lead to find Bodie!"
"We do have a lead," I insisted. 'I've remembered what happened last Friday."
Doyle stiffened, and all thought of berating me further fled his mind almost visibly. But before he could ask me any questions, a slim black man touched his elbow. "I've called an ambulance. There's a civilian wounded in the corner--not too bad. Murphy and Anson are on their way."
"Right, Jax," Doyle responded crisply. "You take care of everything here. Sk Bodie and I have to chase down a lead."
"What, now? Doyle, you can't leave all this in my lap!"
"You're the one who was supposed to be keeping an eye on him!"
Jax favoured me with a glare. "And he was supposed to be cooperating!"
"Look, Jax, we don't have time for this. Just tell the Cow we have a lead on the folks who caused Bodie's care accident last week, all right?"
Jax's frown deepened. "Isn't he on the sick list?' he asked, nodding to me.
"He's not on any list, but I need his help. Come on." Doyle hauled at my arm, snarling in my ear as we went. "I warned you, if you held anything back that could help us--anything..."
"I've only just remembered," I protested, pulling free. "I came here to talk to someone, that's all. I didn't think I could explain it to Jax."
My father caught up with us at the doorway. "Where are you going?" he demanded. "Peter, my God, what was that?" His hand shook as he gripped my shoulder. The sick feeling returned to my guts as I saw his white face, but there was no time for reassurances now.
"It's all right, Da. Look, I have to go now. I'll explain later."
"Who's this?" Doyle inquired sharply.
"Ray Doyle, this is my father, Dan Skellen. I came out here because I had to talk to him. It was important. I'll tell you about it in the car. He's Bodie's father too--we really are twins."
My father gasped. "Wait--you know my son? You know Billy? Let me help, how can I help?"
I turned him firmly back into the pub. "Just stay here and cooperate with the police inquiry, Da. I'll tell you everything when it's all over, okay? But we've got to go now if we want to find Bodie."
Doyle cast a dark look over his shoulder as we hurried into the street. "That's Bodie's father?"
"His real father."
Doyle shook his head. "Before I found out Bodie's father--the other one, I mean--was dead, I always swore if I ever met him I'd put his lights out."
I"m not so sure the sentiment is misplaced, though. Where the hell was he--" he jerked a thumb back at the pub "--when Bodie was getting knocked about in Liverpool?"
I shook my head as we reached the car. "It's a long story. Let's just get Bodie back first, all right? Then it'll be up to him to decide if he can forgive my--our-- father."
Doyle started the car. "Where are we going?"
"Kensington, I think. Call your HQ and get them to track down the address of one Colonel Lawrence Pugh, formerly of the SAS."
After he had replaced the radio in its cradle, Doyle looked at me. "All right, spill it. What do you remember?"
I leaned back in the passenger seat with a sigh. I wasn't exactly proud of what I was about to tell Doyle. "Last Friday afternoon I found out two more of my job prospects had dried up--at least one of those because my former CO blackballed me."
"What, the bloke we met in Cowley's office?"
"Yeah, that's him. Hadley would carry a grudge to hell and back, but at least he's straight. A good officer. Not like Pugh--he was kicked out for dirty dealings. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Last Friday I was feeling down, so soon's the pubs opened I went out for a pint. A feller approached me in the pub. Addressed me by name--and rank, which I'm not really entitled to any more. Said he had a job offer, but wouldn't be very specific. But it paid well."
"I know, I'm not that dense. I asked was it illegal, and he said no. I didn't really believe him, but...Doyle, I needed the money! Still do, come to that. I haven't got more than a month's payments left in y savings. Look, I knew he was probably up to no good, but I figured I could get on the inside and then blow the deal to the authorities. Maybe impress one of those commanders who refused to hire me on Hadley's say-so. I told myself it was like going undercover. And if it wasn't illegal, then I'd have a bit of money to keep me going." I bit my lip, able to see all too easily how I would have compromised my principles a bit at a time. It had all seemed so different at the time.
"Anyway, whether I would have done or not, I never had a chance to do anything illegal. They saw to that. They told me to meet them out in surrey, at the top of that hill--the one where you found me. So I drove out there, and the first person I saw when I got out of the car was Pugh. Then I knew it was something nasty going on, because I'd heard about what he got up to before they kicked him out. It was all kept quiet, of course, but inside the Service rumours flew. A lot of the men who worked under him turned out to be dirty too. Wait--wasn't it CI5 that arrested Keller?"
