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Finding the energy to reach across to run the palm of his hand over Ray’s heaving chest was proving far more difficult than Bodie thought it should. His own orgasm had just ripped him apart and he wasn’t sure when he’d actually be able to move again. Except he really needed to. He wanted to touch with a measure of control, to raise the whole thing above that of just another quick fuck. Because it was more than that to him. So much more.

But it was too late now. He’d missed his chance – again. Ray was already stirring beside him and Bodie knew without needing to look that he’d be stretching next, like some contented well-fed tom cat, before he’d get up off the floor with his usual flexibility and walk away.

And it’d be all over, thank you very much, until the next time they had the shit scared out of them at work and they’d rush home, driven by some primal urge, to seek confirmation that they both still existed, that the team lived to fight another day.

But Ray surprised him for once. Instead of rolling away, he must have turned and was looking towards him for Bodie could feel moist breath feathering across his cheek. He opened one eye and found himself being closely scrutinised, a strange expression on his partner’s face that he was hardly in a fit state to interpret. Then Ray smiled, tilting his head to one side, and breathily asked, “Do you think we might make it as far as the bed next time, mate? The carpet doesn’t half irritate my sensitive bits and there’s a right draught coming from under that front door of yours.”

Still feeling totally shagged out, Bodie’s befuddled brain couldn’t decipher this uncharacteristic behaviour. They’d not actually talked about the sex before. There was never any planning, no discussion and not even an acknowledgement that it had ever occurred. Over time, he’d begun to suspect that Ray was simply embarrassed and was choosing to ignore these occasional aberrations. Well, that’s what Bodie preferred to think. The alternative; that Ray always had regrets, was just too depressing to contemplate.

So, he wondered, what had prompted this sudden change? Perhaps his motive was literally to find some basic comfort and had no bearing whatsoever on any romantic notion. Yeah, practicality, that was all it was. But at least now, he thought optimistically, Ray seemed to be implying that there would be a next time. That was certainly new.

Bodie slowly looked down at the bits in question and gave them an affectionate pat, managing a reasonably coherent, “OK,” but anything else was beyond him for the moment.

Another gust of hot breath, harsher this time, stirred Bodie’s sweat damp hair before a sharp elbow caught him under the ribs.

“Instead of just lying there looking gormless, you could at least make us a cup of tea,” Doyle suggested impatiently, before he stood up and wriggled out of the remainder of his clothing. “Just got time to chuck it down me neck before I have to be off.”

Bodie felt rather disappointed by this announcement because he had hoped there might have been a chance, albeit a small one, that they’d spend the evening together; watching the box or heading off to the local but, as usual, it seemed his partner couldn’t get away fast enough.

By rolling his head further and stretching his neck, Bodie was able to watch Ray as he sauntered off towards the bathroom, the toned muscles of his back, legs and buttocks rippling smoothly beneath glistening skin. And even after he’d disappeared from view, Bodie still lay where he was, savouring the mental image of a wildly aroused Ray whilst it was all still fresh. Unfortunately, when he eventually heard the shower shut off, he knew he really had to make the effort and move or risk ridicule. He’d never hear the end of it if Ray came back and found him still lying there alone in the hall, shirt torn open, trousers and underpants tethering his ankles. And besides, he could now understand what he’d meant about that bloody draught!

Pulling off his ruined shirt, he used it to mop up the cum slowly seeping from his backside before he hitched up his cords and obediently went to stick the kettle on.

Ray followed him into the kitchen a short while later, fully dressed and clean shaven, giving his damp hair a final rub with a hand towel before throwing it in the general direction of the washing machine. Bodie much preferred him without any clothes on at all - flushed, slick and sated - but he still very much appreciated looking at this polished, crisper version as well.

“You off somewhere exciting?” he half-heartedly asked, much more interested in admiring the view Ray offered as he bent to tie the laces on his Kickers.

“Meeting Claire at the flicks, taking her to see Kramer Versus Kramer. Not really my thing, these Yank legal dramas, but hey, you have to make the effort sometime, to keep them nice and sweet,” he replied, winking. “You seeing Linda then?”

“Nah.” Bodie shook his head. “S’pose I might meet up with the lads down at The Greyhound, seeing as you’re deserting me. You can join us later, if Claire doesn’t come across, and I’ll treat you to a drink or two, to drown your sorrows, like.”

“Piss off,” Doyle said confidently, as he slipped on his leather bomber jacket. “She’ll be gagging for it.”

*****
Three days later, they were sitting together in a cramped, first floor room, across the street from an embassy, watching the comings and goings of various dignitaries.

Doyle briefly turned from the window and glared at his partner. “Just pack it in, will you? You haven’t stopped moaning since we started this job.”

“Well,” blustered Bodie, for he knew that was basically true. “We should be out there, where the action is, not stuck here in this kid’s bedroom. After all, we are supposed to be Cowley’s top team.”

“And we might have been ‘out there’,” Ray pointed out wisely, “if you hadn’t made that stupid comment in front of the Minister. What were you thinking, comparing the ambassador’s wife to a bloody horse?”

“Yes well, how was I supposed to know he had ears like a hawk?”

“Eyes,” Doyle corrected, raising the binoculars again to refocus on the street below.

“Eh?”

“We’ve had this conversation before. Hawks are best known for their eyesight. It’s bats that have good hearing.”

“Horses, hawks, bats; who bloody cares? We’re still stuck here on this sodding stakeout.”

“Yeah,” Doyle agreed, not allowing Bodie to forget he was entirely to blame for their current situation. “Until at least the end of the week, thanks to you!”

The said Middle Eastern diplomat, apparently having been caught on camera in an upmarket brothel, glass of fine wine in one hand, fondling a nubile wench with the other, was now suspected of selling sensitive security information to pay off the blackmailers. Neither his nationality nor that of the extortionists were of any concern to CI5. However, the fact that it was happening on British soil really got up Cowley’s nose and, even though the security of the Embassy didn’t come under his jurisdiction, the safety of the surrounding community certainly did.

Bodie, realising that he didn’t have a hope in hell of winning the argument, got up and stalked over to the dressing table, chucked his half-eaten sandwich into the bin in disgust and refilled their two plastic cups from the Thermos.

“Here,” he said, plonking Doyle’s down on the windowsill next to his elbow. “Enjoy it while you can; that’s the last of the coffee.” He threw himself back into the undersized chair and cringed when it creaked ominously. But his guilt didn’t last long when he considered the confined conditions that they were being expected to work in. Two grown men in one fully furnished, pokey little box room? Bloody ridiculous when you thought about it.

He suspects he might just have mumbled something under his breath because Ray had turned again but this time was looking at him sympathetically. “Hang on in there, mate. Shift’s over in a few hours. We’ll get our reports done and sink a couple of pints before we meet the girls. How does that grab you?”

“S’pose it’ll do,” Bodie said, shrugging his shoulders. He was reminded again of all he was missing. There’d be no thrilling chases on this particular job. No gun battles, no speeding cars, no exciting unpredictability of an unknown enemy and, of course, no mind-blowing sex that could potentially have followed. Instead he was being forced to sit so very close to the stuff of his dreams. With little else to occupy his thoughts, he could easily imagine himself reaching out to touch that glorious body of Ray’s. His very presence filled his nostrils and he remembered well the taste of the warm skin on his lips.

He carefully shifted in the seat, in an effort to release the pressure on his awakening cock and tried to concentrate on the surveillance job. Unfortunately, the realisation that he still had to endure at least two more days of this mind-blowing tedium, waiting for something – anything - to happen, depressed him further.

He stifled another groan, really not wanting to further alert Ray to his mental turmoil, and tore open a bag of cheese and onion crisps; the panacea for most ailments.

Yeah, he quickly realised, he’d just have to accept his lot for now; keep it all perfectly normal - all perfectly heterosexual – or it’d do his bloody head in.

He tipped the last of the crumbs directly into his mouth, brushing the few that had escaped off his shirt, and lobbed the empty packet at the bin. He felt marginally better and, in the absence of anything else to do, picked up the newspaper and waited for his turn at the window.

“So,” he eventually risked, changing the subject completely. “Should I bother trying to get tickets for the Spurs match or do you think the old man’ll bugger up our off-duty again, as per usual?”

And the remainder of the afternoon passed more amicably as they slipped back into their easy conversation. Nothing earth-shattering; just their usual banal banter, colleague piss-taking and heated football analysis, but it was enough for them. Even the long silences were comfortable because they didn’t always need words to communicate. Except, obviously, when it came to discussing the wild sex they sometimes had, Bodie reflected. He would give his eye teeth to know what went through Ray’s curly-topped head on that subject but didn’t have the faintest idea how to ask him. Besides, and he allowed himself this reasonably valid excuse, a stake-out wasn’t the best place for him to venture into that dangerous little minefield.

*****

The four of them were sitting in the beer garden, one warm evening, when Linda had casually let slip that she’d be turning twenty-five in two days. Typical bad timing, Bodie thought to himself as he sipped his pint, to start going out with a bird just before her birthday! Claire scowled at him across the table when he then failed to respond to the announcement in an appropriate manner. What? But it seemed that not knowing - because Linda hadn’t even bothered mentioning it to him - was no excuse for his apparent indifference.

In the end, it turned out that Claire was more than happy to take on the role of entertainments manager in lieu of the useless boyfriend and she quickly ran through a list of possible ideas. She finally decided on a romantic meal for four at a posh restaurant in town and Ray was duly nominated as the designated driver. Linda was thrilled at the prospect, grabbing Bodie’s arm, squeezing herself up closer and attempting to kiss him. But he’d always loathed these embarrassing displays of public affection and felt the flush automatically rising in his cheeks as he tried to fend her off. This obviously didn’t help improve Claire’s deteriorating opinion of him as she continued to frown disapprovingly. Typical bloody teacher, he recalled. He’d never been able to do right from wrong, in their opinion, and he’d been glad to leave school when he did.

Eventually, Ray had stepped in and tried kerbing the girls’ enthusiasm, explaining they were actually on-call and that the Saturday night would be a safer option but they had made up their minds and there was no swaying them. So, a table had been summarily booked at the Bella Cosa.

The evening had started off well enough though. Going by her sultry reaction, Linda was obviously pleased with the way Bodie had dressed for the occasion. But, if the truth be known, he had worn the tight black trousers, white shirt and blue tie only because Ray had once made a comment about the combination that hadn’t actually sounded too derogatory - and Bodie decided to take that as a compliment, albeit a backhanded one.

To Bodie’s joy - and on-going torment - Ray had opted for his best green silk shirt. The one that, when combined with the right lighting, appeared transparent. He’d also surprisingly made the effort to comply with the establishment’s rules of wearing a tie but, as usual, he’d kept the knot loose and totally ignored the maître-d’s unsubtle hint for him to straighten it.

The restaurant was pleasantly warm, softly lit and aromatic. It wasn’t one of their usual haunts – well, the prices saw to that – but the waiters were attentive and agreed to move them to one of the tables at the back. The girls believed this was to add to the romantic ambience and the lads didn’t bother explaining that it was actually because they instinctively avoided sitting with their backs to the room.

The food and wine were excellent. They’d shared a delicious platter of antipasti and, as the evening progressed, they’d all begun to relax.

Ray apologised when Bodie started telling some of his naughtier, and probably outrageously embellished, stories but Linda had giggled endearingly and even added some of her own. “I’d forgotten how appalling a nurse’s sense of humour can be,” he’d said with a smile.

Poor Claire, though, had initially been shocked at the standard of conversation but as the wine flowed, she began to laugh along as well, particularly when Ray talked about some of the humorous things he’d witnessed as a copper.

Fortunately, they had managed to finish their main courses before Doyle’s pager went off. Despite being muffled in his pocket, it still sounded awkwardly loud in the exclusive restaurant. He grabbed his coat and excused himself so he could call HQ while Bodie tried to console the girls as he paid for the meal on his Barclaycard.

“I’m sorry, ladies… the problem with being on-call means there’s always the risk, you know. There’s no reason to cut your evening short; stay and enjoy the excellent dessert trolley. It’s all paid for and, here, this’ll get you a taxi home safely afterwards.” He slipped a crisp five-pound note under an unused wine glass.

Leaning down, he kissed Linda’s sullen mouth and wished her a ‘Happy birthday, love’, offered Claire an apologetic smile knowing it would do nothing to improve her opinion of him before he scooped up his own leather jacket and went off in pursuit of his partner. He found him sitting in the driver’s seat listening intently to their new orders. Once he’d replaced the mike, Ray looked up at Bodie and informed him that the Cow had got wind of some gun-running rumours and wanted them followed up immediately; snitches found and information obtained.

So, as a pessimist might have easily predicted, instead of the four of them enjoying a pleasant evening together, they found themselves going their separate ways. The lads ultimately decided they could cover more ground if they split up. Doyle crossed over Tower Bridge to search for a couple of his grasses in Southwark whilst Bodie picked up his own car and stayed north of the river, idly speculating if this might be the end of his short but sweet relationship with Linda. Sad really because he found the sex with her exciting, adventurous and satisfying and he had tried to convince himself he could manage with that.

*****

The following morning, they were cruising round Camden, looking for one particular individual.

“Pull over here a minute, will you mate?”

“Eh?”

“Just pull over! I want to get some veg for the meal I’ve promised Claire. I’m hoping she’ll forgive me for last night if I put on a good spread.”

Bodie tucked the Capri neatly between two badly parked Rovers, turned off the ignition and sat quietly, the very picture of patience.

Doyle extricated himself from the car but then leaned down and stuck his head back in. “D’you want anything?”

Bodie turned to face him, nonplussed.

“I asked, do - you - want - anything - from - the - greengrocers, cloth ears?” Doyle repeated slowly before shaking his head. “Nah, I don’t know why I bother asking. The only vegetables you deign to eat are peas and then just the mushy tinned variety.”

