Inspired by MUNCLE's The Gurnius Affair (if you can be inspired by something you've never actually seen...). Bodie's undercover: guess who he's tasked to beat up?
This story should carry the health warning of alternating POVs mingled with personal third person, which I know isn't to everyone's taste - including mine most of the time. But it's The Pros, and as far as I'm concerned the whole point is Bodie seen through Doyle's eyes, and vice versa, so pfft. Gets a bit dark, this, too.
DISCLAIMER: I have no money, and I own none of these things, and please don't sue me for typing dubious fiction.
"Chin up, Billy. This should be right up your alley."
Bodie remembered to nod, a fraction too late. Fantastic. He was undercover using his own bloody name and he couldn't pull it off.
Not that anyone noticed. They were far too busy eyeing up their latest acquisition. A squirming bundle on the floor, all legs and yelling.
"Found him poking through the rubbish outside the club," said Andy. "didn't I, sweetheart?"
Andy gave the lad a kick.
"Told you there was someone sniffing about," babbled Girvan. "Told you this place wasn't secure, didn't I, boss?"
Skinny legs. Patch on the arse of his jeans.
Andy grinned, showing Bodie a gappy row of teeth. "Billy'll find out for us. Right, son?"
Bodie nodded, a fraction too late.
Doyle kept on kicking, in spite of the bag over his head, in spite of the rope round his wrists, in spite of there being absolutely no way in hell he was getting away, because he might, just might, manage to get one of the bastards in the nuts. Not enough, obviously. But when small victories are all that's on offer, you chase them like life itself.
Then they pulled the bag off, and he was choking in a bright light, getting pulled onto his knees, held up.
Training. Focus on the spot.
Two in the alley: one took him down, but there was another when they tied him. Had to figure they weren't alone. That made three; maybe four.
There were spots on his retinas. Could be the lightbulb: could be concussion.
He hadn't blacked out, he thought, or not for long. Not far from the alley, then. Upstairs, he thought: didn't remember any stairs, mind. Just something about the air; the light: just felt like it was upstairs.
Cowley was going to love that.
There was a hand on his throat, now, jerking his chin up. Doyle blinked in the bright light, trying to let his eyes adjust enough to make out the rest of the room. There was a shape, a person-shape, visible before him.
"Listen, sunshine. You and I both know you'll be telling us plenty before we're done. So let's not do everything the hard way, shall we? The man just wants to know your name."
That voice. He knew that voice.
Blinked, again and again, as the person-shape resolved itself into a person.
"Doyle. Ray Doyle."
The voice sounded steady. There was blood in his hair; at the corner of his mouth. And his eyes were all over the shop. he'd have to watch out for signs of concussion: nausea, dizziness, incoherence. But the voice was up to Macklin standard.
Come on, Ray. Use your loaf.
The curly head dipped. When it came back up, the blurry eyes were filled with teary panic.
That's my boy.
"Whatever you want, you can have it. Anything you want me to fetch and carry. Whatever you need, I'll get it. I know some people. Whatever you're into, right?"
There was a snort from Andy. "Don't think a skinny fecker who goes rooting through dustbins is going to bring me much of what I need. But thanks for the offer."
Bodie grinned. He made sure Andy saw it: saw what a joke it all was.
"What are you, anyway?" he grunted, giving Doyle a nudge with his boot for good measure. "Some kind of fancy private investigator?"
"Journalist," Doyle answered, breathlessly. "Freelance. Was looking for a story out of the club: something on the girls being underage. That's all. Honest."
Freelance bloody journalist: last resort of the desperate. He ought to come up with something else: that one had never come out good. Smelt like a lie: too hard to trace, too conveniently lonesome.
"Doyle," said Bodie, prodding his shoulder with his boot again. "Sounds familiar. Weren't you the little rat that did for Denny Holland?"
Bless him. All that protein from the bacon and eggs every morning must have been paying off.
"Was just reporting the courtroom, nothing else," Doyle said, still breathless, nervy, the little reporter tangibly out of his depth. "I was supposed to be digging for more dirt, but I never found anything. Least, that's what I said to the editor, right?"
Spots still danced in his eyes. He stuck a conspiratorial grin on, and thought of childhood, and looked as useless and harmless and pointless as he possibly could.
