This is my first attempt at a Pros fanfic. I'm not a native speaker of the English language, so I'm sorry for all the mistakes that can be found in this story. I started to write it after my dad passed away. He had come close to dying three times in the last 10 years of his life and had made a remarkable recovery every time. So, I know a lot about making it back to the land of the living and decided to use it to write a story about Doyle's recovery from the shooting by Mayli.

I couldn't have done this without help and a big thanks goes to:

-all the friends who were with me all the way ( you know who you are)!

-Dr. Lyle from the Writer's Lab

dedicated to my dad, whom I love and miss more than words can begin to describe

The song "The Fall" by Joe Cocker goes along well with this story. Here's a part of the lyrics:

It's All

In The Fall

That's Where You Find Out

What You're All About

We've All Been Hurt

We've All Been Burnt

You Get Knocked Out, Kicked Around

And You Get Back Up

It's All

In The Fall

Starting Over Again

It's All

In The Fall

You Don't Know Who You Are

Till It all Comes Tumbling Down

Next Thing You Know

You Find

That It's All

In The Fall

That's Where You Find Out

What It's All About

Chapter 1

"Ray, are you sure you need all of these things on the list?"

Bodie frowned when he looked at the sheet of paper covered with tight scribble he was holding in his hands. The shopping list Doyle had just dictated to him while sitting up in his hospital bed contained detailed instructions concerning the various drawing utensils Mr. Salvador Doyle needed and where to buy them, a list of books and motorbike magazines and the meal from Doyle's favourite Chinese restaurant his partner craved for lunch.

Uneasily shifting around on his chair, Bodie said: "I mean, it's nearly 10 a.m. and I need to cross almost half of the city and come back here by noon as his nibs needs his lunch on time and..."
He didn't get to finish his sentence as Doyle cut him off with an exasperated shout: "Bodie!" When he tried to push himself upright a little bit too fast, the pain caused by the damage done to him by Mayli's bullets and the surgeons, hit him with full force and a moan escaped his lips. His partner was by his side to ease him down onto the bed in an instant. "Hey, sunshine, why are you trying to jump out of bed? You know you're not fit enough for your usual bursts of temper yet."

At that moment, Doyle could have throttled Bodie for his knack of stating the bleeding obvious. If only he had the energy, let alone the breath to do it! Of course, he was perfectly aware of the fact that he was light years from fighting fitness and he hated having to rely on nurses, Bodie, friends and fellow agents who visited him for almost every activity of daily life. When the pain in his chest had finally subsided to its usual level and his breathing had slowed down again, he managed to say:"Wanted to snatch the list from your hands. I mean, you don't have to run errands for me if it's sooo much trouble."
"Don't be silly, Ray." Bodie looked at his partner's pale and haggard face and felt sorry for ranting. "You know that it's no trouble for me to run errands for you. I was just thinking that maybe you don't need two different kinds of paper from two different shops for drawing just now. As I said, I'll be running late."

Bodie almost withered under Doyle's glacial stare."It's not my fault that you got here late as you spent the night with Joanna and you slept in. You were supposed to get here by nine. I mean, I was woken up by Nurse Padget with that nasty heparin injection while you were snuggled up to Joanna."

Doyle had a point there and Bodie decided it would be best to make an exit now and do his best to come back with all the things on the list by noon. Doyle was obviously in no mood to make concessions. "Well, I'd better get going. Be a good boy so there won't be a complaint from the physio when I get back."

"Thank you so much, Bodie."Leaving the room, Bodie decided to ignore the sarcastic tone of Doyle's voice and said cheerfully: "See you at noon!"
"Don't be late and make sure you've got everything," Doyle called after him. A scowl appeared on his face as he pondered the upcoming session with the physio. He would rather be back on the London streets with Bodie, but he still had a long way to go. Doctors were optimistic that he would make it back to active duty, but none of them had actually dared to say the words: "You WILL make it back to active duty!" That worried Doyle more than he would let on, but he was determined to try his best to make it back on the squad, that was all he could do, wasn't it?

While Bodie was on his way to his first destination, a shop for art supplies, he grinned about the spark of the famous Doyle temper he had just witnessed. It was a bit more than a month after Mayli had shot Doyle and so far, he had been pretty much an obedient and docile patient, enduring all the poking and prodding by doctors and nurses with a stoic patience that was not very much like his partner. As a matter of fact, Bodie had started to feel scared that Mayli, who had spared Doyle's life by not delivering the coup de grace, had killed a part of Doyle's personality instead. Maybe the almost fatal injuries and the subsequent soul-searching whether Doyle wanted to live or die had changed him forever? Apparently, this wasn't the case, the extent of obedience Doyle had shown so far wasn't caused by him loosing a spark deep inside, but solely by the way the injuries had weakened his partner. With Doyle's body gradually regaining its strength, the Doyle he used to know was coming back to life as well. Bodie was very grateful for that as it gave him reason to believe that Doyle would make it back to active duty.

Remembering the last weeks still sent shivers down Bodie's spine. Things hadn't been exactly uphill from the moment Doyle had opened his eyes. Four days later, he had developed a pneumonia. Nothing unusual after a massive chest trauma, the doctors had reassured Bodie and Cowley. When things hadn't improved with an antibiotic, the option of putting Doyle back on the respirator to help him breathe had been discussed and by then an ice-cold grip of fear had taken hold of Bodie again. He had spent as much time in the hospital as possible, fearing that Doyle's will to live might not be strong enough to cope with this crisis. After the shooting, he had been absolutely sure that Doyle would make it, but he had had his doubts whether Doyle's already weakened body would be able to fight this enemy, which though not armed with a gun, might prove just as deadly. It had been very hard sitting at Doyle's bedside and seeing his body wrecked by bouts of coughing, fighting for breath and drenched in sweat. Fortunately, the second antibiotic had done the trick to fight the pneumonia and Bodie had felt like dancing around the room when Doyle's breathing had returned to normal and the expression of sheer terror had vanished from his face.

After that crisis had been fully dealt with, Doyle had made good progress. The tube for thoracic drainage had been removed, then the oxygen mask had disappeared from his face and at long last, the i. v. lines had been taken out. Twenty days after the shooting, the doctors had decided to transfer Doyle from the intensive care ward to a normal ward.
Bodie had been so ecstatic, he had tried to help the nurses move Doyle's bed. His glee had made him a bit over eager and poor Nurse Hale had nearly been crushed between the bed and the lift wall. Grudgingly, Bodie had had to admit that he was better at steering his Capri through the London streets and had left Doyle in the care of the nurses. He had even decided to ignore Doyle's comment "I've always told you I am the better driver," though the reply "Keep your delusions, my son" had been on the very tip of his tongue.A smile had lit up Ray's face when his bed had been moved close to the window of a private room. Leaving behind the semidarkness of the intensive care ward with its muted noises and beeping machines had been one big step ahead on the road to recovery. Finally, he had been able to see the sun again, hear the conversations of people in the hallway and watch people taking a walk in the hospital park.

The next day, he had made his firsts steps, pretty unsteady and with a lot of support from the physio. He had felt like a new born colt, but it had been wonderful to be on his own feet again and the physio had been very pleased. Back in bed, Doyle had planned his next outings before falling into a peaceful sleep.

Bodie had almost missed to turn into the street where the shop for art supplies was located as he had been lost in thought. The Capri veered around the corner and came to a stop in front of the shop. Bodie entered and had a good look around the shop and noticed a clever display: different kinds of paintings and drawings, like oil paintings or pencil drawings were on display on easels and the items you needed to do that piece of art were neatly arranged on a table close by. The scent of oil colour hung in the air and when Mr Henderson, the shop owner, emerged from the backroom, he wiped his hands on a piece of cloth and asked: "How can I help you, Sir?"

"Well, my mate needs a couple of things. Umm, I reckon it would be best if I gave you the list."

The shop owner took the list from Bodie's hand and studied it. "Hmm, I think I have everything your mate needs here, expect for this special kind of laid paper. You'll have to go to Mullin's, about 15 minutes by car from here."

Bodie nodded. "I know, Doyle told me so."

"You're talking about Doyle, as in Ray Doyle?"

Bodie nodded.

"Gosh, I haven't seen him for a long time, how is he?"

"Recovering from serious injuries, he's still in hospital," Bodie replied and gave the shop owner a brief summary of what had happened to Ray.

"Oh, dear, " Mr. Henderson exclaimed. "Do you think I could visit him? I mean, we sometimes paint together."

"Sure. I think he can use a bit of help with painting anyway. You see, he took a bullet to his heart and another bullet went through his right shoulder. He's supposed to wear a sling for his right arm, but you have to force him to do that. I'm not quite sure how well he can paint or draw with his shoulder injury anyway, but the doctors say it can't do him any harm to try, as long as he's not overdoing it. Maybe if you come over and help him, he might actually stick to doctor's orders."

Mr. Henderson laughed. "All right, then. My shop is closed tomorrow afternoon, so tell him I'll be over tomorrow. Which hospital is he in?"

Bodie told him and then watched him collecting all the items on the list. When pencils, colour pencils, water colours, paper and sketchbooks piled up on the table, Bodie thought: "Christ, Doyle, what are you up to? Opening an art gallery?"

He made the payment and took the bags with Ray's drawing utensils. Leaving the shop, he said: "See you tomorrow."

Ten minutes later Bodie entered "Mullin's Paper Shop" and felt very pleased with himself for getting there five minutes faster than Mr. Henderson had predicted. The special paper Ray had asked him to buy turned out to be a handmade laid paper with rose petals in the texture. It looked beautiful and cost a lot of money.
Bodie had a long look at it, wondering what Ray was up to with this kind of paper!

The next stop on his shopping spree was a bookstore where he picked up a book about the history of Harley Davidsons and a book with poems by Fernando Pessoa.

By half past eleven, he entered the "Golden Dragon", one of Ray's favourite restaurants. Bodie had already picked up food from there a couple of times after Doyle had decided he had had enough of hospital food and had asked Bodie to bring him meals from restaurants. Bodie hadn't been exactly thrilled about opening a new branch of "Meals on Wheels", but Doyle had lost a lot of weight during his ordeal which he obviously wouldn't gain back by eating tiny portions of hospital food, so he had given in to Ray's plea.

Bodie placed his order, wok fried vegetables with tofu cubes and rice for Ray and almost the same meal for himself ( meat instead of tofu cubes ) and chatted to Hop Sing, the owner for a bit. Then he dashed to a newsstand nearby and bought the two motorbike magazines on the shopping list and went back to the restaurant to pick up the meals. Hop Sing handed the bag with the aluminium containers to Bodie and said: "I've added some fried bananas with nuts and honey for dessert. It's on the house. I know you keep saying Ray doesn't want dessert as he doesn't have his full appetite back yet, but maybe if dessert is around, he'll be enticed to eat it. I mean, the sooner he gets the lost weight back, the better."
"Thank you very much, Hop Sing! Let's hope you're right and he'll eat dessert today. Hmm, and even if he doesn't finish it, I'll make sure nothing goes to waste."
Bodie grinned and Hop Sing laughed: "I'm sure you'll take care of any leftovers."

When Bodie had left his hospital room, Doyle sighed, thinking that he shouldn't have had a go at his partner. After all, Bodie did his best to be of help, keeping him company, running errands for him, making sure he followed doctor's orders. The latter wasn't exactly to Doyle's liking and it had taken him a while to persuade Bodie to go on walks with him along the corridor. Doyle thought that the sessions with the physio weren't sufficient to keep up with the pace of recovery he had set for himself. Bodie had talked to the doctors about that and they had given them the green light, which had pleased Doyle enormously.

Moreover, he didn't know how he would have made it through the pneumonia without Bodie by his bedside, who had kept telling him to breathe evenly and slowly when he had had to fight for every breath. Holding on to Bodie's voice had been like holding onto a lifeline.
So, he was deeply grateful to Bodie, but the irritation caused by being so weak and in pain simply had got the better of him.

He chuckled silently when he thought about his partner dashing through London while trying to get all the things on his shopping list and decided not to tell Bodie off should he forget one or two things. That Bodie would forget something Doyle knew with dead certainty.

There was a knock on the door and Mrs. Masterson, the physio, entered. Doyle secretly called her Mrs. Cowley as she was as strict as his boss when it came to following orders. She was in her mid-forties, with blonde hair and a friendly, but sometimes stern face. As Doyle wasn't always keen on following orders, sometimes the sparks were flying during the physio sessions. This morning, Doyle would have loved to have his first walk outside as it was a sunny autumn day and he longed to put his feet on Mother Earth again. Being used to going for a run every morning in the park, he felt like a hamster on a treadmill while making his way up and down the hospital corridor. Doyle turned on his full charm, which won over most women and put his idea to Mrs Masterson.

She looked at him for a couple of seconds and said: "Well, I think you are ready for a walk outside, but we need a bit more time for that. You know that we need to work on your right shoulder to prevent it from becoming stiff, so let's postpone the walk outside in the park to tomorrow."
When she saw the disappointment in Doyle's wide, green-blue eyes, she hastened to add: "Let me see what I can do, maybe I can squeeze in another appointment for you this afternoon. Mr. Richards might be discharged this morning, so I might have a free appointment in the afternoon."
Doyle gave her his most charming smile and said: "That would be great." He noticed with some satisfaction that Mrs. Masterson blushed a bit. It seemed he hadn't lost his touch with women if he could make even Mrs. Cowley blush, most nurses liked to flirt with him anyway and were extra-attentive to his needs. Some even liked to come for a visit after their shift.

"Okay, here we go." Mrs Masterson quickly got back to the business at hand, like his boss, she hated wasting time.
Mrs. Masterson put Doyle's right arm in his sling, then helped him out of bed. Slowly, they made their way out of the room. He felt a bit like he was back in his days as a uniformed copper, PC Doyle on the beat in a hospital corridor. Sadly, he was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to catch even a kid trying to steal dessert from the food trolley. He was a bit miffed that he still needed a short break every time they reached the group of chairs near the windows at the end of the corridor.

After their third turn, Doyle felt a bit dizzy and grasped the handrail very tightly and Mrs Masterson said: "Enough is enough" and firmly steered Doyle back to his room and helped him to sit down on a chair.
She bent down and looked him over. Doyle was panting a bit and beads of sweat had appeared on his face, but he responded with smug grin when Mrs Masterson told him: "Well, that was one more turn than yesterday, we're making good progress."

Smiling, she went to the cupboard to fetch the massage oil and then went to the bathroom to wash her hands. In order to give Doyle time to recover, she went about it very slowly.
By the time she had got back to Doyle and had placed a chair for herself next to his, he seemed to be okay again. When Mrs. Masterson asked whether he was ready, he nodded and put up his arms as high as he could lift them. He wasn't looking forward to the next part of his physio session, so he let out a sigh when Mrs. Masterson removed the sling, slipped off his sweater and started to work on his right shoulder.

He was grateful that Mayli had fired the last bullet through his shoulder, mercifully missing his shoulder joint, and not into his brain. Obviously, she hadn't had the guts to carry out a cold blooded assassination. Bodie had told him that she had asked after him in the ambulance. Doyle hadn't been exactly touched by that, he would have been a lot more grateful is she had asked herself more questions before attacking him. Maybe she would have acted differently?
A pretty pair of almond eyes...when he had met her in her shop, he had hoped to see her again for dinner...and not in his flat, pointing a gun at him and firing a bullet into his heart to take revenge.
The shooting came back to his mind as a flashback sometimes, like now...being slammed backwards over a couch by the first bullet, lying helplessly on the floor, feeling the blood flow from his body, an excruciating pain in his chest, difficult to breathe, another bullet being fired through his right shoulder.

At that moment, Mrs. Masterson did something to his shoulder that made him wince and she said: "Sorry. I know this is hurting you and I'm being as careful as possible, but we must make sure your shoulder doesn't become stiff."
Doyle exhaled slowly, he wouldn't be a good CI5 agent with a stiff shoulder, so he endured the treatment.
When it was finished, he decided to get a kip till Bodie came back and so Mrs. Masterson helped him into bed. She turned around at the door to remind Doyle that she might be back in the afternoon, but realized he had fallen asleep already. She closed the door quietly and left.

About an hour later, Doyle woke up with a distinctive rumbling in his stomach. A quick glance at his watch told him it was a quarter past twelve.

"Damn, I don't care if Bodie shows up with only half of the stuff on my list, as long as he's got the food and gets here soon. I'm starving," he thought.

Right on cue, the door flung open and Bodie entered, manipulating several plastic bags and kicking the door shut with the heel of his boot. With a triumphant grin he said: "Job done! Every item on your list is in the bags."

Doyle's jaw dropped open. "You've got everything? That's incredible!"

"Shut your trap, Ray, you look like a stranded angelfish! Yes, I've got everything, all the things from the shops, the easel from your flat and I even managed to stop at the laundrette to collect your laundry. Well, at least I tried to do it. That Rita is a very nice lady, but she insists that she can't give away her customers' gear without a ticket. It's the rule, she said."

Doyle groaned. "She never gives me a ticket."

Bodie nodded while placing the bags on the table that was standing at the window and said: "I told her so, but she was having none of it. She said you'd have to collect your stuff yourself and that you should hurry up. Otherwise she'd have to charge you rent. I was under the impression she considered me a suspicious character. I wonder why? I mean, I'm tall, dark ..."

Doyle cut him off. "Yeah, I know! Maybe she thinks you've got shifty eyes?"

Bodie gave a snort of incredulity. "Marge is the only exception to the rule that all the ladies love me."

Rolling his eyes, Doyle said: "Marge's taste when it comes to men is impeccable! By the way, she came over for a visit the other day. She brought along a self-concocted cocktail of fruit juices, called Marge's spark-free lightning. Very delicious. Now, where's the food? I'm starving here!"

"Yeah, yeah, it's coming. Did Mrs. Masterson push you like Macklin and Towser? Do you want to eat in bed or shall I help you to the table?"

"We did three turns in the corridor and I want to eat in bed please."

"Okay," Bodie said, adjusted the bedside table and put the containers with the meals on it. He was flabbergasted when Ray tucked into his meal with a vengeance he had never seen before. Pulling a chair closer to the bed, Bodie said: "Easy, sunshine. Nobody's going to steal your food."

"With you around, one can never be sure, " Doyle said with his mouth full.

"I think the drugs are starting to corrupt your manners," Bodie commented with a mock hurt expression on his face. He began to eat himself, always keeping one eye on his partner who was enjoying his meal and had obviously decided not to grace that comment with a was good to see that Doyle was getting his appetite back. Not so long ago, a meal with Doyle had usually included coaxing and pleading with him to eat one more spoonful.
"Do you remember that day in the intensive care ward when even Cowley tried to get you to eat? You were stubbornly refusing to eat the gruel, the nurse was getting impatient and the Cow said... I'm ordering you to eat 4.5 ...and you ..."
Bodie didn't know whether to chuckle or shudder when thinking about Doyle's reply..."you said...Technically, I'm on sick leave, so you can't order me to do anything at all. Flipping cheek! Hmm, and the old man started to give you his I own you, the department owns you speech. Then he thought better of it and just said: Well, you do need to eat to get your strength back, Doyle. Strange way of showing he cares!"

"Cowley's all right," Doyle replied.

"Oh, and then the nurse pointed out that you need food and you told her gruel was no food in your opinion and you asked for pizza. The nurse nearly fainted and told you that pizza was no proper food for somebody whose nasogastric tube had been removed only a couple of days before."

"Yeah, Bodie, don't remind of that, just let me enjoy my meal."

"Sorry, mate."

They ate in silence for a while. When Doyle had almost finished his meal, he pointed to the unopened container on his bedside table and asked:"What's that?"

"That's a present from Hop Sing. Dessert, fried bananas with nuts and honey."

"Well, that's kind of him, thank him on my behalf, please." Doyle had finished his meal and was now eating the fried bananas.

Bodie watched him anxiously. With his partner's speed at eating, there would be none left for him. "Oi, I want some of those as well," Bodie said while snatching the last remaining piece from the container.

"Sorry, Bodie," Doyle said with a diabolical grin.

"That's no proper way to thank me for my effort with your shopping, you little devil." Yet Bodie found it hard to be really angry at his partner. After all Ray had been through, every step back to normalcy was welcome and besides, he had nicked food from Ray lots of times, so it was only fair that Doyle had just turned the tables on him.

After they had eaten, Bodie put the empty food containers into the bin, had a look at the masses of shopping bags on the table and asked: "Ray, where do you want me to put all these things?"
The clothes and the easel he had collected from Ray's flat had to be stored in the cupboard and he started putting them there.

"Oh, I want the books and the magazines in the bedside locker and I want to take a look at the bag with the drawing utensils. I still can't believe you managed to get everything."

Frowning, Bodie followed Doyle's instructions and said: "Should teach you to have a little faith in my shopping abilities, Ray."

Rummaging in the bag with his drawing utensils, Doyle replied: "Well, you were the one complaining about the list being too long!"

He took the laid paper with the rose petals out of the bag and had a look at it. It was beautiful and when he ran his fingers gently along it, he could feel the soft and uneven surface.
Bodie watched him for a while, still wondering what Ray planned to do with that paper. He felt tempted to ask his partner about it, but refrained from doing so. That was probably a secret which should be left to the artist to reveal.

"By the way, Mr. Henderson from the art shop will be coming over to see you tomorrow, so the two of you can have an art session and talk shop."

A smile lit up Ray's face and he said: "That's fantastic. I miss painting with Ken, he's so talented and he always teaches me new things."
The smile was suddenly replaced by a frown and Doyle exclaimed: "Oh dear, he'll be disappointed that I've become quite rusty."

"Never mind, Ray! Nobody is expecting you to draw a Mona Lisa for a start."

"I could draw your ugly mug with my hands tied," Ray shot back.

Favouring his partner with a resentful look, Bodie replied: "Look who's talking! I hate to tell you, but you wouldn't win a beauty contest right now, you're still too pale, that unruly mop of yours is unrulier than I've ever thought possible and your fashion sense isn't exactly up to date either. Tracksuit bottoms and jumpers aren't exactly a big hit with the birds, but at least they're better than the awful hospital gowns."

With a malicious smile, Doyle said: "Well, none of the nurses are complaining, they quite fancy me."

"They take pity on you, old son!"

Doyle took a sketchbook from the bag and threw it at Bodie, who had to dodge very quickly not to be hit straight in the face.

Doyle let a gleeful smile pass his face and said with a smug self-confidence in his voice: "Seems I haven't lost my aim after all."

Picking the sketchbook up from the floor, Bodie replied: "Yeah, and it seems that all the mollycoddling going on here made you a little too smug and cheeky for your own good."

"Well, Dr. Siegel told me I was technically dead when they were operating, so I guess I am entitled to feeling a bit cocky about surviving being shot in the heart."

"All right, all right, point taken," Bodie said though he was not entirely sure why surviving serious injuries justified his partner's ratty behaviour. Bodie placed the sketchbook on the bedside locker and decided not to discuss the matter. The mischievous smile on Doyle's face and the fact that there were a number of things on the bedside locker which Ray might turn into flying objects made this the wisest course of action and he went on with the task of putting Doyle's things away. He asked: "Shall I put the drawing stuff into the cupboard as well?"

Doyle took some pencils out of the bag, placed them on the bedside locker and nodded.

While Bodie made sure everything was neatly stowed in the cupboard, Doyle had a look outside the window. The weather was still beautiful and so he asked Bodie: "Can we go outside to the park now?"

Closing the cupboard and then turning around, Bodie said: "You've got some nerve, Ray. You leave no dessert for me, you hurl a sketchbook at me, you insult me and now you expect me to ferry you around. I might as well leave you to rot in that bed."

"Ah, come on Bodie, don't be like that!"

Bodie walked over to the bed, giving Doyle a hard stare. He was still nursing a slight grudge because of his missed dessert and being used for target practice by Ray, so he decided to keep him on tenterhooks for a while. Of course, he didn't really intend to keep his partner grounded this afternoon as he was far too happy Doyle had suggested going to the park instead of taking a nap. He was fed up with watching over Ray's beauty sleep as the golly had spent most of his time in hospital asleep. Sitting and waiting, being unable to do anything was not Bodie's forte and so he was glad that they were finally back in action.
"Well," Bodie said after a while, "if you promise to share dessert with me the next time, I might be feeling like taking you outside."

"Okay, I promise! Can we go now?"

"Now, that's a good lad. Yeah, all right, let's go."

Bodie went to fetch the wheel-chair which was parked in a corner of the room and placed it parallel to the bed, right in the middle of it. Then he stood next to the bed, hooked his left hand around Ray's left elbow and when he felt Ray's hand fasten on his elbow, he asked: "Ready? On three?"

Ray nodded and Bodie counted: "One, two, three."

On three Ray pushed himself upright with a groan, clinging to Bodie's elbow. Bodie steadied his partner for a while until he had moved his feet over the edge of the bed. Doyle needed the support as his mending muscles and nerves didn't take too kindly to sitting upright without a support for his back. When he no longer felt like a ship in a stormy sea, he said: "I'm ready, on three again."

This time Ray did the countdown and got up on three. Bodie held him until the dizziness caused by getting up had passed and he was able to turn around. Bodie gently eased him down into the wheel-chair and Doyle let out a sigh of relief.

Bodie looked around and asked: "Where are your slippers and where's the sling for your arm, Ray?"

"Umm, Bodie, I want to put on my trainers today!"

Bodie squinted at his partner. "What on earth do you need your trainers for?"

"I was thinking that maybe you could help me take a walk in the park today."

"Whoa, mate, take it easy. I really think you should do that with Mrs Masterson."

"Well, she said she might come back this afternoon, but I'm not sure and I so want to have a walk outside. Bodie, come on, it isn't that different to walking in the corridor or in my room."

Bodie saw the pleading look in Ray's eyes, but he wasn't quite convinced by his words. "Yeah, there's no handrail outside, the ground might be uneven, you might trip over something and I might not be able to catch your fall. Don't want to see you down on the ground again. Finding you in a pool of your own blood in your flat was bad enough." He stopped himself in time before he could tell Ray that this image haunted him many times.

"I promise you, I won't fall! Please, Bodie, I'm ready for it."

Still not totally convinced, Bodie went to fetch the trainers he had brought over for Doyle some time ago. He bent down to slip them on Ray's feet and started to tie the laces very forcefully, muttering something that sounded pretty much like "You thick headed prat" to Ray.

Suddenly, Ray yelped: "Bloody hell, that's tight! I'd be very grateful if you didn't damage my feet. I'm hurting enough as it is."

"Sorry, Ray. You are sure you want to do this?"

Bodie adjusted the footrests and Doyle put his feet on them and answered: "Absolutely!"

Bodie sighed and conceded defeat, silently hoping for salvation by Mrs Masterson. He had a look at his partner who was eager to go and said: "Okay, but if you want to walk outside, you'll have to wear the sling. Now, where is it? Ah, it's on the table."

Doyle pulled a face. "Do I have to wear it? I feel like being in a strait jacket when I'm wearing it."

Suppressing a laugh, Bodie said: "This is not a mental hospital, so I guess they don't have strait jackets here, but if you keep refusing to wear the sling, I'll find one for you and put you into it. It's damn stupid not to wear the sling when you need it. It takes the strain of your shoulder and prevents it from being jarred too much, so it hurts less and heals a lot faster and you're keen on a speedy recovery!"

There was no argument against that and so Doyle allowed Bodie to put his arm in the sling, but he gave Bodie a glare.

Pretending not to notice that, Bodie went to fetch a jacket and a blanket for Ray. Meeting Ray's questioning look, he said: "You've lost a lot of weight mate, I don't want you catching a chill so we'd better take care."
He placed the blanket and the jacket into Doyle's lap and Doyle emitted a resigned sigh. For somebody who had complained about him being mollycoddled too much only minutes ago, Bodie was in full mother hen mode.

"Okay, off we go," Bodie said while opening the door. He grabbed the handles of Doyle's wheel chair and they were out of the door in an instant.

In the corridor, they ran into Lyn, one of the nurses, who asked: "So where are you headed, my lovelies?" I hope you are going to the park, the weather is simply wonderful. I think the fresh air and the sun will do you a lot of good, Ray." She favoured him with a beaming smile.

Ray perked up noticeably and replied: "Yep, that's where we're going."

"Excellent! That provides me with the opportunity to change the bedclothes in your room. Right after I've replaced Mr. Miller's infusion bag, so I'd better get going. Have fun in the park! See you later!"

She walked on along the corridor. Bodie watched her with a frown and thought that maybe Ray was right after all and the nurses did fancy him.

"Lyn, wait," Bodie called after her. She turned around and Bodie walked over to her.

"Ray wants me to have a walk in the park with him and I'm a bit scared of doing it. He said that Mrs. Masterson might have another appointment for him this afternoon, do you know when she'll be here?"

Lyn blew a streak of her brown hair from her forehead and replied: "Sorry, I don't know anything about that. She'll be busy with Mr. Mullins for at least another thirty minutes."

"Can you tell her to come to the park when you see her? I'll try to stall Ray for half an hour."

Lyn laughed so hard she had to wipe some tears from her eyes. Then she said: "Good luck with that, Bodie. Of course, you know him better than me, but from what I've witnessed so far, I can tell that your partner is a very determined man."

"Thick-headed is more like it."

"Maybe, but his determination or thick-headedness as you choose to call it, is the reason he has made remarkable progress since he was transferred to this ward from the intensive care ward. He's our star patient, we've rarely witnessed such an outstanding speed of recovery. There's even a bet going on among the nurses here on the date for his discharge. I bet a fiver on the earliest date possible and I intend to win that bet and help him to escape from this "prison" as he calls it as soon as possible."

"There's a bet on the date for Ray's discharge?" Bodie was flabbergasted. "I'm worried that Ray pushes himself too hard and you ladies bet on the date for his discharge." That was more than Bodie could take.

"Listen, Bodie, I don't think he pushes himself too hard. Ray knows pretty well what he can or can't do. You two trust each other in your job every day, so why don't you have a little faith in him now?"

With these words, she turned around to knock on the door of a room.

Lost in thought, Bodie went back to Ray who asked: "What did you tell Lyn that made her laugh so hard? I bet you gave her your I'm tall, dark, et cetera bit. I did tell you that the nurses fancy me, didn't I? Seems they prefer unruly curls and my fashion sense to tall, dark and handsome."

Bodie resumed pushing the wheel-chair to the lifts and said: "I'm beginning to realize that. Can't say I understand it though, but you do seem to have a lot of fans around here."

The tone of utter disbelief in Bodie's voice nearly made Ray laugh, but he stopped himself in time. Laughing was one of the activities that still hurt like hell, so he just chuckled and said: "Tell me something I don't know, Bodie and press the call button, I don't want to be stuck in here all afternoon."

When they reached the hospital park, Doyle drew in a deep breath, as deep as his injuries would allow. Being outside of his hospital room was fantastic, the fresh air did him a lot of good and cleared all the hospital smells out of his system. It was nice to see the autumn tints, a welcome change from all the white surrounding him inside the hospital.

There was a small pond in the park and the sun glistened on its surface. The leaves that had already fallen from the trees rustled under Bodie's feet and the wheels of the wheel-chair as they went along. Many patients were out and about, some on their own, some accompanied by friends or relatives who had come for a visit.

Larry, the gardener, was busy raking leaves and when he spotted Bodie and Doyle, he strolled over to have a little chat.

On their first outing to the park a couple of days ago, Bodie had almost knocked the poor man over when he had turned around to admire the shapely legs of a nurse. Only Doyle's shout had snapped his attention back to his partner's wheel-chair and he had managed to avoid hitting the man bending down to pick up his rake.
Doyle had treated him to a few choice words, but Larry had saved him from having his head bitten off by Doyle with the comment: "Ah, a beginner at the wheel-chair pushing business. Listen mate, rule number one is: Look ahead, no matter how pretty the nurse walking by is. Your passenger and the innocent people close by will be most grateful."
That had started a friendly conversation and on their second outing, Larry had shown them his pride and joy, a very rare plant of red roses he grew close to his tool shed. He had picked a particularly good spot for this rose and Doyle had fallen in love with the beautiful flower.

Larry was a man in his late fifties who worked as a gardener at the hospital for a couple of hours a week to make some money to supplement his disability pension. He used to work as a construction worker, but an accident on a construction site had forced him to retire early. After the death of his wife, his job as a gardener had become even more important as it helped him to get in touch with people and not be totally lost in his grief.

When Larry had almost reached them, Doyle told Bodie to stop. He peered at a bench close to the pond and estimated the distance from their position to it. Yes, that was about the perfect distance for his walk, a tad longer than the hospital corridor to add to the challenge.

Larry had reached them and greeted them with a friendly smile. "Hey, Ray, you're looking a little better every time I see you," Larry told Doyle after giving him a swift searching look. "The colour is gradually returning to your cheeks and I think you're eating more, right?"

"He's turning into a glutton," Bodie informed Larry.

With a grin on his face, Larry asked: "Now is that true, Ray?"

"He's just still miffed that he didn't get much dessert today," Ray said.

"You left me one measly piece, that does qualify you as a glutton, you know," Bodie insisted.

Larry had to lean on his rake as he was laughing so hard. These two lads were just so incredibly funny. He could see that Doyle was about to erupt in a burst of temper, so he decided to change the subject. "So, what are you planning to do this afternoon, apart from breaking more hearts? Gloria, one of the childrens nurses, asked after you when she saw you in the park the other day," he told Ray.

"I told you I am pretty popular around here," Doyle informed Bodie with a self-satisfied smile.

"I noticed that!" Bodie turned his attention from his partner to speak to Larry: "Ray has decided to have his first walk outside today."

"Good idea, Ray, " Larry said, "you don't want to get stuck in that wheel-chair for too long. I felt the same way after my accident, you've got to get back on your feet again as soon as possible."

"That's what I intend to do," Ray said with an affirmative nod. "Bodie, I want to walk from here to that bench beside the pond."

Bodie looked over to the bench and realized that the distance Ray had chosen was a bit longer than the distance he had walked so far. He bit his lips, debating what to do. He thought that Lyn was right, he needed to have faith in Ray, but a fear deep inside just wouldn't go away. What if Ray collapsed at the end of the walk as he had put too much strain on his healing heart?

Ray had a pretty good idea about Bodie's inner struggle and mentally cheered him on. "Come on, mate, say yes! I'm sure I can do it. Well, I'm 99% sure I can do it, I just need you to have a little faith in me to be 100% sure. It's not easy to regain the confidence in my healing body, so please don't let me down Bodie."

Bodie decided to ban the fear from his thoughts and said: "Okay, let's do it, mate. Just one question: You've never walked such a long distance, even inside. Can we push you just a little bit closer to the bench?"

Doye was having none of it. "No, Bodie, we start from here!"

Bodie had a quick look around, hoping to see Mrs. Masterson, but she was nowhere in sight. It was up to him now!

Larry had an idea which put his mind a bit more at ease: "What if I follow you guys with the wheel-chair? Just as a precaution? If anything goes wrong, we can put Ray back into it in no time."

"Shit, that will look like a bloody procession," Doyle said fiercely.

"I don't care," Bodie let him know. "That's the way we'll do it."

"Nothing will go wrong, Bodie," Doyle said.

"I know sunshine, I know, so let's go!"

Larry put his rake away, leaning it against a tree far from the path, so nobody would trip over it. Then he took the blanket and jacket from Doyle's lap and positioned himself behind the wheel-chair.

Doyle was mentally getting ready for walking, going over some of Mrs. Masterson's instructions: Lift your feet, don't just shuffle along ( doing that with legs that hadn't been used for a while had been quite difficult to handle at first), stand firmly before you start walking, don't walk hunched over like that. She was a right mine of wisdom, but following all that advice at the same time wasn't as easy as it seemed.

Bodie in the meantime was busy fastening the brakes on the wheel-chair and helping Doyle get his feet on the ground by moving the foot-rests out of the way. Bodie also ran through some of the coaching he had received by Mrs. Masterson: He will feel a bit dizzy after getting up, so make sure that dizziness has passed and he stands steadily before he gets going.

Then Bodie moved over to the left side of Doyle, placed his left arm on Doyle's left arm and his right arm on Doyle's lower back."Okay, sunshine, up you get, on three."


"Two," they counted in unison.

On three Ray got up, his weight pulling on Bodie's arms. He swayed a bit, but Bodie held him tightly. Doyle started to walk almost immediately, but Bodie stopped him and said: "Remember what Mrs. Masterson told you? You have to stand steadily before you can walk steadily and I can tell you still feel dizzy. I have to take quite a lot of your weight, so take it easy."

Bodie loosened his grip on Doyle's arm a bit when he felt that his partner was standing steadily. With a frown on his face, he instructed his partner: "Doyle, straighten up a bit. You're not going anywhere doing an impersonation of the Hunchback of Notre Dame."

"Find yourself funny, do you? I know the ex-soldier in you is quite used to standing at attention, but let's see how you'd manage it with an incision that runs all around the left side of your rib cage and your ribs still a bit sore from being spread during surgery."

"A lot better than you."

"I don't believe that."

Neither did Bodie, but his ribbing had the desired effect as Ray suddenly straightened up. Bodie gave Doyle a gentle nudge and said: "See, that's better now, off you go!"

They walked off with Larry and the wheel-chair in tow. Bodie was pleased as punch that his partner hardly leant on him for support.

Doyle was enjoying himself immensely. Wearing the trainers he usually wore to tear after villains in the streets of London instead of his slippers made it feel more likely that he would be doing just that again in the not too distant future. He liked the way the leaves rustled under his trainers and the noise of the gravel. The wind ruffled his curls and he enjoyed the sunshine. Feeling a bit cocky, he gave the leaves a kick and they flew all around.

"Ray, what are you doing? Concentrate on walking, don't fool around," Bodie tried to chasten Doyle's temper. "That always happens when you're travelling with kids! Now be a good lad, otherwise you won't get a biscuit when we arrive."