"Jimmy Keller? He was an old mate of Bodie's."
"Christ, so you mean Bodie worked under Pugh as well? I wonder if that explains it."
"Whatever it is Pugh wanted from Bodie--probably goes back to their days in the service together."
"Figure that out later. Just go on with what you were saying."
"Right. Well, I saw Pugh, and I figured he was up to something. I tried to make him think I was on his side--started talking about how we'd both been stiffed by the service--but he wasn't paying any attention to what I said. Just kept staring at me. I see now he must have been comparing me to Bodie. He said something to one of the other fellers there, something about how I was just perfect--Oh, bloody hell!"
"What?" Doyle's foot eased off the accelerator and he looked around for a threat.
"He knew! Pugh knew I had a twin brother! Or rather, he knew Bodie had a twin. That's why he sent his thugs to lure me in. Damn, he must have got it from Hadley. I still can't believe the bastard knew, all those years, and he never breathed a word to me!"
"Never mind that, what happened to Bodie?"
"He arrived a few minutes after I did. They hadn't told me anything of what they were planning, said they were waiting for the last man to arrive. When his car came up, the others--five of them, I think, counting the one you shot at the pub tonight--all disappeared into the shadows, and Pugh told me to check him out. So when he pulled up, I stepped forward and looked into the car. Soon's I got a good look at his face, I froze, and so did he. Pugh must have been counting on that--he grabbed both of us in seconds, neat as could be, while we were just staring at each other. Then somebody bashed me on the head, and that's all I remember. I suppose they changed our clothes, stuffed me in Bodie's car and sent me downhill to play the convenient corpse while they took Bodie off somewhere to question him. I wonder what they did with my car."
Doyle was silent for a few seconds, digesting the information. "How did Bodie react, when he saw the others?"
"Well, he was still shocked from seeing me. I think he recognised Pugh, though. Must have done."
"Was he surprised to see Pugh? Pleased, disgusted-- what?"
I tried to remember. "I think he was upset when he saw Pugh. But there wasn't much time for either of us to react. Next thing I knew, I was in the hospital and couldn't even remember my name."
"Lucky for them. If you had to survive that crash, amnesia was the next best thing--from their point of view." Doyle sounded sour.
"You don't suppose they drugged me or something?" I asked doubtfully.
"Nah. They couldn't have expected you to survive. It's got to be why they picked that hill. They knew exactly where the car would go off the road. I wouldn't have thought you'd survive either."
I was thinking back to Doyle's question about Bodie's reaction to Pugh. "Ray--you don't think Bodie was plotting something with Pugh, do you?"
"No!" he almost shouted. His hands clenched on the steering wheel. "Bodie wouldn't do that."
"Maybe he was planning to set Pugh up or something."
"He would have told me if that was his plan." Doyle visibly contained his anger. "Pugh must have given Bodie some excuse to get him up there that night, but Bodie wasn't working with him. No way. We went through all this before, with Keller. Bodie's not dirty, dammit."
"Well, he certainly wasn't expecting to see me there," I reflected lightly, trying to take the edge off.
A crease appeared in Doyle's cheek. "Would've liked to see his face."
"We'll get him back, then you can see his face when he hears the whole story," I promised. "Here, this is the street. Turn left here."
Doyle parked a little ways down from Pugh's stately home, and we approached on foot. I went to the left, parallel to the narrow, curving drive. There were several vehicles there: two German cars, a windowless black caravan, and my own elderly beige Cortina. I blinked at the car in a amazement a few moments, surprised that they hadn't already dumped it somewhere. Then, shaking my head, I crept once more towards the house.
The bushes that dotted the lawn and crowded up to the house were more decorative than defensive; in fact, they provided excellent concealment for someone trying to sneak within view of the windows. But then, Pugh always had been more concerned with luxury than efficient performance of his job.
There were several lit windows along the side of the house that I was investigating,; all were curtained. At the third window I found a tiny gap to look through, and at once I saw that I had struck the jackpot. I could only see a corner of the room, but it was enough to reveal the figure of a man with short, dark hair, his arms bound to a straight-backed wooden chair.
