by Jane Carnall
It was a dull grey day in November. Grey concrete, not an inch from his nose. Bodie half on top of him, crushing more than half his breath out.
Cowley had flung himself down at the first shot, Bodie had landed on him before the second shot mingled with the echoes of the first in the concrete canyons. "Sniper," Bodie muttered in his ear, just as Cowley thought it; What the hell, Cowley thought, getting his breath, what the hell is a sniper doing here?
"Get off me, 3·7," he said, still breathless, "I don't need your help." There was shelter in the angle of the walls; he rolled there, once Bodie's weight was off him, but Bodie didn't move, nor Doyle, who had flung himself down all sprawled and messy with the back of his head blown away, Cowley saw, and red life pooling on the grey concrete.
It was a dull grey day in November. The sky was overcast, and a few spots of rain fell; visible, not in the dull roughcut grass, but on the shiny coffin-lid. The minister was reading the services for the dead over the open grave; Catholic ritual, though the dead man had not attended Church for years, and had died... with his sins on him.
There were three contingents of people at this burial. They were not gathered into separate groups, but they were easily perceptible. There were the relations of the deceased, technically the chief mourners, but their solemnity was formal; it had never been a close family. There were a dozen or so acquaintances and friends, wearing less formal mourning but looking more genuinely bereaved. And the last group, standing usually in twos, mostly expressionless.
The watcher who categorised the mourners at the graveside let his gaze travel at last to the dark man standing at the foot of the grave. Of all the expressionless faces there, his had been wiped clear; his normally-pale skin was white, deathly-white, set into a rigid mask against which his eyes were black as bits of coal. Not pretty, this mourning; a terrible containment.
"Dust to dust; ashes to ashes," said the minister. Bodie reached down and took up a double handful of mud and stones and flung it violently down on the coffin lid, and turned away, ignoring all the other people who were there.
Cowley watched him go a moment. People were behaving as they behave once the deceased is buried; muttering quietly, as if someone would be offended by ordinary speech. The others from CI5 had made plans for a drink at someone's flat afterwards; he wasn't sure whether anyone had dared invite Bodie, but he was certain that Bodie wasn't going. The friends, from the police and less reputable places, were some of them being gathered in with the CI5 contingent, some with the family - who were going back to some cousin's house nearby for tea - and a few simply leaving as they had come.
Twice before. Bodie had walked away from someone he loved, dead on the concrete at the water tower's foot. Cowley had followed him then.
And Doyle had walked away. Cowley had watched Bodie follow him, ready with a comforting arm around the shoulders, a drink, or anything that Doyle would have accepted.
Twice before, and this time. He had always said that he wasn't a brave man; but for all the reasons there were not to follow Bodie now, fear was the least.
Like the other solitary mourners, Cowley went down to the lych gate and out to where he'd parked his car on the side road. Most of the others had gone already. Cowley opened the door, and got in, glancing at his watch. He'd wait half an hour.
He waited the full half hour, and five dragging minutes longer, before the passenger door was yanked open and Bodie got in, leaning back against the seat with his eyes shut and pulling the door closed. Cowley said nothing, putting the car in gear and starting.
"You're all I've got left now," Bodie said after a while. Cowley did not answer, but spared a moment from the road to glance at Bodie. The other man's eyes were wide open and staring out of the window, face set and white. "And that's the way you wanted it all along."
He said nothing more, all the way back to Cowley's house. Twice Cowley considered going to Bodie's flat instead; both times he went on. He could not leave Bodie alone now, not responsibly, not even if it made Bodie hate him. Not even if it made Bodie hate him worse.
When the car stopped, Bodie did not move, until Cowley had got out, gone round to the passenger side, and opened the door. Then, stiffly, he unfolded his legs and stood up out of the car. "You want me tonight then?" he said quietly. Cowley looked up at him. There was a small, murderous smile on Bodie's face.
Having no answer, Cowley turned away, hearing the passenger door slam shut behind him, and Bodie's footsteps following. In the hall, Cowley hung his coat up, paused to let Bodie do the same, and led the way into the sitting-room. "Sit down. D'you want a dram of malt?"
"No, I don't want a bloody drink."
