To Forgive the Soldiers
by Debra Hicks
Doyle cut the engine, sat still for a long minute in the early morning calm. No lights were visible in the small flat he was parked in front of, which made him wonder again at the sanity of his idea. Waking Bodie this early, even for the excellent excuse of fishing and pub crawling could be dangerous. Especially now.
Running a hand through his curls Doyle frowned. Bodie was not much given to appreciating some gestures. Doyle was not much given to making them. But lately Bodie had been moody, silent, cynical beyond even his norm. Not that he didn't have reason Doyle admitted. It had been only four weeks since Marrika's death.
"Can't wallow in it forever, Bodie," Doyle said to convince himself. He climbed out of the car, planted on his best jaunty expression, bound up the steps, took out his key and let himself in.
The instinct he held toward his partner told him that the house was empty. He lost the fake cheer, wondering where Bodie was off to at such an early hour. He flicked on the light.
The room was as neat as always, nothing out of place. An unexplained apprehension touched the back of Doyle's mind. He moved to the bedroom. The bed was unmade, covers draped half-on, half-off. Doyle frowned. Bodie's military instilled neatness usually extended to making the bed on rising. He went across to the bed in two strides, flipped the right hand pillow away.
The well oiled chrome of Bodie's Browning gleamed up at him. The apprehension turned to fear. Bodie, against regs, would leave his R/T at home on their infrequent days off, but he would never step foot outside the door without his gun. Calmly, despite his chill, Doyle removed his handkerchief, lifted the phone to dial HQ. A piece of paper crunched under foot. Still holding the phone he reached for it.
It was a rental receipt for a house, a very expensive house, made out in the name of Onolea Sewill. Doyle lowered the phone. It seemed Bodie had found his own way of getting above his problem. A beautiful woman, a quiet two days in the country. After Marrika it might be possible that Bodie didn't want the gun around to remind him of what had happened. Doyle glanced at the gun. The chill was still there.
Doyle moved to the wardrobe. He couldn't tell whether there were clothes missing or not. Bodie had too many to keep track of. But all of his luggage, including the overnite bags, were still there. Doyle sat back down on the bed, flipping the receipt over in his fingers. A second's thought was all it took before he reached for the phone again.
It took five calls to get the home number of the owner of the rental agency but twenty minutes later he had the address of the house. He grabbed Bodie's gun on the way out.
The rain splattering the car gave Doyle an excuse to slow down as he drove past the stately house. A large black man in denim and khaki was standing near the front door. Another black, of equal build and dress was walking, head down against the sparse rain, among one of the small plots of roses. They both looked relaxed, unassuming. But the bulk under their light jackets held a pattern that Doyle was more than familiar with. He sighed, the last of his hope that Bodie might be having a romantic weekend vanished.
He glided the Capri to a stop on the road closest to the back of the house, killed the lights, reached for the radio. "4.5 to Alpha."
Lightning caused static crackled over the line, nearly drowning out the Controller's reply. "Alpha here, 4.5."
"Sir, I think Bodie might be in trouble."
"And what leads you to this conclusion, 3.7?" Cowley asked levelly.
Leaving out only the reasons behind their aborted fishing trip Doyle repeated the mornings events to Cowley. When he finished there was a strong sigh from the other end of the connection. "Only Bodie. Very well, Doyle. Stand by."
There was a long wait. When Cowley returned his voice was clipped, a little breathless. Faintly the sound of paper shuffling carried over the radio. "The weather has closed in here. We're grounded until it clears. ETA--two hours."
"Two hours!" Doyle slammed the steering wheel.
"Two hours," Cowley repeated calmly. "Do you want me to contact the local police?"
Doyle studied the house through the dimming, storm-darkened light, remembering the armed guards. "This isn't something they're equipped to handle." He paused. "You're not going to tell me to wait, are you? Sir."
"What good would it do? Cowley out."
A roll of thunder echoed, signaling the storms break. Heavy wind swept blankets of cold rain through whipping branches. The ground between the last hedgerow and the house was wide, well-groomed lawn offering very little in the way of cover. The darkness and rain were the only edge Doyle would have when he went in to get his partner. He checked the clip in his automatic, tucked the R/T into his jacket and bolted from the car.
Staying low he sprinted half-way across the open space to a large oak and sprawled belly down behind it, eyes never leaving the front of the house. Cursing the already clinging mud he tightened his grip on the gun. Doyle's estimation of the guard's worth dropped considerably when he saw them both huddled by the front door sharing a cigarette. With a deep breath to control his impatience, he sprinted the last few yards to the nearest dark window.
