There comes a time in every man’s life when
he has to stage a tactical retreat. Bodie realised this moment had
arrived when he looked over at Doyle and found him with the pretty
hippie chick on his knee, his hand up her mini-skirt, the girl looking
perfectly happy about the whole thing.
He’d had his own designs on that bird with
the beads in her long brown hair, but apparently she preferred curly
hair and a face that looked like it had met the business end of
a speeding lorry.
Well, all right, not that bad.
The evening had started well enough, a couple
of mates out for drinks, and a bit of bird watching, but now it’d
all gone tits up. Literally. If the girl had a friend it might work
out all right...
Then again, considering the last time he’d
double dated with Doyle, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea,
Bodie scowled at his lager for a moment, and then
drained it in one decisive gulp. “Don’t stay up too
late, Doyle,” he said, standing. “A growing lad needs
“What?” asked Doyle.
Bodie realised Doyle hadn’t heard him. The
band was too loud. He braced himself on the table and leaned closer.
“I’m off,” he bellowed.
“Oh! All right,” Doyle shouted back.
The girl on his lap smiled and waved, clearly delighted to have
Doyle to herself.
Bodie felt the bar tilt around him as he straightened.
A bit squiffy, he thought, but safe enough to drive. Doyle could
get himself a cab.
Bodie pushed through the crowd to the exit, nodding
to several people whose faces seemed familiar. As he stepped out
into the warm rain, he thought that it might be time to find a new
pub. It wasn’t wise to become a regular anywhere. Come to
think of it, the same philosophy could apply to friends and jobs…
The first punch caught him unaware, slamming into
his cheek and knocking him down. He landed in a puddle, his trousers
soaked through instantly. He caught a flash of movement and grabbed
for the boot that swung his way. He rolled back with the blow, still
hanging onto his assailant’s ankle. One twist, a satisfying
crack, and the man was down and cursing.
Bodie scrambled to his feet, and blocked a punch
from a different thug. He backed up into the street, rapidly regaining
his bearings. Just two opponents, and one was already on the ground.
A couple of bully boys in biker leathers. No weapons that he could
see, though he wouldn’t rule out knives. Bodie settled into
a fighting stance.
A dust up wasn’t as good as getting the
bird, but it was definitely a reasonable consolation prize. The
thug charged at him, fists raised and head down. Bodie dodged easily,
and shook his head as he watched the other skid on the wet pavement.
“Clumsy...” he said, disparagingly.
A car screeched to a halt nearby, the headlights
reflecting in the rain, giving the scene the flickering unreality
of a black-and-white newsreel. Bodie ignored the questioning shout
from the driver, bracing himself for a second charge.
This time Bodie tried for a sweep as the other
went past him. His foot caught the man’s leg and he went down.
As the thug fell, he grabbed Bodie’s sleeve with one flailing
Bodie lost his balance, and they both landed with
a splash. As they grappled, a knife appeared from somewhere, only
to go skittering across the pavement a moment later.
“Bo-die! Stop playing around!”
That would be his partner. Bodie considered dragging
the fight out longer, but realised that if he did Doyle would wade
Ah well, no good thing could last forever.
Bodie stopped trying for that new choke hold he’d
not entirely mastered yet and sat up. The thug lifted his head and
Bodie struck him in the centre of the forehead with the heel of
his hand. The back of the thug’s head bounced off the pavement.
His heels kicked the ground once, and he went limp.
Bodie stood up, and sneezed before wiping rainwater
out of his eyes. Doyle was handcuffing the one with the broken ankle.
Bodie surveyed his handiwork with satisfaction.
“If Cowley hears you’ve been brawling...”
“I didn’t start it,” said Bodie,
coolly. He sat down on the curb next to the prisoner. “What’s
this all about, eh? Who are you?”
The man glared at him, but didn’t say anything.
Bodie drummed his fingertips on the thug’s boot and was rewarded
with a gasp of pain.
He smiled in an unfriendly way. “You don’t
know who you’re messing with do you?” He hit the ankle
lightly, and got a yelp.