Things went rather smoothly at first, but when they had passed the three quarters mark, Doyle's breathing became a bit laboured and he let Bodie take more of his weight.

Larry cleared his throat to get Bodie's attention. When he turned round, Larry gave him a questioning look and pointed to the wheel-chair. Frowning, Bodie shook his head, he was sure Ray would make it.

By the time they reached the bench, Doyle was leaning on Bodie quite heavily. Bodie eased him down on the bench a little bent down to have a look at his partner. Doyle's face was covered with a thin layer of sweat and he was gulping in small amounts of air.

Bodie felt rather worried and looked around for a nurse or a doctor. A doctor was a few yards away and he was just about to call him when he heard Doyle's victorious shout: "WOOHOO! I made it!"

Bodie whipped around. Doyle's face showed a full grin, his breathing was slowing down and he was obviously a very happy lad.

"Yes, you did, mate." Bodie finally let go of the breath he had been holding.

Doyle licked his lips and asked: "Now, where's that biscuit you mentioned?"

Sending a look heavenwards, Bodie inquired: "Larry, what am I to do with him? He's already hungry again."

"Best thing is to feed him, I guess. Shall I organize some tea?"

"That would be great, thank you, Larry," Doyle said with a beaming smile.

"I can't believe you're hungry again," a surprised Bodie said.

"Physical exercise leaves you hungry, Bodie!"

"Ah, don't try being smartypants here, you glutton."

"All right, I am going to organize tea now, hold on, Ray," Larry said and headed for the cafeteria.

"Better put this blanket behind your back, that bench is too hard for your tender back," Bodie said. He helped Doyle lean forward a bit and slipped the blanket behind his back and Doyle leant back with a huge smile on his face.

Lyn had been watching the whole walk from Doyle's room where she had been changing the bedclothes. She was pretty confident that she would win the bet. She was just about to leave the room, when there was a knock on the door and Mrs. Masterson entered and said: "Good news, Ray. We can go to the park now." Looking around, she noticed that Lyn was the only person in the room and asked: "Where's Ray?"

Pointing out of the window, Lyn replied: "In the park, he's just had a walk with the help of his partner and Larry, the gardener. Have a look!"

Mrs. Masterson took in the scene in the park and was very baffled and a little outraged. She said: "He's got to be the most impatient patient I've ever had. I'd better have a look at him and have a few words with him."

Lyn shook her head slowly and said: "I don't think that's called for. From what I can tell, he's fine and it would be such a shame to spoil his fun, don't you agree?"

Mrs. Masterson had another look at Bodie and Doyle and decided Lyn was right.

Larry arrived, placed the tray he was carrying on the bench and said: "I've bought a packet of biscuits for each of you, so you won't have to argue again."

He handed over one packet to Doyle and one to Bodie. Pointing to the tray, he said: "Help yourselves to the tea and please leave the remaining packet of biscuits for me as they're suitable for diabetics."

"I want the chocolate biscuits," Doyle said and snatched the packet from Bodie's hands and placed the ginger biscuits he had been given into Bodie's lap.

"Oi, mate, you could ask instead of just taking what you want." Bodie was a bit miffed.

"That will teach you to work on your reflexes, Bodie," Doyle said and started to munch his requisitioned chocolate biscuits.

Larry sent a look heavenwards and said: "You know, it's a lot easier to deal with a bunch of pre-school kids than with you guys. Ever heard of the concept of sharing?" Larry raised an eye-brow.

"All right, all right, I'll share my chocolate biscuits with Bodie." Doyle held out the packet to his partner, but pulled it away swiftly when Bodie tried to take a biscuit.

"Doyle!" Bodie shot his partner a warning look.

With an innocent look, Doyle replied: "I told you, you need to work on your reflexes." He held out the packet to Bodie again and let him take a biscuit this time.

"Thank you," Bodie growled.

"You're welcome," Doyle said with a cheeky grin.

Bodie sighed and said: "Gosh, it was easier to get the food back from that monkey who came into our camp once while I was in Africa. He had nicked some of our food and we didn't want to let him get away with it."

"Oh, no, here we go again," thought Doyle. "Bodie's about to tell stories from his days as a mercenary." He had heard most of the colourful stories that Bodie was so keen on telling, so he listened with only half an ear when Bodie revealed the best way to get food back from a monkey to Larry. His attention was more on the goldfish in the pond, the people in the park and on his package with chocolate biscuits.

When he had finished with his tea and biscuits, he cut off Bodie who was telling another story and spoke to Larry: "I was thinking about making a painting of the roses you grow close to the tool shed. Would you give me one or two to take to my room? Bodie got me some laid paper with rose petals and I think it would be great for a watercolour of your roses. What do you think?"

A smile appeared on Larry's face and he said: "That would be lovely! When I'm done with the leaves here, we can all go back to the tool shed and you can pick out the roses you like best."

"Great, thank you Larry," Doyle said.

After Larry had left them to finish his work, Bodie said: "Now I get it, that's why I had to get that laid paper so urgently. Seems you're getting your creative power back."

"Well, at least I'm having some ideas, it remains to be seen whether I can put them into action. At least, I'll get some help tomorrow, that's good to know."

"Well, it doesn't have to be perfect for a start, Ray."

"Hmm, considering the price of that paper, it should be as close to perfect as possible and that's what I'll try to achieve."

"That's the spirit!"

They watched Larry putting all the leaves he had raked into his wheelbarrow to take them to the compost heap close to the tool shed.

On his way, he stopped by the bench where Bodie and Doyle were sitting and said: "I'm done. I'll be back in a while and then we'll take care of the roses."

"All right," Bodie replied. "I'll take the tray back to the cafeteria and get Ray back into his wheel-chair."

By the time Larry had come back, they were all set to go. Though Doyle had protested, Bodie had put the jacket loosely around his shoulders and the blanket over his knees.

Larry was pretty excited about Ray's idea of drawing the roses and said: "I've just checked, these are the last roses in bloom for this season, but there are still a couple of nice ones that should be great for doing your painting."

"Excellent." Doyle was as thrilled as Larry.

When they approached the tool shed, Doyle told Bodie to stop.

"I'd like to have another walk." Doyle gave Bodie a questioning look.

"So, you've come to appreciate the splendour of a procession?" Bodie didn't object to Ray's wish, he had learnt his lesson to have faith in his partner.

"Yeah, as a matter of fact, it's nice to have an entourage."

"At least, you don't expect us to take a deep bow."

"Now, there's a thought, Bodie," Ray was stifling a laugh.

"Don't push it, sunshine." Bodie was busy getting ready for action. He relieved Doyle of the jacket and blanket and handed them to Larry, making a mental note to take heed next time Ray told him that he wasn't cold. No more mollycoddling.

This time, Doyle managed to follow all of Mrs. Masterson's words of wisdom. He waited until the world had stopped swaying after getting up, straightened up as much as he could and tried his best not to lean on his partner too much.

They made their way right up to the spot where the roses were growing. After Doyle had got his breath back, he took a close look at the roses. The leaves were of a dark green colour and the roses had a dark red colour. You could tell it was mid-October, the leaves had started to fall down and there were only a few roses still around. Some buds and some roses that had reached full bloom already. Doyle felt the desire to bend down to smell them, but he didn't feel steady enough to do it. He asked: "Larry, can I have one of those buds and one rose in full bloom? That would be perfect for the time lapse painting I have in mind."

"Of course, you can." Larry turned to get a pair of scissors from the shed.

Bodie realized that Doyle was leaning on him quite heavily now and said: "Well, we'd better get the artist back into the wheel-chair now."

Feeling quite spent, Doyle didn't object and was quite glad to be sitting again.

Larry returned to cut the roses according to Ray's instructions. "Look, there's one that's half in bloom, do you want that as well?"

Ray peered over, he hadn't seen that one before, but it was just perfect and so he said:"Well, yes, that's fantastic. Thank you so much!"

Larry handed him the roses and Doyle smelled them. They had a wonderful scent and he looked forward to having them in his room.

Suddenly, Doyle yawned hugely. Bodie noticed and said: "I think it's time for the artist to have an inspiring nap."

Ray felt rather tired, so he didn't rise up to that.

"I think he's got every right to feel tired, he has been quite busy this afternoon," Larry said and gave Doyle the thumbs up. Doyle gave him a smile in return.

"I agree," Bodie said. "So, let's put him to bed now. Bye, Larry."

"Yeah, bye, Larry and thanks for the roses." Doyle's voice sounded weary.

Larry asked: "Will I get to see the drawing?"

"Of course, you will," Doyle replied. "If I manage to do it justice."

"I don't have any doubts about that," Larry reassured him.

Bodie and Doyle made their way back to Ray's room. Feeling more tired by the minute, Doyle was rather silent.

Helping his exhausted partner into bed was a bit difficult for Bodie, but in the end, Doyle was tucked up safely in his bed. His eye-lids started drooping, so Bodie wasn't quite sure whether Doyle heard him when he told him that he would leave soon to pick up Joanna from work.

He left the room for a while to fetch a vase. Back in Ray's room, he filled the vase with water, put the roses in it and then carefully placed it on Ray's bedside table. He put Ray's trainers, his jacket and the blanket back in the cupboard, placed his sling on the bedside locker, and moved the wheel-chair back into the corner.

"Bodie." Ray called him and he turned around. All signs of sleepiness were momentarily missing from his partner's face when he said: "Thanks, mate." All reserves spent, Doyle's eyelids slid shut.
"You're welcome, Ray." Bodie waited until Ray's breathing was even, then he quietly left the room.

On his way to the lifts, he saw Lyn heading for the nurses' room and he walked faster to intercept her.

"Ah, Bodie! Congratulations for accomplishing the mission Ray's first walk in the park. I told you he'd make it."Registering Bodie's questioning look, she added: "I saw you from Ray's room. Well done." She gave Bodie a smile. "Oh, and I saved you from a bollocking by Mrs. Masterson, who came into Ray's room right after you had successfully completed your mission. She wanted to have a word with the most impatient patient she's ever had, but I stopped her."

"Phew! Thanks, Lyn. The Cow's bollockings are bad enough, I wouldn't want to enjoy Mrs. Masterson's wrath on top. Tell you what, we even completed two missions, Ray had another walk when we went to fetch some of Larry's special roses for the painting Ray intends to do. The second walk was even better than the first." Bodie was rather proud of Ray's determination and of himself for overcoming his fear.

Lyn gave a whistle. "Ray will never cease to amaze me!"

"Yeah, but now he's exhausted, he fell asleep right after being tucked up in bed."

"No wonder! I'll look on him in a minute." Lyn went to deposit the files she was carrying in the nurses' room and Bodie turned to leave. "Better get going. Bye, Lyn. See you tomorrow."

"Bye, Bodie."

Lyn made some entries into the files she had been carrying, put them into the filing cabinet and then went to check on Ray.

When she came into the room, he was sleeping peacefully and Lyn looked him over. A little smile curled his lips and for the first time ever since he had been rushed to the hospital, his cheeks were rosy-tinted. She reached to brush away an errant curl that was stuck too close to the left eye on Ray's slightly sweaty forehead. In order to establish whether the thin layer of sweat on Ray's forehead was caused by the exertion of walking or whether he was running a fever, Lyn gingerly placed her hand on his forehead. She smiled when he pulled a face in response and was glad to note that his temperature was normal and that he kept sleeping the sleep of the innocent.

Lyn slipped out of the room.

When she returned an hour later carrying a tray with pizza and orange juice, she found Ray awake. The little smile curling his lips had given way to an angry and frustrated look on his face. There was a sketchbook in his lap and Lyn had the feeling it was the culprit for Ray's bad mood as he kept staring at it.

"Ray, what's the matter?"

"I tried to do some sketches for the watercolour I plan to do of Larry's roses," he said while pointing to the vase on the bedside table, "and they turned out to be crap."

There was a look of desperation on his face and Lyn decided to try to find the root for it. She placed the tray on the bedside table and asked: "Why did they turn out to be crap? Does the pain in your shoulder prevent you from drawing well?"

Doyle shook his head.

"What if I raise the head of the bed a bit more so you're sitting up further?" The head of the bed was always raised quite a bit to ease Ray's breathing, but it wasn't exactly the perfect position for drawing.

Doyle shook his head again.

Lyn gave him a smile. "Maybe you need food. We're having pizza in the nurses' room and I thought you'd prefer that to the hospital tea."

"NO!" Ray's desperate shout made Lyn wince. She exhaled slowly and asked: "So, what is it, Ray?"

Feeling bad for taking out his frustrations on Lyn, Ray said: "Look, I'm sorry! It's just that the face of that girl who shot me keeps haunting me. Just like the flashbacks to the shooting. I mean, I sometimes feel the bullets hitting me and the pain is so real as if everything is happening again. These images come to my mind sometimes and when I try to draw, it interrupts the flow and I can't get the drawing right."

He looked utterly defeated and went on: "How am I supposed to go back to active duty when I can't even make a simple drawing without being haunted by the shooting? I mean, what if I screw up during an operation and somebody gets hurt?"

"Ray, these things take time. Your body needs time to heal and so does your soul. Take your time! Hmm, and maybe you want to talk to one of the psychologists from the hospital or from CI5."

"I was hoping I could do it without a shrink." Ray answered, though he was perfectly aware of the fact that he had to talk to Dr. Ross one day.

"There will be a way for you to cope with this, Ray. I'm pretty sure."

Doyle nodded, not entirely convinced. If only he could get that painting done, that would be a major step. He sighed deeply.

"Come on, Ray. You can't achieve everything in one day, you've made big progress today, you have to leave some achievements for tomorrow. Now, do you want that pizza or should I get some gruel for you?"

Doyle grinned. "No, pizza is just fine." He put the sketchbook on the bedside locker and started to eat.

"Hold on a second, I'll raise the head of the bed a bit more."

Lyn got Ray into a more comfortable position for eating, watched him for a while and then left, saying: "I'll be back in a while to get you ready for the night."

An hour later, Ray was sitting up in bed, wearing his pyjamas and a towel was wound around his head. Lyn had decided to put an end to the catlicks and had suggested that Doyle should have a shower for the first time after the shooting. Feeling a bit tired, he had thought about objecting at first, but in the end, he had gone along with Lyn.

That had been a wise decision as the warm water had had a soothing effect on his tense muscles and he had pretty much enjoyed the shower. Lyn had lent a hand when necessary. Washing his hair was a mission impossible for him, so Lyn had taken over, carefully entangling his mane.

Now she was unwinding the towel from his head. She had a look at him and said:"Now that's a different look, perfectly straight hair. Better dry it and bring back the curls."

She went to fetch the hair-dryer, plugged it in and hesitated. "How do I go about it? Do I need a brush or a comb?"

"Oh, no. You use your fingers only. It's a bit like kneading dough, you know."

Lyn chuckled. "All right, then I'm going to bake some curls. Are you ready?"

Doyle nodded and Lyn got to work. It took a while to dry the hair and bring back the perfect Doyle look.

"Well, I like it. Care to have a look?" Lyn was obviously pleased with the result of her work.

"Yes, please!"

Lyn took a small mirror from the bedside locker and let Ray have a look at his hairdo.

"Great, thank you, Lyn." He gave her a smile and she replied: "You're welcome, Ray."

After she had put the hair dryer and the mirror away, she poured a glass of water, handed it to Ray and said: "Time for the bedtime sweets."

She held out two pills and Ray obediently swallowed them.

Having a look at his file, Lyn asked: "How are you coping with the reduced dosage of the painkiller? Any problems?"

Ray shook his head and said: "No, I'm doing okay."

"You're sure you don't want a sleeping pill?"

Ray grinned. "One hundred per cent sure. Sleeping is pretty easy for me these days and I'm really tired now."

"I bet you are! I saw you walking in the park and Bodie told me all about it. Mrs. Masterson saw you as well and she didn't seem to be too happy about you being so impatient."

"Oh dear. Do you think she'll be angry with me tomorrow?" Ray sounded pretty worried.

"Hmm, I think she'll pretend to be angry, but I guess deep inside she's pleased as punch. She'd never admit it though." Lyn lowered the head of the bed a bit, adjusted Doyle's pillow and asked: "You're all right?"

"I'm fine! Thank you!"

"Good night, Ray. Kathy is on duty tonight, call her if you need anything. I'll see you again tomorrow afternoon."

"Nite, Lyn," Ray said and yawned.

It didn't take long till he was fast asleep.

Chapter 2

While waiting for Mrs. Masterson the next morning, Ray felt a bit nervous. What if she was really angry? When there was a knock on the door, he realized there was no more time to plot a strategy against her possible wrath, so he greeted her with a sheepish smile.

As it turned out, that was just the perfect strategy! Mrs. Masterson had indeed considered giving her impatient patient a bollocking, but when she came into Doyle's room and saw him sitting in his bed, doing a perfect impersonation of a poor sinner with that rueful, albeit slightly cheeky smile, she burst out laughing, then asked:"I take it that you are well aware of the fact that you deserve a bollocking?"

Ray's smile got bigger and cheekier as he nodded.

Mrs Masterson was standing close to his bed now, with her hands at her hips, trying to keep a stern expression as she said: "That's good to know! So, I can spare us the lecture I had prepared and get right to your new schedule for treatment. From now on, we'll do two sessions every day. One will focus on improving the flexibility in your upper body and the other one will focus on increasing your stamina. We'll go walking a lot, maybe put you on an exercise bike soon, but we'd better wait until Dr. Siegel has done that thorough check-up of your heart before we get into serious training. Do you know when he's planning to do that?"

"Yes, he's told me on his round that it's scheduled for tomorrow and he's just hooked me up to a 24 hours ECG." Doyle bit his lips, he was quite nervous about the outcome of that examination. Tomorrow he would know whether his heart was healing properly so far.

"Ah, come on, Ray. I don't think you need to be worried. Dr. Siegel is a brilliant cardiac surgeon, I'm sure he did a good job and you're recovering very well, there's a good reason to be optimistic."

"I hope so." Doyle's looked at her lost in thought.

"Well, things won't get better by sitting around being maudlin." Mrs. Masterson went to fetch the wheel-chair. "Come on, I'll take you to my torture chamber."

"Now, that sounds promising," Ray chuckled and prepared himself for getting out of bed.

Mrs. Masterson's torture chamber turned out to be a well-equipped cubicle in the department for physiotherapy, one floor below Ray's room. He thought that the term torture chapter was quite apt, as he felt like being put through the mill for the next thirty minutes when Mrs. Masterson tried to loosen the tense muscles and ligaments in his neck, back and shoulders. Yet when she helped him to sit on the edge of the bench with a little support, he felt like a butterfly who had just come out of its rigid cocoon. Sitting upright wasn't as difficult as it used to be and when Mrs. Masterson instructed him to take deep breaths, it hurt less than before.

Mrs. Masterson looked very pleased. "Let's try a little exercise. Put your hands on your hips, and slowly turn to your left as far as possible and then to your right." Her hands were still on Ray's back just in case he needed support. "Repeat that a couple of times and concentrate on staying upright." While he followed her instructions, Mrs. Masterson watched him closely and decided Ray was ready to carry on without support, so she removed her hands from Ray's back.

To Ray, the whole exercise was a bit painful at first, but the pain receded after a while and he was able to turn a little bit more with every repeat. He grinned boyishly. Macklin and Towser would have yet to wait for a while, but getting some mobility in his upper body back felt just great.

"Okay, that's enough for now. Well done!" Mrs Masterson gave him an appreciative smile and helped him to put his sweater back on.

They had parked the wheel-chair in the corridor and while walking towards it, Ray felt that walking was a bit easier now. "I feel a lot better," he told Mrs. Masterson after she had helped him sit down. She started pushing the wheel-chair along the corridor. When they reached the lifts, she asked: "Shall we take the lift or do you feel fit enough to walk up the stairs?"

It didn't come as a surprise to her when Ray informed her that he wanted to have a go at the stairs. They made their way to the staircase. Ray peered up and said: "Okay, let's go."
Step by step, they went up. It didn't take them long to reach the landing, where they paused for a while before tackling the rest of the stairs leading to the floor where Ray's room was located.
Once up , Ray was short of breath, but he felt like he had just conquered the Everest.

"Well done, Ray." Mrs. Masterson was as happy as her patient. When Ray's breathing was even again, she asked him: "Shall I get the wheel-chair or do you think you can walk to your room?"

The answer "I want to walk" didn't surprise Mrs. Masterson once again. On their way to Ray's room they met Mr. Cowley who had just stepped from the lift.

"Hello, Sir," Doyle said.

His boss gave him a swift searching look and said: "Good morning, Mrs. Masterson. Good morning, Doyle. I'm glad to see you out and about." He turned to Mrs. Masterson and asked: "Is he a good patient?"

"Well," Mrs. Masterson took some time to answer, "that depends on how you define the term good patient. If you consider somebody who's impatient and stubborn a good patient, Ray indeed fits the bill."

They went back to Ray's room, adjusting their pace to Ray's steps and Cowley said: "Yes, Bodie told me all about the little outing yesterday. That's typical for 4.5 and 3.7! Subordination isn't exactly one of their strong points."

"I've realized that, " Mrs. Masterson said with a knowing look.

Noticing the frown which had appeared on Doyle's face, Cowley hastened to add: "Oh, Bodie asked me to remind you that he'll stop by late this afternoon as he's tied up at that court hearing regarding the Cooper case. I've just had a meeting with the Minister at my club and so I took over the "Meals On Wheels" duty from Bodie and brought you lunch."

"Well, thank you, Sir. That's very kind of you." Ray was pretty impressed by the fact that his boss had brought lunch from his club.

When they reached Ray's room. Mrs. Masterson helped Ray to sit down at the table. "Enjoy your meal, I'll be back at half past two for a walk in the park."

"Good-bye, Sir." She gave Cowley a smile and walked out of the room.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Masterson."

"Sir, I'm a bit surprised your club offers take away food." Ray watched as Cowley unpacked a pot and a bowl.

"Well, usually they don't offer take away, but they said they'd make an exception for a recuperating agent."

"That's very kind and it's nice of you to do that for me. What's on the menu?"

"Evesham asparagus, fresh sea trout and potatoes. Mousse au chocolat for dessert. Bodie told me about your enormous appetite, so I got you two portions."

Doyle gave a surprised whistle. "That sounds very delicious."

"Ay, it's a very delicious meal, the Minister and I enjoyed it very much, but don't you get used to it, 4.5 ! You'll be back to active duty and sausage sandwiches at Nellie's caff in no time."

"I'll do my very best, Sir."

"I expect no less, 4.5 !"

Cowley's club had even packed china and cutlery and Cowley put the meal on a plate, poured a glass of water from the bottle standing on the table and placed everything in front of his agent.
"Enjoy your meal, 4.5 !"

"Thank you, Sir." Doyle tucked into the food with a vengeance.

His boss watched him for a while and exclaimed: "My god, Bodie was right, you turned into a right eating machine."

"Well, I'm sorry, Sir, but I am recuperating from almost fatal injuries and I lost some weight, so I don't think my eating habits qualify as a deadly sin."

Cowley chuckled silently, his agent had regained not only his appetite, but also his wit. He said: "I have to agree, Doyle."

When the last spoonful of mousse au chocolat had disappeared, Ray asked his boss: "Would you please get a nurse to help me into bed for a little nap? I want to be fit for the walk in the park later."

"Of course," Cowley said and left the room. He returned a while later with Lyn, who was very impressed with the first class lunch her patient had been treated to by his boss.

When Lyn helped Doyle into bed, she noticed that Doyle needed less support every day and she was glad about that. Yet he was still very fast at falling asleep, after saying "thank you for the food service, Sir," his eye-lids started drooping.

Cowley collected the things that had to be returned to his club, then left after having a look at his agent who was sleeping peacefully.

Mrs. Masterson came by a little later to return the wheel-chair she and Ray had abandoned to walk up the stairs. She had a distinctive feeling that Ray would get rid of it pretty soon.

Her impression strengthened when she took a walk in the park with Ray later in the afternoon. He had finished his nap right on time and had been waiting all set to go when she had arrived to collect him at half past two.

They were just about to make their way across the park with Larry and the wheel-chair as back-up. Larry brought Doyle and Mrs. Masterson into a bit of trouble, as remembering yesterday's conversation about Doyle appreciating an entourage, he took a deep bow when Ray got up to start his walk. That forced Doyle to fight against laughing out loud and it required some effort from Mrs. Masterson to keep him steady until he calmed down again.

Rolling her eyes, she told them to stop fooling around.

That turned out to be the only spanner in the works as everything went smoothly from that point on. Feeling stronger than yesterday, Doyle didn't need many breaks and so they managed to cover every corner of park in a relatively short time.

Having reached the small pond, Mrs. Masterson checked her watch. "Hmm, I'd say we rest here for a while and then we'll try to do the whole tour again. Any objections, Ray?"

"Course not," Doyle said with a mischievous smile.

"Larry, can I rely on your service as my assistant for while longer?" Mrs. Masterson gave the gardener an inquiring look.

"With you all the way," Larry took a small bow again.

"That's good to hear, lads. I wasn't prepared to accept any insubordination." Mrs. Masterson looked grim, but the corners of her mouth twitched slightly.

Ten minutes later, all systems were go and they embarked on lap number two. This time, Doyle needed two more breaks. When they had almost reached the pond again, he required quite a bit of support, so he didn't object when Mrs. Masterson told Larry: "No more skiving, you've got yourself a passenger now" and urged Doyle to sit down into the wheel-chair.

Having settled down comfortably, Doyle peered over to the pond and noticed with delight that he had failed to complete his second lap only by a small distance. Trying to estimate the exact distance, he spotted a man who was obviously looking for somebody. Suddenly, Ray said: "Hey, that's my mate Ken. Larry, please let's go over to meet him."

"Your wish is my command," Larry replied and followed said wish to the letter.

Upon finding Ray's room empty, Ken Henderson had inquired about Doyle's whereabouts in the nurses' room and had been directed to hospital park by Lyn. Shielding his eyes against the sun with his right hand, he tried to locate his mate, when he heard a voice behind him.

"Hi, Ken, it's so good to see you!"

He twisted around and returned Ray's smile. "Hello Ray. Your partner said you could use a little help with painting, so here I am."

A close look at Ray revealed that his face still showed signs of the suffering he had been through. It was a bit too haggard, making the damaged right cheek-bone more pronounced than usual and you could see that the pallor was only slowly giving way to a slightly tanned and rosy complexion. Yet the typical Doyle sparkle was in his mate's eyes and his smile was as mischievous as ever. The flushed cheeks told him that Doyle must have been walking and added to the impression Ken had of Doyle: A man who had been severely weakened by almost fatal injuries and who gave all he had to get back on his own two feet again as soon as possible. It was fascinating to look at his face and he decided that he would have to do a few sketches of Ray, trying to capture the essence of a man who had been close to dying and had come out of the battle for his life a stronger person.

Ray's voice interrupted his thoughts: "You couldn't have picked a better time, Ken. Meet Mrs. Masterson, my physio and Larry, part time assistant to her and also the gardener around here."

With a big grin on his face, Ken asked: "Does Ray keep you on your toes or vice versa?"

Mrs Masterson replied: "For the time being, I have to admit he's pretty much keeping me on my toes, but the tables are gradually turning and as soon as I get the green light from the doctors, I intend to find out exactly what stuff CI5 men are made of." You could tell from her smile which was full of curiosity that Mrs Masterson was obviously looking forward to that part of her job.

With a nod in Ray's direction, Ken said: "Well, this one's made of pretty hard stuff. I mean, he's already collected quite a number of battle scars. I remember one time he came to my flat for one of our painting sessions all bruised and battered. Turned out that he had been run over by a car. He should have been in bed as he had a concussion and some broken ribs, but feeling cooped up at home, he decided not to miss our painting session. For a while, I didn't know what to do, take him back home, make him lie down or call an ambulance, but Mr. Too - Stubborn - To - Concede - Defeat started painting. As soon as I had got used to his occasional groans and gasps of pain, we managed to get some rather good paintings done. So, you're in for some serious action, Mrs. Masterson."

"I'm surely looking forward to that," she replied. "Listen, my next patient is waiting, so I'd better get going. Can I leave Ray in your care, lads?"

Both Larry and Ken nodded.

"All right, see you tomorrow, Ray. Have a good time painting and please don't overdo it. Remember your shoulder is still healing."

Addressing Ken, Mrs. Masterson added: "Please keep an eye on him!"

"I'll make sure Ray follows your orders. That might require tying him to his bed, I'm afraid," Ken said and chuckled.

"You wouldn't dare," Ray said and shot him a warning look.

"Don't be so sure about that!"

Mrs. Masterson grinned. Turning to leave, she said: "I think you're going to have a lot of fun together!"

Ray, Larry and Ken stayed outside in the park for a while longer. Ray explained to Ken what kind of a painting he had in mind and they went to have a look at the rose plant together. Ken liked Ray's idea for the time lapse painting and when Larry had to leave because he had a doctor's appointment, Ken took Ray back to his room so they could get to work.

Entering his room, Doyle spotted a bag on the table close to the window and asked: "Ken, what's that? Did you bring me a pressie?"

"In fact, that's more like a present from my wife. Ann made some delicious apple cake in the morning. Do you want to have some now or shall we tackle the painting first?"

Doyle licked his lips, the idea of having some apple cake was very tempting, but he told Ken: "I think we'd better paint first. I made some sketches last night, but they didn't turn out to be good. You see, sometimes the flashbacks to the shooting and the image of the girl who shot me pop up in my mind and disrupt the flow when I'm painting. That's driving me mad."

"I see! Can I have a look at those sketches?"

"The sketchbook's on my bedside locker."

Ken went to fetch it and had a look at the sketches. A smile touched his face and he told Ray: "No need to be angry with yourself. They're not too bad, it's just you being a bit overly critical with your work, which is as typical for you as keeping your physio on her toes."

Frowning, Doyle replied: "You really think so?"

"I wouldn't lie about that, Ray. Now, let's see what can we do to fight against those flashbacks. We'll have to find some images you can visualize when they creep up on you to chase them away."

"Hmm, and what do you suggest?"

Ken had sat down on a chair opposite of Ray and his fingers were tapping restlessly on his thigh when he asked: "Am I right when I think that you want to give this painting to Larry?"

Taken aback, Ray replied: "Well, yes. He loves these roses so much and he takes them to his wife's grave whenever he visits it. I think he'd love a painting of the roses."

"Of course, he would. Okay, Ray, now close your eyes."

"Eh? What are you up to?"

"Just do as I say!"

Reluctantly, Doyle closed his eyes.

Ken told him: "Now, I want you to visualize Larry's reaction when you give him the painting. He gently removes the wrapping paper, he sees the painting, a broad smile appears on his face and his eyes light up. Can you see that, Ray?"

"Yes, I can. Hmm, and I can see that he'll probably want to give me a big bear hug and he'll have a hard time trying to stop himself."

Ken laughed. "Probably. Okay, now remember that image of Larry's smile and the happiness on his face. Keep it in your mind and in your heart and whenever a nasty flashback appears, you think of that image of Larry."

Opening his eyes, Ray said: "Well, it's worth a try, so let's give it a go."

"Then let's transform this hospital room into an artist's workshop," Ken said and got up. He had a look around the room and said: "I think it's best if we work close to the window, we can take advantage from the sunlight there. Just let me push the table a bit closer to the window and clear it."
When that was done, he asked: "I take it the drawing utensils are in the cupboard?"

Ray had hardly nodded in reply when Ken started to inspect the content of the cupboard, took out the easel and placed it on the left side of the table. Then he went back to the cupboard to look for the box with the watercolours and the laid paper with the rose petals.
Placing them on the table, he said: "I'm glad there's still somebody around who makes this kind of paper. It's absolutely beautiful." He was just about to put it on the easel when Ray stopped him by saying: "I want to do a trial run with ordinary paper first. It would be a shame to waste a piece of the laid paper in case I screw up."

Ken was more for getting straight to the point, but he gave in: "Okay, if you feel more comfortable like that."

A couple of minutes later, everything was ready to begin: The right paper was on the easel, Ken had fetched a glass of water for painting and had put the vase with the roses on the table.

"Right! Ray, shall I push your wheel-chair up to the easel for drawing or do you want to use a chair?"

"Chair, please, but you'll have to give me a hand and please take that sling off me."

No sooner said than done. Two minutes later, Ray dipped the brush into the water.

Ken settled down on a chair on the right side of Ray so he could have an eye on him and lend a hand if necessary. A couple of minutes later, Ray had mixed the right colours and a rose took shape on the paper. At that moment, Ken stopped him: "Time to use the laid paper, Ray." His mate had the hang of painting now and Ken remembered that Mrs. Masterson had told him to make sure Ray didn't overdo it, so there was no point in wasting time and energy with the ordinary paper.

Ray brushed an errant curl from his forehead and put a smudge with red colour on his forehead in the process.

Ken chuckled silently, replaced the ordinary paper with the laid paper and went to fetch fresh water.

Ray stared intently at the laid paper and the rose bud he wanted to paint first for a while and Ken grabbed the sketchbook he had placed on the table before to do a sketch of Ray.

Doyle applied layer after layer of colour and after a while, the painting of the rose bud was done. He turned to Ken and asked: "What do you think?"

In a hurry, Ken closed the sketchbook, put it back on the table, had a look at the painting and said: "Well done!"

"Ken, what are you doing with my sketchbook?" Ray gave his mate a wary look.

"Nothing, I was just having another look at your sketches." Ken tried to look all innocent. "Now go on, there are two more roses to paint, if I'm not mistaken."

"Yeah, yeah, I'll get to them. Don't push me!" With a frown, Doyle went back to painting the half-open rose.

When it was nearly finished, Ray's hitherto smooth and even brushstrokes suddenly became unsteady and then stopped altogether.

Ken sensed what was wrong and said: "Ray, don't let those images haunt you. Stay focused, think about Larry, conjure up the image of his smile when he sees the painting and chase the image of that bitch who shot you away. She didn't kill you, your will to live was too strong and she will not, I repeat, she will not ruin a perfectly good painting. Is that understood, Ray?"

Doyle looked at Ken for a while, all lost in thought. Ken was right, Mayli had failed to take his life away from him and it would be damn stupid to let her take over his life to an extent he would find a lot of things he cherished hard to do.
With a look of grim determination on his face, Ray resumed painting and managed to finish it. He turned to his mate and said: "There you go! What do you say, Ken?" Doyle gave his mate a smug smile.

Giving the painting a critical look, Ken said: "I say, excellent job, Ray. Do you want me to take it with me to have it framed? Hmm, and I guess a passe-partout would look good, what do you think?"

"Great idea. What do you reckon? Will Larry like the painting?"

Ken nodded and Doyle was startled when he heard Bodie's voice saying: "He'll be over the moon, Ray."

Doyle favoured his partner who had been standing behind him and now stepped forward to face him with an irate look and told him: "Bodie, if something bad comes up during the examination of my heart tomorrow, you're to blame as you almost gave me a heart-attack. Don't sneak up on me like that!" There was no mistaking the exasperated tone in his voice.

Shrugging off Doyle's irritation, Bodie replied with an indulgent smile: "Ray, I've been here for about 10 minutes. I walked into the room with a loud greeting, but you were too busy painting and totally lost to the world. Ken signalled to me to keep quiet and that's what I did."

"All right, but don't do that again." Doyle's anger gradually abated and he looked at Bodie questioningly. "So, you like what I've done?"

"It's brilliant, even more so considering that you're painting with a healing shoulder."

"Talking about my shoulder," Doyle grimaced. "It hurts a bit, so could somebody please help me put on the sling?"

"Now, that's a change, Ray. Usually you beg for a removal of the sling," Bodie said and carefully put Ray's arm into the sling. "I hope you didn't overdo it!"

"Don't think so, Ken pushed me to get the painting done as fast as possible. Without him, I'd still be busy with the first rose, so thanks a lot Ken."

"It was a pleasure, Ray. Now, who wants apple cake?"

"Apple cake?" Bodie perked up. "I'll go and fetch tea."

"Good idea," Ken said. After Bodie had left the room, Ken carefully placed the painting in a corner of the table and went to clean the used drawing utensils in the bathroom. When he returned, he handed a wet flannel to Doyle and said: "You put some paint on your forehead in the heat of the moment, better wipe that off."

"Oh, I didn't notice that," Ray replied and wiped his fore-head.

"As Bodie put it, you were lost to the world while painting and that's the way it should be. So never mind a smudge on your face, Ray."Ken took the flannel back to the bathroom and put the painting equipment back into the cupboard.

When Bodie returned with the tea, they ate all the cake Ken's wife had packed. Finishing his second piece, Doyle said: "I'm knackered now, I think I need a nap."

Bodie said: "Well, taking a nap is a habit you'll have to kick once you're back to chasing villains. I doubt they'd wait for you to finish your nap to arrest them."

Doyle glared at him: "Don't worry, I will. Now spare me the jokes and help me back to my bed!"

A couple of minutes later, Doyle was safely tucked up in bed.

Ken said: "Bye, Ray. I'll be back with the framed painting the day after tomorrow. Maybe we can do some more painting then as well?"

"I'd love to do that," Ray replied, then yawned hugely.

When Ray was fast asleep, Ken went to fetch the sketchbook and did a sketch of the peacefully sleeping Ray.

"What are you planning to do with that? A painting titled "Still Life Of A Sleeping Beauty"?" Bodie looked at Ken with raised eyebrows.

"Something like that." Ken gave him a wink and they quietly left the room together.

Chapter 3

When Lyn came to collect the breakfast tray the next morning, she noticed that Ray had eaten only a little. Pointing to the tray, she asked: "That's not like you these days, hardly touching your meal. What's the matter, Ray?"

Slowly exhaling, he answered: "I'm nervous about the result of the examination this morning. A technician has just collected the 24 hour ECG and took it to Dr. Siegel for analysing."

"Try not to worry too much, I think there's a good chance the result will be positive. I'd better have a snack ready for you when it's over, because I'm pretty sure you'll be hungry then."
She gave him an encouraging smile and said: "I'll be back to take you to the examination in a while. Try to relax."

