Stockholm Syndrome

By Gil Hale – corbidae@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: Characters from The Professionals belong to Mark-1 Productions Ltd and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.


3 a.m. The rather dingy East London street was silent. There had been nothing interesting to see even when it was less quiet, especially not in the building CI5 were observing. No movement, no lights, no phone calls. In the whole thirty-six hours they’d been watching the place there hadn’t been a single sign of life. Doyle should know. He’d been here for every minute of it.

He looked uneasily at the R/T. All it needed now was for Cowley to call, expecting to get Bodie, and there’d be hell to pay for both of them. Or maybe the old man would buy Bodie’s story of being unexpectedly struck down by the flu that was making its seasonal rounds. Doyle didn’t. He’d recognised the note in Bodie’s voice when Bodie called to ask him to do the night shift as well. This was payback, and not the joking payback they’d arrived at these days; they were back at that tense balance between friendship and outright war that had characterised the early days of their partnership.

He sighed, coughed and picked up the flask. About a mouthful of cold tea remained in it. At least that might ease the irritating soreness at the back of his throat.

A car went along the road. It didn’t stop. Half an hour later a cat strolled up the steps of the house he was watching, sat down, washed itself and moved elegantly on. He was tempted to put it in the book, especially as this was officially Bodie’s shift.

“You can do my handwriting,” Bodie had said blandly. “No point bothering HQ with this. A couple of paracetamol and a good night’s sleep and I’ll be fine in the morning.”

Doyle wouldn’t have minded some paracetamol himself—or a good night’s sleep come to that. He’d started this tedious stretch with a sore throat, and it had got more and more annoying. The house was freezing and he’d had no chance to get anything to eat. It was no wonder he couldn’t stop shivering. He pulled his jacket tighter around himself and stared bleakly at the street.

By 5 a.m. traces of life were returning to the area, though not to the building he was observing. At 6.30 Bodie turned up, smart, shaved, a sardonic look in his eye that dared Doyle to call him on his remarkable recovery. Doyle knew it would be a waste of time. Silently he began to gather up his odds and ends.

Bodie glanced down the sheet. “Exciting night you seem to have spent. Never mind; dedication to duty is its own reward. That’s your motto these days, isn’t it?”

Doyle was prevented from answering that by the call from Cowley he’d been worrying about earlier. Bodie might be a thorough bastard at the moment, but you couldn’t fault his timing.

“3.7?”

“Sir. Nothing to report.”

“Aye. It’s the same with the others. I think we’ve got a false lead on this one. Is Doyle there with you?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then I’ll see you both here in half an hour. You can call the observation off.”

Half an hour. Doyle left Bodie to see to any final details. If he hurried, he might at least manage a shave and a mug of coffee before he had to look awake in front of Cowley.


Bodie let him go. He too had no wish to involve Cowley, and if Cowley saw Doyle unshaven and generally looking pathetic, he would probably have little difficulty in deducing what had been going on.

Doyle had looked pathetic. For about ten seconds, when he first set eyes on him, Bodie had regretted landing him with the night’s observation duties. But then his colder mood had returned. Doyle was the one who’d chosen to go by the book, elevating orders above friendship. If he’d spent a cold, miserable night wondering about his choice, Bodie wasn’t going to feel sorry for him. Anyway, maybe the experience would remind him that Bodie’s old mates were off limits unless Bodie agreed to the action against them.

By the time they stood outside Cowley’s office, Doyle at least looked clean and as presentable as he ever was. He was pale and his eyes were red-rimmed with tiredness, but when Cowley commented he had the presence of mind to use Bodie’s excuse about the flu that was going around.

Cowley made an impatient noise. He didn’t approve of agents whose immune systems weren’t up to the job. “I hope you’re not going to tell me you want to go home to bed, like McCabe?”

“No, sir. Not that bad, sir.”

“Good, because I’ve got a job for you two. I’m beginning to doubt the information we got on Dr Craig. It looks as if we may need to go right back to the beginning on this one.”

Dr Craig, a brilliant young physicist, described as ‘involved in very sensitive nuclear research’—as if there was any sort that wasn’t sensitive—had disappeared a week earlier. The whisper had reached CI5—from a usually reliable source—that a Middle Eastern group were interested in his expertise and might well be behind it.

“Though they’re a long way from being able to use a man like him,” Cowley had said, dubious even then. “These boys want surface-to-air missiles now, not some distant prospect of nuclear technology. And a holocaust on their doorstep would be damn stupid anyway; the last thing they need is to make the land uninhabitable.”

But it was a lead, and from a man who’d been right before, so they’d spent the last several days staking out all the groups known meeting points and apartments. The lack of any confirmation from this or from liaison with other agencies had evidently now convinced Cowley he’d been right in the first place.

“It’s the only lead we had,” Doyle said.

“Aye, well now you’re going to find another. I want you two to go and talk to Craig’s mother and fiancée and get a clearer picture of the man, especially in the weeks before he disappeared. And mind your manners. His mother’s already trying to get questions asked in the Lords about our lack of progress. Doyle, you go and collect the address and details from Betty. Bodie, I want a word with you.”

That sounded ominous. Bodie straightened up as Doyle went, and tried to look the picture of a man with nothing on his conscience.

“This armourer, Cusak, we arrested last week,” Cowley began.

Bodie schooled his face very carefully, all amusement gone.

“I’m aware he was an acquaintance of yours,” Cowley said.

“If Doyle…”

“Doyle has said nothing. I’m capable of doing my job without his assistance. Your connection with Cusak was noted in your file when I took you on in CI5.”

Bodie managed not to blink. He wondered how many other people from his past might be in there if Cowley knew of this one.

“I gave the orders for Cusak to be arrested,” Cowley said. “Neither you nor Doyle were supposed to be involved. However, when McCabe went off sick, Doyle was the only man available.”

“You sent me to Dover to keep me out of the way.”

“I sent you to Dover to pick up some information from France, which you did. But yes, I wanted you out of the way, Bodie. I thought Cusak might have been something of a friend.”

“Just an acquaintance, sir,” Bodie said smoothly.

It was half true. Cusak had never really been a friend: older, not much of a soldier, a man not well-suited to a violent trade, he was generally tolerated rather than respected. But a long time ago, when Bodie had been much younger and stupider, Cusak had shown him kindness when he was miserably in need of it. Bodie didn’t forget those debts.

Cowley looked at him thoughtfully. “He fired on Doyle and Murphy as soon as he saw them,” he said.

Bodie didn’t know the details; he hadn’t wanted to hear them. He knew that Cusak lay in a coma in a secure hospital, and that it was Doyle’s bullet that had put him there. If that wasn’t enough, he also knew that Doyle, informed of the bust, had acted like a good little professional and refrained from tipping Bodie off. If Cowley wanted to be included in the general resentment, fine, but he was making a mistake if he thought Bodie’s anger would be so easily transferred from Doyle.

“Murphy’s report says that Doyle nearly got himself killed trying to get Cusak to drop his gun and give himself up,” Cowley went on. “Why would that be, Bodie?”

Bodie shrugged. “You know Doyle, sir. It’s the police background. Shooting’s a last resort.”

“Aye,” Cowley admitted, half-satisfied. “All right, Bodie. On your way. And don’t come back empty-handed.”

Bodie knew that might be hard to achieve, but this case was causing Cowley an increasing amount of pressure. It was not only the missing scientist’s area of knowledge, though that was obviously a major concern; it was the additional fact that he came from an old, wealthy and depressingly well-connected family, and already more than one cabinet minister had called to enquire into CI5’s progress.

If Bodie and Doyle had been exchanging any more than the bare minimum of necessary words, he’d no doubt have had to listen to Doyle’s opinion of that.

Where was Doyle, anyway? Not collecting the papers—Bodie could see into Betty’s office, and she was on her own. She looked up and smiled. “I think Ray went along to the coffee room. Said he hadn’t had breakfast.”

Bodie found him, breakfasting on black tea and a couple of paracetamol. Just for a moment, he looked at Doyle as he might have done when things were normal between them, and had to smother a brief sense of concern. Doyle really didn’t look too bright—he was too pale, his eyes were bloodshot and he was making a face as though swallowing hurt. But Bodie had not long since called the hospital, and heard that Cusak still showed no signs of coming out of the coma. He dismissed any sympathy and asked briskly, “Ready?”

Doyle glanced round. “I’ve got the address. Very posh area. You’d better do the lady of the house and I’ll take the kitchen.”

There was nothing in his voice to hint that Bodie was getting to him—but it showed in the half-wary look in his eyes. Bodie remembered that from their first days of being partnered, but then it had been because Doyle was uncertain what to make of him. It was there now, he thought, because Doyle felt guilty. And so he bloody well ought to.

Bodie took the papers and glanced at the address. “Take us an hour or so. Whose car?”

“Yours,” Doyle said. “Not sure I’d be safe.”

Bodie preferred to take his car, anyway. He would have had no compunction about making Doyle drive, he told himself, it was just that his own neck was on the line as well, and Doyle did look as if he might pass out at the wheel. Bodie wasn’t surprised when after less than ten minutes on the road Doyle was already slumped asleep, snoring rather wheezily. It crossed his mind to put the radio on loudly, but he left it.