A crowd was beginning to form, patrons spilling
out onto the street from the pub, their voices questioning. In the
distance Bodie could hear sirens.
Now Doyle shoved the man with the toe of his boot.
“Come on! Who hired you?”
Bodie reached into his jacket pocket and pulled
out his identification. As he flipped the folder open the man’s
eyes widened. “Tell us what we want to know, and we’ll
hand you over to the police. They’ll take you on a nice comfy
ride to the hospital, and you’ll be patched up. Then you can
call your lawyer, your girlfriend, or your mum. Don’t talk,
and we’ll take you into custody ourselves. No phone call.
No pretty nurses. Not nice or comfy.”
The thug began whining. “But I don’t
“Not good enough.” Bodie stood and
grabbed the man’s cuffed hands, preparing to haul him to his
“No, wait! There was this old cow, you see?
Gave us your picture, paid us twenty each to work you over. That’s
“What old cow?” demanded Bodie, ignoring
the startled exclamation he heard from Doyle. Different sort of
cow, he hoped.
“I don’t know.”
Bodie yanked on the man’s hands, pulling
him to his feet. He screamed as his weight came down on his ankle.
“God! I don’t know!”
There was a collective intake of breath behind
him. The space around Bodie widened noticeably as the bystanders
moved back nervously. He was most definitely going to have to find
a new place to drink after this.
A police car stopped a few feet short of the people
gathered around the unconscious man. Doyle slapped Bodie’s
shoulder once, and then headed across the street to intercept the
“I don’t know,” said the man,
again, wobbling miserably on one foot. “She was just some
old cow. She never gave us her name, and we didn’t ask.”
“Old,” asked Bodie. “How old?”
“Fifty? Sixty? White hair, and one of those
plastic hats to keep the rain off. And a house dress." For
a moment the man half smiled. "She looked like somebody’s
mother.” He started to reach for his pocket.
Bodie smacked his hand away, and investigated
the pocket himself. He retrieved a slightly battered Polaroid. In
the flickering light he could just make out his own smiling face.
He pocketed the picture, before the rain could ruin it. “Which
He wasn’t familiar with the name the man
gave him. If he’d been there, it obviously hadn’t made
an impression on him.
A polite cough alerted him to the fact that a
uniformed officer was standing beside him.
“Here,” said Bodie, dropping his captive
unceremoniously on the kerb. “Have a prezzie.” He stepped
back and waited while Doyle retrieved his cuffs.
“Where’s your bird?” Bodie asked,
as they headed back to the car. He didn’t remember seeing
her face in the crowd.
“Not impressed with the display of violence,
was she? For God’s sake, I told her we were pencil pushers
in the civil service!” Doyle shoved his hands into his pockets,
Distantly, thunder rumbled. Bodie fell back a
step so that he could smile without Doyle seeing. “Well, we
are, aren’t we? We write enough reports...” They were
clear of the crowd now, the car in sight.
“Yeah, and you’ll be writing this
one. What the bloody hell were you playing at?”
Bodie wiped the grin from his face as Doyle turned
around to face him accusingly. “I told you, I didn’t
start it,” said Bodie. “They were waiting outside to
jump me. Had my picture, even.” He tossed Doyle the car keys.
If he was going to be stuck writing the report, then Doyle could
be the bloody chauffeur.
Bodie’s jacket made a squelching noise as
he sat down in the passenger seat, and he wrinkled his nose at the
smell of wet leather. The adrenaline rush had worn off, and he was
feeling cold, wet and decidedly grubby.
Still, Doyle hadn’t got a bird either. So,
it all balanced out.
His partner climbed in on the other side. “Let’s
Bodie gingerly retrieved the photo from his pocket
and handed it over. Doyle took it by one corner and flicked on the
light. “Well, that’s you all right. I’d know that
ugly mug anywhere.”
Bodie nodded politely at him. “Ta very much.”
He craned his neck to see the picture. “I’m in a pub.”
