by Jane Carnall
Doyle was exhausted. It was the end of a hellish week. He climbed the stairs to his flat slowly, let himself in, picked up the mail (two bills, letter from Cowley, bank statement) and put it on the kitchen table. He undressed and fell into bed, too tired even to dream.
He woke with a great start six or seven hours later, unable to think what was bothering him. The case? No, it was finished, thank god; he and Bodie had two full days off. They had neither of them had much sleep for the past five days, what with the operation breaking the day after Cowley's heart attack -
Oh Christ. Doyle got up and staggered through to the kitchen. There was a letter addressed to him in Cowley's familiar handwriting, lying on the table. Cowley had died six days ago. He had been buried yesterday. The envelope was postmarked this morning.
He read it through, and put it tidily and unthinkingly back in the envelope, and sat staring blank-eyed at the kitchen wall, phrases echoing in his head. "...Bodie is on probation...", "like a loaded gun with no safety catch", "You know what is likely to happen to him if he is forced out of the Squad." And more; deadly phrases.
He couldn't show the letter to Bodie.
He couldn't show the letter to anyone.
Take care of Bodie. Jesus H. Christ, sir, he imagined telling Cowley, do you think I haven't tried?
Blasphemy, he could hear Cowley snapping back, nothing but blasphemy.
Tucking the envelope behind the clock, he picked up the phone and dialled Bodie's number. It rang several times before his partner answered, sounding cross and sleepy. "Oh, s'you. What d'you want?"
"Thought you might like to come round for a meal tonight," Doyle offered, putting exactly the right note of injury into his voice.
Bodie grunted. "Yeh. Okay."
"Come about seven, all right? Bring a bottle."
"Yeh." Bodie didn't sound exactly appreciative, but at least as if he were trying to suppress illtemper. He rang off; Doyle looked at the time. He had two hours and he really wanted to go back to sleep.
"Damn you, Cowley," he muttered; the familiarity almost made him grin.
But by the time Bodie rang the doorbell and Doyle let him in, he had cleared off the kitchen table, done most of the washing-up, and a lasagne baking in the oven. And Bodie looked better-tempered than he'd sounded. "Smells great," he announced, rubbing his hands together, "when's it going to be ready?"
"Another ten minutes. What did you bring?"
"Pissporter," Bodie said inelegantly.
German medium dry white. Doyle wrinkled his nose at Bodie, put the bottle in the fridge, and tried to remember where he'd put the glasses. In the end Bodie found them.
"What's up with you, sunshine?" he asked, sitting down at the table.
"It's been a hell of a week, that's all," Doyle shrugged, half an eye on Bodie.
Bodie grinned, leant back in his chair, hands tucked behind the back of his neck. "Yeah," he said lazily, "still, two days off, can't be all bad, right?" He looked impervious, cheerful, tired but ready for sleep with no nightmares. Doyle stood considering him for a moment; it was a Bodie he'd seen often enough before, the man of action who didn't give a damn about anything except his next meal, his next drink, and his next fuck.
It might even be real; despite having known Bodie nine years, Doyle couldn't say he knew for sure that Bodie did care very much about anything or anyone. Bodie reacted to any deep-felt emotion with a snarl; his idea of emotional help was to make the other person angry. He'd done it to Doyle, twice. Doyle was not sure he'd ever manage to forgive Bodie for provoking him into hitting his partner.
Bodie was giving him an odd look; Doyle shrugged and turned away, putting the frozen peas on, giving the salad a final shake. Cowley had cared about Bodie. Cared more than Doyle had realised, and he'd guessed the Controller had a soft spot for his partner a good many years ago.
Lasagne, peas, salad, wine, and plates on the table, Doyle helped Bodie to about half the lasagne, took a smaller portion for himself, and watched his partner make inroads on the salad and peas.
That couldn't be all. That pose couldn't be real. Doyle was feeling shaken by Cowley's death; Bodie must be feeling something, if (according to the letter) he'd known Cowley for six years before Doyle had met either of them. He must.
In deliberate provocation, like a hunter waiting for an unknown quarry, Doyle filled his glass, filled Bodie's, and lifted it in a toast. "To George Cowley."
Bodie's expression flickered, very briefly, and then the grin was back on his face again and he lifted his glass in return. "I'll drink to that. To the old sod, wherever he is."
"Best commanding officer I ever had," Doyle said quietly.
"Yeah. But then you were just a flatfoot till you met him," Bodie said smartly, and added "Hey, did you know Macklin's slated to take over?"
"That mad bastard?" Doyle hadn't heard, and it was a piece of news calculated to stop him thinking about anything else. He pursed his lips, considering it. "Well. Better than someone from outside."
They talked on about Cowley's probable and possible successors, Bodie seguing smoothly from that to generalised CI5 gossip, what there was of it that had nothing to do with Cowley's death; having gotten off that subject, he stayed off it rigidly.
And then, out of the blue, as they were talking over a long-past operation, Bodie asked "Did the Cow write you a letter?"
Doyle felt his left hand, not holding his wine glass, twitch. "Why d'you think he would?"
"Oh, I got one, s'all. Thought he might have written you one."
"Yeah," Doyle said, and shrugged. "Wished me luck, hoped I'd stay on, that sort of thing."
"Yeah? That's just about what mine said, except he didn't wish me luck," Bodie grinned, and added casually "Can I see it?"
"I chucked it out," Doyle said, just as casually. "Hate keeping old mail around."
