The truest thing that Bodie knows is that the
only thing that matters is Now. The past is over and done with,
and the future will take care of itself if he can just survive the
Bodie fights desperately, his hands tied behind him, suffocating
under the pillowcase they’ve pulled over his head. He has
no hope of escape, but every grunt of pain he hears is a minor victory
– it’s better than the sniggers, anyway. Someone keeps
saying something about, “Perfect for Halloween...” and
Bodie’s quite sure he doesn’t want to know what that
They’re getting angry with him now. Hearing
the frustration in their voices, Bodie finds a last inner reserve
of strength and throws himself forward, tearing free of their grip.
Only the ground isn’t where he thinks it
is, and he falls into a pit, hitting the edge of something hard
and rolling onto something soft and warm. A body. He’s fallen
on top of a body. It doesn't move, and Bodie assumes it’s
Howls of laughter erupt above him.
Bodie struggles to get his bearings, trying to
push himself up onto his knees. He smells wet earth and the iron
tang of fresh blood, and his skin is crawling in anticipation of
the bullet that will end his life. His shout is cut off as something
solid slams into the top of his head, knocking him down. He rolls
over and tries again, and this time his knees and forehead both
collide with a hard surface.
A wooden box, in a freshly dug hole, with a body
already in it.
Bodie panics. He kicks and heaves, struggling
against the ropes that bind his wrists, ignoring the splinters and
the sound of cracking wood. He can hear them shouting, telling each
other to hurry, to get the job done.
He hears the soft, heavy thumps of dirt hitting
wood, followed by the more muffled sound of dirt hitting earth,
and then he can’t shift the lid anymore, not even a little.
The pillowcase is loose and he’s able to slough it off, but
the air in the casket is already growing stale and the darkness
is so absolute that he's not a hundred percent sure he has his eyes
open. The damp smell of earth grows stronger, filling his nostrils,
until he feels like he's drowning in it.
He might have kept on struggling indefinitely,
insensible to the damage he was inflicting on himself, except that
he hears a noise. It isn’t much. Just a quiet grunt as air
is forced from a pair of lungs that aren’t his own.
There’s no sound above him. Either they’ve
left, or they’ve buried him so deeply he can’t hear
them any more. Next to him, however, he can hear someone breathing
harshly, unevenly. Bodie takes a deep breath and tries to calm his
racing heart. He isn’t alone. He tells himself this is a good
“Hello?” he says. There’s no
response. So he tries again, arching his back to free an elbow just
enough to jam it into the ribs of the person beside him. “Damn
you, wake up!”
The body shifts and the sound of breathing quickens.
Bodie waits tensely, holding his breath.
After a moment, he hears a damp cough, followed
by a very familiar, “Ow.”
The dulcet tones of the prettiest bird in London
couldn’t have sounded sweeter to Bodie. He hits Ray Doyle
in the ribs again, as hard as he can.
“C’mon, sunshine. Time to get up.
Can’t be lollygagging...” his voice cracks and he has
to stop briefly to take a deep breath. “Ray, please.”
“Mmm... Oh. Wha’?” asks Doyle,
“There’s a good lad,” says Bodie,
keeping an iron grip on his self-control. “Rise and shine.”
Then he winces as Doyle tries to do exactly that, his head colliding
with the lid of the coffin.
“Ow!” Doyle begins to cough again,
harder this time.
Bodie can feel each painful spasm in the body
pressed up against his, and his own throat tightens in sympathy.
Then Doyle’s breath hitches and he makes a gagging noise and
Bodie feels a moment of real fear. If Doyle throws up...
“Gah,” says Doyle, his body finally
relaxing. “Gerroff, Bodie. Yer heavy.”
Bodie breathes a sigh of relief and tries to shift
to the side, pressing back against the wall of the coffin. It doesn’t
help. “Can’t,” he says, finally. His hip is half
over Doyle’s, and his right leg is trapped between Doyle’s
knees. He’s managed to turn himself onto his side, but there
isn’t room for both of them to lie flat. Doyle is on his back
with his shoulder pressed into Bodie’s chest.