Easy guess, based on the pint in his hand.
“Good one, Watson. But the question is,
Doyle put the picture on the dash. “Did
you get a description? Who wants to put the frighteners on you?”
“Not very scary, were they?” Bodie
shook his head. “He didn’t know her name. A woman, fifty
to sixty, house dress... said it could have been someone’s...
mum.” Bodie trailed off, frowning. He knew one woman matching
that description, who had gone to a pub to hire thugs and who might
do it again given enough provocation.
“Whose mum would be out for your blood?”
asked Doyle, as he started the car, the wipers clearing a swathe
through the water running down the windshield. “Someone you
roughed up recently? Gone crying home?”
“Funny,” said Bodie, sourly. “Anyway,
it wouldn’t be--.” He snapped his jaw shut, having said
more than he intended.
“Wouldn’t be what?”
Bodie ignored him, trying to recall dates. It
was harder than he’d expected to dredge them up. Surely he
hadn’t forgotten her birthday... But she wouldn’t.
“Bodie,” snapped Doyle, exasperated.
“If you know someone who might be out for you, you’ve
got to say.”
“All I know is that it’s not my
mother,” said Bodie, trying to put as much conviction as he
could into his voice.
Doyle hit the brakes at a red light, jarring them
both in their seats. “Your mother?”
“It wasn’t her,” said Bodie.
“So, that’s one fifty-ish woman we can scratch off the
“Why would you think it could be her?”
Doyle glanced across sharply. “I didn’t even know you
had a mother.”
Bodie gave him a pitying look. “Everyone
has a mother, my son. They don’t really find babies under
cabbage leaves, you know.”
“You’re not getting around me like
that. Why would the possibility of it being your mother even cross
Bodie sighed. Doyle was like a terrier when he
got his teeth into something. “Because it’s the sort
of thing she would do.” And had done, to his dad. But that
was a long time ago, over and done with.
“She’d go to a pub and hire thugs
to beat you up,” said Doyle, flatly.
Bodie considered what he knew of the woman who
had given birth to him. “She might,” he conceded, finally.
“Got a temper. But I know I remembered her birthday. Sent
her some nice flowers, and a cheque. Same thing I do every year.”
He chewed over the idea some more. “And she’d tell me
if she was angry at me.” Loudly and at length, no doubt.
“You could call her,” suggested Doyle.
“Just to make sure.”
It was too dark in the car to be sure, but Bodie
was almost certain Doyle was smirking. The evil sod was no doubt
finding all of this very entertaining. “I don’t call
“Ever?” Then again, Doyle sounded
more surprised than amused.
“Ever,” confirmed Bodie, crossing
his arms over his chest. He looked out the window and was relieved
when Doyle got the hint. He knew the reprieve wouldn’t last
Bodie had given away too much. He grimaced to
himself. There was only one explanation - he had to be far drunker
than he’d thought.
He could feel the weight of Doyle’s gaze,
but refused to acknowledge it. Instead, Bodie thought back to when
he’d been a teenager suffocating under the weight of his family’s
expectations. He’d run. And when that job had become a little
too familiar and comfortable, when he’d felt himself putting
down roots, he’d run again.
Bodie shifted restlessly in his seat.
They were both in early the next morning to write
the report and get it on Cowley’s desk before they headed
out for the day. Bodie was privately hoping this show of industry
would offset Cowley’s wrath.
“Drunk and disorderly, brawling in the street
outside a pub!”
“It’s right there in our report,”
protested Bodie, “They were hired!”
“What’s that?” snapped Cowley.
“They were hired, sir!” He
squinted in pain as his voice echoed inside his own head. His hangover
this morning was vicious, and adding to his misery was the fact
that Doyle appeared to be perfectly fine. Bastard.
Cowley snorted, and glared down at the papers
in front of him. “I suppose I should be grateful that you
left one in a condition to answer questions. The other
is in a coma. An older woman, heavy set, short grey hair, wearing
a flowered house coat. You’ve had all night to think about
it, Bodie. Does that description sound familiar to you?”