"He's just some lowlife," Bodie mumbled, drawing Andy aside with an arm round his shoulder. "We need to get shot, and sharpish. How about I chuck him a tenner and leave it at that? Doesn't look like he's exactly flush, judging by that clobber."
Bodie saw Doyle's head dip again from the corner of his eye, and gave Andy's shoulder a squeeze. It got him a raised eyebrow and a shrug.
"No hurry," said Andy, eyeing the drooping Doyle. "There's hours yet. We haven't even had the codeword to phone through. And when did you get so squeamish?"
Bodie hesitated, weighing it.
"I'm a professional, mate," he growled. "Job first, fun second. There'll always be another mark to take to bits - unless I go down for twenty, know what I mean?"
Girvan nodded ruefully.
There was a clatter outside. Doyle's head jerked, but he kept his eyes low, trying to stay out of sight.
"What the fuck?" said Girvan, pulling his gun.
Bodie nodded once to Andy, then silently took up a position beside the door, waiting, automatic in his hand. He raised his hand a fraction higher, ready to use the grip as a cosh, not ready to shoot.
The handle turned. The door swung open. Bodie tensed for the arrival of another bloody CI5 agent: Murphy, or Benny, blundering in, and needing another sodding cover, and this time not one he could be sure about bluffing.
Only it wasn't. Not Murphy. Not Benny. No blundering at all.
Doyle thought for a fraction they were both dead, until he remembered Bodie's fractured wrist (Judo, he'd told the girls in the typing pool, but it was that big gymnast), and knew it was just him.
"Andy. Girvan. And you'll be the new boy."
Mullan barely glanced at Bodie. There wasn't much time to feel relieved.
"Grand. So, boys. Which one of you is going to explain why there's a CI5 agent tied up on the floor?"
He saw Doyle plaster the standard-issue grin onto a ghostly face, and felt his gut twist. He knew Mullan on paper: Doyle knew him in the flesh, so to speak. Bit more literally than anyone might like.
And here was the bastard large as life, poking his hooter out from behind the curtain at last. Cowley'd been fretting from the off that they were mounting an op without a target: that they could wind up with cells full of worker bees and never catch the queen. And now here she was, he thought, trying to keep a smile from creeping out at the image: Gerry Mullan, scourge of the Falls Road, in a tiara, waving from a postage stamp.
Which still left them ahead by one. He just had to find a way to play that card without screwing the pair of them.
"CI5? You're kidding. Him?"
"Straight up, Girvan, son. Me and Mr Doyle here go back a-ways."
Doyle was doing his best limp lettuce leaf, but he had to know it wasn't going to cut it with Mullan. Unless he really was doing his best, and that concussion was kicking in.
"Thought you said you knew him, Billy?" said Andy, drawing back from Bodie. "Knew he was a journalist?"
Steady, now. Deadpan: nothing to react to. "I said I knew the name," Bodie said mildly. "And I do. You reckon Denny Holland really walked free from that trial? They'll have given him some deal, and covered it up so he can show his face for another ten years before he coughs about all he's seen. Fuzz wouldn't have done it. You can bet CI5 would, just to piss the boys in blue off."
He saw the flicker of a genuine smile at Doyle's lips. Bodie lifted a foot, and lashed out at Doyle's chin in some vicious blend of stamp and kick. Doyle rolled, awkwardly, coughing; blood slowly trailed down his chin from both a split lip and his nose.
Bodie crouched, and gripped a fistful of curls to raise Doyle's face up towards Mullan. "Don't know what you've got in mind for him, guv," he said, "but if he is CI5, he'll be trained to be a pain in the arse. How about we just lock him up somewhere till the job's done: have a bit of fun with the skinny bastard after we're clear?"
Jesus, he must look rough. Bodie was all over the shop. Leave him alone for later was end-stage tactics, not a developable position. He was starting to worry that Bodie knew something he didn't: if he was haemorrhaging without even knowing it.
"I don't know anything about what you're doing," Doyle rasped, his head lolling on his shoulders. "I was just passing; saw a car outside, thought I'd have a look, that's all. It's just chance, me being here."
Doyle's eyes flicked up and glimpsed Bodie's, and hoped that was enough.
Good god, that was pathetic.
