Where I Can Cross Over

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.

Author’s Notes: Written for the PROSFanFic List Lyric Wheel. Lyrics follow the story.


Prologue

He writhed in agony across the concrete floor. His body tried to curl in on itself, away from the pain which flared and burned through every nerve ending. Just as fiercely his anger flared; sheer, blinding fury against his torturer and even against his own spasming body which would not obey his need to fight. Another shock tore through him and his will to strike back was as intense as the pain; they flashed together within him and abruptly he was… somewhere else. Somewhere distant, where nothing could reach him. His mind struggled to shape it into concepts it already possessed. White. Light. Walled from all emotion. Secure. Nothing could hurt him here.


Bodie watched Doyle, who was staring into nothing as if he saw something there, something quite different from the white walls of this small private room. In the two weeks Doyle had been in hospital he had healed: burns and scrapes had scabbed over; the concussion had been minor; it wouldn’t be long before the signs of whatever had happened to him were gone. But the physical healing only exaggerated the real problem: everything that made him Ray Doyle seemed to have gone too. He had not spoken in days, had not reacted at all. He showed no recognition of anyone. The doctors suggested it might be some sort of amnesia, or reaction to trauma; one stood there now repeating it to Cowley with an air of grave acceptance. Bodie could tell they had no idea. No idea what had happened, or what was wrong now, no idea where his partner had withdrawn to. And no idea if he would ever come back.

“… Some sort of secure facility,” the specialist was saying to Cowley.

“He’s not dangerous,” Bodie snapped. “Hell, look at him. He’s not even there.”

That was the thing that shook him most. He looked into those familiar eyes, and saw a sort of blank emptiness, as if the soul had left and the body was just going through the motions.

“Secure for his own sake,” Cowley said. “We still don’t know what happened while he was missing.” There was a note in his voice that Bodie could not stand, a sort of compassion that the old man rarely allowed himself to show. Cowley did not think that Doyle would be coming back from wherever they decided it was safe to place him.

“Going to lock him away like Quinn?” Bodie goaded. “Rot for your country if you can’t manage to die cleanly for it.”

He knew it was below the belt, and he would have been glad if Cowley had called him on it. Anything was better than the way everyone acted as if he’d been bereaved. “All he needs is time,” he said and writhed inwardly at the looks the older men exchanged.

“I’ll make the arrangements,” Cowley said quietly to the doctor.

Bodie looked at the sterile corridors and the calm professionals. They were good enough people; they did their best. But they knew fuck all about what Doyle needed. He balanced on a knife edge for a moment. He wanted to shout at them, fling Cowley’s hand off his shoulder, go in and shake or hug or thump some life into the empty shell of Ray Doyle.

Somehow he banked the anger down. Ignoring Cowley and the specialist, he walked back in and sat down on the bed next to Doyle. He didn’t try to talk to him; he wouldn’t while they were there—no point in giving them any extra ammunition. When he heard them walk away would be time enough.

In fact they had hardly gone, and he had only just begun the frustrating game of trying to get some response out of his partner, when a younger doctor looked in.

“Any luck?” he asked.

“Would it make any difference if I had?” Bodie said cynically.

The doctor came in and pulled a chair over. Carter his name was, Bodie remembered. He’d met him several times and liked him. He seemed to see Doyle as a person rather than as a medical puzzle. And like Bodie he generally seemed in the position of having his opinions briskly dismissed by his superiors.

“It makes a difference, you know,” Carter said slowly. “You being here, I mean.”

Bodie looked at Doyle’s completely blank face and lifeless eyes, and doubted it.

“Believe it or not, he’s worse when you’re not here,” Carter said. “He’s—I don’t know how to put it—even more remote, somehow.”

“How do you measure that then?” Bodie asked without humour. “Remote-ometer? Expensive machine that beeps?”

“I look at him,” Carter said.

Bodie didn’t himself, not most of the time. When he met Doyle’s eyes and got the response of a stranger it made him want to smash things. He was looking now

and could see no trace of recognition or even thought in Doyle’s expression.

“What the hell does he look like when I’m not here?”

Carter shrugged, frustrated. “Just… more so. I mean you’re right of course. I can’t measure it. But personally, I’m convinced he knows you’re here and he’s marginally more responsive to you.”

Bodie spoke to Doyle again. Absolutely nothing. Thinking of what in happier times would have provoked a violent response, he ran his hand over the lank curls. He could neither feel nor see the slightest reaction.

“Keep your hand there,” Carter said quietly.

Uncomfortable, Bodie did. “Why?” he demanded.

“It’s not exactly scientific, but I think he’s withdrawn to somewhere so far away he can’t quite find his way back. Or isn’t sure he wants to come.”

It was the first time in the entire period that Doyle had been there that anyone had said something that agreed with Bodie’s own instincts.

“How could that happen?” he asked.

“He’s been hurt quite a lot, physically. More, perhaps then the marks suggest. The burns are ambiguous, but they might have been made by electrical equipment.”

Bodie nodded. “We were told that. It’s possible he’d been interrogated for some reason. We don’t know what happened to him while he was missing. That’s why there’s a guard on his door.”

“Well, my guess is that somehow he managed to separate himself so completely from what was happening to him—pain, shock, whatever—that he withdrew into the state he’s in now. He is still functioning, just about. He eats a little, takes care of his own physical needs. But mentally he’s somewhere else entirely.”

“Is this the popular diagnosis?”

“I’m offering it as a feeling, not a diagnosis,” Carter said slowly. “And no, it’s not. But in fact we don’t have what you could call a diagnosis. The problem with my idea is that he’s safe, he’s healing, and there’s still no improvement.”

“That’s why you said he can’t find the way back.”

“Or isn’t sure he wants to come. Would he want to come?”

Bodie frowned, his hand still absently cupping the side of Doyle’s head. “You’ve read his notes.”

“Yes.”

“He was nearly killed a year or so ago. The doctor then said—it was as if he was making up his mind whether to live or die.”

“And more recently?”

“Some of our lads were killed. He had a bad time telling the wife of one of them. I don’t know what she said, but he hadn’t got it out of his mind.”

He stopped abruptly. Slowly, but quite perceptibly, Doyle turned his face into Bodie’s hand, the slight gesture painfully expressive.

Both Bodie and the doctor stared at him. “That’s it!” Carter said, almost as if Doyle had just scored some winning goal. “He’s still there somewhere. He just needs time.”

The echo of his own words made Bodie wince.

“He’s out of time,” he said bitterly.

“I’ll talk to the consultant again.”

Bodie’s eyes pinned him in place. “And if he doesn’t listen. If they still decide to send him to this facility they’ve got lined up. What will happen then?”

“I don’t know. You’d still be able to see him…”

Bodie heard the answer he wasn’t giving. “It’d be the end wouldn’t it. He stay shut away in some walled in place in his mind ’til his body gave up.”

“I can’t answer that.”