“You’ll review your recent cases,
of course. Any luck with the photo?”
“I thought I might see if I can match it
up with any of the pubs I’ve been to recently.” Nothing
ventured, nothing gained, thought Bodie. And the prospect of arranging
a pub crawl on CI5 time was too tempting to pass up.
Cowley gave him a sharp look, but Bodie kept his
expression deadpan. “Very well,” said Cowley finally.
“But take Doyle with you. I’ll rearrange the roster.
You’ve got twenty-four hours to resolve this issue, and then
you’re back on active duty.”
It was a clear dismissal. As he headed out into
the hall, Bodie found that his hangover was suddenly much more bearable.
“You know why he’s sending me with
you,” said Doyle, once they were out of earshot.
“Oh, come on...”
“We’re on duty, Bodie!”
Instead of answering, Bodie opened the door at
the end of the hall for Doyle, and ushered him through with a flourish.
Doyle’s copper training would make him reluctant to indulge
for a while, but eventually he’d give in.
That wasn’t the real problem, anyway, thought
Bodie, watching Doyle precede him down the stairs. The real problem
was that he was finding himself entirely too happy at the prospect
spending an entire day in Doyle’s company, touring pubs.
Under different circumstances, he knew he’d
conclude that it was time to widen his circle of friends. The difficulty
this time was that he simply didn’t want to move on. He felt
something for Doyle… affection, he supposed.
Maybe he’d already set down roots of some
sort, without even realising it. Built his own cage and moved in.
“Are you coming?” demanded Doyle,
breaking into his thoughts.
“Keep your knickers on,” said Bodie,
as he hurried to catch up. Of all the impatient, bad-tempered sods
in the word to find himself yoked to…
“To get the full experience, I think I
should buy a round this time.” said Bodie, optimistically
eyeing the fifth pub. He’d made the same pitch at every stop.
Instead of saying no, this time Doyle asked, “Hair
of the dog?”
“That savaged me, yeah.” Bodie gave
him a hopeful grin. Maybe Doyle was finally coming around. He’d
been far more difficult than Bodie had anticipated. So what if someone’s
mum had hired thugs to break his legs for him? He could defend himself,
and the odds were she’d give up soon enough, if she hadn’t
already. The way Doyle was acting, a bloke might start to think
he actually cared.
Bodie blinked, briefly confused by his own thoughts.
Did he want Doyle to care?
“Bloody brilliant, mate,” said Doyle.
“Then repeat at every pub and I’ll be borrowing a wheelbarrow
to haul you into Cowley’s office at the end of the day.”
Bodie was offended by his partner’s lack
of faith. As he followed him to the door, he said, “But it
would be rude to just poke our heads in and not buy anything.”
Doyle answered by throwing the door open and holding
the picture up to compare it with the interior. “Not the place.”
Bodie stuck his head in and looked at the green
textured wallpaper and shiny red vinyl benches. “No, definitely
“There, see?” said Doyle, letting
the door swing closed. “Now you don’t have to give your
money to people who commit crimes against good taste.” He
paused and looked at the picture again in the light. “Gormless
expression, mate. How could you not remember someone taking your
“Wouldn’t have been a stranger,”
said Bodie. “A bird. Birds like that sort of thing. Memento,
“More than a bird then, more like a girlfriend.”
“But which one?” Doyle nodded wisely,
changing direction to stop at a newspaper stall. As he paid for
the paper he added, “I expect there’s pictures of your
face on bedside tables all across the city. Spend their nights dreaming
of when you’ll call, do they?”
Bodie gave him a tolerant smile. “You’re
“Who had the bird in his lap last night?”
“A bird in the lap is not better than two
in the hand, you know.” Before Doyle could retort, Bodie continued,
“Anyway, she dumped you fast enough when she realised what
a fascist thug you actually are.”
“Yes, and thank you very much for that.”