The landlord had assured him there were no alarms, too many people rented the place without knowing how to work them. The window was locked. Rain ran into his eyes, making it doubly hard to see. Lightning flashed in the black glass. On the next roll of thunder he leaned back and broke one edge of the glass with his boot.
He swung in silently, immediately took cover behind a large chair, and froze. No one appeared to show he'd been heard. With a small sigh of relief he scanned the room, recognized it as the dining room. He did a quick mental run-through of the layout the owner had given him.
Doyle touched the warm metal of Bodie's gun tucked behind his back. It was a gesture of reassurance, a wordless hope that Bodie would be in a condition to use it when he was found. Very carefully, Doyle eased the door open and peered into the hall.
Two doors led off the hall; den on one side, basement on the other. Voices drifted out of the den, speaking in a language he didn't recognize. One sounded African, the other was English. The voices had been muffled but Doyle knew one was Bodie. The door opened forcing Doyle to pull back. Footsteps receded down the hall toward the kitchen. Even more cautious now that his partner was in reach Doyle closed the last few feet and eased the door open.
Bodie had his hands bound in front of him, with a steel chain running from the cuffs to a swivel hammered into the ceiling. He was sitting in a large overstuffed chair, head tipped back, eyes closed. There was a small table beside the chair with a glass of water and a small plate of sliced fruit.
Doyle had expected the worst, was relieved to see Bodie obviously unharmed but was immediately puzzled by several things. One was the wide strips of cloth wrapped around Bodie's wrists. They weren't bandages, seemed to be there to keep the tight cuffs from cutting into him. More puzzling though was Bodie's attitude. It was one of weary acceptance.
Blue eyes opened, Bodie's expression going from surprise to relief to panic in less than a heartbeat. By the time the conflicting emotions had faded Doyle was kneeling beside him examining the chain and cuffs.
"Doyle? How the hell..." Bodie whispered harshly. "Get out of here, you idiot."
Doyle only smiled sweetly up at him. "Wrong as usual, Bodie. You're supposed to be eternally gratefully to your rescuer, shower him with praise and all that." Before Bodie could protest again Doyle drew his gun. "I'm going to have to shoot that chain apart. We can use the thunder to cover some of the noise."
"Doyle," Bodie hissed, "get out of here. Damnit this has nothing to do with you!"
That stopped Doyle. He stared at Bodie, anger glinting in the green. "Nothing to do with me? You're my partner. I came in here...."
"Doyle!" Bodie shouted the warning just as the door was flung open, slamming back against the bookshelves. The two large guards halted their advance at the sharp words from behind them. Doyle looked around the massive guards to the person giving the commands. The man was small, tiny even, black as the ebony wood shelves and looked as old as the oaks outside. He was wearing a long, richly embroidered robe with the little cloth cap favored in many African countries. One hand was in his right pocket, the other had a strong hold on a stout carved wooden cane.
Gun still levelled on the big men, Doyle said, "No one move. All I want is my partner."
"That will not be possible," the old man said, his accent forcing Doyle to concentrate on what he was saying.
"Elder, this man has nothing to do with any of this." Bodie's tone was like someone discussing the latest football score. He looked at Doyle, worry visible in his eyes. "Go on, Ray. They'll let you leave."
Doyle felt like a child left out of an adult conversation. "Go? Like hell." He gripped the gun a little tighter. "Turn him loose."
"No." A new voice, less accented, female. A taller, equally well-dressed woman moved up next to the old man. "You will surrender your gun."
"Kidnapping is...." Doyle's voice died as she pulled a very old, very well kept .44 Smith and Wesson revolver.
She pointed it at Bodie. "Surrender or I shoot him."
Before Doyle could respond the old man erupted in a loud argument in the same language that Doyle had heard before. The woman shouted back. Doyle glanced at Bodie, unsure of what he was looking for. Bodie was intent on the conversation between his two captors. As suddenly as it began the argument ended. The old man turned, ignoring the threat of Doyle's gun, and left the room in obvious anger. One of the guards followed.
The gun, which had never wavered, now pushed forward menacingly. "Your gun," the woman commanded.
Bodie would still not meet his eyes. With a sudden twist of his wrist Doyle turned the gun over and handed it across to the guard.