That wasn’t strictly true. He knew Bodie ate most veg. In fact, he would practically eat anything put in front of him but he just wasn’t particularly keen on preparing them himself. Doyle suspected that had a lot to do with the shed loads he’d had to peel when his old Sergeant Major stuck him on punishing KP duties. Nevertheless, Ray did enjoy winding him up on the subject. It was one of life’s little pleasures.

He sniggered as he closed the door and loped across the pavement, nimbly skipping past an old dear and her decrepit Jack Russell terrier, obliviously causing mayhem with his over-long lead.

Returning ten minutes later, Doyle chucked an apple in through the open window, which Bodie caught easily, despite his apparent inattention.

“What’s this?”

“What it looks like. Thought you might enjoy getting your dentures around something crispy. If you don’t want it, give it us back.” No chance of that though; Bodie was already stuffing the denuded core in the ashtray by the time Doyle had carefully balanced his two carrier bags in the boot and settled himself back in the passenger seat.

“Enjoy that, did you?”

“Hmmm.”

“Can have another, if you want. I bought plenty.”

Ignoring the generous offer, Bodie started the engine and then forced the car back into the line of slow-moving traffic, paying no attention to the blare of a horn leant on by the driver he’d ruthlessly cut up.

“Control to 3.7,” the radio transmitter squawked, breaking in to the subsequent silence.

Doyle snatched up the mike before Bodie had time to annoy him with his usual ‘get that for me, would you?’ routine.

“4.5 here. How can we help you, darling?”

“Alpha One has issued new orders. Forget your informers for now, he wants you both back at HQ immediately.”

“What’s it about? Some nasty shit hitting the fan, is it?”

“You’ll find out soon enough. And if you call me ‘darling’ once more, I’ll castrate you, very slowly, with my toe nail scissors.”

“Roger Control. 4.5 out.” Replacing the mike on the radio, Doyle winced before unconsciously crossing his legs. “Somebody got out of bed the wrong side this morning.” Normally enjoying a lively discussion on the personal life of the female agents; who they were shagging, who they’d spurned, who stood absolutely no chance, Doyle was disappointed to get nothing back from his partner. He tried another tack, determined to get some sort of conversation out of him, decent or otherwise. “Wonder what the old scrote wants us for? I was looking forward to getting me hands on young Benny. It’s been a while since he’s given us any juicy gossip.”

Bodie, it seemed, didn’t have an opinion on that matter either and Doyle frowned as he took a closer look at his unusually quiet friend.

“What’s up, mate?”

“Huh?”

“I asked you what’s up?”

“Nothing.”

“Did you knock back a few too many last night and you’re paying the price this morning? Or did you catch up again with the birthday girl and she finally figured out how to exhaust your endless sexual energy, eh?”

“I said, nothing’s up,” Bodie enunciated clearly.

“Come off it. You’ve hardly said two words since you picked me up earlier. Have I pissed you off or something?”

“No.”

“You’ll be saying, it’s not you mate, it’s me next,” Doyle mocked in a grating falsetto.

“Well, it’d be true.”

“So, there is something on your mind, then? Come on, spit it out.”

“Just leave it will you, Ray?” Bodie asked, obviously making a conscious effort to appease his partner. “We have a job to do.” And as if to make his point, he spun the steering wheel, jammed his foot on the accelerator and performed a perfect, if somewhat illegal, U-turn on the High Street, determined to find a quicker route back to headquarters.

Eventually Doyle released his tight grip on the safety strap and turned to look at his best friend to consider what might be troubling him - because something certainly was. Was he worrying that last night might be the final straw for Linda? And then Ray began to wonder if he’d missed the signs that things had been getting serious between the two of them. Nah, not our love ‘em and leave ‘em Lothario… surely not?

Twenty-five minutes later, they’d made it to their boss’ office and were waiting for him to finish his phone call. It sounded like he was trying to pull a few strings with the Minister but not having much luck.

As the conversation continued unabated, Doyle moved forward from his casual slouch against the filing cabinet to stand next to his partner but was disappointed when he was totally ignored. He turned his head and again found himself studying the set profile. He noticed a small muscle spasm in Bodie’s cheek but, other than that, he was standing at attention, hands clenched by his side, apparently focussed on a point somewhere over Mr Cowley’s right shoulder.

Really not liking this taciturn version of his normally fun-loving and irreverent friend, he nudged his elbow.

Bodie slowly released a deep breath before turning to face him.

Doyle tilted his head and mouthed, “You OK?”

Bodie responded with a weak smile, closing his eyes briefly, and nodded.

Hardly a convincing answer, Doyle thought. There’d be no Oscar nominations for him this year.

“Good morning, gentlemen.” Cowley had replaced the receiver and was now rummaging in a mountainous pile of paperwork on his desk, finally selecting a large envelope. “What have you discovered from your informers?”

“Oh, nothing as yet, sir. They claim not to have heard anything, or else they’re just not letting on, although mine are usually fairly reliable. How about your lot, eh, Bodie?” he asked encouragingly.

“Er, didn’t manage to track any down yet. Sorry, sir.” Despite the words, Doyle didn’t think Bodie looked entirely repentant – more distracted, if anything.

“Well, I have specifics for you now. There’s been some recent activity down on the dockside. Connors has been on covert surveillance down there on and off over the past few weeks and he’s collected some worrying intelligence. Known IRA members have been seen in the area on occasion and there’s been an increase in the number of sightings of career criminals, arms traders, hired muscle and the like. I want you to sniff around. Get a bit closer. Use your contacts to find out what, if anything, is going on.”

“Do you have any names or locations for us to start with, sir?”

The Controller pushed across the envelope which Doyle peeled open, tipping the contents out. A mixture of old dog-eared black and white photographs along with more recent blurry long-distance shots and a few photofit reconstructions slid across the desk. Most were paper clipped to typewritten reports containing names, last known whereabouts, criminal record sheets, past associates. The research had been thorough so far, Doyle noted, but there were still far too many gaps.

“No settings in particular; the meets appear random. However, as you see, we do have an extensive profile on O’Hanlon,” Cowley indicated, tapping an obvious prison mugshot with one arm of his glasses. “It was his sudden appearance alighting from a train at Paddington that first rang the alarm bells but there are others here we know little about.”

“D’you recognise any of these scumbags?” Ray asked as he watched his partner finger the photos, imperceptibly separating out one or two, turning them his way to get a better look.

“Um,” Bodie nibbled on the side of his lower lip. “Last I heard, O’Hanlon was locked up in the Maze. Thought Kelly was killed in Omagh. Worked with Harris for a few months in the early sixties. Don’t know any of the others, sir.”

“Aye, it appears we’d all wrongly assumed Kelly was dead. He’s done well to stay under the radar for a number of years now so we can only presume he’s been working abroad.” Cowley pointedly drew one of the photos from Bodie’s selection back into the middle of the desk. “There’s nothing on record for this character, though. Harris, you say?” He looked towards his agent to await some much-needed information.

As the silence continued, Doyle regarded his partner. “Mate?”

Bodie looked around, a little disorientated before he turned to his boss, wondering if he’d missed a direct question.

“Ach, then fill us in on what you know, man,” Cowley demanded impatiently.

“Sir. Pete… Peter Harris. He’d be, er, about forty now, I suppose. Born in South Wales, I think. We served in the same mercenary group for a while. He specialised in explosives, small arms and other light weapons. Knew his stuff, back in the day.”

“What do you think he’s been up to since?”

“No idea, sir. Went our separate ways and I haven’t seen him since.”

“So, do you think it likely he could have progressed from mercenary to terrorist?” Cowley pressed.

Doyle let out a sarcastic snort, which he quickly regretted as soon as he saw the disappointment on his partner’s face.

Bodie frowned. “Not all mercs turn to crime you know, 4.5. Many actually find honest work back in the real world.”

“Sorry mate,” Ray responded, trying his best to look apologetic.

“Answer the question, 3.7. In your opinion, could Harris have thrown his lot in with O’Hanlon?”

“I don’t know, sir. He was a professional soldier and a damn good one at that but, as I said, I haven’t seen him in years.”

With a frustrated sigh, Cowley picked up the report on O’Hanlon and continued with the briefing but Doyle was unable to concentrate fully, finding himself drawn to watch his partner instead. He was becoming increasingly concerned as the colour, what little Bodie had had in the first place, seemed to have slowly drained from his face.

And, inevitably, the Cow noticed this too. “Are you unwell, 3.7?”

“No, sir. I’m fine.”

“Well, you don’t look it,” he snapped before resolutely carrying on. “O’Hanlon was released from prison six months ago. He took his case to the High Court and his conviction was quashed because new forensic techniques threw doubts on the original evidence. Claims he was innocent, that he was fitted up. Well, it transpires that he probably was but, in all other respects, he hasn’t been an innocent since he was in short trousers. He’d been linked to many an atrocity in Northern Ireland, it’s just that no one had ever been able to make any genuine charges stick. So, we have to establish why he’s here; a city mini break or looking for revenge? And, if the latter, then who he blames most, the soldiers who gave the damning accounts or the British Government for planting the false evidence?”

“Are the soldiers under close protection?”

“Och no, 4.5. They’re SAS so their identities were shielded throughout the trial. However, reprisals could be made against the unit as a whole so the Hereford base is on high alert.” Cowley again looked at Bodie, awaiting the usual fervent questioning regarding the safety of his old comrades but none came. He was still studying the photographs on the desk.

“I want you two to find and closely observe O’Hanlon so we can put a stop to any madness he may be planning before he wreaks havoc here in London. Or anywhere else, for that matter. We need evidence, strong evidence. We’ll not be having any jumped-up lawyers riding rough shod over our efforts again.”

“Can we take this lot, sir?” Doyle asked. “There’s a fair chunk to get through.” At a nod from Cowley, he slid everything back in the envelope, slapped it against Bodie’s chest and ushered him towards the door.

“4.5. Just a minute.”

Doyle hesitated, watching Bodie’s stooped figure disappear around the corner, before he returned to his place in front of the desk.

The Controller removed his glasses and folded them carefully. “Is something troubling 3.7?”

“Not that I know of, sir.” He wished he did and he would find out, even if he had to knock it out of the stupid sod.

“Well, he’s your partner so I expect you to get to the bottom of it. If he’s ill he’d better see the squad doctor. He’s no use to me if he can’t stay focused on the job; his distraction could get someone killed.”

“He’s still one of your top men, off his game or not, and you damn-well know it.”

“May I remind you Doyle, your loyalty is to this organisation, not to just one individual and we cannot afford to carry any dead weight. Do I make myself clear?”

“Sir.”

“Right. Talk to him - and keep me informed.”

Doyle caught up with his partner in the otherwise empty VIP lounge and was handed a freshly made mug of coffee as soon as he’d closed the door.

“Ta,” he smiled, before sitting down in the nearest armchair. Bodie, it seemed, had found something interesting to gaze at outside the condensation-streaked window. But he looked far from relaxed.

Doyle waited until it was obvious Bodie wasn’t going to voluntarily admit to anything before he spoke. “Which of those three terrorists has got you so rattled, eh? I’d hazard a guess at that Harris bloke.”

He sipped his coffee slowly, not wanting to push, and his patience eventually paid off when Bodie straightened and turned to face him.

“A regular little Sherlock Holmes, aren’t you, our Ray?” He took a shaky deep breath then sat down, head bowed, nervously drumming his finger on the coffee table. “Yeah, I know… knew him. Funnily enough, saw him again last night for the first time in donkey’s years. Well, I thought I did. I was out looking for Sammy and was trying a few of his usual haunts. Wasn’t totally convinced it was him, though. Well, it’s been a long time and people change. But a bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?”

Ah, so not bird trouble, then, Doyle quickly realised. “Yeah,” he encouraged. “Go on.”

“He and I worked together in Africa.”

“I gathered that.”

“It was just for a few months, like.”

“Then why are you rattled?”

“His face brought back some memories I’d have sooner kept buried.”

“And?” God, it was like pulling teeth!

“Look Doyle, it’s just someone I used to know and it seems he’s turned up here in London, possibly involved with known terrorists who we’re supposed to locate and stop.”

“Can you do that, mate or are your demons going to hamper your judgement?”

“Bloody hell!” Bodie stood abruptly, the chair tipping backwards with a crash. “If you don’t want to work with me then we can ask the Cow to team you with someone you do fuckin’ trust!”

“I trust you, mate,” Ray replied calmly, refusing to be intimidated. “You know damn well I do but I’m just wanting to hear that your past association with Harris won’t be putting you at risk. OK?”

“I suppose the old man put you up to this… this little ‘concerned partner’ act.” He glared down menacingly at the man who’d always failed to fully conceal his condemnation of his mercenary past. “Just get off my back, will you?”

“Look, you moron, the boss is obviously uneasy about these developments and, not surprisingly, would want his best teams working on it. You seem to be off with the fairies today and he’s worried about you. I’m worried about you … and I want to help.”

Bodie studied him for a while, looking for the usual signs of disapproval but surprisingly finding none.

“Sorry,” he eventually said, a little sheepishly, knowing he’d probably over-reacted. “I’ll sort it so you can stop your fretting. Come on, we’d better look through this lot and get back out on the streets.” He righted the chair before sitting back down.

Doyle watched closely as Bodie pulled out the contents of the envelope, arranging them into organised piles on the table. He’d always admired his strength of character but hated this insular, self-preserving attitude he sometimes hid behind. Why couldn’t he let him in, why did he insist on sorting his problems out on his own?

Perhaps he could get him to open up when they were off duty, after a few drinks.

*****

But later that evening, Bodie went back to the Seven Stars, alone. As he pushed his way in, he instantly regretted the decision as a thick blue miasma of cigarette smoke stung his eyes and caught irritatingly at the back of his throat. He waited a moment by the still open door whilst he acclimatised to the inhospitable atmosphere. He’d been in worse establishments but not when he already felt so unsettled, his defences dangling by a thread.

