Helen Raven’s Slash Fiction Site


fragments from an unfinished Pros novel by Helen Raven

Doyle had decided, on balance, that the lack of rank in CI5 was A Good Thing, at least in the short term. He had had enough of being part of the foundation of a pyramid. A heavy, tall pyramid. With CI5 he would still be on the bottom, but so was everyone else except Cowley.

Of course, he was aware that this brought a disadvantage for the long term; there were no prospects for promotion. Doyle�s fierce ambition had eventually been persuaded by the following argument: Cowley can run CI5 on his own because it is small; it is also new, and likely to grow and change; when it gets larger and less manageable, he will have to choose deputies.

Doyle intended that the choice should be very simple for Cowley.

The Old Man was probably already sizing them up. He gave all the recruits that line about teams and football but really he just threw them in to get on with it. He was waiting for the natural leaders to emerge, having reached the same conclusions about the future of CI5 as Doyle had.

Because you could not claim that everyone in CI5 got the same treatment. Doyle had been expecting to be put in a two-man team, and had spent much of the induction course trying to decide who Cowley would pair him with. He�d been looking forward to it, as the clearest sign so far of how Cowley saw him, what Cowley had planned for him. Would it be another copper, a marksman, maybe? The start of a specialist team. Or one of the military crowd—strong on tactics, weak on tact? A sharing of skills. Whoever it was, Doyle was ready, poised to show himself in his best light. There would be no personality clash; he was prepared to bite his tongue for as long as he was lumbered with this partner. After all, it wasn�t a marriage, and it couldn�t be for more than a few years.—

He was left solo.

Six months in, he still didn�t know what to make of it. He felt as if he had examined the fact from every sensible perspective. At his most optimistic, it was clear proof that Cowley thought he needed no improvement—complete in himself. It sounded very plausible. Until you looked at the other solo agents.

Well, most people would say that Viner was a �complete� wanker, if nothing else. A genius at bomb-disposal, though. Watching him at work, Doyle had felt an uncomfortable mixture of amazement and pity; the man was meant to be a machine, and he�d been born into flesh, forever parted from his own kind.

Was that what the teams said about 4.5? �Course you couldn�t ask anyone to work with him. But the way he shoots... Must�ve been a gun in a previous life.�

No. He didn�t really believe they said anything like that. They joked with him about being solo—the sort of jokes that Viner would never hear, because with Viner it was the truth. As far as they were concerned, he was another team—a team of one—not something separate. That was probably how Cowley saw it too.

It wasn�t often that Doyle had doubts about his situation, and the doubts were only about Cowley�s state of mind. Given a choice, Doyle would much rather be solo. As far as he could see, a partner was just a distraction and a liability, and someone who would take half of the credit for his achievements. Solo, his triumphs were his alone.

And the triumphs were accumulating to plan, with no disasters to set against them. A few mistakes he would not be making again, but you expected that in a new job, and he had never had a reprimand from Cowley. No lavish praise yet, either, no sign of special attention, but it was still early days, and there were more-experienced agents around whom Cowley would naturally think of first. That would change.

He got on well with Cowley. Better than most, he was sure. Always respectful, never wasting his boss� time with half-finished ideas. He didn�t think they�d ever be friends—the idea of meeting Cowley outside work made him wince—but they would make a good team. In three years time, maybe four, Doyle would have the office next to Cowley, and Cowley would be asking his opinion about the pairings for the latest batch of recruits. And afterwards Cowley would suggest a scotch, and Doyle would pull out his own bottle.

That was the kind of team Doyle could imagine. Clear r�les, clear rules. Cowley�s standard lecture on the evils of rank really wouldn�t survive free debate. �Two men on a roof arguing about who�s in charge, they�ll both get shot.� But if one of them is put in charge beforehand, then they won�t argue once they�re on the roof. It was such an obvious response, Doyle couldn�t understand why no one ever made it, even after they were safely in the squad. Maybe Doyle had more rivals than he realised. Maybe they�d all decided to accept Cowley�s version of truth for the time-being, while putting their best energies into becoming CI5�s first sergeant.

It was possible. Doyle wasn�t worried. The other serious candidates were all in teams, and struggling.

* * *

In Doyle�s first year, the squad grew by more than ten percent. Four new members—two teams. Sometimes, over coffee, the lads would discuss the future of CI5, and speculate about its size in five years�... ten years� time. Lucas was usually the one who raised the issue of command-structure, but it was always treated as a joke, with Doyle getting loud agreement when he told Lucas that he�d joined CI5 because there was none of that rubbish.

It was three days after such a discussion, and Doyle had been in the building for less than fifteen minutes. Betty caught up with him as he was making for the rest-room and his second coffee of the morning. Cowley wanted to see him.

A special assignment? Was the grooming about to start? Realistically, he knew it was too soon for any obvious sign of favour, but an early-morning summons was rare, and his imagination knew it.

�Sit down, Doyle.�

Hard to tell much from Cowley�s expression. Watchful, maybe. Doyle tried to look quietly alert.

There was a beige folder on the desk, turned towards Doyle. Cowley leaned forward, and pushed it a few inches in Doyle�s direction. �Read this.�

The name typed on the thin folder was �William Bodie�. Stapled to the topmost sheet inside was a passport photograph. Dark. Unsmiling. Hard-man. Probably dangerous.

Onto the details on the sheet. Oh, only 26—was out by a good four years. Wasted education—could have guessed that. Then, despite himself and his awareness of Cowley�s scrutiny, his eyes widened. A mercenary! What a sweetheart. A few lines on, and his eyes were narrowed in a frown. Christ, don�t they do checks in the army? How much�d he pay for a clean background? And into the SAS so soon. Yes, definitely dangerous.

He opened his mouth to ask Cowley what this one had done, but then thought, �It�ll be in the file. And even if it isn�t, he�d tear a strip off me for asking without finishing the file.� There were about twenty other sheets. He flicked through them backwards, wanting to get an impression before he settled down to read—and started to frown again, this time in puzzlement. Numbers. Statistics. Where was the list of sightings? Connections? Victims?

A name caught his eye. Crane. He stopped and opened the file to that page.

Oh no. Cowley couldn�t be serious.

He�d never seen the details of his own evaluation by Jack Crane over a year ago, but there was only one way Crane could make this kind of report on someone.

That still didn�t... The Centre didn�t just deal with CI5. It could be any of the security agencies. Might even be the SAS still. Then why did Cowley have the file? Maybe Doyle�s first instincts were right and the man had gone off the rails, sometime after Crane had made this report.

The date on the report was just over a fortnight ago. And the remaining sheets were all statistics and conclusions. Cowley must want his opinion.

The numbers, the graphs could mean nothing to him. He turned over the sheets one by one, scanning for the words. Strength. Stamina. Agility. Reaction-times. Concentration. Response under pressure. Intelligence. Aggression. Conduct of interviews and interrogations. Attitude towards authority. Behaviour in groups. Flexibility. Initiative.

This William Bodie sounded as if he had the physique of a bull and the manners to match.

Doyle turned to the last page, hoping to find that the Centre had recommended that Sergeant Bodie stay with the SAS. There was no summary.

What was Cowley after? Doyle spent a while trying to guess, then closed the file and looked up.

�I take it you�re considering him for the squad, sir.�

�I did my considering weeks ago, 4.5. When 3.7 is through the induction next Tuesday, he will be starting as your partner.�

Doyle stared at Cowley. He couldn�t take it in. It was just words. He wanted to see that photograph again, search those challenging eyes for some hint that this was a joke. His hand moved to open the file—but he couldn�t, not with Cowley watching him like that. After a few seconds he managed to get most of the dismay out of his expression.

�It�s, uh... I must say it�s a surprise, sir.�

�Why is that?�

�Well, I thought...� Is this too much? �I�ve been working well solo, haven�t I?� Confident. A light shrug. �Always thought I�d stay that way, sir.�

�It is CI5 policy to pair off its field agents as soon as a suitable partner is available.�

A “suitable” partner. First time you�ve bothered to put it like that. Sir. �Oh yes, I understand the policy, sir. It�s good sense.� He smiled slightly and gestured towards the corridor. �I�d just got the idea that it was flexible. Depending on circumstances.�

�Circumstances, Doyle?�

Doyle blinked and rapidly decided there was no safe response to that. He settled for maintaining the bland smile and raising an eyebrow slightly.