“Of course you can bloody well answer it. I’m not going to go and tell tales to Mr Very Important Consultant.”

Carter nodded. “I know. But I don’t have an answer, only an opinion. You’re a professional. Do you go around second guessing your boss to the general public just because you have a gut feeling about something? The decision to move him came from CI5 as well as the hospital.”

Bodie accepted that, and put the question another way. “So if he was your mate, what would you do?”

Carter visibly sought for something positive to say about the establishment’s plans for Doyle, gestured irritably and finally said, “I’d pray for an alternative.”

Silenced, Bodie let him go. The simple words told him all too much about what Carter thought of Doyle’s chances. He turned again to his partner, tilting the gaunt face round so he could meet his eyes. “I think we’re going to have to make our own alternative, and I can’t exactly see a lot of options. Hang in there. I’ll be back as soon as I can, and I’ll be working on it. Got to go now, and make sure George ‘triple-think’ Cowley doesn’t get any idea what I’ve just got into my mind.”

He could hear the familiar, impatient footsteps returning. As if he was just slipping into an undercover role he schooled his face. Sullen, resentful of the decision that had been made, but ultimately obedient. That was the impression he had to give. But in fact his heart was lighter now he’d finally made a decision himself. Doyle wasn’t going to be locked away in some military asylum, whatever it took. He got up with just the right slouch as Cowley gestured to him, and no one who saw him leave the room would have guessed the real thoughts in his head.

Behind him the man on the bed moved almost imperceptibly, drawing in on himself, and silently in the depths of his mind protested the loss. Emptiness. Translucent walls, impenetrable barriers. He could hear and see the world beyond but it was too far away. He watched with detachment certain things his body did from instinct, going through the motions of life. Was he living? People came and went and they were entirely meaningless. They spoke and the words echoed off the walls. They could not see him. No one would find him. He had no one, nothing. The walls had come when he needed them, a time that was now remoter than memory. Insulating. Separating. He had become somewhere else from the agony, and found no other pain could reach him here. No guilt. No bitter words. No passion at all. Insulating. Confining. No pain here, no warmth here, no life here. Translucent walls without a door. He hardly knew whether he was safe or imprisoned, only that he was very far away. A touch had reached him. It was gone. He turned from wall to wall and there was nothing but emptiness.


Bodie had let Cowley turn him and take him from the hospital. He drank the scotch that was placed in front of him, and played his part to perfection. He protested about moving Doyle, he was bolshy enough to keep Cowley happy, he allowed himself to be apparently persuaded it was the best and safest thing for Doyle. And while he did so he made some rapid but careful plans.

Once they were back at headquarters Cowley wasted no time in making his arrangements; Bodie protested a little more, but never enough to get himself sent away. He needed to know exactly what was going on, because he had his own arrangements to make. He’d been undercover enough times when his life depended on playing a part with total conviction, and he knew he could not afford to be any less careful now.

He found out that afternoon that he had very little time. Cowley had pulled some strings and Doyle was to be transferred then. “They can help him more than we can,” Cowley said. He sounded weary. “And at least he should be safe enough in there.”

“You think someone might go after him again?”

“We don’t know who went after him in the first place,” Cowley said. “Until we have some idea of what happened, we have to assume it’s a possibility.”

“Murphy not turned up anything?”

Murphy was in Berkshire, looking for some kind of lead. He had everyone’s sympathy, and nowhere to begin except the hospital where Doyle had wandered vacantly into casualty. He was down to file work now, using a local team to go through every incident of the week Doyle had disappeared.

“I doubt we’re going to find out what happened,” Cowley said. “Not unless Doyle starts talking.” His face showed how unlikely he thought that was. “Murphy will be back this evening. He’s wasting his time where he is.”

“I’m going back to see Doyle,” Bodie said. His voice was challenging, not because he felt any actual aggression now, but because that was what Cowley would expect.

“There won’t be any change,” Cowley said, but he didn’t stop him going.

Although Bodie wanted to see Doyle, he had a more specific purpose in visiting the hospital. First he wanted to see Carter, just in case Doyle had got a reprieve and his more radical approach wasn’t necessary. If he had to go through with it, he needed to know more than he did about which entrances and exits were open at night. He could do that on the pretext of checking the security arrangements.

Carter was difficult to get hold of, and when Bodie finally managed to track him down he had no good news. ” If you want a direct quote: ‘Too little, too late.’ They think it was just chance he seemed to respond to you, and even if it wasn’t they say the doctors at the other place will pick up on any improvement. Frankly, I think they want rid of him. They don’t like the extra security, and it’s difficult to know what treatment will help him, so they’re keen to pass the responsibility on to someone else. You speak to your Scotsman?”

Bodie shook his head. “He’s made up his mind, and what you and I think isn’t going to change it. You on duty tonight?”

Carter looked at him thoughtfully. “Yes. Why?”

“I want to come and see him before they ship him halfway across the country. Can you make sure your nurses let me in?”

“Of course. If you want him awake I’ll cancel the night meds.”

Bodie nodded. “Thanks.”

It would be convenient, so convenient that he looked very carefully at the young doctor for signs he had understood too much, but obviously the man was a good poker player. Bodie decided that if he had guessed anything, he would mind his own business. If not, he’d have to take his chance. On the whole he was feeling encouraged, ’til he went in to see Doyle.

Doyle was sitting in the chair in his room. They gave him his clothes in a morning, and if they left him alone long enough he put them on. It made him look less ill, but no more normal. Bodie sat on the bed facing him, and tried to make eye contact. He could not quite escape the feeling Doyle was avoiding it.

“Look at me, damn you,” he grumbled at him. “I’m still not sure some of this isn’t your fault. I know you too well, mate. You were hurting before this ever started, weren’t you? What did she say to you, that day? Wasn’t her fault, Ray. She needed to lash out at someone and you were there. Better than her just giving up, y’know. Better for those kids. But it got to you, didn’t it? I know you can bloody well hear me. I can reach you, wherever you’ve gone, same as you’d reach me, same as you always have. Think I’ve never thought of chucking it in, of walking away and not coming back? Remember Marikka? You know what held me then? It was the thought that maybe the day I walked away, that’d be the day you got your head blown off because no one was watching your back. You ever think of that wherever you are? Or is it such a safe cosy place you don’t give a fuck what happens to anyone outside?”

He’d been watching Doyle’s eyes as he talked, and just for a moment something sparked. Got you, he thought with savage satisfaction. He was going to fight to get his partner back, and he didn’t care what methods he had to use. Now he was sure he had made some sort of contact, he told Doyle what he was planning. He knew this might be just about as sensible as the chat he’d had with next door’s ginger tom the previous week about the perfidy of women, and he didn’t even have the excuse this time that he was drunk, but he kept talking anyway. If Doyle took anything in, so much to the good.

“Got to go now and keep pulling the wool over Cowley’s eyes, ” he finished. “Anyway, Murph’ll be there. Poor bastard’s been trailing round Berks trying to find out what happened to you. I’ll be back here tonight, and it’d make life a lot easier if you were a bit ready. Okay?”