Bodie took the wheel this time, while Doyle folded
the paper around and looked at the headlines. If he followed true
to form, the national news would be followed by world news, editorials,
arts, and finally the sports scores. As clear a reversal of priorities
as Bodie had ever known.
“Your mother,” said Doyle, without
looking up from his paper.
“No,” said Bodie, though he knew it
“You send her flowers on her birthday, but
you won’t call her.”
Bodie took a moment to pass a slow-moving lorry
before answering. Doyle was too sharp to be put off by a lie. “Because
every time I do, the first words out of her mouth are ‘what
did you bollocks up this time?’”
Doyle’s surprised chuckle made the truth
almost worth sharing.
“And because,” continued Bodie. “If
it was something I did to annoy her, she’d most likely come
down and try to box my ears herself.” In front of the entirety
of CI5, no doubt. He’d definitely have to find a new job if
Doyle suddenly sobered, his eyes narrowing. “Was
that why you left home when you did? Got knocked around a bit much?”
“Get off!” Bodie gave him a mocking
look, hiding the fact that he was genuinely pleased by the concern
in Doyle’s expression. “You’ve been watching too
much Corrie, my son. Nothing like that.”
“Then why?” Doyle still looked suspicious.
“She wanted me to become a dentist.”
Bodie stopped in front of the next pub. This one was a little more
worn around the edges than the last. He remembered coming here a
few times last year when he’d been undercover, as it was conveniently
close to the flat he’d been occupying at the time.
“Said I wasn’t smart enough to be
a doctor.” And, of course, Doyle wouldn’t resist saying...
“Well, she has a point.”
“She’s my mum!” Bodie knew he
sounded sulky, and he tried to modify his tone. “She’s
not supposed to say things like that. Supposed to say I could be
anything I wanted to be.” Not that he’d ever wanted
to be a doctor, but that wasn’t the point.
“Like a sailor.”
“More like a pirate.” Bodie grinned
at the memory. “Swashbuckling across the seas, all the pretty
wenches falling at my feet. When I realised there was more swabbing
than swashing, and not a wench to be seen for months at a time...
First chance I got, I jumped ship.”
“Where did you end up?” asked Doyle
with keen interest.
Bodie shook a finger at him, chidingly. “No
more of that, my son. You’ve got the answer to your question.”
“Got to keep that air of inscrutability,
eh?” Doyle climbed out of the car.
Bodie smirked. “International man of mystery,
He pretended not to notice the way Doyle rolled
his eyes. He knew it was all for show. The truth was that Doyle
was interested in him, and that warmed Bodie in a way he’d
It occurred to Bodie that he might be looking
at this from the wrong angle. He was worried about becoming too
fond of Doyle, but maybe it was the other way around. Maybe Doyle
was becoming attached to him.
He liked that idea. A lot. And in the interests
of encouraging Doyle’s continued fascination, Bodie decided
he would dole out bits of his past very sparingly in the future.
Drop a titbit now and again when he wanted Doyle’s full attention,
but otherwise play it close to the chest.
Africa alone ought to be enough material for years
That thought inspired in Bodie an uneasy mix of
anticipation and dread. He wasn’t the sort to settle down
anywhere for years… was he?
“Well, this is it,” said Bodie. He
chose a chair at a table near the back of the pub. “I was
“And who took your picture?”
Bodie looked around the room. “Buy us a
drink, will you? I’m sure some liquid refreshment will jog
my memory.” He figured it was worth a try, especially since
they’d finally found the right pub.
Doyle threw himself down on the bench against
the wall. He snapped his newspaper open. “It’s your
turn. You pay, and I won’t tell Father you were drinking on
“We’re never off duty!”
The corner of the paper folded over and an amused
eye regarded Bodie. “To quote, ‘I think I should buy
a round’. Repeated at every pub, including this one, not five
Grumbling, Bodie got up and went to the bar. As
he leaned over the counter, he spotted something that made him grin.
When he returned to the table, Doyle was using
the newspaper to shield a call in to Control, reporting their progress.