�Am I to understand that you wish to remain a solo agent?�

Of course I bloody do. Especially since I know what sort of thug you�ve got lined up for me. Don�t you care about that background? But to obstruct Cowley�s plans... Bad idea. Even to question his judgement... Indelible black mark against his name. Carefully not thinking of what he was letting himself in for starting next Tuesday, Doyle said, �Anything but, sir. I know I�ll learn a lot from a partner. I just said it was a surprise. And you must admit I�ll have a lot of changes to get used to. And just a few days to get ready.�

A nod and a grunt from Cowley. �Well, you won�t be the first man here to go through that. Talk to the teams. Draw on their experience.�

Earth calling Cowley. Doyle nodded in turn. After a pause, he opened the folder and looked at the photograph with an expression of benign curiosity. Then: �I must admit, sir, I�m wondering what made you -”

�And you can keep on wondering, 4.5. You haven�t seen all of his file, not by a long shot. And he hasn�t seen all of yours. I don�t want either of you wasting time picking over some words on a few sheets of paper. A team isn�t made on paper—it�s made out on the street. And, Doyle...� A pause. �... no team of mine has ever turned out exactly the way the experts predicted.�

Dimly, Doyle thought, �What the hell was that? A warning?� For the moment, he was busy hiding his fury that Cowley had told the mercenary first. For a fraction of a second he was almost angry enough to walk out, but that passed. Maybe it was a test. He had a lot invested here, and a lot to win. Yes, treat it as a test, and if this Bodie was as dim as he looked, then being partnered with him would just make Raymond Doyle look all the better.

�I�ll remember that, sir.� He put the file on the desk. �What time is he arriving on Tuesday?�

Cowley was getting up. �Betty will call you.� He glanced at his watch, then picked up his briefcase and made for the door. �I think you�ll enjoy the next few months, lad.�

Doyle smiled, and held the door open for his boss.

An hour later he had taken over from Lucas and McCabe on a surveillance job in Bayswater. Leaning against the window-frame, listening to them collecting their clutter, he said casually, �You heard I�m gonna be joining the list of double-acts next week?�

There was a pause while they worked that out. Lucas got there first. �Oh, yeah? Who with?�

�A William Bodie. Typical SAS by the looks of him.� Even-more-typical mercenary. But Doyle was keeping quiet about that for now. Safest to leave it to others to condemn his new partner. Don�t burn bridges.

The other men whistled—not quite in tune. They were both ex-coppers. �What a choice! What you done to upset the Cow, Ray?�

Doyle laughed. �I�m still wondering. Nah, he looks useful enough. Fit, even by our standards.�

�Well, you�ll have your work cut out kicking him into shape. And I should know.�

Lucas responded as he was supposed to, and they scuffled their way downstairs. Doyle looked out of the window and smiled lopsidedly. It would be all round the squad by the end of the day. �Ray Doyle�s got lumbered with some siege-happy bone-brain, but he�s going to make the best of it.� �Wonder what the Cow�s thinking of?� �Bet it�s some new theory the Home Office head-shrinkers are trying out.�

Left to himself, he wouldn�t have said anything about the new partner, would have ignored the whole thing for as long as possible, hoping it would go away. But you had to take the initiative, secure the advantages that came when you were on the scene first. With any luck it would soon be obvious that Sergeant Bodie was not working out—through no fault of 4.5�s—and 4.5 would be back solo, and Cowley would be revising his ideas about what made a �suitable partner�.

Because it couldn�t work. Doyle could tell that without even meeting the man. He didn�t deny that those bouncer types had their uses, but the squad had enough of them already, and up till now Cowley had accepted their limitations and kept them on cases involving their own kind. They spoke a different languange, lived in a different world that ran on challenge and submission, like a seal-pack. Doyle could function in that world when necessary, but he didn�t thrive on it; he had to keep coming up for air.

Couldn�t Cowley see that they were different animals? Couldn�t he see that this Bodie wouldn�t be able to adjust? He�d drag Doyle down to his level, and what was the point in that? It was a waste of a good agent. Cowley had to be made to see that, as soon as possible, but without any disasters from the team, or complaints from Doyle.

Tricky. A challenge.

Maybe that was the point. More of Cowley�s triple-think. It was a test. Or a lesson. �See how you deal with this, 4.5.� �Don�t get too cocky, lad. You�ve got a way to go yet.� That was probably it. Of course. No one could take this teaming seriously. Not very subtle by Cowley�s standards. And dangerous while it lasted—it could get one of them killed. Briefly, and with a sense of surprise, he felt a flare of outrage on 3.7�s behalf; the poor lump was being set up, and it wasn�t fair to play with someone�s career like that, not when he wasn�t equipped to defend himself. Should�ve stayed in the SAS, Sergeant Bodie.

The night-shift was taken by Young and Ellison. Young was ex-SAS. Doyle�s eyebrows rose when he saw who it was, and as he nodded a greeting he wondered how he should play this. People hung onto the strangest feelings of loyalty for �the old mob�; you never knew what would be taken as criticism.

�‘s this right, what I hear? The Cow�s putting you with Bodie?� Doyle refused to believe that the note in Young�s voice was admiration.

�Sounds as if you�ve heard of him.�

�Who hasn�t? Bit of a handful, eh?�

�You met him?�

�Uhuh. Brennan might�ve. I left just after he joined. But the stories get back...� He shook his head, smiling.

�Yeah?� Encouraging.

�Mmm.� Considering. �Nah. Don�t want to spoil your high opinion of the mob.�

�Not a credit to it, eh? Reckon he�ll do better in CI5?�

�No, it�s more... Selective approach to orders, y�see. A handful. Sort to make his C.O. pack it in and take up market gardening.�

�You reckon Cowley knows about that?�

�What d�you think? Must�ve decided he was worth taking a risk on. �cos he�s good. Just... Well, rather you than me.�

�I wonder if that counts as a compliment.� Ellison was addressing his reflection in the window. Young laughed, and Doyle finished packing up.

Well, he could have guessed most of that from the report, really, reading between the lines. What did Cowley want with someone like that, never mind how good he was? Someone who couldn�t follow orders. Who obviously couldn�t fit into a team, if he went storming off on his own all the time. That sort of lunatic was all very well in some Hollywood fantasy—even Doyle might cheer him on then—but as a partner for a lifetime�s career...

What was Cowley playing at? Just who was being set up here? Doyle slept badly that night.

He found Brennan in the rest room around lunchtime the next day. Wilson, Brennan�s partner, was also there, and Doyle made tea for the three of them.

�No, I never met him. He got sent off to- No, never even came close.�

�You heard the same stories as Young?�

�Most likely.�

Doyle waited, in vain. �And you�re keeping quiet for the good of the service. Like Young.�

�So would you. �s not like that, though. Nothing you won�t be able to cope with, anyway.�

Try another direction: �‘s he as much of a hard-case as he looks?�

�Worse, probably. Got guts, though. And he sees a thing through. Looks after his mates.�

�What about enemies?�

�Well, there are blokes don�t want to meet him again. I don�t think he looks for trouble, but he�s none too clever at avoiding it.�

�None too clever, full stop?�

�Mmmm. Well, you won�t see him on Mastermind, but he�s turned out right too often for it to be just luck. Give him a chance, Ray.�

�Just doing my research. You know what the Cow says...�

The three eccentric accents clashed in mid-air: �If you believe every word in the guidebooks, you�re a fool, but you�re more of a fool if you don�t even read them.�

Wilson put his mug on the floor. �When�s he start, again?�


�Be a big change for you.�

�Yeah. I know.�

�Bet you thought you were safe, eh?�

Doyle just matched Wilson�s grin, and shrugged.

* * *

Tuesday came round quickly enough. In the meantime he�d seen little of Cowley, and a lot of the room in Bayswater. The two of them would probably get sent off to Barry Martin, but he was trying not to think too far ahead, concentrating all of his efforts on controlling his reactions.