Doyle thought that was a good advice, but found it very hard to follow. His nervousness increased by the minute and by the time he was lying on the examination table, he wished that somebody would knock him over the head so he could spend the examination in a state of blissful oblivion. Being convinced that both the technician, who was busy checking the medical equipment and Dr. Jamison, one of the cardiologists, would give him very strange looks or even put him in a straitjacket if he asked them for a bash over his head, he steeled himself to face whatever was to come wide awake.

Lyn, who had just helped him out of his sweater and had made him comfortable on the examination table, squeezed his hand and said: "Gosh, your hands are cold. Take a deep breath and I'll see if I can speed up Dr. Siegel."
Finding it hard to speak with a lump in his throat, Doyle just nodded.

After Lyn had left, he gingerly placed his right hand on the entry wound of the bullet that had hit his heart. The scar was pinkish, still quite sensitive and almost circular with a ragged surface. He could feel his heart beating hard and fast against his breast bone and slowly moved his hand a bit further to the left to touch the scar the surgeons had created when opening his chest to remove the bullets.

Looking at the scar now, it was hard to believe that this incision had enabled the surgeons to open his chest, spread his ribs wide enough to gain access to his heart and dig out the lead. All that was visible now was a thin straight line, pinkish in colour. The stitches had been taken out a week after the surgery, but there was still evidence of the suture sites. A row of dots ran along either side of the scar which was rather long. It ran all around his ribcage from front to back. The nurses had done a good job at applying lotions to enhance a proper healing of the wound and a couple of days ago, Mrs. Masterson had started to gently massage the area of the scar to keep it elastic. On the outside, he was healing pretty well, even his chest hair had started to grow back, so chances were indeed not too bad his heart was healing just as well. Finally, he was able to relax a little.

When Dr. Siegel entered a couple of minutes later with Doyle's file in his hands, he said: "Sorry to have kept you waiting. I know you're pretty nervous, but I had to make an urgent phone call."

He sat down on a chair close to the examination table. Smiling apologetically, he opened Doyle's file and explained: "Well, Dr. Jamison and I have just analysed your 24 hour ECG and we are pleased that everything looks very promising. Of course, your ECG results don't match the results we've received from your last physical check-up with the CI5 doctors, but there are no abnormalities which is a good sign."

Doyle felt the tension inside him ease a little, but when Dr. Siegel pressed his stethoscope to Doyle's chest and listened to his heartbeat for a while, he stated: "Your heartbeat is pretty regular as usual, but way too fast as you're so nervous. Let's get this over and done with, shall we?"

"The sooner, the better," Doyle answered with a smile.

"Here's what we'll do: We'll do an ECG and an echocardiography of your heart at the same time. This is the best way to determine whether your heart rhythm is okay and whether your heart is functioning properly." While Dr. Siegel was explaining the examination, the technician was attaching the electrodes for the ECG on Doyle's chest and after a while, the rhythm of Doyle's heart was visible on the screen.

Having studied the screen intently for a while, Dr. Siegel turned to Doyle with a reassuring smile on his face and stated: "No bad surprises here, everything's all right, that's a perfect sinus rhythm, no signs of an arrhythmia at all. You passed the first part of the test brilliantly!"

Doyle felt a bit dizzy with relief, so all he could respond when Dr. Siegel asked him whether he was ready for the next part of the examination, was a breathless "of course."

Dr. Siegel applied gel to the transducer and pressed it to Doyle's chest. While carefully moving the transducer around, he studied the screen of the ultrasound scanner. From time to time, he cast a glance at the screen of the ECG and exchanged a few words with Dr. Jamison.

To Doyle, the minutes seemed to stretch into hours. Finally, Dr. Siegel said: "Your heart is indeed healing pretty well. Your cardiac output is below average, which is perfectly normal under the circumstances, but it will increase and get back to normal in time. The most important thing is that your heart activity is pretty regular, all the chambers of the heart are expanding and contracting in perfect sync, your mitral valve is closing properly. To be honest, I was worried about the mitral valve healing properly as the bullet was lodged right behind it. Have a look!"

Doyle had been trying to make sense of the image he could see on the screen of the ultrasound scanner when he turned his head, but all he could see was a blurry image with different shades of black, grey and a bit of white. Now he concentrated on the area Dr. Siegel was pointing to. Squinting, he watched the screen for a while, then asked: "There's something that looks like a small lid opening and closing, that's the valve? Hmm, and that's where the bullet was located?"

"Yes, Ray. It wasn't easy to remove the bullet, it was lodged and your heart picked that moment to fibrillate and you had to be shocked. Twice! I really thought you weren't trying. Not something I'd like to do every day."

Looking grim, Doyle said: "I don't want to go through that ever again either, one time is more than enough."

While removing the gel from Doyle's chest with a tissue, Dr. Siegel said: "As I said, during the surgery, I thought you weren't trying, but now you're trying very hard to recover as fast as possible. I'm quite impressed. Mrs. Masterson asked me whether she can intensify your treatment and showed me her revised schedule for your therapy sessions. We'll do an exercise tolerance test now to find out if I can approve of her new schedule."

A couple of minutes later, Doyle was sitting on an exercise bike in the adjacent room, hooked up to an ECG monitor and a blood pressure cuff around his left arm. "Riding" along was quite easy at first, but got more strenuous during the course of the examination.

Dr. Jamison took Doyle's blood pressure from time to time while Dr. Siegel kept a close eye on the ECG screen.

Just as Doyle was about to feel he couldn't carry on, Dr. Siegel stopped him by saying: "That's enough, you don't have to do an entire Tour de France in one day."He waited till Doyle had got his breath back before going on: "Everything looks pretty well and I'll go and tell Mrs. Masterson that she can work you as hard as she pleases from now on."

"That's great to hear, doctor," Doyle said with a smile on his face.

"Let's wait and see if you'll still say that in a week's time." Dr. Siegel couldn't help grinning. He helped Doyle off the exercise bike and put his sweater back on. "Come on, I'll take you back to your room."

In the corridor, they met Lyn and both were under the impression that she had been pacing up and down the corridor for a while. She asked:"I've got you some chocolate cake from the cafeteria, do you want it, Ray?"

"Yes, please," he answered and Lyn gave him a big smile, knowing that he was all right.

"I'll take care of Ray now, Dr. Siegel. You'd better go and see Mrs. Masterson who's waiting in your office." Lyn steered Doyle back to his room and Dr. Siegel turned to head for his office to tell Mrs. Masterson the good news.

"Wait a second, Dr. Siegel!" Doyle's call stopped him and he turned his attention back to his patient, who said: "Thank you for doing such a great job on me."

"You're more than welcome, nothing's more gratifying for a doctor than a patient on the mend." With a wink, he turned to leave.

Lyn took Doyle back to his room, helped him to settle down at the table and went to fetch the cake.

After a while, she returned with a big smile on her face, carrying a huge slice of chocolate cake that was decorated with a candle normally used for birthday cakes and with a cup of tea.
She said with a twinkle in her eyes: "I think it's sort of a birthday for you today, so I added the candle. Make a wish and blow it out."

That was an order Doyle was more than happy to carry out. When he was done, he gave Lyn a bright smile and she removed the candle from the cake.

A voice from the door said: "Hey, a party with chocolate cake and I didn't get an invitation. That's outrageous!"

Frowning, Doyle answered: "Why doesn't it surprise me at all that the smell of chocolate cake got you here, Bodie? Your food radar seems to be working all the time, but don't get your hopes up high, I'm not sharing the cake with you. I've just gone through a strenuous examination and I'm starving." He gave his partner who had come into the room a cheeky grin.

Bodie demonstrated his deduction skills: "I'm under the impression that the result of said examination is positive, is that right, Doyle?"

His partner nodded and had another piece of cake before answering: "My heart's healing pretty well, thank you for asking. It seems you won't have to break in a new partner after all."

Bodie would have loved to give his half wit of a partner a big pat on the back, but as that wasn't a good idea, he just said: "Well, that would have been a challenge for me, but I think under the circumstances, I'd better take you back."

"Thank you so much, Bodie," Doyle replied with a broad grin.

It was raining in the afternoon when Mrs. Masterson came to pick up Ray for his appointment, so she suggested getting started with working out on the exercise bike. As expected, her patient didn't raise any objections.

Thinking that it was time to make less use of the wheel-chair, she asked: "Do you think we can leave the wheel-chair in your room? I'm pretty sure you can make it down to my torture chamber under your own steam. That should be a piece of cake, even if we take the stairs. What do you think?"

You didn't need psychic powers to predict Doyle's reply. With a wicked grin on his face, he said: "I don't like the bloody thing anyway, so let's leave it behind!"

"Off we go," Mrs. Masterson said and got Doyle up and moving.

Five minutes later, they had made it downstairs without any problem and Doyle was sitting on the exercise bike, all eager to get going.

Mrs. Masterson consulted Doyle's chart briefly and said: "Let's begin like this: You try to do three miles at a speed of about ten miles per hour. Considering your results from the exercise tolerance test this morning, that should be a realistic goal for your first training session. What do you reckon?"

Doyle snorted dismissively and said: "Macklin and Towser would burst into a laughing fit were they here now. I mean, it's going to take ages to regain my fighting fitness like this! I was hoping I could make progress a lot faster now that we know my heart's healing properly." Doyle was thoroughly disappointed.

There was a stern look on Mrs. Masterson's face when she said: "So, you think we should throw caution to the wind? You believe that's the fastest way to get out of here and back to active duty? Well, you'd better think again! That might just be a very fast way back to the intensive care ward. Believe me, I have a lot of experience with rehab after heart surgery and you should have faith in me."

Doyle, who had been on the verge of interrupting her, thought better of it. He pondered what Mrs. Masterson had just said. After a while, he stated: "Well, I see your point, but I'm no stranger to injury and most of the times, I was able to recover faster than the doctors had predicted. Maybe you should have a little faith in me to recover faster than an ordinary patient. "

Mrs. Masterson's stern expression gave way to a smile. "I have no doubt about your determination and you are indeed making progress a lot faster than all the patients I've had so far. Yet there's fine line between determination and pushing it and you have a tendency to come close to stepping across it. So, please, be sensible! Hmm, and will you get moving now? Arguing won't get you out of here, you know. Let's see whether you can complete your first training session successfully."

There was no answer to that but to commence with the task he had been given.

From time to time, Mrs. Masterson checked his heart rate and she was very pleased that it didn't exceed the maximum heart rate Dr. Siegel had set for the first training sessions.

Doyle had to acknowledge that Mrs. Masterson had indeed chosen a reasonable goal for him. When he was done, he felt exhausted, but not totally drained. With a bit of an effort, he might have been able to go another mile, but Mrs. Masterson was right about not pushing it. She gave him a smile and said: "Well done. This is a result we can build upon."

Doyle returned the smile, then asked with a questioning look on his face: "Maybe we can do one more mile tomorrow?"

"You think that every miles brings you closer to getting out of here, don't you, Ray? All right, let's see whether we can extend the line a bit tomorrow."

Chapter 4

The next morning Ray did get one mile closer to his discharge from hospital and he was very pleased.

In the afternoon, the weather permitted having a walk in the park again and Mrs. Masterson suggested leaving the wheel-chair next to the bench from which they embarked on their round. Thus Larry's job as an assistant changed. Should Ray need the wheel-chair, Larry was supposed to get it as fast as possible. He was a bit doubtful and said: "I'm not a sprinter, you know. I hope I can make it in time if my help is needed."

"Don't worry, Larry," Doyle reassured him. " I don't intend to make you run. Let's go!"

Doyle managed to keep his word, they used the benches in the park when he needed a break and though Larry had mentally prepared himself for breaking the 100 metres world record, he didn't have to have a go at that task.

When they returned to their starting point after doing two rounds through the park, they found Ken waiting for them on the bench. He greeted them with a grin and said: "I didn't bother to look for you in your room today, I thought you might be outside."

"Yeah, this way I can work on my fitness and my tan at the same time, I've got no time to waste," Doyle answered after Mrs. Masterson had eased him down onto the bench next to Ken.

"Well, it seems both your fitness and your tan are coming along nicely." Addressing Mrs. Masterson, Ken added: "I told you this one's made of pretty hard stuff."

She laughed. "Well, two of his kind at a time and I'd ask for an early retirement. By the way, how did the painting session go?"

"That's what I want to know as well," Larry said. "Did you manage to get the painting of my roses done? Can I see it?" He was getting very excited.

Very slowly, savouring the moment, Ken pulled out two rectangular parcels out of a bag lying next to him on the bench. One was wrapped in blue and the other was wrapped in red paper.

Doyle gave his mate an inquiring look. One parcel should contain the rose painting for Larry, but what about the other?

Handing Ray the parcel wrapped in red paper, Ken said: "That's the rose painting which is looking for a good home where it will be loved and adored."

Doyle held out the parcel to Larry and said: "Will you give it a good home, Larry? I hope you'll like the painting enough to do so!"

Larry flopped down on the bench and took the parcel from Ray's hands. After wiping his hands on his trousers, he very carefully removed the wrapping paper and had a look at the painting. It was beautiful! A fantastic time-lapse painting of a rose coming into full bloom. The laid paper with rose petals was a perfect choice of paper and the passe-partout had a colour that matched the rose. Ken had chosen a frame of a light brown colour.

Doyle was watching Larry with a mixture of anxiety and excitement and he was very relieved when a smile that was even brighter than the one he had imagined when doing the painting lit up Larry's face.

When Larry handed t

he painting to Ken, Doyle thought that the big, strong man would give him a rib-crushing hug and thought of stopping him. Before he could do so, Larry gave him a short and very gentle hug.

Doyle looked at him with wide eyes and said: "I guess that means you like the painting, Larry."

"Like it? I love it!" There was a beaming smile on Larry's face. "Thank you so much, Ray."

"You're very welcome." Doyle was very happy that Larry liked the painting he had done and let out a sigh of relief.

Mrs. Masterson had a good look at the painting and stated: "Determined and talented, you really are a remarkable patient, Ray."

Ken smiled knowingly and said: "You can say that again! I think the remarkable patient deserves a present as well." He handed the parcel wrapped in blue paper to Ray.

Doyle was about as curious and excited as Larry when he removed the wrapping paper. Three pairs of eyes were watching him closely and he felt a bit uncomfortable. The parcel contained a painting as well and showed the artist responsible for the rose painting both at work and while taking a well-deserved nap after all the hard work.

"Ken, you stupid sod," Doyle said, unconvincingly trying to sound angry. "You did do sketches of me yesterday while I was busy painting and you didn't even refrain from making sketches of me when I was sleeping. That's not nice, taking advantage of a man who can't defend himself."

Ken grinned. "I knew I couldn't fool you, but I had no choice. I've always wanted to do a painting of you, but as you're usually such a lousy model, I just had to take advantage of the opportunity that came up yesterday."Ken was obviously very satisfied with the way he finally carried out his plan of doing a painting of his mate.

Now it was Larry's and Mrs. Masterson's turn to admire Ken's painting.

Mrs. Masterson observed: "That's brilliant, Ken. You managed to capture Ray's concentration and determination so well. That's about the same expression which is on his face when we're working together."

Larry added: "Yes, and that little half smile curling his lips when he's asleep is so typical for him when he's achieved something. Well done, Ken!"

"Yeah, I agree, Ken. Thank you so much," Doyle said and gave his mate a broad grin.

Ken asked: "So, these two painting have both found a nice new home?"

Both Larry and Doyle nodded vigorously.

Chapter 5

In the course of the following days, Ray continued to make good progress. The distance he made on the exercise bike increased on a daily basis. All the meals Bodie kept bringing into the hospital started to make themselves felt on the scale. Being a witness to the weighing procedure that showed a significant weight gain for Doyle, Bodie commented: "It's high time you put on some weight. I was just about to wonder whether your stomach was a bottomless pit. I mean, you've been stuffing yourself like a hamster and your carcass has remained pretty skinny until now. I'm glad all the time I've spent running a Meal on Wheels service has finally paid off!"

Doyle gave him a searching look and stated: "Hmm, and it would have been even better if you had lost some weight along the way. Once I'm out of here and back to active duty, you'll have trouble keeping up with me."

"Ah, now I get it. You mean to tell me that you've kept nicking food from me in order to keep me in good shape for your return to active duty. That's another way of distracting attention away from the fact that you've turned into a glutton."

Lyn put an end to their bickering by stating that Ray would have to keep up his gluttonous eating habits for a while longer as he was still six pounds away from his normal weight.

Walking became a lot easier for Ray as well. The wheel-chair was rarely in use and one day, Mrs. Masterson ran her finger along the seat and observed: "A lot of dust has collected here. I think I'd better take this wheel-chair back to the depot. You don't need it anymore, so it's just a waste of space here in your room."
"I couldn't agree more," was Doyle's reply.

When walking, Doyle now had enough breath to tell Mrs. Masterson stories about the various cases he and Bodie had worked on.

One day, about three weeks after he had made his first steps, he was well wrapped up in conveying the story about him and Bodie escorting a Mr. X to two meetings in London.

Mrs. Masterson picked that moment to decide that Ray was able to walk unaided from now on. She took her hands off him and noticed with content that he kept walking uninterruptedly. Smiling to herself, she walked alongside her patient, listening to his story.

"Somebody must have tipped off the opposition about our visitor, because suddenly what was supposed to be an easy mission, turned into a nightmare."

Wanting to let Doyle know that he was walking unaided now, she cleared her throat noisily. That failed to get Ray's attention and he kept rattling on.

"There was a big shoot-out and we had to abandon one of our cars."

"Ray!" The name was said in a loud voice.

No response.

"Later on we split up. Bodie and Charlie acted as a decoy while I took Mr. X and Tinkerbell to the second meeting."

Mrs. Masterson felt a bit desperate and that was something that didn't happen to her a lot in her professional life.

"Mr. Doyle!" The name was said even louder this time, but there was no response again.

"But the thugs found us and we hardly managed to get to the roof of the building. Poor Tinkerbell was shot."

Running her fingers through her hair, Mrs. Masterson thought hard of other ways to get Doyle's attention. "Didn't they have call signs at CI5? What was Ray's call sign again? 4. 7? No! 4.5? Yes, that was it."

"4.5!" Mrs. Masterson almost yelled.

"Fortunately, Bodie located us on time, requisitioned a boat and we got everybody on board. I was the last one to get to the boat and I had to make a jump to reach it."

Mrs. Masterson let out a sigh of utter resignation and stood still, wondering how long it would take Ray to notice that she was no longer at his side.

"I had to jump quite a distance, but I made it to safety. Yet we were still far from being out of harm's way."

Ray suddenly realized that Mrs. Masterson hadn't commented on his story as usual or hadn't asked questions and stopped to ask her whether he was boring her.

When he turned to address her, he noticed that she wasn't by his side. With a puzzled expression on his face, he twisted around to find her standing about 20 yards behind him.
Mrs. Masterson couldn't stop herself from laughing about the look on his face. While walking over to Doyle, she fought hard to regain her composure.

Confused, Doyle asked: "What's so funny? I mean, that was a very hairy situation."

"Yeah, telling me about it had all your attention and you didn't even realize that you were walking unaided. I tried to tell you about it, but you just didn't respond."

Finally, the penny dropped and a delighted smile passed Ray's face.

"That's bloody marvellous, isn't it?" Doyle's eyes gleamed and his cheeks were flushed with excitement.

"It sure is, Ray. I guess we can discuss your discharge now."

Chapter 6

Two days later, Bodie entered CI5 HQ in high spirits. He was supposed to pick up his boss that morning to go to the hospital to discuss the details concerning Doyle's discharge. All being well, Dr. Siegel planned to discharge Doyle from the hospital early next week.

In the corridor leading to Cowley's office, he passed a pretty girl from the typing pool and noticed with satisfaction that she blushed in response to his admiring smile. The day just kept getting better and better. There was a grin on Bodie's face when he knocked on Cowley's door and he entered the office at the brisk command to come in. His boss was on the phone and Bodie overheard the conversation in progress.

"Yes, the date for his discharge is set for early next week. Tuesday, I guess."

"You can say that again. He can't wait to leave the hospital... Bill, thank you so much for arranging that."

"I'll go over to the hospital in a minute and break the good news to him. See you at the club tomorrow, Bill."

Cowley put down the receiver and said: "Good morning, 3.7! Right on time, so let's not keep 4.5 waiting." While getting up, he shoved his reading glasses into the breast pocket of his jacket, then walked to the door. When he reached Bodie, he caught the inquiring look on his agent's face.

"What was that all about, Sir? You were talking about Doyle, right?"

"Aye, I was talking to Brigadier Tennant. He pulled a few strings to enable 4.5 to continue his recovery in a renowned military convalescent home close to London. Normally, only high-ranking personnel of the military can get admitted there, but as I want to make sure Doyle is in good hands, I asked Bill to return the favour he owes me."

The CI5 controller looked very pleased. He had reached the door and now placed a hand at the door handle. Bodie was standing behind his boss now, so Cowley didn't notice that 3.7 had grown at least two shades paler, the good mood he had been in vanishing in thin air. Unless there was a good deal of the docility left which Doyle had shown throughout the early stages of his recovery, he could see no way that Doyle would go along with that plan. Silently, he hoped that Doyle would fervently object to Cowley's arrangement, though that should make for an interesting discussion ahead.

Cowley was already in the corridor when Bodie was still standing musing at the office door and said sharply: "Get moving, 3.7 ! I can't wait to break the news to 4.5 !"

When Bodie had reached his boss and was walking alongside him, Bodie said: "Sir, I know that you mean well and that it took some effort to make that arrangement, but I don't think Doyle will be happy about going to a military convalescent home. You know that he's not that good at following orders and subjecting himself to military discipline would be very hard for him under the circumstances. I mean, he wants to go home."

Cowley wasn't amused. "I wonder how that idea got into his head! He can't go home, he still needs physiotherapy and medical supervision. Believe me, this convalescent home is the best option for him."

Not being intimated by the stern look Cowley gave him, Bodie said: "I'm sorry, Sir, but I have severe doubts about that."

"Well, we'll let Dr. Siegel decide about that." The CI5 controller didn't want to argue further and Bodie left it at that. He had warned his boss, that was all he could do. Emitting a resigned sigh, Bodie prepared himself for what was to come. If Doyle had regained his temper, a very heated discussion was ahead.

About half an hour later, there was a small conference going on in Dr. Siegel's office which was quite crowded. Bodie was leaning against a window sill as he thought that was the best place from which to watch what was going on. His partner was sat next to him on a chair facing Dr. Siegel's desk with Cowley and Mrs. Masterson on his other side.

Dr. Siegel looked up from Doyle's chart which he had been studying for a while, trying to maintain his professional attitude by suppressing the urge to laugh caused by the fact that everybody in the room looked at him with wide, expectant eyes. He felt a bit like a magician about to pull a rabbit out of a top hat. Slowly, he closed Doyle's chart, removed his reading glasses, placed them on the desk and said: "Yesterday's ultrasound and ECG turned out to be fine and the 24 hour ECG which ran till this morning had no bad surprise in store. The lab has just come up with the results for your blood work and they're are all normal, so if you manage to stay out of trouble, you can leave the hospital next Tuesday, Ray."

With the rabbit being out of the top hat, Dr. Siegel noticed with relief that the attention shifted to Doyle, who released the breath he had been holding before exclaiming: "Bloody hell, it's about time. I was just about to wonder whether I'd be stuck in here forever."

Finally, the tension in the room eased and everybody apart from Doyle began to laugh.

With a scowl on his face, the soon to be discharged patient asked: "What's so funny? I mean, the last weeks have tried my patience to the max and I can't wait to get out of here."

Regaining his composure, Dr. Siegel said: "We all are well aware of that and we know that you would have liked to be out of here weeks ago. I hate to repeat myself, but you must bear in mind that you were very seriously injured, not to mention the complications after the surgery. All things considered, you recovered remarkably fast."

The scowl on Doyle's face vanished and gave way to a smile. With a cheeky grin, Doyle asked: "I was pretty impatient, wasn't I?"

"A bit," was Mrs. Masterson reply and everybody had to laugh about that understatement. Doyle joined in this time, laughing still hurt, but the pain was bearable now.

When the laughter had ended, Dr. Siegel said: "Your boss has news about how you'll continue your convalescence after your discharge, Ray."

Bodie instinctively straightened up, his eyes fixed on his partner who looked at the CI5 controller with a stunned expression on his face.

Cowley cleared his throat and explained to Doyle: "Brigadier Tennant made arrangements for you to be admitted to a military convalescent home." As he was still convinced this was a good idea, he was taken aback by Doyle's reaction to his words.

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," Doyle exclaimed and jumped to his feet. The sudden movement made him sway slightly and the pain in his chest was acute. Bodie leapt over to steady him, but his hands were batted away and Doyle told him with an infuriated tone of voice: "Back off, Bodie. I'm not an invalid and I most certainly don't need a military convalescent home to get better."

Bodie moved back with a smug grin on his face and thought: "Welcome back hot-headed Doyle!"

It took a few seconds for Doyle to fully regain his balance and control the pain in his chest. Then he spoke to his boss: "Sir, I appreciate your effort, but with all due respect, I don't want to go to a military convalescent home. I mean, more often than not, Bodie's stories from his days as a member of the military bore me to death. I really don't think I'll fit in there."

Not intending to give up so easily, Cowley tried to reason with Doyle: "4.5 this is an excellent facility, it will do you a lot of good."

Bodie and Mrs. Masterson exchanged a look that said: "Oh, watch out, Mr. Cowley." It was obvious that Doyle was struggling hard to keep the lid on his temper and that an eruption of Mount Vesuvius was more than likely. Yet everybody present jumped in their seats when Doyle slammed down his fist on Dr. Siegel's desk and shouted: "No, it won't. I want to go home." He was breathing fast now, his face set in a grim and determined expression and he was swaying precariously.

Cowley wouldn't last long as a CI5 controller if an outburst of temper from one of his agents made him loose his cool and so he said in a calm voice: "Sit down before you fall down, Doyle."

Doyle breathed deeply for a while, then sat down and asked Dr. Siegel: "Is there no way I can go home? I don't want to exchange this hospital for another hospital, I'm well fed up with hospitals."

Dr. Siegel was not surprised about Doyle's disgruntlement and said: "Well, I guess you can go home. As a matter of fact, I expected that you would object to going to a military convalescent home and so Mrs. Masterson and I made some arrangements as well. You need medical supervision for sure, so a community nurse will visit you every morning and evening. We will do a check-up once every week here at the hospital. I'm sure you will get help with shopping, running errands and house work from your friends."

Dr. Siegel looked at Bodie who nodded his approval.

Dr. Siegel went on: "As for the physiotherapy you need, Mrs. Masterson has taken care of that."

"Now, that sounds a lot better." Doyle was starting to relax and turned his attention to Mrs. Masterson who took a few moments to answer: "A good friend of mine runs a practice for physiotherapy not too far from where you live. She agreed to make house-calls and we'll have an exercise bicycle delivered to your flat. But there's one thing you'll have to promise, otherwise we'll bundle you off to that military convalescent home, even if we have to sedate you in order to do it."

"I'll do anything to get out of here, so what do you want me to promise?" Doyle was very curious.

Dr. Siegel said: "You'll have to promise to stick to all the orders the community nurse and your new physiotherapist give you, that means, not pushing yourself over the limit. Oh, and you will say if anything is wrong, if you're running a fever or if you're feeling unwell. There's no sense in playing tough guy in that matter! Is that understood, Ray?"

"Yes, no objections to that." There was a wide grin on Doyle's face. His eyes met Bodie's and his partner mouthed "well done" to him.

Cowley finally had to concede defeat: "Well, if that's what you want, Doyle, I'll have to ring Brigadier Tennant to tell him to cancel all the arrangements he made. When I meet him for lunch tomorrow, I'll have a hard time explaining to him why my agents are so insubordinate." A smile passed his face when he added: "I'm kind of looking forward to that. Oh, and 4.5, you'd better make sure you stick to the promise you've just made. If you break it, I won't to ask the Brigadier for help again and you'll have to go to the first convalescent home willing to accept a stubborn agent, even if it's a lousy one. Make no mistake about that."

"No, Sir, I won't."

Chapter 7

Tuesday morning, Ray Doyle was sitting on the edge of his hospital bed, waiting for Bodie to pick him up. There was only a small bag to take home with him that day as Bodie had taken almost all of his things back to his flat the evening before. Taking all the drawing utensils and paintings back had required a second trip and Bodie had asked whether Doyle intended to open an art gallery with all the paintings he had done during his convalescence.

Doyle had replied: "This might be a good idea. Maybe I can exhibit some of my paintings in Ken's shop, sort of a small exhibition called art by a recuperating agent and see how that goes. Maybe that's a big hit and I become famous."

Rolling his eyes, Bodie had replied: "Keep your delusions, my son."

Doyle hoped that Bodie hadn't slept in again as he was more than eager to go home. The final days of his stay in hospital had seemed to last an eternity though they had had their funny moments, like the ceremonial burial of the hated sling in a waste-bin.

Just as he was about to ring Bodie up to wake the lazy sod, his partner walked into the room, gave Doyle a wide grin and asked: "Ready to get out of this place?"

"More than ready!" Doyle got up from the bed.

"Said all your good-byes?"

"Yes, but I'll be seeing most of the people here again soon as Dr. Siegel wants me to come for a check-up on Friday. That's pushing it a bit, isn't it? I mean, he said a check-up once a week and I had one yesterday, so that should be enough, shouldn't it?"

"Listen, Doyle, I have three words for you in response to that ... military ... ...convalescent...home! What's a check-up compared to spending time with Brigadier Tennant's mob? A piece of cake, so stop complaining!"

"Always look on the bright side, all right, point taken."

Bodie smirked. "Now that's the spirit!"

"Larry told me he'd come over to my flat tomorrow to have a look at the garden on my terrace. I think it'll be in a pitiful state and he promised me to fix it. Oh, and Lyn acted a bit weird when I went to the nurses' room to say good-bye. She was busy collecting money from the other nurses around, then she gave me a hug and a kiss and thanked me for helping her win a bet. I asked for an explanation, but she just gave me a wink."

The quizzical look on his partner's face made Bodie laugh and he decided to tell him about the bet concerning the date for his discharge.

After Bodie had told him the full story, Doyle gave a whistle. "Now that's professional ethics for you! Is that legal, Bodie? I think I should interrogate her further concerning this matter ... over dinner!"

"Well, then you'd better ask her if she does house-calls, mate!"

Lyn had a perfect sense of timing as she chose that moment to enter the room with the wheel-chair for the standard discharge procedure.

Doyle frowned and stated determinedly: "I can walk!"

Bodie raised an eye-brow and said: "Three words, Ray!"

Doyle sat down in the wheel-chair in an instant and Lyn said: "That's a good lad." Gesturing to Bodie to hold the door open for her, she started to push the wheel-chair out of the room.

Walking along the corridor, Bodie had a flash-back to the day he had been following the trolley with Doyle's supine body on the way to surgery. The moment he had had to stay back at the door leading to the operating theatre had made him choke. The feeling of sheer helplessness when he had had to trust his partner's life to men skilled in surgery was still very much alive in his mind.

Doyle's mind was focused on the present and he interrupted Bodie's thoughts by asking: "Did you get everything on the shopping list I gave you yesterday? I hope my supplies are well stocked up."

Bodie sent a look heavenwards: " Yes, I did. I told you to have faith in my shopping abilities, sunshine."

"All right, all right, just checking."

Bodie addressed Lyn: "I think you should keep him in for a bit longer. I can see he won't be an easier patient to handle outside the hospital than inside the hospital."

"No way. We're not going to keep him any longer. I don't want to pay back the money I've just won, but you can call me anytime you need me, Ray. I do make house calls." She gave Ray a very charming smile.

"I will," Doyle replied with a cocky grin.

They had reached the exit and just as Doyle was about to get up from the wheel-chair, Lyn and Bodie got hold of him and carried him to the Capri parked at the kerb.

"What are you doing?" That was all Doyle could say before the not exactly smooth transfer made him wince and a moan escaped his lips. He was glad when he was standing on his feet again and after hugging Lyn, he had to cling to the roof of the Capri for support.

Bodie asked: "Are you all right?"

Doyle reassured him that he was fine and carefully got into the passenger seat while Bodie hugged Lyn and said good-bye to her.

Bodie got into the car, inserted the key into the ignition and asked: "Home, Sir?"

Doyle laughed and answered: "Home, James!"

Bodie rubbed his hands in child-like glee, started the engine, put his hands on the steering wheel, his foot down and the Capri pulled away from the kerb with screeching tyres.

Driving along Kensington High Street, Bodie felt a bit worried about his partner sitting in the passenger seat. Ever since they had left the hospital grounds, the two of them had been engaged in spirited banter. Doyle, obviously invigorated by being so close to home, had been very quick with his repartees at first. Strangely enough, the closer they got to Doyle's flat, the slower and more monosyllabic Doyle became at countering Bodie's ribbing until he fell utterly silent.

Deciding that it was time to find out what caused this change of mood, Bodie took his eyes off the road for a brief moment to cast a glance at Doyle. He seemed to be miles away. There was a tense expression on Ray's face, he bit his lower lip occasionally and he hung onto the grab handle of the Capri for dear life. Bodie thought the latter wasn't really necessary. Though he had pulled away from the kerb in front of the hospital with screeching tyres, he had very rapidly switched to a far more careful style of driving, quite rightly deducing that Doyle wouldn't appreciate being bashed about in the car.

With a frown, Bodie directed his attention to the road again, made a left turn into Melbury Road and said: "Nearly home, Ray!"

That shook Doyle out of his reverie and he looked out of the side window to take in the surroundings. He had driven along this road many times before and yet the area seemed strangely unfamiliar to him. The last time he had steered his Capri down that road, the trees had shown their autumn colours and many leaves had still been on the trees. Now the trees were almost leafless. The last time he had taken this road, he had expected to return to his flat to enjoy some spare time, but he had ended up in hospital fighting for his life. Now he returned to continue his convalescence after defying death. While he had been regaining his strength and returning more and more to the land of the living, Mother Nature had begun to stagnate in order to prepare for the upcoming winter. Witnessing the transformations in his neighbourhood brought about by the change of season made him acutely aware of how long the road that lay behind him actually was and that the road still ahead would probably prove to be as long.

Bodie pulled the Capri into Oakwood Court and parked it expertly right across the entrance door to Doyle's block of flats. With a dutiful smile, he turned to Doyle and said: "Here we are, Sir. Perfect door to door service! Thank you for choosing Bodie's cab and I hope to be in your service again soon."

Much to his relief, Doyle responded with a smile to this quip. Even though the smile was only faint, Bodie liked it a lot better than the tight expression on Ray's face. When his partner made no move to get out of the car, Bodie asked softly: "What's eating you, Ray? I mean, you were so eager to go home, you should jump for joy right now. Okay, jumping's still out of your league, but I don't understand why you give the impression of somebody being led like a lamb to the slaughter."

Doyle heaved a sigh. A strange mixture of emotions had taken hold of him and he didn't exactly know how to explain them to his partner. It was hard enough for him to grasp these emotions, putting them into words seemed beyond him at the moment and so he just said: " Nothing", hoping that Bodie would leave it at that.

Bodie's reaction to his scant answer made Doyle flinch. His partner gave a loud snort of incredulity and said: "Nothing! Ray, I simply don't believe that. Have you changed your mind? Do you want to go to that military convalescent home after all? I'm sure the Cow could fix it up. Of course, you'd never be able to live down changing your mind!"

"No, I don't want to go to that military convalescent home, don't be silly, Bodie." Doyle shot his partner a fierce look.

Mentally crossing one item of his list of possible culprits for Doyle's strange behaviour, Bodie went on to item number two on his list: "Maybe returning to the flat you were shot in isn't such a good idea. I could take you back to my place while HQ finds a new flat for you and relocates you."

Rolling his eyes, Doyle thought: "Great, Bodie's in Dr. Ross mode today." He undid his seatbelt and turned to his partner: "Listen, we've talked about all this before. You know perfectly well that I don't want a new flat. It's best to face your fears and moving to a new flat would mean I'm running from them. I don't intend to run, Bodie."His partner nodded.

There was a minute of silence, then Doyle said: "All right, Dr. Bodie, I admit it, I feel a bit nervous and apprehensive about returning home."

"That's more than obvious," Bodie replied. "Care to tell me why and discuss the matter? Don't worry, it won't cost you extra...the head shrinking service is included in the cab fare." Jollying Doyle along might be the best approach to get to the root of this problem, so he dramatically raised an eyebrow and gave Doyle an inviting look.

Doyle took a deep breath before answering: "Well, I guess I'm a bit nervous about a couple of things. Yes, returning to the flat I was shot in is one of them, but I guess that's only natural and it doesn't mean I can't handle it."

"Of course, you can handle that, Ray," Bodie said. "Once your mind's made up about something, you won't back down. Anything else bothering you?"

Doyle hesitated for a moment, then he said: "As much as I disliked being stuck in hospital and wanted to get out of there, there's one thing I'll miss: Being so well taken care of! Whatever I needed, somebody was always there to take care of it. Sometimes at night, when I had a nightmare, the night nurse would sit with me for a while. Now I must take care of myself. Don't get me wrong Bodie, I'm glad to have escaped the hospital and its routine, but I'll miss the feeling of being in a safe place."

Bodie nodded and asked: "Do you want Dr. Bodie's opinion on that?"

"You'll give me Dr. Bodie's opinion even if I say no and as you said I don't have to pay extra for the head shrinking, please go ahead," Doyle answered, resigning himself to his fate.

"You're going soft, mate. Admit it, you'll miss all the pampering and the mollycoddling by the lovely nurses. I certainly don't blame you, but you're a big, strong lad..." Bodie broke off when he saw that Doyle was about to object, then added: "Okay, you're not back to fighting fitness yet, but you know full well you've got an entire support crew at your service. I'll be on leave for a couple of days, Lyn's probably more than eager to make house calls and the community nurse will take good care of a charming lad like you, no doubt about that. There's really nothing to worry about, Doyle."

