The Price of a Soul

sequel to Hell Hath No Fury

by Jane Carnall

The sun had just come up from behind the houses across the street when Doyle, who had passed a cold and uncomfortable night in his car, saw Cowley come out of the block where Bodie lived. Well, at least that removed the niggling annoyance that had been chewing at him for at least four hours: that either Cowley, or Bodie, had left, and somehow he had missed them. He could have sworn that not a living soul had passed in or out of the door since before midnight, but he wouldn't bet on it, not where Bodie and Cowley were involved.

He intercepted the other man just as Cowley reached his own car. "Everything OK, sir?"

"Fine," Cowley grunted, yanking the door open and sliding in, one hand braced on the roof. His leg was stiff.

"So what the hell happened? What were you doing in Bodie's flat all night?" Doyle demanded, exasperated.

The other man looked up at him for an instant, icily. "Playing chess with the devil," he snapped, and slammed the door shut and drove off before Doyle's mouth could close.

"All right, don't tell me," he said after the departing car.

=@=@=

Doyle rang the doorbell and Bodie let him in after a moment; Doyle's mind had been running riot, but noting Bodie's fully-dressed state, he (regretfully) crossed about half the more interesting speculations off his list. "What the hell was Cowley doing in your flat all last night?" he inquired, not too amiably.

"Come in," Bodie said, superfluously, since Doyle had already brushed past him on his way to the kitchen.

"And what's for breakfast?" Doyle added. "I'm starving."

"That's supposed to be my line," Bodie pointed out, following him. "I dunno. There might be some bread left."

Doyle had investigated most of Bodie's cupboards already; the contents didn't take much investigating. "Bloody hell - there's nothing here."

"Thought not." Bodie leant up against the wall.

"Nothing in the freezer, nothing in the fridge - you're not usually this bad. Christ, Bodie, you're even out of coffee." In fact, when Doyle looked around himself more attentively, the kitchen - he went through to the living room, opened the bedroom door and checked that, and the bathroom - the whole flat looked untenanted. Three black plastic rubbish bags, that he had overlooked when he came in, sat filled and tied in a corner of the hall. The bookshelves were empty, and beside them a cardboard box, which was, he confirmed by kicking it, full.

On the low table between the couch and an armchair stood a bottle of the Islay malt that Cowley had given Bodie for Christmas. It was half-empty, and beside it were two glasses.

"You packing?" Doyle demanded.

"No. Look, there's a Paki shop down the road that'll be open today - I'll go and get something for breakfast." Bodie removed himself rapidly, grabbing his jacket on the way.

When he came back Doyle was sitting on the floor of the hall calmly going through the entire contents of all three bags. He'd helped Bodie move in the past, and knew roughly what Bodie owned. This seemed to be it.

"If you aren't packing," he demanded, following Bodie into the kitchen, "what the hell are you doing? Why did Cowley have me staking you out ever since noon yesterday? Ruining a date I had set up for a fortnight, incidentally. And what the hell was wrong with you yesterday? And where's Shadow?"

"I'm unpacking. I don't know, ask Cowley. Sorry about the date. None of your business. The cat's dead," Bodie said economically, pulling out a couple of slices of bread and shoving them in the toaster.

"Christ," Doyle said. "Dead? You sure? Could have run off like he did before - ?" (They had gone all round the neighbourhood looking for him, demanding at every door and of every passerby "CI5. Have you seen this cat?")

"I'm sure. I found him. Yesterday morning." Yesterday; it seemed a long time ago now. Bodie had outworn all the grief he might have felt.

"I'm sorry," Doyle said, honestly; it explained a lot, though not the more interesting bits. He watched Bodie putting the groceries away into the empty cupboards and fridge in silence, adding after a while "Make the coffee?"

"Thanks," Bodie grunted, going back through to the hall. When Doyle followed him, having put the kettle on, rescued the toast and added two more slices, he found that Bodie was, indeed, unpacking. The hall had been cleared; the bags with clothing and bedding had been dumped in the bedroom, and other oddments beginning to be returned to their place. Bodie was kneeling by the bookshelves replacing the books from the box.