The woman spoke two tense words, the guard stepped toward Doyle, spread his hands in near apology then gingerly patted him down, removing the R/T. She gestured toward the door. The guard led the way, she backed out after him. The door closed firmly, the lock turning with a fatal click.
Bodie's worry exploded as anger. "Damnit, Doyle, why didn't you get out when you had the chance?"
Doyle's own anger was on a very short fuse. "Two years and you still don't understand, do you? I came in here...."
"I know why you came in here!" Bodie shouted. The anger flowed out like dying wind from a sail. He sat down with a weary sigh. "I know why. God, Ray, I didn't want you involved in this." Hope flared in the midnight blue as they met with jade green. "They won't hurt you. You're an innocent in this. They'll let you leave once it's all over."
The implication that he would be leaving alone shook Doyle more than he'd have thought possible. "I'm not going anywhere without you."
"You don't have any choice this time, sunshine," Bodie said softly.
The defeat in Bodie's voice scared Doyle. In two years as a team it was the one emotion he had never felt in his partner. He knelt in front of him. "Bodie, stop it! Tell me what's going on...."
The door opened, brought both men to their feet. The guards entered first, one held the door. Behind them came the old man they had already seen and two others, one almost as old, the third middle-aged, just going gray. They wore long, multicolored flowing robes, topped by elaborate headdresses. The woman was the last in. She was wearing a white robe with a belt made of zebra fur.
Doyle glanced at Bodie. His partner stood still, straight, like a child fascinated by his first Mass. The men sat down crossed-legged on the floor behind a low ebony table. No one spoke. The elder motioned and one of the guards held a towel forward to Doyle.
After a moment's hesitation, he took it, ran it over his face, scraping a little of the mud away. "Thank you."
The leader looked up at Doyle, black eyes clear and piercing. "You are an innocent here. The trial is not your concern. You are free to go."
"Trial?" Doyle did not miss the woman's displeasure at the announcement. "What trial?"
The elder ignored his question. "Or you may attend but you must remain silent."
"Go, Ray," Bodie pleaded. "Please."
The plea was all that was necessary to make up Doyle's mind. "I'll stay."
The elder pointed to a straight backed chair under the window. Doyle went quietly, one of the guards following to stand next to him. Bodie stared ahead, jaw tight, eyes bleak. The woman remained standing.
In a soft melodic voice one of the other men started speaking. During the short speech Doyle's eyes never left Bodie. The handsome face remained blank but Doyle saw through it easily, saw the flash of anger, the trickle of pain the words brought. Doyle felt a moment of panic when the man stopped talking. Bodie might be able to follow the strange language but he couldn't.
With a quick look up at the large guard Doyle said. "Elder, I don't know how much of your language Bodie knows but I don't speak it." He let his request go unspoken.
There was a swift conference between the three. The leader turned and asked the woman a question. She sneered at Doyle but nodded.
"Gueror Bodie, is accused of the murder of Gueror Tambia Sewill," the small man translated into English. "It was during a raid on the village of Tonavale in the summer of 1976 while Gueror Bodie was in the employ of the government of Zambia."
The glance toward Bodie was instinctive, green eyes searching for a reaction. There was none. Bodie was like a piece of stone. The small giveaways from the first time were carefully controlled now.
"Is there someone here to claim for Gueror Tambia?" the elder intoned solemnly.
"I, Onalea Sewill, claim for Gueror Tambia," the woman said proudly.
"By what right?" the elder asked.
"You may speak."
"Tonavale is small and unimportant. In the war that has always been in our country we have no interest." Her voice was soft and sad, pulling Doyle into a faraway place were war was a constant, distant specter. "We had no part in the war. But on the third day of spring Gueror Bodie and his men attacked us. They killed Gueror Tambia and left two wounded. This was not an act of war but an act of murder."
Doyle flinched as she spat the last word at his partner. It had been like every opening argument he had sat through, brutal and direct. If the pattern was the same for their trials as it was for British then it would be for Bodie to defend, then for both parties to present their evidence. Bodie still refused to meet his eyes.
"Is there someone here to claim for Gueror Bodie?" the elder asked, watching Bodie.
"No one," Bodie answered.
The man gave a quick glance toward Doyle before he continued. "Will you speak for yourself?"
"No, not here. I ask to be taken back to Tonavale to face...."