He was in the rest room from nine that morning. By nine-thirty he was wishing more than ever that he had an office of his own—with a door he could lock. The team-members weren�t even talking to Doyle, not really; each was using it as a chance to tease his partner, with Doyle as the excuse. God, it was boring. The one consolation was knowing that he would never be reduced to that; Sergeant Bodie�s aggressive scowl could be taken as a guarantee.

The summons came shortly before eleven when Doyle was, mercifully, alone.

�So what d�you make of him so far, Betty?�

�I think he�ll fit in here without any problem at all.�

�Hooh! That bad, eh?�

Betty smiled to herself, but made no reply. It was a typical conversation with Betty.

By the time Doyle had closed the door, the other man had got to his feet. He was dressed in a blazer and tie—formal, and as watchful as his new partner. For several seconds they stood looking at one another, then Bodie stepped forward, hand outstretched, and there was nothing Doyle could do but move to meet him.

The hand was warm and dry and callused, like his own. A brief pressure, then it slid away. Bodie was smiling, and Doyle found himself smiling back, not just for appearances before Cowley, but because he wanted to; when it smiled, that face shed years, turned harsh planes into curves.

�A Python, right?�

�Eh?� The part of Doyle�s brain that drew, that studied shapes and light, was still wondering how that smile worked.

�That�s your first choice, isn�t it? Double-action and fierce recoil. It�s written on your hand.� The voice had no curves, though. Flat, almost ironed-out. He was being friendly, but the voice didn�t know how. Five seconds ago Doyle would have felt mistrust; now there was only curiosity.

This wasn�t how it was supposed to be at all.

�And in his file, 3.7.�

The two men turned to their boss, then Doyle looked again at Bodie, wanting to see his reaction.

A broader smile. Caught out, and content to admit it. �That too, sir.� Yes, perfect. Even got Cowley smiling. No, the statistics and the stories didn�t do him justice. Doyle still couldn�t see it working, but this wasn�t Cowley playing a game, not with either of them. It was time to start getting used to the idea that he had a partner.

Cowley stood up. �Well, I see no point in further introductions. As a team, you are both considered probationers. Doyle will explain the rules that apply. You are assigned to the late shift on the Bayswater observation until further notice. Dismissed, gentlemen.�

Bloody probation! Again. And he hadn�t even thought to ask about it before. You�d think Cowley would offer him some kind of compensation for six months of not being allowed to make his own decisions, or however long it turned out to be. He was scowling as he headed along the corridor to the stairs, Bodie behind him.

�We�re free until this shift, are we?�

�Looks like it.� Doyle didn�t stop, didn�t turn round.

�What d�you want to do?�

Get rid of you. Get my old job back. A deep sigh. �You get a tour of this place?�

�Never been here before.�

�I�ll show you where the kettle is, then. You a tea-drinker?�

* * *

�In his bad books, eh?�

For the first time in fifteen minutes they were alone in the rest room; Bodie�s novelty-value had declined already.

Doyle was barely aware that the question was a change of subject—he understood it instantly. A long, noisy sigh, then: �What d�you reckon?�

�I reckon it�s recent, if you are. One of your biggest fans, he was, this time last week.�

�Yeah?� Doyle tried to sound only vaguely interested.

�I mean, you can see the sense behind it, but it�s no way to start a team off, is it?�

A brief shake of the head. �Doesn�t usually arise. Not when you�re paired off straight away.�

�We could tell him to call it off.�

They looked at one another, very serious.

After a few seconds Doyle said, �The words �tell� and �Cowley� don�t belong in the same sentence.�

�If it�s gonna be a problem for you. And I don�t see why you should put up with it.�

�What would we tell him?�

�Well, we could -” Footsteps and voices were approaching in the corridor. �This afternoon, OK?�


At lunchtime they walked to Trafalgar Square and bought food for the afternoon. It was obvious that Bodie had a sweet tooth, but Doyle didn�t comment; that was partner-talk.


�Why not?� What could it matter if they were only driving a pair of binoculars?

�Where are the decent pubs round here?�

�What�s your idea of a decent pub?�

�Depends who I�m with. What�s yours?�

�Umm. Well, see what you make of the �Green Man and French Horn�.� Doyle led the way to St. Martin�s Lane.

Bodie put the glass in front of Doyle and sat down. �Quiet. So who�d you come here with?�

Doyle shrugged. �Mates I haven�t seen in a while and want to catch up. Girls, sometimes.�

�Blokes from the squad?�

A snort. �They wouldn�t walk this far for a drink. Wha�d�you think they are, fit, or something? They just fall out of the door into the Northampton.�

�Without you.�

�Most of the time. When I first joined... But I guess everyone goes through that.�

�Best way of catching up with the gossip. Have to put in a few evenings there, I suppose.�

�Be a hardship, I can tell.� Doyle glanced at the rapidly-emptying glass, then nodded a response to the grin. �This your first time in London? Working, I mean.�

�Apart from - Yeah, pretty much.�

�You�ll have to learn your way round.�

�Yeah, I know. Next few Sundays, I reckon, I�ll be out playing games with me A to Z.�

Why don�t we... But Doyle couldn�t bring himself to offer help. Tomorrow morning they�d have a word with Cowley, and who knew whose partner Bodie would be by Sunday?

�Where�ve they got you staying?�

�Just this side of Chelsea Barracks. �s not bad.�

�That�d be one of the new flats in Pimlico. I heard they were OK. Just kitted up recently.�

�What about you?�

�Other side of the barracks. Heart of Chelsea.� With a growing smile: �I stick out like a sore thumb.�

�Yeah. Great, isn�t it?� And they were nodding, and grinning, and drinking to their good fortune.

* * *

�Like I said, we could tell him to call it off.� Doyle was at the window, Bodie stretched out on the sofa behind him.

�How? There�s no way we can do it and not come out badly.�

�You wanna stay on your own, don�t you?�

Doyle shrugged. �I was doin� OK.�

�You tell him?�

�Tried to.�

�Well, you deserve better than getting pushed back to the beginning, lumped in with the first name out of the hat. What�s in it for you? Be different if we�d both started together, but we didn�t.�

�He doesn�t give a shit about what �I deserve�. And he�s determined to have me in a team, whatever the reason. If I go in there whining about being back on probation, he�ll tell me to grow up, and he�ll double the time we�ll have to serve.�

�Then I�ll do the whining. Look, if he�s asking you to -”

�You don�t want to be partnered any more than I do.�

�Wouldn�t have joined in that case. He made it clear enough right from the start.�

�Then you think I�m a bad risk.�

�I can see you�re pissed off. You likely to snap out of it?�

Doyle frowned in thought, and said nothing.

�Look, I can work with anyone. Pretty much. What does it matter? I�ll take the next name out of the hat. Same amount of effort either way. But it is a lot of work and why make it harder? So first thing tomorrow I can go to him and say... um... �Look, Doyle hasn�t said anything, but I can tell he�s not keen on this probation thing, or on me, and I have a feeling it�s gonna be more trouble than it�s worth. Why not put me with someone else who�s just starting, so we�re both in the same boat? And maybe it�d be fairer on Doyle if you let him choose his next partner. Make it harder for him to complain, anyway, wouldn�t it?� Well, you know him better than -” He stopped and waited for Doyle to stop laughing. �Does that mean �Yes�, or �No�?�

�It might do the trick.� A pause while he became completely serious. �Yeah, it might.�

�So I�ll get in early. Catch him as soon as he gets in.�


�Won�t be the first time it�s happened, I wouldn�t have thought.�



�Mmmm.� Uninformative.

�I�ll make some tea, then.�

When Bodie came over with the mugs, Doyle turned from the window, and looked him in the eye. �What do you really want, Bodie?�

A grin. �That�s easy. To retire at thirty, with a penthouse full of dancing-girls.� Instant change: �To get on with this job. Properly.�

�Uh.� Doyle nodded.


Slowly: �I need to think about it.�

�Take a tip. Never think about anything. Wastes valuable drinking time.�

�I�ll call you first thing tomorrow. Before you leave the flat. OK?�

�Fine.� He produced a pen and a scrap of paper. �What time?�

�‘bout eight. He�s been getting in for half past recently.�

�Right.� And the subject was closed for the afternoon.

* * *

Doyle was staring at the foot of the bed, his book open and forgotten on his lap. What to do?

