The Obedience of Fools


Written for Discovered in the Mistletoe, on the discoveredinalj livejournal community

22 December, morning

The body lay face down in a muddy puddle on the Camberwell Road building site until it was discovered by a pair of teenagers on their way to the Kennington Park skateboard bowl. Shuffling from foot to foot to keep warm, they argued a little about what they should do, before finally flagging down a passing police car.

The investigation team reached the site quickly and taped it off. It was a couple of hours before the body reached the mortuary; shortly after that an assistant technician found a CI5 ID wetly disintegrating inside a concealed jacket pocket. Once advised, the police pathologist started a chain of phone calls, wearily aware that life was about to become more complicated than usual.

Cowley dispensed with the Chief Superintendent's call in a scant couple of minutes and rang the pathologist immediately.

"Cowley, CI5. You have one of my men in your mortuary. Robert Andrew Stuart."

"Yes, Mr Cowley. We're examining the body now."

"I see. How did he die?"

The pathologist sensed that it would be unwise to annoy the brusque-sounding man at the other end. He held back a sigh. "We're a long way from finished. But there are two bullet wounds in his chest – that's the most likely cause of death."

"I would have thought it was certain!"

"From the forensic point of view we have to consider other causes, such as drowning, or drugs. But I generally concur, Mr Cowley. Will you notify the family and arrange for someone to identify the body?"

"Of course. Send me copies of your reports. I'd like to see the forensics as soon as possible."

Cowley didn't wait for his agreement before hanging up and the pathologist turned back to his work, thinking some very unkind thoughts about the arrogance of one George Cowley.

The first thing Doyle noticed as he wakened was that his back was sore. The second thing was the arm that was wrapped tightly around him, holding him immobile and no doubt contributing vastly to the stiffness in his spine. Gently, so as not to disturb his sleeping bed-mate, he eased himself from under the heavy limb before stretching, enjoying the cracks and pops as flexibility returned. Only then did he look at the bedside alarm; it was almost midday.

Christ, they'd slept the clock round. They'd needed it though; a heavy week of foot slogging it around London after some foreign embassy types, culminating in a raid on a very posh country house in Warwickshire. Not a shot fired throughout the whole operation and enough information gathered to send a couple of unfriendly diplomats packing before they could do any real harm. Very satisfying. The only thing lacking had been sleep, and now they'd had an abundance.

He flicked a dry tongue across his lips. Too tired last night, must have left the heating turned up. He needed something to drink, and to relieve the pressure in his bladder. In a minute, though. He turned in the bed to look at his partner. Bodie slept soundly, breathing quietly, one hand tucked under a cheek, cradling it. Hair tousled, small beads of moisture gathering on his upper lip and forehead, yet he still looked appealing. Doyle restrained the urge to wipe the sweat away.

He padded off to the toilet and from there to the kitchen where he drank a glass of water, pouring another for Bodie before returning to the bedroom. He turned the heating down; the room was warm enough for what he had in mind. Bodie had rolled onto his back. He was still asleep, but there was an unmistakeable bulge pressing up against the covers. Doyle smiled to himself as he peeled the blankets back to reveal Bodie's morning erection. Slowly he crawled back onto the bed until he was crouched over Bodie's supine form. His hands skimmed over soft skin, down Bodie's flanks to the curl of dark hairs at his groin, loving the way Bodie's cock twitched as he stroked around it, almost but not quite touching.

This was always fun, this playing with a sleeping Bodie, never quite sure when he was going to wake up. He knew it wouldn't happen until he applied more direct stimulation: Bodie was always a sound sleeper, here in their private world. So Doyle took his time. He bent down and laid kisses along his lover's hip bones and the tops of his thighs while his fingers traced a line from the tip of his cock to the root. As he moved his hand further around, sliding smoothly between his balls, pressing a little more firmly now, he heard Bodie give a soft moan of pleasure and felt the lift and thrust of hip against his hand. Shifting up the bed a little he took Bodie's cock in his mouth.

One thing he'd found out about sucking cock – well, sucking Bodie's cock anyway – was that it somehow felt as though he was doing it to himself at the same time. It felt like that now, sweet pulses racing through him as he swirled his tongue around the tip of Bodie's shaft. He wriggled down so his own cock pressed firmly against Bodie's thigh without stopping the movement of lips and tongue.

"Oh, that's nice... Ray... love that..." Bodie was awake now. Doyle substituted a hand for his mouth and crawled up the bed to give his lover a morning kiss. "But I need to pee..."

"Tough luck, sunshine. I mean, look at the state of you. You really need a helping hand."

Bodie groaned, but there was amusement in his eyes, and flagrant lust. "Alright, but turn around. Let me get at you too."