Having pondered Dr. Bodie's diagnosis for a while, Doyle said: "I guess you're right. There's nothing to worry about. I can fend for myself to some extent and what I can't handle will be taken care of. I don't know how to explain it, I guess I expected that the moment I returned home, everything would be back to normal and I would be my old self. The closer we got to home, the more I realized how foolish that thought was and that I still had a long way to go. Seems there are no short cuts on the way back to active duty."

Bodie had a look at his partner who seemed to be a bit embarrassed about having fallen victim to wishful thinking and said: "No, I'm afraid you'll have to take the scenic route, sunshine. Tell you what, that can have its moments, especially with the fabulous group of people travelling with you."

Doyle chuckled in response and Bodie was happy to see that his partner had finally relaxed. He asked: "Ready to go up to your flat now?"

With a nod, Doyle turned to open the door of the Capri. He had just placed his hand on the door handle, when Bodie said: "What are you doing? You booked Bodie's cab with its reliable door to door service, including putting some sense back into that curly head of yours. Opening the door for you is part of the service, so hang on a second."

Bodie got out of the car, swiftly moved over to the passenger side, opened the door for Ray, stood at attention and said: "Welcome home, Sir!"

Doyle couldn't help laughing. After a while he said: "Thank you for the excellent service, James," and carefully got out the car. Bodie knew better than to include giving Doyle a hand in his service and waited patiently until his partner stood beside him.

While Bodie took Doyle's bag from the back seat and locked the Capri, Doyle had a good look up and down the street. Briefly he wondered where Mayli might have been standing while keeping tabs on him. His thoughts went back to the day he had been shot: "I had a strange feeling of being followed that day. Why didn't I spot her? Would that have made a difference?"
Bodie cut his musings short. "Doyle, do you want to strike roots? Come on, it's chilly out here, let's go inside!"

Side by side, they walked to the entrance door. Bodie handed Doyle his key. It had been in Bodie's possession ever since the shooting. Malone, the head of the forensic team, had found the key in the living-room close to the spot Ray where had fallen after being shot. There had been blood on the keychain which had chilled Bodie to the bone and he had removed it very thoroughly. Bodie chased that memory away and watched Doyle inserting the key into the lock and open the door.

"After you," Ray said and took a small bow which made Bodie laugh and they stepped inside.

On their way to the lift, they encountered two elderly ladies. Upon recognizing Doyle, one of the ladies took his right hand and shook it profusely, the other lady got hold of his left hand and did the same.

The lady on Doyle's right side exclaimed: "Oh, Mr. Doyle, it's so good to see you're finally home again!"

"Oh yes, Helga's absolutely right," the lady on Doyle's left said. "Welcome back, Mr. Doyle!"

"Good morning, Mrs. Goldman and a good morning to you, Mrs. Sonntag!" Doyle gave the two ladies a charming smile. Much to his relief, they finally let go of his hands. He flinched ever so slightly and hoped the handshake would not be followed by an equally energetic hug. Mind reading seemed to be one of the ladies' talents as they took a step back to eye Doyle critically.

"Well, Helga, I think he looks a bit pale," Mrs. Goldman said and Mrs. Sonntag nodded her agreement.

"His hair could do with a trim," Mrs. Sonntag stated, "and it would be good if he put on more weight."

"Absolutely! Oh, and it's far too cold to be out and about with the top buttons of his shirt undone," Mrs. Goldman chided.

The close scrutiny made Doyle feel increasingly uncomfortable. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and his right hand went to his collar to do up the top buttons.

Bodie watched the whole scene with an amused grin on his face. Should the two ladies really succeed at making Doyle button up his shirt? In Bodie's opinion, a snowball stood a better chance in hell and he chuckled with delight when Doyle shook his head slightly and shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket, leaving the top buttons undone.

Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. Sonntag were still busy discussing Doyle's health. When he heard the word "cod liver oil", he decided it was high time to put an end to the medical shoptalk. To get their attention, he cleared his throat noisily and was very pleased when the talking stopped and both ladies looked at him.

Mrs. Goldman exclaimed: "Oh my god, Helga, I told you he's not suitably dressed for the chilly weather, he's already caught a cold."

With that remark, their debate focused on how to solve the problem of a beginning pneumonia.

Doyle rolled his eyes and gave Bodie a look that pleaded for help, but his partner was far too busy fighting against laughing out loud.

"That's typical," Doyle thought. "Bodie's always willing to interrupt a conversation I have with young ladies, but once the ladies I'm talking to don't belong to the under fifty age group, I'm on my own. Thank you very much Bodie."

Doyle shot Bodie a grim look which almost made his partner dissolve into a laughing fit. Mentally giving himself a big pat on the back for putting his partner into a tight spot, Doyle addressed Mrs. Sonntag and Mrs. Goldman: "Ladies, please...stop fussing! I'm doing rather well. There's no need to be worried" He put his hand up in a shushing gesture and finally the ladies fell silent and turned their attention to him.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Doyle. I know, it's not nice to be talked about, but we've been very worried about you ever since you got shot. Seems we got a bit carried away by finally having you back again," Mrs. Sonntag said and smiled apologetically.

Bodie had regained his self-control and confirmed Mrs. Sonntag's words: "That's right. These lovely ladies were very worried about you. They asked after you whenever they met me when I came to your flat."

Mrs. Goldman said: "Please go easy on two old ladies for fussing too much over a very nice young man who's always willing to lend a hand when we need help."

Blushing a bit, Doyle replied: "You're forgiven, ladies! Who helped you out while I was in hospital?"

Mrs. Sonntag said: "Well, sometimes we turned to Mr. Brown on the ground floor and when Gerda needed some help with moving a cupboard, Mr. Bodie offered to help."

Doyle raised an eye-brow and asked: "Did he indeed?" He looked at his partner who nodded vehemently in response.

"Oh, yes," Mrs. Goldman said. "That was very nice of him and I made some apple strudel to thank him. Oh, and of course I apologized for mistaking him for a burglar when he ran up to your flat on the fire escape the day you were shot. I really didn't recognize him, he went by so fast."

Mrs. Sonntag added: "When Gerda told me to call the police because there was a burglar, I did it immediately."

Both ladies gave Bodie an embarrassed smile and Bodie said: "Think nothing of it! The panda car responding to that call arrived shortly after the ambulance. It came in handy as it went ahead of the ambulance to clear the traffic, so we got Ray to hospital extra fast."

That took a load of the ladies' minds and they let out a sigh of relief. Then Mrs. Goldman said: "Talking about apple strudel...when Mr. Bodie told us you were coming home today, I made an apple strudel and Helga made a stew for you. We'll just pop out to the shops and when we get back, we could deliver everything to your flat."

Bodie perked up and Doyle was quite happy to hear the news as well. Giving the ladies a bright smile, he said: "That would be wonderful."
"All right, see you later, Mr. Doyle," Mrs. Goldman said and she turned to leave with Mrs. Sonntag in tow.

Bodie rubbed his hands and said: "Great. Lunch is sorted out. Didn't I tell you that you have a great support crew and that there was nothing to worry about?"

"Yes, Dr. Bodie, you were right," Doyle said with a chuckle. They walked on to the lift and went up to the top floor.

A while later, the two of them entered Doyle's flat. Doyle dumped the key on a shelf above the radiator in the hall. They both took off their jackets and put them on the coat stands.

A quick check of the radiator revealed to Doyle that it was hot to the touch. He gave Bodie a knowing look and said: "Mrs. Masterson and Lyn would be very pleased with you were they here now!" The memory of Bodie being told over and over again to turn on the radiators in time and the distressed look which had appeared on his partner's face every time made Doyle chuckle.

Bodie, on the other hand, felt quite grumpy and said: "I think they were way too worried. I mean, I wouldn't forget that and let you turn into an icicle on your return."

"I guess they just wanted to be on the safe side," Doyle answered and headed for the living room.

"DOYLE!" The stern rebuke conveyed in that single word made Doyle stop dead in his tracks. Irritated, he turned around to Bodie and asked: "What's wrong?"

There was a serious look on Bodie's face when he answered: "You've just forgotten to do something vital. You're slipping, mate!"

It took a moment till the penny dropped and Doyle went back to the door to set the second locks with a guilty look on his face.

"I think it would have been better if Mrs. Masterson and Lyn had spent the time they kept reminding me not to forget to turn on the heating in your flat on reminding you not to forget to set the second locks. We don't want you to end up back in hospital cause some bitch finds the door to your flat wide open to shoot you AGAIN!"Bodie was clearly annoyed with his partner and shot him an angry look.

Doyle wasn't overly impressed. "Give me a break, Bodie. This is my first time home after almost two months in hospital, I'll get used to the routine soon. Besides, she might have shot me anywhere and we all forget the second locks from time to time."

Bodie had to concede that and said: "Yeah, all right, but you'd better make sure you use the second locks and take advantage of the protection they provide in the future."

"Will do," Doyle replied and went to the living room.

The room was spotlessly clean and bathed in sunlight. There was not the faintest hint of the ordeal the occupant of the flat had been through all those weeks ago. Bodie watched anxiously while Doyle took a good look around, reacquainting himself with his surroundings. The settee, the stereo and his record collection, the paintings and mirrors on the wall, the pattern of the curtains, the plants and the toy soldiers, all those things seemed familiar to him, but he felt a bit like a stranger in his own home.

He wandered about the room, briefly touching his record-player, his records, a chair and the telephone. The bottle garden and the ring he had bought from Mayli were missing. Bodie had chucked them out and Doyle was rather grateful for that.

When he reached the spot where he had fallen after being hit by Mayli's bullet, he stood still, his gaze lingering on the floor. As expected, the bloodied rug had been replaced by a pristine new one.

All of a sudden, the rug's flawless cream colour turned dark red to Doyle's eyes and the sound of the silenced shot which had hit his heart filled his ears, followed by the sound caused by the shattering of the milk bottles he had been clutching to his chest.

He knew that was a flashback, but he was as helpless fighting it as he had been when Mayli had attacked him. He felt the bullet tearing through his skin, smashing his chest bone and lodging itself in his heart. The pain in his chest was sharp and he feared his knees might give way.

"Get a grip, Doyle," he silently told himself and managed to stay upright. Yet in his mind he was lying on the ground and the memory of the scent of his blood mixing with the milk in his nose made him feel a bit queasy. Reliving the feeling of sheer helplessness while waiting for his assassin to deliver the coup de grace nearly brought him down again. The recollection of the second bullet going through his shoulder threatened to sap all his strength and he had great difficulty breathing, just like he had had when the blood had filled up his chest. The minutes had seemed like hours to him while his blood had soaked into the rug. When he had finally felt Bodie pressing towels against his wounds, relief had surged through his weakening body like a tidal wave.

There was a gentle touch on his left shoulder and he heard Bodie's worried voice: "Are you all right, Ray? You look like you might pass out any minute!"

Gradually, Doyle was able to shake off all the ghosts and painful memories of the past and his mind returned to the here and now. Strength returned to his legs, he gave Bodie a reassuring smile and said: "Course I'm all right! Just a flashback that's come and gone, that's all. Dr. Ross said I'd be battling them for a while, so there's nothing to worry about. Come on, let's check the garden on my terrace and size up the work Larry will have to handle tomorrow."

Doyle turned to the door leading to the terrace and opened it with a resolute movement. The flashbacks worried him a great deal, but he had started to work on them with Dr. Ross who was confident that he would get rid of them eventually. He sure hoped she was right and that the nightmares in which either Bodie or some innocent civilian died or got hurt by a failure on his part caused by a flashback would not become reality.

He stepped on the terrace with Bodie following close behind. It came as no surprise that his garden was in a pitiful state. The pots with summer flowers and herbs were surrounded by brown, crumpled leaves and petals, the rose plants needed cutting and to Doyle's utmost dismay even his perfectly trimmed box plants had lots of brown leaves. He cast Bodie a suspicious glance and asked: "You did forget to water the box, didn't you? Box is an evergreen plant and shouldn't be almost totally brown, even in November!"

Bodie thought that offence was the best defence and said: "Well, there were loads of things on my mind while you were in hospital, like helping you get better and running a "Meal On Wheels" service. So, yes, I did forget to water the plants, but I wouldn't consider that a capital offence under the circumstances." His voice was pretty loud and had an angry tone.

Doyle gave him an apologetic smile and said: "Sorry, Bodie. I didn't mean to come across as an ingrate."

Bodie ran his fingers through his hair and answered: "That's all right. I know that you can be a stickler for details, but don't push it." He shot Doyle a warning look, but secretly he had to admit that he preferred the "stickler for details - Doyle" who took an active interest in things to the brooding Doyle he had just witnessed in the car.

Doyle grinned. "Okay, I'll go easy on you, but I'm not sure how Larry will react to the additional work."

"Ah, I'm sure he won't mind being able to do some creative trimming with your new box plants."

"Let's hope so, Bodie." Doyle chuckled and went back inside.

The next stop on their tour through the flat was the bedroom. Indicating the pile of pillows on the flawlessly made bed, Doyle said with a quizzical facial expression:"I don't remember having that many pillows. Where do they come from?"

Bodie put on his best head teacher act and started lecturing: "Pillows don't grow on trees, Doyle. They have to be made in a complex manufacturing process before they go on sale in shops. That's where they come from."

Doyle rolled his eyes. "I know where pillows come from. I was shot in the heart, not in the head, you moron! What I want to know is why there are so many pillows on my bed?"

With a wagging finger, Bodie answered: "Ah, ah, no need to use bad language, Raymond. You should have worded your question better!" He noticed with delight that Doyle's temper was rising and savoured the moment for a little longer until he finally decided to put Doyle out of his misery by telling his partner: "I bought them after Mrs. Masterson told me that you need more than the two pillows you have as you prefer sleeping propped up because of your injuries."

Doyle's anger abated as quickly as it had risen and he said: "Aha! It seems you followed all your instructions to the letter. Let's go to the kitchen and check the stocks."

"You'll find everything you need," Bodie said and followed his partner to the kitchen.

After a thorough check of the cupboards and the fridge in his kitchen, Doyle found Bodie's statement confirmed. Fruits, vegetables, bread, juice, milk, butter and all the other items Doyle had put on his shopping list were neatly stowed away. Just one item was missing, so he gave Bodie a scowl and stated: "You forgot to buy any beer!"

"Nothing escapes your eyes, Sherlock." Bodie gave his partner a grin and continued:"To be precise, I didn't forget to buy any beer. I deliberately omitted buying any beer as drugs and alcohol don't go together very well. You know that, so you shouldn't have put beer on the shopping list in the first place." Head teacher Bodie was in full swing again and Doyle didn't like it one little bit.

"Course I know that, Dr. Watson. I was just thinking about cutting back on the number of pills I'm taking, so maybe a beer now and then won't do me any harm."

Bodie thought: "Yep, that's what I expected. This patient's a bit of a handful, even outside hospital walls."

He turned around and headed for the telephone in the living room. A flabbergasted Doyle needed a few seconds to react before calling after his partner: "What are you doing?"

Bodie had reached the phone, had picked up the receiver and was dialling a number when Doyle walked into the living room. He watched his partner's actions with a growing feeling of uneasiness.

In a soft tone of voice, Bodie answered: "I just want to tell Mrs. Masterson that you obviously prefer going to a convalescent home. She found the perfect place for somebody as thick-headed as you: It offers a physio who's a match for Macklin and a ward sister not fond of insubordination, but very fond of enemas!" The hard look on Bodie's face provided a sharp contrast to his tone of voice.

Doyle started to fidget. A feeling of panic got hold of him. His partner wouldn't do that to him, would he? Bodie kept giving him a hard stare and feeling more worried by the second, Doyle finally yelled: "Put the bloody phone down!"

Unfazed, Bodie waited for somebody to pick up the phone for a little while longer, then shrugged and put the receiver down."You're lucky that Mrs. Masterson's obviously busy with a patient. I don't think you deserve being saved by the bell though and I hope you make the best of your second chance. You will keep taking your pills and I mean all of them and you will stay away from alcohol. Is that understood?"

There was a lump in Doyle's throat, so he just nodded. Bodie gave him a grin and felt very pleased with himself for keeping his stubborn partner in line.

Doyle uttered a sigh or relief and was just about to give Bodie a right bollocking for scaring him and thus putting a strain on his healing heart, but now it was Bodie's turn to be saved by the bell. Literally this time as the door bell rang at the very moment Doyle took the deep breath he needed to dress down his partner.

Bodie's grin got even wider and he said: "Hold it right there and open the door!"

Shaking his head and muttering something unintelligible, Doyle went to the door and opened it. His anger disappeared when he laid eyes on Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. Sonntag, his support crew for today's lunch. True to their word, they had finished their shopping in record time. "Can't keep Mr. Doyle waiting, I'm sure he's very hungry," Mrs. Sonntag had said to her friend while hastening through the aisles in the supermarket. Usually they stopped for a chat with other customers or members of the staff. This time, when the manager had tried to engage them in a conversation, they had stated: "Sorry, we must dash," leaving behind one very baffled store manager. They had hurried back to their flats, had picked up their goodies and had reached Doyle's flat feeling a little out of breath just when trouble was brewing inside.

Doyle gave them a delighted smile. "Hello, ladies. Gosh, you got back from the shops really fast. That's highly appreciated as I'm very hungry. I didn't eat much of my breakfast as I was very busy with saying my good-byes and last minute instructions from the medical staff."

Mrs. Sonntag gave her friend Gerda a dig with the elbow and said: "I told you he must be starving."

Mrs. Goldman had trouble balancing the baking tray she was carrying and said: "You're always right, Helga!" She sent a look heavenwards and was relieved when Bodie, who had joined them, took the tray from her.

"Thank you, Mr. Bodie," she said and gave him a smile.

Bodie lifted the teatowel which covered the baking tray. A delicious scent of apples, cinnamon, raisins and almonds filled his nose. The look of the apple strudel with its golden brown crust covered by powdered sugar was equally enticing.

Bodie returned the smile and said: "Thank YOU, Mrs. Goldman, that apple strudel looks fabulous!"

Mrs. Goldman blushed. "I hope you and Mr. Doyle will enjoy it."

Handing Doyle the pot with stew she was carrying, Mrs. Sonntag said: "I'm sure they will, Gerda. Once they have finished my stew, that is." She tugged at her friend's elbow. "Come on, let the lads eat, Gerda."

"Thank you so much for the food, ladies," Doyle said. "We'll return the dishes as soon as possible."

"No need to hurry, Mr. Doyle," Mrs Sonntag stated and Mrs. Goldman added: "Enjoy your meal!"

With these words, the ladies headed for the lift. Bodie and Doyle said "Good-bye" in unison, then Doyle kicked the door shut with his boot.

They carried their bounties to the kitchen very carefully. Not a single drop of stew or crumb of apple strudel were wasted during transport. When the pot and the baking tray were safely deposited on a kitchen cabinet, Bodie said: "Right! Let's get this stew heated up and the table laid." He headed for the drawer containing the cutlery when he felt Doyle take a grip on his arm. His partner pulled him back, not exactly forcefully. It would have been easy for Bodie to get loose. Not wanting to hurt his partner, he refrained from doing so, twisted around to face him and asked: "What's the matter, Ray?"

Doyle took his hand off Bodie's arm and gave his partner a conciliatory smile. "That's my task. You've done such a great job at getting my flat ready for my return, taking care of lunch is up to me."

"Are you sure, Ray?" Bodie raised an eye brow.

"Course I am. You just sit down at the table and I'll turn into a kitchen fairy."

Bodie laughed and watched Doyle opening a cabinet. After a close look inside, Doyle exclaimed: "Bloody hell!"

"I don't think kitchen fairies are allowed to swear, Doyle. What's wrong?" Bodie moved over to stand next to his partner and peered into the cupboard. There was nothing out of the ordinary, all the plates, cups and saucers were accurately stacked.

There was a thoroughly frustrated expression on Doyle's face when he pointed to the soup tureen on the top shelf and said: "I can't lift my arms high enough to fetch it yet."If he had had a session with Mrs. Masterson before, he might have made it. Lifting his arms over his shoulders was still difficult for him, but Mrs. Masterson was pleased with his pace at getting his mobility back.

Bodie replied: "Ah, you think this is a special occasion which calls for eating stew from a soup tureen. Very well, leave it to me!" He reached up, took the soup tureen and placed it on the counter in one swift movement. Pointing to the plates located on the lower shelf, he asked: "Want me to fetch the plates as well?"

Doyle shook his head and said: "That's not necessary. You can sit down now, thanks, mate."

"Your wish is my command," Bodie replied and sat down at the table.

Doyle turned his attention to the plates. "I hope I can live up to my words," he thought. When he lifted his arms, there was a pain in his left side and right shoulder. He remembered Mrs. Masterson's words: "Don't hold your breath, just keep breathing evenly and try to lift your arms as high a possible." Following these instructions to the letter, he managed to grab two plates and put them safely on the counter. Not quite as swiftly as Bodie had fetched the soup tureen, but it was the result that counted. He felt like cheering, but reminded himself that he was far from being finished with his job. Next, he fetched two spoons and napkins and laid Bodie's place at the table and a place for himself opposite of Bodie's. An idea crossed his mind and he asked: "Shall I prepare some cheese sandwiches?"

"That' s a good idea, mate," Bodie replied and kitchen fairy Ray Doyle got to work. He turned on the cooker and placed the pot with the stew on it. Then he fetched toast, butter, cheese and tomatoes. He moved around in the kitchen not quite as smoothly and fast as usual, wincing every now and then. Yet Bodie could tell by the smile which had appeared on Doyle's face that his partner enjoyed himself.

While the first two slices of bread were toasting in the toaster, Doyle stirred the content of the pot and a delicious scent wafted through the kitchen. When the toast was done, Doyle buttered it and added slices of cheese. Decorating the sandwiches with slices of tomato, Doyle asked: "How many sandwiches shall I prepare, Bodie?"

"I think two each should do. We don't want to exhaust kitchen fairy Ray's wings on his first domestic mission," Bodie answered and laughed.

"All right," was Doyle's reply. He prepared two more sandwiches while whistling a tune. When he was done, he fetched the ladle, two glasses and another plate from the cupboard. He filled the glasses with water and put the sandwiches on the plate, all the while whistling.

The stew was now hot enough and Doyle carefully poured it into the soup tureen. Then he carried the plate with sandwiches, the glasses, the ladle and the soup tureen to the table. Bodie made himself useful as a kitchen boy and arranged all these items on the table.

Doyle looked around the kitchen in confusion. "Bodie, where did you put the box with my medication? If I'm not mistaken, I need to take a painkiller at noon."

"I put it in the bathroom, in the cupboard above the wash basin to be precise."

Doyle left the kitchen to get the box with his medication. When he returned, he sat down at the table, took the required tablet out of the box and swallowed it with a sip of water.

Bodie was more than pleased and said: "See, that wasn't so hard."

Doyle grinned and filled the plates with stew. "Help yourself to the sandwiches and bon appétit, Bodie!"

"Thanks, mate. Hold on a second Ray, there's something missing." Bodie got up from the table.

"Just tell me what you need, Bodie and I'll get it for you. I told you it's my turn to take care of lunch."

"I know, but this is a matter I must attend to personally." Bodie went to the cupboard containing Doyle's pots and pans. He bent down to open it, then he kneeled in front of it and moved some of the pots on the lower shelf out of the way. The item he was looking for was stored way back in the cupboard and he had to stretch himself in order to get it.

Doyle observed his partner's actions with a mixture of amazement and amusement. There was a quizzical look on his face when he asked: "What the hell are you looking for?"

Bodie finally managed to get hold of the item he had safely stored out of reach of Doyle's restricted mobility. He got up and returned to the table. "TAADAA," he shouted and placed a bottle of beer on the table. Doyle's jaw dropped and he said: "So, you didn't forget to buy any beer. Hmm, but you said I'm not allowed to have any, so I guess I'll have to watch you drinking that?"

"No, I'll share it with you. I thought it would be nice to drink a toast to your discharge from hospital, that's why I bought one bottle. Dr. Siegel says a little beer can't do you any harm. You've just acted like a sensible patient by taking your medication, so I think you deserve some beer." Bodie got two more glasses and poured half a glass of beer for Doyle and a full glass for himself. He handed Doyle his glass and said: "Cheers, mate. To a speedy recovery."

"Cheers, Bodie and thanks...for the beer and everything else!"

They clinked glasses and drank. Doyle relished the taste of his first beer in two months. With great appetite, they both pitched into their lunch. In between two spoonfuls of stew, Bodie noticed the complacent smile on his partner's face and said: "You look like a cat who's just hogged the milk, or shall I say hogged the beer?"

Doyle had a bite of his sandwich before answering: "I'm just happy to be home again and yes, the beer to celebrate the occasion is a nice bonus." He winked at Bodie and emptied his glass.

After they had finished the stew and the sandwiches, Doyle made two cups of tea, cut two thick slices of apple strudel for dessert, put them on plates and placed them on the table along with cake forks.

Without further ado, the apple strudel was consumed at leisure. Doyle said: "Mrs. Goldman will have to teach me how to bake that, it's delicious." He licked his lips appreciatively.

"Oh, I'm sure she'll enjoy turning kitchen fairy Ray Doyle into baker's boy Ray Doyle. Just make sure you leave enough for me," Bodie said with a grin.

"Is that supposed to be a hint that you want another slice, Bodie?" Doyle laughed when Bodie held up his empty plate and batted his eyelashes theatrically in response.

"All right, all right, I'll get you another slice." Doyle got up to treat Bodie to a second helping of dessert. When he handed his partner the plate, he asked: "By the way, did you really call Mrs. Masterson when I told you about my idea regarding the pills? Does that convalescent home with the nasty ward sister really exist or is that a figment of your imagination to keep me in line, Bodie?"

Bodie smirked. "I bet you want to know that, Doyle. You'd better make sure you're a good lad, so you won't have to find out if that convalescent home really exists."

"B - O - D - I - E !" Doyle's infuriated shout made Bodie flinch, but he kept his cool, making a mental note to let Mrs. Masterson in on the plan he had come up with to keep Doyle in line. He gave Doyle a smile and his partner thought: "If I ever find out that's just a trick, I'll strangle you, Bodie."

When Bodie had halfway finished his second slice of apple strudel, he pointed to Doyle's empty plate and asked: "What about you? You're not going to have some more?"

Doyle shook his head and stated: "No, I'm full!"

Bodie dropped his cake fork and echoed: "You're full! Doyle, are you all right? Shall I call Dr. Siegel?"

"I'm feeling fine, no need to worry. I'm just full, that's all." Doyle gave Bodie a reassuring smile and Bodie went back to demolishing the apple strudel. When he was done, he had another look at his partner. Despite his statement that he was fine, Doyle looked a bit winded, so Bodie said: "Why don't you have a nap and let kitchen boy Bodie take care of doing the dishes?"

Doyle contemplated protesting at first, but he had to admit that he felt tired and so he accepted Bodie's proposal. They both went to the living-room where Bodie helped his partner to get comfortable on the settee. When Bodie had covered Doyle with a blanket, he said: "I think you'll do." Doyle nodded in response and said: "Yes, I'm fine, thank you, Bodie." He yawned and watched Bodie returning to the kitchen. While Bodie crashed about in the kitchen doing the dishes, Doyle fell asleep feeling safe and content.

Half an hour later, Bodie had finished his kitchen boy duties and entered the living room the moment Doyle started to stir. He stood next to the settee and watched as Doyle woke up slowly and had a bleary-eyed look around, his face showing signs of confusion. Just as Bodie was about to tell him where he was, a smile passed Doyle's face and he said: "Yeah, I'm home!"

"Yes, you are, mate," Bodie replied. "I have to say I'm very pleased that your naps are getting shorter. Shall I give you a hand up?"

When Doyle didn't answer immediately as he stifled a yawn, Bodie protested: "Don't tell me you want to go back to sleep again."

Doyle gave an indignant snort and said: "Course not! I want to have a walk in Holland Park this afternoon and no, I don't need a hand up." With some moaning and groaning and a string of muttered curses, Doyle carefully pushed himself upright till he sat up straight on the settee and gave Bodie a complacent grin.

Bodie just couldn't help himself, he had to tease his partner: "No need to look so smug, you didn't exactly break a world record for sitting up." He didn't move fast enough when Doyle made a world record attempt at the event how to hit your cheeky partner. They said "Ouch" in unison, Bodie because he hadn't managed to get out of the way in time and Doyle because the swift movement had triggered a sharp pain in his side.

Bodie said: "Don't waste your energy like that. We want to go to the park, so come on!"

"All right, I'm coming, just give me a while to wake up fully." Doyle took his time getting up. When he was finally standing, Bodie had already put on his jacket, had fetched Doyle's and helped his partner to put it on.

Ten minutes later, they strolled through Holland Park. The sun had come out late in the morning and had dissolved the thick London fog. Many people had been lured out by the relatively warm late-autumn weather. The playground was crawling with children. Their mothers sat on benches, keeping a watchful eye on them. Occasionally, one of them had to get up and dash after a curious girl or boy wandering too far from sight.

Doyle pointed to a group of three girls in the sandpit who were busy baking cakes and said: "Fancy another helping of dessert, Bodie? I'm sure if you ask politely, the three young ladies wouldn't mind sharing."

Bodie pulled a face and said: "Nah, I'd rather have another slice of Mrs. Goldman's apple strudel when we get back," he answered and patted his stomach.

Doyle laughed and said: "It seems 'gourmet' is one of your middle names, Bodie."

"It sure is," Bodie replied with a grin.

Doyle took great pleasure in his first walk outside the hospital park and Bodie noted with delight that they were moving with a good pace. Going along at a snail's pace was definitely a thing of the past now. A jogger overtook them. Bodie nodded in the direction of the man disappearing from their sight rather fast and said: "I hope your built-in milometer still works, I can't wait to jog with you again."

Doyle was quite surprised. "I didn't know you were so keen on jogging. Usually, you're the one who cuts our stint short."

"Yeah, I know, but after dragging your ass along the hospital park at a pace a snail would be ashamed of, I can't wait to get into action again." Bodie was clearly champing at the bit.

Putting his hands up in a placating gesture, Doyle said. "Well, I think you'll have to have a little more patience. I'll do my very best to comply with the schedule Mrs. Masterson and Dr. Siegel devised." He had felt a bit dizzy listening to the two of them discussing their strategy, tossing words around like "average increase of cardiac output per week "and "maximum heart-rate".

Bodie gave him a grin and said: "I'm more worried about you doing your best to exceed their expectations. You have to make sure you follow your instructions!"

"Only if I can have some beer as a reward now and then, Bodie." There was a cheeky smile on Doyle's face and Bodie had to stifle a laugh. With an austere expression on his face, he replied: "Don't push it, sunshine!"

"Ah, come on, Bodie. Don't be like that," his partner replied with an exaggeratedly pleading look on his face.

Bodie burst out laughing. "All right, all right. It's a good thing I've discussed the proper dosage of beer with Dr. Siegel."

"Well done," said Doyle and joined in laughing.

They had paused for a moment and were ready to move on when something landed in their path with a resounding thud. They both flinched. Bodie instinctively reached for his gun and Doyle's left hand went swiftly up to the spot where his holster was normally placed.

When they had a look at the object which was lying in front of Doyle's feet, they both burst out laughing again. Not a grenade ready to explode blocked their path, but a thick wooden stick. Right behind it stood a dog with black and white fur that almost reached down to the ground. Its front legs were splayed and the tail wagged frantically.

Doyle smiled at the dog and addressed it in a soft voice: "Well, hello. You do realize that you gave us a bit of a scare?" As a response, the dog put its head down and moved the wooden stick a little closer to Doyle's feet with its nose and started to bark.

"Oh, you want me to play fetch with you?" Doyle's voice was drowned almost totally by the dog's barking which got louder and more excited.

The dog thought: "Yep, you got that right! Come on, don't keep me waiting!" It moved the stick another bit closer to Doyle's feet.

"All right, all right, I'll play," Doyle said and bent down to pick up the stick with some difficulty. He straightened up with a groan and the dog thought: "It seems the playmate I've chosen is hurting, but I don't like the other man very much." The dog cast Bodie a suspicious glance.

Bodie noticed that and thought: "Oh great, I can add another dog to the list of dogs who don't like me. Along with Baron and the many greyhounds who've lost for me, that makes quite a long list."

Turning his attention back to Doyle who was about to throw the stick, the dog thought: "I'd better stick with the curly one, even though he's obviously in pain. I'll just put the stick in his hands the next time and not drop it at his feet. He won't have to bend down if I do it like that, so he should be fine."

Doyle had found an area in the park where he could aim the stick without hitting somebody. He decided to put the dog out of its misery and threw its fetch stick . His restricted mobility didn't permit him to throw the stick very far, but the dog tore after it at once, barking animatedly. By the time it reached the spot where the stick had landed, it had gained quite a momentum and skidded a bit when it stopped. Undeterred, it picked up the stick and ran back to Doyle. True to the plan devised earlier, it stretched up its head as far as possible and Doyle only had to bend down a little bit to take the stick from the dog's mouth. Doyle gave the dog a smile and said: "Well done!"

Just as Doyle was about to throw the stick again, he heard somebody yell: "Duncan!"

A boy came running towards them. He was out of breath when he reached them and had difficulty speaking. "I'm ...sorry."

Doyle turned to the boy and said: "Easy, lad. Get your breath back first. No, your dog doesn't bother us the slightest. I quite enjoy playing with him. You see, today is my first day out of hospital and it's nice to play with a cute dog like him." He gave the boy an assuring smile.

The boy heaved a sigh. When he was breathing normally again he said: "I'm glad you don't feel bothered by my dog. He ran away when I took my eyes off him for a moment. I've had Duncan only for two months and we both still have a lot to learn."

Doyle had a look at the boy's serious face. He had blue eyes and dark blonde, wavy hair. His nose was covered with fading freckles. There seemed to be a sadness in the boy's eyes. Though Doyle thought he could only be about ten years old, he looked much older and seemed to lack the gaiety one would expect to find in a boy of his age.

Doyle said: "We already know that your dog is called Duncan. Now I want to know your name and what breed your dog is."

Duncan, who had remained quiet during the ongoing conversation pricked up his ears when he heard his name. He barked shortly as if to urge the boy to answer Doyle's questions.

The boy patted the dog and said: "Be quiet, Duncan and let me talk to the gentlemen." He turned his attention to Doyle and said: "My name is Alan and Duncan is a Bearded Collie. My mother and I moved into this neighbourhood only about a month ago. I had to change schools and I miss my friends and my dad, so my mother got Duncan to keep me company." His face clouded over, so Doyle tried to cheer him up: "It's nice to meet you, Alan and Duncan. I'm Doyle and this gentleman, who's not on exactly good terms with dogs, is called Bodie."

"Mr. Doyle and Mr. Bodie," the boy repeated.

"Oh, no," Bodie exclaimed. "Drop the mister. Just Doyle and Bodie."

Alan looked at his new acquaintances with a puzzled expression on his face and said: "That's odd, but if you insist, I'll drop the mister!"

Doyle laughed, then said: "We insist and if you wish, you can call me Ray as well."

Alan nodded in response. He thought hard for a while. Then he said: "Why is Bodie not on good terms with dogs and why have you been in hospital, Ray?"

Seeing his partner hesitate, Bodie was the first one to answer the boy's question. "Well, that's a long story. When I was about your age, I was bitten by a German Shepherd. I guess dogs just don't like me, even greyhounds lose for me and it seems that Duncan isn't too fond of me either."

"Duncan sometimes needs time to get friends with people and some he likes right from the start. Please give him a chance," Alan said and gave Bodie a pleading look.

Bodie gave him a smile in return and said: "I'll try my very best to become his friend."

Alan said: "Thank you, Bodie, that would be great." Then he turned his attention to Doyle, waiting for him to answer his question.

Doyle let out a small sigh: "Well, I've been shot and seriously injured, that's why I had to stay in hospital for almost two months."

"Oh, dear me," the boy exclaimed, clearly distressed. "Are you in a lot of pain?"

Doyle shook his head and said: "It's okay, painkillers are wonderful inventions and take away most of..."

"If you take them," Bodie interrupted and Doyle shot him a warning look.

Alan was thinking hard. Eventually he asked: "Are you policemen?"

"Something like that, CI5 to be precise," Doyle answered.

Duncan had decided that enough conversation had been going on and started to bark again. He wanted to play, had the bipeds already forgotten that? Obviously not. He was soon the centre of attention again and they all engaged in a long game of fetch. Even Bodie got to play and Duncan was nice and gentle with him which pleased him more than he would let on. Maybe Alan was right and he and Duncan could become friends.

All of a sudden, Alan had a look at his watch and yelled: "Oh, no, it's already past three! I promised my mum I'd be back by three. She's probably worried sick by now. I must go!" He had a look around to find Duncan who was just dashing towards them.

Alan said: "Come on, Duncan, we must go home!" The dog reached them and dropped his fetch stick between Bodie and Doyle. Then he looked from Alan to his new friends and back to Alan.

Finally, he followed the boy who had started to run towards the park exit. He barked good-bye to Bodie and Doyle.

Abruptly, Alan stopped, twisted around and shouted to Doyle and Bodie: "Can we meet here again tomorrow at four o'clock?" When he heard Doyle's answer "of course, we can", he turned on his heels and hurried home.

Bodie and Doyle were a bit perplexed by the boy's sudden departure and watched him till he and his dog were out of sight.

"A nice boy," Doyle said finally. "Yet I think he's also a sad boy and obviously very concerned about his mother. Maybe we can find out a little bit more about him tomorrow. I wonder why he and his mother had to move and where his dad is."

"Yeah, we should interrogate him tomorrow," Bodie replied.

"Not exactly interrogate him, Bodie," Doyle said. "He's just a kid and not a suspect in a crime. Let's see if we can establish trust in us and he'll tell us more about himself."