It was so tempting. A return to normal, to his careful plans. With Bodie doing all the hard work, dealing with Cowley�s scorn and exasperation. And Bodie seemed confident, though of course he barely knew Cowley. Would Cowley insist? Of course he would, but then Bodie would argue, and he certainly knew how to do that.

God, it was tempting.

The problem was, he had a horrible feeling that those careful plans were out of date, and he didn�t understand why everything had changed. He felt he should understand—he�d observed the old man carefully enough, thought he knew better than most how that mind worked. What had done it? A passing remark in the corridor at the Training Centre? A tableau in a dream that hadn�t even broken through to Cowley�s waking mind? It didn�t matter: Cowley now had an image of Raymond Doyle with a partner, and he wouldn�t be content until reality matched that image.

Maybe the image would fade, given time. He might even forget that Doyle had resisted his will over this. If Doyle was good enough. If Bodie was bad enough. Maybe.

Abruptly, Doyle closed the book, put it on the bedside table, and folded his arms.

New plans. Something was shifting inside him. He could sense it. At heart, he no longer believed that he could go back. The torrent of his ambition was already cutting a new course. It wanted something different from him now. And he would still get what he wanted. He could sense that too. Cowley did want the best for him. Yes.

Would there be any harm in making this protest, though? Have Bodie go in first thing in the morning. Then Cowley would send for him, and he could let himself be persuaded. �One of your biggest fans,� Bodie had said. Well, let him say it to me for once. A whole year of being taken for granted. Tempting.

If only Cowley could be trusted to keep to the script. You just couldn�t tell. He might just shrug and hand them another file each.

It wasn�t worth the risk.

The risk. Of being teamed with someone else. Of watching Bodie, who said he could work with anyone, prove that it was so.

No. Definitely no.

A surprise, that. To get such a clear message from a part of his system that was usually silent. Amazing, in the circumstances.

He liked Bodie. Wanted more of his company. If it wasn�t for the idea of Cowley watching, judging, controlling, he might almost say he wanted the partnership. He�d liked him from the beginning.

Just over twelve hours ago. Hard to believe, that. His palm still remembered the touch. The best conversations he�d had since he�d joined the squad. The best silences, too. Bodie knew how the world was put together. You didn�t have to waste time threading a path around his illusions.

Odd to find that so welcome. Because what did it mean, in the end? That Bodie was the grimmest cynic Doyle had ever met? An unlikely friend for the squad�s pet idealist.

The liking probably wouldn�t last. One morning he�d wake up and think, �Mercenary! Killer! No more.� When that happened he would deal with it. For now, there was this strange silence from his moral sense, and all he could feel about that was vague curiosity.

Too much worrying. Who cares what you don�t feel? Trust your instincts. The partnership is the way forward. Bodie is the one. For now. For long enough for you to show Cowley whatever he�s looking for. There was no problem.

Doyle sighed, satisfied. He checked that the alarm was set for ten to eight, then settled down to sleep.

* * *

�I�ve snapped out of it.�

The expected pause. After all, Bodie had to recognise his partner�s voice, make sense of the words, and put together a response. �Good move. I�ll go back to bed then. See you at two.� End of �phone call.

Doyle looked at the receiver, then gave a snort of amusement. Well, maybe he had been expecting a thank-you speech. A few questions, at least. So Bodie didn�t go in for that bonding stuff—something else in his favour.

He put the �phone on the hook, and went back to bed.

* * *

�What happens next, then?�

�Barry Martin, mostly.�

�That a CI5 code-word for bugger all?�

�He does the combat training. First bloke Cowley ever recruited. They fought together... somewhere or other. Cowley still calls him �Sergeant� sometimes.�

�He any good?�

Doyle gave a laugh that was croaky with exhaustion. Bodie was a silhouette at the window, but it looked to Doyle like a nod of recognition.

�Yeah, I know the type. Thought you�d got away from him, eh?�

�Thought I was through the worst. No, won�t hurt me to go through it again. Well, it will, but - He�s OK, is Barry. I learnt a lot from him. Not just combat, but... survival.�

�Well in with Cowley, is he?�

�Cowley doesn�t play favourites.� That was the instant response. Then, more thoughtfully, �‘specially not with Barry. I�ve not seen them together often but - Cowley always supports him—all the way—but he keeps his distance.�

�Mmm. Can be dangerous to know too much about your boss. Can find yourself �disappeared�.� A wolfish grin.

�Or kept from being a field agent. Though I always thought that was Barry�s choice. He�s certainly good enough.�

�What sort of agent is he, then?� Bodie sounded puzzled.

�Support, I suppose. We usually call it the �B Squad�, but don�t say that in front of the Cow. He wouldn�t have told you about the set-up. He never does. Spoils the image.�

After a few seconds, Bodie prompted: �So what�s the awful truth? We�ve got a side-line in window-cleaning?�

�How many on the squad?�

�Thirty. Thirty-five.�

�Uh uh. That�s just the field agents. With the B Squad it�s nearer a hundred. Cowley doesn�t count the B Squad, but he blows his top if anyone else suggests that they�re second-class citizens.�

�So what�s the difference?�

�Less money. Much less. No free flat in the centre of town. No car. Not much excitement. On the other hand, they work pretty-much nine to five. And they don�t die nearly as often.�

�Well, once is usually enough.�

�They do the baby-sitting. Keeping an ear to the ground. They�d normally do something like this...� He gestured around the room. �... but it�s been a quiet month, and our Frank can be a bit of a handful.�

�The flat and the car make up for the dying, eh?�

Doyle had never heard anyone put the idea into words before. Not like that. Beyond the shock, he wasn�t sure what he felt. He didn�t know how long a pause he left before he replied. �Field agents are always on duty. Have to be close to the centre, able to get to HQ in the shortest possible time.�

�That�s the official line, is it?�

�That�s all you�ll get from Cowley. Or anyone else around.�


There was silence for a long time.

Damn Bodie. All year Doyle had had the fear under control, even out of sight, and now this. Don�t think about it. Didn�t Bodie know that that was how it worked? Unless you had a death-wish. But the tests would have caught that, wouldn�t they?

Don�t think about it.

Doyle knew he would survive. He�d decided that on the day of his first interview for CI5, sitting in a room with 15 other prospects and listening to Cowley predict how many of the 16 would be alive in a year, two years, five years. Afterwards, Doyle had looked around the room, and picked the ones who would go first: too hesitant, too rigid, too confident. Those faces were his guarantee. None of them had joined the squad, in the end, but that didn�t make any difference to Doyle�s certainty. He would survive. And the job was too good to give up.

Damn Bodie. You�d think he�d know that better than most, with his background. Well, no, it probably wasn�t part of mercenary etiquette—the rule that you pretend not to notice the symptoms of your employer�s guilty conscience. Anything but.

Could you even warn him to shut up about it in future? What could you say that wouldn�t make CI5 sound like a bunch of superstitious cowards?

�The B Squad aren�t cowards, you know.�

�Never said they were.�

�I know, but... They get defensive, given the chance. Best not to give them the chance.�

�Unwritten rule, eh?�

�Between them and us there�s enough to fill a �phone book. Upsets everyone if you... say too much. Not just them.�

�OK.� Calm agreement. Doyle wished he could see Bodie�s face. He had a feeling that the other man knew exactly what he�d been thinking about during the silence. Saying, “Unwritten rule.” Bodie had been helping him along. Maybe the approach hadn�t been very subtle, but still... It was unsettling. Cowley and the experts couldn�t have predicted this. Could they?

He leaned back into the shadows of the unlit room, and watched his partner. Nothing to see, just the outlines of a strong back and arms, just the pale shape of the hands holding the binoculars. He wasn�t used to this yet, not by any means.

That stranger by the window was now the most important person in his life, and that life could depend on how well he understood the workings of Bodie�s mind. He�d never got that close to anyone. Never. Even in his few experiences of the talking-all-night stage of love, he�d still felt a distance; sometimes it even felt as if the closer he got, the more aware he was of the hidden parts of the other person, the mysteries.

No one could look more mysterious than Bodie did now, still and silent in the murk of an autumn afternoon. Doyle shivered, tense and apprehensive. There was no turning back, and he had no idea what would become of them.