Bodie was looking at him, cold and quiet and intent. "You're lying," he said softly, and must have read a reaction in Doyle's face, because he stood up and came round the table, moving quickly, taking hold of Doyle's shoulders with fingers that bit. "You're lying, Doyle. You didn't throw the letter out. Where is it?"
"Hey," Doyle said, trying to sound equable and goodhumoured, "come on, mate. It's not that important."
Bodie's fingers closed more tightly. "Let me put it another way. Where's that letter?"
Doyle shoved his chair back, hard, striking Bodie in the stomach so that he groaned and all but doubled up, keeping his grip on Doyle enough to pull the other man back with him, and they landed on the kitchen floor in a fierce, scratching fight, Doyle still hardly able to believe it and fighting on instinct. When Bodie pinned him down hard, knees holding him helpless without leverage, he kept his eyes fixed on Bodie's face, which was still impassive.
"You're lying, Doyle," Bodie hissed. "I've known you nine bloody years, I know when you're lying. You going to tell me where you put the letter or do I knock you out and search the whole fucking flat? I'll trash the place if I have to."
"Bodie - " Doyle swallowed. "Just tell me one thing. How long had you known Cowley?"
"None of your fucking business," Bodie snapped. There was a pause. "Fifteen years. On and off. More off than on. Where's the letter?" He jabbed a hard finger into Doyle's neck muscles, but not as hard as it might have been; lying there shaken and bruised, Doyle understood that in some way, Bodie didn't want to hurt him. He almost laughed, except that he didn't really have the breath to spare; bruised and aching and pinned down to his own kitchen floor, and he was certain Bodie didn't want to hurt him?
"What's so bloody funny?"
"I was just thinking," Doyle choked, "that you really don't want to hurt a hair on my head." Bodie must have shifted his weight back a little, because Doyle found space to laugh, and did, immoderately. Bodie stood up, and Doyle managed, eventually, to scramble to his feet. Bodie was still watching him with a cold fierce unamused concentration.
"Look, why don't we go through to other room and talk," Doyle started.
He was never aware afterwards of having given himself away, but Bodie grunted, sudden understanding and acknowledgement, and turned and jerked the clock off the wall. It looked as if he meant to put it down on the table, but Doyle lunged at him, trying to grab the envelope, and the clock fell, the glass face breaking. Bodie fought him off easily, holding the letter out of Doyle's reach, pinning Doyle up against the wall at last with his shoulder as he opened the envelope, pulled out the sheet of paper, and read.
There was a date five years ago written at the top right-hand corner of the sheet; the letter began without salutation.
By this time you've known Bodie at least four years, so it won't surprise you, I think, when I tell you that he is on probation, for the next year. My orders; I have never sure whether, if I'm dead, Bodie would be safer inside or out of CI5. If I have been killed, I want no vendettas. If I died a natural death, I am still concerned about Bodie's future in CI5. He can be like a loaded gun with no safety catch; and he operates primarily on personal loyalty. To me, and, I believe, to you.
That made Bodie one of the best men in CI5 - so long as I was running it, and so long as you were his partner. If he can transfer some at least of that personal loyalty to my successor (I find myself hoping, not all of it) and if you stand by him, then I hope he may continue. You know what is likely to happen to him if he is forced out of the Squad.
I've known Bodie for more than ten years. I urged him to apply for transfer to CI5 from the SAS because I thought I could control him. So far, I have succeeded. I was very apprehensive about what would happen when I was no longer there to keep him from running loose, but your friendship with him gives me hope.
Don't let him go. Take care of him. Or, by God, I'll come back from my grave and haunt you!
Cowley's neat, tight signature, and beneath it, scrawled at the foot of the page in hasty handwriting And if you can, tell him I loved him.
Bodie crumpled the letter up and chucked it across the kitchen, letting Doyle go. He took two steps to the middle of the room and stood there as if frozen. He was trembling.
"Bodie - "
"'Tell him I loved him'," Bodie repeated, levelly, thinly. "Christ, the old bastard, the old bastard - "
"Bodie, he did care about you - "
"He could have told me five years ago!"
Cautiously, Doyle padded forward and put his hands on Bodie's shoulders. He wasn't sure he understood. "Listen, I'm sorry."
"Sure you are," Bodie said nastily. He turned round and looked at Doyle with lipcurled contempt. "You didn't even know, did you?"
"I knew Cowley cared about you. Hell, Bodie, I knew the old man meant a lot to you, he meant a lot to me."
"Fifteen fucking years," Bodie said harshly, "and the cagy old bastard waits till he's dead before he tells me he loves me. He hauls my ass out of Africa, he transfers me out of the SAS, he screws me over fifteen years and he never said one word about loving me, never even trusted me."
There didn't seem to be anything to say to that. Doyle only stood there as Bodie went out into the hall; Doyle heard him grabbing down his jacket from the pegs and putting it on. He was leaving, and Doyle knew with a sudden chilling awareness that if he let Bodie walk out now, he'd never see him again.
He went out into the hall and slung his own jacket round his shoulders, saying casually "Where are we going?"
Bodie glared at him. "How should I know where you're going," he said at last, corrosively.
Doyle shrugged, moving towards the door. "With you."
"Cowley's orders?" Bodie snarled.
It was vitally important, literally, that he be able to give the right answer. To Doyle it seemed an infinity of time, though the car he heard turning down the street outside was still turning when he answered, "Cowley's not the only one who loves you, y'know."
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