"Bodie!" Doyle surged to his feet. The guard grabbed him from behind and instinct overrode protocol. Doyle threw an elbow into the man's kidneys, felt him crumple as the second guard advanced on him.
"Doyle--don't!" Bodie commanded, pulling against the chain to get to his partner.
Doyle feigned left, brought his knee up into the second man's stomach. The man staggered, breath whooshing out. The first guard moved up, slightly bent from the pain Doyle had left him. Doyle danced away, knowing as always that his advantage lay in speed. The guards separated. Doyle spun left, kicked out, grazing the man's knee. He stepped backward toward Bodie.
Something slammed across the back of his legs. He fell hard at Bodie's feet, stared up in disbelief as Bodie dropped back from the kick that had felled him. The hatred he had felt from Bodie at the bottom of the water tower four short weeks before flashed back to him. The look of deep guilt on Bodie's face dispelled any half-formed suspicions, leaving only questions.
The guards closed. Doyle managed to catch one a solid punch before he was dragged to his feet, arms twisted painfully behind his back.
"Doyle," Bodie snapped, "you'll only make it worse."
Doyle stopped struggling, giving it up as useless. But he had one more card to play. "I claim for Gueror Bodie."
There was a single second of shocked silence before everyone started talking. The first elder held up his hand and the room, Bodie included, went quiet. A single word and Doyle was released. Another command sent the woman escorted out by one of the guards. The elder turned to Bodie, asked a short question in his native language.
Bodie shook his head violently, "No."
The man studied him, black eyes demanding answers. Bodie flinched away from the gaze. The elder turned to Doyle. "By what right do you claim?"
Thinking fast Doyle could come up with only one answer, hoped it would be enough. "Partnership."
There was a another conference between the three men. They rose without another sound, filed out followed by the remaining guard. Doyle and Bodie were suddenly alone in the room.
Doyle spun around. He couldn't remember ever being as mad at his unpredictable partner. "Why the hell did you kick...." His anger melted under the heat of Bodie's glare.
"Goddamn you, Doyle." Bodie's jaw was clenched so tight Doyle was surprised he could talk. "What the fuck gives you the right to interfere here? Do you have any idea what you've done?"
"No," Doyle agreed reasonably. "What have I done?"
Bodie took a deep breath, sagged back into the chair. "Damn."
Doyle came across the last few feet, towered over the chair, the anger and questions returning. "I've had enough of this, Bodie! What is going on? Why the hell would you want to go back with them?" Memories of the condition of Bodie's flat returned. His eyes widened. "You bastard! You didn't try to fight them or even set off the alarm."
"There were two of them, with guns," Bodie defended weakly.
"Two amateurs," Doyle yelled.
"Caught you easy enough, didn't they." Bodie came to his feet shouting back.
"I was at a disadvantage," Doyle said coolly, "I have a moron for a partner."
"Then maybe you should let them have me," Bodie replied.
Doyle poked Bodie hard in the chest. "I'll decide when to get rid of you. No one kills my partner without my permission."
A long minute passed. It was Bodie who smiled first, Doyle's idiotic clipped statements having drained his anger. "Demanding little sod." He sat down, tired blue eyes meeting Doyle's. "Claiming is assuming the responsibility for a person's actions. If I'm guilty--so are you."
The implications didn't go uncaught. "Including punishment?" Doyle ventured. Bodie nodded, face dark with worry. Doyle tried to think of something to say, decided there was no need to explain his actions. Bodie understood why he was here.
He took one of Bodie's wrist, lifted it up. "Why the wraps?"
"Harming the innocent is an offense to the gods," Bodie explained. "They'll treat us okay until the outcome is decided."
"The argument before," Doyle surmised, "was over the woman threatening two innocents?"
"How long before they come back?"
Bodie shrugged. "We've confused them. It's not proper for the person claiming to be refused by the defendant."
Green eyes glittered, anger lurking just below the surface. "Refused? Is that what you were doing?"
"Christ, Doyle, haven't enough people been put in danger, killed because...." He sighed. "Let it go, Ray."
But Doyle had heard the unspoken explanation. "That's what this is all about, isn't it?" he questioned gently. "You blame yourself for Marrika."
"And what about Cowley?" Bodie asked, avoiding Doyle's question.
"Cowley?" Doyle was confused.
"Krivas and his bunch came very close to killing the old man," Bodie reminded him.
"Krivas?" A glimmer of Bodie's real worry crept in on Doyle. He knelt beside the chair. "Marrika," he said firmly, "was not your fault. And Cowley knows the risks. Krivas was just bad luck."
