by Jane Carnall
He still lived in Liverpool, but in quite a different district. CI5's computer resources had tracked him, quite easily. From the two-up two-down streets of prewar housing, the address of twenty years ago; more than half demolished now. To the modern house on the new estate, no more than eight years old.
According to the records, he was sixty-three; had worked for forty years for the one company, and had taken early-retirement-read-redundancy last year. According to what Cowley had heard of him, he was a ruthlessly righteous man, and had demanded the same of his son.
Cowley's knee was aching, and he needn't even be here. He could have deputised it. He could even simply have written a letter. He could, legally, have done nothing at all.
"Just wait here," he told his driver, unnecessarily, and got out of the car and crossed the road and rang the doorbell, a standard two-note chime.
The man who opened the door was Bodie's height, had Bodie's pale skin and dark blue eyes and dark hair. So this was what Bodie would have looked like in his sixties. It was a moment before Cowley could say, with the proper note of neutral enquiry, "Mr Bodie?"
"Yeah, that's me. What is it?"
"My name's Cowley, George Cowley. It's about your son."
The other man's lips compressed, and he said tightly and angrily "You from the school? You'd better come in." He stood aside and Cowley, never one to correct a mistaken impression when it gave him what was necessary, stepped in to the minute hall, and, at a gesture from the other man, through to the small sitting room.
"Which one is it, then?" the man asked. "Luke or John? What've they been up to?"
"Neither," Cowley said carefully. "I think you'd better sit down, sir; it's about your son William."
"William?" the man said, looking genuinely bewildered. Then he did sit down, staring up at Cowley. "I think you've made a mistake, Mr Cowley."
"Your son William Andrew Philip. Born 27th May 1948," Cowley said, feeling cold.
"Bill?" The man frowned. "Then they've finally found out what happened to him?"
"He ran away twenty-three years ago."
"Yeah. There were missing person notices out for him for a couple of years, but the police said they never heard anything. I reckoned he had to be dead, long time ago."
"He is dead." That fulfilled his duty. More than his duty. Why should he try to provoke some expression of sorrow from this man who hadn't seen his son in twenty-three years, who'd apparently forgotten him. "When he ran away, he managed to get aboard a ship, where he worked for three years. That would explain why the police force in this country was unable to find him. He jumped ship in Africa, where he spent the next six years. He came back to this country in 1971, joined the Army, and in 1976 was transferred to my department in the Home Office. He was killed last month, attempting to defuse a bomb planted by terrorists."
The building had gone up in a blaze of flame and blowing windows; entirely evacuated, apart from Bodie, still in the office on the first floor, still trying to disarm the bomb. Cowley had been standing by his car holding on to Doyle's arm, arguing with him, when it had blown.
"You mean he was in this country for fourteen years and he never tried to get back in touch with me?" the man was saying, sounding annoyed and offended. And then, "How come it took you so long to get in touch with me, if I'm his next of kin?"
"Because he named me as next of kin on his personnel form. It's taken us this long to find you."
"You?" The man looked at him. "Who are you, anyway?"
Cowley reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out his ID. "His employer. CI5." It obviously didn't mean much to the man. "Criminal Intelligence. Law enforcement."
"Yeah?" The man glanced up at the clock on the wall, and stood up. "Look, thanks for coming to tell me what happened to Bill, but you'd better go now. The kids'll be home from school in half an hour."
Bodie's mother had died when he was nine. The re-marriage could be more than twenty years old, probably was; it was useless, Cowley accepted finally and coldly, to try and find any grief there for the long-lost, long-forgotten son.
"Goodbye, Mr Bodie," he said dryly, and let the man show him out. He went back across the street, and got into the car. "Back to London," he said briefly, and was silent for the rest of the drive.
Doyle was spending more time than ever around CI5 HQ. Particularly since Personnel had moved him; after all, he and Bodie had shared a double flat, and now 3.7 was dead, 4·5 didn't need a double flat any more, did he? He wasn't even sure he wanted to stay in CI5. Sometimes, sitting down in the Records department, working at whatever they gave him, he'd forget; he'd think of going for a coffee, he'd turn his head to say so to Bodie, and Bodie wouldn't be there.
Or once, completely forgetting, he'd gotten up to go and find his partner, only to realise halfway up the flight of stairs, that Bodie wouldn't be found. Doyle went back down to Records and resumed his interrupted task.
A fortnight ago. Fifteen days ago. He'd driven up and leapt out of his car and turned to race into the building where Bodie was trying to defuse the bomb, when Cowley had caught at his arm with surprising strength. "Don't be a damned fool, laddie - !"
And while he was still trying to get away, the building had blown, and Bodie in it, and Cowley had let go. Doyle couldn't remember having looked at him or spoken to him since. Cowley had hauled him in for an interview, a day or so later, had talked to him for a while, and Doyle had never met his eyes once, or said more than a muttered yes sir, no sir. At least Cowley hadn't talked about re-partnering him. Doyle would have half-killed him if he had.