He really wasn’t sure if turning up here was the best decision he’d ever made; the potential to jeopardise the op was high but he needed to see that his old friend really was still alive and, if possible, prove that he wasn’t actually mixed up with any terrorists, that his photo shouldn’t have been in amongst the pile on Cowley’s desk, that it was all just a case of mistaken identity.

He finally made his way to the bar, impatiently shoved aside a couple of drunken oiks and waited to order himself a pint. Seeing the lone barman struggle with a rowdy group of bikers, he turned and leant back against the scarred oak top to survey the room and his heart missed a beat when he immediately saw Harris, sitting at an overly crowded table. He couldn’t believe it; he really had survived, that they’d both made it out of that hell hole. What a bloody miracle!

Possibly sensing he was being watched, Harris chose that moment to look up and frowned when he caught - and held - Bodie’s gaze. Eventually, though, a smile lit up his face, making him look just like the big kid he’d been all those years ago. He then winked, turned and spoke to someone in the group before standing up and elbowing his way through the crowds towards the bar. “Bill. What a small bloody small world we live in, eh?”

“Long time, no see,” Bodie snorted, having long forgotten he’d chosen to use that name when he’d left home, in the hope he might sound older than he actually was. “D’you want a bevvy?”

“Yeah. Newky Brown. Not drinking any of the piss that comes out of those taps.”

He ordered two bottles and they carried them over to a corner where they found some relative peace.

“S’good to see you, Pete. You’re looking well, like…”

“You too, you Scouse git.”

Bodie smiled at the endearment, not really surprised to realise he’d automatically slipped back into his native nasal dialect.

They stared at each other for a while; searching for the friendship they’d lost, for the changes the years had wrought, for any lasting evidence of their horrific ordeal.

“Cheers,” Bodie eventually said, knocking his bottle against the side of his old friend’s.

“Were you in here last night, Bill? Thought I caught a glimpse of you leaving but then decided I was just being stupid.”

“Yeah. Was looking for someone. Didn’t expect t’ see you, know what I mean?”

“Why didn’t you say something then? Didn’t you recognise me?”

“Bit shocked, like. Couldn’t believe it; you sitting there, large as life when all this time I thought you were probably brown bread an’ buried in some unmarked jungle grave.” Bodie hung his head, ashamed of his reaction to the memories as they came flooding back.

“As you see, I’m not,” Pete confirmed unnecessarily. “I was air lifted to Kinshasa Hospital – mind you, only ‘cause a chopper was going that way with one of the Colonel’s sons. I had some surgery on a perforated bowel. Pretty lucky, considering; could have been a lot worse. Finally ended up in Belgium, courtesy of one of the doctors there. What about you?”

“Don’t remember much,” Bodie lied. He’d supressed so much for so long, it was going to take more than a brief meeting to bring it all back to the fore.

“Not really surprising,” Pete continued. “You were unconscious when they liberated us - in a bad way but I was too far gone myself to help you. I don’t think either of us would have survived much longer if they hadn’t come when they did. How long did they keep you in hospital, then?”

“I think they released me a couple of weeks after you’d been shipped out. Tried looking but no-one seemed to know what had happened to you. I didn’t know where to start… didn’t know if you were even still alive.”

Pete moved closer and gently squeezed his wrist.

The physical contact made the meeting seem even more real, even more painful, dragging it away from the imagined and into the realms of undeniable truth. This really was happening! Bodie shivered involuntarily.

“It’s OK, Billy lad.” Pete seemed to recognise his incredulity. He knew him so well, he always had. “I survived. We survived. And here we both are, handsome as ever.”

Bodie felt his stomach knot as a sudden wave of nausea hit him.

“Bill? You OK?”

“Shit. It feels like I’m back there… like I’m 18 again. The heat, the stench, the flies, the… fuck! Think I’m gonna…”

“Come on, let’s get out of here. Some fresh air, that’s what we both need.” He took a firm hold of Bodie’s elbow and guided him out of the front door.

Sitting on the pavement, clutching his knees, Bodie concentrated on taking slow, restorative breaths.

Stay cool, stay cool! But this uncontrollable feeling frightened him, it always had. He couldn’t think when he’d last felt so exposed, so vulnerable – well, he could, that was the fucking problem!

Pete sat down next to him and slung his arm over his shoulder, bringing him crashing back to the here and now.

“OK, mate? Any better?”

Keeping his head lowered, Bodie heaved a deep sigh. He’d long ago learnt how to keep things tightly under wraps, buried so deep, to never show the buggers… he could do this, he really could. “Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. Must’ve been something I ate.”

“Sure. Feel like a bit of a walk? My digs aren’t far from here. A coffee’s what you need and we can catch up with old times - or not - whatever.”

“OK.”

“I’ll just tell my friends that I’m off then.”

Bodie got shakily to his feet and followed him back into the pub but stood and waited by the door, reluctant to stray too far from the fresh air. But as Harris walked back towards him, Bodie saw that the man he’d spoken to had turned in his chair and was looking directly his way. Shit! It was only O’Hanlon himself, the bastard!

What the bloody hell has Pete got himself involved in now, he asked himself. Unfortunately, Bodie suspected he already knew the answer to that question. The question was, what was he going to do about it?

 

The flat wasn’t much to write home about but at least it was clean and warm, which Bodie appreciated because he still felt himself trembling inside.

Standing in front of the hissing gas fire, he scanned the room. “You always were the tidy one, Pete. A place for everything and everything in its place, you used to say.”

“Did you ever listen though? How many hours did I spend telling you to keep your stuff organised and dry; that well-maintained kit could be the difference between living and dying?” Harris scolded whilst he stirred sugar into the coffee.

“Yeah, yeah. My partner’s always ribbing me about me spartan lifestyle,” Bodie smiled reminiscently. “So, you’ll be made up to know that some of your incessant lectures must have actually got through.”

Harris looked at him closely, hesitating as he handed him the steaming mug. “You have another partner, now?”

Recognising his mistake; allowing his old trust to cloud his senses, Bodie quickly back-pedalled. “Nah, just a figure of speech. He’s someone I hooked up with and we’ve done a few jobs together, like. Annoying little gob shite when he’s had a few pints. Probably why we don’t socialise much.”

He realised he was going to need to be a lot sharper than that if he was going to get the info Cowley needed. Harris had always been perceptive and missed very little. Bodie, on the other hand, never had a clue when Harris had been yanking his chain, manipulating the truth or influencing the decisions he’d thought he’d been making for himself. He inwardly winced when he recalled how gullible he’d been – but not anymore. No, not anymore.

Apparently reassured that Bodie had no permanent ties, Harris asked, “Where is this little billet of yours, then?”

“Oh, I don’t have a place of me own - not been in London that long and I’m still deciding whether or not to stay. I doss down wherever I can, you know what I mean? Someone’s floor, sometimes a hostel, the odd squat if my luck’s completely out. I’ve still got to find more work and may have to leave town again to find it.”

“You can kip here for a while, if you want.”

“Yeah? That’d be sound. Ta.”

Decision made, they opened a bottle of Bells and sat talking about the old times, as well as the new, ‘til the early hours.

Later, as he struggled to find a comfortable position on the old couch, Bodie reflected on Pete’s genuine interest in his life since Africa. It seemed he had readily accepted all the fabricated lies he’d been told so perhaps Pete was the gullible one now. And as they had chatted away, it became obvious that they both still had strong memories of the friendship and trust that had developed in the jungle and Bodie knew that he could certainly use that to his advantage now.

*****

Doyle waited as long as he could before he got into his own car and sped off to Headquarters. It was Bodie’s turn to drive them both in this week but he hadn’t materialised this morning and wasn’t answering his phone.

He spent the next couple of hours trying to inconspicuously track him down. He’d started by phoning Linda, having already forgotten that she and Claire had planned to spend the day together, then all his favourite pubs and even the Casualty Department, but he’d drawn a total blank.

He now sat outside his boss’ office, awaiting the inevitable questions and feeling full of regret that he hadn’t got any answers. He really wished Bodie had agreed to share the Chinese take-away he’d suggested last night. He’d been willing to put Claire off for another time, despite knowing that he risked being dumped, if it meant he and Bodie could have a chance to talk. There had been a good game on the telly that he wouldn’t have minded watching and perhaps, after a few drinks, Bodie might have admitted to what was troubling him. But the pillock insisted that he had something better to do and just left.

Unable to give Claire his full attention, Doyle had then bored her rigid with a mediocre meal and mundane conversation. She left as soon as the washing up had been put away, making the excuse that she had homework to mark before the morning. T’riffick! He was going to have to pull out all the stops next time – if, that is, she agreed to another date.

“Come on, Bodie. Where the hell are you?” he muttered irritably to himself.

“You can go in now, 4.5. Mr Cowley is ready to see you.”

“Thanks, Betty.”

As he entered the office, Doyle noticed that his boss looked particularly tired and he wondered if he’d actually been home recently or if he’d spent every waking hour sitting behind that desk. He understood that Cowley truly believed it was a small price to pay to keep his beloved Isles safe and that he’d willingly sacrificed his chance of personal happiness by devoting his life to the cause.

Evidently, not so tired to lose his sharp bite, though.

“And where, might I ask, is 3.7? He should have signed in at eight o’clock and security tells me he didn’t.”

“Not sure, sir. He hasn’t shown up yet.”

“I know that 4.5! I thought I told you to keep an eye on him,” Cowley barked as he glared at his operative. “So, what did you discover from your little chat with him yesterday then?”

“Not much. It seems that Peter Harris is a part of Bodie’s past that he prefers to closely guard. He didn’t elaborate, the closed-mouth bastard, or tell me why that time holds painful memories but apparently he ran across him on Friday night when he was out looking for his snout, Sammy.”

“Do you have any idea where that was?”

“No sir. North of the Thames, somewhere.”

“Well, as he’s not answering his RT, go and search his flat. If that reveals nothing then you’ll have to look for O’Hanlon yourself. Connors will continue his surveillance of the area but I can’t spare any other agents at this present time. Mark my words, Harris is up to his neck in this thing, whatever it is, so you could start by finding this Sammy character, he’s our best lead, and then backtrack from there.”

*****

Once they’d finally managed to get served in the pub, Harris nudged Bodie’s arm. “Come on over and meet my boss, Bill. You’ll like him.”

Bodie knew that would be highly unlikely but he followed him anyway.

“O’Hanlon. This is Bill Bodie, the old friend I was telling you about last night. Bill, meet Rory O’Hanlon.”

The two men shook hands, warily sizing each other up.

“Good to meet you, Bill. It’s OK for me to call you Bill, is it?”

“Call me whatever you like; I’ve had many aliases during my lifetime.”

“D’you want another drink?”

“No ta. Just got a round in.” Bodie took a swig from his full bottle.

“Harris tells me you worked together a few years back.”

“Yeah - but it was more than a few. Probably nearer fourteen or fifteen, I’d say.”

“He also said you’d be a good man to have on your side. Trustworthy as well as handy with explosives and most small arms. Is that still true?”

“I’ve always believed in loyalty to friends and employers, if that’s what you mean. And Pete taught me all he knew so if he’s as good as he used to be then we’re probably on a par.”

“Tell me a bit about yourself, Bill. Where’re you from, what brought you here? That sort of thing.”

“What is this? Feels like a bloody job interview. I only came in for a quiet drink with me mate here so if you’ll just excuse us…” Bodie stood up abruptly and made to walk off but Harris, as he had hoped, stopped him with a hand on his chest.

“Give us a minute, O’Hanlon,” Harris asked before he shoved Bodie away from the table and out of earshot.

“I don’t know what’s going on here, Pete but I didn’t expect the bloody Spanish Inquisition. Who is that bloke and what’s his game then? And why all the soddin’ questions?”

“Well Billy lad, I see your instincts are still spot on. Listen. You’ve already told me you’re looking for work and O’Hanlon there is looking to recruit people like you and me; skilled soldiers, prepared to suffer a little discomfort, not afraid to step into the firing line… not too squeamish. And he’s prepared to compensate us with decent money for a successful op. It’s a one-off but the rewards should set you up for a year or two. What d’you say? Are you prepared to hear him out? We could be a team again. We were good, you know - the very best.”

Bodie looked closely at his old partner, could see the familiar excitement simmering below the surface and he felt a similar anticipation in himself – but he knew his response had a completely different cause altogether. Somehow, without even trying, he’d managed to walk blindly into the heart of Cowley’s operation.

“OK then, you soft bastard, let’s go and hear him out,” he eventually relented, suppressing the need to thump someone in frustration and gut-wrenching disappointment.

As they sat back down with the group, O’Hanlon gave Harris a questioning look.

“It’s OK, boss. I’ve explained to Bill here why you have some questions and he’s ready to listen.”

“Yeah but I’ll only answer the ones I feel have any relevance - and I’m not agreeing to anything ‘til I have some answers of my own.” Bodie interjected defiantly. “OK?”

“Yeah, I’ll give you that. So, what’s your story then?”

“Left home to escape the inevitable dreary life on the docks and went looking for adventure on the high seas. Quickly realised the Merchant Navy wasn’t really the place for a spotty fourteen-year-old so I legged it in Dakar. Since then, I’ve moved around quite a bit; traded arms and done mercenary work in Angola, Biafra, oh, and the Congo, where I met Pete here. I’ve helped set up training camps in the Middle East and drilled paramilitary forces in the use of small arms and guerrilla warfare tactics, that sort of stuff. Been a bouncer in various African nightclubs as well as some in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Manchester and here in London. Will that do you?”

“You’ve quite an impressive CV, Bill.” O’Hanlon nodded admiringly. “How many people have you killed?”

“What kind of stupid question is that? When you throw a grenade in the bush, I mean, how do you know how many guys you kill? When you meet a patrol, it’s you or them. Survival of the fittest; the fastest, most skilful generally has the better chance of winning, you know. So, I’ve never bothered counting. I’ve killed. I don’t enjoy it but yeah, I’ve probably ended a lot of lives in my time.”