Doyle’s eyes did meet his now, he was sure of it. The blankness wasn’t so complete. Maybe he was getting imaginative, but for a moment his partner looked not empty but lost… lost somewhere incomprehensible. Bodie wanted to grab him and drag him back, but he knew instinctively it wasn’t the time, or the place.

“I’ll see you tonight,” he said again, more for his own benefit this time.


He found that Murphy was reporting his findings—or lack of them—to Cowley when he strolled back in to headquarters. He caught the tail end of it. “So it was almost a complete washout,” Murphy was concluding. “Just one thing I thought might be worth following up. A man was admitted to casualty the same day as Doyle, but later, after Doyle had been moved. This one had been knocked about, looked as if he’d been in a fistfight. They were going to keep him in, but he walked out on them. Turned out he’d given a false name and address. The doctor who treated him thought from his accent and appearance he was a white African.”

He and Bodie both looked at Cowley, waiting for some reaction. Did the old man think it was worth following up? Cowley stood thinking for a moment, then he scowled at Murphy—absently, it appeared, rather than because he thought the innocent and hard-working Murphy deserved it—turned and walked away into his office.

Bodie and Murphy looked at one another for a moment, then Murphy grinned and began to hum under his breath, “Bring me sunshine… in your smile…”

“If he hears you, some of your favourite body parts will be decorating his door,” Bodie warned.

“Well, it’s been a long few days,” Murphy said. “How’s Ray?”

“Long story. How about I buy you a pint and some grub and tell you in peace?”

Murphy brightened briefly, but before they could escape a sharp summons echoed down the corridor. “My office, both of you.”

“Now didn’t my mother tell me man was born to troubles and tribulations,” Murphy sighed. It didn’t require more than a glance to see that Cowley was annoyed.

“What is it, sir,” Bodie asked.

Cowley shut the door. “It’s MI6, Bodie. Busily carrying out their own agenda as usual. Remember what I said to you about Africa—the game’s only just beginning there. MI6 have had their attention focussed that way for some time. When I heard about Murphy’s missing man, it fitted in with a couple of other scraps of information that came my way, and I took a long shot that came off. About a month ago, MI6 used the powers at their disposal to have a man released, in return, naturally, for various favours he’s in the process of doing for them. That man was Parker, and I hardly need to tell you that after the Ojuka affair he’s got more than a grudge against CI5 and against Doyle in particular.”

“That wasn’t Parker in the hospital,” Murphy said. “Descriptions way out.”

“I know it wasn’t Parker. He apparently left for Africa with one of Willis men that day. It doesn’t mean that he had nothing to do with it though. MI6 lost him for a few days, but it doesn’t seem to have worried them too much, especially as he turned up when they wanted him. ”

“But why would Parker bother,” Murphy asked. “Doyle was no threat to him.”

“He’d bother,” Bodie said with certainty. “It had got personal… on both sides.” He could remember the sight of Parker after Doyle had finished with him, and also that painful drive home with Doyle trying to play down burned wrists, cracked ribs and concussion.

Cowley accepted this judgment. “Well, I’ve told Willis that he may have beeninvolved on an assault on one of our agents, and he says they’ve got tabs on him now. We’ll keep up the security of course, but in fact if it was simply a revenge hit it makes life simpler.” He caught the look on Bodie’s face and stopped. “I’m not condoning it, Bodie. I’m just saying it makes it easier for us to protect Doyle.”

“And close the case,” Bodie said angrily. “Especially once he’s shut away. Or are you going to think again about that now?”

Cowley didn’t shout back, which was always a bad sign. “He’s not being shut away, Bodie. He’s being placed somewhere where he’ll get excellent care, and not be a danger to himself or anyone else until he shows some signs of normality. You know as well as I do that with his knowledge and training he’s about as safe as unstable explosives at the moment.”

“And what are you going to do about Parker?”

“First of all Murphy is going to follow up on the assumption that Parker was involved, and when we have something resembling evidence it will be soon enough to make a decision.” He glared at Bodie, but Bodie was silent now. “Any further questions?”

“Where do you want me to start?” Murphy asked.

“You can come with me. I’ve arranged to meet Willis at my club and get a clearer picture of what’s going on.” He went off briskly.

Murphy paused. “Think they’ll feed us?” he murmured to Bodie.

“You’ll probably have to have yours in the kitchen with the lower ranks.”

“Murphy!”

“Coming, sir!”


Bodie glanced at his watch. He had a number of errands he needed to run before his return to the hospital later that evening, errands like visiting Doyle’s flat, collecting the old blue van they hadn’t used in months and filling it with food and camping gear.

At the hospital, the nurses were surprised and slightly annoyed when young Dr Carter came and told them the patient in the private room would be having a late visitor, and could be left off the evening drugs round. They were even more surprised to find that same enigmatic patient seemed somehow aware of the change in routine. Normally at some point between the evening meal and their round he would get himself into bed. This evening, still as blank and unresponsive as ever, he was still sitting, dressed, in the chair.

Sharon took his hand in hers. She tried to talk to him when she had a little time; sometimes she thought how attractive he would be if he was normal. “Do you know you’re having a visitor later, Mr Doyle?” she asked gently. He sat there. The hand, cold in hers, didn’t move. She tucked a blanket from the bed round him, and wondered if perhaps it was just a coincidence.

Doyle was unaware of either cold or warmth, and although he watched her touch him he was too far away to feel it. His mind offered images rather than thoughts. Sometimes, by some connection he barely controlled now, his body acted on them. Today, all day, the images had been disturbing, shaking him from his white calm. The walls had changed. Transparent still, they no longer stood solidly, walling him safely in, but twisted and turned in distorting prisms like a hall of mirrors which offered no reflections. A glass maze. Outside he saw the world move on, and for a little while the voice reached him, the thread through the labyrinth if he should ever want to follow it home. The voice broke the nothingness, but he didn’t know whether to run towards it or away from the images it brought. Towards, and the glass would shatter and the barriers be gone. Pain and guilt and despair could flood back in and overwhelm the silence. Away, and what else might shatter? His mind refused to show the image of blood and death, but his heart could feel it anyway and screamed denial so loudly that for a while the walls rippled and the unreal reality was almost solid around him. He heard clearly then. Images the voice gave him. Images that stayed with him when the isolation returned. So now he sat waiting, and, somewhere else, time passed.

Bodie parked the van at an obscure side entrance which could only be reached through a maintenance tunnel, picked up the small sports bag he’d brought and walked casually round to the front entrance.

Dr Carter had not forgotten him—in the foyer and up on Doyle’s floor they had been told to expect him. He was making mental notes as he strolled in: one nurse on the desk, one attending to some patients in a side ward, the usual uniformed policeman outside Doyle’s door.

Bodie nodded to the policeman. “Any problems?” he asked as he showed his I.D.

