Sorry, Bodie

By Gil Hale —

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 Combinations Challenge, using Marty Martell, a silk scarf, and boat on the Thames.

“Sorry, Bodie, friendship doesn’t go that far.” I’ve said it to him often enough. Why I don’t hold to the words I’ll never know. CI5 are, frankly, a pain in a part of the anatomy a gentleman doesn’t normally mention. They want the impossible—usually yesterday—and they don’t pay for it in cash or favours. Goodwill, as I’ve pointed out before now, is not only not a commodity, it’s ephemeral even as a concept. There’s no explanation for the fact I continue to help them out of the pits they’ve dug for themselves; if I came from the colonies, I’d probably consider it sufficient cause for psychoanalysis. But once again I find myself out of pocket and considerably inconvenienced, for no better reason than Bodie and Doyle reducing a perfectly simple assignment to disaster and chaos.

I wonder if Cowley drinks…

I was having rather a trying evening even before the two of them destroyed it completely. I don’t particularly like Soho, and doing business above an Italian restaurant may be cosmopolitan but hardly has the cachet of an international hotel chain. The motley assortment of eyeties and local oiks I’m doing this particular deal with have nothing except immoderate enthusiasm for their cause to commend them, but at least that usually brings in the money. This evening, it wasn’t even doing that. They couldn’t pay the full amount, and to make matters worse, they actually seemed to expect me to haggle.

My mood wasn’t improved by the fact the Italians had a visitor, one who was about as at home in the room as a shark in a bathing pool. He was apparently only there because he was someone’s brother in law, and he looked bored to tears, but the mere fact of having a hardened pro in a room full of amateurs was making everyone edgy.

I had just decided the evening was a washout, and was about to explain that we could get together again when they had the right money, when I was forestalled by an unholy racket on the stairs. It could have been the biggest mama from the kitchen coming up to demand some assistance—this has happened before—but unfortunately it wasn’t. It was a hulk called Beppi. He operates as a sort of guard dog in the yard below—jumps enthusiastically at visitors, makes a lot of noise, eats anything the kitchens don’t want. He’s normally harmless.

Tonight, though, he’d evidently caught someone. We could easily hear that before he reached the room, from his shouts and the mamas’ shouts and some generalised crashing. He dragged his victim into the room by the throat—as I said, he’s huge and he has hands that might have made him an international goalkeeper if they’d ever co-ordinated with his brain—and stood there waiting for praise.

I stood there and remembered some quote I once had to learn at school about malign fate.

I couldn’t see the face of the writhing, gasping object trying to kick Beppi somewhere personal, but there was no mistaking that mop of hair or the scruffy ensemble he was wearing. Adding the killing touch to my already blighted evening, it was Ray Doyle who’d been dragged in, and if anything could make matters worse, it was the fact that our shark visitor for the first time was sitting up and taking notice. In spite of the fact this really shouldn’t have been my problem, I felt an entirely illogical need to act. Cutting through the babble of Cockney and Italian that had broken out, I said loudly, “I think there’s been a mistake.”

This silenced everyone but Beppi. Beppi began to protest that there had been no mistake, that he’d found his prisoner skulking suspiciously near the bins, and had leapt on him like a tiger. The shark was getting more interested by the minute—quite rightly, as he was probably the cause of any CI5 surveillance. The oiks were all for beating someone up. Beppi had begun to shake Doyle rather like a rat. Only one plausible way out of this presented itself to me.

“He was waiting for me,” I said.

That did it, of course. I knew it would. The atmosphere in the room changed immediately. If there’s one thing the average continental has in common with the London proletariat, it’s their beliefs about what you might call the… er… orientation… of anyone who’s attended an English public school.

This is entirely unfair as it happens. At my school, in the lower forms our affections were directed solely at matron (young, blonde plaits, bosom like a Valkyrie) and butterscotch tart (usually Thursdays). Our tastes were slightly more advanced in the upper school, but so was our ability to circumvent school rules. I would be the last person to deny that our most expensive educational establishments have some features in common with Her Majesty’s prisons, but the inability to obtain female company is not one of them. I emerged at the end of the sixth form as heterosexual as Bodie—only more discriminating.