“Fair enough.” O’Hanlon studied the newcomer for a while before continuing. “I’m organising a little surprise for the British Government and I’m looking to recruit useful men like yourself. You come highly recommended,” he tipped his head towards Harris, “and I like what I see. I’m offering five thousand each on successful completion of the job. I can’t give you specifics just yet but I can tell you it’ll be soon, within the fortnight, and the job’s here in London. What d’you say? You interested?”

“Yeah, I’m interested but I’ll need to speak to our lad here first. Give you your answer tomorrow. OK?”

“Suppose it’ll have to be,” O’Hanlon conceded reluctantly.

They finished their drinks and left the pub.

A bus pulled up just as they were passing a stop and Bodie recognised its route.

“’ang on a mo.” He stopped and grabbed Pete’s arm. “I need to go to my mate’s place and get me stuff if I’m stopping with you. I’ll meet you back at your gaff in, say, an hour or so and we’ll have a chat there, OK?”

Without waiting for a reply, Bodie jumped on board and climbed to the upper deck but, just as the bus pulled away, somebody slumped into the empty seat beside him. “Where’s the fire, eh?”

“Geez, Pete. What’re you doing here?”

“Duh! I’m coming with you, what’s it look like?”

“Haven’t you got anything better to do?”

“Nah, not really.” Harris gave Bodie one of his most endearing smiles. “Want to catch up with me old mucker, hear all the news. It’s been years and I’ve missed your ugly face.”

“You daft pillock,” Bodie grinned back. “But I draw the line at holding hands.” It really was easy to slip back into their old ways. They’d been good mates, the two of them. In each other’s pockets, day in, day out, month on month, and Bodie had loved Pete. No, not like the way he now loved Ray, he admitted, but it was love, of a sort. Brotherly, he finally concluded, imagining what it might have been like to actually have an older brother.

But it seemed that Pete had changed now - gone bad, crossed the line - and Bodie knew he’d have to watch himself around him. It was only a short walk from the bus stop to his latest CI5 accommodation and didn’t really give him enough time to convince himself he could pull this whole deception off. He’d already decided it was best to keep it simple, as near to the truth as possible whenever he could and he hoped it would be enough. Lives depended on it – his own included.

But first, he had to call in and update Mr Cowley.

“Wait here, I won’t be a mo,” he ordered, giving Harris a shove to sit down on the garden wall.

“Just hurry up, then.”

Bodie raced up to his flat, threw some essentials into his Bergen, swapped his service hand gun for his own Browning and left his official ID in the desk drawer.

He had just picked up the phone to call HQ when there was a sharp knock at the door.

Shit!

He grabbed his bag, undid the locks and pushed Pete backwards towards the stairwell.

“Sshhh! I told you to wait, you impatient bugger. His bird is on nights and she can be a right bitch. Come on, let’s go, I’m famished.”

“When are you ever not?” Pete asked knowingly.

 

O’Hanlon seemed genuinely pleased when they met the following lunchtime and Bodie accepted his offer.

“That’s great,” was all he said but his face showed a measure of relief. “Give me 48 hours and I’ll be able to give you more of the specifics.”

Business completed for now, Harris and Bodie left O’Hanlon’s table and took themselves off to the other end of the bar so they could talk.

“What do you know that he’s not telling me, Pete? Come on, give.”

“Honestly Bill, I don’t know much more than you. I’ve worked for O’Hanlon on a number of jobs. Gets his financial backing from the States and money never seems to be an issue so, I can promise you, you’ll get paid, if that’s what’s worrying you. He’s a hard man though. Surrounds himself with people he can trust. He spent a few years in The Maze and I believe that’s where he made some of his best contacts.”

“Any weaknesses? Anything I should be worried about?”

“He’s ruthless, I can tell you that, and he hires murdering bastards. Just wait ‘til you meet Kelly, his henchman. He’d happily top his own grandmother if O’Hanlon told him to.” Harris laughed.

Bodie searched his memories for when he’d come across Kelly. It was during his last tour of Belfast with the Paras when Kelly was supposed to have been killed - blown up in a failed car bomb attack on an army check-point. He’d never actually met the bloke, just seen his mug-shot and read his extensive record sheet, which included fire-bombing the home of a member of the RUC whilst he and his children slept upstairs and kneecapping a lad on his seventeenth birthday.

“Charming. So why are you willing to work for him, then?”

“Same as you; the money’s good.”

“And are you one of the murdering bastards now?”

“I can be, with the right incentive,” Harris smirked unashamedly.

Bodie looked at his old friend and wondered what had happened to change the compassionate man he known all those years ago.

Perhaps, when all this was over, he might have the opportunity to find out.

On that thought, he carefully put his empty beer bottle down amongst the dirty glasses littering the bar top. “I’m just going for a slash. Get us another drink in, eh? Or do you fancy going on somewhere else instead?”

“One more here, then we could go to the Chippy. I’m starving, so your stomach must be thinkin’ your throat’s been cut!” Pete laughed as he tried to get the attention of the over-worked barman.

Bodie quickly made his way outside where he knew there was a public phone box, madly searching his pockets for some small change.

He dialled Cowley’s direct line number and it was picked up on the fourth ring. On hearing the pips, he thumbed the two pence coin hard into the slot.

“Sir? 3.7 here.”

“Bodie! Good grief man, where are you?”

“Have to be quick. Been recruited by O’Hanlon. Not sure of any details yet but can confirm they’re planning an attack in the city, sometime in the next fortnight. Fuck… gotta go.”

Bodie knew the back door of the pub had been opened when the spilled light illuminated the alleyway. Taking no chances, he slammed down the receiver and undid his flies as he stepped over to the wall.

He barely made it before a shadowy figure emerged through the gate. “What you doing out here, then?”

“Geez Pete, don’t do that! You’re likely to get shot... or worse.” Bodie tucked himself away and went to walk back into the pub. “Have you seen the state of the bogs in there? And the stench in the yard makes me understand where the beer gets its distinctive flavour from. You come out to use these delightful facilities as well, have you?”

“Nah. Let’s get that food and go back to mine. I’ll have a piss there.”

“Wish I’d waited now,” Bodie said, trying to sound mournful as they walked off together towards the brightly lit main road.

*****

George Cowley looked at the red phone on his desk, trying to digest what he’d just heard. Few words were spoken but they said so much.

The stupid idiot. What does he think he’s playing at, jumping the gun without any back-up? Always pushing the boundaries, just like that damn partner of his.

Right, he admonished, there was work to be done!

“Betty,” he shouted through the open door. “Get hold of Doyle for me. I want to know how far he’s got with his enquiries!”

“Sir, we’ve just received some of the information you wanted on Peter Harris.” His secretary tapped her spiral-bound notebook with her pencil as she entered the office.

“Go on.”

“According to his military record, he had quite an illustrious career serving with the Royal Marines, 45 Commando, but it was after a particularly bloody raid on a Wadi during his tour in Aden that things started to go wrong. A young recruit was shot and killed right beside him and Harris apparently blamed himself for the lad’s death. Following some subsequent disciplinary ‘difficulties’, he was discouraged from signing on again at the end of his term and he left the service in ’62. Took me a bit of time, cross-referencing with 3.7’s eclectic past, but it appears they probably first met in ’64. The Congo.”

“Right. Thanks Betty. Keep working on it.”

“I will sir, as soon as I’ve got hold of 4.5 for you.” She closed the door again on her way out.

Cowley selected the photographs of O’Hanlon from the file and lined them up, side by side.

They didn’t do his profile justice – innocuous looking, mid to late fifties, stocky build, thinning grey hair. He was even smiling in a couple of the shots. Appearances really can be deceptive.

So, O’Hanlon has recruited Agent 3.7 and the only way Cowley could see that having occurred so quickly was through his past relationship with Harris. He pulled those photographs next.

The grainy images revealed a slim man, around six-foot-tall with light coloured hair. Did Bodie say he thought he’d be about forty? And yes, some women of a certain age would probably call him handsome, he supposed.

*****

As instructed, Doyle had started his search for Bodie at his flat - and come up with absolutely nothing. He wasn’t home and there had been no signs of any disturbance. Everything just seemed to be as if he’d gone off to work as usual. A dirty mug, plate and knife sat in the washing up bowl, crumbs lay scattered around the toaster and the previous day’s newspaper was spread open across the kitchen table, the cryptic crossword already completed. He’d obviously made an attempt at straightening the bed and his rinsed razor and shaving brush had been carefully left to dry on the washbasin. His bike leathers still hung in the hall cupboard, helmet and gloves on the shelf above and boots by the door. His one and only suitcase was lying on top of the wardrobe with his Bergen neatly folded inside it. Shifting the rug to lift the loose floorboard in the bedroom, Doyle had breathed a sigh of relief when he found the hidden Tupperware box. Inside were Bodie’s Browning Hi Power, wrapped in an oily rag, two spare cartridges, a box of shells and various passports. He thought the passports were all there - but he could never be completely certain, the devious sod.

Having found no indications of where Bodie could have gone to or what plans he might have made, Doyle reset the alarms and locked up before going off in search of the elusive Sammy.

But how the hell was he supposed to find someone whose usefulness relied on staying below the radar? Doyle realized he’d have to do it the hard way and systematically go around all the likely pubs, hoping he got lucky.

After two days, he was beginning to think that Bodie had disappeared off the face of the earth. Finding himself back in the neighbourhood, he decided he’d have another look around the flat, just in case he’d previously missed some clue.

But as soon as he unlocked the door and pushed it open, he knew something was wrong. The security alarms were off, yet he distinctly remembered resetting them when he’d left. He drew his weapon and cautiously searched each room in turn. He was relieved and disappointed in equal measure, finding neither intruders nor his absent partner.

What Doyle did discover though, were other signs of recent activity. The phone had been moved precariously closer to the edge of the desk and the drawer beneath was slightly open, Bodie’s ID just visible inside. In the bedroom, the battered suitcase was now lying empty on the bed and the chest of drawers seemed less full.

Lifting the floorboard again, he retrieved the plastic box. The CI5 issue Smith and Wesson had now replaced the Browning but the original three passports were all still there.

However, the most significant clue was to be found in the bathroom. Bodie’s shaving gear was nowhere to be seen.

So, the bastard had been back to calmly pack a bag!

What the fuck was he playing at?

Feeling confused and angry, Doyle could only stand and look around at the evidence. He soon realised, with a sinking heart, that he couldn’t really tell if Bodie had only taken the bare essentials or if he’d also grabbed everything that was important to him because, unlike himself, Bodie had never really accumulated much in the way of keepsakes. Yes, his records were still piled by the stereo and the antique gun display still hung on the wall, but would these be the things he’d take along if he was leaving for good or just classed as ‘stuff’ that could be left behind and replaced later?

Like his partner…

He jumped when the RT went off in his pocket.

“Control to 4.5,” it squawked.

He took a few moments, organising his errant thoughts before he could finally respond. “4.5 here.”

“Mr Cowley wants to know what you’ve found out, so far.”

“Is he there, Betty? I could do with speaking to him.”

He didn’t have to wait long.

“Well man, do you have news?”

“I haven’t managed to locate Sammy yet, sir - it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack - but I have returned to 3.7’s flat and he’s obviously been back here recently. He’s packed a bag, left his handgun and taken his own weapon. He’s also dumped his ID but not taken his passports. What’s going on, sir? Has he resigned?”

“Passports, 4.5? I’ll be speaking to Master Bodie about that when next I see him. No. It seems he’s managed to get himself recruited by O’Hanlon. I’ve just spoken to him very briefly and he confirmed he’s now running undercover but was not able to give me any more information. We’ll just have to hope he makes contact again soon. In the meantime, I need you to continue looking for his informer or, preferably, O’Hanlon himself. Concentrate on pubs around the dockside area and work your way out. Keep in touch, laddie. Something big’s about to happen.”

Doyle stuffed his RT back into his inside pocket and flopped down onto the settee.

What the hell was the idiot playing at, going off on his own, not saying a bloody thing, ignoring the partnership? He’d kill him when he saw him again… if he…

 

In the end it was a sheer fluke that Doyle found Bodie’s informer. His exhaustion had finally caught up with him and he’d realised he needed a break. He’d stopped at the first corner shop he saw, intending to get himself a sandwich, when Sammy had unexpectedly walked out of the bookies next door, absently tearing up and scattering his betting slips.

Doyle strode up behind him unnoticed, firmly grabbed him by the arm and dragged him down a small alleyway, pushing him hard up against the wall.

“Hello Sammy. We’ve not met before, but I’ve seen you speaking to Bodie on occasion.”

“Who?”

“Don’t give me that. You know who I mean. Tall, good-looking fella, always dropping you fivers for services rendered.”

“Don’t be disgusting!” he spat, offended at the very suggestion. “I don’t do that. We only talk.”

“Neither does he, as far as I know.” Doyle relaxed his hold a little, relieved that he’d collared the right bloke. “I work with him.”

“Oh, you’re CI5. Why didn’t you say so instead of knocking me about like that?”

“Had to be sure. Listen Sammy, where would Bodie go to find you? How do you make contact?”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself? Are you trying to muscle in on his patch, or summat?”

“Nothing like that. I seem to have mislaid him. He went looking for you the other night and I haven’t seen him since,” Doyle replied, bending the truth a little.

“Blimey,” Sammy said, scratching his unshaven chin with a dirty finger nail. “Um, I suppose he’d try the Seven Stars first. He knows I’m usually in early doors. But Bodie’s not missing; I saw him there yesterday, with another bloke. He didn’t let on but he did see me. We’re careful, you know. Don’t want to ruin my reputation as a dishonest rogue.” Sammy sniggered, revealing a mouthful of rotten teeth and letting loose a breath that could kill at five paces.

Doyle tried not to recoil from the stench; he needed confirmation first. “The one on Carey Street, right?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

“Thanks.” Stepping back a little, he discreetly passed Sammy a couple of pound notes before turning away with relief.