Doyle appeared around the corner of the house and I signaled him urgently. He reached my side in seconds and peered through the gap I indicated.
"Is that Bodie?" I asked, having no idea how either I or my twin might appear from behind.
"It's him all right," Doyle replied. "How many are in there?"
"Not sure. I've heard at least two voices. But there are four vehicles in the drive."
Doyle's eyes flicked over the outside of the house, assessing its defenses. They weren't very strong, but I didn't like to contemplate storming the place, just the two of us, with an unknown force inside holding a hostage.
"Go back to the car," I murmured into Doyle's ear. "Call for backup. I'll watch them."
Doyle nodded reluctantly. Bodie appeared to be in no immediate danger or distress, and rushing in mob- handed was more likely to get him killed than waiting for the right moment to strike.
Unfortunately, Doyle had no sooner slipped around the side of the house than two figures moved to Bodie's side and began to untie his bonds. I cursed under my breath, watching avidly and pressing close to the window to try to hear any words that might be said.
A door opened not far away, and I crouched down at once into the welcome shadow of the bushes. Pugh emerged with another man and went to one of the silver cars waiting in the drive. He was followed in short order by Bodie and his two captors, who dragged their unwilling guest to the back of the van and bundled him inside.
I ground my teeth over their damnable timing--if they had only waited a few minutes longer! Then Pugh and the first man climbed into the front of the van, and I cursed even harder. With all of them in the same vehicle, they would be easier to follow, but harder to separate.
As the van backed down the drive, I was already running forward. I dashed to the back of my little Cortina and reached searching fingers behind the registration plate. There was the spare key I had taped in place for emergencies. I jumped into the car and roared after the van.
I caught a brief glimpse of Doyle sitting in his car as I raced past him, but I was too intent on keeping the van in sight to stop for him. A few blocks later, to my relief, I saw the gold Capri in my mirror, weaving through traffic to get closer. We made a small cavalcade through the streets of Kensington: the van, myself, and Doyle.
After a few minutes we cleared the edges of town and started out on a secondary road, where it would be much harder to conceal our pursuit. With two cars we could take it in shifts, but I had no radio to communicate with Doyle. He, evidently, had no desire to stay concealed, for he came blazing up on my right like a house on fire and overtook the van. I watched in shock as Doyle tried to force the much larger vehicle off the road, driving like a madman.
Doyle survived two treacherous curves, some nasty counteroffensive moves from the van, and an oncoming car that had me jabbing at my brakes in anticipation of a smash-up. But the next time he tried to bully the van into stopping, they just pushed right back and almost sent him off the road. As Doyle pulled ahead a little I saw a gun emerge from the driver's window of the van, and I accelerated to ram them in the rear and upset the driver's aim. But I was too late; the shot took out Doyle's left front tyre, and his car went into a spectacular spin. The van and I both slewed around him as he rocketed off the road. I slowed down and the van sped up, disappearing as I pulled over to check on Doyle.
His car had ended its wild career with the assistance of a tree, and was now groaning as it settled by the side of the road. I had only just stepped out of my car when a curly head appeared next to the wrecked Capri.
"Doyle?" I called in concern.
Before I could ask if he was all right, he was sprinting towards my care. "Go, go!" he shouted as he tumbled into the passenger seat. I took off after the van.
We had delayed less than a minute, and even my tired Cortina should have been a match for the heavy caravan--especially since they had to take corners sedately--but when we reached a division of the road the van was nowhere in sight.
"Take the left fork," Doyle said, clinging to the dashboard. "I think I know where they're going-- God, I hope I'm right."
"Where?" I asked, pressing the accelerator to the floor.
"There's a safehouse out this way--it's where we were going to hold those negotiations with Hamad, starting tomorrow."
"Why would they be going there? You think Pugh wants to disrupt the negotiations?"
"No! But--look here, they want something from Bodie, right? They've been trying to get it out of him all week. What if he told them whatever they wanted was at this safehouse? He knows it'll be crawling with agents--all he has to do is get them there and give a yell, and he'll have all the help he needs."
"So why try to force them off the road?" I demanded. "You're just making them suspicious. If Bodie's set a trap for them, why not let them fall into it?"