Doyle dozed for most of the drive, but not comfortably: the paracetamol had made only slight inroads on the pounding headache and sore throat that were now tormenting him. Vaguely, during a brief spell of being nearer awake, he decided they’d been unfair to take the mickey when McCabe had gone home feeling sorry for himself. Betty had mentioned that several more people were down with the flu, and that it was hitting those who had it pretty hard.

Alternately hot and then shivery, he dreamed of a bizarre mix of scenes, some real, some strange distortions of the past. Syd died, Mickey Hamilton’s life bled out, Bodie’s apartment exploded as he lifted his hand from the dial of his phone…

“Doyle!”

He jerked awake, glad to wake, and found that the car had stopped. Bodie was looking at him with something between exasperation and amusement. That was such an improvement on the complete lack of expression he’d seen on Bodie’s face for the last few days, that the echo of the dreams faded and he felt slightly encouraged in spite of what standing up did to the pounding in his head.

He hadn’t been joking when he suggested that Bodie should interview the lady of the house and let Doyle take the staff, but the lady herself—actually an Honourable Mrs or something along those lines—refused to allow the staff to be troubled. Doyle was eyed with distaste but not allowed to escape to the kitchen. He stood silently beside Bodie and endured her harangue.

When she had finished, they had to endure a repeat from the glacial blonde who was accompanying her during the interview. This turned out to be the missing scientist’s fiancée. No wonder the poor bastard disappeared, Doyle thought, as he tried to filter anything useful from their string of complaints. Wouldn’t blame him if he’d just done a runner.

He began to consider this a real possibility as the women spoke. Distracted by the terrorist tip-off and by Craig’s nuclear expertise, they hadn’t looked closely into his personal life. That could well have been a mistake. Maybe Craig had found a nice warm cuddly girlfriend somewhere and simply couldn’t face breaking this engagement.

Some reasonably tactful questioning, though, suggested Craig had had no chance of developing a life outside his research and this chilling domesticity. Between them, the two women could account for a terrifying amount of his life. Doyle briefly caught Bodie’s eye and saw exactly what he was thinking of that, but it was the most fleeting of contacts, and in a second the moment, and closeness, were gone.

He was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to get past this.

He hadn’t had a choice about shooting Cusak. In fact, he’d aimed to save the man’s life, before a special branch marksman could get into place for a more lethal shot. Cusak’s coma had been caused when he fell down the steps of his cellar as he staggered back from the shoulder wound that had made him drop his gun. Bodie knew that; Doyle could guess that was the only reason they were still working as partners at all. But the fact remained that Cusak lay critically ill… and that Doyle, who could have tipped Bodie off about the impending raid on the premises, had chosen not to. Uneasily, Doyle wondered if in other circumstances he might just have done it, if Cusak’s ammunition had not been used to kill a police officer amongst others. Doyle had his old loyalties too.

That was partly why the rift between them was widening. Doyle didn’t regret that Cusak had been busted. He’d done his best to keep him alive, or had tried to, but he was glad the place was shut down. Bodie, who knew him too well whether or not they were on friendly terms, could no doubt tell that faced with the same decision another time, Doyle would take the same action.

He made notes mechanically while his mind drifted. Most of the time he hardly registered what he was writing, but now a word caught his attention. College. He tuned back in a little. The fiancée was making some disparaging remark about how Robert had had some rather strange friends at his college.

This was the first remotely interesting remark Doyle had heard, and Bodie picked up on it as well.

“Strange?”

“Oh, not anarchists or anything. Just… odd. The sort of people who don’t really appreciate the opportunities there are at Oxford or Cambridge.”

“They didn’t study?”

“Oh yes, they studied. And dragged Robert off to some terribly earnest talks. Nothing properly social at all. They even discouraged him from taking me to more than one ball. He should have been making friends who would be useful and influential for him later. It was such a waste. But when they had left—Robert of course stayed on to do his PhD—and we got engaged, things improved and he lost touch with them.”

“You have names?”

“I really don’t see why it would be any help to you.”

“Have to follow everything up,” Doyle said stolidly—a useful phrase he’d learned early in his career for these sorts of situations.

It gained a modicum of approval from the matriarch. “Quite right,” she said briskly. “Felicity, I’m sure we could supply those names and addresses. I have Robert’s old address book somewhere. He put it in the recycling, but I kept it for him. He could be so absent-minded I thought he might lose the new one.”

Once she had found it, she dismissed them without waiting to see if they had any further questions. Doyle didn’t care. She could be no keener to get rid of them than he was to go. She’d kept them standing the whole time they’d been there, and to add to his other miseries he felt vaguely giddy now. He wanted to go and collapse somewhere. Perhaps the list of contacts would be enough for Cowley and he could go home to bed.

“Well, I don’t think we did anything to provoke more calls to their Lordships,” Bodie said, picking up the R/T as soon as they were back in the car.

“Honourables ought to be Cowley’s job,” Doyle said, flopping back in his seat and hoping Cowley would be satisfied.

Cowley was, in his own way, satisfied. Unfortunately, that didn’t mean he said ‘Well done lads, come back in.’ Instead, he said, “Aye well, that list should keep you busy for the rest of the day. You can talk to the six contacts in this area. Find out if there was more to Dr Craig than we thought. We need some sort of a breakthrough, and soon.”

Doyle looked at the list again with growing dismay. There was one address in Wales and a couple in the North, then the six Cowley had to be referring to. Although they were all roughly in the southeast of the country, their locations were scattered. It would take ’til well into the evening to get through them all.

Bodie looked at his watch. “Better make a start. Where do you fancy first? St Albans or Buckingham?”

He sounded less cold and detached, Doyle thought vaguely. As if Bodie wasn’t quite shutting him out any more but hadn’t decided to let him back in either. It was a slightly more encouraging thought in an otherwise bleak day. Maybe Bodie had had more hopeful news of Cusak, but Doyle knew better, much better, than to ask. If they stopped for long enough anywhere, maybe he’d get a chance to call the ward himself.

Stopping, however, was not something Cowley wanted timetabled into their schedule. Nor decision making. They got a spate of phone calls from Betty with times of appointments she’d managed to make with most of the names on their list. It was a ‘knock at the door’ rather than ‘kick it in’ day. Somewhere between St Albans and Maidenhead they stopped in a lay-by for a coffee from a van. Bodie ate a vile-looking burger. Doyle swallowed the two paracetamol he’d pocketed before leaving headquarters.

St Albans—a young man who met them at his tiny IT business—was unproductive. They learned no more than that Robert Craig had been a nice bloke. Undeserving of his female relatives or middle-eastern terrorists, Doyle thought. Maidenhead was wary; a little too wary perhaps. She said she’d known Craig but had lost touch. Although she answered all their questions with apparent cooperation, she didn’t actually tell them anything at all.

The next girl gave them equally bland answers. They both seemed immune to Bodie’s charms too; Doyle didn’t fool himself that he had any of his own just now. His ambitions had become limited to surviving the day. His headache, barely muted by the coffee and paracetamol, had returned in full force. He couldn’t stop shivering, and he felt sick and increasingly hazy.

He wondered about asking Bodie to find a garage, where he might be able to buy some more paracetamol or aspirin or something, but the one thing worse than feeling the way he did would be to prove himself a let down in yet another way.

All the same, there seemed no point enduring simply to waste time. “They’re ready for us,” he said raspily as they drove away from the second girl. “Some of her answers were the same.”

“Don’t think she really knew anything though,” Bodie said.

“Nah. But someone had probably told her she’d be doing Craig a good turn to keep her mouth shut.”

“You reckon?”

“Yeah. She hadn’t been threatened. And she didn’t like us. Starting to look more like Craig’s gone willingly.”

“There was one place Betty couldn’t get in touch with,” Bodie said slowly. “That might mean whoever’s there—if anyone—is out of the loop.”

“The Box Hill address?”

“Yes. Isolated place, somewhere along the bottom of the hill.”

“We could make it there in half an hour,” Doyle said, looking at the road map.

Bodie was looking instead at the fading light and building traffic. The raw November day was almost over. “We’ll be longer than that,” he predicted.

They were. Not helped by Doyle’s navigation, either. He found he could hardly focus on the map and looking down at it made him feel increasingly sick. Bodie’s sarcasm was more muted than he expected though. Perhaps he put the difficulties down to the rural lanes and the early darkness.

They finally entered the long, overgrown drive of the house they were looking for. There was a light on in the porch, and in one of the downstairs rooms. They’d warned Betty off any further attempts to contact this one, so hopefully their arrival would not get a well-prepared response, though it was hard to tell how much communication could have gone on between the others, or whether it really signified anything beyond an instinctive distrust of CI5’s motives.

“Lives with his parents,” Doyle said, pushing himself out of the car and holding on to the door briefly as a wave of giddiness swept over him.

Bodie, ignoring this, was already ringing the bell.

The cold wind driving drizzle into their faces steadied Doyle a little. He followed just as a young man opened the door.

“Nick Harworth?” Bodie asked, holding out his ID.

“Yes. Can I help you?”

“We’d just like to ask you a few questions about Robert Craig.”

He didn’t give Harworth a chance to object or even to answer, but pushed on past.

Harworth nodded to Doyle. “Come in,” he said with just a touch of irony.

He didn’t look as annoyed, or surprised, as he should have done, Doyle thought fuzzily.

Harworth led them into a large, old-fashioned sitting room. “Come and sit down. My family are away at the moment—gone to visit relatives in Australia. Can I get you a drink?”