"Bad luck!" Bodie exploded. "I'm bad luck! My past is bad luck! How long before it catches up with me again? How long before someone trying for me kills...." His mouth snapped shut.
Doyle had been right. "You dumb crud," he said roughly. "Do you think you're the only one with enemies? The only one who's thought of something like that happening?"
"Worry about me, do you?" Bodie said it lightly. But when he looked up his face was resigned. "It's not the same with me, Ray. They keep showing up. I've fallen so many times if I were a racehorse I'd never get a jockey."
Doyle didn't respond to the poor attempt at joking. "Cowley's on his way. All we have to do is stall."
"You aren't listening, Doyle. I'm leaving with them," Bodie said.
"No, you're not," Doyle said smugly. "You've already said that I'm in this with you now. We stall. Now tell me what happened."
The stubborn, dark side of Bodie's nature would not give up so easily. "What happened? How about exactly what she said!" He stood up, stared down at Doyle. "Never stopped to consider that did you, Doyle? Can't face that can you? That I murdered a fourteen year old kid!"
Doyle almost flinched back, caught himself in the last instant. He held the deep blue eyes, refused to let Bodie break away. "No." After a slow breath he said, "No, sunshine. You may have killed a fourteen year old soldier but you never murdered a fourteen year old child."
"Dead's dead. What the fuck difference is there?" Thunder rolled over Bodie's remark, rattled the windows.
"There is a difference. We both know that and we had better prove it." Doyle concluded, "Or we're both dead."
"I've denied the claim," Bodie said stubbornly.
The door opened, interrupting. The elder came in, the door was pulled quietly shut behind him. The man studied the two of them for a moment before turning to Doyle.
"Gueror Bodie says that you do not understand the meaning of claiming."
Doyle tried to decide the best way to play his shaky position. "No, I didn't when I made the claim."
"Bo...Gueror Bodie has explained it to me."
"You understand what will happen if you lose?"
The man glanced between the two of them again. "And do you still claim?"
"Yes." Doyle didn't look at Bodie as he said it.
"Elder," Bodie spoke up, "Doyle wasn't there. He doesn't know what happened. I deny his claim. To let him claim would endanger an innocent."
Doyle thought of several painful things to do to his partner when they got out of this. "It's true I wasn't there but I still claim for Bodie. He's my partner. I know he didn't commit murder."
"Ray..." Bodie tried.
Doyle silently demanded his partner's look, green eyes challenging Bodie to deny it. Bodie opened his month, stopped. The cold weary look in his eyes faded, betraying the warmth that Doyle's confidence brought him. With a barely visible nod he conceded the point. Doyle's lips curled the tiniest bit. They were committed to this together. As always.
The elder watched the wordless byplay between them. "I will allow the claim."
"Can we have a few minutes to talk about the incident?" Doyle requested.
"Yes. But do not take us for fools, Doyle," the old man warned. "We know that Gueror Bodie is police. You will have help coming. We will make a decision before then." The two agents were left alone.
"What does Gueror mean?" Doyle questioned.
"It's a bastardized Portuguese term. Means soldier, warrior," Bodie explained. "It's a title of honor."
Under the normal tone of voice Doyle could sense the fear Bodie was controlling. Fear for him. He smiled, finding himself in the unusual position of having to reassure the bigger man. "Don't worry, mate. They haven't seen my Rumpole impression yet." Bodie actually smiled at that. "Better get to it. We don't have long."
Bodie sat down stiffly, at attention, stared hard at the far wall, rain slapped against the window behind him. "What she said was true, basically. The village was unimportant. But we received orders to do a reccy on the place. Someone seemed to think that there was an arms dump somewhere nearby."
"We went in with a small scouting unit; me, Jones--our demo man, Kani, and two regular army." He sighed and Doyle again saw the swift flash of painful memory. "I don't know what went wrong. Jones and I were checking the perimeter when the shooting started. We moved up. Kani and one of the army boys were pinned behind a wooden canoe. The other regular was dead, laying in the center of the village."
"Who was doing the shooting?" Doyle questioned.
Bodie shook his head. "Couldn't tell. We moved in, lay down fire. Jones got off a grenade into one of the huts where the shots were coming from. That gave them a chance to start back toward us. Kani was wounded, so Jones went up to help him. I stayed, gave them cover." His voice went softer. "They were just about even with me when this kid stepped out into the open. He had an M-16, was aiming at us. I shot him." He looked over at Doyle. "End of story."