"For one thing, I'm not sure that's where they're going." Doyle caught his breath and squinted through the windscreen as tail-lights appeared ahead of us. "For another--that safehouse isn't guarded tonight. They changed the venue after we realised Bodie was kidnaped. Standard procedure."
"There they are," I confirmed. "It's the van, all right."
Doyle's outstretched hand bumped against my unadorned dash, and he cursed. "Haven't you got a radio in this thing?"
"Sorry, mate, I only bought it after I got fired."
"It's down to us, then. Get as close as you can." Doyle unholstered his gun and checked it.
"Doyle--if you're thinking of taking out a tyre or something, a smash-up at this speed will probably kill Bodie along with the rest of them."
But even as I spoke, the van was slowing. It drifted across the divider and lurched back suddenly to the left side. The brake lights flashed briefly.
"What the hell are they doing?" I murmured, alert for trouble. I saw the rear doors opening and tensed in anticipation of gunfire. Instead a human body burst out the back of the van and fell, flailing, to the road in front of us. My car lurched horribly as first the front tyres, then the rear ones ran over the fallen man.
"Jesus Christ!" I yelled, and was aware that Doyle had shouted something as well. But a moment later he was reassuring me: "It wasn't Bodie. He's still in the van."
"Sure enough, in the intervals when the flapping doors swung open, we could see a bound man on the floor of the van, struggling against another who loomed over him.
"Get as close as you can!" Doyle shouted, winding his window all the way down. "Get right up behind them!" He was leaning half out the window with the gun in his left hand--and I knew he was right handed.
I cursed disbelievingly as I pulled closer to the van. Its driver, either distracted by the fight in the back or trying to shake me off, was behaving erratically, and I had almost no time in which to react to his sudden swerves and lurches. Once I got really close, I couldn't see the road ahead, and a few swerves that I had taken for feints turned out to be actual curves in the road. Doyle swore at me as we nearly rolled into the ditch.
When Doyle fired his first shot, the man wrestling with Bodie looked up in startlement. I couldn't see where the bullet went--it might have been just a warning shot--but the man's momentary distraction gave Bodie the opening he needed. He gave a powerful kick with both feet, arching his whole body and throwing the other man across the van, where he hit the side and sagged down to the floor.
Movement on the other side of the car caught my eye, and I stared in amazement as Doyle climbed right out the passenger side window onto the bonnet of my car. I shouted at him not to be an idiot, but I doubt he could hear me over the bluster of the wind. He was clinging to the widow strut with one hand, and the other--wielding his gun--waved me closer still to the van.
I couldn't believe Doyle was being such a fool, and I considered stopping the car right then. But there was still Bodie's safety to be thought of. If Doyle wanted to risk his life in a ridiculous stunt, at least that was his choice. I pulled a few feet further ahead.
Doyle was crouching right on the bonnet, obscuring my view of the van and the road before me. I couldn't follow the van's little jinks now, so I tried to drive as smoothly as possible while still staying close. I saw the van's brake lights flash and nearly hit the brakes myself before I realised that would catapult Doyle right into their midst. Instead, I just eased off on the accelerator, and the van dropped back within a few inches of my bumper.
Doyle got to his feet, balancing with knees bent. Between his legs I could see faces looking back from the van ahead--a gun! Doyle dropped down flat as the van surged forward, and a bullet starred the lefthand side of my windscreen.
Doyle had rolled right onto the windscreen in front of me, blocking my view. The car lurched as the right- hand tyres went off the road into gravel, and I spun the wheel frantically. Doyle slipped further to the side, his legs sliding off the right side of the car. His gun skittered across the bonnet as he sprawled, clutching for a handhold. I stuck my arm out the window and caught a handful of his jeans, trying to push him back onto the bonnet. Doyle got his fingers under the edge of the bonnet and pulled himself up precariously as the car slowed. He turned his head to flash me a cheeky grin and waved me forward again, crouching low so I could see over him.
I couldn't believe he wanted to try it again! But he kept waving and glared at me, so I pressed the accelerator once more. I could see the van a little more clearly now; Pugh had apparently left the passenger seat in the front and come to the back to subdue Bodie, who now lay limp on the floor of the van. He lifted his gun to fire again at Doyle, and I swerved to one side. Doyle's clutch on the edge of the bonnet kept him in place. He shouted something inaudible but probably obscene.