Doyle did, and they settled in a comfortable sixty-nine position, on their sides, lapping and sucking each other. They always built to a peak slowly when they were like this; giving pleasure in kind took the edge off their own urgency. And Doyle's attention was all on Bodie, hands and lips at his service, Bodie's mouth on his own cock an echo, a reflection. Gradually their excitement grew, until he came in Bodie's mouth and Bodie followed him moments later.

They were still for a minute, then Bodie hauled himself to his feet and took off for the bathroom. Doyle felt pleasantly sated. He drifted in a kind of daze, until he became aware of the bleeping of an R/T, off in the other room. Sod it, they were supposed to be off duty today.


"4.5?" It was Sally, her voice crisp and clear. "I called 3.7's R/T. Where is he?"

"He's here. He crashed at my flat last night. After the op." Doyle winced a little. It wouldn't do to have that happen too often. They'd always treated each other's flat as a home away from home, even before they'd become lovers. That wasn't particularly unusual – other partners did the same, meeting up before a shift, or unwinding together afterwards. It was, however, better not to become too complacent.

"I see. Well, you've saved me a second call. Stuart's dead. We don't have any details yet, except that he was shot and his body dumped. Tell Bodie to meet Alpha One at King's College Hospital, two o'clock. You're to go to the crime scene and talk to police, then meet Malone's team at Stuart's flat. You'd better get your skates on."

"Got it. We'll be there. See you, Sal"

Bodie came into the lounge as Doyle completed his call. "Work?" he asked, moving to Doyle's side and slinging an arm loosely about his waist. "I thought we had the day off."

"Well you know what thought did, Bodie." But Doyle didn't smile as he said it. "Stuart's been found dead and we've been called in."

Bodie sighed. "The King of South London, eh? Sorry. Know he was a mate of yours."

"Sort of. I only met him for a drink a couple of times when he came up for air. He was good, Bodie, too good to end up dead." Bodie's breath was warm against Doyle's cheek and he leaned back, taking comfort from the feel of bare skin against his skin. Bodie was so alive, so real.

"Best get moving, I suppose," Bodie said, a little while later. "Could shower together, save some time?"

"What? Bodie, this is hardly the moment..."

"No. Not right now, anyway. It feels nice, that's all. C'mon."

Doyle drove through driving rain, the same rain that had made the trip to the building site a waste of time. Police tape still fluttered around the place where Stuart's body had been found, but by the time he got there it had turned into a lake of muddy water, the investigation postponed until the rain eased and the men could return with waders and equipment for searching the water. He called Bodie on his R/T.


"4.5. I've been to the building site. Nothing there but ducks, so I'm headed for the flat. You?"

"Hang on." There was a short silence, then Bodie's voice returned. "Had to find an empty office. I'm in the maternity ward and the place is crawling with very fat women. Half of them look at me as though it's my fault they're knocked up; the other half look like they want to eat me alive."

Despite himself, Doyle snickered a little at the gloomy tone. "All your sins coming home to roost. So what are you doing there, if you're not expatiating your wicked past?"

"Looking after a Miss Mattie Holmes. The police found her at Stuart's flat. She's nineteen, black, eight months pregnant and in a hell of a mess. The doctor has her on complete bedrest, hooked up to a drip with nurses coming around to check her blood pressure every five minutes. So far she's saying nothing."

"From what I remember, if she gets worse they might have to bring the baby on early, or they could lose both of them. You might not have a lot of time to get friendly."

"Right... Ray?"


"Ah... nothing really. It's a rotten business, that's all. Take care."

"OK, mate. Speak to you soon."

He found a bare stretch of kerb outside Stuart's flat and pulled over. The flat was in a small block of eight, on the first floor. The stairwell smelt of ethnic cooking and decay, of exotic spices overlaid with mould and cat's piss. He scooted up the stairs and knocked until Malone opened the door.

"Doyle. Here, put a pair of these on. Don't want your mitts all over the evidence."

Malone handed him a pair of thin cotton gloves. Doyle decided against any comments about grandmothers and sucking eggs – Malone might not be a field agent, but he'd been a damned good police detective, turning down a promotion to Inspector to take a job with CI5. He knew what he was about.

"Found anything?" he asked.

Malone shrugged. "No signs of recent violence. There's a hole in the bedroom wall but judging by the cobwebs it's been there for a while. We're going through his papers now. You should take a look."