They kept walking for another half- hour and when the sun began to sink, they decided to go back to Doyle's flat.

For dinner, Doyle decided not to resume his role as kitchen fairy, but to ring up his favourite Italian restaurant to order pizza.

"I'm not doing that because I'm a bit tired, I just want to stick to my medical order not to push it," he told Bodie who had complained about him slowing down when walking back from the park.

"Yeah, right...and pigs can fly," Bodie thought, but wisely refrained from saying that aloud. With a grin he said: "Now that's a good lad! Are you buying, Ray?"

"Course I'm buying, Bodie. What do you want to have?" Doyle got up from the settee and headed for the phone.

"Oh, if you're buying, I want to have that big pizza con tutti," Bodie answered.

"Now that doesn't surprise me one little bit," Doyle replied and laughed. He dialled and when Vittorio, the owner of the restaurant, heard Doyle' voice, he exclaimed: "Ah, sei tornato a casa, Ray?

Come stai?" He was so thrilled to hear his mate's voice that he fell back to his native tongue. With the little Italian he knew, Doyle translated what Vittorio had said and answered: "Yeah, I'm back and I'm doing well. It's great to be home."

"Si, si bene. You want dinner?" Vittorio had finally remembered to speak English.

"Si, abbiamo fame." Doyle was surprised that he remembered quite a bit of the Italian lessons Vittorio and his son Vincenzo had given him over the years.

"Ah, what do you want? Is Bodie with you? Pizza con tutti per lui e pizza con verdura grigliata per te?"

Doyle laughed. "Si, Vittorio. You got that right."

"Venti minuti. I'll make sure Vincenzo makes a speedy delivery. Oh, and I hope to see you soon in the restaurant."

"Yeah, when I feel a bit stronger, I'll be right over."

"Meraviglioso! Fantastic!" Vittorio was very pleased. "I'll take care of your order myself. Ciao, Ray."

"Ciao, Vittorio, Ray said and put the receiver down.

It took Vincenzo a bit longer than the promised twenty minutes to make his way to Doyle's flat. He made up for the slight delay by bringing along a big portion of tiramisu for dessert and a bottle of red wine as a pressie to celebrate Doyle's return from hospital.

While Bodie took the food to the kitchen, Doyle chatted to Vincenzo for a bit and made the payment. The bottle with Barolo was in his hands and he cast a thirsty look at it. It was a very good wine, Vittorio had chosen a bottle from his treasure chest. Returning from the kitchen, Bodie snatched the bottle from Ray's hands. "Don't even think about it, sunshine," Bodie said with a chiding tone in his voice. "You had some beer for lunch, that's enough alcohol for one day!" With these words, Bodie returned to the kitchen to safely stow away the bottle of wine.

"È molto draconiano," Vincenzo stated while pointing his chin to the kitchen. "I'm sure a little wine can't do you any harm."

Doyle let out a resigned sigh. "Tell that to ward sister Bodie! Listen, Vincenzo, tell your dad I'm very grateful for the wonderful wine. I'm so looking forward to having it when I'm free of the shackles of medical orders."

Vincenzo gave him a grin. "I'm sure you can't wait!"

Doyle looked grim and answered: "You can bet a lot of lire on that, Vincenzo!"

"Good things come to those who wait, Ray! Buon appetito e Ciao!" Vincenzo turned to leave.

"Ciao, Vincenzo. I hope you're right," Doyle replied.

With a wink, Vincenzo said: "Certamente, Ray!"

Doyle closed the door and went to the kitchen where he joined his partner in laying the table.

Occasionally, his eyes went to the kitchen cupboard into which he thought Bodie had put the bottle of wine. At one time, Bodie caught him doing that and put a bottle with orange juice in his hands with the words: "Here, that's full of vitamins, the perfect drink for a convalescent."

Doyle pulled a face in response. "What year did you receive your medical degree, Bodie? You talk like a bloody quack! Can we cut out the clever stuff now and eat?"

Draping a towel over his right forearm and trying to imitate Vincenzo's Italian accent, Bodie said: "Course we can! Signore Doyle, would you come this way? I've reserved table number one for you tonight. I hope that's okay!"

Doyle had to laugh about his partner's Italian waiter's act. "Mille grazie, Bodie!"

After dinner, they did the dishes together, then made themselves comfortable in the living-room and played poker. Doyle had just moaned about loosing for the third time in a row, when the door-bell rang.

"Ah, that should be the community nurse who's supposed to check whether the patient survived the first day outside hospital walls and put him to bed," Bodie said.

"Not before I win some of my money back," Doyle replied, got up and went to open the door. Bodie was right, the friendly looking lady standing at the door introduced herself as Nurse Sheridan. She was about forty years old, her brown hair was bound to a pony tail and she looked Ray over very observantly. There was a sparkle in his eyes, his cheeks were flushed and a content smile played on his lips. She smiled and said: "It seems your first day out of hospital went well, Mr. Doyle."

"Yes, it was a good day, Nurse Sheridan," Doyle replied and led the way to the living room.

Bodie got up to greet the nurse, pointed to the pile of cards and coins on the table and told her: "You've just saved your patient from a financial disaster, Ray should be very grateful to you."

Nurse Sheridan laughed, then said: "Pleased to be of service outside my field of expertise."

She placed the bag she was carrying on the settee and said: "From a medical point of view, I don't have any objections against a game of poker, but are CI5 agents allowed to gamble?"

Nurse Sheridan raised an eye-brow and Doyle exclaimed: "Rumbled again! Can we keep this little game amongst ourselves?" He gave the nurse a begging look.

Only partly succeeding at keeping a stern expression, she answered: "That depends on whether you're a good patient. I need to check your pulse, temperature and blood pressure. I'm also instructed to apply the prescribed ointment to your scars and check whether you've taken your medication."

Doyle frowned and said: "Bodie's my witness. I did take my evening medication."

Nurse Sheridan gave Bodie a questioning look and asked: "Now, is that true?"

Bodie nodded solemnly and said: "Yes, Your Honour!"

Nurse Sheridan chuckled, then said: "All right, I won't have the two of you swear an oath." She turned to Doyle and asked: "Mr. Doyle, do you need help undressing?"

Doyle replied: "Yes, I'm wearing a t-shirt and I can't take that off all by myself."

Nurse Sheridan nodded and said: "All right! May I suggest you get your pyjamas, so I can help you put them on later."

Doyle went to the bedroom to fetch a pair of pyjamas. In the meantime, Nurse Sheridan asked Bodie: "Do you know where the ointment is?"

"Yes, I've put all the pills and the ointment in the cupboard above the wash basin in the bathroom," Bodie replied, indicating the door to the bathroom.

Nurse Sheridan entered the bathroom, opened the cupboard and found the ointment.

Doyle had returned to the living room and Bodie told him: "Now be a good lad and let Nurse Sheridan take care of you."

"Afterwards, I'll win my money back, Bodie!" With these words, Doyle went into the bathroom.

Nurse Sheridan helped him to take off his shirt and t-shirt. When she inspected the scars, she drew in a sharp breath. A bit alarmed, Doyle asked: "Is there anything wrong?"

"No, no, everything's all right. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, but I've never seen scars of gunshot wounds before."

Doyle gave her a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes and said: "Occupational hazard of a CI5 agent."

Rubbing her hands together to warm them up, Nurse Sheridan replied: "Then let's make sure these particular battle scars won't give you any trouble" She carefully applied the ointment to the three scars caused by the bullets and to the surgical scar. Doyle flinched slightly, the scars were still pretty sensitive. He was glad when Nurse Sheridan said: "Done!" She helped Doyle put on his pyjamas and told him: "I'll check you over in the living room. I'll just wash my hands and I'll be with you in a minute."

It took only a couple of minutes to establish that Doyle's pulse, blood pressure and temperature were normal. Nurse Sheridan was soon ready to leave. "You can resume your poker game now. I'll keep quiet about it, if you promise not to play till very late. Mr. Doyle needs his rest" she said.

"Don't worry, Ray will have lost all his money soon and then I'll put him to bed," Bodie told the nurse.

"You wish," Doyle replied and shot his mate a fierce look.

Nurse Sheridan laughed, then said: "Well, you can tell me how it went tomorrow morning. Good evening, gentlemen!" Doyle wanted to get up to see her to the door, but Nurse Sheridan said: "I can find my way out, you'd better concentrate on the cards."

"I'll do my very best," promised Doyle. "Good evening, Nurse Sheridan." With a smile, she turned to leave the flat.

Doyle did indeed win his money back and he even managed to pinch some from Bodie, who wasn't pleased at all. Bodie's vexation grew when Doyle yawned hugely. Bodie hollered: "Oh, no, mate. You're not going to bed before I get a chance to get even."

A diabolical smile passed Doyle's face and he said: "Sorry, mate. Just complying with medical orders."

Bodie let out a bitter laugh and said: "Now that's a convenient moment to stick to your medical orders. All right, I'll let you get away with it today, but we'll play again tomorrow."

Doyle started counting the money he had just won and said: "Yeah, we will, but you won't get your hands on this money again."

Bodie scowled and stated: "We'll see about that. Shall I put you to bed and tell you a bedtime story about a sly golly who gets maimed by his partner the very moment he's well again?"

Not overly intimidated, Doyle replied: "I don't think so. You can push off now. Thanks a lot for everything, getting my flat ready, carting me home, the beer and...," he tossed a coin and caught it again, "...the money."

Bodie gave him a glare. "You're welcome...I think, but don't push it." The glare gave way to a grin. "So, you'll be all right here on your own? Give me a call when you need help and I'll be right over."

"I don't think you'll have to come, I'm sure I'll be all right," Doyle answered and yawned again. "Good night, Bodie!"

His partner got up from the settee and said: "Good night, Ray." He left the flat, thinking: "I sure hope the sly golly will have a good night."

Doyle moved around the flat for a while, sorting out bits and pieces, like taking the glasses they had drunk from to the kitchen and setting the second locks. Then he went to bed. He was glad Bodie had bought more pillows as he felt quite comfortable with them. His eyes drifted shut and he fell asleep.

A couple of hours later, he jerked awake. He found himself sitting bolt upright in his bed, panting.

The rash and by no means voluntary movement sent lancets of pain through his chest and side. His right hand held his ribs on the left side and he desperately tried to control his breathing. He slowly lay back on the pile of pillows, waiting for the pain to recede. When it did and his wheezing stopped, he was able to deal with the question: "What brought me awake so abruptly?"

A jumble of images flitted about in his mind. There was Mayli's face hovering over his prostrate, helpless body, Bodie yelling at him, a flurry of faces of doctors and nurses who pricked and prodded him, the face of the Asian nurse slicing his t-shirt open which had scared him to death in the A&E. Echoes of the nightmare he must have had, undoubtedly. All these were familiar elements of the nightmares haunting him, but he had never reacted so strongly to them. What was different this time?

He concentrated harder to recap this particular nightmare which had prised him from the arms of Morpheus so violently. Another image flashed through his mind...Mayli looming in his living-room, pointing a gun at him. That wasn't exactly a new ingredient to the horrifying concoction regularly tormenting his sleep either. All of a sudden, the image changed. Mayli pointed her gun at somebody else. He couldn't see the person clearly. Making an effort to focus, he was finally able to recognize that it wasn't a person Mayli was pointing her gun at, but a dog with fluffy, black and white fur. The image of the dog disappeared swiftly and was replaced by an image of a boy, lying in a pool of blood on a patch of grass.

Doyle shook his head in bewilderment. He tried to convince himself that it was just a matter of his subconscious playing tricks on him, but his copper's nose itched a little too compellingly to fully subscribe to that notion. However, his mind had come up with some pretty bizarre images ever since the shooting. Dr. Ross kept saying that was normal for somebody dealing with post-traumatic stress. Moreover, he was certain that all the drugs, despite their beneficial effects, contributed to messing up his mind. Unable to pass a final verdict over this strange phantasm, he decided to head for the kitchen to get something to drink.

He switched on the lamp on the bedside table and checked his watch. Almost three o'clock.

Though he had manoeuvred himself upright slowly and carefully, a wave of giddiness hit him while walking to the bedroom door. He had to cling to the door frame until it had passed. With measured steps, he went to the living room.

He needed a drink, to hell with medical orders. When he opened the cabinet where he kept his scotch, he uttered a groan of despair. Of course, ward sister Bodie had chucked that bottle out as well, probably after emptying it. Or maybe he had just hidden it in the kitchen cupboard which had yielded the beer bottle.

Doyle made his way to the kitchen and stood in front of said cupboard, giving it a long, hard stare. He suspected that his scotch and the wine Vittorio had given to him were in there. Reluctantly, he had to admit that Bodie couldn't have picked a better place for them. They wouldn't have been any safer on the other side of the moon. For a while, he pondered the folly of making an effort to get hold of the alcoholic drink he craved so fervently, but reason got the upper hand in the end.

He arrived at the conclusion to fix a hot chocolate instead. With a sigh, he opened the fridge and took out a milk bottle, another flashback of shattering glass and a shower of milk over his body while it was slammed back by the momentum of the bullet torturing him as he did so.

He shut the door of the fridge with a bang, cursing the flashbacks, Mayli, his carelessness dealing with the second locks that day, the pain and his weakness. He looked at the milk bottle as if it was the most wanted criminal in London. "No, I won't be afraid of milk bottles, that's ludicrous," he thought and peeled the aluminium foil from the top with a swift and resolute movement. Some milk splashed onto the kitchen counter and Doyle wiped it away with a tea towel at once.

Carefully, he poured some milk into a pan and placed it on the cooker hob. While waiting for the milk to boil, he got a cup and put a spoonful of cocoa powder and a spoonful of sugar into it. Then he hunted his cupboards for a packet of biscuits and shouted with glee when he found one. The milk was now close to boiling point and he poured it into the cup, his mouth watering at the chocolate scent filling his nose. He took the plastic top for the milk bottle from a drawer, sealed the bottle and put it back into the fridge. Doing that felt a bit like leading away a handcuffed criminal to Doyle.

With a grin on his face, he went to the living room and placed the cup with hot chocolate and the biscuits onto a small table next to the settee. Then he headed for his stereo. His favourite piano concert by Mozart started playing the moment he pressed the "Play" button. Though that was the music he had been listening to while preparing to go out to do some shopping prior to the shooting, he didn't have a music had a soothing effect on him and he finally relaxed. He sat down on the settee, drank his hot chocolate and nibbled some biscuits till his eye-lids started drooping again. Nearly spilling the rest of the hot chocolate, he decided it was high time to return to bed, where he fell into a dreamless sleep.

Bodie found himself being shaken awake by Joanna. "Wake up, Bodie. You've been tossing and turning for a while now." He opened his eyes and looked at the concerned face of his girl-friend. She asked softly: "Did you have a nightmare again?Bodie nodded in response, not yet trusting his voice.

"The usual stuff?" Bodie nodded again, then said: "Yeah, the image of Doyle's body jerking on the operating table, his smile in the ambulance, the moment the trolley with his unconscious form disappeared behind the doors to the operating theatre." He frowned and added: "One thing was different though. I saw Doyle's body lying in a pool of his blood, but not as usual in his flat, but in a park. How odd!" Bodie shook his head in confusion.

Joanna didn't know what to make of that and said: "Well, Ray coming home was a big thing, maybe that accounts for the strange element of your latest dream."

"Maybe this dream is supposed to tell me that Ray needs help. I'd better call him." Bodie reached for the phone on the bedside table.

"Bodie, no," Joanna said, "he's probably sound asleep and won't appreciate being woken up."

Bodie ignored her and dialled Doyle's number. After a while, Joanna tugged at Bodie's elbow and urged him: "Put the receiver down, you'll wake him from a deep sleep."

Just when Bodie had decided that he would dash over to Doyle's flat as he was convinced that Ray was in trouble, a husky "Doyle" reached his ear.

Bodie asked: "Doyle, are you all right?"

His partner cleared his throat before answering: "Course I am. Why do you call me in the middle of the night?"

Bodie felt a bit silly now and hesitated a moment before answering: "I had a strange nightmare that prompted me to think you might need help."

Doyle yawned. After a while he answered: "Well, I had a strange nightmare as well. The boy we met today in the park was shot. That was a while ago and I'd gone back to sleep before you woke me up." Doyle was clearly not happy about the second interruption of his sleep.

Bodie was puzzled and said: "How peculiar. In my dream you were shot again in a park."

"Hmm, we had a long walk in the park, maybe that's the reason for your dream. Can I go back to sleep now, Bodie? I'm rather tired." Doyle was far too sleepy to discuss the matter further and Bodie said: "Yeah, you go and get your beauty sleep. Good night, Ray."

"Night, Bodie," was all Doyle said before he hung up.

Joanna took the receiver from Bodie's hands and put it down. "You see, Ray's all right, " she said and pulled Bodie back onto the bed.

"He'll probably bite my head off tomorrow," Bodie said, not knowing whether to be more concerned about the nightmare or about the reception his partner would have in store for him the following morning. He snuggled up to Joanna and they both went back to sleep.

Chapter 8

As he was still used to hospital routine, Doyle woke up rather early in the morning. A quick check of his watch told him it was half past six. Though his first night home had been a bit rough, he felt pretty chipper. He had a nasty thought and gave the telephone on his bedside table a devilish grin before picking up the receiver and dialling Bodie's number.

It took some time till his partner answered the phone with a mumbled "Bodie."

Doyle nearly burst out laughing, but managed to refrain from doing so and said cheerfully: "Good Morning, Bodie!"

Bodie was not amused at all and said: "If that's just a wake-up call, I'll thump you. Convalescent or not, I'll thump you for waking me up in the middle of the night!"

Unperturbed, Doyle answered: "For your information, it's already half past six and that's not the middle of the was YOU who woke me up in the middle of the night, remember?"

Bodie sighed, then he answered: "Yes, I do. I was worried about you, Ray."

Feeling a little guilty for waking up his partner, Doyle replied: "Yeah, I know. Listen, you can prolong your beauty sleep for some time, but don't forget to pick Larry up at half past twelve. You do remember that we want to go to the garden centre in the afternoon?"

Bodie snorted. "Course I do. See you at about one o'clock then. Be a good lad for Nurse Sheridan and your new physio. Shall I bring you lunch?"

Doyle hesitated for a moment. "Nah, I think I can manage. Bye, Bodie."

"Bye, Ray."

Doyle put the receiver down and decided to stay in bed for a while longer, relishing the feeling of being in his own bed and not in a hospital bed. He dozed for an hour, then got up to prepare breakfast. He couldn't quite make up his mind what he wanted for his first breakfast out of hospital and ended up fixing a variety of things: toast with butter and honey, muesli, tea, orange juice and a thin slice of apple strudel. That made for a delicious breakfast and he took his time to consume it at leisure.

When Nurse Sheridan rang the doorbell, he had just downed his morning pills. He opened the door for her and dutifully reported: "Morning medication taken, Nurse Sheridan!" She gave him a smile and said: "Well done. A gold star for you, Agent Doyle. Did you have a good night?"

Doyle nodded, then answered: "Apart from a nightmare and being woken up by Bodie, it was a good night. Oh, and I won some money from Bodie last night."

"So he wasn't right when he predicted you'd loose all your money soon?"

"No, I turned the tables."

Nurse Sheridan opened her bag and said: "Let's check how you're doing today."

It didn't take long till she stated: "Everything's fine, Mr. Doyle." Her patient let out a little sigh of relief, then frowned when he watched the nurse preparing the heparin injection.

He wasn't exactly a fan of this part of the morning medication. Nurse Sheridan noticed the frown on her patient's face and said: "Yes, I know, nobody likes needles, but one little prick is better than having a stroke or a heart-attack. Besides, you won't have to put up with them for much longer."

Doyle perked up when he heard that. Nurse Sheridan said: "Well, you won't skip this one, so you'd better lie down on your bed."

Doyle led the way to the bedroom where he followed the nurse's instruction. He tried his best not to wince when the needle pierced through the skin on his belly.

Nurse Sheridan gave him a smile. "One down, only a couple more to go!" Doyle replied: " It'll be a great day when I say good-bye to the needle morning routine."

Fifteen minutes later, Nurse Sheridan had taken care of the scars, had helped Doyle into his tracksuit and had left the flat. Doyle busied himself with a catlick, a shave and doing the dishes.

When he was done, he decided to return the pot and baking tray to their rightful owners. Gingerly balancing his cargo, he made his way out of the flat and went down to the first floor.

He rang Mrs. Sonntag's doorbell.

It took a few moments till she opened the door only wide enough to recognize her visitor and said: "Ah, Mr. Doyle, come in."

"Good morning, Mrs. Sonntag," Doyle replied and stepped inside.

Mrs. Sonntag took the pot and the baking tray from him and chided: "You shouldn't have come down. There was no hurry to return these things. Have you eaten breakfast already? Did you have a good night? Did you enjoy what Gerda and myself prepared for you?"

Doyle was just about to answer, when Mrs. Sonntag yelled: "Gerda, it's Mr. Doyle." She ushered him to the kitchen where Mrs. Goldman was sat at the table.

Mrs. Sonntag gently pushed Doyle down on a chair next to her friend and put a cup of tea in his hands. Doyle greeted Mrs. Goldman and had a sip of tea before making another attempt to answer all the questions Mrs. Sonntag had asked. "Well, I've already had breakfast and I had a good night. Bodie and I really enjoyed your stew and apple strudel."

Both ladies beamed and Doyle continued: "The stew's all gone, there's still some apple strudel left, but I think it'll all be gone in the afternoon."

Mrs. Goldman asked: "What do you plan to have for lunch?"

Doyle thought for a moment before answering: "I think I'll fix some sandwiches. The physio will be over soon, so I don't think I'll have time to cook."

Mrs. Sonntag and Mrs. Goldman exchanged a look, then Mrs. Sonntag said: "I think you need proper food, Mr. Doyle. Gerda and myself would be more than happy to do the cooking for you until you're able to do it yourself."

Doyle didn't know what to say, the offer was tempting. The ladies sure knew how to fix a good meal, but he thought he really should make an effort to take care of things himself.

Mrs. Goldman interrupted his musings: "We won't take no for an answer, Mr. Doyle. Would you like stuffed peppers with rice and tomato sauce for lunch today?"

Doyle gave up resistance and said: "That sounds delicious!"

The ladies nodded and said: "That's settled then. We'll serve lunch right on time. You do a good job with your physio and let us take care of the food."

Doyle got up and said: "Thank you very much, ladies. I'd better get back to my flat now."

Mrs. Sonntag saw him to the door, then returned to the kitchen where she and Mrs. Goldman got to work straight away.

At ten o'clock, Mrs. Davis, Doyle's new physio, arrived. She was accompanied by a man who was in charge of setting up the exercise bike for Doyle's training sessions at home.

After exchanging a couple of words and eyeing each other critically, Mrs. Davis exclaimed: "Well, Mr. Doyle, I've heard quite a lot about you."

Doyle gave her a sheepish smile and said: "All good, I hope!"

She frowned and answered: "Well, not quite. One word that was mentioned a number of times was 'stubborn'. Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing unless you fail to realize that it's me who's running the show here." She had a look around the living room and directed her companion where to set up the exercise bike, then she spoke to Doyle again: "We'd better head for your bedroom so we can start working."

Doyle thought it was no surprise that she was a friend of Mrs. Masterson, both of them liked getting down to business at once and were not prepared to accept any nonsense.

Mrs. Davis checked Doyle over, then said: "Okay, here's what we'll do: I'll give you a massage at first, then we'll do some exercise and after a short break, you'll work out on the bike. If there's a problem, let me know. Ready for some action?"

Doyle nodded. During the treatment, he realized that Mrs. Masterson had done a good job briefing her friend about her new patient. Mrs. Davis pushed him hard during his breathing exercises, making sure he used his full lung capacity though that still hurt a bit. That part of the physio sessions had always required some shouts of "Breathe deeply" from Mrs. Masterson when he had started to slack far too soon in her opinion.

When that particular exercise was done, Mrs. Davis gave her patient a smile and said: "Well, the other word that has been attributed to you, is 'determined' and that surely is accurate."

Doyle felt a bit dizzy and so it took him a few moments to respond: "CI5 doesn't hire cream puffs, you know!"

Mrs. Davis burst out laughing, then she said: "I was beginning to suspect that. Now, let's work on your shoulder."

After these exercises, Doyle was able to lift both of his arms above his shoulder and Mrs. Davis was as pleased as Doyle about that. He thought something over for a few seconds, then took a deep breath and asked: "Do you think we could do an exercise that's probably in none of your books about physiotherapy?"

Mrs. Davis looked him straight into his eyes and inquired: "What's that?"

There was a moment of silence before Doyle replied: "I was wondering if I could practice how to draw my gun. I know that may sound strange to a civilian, but it's important to me. As a CI5 agent, I must be able to handle my gun."

Doyle felt a bit awkward about this request, but Mrs. Davis was obviously ready to try something new as she listened intently and with a smile on her face to Doyle's said: "I must admit that I have mixed feelings about guns, but I understand why you ask for this particular exercise. So, go and get your gun."

Doyle put on his sweater again and grinned while doing so as he didn't need help.

He left the room. When he came back with his gun and holster, he explained to Mrs. Davis: "You don't have to worry, the gun isn't loaded." He put on his holster and placed the gun into it. It felt strange to handle his gun after such a long time. He hesitated. Mrs. Davis noticed that, gave him an encouraging smile and said: "Well, what are you waiting for? Let's do this right...Somebody has just kidnapped a foreign diplomat. You're not going to let him get away with it! Get your gun out now, agent Doyle."

Doyle looked at Mrs. Davis with his mouth wide open. "You might want to consider a career in CI5, Mrs. Davis," he said after a while, "you would give some of our coaches a run for their money."

The smile on Mrs. Davis's face turned to a grin and she commanded: "Stop talking!"

Doyle finally got into action and pulled the gun with his right hand. The movement wasn't quite as smooth and swift as it was supposed to be, but that was just a matter of practice. He repeated the same movement with his left hand and that went well, too. Mrs. Davis nodded in approval and said: "Well done! It seems you're ambidextrous."

Doyle said: "Well, I can draw the gun with my left, but I need to transfer it to the right hand to shoot." They talked about his job in CI5 for a while and Doyle said that he'd put in a word with his boss should Mrs. Davis ever consider a career alongside Macklin and Towser. Then they went to the living room where they found the exercise bike set up. Mrs Davis' companion had quietly left the flat after finishing his job. Doyle managed to cope with the exercise Mrs. Davis had devised for him. When Mrs. Davis left the flat after more than one hour, both patient and therapist were satisfied with the result of today's session.

Doyle decided to have a shower. Much to his delight, he was able to wash his hair. Lifting his arms that high still hurt a bit, but he enjoyed the feeling of taking care of that job himself again. Though all the nurses in the hospital had been very gentle, he hadn't been too happy about having to let somebody loose on his mop.

One of the lessons the last weeks had taught him was never to take the simple things in life for granted again. He stepped from the shower, towelled himself and got dressed slowly. He put on jeans, a t-shirt and a shirt. Wearing street-clothes felt good and he was looking forward to the trip to the garden centre in the afternoon.

He had just finished drying his hair when the door-bell rang.

Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. Sonntag had carried out their assignment like clockwork. This time, he didn't even have to spend time with warming up as the ladies delivered today's meal steaming hot.

Doyle said: "Gosh, that really floors me! How can I properly thank you for the excellent care you take of my stomach?" Said organ had just made itself heard with a loud growling.

The ladies laughed, then said: "Oh, you just get better, that's the best thanks you can give us."

They carried the pots to Doyle's kitchen, then left Doyle to his lunch. At first, Doyle thought there would be quite a big leftover as the ladies had prepared a huge portion, but in the end, he finished it all.

He was just pondering doing the dishes, not exactly keen on the job ahead, when the door bell rang again.

Doyle opened the door for Larry and Bodie. Larry said: "Hey, mate, looks like you're doing very well at home."

Doyle nodded. "Yeah, I was a bit nervous at first, but things are going really well. I've practiced how to handle my gun with the new physio this morning." He looked very pleased with himself.

Larry replied: "I bet the London villains are trembling like leaves just now."

A wicked grin passed Doyle's face and he said: "They'd better!"

Suddenly, Bodie acted like a sniffing dog. His food radar was on high alert and he stated: "You even managed to cook on your first day home. Colour me impressed!"

Doyle gave him a sheepish smile and said: "No, to be honest, I sub-contracted lunch."

Bodie didn't have to think long before he asked: "You've got these two lovely ladies wrapped round your finger, don't you, Ray?"

Doyle's sheepish smile turned into a rather cheeky one and Bodie said: "You jammy sod! Does that mean I can close down my "Meals On Wheels" service?"

Doyle nodded with a big grin on his face, then said: "I wish I could offer you some of the lunch they cooked for me, but it's all gone." Doyle looked apologetic and Bodie said: "It's all right, Larry and I've had lunch. We knew we couldn't count on you, you glutton."

Larry laughed out loud and decided to put an end to the bickering. "Let's have a look at the garden on your terrace."

Doyle led the way and informed Larry: "Bodie killed my box plants, you know!"

Larry sighed. "Yes, I know, we'll just buy some new ones. No need to cry over spilled milk." They had reached the terrace and Larry had a quick look around, then said: "Ah, we can make some nice flower boxes with heather, chrysanths and box plants. Would you like that, Ray?"

"I love the idea, so let's waste no more and time and get out of here." Doyle was eager to do some shopping for the first time in two months.

Half an hour later, they stood in front of a row of lawn mowers in the garden centre Larry had recommended. The hospital needed a new lawn mower and Larry had been given the task to buy one. After a long discussion, Larry had made up his mind and had chosen a mower which suited his needs.

Bodie said: "I'll try to persuade Frank from the car pool to let me have a car which is big enough for this particular transfer tomorrow."

Larry replied: "That'd be great. Or we could tie the mower to the roof of the Capri and buy it today." He burst out laughing, but Bodie's face paled at a sudden memory and he said: "I don't think that's a good idea. You see, Ray and I were given a desk job once by the Cow. We had to collect his desk and we tied it to the roof of our car. Then we got caught up in a car chase. First we lost the drawers, then we lost the rest of the desk. Needless to say, the Cow wasn't pleased and it took a long time to persuade him not to deduct the price for the desk from our wages. Yet the whole thing had some funny moments as well, right Ray? ... Ray?" Bodie looked around, but his partner was nowhere in sight.

Bodie realized that Doyle's contributions to the discussion had ceased a while ago. Obviously, he had wandered off by himself. "Can't let the golly out of sight for five minutes," he said to Larry. They started to look for the missing convalescent immediately.

It didn't them take long to locate Doyle. He was just about to put pot with a yellow chrysanth into a shopping trolley which was filled to capacity already. He was whistling a tune, enjoying his shopping spree.

Larry and Bodie looked at each other, then they both gave Ray a chiding look. Doyle shot them an irritated glance and said: "What's wrong?"

Larry gave Bodie a pleading look and said: "You tell him, you're his partner."

Bodie was having none of it. He wouldn't miss the opportunity to direct Doyle's anger at somebody else for once and so he said: "Oh, no! You tell him, you're the professional here."

Larry sighed, sent a look heavenwards and asked: "Doyle, you do realize that you only have a terrace, not a huge park?"

Doyle nodded. Pointing to the shopping trolley, Larry continued: "This looks more like you think you live in a stately home with a big park. There's no way all this is going to fit onto your terrace."

Doyle took a step back and scrutinized the shopping trolley. After a while he stated: "I think you're right. I guess I got carried away a bit, but there are so many lovely plants on sale. I'd like to have some colourful plants around at home. I mean, the hospital was a bit of a bleak place."

Larry replied: "I perfectly understand that. So, let me just check how to make some nice flower boxes without getting rid of too many of your chosen plants. Bodie, go and get another shopping trolley."

When Bodie returned, Larry had moved some pots away from the others and now put them into the second trolley. He said: "We'll return these and get some more flower boxes and soil instead. Is that okay, Ray?"

Doyle heaved a sigh, he wasn't too happy, but he had no choice, so he said: "Yeah, you're the professional, you know best."

Feeling rather relieved, Larry said: "You got that right, Ray. It'll look great when I'm done, I promise."

Doyle nodded and they carried out Larry's plan. While Larry fetched more flower boxes and Bodie lifted a huge bag with soil into the shopping trolley, Doyle selected two bouquets of flowers for Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. Sonntag and an orchid for his flat. Larry and Bodie thought it would be best to end Doyle's shopping spree now, otherwise he might turn his flat into a branch of Kew Gardens.

Having paid at the checkout, they headed back to Doyle's their way, they stopped at Rita's Laundry to collect the bag with Doyle's laundry Rita had refused to hand over to decided to wait in the car as he was stuck on the rear seat with plants surrounding him.

When Bodie and Doyle got back into the car, Doyle told his partner: "I'm totally sure now, she didn't give you my laundry because she thinks you've got shifty eyes."

Bodie gave him a glare which failed to intimidate Doyle and he started to snigger. He stopped soon and said: "Sorry, Bodie, but you have to admit she was a bit suspicious about you."

Bodie mumbled something inaudible and started the engine.

Moving Doyle's purchases up to the terrace was quite a job for Bodie and Larry, whereas Ray took pleasure in delivering the bouquets of flowers to Mrs. Sonntag and Mrs. Goldman. Both ladies were overjoyed. Each gave Doyle a gentle hug and they promised to keep up their excellent meal service.

When Doyle returned to the flat, he found Bodie and Larry on the terrace. Larry was already busy with the first box of flowers.

With some difficulty, Doyle crouched down beside him and said: "I want to do some planting myself."

Larry cast him a quick glance and reached into the tool bag he had brought along. Handing Doyle a shovel, he said: "I sure can use some help with this lot, so go ahead!"

Doyle gave him a big grin and got to work. He put a purple chrysanth into the middle of a flower box, then added a yellow on either side. Larry moved the bag with soil closer to Doyle and Ray filled the flower box with soil. It didn't take long till Doyle tapped the edge of the flower box with the shovel and exclaimed: "Done!"

Larry gave him a wink and said: "We'll make a gardener out of you yet." Bodie decided to leave his two mates with green thumbs to it and went to the kitchen. He washed the dishes, then fixed tea and laid the table. The gardeners would be hungry after their job, so it was better to be prepared.

Larry and Doyle worked side by side till all the plants were neatly planted in the flower boxes. Larry always had an eye on Doyle and provided help when needed.

Doyle got up with a groan. Kneeling on the floor had left him a bit stiff, but when he looked at the beautiful array of plants on his terrace, he forgot about the pain rather quickly. He asked Larry: "Shall I get water for the plants?"

Larry nodded and Doyle went to the kitchen. Bodie had just finished his preparations for tea and asked: "Mission accomplished?"

"Almost," Doyle answered and took the watering can from the window sill, filled it and went back to the terrace. Larry was busy cutting back the roses and giving the new box plants a bit of a fancy trim. Doyle watered the first flower box, then went back to the kitchen. As the watering can was only small and the bigger one stowed away in a cupboard was too heavy for him to carry, Doyle had to make several trips to the kitchen and back to finish his job. Neither Bodie, who had come out to the terrace, nor Larry offered a hand, though they were aware of the order to make sure Doyle didn't overtax himself. Ray had great fun taking part in restoring his little garden, they simply didn't want to spoil it.

When the watering was finished, Doyle gave Larry instructions how to arrange all the flower boxes. Doyle needed help with this as he didn't feel like crouching down again and Larry gladly followed Doyle's instructions. The moment the last flower box found its correct place, an elated smile appeared on Ray's face and he said: "That's beautiful. Thanks for your help, Larry."

"My pleasure, Ray. Oh, and you can always become my assistant at the hospital if you get tired of CI5."

"Well, you never know what happens."

Bodie ushered them inside. "Come on, you garden gnomes, the tea's getting cold."

When the last crumb of apple strudel had vanished and the teapot was empty, it was time for the meeting with Alan and Duncan.

On their way to the park, Bodie and Doyle told Larry all about the new friends they had made. Having entered Holland Park, it didn't take long for Duncan to locate them and he came running towards them at the speed of light, barking lively. He almost knocked Doyle over with his very vehement greeting, but calmed down quickly when Doyle told him: "Oi, take it easy, Duncan," and started to pet him. Larry and Bodie joined in and Duncan enjoyed being the centre of attention for while, then he shook off the hands on him, letting out a commanding bark. Then he ran off with the three bipeds in tow.

Soon they saw Alan who was hurrying towards them. When he reached them, he said: "I thought Duncan had spotted you when he took off like a canon ball and I'm glad I was right." He gave the three grown-ups a shy smile.

Doyle said: "We promised we'd be here and a CI5 agent's always as good as his word. We even brought reinforcements, say hi to Larry."

"Hi Larry," Alan said. Having studied Larry for a while, Alan asked: "Are you with CI5 as well?"

Larry laughed and answered: "Oh, no. I leave the job of defending Queen and country to these two lads. I work as a gardener at the hospital from which Doyle was discharged yesterday."

Alan nodded, then asked: "Ray, how are you doing? I told my mum about you going home after your discharge from hospital and she said that was a brave thing to do. She said you should have gone to a con, con..., now what was the word she used?" Alan concentrated hard for a few seconds, then continued:"...convalescent home! Yes, that's what she said."

Doyle frowned when he remembered that he managed to avoid a military convalescent home only by a close shave and told Alan: "Don't worry, so far I'm doing fine at home."

Bodie added: "And if he's a good lad, he'll manage to stay away from that dreaded place whose name shall not be mentioned again." He gave Doyle a wink. His partner pulled a face in response.

Alan said: "I'll tell my mum you're doing well. She might even be able to help you, she's very good with sick people. She used to help out at my dad's surgery when he had just opened it and couldn't afford hiring an assistant. I'll ask her about it. Oh, and I can help you as well."

Doyle gave him a smile and said: "Thanks a lot, I might take you up on that sometime. So, your dad's a doctor?"