I reached under my seat, groping for the slightly illegal gun I had hidden there ages ago. If Pugh and his men hadn't bothered to search the car...there it was! I pulled the gun out and extended it through the window.
"Doyle," I shouted. "Doyle!" But he didn't hear me.
Anther bullet came through the windscreen and whined past my ear. The new cracks in the glass were blocking my view, so I reversed my gun and smashed an opening with the butt. Doyle was looking back at me now and saw the gun; he wasted no time lifting it from my fingers. Then he waved me on again.
Angry at Doyle, at Pugh, at the entire situation, I floored the accelerator and came right up to the van in a couple of seconds, determined to ram them in the rear. Doyle released his handhold as we approached and took a shot at Pugh, then launched himself forward an instant before the impact and slipped between the doors of the van.
The bump the van received from my poor car caused the rear doors first to fly open--I saw Doyle tackling Pugh--then to slam back in reaction. This time they shut and stayed that way. I couldn't see what was happening inside. Doyle still had two men to contend with, aside from the driver, and Bodie might be incapable of helping him. Cursing, I revved my engine and pulled up on the van's right side.
Wary of the fate that had overcome Doyle when he pulled ahead of the van, I stayed back where it was difficult for the driver to see me, and contented myself with swerving up against the van at irregular intervals. The left side of my car took a dreadful pounding, and more glass dribbled from the broken windscreen at each impact.
The oncoming headlights took me completely by surprise--there hadn't been another car on this road for miles. I swerved out to the right to let the car pass between me and the van. Running my wheels onto the gravel shoulder of the road, I miscalculated and went right into the ditch. My chin fetched the steering wheel a dizzying blow.
I sat for a moment, tasting bile and wretched failure. The tilt of my car told me it wouldn't escape the ditch on its own power. Further ahead down the road, the lights of the van were disappearing into the distance--
No, the van was pulling over to the side of the road. It was stopping!
I climbed out of my poor ruined Cortina and started to run down the road after the van. My knee protested vigorously, and I was reminded that I had suffered two car crashes and two attempted assassinations in the past week. As I approached the van, all seemed to be peaceful, so I slowed to a walk.
Doyle appeared on the driver's side, holding a prisoner with one arm twisted behind his back. He pushed the man up against the dented side of the van and started to bind his arms with rope.
I stared at him incredulously as I came up. All the adrenaline that had pumped into my system over the past hour seemed to focus into one overwhelming emotion: fury with Doyle.
"You stupid, daft bugger!" I yelled. "Have you got a death wish? Christ, I thought SAS recruits came up with some stupid stunts, but this takes the cake! What did you think you were doing?"
Doyle just grinned. "Y'know, at times you sound just like Bodie. Give me a hand with this lot?"
With the wind taken effectively out of my sails, I stomped around to the back of the van and opened the doors to see what had happened to the others. Pugh sprawled against the back of the driver's seat with a bullet hole in his chest. The second man was groaning weakly on the floor of the van while Bodie watched with a gun trained on him. Bodie had a handkerchief clasped over a bleeding cut on his forehead, but otherwise appeared fine. He looked up and caught sight of me, and his mouth dropped open.
"Er--Hallo," I said uncomfortably. "Shall I take him off your hands?"
Doyle brought his prisoner up beside me and shoved him into the van, then crawled inside to tie up the second man. I realised he was using the same nylon rope that had bound Bodie's wrists and ankles earlier.
"Ray?" Bodie said slowly, still staring at me.
"Half a mo' sunshine, 'm a little busy here." Doyle grunted as he pulled the rope tight around the man's wrists. "Yeh, what is it?"
"Do you see that?" Bodie waved at me with the hand holding the gun, which was probably a good indication of his shock.
Doyle glanced back at me and grinned. "What, him? That's your evil twin brother." He gently pulled the gun from Bodie's grasp.
I clambered into the van. "What are you talking about? I'm the good twin. Hallo, Bodie, my name's Peter Skellen." I extended my hand.
Bodie shook my hand weakly; his knuckles were swollen and scraped, and his wrists were raw from the ropes. "Skellen. Not the SAS captain? Christ, I'd heard there was a resemblance, but--" He looked to Doyle for confirmation.