“No, sir. Quiet as the grave. Are you expecting any trouble?”

“I hope not,” Bodie said, in the tone of someone who was. “Look, while I’m here, do you think you could just do a quick check round the place?”

The officer was very young and very keen, and set off as though being sent off on errands by CI5 was an honour. Bodie felt a twinge of remorse. Still, the lad was only obeying orders. Even Cowley couldn’t hang him for that. So far so good. He went into the room and found his partner up dressed and ready, and stared at him in wonder. Okay, he was sitting hunched up still looking as if his mind had been wiped clean, but he’d done it. Exactly what Bodie had told him. If Bodie had had any doubts at all about his course of action they disappeared then.

He knelt down by the chair, took the slippers from Doyle’s feet and laced him quickly into the trainers he’d brought with him. “Haven’t got too much time,” he apologised, though Doyle seemed not even to have noticed. He delved into the bag again and pulled out a leather jacket and a baseball cap. “Right; let’s make you look a bit less like your usual self. That young copper was a bit keen; he’ll be back to report before we’re gone if we don’t get a move on.” He manipulated Doyle’s arms into the sleeves, and tucked the tell-tale curls up under the cap. “There. A bit of luck and we’ll just stroll out of here.”

He hauled Doyle to his feet. All the reports CI5 had received said there was no physical impairment, but he guessed he’d have to keep a hand on him to keep him moving. He’d brought a large sheet of plans as an excuse—they weren’t of the hospital, but he wasn’t planning to let anyone get close enough to notice that. Holding the plans in front of them both, he drew Doyle out of the door and along the corridor, making sure he walked between him and the nurse’s station.

“And you can see the vulnerable places…” he adlibbed as he passed it. “Now if we check this exit…”

The nurses barely gave them a glance. There had been so many comings and goings of security men in connection with the patient in the private room; recognising Bodie they assumed it was more of the same.

Bodie led the way down a back stairs and along the quiet corridor which housed the chapel and which was the most likely to be deserted at this time of day. And with the quiet swish of a door opening his luck seemed to betray him. From the chapel, which should have long since have been empty, Dr Carter walked out, almost running into them.

It was too late to lift the plans again. Bodie stopped dead, and Doyle stopped because the impetus to keep him moving had gone. The silence went on too long.

“Would you rather I hit you or shoot you?” Bodie said lightly. It wasn’t really funny, because he was quite prepared to do the first. “What are you doing down here anyway?”

Carter glanced back at the room he had just left. “I was praying for an alternative,” he said quite seriously.

Bodie met his eyes. “And?”

“You’re the most unlikely answer to a prayer I’ve ever come across.”

It took Bodie a moment to realise what he meant, then he grinned. “Thank you Dr Carter,” he said formally. “Does this mean we’re not leaving against medical advice after all.”

“I’ll see you out,” Carter said.

He was as good as his word, and Bodie appreciated the risk he was taking for them. “We owe you,” he said as he directed Doyle into the maintenance tunnel.

“I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t his best option,” Carter said. “You can both buy me a drink when you’re back in business.”

“You’re on,” Bodie said over his shoulder. Two minutes later they were in the blue van, and by his reckoning none too soon. The young policeman wasn’t the sort simply to come back and sit down. He would look for Bodie to give him a report, and from there things wouldn’t take long to reach George Cowley.

“Gonna give the Cow indigestion, getting this news on top of dinner with Willis,” he said to his silent companion as they pulled out. The euphoria of getting out of the building with so little trouble was already beginning to evaporate. By the time he left London he was beginning to think of just what he’d taken on. It was the silence that did it. Doyle normally went to sleep in the car or talked all the time. Every time Bodie glanced at him he was aware of just how far he’d gone.

It was a warm night, barely dark although it was so late. Once they were out of London heading for the coast he could appreciate it. “Lucky, too,” he said keeping up the one-sided attempts at conversation. “A hotel didn’t seem such a good idea, so I’ve got the camping stuff in the back. I know places in the Downs we can camp with no questions asked.”

He found it hard to tell how much Doyle was taking in. Certainly he was no help in putting up the tent, except that he would stay where he was placed, with something in his hands. When they’d finished he simply stood still ’til Bodie gave him a gentle push in the back in the direction of the flap; then he did duck in.

It was the early hours of the morning by now, and Bodie wanted some sleep. One good thing about Doyle in this state was that he was co-operative. Bodie removed the cap, took off his shoes for him and pushed him down on to the open sleeping bag. “Goodnight,” he said firmly. The last thing he noticed before put out the torch and went to sleep himself was Doyle staring up at the roof of the tent as if it held the secrets of the universe.


Changed. Something had changed; perhaps everything, but most noticeable was the light. The white light that had surrounded him for so long had faded and muted to something softer, greener, less sterile. It dimmed the walls, and twined through to his other senses. Everything seemed less remote.

There was warmth, there was the soft sound of someone else breathing. There was… discomfort; aches and smarts that had felt of nothing when the pain should have been new and sharp. On the edge of his mind was the awareness of feelings waiting to return. Guilt, fury, failure. He withdrew a little.


Bodie woke to find the tent full of light and already uncomfortably hot. He rolled over and saw the green light through the canvas fall on open green eyes. “Suppose it’s too much to hope you’ve put the kettle on,” he sighed. Untangling himself from the sleeping bag, and aware of a need even more urgent than coffee, he went and found a suitable tree, and on his return pointed Doyle in the direction of it and left him to it. It seemed to him a sort of progress when Doyle wandered back before the small kettle had boiled.

He realised as the morning went on, how little of Doyle he’d really seen in hospital visits. They’d been formal, never involving eating or simply being together. Now, as he watched him eat slowly through a breakfast about half the size of his own, he realised even more how hard it would have been to reach him in a once-a-week visit.

“Reckon we did the right thing,” he said round a mouthful. “You look as if you could do with a bit of fresh air, anyway. What do you want to do today? Hang about? Go for a walk? I’m not jogging, it’s too bloody hot? Go sailing?”

His last suggestion had been prompted more by thoughts of the heat than any serious intention of doing it, but to his amazement, Doyle moved. It would no doubt still have come in the ‘too little, too late’ category as far as the authorities were concerned, but it meant a lot to Bodie. Stiffly, as though commands were taking an unduly long time to get from his mind to his muscles, Doyle shifted to look directly at him.

“Sailing?” Bodie repeated, and was sure there was something, some flicker of interest, there. “Well, why not. We’re not that far from Chichester. There’s not much wind, but then I’m not sure if you’re planning to do any of the work, so maybe that’s just as well.”

When he originally made his plans he’d been doubtful about taking Doyle anywhere near people, but in fact it was no trouble. Doyle simply stayed silent and only moved when Bodie prompted him. Even so, Bodie felt slightly relieved once they were out on the Solent in the hired dinghy. This was the best thing he could have done, he quickly realised. The sea was tame, but it was impossible not to respond to the clean air and sunlit water. He could almost feel Doyle remaking small connections with the world around him as the light wind lifted his hair and brought a little colour to his face. By the time they returned to their tent that evening he could see a difference he thought even a less-experienced Doyle watcher might have noticed.