Cowley sat down in one armchair; Bodie in the chair opposite, leaning back, his eyes on Cowley. "Why did you do it?" he asked at last, his voice quite quiet and reasonable. "Why did you partner us?"
"You were my best team. You and Doyle. I thought you would be."
"You had no right partnering me with anyone," Bodie said, still quiet, still reasonable. "A man's got a right to know his partner's going to jump when he gets shot at. Jump for him, not for his boss who just happens to be walking alongside."
"You're saying I shouldn't have been there," Cowley said carefully. Bodie was bitter and fragile, under the overlay of calm. It was beginning to look as if he should have called Kate Ross in, to hell with what else might have come out. "Perhaps you're right. But we none of us could guess there would be a sniper on top of that building. That wasn't your fault, nor mine, nor Doyle's."
Bodie shook his head. "Know that. Yeah. But I still jumped to get you clear. Not Doyle. Not my partner. You. So why did you partner him with me, sir, why did you give me a partner at all, when you always knew which way I'd jump?"
Cowley shook his head. "I didn't," he began, and Bodie interrupted him, savage with contempt.
"Hell you didn't, you know me back to front, you knew who came first with me - why did you have to risk Ray's life? He wasn't hit the first shot, it was the second, and I jumped the wrong way. You didn't even need me. Didn't save your life, didn't want to save his."
"Yes, you did."
I love you, Bodie had said once; and looked at him with eyes the mirror-image of now. It hadn't come as a complete surprise; Cowley had noticed, about a year after he recruited Bodie, partnered him with Doyle, that the ex-SAS sergeant showed every sign of developing a, well, a crush was all you could call it. It had amused him then; and when Bodie, hopeful and happy, had offered - had said what he had said - Cowley had found it, besides amusing, rather touching. And turned him down, politely and firmly enough that Bodie had never offered again. He had merely made it quite clear that he was available, anytime Cowley wanted. That too had been rather funny, and a nuisance, but an endearing one. Cowley had never thought of it as dangerous, till now.
"I didn't realise the way you felt for me," Cowley said very carefully, "until a year after you and Doyle were partnered. By that time it was clear that you and Doyle were my best team - the best in CI5. I couldn't afford to split a team that worked that well."
"Then you should have stayed out of our way."
That was, unfortunately, absolutely true. Cowley bit down hard, not saying it, knowing it wouldn't help. "Listen, Bodie. That sniper wasn't aiming for Doyle. The first person who walked round that corner would have been shot at. Could have been you, could have been me."
"Ray was killed," Bodie snarled, the veneer of calm all gone now. "He was killed because I tried to save you."
"He was killed because there was a lunatic on a roof with a gun," Cowley said, harshly. "How do you know he wasn't killed first shot?"
"Because he's not an old army man, like you, sir, down on your face at the first sound of gunfire, and he's not a bloody fool like his partner, standing there not knowing which way to jump and then going the wrong way."
"I repeat, 3·7, since you jumped almost as soon as the first shot, how do you know he wasn't killed then?"
"I saw him," Bodie said angrily. "I saw him, just when the gun went off, just standing there, same as me. Then I saw him go down, out the corner of my eye, just as I was going to knock you out the way. Only you were already down out of harm's way, and I saw my partner being killed, and I didn't even know it."
"You landed on top of me before the second shot. If you saw Doyle go down just as you did, then he must have been shot lying on the ground."
"Nah, you saw the way he landed, you saw - " Bodie choked. "You saw him. He was dead when he went down. You know the way dead men land - "
Silence. You know the way dead men land. Yes. "You're saying," Cowley said, scalpel cutting, "that you killed him."
Bodie exploded out of his seat and came for Cowley. The older man's head was no longer where he expected it to be, and Cowley's fist landed in Bodie's gut. He was down and dazed and Cowley had him in a neck-lock. "You think you killed him," Cowley repeated quietly, and when Bodie started to fight him, made the lock a little tighter. "Listen, Bodie. You're wrong. You didn't kill him. A gunman killed him. A bullet in his brain killed him. Not you. Even if you'd jumped to knock him out of the way, it might have been too late. Are you listening to me, Bodie?"
The younger man could neither shake nor nod his head, so Cowley loosened his grip on his throat enough to let him speak.
"Yeh - " Bodie croaked. "Didn't kill him. We did."