"Like I said, Ray, Bodie probably heard a lot more about me than I ever did about him."
"We could be twins!" Bodie gasped.
"We are twins," I told him. "Remember your brother Jimmy?"
"Jimmy? But he's--you're--he's dead."
"Nope. All a big mistake. I'll tell you about it." I hesitated a moment. "You won't like all of it, but I swear, Bodie, I didn't know. I never knew you existed until last Friday night. When I saw you in that car--"
Bodie nodded. "I know how you feel there. You could've knocked me over with a feather."
"If I could interrupt this tender family reunion--" Doyle interjected.
Bodie gave him a heartfelt glower.
"We'd better be heading back to town. I'll stop at the first phone box and call in. Meanwhile, do you two think you can handle these tugs on your own?"
"Why not? They're tied up," I said.
"So was I," Bodie pointed out.
"Well, so long as we don't get any armed madmen racing after us, I don't think there'll be a problem." I jerked my head at Doyle. "Is he always that insane?"
"Mm-hmm," Bodie said cheerfully. "Needs a bloody keeper, he does."
Doyle stiffened as he was about to climb into the driver's seat. "And who saved your ruddy neck tonight, sunshine?"
"Only because you missed my pretty face--" Bodie faltered and glanced at me.
"Hah!" Doyle snorted. "I've had your pretty face around all week. It's your temper and rotten jokes I've had to do without, and I certainly wouldn't miss those."
Bodie looked suddenly uncertain, and I remembered that terrible feeling when I hadn't known my identity- -when I hadn't know where I belonged or who I could trust. Bodie knew himself, at least, but suddenly he was afraid that I might take his place, especially in Ray's affections. I tried to reassure him.
"I was in hospital most of the week," I said quickly. "Pugh meant for me to die when your car smashed."
Bodie showed a different sort of dismay. "My car? They haven't smashed my car, have they?"
"It's in pieces on a shop floor," Doyle told him. "But cheer up, mate, I pranged me own car tonight for your sake--and Peter's car as well."
Bodie turned to me. "Peter...not Jimmy?"
"It's a long story," I began, and as Doyle drove us back toward town I told them the whole thing.
Bodie was silent when he had heard the story, perhaps reflecting on those years he had spent in Liverpool. I don't know what Philip Bodie had done to him to make running away to sea look attractive by comparison, but I found myself wishing fiercely that I had followed Billy out of that burning building. We should have stayed together. Everything would have been all right if we had been together...but now we were sundered forever by our wildly different experiences of life. I bowed my head.
"Sounds like a right prat, your father," Doyle judged. "Didn't he even think to check of Bodie'd made it out alive?"
"He was only twenty years old," I pointed out wearily. "Hardly more than a kid, and almost as terrified of Philip Bodie as my mother was. He didn't know what to do?"
"By the time I was twenty, I'd already fought in two wars," Bodie pointed out.
I nodded. "And that's a direct result of the fact that our father was so naive at the same age. Like some cosmic pendulum swinging from generation to generation..."
Doyle and Bodie exchanged an amused look, baffled by my philosophy. I sighed and looked away, knowing that Doyle was far closer to my twin brother than I'd ever be.
We stopped at a phone box on the outskirts of Kensington. After Doyle had called in to headquarters and told Cowley the short version of our story, he climbed back in the van and started it up again. "What did Pugh want?" he asked suddenly.
"Eh?" Bodie frowned. "Oh, some jewels he thought I had."
"Jewels? I knew you'd been a gunrunner, mate, but when were you ever a cat burglar?"
"Ha bloody ha. No, it goes back to the days when me and Jimmy Keller were in Pugh's squad."
"I thought so," I put in softly.
"I guess Keller was rotten long before I ever knew about it. Looking back, I suppose I should've seen the signs. He was better at hiding it than Pugh, but they were two of a kind. Anyway, we raided the house of a feller who'd been funding the IRA and supplying them with weapons and so forth...turned out he was also a fence on the side. Lots of stolen goods stashed away in his house. Keller found the jewels, a few hundred thousand pounds' worth, and I guess he was just about to hide them when I walked in. He made a few jokes about how we could set ourselves up for life--feeling me out, I figure, but I wasn't having any of it--then he handed them over to me to give to Pugh. Only I knew Pugh wasn't entirely straight, so I waited and gave them to another officer when we got back to base. And that was it, far as I was concerned.
