His hair was in his eyes. Waking up knowing he was bound again, gagged again. Not again. Testing his bonds he moved a little, then perforce held still. Raeburn's crazy; maybe he thought he'd already killed me.
He did feel like he should be dead.
The band across his mouth blocking air, his nose clogged. Mucous? Blood? He blew a bit to clear it. Clogged. Panic sweat dampened his back, the heat spreading through him.
Suffocation? What were the colours on his painter's palette at home? The new painting of Bodie was coming along well. Not anything anyone would want to put in their living room of course, but maybe a gay couple would buy it someday. Not if he died though, drowned in blood. He blew his nose a bit again to clear it. Then he thought of Bodie, who'd grin at him and pull something from Bodie's book of black humor, 'Doyle,' he'd say, 'have you ever heard of anyone drowning from a bloody nose?' Cadmium red light, Prussian Blue; no he should remember them as he had them on the palette. Indian Yellow.
"Scum? You awake; I know you're awake. Don't make me angry; I'd kill you right now sooner than look at you. Faggot curly head."
Doyle looked up at him.
Then for the first time he realized there were other people bound and gagged around him. Then the smell. Fuck, they're dead, or dying, or pretending to be dead.
"Those are your friends, all coppers. You're a copper, right? Tommy said you were a copper."
Doyle shook his head, thought better of it. When did he get hit on the head, he wondered? When did his ribs begin to feel bruised? Why was there blood on his face? And where the hell were his shirt and shoes.
When had he started to shiver? Cadmium yellow light. Cad red medium...
"Want a blanket, faggot copper?"
He felt himself nod. He'd have asked politely.
Raeburn threw the blanket at him. "Hate coppers; you're a copper aren't you?"
Ray shook his head. Tried to speak around the gag. "No, no."
The kick caught him by surprise and so did the second. He started coughing, hard and liquid. Sap green to Prussian blue. He wasn't unhappy when he felt consciousness slip away.
Bodie felt the room closing in around him. Where the fuck was Doyle? Little bastard was always wandering off, talking to his grasses. Why did today feel different? He coughed to try to get some air into his lungs. He tried to remember whom Doyle said he was going to see.
Billy in Soho? No, no way. Lawrence the ex-Eton boy? Bodie shook his head. No, you idiot, can't you remember anything? Lying back on the settee in the restroom he tried to think. Who, dammit, who?
At this point Doyle'd been gone for three days. There'd been no word, no note for ransom. Nothing. Bodie'd gone to every hospital in the entire city. He'd visited morgues. Nothing.
The ceiling in this room needs some repairs. Cracks in the ceiling. Wonder if my do-it-yourself partner would know how to mend those. Nah, just a good man with a bike. A good man. The rush of panic swept through him. Bodie allowed it; his training would hold him through this. The image of Doyle lying very still, tied up hand and foot appeared in his quieting mind. Shit. Dear God, don't be doing this now. Just seen it so often, I'm replaying the scene. But the vision wouldn't leave: in his mind he heard the sound of boots, felt the fear.
"Bodie get in here."
Cowley's office. Dark cabinets, old cabinets. Mysterious, like the man himself.
"Well? Have you had any ideas of where Doyle might have got to?"
"No, well, maybe. Some idea, not much. He took a folded up copy of the Sun out of his pocket.
"You found good police information in the Sun? Really, Bodie."
Slapping the paper on the desk the headlines yelled: COP KILLER ON THE LOOSE IN LONDON.
"I'll remind you that the missing coppers were all uniformed policemen," Cowley said.
"What if that's all a cover? Something aimed at getting Ray?"
Cowley stared at his desk. "Oh get us a drink. There could be something in what you say. Doyle was not a well-liked copper. Someone might have a grudge, it's happened before."
"Are you thinking this is the third time, Bodie?"
"I don't know. Bloody don't know."
Bodie calmed again as he poured two drinks. Pure malt, better for celebration than for thinking. He sat opposite Cowley. "I've checked records of who just got out of prison that might have anything to do with Ray. I called some of Ray's contacts. Nothing. And I rang Marge, she's looking into it, nothing so far." He pointed at the paper. "Random, maybe; someone grass him to this guy?"
"Nothing worse than random." Cowley stared at Bodie. "What's the next step?"
"He's got to be in town; too many kidnappings and killings in too few days for him not to be. Somewhere in town."
"It's a big town Bodie." Cowley walked over to a map of greater London, picking up some pins from the tray at the bottom of the display. "Where have the kidnappings been, what information do we have?"