Getting back into his car, Doyle lifted the mike and called in.

“Sir, I’ve found Sammy and he saw Bodie in the Seven Stars yesterday. Do you want me to stake it out?”

“About time too.” Mr Cowley exhaled, sounding relieved. “Discover what you can about this operation and report back. I’ll send you reinforcements. Alpha One out.”

Doyle gripped the steering wheel, resting his forehead on the backs of his hands, and took a few minutes to compose himself. At least he had solid confirmation that Bodie was still alive and, hopefully, he’d see him again soon. He couldn’t explain how much he was missing him. It’d only been three days but it still felt like a part of him had been amputated. The lack of information hadn’t helped but his own doubts in Bodie’s loyalty shocked him the most.

The idea of eating lunch already long forgotten, he started the engine and re-joined the flow of traffic.

 

The pub was relatively empty when he walked in thirty minutes later, so it wasn’t difficult to find a small table tucked away at the back. However, he quickly realised he would stick out like a nun in a whorehouse if he just sat there, calmly nursing the odd drink. He hoped the Cow sent someone along soon because two blokes chatting in a pub had always seemed much more acceptable than one sitting there on his own. He picked up a discarded newspaper and pretended to show interest in its contents. The Sun had never been one he’d have wasted his own hard-earned cash on but this one was only for show; he had much more important things to observe.

As the evening drew closer, the place started filling up and at around six o’clock O’Hanlon himself marched in, surrounded by a number of heavies, and they crowded around a large table that had been conspicuously left vacant by all the other patrons.

The noise in the pub had dropped a decibel for a minute or two before everyone settled to resume their drinking and loud chatter again.

Doyle watched the terrorists surreptitiously. Their leader looked older and fatter than in his photographs, but he still had an aura of power about him and obviously held the respect of his men, who deferred to him constantly.

Doyle wanted to go over there and shove a gun in his face and drag him out onto the street, the bastard. He and Bodie had been getting along just fine before he’d shown his ugly mug this side of the Irish Sea. Why couldn’t O’Hanlon keep his anti-Imperialistic bigotry in his own town and not… but then, Doyle recognised, wasn’t that just the behaviour that starts all wars, forcibly shoving your opinions down other people’s throats, whether they wanted it or not?

But this particular little battle would be stopped here. CI5 would see to that because they held all the aces – well, one in particular.

“Well, hello there,” a voice quietly whispered in his ear, making him flinch. “Stop glaring, Ray. You’ll be putting these nice people off their drinks.”

“Sit down! You’re drawing attention, looming over me like that,” Doyle ordered without taking his eyes off the target.

Murphy pulled up another chair and positioned himself where he could also observe the room. “Almost didn’t recognise you in that fabulous disguise. Isn’t that Bodie’s woolly hat?”

“Yeah, found it in the glove box. Thought I should hide me barnet,” Doyle responded seriously.

Murphy smiled as his sarcasm flew straight over Ray’s head. “Has he been in yet then, that partner of yours?”

“No and there’s no guarantee he’ll show, either. Listen, see the guy in the black leather jacket, over there knocking back the whiskey? That’s our mark.”

“The one sitting beneath the mirror,” Murphy confirmed. “Yeah, got it.”

“I recognise a few of the others from Cowley’s photos but we don’t have IDs on them all yet.”

“OK.”

“Do you want a drink, Murph? I could do with moving.”

“Yeah, if you’re buying.”

Grateful that he could relax a little, Doyle got up and went over to the bar just as the door swung open and Sammy walked in.

The snout didn’t notice him at first but Doyle watched as the penny finally dropped, his heart sinking rapidly.

“Hello Mr, er…”

Doyle closed his eyes and shook his head, hoping no-one else noticed and that the fool took the hint.

“Hello Sammy. Long time, no see.”

Give him his due, he cottoned on quickly, nodded in acknowledgement, tapping his nose in the process.

Clearer instruction was obviously needed. “Go away,” Doyle mouthed and made a mental note to suggest that Bodie teach his grasses some of the subtler arts of subterfuge.

As he walked back to their table with the drinks, he noticed that O’Hanlon had swivelled in his seat and was watching him closely.

Shit, shit, shit!

Sitting back down, he pushed one of the pints across the table. “I’m going to have to leave after this one, Murph. O’Hanlon’s just clocked me and he’ll have taken your number as well by now. I’ll call Cowley and get him to send over another couple of agents. You stay until they get here. And for god’s sake, don’t speak to them when they arrive!”

“I do know how this works, Ray. Give me a second then I’ll go for a leak. You can leave when you see me leaning on the bar over there. OK?”

“Sorry Murph.”

“It’s alright. The big lummox will be back annoying us before you know it. Be seeing you.” With that, he got up and went off to the gents.

Doyle later watched the exchange of agents from the sanctuary of his car outside. According to Murphy, it went off without a hitch and he’d returned to HQ but Doyle wanted to wait and see if Bodie actually turned up or if they’d have to do it all again tomorrow.

As it was, he didn’t have to wait long. Two figures emerged from the dark shadows into the glow of a street lamp, chatting away animatedly and then scuffling like kids as they tried to be the first one through the pub doors.

An unexpected pang of jealously took Doyle’s breath away and he gasped.

Bloody hell.

All of a sudden, he realised that this Peter bloke was probably Bodie’s oldest friend. They looked good together, comfortable, relaxed, he thought. But how far did that friendship actually go and whose side would Bodie choose, if push came to shove?

They themselves had only been partners for just over two years but Doyle had always thought it felt permanent. They’d hit it off almost immediately, despite their obvious differences; backgrounds, opinions, interests. Yeah, now he thought about it, he wondered what did hold it all together? He admitted that it had been lust at first sight, as far as he was concerned, but the partnership had been based on friendship and trust long before they actually got around to screwing. They still regularly saw birds but always found themselves drawn inexplicably to each other after one or other, or even both, of them had skirted death by a hair’s breadth. The sex was always frenetic and they’d carry the evidence of its intensity in amongst the other injuries they collected on the job.

Doyle’s only regret was that they never seemed to talk about it afterwards. It was almost as if it hadn’t happened. But he’d known, from the way he sometimes caught Bodie looking at him, that some of the feelings were mutual - and that had been enough.

But was it still?

Two years? Not really that long, in the grand scheme of things.

*****

Bodie was feeling positively relieved that he’d finally managed to make contact with a member of squad. Earlier in the evening, he’d offered to get a round in as soon as he noticed agent 9.7 standing at the bar. He’d pushed his way over, ensuring he found a place right next to him then, under the pretence of trying to catch the eye of the barman, he’d whispered, “Here, tomorrow, 8pm. Don’t be late.”

Since then, he’d been planning what information he could pass over and, once Pete had taken himself off to bed, he’d torn a sheet from the pad by the phone and found a chewed pen in a drawer and wrote it all down.

He realised he had nothing specific to tell Cowley just yet except to confirm Harris’ involvement and that an attack on the Government was being planned sometime within the next two weeks. But he definitely had to establish a safe line of communication for when he eventually did have more details. Unfortunately, Pete rarely left his side so he’d decided he was going to use different drop-off locations to reduce the risk of him noticing anything suspicious.

Later, unable to sleep, he lay on the settee thinking. He really, really wished he could speak to Ray right now; he could do with his support, his advice. His company.

He missed him.

He still regretted not having had time to explain everything but, to be honest, the situation had escalated so fast that he hadn’t even had time to process things in his own head before he was in too far.

He was ready now, though. Would Ray come to the pub tomorrow? He really hoped so.

 

But it was a test of Bodie’s resolve to hide his disappointment and still laugh at Harris’ joke when he saw Lucas and Anson enter the pub at seven thirty the following evening.

So, Ray hadn’t come then.

The pub was as busy as usual but the lads pulled apart slightly as soon as they saw him approaching and Bodie was able to push into the gap between and unobtrusively slip the folded paper into Anson’s jacket pocket. No words were spoken but Bodie felt inordinately relieved to be back amongst his friends and he hesitated to catch the eye of the barman to place his order just so he could enjoy his colleague’s presence for a little longer.

All too soon though, he’d been served and then he had no more excuses. He picked up the drinks and returned to the table.

*****

Mr Cowley was reading Bodie’s note for the fifth time when Doyle entered his office.

“Is that it? What does the bastard have to say for himself?”

Cowley looked at him sympathetically.

“He’s trying to establish a safe means to communicate with us first. He intends to leave messages each day, naming the next drop in the note itself. Tomorrow’s will be left under the phone directory in the pub.

“He hasn’t managed to get any concrete information yet, then?”

“No, O’Hanlon is apparently keeping everything under wraps for the time being but he has told Bodie he’s planning an attack on the British Government before the end of the month and, according to the Home Office, there’s a Cabinet meeting arranged to discuss the Northern Ireland situation on 26th. As you know, Downing Street is a relatively easy target. Och, the metal barriers might stop vehicles gaining access but they won’t deter determined terrorists on foot or even two-wheels. I’m going to focus on that location, until I hear anything to the contrary.”

*****

“Downing Street. A relatively easy target compared to, say, the White House.” O’Hanlon proudly announced whilst looking around the group, watching for the reactions of each and every one of his individually selected men.

He’d arranged to meet them all in the function room at the back of the pub because he had details to impart and he needed some privacy for that.

Satisfied with what he saw, he continued. “The plan is, we hit the PM’s residence at exactly 11:00 hours on Thursday. There’ll be a two-pronged attack; Bill, you’ll enter Downing Street, making out to be an innocent tourist. The camera case slung around your neck will contain the Semtex. You’ll approach the copper on the front step under the pretext of asking some question or wanting a photo. Whatever, I’ll leave that to you. His weapon will be concealed so you’ll have to be quick. Once you’ve dispatched him you then blow the front door.

“Kelly and Harris, you will enter from the rear, crossing Horse Guards Parade and scaling the wall behind the Kitchener Statue. Ensure you’re prepared and, when you hear the explosion, blow the fire door at the back. The rest will follow on, entering the building in two groups, front and rear, eliminating anyone and everyone. Assume all the security men inside will be armed so concentrate on them first then use the grenades once you reach the Cabinet Room. Your escape will be through the back although you can obviously choose any route you want because the job will be done. We’ll meet up again 09:00 hours Friday morning, below the clock at Paddington Station. I’ll have your money ready. Any questions?”

Bodie had plenty. Firstly, he couldn’t understand why O’Hanlon even wanted him along on this job. Pete had all the skills needed to lead the frontal assault so why risk the whole op on an unknown? But he wasn’t going to ask that one.

In the end it was Harris who broke the stunned silence.

“That’s quite a plan, O’Hanlon and I can see why you’re offering good money - it’s very high risk.”

“I have considered safer alternatives, including a mortar attack, but the logistics make me doubt any real success. No, we need to get inside the building and work from there. Luckily, the good old British Bobby is not as well-armed or as well-trained as his brothers across the pond otherwise this would certainly be a suicide run. How long do you think a truncheon can hold up against a semi-automatic? You’re all experienced fighters and you’ll be well armed to protect yourself and complete the job you’re being paid for.”

“What’ll Bill do if there’s two coppers on duty that day? He’ll not be able to take them both out.”

“Smith will be on stand-by and can step in, if need be.”

How very reassuring, thought Bodie.

O’Hanlon looked around the group, daring any further questions.

“Right, if that’s it, then we’ll meet at the warehouse Wednesday evening and I’ll distribute the weapons, sort you into the two groups and go over the plan in more detail. Kelly, Harris, can you give me a few moments before you go?”

The rest of the group wandered off, some in pairs, others off on their own.

Bodie waved to Pete as he headed out of the pub himself, relieved to be given some space and fully intending to use his freedom to find a telephone, but then Harris stopped him, asking him instead to wait.

As he watched the three men talk quietly amongst themselves, he at least had time to think. Why was he being given that pivotal role? Did O’Hanlon trust him that much? Then it occurred to him that it wasn’t so much that he was to be trusted but more to do with the fact he had the required skills. He only had to get close enough to the front door to blow it, then his work would be done and his usefulness over. Kelly, on the other hand, was much more valuable to O’Hanlon alive.

 

After collecting a Chinese takeaway on the way back to the flat, they sat in a silence that was broken only by the scape of forks on foil containers as they each considered their respective futures.

Eventually though, Bodie needed some answers. “What do you think of the plan, Pete? I trust you but I really don’t know O’Hanlon. Is he a good tactician? Come on, it’s my life, our lives, we’re talking about here.”

He was starting to struggle with all the triple think. He sincerely hoped that CI5 would stop the operation well before the terrorists got anywhere near Number Ten but he still had to appear to be the hardened mercenary and close friend of Harris, never letting his guard down, never saying the wrong words, never being caught passing over information to the other side.

He was tired to the core and just wanted it over now. Over so he could go back to working with a partner - his real partner.

He didn’t immediately notice that Harris was slow in replying until he looked up and caught a sad expression on the face opposite.

“What?” he asked. “Are you thinking the risks are too high now?”

“No,” Harris eventually said, almost solemnly. “His plans are always good, that’s why he’s lived so long. The only time he’s been caught was when he was fitted up. I trust him - and you can too.” But he’d averted his eyes and was concentrating on his half-eaten meal when he spoke the last few words.

Ah, so Pete has realised that I’m probably not expected to survive the attack, Bodie admitted to himself. So much for friendship! But then he knew he was no different; that he too would turn his ex-colleague in as soon as the time came.

The rest of the meal was finished in an unusual silence, both of them deep in thought.

“Right,” Bodie declared as he chucked his empty cartons in the bin. “I’m going for a soak.”

The bathroom was shared by the occupants of the three flats on the second floor, which meant that he could legitimately lock the door and give himself some much-needed privacy, without raising too many suspicions.