"But I guess Pugh never heard what really happened to the jewels. Either they were given back to the original owner without a lot of fuss made about it, or- -hell, maybe the officer I gave them to decided to line his own pockets, I don't know. Anyway, Pugh knew Keller had given them to me, and after that they'd disappeared, far as he could tell. So he's fallen on hard times, all the money he's salted away is being tracked down by the SAS and he's getting hit with litigation left and right. He figures it would be a good time to ask me where those jewels went, since I obviously hadn't spent the money meself."
"And at the same time," I pointed out, "I had just been kicked out of the service. Pugh knew I would make a perfect double for Bodie, and he saw a way to cover his tracks so he'd have Bodie to himself for a while, and no one would be trying to track him down."
Bodie considered this. "Is that what it was all about? I kept waiting for Doyle and Cowley to come bursting into Pugh's place, but I suppose you didn't even know I was missing, eh, sunshine?"
Doyle shook his head, tight-lipped. "If Skellen had died in that car crash like he was supposed to, we would have held your funeral and then just been sitting around on our hands while Pugh did whatever he bloody well pleased to you."
I looked at Bodie. He was pale and had dark circles under his eyes, but aside from the marks picked up in the recent struggle he didn't seem to be injured. "What did Pugh do to you?"
"Nothing much." Bodie shrugged. "He was too squeamish for torture. Pumped me full of drugs for a day or two, but all that got him was the truth: I didn't know anything about the damned jewels. He wasn't satisfied with that, and he might have gone on to try something nastier, but once I got my wits together I came up with a story he believed. Told him I'd stashed the jewels out in the country, was waiting for the heat to cool off before I tried to sell them. I described the Morley estate to him."
"I knew it!" Doyle exclaimed. "I knew that was where you were taking them!"
"I told Pugh there'd be a guard on the gate, but the feller who had the duty Friday nights was a mate of mine and would let us through as long as I could have a word with him. Pugh didn't like that much--took me two days to sell it to him. Pity you weren't there, Ray, you're a better actor than I am."
"Nah, 'm just good at slumming it. You're the silver tongue around here."
Bodie grinned. "Pugh decided to give it a try, bringing along enough men to make sure I didn't get away if it was a trick. I had it all figured out, see. Friday, night before Hamad arrives, that's when Cowley would be doing his security checks, right? So all the lads would be on their toes, just waiting for the Old Man to come up with some clever test. Pugh and his boys wouldn't have a chance against the A Squad, all primed and ready."
"Very nice, Bodie," Doyle said, "except we changed the venue."
"When we realised you were missing, we changed the venue for the talks with Hamad. You should have known that would happen."
"Christ, you mean there wasn't anybody out at the Morley estate?"
"Just the usual token guard compliment. Nothing to make Pugh hesitate. You're lucky we came along when we did."
Bodie looked astounded. Guess I am, at that. Thanks, mate."
"Don't thank me, thank Skellen. He's the one that led us to Pugh."
"Only about a week too late," I pointed out.
"Seems to me you were just in time," Bodie replied, and I felt a little warmth curl inside me.
"Here's the Old Man, " Doyle said, pulling over. "He looks ready to spit bullets, too."
Bodie sighed and straightened himself, brushing at his hair.
The back doors of the van opened and Cowley stood framed against the night. "Doyle!" he barked. "What's this I hear about you making a spectacle out on the M--" He trailed off, staring from me to Bodie and back again. "My God..."
Doyle got out of the driver's seat to stand between me and my twin. "Striking resemblance, wouldn't you say, sir?" In a stolen glance at him, I saw that he was barely suppressing a grin.
Cowley took in my mangled haircut and turned his gaze to Bodie. "And what have you to say for yourself, 3.7?"
"Sorry, sir," said Bodie unconvincingly. "Did the best I could without backup."
"Hmph. My men shouldn't need backup!"
"Or a briefing, sir."
"Yes, well, speaking of briefings...I want to hear the whole story, from beginning to end!"
And so we had to tell it all agin.
Leaving Cowley's office, I bumped into an agent in the hallway. The face was familiar, and I racked my brains trying to think of a name I had heard once several months ago.