Bodie covered his irritation at the seeming forced inactivity as the two of them began piecing together the sequence of the killings, the missing coppers.
In the middle of the placing of the pins, the note-taking on the incidents, Bodie remembered Tommy Dahl. Tommy Dahl, the little street kid that Doyle watched out for. A sweet kid with a nasty habit. Doyle had got him off the street and into treatment twice. But the kid couldn't have anything to do with it. Bodie grimaced. Doyle had even mentioned that Tommy had contacted him. Damn.
"Sir, Doyle went to see one of his kids."
Cowley raised an eyebrow.
"Street boy, Tommy Dahl. He didn't say why. Kid just phoned him and Doyle left when he got off duty. Eastside."
"Find him Bodie, find the link. Now."
Bodie ran from the room, nearly tripping on the stairs. Impatient with the lock on the car. Finally moving, driving downtown. Shit, fuck. Hang on, Doyle. I'm trying. The image of Doyle, bloody faced, harsh breathing, came to him. Shut up, Doyle. I'm trying.
It took him two hours of wandering under bridges and bribing a couple pretty street boys before he found someone who knew where Tommy was.
The hospital attendants refused him entry into the room. When Cowley arrived they allowed him five minutes with his "nephew."
"Come on laddie, wake up just a bit."
The small teenager opened his sticky eyes. "Who're ye?"
"Ray's friend. Ray Doyle."
"Yes laddie; I'm looking for Ray. You saw him?"
"Man was lookin' for 'im, wanted to talk to a good copper. Gave me a fiver."
"Do you remember who he was, where he might be, was he a friend?"
"Needed the fiver."
"Do you know where he is?"
"He wanted help, you know, wanted to talk to a good cop, didn't know he'd hurt Ray."
Cowley sat back, stunned.
"Ray came to see me when I called, best copper. The guy came up behind him and hit him."
"Would you recognize him?"
"I'd get him if I could. He's the one did me like this."
"No, the man who hit Ray."
"He's Ray too."
"Thank you Tommy. You'll be okay."
"When you find Ray, Mr. Cowley, tell him I'm sorry."
The nurse stood at Cowley's side. "Long enough, Mr. Cowley."
"I've finished here, thank you."
Outside in reception he met with Bodie. "Whoever did it shares Ray as a name."
Bodie frowned at Cowley. "All I can think of is Raeburn, in the papers a couple of weeks ago. He escaped while being moved to Scrubs."
"Aye, but he's no cop killer."
"No, a random bomber; maybe he got some re-training."
"But no connection with Doyle. He told Tommy he wanted to talk to a good copper. Of course, the boy didn't know what was really going on."
"Well he got a good copper. Wonder if he's talking to him?"
The man was talking to him. The headache pounded through Doyle; Sap Green, Prussian blue, burnt sienna. Why is this guy talking to me? Why talk to a gagged man?
"I didn't mean to hurt nobody." Raeburn whined, "Didn't mean for anyone to get hurt. None of these would listen to me. You're listening, aren't you, Doyle? You're a copper, right? You can help me."
Doyle coughed around his stiffening gag. Nodded.
"I didn't mean anyone to die. Just wanted to see the explosion. Didn't mean for people to die." He looked around at the bodies in the room. "They couldn't help me. They let me go to jail. Do you know what they do in jail, Mr. Doyle?"
Around the gag Doyle whispered, "I know, s'bad."
"Had to kill a bunch of 'em, they all wanted something; went to solitary to be away from 'em."
Doyle drifted, woke to Raeburn holding him against a wall. "Oh, God, no." Pthalo yellow green. "Stop, oh, God, stop." Titanium white.
In the distance he thought he heard gunshots. And suddenly Raeburn was off him, he could feel the man turning as he felt himself fall.
He only vaguely heard the sound of footsteps, felt the sudden release of his bonds.
He laughed in his dream; of course he was dreaming rescues now. He'd roll over onto his side with the broken ribs, maybe puncture a lung. Going on was not even on his mind.
Someone was lifting him. His mind laughed, I'm too big to be carried like a baby, but without a doubt someone was carrying him that way. The pain in his ribs, he needed to cry.
Someone put him down outside the room, leaned him against a wall. "You okay Ray? You be okay for a minute?"
It was a rescue. He did cry. "Bodie, my God, it is you."
Bodie gave him his best soppy grin. "One minute," he repeated. "I've got to finish what I started. I think he's still in there.
"Yeah," was all he could manage.
The phantom disappeared through a door Ray hadn't realised was there. From the room came a single gunshot.
-- THE END --
Originally published in A Third Priority A-3, IDP Press, 2001