As the bath filled, he sat naked on the closed toilet seat and scribbled down all the facts he had to pass to Mr Cowley; the planned target with the time and date of the attack, the modus operandi including his proposed role, the strength of the team and the weapons involved. But most important of all, the location of the warehouse where the terrorists were to congregate first. That would be where he would expect CI5 to be waiting on Wednesday, in order to stop this madness, before any VIPs, security personnel or innocent bystanders got hurt.

He folded the note carefully and slipped it into the ticket pocket of his cords then climbed in the bath where he lay, running through everything in his head, making certain he hadn’t forgotten anything vital. Finally accepting he’d done all he could for now, he slid down, submerging his head beneath the hot water, holding his breath for as long as he could… passing the point where he should concede… holding it… just a little longer… until he jack-knifed upright, sending water crashing over the sides in a giant tsunami, gasping for air.

 

When he returned to their rooms, he found Harris slumped in the armchair, nursing a glass of whisky.

He must not have heard him come in for he flinched when Bodie spoke. “I’m going down to the pub for a pint. You coming?”

“Nah, I don’t feel like being sociable tonight. Why don’t we stay in? There’s a six pack in the kitchen.”

“I want to go out,” Bodie announced, sounding petulant. “You’re no fun, the mood you’re in. I’ll see you later.” As he closed the door to the flat and trotted down the stairs, he couldn’t quite believe his luck. He might now be able to actually speak to the agents instead of just surreptitiously passing over the scrap of paper. Yeah, and one of the agents might just be Ray this time. His heart did a little jump in anticipation.

He was just opening the front door when Pete’s voice stopped him dead. “Hold up, Bill. I’ve changed my mind. I’m coming too.”

*****

Mr Cowley was studying the Ordnance Survey map pinned up on the wall behind his desk when Doyle knocked on his office door.

“Come in, man. We now have confirmation that Number Ten is the actual target but Bodie recommends we mount our counter-attack at this warehouse, here.” Cowley indicated the location with his pen. “And on this occasion, I have to agree with him.”

He turned and noticed that Doyle was not actually looking at the map but something had caught his eye on the desk.

“Ah, yes, Bodie’s note. I’ll let you read it yourself, then I’d appreciate your full attention.”

Doyle carefully picked up the scrap of note paper, leaned against the door and studied every scrawled word in detail. When he’d read it three times, he took a deep breath and turned to his boss. “Sir?”

“Well, do you agree with Bodie’s opinion that the warehouse is our best option?”

“Yeah - but I’d prefer that we pull him out before then. It’s a well-armed gang and he could easily end up a casualty if it comes to a shoot-out, which it no doubt will.”

“And how do you propose we do that without raising suspicions? He has a central role in the frontal attack and O’Hanlon might reconsider his options if he was forced to find a replacement at this late stage. No, we have to keep him in there. He’s your partner so it’s your role to cover his back and ensure he makes it out alive.”

“Sir.”

*****

Bodie knew, as soon as he entered the warehouse, that CI5 was already there, waiting. He could see the signs because he knew what to look for; he’d been trained by them, alongside them and understood their tactics. He couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief because at least the madness was going to end here, one way or the other.

However, he didn’t know if Ray was in the building or not. He hoped he would be and he could see no reason why he wouldn’t but he just didn’t know for sure.

Harris directed Bodie and the other three men to where he wanted the two crates to be placed and then they just had to wait for O’Hanlon’s arrival. It shouldn’t be long now.

“Get them open, Bill and check the weapons. The rest of you, cover the doors, front and back.”

Bodie used the crowbar to prise open the lids and whistled through his teeth when he saw the extent of the munitions.

“Geeze Pete. There’s enough stuff here to equip a small army.”

“And that’s exactly what we are, Billy. Just like the old days, eh?”

Still holding one of the lids open, he glanced across at his former friend. He instantly recognised Harris’ agitated state; hyped up, ready to do battle, exactly as he had always been prior to an op. Bodie suddenly had to dampen down his own wayward emotions before they tore him apart. A small part of him wanted to feel the same excitement, to return to the times when he and Pete had been close, when they worked together, smooth as clockwork. But things were so very different from how they used to be. He had the law on his side now, he had pride in his work, he was one of the good guys - and he had a different partner.

No, he knew exactly what needed to be done – it was how it would be accomplished that worried him. And what would be the actual cost?

He picked up one of the Ingram machine guns and ran his experienced eye over it. Good quality and well-maintained equipment, he appreciated.

A muffled shout from the rear door caught everyone’s attention. “He’s here!”

O’Hanlon entered, surrounded by his bodyguards and, after a short while, the remaining mercenaries gradually followed him in.

At precisely 11:00 the steel doors were slammed shut and locked. “Is everyone here?” O’Hanlon looked to Harris for the head count.

“Looks like three have had a change of heart; Thomas, Peterson and Walsh. Pity really, they’re normally reliable and good soldiers to have on your side.”

O’Hanlon looked around, assessing the group of assembled men, striving to show pride in what he saw. “Well, we still have plenty of good men here and there’ll be bonuses all round when we divvy out the cowards’ pay cheques.” That seemed to bring a smile to the majority of faces and Bodie managed to dredge one up himself, despite his increasing tension.

“OK, Harris,” O’Hanlon continued. “Distribute the weapons. An Ingram with six magazines for each man and as many grenades as they can carry. Give Bodie the Beretta and the blade then split the Semtex between the pair of you.”

Now, Sir, Bodie thought to himself. Attack now before they’re armed and, as if he’d read his mind, he heard Mr Cowley’s amplified voice emanating from high in the warehouse, still recognisable despite being distorted by the loudhailer. “This is CI5. Put down your arms.”

What came as a surprise was how many of the men had actually brought their own weapons and how prepared they were to use them.

Bodie had no intention of being caught in the crossfire so he leapt behind the nearest concrete pillar where he lay prone, his own gun drawn.

It was O’Hanlon who fired the first shot, quickly followed by a volley from his men. But they didn’t know what they were shooting at; CI5 hadn’t opened fire and therefore hadn’t revealed their position.

Bodie knew exactly where they’d be though; high up where they’d have good visuals and excellent cover. He briefly wondered if they were holding back their attack on his behalf but then recalled, with a wry smile, they never had done before.

The Controller was therefore giving them time to assess their situation. He was nothing if not fair and was seeking to secure a blood-free outcome, if at all possible. “Throw down your weapons. Fighting us will be futile. We have you surrounded and there are armed men outside both doors. You cannot escape.”

There were low murmurings amongst the terrorists as some considered surrendering but those who knew O’Hanlon well, knew he never tolerated betrayal which made a good argument for staying to fight their way out.

Something caught Bodie’s eye and his attention was drawn back to movement close by. A member of the gang was making his way surreptitiously over towards the nearer of the two crates, the one containing the grenades. Unfortunately, he was using the available cover well, preventing Bodie from getting a clean shot.

Bodie dragged himself away from his place of relative safety, intending to crawl to a better position but a shot splintered the dirt close by. He surveyed the surrounding area and saw a familiar mop of curly hair bobbing behind a pillar in a darker corner of the warehouse floor. What the hell? Why was Ray shooting at him and why was he not safely hidden high on the gantry with the rest of the squad?

Or perhaps he was not actually shooting at him but attempting to warn him to keep his head down. With that thought, Bodie inched back to his hiding place.

The terrorist had almost reached the crate when another shot rang out. His body jerked then stilled, a pool of blood gradually seeping from his flank.

Unfortunately, this second shot from Ray’s Browning 9mm had pinpointed his location to the terrorists and a volley of rounds were sent his way.

At the same time, two of O’Hanlon’s men made a dash for the crate and managed to drag it closer before they were cut down. But they’d done their job and Kelly was able to grab a handful of grenades to distribute.

At this point, the might of CI5 was let loose and Bodie could do nothing but curl into a ball, arms wrapped over his head, protecting himself as best he could. Bullets were sprayed everywhere from both sides, sending shards of concrete and wood ricocheting around him and he felt the sharp nicks as they tore at his clothing.

Two grenades were lobbed but fell short of the gantries and detonated far below their intended targets and, one by one, the terrorists were stopped in their tracks.

Eventually, the gunfire slowed and Bodie was able take stock. Uncoiling, he raised his head to look around and could see men lying where they’d fallen or sitting nursing their injuries. A couple were standing with their arms raised in submission. But there was no sign of the three leaders.

Shit! There was no way they could have escaped CI5’s cordon so where the hell were they?

And then he saw O’Hanlon. He had his forearm wrapped around Ray’s neck and was pulling his limp body upright, a gun pressing hard against his temple.

“You there!” O’Hanlon shouted. “Lower your weapons or I’ll shoot your man, here.”

Doyle appeared to be struggling to remain conscious; his face was smeared in blood and his right arm hung loosely at his side, a dark patch spreading across his sleeve.

“Kelly, get over here. You too, Harris. That’s right, either side.” O’Hanlon was waving his gun hand, indicating where they should stand but before they were in position a shot rang out from high in the warehouse and his skull shattered, shooting out gouts of brain tissue and bone, splattering Doyle, catching in his hair. O’Hanlon’s body crumpled, dragging his hostage down with him. Kelly immediately responded, blindly spraying the area with automatic gunfire before someone dispatched him as well, a high-powered bullet punching a hole straight through his neck.

In the meantime, Harris had managed to extricate Doyle from O’Hanlon’s grasp and, using his unresisting body as a shield, had dragged him back behind cover.

The shooting stopped and an eerie silence filled the warehouse before Bodie called out. “Pete. It’s over, man. Let him go.”

“Bill, you mad bastard. Thought you’d copped it. Get over here and give us a hand.”

“Better let him go, mate,” Bodie calmly repeated, “and give yourself up. We’ll not get out of here alive if you don’t.”

“What? Don’t be thick. ‘Course we will. We have a bargaining chip, right here. He’s one of theirs and they won’t want to lose him. Me, on the other hand, I’m nobody. Not worth wasting the lead on. Come on, Bill, shift your sorry arse!”

Keeping low, Bodie slowly made his way over towards the two people who had both meant so much to him. The man he had hero worshipped all those years ago now threatening the man he loved more than life itself.

But Ray had found some strength from somewhere. He shook his head, shifting some of the blood before trying to squirm free. “Bodie?” he suddenly croaked, surprisingly loudly.

Harris straightened, further tightening his hold, making him gasp in pain.

Sensing the imminent danger, Bodie threw caution to the wind and stood up so he could quicken his pace. “Pete? Come on mate, you don’t stand a chance. CI5 never make deals, you know that, even for one of their own. You really don’t want to die here.”

But Harris was on high alert now and was rapidly assessing the scene before him. The gunfire hadn’t started up again and his old oppo was walking towards him, unchallenged, focused totally on the gun held to his hostage’s head; a hostage who apparently knew his name. The facts insidiously fell into place, coming together in one long thread of previously unrecognised evidence.

“You’re with them!” he suddenly declared, spitting the words out.

When Bodie didn’t immediately answer, he increased the pressure across Doyle’s throat.

“You’re one of the bastards, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. I work for CI5,” Bodie warily admitted. He’d lost the element of surprise now but was still too far away.

“You’ve been feeding them intel, haven’t you? O’Hanlon, Kelly and all the rest are dead because of you? That’s right, isn’t it, Billy me lad?”

Bodie was relieved to see the gun that had previously been threatening Ray was now turned in his direction. He stopped and raised his own weapon, holding it steadily in both hands. The odds were more evenly balanced now, if he could just keep Harris’ attention away from Ray.

“Shoot him, Bodie. Take him, now,” he could hear Murphy shouting from somewhere behind him - but it really wasn’t that simple. You don’t just shoot your mates, especially the one who’d rescued him all those years ago, helped him survive and become the person he was today, ultimately bringing him to this place, this now, this life.

But he hardly had time to consider his options before the decision was taken from him as a searing pain blasted through his chest. So, Harris had no qualms about shooting an old friend, then? He would have laughed if he could. Instead, he watched impotently as his gun fell from his grasp and he glanced down, briefly mesmerised by a bloom of crimson that was quickly spreading across his shirt front. He heard someone call his name again. It took the last of his strength to raise his head to watch as Harris disappeared into the murky, dark shadows, his arm still wrapped firmly around his partner’s throat, before his legs finally buckled and he pitched forward.

Ray…?

*****

“Ah, is it not yourself, George?” Sister Flaherty greeted the Head of CI5 with a kindly smile as he pushed open the side room door.

“Och, it’s lovely to see you, Theresa.” Genuinely pleased to meet his old friend again, he clasped her warm hand between his own. “Though I wish it were under more pleasant circumstances. I seem to be spending more and more of my time here, visiting injured agents. So how, might I ask, is Doyle doing?”

She looked over at the patient sympathetically as he was being repositioned in the bed. “Oh, the bullet’s been removed from his arm, so it has but he has a nasty head injury, the poor lamb.”

“Yes, he was unlucky to catch the fallout from the grenade blasts. No permanent damage though, I hope.”

“I’ll be saying a little prayer for him tonight,” she offered reassuringly.

“Thank you, Sister. And Bodie; have you heard anything yet?”

“Himself is still in surgery, so he is. Sure, won’t I be telling you as soon as there’s news.” She walked over to the bed and straightened the counterpane unnecessarily as the student nurses looked on, disappointed that their efforts were still not quite good enough. “There we go now. We’ll be putting them in the same room, so we will, otherwise we’ll be getting no peace if we don’t,” she advised everyone wisely, having acquired much experience of the 3.7 and 4.5 pairing over the past two years.

“Nurse Evans. You’ll be staying here with Mr Doyle. Fifteen-minute neuro obs and report any changes to me directly. Nurse Dixon, you can take your break now. Be off with you and mind you’re not late back,” she ordered, clapping her hands briskly before turning back to the CI5 Controller. “Come George, I’ve a nice bit of fruit cake in my office that’ll be just perfect with a hot cup of tea.”