�You cold?�


�Thought you were shivering. You feel the cold?�

�Not really.�

�Guessed not, what I�ve read about your metabolism. Regular little furnace, you are.�

�Can�t say I read your files that thoroughly.�

�Your systems racin� away like the clappers. Thought he�d given me the file for a hyperactive hamster.�

�And you�re a bloody sloth, I suppose.�

�It�ll catch up with you eventually. Best to be cool. Look at me: slow heartbeat, slow metabolism. Like all the best athletes.�

�Congratulations. I had my name down for that model but there was a shortage that year.�

�Well, �s not held you back, has it? I read the rest of the file, too. I think we�ll give them a run for their money, eh?�

�You feel the cold, do you, with that ice-box of a body of yours?�

�Can do. Wouldn�t say no to a cuppa, anyway.�

Bodie kept his eyes on the binoculars as Doyle handed him the mug. �Thanks.�

�Want me to take over?�

�I�m OK for another hour or so.�

Doyle stayed by the window, looking out. Bodie�s aftershave was cool, almost medicinal; he couldn�t put a name to it.

�You ever been in a team before?�

�Not like this. You�re never on your own in the army. Always in some sort of team. But it�s usually eight or more. And next week it might be a different eight. You learn how to... get on well enough to get the job done. They don�t expect miracles.�

�You think Cowley does?�

�Won�t know until he tells us we�re not doing it right. Do you know what he expects?�

Doyle shrugged. �Something more than the sum of the parts.�

�Hard to tell when you�ve got it. Wonder why he�s so set on this two-man thing. It�s not the only way to get things done. �s a bit... all or nothing, don�t you reckon?�

�Hadn�t thought about it. Well, I�d just guessed it was an army thing.�

�Uhuh.� Bodie tested the temperature of the tea, then turned to Doyle, grinning broadly. �I bet I know what it is. He�s a romantic.�

�What! The Cow?�

�Yeah. He�s seen too many �buddy� movies. Bet he can quote great chunks of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.�

Doyle found that he couldn�t stop laughing. He leant against the window-frame for support. Bodie had turned back to the street.

�Can�t you see it? I can.�

Doyle just shook his head. When he could speak again: �That�s not a great example.�

�Why not? Well, no, I see your point. That�s the problem with �buddy� movies. I mean, can you -”

�No. I can�t. You still going exploring this weekend?�

�Yeah, Sunday afternoon. Couple of hours. Anywhere I ought to start?�

�Well, uh, I could come with you. Give you a running commentary.�

Quickly and briefly, Bodie looked at him. Surprised, maybe? �You don�t �ave to.�

A shrug. �Sooner you know your way around, the better. Buy me a pint after, if you like.�

�Thanks. You like London?�

�Can never decide. Gets on top of me sometimes. So impersonal. And there�s so much... hassle. But a few years ago I went home for a fortnight, and everyone was so sodding nosy, and the biggest excitement since I�d left was Morris Sims getting done for speeding. Can�t see myself settling here, but I can�t see myself leaving, either.�


�Where were you before this?�

�Wales. Living off the land for a week. I hate Wales.� He pulled a face. �I just have to hear the name and the taste of earthworms comes back.�

Doyle snorted. �That�s just a story you use on civilians. You can�t fool me. Brennan can�t keep a straight face when he starts on about frying them up.�

�You think I�d bother to make something like that up?�


�Hmm. I�ll have to have a word with Brennan. What�s the Met equivalent of earthworms, then?�

�Oh. Drunks in the van. Bodies in bedsits. R.T.A.s. There�s thousands. I�ll save them for the right time.�

�Can�t wait. Why d�you leave? You were doing well, by all accounts.�

�Too much red tape. Waiting around.�

�What d�you call this?�

�And it�s just so big. So many useless bastards giving you orders. I�ve got more done here in a year than I did in all my time in the Met. What about you?�

�Not enough proper wars. Not enough money. And too many earthworms.�

Doyle blinked. �You like wars?� he said slowly.

�I like being able to do what I�m trained for. Doesn�t everyone?�

�You wish the country was at war.�

�Did I say that? I just want my share of whatever action�s going. The SAS had its moments, but not enough, and the money was lousy and I thought I�d earned a bit of comfort. This is the perfect job, �s far as I�m concerned.�

Doyle felt cold, and moved away from the window, leaning his back against the wall. A hard man. He shouldn�t have let himself forget that. Quickly, on a wave of hostility, he said, �And where does Africa fit in? How much war and money do you need?� That wasn�t supposed to happen. Not so soon.

�Short on comfort, though. Very short. And the heat was driving me mad.�

�That�s the only reason you came back?� So much for any romantic ideas about the bad boy turned good.

�Well...� A second�s glance—Doyle could make nothing of the expression. �I didn�t know what they were fighting about. Not really. You�d hear the story from both sides, and you just couldn�t... see... why what X had done to Y�s brother was so important. No matter how many times they explained it. Different way of thinking. Completely. Took me a while to figure that out. Thought it was just a language thing. Or me being thick.

�And then I started getting homesick—for the way the English think. Crazy. �cos it pisses me off most of the time. Moaning. Bone-idle. Using �tradition� as an excuse for never doing anything, but no one�s got any real pride in the country—quite happy to sit back and watch it fall apart.� A deep sigh, and silence. Doyle wondered if he�d forgotten what he�d been saying.

�You just saying you wanted to fight for your country?�

�No.� Very definite. �I�m not bloody Rupert Brooke. I just wanted to know—really know -” He thumped his chest twice with his knuckles; Doyle could hear the reverberations from the lungs. �- what the fighting was about. My life on the line—it matters.�

For a long time Doyle studied him, saying nothing. He must have been aware of the scrutiny, but he showed no signs of self-consciousness. Used to being judged? Or just not caring?

That speech shouldn�t have made any difference. Doyle had wanted to hear remorse. In Bodie�s situation, he would have told his partner that he�d seen the light, that he�d woken up one morning and decided that he couldn�t carry on killing innocent people for money. Instead, a rambling story about a strange kind of homesickness. But it was the truth. What else could it be? And he discovered that it mattered that Bodie had told him the truth, even if it wasn�t what he wanted to hear. Maybe more so because it wasn�t.

Doyle himself judged his words very carefully, especially since he�d joined CI5, always wanting to make the right impression, avoid making enemies, keep his options open. He usually assumed that other people were the same. There were few people he trusted—not even Cowley, not yet. But Bodie had told him the truth.

�What about what side you�re on? Do you care about that?�

�What is this? I�m past all the interviews, Doyle. I�m on your side. What more d�you need to know?�

�I want to know what I�m working with.�

This time Bodie lowered the binoculars and treated Doyle to a new kind of smile: an insufferable smirk. �The best. Only the best.� The smirk increased in response to Doyle�s glare, and then Bodie�s face was hidden by the binoculars again. Doyle went back to the settee.

* * *

�Take over, will you?�

Doyle came out of his doze almost immediately and levered himself off the settee. It was evening and the room was dark, and their shift was half-over.


�Mmm. And give us the food.�

Bodie handed him the bag, collected the mugs, and disappeared into the kitchen. When he came back, he carried the spare chair to the window and sat next to Doyle, legs stretched out, back to the wall. They finished the sandwiches in silence.

�What d�your friends call you?�

Doyle smiled to himself. �‘Hey, you.��

�Yeah, can see that. From the Met, are they?�

�Drug Squad, mostly. �Ray�, it is.�

�Oh, yeah. I remember from the rest room. Who d�you get on best with in the squad?�

�Your turn to interview, is it? Lucas and McCabe, I suppose.�

�The youngsters.�

�Yeah, they do look like sixth-formers. But I think McCabe�s older than you are. And they�ve both eaten their share of earthworms—Met earthworms, I mean. They were in the Flying Squad together. Got all these private jokes.� He shook his head in despair. �But they�re friendly. Like to get people to join in. Do a trawl of the building if there�s a group going down the pub. You know.�

�So who�s not friendly?�

�Oh, I can�t think of anyone who�s a real shit. There are some that are boring and some that keep to themselves, but really we rub along pretty smoothly.�

�Thought there�d be a lot of egos. Elite squad and all that. Lot of competition.�

Doyle�s pulse quickened. He kept his eyes on the street. �Competitive type, are you?�

�Don�t like to be passed over. Rather win than lose.�

�And what about your friends? What do they call you?�


�Oh. Not �Mister Bodie�?� A raised eyebrow.