Bodie waited until he was done and then pushed his drink across
Doyle frowned at it. “Milk? Where the hell
did you get a glass of milk?”
“You want to grow up big and strong, don’t
you? Need all your vitamins.” Bodie leaned back and buried
his smirk in his lager. As Doyle refolded his paper a headline caught
Doyle took a tentative sip. “This isn’t
“It’s got milk in it.” Bodie
pulled the paper across the table and started flipping through,
looking for the right page. He was pleased with himself for thinking
of a White Russian this time. Doyle was already suspicious of anything
that looked like orange juice.
“Okay, Bodie. Spill it. You know who took
“What? Spill this, and waste a perfectly
good drink?” Bodie found what he was looking for and shoved
the paper at Doyle. “Remember?” He jabbed his finger
at ‘IRA men jailed for bomb plot’.
“What’s that got to do with...?”
Doyle took another look. “Ah, Larry, Moe, and Curly. Those
three idiots…” His head snapped up. “You managed
to get in with that crowd by dating Larry’s little sister.”
“Actually, I think he was Moe,” said
“Your flat was three blocks from here.”
Doyle took a large gulp of his drink, and grimaced at the taste.
“Jane took your picture?”
“She took that one.” Bodie nodded
at the Polaroid on the table. “And then the barmaid got one
of us both together.”
“Well, her brother just got...” Doyle
took another look at the paper. “Life on four counts, at least
thirty years behind bars. She might be feeling just a little betrayed.”
“And here I thought she liked me,”
“Of course I liked you!” protested
Jane, wide-eyed. “I’d never do such a thing!”
“Blood is thick,” said Doyle. He was
leaning against the cottage door, his arms crossed over his chest
and his expression unforgiving.
Bodie looked away from his partner and back at
“I love my brother,” she said. “Of
course I do. But he doesn’t mind being in jail. Political
prisoner, and all that rot.”
Bodie remembered the man behind the dock at the
trial, laughing as his crimes were read out.
Jane ran a distracted hand through her thick auburn
hair. “He belongs in prison. We all of us feel the same, and
most everyone hopes he never gets out.”
A querulous voice from the back of the house demanded,
“Jane, who is it?”
“It’s okay, mother. It’s just
a pair of...” She hesitated before finally settling on, “A
pair of policemen.”
Bodie and Doyle exchanged a glance.
“What about your mother?” asked Doyle.
“How does she feel about her son being in prison?”
The noise Jane made was not quite a laugh. “How
do you expect?”
The voice from the back of the house was closer
now, footsteps stomping down the hallway. “Police! Haven’t
we had enough trouble...”
A woman in her mid-fifties appeared at the end
of the hallway. Heavy-set, and matronly, with short grey hair. She
halted abruptly at the sight of Bodie. “You!”
“You should hire a better class of thug
next time,” said Bodie, glowering.
“What?” asked Jane.
“She’s the one who tried to have Bodie’s
legs broken,” said Doyle, helpfully.
Jane’s mother ignored her. Her narrow-eyed
glare was focused on Bodie. “You’re the bastard who
seduced my daughter!”
Jane stepped between Bodie and her mother. “Oh,
for God’s sake, mother! How could you do this?”
“He took your virginity!”
“What?” Bodie’s jaw dropped.
In nearly the same moment, Jane said, “My
what?” She recovered first and said, “Mother,
I haven’t been a virgin since I was fifteen!”
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” exclaimed
her mother, clutching her chest.
Jane grabbed her mother’s arm and pulled
her into the back of the house, leaving Bodie and Doyle standing
in the hall. They could hear the two of them continuing to argue.
“I threw away good money for you!”
“I never asked you to! If I want to sleep
with every undercover cop in London, it’s my business!”
They heard the sound of crockery breaking.
Bodie pushed Doyle out the door. “Come on,
let’s get out of here.”
Doyle dug his heels in. “She tried to have
your legs broken!” He sounded outraged. “She should
be in jail right next to that worthless son of hers!”
