Absent Friends

by Jane Carnall

"OK," Doyle conceded at last, to an accusation Bodie had made three miles back, "I'm not exactly happy about this."

"Cummon," Bodie said patiently, "how bad can it be?"

Doyle shrugged uncomfortably. "How did he sound on the phone?"

"Said we'd be welcome any time after two o'clock."

Doyle glanced at his watch. "It'll be half past three before we get there," he said nervously.

"That's after two o'clock," Bodie agreed. "Stop shaking in your shoes, sunshine; this isn't exactly the most dangerous op we've ever been on."

"Bearding Cowley in his lair?" Doyle retorted. "Anyway, we should have been to see him before."

"This is the first time we've had a chance, he'll know that. Been a busy three months since he retired."

Quarter of an hour later, Bodie swung the silver Capri into the turning that led up to Cowley's converted farmhouse. Parking on the verge, he climbed out of the car and turned to add to Doyle, who hadn't moved, "Come on; the longer you leave it the worse it'll get."

"That's what my dentist always says," Doyle muttered, grimacing. He got out of the car and followed Bodie up the steps to the front door. Bodie's finger was just touching the bell when the door was pulled open.

"Heard you drive up," Cowley informed them. "Well, come in, come in. Get back, you two," he added to the two half-grown alsatians who had frisked forward to greet them. Doyle stopped to rub the tri-colour long-hair behind the ears. He liked dogs; Bodie detested them. "Reminds me," he added to Bodie "did you remember to buy the Whiskas this morning?"

"Yes," Bodie confirmed.

"Ah, you've acquired a cat," Cowley said, moving towards the sitting room, "since you moved in together."

Bodie and Doyle cast each other a speaking look; The old bastard knows.

"Bloody typical," Bodie muttered under his breath, following Cowley into the other room.

"What can I offer you?" Cowley inquired. "Tea? Coffee? A small malt?"

"Tea," Bodie said, just as Doyle said fervently, "Malt."

"I'll put the kettle on," the older man said smoothly.

Alone (apart from the dogs) in the sitting room, Doyle looked at Bodie. "He knows."

"Drake probably sends him weekly reports."

"On us?"

"On everything," Bodie shrugged. "Anyway, I reckon the old bastard guessed us within a week."

"You never told me that!"

"Didn't want to make you nervous, sunshine." Bodie turned to the couch, to sit down, only to find that the black short-hair alsatian had taken up most of the space. He was trying to urge it to climb down, or at least shove over, when Cowley came back from the kitchen and barked "Bodie! Get off the sofa!"

Startled, Bodie jumped back. The dog slid guiltily off the couch and crouched on the floor, looking up at Cowley apologetically. Doyle was looking from the dog, to Bodie, to Cowley, with dropping jaw.

Bodie opened his mouth, shut it again. He was seeing what very few people had ever seen; George Cowley, visibly embarassed. "Ah," their ex-boss said, awkwardly.

"Bodie," Doyle said. His partner turned to glance at him; the dog remained eyes fixed on Cowley's face.

"Ah, yes," Cowley said. "The dog is called Bodie."

"And the other one?" Bodie asked at last, suspiciously sober as to voice and face.

"Doyle," Cowley admitted. The tri-colour long-hair came bouncing over.

Doyle started to snicker. Cowley glared, but that didn't silence him. "I got used to shouting at the pair of you," he said finally.

"We're... flattered, sir," Bodie said, still managing to keep a sober face.

The kettle in the kitchen was screaming; Cowley made tea and they drank it out in the garden, the dogs following, reasonably well-behaved. They almost stopped jumping every time Cowley snapped "Bodie!" or "Doyle!"

In the end, they even stayed for supper; Cowley seemed pleased with their company. Leaving in the last of the long summer sunlight, Doyle sighed as they went down to the car. "I suppose the old bastard really must have missed us."

"Well," Bodie said, getting into the car, "we miss him. What did we call our cat?"


(The dog's names were Ann's idea; the cat's name was mine. She insists I put this bit in.)

What the MI5/6/17/KGB Bugs Overheard and Never Understood;

"Cowley! Get down from those curtains!"
"Where's Cowley?" - "Under the bed."
"Oh shit, look what Cowley's done to the sofa...."
"AAAGH! Cowley, stop biting my toes!"

"Bodie. Down, boy!"

A Comment From Sebastian; "I bet Doyle was the bitch."

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