The flat was tiny, not much more than a bed-sit, with a curtained archway separating the kitchen and sitting area from the bedroom. There was very little about the first room that gave any hint of Stuart as a living, breathing personality. Doyle walked into the bedroom. A brightly patterned counterpane over the duvet was the only colourful thing in the room. Doyle poked around in the wardrobe and chest of drawers. The wardrobe held nothing but men's clothing, Doyle remembered Stuart once telling him he had a larger-than-normal expense account. Well, it wasn't reflected in this lot; Marks and Sparks all the way, except for a few items that looked like they'd come from the Salvation Army store, and one good, pure wool suit that hung in a dry cleaning bag together with a couple of tailored shirts.

The chest of drawers proved more interesting. In one drawer, several pairs of ladies' knickers and bras lay beside a pile of men's underpants and vests. The next drawer held only women's clothing. He picked up a denim dress; it was pinafore-style, possibly maternity wear. Mattie Holmes', he supposed.

A quick check of the kitchen area revealed little in the way of food, although Mattie Holmes' presence was there as well, in a fragrant dish of coconut and fish sitting untouched in the fridge beside a half empty tin of ackees and a bottle of home-made pepper sauce.

Doyle called Bodie again. "Listen Bodie, I'm at the flat. Looks like the girl was staying with Stuart."

"Thought so. We were starting to get somewhere, then they took her off to theatre a few minutes ago. She said a few things, anyway. Apparently Stuart got her away from her drug dealer boyfriend a few months ago and onto a treatment program."

"So the baby's not likely to be Stuart's. Does she know he's dead?"

"I think she suspects. Poor kid, looks like she's had a tough time of it. There's a brother, Pat, find him and you might get some more answers. Me, I'll just wait here until she wakes up, bored out of my brain."

"At least it's warm and dry where you are, you jammy sod. How about calling in and seeing if Sally can rustle up some pictures of Stuart? And Mattie Holmes and her brother."

"Already done, effendi. Anson's on his way over with them now."

"Just testing." He turned, and saw that Malone was waiting for him. "Got to go. 4.5 out."

The team had finished their search and a small pile of papers and odds and ends sat on the coffee table, waiting for Doyle's attention.

"Not much," Malone said. "We've checked under drawers, behind them, behind the paintings, down the drainpipes, the eaves, everything. Unless there's something in that lot, any secrets have gone to the grave with him."

Doyle thought that was entirely possible. Still, he sat down and began to leaf through the pile.

He looked quickly through a pile of flyers and take-away brochures. Then he checked the bank statements. There were regular entries and withdrawals, but nothing unusual, so he put those aside as well. Old tickets, to a football match, a Pretenders gig, movies... Doyle made a mental note of these. A receipt from a hotel in Eastbourne for a double room on the twenty-seventh of September. Had he taken Mattie Holmes with him? There was a post office box key, which went into his pocket, and a few sheets of exercise book paper covered in scribbled notes, although most of these seemed to be shopping lists or innocuous messages. Then he called HQ.

"4.5 to 6.1, over."


"I need a search done on post office boxes in the area of Stuart's flat. Look for anything rented under Stuart, or possibly Holmes. McCabe as well," he added, remembering Stuart had used this pseudonym at least once before.

"Roger, 4.5. Anything else? "

"I'm sending some papers back with Anson. Get 'em checked for numbers – bank accounts, phone numbers, pools numbers, the works."

"We'll get you the results as soon as possible. Over."

"Thanks, Sal. Over and out."

Doyle settled back to wait for Anson. Stuart didn't die here, that much was evident. He must have met his killer outside the flat, but under what circumstances? Nothing here gave a clue.

Anson arrived, interrupting his musing. He handed over a packet of photographs – Doyle was about to give Anson the papers he held in return, when some writing on the top note caught his eye.

"Hang on a minute." He rifled through the pile of flyers and advertising brochures until he found the one he was after. 'Christmas Greetings from New Lane Christian Fellowship Centre: R Crawley, Pastor'. A phone number, the same one. And the name – oh, he knew that name.

"Here you go," he said, handing everything except the flyer over to Anson. "I'm off to find God."

It was dark outside when Doyle left the flat but, he decided, that was so much the better for his next call. The Centre was little more than a hall, only a board outside proclaiming its dedication to God. There were lights on inside the hall and the sound of guitars and gospel music floated out into the night. He avoided the front entrance and walked down a path to the back of the building. There was only one light, shining from a room near a side door. It was so dark that he stumbled over a motorbike parked on the path; then he smiled fiercely as he righted himself and headed for the door. This was the place.

The man who opened the door was black, dressed casually in jeans, jumper and a leather jacket. A patch displaying an embroidered cross was stitched onto the breast of the jacket. These were the least remarkable things about him. He had iron grey curling hair atop a face that had never been handsome and was further marred by a scar that ran along one cheek. He was well over six feet tall, with the physique of a bodybuilder who'd gone to fat. His fists were the size of small hams and in one hand he grasped a solid stick of wood, a practical club.