And his breathing is slowing again.
“Ray, wake up!” Bodie pleads, imagining
Doyle bleeding into his brain, slipping into a coma. There’s
no response. Bodie wants to shake him, but his hands are tied. In
desperation, Bodie tries the only thing he can think of.
He bites Doyle’s ear. Hard.
Doyle mumbles, “Not now, love. Tired.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Ray!”
But Doyle is already out again. Asleep or unconscious,
Bodie can’t tell in the dark. He has no way of knowing how
badly Doyle has been injured. He can’t even touch him.
Bodie pushes his face up against Doyle’s,
feeling rough stubble and warm skin and a sticky tackiness that
he knows is half-dried blood. He can feel the rise and fall of Doyle’s
chest with each breath of air he draws...
Bodie is trying not to wonder how much air is
left and how long it takes to suffocate in a coffin.
...and he imagines he might even be able to hear
Doyle’s pulse, if it weren’t for the fact that his own
is now pounding so loudly in his ears he can’t hear anything
“Ray?” says Bodie. Still no answer.
He thinks about biting him again, and then decides it’s not
worth it. With a resigned sigh, he rests his cheek on Doyle’s
head and waits.
He knows it will be better for Doyle if he never
wakes up at all.
It’s getting hard to breathe. Bodie wonders
if the air is already running out, or if he's just more conscious
He tries not to think about it, and finds himself
instead remembering grave-digging duty in Africa. He hasn’t
thought about Africa in years – he normally knows better than
to look at the past – but he can still recall precisely the
heft of a dead body as it is swung onto a pile with the others.
He remembers the way they bloated in the heat, so that if you weren’t
careful picking them up they'd rupture, releasing foul gas and other
Decomposing bodies were great for practical jokes
- toss a rock at one just when some bloke had grabbed it and was
about to heave it into the grave; if you hit it right, it would
explode all over him. Funniest thing in the world. But more to the
point, they were so far gone you didn’t think of them as human
It was the fresh bodies, the ones that were warm
and still bled - those were the ones that had always got to him.
At night on sentry duty he’d look over at the recently dug
graves and wonder if some of the bodies had been completely dead.
There were so many and sometimes as the dirt settled a hand or a
foot would work its way out. But even if they were alive when he’d
buried them, they'd have still died, suffocating slowly...
The pounding in Bodie’s ears grows to a
deafening pitch, and the ground beneath him tips sickeningly. He
feels a disembodied hand touch him...
With a strangled scream, Bodie kicks out, trying
to throw himself back, away. He slams into the wall of the coffin
and feels a light trickle of dirt on his arm. Someone nearby is
coughing, and cursing.
“Bodie, you dumb crud! Settle down!”
“Ray?” Bodie manages.
“Yeah. Where the bloody hell are we?”
“C-.” Panic strangles the word half
Doyle touches him again, one hand resting on his
stomach while the other finds first his chin and then his mouth,
mapping the physical terrain of Bodie in the dark. In his mind’s
eye, Bodie can see exactly how Doyle must look right now, his normally
mobile face gone stone still with the intensity of his concentration,
his lips slightly parted. He takes a shaking breath and attempts
to focus on the present.
“Where, Bodie?” snaps Doyle, his voice
rough-edged with pain.
Bodie tries again. “Coffin,” he says.
“Wright’s gang...” He doesn’t say, buried
us alive. He says, “Put us in a coffin.”
Doyle’s hands stop moving. Then they leave
him, and Bodie can hear Doyle knocking against the walls and lid,
as if trying to confirm what he’s just heard. More dirt trickles
down, in a sliding, whispering rush, almost like running water.
And Bodie’s wayward subconscious immediately
supplies him with lines from Poe, ones which are simultaneously
so apt and yet also so completely inappropriate, that he snorts
in grim amusement.
“What?” Being injured always makes
Doyle snappish. Which is good, Bodie thinks, because it should be
some sort of rule that only one of them can be scared shitless at
“Thought of a poem, didn’t I?”
says Bodie. He sniggers, hoping that the edge of hysteria in his
voice isn’t as obvious to Ray as it is to himself.