Cowley's grip tightened again, and Bodie let out a half-strangled groan. Cowley let go of him - he couldn't have held that necklock much longer anyway - sat back on his heels, and said, quietly and levelly, "Doyle was ahead of you. Just far enough that he's who the sniper saw first. That if you'd tried to knock him out of the way, you'd probably have both of you fallen into range. Doyle was just ahead of both of us, Bodie, and that was coincidence, it wasn't anyone's fault, it could have been you or me."
Bodie rubbed at his throat. "But we killed him," he said reasonably. "You and me. I let him think he had a partner. You had no business partnering me with anyone."
"I had no business getting in your way. But partnering you with him was my job, 3·7."
"Feel proud of yourself, do you?"
"Not over this, no. I liked Doyle. He was a good man."
Bodie leant forward; Cowley did not flinch back, not even when Bodie snarled, right into his face, "Liked him, did you?"
Cowley's leg was aching fiercely. "He was a good man. Give me a hand up, 3·7."
Bodie scrambled to his feet. Cowley glanced up at him, and saw the small murderous grin. He had been afraid of many things, in a long life, but never of Bodie. Not even now; he was petrified of what damnfool thing Bodie might do, but he could not bring himself to be afraid of Bodie. He should; it might keep him alive.
Bodie had drawn his gun. The mouth was cool against the side of Cowley's face. Despite excellent peripheral vision, Cowley could not quite see Bodie's hand, but from the slight movements of the metal against his skin, he deduced that it was shaking.
"I could shoot you dead," he said quietly. "You know that?"
"Yes," Cowley grunted. It would be a damn stupid thing to do, but Bodie was just on edge enough to do it.
"You liked Doyle. The way you like me?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Did you watch him, the way you watch me, when you think I'm not looking? Did you fancy him?"
"Liar." The gun moved sharply, warningly, against his skull. "Wouldn't take me when I offered, sir; why not?"
"It wouldn't be appropriate." Cowley swallowed. "A commanding officer shouldn't get involved with his men."
"Shouldn't get involved? Back three years ago, sir, you went chasing round London interviewing everyone you could lay your hands on - my sensei, my partner, even my girlfriend - the one person you never asked why I was falling down in training, sir, was me. Why's that? Didn't want to get involved? Solve my problems long-distance? You could have done that with a rifle, the time we risked our necks on another of your crafty schemes. Listen, I've seen the way you look when I touch Doyle - when I touched Doyle - did you think we were lovers? Did you think he was getting what you wouldn't admit you wanted? Did you?"
"I would have expected either of you to report it - " He was interrupted by the mouth of the gun, shoving hard against his head.
"Think I'm made of ice, do you? No, I was not about to climb into bed with Doyle. You want to know why? Because I was in love with you, and see you wondering if I was screwing him every bloody chance we got, I wasn't going to do that to you, it was bad enough walking in there and telling you about every trick I screwed - " Bodie's breath was coming hard and short. His gun-hand was definitely shaking now. Cowley sweated.
"I loved you," Bodie repeated, as if it were the most unfair thing in the world, and the gun slid away from Cowley's head, and Cowley's hand whipped up to grab Bodie's wrist, hold the gun safely away from either of them. He used Bodie's arm as leverage to get himself to his feet, despite the other man yanking at his grip.
"Give me the gun, man, and let me sit down - " Cowley snapped, making himself sound exasperated, instead of half in shock.
Bodie let go of it. Cowley sat down, feeling several centuries older. "I did like Doyle," he said cautiously, feeling his way. "I wasn't jealous of you two. I'm deeply sorry that I got in your way."
Bodie said nothing, looking down at him with a mask wrenched askew by grief. Cowley sighed. "Would you have killed me, Bodie?"
The younger man sat down abruptly in the chair behind him, and put his head down in his arms. His breathing was still shaky; it took a moment before Cowley realised that Bodie was crying. He did not know what to do; to touch him, put a hand on his shoulder, was what he would have done with any other agent, in any other circumstances. He did not want to lend fuel to Bodie's fantasies.
He understood, though, with a creeping feeling of bewilderment, that Bodie was crying not because Doyle was dead, but because despite it all, he was still glad that Cowley was alive.
Back to triolet page...
Feedback: e-mail me (or comment me if you have a livejournal).