He stepped away from them to the cabinet at the side of the room. As soon as he did so, with a timing that verged on perfection, people stepped from behind furniture and curtains and through the twin doors that led to the hallway.

Completely taken aback, Doyle could only stare and realise how very badly he and Bodie had miscalculated on this one.

“Put your hands on your heads,” a huge, Nordic looking man said politely.

Who the people were Doyle had no idea. What they were was only too plain. They were all armed, and although some held their weapons more professionally than others, every gun was covering himself and Bodie.

They hadn’t walked into a plain, slightly shabby family sitting room; they’d walked into a trap. It had sprung with very sweet precision… and they were caught.


Bodie put his hands very slowly on his head. Anything else would have been extremely stupid. Annoyed with himself for having been caught so unawares, he tried to assess where a tedious day had gone so disastrously wrong.

“You’re making a big mistake, you know, Harworth,” he said.

“I’m not Nick Harworth,” the man said calmly. “Nick’s in Australia with his family. Their house is conveniently isolated, and of course empty at the moment. We knew if you started doing the rounds of Robert’s old friends you could be led here.”

The circle of guns was keeping a reasonable level of alertness. Two of them, besides the man who was evidently in charge, had some military experience, Bodie thought. The rest, well, somebody had evidently trained them enough for this, but that was all. Six men, two girls, a mixture of nationalities probably. The leader could have stepped from any Viking movie, and his accent might well have been Scandinavian; of the others, one girl looked French, one of the men had a tattoo that Bodie vaguely associated with Aussie special forces, though he wasn’t sure on that one.

The Viking, as Bodie had mentally labelled him, removed Bodie’s guns and checked him quickly but thoroughly for any other weapons. Finally he took Bodie’s ID and looked at it thoughtfully.

“Bodie. CI5. Keep your hands on your head, Mr Bodie, and don’t even think about moving while I check your companion.”

Bodie had been aware of Doyle in the way he was aware of the position of everyone in the room, but he’d been concentrating on the opposition. Now, as the Viking took Doyle’s gun, Bodie really looked for the first time at the grey pallor of his partner’s face. He wondered just how ill Doyle was feeling. It was another factor against them.

He should have noticed it earlier, as a professional even if not as a friend. Doyle didn’t look up to any sort of action, in fact he looked as if he could barely stay on his feet. He hadn’t been complaining, either, which was always a bad sign.

The Viking had checked Doyle as efficiently as he had dealt with Bodie, and had removed his ID, but now he stood looking at him with an unreadable expression. He was a massive man, at least 6’6” and with a formidably muscular build; he looked as if he could easily snap Doyle in two. The gesture he did make, though, was not violent, just completely unexpected. He laid the back of his hand lightly against Doyle’s forehead, and sighed.

“I suppose, Mr Doyle, you had better go and sit down. CI5 must be very short of agents to send you out when you are sick?”

Doyle looked at him blankly. The Viking took him quite gently by the arm and pushed him in the direction of the couch. Doyle hesitated, swayed, and Bodie had to check an instinctive move to steady him.

The Viking glanced at him. “No movement at all, please,” he said. “Mr Doyle, I suggest you sit down before you fall down. You’re a damn nuisance. I did not make my plans on the assumption one of you would be fit only for bed.”

Bodie saw with some, smothered, relief that Doyle obeyed. Things were moving off the script he was familiar with, but overt action obviously wasn’t an option. Instead he wondered if he could edge closer to the table where his R/T lay, while the attention of the room was mainly on Doyle.

“Stand still,” the Viking said sharply without looking round. “If anyone speaks to your Mr Cowley, it will be I.”

The Aussie moved very slightly, and Bodie got the message. The rest of the not-too-professional troops seemed to be getting restless.

“Why trouble with him,” the French girl said, looking at Doyle without sympathy. “We should just continue. They will have food and water. He’s not a child.”

“It’s too cold there,” the young man who’d let them in said. “We planned for them to be safe, not comfortable. It’ll be below freezing at night in there.”

“Too cold for someone with a fever this high,” the Viking said, apparently not seeing any incongruity in this concern. “No, we will make an adjustment to what we plan.”

“It is a mistake,” the girl said. “We should not make changes.”

If she irritated the Viking, he didn’t show it, continuing calmly, “You will take Mr Bodie to site A as planned. I and our friend with the key will take this one…”

“No,” Bodie said, startling himself slightly and regaining everyone’s attention instantly. “If all this is causing you some sort of crisis of conscience, just give me what I need to take care of him.”

“And that will be high on your priorities? Why should I believe that?”

Doyle made an effort to sit up straighter. “Look, you seem concerned to treat us as well as possible. Why don’t you call this off, before someone gets hurt? If Craig had a good reason to disappear, Cowley’ll give you a fair hearing.”

“You make it sound very easy. Unfortunately, your Mr Cowley has a job to do, and to be certain of national security is much more important to him than one man’s choices. Now, if you are feeling well enough to talk, when did you last take any medicine—aspirin, paracetamol?”

“I’m all right,” Doyle said shortly.

The situation was skewed, Bodie thought. It went against all their training to cooperate in any way with their captors, but he felt a certainty which he’d have happily gambled on that this Norse throwback was genuinely concerned about Doyle.

“We are taking too long,” the girl grumbled.

Her impatience was the most noticeable flaw Bodie had seen so far in the group.

“I don’t think it’s your call, sweetheart,” he said blandly. “Why don’t you go and make us a nice cup of tea, while we chat to the men in charge.”

It certainly annoyed her. Unfortunately the Viking made it a training point. “You see—Mr Bodie looks for our weaknesses, and you have shown him one. We will ask for a volunteer to make a cup of tea; Mr Doyle should drink something.”

The young man who was not Nick Harworth went, saying it would probably have to be black.

“Of course,” the Viking went on, “impatience is undesirable, but not nearly such a failure of judgment as being unable to see that your partner can barely stay on his feet.”

Bodie met his eyes without giving anything away, but he accepted he hadn’t won that round. He glanced at Doyle; flushed, red-eyed and breathing much too fast he looked more or less out of it, but Bodie wouldn’t underestimate him. He wondered if the Viking might.

Doyle’s hot eyes met his own briefly. It was enough to assure Bodie that if he made a move, Doyle was ready to do his best to back him. The girl was the weakest link…

The Viking didn’t see the silent exchange between them, but perhaps he saw some increase in tension in Bodie’s stance. He gave some orders in a mixture of French, English and the language Bodie didn’t know. He suspected the man wouldn’t have used English at all but for the Australian in his ranks. The effect of the orders was disastrous for his plans though. Three of the men converged on Bodie, and his arms were fastened efficiently behind his back; one stooped to do the same to his ankles, but before he could, Doyle took advantage of the moment’s inattention.

In one swift move he was at the table where their guns and R/T had been placed, and although he looked even paler from the exertion, his weapon was pointing unswervingly at the Viking before anyone else moved.

“Let Bodie go,” he said hoarsely. “Back off.”

The Viking seemed irritatingly unperturbed, except for a sharp order in French to his own people to do nothing. “I don’t think you want to shoot me,” he said quietly to Doyle.

“I will if I have to,” Doyle said.

The Viking rattled off another string of orders, not bothering with English this time. The Aussie knew what he was doing, Bodie thought. It was the others who were worrying the Viking more than Doyle did. At the moment though, they were obeying silently, still covering Bodie and Doyle and not reacting to Doyle’s threat.

“Talk English,” Doyle said shortly.

Bodie shifted very slightly, ready to use his feet and his shoulders if he had a chance.

The Viking said, “Three deaths—you must see that if you fired the response would be immediate—would escalate this situation rather a lot. Do you want that? Accept the way things are, and give me the gun.”

Doyle backed towards the door. “Nobody needs to get shot at all if you release Bodie. You’d be out of here before we could send in any back-up.”

His voice was painfully harsh and breathless, but his determination was clear enough.

The Viking said something brief. The young man who had gone to make the tea stepped instantly from concealment just outside the door and forced Doyle’s hand down; the Viking crossed the gap in seconds.

Doyle had no strength for any kind of physical struggle. “Sorry,” he said bitterly to Bodie as the gun was taken from him, and then the last of his strength suddenly seemed to desert him with this defeat. He swayed and would have fallen, but the Viking caught him.

Bodie’s frustration and anger with the situation were made sharper by concern and the uncomfortable clarity with which he now remembered how cold it had been in the apartment they’d been using for surveillance, and that he’d left Doyle with no chance of a night’s sleep, food or even a hot drink when he landed him with the night shift. He wrenched unsuccessfully at the grip on his arms as the Viking lifted Doyle easily and set him back on the couch.

Doyle started to cough, painful, dry coughing, which left him trying to throw up, though since to Bodie’s knowledge all he’d swallowed all day was black coffee and paracetamol, it didn’t happen.

“Let me help him,” Bodie said savagely, though the Viking was doing what could be done.

To his surprise, the Viking nodded to the men holding him, and he was pushed closer to the couch.

“Untie his hands, but fasten his feet,” the Viking said, then added something rapid in French. To Bodie’s surprise, all but two of the group left—the young man who wasn’t Nick Harworth, and the Aussie, who Bodie thought seemed depressingly professional. The change in numbers wasn’t really in his favour; with Doyle out of it and the most competent members of the group remaining, he wasn’t going to get out of this one easily. On the other hand, it did look as though they might be keeping him and Doyle together.