“You would,” says Doyle. He sounds
tired now, and not particularly interested.
To Bodie, it seems like he might be falling asleep
again. “Ray, wake up!”
“I am awake. Git.” Doyle gives the
lid of the coffin a shove, but succeeds only in loosening a little
more dirt to fall in with them. “How did we get here?”
Bodie tells him again. “Wright’s gang.”
“Wright...? Who?” Doyle sounds puzzled.
“I don’t remember. There was a briefing in Cowley’s
office. Did I miss it?”
Bodie groans and presses his forehead into Doyle’s
shoulder. “Got a knock on the head, didn’t you? Expect
your gray matter’s a bit scrambled.”
“I missed the meeting?”
“No, you were there.”
“Oh.” Doyle clumsily pats his shoulder,
and then feels down to Bodie’s elbow. “Where are your
Good question, thinks Bodie. He hasn’t felt
anything from his hands in quite awhile. But it’s a decent
bet that the lumps under his back belong to him. “They tied
‘em,” he says.
Bodie tries. On his first twist, he hears a yelp
“Sor-,” he starts to say, but then
Doyle catches him squarely in the nuts with his knee.
“Fuck!” Bodie tries to squirm away.
“Bloody hell!” snaps Doyle. “Watch
“I’m just trying-,”
“You’re crushing me!”
“Yeah, well you could stop jabbing me with
those boney hips of yours!” Bodie abruptly stops struggling.
His face is pressed into the side of the coffin now, his shoulder
jammed against the lid. He has dirt up his nose, he’s sore
in all sorts of interesting places, and he thinks if he doesn’t
laugh he’s going to cry.
Except, of course, Bodie never cries.
Doyle thumps him between his shoulder blades,
but affectionately this time. “Here, push your wrists together.
See if you can get some slack.”
Bodie tries to comply. It’s hard. His hands
feel as if they don’t belong to him, strange objects bloated
to twice their normal size and stuck onto the ends of his wrists.
Doyle is pressed up against him, hips to arse,
his fingers working down near the small of Bodie’s back, trying
to untie him by touch. Every now and again he pauses and rests his
forehead against the back of Bodie’s neck, pulling in deep
sobbing breaths in a way that makes Bodie wonder once again just
how badly Doyle has been hurt.
Bodie tries to ease the tension, more his own
than Doyle’s. “Don’t think even the Bisto kids
got this close, eh mate? Cowley’d never approve.”
“The rope’s slippery...” says
Doyle, ignoring him. “Does this hurt?”
“No,” says Bodie. His hands come apart
as the rope gives slightly.
Obediently, Bodie presses his wrists together
again. Something damp trickles down to his elbow, tickling him.
He bites his lip to keep from squirming.
The next time the rope loosens it goes all the
way, and his hands are finally free. He still can’t feel anything
except a tugging sensation in his wrists as Doyle pulls the rope
away from where it’s become stuck to his skin.
His shoulders ache with the sudden release of
strain. Bodie tries to move his right hand around from behind, dragging
it between his hip and the lid of the coffin. Suddenly the blood
rushing back into his hand causes it to awaken with a ferocity that
takes him completely by surprise. An electric bolt of pain slams
into his hand and explodes behind his eyes. His vision goes completely
white, obliterating even the darkness of the grave.
He convulses, his forehead slamming first into
the wall of the coffin and then the lid as he rolls onto his back,
and onto Doyle. Distantly he thinks he can hear Doyle shouting,
but his voice seems very far away. Bodie’s left hand is still
trapped beneath him, still numb, and his right feels like it’s
Bodie kicks, trying to get away, but there’s
nowhere to go. His scream is trapped in his throat, throttled by
the sheer unexpected intensity of the pain. Doyle grabs him, pulling
Bodie around, his head tight against his chest, his arms and legs
wrapped around him.