“Well, yes, she did,” said Bodie,
once more experiencing that warm feeling that came with knowing
that Doyle cared. “But she’s a grieving mother, and
she’s just found out her daughter’s...” He glanced
back down the hall, hearing another crash from the back of the house.
“A lovely, lovely girl.”
Truthfully, Bodie was relieved that Jane hadn’t
been a virgin after all. It would have been embarrassing if he hadn’t
Bodie gave Doyle a bright smile as he hustled
him out the door. “Want to check out a few more pubs, just
to say we saw them all?”
Doyle glowered, but said nothing until they were
back in the car. Bodie was about to put the keys in the ignition
when Doyle finally spoke.
“Hang about a minute.” He was staring
back at the house suspiciously.
Bodie groaned impatiently. “What now?”
He’d had entirely enough of mothers and daughters and relatives
of IRA terrorists.
Doyle tapped the side of his nose. “Got
a feeling, don’t I?”
“There’s cures for that you know.”
Bodie dangled the car keys in front of Doyle. “C’mon,
mate. It’s none of our business. Let’s get a drink.
I’ll buy you a real one this time.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it,”
said Doyle. “No, I think mum is hiding something.”
“You’re mad,” said Bodie.
“Something about the way she reacted when
she thought we were coppers… She looked almost relieved to
see that it was you.” Doyle slouched down in his seat, making
himself comfortable. “Let’s just sit here awhile and
see if anyone interesting comes to visit.”
“Jane was cleared, you know,” said
Bodie. “And look, there she is.”
The door of the small cottage slammed shut behind
Jane as she stormed out, her purse swinging from one hand.
“I’m more interested in the mother,”
said Doyle, after she’d passed their car.
“What’s interesting about her? A harridan,
that’s all she is.”
“Remind of your own mother?”
Bodie gave Doyle his most forbidding scowl. “She’s
nothing like my mother.”
Doyle seemed utterly unaffected by it. “Maybe,
Bodie warred with conflicting emotions for a long
moment. Humour finally won out. “My mother would eat her for
breakfast,” he said.
They watched the house in comfortable silence
for a while. And then Doyle asked, “What about your father?
Do you have one of those?”
“Everyone has one of those.”
Bodie sighed. “Give it up. I’m not
going to tell you about my father.” There wasn’t much
to tell in any case, but Doyle didn’t need to know that. And
any discussion of his father would inevitably lead to the long parade
of stepfathers that followed him.
The silence this time wasn’t quite as easy
as it had been. Trying to ignore Doyle’s questioning glances,
Bodie silently reviewed his past. It was not something he enjoyed
doing, being disinclined toward introspection at the best of times.
It wasn’t all bad, however. His past had
led to his present. If he hadn’t left home, he wouldn’t
have ended up here. And here wasn’t such a bad place to be.
An hour passed, and then another. Bored, Bodie
crossed his arms over his chest and fell asleep. It was, in his
experience, the best way to pass time. Doyle could watch the house,
since he was so convinced of his bloody “feeling.”
The shadows were lengthening across the street
when Doyle nudged him sharply. Bodie opened his eyes and looked
over at the house without moving. A man was walking up the path.
“Isn’t that…?” asked Doyle,
“He’s supposed to be in Dublin,”
whispered Bodie. “What’s he doing here?”
“Recruiting for a new campaign, I’d
Bodie watched as the door opened, and the man
exchanged words with Jane’s mother. She’d know who her
son’s friends had been, and who’d be most sympathetic
to the cause. She could give him connections…
As he watched, the woman stepped back, allowing
the man to enter. Brendan. The leader of the group, and the only
one to escape CI5’s net.
“Let’s grab him,” said Bodie,
unable to suppress an anticipatory grin. “Do you want front
“Back.” Bodie could hear an echo of
his own excitement in Doyle’s voice.