The Viking looked at him as if he could guess his thoughts. “You would have been too much of a handful for the young ones,” he said. “Besides, your face shows that you have some concern for your partner after all. If you do not make a nuisance of yourself, you may stay with him. Here…”

He handed Bodie one of the cooling cups of tea and a packet of paracetamol tablets. “See if you can get him to swallow some. We must leave shortly.”

Doyle looked almost grey except for the red flush along his cheekbones, but he had at least stopped coughing. Propped up on a couple of cushions he was breathing slightly less uncomfortably, but he looked as if he was no longer fully aware of what was going on. Bodie handed him a paracetamol and it dropped from his fingers.

“Come on, Ray,” he said. “You need to swallow the damn things.”

The Viking made a noise not unlike Cowley when faced with incompetence. “Break them up for him,” he said. “Give them to him.” He went back to a hasty, quiet discussion with his remaining two men.

Bodie didn’t do nursing, but just now he didn’t seem to have a choice. He crushed up a couple of tablets with the end of the teaspoon, and coaxed his partner to swallow them with a couple of mouthfuls of the tea.

“Sorry,” Doyle said again, his eyes half shut. “I tried.”

“You did okay.”

“He fell. Couldn’t get there quick enough.”

Bodie had thought he was talking about the failed attempt to stop the Viking, but he realised now that Doyle was more confused by the fever than he’d realised, and it was Cusak on his mind. Doyle mumbled something else, and Bodie was slightly alarmed by how far he seemed from reality. One moment he appeared to think he was back in the car, the next that he was on some assignment—and in all of it, he was aware of the fact they weren’t working as partners.

Bodie spoke to him quietly, trying to get him back in the present, but he was cut off by the Viking turning back to them. He’d got a blanket from somewhere, and he wrapped it loosely around Doyle now, while Bodie was yanked to his feet and blindfolded. He wanted to give Doyle something to hold onto, some knowledge he was still here, but they were already pushing him along. “Hang in there, Ray,” he said quickly, then he was stumbling over the doorstep and rain blew into his face.

It was surprisingly difficult, blindfolded, to judge the vehicle they were taken in. Something large… and it ran smoothly. They’d left his hands free, which he hadn’t expected, and he was even more surprised when he felt a weight against his arm and realised they’d put Doyle in beside him. Not that there was much danger of them making some sort of joint break for it; Doyle was barely conscious, and the solid muscle on the other side of Bodie was probably the Australian.

Bodie tried to make some sense of where they were going by the turns and the varying sound of traffic, but the best he could do was that they were probably heading south, and were quite quickly off the main roads. He steadied Doyle against the movement of the car, and didn’t need to be able to see him to know he was no better. He was perceptibly hot, even through the blanket and his jacket, and he was breathing as if he’d run a race.

They’d been going more than an hour, less than two, when they bumped over rougher ground and stopped. His blindfold was removed, and he found they were in a field; it would have been pitch dark but the car’s headlights were on full and lit up a wide swathe of ground.

For a nasty moment, he thought he’d misjudged them completely, and this remote place had been chosen for an execution the other members of their group would never know about. But the Viking was lifting Doyle from the car quite gently, and then Bodie heard the distant but unmistakable sound of a helicopter, coming in for a dangerous and highly illegal landing. It set down with no problem. Crazy but competent, Bodie thought wryly.

He looked for any distinguishing marks in the helicopter as he got in. Someone’s private chopper by the look of it. It had executive comfort rather than military functionality. He hadn’t spotted anything more useful before his blindfold was replaced.

“You have professional habits,” the Viking said.

“Forgot to bring my passport though.”

He didn’t really think they would answer that with any hint of their destination, and he was right.

“Have one of ours. We’ve got plenty for everyone,” the Aussie said dryly.

Not being a pigeon, Bodie had no idea of the compass bearing they took, and even estimating time was difficult. He thought they could have made France, Northern England or the depths of the West country, but he had nothing to go on, and when they finally landed all he knew was another brief flurry of slightly less cold rain, and a tang of sea in the air that at least told him they were near a coast.

His blindfold was removed once they were in the warmth of a building. He looked around a room which was typical of any reasonably large pre war house, and then, blinking still as he adjusted to the light, looked more urgently for his partner.

He, the Australian and the man who wasn’t Nick Harworth were the only ones in the room. He waited a moment, warily, to see if the others were following just behind, but too long went past.

“Where is he?” he demanded.

“Your mate? They took him upstairs.”

“He’s okay,” not-Nick-Harworth added. “Well, not okay, but the doc’s taking a look at him.”

“Trying to take a look,” the Viking said, appearing in the doorway. “Mr Bodie, come and convince your partner we have not thrown you out of the helicopter.”

Bodie followed him along a hallway and upstairs to a warm bedroom. Doyle was arguing with an older man, refusing to be examined and demanding to see Bodie—and gasping for the breath to keep talking with.

Bodie went to the side of the bed. “Okay, sunshine, we’re both in one piece and I think this is the doctor.”

Doyle fell silent except for painful wheezing breathing. He looked absolutely exhausted. The doctor was a tall, grey-haired man, probably in his sixties. He patted Doyle on the shoulder sympathetically, and let rip at the Viking with a stream of what was obviously forthright criticism.

Bodie couldn’t help the just slightest hint of fellow feeling. The words might be unintelligible, but the manner was pure Cowley.

“Think that’s his boss?” he murmured to Doyle, sitting beside him and lending him an arm to prop him up.

The elderly man swung around to him. “No, I am not his boss. Not as you mean. I am his father. Such stupidity! Foolish, complicated, unnecessary games. A good operation is simple—and does not involve dragging a sick man many miles from his home. And you have no more sense,” he added to Bodie. “Could you not see, and hear, he should be in a bed. There is no need for a fever to become so bad or to affect the lungs like this. My son, you, Cowley, you are all lacking in the most basic common sense.”

He’d started to examine Doyle swiftly and competently as he spoke, and all his sympathy was clearly reserved for him. Doyle had subsided back to apathy, keeping his energy for breathing and no longer objecting to the doctor’s actions.

“How long has he been ill?”

Bodie realised he didn’t know. Last night? All through the long surveillance stint he’d started the morning before that? He’d looked bad enough all day today…

“Twenty four hours maybe?” he offered.

The doctor frowned at the thermometer he’d just taken from Doyle’s mouth, and at Bodie and the Viking for good measure. “Get some more pillows,” he said sharply to his son. “And some soda as well as water.”

He propped Doyle up quite gently on the pile of pillows. “You will breathe more easily if you are sitting up a little,” he said. “Your temperature is too high, and you are a little… what is the word… dehydrated. If I have to I will put up a drip, but we will see. Try to drink a little, and we will give you some paracetamol and start you on an antibiotic for your lungs.”

“Be sick…” Doyle objected.

“You feel sick? We can help with that.” He took a bottle from the case he had with him. “Here, this will settle your stomach.”

Bodie saw that Doyle was too confused to know whether or not to trust the man.

“It’s okay,” he said quietly. “Take it, Ray. He’s just trying to help.”

The doctor glanced at him with slightly more approval. “Give him two spoonfuls,” he said, handing the bottle to Bodie. “He will take it better from you.”

Bodie tipped the thick white liquid carefully; it smelt vaguely pepperminty and not unpleasant. Doyle blinked at him, still confused.

“Come on, open your mouth,” Bodie said.

“What?”

“Did you hear Cowley’s thinking of delaying our pay rise?”

As he’d expected, Doyle did open his mouth then, his automatic reflex an indignant response on the depths of Cowley’s miserliness. Bodie tucked the spoon in hastily.

When Doyle had finished coughing, the doctor relieved Bodie of any Florence Nightingale duties, and administered the second spoonful himself. It seemed to work. At any rate, a little later when he gave Doyle the paracetamol and antibiotics, he didn’t throw up.

“Now rest,” the doctor said. “Warmth, rest, plenty to drink. That is sensible. Even if you are young and strong, influenza is unpleasant. It is not to be dismissed lightly.”

Doyle leaned back against the pillows. When the doctor went to the door to talk to the Viking, he gestured very slightly to Bodie. “Where…?” he asked, almost inaudibly.

Bodie answered equally quietly. “No idea. They had me blindfolded. There may only be three of them though, and the old man.”

“Niels.”

“Niels?” Bodie repeated, perhaps a little more loudly. At any rate, the doctor heard.

“It is my name,” he said.

Not as cautious as the others, Bodie thought. They’d been very careful not to use names. Or perhaps he was just making a different, deliberate choice.

The doctor stood and observed Doyle for a little longer. Bodie thought how easy it would be to get hold of him… a hostage to balance the equation…

“This is an island,” Niels told him. “And the helicopter has left. I see what you are thinking, but it wouldn’t help you or your friend.”

“I wasn’t exactly planning it,” Bodie said.

“But you consider the possibilities.” He nodded. “It is a good habit. Jorge has trained you well.”

Bodie looked up, startled. Doyle’s eyes blinked open.

Niels smiled. “Yes. I know your Jorge Cowley. Or rather I knew him, a long time ago when he was very young, very strong-willed. With very much to learn.” He propped Doyle more comfortably against the pillows. “When you are well and you go home, tell him that Niels says he should have seen you were unfit for action and that he must remember to look at his men as carefully as at the goal.”

