More Ways Than One to Skin a Cat

by Jane Carnall

George Cowley had chosen Doctor Kate Ross out of all the other possibles he'd interviewed for three reasons. That her professional credentials were impeccable could be taken for granted. She contradicted him and talked back to him, point one in her favour. She brought a viewpoint to the councils of CI5 that was so directly opposite to the general attitudes prevalent - she had no military, no policing background - that she was like a gust of fresh air in any gathering. Sometimes like a gale. That was point two. Point three was when he'd asked her, at the end of the interview, whether she thought she'd enjoy working for CI5. A conventional question, he'd expected a conventional reply. Doctor Ross had frowned. "It would certainly be interesting. I've had some experience with this sort of thing before."

Surprised, Cowley had glanced down at her record. "When?"

"When I was a student. One of my placements was a ward of violent male psychopaths. Many of them were very charming men."

It had taken half an hour to argue her into accepting the job. On a trial basis. For a year. She'd been here three now, and he still found her as useful an irritant as ever.

She walked into his office late one afternoon and put two files, a long computer analysis, and a short report, down on his desk. "I'd like to talk to you about these, Mr Cowley."

"Is it urgent, Doctor?"

"It concerns 37 and 45. I've mentioned my concern about that partnership before."

Cowley took off his glasses and tucked them away. He didn't bother to glare at her over the top of them; that tactic would only draw a tolerant look from her. "Please sit down, Doctor. What is it now?"

"Three months ago I explained to you that Bodie and Doyle appear to have locked themselves into a quasi-homosexual relationship. The stimulus was probably Doyle's perceived failure with Ann Holly. He and Bodie had become increasingly dependent on each other, to the extent that, as I've warned you, if one of them's incapacited, the other one will become useless to you. Worse than useless; dangerous."

"Ach," Cowley said, irritably, "this is all no more than you'd expect from two good partners. I remember, and I remember that I told you three months ago that for all your talk of "quasi homosexual" they were no more than very good friends to each other."

"Yes, you did. Well, Mr Cowley, those very good friends are now involved in an actively homosexual relationship with each other. I warned you that you should split up the partnership before their dependency progressed too far. Now it's too late. You'll have to get rid of them."

"Get rid of them?"

"Homosexuality," Doctor Ross said with cool detachment, "is a criminal offense in the armed forces, and it's against every code of practice in the civil service, and furthermore, homosexuals, particularly clandestine homosexuals, are a security risk. If it was a casual affair, you might be able simply to warn them off, but with the strong dependency involved, I believe that if you attempted to cut them off from each other, they would simply resign, or go rogue. They've made themselves useless to CI5."

"Useless," Cowley said sharply. "I don't believe so. They've been performing at top level for the past couple of months." He frowned, lips tightening. "I'll not get rid of them."

"You're forced to."

"Doctor Ross, no one forces me into anything. Their partnership is part of what makes them valuable to me. If it's become more than friendship, well, it's not slowed them down at all, I'll not hold it against them. If their employer knows all about it, then it's not clandestine, and it's not a security risk. I'd trust those two lads to tell me if someone tried to blackmail them. Those two stay, and I'll not have you or anyone else trying to split them up. Is that clear?"

"Against my better judgement - perfectly clear, Mr Cowley. I'll leave these here." She tapped the papers with one forefinger, getting to her feet. "You may change your mind when you've read this through."

Cowley growled an irritable "Good afternoon," and Doctor Ross left.

=@=@=

She went straight out to a phone-box and dialled. "Betty? Kate here. It went like a breeze. They'll be staying."

"You're sure?"

"He contradicted everything I said, just like we planned. He can't throw them out now. He'd have to admit I was right." She listened to Cowley's ex-secretary's whoop of triumph with a broad grin.

end

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