The Last Cherry


"Only way to be sure, isn't it?" Doyle sounded defeated. "About the last cherry I've got." He rested his chin on the top of Bodie's head.

"Ready to give it up, are you?"

"Thinking I'll need to if I want to be keeping you around. Sixty years you promised."

Bodie shifted slightly in Doyle's arms. "Christ, I'm thirsty!"

"Make us a cup of tea, then?"

"No good without sugar."

"Gave up sugar, didn't I?" Doyle's hands trembled slightly against Bodie's side, under Bodie's hands that covered his own. "Could use a bit now."

"Got your back against that freezing stone wall, haven't you?" Bodie made a weak attempt to sit up, easily restrained by Doyle's relentless embrace. "Shit. Put the jacket on for a bit, Ray; no good you turning into an ice lolly."

"You just shut up and stop bleedin' or your rubber duck gets it." He urged Bodie back against his shoulder, willing the shivering to stop. Beneath the sheepskin jacket that he'd tucked around them he could feel sticky dampness, the slow blood seeping again, soaking through the wadded-up shirt. The stink of that and other things had almost ceased to register.

Bodie knew better than to argue with that tone. He folded his hands more closely over Doyle's, trying to warm them. "Even without sugar...."

"Hot and wet," Doyle agreed wistfully.

"Not got the spit, angelfish. Later I'll give you hot and wet." Bodie's voice was starting to slur again. "Bloody parched." Doyle looked down at the blood clotted on the side of Bodie's head, matting the dark hair, not bleeding now, a bit inflamed. He couldn't tell what the real damage was. Bodie seemed to drift in and out of focus. And the wound in his side was still leaking blood, a slow trickle, starting, stopping, starting, defying the pressure of Doyle's hands.

I went into the kitchen and filled a cup with water and drank some and tipped the rest away, no wonder she shot me, wasting it like that, and I lay there in all my warm wet blood, the butchers cut me down, like a pig, a sheep...

Sheep's blood. The sheep that's my jacket now. Lamb's blood. Always blood some god's after. Always a meal for the Morrigan's crows. Do crows drink blood or just water? So thirsty. A cup of cold water only in the name of...

A whole glass of lager you left because I wouldn't wait for you to drink it. All my foul moods you've put up with. I'll wait next time. We'll finish our drinks and go to bed where it's warm, fuck in the warm, make love in the warm, and I'll get you something to drink...

"Till death if you want me," you said that first morning. "Sixty seconds or sixty years, whatever time we've got," and I was so gobsmacked I never said... Should've waited for you to finish that drink, but I'll make us some tea, coffee if you'd rather, and I'll get...

Doyle shuddered back to reality. "Christ, it's cold!" He's cold... Breathing's steady, though. Be all right if we can just get out of here soon. Soon. Shouldn't let him sleep, should I? Can't remember...

"Not supposed to happen with these guns, is it? Never heard of it happening with this model. Must've seen me comin'. 'Here's that wally Doyle; let's unload another defective shooter.' Did me a favour this time."


"Bloody marvellous jacket, this. Some poor sheep got the chop so I could have it. Not that much different from eatin' meat, wearin' leather. Could bloody devour half a sheep raw just now... You can have the other half... Just wake up and you can have the lot... Bodie, wake up!"

"'M...wake..." Bodie's eyes were suddenly open and startled.

"Sorry." Doyle's voice softened. "Just with the head thing you should stay awake, I think. Might be a bit concussed."

"Awake... "

"Yeh, 's good. Stay awake for me, sweetheart."

Bodie's hands tightened over his fingers. "Plenty to... stay awake... for..."

"Reckon I'd best get on with it. Don't know when they'll be back for us." Doyle pressed his lips against the dark hair for a moment. "Look, grab on and press tight when I take my hands away."

"Right." Bodie dragged himself back to alertness, hissed a breath of pain as Doyle shifted and he was eased back against the wall.

Away from the blanketing jacket, Doyle shivered again, glad he'd worn the t-shirt under the flannel shirt that was sopping up Bodie's blood. If they didn't get out soon the t-shirt would have to take its turn. He checked the gun meticulously, but there was no fault that he could detect. Just a fluke, that stoppage. Last time, different gun, Bodie had been there at the right moment. All those right moments had finally coalesced into that one moment that began sixty seconds or...

Just a fluke, their chance of salvation. The chance not to die after god knows how much interrogation. The chance not to live crippled and broken. Three usable bullets in the gun that had been tossed after him in contemptuous jest, believed empty. Incredible amateurs. Didn't check it, arrogant sods. Didn't search us, even. Battle madness. Death of you, with any luck. Can't be sloppy. Can't trust to any more luck. Got to make sure. More than sure.