“Cowley’s a good man,” Doyle said, apparently missing what to Bodie was the altogether more important reference to their future.

Niels looked at his watch. “You should sleep,” he said to Doyle. “And you, Mr Bodie, must be hungry. There is food downstairs in the dining room if you want some. I will stay here until you return.”

The arrangements were not quite so casual as they sounded. As Bodie left the room, his Australian man-to-man marker strolled along after him down the stairs and joined him at the table.

“Soup?” the Viking offered.

Bodie nodded, ate all that he was offered, and listened carefully to their conversation. It consisted mostly of explaining to the Aussie how proper football was played. He learned nothing useful.

“All right if I go back upstairs?” he asked, finishing his share of the fruit tart.

“Of course,” the Viking said, standing up to accompany him. “You do not need to worry. My father is a good doctor.”

“You do the shooting, he digs the bullets out?”

“I did not see anyone get shot.”

“You will if you keep that French girl much longer. She was itching to put a bullet into someone.”

Something, a hint of an expression in the man’s eyes, suggested to Bodie this had got home. A thought occurred to him. He waited until they were back in the room where Niels was still sitting watching Doyle, then as if they had not just been having this conversation, he said to the Viking, “That French girl is dangerous. She’s a lot too ready to hurt someone. I don’t know what exactly you think you’re doing, but with people like that involved, it’s going to end in a lot more violence than I think you’d want.”

Niels, as Bodie had hoped, looked up at this. The Viking winced perceptibly. Bodie smiled blandly at him. He wasn’t too sure of the dynamics of this group or what they were up to, but he was pretty certain the Viking was going to get hell over his choice of manpower… or womanpower. It wouldn’t make up for the general humiliation of Bodie and Doyle’s capture, but it was a step in the right direction.

The expression on Niels face confirmed Bodie’s thoughts. “You will stay with your friend,” Niels said. “I need a word with my son.”

He adjusted the light cover over Doyle. “His fever is high. It is not too dangerous, but he may be confused when he wakes.”

“I’ve known enough people with malaria,” Bodie said.

“I do not think it will be so bad as that. But he is disturbed… perhaps not just by the fever. There is something else worrying him?”

“Besides being held up at gunpoint and abducted?” Bodie said, deflecting the question.

“Besides that,” Niels agreed. Then shifting to what Bodie had decided was a Scandinavian language, he turned to his son, and they left with the Viking answering defensively.

Bodie pulled a chair over by the bed. Doyle still looked uncomfortably hot and restless, but he was asleep and his breathing was no worse. The weight of concern in Bodie, and the guilt he refused to acknowledge, lifted slightly. He put his feet up on the edge of the bed, and let himself doze lightly.

They’d taken his watch, but there was a small clock on the mantelpiece. It was a couple of hours later by that when he woke to full alertness. No one had come in, but Doyle was muttering in his sleep with increasing agitation.

What he was saying was almost unintelligible. It was only because Bodie had nothing to do but sit there and hear it repeated over and over again that it gradually began to make sense to him.

He’d known, really, that it was the business with Cusak that was on Doyle’s mind. Now he realised Doyle was reliving that stand-off when he and Murphy had tried to get the man to give himself up. Bodie hadn’t completely forgotten his anger, but Doyle’s distress was tangible, and although his voice was hoarse and his words disjointed Bodie could hear the almost passionate effort he must have put in to trying to get Cusak to surrender.

Maybe it would have worked if Bodie had been there. Doyle should have tipped him off.

For now though, it was difficult to think of that. He saw with increasing concern how flushed Doyle was. A touch to his forehead confirmed he was hotter than ever. Bodie pulled the thin cover back.

“He’s restless?” Niels said, returning.

“He’s burning up,” Bodie said, annoyed with himself that it came out too much like asking for help.

“He will be all right,” Niels said. “But we can cool him a little and perhaps make him more comfortable.”

He called out in English to the man in the hallway to bring a bowl of lukewarm water and some towels. When they came, he said to Bodie, “You will do this. Better for him to receive care from you than from a stranger.”

Bodie began to explain that nursing wasn’t one of his qualifications, but changed his mind. Niels was grey-haired and elderly, but something about him said that he was used to being obeyed. Anyway, Doyle was confused enough to react badly to anyone else.

Not that Bodie was exactly sure what he was supposed to be doing.

“Just take off his shirt and sponge him down,” Niels said rather impatiently. “Do you not learn anything in your training?”

“I know what to do if he stops breathing.”

“Wonderful. It is preferable to avoid this happening!”

He had a point, Bodie had to admit. He hauled Doyle up as gently as he could, and tried to get his arms through the sleeves of his T shirt. “Come on, Ray, work with me here,” he said, but Doyle, though his eyes were now open, seemed to be somewhere else. He flopped against Bodie, no help at all.

With difficulty, Bodie finally pulled the shirt over his head, propping him up while he sponged him as best he could with the tepid water. Niels, watching, frowned slightly at Doyle’s mumblings, which all seemed to be to do with people who’d died. Bodie recognised snatches of what he was saying, but you didn’t need to know the history of their cases to get the general trend of it.

“He wanted to die y’know,” Doyle said more clearly as Bodie damped the cloth again.

“Who?” Bodie asked, tilting him back a little so he could see his face. “Tommy?”

“What?” Doyle blinked at him, confused but present now.

“Never mind,” Bodie said. “I think you were dreaming.” He wiped the cloth over Doyle’s face and was relieved to see him push it away irritably.

“Was more like a nightmare,” Doyle frowned, struggling to remember, then he looked at Niels. “No, some of it was real…”

“We are not the nightmare,” Niels said. “Now, you must drink, and take some more paracetamol. Would you like water, or soda or a British cup of tea—not too hot?”

Doyle swallowed the tablets and a second dose of antibiotics with a cup of tea. He was shivering now, even with his shirt back on and the cover over him, but he was more coherent.

“Did he say something about an island?” he muttered to Bodie when the doctor went out of the room.

“Yeah. I’ve no idea where. It wasn’t quite as cold as I expected, so my guess is we’ve come south.”

“How many men?”

“Four. Bloodaxe, Bloodaxe’s old man, Crocodile Dundee and the bloke who wasn’t Nick Harworth,” Bodie said, wringing a weak smile from his partner with the nicknames. “I wouldn’t get too excited about the lack of numbers though. They’re efficient. I think we’ll put off any escape attempts until you’re back on your feet.”

“Shouldn’t have gone near McCabe,” Doyle agreed. “I feel like I’ve run a marathon.”

Being awake for half an hour seemed to have exhausted him. He sagged back against the pillows now, and after a couple of minutes he was asleep again. Bodie leaned back once more in the chair and let his mind drift until the Viking came in.

“My father has gone to bed, but he says if you need him, just call on this.” He handed Bodie a small transmitter, more suited to a covert operation than calling the doctor. “Now, you may wish to go along to the bathroom before the door is locked?”

Bodie wondered if the locked door was going to be the only thing keeping him in, or if one of them would sleep outside. The sight of the Australian carrying a rolled army bed as Bodie returned from the bathroom answered that.

“You’re going to a lot of trouble for us,” Bodie commented.

“Remember that,” the Viking said. “Maybe it will make you less keen to hunt down a man who only wants to give something better than bombs to the world.”

“We were making sure he wasn’t being forced to give bombs to some banana republic who’d use them on their neighbours,” Bodie retorted, though in fact he’d already come to believe that it was good odds Craig’s disappearance had been voluntary. “It irritates Cowley having his agents held,” he added. “He’s going to be looking for Craig a lot more forcibly now.”

The Viking smiled. “By now he has received a message with an impeccable codeword from a European terror group, to say you are hostages and will be released when the hunt for Craig is called off. That will distract him adequately.” He paused to look at Doyle. “My father says that soon he will be over the worst of it.”

“Yeah.”

Soon, but not yet, Bodie thought, as the door closed and the lock clicked. The brief respite provided by the medication already seemed to be passing, and Doyle was stirring restlessly again.

The Viking had refilled the bowl with warm water, and left cola and a jug of drinking water on the side, with one further dose of tablets. They obviously thought Bodie could manage the angel of mercy stuff on his own…

Doyle wasn’t talking this time, or not more than the occasional unintelligible muttering, but he still seemed to be caught up in a run of feverish nightmares. He tossed and turned uneasily.

Bodie sat half-watching him, half thinking about the bizarre train of events that had brought them here. He couldn’t see any immediate prospect of doing something about their situation. He’d already looked at the window and it was locked and barred—it looked as if that was because the room had once been a nursery, but that didn’t make the bars any less effective. There was no point in trying to get through the locked door if the Aussie was outside it, and anyway he had a depressing feeling that Niels had been telling the exact truth about the island and the helicopter. A boat maybe? They must have some other means of coming and going…

His thoughts were interrupted by Doyle sitting bolt upright. His eyes were open, but not seeing anything. He looked and sounded as if whatever he thought he was seeing horrified him.

“No!” he shouted hoarsely. “No…”

The effort of shouting plunged him into a violent fit of coughing, and he was hardly able to get a breath between bouts. He still seemed trapped in whatever nightmare he’d been living.

Bodie glanced at the intercom and decided to leave it unless Doyle actually started turning blue. He caught hold of him and steadied him, rubbing his back as Doyle keeled over against him. “Come on, Ray. Cool it. Just take a breath or two… slowly… that’s it. That’s better…”

Doyle coughed, wheezed, but breathed.