The agony in Bodie’s hands then doubles
as his left finally wakes up and joins the right. He presses his
face into the warm space between Doyle’s neck and shoulder,
shaking as the returning circulation sends random spikes of flame
through his hands.
Gradually, each jab begins to feel slightly less
agonizing than the last, and Bodie becomes aware that Doyle is talking
to him. He feels the vibration of the words, but it takes him a
few moments to turn them into sense.
“...bloody hell, mate, trying to batter
me half to death, it’s a good thing we’re partners or...
anyway it’s a good thing.”
Good? He wants to say something about that, because
there’s nothing about this that’s good. But what comes
out of his mouth is hardly more than a whimper, and he cuts himself
Doyle says, “Means you won’t lose
your hands, is what it means. Means you’ll still be able to
use a gun.”
Oh, thinks Bodie. He knows that, actually. But
it’s hard to remember when his hands feel like he’s
just stuck them into a vat of molten metal. He curls forward, sheltering
them against Doyle’s chest, breathing in the scent of gun
oil, sweat and aftershave. He can feel thick curls, stiff with dirt,
cushioning the side of his face.
They’ve never been this close before and
he half expects Doyle to stiffen up, push him away. Because that’s
what Doyle is - he’s all hard edges and spines. Look, but
don’t touch. It’s how it’s always been.
But here, in the dark, Doyle is different. Bodie
can feel his hand on the back of his head, pulling him close, and
he’s ridiculously grateful he’s not alone.
“What’s the poem?” says Doyle.
For a moment Bodie can’t think of what Doyle
might mean, then he remembers. “You don’t want...”
He stops abruptly and sucks in a sharp breath as tandem spikes hit
both hands at once. “...to know.”
“Yeah, I do.”
The next jab is only in Bodie’s right hand
and it isn’t quite as intense. He tries to collect his scattered
thoughts. He knows he shouldn’t say anything. Doyle won’t
like it. He’ll go all prickly again.
But Bodie still says, “Okay,” because
there’s something inevitable about it. No matter how long
you live in the present, eventually the future arrives. Nothing
can last forever, especially not a warm, nurturing Doyle.
His face still pressed into Doyle’s neck,
Bodie recites, “And so all the night-tide, I lie down by the
Doyle stiffens and finishes for him, his tone
utterly appalled. “Of my darling, my darling, my life and
my bride? Good lord!”
Despite the pain in his hands, Bodie begins to
grin. “Wasn’t that bit! It was the next lines, the ones
that go, ‘in the sepulchre there by the sea, in her tomb by
the sounding sea’.” Darkly amused as he is, he’s
able to keep talking right through the sensation of barbeque skewers
repeatedly jabbing through his hands, and never mind the pins and
“Yeah, but you've still got me in the role
of the bride!”
It’s just too tempting. “An’
a lovely blushing bride you’d be, too,” camps Bodie.
“Can just see you in ivory silk and lace...”
“Gerroff!” Doyle finally gives him
the firm shove he’s been expecting all along. Bodie’s
shoulder hits the top of the box. The lid creaks, dirt runs in a
sibilant stream down the inside walls, and they both freeze.
Bodie feels Doyle’s breathing quicken, and
he knows he’s also imagining the lid collapsing, burying them
both under rubble. The box feels suddenly smaller than before, the
air more stagnant and close.
But first one minute passes, and then another,
and the lid holds. Doyle says, carefully, “It’s occurred
to me that we’re still alive.”
Bodie manages only the smallest of sounds in response,
words still beyond him. The ghosts of Africa are crowding close
around him, the corpses of the dead almost as real as the living
body of his partner at his side.
“We’ve got to be getting air from
somewhere,” says Doyle, determinedly.
As Bodie considers this, his anxiety eases and
Africa recedes part of the way back into the past where it belongs.
Doyle’s right. “Dirt’s not packed,” Bodie
“Up for some digging?”
Bodie tries flexing his hands and hisses under
his breath as fire ripples across the backs of his knuckles. But
what he says is, “Can you feel any loose boards?”