The following day was more or less a repeat of the first. Hot. Got up. Ate breakfast. Went sailing. It reminded Bodie of a diary he’d once had to keep on a camping trip as a kid. That had been run by a female battle-axe who could have given Cowley a run for his money in ruthless authority. He wondered occasionally during the day about Cowley. The old man wouldn’t have been too happy when he found out what had happened. Sometime in Bodie’s future there was going to be retribution. He didn’t care though, not when he watched Doyle stretch out on his back in the grass, or turn his face towards the sun. He was closer, visibly closer. The trouble was, it only went so far.

It didn’t, for instance, run to any words. Bodie had almost stopped noticing, except when he thought about it. He talked when he felt like it himself. “This is all right,” he said that afternoon, as they had a lazy cup of tea on their return. “Beats surveillance. Reminds me of skiving off school—except we didn’t usually do anything healthy or out of doors.” He looked at Doyle. “You ever skive? Hang round the arcades with your mates?”

Doyle did not answer. Bodie left it that time, as he had done all day, but he was beginning to think maybe it was the key. Doyle could do all the other things he was doing and maintain that barrier of remoteness; if he spoke to Bodie, it would be gone. The trouble was, he wasn’t sure how much Doyle was making choices, and he was afraid that to push him might do more harm than good.

The next day was much more typical of an English summer, and anyway they were running out of bread and milk. He decided to go shopping. “What d’you think?” he asked Doyle who was looking at the grey sky. “If we go to a big place we could try to ring someone and get a bit of news without giving too much away about our location.”

Without words, or any change of expression, he nevertheless got the idea that Doyle wasn’t enthusiastic. A vague idea tickled at the back of his mind, but he dismissed it for now. “Well, if you don’t give a damn either way, I think we’ll make it Brighton. We can get what we need, get hold of Murph and go and see if there are any pretty girls on the pier.”

He realised how much Doyle had progressed in a few days when they strolled along side by side through the crowds and he didn’t have to steer him. They left the shopping ’til last, and wandered along the grey and windswept front to the pier. Bodie liked piers. Doyle, under normal circumstances, had nothing against the pier and even the amusements, but did not share Bodie’s enthusiasm for candy floss or toffee apples. As a sort of test case, Bodie bought a large candyfloss and offered to share it. To his relief—and secret amusement—his partner’s level of remoteness virtually doubled.

“There, you see, you switched off on purpose,” he said. “I know you don’t like the stuff, but I do. All sugar and colourings. Delicious.” He paused, leaning on the rail to enjoy it. “Anyway, if you can do that, you can do the opposite as well. It’s getting to the point where it’s up to you, I think. Do you want to come back, or not?”

Before he could see whether this had made any impact or not, the wind whipped along in a sudden gust. Bodie’s candyfloss, which had only had the usual tenuous connection with its stick, parted with it entirely and embedded itself in Doyle’s hair. Even Bodie realised that that had to put an end to the conversation.

“Sorry… sorry,” he said hastily. “Should have bought it in a bag. Here, I’ll do it.” He disentangled most of the sticky mass, and was briefly thankful for Doyle’s lack of words. “No good trying to eat it now,” he said regretfully. “Look, we’ll buy some shampoo and you can get the rest out when we get back. Could have happened to anyone.”

Slowly, visibly, Doyle shook his head. Bodie blinked, and began to laugh. He’d been wanting to for the last five minutes, and between the situation and the non-expression on his partner’s face, and that step towards communication, he could no longer hold it back. “Well, if that’s what it takes…” he gasped out. “Hey—I could buy a few to take back with us.”

Doyle ignored him, leaning on the rail looking out over the shingle and the grey sea. Bodie knew he wasn’t all the way back, but it seemed so close now that he decided not to make his first phone call to Murphy after all. “I’d like to speak to Dr Carter, please,” he told the switchboard at the hospital. “No, it’s personal. Yes I know, sweetheart. Just do your best, eh?”

Whether his charm worked at a distance, or whether he was just lucky, it was only a short while before he got the man he wanted.

“Hello. Been missing us?” he asked.

“Hello. Have you got time for me to find a more private phone?” came the cautious reply.

“No, I’ll be running out of tenpences,” Bodie said hastily. “All I want you to do is to listen, really.” He’d left Doyle outside, not quite comfortable at having this conversation in front of him now he seemed more tuned in. Quickly he recounted the progress he’d seen. “Trouble is, I think I need to get

a lot further than this before I dare show my face again. Cowley’s not going to buy it if he’s not talking. Do you think it’ll hurt if I push it a bit?”

Dr Carter said carefully—presumably aware of his public situation—”That’s not an easy thing to assess at this distance. It’s been a relatively short time. But no, I don’t think it would hurt.”

“Thanks. You didn’t get any trouble from Cowley, did you?”

“He doesn’t know I exist, and I’ve got every intention of keeping it that way,” Carter said with feeling. “He did make his presence felt, though. You’re not very popular with the nurses, and I think the young man on the door was severely disillusioned.”

Bodie winced. “I’ll try and make it up to them,” he promised. “Look, I’ve got to go, I’ve another call to make before my cash runs out. Is there a better way of getting hold of you?”

He scribbled down the numbers, and rang off. Now for Murphy. He hauled Doyle inside for this one, so that he could hear as well.

Murphy was brief but helpful. He wanted to know how Doyle was. Cowley had calmed down, though he was probably just saving himself up ’til he saw Bodie again. Parker was almost certainly behind whatever had happened to Doyle. The word from above was that they were to keep their hands off Parker as long as he was useful to Willis. Apart from that, things were going along relatively quietly, except that Macklin had got a new assistant who was considerably worse than Towser. Murphy thought that Bodie would most likely be making his acquaintance.

“Arrange an accident for him, there’s a good lad,” Bodie pleaded. “Anyway, thanks Murph. Find out what you can about Parker’s movements, just in case he’s still gunning for Ray. I’ll ring you again in a day or two. No—he’s not exactly talking yet, but he’s listening to you. Yeah. Cheers, mate.”

He’d been aware of a subtle increase in tension beside him when Parker was mentioned. He hadn’t been sure ’til then if Doyle really remembered what had happened.

“Murph’s a good sort,” he said, dodging an elderly lady who was glaring at them malevolently as they came out. “He’ll watch our backs where he can. Anyway, no one knows we’re here. Let’s go and buy some grub.”

He was halfway round the supermarket, and watching with interest the fact that his partner had rediscovered the ability to put inedible greenstuff into the trolley, before he realised he had misread the type of tension in Doyle. It hadn’t been concern about anything Parker might be going to do. No, he knew that prickly tautness, he just hadn’t seen it in a while. Doyle hadn’t been worried; he’d been angry.