Meantime, while he was waiting for Cowley to find him some real work, there were jobs to do in Records, in the armoury, in the car pool. Scut work, light work for operatives on sick leave or between real jobs. Doyle had only once had more than a fortnight of it before in his life.
If he had known that Cowley had been discussing operative 4·5 with Doctor Ross; if he had known that the point of discussion had been not whether he was any further use as a Active operative without 3·7, after nine years close partnership, but what to do about this ex-Active operative; medical discharge immediately or to keep him on light duty until his fortieth birthday, only three months off, and then formally retire him. If he had known this, Doyle would not have done what he did, later that evening. He wanted to talk to someone about Bodie. He left HQ and drove towards Cowley's house, stopping to buy a bottle of malt whisky on the way.
In a way, being partnered with Bodie had been like being one half of twins; as a woman he'd known once with a twin brother had said, somehow there were things you never learned because your twin always knew how to do them. One of the things Doyle had left to Bodie had been talking to Cowley. Cowley had a soft spot for Bodie, though Bodie, told this, had always claimed that he'd never noticed any evidence of it.
He rang the doorbell; and automatically looked at his watch, giving himself a minute before he could conclude that Cowley hadn't heard, wasn't in, didn't want to get up to answer the door.
Cowley jerked the door open and stared at him. "What is it, 4·5?"
Doyle swallowed. "I - ah, I came to offer you a drink, sir." He'd practiced that line, because in his head it sounded like something that Bodie might have said, but out of his mouth it sounded lame. Stupid. He was holding out the bottle as if it provided an explanation.
Cowley stared at it, at Doyle, sandy brows drawn together. "What? Oh, you'd better come in." He shut and locked the door behind Doyle, then turned back to him. "What are you here for?"
"Wanted to talk to you. About Bodie."
"Are you drunk?"
"Then why are you here, 4·5?"
"Oh, Christ," Doyle said in total despair, "I don't know." Cowley hadn't even taken the bottle of Scotch from him; he set it down on the hall table and saw himself turning and opening the door and leaving, and hoping that Cowley would never mention this insane visit again. "I don't know how to talk to you," he managed. "Only I want to talk to someone. And there isn't anybody."
"God almighty," Cowley said impatiently, and still roughly, "Go on in to the room, then."
He'd been here before, of course. With Bodie. Never alone with Cowley.
Christ, Doyle told himself fiercely, he can't eat you. Cowley had been sitting on the couch; there was a glass of whisky on the table by it, and a book lying open on the arm. The Three Musketeers. Doyle sat down on one of the armchairs, back rigid, unable to relax.
"Have you had anything to eat lately?"
Doyle nodded automatically, watching Cowley, standing by the door, warily. He was trying to put into the right words; You liked him a lot, and I just wanted to talk about him.
"Breakfast and... well, breakfast."
"What did you actually eat?"
"Then before we make inroads on the Glenfiddich," Cowley said briskly, "you'd better come on through to the kitchen and have something to eat. Come on."
Somehow, Doyle's mental picture of Cowley had never included tins of soup or oven chips - more like lavish meals in expense-account restaurants. He wasn't hungry, he hadn't been hungry for ages, but he ate a bowlful of soup and a plateful of chips without protest.
Cowley's mental picture of Doyle had never included meekness; but then, he noted tiredly, Doyle had obviously not been feeding himself much lately. He'd always been skinny, his medical reports had usually had acerbic comments on 4·5 being consistently underweight, but now he looked scrawny. The battered cheekbone was standing out from his face.
I really don't want to have to send him in to Repton for a spell. But at least they'd make sure he ate, there. One more responsibility. Cowley looked him over again, reflectively. If I told him to pull himself together, I think he'd tear me apart.
It looked as if it was going to be a long night. "All right," Cowley said crisply, "let's try the Glenfiddich." He gestured Doyle to go ahead of him through the door, and followed. He disliked having any of his operatives who were on any kind of edge, behind him. Once was enough for being thrown down the stairs.
Any CI5 operative who ever drank with Cowley more than once, very rapidly learnt either to give up Scotch whisky completely, or else to learn to like it drunk with nothing but a glass. It wasn't that Cowley would have said a word, even about Scotch with lemonade, but that the incredulous icy blue stare was very hard to take.
Doyle took a cautious sip, settling a little further back into the chair. Cowley picked up the abandoned glass of whisky and sat down again on the couch. He said nothing. Doyle had watched him conduct a dozen interrogations with exactly that brand of silence.
"You want to know why I'm here," he said at random. "I suppose... because I don't know what you wanted to see his dad for."
Very carefully, Cowley set down his glass and stared at him. "How the hell did you know that?"
"I overheard," Doyle shrugged.
"It's my job," Cowley said after a moment, quite stiffly, "to inform the next-of-kin. Since there was an unavoidable delay, while we traced his current address, I thought it best to inform him in person." He looked directly at Doyle, and knew that the other man would accept that story, though he knew it for a lie; would accept it and say no more and go away. Oh, God, the responsibility never stopped. "And," he said, still more stiffly, "I wanted to talk to someone who might regret Bodie... as much as I do."