Bodie waited on the step in front of the door,
counting under his breath until he was sure Doyle had enough time
to get into position in the back. Then he used his shoulder to slam
through, shattering the frame. He threw himself down the hallway,
knocking over an end table, yet hardly missing a step. Everything
was going like clockwork, right down to remembering to identify
He had a brief impression of Jane’s mother,
mouth wide open, shrieking. The back door swung shut on Brendan’s
heel. Two long strides and Bodie was across the kitchen, his hand
extended, catching the door on the first bounce.
Doyle shouted. Bodie charged into the garden just
in time to see Doyle tackle Brendan and bring him down. They tumbled
into the dustbins with a loud clatter.
Seeing that Doyle had things well in hand, Bodie
decided to check on Jane’s mother. He’d hardly moved
when he heard a shot, and the unmistakable sound of a bullet cutting
through the air entirely too close to his body.
Doyle’s gun. Bodie dropped and twisted,
training his own weapon on the house he’d just left, only
to realise that it was unnecessary. Jane’s mother was standing
in the door, an astonished look on her face and a shotgun in her
hands, unfired. The gun hit the ground, followed a moment later
by the woman.
Bodie scrambled forward and kicked the weapon
to the side. Her eyes were open and she was still breathing, but
clearly already slipping in shock. Blood was rapidly spreading across
the side of her dress, obscuring the printed poppies.
“Your aim is off,” said Bodie, as
he pulled out his R/T.
“No, it wasn’t,” snapped Doyle.
“I would have had to shoot through you to get a kill shot.”
He ground his knee into Brendan’s spine, ignoring his grunt
of protest. “C’mon, you! Get your hands behind your
“Admit it,” said Bodie, later. “You
just didn’t want to shoot an old lady.”
“Fine,” said Doyle, watching the ambulance
men take Jane’s mother away on a stretcher. “Next time
I’ll put the bullet through you. Will that make you happy?”
Bodie listened to the snarl in Doyle’s voice
and thought, he cares. A lot. He rotated his shoulder,
trying to rub away the bruise that was forming.
“You led with your shoulder again, didn’t
you?” asked Doyle. “One of these days you’re going
to break something worse than the architecture.”
Then again, there was a point at which caring
became nagging. Bodie gave Doyle a tolerant smile and shoved him
toward the car. “It’s your turn to buy.”
Despite what he’d said, he was glad Jane’s
mother wasn’t dead. He liked Jane, and though he’d never
admit it to Doyle, the truth was that her mother did remind him
somewhat of his own. This was exactly the kind of family life he’d
fought to leave behind. But if he’d had a mate like Doyle,
or a father like Cowley…
He might never have run away from home in the
And that was definitely something to consider
over a pint. Or two.
The next morning they were standing at Cowley’s
desk, waiting on his pleasure. He signed one last form, and put
his pen down. “You two had some luck yesterday, though I wish
you could have resolved it without resorting to gunplay in the middle
of a residential neighbourhood. Bodie, I trust you’ve resolved
the issue that started all this?”
“And there will be no repeat...?”
“No, sir.” Bodie was confident of
that. Jane was the only member of that family not in jail or headed
that way. He didn’t think she’d be coming after him
for revenge. In fact, he had a feeling she’d be quite happy
to forget she’d ever known him.
Cowley glanced briefly at Doyle.
“It was all just a misunderstanding,”
said Doyle, blandly.
“I was dating the daughter,” offered
Cowley cut him off with a wave of his hand. “Spare
me the sordid details,” he said. “If you will each take
one of the files there, we can begin.”
Bodie picked up the folder and opened it to a
random page. He was only half listening as Cowley droned on about
some terrorist cell or the other. Whatever conclusions he’d
come to about the life he’d chosen, it was still definitely
time to change his local. The question was, where would he go?
He eyed Doyle surreptitiously. His partner had
his head down, intently studying the papers in front of him. They’d
visited a lot of pubs yesterday, and Doyle had seemed more enamoured
of some than others. One was even reasonably close.
But they shouldn’t make any hasty decisions.
Maybe another tour, just to be certain...
Bodie focused on the file, suppressing a smile.
There comes a time in every soldier’s life,
he thought, when he needs to accept that he’s finally made