*****

Doyle couldn’t prevent a pitiful groan escaping when he first tried opening his eyes. The sunlight blazing through the window opposite sent slivers of red-hot agony lancing through his skull and he quickly clamped his lids shut again, turning his face away from the source. Eventually, lying quite still, almost too afraid to move, the pounding in his head settled back into something more bearable and his stomach stopped roiling about so nauseatingly.

As he practiced the breathing technique taught to him by his Sensei many years ago, he solemnly swore to himself that he’d never, ever drink again. It must have been Bodie’s doing because he liked a tipple and Ray had long ago realised that he shouldn’t try keeping up with him if he had any hope of functioning the following day. He drifted off to sleep, secretly hoping that his partner felt just as shit as he did, on this overly-sunny morning.

Remembering to be more cautious the next time he woke, he rested with his eyes closed, trying to recall what occasion they’d been celebrating to cause him to get so pissed. But, as he lay there, feeling inordinately sorry for himself, his other senses slowly began to awaken.

With a rapidly sinking heart, he finally recognised the unmistakably sounds and smells of a hospital. He hated these places, having spent far too much of his time in them, for one reason or another.

He could hear the indistinct voices of the medical staff, the swish of curtains and the occasional clatter of a trolley. Then there was the strong smell of disinfectant which always stirred up vividly painful memories from his childhood. But, overlying all of that, the unmistakeable and hypnotic click, hiss and sigh of a machine keeping some poor sod alive.

So, he didn’t have a simple hangover then? What had he done now, he wondered, to warrant being brought in here? The realisation that the headache and nausea might be symptoms of a concussion, rather than alcohol induced, vaguely crossed his mind. And then there was the deep-seated throb emanating from the area around his upper right arm to consider as well. But what worried him most was that he had no recollection whatsoever of what had happened to him.

He bravely cracked an eyelid open and was instantly grateful to realise that the ward was now shrouded in darkness, with only a soft light glowing down from the wall above his bed.

He started to wonder when Bodie might pop his head around the door, although he did realise it was quite possible that he’d been and gone unnoticed whilst he had slept on obliviously. That saddened him because he missed the idiot when he wasn’t around.

His thoughts were disturbed by someone talking close by and he rolled his head to try and see who it was but the only other bed in the side-room had a curtain pulled around it with its over-head light illuminating the secret area within. The silhouettes of three people suggested a doctor and two nurses, he decided. He couldn’t make out what they were saying exactly though, just quiet words drowned out by the rhythmical sounds of the respirator.

As he continued to watch, Doyle found himself drifting off again, lulled by the soporific sounds.

 

Until, annoyingly, someone gently touched his shoulder. “Good morning, Mr Doyle.”

His eyes shot open and he found himself looking up at a young nurse, standing by his bed, holding out something that was presumably for him.

It took a few moments for him to get his bearings and to remember where he was.

The staff nurse, who was standing beside the medicine trolley, recognised his disorientation and took pity. “Are you in pain, Mr Doyle?”

He considered the question for a few moments and was pleasantly surprised to realise that he felt much better after, what appeared, a good night’s sleep. “Er, no, I don’t think so, thank you.”

“Excellent. So, if you’ll just take those antibiotics, we can move on and leave you in peace.”

The student nurse resolutely held out the pot for him again, rattling it impatiently.

“For heaven’s sake, Nurse Brown! Pass the patient some water; he won’t be able to manage without some assistance.”

“Yes Staff. Sorry Mr Doyle.”

Ray tipped the two capsules into his mouth and accepted the glass of tepid water. As he obediently swallowed them down, she apologised again, reassuring him that the ladies would be around with the tea soon.

When they’d finally left the room, he settled himself and waited for sleep to carry him away again. He relished the relative quietness, confining the general noises of an awakening hospital to the back of his mind. Peace at last.

But for some reason, sleep eluded him and, as he lay there, he vaguely recalled being disturbed some time during the night. There had been an alarm noisily demanding attention, some restrained but urgent voices calling to each other, wheels squeaking and doors banging. Then, almost as quickly as it had woken him, the commotion had stopped and there was silence again. Ray had felt nothing at the time except relief and had instantly fallen asleep, unconcerned by the untimely crisis.

He now wondered what had happened and looked across at the other bed hoping his neighbour might know something but he was surprised to see it was now empty, bedecked with clean linen, ready and waiting. Waiting for… waiting for whom?

He hadn’t even seen who had previously occupied the bed and therefore he wouldn’t be able to say if it was them who next lay in it or if a different patient altogether took their place in this transient world of ever-changing faces. People came and went, were admitted and discharged. Some even died and left feet first… Doyle choked on that thought. Was it possible that that was what he remembered hearing; the activities surrounding a person’s passing? The frantic efforts the staff made to save someone, to stop them slipping away… and perhaps failing?

He felt an overwhelming sadness for another life possibly lost.

He’d have to ask Bodie to find out when he came in… if the lazy sod ever got his act together and deigned to pay him a visit.

Breakfast eventually arrived and he picked at the insipid food. Some fresh fruit would have been nice, he decided. Grapes were his normal preference when he was laid up in hospital but his partner would invariably arrive laden with packets of biscuits instead. “Not had time to eat, Ray. Twice the workload, I have, what with you skiving off,” being his usual excuse for then proceeding to scoff as many as he could before he had to leave.

Doyle smiled to himself at the memories.

The day wore on slowly but Bodie still didn’t appear.

His boss did, though.

“Ah, 4.5. You’re looking better this evening. How’s the head?”

“Better than it was last night, I can tell you. What happened, sir?”

“How much do you remember, laddie?”

“Erm,” Doyle looked away, embarrassed. “It’s all a bit vague. I was hoping Bodie would fill me in when he got here. That’s me presuming we were on an op together when I was injured,” he indicated his bandaged arm and sniggered, trying to lighten his confused mood. “Unless the pillock himself shot me.”

Cowley pulled up the orange plastic chair and slowly sat down at the bedside. He placed his briefcase on the floor and removed his glasses, folding them carefully before sliding them into his top pocket.

When he eventually looked up, Doyle was surprised to see how strained he looked.

“Do you recall that 3.7 was working undercover?”

Doyle shook his head. So, they weren’t working together then? That might explain why he hadn’t been in to visit. Perhaps he didn’t even know he’d been hurt.

“He’d infiltrated a group of terrorists we suspected of planning an attack on Downing Street.”

“Who was his back-up?”

“You, initially. Unfortunately, you suspected your cover had been blown and had to step back. Bodie continued to pass vital information across to us via various routes.”

So, who was watching his back, then? He had a bad feeling about this.

But Mr Cowley continued to explain. “The operation was drawing to an end and we were rounding up the terrorists when you were injured and taken hostage. We had the place surrounded so there was no escape and the terrorists knew this. The only bargaining chip they had was you. Bodie tried to negotiate your release but was shot in the process.”

“Shot?” Ray repeated incredulously.

“Aye. Punctured lung. We brought him here and he was taken straight to theatre but then, last night, his condition unexpectedly deteriorated.”

Doyle turned and stared at the empty bed besides his. The awful truth of it was beginning to hit home. The events of the night coming back in all their clarity; the alarm, the voices, the urgency… the stony silence that followed.

He didn’t want to hear the answer but he knew he had to ask the question. “Was he in that… was he the patient… who…?”

Cowley saw the confusion give way to understanding. “Yes, Doyle. Sister Flaherty thought it prudent to put you both in the same room.”

Ray swallowed, hard.

“Is he dead, sir?”

“No lad, he’s not dead. They took him back for emergency surgery during the night and then transferred him up to the Intensive Care Unit.”

Not dead yet, then.

“Have you seen him?”

“Ach no. You know what those places are like, Doyle. Close family only.”

“But he has no family. He’ll be alone…”

Cowley sighed impatiently. “I’ve been told he’s still unconscious.” He knew that sounded harsh but he really didn’t want to deal with anyone else’s reactions at this time. Yes, he sympathised with Doyle, knowing how close he and Bodie had become, but he still had a job to focus on.

Relenting a little, he softened his tone. “I had hoped to be able to take your report this evening but there doesn’t seem much point until your memory returns.” He stood up abruptly and put the chair back against the wall. He picked up his briefcase but then hesitated by the bedside. “Try and get some rest, 4.5. I’ll drop by again tomorrow.”

Then he was gone, limping out into the main ward.

So, Bodie was here, in the same hospital then? Ray didn’t know what to think of that. He felt overwhelmed with his turbulent emotions - guilt, fear, panic and, confusing all of it, his amnesia. Where did things lie between him and Bodie? Had he told him how he felt? No, he didn’t believe he had.

In all likelihood, he’d probably blown his chances but, never being one to easily accept defeat, he started planning his campaign of action, determined to improve the odds.

Stay alive, Bodie. Please, stay alive. I need you.

He waited until the night nurses had done their drugs round and were occupied settling the other patients down before he made his move. He couldn’t find his clothes so he wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, and walked bare-footed out of his room, clinging to the drip-stand as he pushed it along. He was relieved to get as far as the lift without meeting anyone but then realised he could have done with some help opening and closing the heavy metal gates. In the end, he managed and leant exhausted against the lift wall as it carried him up the one floor to the ICU.

The eight-bedded unit was dimly lit, but he could see the members of staff congregated at the far end, obviously tending to one of the patients. Unchallenged, Doyle quietly walked in, searching between all the medical paraphernalia for Bodie. He almost didn’t recognise him as he lay there, so very still, his pale skin camouflaged by the white of the sheets, only his dark hair offering some contrast. There wasn’t much of his face to see either; he had a tube going down his throat distorting the natural shape of his mouth, another up a nostril, oxide tape securing it to his cheek and his eyelids had micropore taping them shut, masking his long lashes. But he still looked beautiful to Ray.

Doyle squeezed himself in behind the curtain, between both their drip stands, avoiding the chest-drain bottle and a catheter bag before he could finally sit down at the bedside.

“Hello mate,” he whispered, taking hold of Bodie’s limp hand. “I missed you. Wondered why you hadn’t bothered visiting me. Then the Cow explained you’d been hurt so I’ve come up to see you instead.”

He still hadn’t shaken off the idea that Bodie had passed away during the night and, looking at him now, he didn’t have to try too hard to imagine it was actually true.

“Don’t die on me, Bodie,” he pleaded. “Not now.”

Getting no response, Doyle leaned forward to rest his increasingly aching head on top of their joined hands, trying to slow a sudden wave of nauseating dizziness.

If he could just rest for a little while, he’d try again later, when Bodie was conscious and talking…

He was again woken by a light shake of his shoulder.

“Mr Doyle? Come on, Mr Doyle. We’d like to take you back to your own ward now.”

Ray struggled to lift his head. He looked around, trying to remember where he was. He gripped the hand he held a little tighter, knowing it was important never to let go.

“Mr Doyle, the doctor needs to see to Mr Bodie. Will you let me help you into this wheelchair?”

“Nnnnn… nnnno…”

A deliciously cool hand caressed his forehead. “I don’t think he’s very well, Mr Rogers. He feels clammy and appears disorientated. Shall I put him in Bed 4 so you can examine him?”

“Yes, yes, Sister. Do his obs, please and I’ll be over as soon as I have Mr Bodie here stabilised.”

“Nnnnnno…” Ray feebly tried to object as insistent hands pulled him up to a sitting position.

*****

“I’m glad the lads are well enough to return to your tender care, Theresa. They both gave us quite a fright.”

“They certainly did that, George. But they’re improving now, so they are. Bodie do be breathing on his own at last and Ray woke up briefly this morning, wanting for a cup of tea. Mind you, didn’t he drop off again and left it to go cold, so he did?” She smiled down at the sleeping form. “He looks so young, lying there in sleep. Sure, it’s hard to believe what he does for a living.”

“He and Bodie both,” Cowley corrected. “They have formed an excellent partnership, despite their shaky start. A teaming that I was advised against, I’ll have you know, that no-one thought would work. Och, don’t get me wrong, they’re aggravating, insubordinate and unorthodox but they get results and can be relied upon to do the job. They seem to have a sort of telepathy which eliminates the need for time-wasting discussion. Yes, Theresa, they are my best but, I’m warning you, I’ll deny this conversation ever happened, if you repeat it to them.”

“Oh goodness, George, would I ever be so stupid as to do such a thing? Don’t they have heads on themselves that are already too big? Come now, let’s be leaving them to rest. And what about yourself, there? You’ll be having a bit more of that cake, with your cup of tea?”

The ward sister ushered Mr Cowley out of the room, concerned about his obvious exhaustion. She had never before seen him look so weary and was determined to help him recover now that his agents seemed to be on the mend.

*****

His scalp was itching but he just couldn’t get at it to have a good scratch. He seemed to have something wrapped around his head, turban-like.

A warm hand stilled his arm. “Try and leave your bandages alone, Mr Doyle.”

“Bandages?” he repeated, looking around. “Why, s’appened?”

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

Ah, Doyle briefly wondered, why couldn’t she at least start with a simple question? He tried struggling through the layers of elusive impressions and confused thoughts but, in the end, it all proved futile and he drifted off back to sleep instead, where he was safe and untroubled.

He awoke again with a start when a new round of torture began. Some bugger had prised open his eyelid and was shining a painfully bright light directly into his brain. He tried to pull away and the beam was extinguished immediately.

“If you could hold your head still for a moment, Mr Doyle, I just need to check your pupils.” A quiet but firm voice stopped him rolling his head away. “Thank you. How are you feeling this morning?”

Ray considered the question for a few moments before venturing a look around his prison cell.

His torturer was smiling down at him, her crisp white apron rustled as she scribbled on the chart.

Oh, so a nurse then.

A vague memory - or perhaps a dream - ambushed him and he whipped his head around to look at the adjacent bed but the movement set off a bout of dizziness, nausea and pain.

“Now that wasn’t very clever, was it, Mr Doyle? You need to take things slowly, give your body time to recover. You’ve been very poorly but you appear to be on the mend now.”

“Poorly?” he asked vaguely.