Bodie kept him sitting upright, wincing slightly at the heat radiating from him.

“You awake yet?” he asked. “Look at me, Ray. Do you know where you are?”

Doyle shuddered, but focused. “Bodie? You’re okay?”

Bodie saw the confused mixture of relief and remembered nightmare in Doyle’s eyes. “Yeah. I’m okay. It’s just the flu’s got you a bit mixed up.”

“Was dreaming,” Doyle agreed. “Stupid. Things get twisted.”

He was still looking at Bodie as if he needed reassurance he was alive and well. Bodie knew those kinds of dreams. They’d seen each other have enough narrow escapes for there to be plenty of material for nightmares about what could have happened.

“It’s just the flu,” he said. “Your temperature’s way up. You ought to try to drink something.”

Doyle’s skin was hot and dry and his lips were beginning to crack, but he drank the cola more readily than he’d managed earlier. He still looked as if his hold on reality was tenuous and Bodie kept him sitting up, propped against his shoulder, hoping the contact would keep him from drifting away. He wrung the cloth out again in the water and wiped Doyle’s face and neck with it. “Keep still. You wouldn’t be so uncooperative if a pretty nurse was doing it.”

“Pretty nurse. ‘S what I need,” Doyle agreed gamely.

“Well, if there are any women here, Bloodaxe has them all locked in his bedroom.”

“Typical Viking, carrying off the girls.”

“Mind you,” Bodie said, thinking about it. “Bloodaxe is the politically correct type. He’d frown on rape and pillage.”

“Carry them off respectfully…”

“With romantic quotes from political philosophers…”

Doyle laughed and began to cough again, abandoning talk as he struggled with the effort to breathe. He slumped more heavily against Bodie’s arm. Bodie shifted and held him comfortably. He was sharply aware of the heat of Doyle’s skin and his racing heartbeat. A glance at the clock on the mantelpiece told him that in another hour he could dose him up with the tablets the doctor had left. ‘Til then they were just going to have to live with it.


Doyle couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so ill. Sure, there had been bullet wounds, and other knocks—cracked ribs hadn’t been great—but although maybe they’d been more painful, this hot aching weakness and the burning blend of nightmare into reality seemed worse to him.

Where he was and how he’d got here had become confused in a crowd of half-memories and unpleasant dreams. He knew his throat hurt and his head ached and his chest felt painfully tight when he breathed, but for a moment or two he thought he was back on surveillance and needed to wake up to fill in the book. When he stirred, though, he remembered this was Bodie he was leaning on.

He hadn’t dreamed the stakeout, or the angry gulf between them, which seemed to have gone… Cusak—that was too sharp, too detailed; that had been real, even if it had filled his sleep as well. Had he told Bodie he was sorry, or had that only been in a dream?

He tried to lift his head up, but it took an enormous effort and Bodie didn’t encourage it.

“We need to talk,” he said, as firmly as he could, given that it came out in a hoarse croak followed by a fit of coughing.

“I think talking’s out of your league,” Bodie said. “Concentrate on breathing.”

But too many of Doyle’s nightmares had been variations on the scene of Bodie—or both of them—dying because they’d failed to talk or shout or watch each other’s backs in a wild jumble of situations.

“I’m sorry,” he said, between gulps for air. “About Cusak… know he was a mate… I tried… CI5 weren’t the only ones there…”

“I know you tried,” Bodie said, but there was still something in his voice, a reservation, a potential barrier that could be raised again.

“Didn’t tip you off,” Doyle managed, knowing this was close to the heart of it.

“Would’ve been a nasty blot on your career if the Cow had caught you doing it,” Bodie said, still with that trace of distance that went oddly with the easy way his arm was supporting him.

“Wasn’t that,” Doyle said. “Was… the way they traced him. Gun used to shoot a police officer in Manchester. ‘S why Special Branch were there.”

Bodie was silent, and Doyle knew that that was more hopeful than a quick answer. Anyway, he’d just about shot his bolt. Bodie was right. Talking this much was like running up fifteen flights of stairs.

“Sorry,” he added, just in case that hadn’t been clear, and then another bout of coughing made him give up, and took his air to the point that he let his head roll back onto Bodie’s shoulder and lay there gasping. He wondered vaguely how his face could feel so hot when the rest of him was shivering, but the disturbed rerun of their more violent cases was beginning again in his mind, and he no longer had the energy to hold it off.

Something cool and damp on the back of his neck made him shiver even more. He struggled in a half world of hot discomfort and shifting dreams, was jolted from it briefly to swallow more tablets, then lost the struggle and surrendered to its chaos.

He still didn’t know whether he’d managed to put anything right with Bodie or not.


Bodie eased Doyle back down when he’d swallowed the paracetamol and antibiotics. 3.30, the clock told him. It was proving a long night.

It had probably seemed a hell of a long one to Doyle the night before…

He should have guessed it was a cop thing when Doyle didn’t tip him off about Cusak. They both had old loyalties. They’d learned to live with that…

He should have known how sick Doyle was when he saw him… or during the day… If it had been anyone more lethal than Bloodaxe…

It was too late to worry about anything that was past. Deal with what you’d got. Worrying about what might have been was a waste of thinking.

He pulled the cover up lightly over Doyle, leaned back in the chair with his feet on the bed, and dismissed everything from his mind.

He was surprised when he woke to find that nearly four hours had passed. Either Doyle had been quieter, or Bodie had slept more deeply than he intended. He decided that it was Doyle who was less restless, and leaned over to feel his face.

Doyle was not only cooler than he had been, he was drenched with sweat. When Bodie looked at him properly, he could see Doyle’s hair was as damp as if he’d been working out in the gym. His eyes blinked open as Bodie felt it.

Bodie had done a year’s worth of being a Good Samaritan in the last twelve hours…

He lifted Doyle up, and reached for one of the towels that still lay on the foot of the bed. Doyle seemed to have lost weight even in a couple of days, and the effort of sitting up made him shake. Bodie held him with one arm and towelled his hair lightly.

It worried him Doyle didn’t protest. The flu seemed to have drained him of all his energy. His face, which had burned against Bodie’s shoulder in the night, was slightly clammy now. His T shirt was soaked, and the cover and pillows were damp. Bodie glanced around the room, but there was no sign of Doyle’s sweater or jacket.

“Time to improve your clothes sense, sunshine,” he said, stripping off his own sweater. “Let’s get this on you.”

He peeled off Doyle’s shirt—no easier this time than it had been before—and put the sweater on him in its place. Luckily this was knitted and largish on Doyle and was less of a struggle. He was about to get him to drink the last of the cola when the Viking looked in. He was offensively bright and full of early morning cheer, clean living on a massive scale.

“Tea?” Bodie asked hopefully.

The Viking leaned back into the hallway and gave the order. As hostage takers went, they beat some hotels Bodie had stayed in.

“A rough night?” the Viking asked.

“I’ve known worse.”

“How is he now?”

“Cooler. Maybe a bit dehydrated. Knackered.”

“Knackered?”

Doyle snorted into Bodie’s shoulder. “Don’t try to explain it. Where’s that tea?”

He was still pretty much of a dead weight, but that sounded reassuringly more normal than he had done in the night.

The young man who wasn’t Nick Harworth brought the tea. Obviously his specialist skill. When Niels followed as well, Bodie decided the room was crowded enough, and took the opportunity to slope off for a shower and to see if he could borrow something clean to wear from the Australian who was near his size. Unless they smothered Doyle with kindness, they didn’t look likely to do him any harm.


Doyle drank his tea, and thought how stupid it was that the mug seemed like a lead weight. He felt exhausted and apathetic, and although he ought to be watching and listening to the men in the room, it was all he could do to focus on the effort of lifting his tea.

Niels did a few doctor things and gave him more tablets to swallow. “Your breathing is beginning to improve,” he said. “How do you feel?”

“Okay.”

“Not yet, I think, but closer. We will make you comfortable, then you rest again.”

The Viking lifted Doyle across to the chair as if he weighed no more than a child, and stripped and changed the bed with casual efficiency.

“You should try to eat a little, too,” Niels said. “When did you last eat?”

Doyle had to think about that. He was fairly sure he’d had a sandwich when he first started the surveillance.

“Day before yesterday?” he hazarded.

Niels looked at him slightly despairingly, but breakfast when it came was a sort of yoghurt that slid easily over his sore throat and a piece of a light pastry. The smell drifting up from downstairs suggested that Bodie was stuffing himself on bacon, but Doyle felt heavily full on the little he’d eaten.

He leaned back, and although he’d only just woken up, he had difficulty keeping his eyes open. His memory of the night was a series of confused impressions, hardly linked together. He had no real certainty which ones were based in reality. Bodie had been there, though, throughout; that was about the only constant he could find.

He dozed and read a little in the pile of magazines someone had put on his bedside table, and eventually it was lunchtime and Bodie reappeared with his soup.

“Find anything?” Doyle asked, eating it more because he thought he ought to than because he had any appetite.

“Not much. They watch me more closely than it looks like. I’m going to try to take Crocodile Dundee for a run this afternoon; I could do with the exercise and I might see more out of doors. Our best bet is probably to find where in the house they have a radio transmitter though.”