Angry. He remembered the anger. It had come back too easily, sliding through the invisible chinks in the walls. The gaps were there, but they came and went, so that sometimes the world was a pale reflection and sometimes it was so near and real he had only to reach out and the walls would be gone. The twisting maze had straightened, or he’d followed the thread. He was in a strange place now. Limbo. Only which side was salvation?


Bodie put a large box of doughnuts in the trolley, and with the other hand gave Doyle a slight tug towards the checkout. The remote-ometer he’d joked about would be registering a swing back. Doyle had been further away again since the talk with Murphy.

All the way back to the tent, Bodie thought about it, and about their last encounter with Parker. Doyle had been shaken then by what he’d done; Bodie had seen his face when the ambulance men brought the bruised and battered Parker up out of the cellar. He put the thought with the other tiny clues as to what was keeping Doyle away, and what might bring him back.

The wind finally swept the clouds away as they unloaded the van and had a late and prolonged lunch. Apart from a few walkers and the occasional dog, they had the area to themselves; most people preferred the facilities of a proper site. With the candyfloss still on his conscience, Bodie heated up enough water for them to clean up—a shower after sailing the previous two days had kept them respectable. Then he looked thoughtfully at his partner. He was going to talk to Doyle, but he wanted to pick his time. At the moment, dozing in the sun with his wet hair curling wildly, he deserved the peace.

The afternoon faded imperceptibly into evening. The walkers grew less frequent; the rabbits came out; Bodie thought idly about stew and watched with admiration the lithe swiftness of a stoat. Beside him Doyle sat with his head tipped back, apparently watching the first stars. They were so close that if Bodie leaned a fraction sideways they would brush arms, but there was still a gulf. He could feel it almost tangibly, tonight. And as he had on other hot nights, half a world away, he was readying himself for a battle.

He let that memory lead his words. “Used to like looking at the stars,” he said quietly. “On the equator when it was too hot to sleep. Looked cool up there, and a long way from the mess down here. No blood, no stench, no noise. Seemed perfect, sometimes.”

Doyle barely moved, but Bodie could feel the stillness change. He was listening.

“Things have been rough, haven’t they,” Bodie went on, his voice still soft, almost reflective. “Too many people dying—terrorists who aren’t much more than kids, Diana—we couldn’t save her. Then the lads. Been a lousy year. We’ve all felt it. Got our fingers in some hole in the dyke while the floods coming in further up. Been rough on you too. Not easy coming back from being shot. Not easy when you get involved. Or when you have to go and tell a woman her husband’s been killed.” He felt Doyle stiffen, and with abrupt force grabbed his wrist. “Oh no, you’re not going anywhere, Ray. Not any more. Because wherever you are, is just a lie, not an escape. Those stars I looked at; they aren’t cool and they aren’t peaceful. They aren’t anything that matters, except to us when we look at them. All that’s up there is a big sterile universe that doesn’t give a fuck about human life.”

He could feel the resistance under his hand. “Okay, it’s a mess. We’re not saving everyone. Some things hurt like hell. But we’re here, and a part of it. It’s our mess. You won’t find any peace by pretending it’s not there. Even those people who believe in a God of peace believe he had to come and get involved in it, right down here on a cross where the nails hurt and the jeering probably hurt worse. This is what’s real.”

Doyle tried to wrench away from him, but he went on ruthlessly. “Nothing’s changed because you’re hiding from it. What was it pushed you too far? Whatever June Cook said? Or was it finding yourself ready to kill Parker with your hands? You know what you’re doing? Running away. Finding somewhere safe and leaving the rest of us to get on with it. I’ve watched your back when I’ve been at my worst. You’re making your choice now. What’s it going to be, Ray? Because this is the real world, and I live in it.”

He watched in growing anger as words fired like bullets shattered the last panes of glass. The light broke into stains, the protection gone. The thread that he’d followed snared him now, pulling him to the edge, where reality loomed like a chasm beyond the sharp pieces. Then, abruptly, even the thread was gone. He was poised where he did not want to go, and he had no choice because he knew one thing clearly now. There was a chasm. And Bodie was on the other side of it. He did the only thing he could do. He reached out. Noise and sensation ripped into him. The soft evening breeze was a gale that battered his face, and every nerve ending seemed to burn like fire. He was flailing on the edge of disaster, but his hand met another, and he gripped on to its hot roughness. Its hold was strong enough to pull him across. He fell back into reality.


Bodie caught him.

Bodie had fired his words with as much concentration and accuracy as ever he’d fired a bullet. He’d watched his partner with unwavering attention until he saw the tell tale flicker in Doyle’s eyes, and finally they met his own without any barrier at all. Then, as he heard the first shallow gasp of shock he gripped Doyle’s hand.

“It’s all right, Ray. Ride it out.”

He desperately wanted to haul his partner closer, to hold on to him so that he couldn’t slip away to whatever place in his mind he’d been lost in, but it wasn’t time yet. He had to wait and watch as Doyle struggled convulsively to remake the connection to reality. His eyes remained fixed on Bodie’s and he was struggling to speak.

“You… bastard…” Doyle managed eventually, his voice hoarse but audible.

Bodie grinned. He could have cheered at those stuttered words. Doyle was, finally, giving his all to fight his way back to him. He could see it in the taut determination of Doyle’s body, in the harsh set of his face in the starlight. It was the hardest thing Bodie had ever had to do, to sit there waiting for him to make it.

Stiffly, his eyes never shifting from Bodie’s, Doyle returned the grip of the hand that clasped his. Then he brought up his other hand to close on Bodie’s arm. His fingers bit into the muscles as though he was still afraid of falling back and Bodie welcomed the discomfort: it was the first contact Doyle had initiated in three weeks. He was so close. Words. Touch. It was almost enough, but still he was not quite Ray Doyle, and still Bodie waited.

Doyle was shivering as though it was winter, not a warm slow summer evening. He drew in another breath as if breathing hurt; at last the set expression of his face wavered. This was what Bodie had been hoping to see. The moment seemed to hang poised, then abruptly Doyle’s eyes were alight and stormy with a chaotic mixture of emotions. All the feelings that should have been there over the last weeks, and hadn’t been, finally showed: anger, frustration, fear, need, nearly overwhelming Doyle, but warming Bodie with a sense that at last his partner was back.

He’d won. That was the moment Bodie was sure of it, when the blank look, so utterly uncharacteristic of Doyle, shattered into a turmoil of reaction. He pulled him into a rough hug now, loose enough not to trap him, tight enough to let him fall apart in safety if that was what he needed to do. Doyle was still shuddering hard enough to shake both of them, and he briefly wished he could reach a rug or jumper; but the night was mild and almost still, and he settled for pulling Doyle in closer to his own warmth.