�That�s for family.�

Doyle risked a glance and saw the tail-end of a lopsided smile. �How d�you keep fit?�

�The gym. Running. Squash. That�s the main stuff. Tennis. Cricket. Judo. Starting to get into karate.�

�Huh. I used to teach karate. Started a club for kids when I first joined the Met.�

�Yeah? What about the rest?�

�Not tennis. Definitely not cricket; I asked about keeping fit, not about a cure for insomnia.�

�So no team stuff?�

�School put me off. Nothing but team-games, and a real bastard of a P.E. teacher. Hated me from day one. Decided I was useless. So of course I decided to make his job as difficult as possible.� He smiled, baring his teeth. �When I came back with my first squash medal... Hadn�t told him I�d taken it up, of course. After that I�d try almost any sport they didn�t teach at school.�

�Great.� Bodie�s tone matched Doyle�s own satisfaction.

�Same with you, was it?�

�Nah. Only thing I was any good at. Can�t remember the classrooms. Just the inside of the minibus on the way to another match.�

�Could�ve guessed, I suppose. You�ve got that sort of build. First eleven written all over you.�

�Yeah. And you were skinny with sticking-out ears and too much hair. Don�t have much imagination, do they, P.E. teachers?�

�Uhuh. Bet he�s still there. Making life hell for this year�s skinny kid.�

�Hah. We could drive up there next day off. Flash our I.D. Hold him in the basement for a couple of hours. The squad does have a basement, doesn�t it?�

A long sigh. �I�ve thought about it, believe me. Him and a few others.�

�Don�t we all?� Then in a thoughtful tone: �How big�s the basement?�

Doyle chuckled, his imagination thoroughly satisfied. �So how about a game of squash, then? Sunday? Do us good after a week in here and however long in your car.�

�OK. Where�s this club Cowley mentioned?�

�Clubs. Best one for squash is Fulham Road. I�ll �phone round tomorrow morning, see what I can get us.�

* * *

�Doyle here won�t believe me about earthworm stew. Says Brennan gets the giggles when the subject�s brought up.�

�So to speak,� said Ellison.

�Does he?� Young looked surprised, then confidential. �Hysteria. Because of the time when... Well, you know. You must have heard.�

Bodie nodded gravely. �I�d forgotten that. Though god knows how. You haven�t told anyone else?�

Indignation. �I couldn�t. Not even to save the reputation of the Service. He has to work with these people.�

�Good show.� Doyle and Ellison looked at one another, then shook their heads.

On the way down the stairs, Doyle said, �In an ideal world, you and Young would not be allowed to leave the building until you�d come up with a story to match that act up there.�

�Your ideal world, Doyle. Not mine. Never had much time for idealists.�

* * *

It was Sunday morning and Doyle was surprised at his own feelings of anticipation—a low but insistent flame playing on his diaphragm. Thursday and Friday had passed quietly, in trivia and newspaper gleanings; the only incident was Cowley�s call on Thursday, telling them to report to Barry Martin at the Training Centre at eight on Monday morning.

Lucy was showing no signs of waking up. It was Lucy, wasn�t it? A notepad by the bed might be an idea, since you�d never persuade them to wear nametags. Another student, drinking her grant away at �Carlos and Johnny�s� of a Saturday night.

Better not take Bodie to �Carlos and Johnny�s�; he�d go white with indignation at the idea of a cocktail joint kept afloat on taxpayer�s money. And why increase the competition?

Doyle smiled to himself as he imagined Bodie at last night�s table. He�d be completely out of his depth, poor lump. Not that he was stupid just... not very adaptable. You could tell that from spending a week in the same room with him. He wouldn�t even have enough sense to keep his mouth shut and just nod as if he knew what the rest were talking about. No, forget about him as competition, at least with the students.

Where would Bodie fit in? In his mind, Doyle worked his way east along Fulham Road from the cocktail bar, then back along King�s Road. Well, apart from the barracks and the Army Museum... But sometimes women liked to live dangerously. Doyle had seen it when he�d been out with the lads. Bodie would probably do OK, especially around the Sloane Square end.

Must be convenient sometimes, that neanderthal style. Not that he�d seen Bodie with any woman yet—he might have worked up a special act, but Doyle was guessing not. Once in a while you�d get some brainless romantic who wanted to �tame� you, but the rest would wake up feeling shocked with themselves and guilty and terribly naughty, and make sure they never saw you again. Bliss. Most of the time. And it would suit Bodie down to the ground. Couldn�t imagine him writing letters home to his sweetheart. Not that type of soldier.

Doyle turned over, away from Lucy, and closed his eyes, though with no intention of going back to sleep.

It sounded as if he was dismissing Bodie as some glorified bouncer, and really he had got beyond that. He liked him, still liked him after a week. Obviously, or he wouldn�t be lying here looking forward to showing him some of London and beating him at squash. Sometimes he almost found himself respecting him. But none of that went so far that Doyle could ignore his partner�s faults. Three times a day, on average, he�d say something that made Doyle frown, or curl his lip, or turn back to the newspaper for half an hour. Not a civilised man. And not aware that in London, in 1975, there were certain things you should know, and certain things you shouldn�t say.

Well, he would have to be taught. That was part of Doyle�s job. Which he wouldn�t get credit for, of course. His jaw-muscles clenched as he thought about the work that was to come, the concessions he had already made. Not Bodie�s fault. Doyle had to admit that within his limitations, Bodie seemed to be doing his best. No. Cowley. Cowley was going to owe him so much when this was over. How long would he keep it going? Two years? Three?

Doyle had to believe that Cowley had a plan, and would not leave him to stagnate indefinitely. Because what did this partnership have to offer Raymond Doyle, except the chance to prove that he could do it? 3.7 had nothing to teach 4.5. Nothing that was relevant to CI5, anyway. Competent, but limited, that was Doyle�s assessment. And good company, but that wasn�t relevant. Whereas Doyle could fit in anywhere, make a success of anything he tried... really tried.

He shrugged, and turned onto his back, resigned to carrying the team for as long as necessary. And after that? He probably wouldn�t see much of Bodie outside the rest room, and even there they might be on different shifts for months. Strange how people come and go from your life. Like a cabinet reshuffle.

Lucy was stirring. He rolled to face her, smile ready, and wondered if there was enough milk ready for breakfast.

* * *

It was Bodie�s idea to divide the city into four and cover a quarter in each session. They started with the north, as the busiest and most-complicated section, driving out to the North Circular and back to the centre, sweeping the territory in an irregular fan pattern.

Bodie had a good sense of direction and a good memory, unless he�d spent more time in London than he was admitting to. He drove carefully, giving himself time to scan for landmarks and roadsigns; not his usual style at all, Doyle sensed, judging by the acceleration when they came to an area Bodie recognised.

At first Doyle felt redundant—Bodie�d decided on his method and could have found these routes on his own just as well—but Bodie wanted gossip too. Doyle started with guide-book accounts of the north-west (affluent and boring, as far as he was concerned), but became livelier as Bodie�s questions continued (�Wasn�t that where...?�) and as they moved closer to the east and the scenes of his triumphs.

It was a specialised view of London. With all these terrorists, gangsters, spies, hitmen, gun runners and bent politicians, no wonder the solid citizens complained of a housing shortage. Neither man commented on the distortion; neither was aware of any.

They returned to Bodie�s flat while the light was still good, with an hour to spare before squash. While Bodie made tea, Doyle took the chance to survey the living-room.

The flat was impressive: the first floor of a four-storey Regency-terrace house, the type that made you wonder what had happened to all the families that had lived in these houses with their servants, probably never imagining that that way of life could come to an end. The entrance hall and stair-case seemed huge, like something leading to a ballroom, not the usual grudging tunnel. Attached to the bannisters on the long landing outside Bodie�s flat was a wrought-iron shelf; for trays, presumably, while the servant opened the door. Doyle had never seen such a thing before.