Doyle lay thinking when he’d gone. They were watching Bodie; they weren’t really paying much attention to him, except to offer him a hand along to the bathroom occasionally. He feigned sleep this time when Niels looked in. It was time he did something useful. He’d done nothing so far except make things more difficult for Bodie.

When he was fairly sure the hallway was empty, he pushed himself up from the bed. The room spun a little, and his legs threatened to give way, but he made it to the door. If anyone was there, the bathroom would be a good enough excuse. No-one seemed to be about, however. He went on past the bathroom, leaning against the wall when he felt particularly unsteady. His heart was pounding with the effort, and his lungs weren’t working quite so much better as he thought, but it was time he stopped letting Bodie down.

The hallway was a longish one, with closed doors to three or four rooms. He hoped everyone was downstairs. The first room he looked cautiously into was empty, and offered nothing of interest. It was a bedroom much like his own, and he couldn’t see any personal possessions. He tried a couple of drawers, but they held only clothes; no wallets, passports, nothing to identify whoever slept there.

He was finding it more and more difficult to stay on his feet, but he made it back to the door and leaned heavily on the wall to get his breath back for two or three minutes. After that he pushed himself on. A room which seemed to belong to Niels. He left it for the time being, because Niels was the one most likely to return.

The door after that was locked.

This was more promising, or would be if the world would stop spinning around him for long enough for him to think. He tried to steady himself and focus on the type of lock. He was paying attention as best he could to the hallway behind him, and was listening for any sound from the stairs. The last thing he expected as he studied the door was to hear the lock click in the door in front of him.

It swung open before he had time to think about what to do next. He stepped back, startled, and the movement was an effort too far. The growing dizziness that had been troubling him became overwhelming; he stumbled and couldn’t regain his footing. He was distantly aware of the Viking in front of him looking almost equally startled, but everything was out of focus and increasingly distant. His heart was pounding in his ears and blackness was rapidly encroaching on the edges of his sight.

He thought he was falling, but he didn’t seem to hit the floor.


Bodie’s idea of going for a run had been put on hold by the weather; it was hard to be plausible demanding to run in a hailstorm. His muttering about the need for some exercise had resulted in the Aussie showing him the room they had weights and fitness gear in. He used them for about half an hour, pushing the pace when his shadow kept up with him.

The Viking could probably lift the weights and the two of them as well. Bodie wondered where he was, until when they were returning to the kitchen he heard him shout down the stairs for his father with an urgency that sent Bodie running along with the rest.

The only person not alarmed to see Doyle a limp weight across the Viking’s arms was Niels. Bodie, shocked by Doyle’s dead whiteness and immobility was already demanding hotly what had happened to him, when the older man firmly took charge.

“He just collapsed,” the Viking said, putting him carefully down on the bed. “I did not even know he was there. I opened the door, and he was startled… he fell…”

“Did he knock his head?” Niels asked.

“No, no. I caught him. He was outside the study.”

“I’m surprised he could walk so far,” Niels said. He patted Doyle’s cheek lightly. “Come on now; open your eyes for me.”

“What’s wrong with him?” Bodie asked.

“No more than there was before. He tried to do too much before he was ready.” He smiled as Doyle’s eyes opened briefly, closed, then opened and tried to focus. “That’s better. Stay with us now, but rest. You must not exhaust yourself.” He smoothed the hair back from Doyle’s forehead. “The fever is not gone yet, and you were quite ill. You must expect to be weak for a while. You have to get some strength back before you can really make a nuisance of yourself.”

The Viking looked at Bodie. “You told him to do this?”

“No, I didn’t,” Bodie said shortly, not caring whether he was believed or not. He was equally suspicious of the Viking, looking for any signs of bruising on his partner’s face or neck.

“I did not touch him,” the Viking said. “Only to stop his fall.”

Doyle struggled to see them both. “Look, it was my own idea, and I just passed out, okay?” he said weakly.

He sounded annoyed with himself, as if he’d failed something he ought to have achieved… as if he thought he’d let Bodie down.

Niels was annoyed, too, but with Bodie and the Viking. He sent everyone but Bodie on their way. Bodie had had no intention of leaving. It bothered him to see Doyle so white and listless, though Niels ordered nothing more than a sugared drink and some rest. When he too had finally gone, Doyle turned wearily to Bodie. “Sorry.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Bodie said. “None of this is your fault.”

“It’s stupid to be so bloody sick. People get flu all the time without being knocked out by it.”

“Yeah, well, if I hadn’t landed you with my share of the surveillance, it probably wouldn’t have hit you so hard. Must have been freezing in there.”

Doyle looked at him, apparently trying to find some answer in his face. And failing, because after a minute he said, “Last night… did I…?”

“Explain why you didn’t tip me off about Cusak? Yeah. I should’ve guessed it was something like that.”

“He wasn’t armed.”

“The cop? No, I don’t suppose he would be. It’s okay, Ray. You’ve got your past and I’ve got mine. It’s not stopped us before.”

Doyle made a noise that might have been agreement, might have been a sigh.

Bodie sat on the edge of the bed, where he could make sure Doyle was taking in what he said. “I owed Cusak. He was kind to me when I was young and arrogant and in a mess. He wasn’t exactly a mate. I know you risked your neck trying to save his, too. Thanks for that.”

He didn’t miss the relief in the tired green eyes.

“Can’t imagine you young and arrogant,” Doyle murmured, sounding at last something like himself.

Bodie ruffled his hair. “That’s because you always see my best side, goldilocks. Now you’d better do what the doctor said and get some rest, and if you decide to break out of here again you could head for the shower.”

“Thanks!”

He was falling asleep even as he talked though. Bodie had never seen him so washed out.

“Hope you know I value your neck a lot more highly than anyone else’s,” he added before Doyle was completely gone.

Doyle blinked, surprised and briefly vulnerable.

“Better believe it,” Bodie said, not joking.

Doyle slept a lot more peacefully this time, so maybe he did.


“Want to come and watch the game? They’re still trying to sell me soccer.”

That was the Australian, Bodie realised, looking startled at the clock and seeing it was now early evening and he’d dozed by Doyle’s bed for hours. His stomach reproached him for not having noticed it was empty.

He tried to work out the date.

“England and Bulgaria? No, that should have been last night.”

“It was postponed. Fog.”

Doyle sat up, looking less white. “What about me? Do I get to see it?”

In the end, they all watched it. Bodie had no objection to having his food on his knee in front of a soccer match—even if it did come with lager rather than beer. He supposed he should have expected the lager. Doyle, who got the most comfortable seat, with a couple of blankets thrown in, was forbidden alcohol, but ate some of the pork casserole that was served up.

It wasn’t a bad evening. England even won.

It was only as Bodie drained a third, celebratory bottle, that it occurred to him that he was going to have to be careful. It was much too easy to relax, to like these blokes. What did they call it? Stockholm syndrome. Very appropriate, though he thought the Viking might be Danish rather than Swedish.

“The Vikings were mostly Danish weren’t they,” Doyle said sleepily, when they were locked in for the night. “Ask Niels tomorrow. I wanted to know how he knew Cowley.”

“You think he’d tell us?”

“Don’t suppose he’d have mentioned it otherwise.”

They’d put a camp bed in there for Bodie now, and the night was much less disturbed than the previous one, though he heard Doyle still coughing occasionally. Niels was pleased with his progress, and Bodie didn’t think it counted as cosying up with the enemy to accept Niels was a good doctor.

Or to wear clothes loaned by their captors while their own were washed… or to spar a bit with the Aussie, to make the point that the SAS were as good as any special forces anywhere…

He let Doyle ask Niels about his past; the doctor seemed to have a soft spot for him. Doyle was allowed up the next morning, to sit in front of the fire in the big living room, and Niels seemed happy enough to sit and talk to him when he wasn’t occupied in the kitchen. Doyle waited until Bodie had drifted in before he asked about Cowley.

Niels smiled. “It was a long time ago, but he will remember me. Perhaps it will make him understand better why my son has his own way of helping men like Robert Craig. I don’t know how much you know about Denmark in the war?”

“It was occupied in 1940?” Bodie said.

“That’s right. We were a small country, with a small army. But we kept as much of our independence as we could. And there was the resistance. Most of all, we did not give in to the Nazi policies against the Jews. But eventually the leaders of Germany began to tighten their hold. The resistance had grown more daring—maybe sometimes more hot-headed—and I believe the Nazi desire to achieve their ‘final solution’ grew stronger.

“In September 1943, Hitler ordered the deportation of the Danish Jews. But he did not get it. There was no-one in my country who was not prepared to risk his life to help them. Everywhere, the Jews were warned and hidden and smuggled to the coast and from there over the sea to Sweden. That’s where I met George Cowley. I don’t know exactly what he was doing for your government originally, perhaps trying to arrange ways for allied airmen also to be helped through our country to Sweden, but he was there when the rescue of the Jews began, and he helped us throughout. He understood better than many young men what it meant, the Nazi persecution of the Jews.”

“I can imagine that,” Doyle said softly.

“There’s not a war on now though,” Bodie said. “And Craig wasn’t exactly being persecuted.”

“He was being compelled to use his intelligence on work that could only lead to mass destruction of human life. Perhaps he was weak to allow himself to get into that position, I do not know. I do not think your government was prepared to let him leave it easily.”

“So Craig was ‘rescued’? For what?”

Niels smiled. “That you must wait for. In two or three days, I hope my son will decide it is safe to tell you more about Craig. Now, unless you would rather not eat, I should go and cook.”