Doyle ought to get a bloody medal. Bodie's own hands were twitching, his breath short. Doyle was lying on the cold floor with his hands hitched back and his jaw in bits and god only knew what memory playing on a loop, looking secretive and desperate and profoundly easy to break. So smug Mullan would decide not to bugger off to parts unknown to watch the gig from afar: so Mullan would stick around, and hang out, and hear what else Doyle had to say. All of which would be courtesy of the interrogative skills of one Billy Budd, whose reputation preceded him. And all as a neat little preamble to the cavalry rolling up and nicking the lot of them.
An ETA would be nice. Easier to pace a kicking when you knew how long you had; not to mention the other.
But it wasn't as if this hadn't come up in conversation. There had been beery discussions of phobias, of things which were intolerable (Doyle: custard; Bodie: heights, darkness, spiders, crowds, lifts, plus every superstition going from walking under ladders to black cats at midnight); beery discussions of last wills and testaments; beery discussions of undercover scenarios in which a seduction might have to go beyond the call of duty - all prompted by Ray, of course. But then there was the stuff that didn't need to be said, not even by that soppy beggar. It was the job, and from time to time the job was lousy and seedy and sick, and when it went that way you pulled your head in and got on with it, like always.
Least it was this way round. It wouldn't look like it by morning, but this was easier on the poor sod.
Thank Christ it wasn't the other way about. Even putting aside bloody Mullan (and good god, wouldn't that have made him smile, walking in to find Ray Doyle actually working for him), he was glad the old man had spun him to the outside. Accents he could do; total personality reversal was a bit beyond him. And Bodie was good at hitting people. Bodie would be good at this.
Mullan sent the other two out for a scout (to shut the pair of them up, probably, which meant they were just goons - because if Mullan had honestly thought there was a CI5 squad sitting outside waiting for him he wouldn't have just walked through the door to say hello, however much bottle he was famous for), and he and Bodie set to mumbling pleasantries. Mullan"s idea of a job interview, he supposed. Not his problem, anyway. Bodie could bang on about Africa and all his not-so-honourable exploits till the cows came home: would probably enjoy having a willing audience for once. He could just lie still, and rest his forehead on the floorboards, and make the most of the peace.
He caught snippets of their talk, Bodie bigging himself up as a master technician, a man who didn't like his technique interfered with. Nice job, so long as Mullan didn't think it was a pissing contest. Probably true, and all. And there were a few noises: the scrape of a chair being dragged into position; the zip on a sports bag being yanked back. The clank of something heavy and metal being tossed on the ground.
He hadn't realised his eyes had slid closed until there was a hand in his hair, dragging him up off the cool comfort of the floor.
Bodie wound the gaffer tape around wrists and ankles and ignored the slick of blood and sweat he now had on his hands. Talking to Mullan had helped. He'd forced the smell of the jungle into his nose, the taste of killing for cash into his mouth. Billy the mercenary, back to doing what came naturally.
Christ, if he really did go for it they were both in trouble. Good thing he couldn't muster that kind of blind rage anymore. Seeing red wasn't just a euphemism. And he wasn't about to suddenly come to and find Ray a bloody pulp on the floor and his knuckles aching.
He'd been young, and daft, back then. Not now. Now, he was a thousand years old, and tired of it. Sick to death of it all.
Kate Ross would be happy. At last, 3.7 seems to have discovered he has a conscience. Unfortunately, he's only using it to justify to himself yet another brutal spate of violence.
Bloody woman. Rattling round in his head, when he needed to concentrate.
He'd always had a lot of respect for Bodie's ability to do the things he knew he couldn't. Little Ray Doyle, scrappy tearaway trying to get the fuck out of Derby, had done rather a lot of things that DC Doyle had left off his CV. He'd been no angel. And no CI5 agent got through a week without a slap here or there, giving or receiving. There was that Curran business. When it came down to it, he pretty much killed people for a living, and all the art classes and classical records in the world were not some upwardly-mobile pay-off to make up for all the death.
But he wasn't Bodie. He killed people, but not like Bodie. They'd get equal scores on the range (he'd even beaten him once, though Bodie said it was a hangover and an iffy sight and he'd got a cold), but they weren't equal. Bodie meant it when he pulled the trigger. Same attitude to killing as to a plate of sandwiches in the VIP room: if you're going to do it at all, don't muck about. Get bloody well stuck in.