Doyle reaches past his shoulder, and Bodie hears
the scrape of his fingers across the underside of the lid. “It
feels like there’s a broken piece here.” There’s
a moment’s silence, and then Bodie feels Doyle’s body
tense as he tugs on something. Several clumps of dirt hit the back
of Bodie’s head, and Doyle grunts. “Ah, it’s stuck.”
Bodie twists until he can reach the lid. “Where
is it?” His fingers are alternating between painful tingling
and numbness and every time he moves them he can feel electric shocks
all the way up to his elbows.
When Doyle grabs his hand, he can hardly feel
it. But it’s enough to guide him. The loose plank turns out
to be directly over their heads.
“Wait,” says Bodie. He reaches up
and starts feeling around the top of the coffin, searching.
“There’s a pillowcase up here somewhere.
You should use it to cover your nose, so you don’t get a face
full of dirt when we pull the lid apart.” Bodie makes a frustrated
noise. He can’t feel anything. His hands are next to useless.
But Doyle twists over onto his belly and finds
the pillowcase for him. Then he rips it in half, and ties one piece
over Bodie’s nose and mouth.
“Why howdy there pardner,” says Bodie,
doing his best John Wayne impression. “Normally I per-fer
mah fillies a bit more curvaceous, but...”
“Shut up, Bodie. Or I’ll use this
to gag you instead.”
Bodie shuts up, because Doyle sounds like he’s
serious. He waits until Doyle has covered his own face, and then
he fumbles for the loose board again. Doyle helps him until he finds
the edge and stuffs his uncooperative fingers into the crack.
Bodie takes a firm grip and a deep breath and
then yanks as hard as he can. He can feel Doyle next to him, working
in tandem. Bodie’s hands hurt ferociously. He hears himself
whine, deep in his throat, and bites his lip instead. After a few
minutes he’s tasting blood, but he keeps pulling anyway.
There’s a sharp crack, and suddenly earth
cascades down into his face as the board comes loose. The cloth
over his nose and mouth only keeps some of the dirt out, and as
he coughs he can hear Doyle wheezing and choking beside him. Bodie
wonders if maybe they’ve miscalculated and there really is
a lot more soil up there than they’d expected and all they’ve
done now is bury themselves for real.
He wants to stop and curl up in a ball and try
to protect what air remains, but instead he grabs for the next board.
He finds that this one is looser now that the first is gone, and
as he works he tries not to think of mass graves and the bodies
in them, which might or might not have really been dead. He tells
himself that this can't be some kind of delayed justice for past
crimes, because what did Doyle do in his life to deserve this kind
And then Doyle shouts and Bodie feels the smallest
breath of sweet, fresh air on his face.
There’s a lot more digging to be done, of
course. But from this point on, Bodie is back in his element. Hard
work and pain are things he understands, especially when the goal
is within reach. Even the worms don’t bother him much. He
hardly notices them, except to pause occasionally to pick the squished
bits out from between his fingers.
By the time he and Doyle have clawed their way
to the surface, Bodie is almost giddy with relief. Old dark memories
of bodies and graves seem like nothing more than bad dreams, easily
forgotten in the morning light. All Hallow’s Eve is over and
Bodie can lay his ghosts to rest once more.
Doyle climbs out first. He braces his hand on
top of Bodie’s head and steps on his shoulder to heave himself
up over the edge of the grave and onto the grass. Then he turns
around and reaches down to haul Bodie up in turn.
It’s past midnight, but the light of the
moon in contrast with the utter blackness of the coffin makes the
graveyard look as bright as day to Bodie’s eyes. He thinks
he’s never seen anything so beautiful in his life as the neat
rows of grey headstones and the skeletal trees.
Doyle is stretched out on the grass with his eyes
closed, too exhausted to stand. Bodie, for his part, couldn’t
have remained still if he’d wanted to. His skin feels as if
it’s crawling, his nerves are jumping and alive.
Bodie spreads his arms, feeling the burn in his
shoulders. He tilts his head back and pulls in a deep breath of
clean, cold autumn air. A small movement catches the periphery of
his vision and he suddenly realizes they aren’t alone.