The door was solid steel, barred from outside, no lock to shoot away. The r/t's were unresponsive, dead-zoned. The tiny broken window high in the wall would hardly let a toddler through. They'd got that right, anyway.

Doyle wiped as much blood as he could off his chilled hands, but it clung and caked without water for washing. They seemed steady now, but it would all have to be done in a moment. Three of them to take out. Nothing to waste.

He could probably do it anyway. Cold, hungry, thirsty, tired, fretted with anxiety for Bodie, none of these should affect his deadly accuracy.

But any of them might. And death was the desired end, after all. It wouldn't be Bodie's or his own if he could help it.

"Keepin' that pressure on?"

"Yeah yeah. You don't get rid of me without a fight, you know." Bodie's eyes were watchful, shadowed in his white, strained face.


"Right pocket."

Doyle crouched and eased it out. "You were gypped, sweetheart." He opened it. "Doesn't have a thing for takin' stones out of horses' hooves." He selected a blade. "This one?" His eyes were bleak grey in this place, his face creased with fatigue. Somehow he'd streaked blood into his hair and down one side of his neck. "Light's terrible."

"Want me to do it?"

Doyle threw him a quelling glance. "One cherry I'll get rid of meself. You've had me every way there is; deflower me own weapons, ta very much. Just keep the pressure on, all right?"

"Nag nag nag." I didn't come into this mob to use dumdum. Bodie's dry lips twitched slightly, remembering how Doyle had clung to those shreds of fancied innocence.

If I make my bed in Hell...

The scored bullets were reloaded. Doyle checked the gun once more, then settled back beside him. "All the perishin' things I thought I'd never do." He snorted in self-derision. "Was a time I thought I'd never kill anyone, either."

...behold, thou art there.

He contemplated the gun, tested its balance in his right hand, in his left hand. "Think it'll respect me in the morning? Christ, I need a bath!"

"You just want to do rude things with my rubber duck, don't you?" Bodie set his will to maintaining full awareness: couldn't leave Doyle alone now.

Outside a car pulled up, doors slamming.

"Come on, then, you bastards." Doyle strained to follow the sounds. "Keep that pressed tight, yeh? Don't try jumpin' about bein' heroic, all right? Just keep still and-- "

"You'll save me." Bodie's voice held a wisp of laughter. "And I'll save the duck." The prospect of action, even as mere spectator, was pumping trickles of adrenaline. He thought he could stagger up and clobber somebody if Doyle needed him to. "Looking forward to that nice juicy sheep?"

"Soon as we're out of here. Have it with chips and ten gallons of beer. Eyeballs are the Morrigan's perks, mind."

"Who's that? Ross's new assistant?"

"Half-Irish sonofabitch doesn't know his own war goddesses. Hangs out with the crows." Dead sheep, dead men, battle or famine or gibbet, all alike to the crows. "Reckon she's on our side right now. Dumdum should be just her cup of tea." Kill for a cup of tea...

"Bet my Auntie Gwyneth could take her two falls out of three. Back a scouse battleaxe over Irish any day. Have the crows for afters, southern fried with a few more chips." He wanted to put his arms round Doyle but knew he'd never hear the end of it if he moved his hands. "We'll need to make it a wedding breakfast with all your cherries gone."

"Yeah. All right." Doyle's uneven teeth flashed in a responsive grin. "Trick'll be findin' something without blood all over to hang out the window and show I've made an honest man of you. They're here. Sixty seconds or sixty years, sweetheart." He brushed a fast kiss over Bodie's mouth and stood up. "Don't go driftin' off again. Keep that pressure on."

Then his entire attention was focussed on the opening door and three fast squeezes of the trigger and a few moments of deadly nausea. It's not dead, it's dumdum. So much blood...and already the first fly was homing in.

Get Bodie sorted out. Get hold of Cowley and listen to him moan about no survivors to question. Think about it all later....

"Oi, Bodie! Sixty years, mind. Back in a tick." He headed for the open, flicking at the controls of the r/t. "Keep the pressure on."

Bodie slumped against the wall, closed his eyes against the hideous crows' banquet served forth around him, and kept the pressure on. It usually saved trouble to do what Doyle wanted. If Doyle wanted sixty years he'd likely get them.

They could hang the rubber duck out of the window.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Motet Opus 3 in B and D, Keynote Press, October 1999.
This version has been re-edited.

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