However, for once this prejudice was proving useful. The oiks began to comment on Doyle’s hair, the Italians on his jeans, and Beppi held him up so we could see the silver chain that stood out nicely against the bruising already beginning to show on his throat. Doyle, in fact, looked a mess. He and Beppi seemed to have rolled in the remains of several pasta dishes, his shirt was ripped and the only part of his skin that wasn’t dead white was the bruising.

Moving quickly, while the mood of the room was with me, I took him hastily from Beppi, and propped him up, then took off my silk scarf and started to clean him up with it. That was a real crowd pleaser. A silk scarf is proof of effeminacy anyway to your average oik, while the Italians actually seemed to find the gesture romantic. I heard a horrible, suppressed wheezing noise coming from Doyle which rather alarmed me until I realised he was choking himself laughing. A warped sense of humour seems to be a requisite for entrance to CI5. He played up all right otherwise, though, leaning on me soulfully and generally looking fragile and damaged.

“He was fighting like some pro,” Beppi said sulkily. I had a terrier like that once; couldn’t bear it if you didn’t appreciate the rats he brought in.

“Well, I’m very impressed by your speed and alertness,” I said to him generously. I wanted to get out of there before Mr Shark or anyone thought of searching Doyle, who was almost certainly carrying ID and a gun. “I’m sorry my—ah—personal arrangements should have caused you so much trouble. As a gesture of goodwill, I’ll agree to deliver the goods at the price you’re offering. Now I hope you don’t mind if we consider tonight’s business closed. I’d like to take my friend here home.”

I can’t tell you how much I hate making that sort of offer, or how unlikely it is CI5 will consider reimbursing me. It worked though. The oiks thought they’d put one over on me, and the Italians were depressingly charmed by the new personality I was displaying. Too charmed. Before I knew what was happening, someone had bellowed down the stairs for the mamas to come up and have a look, and they started clucking over Doyle and scolding Beppi. Doyle, luckily, still couldn’t speak, so he couldn’t say the wrong thing, but I was aware of the shark looking on cynically and of the danger of the other half of the disastrous duo bursting into the room to rescue his partner. It was a great relief to get out and into the car.

One of the mamas leaned in and pushed a nearly full bottle of red wine into Doyle’s hand. “To soothe his throat,” she said kindly. Doyle gave a pathetic sort of croak as thanks and nearly reduced her to tears. I noticed it didn’t stop him taking a healthy swig as we finally managed to drive away.

“Where’s Bodie?” I asked, as soon as we were out of earshot. He shrugged, then gestured at the mirror. To my annoyance, it looked as though someone was going to follow us home. No good trying to dump Doyle on anyone from CI5 while we had a tail.

I turned sharply left, though I didn’t expect this manoeuvre to lose the car behind, and it didn’t. What I had decided to do was to call on Jan. Jan, whose other name is unpronounceable, is what I suppose Cowley would call an illegal immigrant. He was a highly qualified doctor in his own country so naturally ours doesn’t want him and would only offer him a job sweeping roads if it did. He’s been a godsend in this part of Soho, though—someone with excellent medical skills who doesn’t ask questions and actually feels some concern for his patients. I don’t think he has any idea how many people would act forcibly in his defence if the authorities ever caught up with him.

I half-hoped my tail would get bored while we were in there, and Doyle’s generally battered appearance was beginning to niggle at me. I really didn’t want him to keel over before I’d returned him to his proper minders.

Doyle brightened a bit when he saw Jan; I should have known they’d be acquainted. Jan refused to let him try to speak, and was hopelessly over-sympathetic examining him—for a man from a covert organisation, Doyle showed a marked lack of stoicism—but at least he understood my rather complicated account of what he should say about us to anyone who asked questions.

He seemed to find it amusing as well.