Alan nodded and said: "He no longer lives with me and my mum, they're divorced and I only see him every other Sunday." There was a distressed expression on his face when he continued: "I miss him a lot!"

Doyle and Bodie exchanged a look that said: "Ah, that's why he's such a sad little lad." Before either of them could say anything in response, Duncan, who had left them to retrieve his fetch stick, returned and presented it to Doyle. Ray, who was as eager for another game of fetch as Duncan, took it and threw it. Soon, they were all engaged in the game with Duncan dashing back and forth like greased lightning.

At one point, Duncan decided to change the rules of the game. He abandoned the fetch stick, ran to Doyle and gently nudged his knees with his nose, then rushed off.

He didn't go very far. A few steps away, he turned round and barked at Doyle.

Ray walked over to the dog and petted him. Duncan sat still for a while, then nudged Doyle's knees and ran away once again.

Doyle thought that wasn't the proper way to play a game of fetch, but decided to play along and walked briskly to Duncan who thought: "Let's see whether I can make him run just a little bit. I've got to be careful, but I think he can handle a bit of running." He ran away again, barking loudly. Ray followed him with a pace somewhere between a brisk walk and a slow run.

Duncan let Doyle catch up with him and sat next to him for a while, then he took off again. This time, Doyle ran over to him, not exactly like greased lightning, more like a rusty old car, but it felt good to Doyle. This little game was repeated a couple of times with Doyle becoming less rusty and having more fun with each turn.

Bodie, Larry and Alan watched with growing concern. Bodie said: "I don't think the stupid sod should be running." He took a deep breath and yelled: "Doyle!" Alan called Duncan, but neither of them responded.

Both Bodie and Alan yelled again, but Doyle and Duncan were immersed in their game and oblivious of the calls.

Larry stated with a grin on his face: "That's one happy, but disobedient dog."

Bodie nodded and said: "Yeah, and Duncan is just as bad as Doyle." Bodie let out a loud whistle and Alan called Duncan once again. At that moment, Duncan decided that Doyle needed a break and led him back to where the others were standing at a slow pace. He was very pleased with himself and thought: "I wonder if there are physio dogs. I think I have a talent for that."

When Doyle and Duncan saw the chiding looks on their companions' faces, Ray asked irritably: "What's wrong? Can't I play with Duncan?"

Bodie gave him a hard stare and said: "Course you can, but let's run through the proper rules for a game of fetch once again: The DOG is supposed to fetch a stick. YOU are supposed to wait for the dog to bring you the stick. What you're not supposed to do is chasing after the dog on your second day out of hospital."

There was only one answer to that in Doyle's opinion and he said "spoilsport," with a twinkle in his eyes.

Bodie rolled his eyes, pointed to a bench and said: "Sit, Raymond or I'll have to call Mrs. Masterson."

Doyle said: "Woof, woof," and sat down on the bench. Duncan hopped on the bench and lay down next to Doyle, his head resting in Ray's lap.

Doyle put his hands on the dog's rising and falling chest. Just like Doyle, Duncan was breathing rapidly after the exertion of the game they had played. Doyle's heart was beating fast. Many times after the shooting, he had been deeply scared by his heart galloping in his chest, wondering whether he would survive if his heart fibrillated again, necessitating another shock treatment. Things were different this time. Doyle felt quite content about having completed something which could be called a run and was pleased that his heart rate and breathing slowed down after a short while. Soon, the rhythm of Doyle's and Duncan's breathing was in sync.

Bodie crouched down to pet Duncan and said: "Such good doggies!"

His hand moved up to Doyle's curls, but his partner stopped him. "Keep your paws off my head. I washed my hair all by myself for the first time in the morning, I don't need your hands in it. I don't know where they've been!"

Bodie did all innocent and asked with a mock hurt tone in his voice: "Would I mess up your hair?"

Trying to wriggle out of Bodie's reach, Doyle answered: "Yes, you would!"

Duncan decided to put an end to the hairy dispute. He sat up on his hind legs and growled at Bodie, who flinched and got up. Moving back a few steps, he said: "Looks like your mop has found a protector. Little wonder, Duncan's and your hairdo are pretty much alike. All unruly and fluffy! I concede defeat, mate, your curls are safe."

Duncan settled down again with his head in Doyle's lap.

Grinning at Bodie, Ray petted Duncan's head and said: "Well done, Duncan! Don't worry, there's nothing wrong with unruly and fluffy hair. We can't all look the military type." Duncan barked his approval.

After a second game of fetch it was time for Alan and Duncan to go home. Doyle, Bodie and Larry accompanied them for a while and Doyle showed Alan how to get to his flat and told him that he and Duncan were welcome to visit him anytime they felt like it.

During the lift ride up to his flat, Doyle yawned hugely. As soon as they had entered the flat, Doyle told Larry and Bodie: "I think I'm ready for a kip!" He looked thoroughly washed-out and walked straight to the bedroom.

Bodie and Larry followed their mate and observed with a mixture of concern and bewilderment how Ray took off his shoes and settled down on the bed with some difficulty. He fell asleep shortly after his head had touched the pillow.

Larry fiddled with the blanket which Doyle had only haphazardly pulled over himself and said: "I hope he's all right. I mean, he had a busy day, do you think he overdid it?"

Bodie shook his head and replied: "Nah, he's just tired. I'm sure he'll rise and shine for dinner."

Larry thought his mate didn't sound entirely convinced and said: "I hope you're right!"

"I'm always right, Larry, " Bodie said, gave him a reassuring smile and continued: "Right, we've got work to do. I'll take care of the kitchen and you'd better check on the work of your assistant gardener." They looked Doyle over, he was breathing normally and his face had a rosy complexion. Larry and Bodie left the room and got to work. Occasionally, they tiptoed to the bedroom to have a look at Doyle who kept sleeping the sleep of the halfway innocent.

Just when Bodie had finished his work in the kitchen, Nurse Sheridan arrived.

Confronted with a patient sound asleep who didn't wake up when she addressed him, she frowned and asked: "What have you been up to?"

Bodie shifted his weight from one foot to the other and back. He answered: "Well, we've been to a garden centre and to the park. Doyle did some garden work and..." He hesitated, then went on: "He even ran a bit when playing with a dog."

Nurse Sheridan rolled her eyes and said: "That's a lot for his second day out of hospital. Didn't you try to stop him?"

Bodie answered: "Of course, I tried, but it's easier to stop a tank. Thick-headed doesn't even begin to describe our Raymond! I mean..."

Nurse Sheridan shot him a chiding look and he shut up. She bent down and shook Doyle, saying: "Mr. Doyle! Ray," rather loudly.

When Doyle deigned to wake and recognized Nurse Sheridan's voice, he said: "No needles, please!" That broke the tension in the room and everybody laughed. Nurse Sheridan assured Doyle there would be no injection. She checked him over and was pleased that everything was all right. Putting him into his pyjamas was a bit difficult as the patient was too tired to cooperate fully.

Before Doyle went back to sleep, he said: "Bodie, can you fix dinner? I'm starving, but I'm too tired to take care of dinner."

"Leave it to me, " Bodie answered: "If necessary, you can eat in bed, Ray."

Doyle shook his head and said: "Don't worry, I'll be in the kitchen soon." His eye-lids slid shut.

Larry and Bodie saw Nurse Sheridan to the door. She said: "Let's see if he really wakes up for dinner. If he doesn't, you'd better stay here tonight."

Bodie gave her a grin: "I'm sure he will. He hasn't skipped a meal lately."

Nurse Sheridan said: "Call the hospital if there's a problem and please, make him take it a bit easier tomorrow."

Bodie heaved a sigh: "I'll do my best, but that's one hell of tricky assignment as Ray's a bit unleashed ever since he left the hospital."

Nurse Sheridan smiled and said: "Well, I can't really blame him for that. Let's see how the night goes!"

She left and Bodie and Larry went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. They decided to try one of Larry's recipes for stew and when it was nearly finished, they opened the door to the kitchen and Doyle's bedroom. Larry chuckled, then said: "That puts a whole new meaning to the term baited trap!"

They didn't have to wait long. Soon a very alert Doyle came into the kitchen, went straight to the cooker, lifted the lid of the pot with the stew and said: "That looks delicious. When can we eat?"

"Straight away," Larry answered and Bodie added: "We've only been waiting for you to finish your kip. Are you feeling better now, Ray? You had us and Nurse Sheridan worried."

Ray sat down at the kitchen table and said: "Yes, I'm fine. I was just tired when we came home." He held up a plate and said: "Can I get some service here or is this a self-service restaurant?" He grinned roguishly.

Bodie said: "You're one hell of a cheeky customer, Ray." Yet he and Larry were very relived that Doyle had recovered and so Larry got up to fill Doyle's plate. "Here you are, mate," he said when he handed Ray a huge portion of stew.

They had a delicious dinner together, then watched a soccer game on the box. Doyle only made it to half-time, then he was ready for a kip again. When Bodie suggested staying over to keep an eye on him, Doyle retorted: "Thanks, mate, but I don't need a keeper. You and Larry can watch the game here and then you can leave, but quietly please. Good night, lads."

He went to the bedroom.

An hour later, Bodie and Larry left after one last check on Doyle, who was sleeping peacefully. This night went by without nightmares and interruptions.

Chapter 9

Nurse Sheridan was very relieved when she found Doyle perky and chipper the next morning. Nevertheless, she decided that a short recap of the rules her patient had to abide by was called for.

Doyle listened with half an ear until Nurse Sheridan came to the final point of her lecture: "Today, you'll stay at home. It's raining and it's rather cool, so there's no point in you running after dogs again. No shopping sprees and no gardening either. You sure don't want to catch a cold."

Grounded Doyle was far from being a happy patient, but the objection lingering on the tip of his tongue was silenced by a look from Nurse Sheridan that said: "Don't mess with me!"

Doyle had to admit she was right and thought to himself that arguing with somebody about to give him an injection would be a rather stupid thing to do. When Nurse Sheridan was done, she gave him a satisfied smile and said: "I'm glad we agree."

Wincing a bit, Doyle replied: "Aye-aye, Nurse Sheridan." During his routine check-up Doyle thought about a way to make his stay - at - home afternoon more interesting. By the time Nurse Sheridan stated: "Yesterday's exertions obviously didn't take a toll on you," he had come up with the idea to ask the ladies to show him how to bake apple strudel.

As soon as the nurse had left, he went down to Mrs. Sonntag's flat and put the suggestion to her. She hesitated for a moment and said: "Well, Gerda and I were just about to bake a chocolate cake for you, but if you wish, we can show you how to make apple strudel in the afternoon. We'll bake the chocolate cake with you, too. So you'll learn how to do that yourself as well. Two lessons in one! What do you say, Mr. Doyle?"

Smiling, Doyle replied: "Excellent! Oh, and would it be a problem for you to fix two portions for lunch? Bodie's coming over."

"Consider it done, Mr. Doyle," Mrs. Sonntag said.

Doyle went back to his flat to get ready for the session with Mrs. Davis. When she arrived, she said: "Well, well, well, I've heard all about the mischief you were up to yesterday." She gave him a searching look and continued: "It seems it didn't do you any harm, what did Nurse Sheridan say?"

"Everything's fine, but she has grounded me for today," Doyle replied. "That's a good idea! Maybe I can give you a bit of homework to help you fill the time," Mrs. Davis said.

"What kind of homework?" Doyle was very curious.

"I'll tell you when we're done. I have to wait and see how you're doing during our session, so let's get moving."

A bit more than an hour later, Mrs. Davis told Doyle, who was a little out of breath: "I think you're ready for some homework. Do you agree?"

Doyle merely nodded, he didn't have enough breath for speaking yet.

Mrs. Davis waited a while, then said: "If you feel like it and if there's somebody around to keep an eye on you, you can do five miles on your own this afternoon. Five miles only, not a single mile more! Remember this exercise bike has a built in milometer, so I'll catch you if you cheat. I won't tolerate cheating. Are we clear on this?"

Doyle had got his breath back and replied: "Absolutely, Mrs. Davis." There was a bright smile on his face. Being grounded didn't seem to be that bad after all.

As promised, the ladies delivered two portions of lunch. Doyle thought these were really big portions, suitable for a regiment. It turned out that only a two man regiment including his partner was required to empty all the pots.

Bodie wiped his mouth with a napkin, then said: "Maybe we should think about packing in our jobs with CI5 and open a restaurant. The ladies do the cooking, Larry takes care of the garden, I take over the job of the waiter, you do the interior design and you get a small room to exhibit your paintings. "

The idea made Doyle laugh. "I don't think we'd make it into the Guide Michelin, Bodie, so you'd better not hand in your letter of resignation based on that plan. By the way, did Frank give you a car big enough for picking up the lawn mower with Larry?"

Bodie nodded and asked: "Are you coming with us, Ray?"

"No, Nurse Sheridan told me to stay home today!"

Bodie was pleasantly surprised and stated: "Good to see you're willing to play it by the book for a change." He frowned and said: "Hmm, but won't you get bored? Don't do anything stupid while I'm away, Ray!"

Doyle rolled his eyes and said: "Don't worry, the ladies are coming up to bake apple strudel with me and I'm sure they'll keep an eye on me."

Bodie rubbed his hands. "Excellent. You're in good hands and we'll have a delicious tea when we get back. I'd better get going now."

After Bodie had left to pick up Larry, Doyle got to work and did the dishes. Then he had a short nap. He had just got up when the door bell rang.

Doyle opened the door and let in the ladies. Mrs. Sonntag carried two bags and Mrs. Goldman held a bowl covered with a tea towel in her hands.

Doyle led the way to the kitchen and Mrs. Sonntag explained: "We brought everything we need along as we didn't know whether you have the necessary equipment. The pastry for the apple strudel is ready for filling. You have to rest pastry for one hour, so we prepared that in my kitchen."

Doyle watched the ladies taking over his kitchen. They spread the content of their bags and had a good look around. Not wasting any time, Mrs Sonntag put a peeler into Doyle's hands straight away.

Pointing to a pile of apples on the kitchen table, Mrs. Goldman said: "You'd better get on with it." Doyle sat down at the table and started peeling the apples. Mrs. Goldman joined him. It didn't take them long to go through the pile.

Mrs. Sonntag turned on the oven and explained: "The oven needs to be heated beforehand." Handing a grater, a bowl and a knife to Doyle, she told him: "Now you cut the apples in half, remove the core and use the grater for producing thin apple slices."

Under the watchful eyes of the ladies, Doyle followed the instructions and Mrs. Goldman said: "You'll be an apple strudel master in no time!"

Doyle almost laughed, but as this wasn't a good idea when working with a grater, he stopped himself and said: "Only because I have fantastic teachers!"

Mrs. Goldman giggled and said: "Oh, Mr. Doyle, no need to flatter old ladies like us." The slight blush on her cheeks told Doyle that the statement wasn't exactly true. Mrs. Sonntag was equally proud of the compliment, but managed to hide it a bit better. She said: "You just get on with the apples now, there will be enough time for sweet-talking later!"

Doyle doubled his pace and soon the bowl was full with thin apple slices. Mrs. Sonntag added some lemon juice. "Lemon juice prevents the apples from turning brown," she explained.

Pushing some boxes closer to Doyle and opening them, Mrs. Goldman said: "Now it's up to you to create the filling you like best. Add sugar, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts to your liking." She put some spoons next to the boxes.

Doyle hesitated for a moment. This felt a bit like creating some kind of magic potion. He put a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a handful of raisins and a handful of walnuts cut to small pieces into the bowl. Then he tasted the mix, nodded appreciatively and said: "It's delicious!" Mrs. Sonntag tasted the mix as well and confirmed Doyle's verdict.

Mrs. Goldman, who had greased the baking tray, said with a grin on her face: "So, we're ready to roll!" Mrs. Sonntag put a rolling pin in Doyle's hands and the lump of pastry on top of a tea towel in front of him.

Rolling the pastry was a bit of a painful endeavour for Doyle, but he seemed to master it well nevertheless as the ladies gave him a complacent smile when the pastry was thin enough for their liking.

"Now comes the most tricky and crucial part of the mission," Mrs. Goldman said.

Doyle listened keenly as Mrs. Sonntag explained: "The pastry must become a lot thinner than that. My mum always used to say you must the able to read a newspaper placed under a perfect piece of pastry. You achieve this by slipping your hands under the pastry, back of your hands up, then you pull carefully." She demonstrated the manoeuvre as she spoke, then put her hands on her hips and told Doyle: "Your turn!"

Getting up from the table, Doyle said: "Let's do this properly!" Puzzled, the ladies watched him disappearing.

When he came back, there was a motorcycle magazine in his hands. Doyle put the magazine under the pastry and carried out Mrs. Sonntag's instructions. That was indeed a tricky operation as it became harder and harder to prevent the pastry from looking like a Swiss cheese as it got thinner and thinner.

Mrs. Goldman stopped him and said: "That's enough. I think I can read the article." She put on her glasses and read: "This bike has a powerful what on earth does that mean?" There was a look of confusion on her face. She looked at her friend who shrugged her shoulders.

Doyle explained: "It means that the two cylinders of the engine form the shape of the letter V!"

"Ah," replied Mrs. Sonntag, still not quite knowing what Doyle was on about. Pointing to the pastry and the bowl with filling, she added: "We'd better turn all this into the shape of a proper apple strudel now. Put the filling onto the pastry and then it's time to roll again. This time you use the tea towel to roll up the pastry and the filling, but take out that magazine first."

With a smile on his face, Doyle did as he had been told and only a few minutes later, the apple strudel was safely transferred to the baking tray with a little help from Mrs. Goldman.

Mrs. Sonntag added a thin coat of melted butter to the strudel and put it into the oven. "It should be ready in about twenty-five minutes," Mrs. Goldman said.

When the crust of the apple-strudel turned gold-brown, the door bell rang again. Doyle used the intercom to find out who was waiting in front the building.

In a low voice, Alan said: "Hello, Mr. Doyle...Ray! It's Alan and Duncan!" Duncan introduced himself with a short bark. A female voice said: "The lads aren't alone, her mother's with them. Mrs. Mitchell's the name."

Doyle said: "Come on up to the top floor, Mrs. Mitchell, Alan and Duncan." He pressed the button for the door opener and listened while his visitors made their way into the building, then he opened the door and waited for the lift.

When it arrived, Duncan headed straight for the right flat and greeted Doyle with a bark that resounded in the hallway. Doyle put a finger on his lips and Alan said: "Quiet Duncan!" The dog fell silent and slipped into the flat.

Alan was a little embarrassed and said: "I hope it's okay that we visit you. I mean, you said yesterday we could stop by anytime and it's raining today. I was thinking you wouldn't be out in this weather, so here we are!" The boy gave Doyle a sheepish smile.

"Good thinking and perfect timing, Alan. The apple strudel in the oven is almost done, so come on in," Doyle said.

Mrs. Mitchell said: "I don't want to stay, Mr. Doyle. I've got some chores to do. Alan has been talking about you a lot and so I wanted to meet you."

Doyle gave her a swift searching look. Alan looked a lot like his mum, he had her dark blonde, wavy hair and her warm, friendly eyes. With a smile, he asked: "You wanted to see whether your son's in good hands? I can assure you, he is."

Mrs. Mitchell nodded: "I think he's safe when he's with a CI5 agent. He really likes you and he doesn't have that many friends who live in this neighbourhood."

Doyle replied: "He's always welcome, Mrs. Mitchell, don't you worry about a thing."

Turning to Alan, his mother told him: "Be a good lad and don't be late. See you later. Good-bye Mr. Doyle."

She left and Alan and Doyle went into the flat.

They found Duncan in the kitchen, being cuddled by the ladies.

"Alan, meet Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. Sonntag," Doyle said.

"Good afternoon, ladies," Alan said with a shy smile.

"Hello Alan," said Mrs. Goldman and her friend added: "Such a nice lad and such a cute dog."

That was the cue for Doyle. "Oh, and this hairy fellow who enjoys a good cuddle is called Duncan."

Mrs. Sonntag said: "Yes, you do love a cuddle, don't you, Duncan?" She petted the dog for a bit, but stopped suddenly to check the oven. Then she said: "Everybody stand back and be careful, I'm going to take the apple strudel out of the oven."

Alan grabbed Duncan by the collar and they all watched Mrs. Sonntag taking the baking tray out of the oven and placing it onto the table.

Mrs. Goldman scrutinized the apple strudel and said: "Well done, Mr. Doyle!" Mrs. Sonntag had to agree: "Yes, you did a good job." She turned to Alan and asked: "Would you like to bake a chocolate cake with us?"

The boy nodded and said: "I sometimes help my mother when she bakes and cooks. Some of the boys at school say a real boy doesn't do that."

Mrs. Sonntag gave an indignant snort. "Rubbish," was all she could say in response. Mrs. Goldman added: "Well, it's their rotten luck, they won't get a single crumb of this cake. So, let's get to work."

Doyle sat down at the table. Duncan stood next to him for a while, enjoying a cuddle by Doyle, then settled down next to the chair. They both watched Alan and the ladies weighing out the ingredients for the cake.

Alan was a bit timid at first, but with the ladies kindly and gently encouraging him, he soon felt more at ease. He completed each and every task he was given accurately.

Doyle wasn't let off the hook either. While Alan stirred the dough, he had to cut a bar of chocolate into little pieces. Soon, the chocolate cake was put into the oven and the ladies and the baker's boys heaved a sigh of relief.

The apple strudel needed to cool down a bit more, so Mrs. Goldman suggested: "Why don't you guys go to the living room while Helga and I take care of the mess here?"

Doyle replied: "That's a good idea. Alan and Duncan can keep an eye on me while I'm doing my homework."

Alan looked at Doyle with a curious expression on his face and said: "I'm sorry, but aren't you a bit too old to do homework?"

Doyle laughed and replied: "I'm not talking about homework for school, I need to do some homework for my physio. Five miles on my exercise bike."

Mrs Sonntag ushered them out of the kitchen. "You boys better get on with the homework now, otherwise you won't get a gold star."

Doyle led the way to the exercise bike.

Alan and Duncan had a look at the bike. Duncan sniffed at it, thinking: "I've seen something like that outside. It had wheels and it moved. This thing here looks stationary. Looks like you can get some exercise inside when it's raining outside. That's clever!"

Alan asked: "What exactly do we have to do when keeping an eye on you, Ray?"

"Oh, if there's a problem you'll have to call the ladies and if I need anything, you'll get it for me," Doyle answered.

"Oh, Duncan and I can do that," Alan said.

Doyle got onto the bike and started his homework.

Alan and Duncan sat down on the floor close to the bike, watching Doyle attentively. A little too attentively for Doyle's liking. He felt a bit uncomfortable under the two pairs of watchful eyes.

After a while he stopped and asked: "Could you keep an eye on me a bit more unobtrusively?"

Duncan perked up his ears and Alan repeated: "More unobtrusively?" He gave Doyle a quizzical look and Ray explained: "When I'm on surveillance, I must make sure the person I'm observing doesn't know he or she is being watched. That's what I mean by unobtrusive. Pretend you're on a stake-out, you must be as invisible as possible."

Alan and Duncan exchanged a look, then Alan said: "All right, Duncan and I will try our best to be invisible."

Alan sat down on the settee, grabbed one of Doyle's motorbike magazines and started to read it. He didn't understand much of what he was reading as he kept casting a glance at Doyle, who had resumed his exercise. Duncan settled down next to the settee and pretended to be asleep. After a while, he even simulated snores and frequently opened one eye to look at Doyle. The subject they were watching noticed their efforts at being invisible. Thinking that Duncan and Alan were quite good at their stake-out duties, Doyle concentrated hard on doing his exercise equally well.

Mrs. Sonntag, who had decided to keep an eye on what was going on in the living room, left the kitchen and opened the door to the living room only a bit. What she saw made her smile and she called her friend.

Mrs. Goldman arrived with a tea towel in her hands and asked: "What's the matter?"

Stepping aside to let Mrs. Goldman have a look into the living room, Mrs. Sonntag replied: "There's a CI5 agent pretending not to notice that he's being observed by two temporary agents pretending to be asleep or reading. Oh, the wonderful world of espionage."

Both ladies laughed loudly, but neither the CI5 agent nor the temporary agents took notice of that, so the ladies managed to retreat to the kitchen unobserved.

When Doyle got closer to the goal of five miles, Duncan stopped pretending to be asleep, got up, moved closer to Doyle and watched him vigilantly. He barked once. Having completed his stint, Doyle stopped. Duncan gently took a piece of Doyle's tracksuit-bottoms in his mouth and pulled gingerly, yet determinedly. Doyle had no other choice than to step down from the exercise bike.

He petted Duncan and said: "Well done, Agent Duncan."

Alan put away the magazine. Sitting down next to him, Doyle said: "Agent Alan, you did a good job as well. Could you bring me a glass of water, please?" Alan nodded.

Leaving the room, he told Duncan to keep an eye on Doyle. The dog lay down, stretched across Doyle's feet. He enjoyed the paws-on approach when watching somebody a lot more than the acting unobtrusively method, but understood perfectly that the latter was preferable under certain circumstances.

Doyle took stock of today's training sessions. He had done ten miles in the morning with Mrs. Davis, that added up to a total of fifteen miles. He didn't feel overly exhausted. "Not a result to be scoffed at", he thought and smiled to himself.

Alan returned with a glass of water.

Doyle said: "Thanks, mate," then sipped at the cool water.

After a while, he decided to find out a bit more about his new friends and asked Alan: "How did you and your mum find Duncan?"

Alan smiled at him. "Oh, we were very lucky to get Duncan. A friend of my mum breeds Bearded Collies. When I asked my mum whether I could have a dog because I felt so lonely, she contacted her friend Carol. She didn't have any puppies at that time, but she had just retrieved Duncan from his owners. They hadn't treated him right and Carol let us have him as she thought he'd be better off with my mum and me."

Duncan shifted slightly and Doyle said: "I think Carol was right. Duncan looks perfectly happy."

Alan bent down to pet his dog and replied: "Yes, we got on really well from the start. Sometimes, he's a bit disobedient, but he's very gentle and clever. He's a great friend as well."

Doyle gave Alan a smile and said: "He sure is."

Doyle thought for a while, then asked: "Why did your parents get divorced?"

When a sad expression appeared on Alan's face, Doyle cursed his curiosity. Being nosy was usually an advantage in his line of business, but this time he wished that restraint had got the better of him. He said: "Sorry, Alan, you don't have to talk about that if you don't want to."

Alan shrugged his shoulders and replied: "No, it's all right. I don't know exactly why my parents split up. They argued lots of times and my mum often said she didn't like dad's new friends. My dad changed a lot as well. He was often rude to me and my mum. He kept pushing me to become an excellent pupil. I did my best and I always had good grades, but dad was never totally satisfied." Alan sighed and added: "I wish mum and dad would get back together and I wish dad would be as nice as he used to be. I like visiting him for sure, but I'm glad when I'm back with my mum again. In dad's opinion, I should live with him and not with my mum, but I don't like the idea at all. I want to stay with my mum. She's got full custody, so I guess I won't have to go and live with dad."

Doyle shook his head. He could see tears forming in Alan's eyes and felt at a loss at what to say, so he gave the boy a hug.

Mrs. Goldman bustled into the room, announcing that tea was ready.

Duncan jumped to his feet. Alan and Doyle got up from the settee. Doyle asked: "Are you all right, Alan? I didn't mean to make you sad."

Wiping the tears from his eyes, Alan replied: "Yeah, I'm all right."

Doyle took Alan by the shoulders and pushed him gently out of the room to the kitchen.

Duncan stayed behind, moving about in the living room. Crossing the spot where Doyle had struggled to stay alive, he yelped. There was a burning sensation of pain somewhere deep inside and he had trouble breathing. He took a few steps, thinking: "He got shot in his flat and he was hurt very badly."

When Alan called him from the kitchen, he went to join the others, but it took him a while to shake off the eerie feeling which had come over him. A small piece of apple strudel given to him by Alan helped and after a while, he was busy again with watching over his troop.

The apple strudel vanished very fast. Doyle said: "Larry and Bodie should hurry up and get here soon if they want to get a taste of my first attempt at baking an apple strudel. I wonder what's keeping them."

Mrs. Sonntag replied: "The chocolate cake is done, so there's enough cake to fill their stomachs as well." She took it out of the oven and placed it next to the window which was ajar. Casting a glance at her watch, she exclaimed: "Gerda, we'd better get going. We still have shopping to do and then we must get ready for bingo night."

Alan checked the time as well and said: "Oh dear, I should haven been home fifteen minutes ago." He hurriedly ate his last bite of apple strudel. Duncan was already on his feet.

Getting up, Alan said: "Good-bye, ladies, good-bye, Ray."

Mrs. Goldman said: "Hang on a second, we'll go with you. Can you cope with the dishes, Mr. Doyle?" "Yeah, sure," Doyle replied. "Thanks for the baking lesson, ladies and thank you for your help with my homework, Alan and Duncan."

A couple of minutes later, he found himself alone in his flat. After doing the dishes, he put the kettle on to make some more tea for Bodie and Larry. He had just taken the chocolate cake from its baking tin, when the door bell rang.

Opening the door for his mates, he said: "What kept you? I was just about to report you AWOL! Can't take that long to collect a ..." He broke off, realising Bodie and Larry had brought along a visitor. His heart skipped a beat in a most pleasant way and he said: "Hello, Lyn."

She returned his smile and said: "Hello, Ray."

Bodie and Larry exchanged a grin and Bodie said: "Well, Lyn's one person who's responsible for us being late. When she heard about you baking apple strudel, she wanted to come along to taste the result, so we had to wait till her shift was over. Moreover, Dr. Siegel wanted to know what you've been up to ever since your discharge and it took a while to inform him about all the mischief you've been up to."

Feeling a bit uneasy about that, Doyle asked: "You didn't tell him everything?"

Bodie said: "Course I told him everything. Can't lie to your doctor, Ray!"

Scowling, Doyle replied: "Skipping a few details isn't lying, Bodie."

There was a sceptical look on Bodie's face and he said: "I'm not with you on that, mate."

Doyle heaved a sigh and asked: "So, what did he say?"

With a grin on her face, Lyn answered: "He said he'd think about your case and that he'd come up with something after tomorrow's check-up."

Alarmed by that reply, Doyle asked irritably: "Come up with what?"

Lyn shrugged her shoulders and said: "I've got no idea!"

Bodie decided to milk the moment and said to Doyle: "Maybe he sends you to that convalescent home I told you about."

Feeling quite concerned, Doyle failed to notice the wink Bodie gave Lyn. She decided to play along and said: "I overheard a phone call he made later, asking if there was a room for a new patient. Maybe that was about you, Ray. Or maybe it was about Mr. Sanders who'll be discharged tomorrow."

"Oh dear!" Doyle wasn't a happy patient.

His partner gave him a grin and said: "So let's make the best out of today, you don't know where you'll be tomorrow. Where's that apple strudel?"

Not totally succeeding at smothering his feeling of uneasiness, Doyle led the way to the kitchen. Having a look at the meagre rest of the apple strudel, Bodie asked: "You almost finished a whole strudel? That's pushing it a bit, sunshine! Lyn, you'd better tell him about the dangers of overeating!"

Doyle replied: "I didn't eat the strudel all by myself! Alan and Duncan were here and of course, the ladies stayed for tea as well."

"Well, there's not much left for us," Bodie said disappointedly.

Pointing to the chocolate cake on the kitchen cupboard, Doyle told him: "Never fear, Bodie. This should suffice to feed the troops," Doyle said.

Bodie licked his lips and said: "Just about!"

They indulged in the apple strudel and the chocolate cake. Even Doyle had a small slice of the latter. When he put another slice of cake on the plate Lyn held up to him, their hands touched briefly. A jolt of pleasure shot through him. Of course, Lyn had touched him many times during his stay in hospital, but this touch felt eyes met and they exchanged a smile.

Bodie and Larry noticed what was going on and they grinned at each other.

Doyle saw that and gave them a scowl. Bodie and Larry did their best to look all innocent.

Larry asked: "So, we know that you've learned how to bake apple strudel this afternoon and you did a good job at it. What else have you been up to?"

Doyle told them all about his homework and what he had learned about Alan and Duncan.

The rest of the afternoon went by fast. Bodie and Larry did the dishes to enable Ray and Lyn to spend some time alone. Doyle gave Lyn a tour of the flat and showed her the brandnew garden on his terrace. Then they settled down in the living room.

Lyn said: "I'm really happy to see you're getting on so well at home. I have to say I was a bit worried."

"So was I, to be honest", Doyle answered, "turned out there was nothing to worry about and I hope Dr. Siegel won't send me to a convalescent home tomorrow."

Lyn laughed, then said: "I'll be on duty tomorrow, I'll put in a word for you."

"Thanks, Lyn," Doyle replied with bright smile on his face."

Hmm, but it will cost you, Ray," Lyn said.

"What about lunch on Sunday? I can't wait to visit my mate Vittorio's restaurant," Doyle suggested.

"Yes, that's a good idea, that should make me do my best," Lyn replied.

Bodie and Larry entered the room. Bodie said: "I'd better get going and get some shopping done. Not everybody is as lucky as our Ray and gets a full service. Shall I take you home, Lyn?"

"Yes, please, Bodie."

"Oh, Ray, I'll pick you up at nine tomorrow," Bodie told his partner.

Lyn, Bodie and Larry exited the flat, leaving behind a convalescent who had trouble concentrating on his motorbike magazine as he kept thinking about a certain nurse.

Chapter 10

When Bodie and Doyle got to the hospital the next morning, they found Cowley waiting in front of the door to Dr. Siegel's office. Doyle was a bit scared that the presence of his boss wasn't a good sign.

The head of CI5 told his agents: "I had a meeting with the minister early this morning. That went rather well, so I thought I'd stop by to find out what verdict Dr. Siegel passes on your progress, Doyle. I hope you've been a sensible patient and Dr. Siegel will be satisfied."

After a short moment of hesitation, Doyle replied: "There's nothing to worry about, Sir."

Bodie thought his partner didn't sound entirely convinced.

Cowley just nodded and said: "That's good to hear, 4. 5!" Then he addressed Bodie: "I noticed that you drew a car from the car pool yesterday. You're off duty, so what did you need that car for, 3.7 ?" He looked at his agent with raised eyebrows.

Bodie replied: "Sir, I needed that car while acting as some kind of liaison officer for a public service institution."

Doyle almost laughed out loud about his partner's creative eloquence and even Cowley's mouth twitched slightly for a fraction of a second. Then he said: "I appreciate my agents putting time into service for the community on a day off and I'm glad Larry's happy with his new lawn mower."

Cowley gave his agents, who looked at him with wide eyes, a smile and explained: "I've met Larry this morning and he's told me about your duties as liaison officer, Bodie. Well done."

3.7 and 4.5 exchanged a look of relief about not being dressed down for misusing CI5 property. There was something else on Cowley's mind, however. He said: "Bodie, the report you've handed in for the Wilson op is an utter shambles. I expect you to put it right today."

Looking apologetic, Bodie said: "Yes, Sir, of course. If Doyle doesn't mind, we'll come to HQ after his check-up and I'll take care of that report."

Doyle said: "I'd love to make a visit to HQ, so I'll make sure Bodie hands in a proper report."

Cowley nodded and said: "Good!"

Lyn arrived to get Doyle for his check-up.

He was quite used to the routine of an ECG by now, but he still felt a little bit nervous every time. One of the cardiologists working under Dr. Siegel did the ECG this time and told Doyle that his boss would discuss the result with him in a little while. Doyle tried to make a guess about the result by keeping an eye on the doctor's face. As he didn't look alarmed or worried, Doyle relaxed.

A couple of minutes later, he was sitting in Dr. Siegel's office, waiting for his surgeon. When he arrived, he placed Doyle's chart on his desk and gave his patient a critical look. After a while, he stated: "Well, you've been acting a bit wild ever since you left us. I'm not quite sure what to do with you. Normally, I'd feel inclined to rein you in, but you're doing quite well. I think you might be up to a challenge. Let's do an exercise tolerance test to find out if I'm right."

Dr. Siegel himself supervised that test. He decided to push Doyle a bit to see whether it would be sensible to do what was on his mind. When he had almost reached a decision, he stopped Doyle and said: "That's enough." He took his stethoscope and pressed it to Doyle's chest. After a while, he nodded and said:" Yes, I think we'll try what I have in mind."

Doyle felt like yelling: "Spill the beans, doc," but he didn't have the breath to do it.

He wasn't the only one on tenterhooks. Bodie and Cowley, who were sitting in the waiting room, were wondering what was taking so long. Lyn had arrived to tell them about the exercise tolerance test, which hadn't been scheduled in the first place.

Now she was called to help Doyle who was sweating after the exam. She wiped away the sweat with a damp flannel, towelled him down and helped him get dressed.

At the same time, Dr. Siegel sat in his office, going through Doyle's chart and thinking about his plan.

When Doyle came into the office and sat down on a chair facing him, Dr. Siegel had reached a decision. He told Doyle: "Here's what we'll do: We'll reduce the dosage of the digitalis you're taking. That's the drug you're given to strengthen your heart. I'll get Lyn to give you some pills of the low dosage digitalis. You take one of them in the morning for three days and then half a pill for the next three days."

He handed Doyle a piece of paper with these instructions and added: "We'll wean your heart from the digitalis like that. You might feel a bit weaker for a while as your heart will have to adjust to gradually loosing the boosting effect of the digitalis. Don't be disappointed if you don't make any progress next week. If you stay at the level you've reached by now, that will be an excellent result. I'll tell Mrs. Davis about that, so she can take the change in your medication into consideration when planning her sessions. Moreover, I think we can reduce the dosage of the pain killer to half a tablet three times a day. What do you think, Ray?"

It took Doyle only a fraction of a second to respond: "I like your plan a lot, Dr. Siegel."

