The stupid git went tearing out of the Cow's office as if all the fiends of hell were behind him instead of his partner.
"Go to hell, Bodie," he yelled, not even bothering to look back over his shoulder. "And you can tell the Cow to follow right after you." He broke into a run, his long legs carrying him down the stairs and away from me.
I looked after him with a sigh, and then started running myself. I finally caught up with him in the car park and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Gerroff," he said, shrugging off my grip. "Lay another hand on me and I'll black both your eyes."
"You and whose army, mate," I said, keeping my voice deliberately calm, even though I wanted nothing better than to yell and scream myself.
Turns out that was precisely the wrong thing to say. Doyle's face screwed up in rage, his green eyes flashing with a fury unleashed. I knew, without a doubt, that he was going to hit me.
He's done it before, of course. The bastard has one hell of a temper and it gets the better of him more times that either of us would like. And I always take it. Good old Bodie isn't supposed to fight back. Good old Bodie is supposed to bear the brunt of Doyle's temper and accept it as his due. And that's what I've always done. I've shouted at him often enough, or brooded if the mood was upon me, but I've never hit back. But right then, good old Bodie was only thinking one thing: bugger this for a lark.
As he pulled back his fist to let me have it, I raised my left hand to block his punch and buried my right fist in his gut. He doubled over, letting out an 'oof' as the air was forced from his lungs, his eyes widening in surprise.
The punch didn't stop him, though, just made him more furious. He drew in a ragged breath and launched himself at me.
Now, I'll give Doyle his due: he's a hell of a fighter. He's fast and he's wiry and he's far tougher than his scrawny frame would suggest. Most blokes go into a fight thinking they'll have him easily, and wind up eating their own teeth. He's that good.
I was trained by the Paras and the Regiment and the wildest, most vicious bastards that ever sold their soldiering skills in Africa. I'm not quite as fast as Doyle, but I outweigh him by at least two stone. And I know him. Know which way he's going to move, know when he'll punch and when he'll kick. Not that he doesn't know me, but get him in a rage like that and he's long ago stopped thinking.
He didn't have a chance.
I blocked every punch he threw and landed a few of my own. And then when he unwisely threw a roundhouse kick at me, I moved in close where he couldn't do any damage and swept his remaining leg out from under him. He went down hard onto the oil-stained concrete and I had him pinned in seconds.
"Are you going to stop this, or am I going to have to take you apart?" I asked, making very sure I had a firm grip on him.
He didn't say anything, just kept up the struggle, trying to find an opening that I wasn't going to give him. Finally, he just went limp under me, and the fire in his eyes died out completely, leaving me staring at cold, dead, jade. And I found something that was infinitely worse than his fury.
"You going to fight if I let go of you?" I asked, suddenly unwilling to keep him pinned like a common street thug we'd run in for information.
Doyle shook his head, and I rolled off him and stood, then offered him a hand. He didn't take it for the longest time, just lay there on the ground, staring at me with those expressionless eyes that still showed too much.
Finally, when I'd nearly given up on him ever moving, he took my hand and pulled himself up. We stood there in the car park, hands firmly clasped together, both looking more at the ground than at each other, until finally I could take the silence no longer.
"Well?" I said. Not too eloquent, but it was all I could manage under the circumstances.
"Well, what, you pillock?" Doyle barked. He shook off my hand, his anger obviously not completely spent.
"What are you going to do?"
"What do you think?" Doyle began pacing up and down in front of me.
"You're never going to quit."
"He's re-teaming us Bodie. Splitting us up."
"He's re-teaming everyone. Anson and Susan and all."
"This isn't about everyone else, and you bloody well know it."
"You can't thinků"
"He's re-teaming us, Bodie. He as much as told us he knows about us, and then assigned us new partners. You work it out."
"But Cowley'd neverů"
"Whatever his personal convictions, Cowley'll do what's needed to preserve CI5. And if that means splitting up a couple of poofters, he'll do it in a heartbeat."
I couldn't argue with that.
"You know what the worst part is, Bodie? You took it. The Cow's blue-eyed boy, and you just stood there and accepted his orders without complaint. 'Yes, sir; no, sir; three bags full sir.'"
"What did you want me to do?" I said, and suddenly I was yelling. "Threaten the canny old bastard?"
"Anything would have been better than nothing. And nothing is what you did."
"I don't know what I can do," I said, hating the helplessness I heard in my own voice.
"We can quit. Get out while we still have our skins. While we're both still alive."
"And do what?"
"Security. Minder jobs. Anything."
"I don't know if I can leave," I said looking down at the ground, trying to imagine a life without CI5. It was almost as difficult as imagining a life without Raymond Bloody Doyle.
"Well, I know I can." He stopped pacing and stood in front of me, close enough that I could smell the spice of his aftershave, could feel the heat of his breath hitting my face. "I have to quit. 'Cause if I stay, I'd have to face every day knowing that someone else is watching your back. And I can't do that, Bodie. It'd fuckin' kill me."
And quick as that, I realized why Ray was right, realized why I had to quit. I could have worked with one of the other lads or lasses-Murph is a good mate, and Susan's always had more balls than half the men on the squad-but I couldn't face knowing that it wouldn't be me guarding the golly's back. Couldn't face that someone else might not get there fast enough when he had another stoppage, that someone else might not find him if he was shot again.
I may be engagingly modest, but I know I'm one of the two best men on the squad, and I only want the best backing Ray up. Because if anything ever happened to him, I'd be more than gutted; I'd be the walking dead.
The knowledge must have shown in my face, because Doyle was right there, his arms holding me in a tight embrace, his voice whispering in my ear. "We have to leave, Bodie."
"Yeah," I said, breathing out the word like a prayer, a benediction. Then my arms wrapped around him and there we were, two tough soon-to-be ex-CI5 agents, holding on tight to each other in the car park, for Cowley and all to see.
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