Anyway, he bandaged up Doyle’s ribs, fussed over his throat, and before either of us could manage a yelp of protest, produced a syringe of something and stuck it in his arm.

“Wait a minute,” I said, futilely. “What was that?”

“For the pain,” Jan said. “He cannot swallow tablets. This will be more effective.”

“I don’t want him sleepy,” I said, with absolute truth. I didn’t want to be responsible for him a minute longer than I had to be.

“Don’t worry,” Jan said cheerfully. “Only, no alcohol, Mr Martell. Then it will not be a problem.”

I thought of the bottle of red wine in the car. Surely he hadn’t had time for more than a mouthful. It’s a mistake though to underestimate Doyle or Bodie in the realm of alcohol consumption. When we got back to the car I discovered he’d had more than half a bottle.

I should have said something extremely forceful at this point—indicating that if he showed any signs of going to sleep before I returned him to the bosom of CI5 (much less attractive than matron’s) I would dump him in the Thames. Unfortunately I made the mistake of actually looking at him. He really was a miserable object. I refrained from saying anything, and when I saw that we still had our tail I decided to take him back to my ferry after all. I could make some phone calls from there and find someone, hopefully Bodie, to take him off my hands. If he was asleep by then, well, that would be Bodie’s problem.

I have quite a pleasant suite of rooms on the ferry, and after such an appalling evening it was a relief to get back to them, even with Doyle in tow. I realised, though, as I propped him up against the door that he was a definite health hazard to a pristine room. There was hardly an inch of him that wasn’t filthy, and I think he had lasagne in his hair.

“Perhaps you’d like a shower,” I suggested politely.

Doyle looked at me blankly. I took him by the arm and propelled him to the small shower room. He did show some interest then, and even looked doubtfully at his torn shirt and food-splattered jeans.

“I’ll find you something clean,” I said.

If there had been the slightest prospect of getting rid of him in the near future I would have happily loaned him a suit, but he was practically somnambulist by now. I have a pair of silk pyjamas I loathe, which are rather short in the leg; my aunt remembers me as a thirteen-year-old. I tossed these in to Doyle with a dressing gown, and sat down for a well-earned drink.

For about five minutes, life was almost worth living. Then there was the noise of a conversation on deck, followed by hasty footsteps and someone banging quite unnecessarily loudly on my door. My men are well trained. I knew it would be a reasonably close acquaintance. I guessed it was the missing half of what Cowley, presumably in jest, calls his best team. With what I view now as hopeless optimism, I actually felt relieved.

I opened the door. It was indeed Bodie, hot, red in the face, and looking far from grateful. With impeccable timing, Doyle chose that precise moment to wander out of the shower. He’d ignored the pyjama top and dressing gown, and was inadequately dry for the trousers. His hair was dripping over his bare shoulders, and he was almost asleep on his feet. He looked rather like a dissolute model for a pre-Raphaelite painting. Burne Jones would have loved that battered and drooping look, and the wet curls.

Bodie stared at him over my shoulder, and went even redder in the face than before.

“You bastard!” he said to me, furiously.

That’s when I hit him. Hard.

He sailed back across the corridor, hit the wall, and sat down with a thump. For about ten seconds it was the most exquisitely satisfying experience I’d had in a long time. After that my knuckles started to throb, and I remembered I don’t approve of indulging in mindless violence, even when it’s entirely justified.

I stood there rubbing my knuckles, and Bodie sat there rubbing his jaw. From behind me came a horrible rasping wheezing sound. Ray Doyle had woken up enough to find this very funny.

I waved away one of my men who was watching happily from the end of the corridor, and offered Bodie a hand up.

“Sorry,” he muttered. This was very nearly a first. Apologies don’t come naturally to Bodie.

I invited him in, and with great relief, handed him back his partner, along with a towel, the other half of the pyjamas and a dressing gown.

“He’s all yours, dear boy,” I said generously. “Take him away as soon as you like.”

Bodie stood there looking like the village idiot, while Doyle leaned on him, closed his eyes and started to drip all over Bodie’s shirt. I waited.