Doyle had put two and two together and come up with a reasonable answer. For some reason Bodie had decided to get out of CI5. He came up with these ideas once in a while, but usually only when exceptionally drunk, and Doyle had never had any trouble talking him out of it, even hungover. This time he had talked to Cowley about it. Cowley had put Doyle on stakeout to make sure Bodie didn't leave, and had come round himself to try and talk Bodie into staying. Evidently he had succeeded. It was a lovely story, and all it didn't fit was the facts, but since Doyle didn't know them and wouldn't have believed them if he had, it made him happy - all but one detail.

"So what were you and Cowley doing all night?"

Bodie replaced the last book. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you, sunshine."

"I wouldn't?" Doyle leered happily.

"You wouldn't," Bodie said shortly. "And the toast's burning."

Doyle rescued the toast and made some more. They had breakfast in stages, because Bodie kept wandering off with a mug of coffee in one hand and a mouthful of toast, to unpack some more. Especially whenever Doyle veered the conversation round to the fascinating mystery of what Cowley and Bodie had been doing together for twelve hours or so.

Actually, he was beginning to think he had a pretty good idea, and could see volumes of possibilities for humour at Bodie's expense for at least the next six months. He was disappointed, therefore, when Bodie announced "Got to go," at ten o'clock.

"Where to?"

Bodie looked at Doyle, frowning uncomfortably. "Church."

"Come on," Doyle said derisively, enjoying this; it wasn't often he had Bodie at such a disadvantage that he'd try to get away with such a clumsy lie. "Where are you off to so early?"

"I told you," Bodie said flatly.

Doyle stared, beginning to believe it. "I haven't seen you set foot inside a church, 'cept when we were working, for - well, for as long as I've known you. Hell, it says 'born again atheist' on your personnel form!"

"Yeah," Bodie said, beginning to sound uncomfortable, "well, I had personal reasons."

"So why now?"

"Cowley's orders," Bodie mumbled.

Doyle's face split into an enormously appreciative grin. "Oh yeah? The old man must be a fast worker. Want me to come along, or have you already got a Best Man?"

"If I had, you wouldn't be it," Bodie snarled, and then grinned, viciously. "But you could always be bridesmaid."

Before Doyle could think of an answer to that one, Bodie was out of the door and heading downstairs at a speed Doyle knew he couldn't match unless he dropped himself over the bannisters.

=@=@=

After church, Cowley had asked Bodie home for coffee. Bodie hadn't argued. Cowley talked shop blandly and cheerfully; Bodie made monosyllabic replies.

"You do realise," he said eventually, over the second cup, "that Doyle's convinced already that we're lovers?"

"Is he now?" Cowley chuckled, apparently not at all put out. "Well, Bodie, you belong to me - body and soul."

Bodie had expected, and wanted, a somewhat more indignant reaction. He stared apprehensively as Cowley, still grinning, stood up and tapped Bodie on the shoulder. "Take a look at this."

On the table by the far window was a chess set intricately carved of ivory and ebony, massive, beautiful pieces. "Is that the chess set?"

"It looks like it," Cowley agreed, picking up a black knight and studying it thoughtfully. "Except that the carving's not quite so detailed. There were moments last night when I thought these looked alive." He put the knight down again. "I don't like having it about, though - I think I'll give it to the next church jumble sale." He turned around abruptly and smiled directly into Bodie's eyes, clearly enjoying himself immensely. "I prefer the other parting gift he left me."

Now definitely nervous, Bodie made excuses and left.

=@=@=

Bodie had rarely been insubordinate with Cowley; the 'running all the way, sir' humour was a joke well understood by both sides. But over the next couple of weeks, as he realised with slowly mounting indignation, obeying Cowley had become not a matter of loyalty, but of compulsion.