"I thought you would," Dr. Siegel said and laughed. Then he said in a serious tone: "That's quite a step forward and I've decided to take it a lot earlier than usual, so we have to monitor closely how you're doing. Moreover, it's important that you don't anything stupid." He gave Doyle a warning look.

His patient replied: "No, of course not." "Well, we'll see whether you manage to stick to your word. See you again next Friday, Ray," Dr. Siegel said.

There was a big smile on Doyle's face when he informed Bodie and Cowley about what Dr. Siegel had told him.

"Ah, that's great news, mate," Bodie said.

Cowley was thrilled as well and said: "Congratulations, Doyle. Not a lot of patients make doctors stray away from a routine proved to be successful. I hope you can live up to the faith Dr. Siegel has in you."

"I'll do my very best, Sir," Doyle replied. He burst out laughing, then said: "That check-up went a lot better than I had expected indeed. I mean, I was worried about being sent to that nasty convalescent home Mrs. Masterson found."

Bodie replied: "Speaking about Mrs. Masterson, here she comes."

"Hello gentlemen," she said, giving them a smile. "I heard the good news about our star patient. Congratulations, Ray."

"Thank you, Mrs. Masterson, " Doyle replied. Finding out if that dubious convalescent home really existed was of top priority to Doyle, so he asked Mrs. Masterson: "Bodie told me that you know a convalescent home with a ward sister fond of enemas and a nasty phyiso. I'll be sent there if I don't cooperate. Is that true?"

Mrs. Masterson and Bodie exchanged a long look. She decided that enough was enough and told Doyle: "Well, Bodie made up that hospital to keep you in line. Then he instructed me to corroborate his story in case you asked me about it."

Doyle thought: "I knew it, that was just a trick."

Shooting his partner an infuriated look, he said: "You mean creep! I'll get you for that." He felt a strong desire to inflict some serious bodily harm to his partner, but thought that a hospital was not the best place to do that. Bodie would receive immediate care and Doyle wanted him to suffer for the trick he had played on him, so he decided to act out his revenge when Bodie least expected it.

Bodie interrupted his wicked thoughts: "Hey, I only had your best in mind. Who knows, without that little trick you might have thrown caution to the wind and ended up in trouble. Now you've made good progress, you should actually be grateful, Ray."

Doyle replied: "You don't really expect me to thank you for that. You can consider yourself lucky if you leave the hospital with your limbs intact and not remain here in traction."

Bodie thought that was as close to a thanks as could be expected from Doyle under the circumstances, so he gave his partner a grin and said: "You're welcome!"

Doyle snorted and rolled his eyes.

Lyn interrupted the quarrel by handing Doyle the packet with digitalis and said: "Here you are, Ray. I hope you'll cope well with the lower dosage of digitalis."

Doyle's anger gradually vanished into thin air and he gave Lyn a smile. "Thanks. I'll call you tonight."

She blew him a kiss and turned to leave, saying: "That would be great. Now I need to get back to work."

Cowley said: "Talking about work, I must get back to HQ and so do you, Bodie. Remember, the report I told you about."

Bodie nodded. He started to walk to the lift next to his boss.

Doyle stayed behind and told Mrs. Masterson: "I'm a bit disappointed that you were willing to play along with Bodie."

"It wasn't such a bad idea and it worked very well," she replied cheerfully. Frowning, Doyle said good-bye and left, muttering something about having to buy a polygraph to keep himself from falling victim to such hoaxes in the future.

On their way to the Capri, he told Bodie he would not help him with the report. Bodie replied: "Okay, sunshine, that's fair enough!"

Half an hour later, they entered CI5 HQ.

While walking to their office, they met Murphy. He greeted Bodie with a hefty pat on the shoulder. Not daring to do the same to Doyle, he made do with giving him a big grin and saying: "Hello, Ray. Didn't expect to see you here so soon after your discharge. Did the Cow decide to put an end to your skiving?"

Doyle gave an angry snort, his eyes shooting sparks of temper. "I'm skiving he says. I'll have you know that making it back from being technically dead is a tough job," Doyle said with an exasperated tone in his voice.

Murphy laughed, then replied: "Yeah, I know, Ray. Listen, Macklin's down in the basement, torturing a bunch of raw recruits at the shooting range. I'm on my way there to watch, maybe I'll do some shooting myself. You two want to come along?"

Doyle was eager to accept the proposal and said: "Yeah, sure."

Bodie said: "I'll join you later, I need to polish my report on the Wilson op first."

While he went to the office he and Doyle used for doing their paperwork, Murphy and Doyle made their way to the shooting range.

They heard Macklin's voice immediately after entering. He bellowed orders at the recruit getting ready for shooting. The new member of CI5 did his best, two of his bullets hit the centre of the target, one went wide. The rest of the bullets from the round of ammunition in his Browning Hi-Power didn't stray too far from the centre.

Doyle thought that result wasn't too bad for a raw recruit. Macklin must have heard them coming as he turned to them and waved a greeting.

Murphy and Doyle went over to Macklin and his trainees. Macklin wasn't too happy with the result of the shooting he had just witnessed and he told the recruit: "I'm sure Doyle here can do better after a two months convalescence."

Turning to Doyle he asked: "You want to have a go, Ray and show these amateurs how it's done?"

Taken aback, Doyle didn't know what to say. He felt tempted to do some shooting again, but the thought of making his comeback at the shooting range with a handful of new recruits at his back watching him was slightly unnerving and made his heart beat faster.

Macklin didn't grant him much time for making up his mind. He placed his Browning Hi-Power into Doyle's hands and curtly told him: "Don't think about, just do it!" Pointing to a target, he added: "That one's got your name on it!"

Giving Macklin a nod, Doyle released the safety catch of the weapon, got into the stance and lifted the Browning. Taking a couple of breaths, he waited till his heart beat had slowed down a bit.

As he was focused on the task ahead, all the people observing him with anticipation didn't bother him the slightest. This was a matter between him, the Browning and the target. He exhaled slowly. Both of his hands gripped the weapon tightly. He took aim and fired his round.

The first two bullets didn't quite hit the centre, but the rest of the round neatly punched holes into the centre of the target.

Doyle lowered the Browning, gave Macklin a triumphant grin and said: "You were right, I haven't lost my aim!"

Macklin gave Doyle a gentle pat on the back. Well, gentle for Macklin's standards anyway, it still made Doyle wince a little.

Macklin faced his recruits: "Gentlemen, this was a demonstration of innate marksmanship. Meet Agent Ray Doyle! One of the reasons he was recruited for CI5 was the fact that he was the finest shot in the Met with a handgun. Seriously wounded two months ago and now on his way back to active duty. I can't wait till his surgeon declares him fit for training with me. It's high time he gets prised from the tender care of his physio. You'd better work hard to become as good as he is. Is that understood?"

Macklin was pleased when the answer "Yes, Sir" came sharpish and almost simultaneously from his recruits.

Doyle tried to hand over Macklin's weapon to its rightful owner, but Macklin put it back into Doyle's hands and said: "You keep at it! No more skiving, 4.5!"

Turning to Bodie, who had finished his report and had joined them, Doyle said with an exasperated tone in his voice: "Skiving! I like it that everybody talks about skiving. Dr. Siegel says healing after open heart surgery forces your body to work hard, yet everybody says I'm skiving."

He took a new round of ammunition from Macklin and reloaded the Browning. With determined strides, he walked to an unmarked target, lifted the weapon and fired. This time all the bullets hit the centre.

With a sly grin on his face, he gave the Browning back to Macklin. Pointing to the target he had just perforated during the display of his excellent shooting skills, he said: "That's not skiving, not by a long shot."

He glared at Macklin, who didn't shirk the look. Silently, he congratulated himself for having found the right way to rile Doyle up and get him to do some shooting. He knew from his own experience how hard it was to get back to the line of fire after being hit badly. Doyle had done well, now he had to prove he could also shoot accurately at a target that fired back.

Aloud, he said: "Yeah, not bad, 4.5! Now let's see whether the new lads can follow your example." He turned back to his group of recruits.

Bodie, Doyle and Murphy observed their efforts. The new lot wasn't too bad and they were looking forward to working with them soon.

After half an hour, Bodie and Doyle decided to go back to Doyle's flat and they said good-bye to Macklin, Murphy and the recruits.

Macklin said: "See you soon Doyle. I'll show you what hard work is!"

"I can't wait," was Doyle's answer to that.

When Mrs. Davis arrived in the afternoon, Doyle had to admit that he was rather glad he was still in her and not yet in Macklin's hands.

While she was working on his right shoulder, he gave her a full report about what he had been up to at CI5 HQ in the morning. There was something bothering him about his shooting exercise and he told Mrs. Davis: "When I finished my second round, the Browning felt like a lead weight to me. My arms ached and shook slightly. I had to concentrate hard to hide that from Macklin and the others. I wonder what was wrong. I wasn't nervous, it felt quite good to be at the shooting range again."

Mrs Davis gave him a reassuring smile and said: "I don't think you have to worry about that. I guess you just ran out of strength." Running her right hand along his biceps, she said: "You lost muscles during your recovery and we'll have to build them up again. I think your shoulder has healed sufficiently by now, we can start building up the muscles in your arms again. Ready for that?"

Doyle nodded and Mrs. Davis ran him through a work-out for his arms. He had to move his arms against the resistance provided by Mrs. Davis's arms. Doyle was surprised that he had to work hard as Mrs. Davis was a lot stronger than he had expected.

During a short break he told her: "Bloody hell, I don't think I'd want to be engaged in a match of arm wrestling with you at my current level of fitness."

She laughed, then said: "Well, a physio can't be a cream puff, just like a CI5 agent. Don't worry, when I'm done with you, you'll be able to wrestle Macklin and the baddies again."

When she finished the session after fifteen minutes, Doyle felt slightly exhausted, but Mrs. Davis was pleased. She said: "Maybe we can start working with weights soon. We'll have to see how the next week goes when you're being weaned off the digitalis."

Chapter 11

On Sunday, Lyn, Doyle, Joanna and Bodie were treated to an excellent lunch by Ray's friend Vittorio in his restaurant. To celebrate the progress Doyle had made during his first week home, they drank a toast to the speedy convalescent.

Ray was allowed to have some red wine, but Lyn made it clear that he would have to make do with one glass. Doyle heaved a sigh, but decided to comply with Lyn's order. Gingerly nursing his glass of dark and rich wine, he thought that had to be the best wine on the entire planet.

"Sono imbarazzato," Vittorio said when Doyle expressed that thought to him and blushed as the wine came from a vine-yard close to his hometown in the Piemont.

At the same time, Alan tried his best to enjoy the lunch his father's cook had prepared. Feeling a bit like a stranger in the lavishly furnished dining-room, he was glad Duncan was sitting close by on the floor.

His dad was sat on the opposite end of the table. Alan eyed the sea trout on his plate suspiciously and Duncan didn't look too happy about the content of his feeding bowl either.

Dr. Henry Mitchell looked up from his plate and asked: "What's wrong, Alan? Don't you like fish? Mrs. Haskins did her best in the kitchen, especially for you."

Alan liked fish and chips, but a whole fish whose dead eyes stared back at him came nowhere close to being his favourite dish. Not wanting to disappoint his father, he started eating small bits and pieces of the sea trout. Dealing with the fish bones was a tricky business, so he was relieved that the parsley potatoes were an easy to consume side-dish. With a low growl, Duncan followed Alan's example and started to eat his food.

There was silence throughout the meal. Dr. Mitchell kept saying it was important to consume a meal without being distracted by a conversation. That always made Alan feel uncomfortable as a meal with his mum included chatting about the day's events as well as sharing laughs and jokes.

When it became obvious that neither Alan nor Duncan would finish their meal, Dr. Mitchell asked Mrs. Haskins to clear the table. She was disappointed that Alan had eaten only so little and he said: "I'm sorry, but I wasn't very hungry. The sea trout was very nice." He hoped that the smile he gave Mrs. Haskins distracted from the fact that the latter statement was a lie.

She nodded, then pointed to Duncan's feeding bowl which was half-full and asked: "I bought the most expensive canned food for your dog. Duncan isn't very hungry either?"

Alan replied: "Well, he's isn't used to canned food. My mum cooks for him, you see."

Dr. Mitchell's hand came down on the table with a loud thud and he exclaimed: "Good gracious! Alan, you and your dog are very spoilt. Don't you know that a lad is supposed to eat what's on the table and a dog has to eat what's put into his bowl?"

Alan, who had shrunk visibly at his father's outburst, nodded obediently and petted Duncan who had moved closer to him.

Running his fingers through his hair, Dr. Mitchell said: "Your mother obviously doesn't know how to raise you properly. I really think you'd be better off living with me!"

Alan got scared and dug his fingers into Duncan's fur, making the dog yelp.

Dr. Mitchell shouted: "Shut up, Duncan. I need to talk with my son. What about your test results at school?"

Alan relaxed a bit and said: "I've got an A for my English test and a B for my maths test!" He thought these were quite a good results and was disappointed when his father said: "A B in math isn't acceptable, Alan! You'll have to work a lot harder." With a very sad tone is his voice, the boy said: "I will!"

They went for a walk with Duncan later and Dr. Mitchell thought that not only his son needed more discipline, the dog was quite obstinate as well. Sometimes he would stray too far from sight or play with a kid. The fact that his ex-wife had bought a dog for Alan didn't meet his approval. It obviously kept him from studying harder. He told Alan: "If you don't manage to get an A for all your tests, you'll have to get rid of Duncan." Alan felt like crying, but that would have spelled more trouble, so he just made a silent, yet solemn vow never to give up Duncan.

When he was finally back home with his mum, he was very much relieved. When his mother asked him how the day had gone, he lied: "Fine!" He didn't want to upset his mum, so he kept quiet about his dad's behaviour.

When Dr. Mitchell returned to his house, he picked up the phone and called Daniel West, his lawyer. He asked him: "Is there really no way I can get custody for Alan? I think living with his mum isn't good for him. If I make a written statement that he'd be better off in my care, the Court will have to hand him over to me."

Dr. Mitchell didn't like the reply he received: "Henry, we've talked about this before. Alan is very happy about living with his mum and he's being well taken care of. A written statement from you would carry no weight at all. The Court would just ask Alan whether he'd prefer living with you and he'd say no. End of story. Besides, you wouldn't be able to care for Alan properly. You're working a lot. Sometimes you get called to a patient in the middle of the night and return hours later."

Dr. Mitchell said: "Well, I'd hire a nanny, Daniel."

The lawyer replied: "Henry, this is not going to work. Forget about that idea!"

"Never," said Dr. Mitchell and put the receiver down.

He thought: "Time for plan B," picked the receiver up again and dialled another number.

Monday's physio session began with a battle of wills. Taking into account that Doyle was being weaned off the digitalis, Mrs. Davis had prepared a schedule for this week's training which was only slightly more strenuous than last week's.

When she presented it to her patient, Doyle was very disappointed and said: "Can I please have a bit more of a challenge?"

Mrs. Davis gave him a stern look, thinking: "More bravado than sense!" She asked: "You do realize that you are in a critical phase of your recovery?"

"Of course, I'm aware of that. Yet I think I can make some good progress, so please reconsider your schedule," Doyle replied.

Mrs. Davis gave him a searching look. Two conflicting thoughts ran through her mind: "Was this a patient who had to be protected from his stubbornness or was this a patient capable of pushing all the boundaries?" She reached the conclusion that she had to find a way that took heed of both of her thoughts. With a rapid move, she snatched the sheet of paper with the training schedule from Doyle's hands. Biting her lower lip, she reconsidered her strategy.

Then she took a pen from her bag and made some changes which she hoped came close to protecting Doyle from suffering because of his thick skull and at the same time providing the challenge he craved for. She held up the sheet of paper to Doyle and said: "Any objections to that, Ray?" A smile lit up Doyle's face and he replied: "No objections, Mrs. Davis!"

As the week went on and the level of digitalis in his blood decreased, Doyle was struggling visibly to stick to the revised training schedule. He knew full well that his thick head was both a blessing and a curse, depending on the situation. This week, he was more and more inclined to believe it was a curse.

However, he was not prepared to ask Mrs. Davis to change her schedule again. He had asked for a challenge, had received it and now he was determined to master it. The thought: "I don't need the bloody digitals to do well," often crossed his mind during that week. It was always accompanied by a defiant look on his sweaty face. Of course, it didn't escape Mrs. Davis's attention that Doyle had to work hard, but as he wasn't in real danger of overstraining himself, she decided to stick to her schedule.

Bodie and the ladies had to work hard as well to keep the Doyle household up to scratch and to provide the meals Ray needed to keep up his strength.

Lyn often came by for a visit and Doyle enjoyed her company.

Even Alan and Duncan had to run errands for Doyle. In return, Doyle promised Alan to do a painting of Duncan. That turned out to be a difficult job as Duncan wasn't too good at sitting still when Doyle tried to do sketches. Nevertheless, by Thursday afternoon, Doyle had managed to live up to the challenge set by Mrs. Masterson and had done a terrific painting of Duncan. The unveiling ceremony took place in Doyle's living room.

Duncan gently pulled off the scarf Lyn had kindly provided for the occasion, Bodie imitated a drum-roll and there was an anxious look on the artist's face. There was no need for Doyle to be nervous. The audience broke into a round of applause when the picture was fully unveiled. Duncan's applause was a loud and joyful bark.

To celebrate, they ordered food from Vittorio's restaurant and opened the bottle of wine Ray had been given by Vittorio on the day of his discharge. Bodie had indeed hidden the bottle in the kitchen cupboard to keep it out of Doyle's reach. Now that Doyle had almost regained full mobility, the hiding place was no longer safe, so they decided to share the bottle for dinner. Doyle's complaint about not being allowed to drink more than one glass again was cut short by Lyn's kiss.

Dr. Siegel tapped his glasses on Doyle's chart and said: "You never cease to amaze me. I've never had a patient who makes such good progress while the digitalis is being cleared from his system. Well done, Ray!"

Doyle returned the doctor's smile and said: "Thanks, Dr. Siegel. I must admit it has been a tough week."

Dr. Siegel cocked his head and inquired: "You were a bit scared you asked for more than you could handle?"

"You hit that nail right on the head, doc," Doyle said.

Dr. Siegel replied: "Well, I hope I'll hit some nails right on the head when I inform you about the changes for your treatment I have in mind: No more heparin injections and no more digitalis! Moreover, Nurse Sheridan will visit you only in the morning. That should suffice from now on as I think Lyn is very efficient with her house-calls," Dr. Siegel said with a knowing look.

Doyle gave him a big grin and said: "Yeah, she does wonders for a patient's morale. Oh, and I'm so glad I can get rid of the nasty heparin injections!"

"I was hoping you'd like that," Dr. Siegel replied. He got up from his chair and said: "See you next week!"

Chapter 12

The following week was a bit easier for Doyle. His body adjusted fully to loosing the digitalis, so Doyle didn't have to use all the strength he had for the physio sessions. He had some energy left to do some shopping with Bodie. He even insisted on carrying a bag to the car, so Bodie had to pack one that wasn't very heavy while Doyle made the payment. Twice, he managed to help the ladies with the cooking. Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. Sonntag were quite impressed with Doyle's skills in the kitchen.

Duncan had to have a jab that week and Alan asked Doyle to come along to the vet. Doyle agreed and Thursday afternoon, the three of them got ready to go to Dr. Kerrigan's surgery.

It was late November and it was a cold and foggy day, so before they left Doyle's flat, Alan asked Doyle to bend down a little. Tying Doyle's scarf, Alan said: "A scarf is of no use when you wear it loosely around your neck." As Alan had done a good job at tying his scarf, Doyle felt like being throttled and had to loosen the scarf secretly while Alan leashed Duncan.

The walk to the vet's surgery didn't take long and when they entered, Mrs. Kerrigan greeted them with a bright smile and said: "Hello, Alan and Duncan! I see you've got company. Do you want to introduce your friend?"

Alan cast a suspicious glance around, bent over the reception desk and said in a low voice: "That's my friend Ray Doyle. He's with CI5!"

Mrs. Kerrigan whispered back: "Is he here on an official mission and you and Duncan are supposed to assist?" She gave Alan a wink.

Doyle interrupted the conspirative talk by saying: "We're on the very secret mission called: Duncan needs a jab. I can't take on high risk or strenuous missions at the moment as I'm still on sick leave."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Doyle. I'm Mrs. Kerrigan. You're on an easy assignment as Duncan's a very nice patient," Mrs. Kerrigan replied. "My husband will be ready for you in a moment. Why don't you go to the waiting room?"

While they waited, Alan told Doyle: "Both Mrs. and Dr. Kerrigan are almost sixty years old. Dr. Kerrigan wants to retire soon and so he found Dan to assist him. He'll teach Dan everything he needs to know about running this surgery and when he's ready to take over, they will both stop working. Dan is very nice, and Duncan likes him, but I think we'll miss Dr. Kerrigan."

Mrs. Kerrigan had come into the waiting room and said: "Alan, you know that you can come to visit us anytime even when we stop running this surgery. You and Duncan are always welcome. Now you'd better get to the examination room."

When they entered the examination room, Dr. Kerrigan said: "My wife has told me that you brought your dog and a CI5 agent on sick leave, Alan. Who's the patient?"

His mouth twitched slightly and Alan answered: "That's Duncan. We've come for a jab."

Dr. Kerrigan nodded: "Yes, I know."

An idea came to Alan and he addressed the vet: "Can you check over Ray as well? I mean, he always complains about having to go to the hospital for a check-up. While we're here, you could check him over and he won't have to go to the hospital tomorrow."

Dr. Kerrigan nodded seriously: "Of course, I can do that, but let's deal with Duncan first. I'll see to Mr. Doyle later."

He lifted Duncan on the examination table and checked his breathing, pulse, temperature, inspected his fur and looked for swollen lymph nodes. As Duncan was in a good condition, the vet gave him the required jab. Duncan winced and yelped, but calmed down when Alan petted him. Dr. Kerrigan gave Duncan a dog treat and munching it made him forget the injection rather quickly.

Dr. Kerrigan got rid of the empty syringe and washed his hands. Alan reminded him: "Now you must check Ray over!" He thought that Dr. Kerrigan needed to know a bit of Doyle's medical history and told him: "He's been shot in the heart and through the shoulder."

Doyle felt a bit uncomfortable, but decided to play along to humour Alan, who looked at him with an encouraging smile on his face.

Dr. Kerrigan turned around from the wash basin and said: "Your will to live must have been very strong, Mr. Doyle. Not a lot of patients survive that kind of injury! Okay, let's see how you're doing today."

He looked Doyle over and stated: "Your breathing isn't quite right. You're not using your full lung capacity. They spread your ribs during the surgery and they still hurt, right?"

Doyle nodded and said: "Right, I'm doing my best to breathe well and my physio is on my toes all of the time."

"Good," Dr. Kerrigan said before taking Doyle's pulse. He stated: "That's all right."

Alan and Duncan watched with great interest as Dr. Kerrigan had another good look at Doyle and stated: "Complexion is rosy, fur is long, curly and shiny, so I think there's nothing to worry about."

Doyle burst out laughing and Alan and Dr. Kerrigan joined in, Duncan barked cheerfully. Wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, Dr. Kerrigan said: "I can write a report for your surgeon, but he might want to do an examination himself to confirm my findings." He filled out a form and handed the sheet of paper to Doyle with a wink.

Fetching a dog treat from a drawer, he said: "A good patient gets a treat after the exam and I think you deserve one, Mr. Doyle."

Doyle replied: "Thanks, Dr. Kerrigan, but I think I'll give the one I earned to Duncan." He took the dog treat and offered it to Duncan, who snatched it from his fingers and gobbled it down at once.

When they arrived at Alan's house, Mrs. Mitchell invited Doyle for tea. Between bites of cake and sips of tea, Alan told his mum all about the visit to Dr. Kerrigan. "Duncan's was very brave, he only yelped a bit. Oh, and Dr. Kerrigan checked Ray over, too and he's doing well."

Mrs. Mitchell laughed and asked: "Who had that idea?" Alan looked proud when he said: "I did!" He had another idea: "Mum, can I show Ray my room?"

"Yeah, sure," his mum replied.

Ray, Duncan and Alan made their way to the first floor. Alan's room was rather big, with posters of motorbikes, cars and planes on the wall. Pointing to a basket, Alan said: "That's where Duncan sleeps. I love having him in my room at night."

Looking around, Doyle spotted some framed photos on the bedside table: A wedding photo of Alan's parents, Alan with his dad, Alan with Duncan and Duncan on his own. Alan said: "I'll have to take a picture of you and Duncan together. Duncan, get into your basket." The dog curled up in his basket and Alan took his camera from a drawer.

Doyle sat down next to Duncan's basket and petted him while Alan took some pictures. Alan said: "I'll ask my mum to take the film to the photo shop tomorrow."

They played a bit with Alan's model railway, then Mrs. Mitchell came up to remind Alan that he still had homework to do.

Pulling a face, Alan said: "I don't like fractions!"

"Ah, come on, I'll help you, Alan," Doyle promised. Knowing full well that his school days were long gone, he thought that making that promise might be a bit over-optimistic, but he actually remembered a lot more than he had expected.

The homework was finished soon. Yet Doyle had a strange nightmare the following night: Macklin made him do fractions while running!

As expected, Dr. Siegel didn't accept Dr. Kerrigan's report at face value. He got a good laugh from the vet's report and said: "Well, that's fair enough. I like it that he suggests giving you a rabies jab, considering the people you often have to deal with when doing your job. We might think about that later." Dr. Siegel gave Doyle a grin, then added: "For now, I hope you don't mind me doing an examination myself to confirm my learned colleague's finding."

"Thought you might want a second opinion, Dr. Siegel, so please go ahead," Doyle replied, repressing a laugh.

When the examination was done, Dr. Siegel said: "Yes, Dr. Kerrigan was perfectly right, you're doing well. We'll reduce the painkiller to only half a tablet in the morning, what do you think, Ray?"

"You know I'm not fond of pills, so I like that idea," Ray answered. Dr. Siegel said: "See you next Friday."

Chapter 13

The following Monday, Mrs. Davis decided it was time for working with weights to build up the muscles in Doyle's arms. Light weights for a start, of course. There was another idea on her mind and she said: "I think you're ready to come to my practice now. It's better to work on your arms with all the equipment I have there. You're well enough now for me to stop doing house calls."

With a grin, Doyle replied: "Let me guess, your torture chamber is about as well-equipped as Mrs. Masterson's at the hospital?"

"You'd better see that for yourself and come over tomorrow," Mrs. Davis replied, rubbing her hands in gleeful anticipation. It turned out that Mrs. Davis torture chamber was as bad as Mrs. Masterson's, but Doyle was glad to be getting out of the house for the treatments now.

That week, Dr. Ross decided that no more regular sessions were needed. Doyle's nightmares had ceased and she had done all in her power to help him. Now it was up to Doyle to prove his worth in action.

During the next two weeks, Doyle continued to make good progress and got rid of all the bloody pills, as he had chosen to call his medication. He was also able to take care of his household more and more by himself and rarely had to rely on the ladies and Bodie. Mrs. Goldman and Mrs. Sonntag had mixed feelings about that. As happy as they were about Doyle making progress, they missed pampering him.

Chapter 14

On the first Friday in December, Bodie drove to the hospital to pick up Doyle after his routine check-up. He cursed the Cow for making him polish yet another report.

When he parked the Capri, he expected his partner to be pacing impatiently in the hospital car park. Yet Doyle was nowhere in sight. Feeling relieved, Bodie locked the car and walked to the entrance. Obviously it was his lucky day, Doyle's check-up must have taken longer than expected and his partner had no reason to be a annoyed about him being late. Ray didn't like spending more time than strictly necessary in the hospital.

Maybe it was a good sign that the check-up had lasted longer. Maybe Doyle had been cleared for active duty. Having almost reached the entrance, he spotted Doyle who had just excited the hospital. Bodie's feeling of relief disappeared completely when he walked up to Doyle and recognized a look of dismay on his partner's face. His shoulders were rounded and slumped. Feeling concerned, Bodie asked: "What's wrong, Ray?"

Doyle answered wearily: "The bloody quacks are never satisfied. They find new ways to torture you all the time." He straightened up. His voice raised and adopted an angry tone when he said: "They cut me open, spread my ribs, inserted needles, tubes and drips into my body, wired me up to all kinds of machinery, poked and prodded me, you'd expect that's enough." When he noticed that Bodie was about to say something, he cut him off. "Yeah, I know, they did all this to save my life and I'm forever grateful for that, but enough is enough."

Bodie had to agree and asked: "What do they want to do to you now?"

"A transoesophageal echocardiography!" Doyle spat out the word as if it was something majorly offensive.

"A transoes..." Bodie broke off because he felt his tongue twisting.

"T.O.E. in short", Doyle explained. "That's a lot easier to pronounce, but it still means they're going to put an ultrasonic probe down my throat and have a look at my heart from the inside," Doyle expanded his explanation.

Bodie smirked and said: "Ah, that means we'll get some live footage from inside your body. I quite like that. Maybe we can sell the rights to the BBC. That should make an interesting documentary."

The glacial stare Doyle gave him made the early winter day suddenly feel like a day in the arctic. Incensed, Doyle asked: "If you think being a star in a BBC documentary is so desirable, why don't you let them stick a tube down your throat?"

Bodie winced a bit, but couldn't stop himself from saying: "Cause your heart's a lot more interesting with all the stitching the surgeons did to it."

For a fraction of a second, Doyle felt very much like tearing Bodie's heart out. Then he shrugged his shoulders. Suddenly he looked way out of his depth. Bodie decided that a little sympathy was called for and asked softly: "So, why does Dr. Siegel want to do this T.O.E. thing?"

Doyle took a deep breath before answering: "He says that's the best way to find out whether my heart has healed properly. He can only declare me fit for active duty if the result of that test is positive."

Bodie thought: "Now the cat is out of the bag. This is D-Day and Ray's worried. So am I!" He swallowed audibly, then cleared his throat. He told Doyle: "Well, then you'd better make sure you and your heart put on a damn good show."

Doyle's tension eased a little and he said: "This will be the best heart show this bloody hospital has ever seen, I promise." He crossed his heart with his right hand.

Bodie replied: "It's got to be! Otherwise you'll have to pay the Cow the money required to train a new agent."

Stifling a laugh, Doyle said: "Oh no, I can't afford that!" He got serious again and said: "I really don't know what I'll do if I don't make it back to the Squad."

Bodie gave him a gentle nudge with the elbow and said: "Let's worry about crossing that bridge if we reach it. No use wasting energy on that now."

Doyle nodded, Bodie was right. Bodie's mind was on the examination ahead and he asked: "When and how will they do this T.O.E.?"

There was a frown on Doyle's face when he answered: "Next Friday. I'll be given a drug that makes me sleep. Thank god I don't have to go through this wide awake. Then they'll put a tube with an ultrasonic probe down my throat until it's close to my heart." He looked miserable.

"Ah come on, Ray, cheer up. At least you won't feel a thing."

Doyle replied: "Well, that's a relief indeed."

They had reached the Capri and to Bodie's astonishment Doyle walked to the driver's door and said: "Gimme the key, Bodie! Dr. Siegel says I'm fit to drive now and I can't wait to get behind the steering wheel."

His right hand was outstretched and he shot his partner an impatient look.

Bodie didn't feel inclined to surrender the key to his Capri so easily and said: "Wait a second. Don't you think it might be better to make your comeback behind the steering wheel when you feel less agitated and in your car?"

Neither Doyle's outstretched hand nor his eyes returning Bodie's questioning look wavered one bit. He didn't feel like gracing that question with an answer.

Reluctantly, Bodie handed the key to Doyle. Ray gave him a boyish grin, opened the driver's door and got into the car. After opening the passenger door for Bodie, he adjusted the position of both seat and rear view mirror to suit him and fastened his seatbelt.

Bodie wasn't granted much time to get into the Capri. He had just closed the door when Doyle energetically reversed out of the parking space. Bodie had hardly put on his seat belt before they left the hospital car park with screeching tyres and an overreving engine. Bodie winced and thought: "I shouldn't have let the golly drive! My poor car!"

He glared at Doyle who had a great first time behind the steering wheel. A smile curled his lips and he happily overtook other cars, changing gears smoothly

He was going way too fast and Bodie thought this might end badly, so he told his partner: "Hey, Jackie Stewart, slow down a bit. We want to go home, not back to the hospital. Don't want to be stopped by a panda car either."

Doyle only cast him a swift glance in response as he was busy overtaking another car. Bodie said a silent prayer, but the gods taking care of wannabe racing drivers seemed to be too busy that day to watch over them. All of a sudden, Doyle exclaimed: "Bloody Hell!" He had spotted a panda car with flashing lights behind them. It overtook the Capri and Doyle had to slow down and stop at the kerbside.

Bodie's face had "I did warn you" written all over.

Doyle said: "We're in trouble, mate!"

Bodie protested: "What do you mean, we? I'm just a passenger. I'll tell them you nabbed my car and kidnapped me. You might end up in prison, Doyle."

For some reason, that prospect didn't seem to bother Doyle very much. A grin appeared on his face and he said: "Hmm, that might save me from having the T.O.E."

The officer from the panda car now stood next to the Capri and Doyle wound down the side window. He had a look at the name tag of the officer who had stopped them. "Good morning, officer Richards," he said.

The officer didn't waste time with a polite greeting and got straight to the point. He asked: "What do you think you're doing? Practicing for the British Grand Prix in the middle of London is irresponsible."

Doyle replied: "We're CI5!"

The officer said: "Yeah, right, and I'm the Queen. Driver's licence and insurance."

He waved his hand impatiently in front of Doyle's face. As Ray hadn't known he would be declared fit for driving that day, he didn't carry these items in his wallet. His CI5 ID was in a cupboard in his flat as well.

He gave Bodie a pleading look. His partner grinned at him, took out his CI5 ID and presented it to the officer. Pointing to Doyle, he said: "He's with CI5 as well. He's forgotten his ID, but I'll vouch for him."

Rolling his eyes, Doyle replied: "How kind, Bodie!"

The officer studied the ID for a while. Then he said: "Agent Bodie, I think we've met. Me and my partner were called to a break-in about three months ago. Turned out a CI5 agent had been shot in his flat and we escorted the ambulance to the hospital. You were there!"

Bodie nodded and said: "The man here who thinks he's Jackie Stewart is the agent who got shot."

The officer had a good long look at Doyle. Yes, that was the man he had briefly seen when he had been loaded into the ambulance.

He said: "We were glad to hear you pulled through. I have to admit I didn't think you'd make it." The memory of the deathly pale agent with an oxygen mask over his face which was covered with spatters of his own blood was still very vivid in the officer's memory. He asked: "Does that mean you're back to active duty, Agent Doyle?"

Ray replied: "Not quite!"

The officer grinned. "So, you're not quite on official business then?" He looked at the two CI5 agents with raised eyebrows.

They both shook their heads slowly.

"Thought so," the officer said.

"We don't want Major Cowley to hear about this," Doyle replied.

"He wouldn't approve," the officer stated.

"Not quite," was Doyle's response. He added: "You see, I was declared fit for driving by my doctor today and I guess I got carried away a bit."

The officer replied: "That's not quite true. You got carried away big time, but I'll let you off the hook and keep quiet about the incident. You must promise to drive more careful from now on. You don't want to injure an innocent civilian or end up in a hospital bed again."

Bodie said: "That's what I told him a couple of minutes ago, but he didn't listen to me." Bodie gave his partner a cheeky grin and Doyle felt very much like sticking his tongue out.

"Well, he'd better not breach more traffic rules or he'll be in big trouble. Have a safe trip," the officer said and tipped his cap.

Doyle replied: "Thank you for letting me off the hook, officer Richards and thank you for the escort after the shooting."

"You're welcome, just make sure you get home without wreaking havoc in the streets of London," officer Richards told him.

"I'll drive more carefully," Doyle assured.

Bodie and Doyle waited till the panda car had disappeared around a corner, then Doyle pulled the Capri from the kerb and they drove home breaking only one or two traffic rules.

Chapter 15

The following Friday, Bodie and Doyle were on their way to the hospital. Alan and Duncan sat on the back seat of the Capri. Alan had insisted on giving Doyle moral support for this crucial examination, pointing out that Doyle had accompanied them to the vet when Duncan had had a jab. Coincidentally, there was no school that day, so Doyle had agreed to have the boy and his dog on board for the exam.

Lyn's friend Megan was on duty at the reception of the hospital that morning, so Lyn had arranged for Megan to take care of Duncan.

Doyle was in a distinctly ratty mood. The scowl on his face could have easily spoiled dozens of milk bottles.

Even Duncan couldn't cheer him up. Doyle had only listlessly patted him before getting into the car. His stomach growled loudly as he hadn't been allowed to have breakfast.

The tension in the car was tangible and it made the hair on Bodie's neck stand on end. Alan fidgeted about on the back seat while Duncan yelped faintly.

They pulled up at a red traffic light and Bodie's hand hit the steering wheel with a loud bang. Startled, the other passengers in the car jumped in their seats and Doyle shouted: "Bodie, don't do that."

Bodie turned to face Doyle and said: "For Christ's sake, pull yourself together, Ray. I'm sure everything will go well and in a couple of hours, you'll be home. They're only admitting you to the ward for the day in case there's a problem and you have to stay overnight. Dr. Siegel said that's not very likely and he also said he's not worried about the outcome of the exam. You won't feel a thing, so please cheer up. You have Alan and Duncan worried. I mean, they want to support you and you don't seem to appreciate that."

Doyle knitted his brows, pondering Bodie's words. His face was lit up by a bright smile and he turned around to speak to the passengers on the back seat. "I'm sorry, lads. I didn't mean to scare you. I'm glad you're with me."

Alan and Duncan relaxed. With a generous smile, Alan replied: "It's okay!" Doyle reached out to give Duncan a good cuddle and he barked shortly. Doyle rightly took that as the dog's way to say: "Apology accepted!"