“I think I need a drink,” Bodie said.

It turned out that he’d had nearly as bad an evening as I’d had, though in his case he’d richly deserved it. He’d been late showing up to join Doyle because of some amorous exploit. He did seem to be feeling guilty about this now. The stakeout had been supposed to be routine, so he’d been disconcerted to arrive to a scene of excitement, not to say chaos. Then he’d been unreliably informed by a variety of people about the entertainment he’d just missed. Exaggeration had been rife, but he’d got the idea I’d taken Doyle off with me.

“I didn’t believe the rest of it,” he added hastily, swigging my whisky as if there was no tomorrow. This would have been more convincing if it hadn’t been for his recent performance at the door. “I was worried about Ray, though; they said he’d been half strangled.”

We both looked at Doyle. Bodie had dumped him on the couch while he sat down next to him and reached for the whisky, though he had thankfully managed to push him more or less into the dressing gown. He was completely asleep now, of course, with the towel still draped over his head. What we could see of his throat was mottled with stark bluish bruises.

“There’s no lasting damage,” I said quickly, quoting Jan. “I did get him checked out.”

“I know,” Bodie said grimly. “I went there too.”

I had, I remembered, explained to Jan in detail what to tell any enquirers. It just hadn’t occurred to me one of them might be Bodie.

“I still didn’t believe it,” he added.

I raised my eyebrows. He can understand the subtler forms of communication. “It was your man on deck,” he said defensively.

This made things rather more understandable. My man on deck, Jean Pierre, has a warped sense of humour and still hasn’t forgiven Bodie for the Gulf deal he messed up. Apparently he’d realised what Bodie wasn’t believing, so to speak, and added the finishing touches that had sent him down to my cabin hot and bothered. Jean Pierre was the one I’d waved away from the corridor; he must have been delighted with his handiwork.

“Never mind,” I said generously, retrieving my whisky. “It was evidently a series of misunderstandings. Now, unless CI5 are considering recompensing me for my losses and my time, perhaps you’d like to take your partner home.” I nearly added ‘and look after him better in future’ but Bodie is, in fact, quite irritating when he thinks Doyle needs looking after.

He promptly proved this by saying plaintively, “Have a heart, Marty. Look at him. He shouldn’t be dragged about any more tonight.”

I looked. “What do you propose to do with him then?” I asked.

Bodie glanced at the one bed in the room. “Well, I don’t mind roughing it if you don’t. Give me a hand to shift him, then you can have the couch and I’ll take the floor.”

He managed to say it as if it was somehow a generous offer. I took the whisky instead, and went up on deck to enjoy a sane conversation with Jean Pierre. When I went down for a second bottle, Doyle was asleep in the bed and Bodie was snoring on the couch. I didn’t get my room back ’til late the next morning, and then only because I sent my grenade expert to the launderette with Doyle’s clothes.

It was more than a week after that before I saw them again, thank goodness. They were hanging round in Soho, perhaps still hunting the shark, and both wearing the most appalling leather jackets. Heaven knows how Cowley feels if they ever turn up at his club. I knew one of my oiks was about, so I thought I’d better stroll over and say hello.

Doyle called out before I got there, “Hey, Marty—those silk pyjamas—they were really something else.”

The oik, as Doyle had evidently intended, heard this and scuttled off, presumably to regale Mrs Oik and anyone else who would listen with this new example of class degeneracy. Doyle and Bodie fell about laughing.

“I see you’ve got your voice back,” I said to Doyle.

“Yeah,” he said, “and… thanks.” I never quite know what to do with those sudden changes of tone. At least he looked normal again—as normal as he and Bodie ever look. The bruising on his throat had almost disappeared. Bodie followed my gaze and nodded.

“Thanks, Marty,” he echoed.

I suppose I don’t exactly regret allowing my friendship to stretch that far. All the same, one of these days I’m calling in all that goodwill from CI5, and the reckoning, believe me, is going to be colossal!

~ End ~