Major Cowley fixed his gaze on the motionless, supine body. Doyle's bed in the Intensive Care Unit was surrounded by various monitors and a respirator. Electrodes were attached to Doyle's head and chest to record his heart beat and brain activity. A central line provided the medication, blood and fluid Doyle's system needed to fight its battle against death with a steady drip. A feeding tube in his nose supplied the essential nutrients Doyle's body required to keep up its strength. The medical equipment which helped to keep his operative alive was a rather disturbing sight to the Major and he wondered which invisible source of strength fed Doyle's soul. Whether Doyle's will was strong enough to ban the Grim Reaper whose presence in the room was almost tangible was something Major Cowley wasn't entirely sure about. Doyle's complexion was ashen and in the stark light of the lamp placed above Doyle's head, his face seemed ethereal. The blood showing through the bandages on Doyle's chest provided a sharp contrast to the pallor of Doyle's skin. To Major Cowley, his operative looked like he was far closer to the land of the dead than to the land of the living. At least, his heartbeat was regular now! That was a relief to his boss who vividly remembered the moment Doyle's body had jerked on the operating table when Doyle had to be shocked to force his heart back to a sinus rhythm.

When Dr. Siegel entered the room, Major Cowley stepped away from the head of Doyle's bed to give the surgeon room to move. During a quick, but thorough check-up of his patient and the monitors, Dr. Siegel confirmed Major's Cowley's thoughts by telling him: "His system's basically dormant. Idling. It's doing just enough to keep him alive." The lump in Major's Cowley's throat seemed to grow in diameter.

Dr. Siegel added: "But the brain activity... The brain's the first organ truly to die. Sounds a romantic notion, I know. But, to me, with the system idling and the brain activity so intense, I think it's as if he's trying to come to a decision." Dr. Siegel had finished looking at monitors and the papers on the clipboard the nurse was holding out to him and stood next to Major Cowley at the foot of the bed.

"Whether to live or die?" Major Cowley asked. When Dr. Siegel uttered an affirmative answer, Major Cowley thought about how many time in his career Doyle had been involved in something with which he didn't agree at all and told the doctor: "He's done more, seen more to make him want to throw it all in than almost anybody his age."

Dr. Siegel felt tired and exhausted after the complicated surgery. He had done everything in his power to save the CI5 agent, drawing on all the experience he had gained during countless operations. Now it was mainly up to his patient to make up his mind about his future. After a good long look at Doyle, he said: "Then, let's hope he's got more reasons to want to go on."

To Major Cowley, the whole notion of Doyle taking stock of his life and making up his mind whether it was worth returning to was too close to the truth and too worrying for comfort, so he snapped at the doctor: "If you're right." In a way, he hoped that the surgeon was wrong, that Doyle's fate was entirely in the hands of the medical personnel and their skills. Dr. Siegel didn't alleviate his fears when he said: "If I'm right."

Major Cowley's mind flashed back to the first interview he had with Doyle to find out whether the young policeman might make a good CI5 agent. That Doyle had had quite a few run-ins with his superiors before, didn't bother the head of CI5 at all. It merely showed that the young man hadn't been hardened by his job, that he had managed to retain his compassion. That would make him a vital member of CI5, an organisation dealing in a trade in which issues were complex and tangled and compassion could be a big step towards solving them. When he explained that to Doyle, his answer didn't surprise Major Cowley at all: "Noble sentiments. I hope I live up to them."

A concerned expression appeared on the face of the head of CI5 when an unsettling question went through his mind: "Is it possible for Doyle to come to the decision that the bottom line of all the noble sentiments in this trade are wasted lives and that he didn't care enough to prevent that and deserves to die as a consequence?"

When the heart monitor which had been sending out the comforting signals of a steady heart beat started to go into a frantic, erratic bleeping mode, Major Cowley feared that the answer to this question might prove to be "yes" very soon. He felt like yelling at Doyle, telling him in no uncertain terms that he was under strict orders to stay alive to help them find out who had done this and to prevent further bloodshed in case the assassin had more CI5 agents on his or her hit list. He was just about to open his mouth to bellow at his operative when Dr. Siegel said: "He's in a very unstable rhythm."

Instead of shouting an order at Doyle, he ordered the doctor with a tone of irritation in his voice: "Damn it, do something, man!"

Dr. Siegel felt as helpless as Major Cowley. It was almost a miracle his patient was still with them. He knew that most patients with a penetrating heart injury didn't even make it to the operating theatre. The last case he had dealt with had been the one of a man suffering from a knife wound to the heart after a pub fight. The man had died on his way to surgery. The patient at whose bedside he was standing now had been more lucky or more determined to hang onto life so far and had made it through surgery, but this determination might run out any minute. He made some adjustments to the settings of the respirator and injected lidocaine into Doyle's central line. After a while, the bleeping became steady again. With a sigh of relief, Dr. Siegel told Major Cowley: "The lidocaine seems to have settled it down." That was one more battle with death over and done with and the doctor hoped that there would be no more. Major Cowley's thought obviously ran along the same lines and he said: "I'm counting on you to have him stay that way."

This was one of the times Dr. Siegel wished he had a magic wand, but all he could rely on was his knowledge of medicine, so he said: "A doctor, I am. God, I am not." He gave Major Cowley a glare and handed the empty syringe to the nurse. Before leaving the room to grab a much needed cup of tea and a sandwich, he told the her: "Give me a shout at the slightest change, right away."

While the nurse turned her attention to the monitors, Major Cowley stepped closer to the bed to keep an eye on Doyle, willing him to carry on.