"Could've talked to me," Doyle said, surprising himself.
They were both silent for a while. Cowley finished his glass and poured himself another dram, this time from the bottle Doyle had bought.
"Something I want to tell you," Doyle said, with an effort. "Bodie... always reckoned we should tell you. Bodie and me - "
"I know," Cowley said very quietly.
Doyle stopped short. Something he'd never thought about, never once for all the times Bodie had said, or made it clear he thought, that the two of them should make it clear to their boss that they were lovers. Not that he'd gone on about it once Doyle had shown he wanted no part of that. But Cowley knew - they hadn't hidden a thing from the crafty old bastard.
No one else had suspected. OK, they shared a flat, had done for years - a lot of unmarried operatives did. More secure in a lot of ways. And Bodie was always hugging him and grabbing at him, but Bodie was like that with practically everybody. He could swear that not even Dr Ross had worked it out.
Cowley hesitated. "I know because Bodie told me."
"He went and told you behind my back?" Doyle said, outraged, sitting bolt upright in his chair. Then, with a small, self-betraying sound, he eased himself back down. For an instant he had forgotten that Bodie was dead, and as always the returning knowledge hurt. "Sorry," he muttered, "I keep doing that."
"Aye," the other man said, sounding bleached, "so do I. I'm sorry, laddie, I should have talked to you about him earlier, but - if you'll believe this, there have been times the past month when I've not wanted to see you, because - "
"Been times I don't want to see me, either," Doyle muttered, too lost to think of the unexpectedness of Cowley talking to him like this. "I think I'm going crazy, I keep getting up to find him." He looked up and saw Cowley watching him, eyes dark with concentration. "Why did he tell you? When did he tell you? Why didn't he tell me he'd told you?"
"He told me just after that business with President Parsali," Cowley said precisely, finding the when easier to answer than any questions about why.
Doyle frowned. "Oh. But... we weren't, then. Not yet. Though Bodie said... he said that was when he'd decided he was definitely going to have a go." Bodie had made one abortive pass on their fortnight's leave, which had left Doyle so frustrated he'd carried it through himself, about ten days after they got back. Bemused, he stared at Cowley. "Why'd he tell you?"
"Because he didn't want me to find out. And he didn't want me to... wonder. I could have killed him," Cowley added abstractedly. "Or you. Then. I've been grateful for it since. Better to know, in the long run."
Doyle's mouth felt as if it had clogged with dust. You drunk, sir? he very nearly asked. Soft spot for Bodie - hell, the Controller had been in love with him. And Bodie had known. That explained a hell of a lot - Bodie's odd almost protectiveness of Cowley, sometimes, and his certainty in him. "Sorry," he said inadequately.
"Nothing for you to be sorry for," Cowley said abruptly.
Doyle poured himself some more Scotch. "What did his dad say?"
"Bodie's father had almost forgotten he ever had another son. He'd assumed Bodie was dead twenty years ago."
"Oh. Must have been... hell for you." Doyle felt fundamentally awkward, trying to express sympathy for Cowley. "Listen, there was another thing I wanted to tell you... I know you think the reason I've been resenting you the past month is because you wouldn't let me go back in for Bodie. I know I couldn't have reached him in time. Would probably have missed him, he was probably trying to get out. What I've been resenting... is that you didn't let me die."
"Suicide is wasteful," Cowley said in a voice like iron. "Nothing excuses it but an imminent and painful death... courage is in staying alive."
"What if I'm tired of being a fucking hero?"
"What if you are? What if I am? There isn't any way out. I lost a partner... forty years ago. I've been a cripple almost that long. You can retire from CI5, but you can't duck out of being alive. I don't intend to let you."
"If I retire, what the hell would it have to do with you?"
"You'd still be Bodie's partner."
No past tense. Well, Doyle still thought of it in the present tense. "He really meant a lot to you, didn't he," he said carefully.
Cowley sighed. Evidently there was no way out. "Yes. In a way, I let him go because he did. He didn't seem to mind the lies, but I did. So when he came back to apologise after the third or the fourth fight... I let him go."
Doyle shook his head, certain he wasn't hearing right. "How long...?"
"That would have been about three or four months before you and he...."
"I mean, how long were you two...." Doyle shook his head. "You were - weren't you? Were you?"
"For nearly seven months," Cowley said patiently. "Now d'you understand why I've a responsibility to keep you alive?"
It was very late, and Doyle was very tired, and he had drunk a surprising amount of Scotch. So had Cowley. "Yes. But it cuts both ways, doesn't it?"
Cowley didn't answer, and Doyle lifted his head, suddenly very heavy, and stared at him in the dimness of the room. "If you've a responsibility to me, because you loved Bodie and Bodie loved me, then I have to you, don't I, because I loved Bodie, and Bodie loved you?" Silence, still. "Don't I, George?"
A longer pause. "Aye, Raymond, I suppose you do."
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