|A Reason For It All
Author: Bardicvoice PM
An atypical tale with no CI5 action: an unexpected situation outside the job brings out the differences between partners Bodie and Doyle. Inspired by the Eric Bogle song of the same name.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Drama - Words: 2,476 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 1 - Published: 06-29-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3625383
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
No infringement of copyrights or trademarks held by Avenger Mark 1 Productions or London Weekend Television is intended.
A Reason For It All
Copyright 1997, Bardicvoice
The smell started it. And it was Bodie who pegged it, not Doyle.
"Morning, sunshine. Ready to roll?" While Doyle showered, Bodie had let himself into the flat with his usual disregard for his partner's privacy. At least this morning, there wasn't a woman in the bed to be embarrassed or surprised. Bodie draped himself in the bathroom doorway, gargoyle-grinning in the mirror as Doyle shaved.
"Bit early, innit?" Doyle grumbled.
"By whose clock -- Cowley's, or yours?"
"Obviously not yours." Bodie was disgustingly awake and alert, neatly dressed with his customary casual elegance. His sleek image in Doyle's mirror contrasted sharply with Doyle's rumpled curls, reddened nose, and puffy eyes. When Bodie's nose wrinkled, Doyle figured he was in for a ragging, but he realised suddenly that the glint of humour had vanished from his partner's midnight-blue eyes.
"What died, Doyle?"
"Take a whiff. Got a rat behind the walls, or summat? Whatever it is, it's dead, and been dead a while."
Doyle turned off the water and sniffed, then shook his head irritably.
"With this head, I'm not smellin' much of anything now, am I? Bloody cold."
Bodie didn't answer, but turned away, nostrils flared, to make a circuit of the rooms. Doyle watched, trailing after him.
"You've a career as a sniffer dog if Cowley ever tires of you," he observed. The humour fell flat when Bodie didn't respond in kind.
"Bath and kitchen," he mused, and then his face hardened into the bleak stillness that most people saw as cold and uncaring. Doyle's heart sank; Bodie's face went that perfectly blank only when what he was feeling was too deep and unpleasant to share.
"Plumbing drains connect all the flats," Bodie said. "Who lives just below you?"
"Ahh, no, Bodie --" But Doyle was on his heels as they headed for the door and down the stairs. "Mrs. Tolliver -- old lady Claire -- she's a sweet old thing ..."
Bodie paused outside the lower flat's door, nostrils still twitching.
"Was a sweet old thing, I think is the operative phrase."
Doyle reached past him to push the bell and then hammered on the door, twisting at the knob and finding it locked.
"Mrs. Tolliver? Claire? Mrs. Tolliver?"
There was no answer, and Bodie spared him one compassionate look of regret.
"I'll pay for the damage if I'm wrong," he said, and then took half a step back and unleashed a powerful side kick that snapped the lock free and bounced the door open on its hinges. The stench that wafted out penetrated even Doyle's stuffed nose and he turned aside, half doubling over with coughing and the urge to retch. Bodie buried his nose in his elbow, breathing shallowly through the material of his sleeve, and stepped inside. He was back in short order, and gently closed the broken door behind him. His hand on Doyle's shoulder gripped with almost bruising strength, and then rubbed comfortingly to steer his partner back toward the stairs.
"We'd better call the Met. Y'okay, mate?"
Still coughing, Doyle managed to nod, but he couldn't seem to breathe until he was back inside his own flat. He heard Bodie on the phone, first to the police and then to CI5, reporting they'd be late, and when he looked up again his partner was standing in front of him, mutely offering a glass of water. He took it with a nod of thanks.
"Coppers on their way. We'll need to make a statement, but it shouldn't be long. You okay?"
"Yeah. It's just -- I never expected that. I had no idea. I mean, I haven't seen the old lady for a week or so, but with the hours we've been keeping, well, she's not going to be up and about at two A.M., now, is she?"
"You had no way to know, Ray. It happens, that's all."