"Hello, Roley," said Doyle, with a smile. "Long time, no see."

The man mountain blinked at him for a moment. "Ray Doyle? Good Lord, so it is. What brings you here? I thought you'd left the police?" He chuckled and shook his head. "Well, you'd better come in. Can't have you cluttering my back step, folks will get the wrong idea!"

Doyle followed Roley up the steps into the back room, which turned out to be a cluttered office. Stacks of what looked like hymn books propped up boxes of clothing, childrens' toys and tins of food. Roley closed the door and placed the stick in the corner next to it.

"Had some trouble 'round here, have you?"

"Nothing I can't handle. Just young folk with too little to do, who listen to the wrong messengers. Tea?" Roley moved other boxes from a bench at the back of the room, revealing a sink, and an electric kettle which he filled and set to boil.

"Thanks. I see you still have the old Harley."

"Yes, but these days I don't go as far or as fast as I used to. You?"

"I've had a couple. Buy them a bit twisted up an' straighten them out."

"Now there's a parable," Roley laughed. "I might use that in a sermon one day."

When the kettle boiled, Roley made mugs of tea and handed one to Doyle. "Now, Ray. You didn't come strolling past here by accident. What's up?"

In response, Doyle took the photos out of his jacket pocket and handed them over. "Any of these faces ring a bell?"

Roley looked at the first photo, a mug shot of Mattie Holmes, with a frown. He quickly flipped to the next one, of Stuart, and to the third, Mattie's brother Patrick.

"Oh, my," he said. "Oh, my."

Bodie gazed down at the still form on the bed. Mattie was still sleeping off the effects of the operation. She was a small, fine-boned girl; although her stomach remained softly swollen, in the subdued lighting she looked more like a child herself than a mother. Her eyes opened and she looked at him.

"Hello, sweetheart," he said. "How are you feeling?"

She coughed, just a small, throat-clearing one, but enough to make her wince with discomfort. "My baby...?" she asked him, her voice husky from the anaesthetic.

Bodie smiled. "Your boy's doing fine."

"Thank you," she whispered, before drifting off again.

Doyle walked through the ready room on his way to Cowley's office. He saw Susan Fischer there, clearing out her locker and packing the contents into a large cardboard box.

"What's all this, Susie?" he asked. "Why the house-cleaning."

Susan looked unhappy. "I'm on secondment to MI6 for six months."

"Oh. Hey, that could be a good thing. Next time I need some inside information on Willis, I'll know who to call."

She stopped packing and glared at him. "Forget it, Doyle, I'll have enough of a job convincing Willis I'm not spying for Cowley, without you making things worse. And before you say another word, Murph and I told Cowley we were involved with each other. It was MI6 or the 'B' squad for one of us. I knew Murph didn't want to leave the 'A' squad so I didn't really have a choice."

"I'm sorry, Susie. I didn't realise things were serious between you two."

"We kept quiet about it because of the bloody rules. But there comes a time... anyway, I'm not leaving until the New Year. That's something, at least." She smiled at him, a brittle twitch of lips that didn't reach her eyes. Feeling uncomfortable, Doyle escaped and made his way to Cowley's office.

Although it was now almost six o'clock, Betty was still at work.

"Is Cowley in?" he enquired.

"Go right through, 4.5," she said. "He said he wanted to see you if you showed up."

Cowley was sitting at his desk, reading a file, but he looked up as Doyle entered.

"Ah, Doyle. Any news?"

"Some, sir. I've just got back, thought I should speak to you straight away."

"Good. Pour yourself a drink, and one for me as well."

Doyle obliged. Two fingers of Glenfiddich flowed into each of two glasses. He carried them over to Cowley and sat down.

"Bodie's still attempting to interview the girlfriend, Mattie, but that's on hold while she delivers the baby. And I've done some digging around with old friends." He laid out everything that had happened over the afternoon, the search of Stuart's flat and all that he'd found there, and his visit to Roley Crawley.

"Roley's a sort of lay preacher, does a lot of charitable work in the South London area. I knew him when he was involved with a youth centre on my beat. Anyway, he knows the family and he'd met Stuart. He said he seemed serious about the girl too. She'd gone back to attending church after she kicked her habit, and persuaded Stuart to go. There was talk of them getting married. Some resentment from her family, with Stuart being white, but nothing murderous. The brother's gone to ground, but Roley says he has contacts who should be able to find him. If he does, he'll set up a meeting."