“Yes. You’ve had an operation to remove a small blood clot from the surface of your brain. The surgery went well and we’ve just been waiting for you to wake up properly. You’ve been drifting in and out of consciousness since yesterday.”

“Bodie?” He needed to know.

“I’m glad to say, he is recovering as well. Turn your head slowly this time and you can see for yourself,” the nurse patiently advised him.

“Hello, Ray,” a quiet but very recognisable voice drifted across the short gap left between the two beds. “’bout time you woke up.”

Ray felt a huge surge of relief lift his chest and his lips quirked spontaneously but he couldn’t prevent his words from sounding harsh. “You dumb crud! What the hell did you think you were doing…?”

“Mr Doyle, please! You must stay calm. You can have this argument later when you and Mr Bodie are feeling stronger. In the meantime, you both need to rest. Relax, take everything slowly and you’ll be back saving the world soon enough.”

“Yes, nurse,” Ray replied, almost meekly. He could already understand the wisdom of her words as a dull pounding had started up again at the back of his head.

He looked across towards his best friend and found himself on the receiving end of one of the most beautiful smiles he’d ever witnessed. Yes, this was how it should be; just the two of them – together.

They both failed to notice when the nurse quietly left their room.

*****

They were lounging around in Ray’s flat, vaguely watching the Manchester derby on the box, although neither of them could quite summon up the energy to get excited, even when City eventually scored. “Mancky bastards, the lot of them,” Bodie pronounced uncompromisingly.

Doyle balanced his empty mug on the arm of the chair and turned to face him. “Then get up off your arse and turn it off if you don’t want to watch. You’ve been lying there for the last three hours. It’s about time you moved.”

Bodie lifted his head up off the cushion, gave his partner a pained look and coughed pathetically. “But I’m not well!”

“In case it’s escaped your notice, neither am I. I only had my stitches out yesterday. At least yours came out a couple of days ago.”

“Yeah, OK. Fairy snuff,” Bodie surprisingly conceded. “D’you want anything from the kitchen? I need to go for a piss anyway.”

“Stick the kettle on again, would you? Oh, and bring back the takeaway menus. We’re goin’ to have to think about food sometime soon.”

Doyle watched as Bodie slowly got to his feet and tentatively stretched, revealing an enticing view of a nicely turned belly button, before he pulled his shirt back down over his hips and shuffled over to silence the television. At least he was getting around on his own two feet now, Ray acknowledged. He recalled Bodie’s angry tirade when the doctor insisted that he would need to be able to climb a flight of stairs before they’d consider discharging him and Bodie’s indignation that they had the bare-faced cheek to insinuate he might not be capable of even doing that.

Unfortunately, the reality had hit hard when he did eventually reach the top step – grey, sweating and breathless – and a worried physio had had to rush off to find a wheelchair in order to safely get him back to his bed. But Bodie made them stick to their word and they eventually agreed to him going home where, he insisted, he would recover more quickly.

And here they both were, looking after each other as best they could.

Murphy had popped in briefly to bring them up to date with the op. Apparently, six of the terrorists had been captured and Mr Cowley had already completed the interrogations of the four who were deemed fit enough. The rest had all died during the gun battle. Murphy had then turned to Bodie and told him that Harris had finally succumbed to the injury he’d sustained in the warehouse. The brave bastard had even admitted that he’d been the one who’d taken the shot in order to save Doyle.

Bodie had gone quiet for a while as he’d absorbed the news but then he’d looked up and smiled sadly. “It’s OK, Murph. You had no other option. Besides, Pete would have hated prison.”

Before Murphy left, he’d voluntarily rustled up coffee and sandwiches for the ‘invalids’ then he’d picked up Doyle’s shopping list and promised to drop it all off tomorrow afternoon, barring any national emergency. He’d left looking a lot happier than he had when he’d arrived but relief could do that to you.

The kettle clicked off and, with a deep sigh, Ray got up to brew the tea himself. He found a packet of Garibaldi hidden behind the bag of sugar. He’d forgotten he’d bought them weeks ago – a small concession to Bodie’s sweet tooth but only because he liked them himself.

He pushed the biscuits into his sling and carried them along with the teapot, milk bottle and sugar bowl through to the living room in two trips. He was pleased to note that he felt quite steady after all the exertion and it occurred to him that he hadn’t experienced any further dizziness since he’d woken that morning. So hopefully, he was over the worst now.

He refilled their mugs, adding a spoonful of sugar to Bodie’s, before he sat back down and sipped at the hot brew.

His memory had been coming back slowly too and he could now recall everything, right up until the raid on the warehouse. That was still a complete blank though and the surgeon had suggested he might never remember the events of that day. Ray would be eternally grateful if it was the only long-term effect of their combined injuries. He could live with that.

He slowly began to relax in the peace and quiet. It was good to be home and he felt himself idly drifting off. Bodie’s tea would be cold if he didn’t hurry up, he vaguely thought to himself.

He opened his eyes and looked around. Where the hell was the idiot? He seemed to have been gone for ages.

“Bodie,” he shouted. “What you up to in there?”

When he didn’t hear a reply, he pulled himself up and wandered off towards the bathroom. “Bodie? You OK?”

Pushing open the door, he was shocked to see his partner sitting on the floor, leaning back against the bath, face ashen.

He fell to his knees by his side. “Mate? What’s up?”

But Bodie just looked at him and said nothing; his eyes wide, pleading, speech obviously impossible. He just sat there, his breaths coming in shallow, rapid gasps.

“I’m getting an ambulance. I knew you should have stayed in hospital,” Ray shouted angrily as he went to stand up again.

Bodie grabbed his good wrist and stopped him. “No,” he rasped.

“Don’t be a cretin, look at you!” Doyle tried to pull away but Bodie’s grip held him fast.

“Wait. Give us… a minute…”

Reassured that he was actually speaking, Ray knelt back down, prepared to give him at least that.

Gradually, Bodie’s breathing deepened and he looked less…frightened was the word that sprang to Ray’s mind.

“Feeling any better now?” he asked hopefully.

“Yeah… thanks.”

“What happened? You only came in to use the loo.”

“Dropped the towel… pain took m… breath when I tried to… pick it up.”

Ray looked round and saw the offending article lodged behind the pedestal. He dragged it out, along with a mass of dusty cobwebs and a rusty old Bic razor, and threw it all angrily into the bath.

“You stupid bugger. What’s wrong with drying your hands on your trousers, eh?” he asked. “I’ve seen you doing it before, plenty of times.”

Bodie smiled weakly. “Help us up, will you? Think I’d be better off in bed.”

“Yeah, come on but just take it easy, OK.”

With Ray’s support, Bodie struggled, in a rather undignified manner, to get on his hands and knees then he used the edge of the bath to haul himself upright.

He stood shakily, head down, gripping the edge of the wash basin whilst he took a few deeper breaths. When the pain didn’t return, he puffed out his cheeks with a relieved sigh. “Remind me not - to do that - again.” He looked up and smiled crookedly.

“Come on, you. We’ve had far too much excitement for one day. We need sleep.”

 

Ray came awake when he felt the mattress dip to one side.

“Cuppa on the side for you.”

He rolled over and looked at Bodie who was settling himself back in bed, the white towelling robe barely covering his long legs. He seemed to be deep in thought, studying the contents of his mug.

“You OK this morning?” he asked gently.

Bodie took a sip of his tea before turning to face him. “Sorry I was such a nance last night. Got myself a bit stuck.”

“Yeah? Well, it’s hardly unexpected when it’s you we’re dealing with, now is it?”

Bodie didn’t reply immediately; just continued looking his way. “Bloody glad you were there, Ray,” he eventually whispered.

“I’d always be there for you, Bodie. If you’ll let me,” he whispered back.

Bodie blinked before turning away.

“Look you disbelieving sod. I mean what I say.” Ray would have shaken him if he had two good arms to do it. “I’m not like Harris; I won’t intentionally let you down.”

“I do know. It’s just… you can’t always trust… you shouldn’t…People… Oh, fuck!”

Bodie’s chin dropped to his chest and his eyes closed.

“Talk to me, Bodie. You can’t bottle it up forever.”

The subsequent silence seemed deafening but he waited and eventually Bodie spoke.

“He shot me, Ray. Without any hesitation, he tried to kill me. I thought we were…”

“I know, mate but it had been years since you last saw him. People change. Life changes people.”

“Yeah, I’m not quite as naïve as I used to be but it’s just… disappointing, you know... when someone falls off the pedestal you stuck ‘em on.”

“We’re only human, mate. We all make mistakes.”

“And now he’s dead.”

Doyle scooted closer and wrapped his good arm around Bodie’s shoulders, pulling him in tight.

“Do you want to tell me about him… about what happened? It might just help, you know.”

Doyle felt Bodie tense up but, remembering some of the techniques Ross had used on him after the shooting, he held his prejudiced tongue. It worked because Bodie finally took a deep breath and stepped off his precipice.

“He took me under his wing when I signed on. Said it was because I reminded him of another young lad who’d been killed and he promised himself it wasn’t going to happen to me. Good job really because I had no bloody idea what I’d let myself in for.

“He was a good few years older and I looked up to him, you know what I mean? For my part, I kept him grounded. Bloody nuisance I expect, questioning everything, keen to learn but wanting to know the whys and wherefores. I picked it all up quickly though and I think that’s why we lived so long. We were a two-man army.

“We stayed partnered for about five months which, for the work we did, was quite a stretch. Teams didn’t usually last long; injury or death put paid to many. So, we’d done pretty well.”

Bodie stopped talking and seemed to drift off somewhere, far away.

“Go on,” Doyle encouraged. “So, what happened?”

“We were captured.” Bodie suddenly seemed to notice the mug he still held in his lap and drank the contents down in one noisy gulp. “Yuk, it’s cold. Do you want another?”

“Yeah, OK.”

As Bodie climbed off the bed, he turned and looked back at the rumpled form lying there looking all disappointed.

“I will tell you the rest, Ray,” he promised. “Just need a break. It’s not that easy, raking it all up.”

Ray was shocked by how vulnerable he looked standing there, as he twisted the tie on his robe nervously, but knew he was building up to do one of the bravest things he’d probably ever done.

“In your own time, mate. I’m not going anywhere,” he repeated, hoping Bodie would start to believe.

“So just wait there, looking all gorgeous, and I’ll be back.” Bodie collected their two mugs and shuffled off to the kitchen.

He came back eventually, keeping his face averted, conscious of the puffiness around his eyes but he should have known he couldn’t hide things from Ray. He passed him his mug before carefully climbing back into bed, lying so close they were touching, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip. They both sipped their tea quietly as they thought over what had already been spoken about, what was about to be said.

Bodie knew he was only delaying the inevitable, that he was going to tell Ray as much as he could and that it had to be now. He swallowed noisily then cleared his throat.

“Pete and I had been sent out to recce a military arms cache - look for access points, check defences, plan routes - and we were just about finished when a kid wandered into the encampment, seen us skulking about and started shouting. Bunda, bunda! Pete refused to silence him, preferring to quietly retreat, but we ran straight into a returning patrol who’d heard the commotion and that was us, done for. Unfortunately, there were no trials for our sort and it was either a swift bullet in the back of the head or imprisonment, depending on their mood. We drew the short straw.”

“Funnily enough, at first I was grateful that we’d been stuck in the same cell ‘cause I thought we could watch out for each other but we were outnumbered and could do nothing when the guards… when the bastards… fresh meat, fresh entertainment, you know what I mean?” Bodie bravely looked up and checked that Doyle understood. “We didn’t stand a chance. I’ll never know how we survived but we did. Then about two months after our capture, I woke up in hospital. Pete was there, looking like death warmed up but at least he was safe. At some point though, he was moved and I never saw him again.”

“Where did you go when you’d recovered?” The real question Doyle wanted to ask was what happened in those two months but he knew the answer to that might lay hidden forever.

“I went back to camp, to find him, but he’d gone. The whole camp had gone, so I moved on as well, eventually making it to Angola. I had to learn to fight my own battles again ‘cause I was on me own.”

He said no more, just seemed to retreat back into those nightmare days, now that the long-buried memories had been unearthed again.

Ray rolled onto his side so he could watch Bodie as he lay there, digesting the enormity of what he’d just revealed. He looked so lost, probably exactly how he had felt at eighteen when Harris had been taken from him.

Doyle carefully lifted his injured arm to place his hand on Bodie’s bare chest, slipping it between the folds of the bathrobe, where he could feel the steady lub-dub of the strong heart beneath.

“I won’t leave you,” he promised. “You’re not alone now.”

Bodie turned, bringing their faces close. “I know,” he said and it was the most natural thing in the world for them both to stretch forward so their lips could touch; chaste, moist and oh so very sweet.

 

Bodie finally stirred when the morning sun drifted up to gently caress his face. He lay still for a while, relishing the comfort and peace.

And then he remembered where he was.

In an actual bed, with Ray. How glorious was that?

No more carpet burns or draughty hallways for them. Unless the need for spontaneity seized them, of course.

But now, right now, they were lying together, naked, legs tangled beneath soft sheets and cosy blankets. He opened his eyes, squinting through the sunlight, to see that Ray was wide awake and Bodie briefly wondered if he’d even been to sleep, the way he was looking at him, all smug and contented.

Finding the energy to reach across to run the palm of his hand over the furry chest, laid out so temptingly beside him, was proving far more difficult than Bodie thought it should. His orgasm, the second of the morning, had ripped him apart and he wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to move again.

But that shouldn’t stop an ex SAS soldier, injured or not. He dug deep into his reserves and found just enough energy to do it anyway, for the sheer, unadulterated pleasure.

He so wanted to say something profound, something that might describe his current happiness, but his befuddled brain still had some catching up to do.

Ray had been right though; he did feel better for talking about his past. Yeah OK, he might have left a number of significant gaps in the story but he hoped, one day, he’d be able to fill in those as well.

But for now, he just wanted to enjoy the moment.

“Thanks, Sunshine,” he whispered, hoping it said enough.

 

the end