A game of "I spy" was started and it helped to keep Doyle's mind off what lay ahead for the remainder of the trip.

When they arrived at the hospital, Duncan was trusted to Megan's care. She took an instant liking to the dog who settled down behind the reception desk, well hidden from view. Handing a small bag with dog treats to Megan, Alan said: "Give him some of these if he's a good boy. I'm sure he'll be quiet and remain invisible. He's a good CI5 dog."

With a smile on her face, Megan replied: "I'm sure he is and I think we'll get along just fine!"

A little later, Doyle was sitting up in a bed, picking testily at the hospital gown Lyn had made him put on. He loathed that garment with a vengeance.

His mood didn't improve when a doctor arrived to place a needle into a vein on the back of his left hand. It was needed to inject the sleep-inducing drug and a contrast agent during the examination.

"Bloody needles," Doyle cursed under his breath.

Bodie caught the expletive, put his hands over Alan's ears and said: "Mind your language, Doyle!"

He addressed the young doctor: "Maybe you should wash his mouth when you've finished looking at his heart."

The doctor grinned and told Bodie: "Well, we could do a disinfectant wipe of his mouth at the end of the exam. I'm not sure that'll help to improve his language though."

He secured the needle with a bandage and Lyn propped Doyle's arm up on a pillow. Doyle decided to keep his mouth shut and settled for giving Bodie a glare.

Lyn handed the doctor a syringe containing the sleep-inducing drug. Holding the syringe up to Bodie, he said: "I think you can take your hands off the lad's ears, Mr. Doyle will be asleep soon."

Bodie did as the doc had suggested and Alan rubbed his ears.

Lyn lowered the head of the bed, so Doyle was flat on his back when the doctor injected the drug into his vein.

It took effect only moments later. Doyle started to feel drowsy.

Lyn and the doctor pushed the bed out of the room, Bodie and Alan walking alongside. Doyle's eyelids started drooping, but he struggled to keep them open, fascinated by the funny shapes the lights moving past above him had. He thought: "Gosh, they should really have an electrician look at them."

A small hand took hold of his right hand and he squeezed it gingerly, whispering: "Thanks, Alan!"

Sleep was about to overpower him, but he fought to stay awake as there was something urgent he needed to say. His fuzzy mind couldn't quite find the right words. Concentrating harder, he managed to say with a slurred voice: "It's been a pleasure and an honour to be your partner, Bodie. I hope our journey doesn't end here."

Bodie's voice was husky when he replied: "You silly bugger, don't fight the drug! The sooner you sleep, the sooner it'll be over. I'm sure there are lots of villains out there who'll be put behind bars by us."

Doyle nodded and his eye-lids finally closed. His boss joined the little procession at that moment. Doyle opened his eyes again when he heard Cowley ask "How is he?"

"Resisting to go to sleep," Lyn replied.

Doyle tried to focus on the face of his boss, but it looked pretty distorted to his drugged vision and he said: "I can't pay for the training of a new recruit should I have to leave the squad."

As Doyle's voice was very faint, Cowley had to strain to hear what he was saying. Not having a clue what his agent was talking about, he lightly patted Doyle's shoulder and said: "Don't you worry about that, Doyle. Now go to sleep, that's an order, 4.5!"

Doyle's eye-lids slid shut. Whether that was caused by the drug taking full effect or by Doyle following Cowley's order was anybody's guess.

Moments later, Doyle's bed disappeared behind the doors to the examination room and Bodie, Cowley and Alan were left to wait.

Bodie asked Alan: "Why don't we go to check how Megan and Duncan are getting along?"Alan nodded.

Cowley was astonished. "You brought the dog along, 3.7? Where is Duncan?"

Bodie held Cowley's gaze and told him: "At the reception. Do you want to come along when we check on him?"

The head of CI5 thought it would help to pass the time, so he went down to the reception with Bodie and Alan.

They found Duncan curled up in a ball at Megan's feet. "He's been a real darling," she informed them.

Bodie said: "We'll take him off your hands for a bit. Come on, Duncan, we'll play fetch in the park."

The dog rose to his feet and trotted outside with them. Alan found a suitable fetch stick and the game started. A smile touched Cowley's lips when Duncan included him in the game.

Bodie, however, soon stopped playing. His gaze flitted to the fifth floor windows many times and he thought about the examination going on. Duncan noticed that, dropped his fetch stick, moved over to Bodie and carefully nudged his legs with his nose. Bodie looked down at the dog who barked encouragingly. Gently petting Duncan, he said: "Yeah, I know, Doyle will be all right." Sincerely hoping that he was right, Bodie rejoined the game.

After a while, Larry arrived and asked: "Any news on Doyle?"

Cowley answered: "I think we'd better go back to find out whether the exam is over."

They left Duncan with Megan again and went up to the fifth floor.

When the doors of the lift opened, they saw Lyn who had just pressed the call button, a bright smile on her face. "It's over and Ray's heart is in excellent condition. I was just about to come and get you. Ray's back in his room."

Bodie felt like a very heavy burden had been lifted from his chest.

He and Doyle would roam the streets of London again, keeping Queen and country safe.

Ray Doyle had made it.

He had suffered injuries that could have killed him or left him handicapped, but he had given everything he had and probably even more than that.

Cowley's thoughts ran along the same line and he felt very proud of agent 4.5.

Lyn interrupted their musings. "Come on, we'd better be there when he wakes up to tell him the good news."

She took Alan by the hand and led the way to Ray's room.

Their patience was tested as Ray didn't show signs of waking up. They tried everything. Alan softly tapped him, Lyn placed a kiss on his lips and Bodie shook his shoulders.

No response.

Bodie shook his mate a little harder and said: "Come on, Ray. Wakey, wakey!"

Still no response.

Doyle just wrinkled his nose and grunted.

Bodie was about to run out of patience when Dr. Siegel entered the room and said: "Give him time. There's no use in waking him up forcefully, just let him sleep off the effect of the drug."

That was easier said than done. Cowley went with Dr. Siegel to discuss the result of the examination.

Lyn, Alan, Larry and Bodie stayed with Ray, watching him closely.

Half an hour later, Doyle started to stir. His nose itched like hell, so he moved a feeble hand up to scratch it. There was a fire raging in his throat and he was desperately thirsty. He opened his eyes for a short moment, then closed them again.

Bodie was getting excited. "Come on, Ray, wake up now," he shouted.

Doyle's eyes snapped open. He tried to focus on his partner, but Bodie's face remained blurry. His clumsy attempt at saying something failed miserably as only a pitiful croak escaped his lips.

He had another go. This time Lyn was able to translate what he tried to say in a raspy voice. "He's thirsty," she exclaimed.

She poured a glass of water from the jug on the bedside table and helped Ray to drink. He gulped the water down like somebody who had wandered through the desert for days, so Lyn had to slow him down. "Easy, Ray," she admonished him.

When the glass was empty, Ray said: "More!" His voice a bit stronger and clearer now.

Lyn shook her head and said: "Later, Ray." She eased his head onto the pillow again.

Doyle let out a disappointed groan. The water Lyn had allowed him to drink had only begun to douse the fire in his throat.

It took a lot of effort to ask: "What's the verdict?"

"I'm glad you've asked that question, Ray," Bodie said. Doyle looked at him. He finally managed to focus on his partner's face which was lit up by a cheerful grin and he heard Bodie say: "Your heart's as good as new!"

That was all Doyle needed to know at that moment and he went back to sleep.

Two hours later, he had shaken off the effect of the drug and was wide awake when Dr. Siegel told him: "Your heart has healed extremely well. There's no problem caused by scar tissue, your mitral valve is closing perfectly. There's no reason you can't go back to active duty. You can go back to serious training now. I'll hand you over to the CI5 doctors, today was our last appointment. Of course, you can come back here anytime there's a problem, but I hope I won't be seeing you again soon. At least, not on an operating table. Now, don't get me wrong, we've grown quite fond of you here. You've been the most impatient and thick-headed patient we've ever had in this ward and it's been fascinating to witness your struggle back to health. It's been a bit nerve-wrecking as well, so please stay out of trouble from now on."

"I'll do my very best," Doyle replied. He added: "Thanks, Dr. Siegel!"

"The best thanks you can give me is not to get shot again," Dr. Siegel told him with a wagging finger.

"I'll see to that," Bodie said. Facing his partner, he told Doyle: "Cowley asked me to tell you that from Monday on, you're officially in re-training. He said he expects you to do your best to make it back on the Squad soon."

"I always give my best," Doyle replied.

That evening when Lyn was just about to do the dishes after dinner, Ray put his hands on her hips and started to kiss her neck.

When he reached her shoulders, he paused for a while to say: "That can wait. I've got something else on my mind we could do!"

His hands moved to her breast. Lyn turned around and asked: "Well, I wonder what that is!"

Ray placed a gentle kiss on her lips. Lyn said: "I think I'm getting the idea."

Doyle took her in his arms and carried her to the bedroom.

When Ray had fallen asleep after he and Lyn had made love, she gently ran her fingers across his chest, whispering: "Welcome back to active duty, Ray!"

Then she snuggled up to him and fell asleep while listening to the sound of Ray's breathing.

Chapter 16

It was Friday, almost noon and three days till Christmas.

Doyle had just finished a training session with Macklin at the shooting range and was now walking to his car.

Planning to pay a visit to Bodie who was stuck on an obbo, he was just about to open the door of the Capri when he spotted Murphy. His fellow agent dragged along a handcuffed suspect, a balding, obese man is his fifties.

On a sudden impulse, Doyle went over to Murphy, pointed to his prisoner and asked: "Where did you find him?"

Murphy replied: "In one of the places we turned over looking for members of the Lombardi mob." Holding up a plastic bag he was carrying in his left hand, he added: "Mr. Brian Taylor here is a specialist for forging documents. Do you want to help me interrogate him, Ray?"

Doyle replied: "Yeah, why not?"

A couple of minutes later, they entered an interrogation room.

Murphy pushed Taylor down on a chair in a less than gentle movement. He threw the plastic bag onto a table and its content, fake passports and driver's licenses, scattered about. Then he sat down on a chair facing Taylor, giving him a hard stare. Not uttering a single word, his eyes remained fixed on the man.

Doyle leant casually against the edge of the table, his legs crossed at the ankles. Nonchalantly, he flicked through the forged documents on the table.

The persisting silence in the room made Taylor feel increasingly worried and scared. Being hauled in by CI5 for questioning was a novelty for him. He had dealt with the Met and the CID before, but dealing with CI5 was an entirely different kettle of fish. Beads of sweat appeared on his puffy face and his breathing quickened. He had made some deals with the Met, but doubted he could do likewise with CI5.

An opportunity arose when the curly-haired agent held up a passport to his face and asked in a low, almost indifferent voice: "What's the story behind this fake passport then?"

Curiously looking at the picture on the passport that depicted a young boy called Alano Mendez, Taylor decided to size the opportunity and asked: "What's in it for me if I tell you?"

The last word had hardly come across his lips, when he felt himself grabbed by the collar, pulled up from his chair and pushed against the wall by Doyle.

There was nothing nonchalant about him now, his face had a furious expression and the cold glare in his eyes seemed to penetrate the man he had pinned in a corner.

He hissed: "There's a fractured skull in it for you!"

When Taylor made a half-hearted attempt to wriggle out of his grip, Doyle took hold of the squirming man's face, his fingers squeezing hard and wringing a gasp of pain from him.

With a hard voice, Doyle said: "I mean it, I'll crush your skull if you don't tell me what I want to know!"

Having swallowed with some difficulty, Taylor said: "All right, I'll tell you. Just take your hands off me."

Doyle hauled him back to the chair and pushed him down hard, then tapped on the passport in question and said: "You'd better open your mouth fast!"

Taking a deep breath before answering, Taylor replied: "Mr. Lombardi has set up a whole new life and identity for the boy and his father."

He flicked through the passports and presented one to Doyle that showed a man in his forties with a black moustache and carried the name Hernando Mendez. "That's the boy's father. Of course he's not called Hernando Mendez, he's called Dr. Henry Mitchell and he's been working as a doctor for Mr. Lombardi for a while now. Takes care of his health and his men when they get injured. Now he wants to live in Argentina with his son."

Doyle felt his heart hammering against his chest bone. He asked: "When will these documents be handed over to Dr. Mitchell?" Putting the cuffs on Alan's dad when he expected to be given the forged documents he needed, was the best option to save the boy from being kidnapped by his dad.

When Taylor replied: "He's already got them in his possession, these are just trial versions I did."

Doyle's face paled. He clutched Taylor by the collar again and shouted: "When are they supposed to leave the country?"

"Tonight," was the answer given with a shaky voice.

Doyle was already on his way to the door. Looking over his shoulder he told Murphy: "I'll go over to Mrs. Mitchell's place. Tell Cowley that Alan is about to be kidnapped and that I need back-up. A team must locate Dr. Mitchell and take him here."

He was out of the door in an instant.

He reached his Capri in record time and moments later, he was driving towards his neighbourhood.

Over the car radio he called HQ. When a female voice answered: "2.6," he said: "Call Mrs. Mitchell and tell her not to let Alan out of her sight. Tell her to keep the door locked and not to let anybody inside the house until I get there. ETA: fifteen minutes. Her phone number is: 7853901."

For a moment, he was distracted as he had to swerve to avoid a car that had exited a car park right in front of his Capri. When he turned his attention back to the radio, agent 2.6 told him: "Mrs. Mitchell's line is busy."

"That's all we need," Doyle said and moaned. "Keep trying and let me know as soon as you've spoken to Mrs. Mitchell. 4.5 out."

He called Bodie: "4.5 to 3.7!"

No reply.

Doyle tried again: 4.5 to 3.7!"

Only static reached his ears.

Doyle let out an infuriated yell: "BODIE!"

Finally, his partner's voice could be heard over the radio: "3.7. Doyle, don't get your knickers in a twist. Some of us are working, not enjoying Macklin's tender lovi..."

Doyle cut him off: "I need you to proceed to Mrs. Mitchell's house urgently. Alan might be in danger. His father or somebody from the Lombardi mob is about to kidnap him."

Bodie couldn't believe what Doyle had just told him and asked: "Please repeat, Doyle. Alan might be kidnapped?"

Grimly, Ray responded: "Positive, 3.7!"

"I'm on my way. 3.7 out!"

When Doyle was only a couple of blocks from Mrs. Mitchell's house, agent 2.6 told him: "I can't contact Mrs. Mitchell. The line's constantly busy."

"That's all right," Doyle replied, "I'm almost there. Stand by for further instructions. 4.5 out."

He didn't like it one little bit that Mrs. Mitchell's line was busy. Maybe her ex-husband was already in the house and the phone had been knocked over during a fight.

With a little grin, he thought: "Or maybe she's just enjoying a long chat with her best friend." He sincerely hoped that the latter was the case.

Doyle braked sharply and the Capri came to a halt close to Mrs. Mitchell's house, burning some rubber and scaring the wits out of an elderly man passing by. Accompanied by a rant from the old man, Doyle jumped out of the Capri. Unable to afford to take care of the ranting man, Doyle hurried to the entrance door of Mrs. Mitchell's house, prompting the elderly man to say: "That's typical for young people these days. They don't have any manners!" He shuffled on while Doyle rang Mrs. Mitchell's door bell.

Having rung the bell, his right hand moved to his holster. It seemed to last an eternity till Mrs. Mitchell opened the door. She greeted Doyle with a bright smile and said: "Hello, Ray. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to answer the door, but I had to say good-bye to Maureen first. She's just come back from a holiday and we chatted on the phone for a long time."

Doyle took his hand off his holster and was just about to give a sigh of relief when Mrs. Mitchell added: "If you wish to speak to Alan, you'll have to look for him in the park. He came home early from school today as it's the last school day before the Christmas holidays. He and Duncan left about twenty minutes ago. You can also come in to wait for him here and join us for lunch later," she said, stepping aside to let him inside the house.

Doyle's tension, which had eased a little bit, rose again. He shook his head. "No, I can't come in. I need to find Alan. I'm sorry there's no easy way to tell you, but Alan might be in danger right now. Do you know that your ex-husband has been involved with the mafia for a long time? Now he wants to take your son to Argentina and start a new life with him there."

The colour drained from Mrs. Mitchell's face and she replied: "I know about Henry being in the service of the Lombardi family, that's why I left him. I thought we'd be safe after the divorce, but he got more and more aggressive and wanted to have Alan for himself. My lawyer said Alan would never be taken away from me and now Henry wants to kidnap him."

Her hands covered her mouth and tears started to fill her eyes. In a reassuring tone, Doyle said: "Don't worry, I'll find him and bring him back to you unharmed."

When the R/T in the pocket of his coat crackled, he got hold of it and heard Murphy's voice say: "6.2 to 4.5!"

Doyle replied: "I read you Murphy, what have you got?"

"We haven't been able to locate Dr. Mitchell. When Anson and McCabe got to his house, it was empty. We've put out an APB for him," Murphy told him.

Doyle exhaled sharply before answering: "Get over to Mrs. Mitchell's house and send back-up to Holland Park."

"Consider it done. 6.2 out," Murphy said and cut off.

Doyle called Bodie and told him to proceed to Holland Park immediately. Bodie said: "Can't you be a bit more precise, Ray? Holland Park is rather big." "No, I can't. I'm sure you'll find us, Bodie. 4.5 out."

Doyle sprinted to his car, got in and made it to the entrance of Holland Park in two minutes.

He parked the car and ran into the park, his breath forming small clouds in the cold winter air. He had a good look aroung the playground was empty apart from a little girl being pushed by her mother on a swing and two boys busy on the seesaw.

Hurrying on, he heard Alan's voice yell: "Duncan!"

Doyle turned into the direction where the voice had come from, but neither Alan nor Duncan came into his sight. Having almost crossed the entire park, he finally spotted Alan.

Doyle uttered a string of curses as Alan was accompanied by two men.

He called Bodie on the R/T: "4.5 to 3.7."

This time, Bodie responded immediately: "3.7. Any news on Alan?"

Doyle replied: "I've located him near the King George Memorial. Two men are with him. I'm going to apprehend them now. When will you be here, Bodie?"

"In a couple of minutes. 3.7 out." Bodie took another corner with screeching tyres, desperately trying to go faster. Of course, that was out of the question, the Capri could not switch to supersonic speed, though Bodie wished that was possible at that very moment.

Doyle briefly considered waiting for his partner, but Alan and the men were close to the street and would probably soon vanish into a car. He crossed the distance between him and Alan and the men.

When he was in earshot, he called Alan. The boy and the men stopped and turned around to face Doyle. From a photo he had seen in Alan's room, Doyle identified Dr. Mitchell. The other guy was probably a member of the Lombardi mob. It was pretty obvious he was carrying a gun.

Recognising his mate, Alan said: "Ray, it's so good you're here. My dad's come to get me and take me to the hospital where my mum is. She had an accident and wants to see me." The boy looked at Doyle with sad eyes and added: "Duncan has run off again. Can you take care of him?"

Doyle shook his head slowly and said: "That's not necessary. I spoke to your mother a couple of minutes ago, she's perfectly fine. I've come to take you home."

Alan looked from Doyle to his father, who had tightened his grip on the boy's hand, making him grimace with pain. Alan asked: "So, you lied to me?"

He made a futile attempt to get away from his dad.

Dr. Mitchell replied: "No, Alan, I wouldn't lie to you in such a matter."

Pointing to Doyle, he added: "He's the one who's lying!"

Alan yelled: "No, he isn't. He's my friend!"

He made another desperate attempt to escape his father's grip, but failed again.

Dr. Mitchell shook his head: "Alan, I'm very disappointed that you don't believe me. I am your father, he is a stranger."

Tugging even harder at his father's arm, Alan shouted: "No, he's not a stranger. He's the best friend I have in the world, apart from Duncan. Ray's with CI5 and he will arrest you for lying to me."

That made Dr. Mitchell laugh. After a while he said: "Will he indeed?"

Doyle said: "Yes, I will. Let the boy go now. The park will be crawling with CI5 agents soon, you won't get far and you don't want your son to get hurt!"

He reached out his hand and repeated: "Let Alan go!"

All hopes that reason would get the upper hand vanished when Dr. Mitchell pulled the boy close in a sudden movement and produced a gun which he held to the boy's head.

Taken aback, Doyle looked into Dr. Mitchell's distorted face. The realization that he would rather kill his son than let him go came as a shock to Doyle. The other man had drawn his weapon as well and aimed it at Doyle.

With a croaky voice, Dr. Mitchell said: "Well, Mr. CI5, you'd better let us go. The boy will be going with me or to a morgue, it's up to you. Don't try anything clever!"

Putting his hands up, Doyle said: "All right, all right!" He looked at Alan. There was fear in his eyes, but he seemed to be calm.

Doyle said: "I'll get you out of this, Alan. I promise."

The boy nodded, he had absolute faith in Doyle.

Dr. Mitchell let out a sardonic laugh and said: "Yeah, right!"

There was a moment of silence.

Time seemed to stand still and the earth seemed to have stopped moving.

All of a sudden, the deceptive calm was disturbed by loud barking and Duncan came racing towards them.

Then all hell broke loose. Startled by the dog's arrival, Dr. Mitchell took the gun from Alan's head, swung it into the direction of the dog and fired.

Duncan collapsed with a high-pitched yelp of agony.

In one swift movement, Doyle drew his weapon and dropped Dr. Mitchell with a precise shot through his right shoulder.

Something scorched Doyle's right forearm and the Browning spilled from his fingers. Fortunately, the bullet fired by the man with Dr. Mitchell only grazed Ray's forearm, but he knew with dead certainty that he wouldn't be able to retrieve his gun in time to prevent that guy from firing again.

Doyle noticed that Alan kneeled over Duncan's motionless form and that the guy aimed at him.

He made a desperate attempt to save the boy by diving down to get hold of his Browning. Gripping the gun with his right hand sent fires of pain travelling up and down his forearm. He clenched his teeth and was just about to bring the gun in a position to fire, when a single shot was heard.

Doyle's heart sank and he looked up, expecting Alan to have collapsed next to his dog.

Yet the boy still kneeled next to Duncan, cradling the dog's head in his lap.

Doyle cast a glance to the spot where the baddie had been standing. He lay on the ground now, his hands clutching his right thigh.

Relief and the pain radiating from the wound in his arm made Doyle feel giddy for a second and he briefly closed his eyes.

When he opened them again, he saw Bodie kicking the gun out of reach of the guy he had just dropped by putting a bullet through his thigh.

Doyle put the Browning back in his holster and hurried to Alan and Duncan.

Kneeling next to Alan, he looked at Duncan. The dog lay on his right side, all legs stretched out, panting. Blood from a wound to his chest matted the black part of his fur. In contrast, the white fur on Duncan's chest had gone starkly bright red. Bubbles of blood came from the dog's mouth and Doyle thought: "Oh, no. The bastard hit his lung."

Taking out his handkerchief and pressing it tightly onto the wound, he was vaguely aware of people arriving. Soon that area of the park was filled with uniformed coppers, CI5 agents and paramedics bustling around.

Doyle took Duncan in his arms and lifted him up, ignoring the pain the movement triggered in his arm. The blood from Doyle's flesh wound mixed with Duncan's.

Alan didn't have to be told to keep the pressure on Duncan's wound. Walking alongside Doyle, the blood soon seeped through the handkerchief and onto Alan's hands. Having informed his fellow agents about what had just happened, Bodie joined them and Doyle told him: "The bullet must be in his lung. Dr. Kerrigan's surgery is only two blocks from here. He's Duncan's vet and we'll take him there. You'd better go and get the engine running."

Bodie nodded, then pointed to Doyle's torn and bloodied sleeve and asked: "What about you?"

"That's just a graze, don't fuss, Bodie," Doyle told his partner.

He was glad when Bodie followed his order at once and sprinted out of sight.

As the dog was quite heavy and his arm was throbbing, Doyle had to concentrate hard on carrying Duncan, but he knew he would carry him a hundred miles if necessary. In a soft voice, he spoke words of encouragement: "Duncan, hang on. We'll have you in Dr. Kerrigan's surgery in no time, you'll see."

It worried Doyle that the dog's eyes were a bit dull, but he winked at Doyle as if to say: "Don't worry, I'll make it!"

Alan had a hard time keeping up with Doyle. When Doyle only took one step, he had to take two, yet he kept walking steadily right next to Doyle.

In the meantime, Bodie had driven his Capri as close to the park entrance as possible. He didn't have to wait long for his mates to arrive.

Alan quickly got in the back seat. Doyle got in the passenger seat, cradling Duncan in his lap. Bodie had unpacked the Capri's first aid kit and had placed bandages and compresses on the dashboard. Doyle pressed them against Duncan's wound with both of his hands while Bodie put the Capri into gear.

Doyle had to divide his attention between the dog and the road ahead as he had to give Bodie directions.

He shouted: "Right turn here, Bodie!" The car veered around the corner and Duncan yelped. Bodie took one hand off the steering wheel to gently pet the dog's head and said: "Sorry, Duncan." When he moved it back to the steering wheel, blood smears appeared.

"Left turn ahead," Doyle yelled. This time, the Capri took the corner a bit more carefully.

"Stop at the dark red house, Bodie. We've made it," Doyle said.

Bodie nearly parked the Capri inside the house.

Doyle was out of the car before it had come to a complete stop, Alan following in his wake like greased lighting.

The boy rang the door bell. Fortunately, they didn't have to wait long for the door to be opened. Dr. Kerrigan had just let out the last patient for the week and was about to lock the door when the bell rang. He opened the door and his heart skipped a beat.

Doyle carried Duncan into the surgery and explained: "Duncan has been shot. There's a bullet in his lung and you've got to take it out."

Dr. Kerrigan was a practical man, he didn't waste time by asking questions and said: "Take him to the examination room!"

His wife came down from the couple's flat on the first floor where she had been busy preparing lunch for herself, her husband and Dan.

"Get Dan to come down, we have an emergency," Dr. Kerrigan told her. She turned on her heels and moments later, Dan hurried down the stairs.

In the meantime, Doyle had put Duncan on the table in the examination room and kept putting pressure on the wound.

Alan petted his dog when Dr. Kerrigan and Dan came in and told him and Doyle to leave. Hesitating, Alan said: "I want to stay with Duncan!"

With a firm voice, Dr. Kerrigan said: "No, there's nothing you can do here. I promise to do all I can for Duncan!"

Doyle took hold of Alan with his good arm and steered him out of the room.

The door to the examination room clicked shut and Alan, Bodie and Doyle were left to wait.

Alan had been extraordinarily brave until that moment. The will to save his dog had kept him going. Now that there was nothing left for him to do for Duncan, the shock set in and his eyes filled with tears.

Doyle pulled him in an embrace and Alan started to cry. Sobs wracked the boy's body and Doyle felt so helpless. He kept repeating: "It's going to be all right. Duncan will pull through," over and over again, praying that he was right.

After what seemed like a lifetime, Alan calmed down again. He wriggled out of Doyle's arms, making him wince.

Alan asked: "Are you hurt as well?"

"It's just a graze, Alan, don't worry," Doyle assured him.

Mrs. Kerrigan, who had been watching the drama enfolding in her husband's surgery, handed a handkerchief to Alan and said: "Here, blow your nose, young man. Then you go to the bathroom and get yourself cleaned up. I'm sure Mr. Doyle's friend will help you while I see to Mr. Doyle."

Bodie replied: "Maybe I should take them both to hospital?"

Doyle and Alan shot him a fierce look and Alan said: "I won't leave until I know whether Duncan will pull through." Doyle added: "Neither will I!"

Mrs. Kerrigan said: "Right, that's settled then." Being as practical as her husband, she wasn't prepared to accept objections, so Bodie didn't dare to repeat his suggestion.

While Bodie helped Alan in the bathroom, she assisted Doyle in taking off his coat and the sweater he wore. Then she rolled up the right sleeve of Doyle's shirt.

Having inspected the wound on Doyle's forearm, she stated: "It's a little more than a graze. It needs stitching, but that can wait. I'll just clean and bandage the wound for now."

She went to fetch the necessary utensils and five minutes later, there was a bandage wound around Doyle's forearm.

"That'll do," Mrs. Kerrigan said, "shall I get you a painkiller?"

Shaking his head vehemently, Doyle said: "No, thanks, the pain's not that bad." Yet he flinched slightly when he experimentally moved his arm.

At that moment, Bodie and Alan returned from the bathroom. Pointing to the bandage on his partner's arm, Bodie asked: "You're sure you want to wait?"

Grimacing, Doyle replied: "Absolutely!"

Bodie decided it was high time give a report to Cowley on the R/T and let him know about their whereabouts. The head of CI5 had come to the crime scene in Holland Park.

When Bodie put the R/T back into the pocket of his jacket, he said: "Alan, our boss will bring your mum here. They'll arrive pretty soon. Oh, and Doyle, he wasn't too happy about you getting involved in a case though you're still in re-training. I left telling him that you managed to get yourself shot again to you."

Doyle gave a snort: "Thanks a bunch, mate. What does the Cow expect? Should I have let them kidnap or kill Alan?"

Bodie and Doyle settled down on chairs in the waiting area, while Alan paced the room. Sometimes, he sat on either Bodie's or Doyle's lap for a while, but not for long.

Mrs. Kerrigan fixed tea. Bodie and Doyle sipped at their cups gratefully and even Alan settled down long enough to empty a cup of camomille tea and nibble a biscuit. Then he started to pace the room again.

When Cowley arrived with Mrs. Mitchell, she rushed to her son's side in an instant, hugging him close. She didn't know what to say, she was just happy to see her son alive and well.

With his mum by his side, Alan calmed down a bit and managed to sit on a chair next to her, holding her hand and hugging her from time to time.

Cowley took one look at Doyle and saw the bandage around his arm, but he just rolled his eyes and remained silent. Doyle was glad to get away so lightly, yet he knew that this probably was more a matter of " the calm before the storm."

Before leaving again, Cowley told them: "You'll meet me in my office at 5 o'clock sharp!"

Finally, the door to the examination room opened and a very tired Dr. Kerrigan came out, followed by his assistant.

Alan jumped to his feet and fixed his eyes on the vet. Dr. Kerrigan gave him a smile and said: "Duncan will be all right. It was a close shave, but you did a great first aid job and got him here fast, so Dan and I were able to save his life."

Tears of relief started to run down Alan's face and he asked: "Can I see him?"

After a moment of hesitation, Dr. Kerrigan replied: "Yes, but he's still asleep."

Doyle and Mrs. Mitchell got hold of Alan's hands and they all went into the examination room. Duncan's breathing was easy and the blood had been cleaned from his mouth. His chest was thickly bandaged and a drip was attached to one of his front legs.

Dr. Kerrigan explained: "You were right, the bullet was located in his lung. It was a touch and go surgery, but Duncan is a tough dog. He's lost a lot of blood, though."

Alan gently stroked what was visible of Duncan's fur and asked: "Can I take him home with me?"

Dr. Kerrigan replied: "No, Alan. He needs special care and attention and he'll have to stay here for a while. I promise that Sandra, Dan and I will take good care of him. You can come for a visit whenever you like."

Alan nodded, then asked: "Can I stay with him until he wakes up?"

With a smile, Dr. Kerrigan answered: "Of course, you can."

Doyle said: "I'll wait with you Alan."

Dr. Kerrigan objected: "You'd better get that wound seen to first. I can do that if you wish."

Bodie didn't like the idea and said: "No offence, Dr. Kerrigan. You're a brilliant vet, but I think I should take Doyle to hospital. There's somebody who'll be thrilled about seeing him as patient again."

His partner grew two shades paler and said. "We're not going to bother Dr. Siegel with that little graze, Bodie."Doyle's shook his head vehemently and told his partner: "I'd rather let Dr. Kerrigan take care of it."

Bodie grabbed Doyle's good arm and said: "No, you're coming with me. I called Dr. Siegel while you were on the loo some time ago and he said we can come over anytime. There's no surgery on his schedule today and he said he'd love to do some needle work to prevent him from getting rusty."

There was a mischievous smile on Bodie's face. Doyle didn't feel like smiling at all, his face clouded over and he looked thoroughly miserable when he followed Bodie out of Dr. Kerrigan's surgery.

Dr. Siegel put the needle holder down and gave Doyle a stern look before saying: "I've just put in six stitches, just in case you're keeping score. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I explicitly told you I didn't want to see you again as a patient in the near future."

Watching the doctor bandage his arm, Doyle replied: "Yes, you did say that, Dr. Siegel."

A small smile appeared on Dr. Siegel's face and he said: "Well, what do you have to say in your defence?"

Doyle replied: "I just had to do my best to save Alan!"

The smile on Dr. Siegel's face had reached his eyes by now and he said: "Of course!"

He addressed the assisting nurse: "Lyn, please get a sling for this patient who treats our hospital as his second home!"

Bodie grinned when Doyle pulled a face and exclaimed: "Not a sling again!"

"The sling is necessary, Ray," Lyn told him.

With a nod, Dr. Siegel said: "Lyn's right. The stitches come out next week. No overstraining of the arm, just take it nice and easy for a while."

Putting Doyle's arm in the sling she had just taken out of a cupboard, Lyn replied: "I'll make sure that he follows your orders."

To the utmost surprise of everybody present, Doyle didn't raise anymore objections. He seemed to be lost in thought. They let him do some brooding for a while, then Bodie said: "Earth to Ray, what's wrong? I thought you might have something to say against the advice to take it nice and easy for a while. I mean, you worked so hard to make a fast recovery, I'd expect you to raise hell now."

A smile passed Doyle's face and he said: "Well, now I know that I still have the nerve to be standing in the line of fire. That's what worried me the most. Now my baptism of fire is behind me and we proved to be as good as a team as we were before, I think a week of taking it nice and easy isn't so bad."

Bodie gave him a gentle pat on the back and said: "Welcome back to the line of fire and it's good to see you're being sensible for a change, Ray!"

Doyle replied: "Yeah, sometimes I amaze myself, but don't get used to it, Bodie!"

"I'll try not to, you berk," Bodie said and everybody started to laugh.

Bodie and Doyle returned to Dr. Kerrigan's practice just in time to see Duncan wake up. He was very weak, but licked the hands of everybody present before going back to sleep.

Alan could finally be persuaded to go home with his mum. Bodie and Doyle took them back to their place, then drove to HQ to face their boss.

Cowley looked at Doyle with a grave expression on his face and said: "You've just set a new CI5 record for going back to the list of injured agents. To make it worse, you weren't even supposed to be working on a case. You had been assigned to train and find your edge again."

Doyle uneasily moved on his chair. His arm was bothering him a bit and he looked forward to getting home. He said: "Well, I just had to get involved when I learnt that Alan was in danger."

A small smile touched Cowley's lips, then he said: "I have to agree, Doyle. You and Bodie did well, it seems my top team is back on track."

He opened a chart lying on his desk: "Well, Dr. Mitchell and his associate are as well as can be expected. Our investigations so far have revealed that Dr. Mitchell got involved with the Lombardi mob after he had opened his surgery. They offered him a lot of money to help him pay back the money he owed to the bank. Seems he fell for the lure of what seemed easy money to him. His wife found out what he had gotten himself into and decided to leave him. She didn't tell the police out of some false sense of loyalty to her ex-husband. Now she feels very guilty as her silence got Alan into danger."

Doyle said: "Well, you don't exactly expect a father to kidnap his son and rather kill him than leaving him to his mum."

Cowley nodded and said: "Liz Spalding will stay with Mrs. Mitchell and Alan for a while and I think you'll keep an eye on them as well, 4.5."

"That's what I had in mind," Doyle replied.

Cowley said: "You'd better go home now, Doyle. As soon as you're fit to resume your training, I expect you to report to Macklin. Is that understood, 4.5?"

Bodie and Doyle rose to their feet and Doyle said: "Yes, Sir!" They turned to leave the office when they heard their boss say: "Well done, you two!"

With a grin, Bodie and Doyle left the office.

Chapter 17

The best Christmas present Alan got was that Duncan ate a proper meal for the first time after he had been shot.

His recovery went well and Doyle was a sensible patient, too. He didn't complain about the sling once and Bodie thought that was quite remarkable.

A week after the stitches were taken out of Doyle's arm, they went to Dr. Kerrigan's surgery to take Duncan home.

Alan was very happy and relieved when Duncan slept in his basket again that night. It was placed close to Alan's bed as usual and the boy reached down to pet his dog whenever he woke up during the night.

Six weeks later, Bodie and Doyle jogged in Holland Park. Alan and Duncan were with them.

Alan had a stop watch and timed their laps. Duncan gave them an encouraging bark whenever they ran past him. He wasn't fit for running yet, but he had made a quick recovery.

After four laps, Bodie decided that they had done enough. Doyle felt quite good to be back to jogging, even though it was a cold winter day and the snow crunched under his trainers. He could have easily done another lap, but decided to stop as well.

They walked to Doyle's flat and Alan told them: "Carol rang this morning. She said she wants Duncan to meet Chloe, a Bearded Collie one of her customers owns. Duncan's supposed to be the father of her puppies. She says Duncan will mate with Chloe. What does that mean?"

Bodie and Doyle looked at each other, heaved a sigh and Bodie explained: "That means that Duncan and Chloe will make love!"

Alan was puzzled and he asked: "How will they do that?"

Feeling rather uncomfortable, Doyle said: "I think it's better if Carol tells you all about that, Alan."

The boy asked: "Will he like doing that? I mean, I don't want Duncan to do anything he dislikes!"

Bodie and Doyle grinned. Bodie said: "Oh yes, he'll have a lot of fun."

"That's all right then," Alan said.


Half a year later, Bodie, Doyle, Alan and Duncan went to visit Duncan's and Chloe's puppies. Duncan was a very proud father.

There were six puppies and Alan said: "They're called Bodie, Doyle, Lyn, Megan and Larry." They all had grey or black and white fur, but there was one that had white and light brown fur with a touch of ginger.

Bodie pointed to it and asked "What's his name?" Alan replied: "Cowley!"