Doyle’s breath caught and hitched, but he didn’t fight the contact. Bodie was glad of it; he couldn’t quite escape the sense that even now if he let go his partner might slip back into whatever limbo he’d been lost in. Doyle wasn’t the only one who been storing up some reaction to the last three weeks, he realised.

“Feel like you’ve just been through one of the worst fights of your life?” he asked softly, not expecting an answer. “Bet you do. Well, I don’t feel a hell of a lot better myself. Wish I’d nicked a bottle of Scotland’s finest out of the old man’s cupboard. That’s what we could do with now; and not in the sort of helpings Cowley hands out, either. It’ll be going to waste at the moment; he’ll not be using it to drink any toasts to us, though maybe he’ll help himself to a glass while he plans what he’s going to do to me. You’ll probably get off on grounds of diminished responsibility…”

He paused, and Doyle shifted a little, uneasily. He’d got quieter, Bodie realised, more relaxed. Maybe it was the sound of his voice, or maybe it was just the passage of time. He went on talking anyway, letting the sound of it grow softer and slide away into the small noises of the night around them; a time for healing, now.


Warmth. Soft cotton against his face. Nothing enclosing him except Bodie’s familiar arms. He’d forgotten what simple human contact felt like. Doyle stirred a little, and wondered why he felt so exhausted. He also wondered, vaguely, why he was leaning bonelessly on Bodie’s shoulder and thought he ought to move, but it seemed too much effort. He stirred and opened his eyes to find it was apparently the middle of the night.

“Ray?”

He knew that tone. He only heard it when he’d thoroughly alarmed Bodie, and for the moment he had rather confused ideas as to exactly what he’d done. They were… camping. They’d been sailing. Bodie had got under his skin the way only Bodie could, though he couldn’t just now remember what had made him angry… This didn’t explain why he was currently half-asleep propped up on Bodie, or that note in his partner’s voice.

“I’m okay,” he said, and wondered if he was. His voice sounded odd and hoarse, unfamiliar in his own ears. “Could murder a cup of tea.”

The rather strained chuckle from above his head suggested this was the sort of answer Bodie had been hoping for. “Okay, sunshine,” Bodie said. “Shift, then, and let me make it.”

Doyle rolled over, sprawled on his back in the grass and enjoyed the light breeze and the feeling of being out of doors on a summer night. It was only as he watched Bodie put the water on to boil that he suddenly realised he wasn’t actually sure where he was, or what the hell he was doing here, though one of the few things he did feel sure of, was that Bodie had brought him to this place.

Bodie left the kettle to boil and went in to the tent. “Here,” he said, tossing out a sweater. “Put that on. You’re shivering again.”

Doyle realised he was, and that his face was damp and there was a taste of salt on his lips. And several huge gaps in his memory. When he tried to think, all he seemed to get was a collection of disconnected images. He searched for the last thing that had any clarity, and suddenly sat bolt upright.

“Parker!”

“It’s under control,” Bodie said hastily, but Doyle noticed he dropped the sugar and had to fumble for it.

“How long ago…?” Doyle searched his arms and could hardly find the fading scars in the dim light.

“Three weeks,” Bodie said, again with that odd note in his voice that Doyle associated with narrow escapes from disaster. “Here, drink your tea.”

It was hot and sweet, sweeter than Doyle normally liked, but tonight the sugar seemed welcome. He sipped it slowly and looked round their campsite. He knew in some sort of way that he’d been here for days but his recollections of it had a slightly unreal quality. As the tea warmed him, he began to put together other odd scraps of memory, and the picture they began to make was unsettling.

“What the hell just happened?” he asked, and was glad to find that his voice seemed to be more normal.

“Long story,” Bodie said, which Doyle knew simply meant he didn’t want to talk about it.

“We don’t have anywhere to be, do we?”

“No, but it’s late, and I’m tired. Leave it ’til the morning, Ray.”

Doyle ignored this as he generally did when Bodie said leave it. Anyway, he was feeling wider awake now, and somehow acutely aware of his surroundings. He rubbed a hand along the grass, looked round with renewed interest at the shadowy downs. It was all ordinary enough, but it seemed oddly new and fresh. He had a fleeting image of the same scene viewed from some remote point where it was more like a picture than solid reality.

With determination, he forced through the fuzziness of his memory to further, longer ago images: a hospital room, distant people, irrelevant voices. Had he been concussed?

“Three weeks?” he asked Bodie who was looking at him uneasily. “I got away from Parker’s goon… and into hospital, right?”

“Yeah,” Bodie said with entirely unconvincing casualness. “You were pretty roughed up. Had a couple of weeks in hospital, came here to get back to normal.”

He stood up and picked up the mugs, went through the motions of packing it in for the night. Doyle didn’t move. When Bodie gave up and came and sat back down next to him, he knew that what he was vaguely suspecting was on the right lines. Bodie obviously had no intention of leaving him on his own.

“It was that bad, was it?” he asked as Bodie joined him. “Not that I don’t appreciate your company…”

He watched the mixture of annoyance and concern on Bodie’s face. “Come on, mate. What did I do? Lose my memory or something.”

“Lost your voice, more like,” Bodie said. “And right now I’ve forgotten why I wanted you to get it back. You had a bit of an odd reaction to what had happened. You’re okay now. End of story.”

Doyle would have been irritated if it wasn’t so obvious he’d somehow given his partner one hell of a fright. Anyway, Bodie’s words had reminded him how strange it had sounded a little while ago to hear his own voice. He felt thoughtfully at his throat. No trace of trauma, and nothing hurt, but now he thought about it, he could remember the silence. The whole world had been silent… and somehow lacking in colour…

Bodie’s hand suddenly gripped his arm, and made him jump. “Sorry,” Bodie said hastily. “Thought you were daydreaming.”

“Nah, remembering, that’s all. Three weeks… You know what I remember it like? Kind of like watching an old black and white movie from the back of a cinema. Watching myself…”

Bodie’s grip tightened convulsively. “You don’t need to remember it,” he said harshly.

Doyle frowned. Half recollections came to him. Bodie’s touch, the only real thing in an intangible world; Bodie’s anger pulling him back from some remote place.

“I remember you, in the hospital,” he said softly. “Don’t remember much else about it really. You were angry and you told me we were going to get out that night.”

He stopped abruptly, and looked round him again with sudden, dawning understanding. “Shit. We’re on the run, aren’t we?”

Bodie scowled. “You make it sound like a bad gangster movie. If you mean Cowley doesn’t know we’re here, and is probably going to take it out of my hide when we get back, yes.”

“I was under arrest?” Doyle couldn’t think of anything he’d done that could have infringed CI5’s rather broad code of conduct, but this seemed to make sense. Scraps of words he’d heard but not listened to came back to him: secure facility; it’s for his own good; and Bodie’s voice, with a note of savagery in it, talking about rotting for his country like Quinn.

Quinn hadn’t been in prison, though.

Quinn had been in a secure mental hospital, lost in some crazed world of his own.