By the time two more days had passed, Bodie had run for some miles around the island, without ever seeing anyone except his Australian shadow, and any of the others who decided to come along. He’d worked out that anything they didn’t want him to know about was in the locked study, but he’d failed to work out a way of getting in there. He’d struggled quite heroically not to like his captors.

Dinner that night seemed something of a celebration. They ate well anyway, but this was on a more lavish scale.

“Someone’s birthday?” Doyle asked. He was looking almost well by now, and grumbling about not being allowed to do more.

“No. Our last night here. We had news today—good news to us. Craig is safely arrived. Tonight we celebrate, and tomorrow we move on to a new job.” He raised a hand to forestall Doyle’s next question. “I will tell you more with coffee. I even have a slide show for you! For now, let’s enjoy the meal.”

Bodie found it was impossible to feel any apprehension about this ‘last night’ remark. If they’d wanted to harm him or Doyle, they could have done it long ago and saved themselves a lot of bother. He enjoyed his meal, but he was prepared to spot any clues he could in whatever it was the Viking wanted to show them.

He hadn’t expected to see Craig in the pictures, and he didn’t. Nor did he see anything that gave him any clue as to where Craig had gone. What he saw was poverty, starvation, misery in more countries than he cared to think. Slowly it dawned on him that they had something else in common as well.

“Water?” he asked.

Some places had looked drought-stricken, others evidently not, but Bodie knew well enough that abundance of water didn’t necessarily mean any of it was fit to drink.

The Viking, his face only showing in the light from the projector, nodded. “Such a simple need,” he said. “So many deaths that might be avoided. A water engineer can make a very big difference in some parts of the world.”

Doyle got it before Bodie did. “Craig’s gone to dig wells?”

“More often to provide water pumps, or sewage systems, but yes, something like that.”

“Bloody hell,” Bodie said. “Do you have any idea of what the government’s spent looking for him?”

“I have an idea that he would be forcibly returned to his work if they knew where he was,” the Viking said. “Or, of course, at risk of being equally forcibly employed by some far less scrupulous power. Fortunately, he is now secure in a new country with a new identity, and able to do what he wants to do. We are reasonably sure that anyone other than yourselves who would have been interested in him believes that one of the two terror groups CI5 is investigating have him. It might be as well to keep it that way.”

Bodie couldn’t get over the fact that this whole set up had been to enable Craig to go and dig latrines in darkest Africa. “Who the hell paid for an operation like that?”

“That’s classified,” Niels said. “But there was no bank robbery, if that is what you mean.”

Doyle yawned. “Suppose there wasn’t exactly a lot keeping the poor bastard at home. We met his fiancée. ”

“That’s all very well,” Bodie said. “What about your gang who held us up? That could have ended up very messily if anything had gone wrong. Some of them were nervous, and the French girl was a killer in the making.”

“They could obey orders though,” the Viking said. “And believe me, you were in less danger than you thought. They all believed they had bullets, but most had only blanks.”

“I had bullets,” Doyle said sleepily.

“But you did not want to use them.”

“We underestimated George Cowley,” the Australian said. “We had this backup plan, in case you got on any lead that you might be able to follow to Craig, but we hoped not to have to use it.”

“It was unnecessarily elaborate,” Niels said. “Still, it is over. You must finish the antibiotics though,” he added to Doyle. “Two more days.”

Doyle yawned again, more widely than ever. Bodie was beginning to find it catching.

“So, we were supposed to spend the week in a cellar or something?” he asked.

“I did not anticipate feeling worried about either of you,” the Viking admitted. “But we have enjoyed your company. My father will miss you. We all will.”

That meant they were going home did it? Bodie found he suddenly felt too sleepy to think about this as clearly as he should do. He blinked. He’d just downed a cup of coffee. Where did this drowsiness come from? Next to him, Doyle slid over sideways, comfortably asleep.

He was just beginning to have a suspicion of what this meant, when he fell asleep himself.

“Oy mate, you awake in there?”

Bodie stirred, shook his head fuzzily and blinked at what seemed to be a dashboard.

“I said are you awake?”

Someone was knocking on the window, with a couple of disposable mugs on a tray. He fumbled to open it, and a blast of cold air blew in, waking him more effectively. He looked around, suddenly alarmed that he was alone, and saw a well wrapped heap of blankets on the back seat snoring in a way that definitely said Doyle.

“Been sleeping in the car have you?” the lad outside asked. “Bloke paid me for these for you and told me to bring them along at seven. That okay?”

Bodie tipped him automatically, and thankfully took a mouthful of tea. His brain began to work on more than one cylinder. They were in a car. His car, he realised. A glance out of the window suggested they were somewhere in London, and although it was cold in the car, it wasn’t freezing. There was money in his jacket pocket, which hadn’t been there when he fell asleep.

He looked back at Doyle again, then leaned over and prodded him. “Cup of tea?”

“Wha…?”

“There’s a cup of tea here for you.”

Whoever had wrapped Doyle up had done a good job of it. He had to wriggle like Houdini to get a hand out. He took the tea and gulped it without apparently wondering at all about why he was on the back seat of Bodie’s car.

Bodie completed an inventory of his jacket. ID back. He wondered what had happened to their guns. Small bottle. What was that? He took it out and found it was the rest of Doyle’s antibiotics, with instructions for taking them neatly attached. Well, he’d got quite good at the Florence Nightingale stuff.

“Here. Swallow!” he said, passing one back to Doyle.

At the bottom of his pocket he found a note to the effect that their guns—unloaded—were in his glove compartment, and their holsters in the boot. You should be safe to drive, it concluded. I suggest you report to Cowley as soon as possible.

That was good advice. Although, depending where they were, they might pick up a bacon butty on the way. Doyle managed to get up, shedding enough blankets for a platoon, and moved to the front passenger seat. “What’re you waiting for?” he asked.

“Waking up enough to face Cowley.”

“You reckon he’ll be pleased to see us?”

“If he is, I expect he’ll hide it well.”

Actually, as they both knew he would be, Cowley was relieved to see them safe and well. However, as Bodie had predicted, he recovered quite quickly. His annoyance with them for getting themselves captured in the first place, was compounded by their first piece of information about Craig.

“And you believed this? How naïve are you? Listen to the pair of you. This group looked after you well? You trust them over Craig? You know what they call this—Stockholm syndrome, and it happens to impressionable schoolgirls, not trained agents!”

“One of them said he knew you, sir,” Bodie said hastily. Maybe they should have started with that, before Cowley got the impression they were losing their minds.

“A lot of people know me, Bodie,” Cowley said. “It doesn’t… What, Betty? How urgent? Oh all right. Put it through.”

Bodie winked at her as she went. Whatever the call was, he was grateful it had cut Cowley off in mid-flow.

He glanced at Doyle, but although to Bodie’s eyes he was still pale, he looked okay. If Cowley went on at length, Bodie would grab a chair for both of them. Cowley, however, looked as taken aback as Bodie had ever seen him. He was having difficulty getting a word in edgeways on the phone.

Doyle leaned over to say very quietly, “Bet you it’s Niels at the other end of that call.”

“What?”

“Niels. You listen to Cowley.”

Bodie did, with greater interest now. He began to think Doyle was right; he was sure of it when Cowley said, “Now wait a minute. Leave? He’s just had most of a week off… No… Now don’t give me that. He told me he was all right… Of course I looked at him… No. No, I didn’t… He’s young and fit…”

Bodie grinned. One thing about Doyle when he looked pathetic, it brought out protective instincts in a remarkable range of people. Niels evidently wanted to make sure he wasn’t overworked and neglected now he was back. Cowley sounded as if he was losing the argument. At that point Cowley noticed how attentively they were listening. Irritated, he waved them away.

“I’ll find you later. Go and start your reports. I’ve a lot to talk about.”

They didn’t miss that opportunity.

“He’s going to reminisce,” Doyle said. “That’s quite human.”

“Bet that’s the last we hear of Stockholm syndrome,” Bodie agreed. “Come on, sunshine, you’re still officially convalescent. We’ll get a cup of coffee, and I’ve a few phone calls to make.”

“Hospital?” Doyle asked, with just a trace of uncertainty.

Bodie dropped an arm over his shoulders and steered him in the direction of the break room. “Yeah. Maybe it’ll be better news.”

It was, in a way. Perhaps for Cusak himself it was the best option, anyway. He was conscious and predicted eventually to make a more or less full recovery, but it would be after a long time in hospital and it was unlikely his memory, especially of events near the time he’d been hurt, would ever be very complete. The chances of him serving a long term in a tough jail became much more remote.

“Think I’ll go and take him a bunch of grapes this evening,” Bodie said. “Want to come along.”

Doyle looked up at him and understood what the offer meant. “Yeah, I’d like that,” he said.


Several months later, Doyle got a letter posted in Spain. When he opened it, there was no note, but a photo of a man he recognised as a very sunburned Robert Craig. He was standing next to a water pump and holding a copy of The Times from the previous week.

This pump is providing clean water for three villages, the note said on the back, in Niels neat writing. It has already reduced the number of children dying by more than a half. Take care of each other, you and Bodie. We have not forgotten you!

Doyle had seen a number of photographs of Craig during the investigation. He realised as he looked at this one, it was the first time he’d ever seen him smiling.

~ End ~