After the light and space of the staircase, the flat was dark at first. The lobby had no window of its own, and the door to the living-room was the only one that Bodie had left open. He�d ushered Doyle in, and immediately headed for the kitchen, which was at the back of the house, on the far side of the lobby.

Bookshelves and packing-cases dominated the long, thin living-room. Doyle threaded his way through the cases to the windows. There were three of them, evenly spaced, stretching from floor to ceiling, each with a decorative wrought-iron balcony outside that matched the tray-rest on the stairs. An old-fashioned room, with old-fashioned colourings of light green and dark brown, probably not CI5�s choice.

A strange setting for Bodie, who seemed to have done little so far to make himself at home. There was a TV near the windows, with a TV Times open in front of it. The mantelpiece was piled with clutter (much like Doyle�s), and the lower half of the mirror above the mantelpiece was almost completely covered with scraps of paper of various colours and sizes. The wallful of bookshelves opposite the mirror was relatively clear, and in some places tidy: on the left, at eye-level, a tiny blue-coated soldier took sights on Doyle, while the cannon next to him was aiming for the TV; at the far end, half-hidden by the open door, was a full row of jacketless hardback books.

Curious, Doyle started to make his way across the room to the books. This time as he edged past the cases he peered in; nearly empty, just clothes and shoes and the small items that work their way to the bottom of packing-cases.

Three cases. Not many, really.

Doyle took another look around the room. Maybe this was all Bodie had.

Think about it. On the move, in some army or other all his life. No sign in the file that he had any kind of base of his own. You�d never get the habit of collecting things. Never have the chance. Doyle pulled a face, unsettled. Of course, materialism was a terrible thing, the blight of the late-twentieth-century, but to give up his juke-box, his new turntable (a Rega Planar 2!), his record collection... Maybe even Bodie�s TV was rented.

�Am I wrong, or are these mugs standard-issue?�

Doyle held his up to inspect it. �The stalks of corn and the fieldmouse. Yup. I buried mine at the back of a cupboard as soon as I could.�

�Putting mice with food. Makes you wonder, doesn�t it?�

�Seems a nice place.� Doyle gestured with the mug and sat down in the chair nearest the door.

�Yeah. A bit...� He shrugged. �I feel I should have one of those velvet smoking-jackets, you know. �s a bit... lacy. Look, come and see the bedroom, you�ll laugh your head off.�

Doyle raised his eyebrows and followed. The bedroom was at the back of the house, opposite the living room—the same width, but several feet shorter. The colour-scheme was dark brown and various shades of cream: the dark-brown in the highly-polished furniture, the skirting board, and the picture rail; the cream in the regency-striped wallpaper and the carpet, curtains and bed-linen. Cascades of lace would not have been out of place. Doyle tried to imagine Bodie in the large, over-stuffed bed, and failed.

�I reckon she wanted her husband to feel he was in here on sufferance, eh? Separate bedrooms, and all that.�

Doyle snorted. �You reckon you�ll redecorate?�

�I�ll see what I can do with it, first. Toss a few beer-cans around. I don�t suppose complaining would do any good?�

�Never has yet. What�s the garden like?� The view through the window was a textured wall of green: tall hedges, which seemed very close.

Bodie shrugged, apparently not interested. The room seemed arranged to draw attention to the window, though. The bed and the heaviest furniture were near the door, leaving an open space to be filled with green light. Doyle looked across the space, wondering what it would be like early on a sunny morning, and wondering also if he had the skill to paint it. Bodie would probably move everything around, spoil the effect.

Maybe not, though. There was a chair drawn up to the windows, and a newpaper on the floor beside it. Doyle would see at a glance that it wasn�t the News of the World. He stepped forward and picked it up. The Sunday Telegraph. Well, well.

The garden was small, and seemed shaggy and overgrown, even in November. The hedges were all waxy, large-leaved evergreens. No flowerbeds that he could see. A neglected garden, then, but restful when viewed from this height. He blinked, and peered into the weak evening light. Was that a stone birdbath in the far corner? Or... no, surely not?

�Tell me that�s not a sundial.�

Bodie was grinning. �I wondered if you�d spot it. Great, isn�t it? Bet it works for all of ten hours in the year.�

�This where you have your first coffee of the day?�

�So far.�

Doyle sat, and rested his mug on a raised knee. Bodie was leaning against the window-frame. The room was very quiet, and the light was slowly fading.

�Just like work, eh?�

Doyle had been thinking about art-classes, about finding one in the new year, about Cowley�s reaction to his hobby. Maybe he�d better drop it for the moment—spend the time on �Criminal Psychology� or �Tactics� or something else that would show his dedication. �Uh?�

�Thought you�d�ve had your fill of looking out of the window.�

Doyle looked at his watch and discovered that he�d been sitting there for ten minutes. What had Bodie been thinking in that time? That he had a weirdo for a partner, probably. �We�d better get going. The court�s booked for five.�

They walked to the club, which was small, and tucked away behind a cinema. Doyle introduced Bodie to Ted who manned the desk, saying they were working together; he�d told Ted he was a civil servant. There was no one Doyle knew in the changing room, not that he really knew anyone here except the staff.

Bodie looked larger, somehow, in his sports gear. From the first Doyle would have described him as �solid�—although by bouncer-standards the man was skinny—but now he realised how Bodie�s choice of dark, almost lumpy clothes had misled his eyes, and prevented him imagining the body inside them. He�s got muscles on his muscles. But all packed in very neatly, giving a smoothed outline that did not draw attention to the mechanics, but gave an impression of a pure fluid power surging and shifting beneath the pale skin. It was the type of physique that went with that slow metabolism—a unified design.

Once, Doyle would have reacted to the sight with resentment and fierce competitiveness. Now, he�d proved his worth many times, and knew that design was not everything. There were times when he still found himself ugly, a creature assembled from several different kits, but it had never seemed to bother anyone else, and he had long since stopped puzzling over his own sexual appeal; these days he concentrated on other people�s. Bodie, now, was a few inches shorter than the last man he�d slept with, but much more impressive. Just think about the grip of those thighs...

Abruptly, he shook his head. It was out of the question. Even if they weren�t working together, Bodie was probably straight. Very straight. It would be insanely dangerous, even by CI5 standards.

Doyle had been walking slightly behind Bodie, where the view was better, so Bodie reached the court first, and held the door open, gesturing his partner through with exaggerated courtesy. Doyle raised an eyebrow and then ignored the fool, starting to concentrate on the match. Take the right side first. Don�t think he�ll insist we -

A touch on his shoulder. Very light. He took another step then turned. Bodie was closing the door, tugging at the awkward, hidden handle. Then he headed for the left side of the court without a glance at Doyle.

Imagination? No. Then what did it mean?

Oh, for God�s sake, he�s playing games. Trying to distract you. So stop helping him. And for the next half-hour, he reduced Bodie to a source of decisions, and a set of echoing footsteps, and a scything racquet. He beat him. Just.

�Is there a bar here?�


�And we�re too early for the pubs. D�you fancy a drink?�

�Wouldn�t say no to a pint.�

�Back to my place then?�

�If you�ve got some in.�

The two on the other court had finished at the same time, so there were four in the showers. Doyle tried not to look, not even casually, but it would have looked too strange to stand facing the wall throughout, and it proved impossible to avoid glimpses as he turned under the jets.

Impressive. An understatement. He shut off most of the hot water.

If it wasn�t for CI5 he would take the risk. Get it out of his system. He wasn�t used to depriving himself.

Oh, damn.

Well, he�d have to get used to it. He had to work with this cock - With this man.

Just think of him at school. In the first eleven—the home of the smug and beefy. Better still, think of him as a P.E. teacher. As Sayles. No chance of Ray Doyle getting it up for a P.E. teacher.

Easier now. He�d get through this. It�d wear off in a couple of months, anyway. Always did. Couple of weeks even, with men. �cos he really didn�t go for men that often. Or that hard. Was always surprised when it happened. But for CI5 once would be enough. He had to be very careful while it lasted. Bodie must never guess.

* * *

[much, much later, after �Where the Jungle Ends�]

Doyle was conspicuously efficient as he dealt with the ambulances and the police. Every few minutes, though, he found an excuse to look over at the car, hoping that Bodie would be watching, hoping to show him by example how a true professional behaves. But Bodie�s head never appeared, not even when the groaning Krivas was carried past.