"Did you find the supply dump?" Doyle asked.
"No. We withdrew, reported the armed opposition to headquarters. That was the last we heard of it."
"Was another unit sent back in?"
"We were the only unit in the area." Bodie looked grim. "Bad information. Happens sometimes."
"That's not good."
"You should have got out when you had the chance, Ray," Bodie told him.
Doyle wouldn't dignify the statement with an answer. He stood up, paced. "It wasn't your fault the information was wrong. You were under orders, being fired on."
"Yeh, but I don't know who fired first."
"An M-16?" Doyle puzzled. "Why do you remember the gun?"
Bodie looked up, surprised by the question. "Not exactly something most villagers keep around for hunting, now is it?"
Doyle smiled. "No, Bodie, it's not."
"That doesn't get...." Once again the door opened.
The procession started in, a repeat of what they had seen before. Doyle moved to stand next to Bodie. "What happens to her if she loses?" he asked as Sewill came in.
"Nothing compared to what happens to us. Loss of standing mostly. They put a lot of store in family pride. If she loses for her relative then the whole family is shamed."
Everyone was seated now, the three men patiently watching Doyle. The elder said, "You may speak for Gueror Bodie."
"Do your stuff, Rumpole," Bodie whispered in a valiant attempt at bravado.
Doyle took two steps forward, nodded to Sewill, faced the three judges. "It's true that Tonavale is small but it's importance in the war between the government and the rebels is not something easily dismissed." He kept his voice level, calm. "It was important enough for Gueror Bodie and his unit to be ordered in by the government to search for a stockpile of arms. Gueror Tambia's death was a result of that search. He was a casualty of a war that has raged in Zambia for many years."
He stopped there, following the pattern set by Sewill, opening carefully but avoiding her emotionalism. The elder turned to translate. There was no reaction to Doyle's statements. He wondered if that were good or bad. Outside the wind picked up.
"Sewill," the elder said, giving Doyle no clue as to what to expect next.
The woman stepped forward. "There was no war in Tonavale until they brought it." Her voice hardened. "There were no arms found in the village."
Doyle closed the distance between them, spoke to her directly this time. "There were arms in the village. Bodie and his men were fired on, by soldiers. One man was killed and another wounded."
"Tambia did not fire." Lightning flashed in the window behind her.
"If you were there to see Bodie then you know that Tambia was armed. With an M-16. That's not a gun used for hunting, it is a gun used for killing." He turned toward the elders. "Tambia was a soldier, armed and ready to fire on Bodie and his men."
"Tambia was fourteen!" Lightning flashed in the window behind her.
"Tambia was a rebel," Doyle told her flatly. "That is the only way he could have owned a gun like that."
Sewill was silent.
Doyle addressed the judges, every word sure. "You have called Tambia 'gueror', just as you do Bodie. Bodie has told me the meaning of the word--soldier, warrior. An honored title. If the elders of Tonavale considered Tambia a soldier they must also believe that he died a soldier's death."
"Bodie and his men were mercenaries," Sewill countered. "Men hired to kill others. They had no interest in our country."
"We are not here to decide that," Doyle said flatly. "Whether Tonavale was a supply dump or not, whether Bodie and his men were paid to be there or not isn't the question. It was war. They were soldiers. All of them." He leaned forward, rested his palms on the table. "We are here to decide whether Tambia died gueror or victim."
Sewill stood brooding while the elder translated. The elder glanced between the two of them. "Sewill?" he questioned.
"Tambia was a child. This man," she pointed to Bodie, "killed him in an unfounded, unprovoked attack on my village. I claim justice for Tambia's life." She folded her arms in front of her, body tense, hard eyes on Doyle.
"Doyle," the elder commanded.
"If Tambia was a victim of murder then you are denying him the title of gueror. The only way Tambia's death will have any meaning is if he died a gueror, fighting for what he believed to be right." He paused, planning his next statement very carefully. "There comes a time when you have to stop accusing, stop hunting ghosts. A time to honor the dead, forgive the soldiers and go on."
He took two steps back, stood shoulder to shoulder with Bodie as his last statements were translated. There was no discussion. The elder signaled and they rose. The guard escorted Sewill out first then the three men followed.