He stepped back to take a good look at me, amusement playing around his lips. "I like the mustache," he pronounced at length. "Very dashing. You going undercover, Bodie?"
"Ermm, something like that," I agreed. "Have you seen Doyle around?"
"What, lost your other half? I think he's down in the rest room." The agent waved at the floor and continued on down the hall. Murphy was his name, I recalled, too late to make any use of it.
CI5 had changed offices since the time Doyle showed me around HQ, so it took me a while to find the rest room. It was down two floors, as Murphy's vague gesture had indicated, and tucked away behind a computer room. The sign on the door read "VIP Lounge."
I opened the door and ducked as something sailed past my nose to land with a soft thunk to my left. "Hah!" a familiar voice cried. "Triple twenties. Let's see you beat that, my son!"
Distracted by my arrival, Doyle didn't respond to the challenge. His silence drew Bodie's attention, and I soon found myself pinned by two enquiring gazes, one green, one blue.
Doyle was the first to speak. "Skellen. What are you doing here?"
"Just had my first interview with Cowley," I said, and sauntered past them to investigate the coffee machine.
"You're joining the Squad?" Bodie asked in horrified tones more suited to the prospect of nuclear annihilation.
"That's up to Cowley, isn't it?" I returned mildly. "I've only had the one interview." Actually, I wasn't at all sure I would accept the job if offered it, but I wasn't going to tell Bodie that. What are brothers for, if not to be teased? "I think Cowley has visions of using the two of us in some complicated scheme of his."
"I already have a partner," Bodie said belligerently.
"Oh, I wouldn't be working with you," I reassured him. "That would ruin the whole thing, wouldn't it? No, I expect we'd work in parallel to cause the greatest possible confusion--being in two places at one time, as it were. But that's only if I qualify, of course." And if I wanted the job. A part of me certainly missed the adrenaline and excitement, not to mention the satisfaction of stopping terrorists and saving lives. But it was a messy, violent job, and my father didn't like the idea. He'd been trying to get me into computers instead. I hadn't made my decision yet; I was waiting for the right time to come.
"You'll make it," Doyle said confidently. "SAS training, and good genes to boot--ow, Bodie!--you'll make it."
"Anyway, that's not why I stopped in here." I poured myself a beaker of coffee, sipped it cautiously, and added a generous ration of sugar. "I came to deliver an invitation."
"For what?" Bodie said warily.
"Dinner." I grinned at him. "Da wold like you to come to dinner next weekend, if you're free. Just a peaceful little talk. He knows he--we--haven't really been a proper family to you, but you might as well take advantage of what you've got. Ray's invited too, if he'd like to come."
Doyle glanced uncertainly at his partner.
"And the holidays are coming as well. If you've any free time over Christmas, you'd be more than welcome, both of you." I kept my tone light, knowing that even a hint of pressure would chase Bodie away more surely than anything. "My--our sisters will be home for Christmas, and I'm sure they'd be delighted to meet you."
Doyle showed a flicker of interest. "Sisters?"
"Cindy and Mandy. That is, Cynthia and Amanda. They outnumber me." I grimaced. "I used to wish I could duplicate myself, when I was younger, just to make it an even contest."
"How old are they?" Doyle asked.
"Cindy's 26, and Mandy just turned 23."
"Well, mate?" Doyle turned to his partner. "What do you think?"
Bodie's lip thrust forward. Before meeting him, I had never realised how often I performed that particular gesture myself. "Dinner, yeh, maybe. Don't know if we'll be free around Christmastime."
"Great. I'll tell Da about dinner. You coming as well, Doyle?"
"If I can," Doyle said noncommittally, but I could see the burning fascination in his eyes. He wouldn't want to miss this.
"Fine, then. See you two next weekend, if not before." I crumpled the empty beaker and tossed it in the trash.
Doyle stuck his head around the door as I was departing. "Oy, Skellen--"
"Are your sisters married?"
I suppressed a grin. "Mandy is, but Cindy's till on the market."
Doyle's head disappeared rather abruptly, and I could hear Bodie's voice as I walked away: "Christ, Ray, bad enough my twin brother might be joining the Squad, without having you putting the moves on me sister!"
I was still laughing as I left the building.
-- THE END --