by Brenda K
A 'lyric wheel' challenge: to use song lyrics supplied by the previous person in the wheel as inspiration, and to use one line from them in the story too. Mine were 'Breakfast in America' by Supertramp. I got the line in (two, even) but let's say that the links to the song aren't very strong.
Why did he do it?
Did he think I'd go rushing to try and stop him? Was he expecting me to?
What did he say? Like a slave without a chain. That was the latest one anyway - I've heard so many versions of what's wrong with the world, the squad, me and the oil they fry chips in, maybe it just washed over me.
He was definitely in one of his moods, and it was a particularly unpleasant one when he'd seen Cowley. The scowl and the few terse words told me that much. So when he told me to fuck off, I didn't stay around to try and cheer him up and snap him out of it.
He would, of course, stop brooding at one point, once he'd sorted it all out in his own mind - and when the job was in the bag. I was sure of it.
Then we'd go down to the pub, pick up some female company and it'd be all systems normal. The sun would come out again, and I'd see the chip-toothed smile. Hear the dirty laugh, and probably even eat liver paste sandwiches and make stupid jokes because I'd be so relieved and pleased.
He thinks I'm shallow, I suppose. Wonders how I can just get on with something instead of gnawing at it or let it gnaw at me.
It's not that I don't have feelings, but I just don't let them loom up on me like some sort of bloody psychological obstacle course.
Feelings hurt, though. Much as I try to hide them, I strongly suspect mine are showing now, big time.
Dear God, did I ever know him?
No, I probably didn't. Or I could have stopped it happening. I should have done, of course.
Ten years of watching his back, and then he goes and does this.
Ten years is a long time.
Scene: Cowley's office, a week before.
The usual accessories are there: a bottle of malt on the shelf, a desk that looks more battered than antique.
In the light of the desk lamp, its occupant looks more lined and wearied than old but he's speaking calmly.
"Bodie, do I have to repeat myself?"
Silence. Bodie usually grins or pouts at the oft-repeated question, but this time he just stands there, impassive.
"I don't like this, sir." He speaks neutrally, after a while. "You can't expect him..."
"I don't pay you to like what you do. So that won't wash. If there's a job where I think either of you have the appropriate talents, I can order Doyle - or you for that matter - to do it." Cowley is crisp, but there's a weary undertone to it all.
"Oh, for God's sake." Bodie sounds disgusted rather than angry. "This is where he brings out the small print, Doyle."
"I've read the small print," Doyle says curtly. "The waivers, the disclaimers..."
"And the waivers to the disclaimers," Bodie adds with a flash of cheekiness but now his look is one of challenge to both other men.
Doyle just grimaces, locking eyes with Cowley.
"This had better be worth it," he says coldly, picking up the file.
Cowley doesn't answer. Or can't.
But he calls Doyle back for a moment.
Why am I doing this?
Tried to see your point of view, when you told me I was crazy, but I couldn't. Then I told you to fuck off when really all I wanted to do was explain. Explain a lot of things, in fact.
I took my decision, and I'm not sure whether I'm too proud or too scared to go back on it now, Bodie.
Very trite, very clichéd. But that's always true in this sort of situation.
I'm angry, too.
How many times have I regretted being how I am? My temper, my moods. My complete incapacity to see things in black and white. Hardly surprising I've spent my life chasing people away when I need them most, and particularly those who can see things so simply.
To my credit, I suppose, I still buckle down and got the job done.
Something's often simmered away inside, though. I'd squash it away, have a pint and pretend everything was fine. Maybe I even convinced you, and everybody else, that it was.
At this moment, I'm reaching boiling point.
I'm in a strange mood that's a mixture of a last straw feeling, an accumulation of frustrations, a touch of sadness. All those irritating emotions that seem to crowd in on me and threaten to make me scream. Why can't I just get on with it, without all this agonising?
I envy you. Always did. Not that I'd ever admit it.
Always admired seeing you smirk or glower or do the impassive bit on Cowley. Whatever happened, you dealt with it, right? Just like you'd tell me to deal with this.
You usually stopped me going too far, but this time you aren't here.
And I'm scared.
I've promised myself I'll never look behind me, though. So I won't.
I don't want to do this, but I have to do it anyway.
You asked me when I ever did anything on my own. Well right now, I am and it feels strange.
Ten years seem to have gone past almost without noticing them. I feel like I did when I first strapped that gun on.
Scene: Cowley's office again, but a week later, a few days after he's seen Bodie and Doyle in there.
The accessories are the same. Cowley looks exhausted, and the bottle is on his desk. It's nearly empty.
He refills the two glasses, draining his before grimacing at the man opposite him.
"Och, go home, man," he says to the dark-haired figure sitting opposite him, who nods but doesn't move.
Cowley adds a little more whisky to his glass.
"If you're going to repeat yourself and say it should never have happened, man, save it."
"But you're right. A lot of things shouldn't happen, including what just did."
Murphy nods, seeming to linger over the last finger of scotch and Cowley's words, and hesitates for a minute or two.
"Sure you'll be all right, sir?"
"Aye. This organisation has a job to do, and it wouldn't get far if it was run by a sentimental old fool. It works simply because I'm a bastard. Old bastard."The correction comes with a dry chuckle, the voice wry.
Murphy doesn't look convinced at all and looks as though he's struggling to find the right words.
"If you say so, sir." It sounds a little lame, but Cowley attempts a smile.
"I do. Whether you choose to believe me or not is your business. Or whether I can practise what I preach will remain to be seen." Cowley accompanies the words with a wry purse of the lips. "Is Bodie still here?"
Murphy hesitates, then nods.
"Very well. Call him and tell him to come and see me, would you. We have matters to discuss."
I know why he did it.
He did it because he felt there was no other way, whatever arguments and convictions and options had swayed him first. I've been there myself.
It doesn't make it any easier, though. It makes me feel like a sentimental old fool, however much I attempt to dispel that image or deny it in front of my men.
How will his partner cope with it? I wish I knew. I have to face him now, and I'm not looking forward to it.
Yes, I'm getting old, like Murphy's eyes just said after my weak attempt at humour.
I was probably harsh with the man just now, but nothing anyone can say about it can change anything. Hard as that might seem.
It's the end of an era, really.
They were a superb combination. A stroke of genius on my part, although I frequently doubted it at first.
Two different attitudes, almost diametrically opposed characters, yet both of them survivors thanks to sharp minds, fit bodies and that additional, tangible spark. Good individually and outstanding as a pair.
A caring relationship, too - one of trust and friendship and respect. A rare thing indeed.
And one that's over.
Nothing lasts forever, and not even me, I realise, wishing I had the energy to get a new bottle out but grateful for the self-control that forbids me to do so.
Did I ever expect this day? I suppose I must have done, but like Bodie I've never dwelled on what might happen and have got on with whatever I have to do.
Ten years they were partners.
Too short or too long? That is not for me to answer, now that what they shared has come to an end.
I suppose I'm not really surprised that it happened the way it did. Knowing Doyle a little, anyway.
Can Bodie see that?
That's something we'll discuss, if either of us let down our barriers enough to do so.
Perhaps I'll get that bottle out after all, and we'll drink a toast to Ray Doyle.
-- THE END --