Cowley nodded and passed the file to Doyle. "Read the report on his last case and tell me what you think."

The file was Stuart's personnel record, the top few pages photocopies from a case file. He read the mission brief first. A drugs case; Stuart had been tracking connections between East London crime families and immigrant politicals in Brixton.

"Did he have back-up on this one, sir? I'd have thought the drug squad..."

"Benny's involved – but working a different angle. He's watching the Frasers, in the East End. They didn't meet – it would have been too dangerous. "

The other pages were copies of Stuart's reports on the case. As an undercover agent, Stuart phoned his reports to headquarters, where they were transcribed verbatim by the duty typist and filed. The next time Stuart came in he would check the sheets, make corrections and initial the entries. There was no signature on the final sheet. The entries were short, sparsely worded. Doyle imagined Stuart, standing in a phone box in some run-down neighbourhood, delivering his report in that nervy, slightly arrogant way of his. Damn... he'd liked Stuart, prickly bastard that he was. They'd done all right the one time he'd worked with him.

He started reading. The reports dated from mid August, one every couple of weeks or so to begin with. The third entry, in September, contained a reference to Mattie.

Met Mattie Holmes in the Brixton Tescos. Got talking, arranged to meet for coffee. Could be an "in" here. She had her brother with her. Nice lad, but he seems a bit simple.

There was no mention of Mattie for the next page and a half. Instead, Stuart talked about gathering information on local drug dealers. He'd built up quite a list of names.

... they're all small fry, though. They get their dope from different sources. No political connections that I can see.

Then a new name, a couple of entries later;

I keep hearing a name – Rodell – he's an agitator of sorts. Likes to stir things up then gets out of the way before the bricks start flying. This may be what I've been looking for.

Stuart had pursued his man, got to know him and shared a joint or two with him at his squat, which was also a kind of meeting house for the disaffected youth of the area, both black and white. Stuart described how Rodell would talk at them for hours, playing on their sense of injustice and resentments against the police and other authorities. Rodell was a canny operator. He never advocated violence directly, but his words were carefully chosen.

He's got them mesmerised. He tells them that truth is a weapon and they go out looking for bottles to throw at police cars...

The final entry was dated the day before Stuart's death.

Rodell came over last night, putting on the heavy. Pat and I saw him off. He's becoming dangerous. Tell Cowley I need to meet with him, soon.

Doyle paused. Something about these last few entries niggled at him. Stuart prided himself on not calling for back-up, yet there was a note of desperation here that was out of character for the man Doyle had known. There were holes in the reports as well, Doyle sensed, missing facts, things unsaid. Omitted by accident or on purpose?

Doyle flicked through the rest of the file. There was little in it that he didn't already know, but it gave him time to think. On the basis of what he'd read, Rodell was the likely killer. It was a question of evidence, that was all. He wasn't sure what else Cowley wanted him to say.

"Did you speak to Stuart before he died? He was trying to get in touch with you."

"Aye. He told me he had enough evidence of Rodell's involvement in everything from drugs to extortion to take him off the streets. But he also said he'd had a falling out with him and it wasn't safe to stay where he was. He asked for protection for the girl and her brother as well, told me they were material witnesses to Rodell's activities. I agreed. They were to be moved today." Cowley stared at his glass pensively, as though he was looking for answers within.

"So we get the police to bring Rodell in. We find the murder weapon, or Stuart's evidence. Maybe the girl will talk. If Bodie can't persuade her, no-one can." No-one could resist Bodie for long. Doyle quashed a smile, aware that Cowley was now watching him.

"All neat and tidy, eh?" Cowley eased himself out of his chair, grimacing slightly as he stretched. "Oh, we'll do all of that, never fear. But that's not the only problem, not CI5's problem, Doyle. What else do you see?"

"It looks like Stuart got in over his head, but I find that hard to believe. There must have been something else, something or somebody he was worried enough about to call for assistance." The facts clicked into place. "He was trying to protect Mattie. He didn't tell you, did he? That he was serious about her."

"No, he didn't, the damned fool. Oh, it's all making sense now. His fight with Rodell was nothing to do with the case, it was personal. He turned the man against him, may even have handed him a motive for murder if he saw through Stuart's cover. We won't know until we bring him in. Meanwhile, I've a doorstep to sweep." Cowley glared at Doyle before striding to the drinks cabinet. He brought the bottle of Scotch back to the desk and poured himself a small refill.

"I've lost a good agent because he thought he was Douglas Bader and the rules were written for his guidance, not his obedience. I'll not lose any more to the same stupidity."

"What do you mean?"