Bodie's matter-of-fact calmness grated, even though Doyle knew better than to take it for callousness. He'd been partnered with Bodie long enough to realize that the younger man used his near-total emotional withdrawal to protect himself from being hurt by things he couldn't change or fight, but his lack of response could still irritate, and Doyle struck out in automatic reaction.
"Doesn't get to you, though, does it? Seen it before, have you?"
Bodie's face didn't change, and he didn't respond to Doyle's temper. He understood as well as Doyle that his partner's anger was empty, a defence mechanism as false and automatic as his own cold untouchable distance. He kept his own voice low and controlled.
"Yeah, I've seen it before."
"So -- you have another Africa story for me? Or maybe it's Jordan, this time?" Doyle couldn't stop the cutting sarcasm, even though it wasn't what he wanted to say. He was grateful that Bodie's tone of voice didn't change.
"First time was Liverpool, when I was a kid. Jacko, this old soldier, always used to go on about Flanders and Lone Pine, and places I'd never heard of. Had this back-alley walk-up near the docks. Came a week I didn't see him, and then a few days on, got so you could smell it two doors down. Smell it once, and you never get old death out of your nose. Knew what to expect after that, didn't I? Doesn't matter where or when. Smell's the same, and there's no place free of it."
"Not even London," Doyle muttered, and cast his partner a quick sidelong look of apology. Sirens rounded the corner outside, and Bodie headed for the stairs.
Doyle closed his eyes and leaned his head back, vaguely noting the sounds from below as the police and the medical examiner's people entered Mrs. Tolliver's flat. He could hear Bodie's voice sometimes, but it was always too low for him to make out the words.
He remembered Mrs. Tolliver knocking on his door two days after he moved in, offering a plate of biscuits and a chat over tea as her welcome to a new neighbor. A widow with no children, she'd clucked over him like a mother hen a week later when he and Bodie'd staggered in battered and bruised after an op. Bodie had left him to come up with the tale that the two of them were insurance investigators. She'd clapped her hands and exclaimed that it was just like reading one of those adventure mystery books, and from then on, she'd always asked him if he'd someday write stories like Dick Francis. Somehow, she managed most days to be collecting her mail the same time that he brought in his, even though she never had much but adverts and rates and could have fetched it any time, and she always offered him biscuits and tea. And if Bodie hadn't been by in a while, she'd ask after him, pressing to make sure he hadn't been hurt, although he didn't remember her ever actually venturing a word to his partner directly. She'd confessed to him once that Bodie intimidated her because he always reminded her of Brontë's Heathcliff, and Doyle had laughed every time he thought of that.
And he hadn't even noticed that he hadn't seen her lately.
"Hey, mate. Time to get on."
He hadn't heard Bodie return. He opened his eyes to see his partner holding out his jacket, and he sighed as he got to his feet.
"Don't they want to see me?"
"No need. I'm the one found the body. Clear enough who she was, too -- had some pictures on her bureau. Aren't any questions to ask."
"There's always one question. Why?"
"Man'd go crazy if he keeps asking that. 'S just how it is. She was old. Looked like a heart attack, maybe a stroke. Just was her time, is all."
The broken door was closed again as they passed it. A new hasp and padlock held it shut and police tape sealed part of the jamb, a defence against looters rather than the protection of a crime scene. Outside, the air was crisp with autumn and bitter with the rot of fallen leaves that crunched beneath his shoes. Bodie's car was a welcome refuge, and he slumped into the seat as Bodie fired up the engine and swung away from the kerb.
"It just doesn't seem right, her going like that. Somebody should'a been there, should'a noticed. I should'a noticed."
"You said it yourself, Ray; you couldn't've. Last couple weeks, we've spent -- what, maybe four hours home, every other night? I don't remember what me own place looks like, much less seein' m'neighbors. Stop beatin' yourself for what you couldn't help."
"It's still wrong," Doyle said stubbornly. "She shouldn't have been alone. There should be a reason; an answer."
"Maybe better her way than ours."