Doyle found he’d started shivering again. He wondered if just for once Bodie had been right and it might have been better to leave this, but he couldn’t now.

“I’d lost it, hadn’t I?” he said slowly. “It was an asylum they were going to put me in, not a prison.”

Bodie gripped his shoulders in a hold that was somehow both fierce and comforting. “No you hadn’t lost it. Look at me, damn it, Ray. You weren’t okay; hell, who would have been. They’d used electric shock on you and all sorts of other unpleasant things. But you hadn’t lost it. You just weren’t talking or reacting and the shrinks didn’t like it. You needed more time than they were giving you, so I brought you here. You’re okay now, and you’re staying that way. And if you don’t shut up now and go to bed, I’m going to tie you into your sleeping bag myself. Got it?”

Doyle got it. A lot of things still weren’t clear, but the one thing that mattered was pretty obvious. Whatever had been wrong with him, Bodie had been there. Bodie hadn’t let them shut him away in that cold and remote world, and hadn’t hesitated to put his career on the line to get him out. And Bodie needed some sort of reassurance that he really was himself again.

He looked at his thoroughly exasperated partner. “Bodie,” he said, managing to catch just the tone that suggested he was about to start another half hour conversation. He waited he saw Bodie had fallen for this and was really about to lose his cool, then added softly, “Thanks.”

It wasn’t often he saw Bodie as taken aback as he was by that single word. Or as relieved. He finally looked convinced his partner was really back.

Doyle met his eyes. “I mean it y’know. I may not have got everything clear yet, but I remember enough. Thanks. And I think you can stop looking at me as if I might break now.”

He stood up and held out a hand to pull Bodie to his feet.

He realised as Bodie took it, that had been a mistake.

“Sure you won’t break?” Bodie said with a grin.

Doyle saw just too late what was coming. He should have known better than to make that crack; Bodie tended to revert to manic rough and tumble when he was relieved. As it was, Doyle was easily thrown. He landed with a yelp, more or less on his sleeping bag in the wide-open tent.

“Finished talking for tonight?” Bodie enquired kindly.

“Yeah.”

Doyle crawled into his sleeping bag, and wriggled to find a position where the ground wasn’t digging into his hip. Bodie as usual seemed to be able to disappear into his and find a comfortable spot almost immediately. Doyle could tell from the sky that it was not that far off dawn, but there were a few things he couldn’t help wondering about.

“Bodie?”

There was a groan from the other sleeping bag.

“Cowley got an APB out on us?”

A deeper groan. “I expect so. No one’s picked us up so far, though. Go to sleep, Ray.”

“When are we going to let him know?”

Bodie sat up, looking as dangerous as anyone could look emerging from having their head in a sleeping bag. “Ray, I’ve waited three bloody weeks to hear your voice, and I’m already thinking of gagging you. We’ll sort it out in the morning. We can call him as soon as we wake up if you want. Or we can give you a bit longer before you have to face Ross and her fellow shrinks and we can go sailing instead.”

Doyle thought about it. “We don’t get many chances to get on the water. Maybe I need to convalesce a bit longer.”

The only answer he got was a patently fake snore, but he was tired himself by now. He lay still a while, and finally felt warm and as comfortable as it was possible to feel in a tent. Bodie’s breathing had evened out into genuine sleep, and he found the sound of it peaceful. Odd slivers of memory were still coming back to him, but he let them drift through his mind harmlessly. In the morning, he’d drag the rest of the story out of Bodie.

He rolled over, and looked at the dark mound of sleeping bag on the other side of the tent. Or maybe he would actually leave it. He owed Bodie after all: who else would think he was worth kidnapping, babysitting and bullying back to reality? Or would have held on to him while he got there. Maybe he’d just let the memories come back on their own, and when he and Bodie felt it was time ” and the weather changed ” they’d go and face Cowley’s wrath together.

He pulled the sleeping bag up over his hair, remembered the candyfloss and fell asleep laughing.


In the end, it took them a few days to be sure enough of themselves to head for home. Bodie was optimistic that the sight of Doyle as normal as he ever was would be their best hope of avoiding retribution. They called on the loyal and reliable Murphy to lay the way for them, and were relieved to hear his opinion that Cowley’s real rage was directed at Willis.

“Don’t think the Cow trusts him as far as he could throw him,” he reported in their last conversation. “But apparently Parker’s going to be out of the country soon. Just as well. D’you know who’s paying a formal visit next week?”

Bodie didn’t.

“The restored ruler of Battan himself.” Ojuka, who had reversed the coup in his country three months previously, was coming to pay his thanks to his western ‘friends’.

For Doyle and Bodie this news was a godsend. Ojuka had been far more complimentary about their abilities than Cowley ever was. They hung on for a couple more days of sunshine and sailing, then made their first stop the embassy, where they found him more than willing to offer his assistance. It was one of their most strategic moves. Faced with Ojuka’s enthusiasm and Doyle’s transformation Cowley was almost genial. The rest of CI5 made very snide comments, but Bodie and Doyle found themselves back with the barest minimum of disciplinary procedures, and without even the threat of Macklin.

The meeting between Cowley and Ojuka had one further interesting consequence. A few days later, Parker, on his way to a meeting with his backers in MI6, was intercepted by Doyle and Bodie.

“You won’t be able to prosecute me for a damn thing,” he said arrogantly. “Everything I’ve done in this country has been wiped out. Shame, eh, hard man? But I enjoyed our little bit of time together.”

Doyle smiled. “Tell you what, then. We won’t worry about this country. There are a few others with an interest in you, you know.”

It was only then that Parker saw the man who stepped out of the shadows, followed by a couple of gleaming bodyguards.

“You will get a fair trial in my country, Mr Parker,” Ojuka promised.

“You can’t do this!” Parker shouted after Bodie and Doyle. “Your government needs me. I have friends here.”

“Think he’s got friends?” Bodie asked Doyle as they walked out of earshot.

“Nah. Not the type. Where are we going, Bodie? ”

Bodie grinned. “Now we’ve got that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, we’re going to have a drink with someone I want you to meet. Well, in one way you’ve already met him but I doubt if the two of you will really know each other.”

He fended off the rest of Doyle’s queries on the way to the pub he’d chosen, and looked round its crowded bar for the face he wanted. Doyle looked with puzzled familiarity at the young man who approached them. Bodie was right. He wasn’t a stranger, but Doyle couldn’t place him.

Bodie’s grin broadened at the expression on both their faces. “Dr Carter,” he said with cheerful formality. “I’d like to introduce Ray Doyle.”

~ End ~


Evening Falls

by Enya, from the album Watermark

When the evening falls and the daylight is fading
From within me calls—could it be I am sleeping?
For a moment I stray, then it holds me completely
Close to home—I cannot say
Close to home feeling so far away

As I walk the room, there before me a shadow
From another world, where no other can follow
Carry me to my own, to where I can cross over
Close to home—I cannot say
Close to home feeling so far away