"Report any serious involvement, any risk to security. It's all there in the small print. As is the rule about no fraternisation between agents, yet I'm well aware that one is frequently breached as well. Now I'm not running a monastery and sometimes it's expedient to look the other way. Bodie wouldn't have lasted a week if I hadn't chosen to exercise discretion, and you'd have been out the door soon afterwards." Cowley spoke decisively, his eyes fixed on Doyle's. "But I'm damned if I'll allow this organisation to be compromised because of the personal feelings of its agents. There will be questions asked, and honest answers given."

Doyle felt a cold chill creep through him. Never mind that sleeping with Bodie wasn't actually illegal. It was still against the regulations, every damned one of them. Cowley could throw the book at them, if he knew. Christ, he needed to talk to Bodie, soon.

"Yes sir. I understand." It was the best he could muster under the circumstances.

"Good. See that that partner of yours understands as well. One more thing, Doyle. I need to replace Stuart in South London with a man I can trust. You're on the short-list – you know the area, you've got contacts and you're good at undercover work. Think about it. Now, I want you back out there. Bring Rodell in for questioning. I'll talk to you again after this is over."

Doyle left the office and hurried down to his car. Once inside, with doors closed, engine running and the heater on full, he called Bodie.

"3.7. Doyle. What news?"

"I've got a name. Rodell. There was bugger all at Stuart's flat. He must have a cache somewhere. See if Mattie can give you anything more. I'm heading your way. We have to talk."

"Roger, out." Bodie walked back to the bed, put a hand on Mattie's shoulder and squeezed it.

"Come on love, it's time to wake up. We need your help."

Mattie roused slowly, blinking in the light. She stared at Bodie, sleepily questioning.

"I've just been told about a fellow named Rodell. Is he a friend of yours?"

There was no mistaking the fear that appeared in the girl's face. She tried to turn, to pull her eyes away, but Bodie held her firmly.

"Don't. You can't run away from this, Mattie. Help us find out who killed Stuart and we'll help you, OK? Now tell me about Rodell."

The tension in her muscles held for a moment longer, as she watched him, assessed him. Then she relaxed. Bodie stroked her cheek, gently, waiting for her words.

"Rodell was my boyfriend. My pimp and my pusher. Everything. I couldn't leave him, I couldn't escape on my own. Andy helped me and I stayed with him after I finished detox. I thought I was free. Then he saw us."

"Rodell saw you and Stuart together? He didn't know that Stuart helped you?

She nodded. "A couple of weeks ago. That's when Andy started getting worried, started making plans to get me and Pat out. Pat's got problems, you see, he's not very bright. But he helps. Rodell came over to the flat the other night, said he was going to kill Andy and take me back, but they chased him off between the two of them."

"When did you last see Stuart?"

"The next night, before the police came. He said he was going to send a letter." Tears were rolling down her cheek.

"That's brilliant, Mattie. Now..." Bodie was interrupted by the ward sister.

"Excuse me, Mr Bodie. We've had a call from downstairs. There's just been an enquiry about Miss Holmes. The man didn't give his name. He's on his way up."

Bodie looked sharply at Mattie. "Might be Pat?" She shook her head.

"Right. Sister, get your ladies back to their rooms and tell them to stay there. Mattie, what does Rodell look like?"

"Slim, not too tall. Last time I saw him, he had a goatee."


"I don't know."

Bodie was already thumbing the switch on his R/T. "Doyle? Looks like Rodell's come looking for Mattie. Where are you?"

"Two minutes away."

"Use the New Block entrance. We're on the second floor."

Thrusting his R/T into his pocket he went out into the corridor and strode along it, pausing only when a woman came out of a bathroom, assisted by a nurse.

"Sorry, emergency. Go back in and close the door. Won't take long."

He reached the ward entrance and stepped through to the landing, closing the doors behind him. The area was empty. There was a stairwell to his left, and a lift directly ahead. Which way would Rodell come? He checked his gun in its holster, hoping he didn't have to use it. Then the lift pinged and the doors opened. A black man matching Mattie's description came out. His hands were empty.

"Rodell." Wanting to be sure of the man's identity, he kept his voice low and inflection-free. The man started, then turned towards him.

"Who wants to know, man?" Rodell was jumpy, but trying to sound cool.

"Bodie, CI5. You're under arr.."

Rodell surprised him. He had muscle and speed, and he hurled himself into Bodie with his full weight. Bodie was pushed back hard and hit the wall. Then Rodell turned and sprinted for the stairwell. Bodie followed. They hurtled down the stairs, one flight after another. When he reached the bottom he had gained ground on Rodell, but now there were other people about, getting in the way.

