Discovered on a Bookshelf


"You know the man." Cowley had said it, and it was true.

Bodie began a systematic search of his partner's flat as soon as the forensic team moved out. He didn't hold out much hope. Malone's mob was the best, used to doing this as a matter of routine, whereas his specialties lay out on the streets with Doyle at his side.

Can't think of Doyle now. Can't worry about the surgeons removing the cold bullets from his warm living flesh, or stopping the hemorrhaging, or Doyle's faltering heart-beat, his flickering pulse. Got to concentrate on the who, the why.

He turned his back on the living room with it's rust-stained carpet - that was Ray's blood drying there, the thought made his stomach churn - and entered the bedroom.

The bed had been made up hastily that morning. Bodie had left his partner to tidy up while he showered and shaved before their appearance at the Coroner's Court. They hadn't spoken much; the scenario was too familiar to require words. You couldn't pull a bird, so you went home with your partner to relieve the tension together. Great way to work; no strings, no breast beating, no tearful questions about love, loyalty, respect. Doyle and he were a two-man mutual support society that extended to dispelling an increasing reluctance to throw the other out after the necessity was over hadn't gone unremarked.

Bodie was happy to keep Doyle in his arms the night through, and provide breakfast in emergencies. Doyle, in his turn, seemed to cherish the aftermath when he snuggled into Bodie's side - a huge animated teddy-bear, Bodie told himself in an uncharacteristic fit of sentimentality. What was happening between them?

Concentrate, he told himself angrily as he started to examine the bedroom. You are supposed to be looking for clues. How can you think about bedding Doyle; he might not survive.

He's got to survive! HE'S GOT TO! I...

Bodie mentally shook himself, tearing his thoughts away from the torment, and continued to look around the bedroom deliberately shying from the fact that he and Doyle had slept together here less than twenty-four hours ago. That it might be the last time they shared a bed.

He couldn't block it anymore. His partner, his best mate, the man he shared most of his waking moments with, had been shot, gunned down in his own lining-room by person, or persons unknown, for reason, or reasons unknown. Ray was dying, fighting for his life, and he, Bodie, could do nothing - NOTHING - to help him. Cowley had given him the job of checking out his partner's flat, but he couldn't even do that.

Bracing himself against the bookcase, his head bowed, he tried to regain some sort of control, but it was impossible. Why? Bodie demanded silently. Why can't I just do my job and report to Cowley? I've had partners shot before, people I've known longer, been to bed with. So why is Doyle so bloody different? It never hurt this much before. He hit the wooden shelf with his clenched fist, and there was a soft echoing thud as one of the paperbacks fell from its perch. Doyle must've had it out recently and not put it back properly.

Bodie bent to retrieve it and frowned at the title. A kid's book? In Doyle's collection? And a well-used one at that.

Bodie picked it up and flicked through it. The pages fell open of their own volition, and he read, not really interested, but it stopped him thinking about Doyle.

Forty minutes later, he was sitting on Doyle's floor, propped against the bed, and the tears were trickling unheeded down his face as he went through the final chapter, the author speculating on whether a sheep would eat a rose or not. Bodie finished the story, and returned to the part he had first read.

"Am I looking for friends. What does that mean - 'tame'."

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."

"To establish ties?"

"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world."

"I'm beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower... I think that she has tamed me."

"It is possible," said the fox. "On Earth one sees all sorts of things." The fox gazed at the little prince for a long time. "Please, tame me!" he said.

"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."

"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends anymore. If you want a friend, tame me."

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near...

"Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."

"It's your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm, but you wanted me to tame you."

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.

"Yes, that is so," said the fox.

"Then it has done you no good at all!"

"It has done me good," said the fox... "Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to me, and I will make you a present of a secret."

The little prince went away to look again at the roses. "You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet, you are nothing. No-one has tamed you, and you have tamed no-one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world. You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses...because it is she that I have listened to when she grumbled, or boasted, ore even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is MY rose."

And he went back to meet the fox.

"...Here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye. It is the time you wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important. Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must never forget it. You become responsible forever for what you have tamed..."

Bodie sniffed hard, and rubbed his eyes. Subconsciously, he had known the answer all along, though the question arose - who had tamed whom? THAT wasn't important. What DID matter was that it had happened.

He stood slowly, and replaced the paperback, shaking his head a little sadly. Ray HAD to be all right. I need him and he's mine, my responsibility.

Establishing ties, being tamed by that one person in a hundred thousand... Bodie took one last long look around the room, his eyes lingering on the bed they had shared the night before. It wasn't just sex, and Ray knew it already. Maybe that's why he'd had the book out.

As he pulled into the hospital car park, Bodie wondered just how he'd break the news to his partner. Ray had to stay alive now. Bodie ran up the steps and paced the corridors quickly, anxious to be with his lover. As he peered down at the theater from his place in the gallery beside Cowley, a strange thought wandered across his mind. Had the sheep eaten the rose?

Below them, the surgeon was closing up. Doyle would make it now, Bodie knew. Ray would live; had a good reason to. Bodie loved him, and when he woke up, Bodie wouldn't waste any time telling him so. As they wheeled Doyle out of the theater, Bodie smiled.

No, he reasoned, no self-respecting sheep would...

-- THE END --

The book in question is THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. It was published by Piccolo in 1974.

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