It was late one afternoon, Doyle and he just finished with a five day cleaning-up job and resolved to have a good night out - the new film on at the Canon, a meal at Don Quixotes - when Kirsty called them into Cowley's office. Murphy, just back from his last assignment in Newcastle, was leaving, looking puzzled, as they went in.

Cowley had a few comments to make on their reports, and one or two questions to ask, but he seemed surprisingly good-humoured. "All right, 37, 45, you can go. Ah, Bodie - "

"Yeah?" Bodie was very aware that Doyle was standing by the door, hearing everything.

"Have you plans for the evening?"

"Er, yes, sir - I was - "

"Cancel them," said Cowley, smiling.

"Yes sir." Bodie left the office rapidly, and didn't wait for his partner's questions, heading out of the building at a rapid rate. Doyle might have caught up with him, but bumped into Murphy halfway down the corridor.

"Sorry."

"Not to worry. In a rush?"

Doyle shrugged. Bodie had vanished. "I don't seem to be going anywhere tonight."

"How about coming out for a drink?" Murphy offered. "Give me a chance to catch up on all the Squad gossip." He grinned ruefully. "I'm short one date for tonight as well."

In the pub, at a table to themselves, Doyle told Murphy about the latest developments in the romance between Carter (More Deadly Than The Male) and Macklin (That Mad Bastard); about the progress in the CI5 chess tournament; about one of the medical staff suddenly developing an obsession for Tarot; about the Gay Men's Press historical romance that had appeared in the main switchboard room that nobody would lay claim to; and finally, about what was really bothering him.

"I'm beginning to worry about Bodie."

"Just beginning?" Murphy murmured.

"Yeah, well... about him and Cowley."

"What about it?"

"Well, from the way they've been behaving lately, you'd almost think they were lovers."

Murphy looked blank. "What on earth makes you think that?"

"Well," Doyle said uncomfortably, "just a few things adding up. Like tonight, we'd made plans to go out, but Cowley tells Bodie to cancel them - and Bodie didn't argue."

=@=@=

One of these days, Bodie thought, ringing Cowley's door bell later that evening, he really is going to order me into bed. And I'll probably enjoy it. "Martell, I'll get you for this."

He only realised he'd said the last out loud when Cowley, opening the door, frowned at him. "It's theologically impossible," he said dryly. "Come in, Bodie. Mind you, so is beating the devil at chess. Sit down."

Cowley poured them each a glass of malt and sat down, starting to talk bland and incommunicative shop. Bodie sat well back in his chair, beginning to feel a little hazy, and wondering what the hell was going on. He supposed actually, when it came right down to it, he'd a lot sooner be Cowley's property than Martell's - but what the hell was Cowley playing at?

The doorbell rang hard and long. Frowning, Cowley got up to answer it; he appeared almost as startled as Bodie when Murphy shoved in the door, strode into the living room, and glared ferociously at Cowley. "I want a word with you." A small portion of the glare transferred to Bodie. "Or are you busy tonight?"

"Now hang on just a minute," Cowley interrupted, but Murphy overbore him.

"Are you planning to sleep with all the men on the Squad?" he demanded.

Bodie stood up. "Hang about, Murph - it's not - "

Murphy grabbed Bodie by his shirt front, shook him, and let him go. "Shut up."

He opened his mouth to shout back, but Cowley said quite quietly, "Shut up, Bodie," and Bodie found he had to.

"Patrick," Cowley said crisply, "I'm sorry we didn't have time to talk earlier. Bodie is my cover. If rumours should ever circulate that I am involved with one of my operatives, any investigation will centre around Bodie, not you, and find nothing - since there is nothing to find." He glanced at Bodie, staring, nearly as dumbfounded as Murphy. "All right, Bodie, you can go now."

The last thing Bodie heard as he let himself out was Murphy saying, incredulously, "But George - "

=@=@=

end

"But this isn't reality; this is fantasy." Star Trek III

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