With a whoosh of breath that was drowned out by the sound of thunder Doyle sank into the chair Bodie had vacated. He glanced up at his partner. Bodie was watching him, a strange soft light in the dark blue eyes. The look stopped Doyle's questions.
They merely stared at one another for a minute, taking comfort from the other's presence, both wishing they were alone. It was Bodie who broke the warm silence. With a wary smile he said. "I never knew you were so good with words."
Doyle smiled back. "Never get a chance to try with you around, do I? So, what next?"
"Now we wait." Bodie sat down on the arm of the chair.
"That's it? That's all?" Doyle asked, an edge of panic to his voice. "What about witnesses? How can they judge on just personal statements?"
"Easy, Ray." Bodie laid a hand on his shoulder. "You did your best. Better than I deserved."
"Shut up, Bodie," Doyle growled. He glanced at his watch. "Where the hell is Cowley?"
"Ray." Bodie's tone demanded his attention. "Thanks." He rubbed at the metal around his wrists. "I figured after the past few weeks that you'd be glad to see the last of me."
"Idiot," Doyle said easily. With a snap he added, "I wish you'd talk to me before these stupid ideas get out of hand."
"Might save a lot of trouble in the long run," Bodie agreed. He reached out, chain jingling, and flicked a clot of mud out of Doyle's curls. "You're a mess, Goldilocks."
Doyle shook his head. They both knew that Bodie was not one to talk things out, as much as Doyle might try.
"What are we going to do?" Doyle asked.
"Do?" Bodie questioned.
"Well, I for one don't plan on just sitting on my arse if the ruling goes against us." He looked at Bodie, wondering if the defeated attitude was still there.
Raising manacled hands Bodie said, "I may have a problem getting away from their lovely company."
Green eyes scanned the worried blue. "Not going to tell me to go alone, are you?"
"What good would it do?" Bodie's statement echoed Cowley's of only an hour before. Doyle laughed. "I don't see anything funny about this, Doyle."
"I'll explain later."
"If we get a later," Bodie added drily.
That brought Doyle up short. "Yeh." He pushed out of the chair, paced to the window and stared into the dark sky. "I've only seen four guns."
"Sewill is the one that'll shoot first then worry about it," Bodie commented.
"Wonder why they left her a gun?" Doyle questioned. Bodie shrugged. Lightning flickered in the window. The lights dimmed a fraction, then returned. Doyle frowned. "Pity we can't get them to go out on cue."
"The elder probably has the key to these things." Bodie rattled his chains.
"What would happen if I went for the old man? Used him as a hostage?" Doyle asked.
Bodie stared at him, knowing how much it had cost his partner to suggest something like that. "They'd back off. And they'd kill you in an instant the first chance they had."
"Got a better idea?" Doyle argued.
"No." Bodie agreed with his aggravated partner. "Think you could knock one of the toughs my way, let me create a little trouble."
"I'll try." Doyle smiled ruefully. "It's not a very good plan, is it?"
"Beggars and all that, Ray."
Silence settled in. Success for the plan was slim but it gave Doyle something to think about. He knew Bodie was thinking about Marrika, about Krivas, about his past and about his partner.
"Tonavale was the reason I got out," Bodie volunteered suddenly.
Doyle looked surprised, did a quick mental correction that maybe he was getting through to his independent partner after two years. "I thought it was Krivas and the girl."
"I was hunting Krivas, had to hire on in Zambia to keep eating. I didn't hire on to shoot children."
"Bodie..." Doyle started.
Bodie raised his hand. "I know, I know. He was a soldier." He looked at the floor. "But he was also fourteen."
"And older makes it easier?" Doyle asked, more harshly than he intended.
"It shouldn't," Bodie said. "But it does."
The door handle rattled. Doyle gave Bodie a reassuring smile. The smile that Bodie returned sent a shiver along Doyle's spine. Despite his improved mood and earlier statement about getting out together Bodie's look said he intended to get Doyle out at any cost.
"Bodie, don't do anything stupid," Doyle whispered.
Bodie ignored him, completely at ease as the elders sat down. One guard stayed by the door, the second took station at the far end of the table. Sewill stood quietly before them. Everyone looked solemn. Doyle reluctantly moved away from his partner, edged closer to the door guard. His mind started through the moves that he would use.
The elder spoke a single word. The guard went to him, was handed something, then turned toward Bodie. Doyle put himself between his partner and the big man. The man looked over his shoulder at the elder. The leader gestured toward Doyle.