Did Cowley notice him looking? The old man was leaning on the bonnet and probably thought it was concern for himself. When the second ambulance drew up, Doyle went to join his boss, giving not a glance to the back seat: �Have them take a look at you, sir? Be on the safe side.�

�You said it yourself, Doyle. There�s nothing the matter with me.�

�Don�t think I said that, sir. You�ll need stitches. Looks like a deep cut. I could call Doctor -�

�Aye, you can take me to HQ. And then get your partner home. He�s in no state to drive.� Cowley gestured with a slight turn of the head.

Doyle turned his head in the opposite direction, looking into the middle distance, towards the emergency workers. �Yes, sir. We�ll should be on our way in about ten minutes.� He walked away, and returned to giving orders.

Twenty minutes later he started the car on its journey back to town. There was a moist intake of breath from the back seat, and a questioning grunt.

�Doyle�s taking you home, 3.7.�

�Auh.� Barely awake. The sound of Bodie turning over painfully, then silence, then soft, irregular snoring.

Doyle calculated the time they would arrive at Bodie�s flat, imagined the reaction of the neighbours to the blood-streaked scarecrow. The women would want to mother him, probably. The men would line up to buy him a pint and hear the story. Muscles bunched over Doyle�s jaw.

�I was going to wait. See you in my office tomorrow.�

It took Doyle some seconds to realise that Cowley was waiting for a response; he had forgotten that there was a third person in the car.

�Yes, sir?� Another operation? Follow-up work?

�But he�s sleeping like a baby.� The voice suddenly sharpened. �And it�s no thanks to you. Have you thought what could have happened? Krivas could have beaten him, come after both of us. We could all three be in that ambulance.�

Doyle shrugged, frowning. �Could happen with almost any operation, sir. I don�t see what makes this one special.�

�Don�t you, 4.5? Well, I�ll tell you what stops it happening—teamwork. Men working together. Backing one another up. Covering their partners� weak spots. Not wandering off when their partner is being beaten to a pulp.�

Doyle kept his eyes on the road. �I had to be sure you were alright. And you said yourself Bodie can take care of himself.�

�You knew I was fine. You didn�t know anything about Krivas, except he learnt his fighting the same place Bodie did. If you were a bookmaker, Doyle, what odds would you offer there?�

�Are you saying I should have waded in and joined him? Christ, you saw what he -�

�Maybe. I�m not concerned about Krivas. He deserved what he got, and he won�t be making any complaints. What concerns me is your lack of judgement. Somewhere along the line, you forgot that the point of the operation was to capture Krivas, and -”

�If that�s so, it wasn�t just me. Bodie could have -”

�I will be talking to 3.7 separately. But his lack of judgement I can understand. I was expecting it. As you should have been. If your partner isn�t thinking clearly—for any reason—then you have to work twice as hard. If you�re having an argument with him, well, you wait until afterwards to make your point. Do you understand, Doyle?�

�Yes. Sir. In future I�ll cheer him on when he�s out for revenge. Provided it�s in the interests of the operation, sir.�

A uneven exhalation. �I see. You know, Doyle, what worries me most is not the fact that you nearly let Krivas go. We all make mistakes, have luck turn against us. What worries me is that after all these years you haven�t learnt that what happens to your partner happens to you. You cannot walk away. You cannot disown him.�

Apart from Bodie�s snores, there was silence for several miles.

�I honestly thought he�d put Krivas down in a matter of seconds, sir. Hand-to-hand he�s the best I�ve ever seen. And I thought... that was the best way of getting him to calm down. He doesn�t listen if you argue outright, but if you leave him alone for a while... Well, I realise now it wasn�t the right time for that, but... Well, it won�t happen again. I do get your point, sir.�

�Hmm. I hope so. I know you, Doyle, you think I sound like a headmaster complaining about talking during assembly. �What�s he on about now, and what�s the quickest way to shut him up?� But your life could depend on this. Or his.�

�Yes, sir.� Bodie would have made some joke about schools and headmasters, but Doyle said nothing more, and the conversation was over.

By the time they arrived at HQ, Bodie was awake, though he remained lying down.

�Shall I have Doctor Swanson take a look at you, 3.7?�

Bodie started to struggle upright. �No, sir, it�s just bruising.� A painful smile. �I may not be a doctor, but with this I�m an expert.�

�Then I�ll see you at eight sharp tomorrow morning. Have a hot bath. Doyle will take you home, see you�re alright.�

When the door was closed and Cowley was safely out of sight, Bodie sank down again with extravagant groans which Doyle ignored, concentrating on the drive to Bodie�s flat.

�When he says he�ll see you, he means in his office. He�s not too chuffed with you, old son.�

�Ohh. That�s all I need. You�ll come along, won�t you? Put in a good word for me?�

�What else are partners for?�

Doyle unlocked doors and held them open, but otherwise Bodie made his own way into the flat.

�I�ll run you a bath. Go and get out of those rags.�

�Glad to. There�s some Radox -�

�Under the sink. Yeah. Go on.�

Did bath salts actually do any good? Doyle doubted it, but Bodie always had a packet in the flat. It was the sharp smell of herbs, probably, fooling you that it was medicinal. And the lack of bubbles helped the image.

Bodie hadn�t bothered with a dressing-gown. He rarely did when Doyle was around.

�Rrruh. Euch. Ahhh.� Despite himself, Doyle smiled as he watched the mottled body ease itself down against the hard surface—a lopsided smile. �God! Thanks, mate.�

�No problem.�

Bodie tilted his head back and closed his eyes, and there was silence. Doyle remained propped against the wall by the door, and studied his partner�s face. The long line of the throat was presented to him, and steam was condensing on the short hair, tightening the curls. Bodie looked exhausted. And content. Doyle�s forehead creased in a frown, and the crease steadily deepened.

�Uh. Feel better already. Scrub m�back?�

�You�ve gotta be joking.�

�Ah, well.� Bodie leaned forward for the soap, then started a slow lathering of his right arm. Halfway through rinsing, he looked up. �You staying the night?�

�Nah.� No question of it.

�Hmm. Don�t blame you. Wouldn�t be much use to you, the state I�m in.�

�And whose fault is that? Look, are you OK here, �cause I�ve got things to do at home?�

�Go ahead. I�ll just go straight to bed.�

�Right. I�ll pick you up half seven tomorrow.� And Doyle was closing the bathroom door, and on his way home.

* * *

He wasn�t saying it was a mistake. No, not at all. The sexual attraction had been too obvious to ignore. Better acknowledged, given an outlet, than hidden, distracting them with doubts and possibilities. Yes, it had been a gamble, but they both agreed it had paid off. They�d been a better team ever since. The best. And who was to say that it wasn�t the sex that made that crucial difference?

After all, it wasn�t as if they were having an affair. Nothing messy like that. Just... dealing with an urge, a compulsion in the simplest way.

And it was simple. Nothing like his real affairs with women, or even like the one-night-stands. It kept itself to the bedroom (or the hedgerow, or the deserted office), making no demands outside the time they allowed it. They could ignore it for months on end with no fretting, no sulking. No need to talk about it, or even think about it. Small wonder it had kept going for over two years.

Everyone should have a chance at it sometime—sex with nothing to worry about.

Until recently.

Bodie had always seemed so straightforward. A cynic from the cradle, subtle as a boot in the face. Tough, in the style of some impermeable stone which would absorb nothing from its surroundings. Everything slid off him, nothing got through. Infuriating at times—most of the time—but reassuring when it really counted.

Like now, when the operation was over. He was splashing in his pine-scented bath, showing no doubts about the events of the day. In Bodie�s world, what happened, happened. You didn�t think about success once it was behind you, didn�t trace through its separate parts. �If it�s not broken, don�t try to fix it,� that was Bodie. Reassuring, when you were bone-tired and needed somewhere to rest.

But today, Bodie should be worrying. He should be staring up at the ceiling or into the soap dish, asking himself, �Why did Ray walk away? Why didn�t he back me up? What was wrong with him?� But of course he wouldn�t be doing that, so Doyle had to ask the questions for both of them.

Helen Raven’s Slash Fiction Site