He glances over toward the path, and then kicks
Doyle’s ankle. Doyle sits up, quickly.
Bodie’s first thought is that he’s
looking at real vampires. Then common sense reasserts itself and
he realizes that it’s only a couple of teenagers, black clad,
white-faced... Goths, staring horrified at two CI5 agents who’ve
just clawed their way out of the grave.
Before either Bodie or Doyle can say anything,
the lad suddenly bolts. His date shrieks and follows close on his
Bodie looks at Doyle and starts to grin. Doyle
is covered with dirt from head to toe, his hair standing on end.
Bodie glances down at his own hands, caked with blood and earth,
the cuffs of his shirt torn, and knows he didn’t look much
better. But at least he doesn’t look like a real Golliwog
come to life, black face and all.
“Can’t you just imagine what they’ll
be telling all their friends?”
Doyle snorts. “I’m more worried about
what we’re going to tell Cowley.”
Bodie sits down abruptly on the damp grass as
the adrenaline rush that had sustained him this long vanishes. At
least Doyle will be able to claim he doesn’t remember anything.
Bodie tries to visualize himself explaining how Wright managed to
get the drop on both of them, and how they’d let him get away
with the stolen arms shipment...
Bodie looks over at the grave, a dark depression
filled with loose dirt and broken boards. “The old man will
appreciate not having to purchase a plot, once he’s done with
“Unless he donates our bodies to science.”
“Oh, Christ,” Bodie begins to laugh,
helplessly. After a moment, Ray joins him.
They are still on the ground, giggling, when a
very puzzled plod comes up the road with his lantern to see what
the fuss is all about.
Five nights later Bodie is lying in bed next to his girlfriend,
feeling like something is missing.
He listens to her breathing, asleep beside him,
and wonders why he isn’t happy. Certainly it can’t have
anything to do with the past evening. She’s a sweet girl,
and an enthusiastic lover. Dinner was a success. The food was good,
the conversation pleasant. And bonfires are always entertaining.
Bodie touches her hair, twisting the long soft
strands through his fingers. She stirs, but doesn’t wake.
It’s after midnight and he can still hear revellers shouting
on the streets outside, and the intermittent pop of a stray firework.
His discontent can’t have anything to do
with the job, either. Cowley was a bit put out, at first, but they’d
managed to track down Wright and retrieve the stolen guns. Then
the old man smiled, said the operation could be considered passably
successful, and told them to stand down for the weekend. So everything
was back on an even keel there, too.
Bodie himself was patched up, and healing nicely,
no nerve damage in his hands. He’d had to talk to Dr. Ross
of course, but she’d failed to ferret out any evidence of
psychological trauma. Which made sense, since there was nothing
in his subconscious to trouble him anymore now that his ghosts had
all been tucked neatly back where they belonged. Doyle still hadn’t
got his missing memories back, but otherwise the doctors said his
mental faculties were in as good a shape as ever.
Bodie pauses, disturbed. Doyle is fine. The partnership
is fine. Everything is the same as it’s always been...
Except that Bodie can’t forget the feel
of Doyle’s coarse springy curls against his cheek, the rough
texture of his skin, the scent of him and the warm weight of his
Bodie gives himself a mental shake. He’s
being ridiculous. Rolling over and propping himself up on his elbow,
he brushes his lips across the exposed curve of his girlfriend’s
shoulder. She smiles in her sleep. Encouraged, he places gentle
kisses up the line of her neck until he arrives at her ear. He pulls
the soft lobe into his mouth, finding the tiny dimple where she’s
had it pierced. She tastes clean, faintly like soap, and she smells
of Charlie Girl perfume. He very deliberately does not think of
the salty grit of Doyle’s skin when he’d bitten his
ear in the coffin to try and wake him.
The girl’s eyes open and she smiles at him
sleepily. “Again?” she asks.
“Why not? There’s nothing I'd rather
be doing,” lies Bodie.
And so he does his best to bury himself
in the present, because the past is gone and the future will never
give him what he wants.