Slowly the guard held out his hand to Doyle. A small, silver key--a handcuff key, lay in the middle of the calloused palm. Doyle looked pass the guard to the elder. The faintest curve around the ancient lips was the only hint of any emotion.
Doyle's elation was obvious. He grabbed the key, closed his fist around it. A wide smile spread across his face as he nodded thanks to the elders and spun around to Bodie. Sewill stood by in stony silence.
Bodie smiled at him, a strange sort of bewildered smile, as if he couldn't believe that they had managed to get out of this one. Doyle unsnapped the left cuff. As he reached for the other restraint Bodie's expression changed from relief to horror.
"Doyle!" Bodie's free arm came around, swept Doyle sideways.
Doyle had heard the gun hammer click. He grabbed Bodie, taking them both backwards over the chair just as the shot exploded in the small room. There was a sharp cry from Bodie. They landed hard, Doyle shielding Bodie from any more bullets.
A heartbeat passed with only the drumming of the rain against the window. A harsh voice started cursing, others raised in confusion. Bodie was sprawled under Doyle, his upper body stretched painfully up off the rich carpet by the remaining cuff. Doyle looked back toward where the shot had come from. Sewill was struggling in the grasp of one guard. The gun lay at her feet.
"He must die," she screamed in English. "He killed Tambia!"
The elder shook his head, said something in a sad voice, motioned to the guard. She was dragged toward the door, cursing loudly, hurling obscenities at Bodie in both languages. Even before she was clear of the room Doyle turned his attention to Bodie.
He scrambled around, put a knee on each side so that Bodie rested against him as he undid the cuff. Bodie moaned when Doyle touched his out stretched arm.
"Easy." The wrist came free and Doyle lowered his partner as gently as he could, afraid to look for the blood he knew he'd find.
Blue, painfilled eyes looked up at him. "Ray? You okay?"
"Yeh, I'm fine." Doyle's voice was shaky. "Let's see to you."
"You're not hit?" Bodie questioned, unable to believe that his partner was safe.
"No, I'm fine," Doyle said slowly. "I'm going to turn you over now, mate, see how bad it is."
"I'm not hit," Bodie said, a little stronger. "Arm, think I broke it when I hit the cuff."
Doyle shifted again, eased Bodie up into a sitting position, took a quick scan of the board back just to be sure. Satisfied, he ran a hand down Bodie's arm from shoulder to wrist, felt him stiffen as his fingers touched the already swelling joint. The elder appeared beside them.
"Is he hurt badly?"
"No," Doyle said with clear relief. "Could be fractured but he'll be okay."
"Sewill will be punished," the old man promised.
Bodie looked up at him. "It's stupid to keep punishing people for something that's long over."
Two searching looks met, young and old, memories of jungles and war clear between them. The elder touched Bodie's shoulder very lightly, rose and walked out. The door stayed open behind him.
Sliding an arm around his shaking partner, Doyle helped Bodie to his feet, righted the chair and eased him into it. "I'd better see if I can find the R/T, raise Cowley."
"Yeh," Bodie sighed, trying to get his arm comfortable.
Doyle watched his partner for a minute. "That was pretty smart, what you said to the old man." Bodie looked up at him. "Don't you think maybe it should apply to you, too?"
Midnight blue, a little hazy, frowned up at him.
"Punishing yourself for your past is sort of egotistical, don't you think?" Doyle added.
"Maybe." Bodie conceded. "Guess we have plenty of current villains to worry about without dragging up old ones." He looked up, half-hopeful, half-resigned. "Handle them together, will we?"
"As always," Doyle said firmly. "Besides, I'd say you broke the trend. I came out of this just fine." He put a hand on each of the chair arms, leaned over his partner. "You, on the other hand, are a wreck."
"Depends on your definition of wreck." He eyed the dried mud with disgust. "You're dropping mud on my new shirt."
The clatter of helicopter blades carried over the wind. "That'll be the cavalry." Doyle checked his watch. "They're early."
Bodie frowned. "Depends on your definition of early."
"You don't look very happy about it." Doyle smiled, knowing the reason for Bodie's reaction.
"Gonna be kind of embarrassing telling the old man about this." He looked hopefully up at Doyle. "Together, right?"
"Not on your life, sunshine. Fight villains all day with you but Cowley's all yours."
-- THE END --
Originally published in British Takeaway 4, Nuernberg, circa 1990