"Huh?" Bodie's quiet comment took him totally off guard, and he turned startled eyes on his partner. Bodie gave him one brief glance and turned his attention back to his driving.
"Think about it, mate. There'll be a reason for us, when we go -- we're neither of us likely to die of old age. Most likely a bullet, and bloody Cowley shouting that we didn't do enough. Make any more sense than living quietly to eighty and just having your heart stop over breakfast one morning? Dead's dead, mate -- and when it comes to that, we each of us die alone, no matter how many people are around."
Doyle shivered in the sudden chill of Bodie's dispassionate voice. He didn't think of it often, but it struck him that this was the point where he and his partner were most unalike. Bodie simply accepted most things he couldn't fathom or change, and viewed his own inevitable death as something no different than time or the weather. Oh, he'd go down fighting, and he'd fight all the harder if a friend's life were on the line, but his belief in nothing beyond the life he could see left him with no terror, but only regrets. It gave him a calm that Doyle could almost envy. Lord knew, his own constant need for reasons and answers left his sleep more troubled than Bodie's, even if his past and his conscience were more clear than his partner's. Still ...
"I don't want to go with no one knowing," he said. Bodie smiled.
"No fears on that score, sunshine. You got a knack for people. Hell, you get to know your neighbors, even with all the times we move. Me, I don't think anyone would care, outside of you. And maybe Cowley." His mouth twitched, the irrepressible madcap black humour bubbling to the surface. "He'd be pissed I snuck off without leave, and he'd make bloody sure I knew it, too."
Against his wishes, Doyle grinned.
Bodie grinned back, satisfied with his success at breaking Doyle's despondent mood, and started humming absently. But the momentary lightness faded again as Doyle continued to think, and he turned his face to look out his window so that Bodie wouldn't see.
It wasn't enough. There had to be a reason for it all, a reason that people were born, a reason why some of them died alone and lonely, with no one even to know. He stole a look at his carefree partner. Maybe Bodie didn't need reasons, but he did.
They pulled into the CI5 carpark in companionable silence, but as Doyle reached for the door handle, Bodie touched him on the arm. One look at his partner's expressionless face told Doyle that Bodie knew what he'd been trying to hide.
"She was a sweet old lady, Ray. She was happy enough with what she had. Don't chuck that and get all broody about the way she died. It's the way she lived that matters. And it's the same for you and me." A ghost of a smile touched his lips and his eyes. "So stop raining on me, already."
"I just -- she didn't have anyone, Bodie. No one at all. And I didn't even notice."
"She had enough of you that she won't be forgotten. That's plenty for anyone. Let it go, Ray. You didn't make things the way they are. And if there is Someone who did, then dump the lot on His shoulders and let Him worry about it -- Cowley's got that much right, out of all his Bible reading." Bodie tapped Doyle's shoulder with a soft fist. "Come on -- there'll be at least two of us at her funeral. I'll even bring flowers."
There was some comfort there, strange as it seemed. Doyle had a sudden flash of Mrs. Tolliver's take on Brontë, and the memory made him smile.
"Violets, then, Heathcliff, to match your eyes. She'd like gettin' those from you."
Bodie raised an eloquent eyebrow, but managed to sketch a bow even though he was seated.
"That's it, then. We'll give her a proper wake and farewell, send her off in style. Promise to do the same for me, someday, and I'll be happy."
"You mad bastard, you're not going to go before me, so you'd better make your deals with Cowley instead!" But something shifting in the depths of Bodie's eyes made him pause, and he shook his head. "But all right, then -- I promise. But only if you'll do the same."
"That's good enough for me," Bodie said, and got out of the car.
And strangely enough -- at least for the moment -- it was also good enough for him. Not a reason, perhaps, but a step toward making sense out of the welter of anger, shame, guilt, and regret. In his mind's eye, he could see old Claire blushing as she'd done when Bodie'd teased her once, but this time, there were violets in her hand, and she was smiling.
Doyle shook his head again, and followed his partner up the stairs.