Rodell ran through the entrance hall, pushing past everybody in his path, desperately racing towards the main doors. Then Bodie saw Doyle through the glass window. Doyle had his gun out and was ready for Rodell, prepared to shoot if he made it through to the outside. But it wasn't necessary. Bodie leapt forward in a flying tackle that took Rodell's legs from under him and they crashed together in a heap.

Bodie had Rodell's arms yanked behind him and cuffed by the time Doyle reached them.

"Nice try," said Doyle, "good as one of Willie Duggan's."

Bodie looked at him in disbelief. "Stick to football, Doyle, you don't know a scrum from a line-out."

Doyle laughed, but it was a short, harsh laugh. "Call Cowley. Get someone else to take this away." He poked Rodell with his foot. "We've still got work to do."

In the end it was a simple thing. Mattie knew where Stuart kept his P.O. Box. They found it, and the envelope which had been posted the day before, containing names, photographs and all the evidence Stuart had spent the past several months accumulating. Then Roley called Doyle and told him that Pat would corroborate Mattie's testimony.

Less than simple was the talk that followed, after everything had been delivered to CI5 and they were free to be together for the first time in twelve hours. Bodie was hopeful, but Doyle didn't want to go home just yet. He pulled up a few streets from his flat, outside a small, ungated park.

"There," he said, indicating the darkened band rotunda in the middle. "Nice and private."

For once it wasn't raining. They strolled down the path, side by side, and by the time they reached the rotunda Bodie knew what had transpired between Doyle and Cowley.

"The way I see it," he heard Doyle saying, "there's two choices and four ways this could go. We lie through our teeth and he either believes us or he doesn't. We tell him the truth and he either chucks us out or he doesn't." He looked at Bodie, seeking confirmation.

"Great." Bodie felt sick. After everything they'd done, the price they'd paid, over and over, would Cowley really do this to them? Well, yes he would, if it was necessary, if it was essential for the smooth running of CI5. Bodie wanted to scream into the night; to take off and fly on a high wind, away from the rules and the petty-minded unfairness of it all. But his feet were on the ground and Doyle was there beside him, looking at him with sadness and Bodie knew there would be no flying from this.

"You forgot two. We could resign, straight up. Or we could stop it," he said.

"D'you want to?"

"No," he said, meaning no to all of it. "Look. Wait for the deal before placing your bets, Doyle. This is Cowley you're talking about. Anything's possible."

"And if the worst happens?"

"Wouldn't be the worst," Bodie said, "Not if you're still with me."

Doyle stepped closer to him then, close enough to whisper. "Come home with me, Bodie. It's cold out here."

They went into the darkness together.

23 December

When an agent died in the course of duty, the grieving relatives took the body away to be buried amongst family. CI5 men and women paid honour to their fallen colleague with a closed memorial service in an austere and fittingly anonymous chapel in Whitehall. And so, two days before Christmas, they gathered together as they had done too many times before, to farewell Stuart.

The order of service was familiar. They sang 'The Lord's My Shepherd', and the hymn was followed by a brief eulogy and yet another hymn. Then Cowley read the lesson. Standing with Bodie, Doyle listened as the Scotsman's voice filled the air.

...Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places....

Doyle knew that in his heart Cowley believed CI5 was the righteous army striving against the forces of evil. Nothing mattered but the fight. Love was for the unsworn, the lambs in the field, not for Cowley's soldiers.

For himself, knowing that he did love, the words of the final hymn had a special meaning.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

The wake after the service was as bad as he'd expected. The Christmas decorations in the ready room had been taken down, the glasses lined up ready for the first remembrance speech. Sober and thoughtful at first, before too long the mood became wilder, as the agents celebrated their own survival as much as the passing of one of their own. He stood with Bodie, not participating, just watching. There were others whose moods were out of kilter with the growing bedlam. Susan Fischer and Murphy propped up their own corner of the room, arms folded, not speaking.

Doyle thought about going over to talk to Murph, but a drunk Robbie Allison intervened. He'd donned a paper crown found in the pile of discarded decorations and he was standing on a chair, proclaiming yet another toast.

"The King of South London is dead. To the King!"

Some, but not all of the agents present raised their glasses. Robbie frowned, climbed unsteadily down from the chair and wandered over to Doyle.

"You know, Stuart was King of South London for seven years. Who's Cowley going to replace him with? Maybe it'll be you, Doyle, eh?"

"Fuck off, Robbie." Doyle was not in the mood. He felt like punching him and moved forward with fists clenched, but Bodie intervened.

"Piss off, Robbie, before I stuff that crown down the khazi, and you with it."

Robbie took one look at the dark expression on Bodie's face and backed off. "Sorry, mate. Didn't mean anything by it." He shuffled off in search of easier prey.