But there were lines that Doyle would never cross; probably didn't even know what they were. And Bodie had gone galloping over them years back, without a second thought.
Doyle realised he'd always been grateful for that knowledge. Whatever was asked, if it was too much, Bodie would take it on. And that way, his conscience was always salved, because he always knew he'd never be as bad as Bodie.
It was awful. Thinking like that was awful. About a mate: a partner: his partner.
Only it was true.
Bodie calmly discussed with Mullan the various different blades he'd used to cut off someone"s ear.
Bodie ran a sweep on how quickly he could make Doyle piss himself (Andy won).
Bodie coaxed, cajoled, charmed Mullan into a full description of how exactly he'd tortured Doyle before, complete with repeat demonstration.
And that was just for starters.
Long old way from Macklin. Long old way from a chat over a beer.
The way to do it was not to look at the eyes. Detach yourself. Remove your conscious identity from the situation, to protect your sense of self.
Bollocks to the manual.
You did it by looking them right in the eye. You invested every last ounce of your personality in it: you made them do the same. You took everything you knew about them and turned it to your advantage. You used it all.
Skinny. Copper. Not good enough. Failure. Victim.
Bodie was looking, so he saw the shift in Doyle's eyes from trust to terror. Gerry Mullan had done this a hundred times and he knew what fear smelled like - including Doyle's. So those were the rules. Bluffing would kill them both. Girvan was a mad bastard that no one would listen to, but he was watching; Andy too. They started out keen and encouraging. And if they were turning aside after a little while, so much the better. Meant they might fuck off somewhere else. And he was an artiste, an expert: leave the tools to the tradesman.
After an entirely indeterminate period of time, Bodie stopped, and took a step back. There was a hand on his arm.
"Go easy," said Gerry Mullan.
Or screaming. Something loud, anyway. Something that hurt.
Har har. Along with everything from breathing to blinking. His throat felt scratchy, but he knew better than to cough. he'd broken enough ribs before to know how that one was going to work.
Jesus, someone was setting fire to his arms.
No. Undoing the tape. Taking half his fucking skin with it, but still.
The desire to scream got locked in a fight with fractured ribs and nobody won. Tears appeared and he found himself gasping as saltwater hit his swollen face. Another broken cheekbone, maybe. And more teeth chipped. Funny. Bodie always reckoned they were his best features: those damaged bits that made the girls chase the bionic golly too.
The miniature ginger Scotsman that accompanied his worst hangovers started up. A nagging voice in his head, barking out orders. Open your eyes. Wake up. don't just bloody well lie there, sonny, we haven't got all day.
Diligent Doyle obeyed orders, and dragged his eyes open.
The pain his ribs and jaw began simultaneously, an instant after he started to laugh.
Bodie watched from the sidelines, and saw the old man's shoulders relax, and breathed again.
At his nod, the medics moved in, and a bloody, damaged, all too silent Doyle disappeared behind gauze and tender hands. Cowley seemed to linger, as if unwilling to let the boy alone with them, until Bodie realised he was kneeling. Never seen the Cow on his knees before: yet another stubborn bastard.
"Need a hand, sir?"
Cowley glanced up, the pain from his gammy leg twisting his face. Odd, that: seeing him vulnerable.
"Aye, laddie," he mumbled, and reluctantly took Bodie's offered hand. Bodie hauled him up, wincing himself at the close grip on his bruised fingers. Swollen like sausages. He'd need an ice-pack, or seven.
Cowley was looking at his hand too. "A dirty business," he said.
"Lousy intelligence from a friend named Paddy?"
"Bad intelligence, and bad luck for Doyle. He was... I had him looking into a local prostitution racket. Even if we'd known for certain it was Mullan behind the bombings, we had no idea he'd diversified. Sheer bad luck.
"But a good result. You've done well, Bodie."
"Sir." Bodie dipped his head; took the praise.
Everything comes down to training, in the end. You just do what you've learned to do. Doyle would heal. He'd get his ice-pack. They'd both get headshrunk. And sooner or later, they'd get another bit of bad luck, and do it all over again.
Presumably. Probably. Hopefully.
-- THE END --