Doyle realised that Susan and Murphy had disappeared. A couple of minutes later Betty approached them.

"Mr Cowley wants to see you both." she told them. They followed her, filed into Cowley's office, noting the tape-recorder that sat on the desk in front of him, and waited for him to speak.

"A job well done, lads. Miss Holmes has agreed to testify and with the evidence secure, Rodell will be out of our hair for a long time. But," Cowley said, icy-calm, "that's not what I wanted to see you about."

"No sir," Doyle said. "This would be about the other matter you mentioned."

"Exactly, Doyle. A word to the would-be wise: I will ask the questions and I expect you to respond with precise and truthful answers. No more, no less. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir," they both agreed.

"Good." Cowley switched the tape recorder on. "Interview with agents 4.5, Doyle, and 3.7, Bodie. Twenty-third of December, nineteen eighty-three. Subject classification – internal security." He looked steadily at them both. "The purpose of this interview is to determine if there is any risk or potential risk to this organisation or its personnel through relationships between said personnel or between personnel and individuals external to CI5."

Doyle swallowed. The Old Man was laying it on thick. That little speech could have come straight out of Sir Humphrey-bloody-Appleby's mouth, rather than George Cowley's.

"As you both know, there are rules laid down to protect CI5 against breaches of security, blackmail and other threats. Please look at these reports, gentlemen." Cowley handed each of them a sheet of paper. "They document the known liaisons between yourselves and various female members of staff."

The reports were thorough. Julia, Liz, Sandra from the typing pool were all on it. He tried to see what was on Bodie's list – it looked slightly longer – but was brought back to reality by Cowley.

"Check your own report, Doyle. What I want to know is whether there are any females in CI5 whom you have dallied with who are not on the list."

Suddenly, Doyle began to get a clue. There were names missing, significant names. It now seemed as though they might, with Cowley's connivance, survive this, if they both played their parts well.

"Sir, Kathie Mason should be listed. And Esther Chan."

"Technically, of course, Miss Mason was never a sworn-in CI5 agent. But Esther Chan was on secondment. I'll make a note."

Bodie volunteered a couple more names, while declaring that he'd only taken Betty out for dinner once, and he'd dropped her off at her flat, unmolested.

"Thank you for your frankness. You'll be given an amended list to sign. This will go in each of your personnel files, along with a formal reprimand for breach of regulations. Very well. My second question is whether either of you has a close relationship with any outsider who might pose a threat to security now or in the future, where this relationship is not already documented. In other words," Cowley paused, as though to catch his breath, "do I have to worry about another Marikka or Ann Holly, turning up to cause trouble!"

"No, sir."

"Good. Now listen carefully. I am well aware that the non-fraternisation rule is honoured more in the breach than the observance. The rules were written for a young organisation, to ensure that its operatives focused on the job at hand, not each other. CI5 is now several years old and I would be a fool if I didn't realise that men and women who work together sometimes become attached, the rules be damned. Since I can't prevent it, I can only limit the damage. You will report any further breaches to me and you will each keep a diary of your affairs. That will be all."

"Sir," Doyle asked, tentatively, "you said something about the South London job?"

"Do you want it, Doyle?" Cowley responded smoothly. "It would mean splitting the team, of course..."

"Ah, no," he replied quickly. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather keep working with Bodie."

"With Susan Fischer on secondment to MI6 for the next six months, I'm reluctant to send another A Squad member on a permanent deployment in any case. Leaving things as they are for a while shouldn't hurt. There are a couple of lads in the new intake who may prove up to the task. If everything works out, you'll be off the hook, won't you," Cowley snapped. "Meeting ended."

On probation, Doyle realised as Cowley, reached forward and switched the tape recorder off. With a bloody great sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. It was still better than he'd hoped. He dared to look at Bodie, belatedly becoming aware that Cowley was still speaking.

"I said, Doyle, that I expect complete discretion from both of you. Any leaks, the slightest whiff of scandal, and it'll be your heads. That will be all, gentlemen. Goodnight and Merry Christmas."

"Goodnight, sir."

"Merry Christmas."

They walked away from Cowley's office, silent as the night. They bypassed the ready room and went down the stairs, together, shoulder to shoulder. Doyle felt Bodie's hand brush against his own, and was content. Out into the world, along the street towards Bodie's car and their journey home. As they turned a corner, Doyle took hold of Bodie and pulled him into a doorway.

"Call me a fool, but I want to kiss you. Now."

Bodie smiled. "Makes two of us then, Ray. Anyway, I've been a fool for you for years."

"Wise fool, then," said Doyle, as he reached for him.

-- THE END --

December 2006

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