This is a sequel to the story "Father and Farther."
The events described take place on 24 December, 2005.
I Wonder As I Wander
Part 1 of 2
Bodie felt the cold this season.
It awoke the complaints of his old wounds. It added weight to the burdens he shouldered. It burrowed into his bones, reminding him of his years and his mortality.
Melancholy was Doyle's department, not his. Yet as one new field report followed another to glow expectantly on his computer monitor, Bodie found himself staring out of his study window, unable to focus, troubled by something he couldn't identify. On the other side of the chilled glass, the rain had ended, and flurries threatened a coming snowfall.
The bare limbs of trees appeared dead and brittle beneath their shrouds of ice. He imagined London, blanketed in white…
You're turning maudlin in your old age, he told himself. Grow a pair, yeah?
With a sigh of self-disgust he pushed back from his desk and wandered out of his study in the general direction of Ray Doyle. He found the man in their room. As he knew it would, the sight kindled fresh warmth inside of him, easing his unnamed aches.
"Wish you could come with." Doyle frowned at his own reflection in the mirror as he smoothed the lapels of his tuxedo jacket.
"I don't, sunshine. Politicians and bureaucrats drinking eggnog, making small talk, and kissing each others' arses?" Bodie shuddered theatrically before donning a cheeky grin. "Rather be washing my hair."
Doyle shook his head, but his lips quirked as he fought an answering smile. "You're rubbish as a trophy wife, you know."
Leaning against the wall, arms folded, Bodie assumed an injured air. "Fine. Be that way, Raymond. Just don't come crying to me the next time a military junta needs thwarting or a terrorist cell wants identifying at the very last minute. I might've made other plans: a manicure, perhaps, or a mud bath."
Their gazes met in the mirror, wry and fond, and nothing else needed to be said.
It was a very small price to pay, all things considered, for Doyle to assume the social responsibilities that came with the directorship of CI-5 on his own, sans any "plus one." They'd always had to be discreet, hadn't they? It was second nature to both of them, to keep the personal well behind locked and bolted doors.
At least the reasons made sense now. Just as Doyle's position had pushed him onto the national stage, Bodie's had pulled him into the shadows. If it had been otherwise, no doubt a public cry would've been raised at two men, so close, holding such combined power.
How the Cow would've laughed at that.
After all, they still were chalk and cheese, weren't they? Even now. Each fiercely protective of his own domain, his own expertise, his own raison d'être.
Doyle could debate and wrestle with fine points of policy that would put Bodie to sleep; Bodie could accomplish certain delicate and necessary tasks that would leave Doyle sleepless. Doyle crafted broad strategies with years, even decades in mind, on the scale of an entire agency; Bodie's precise efforts were defined by minutes and seconds, executed by a personally-chosen handful of special agents. Doyle provided Her Majesty's Government with national security; Bodie, plausible deniability.
If they sometimes felt that the two of them were pitted against the world as well as each other, well, that was nothing new, either. Then again, that world was a far different place now than it had been when they were simply 3.7 and 4.5. Four bombs in fifty minutes mere months ago gave proof enough of that.
At the end of the day, it was enough that they could share their closely-guarded secret of a home. Bodie gave Doyle perspective and received compassion in return. As a result, Doyle brooded far less these days, and Bodie failed to grow callous. Both were better professionals, better persons, for it.
"Stop staring at yourself and go on, then," Bodie said. "And don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Doyle chuckled. "Hardly narrows my options, does it?" They walked together as far as Bodie's study. "Go easy on your agents, yeah? Wherever the hell they are, it's still Christmas Eve."
"Bah, humbug," Bodie said. At Doyle's glare, he added a "Yes, mum" with obviously mock contrition.
A pause. Then, tentatively, Doyle said, "You know, it's not too late. 'Tis the season, and all that—"
Here it was, the heart of the matter, the epicentre of Bodie's recent mood. It lay naked and tender before them, just as it had ever since the night Bodie learned he was a father. Doyle studied him, as if calculating how much weight to throw against an immoveable object. After several moments he signalled his surrender with a nod.
"Yeah, well, these people – politicians and bureaucrats, as you say – they don't have families; they have staff." The regret was clear in Doyle's tone. "I expect I'll be late."
Bodie shrugged. "I expect I'll wait up."
A gentle expression softened the lines engraved on Doyle's face, reminding Bodie of a much younger man with dark curls instead of gray bristles, faded jeans instead of formal wear. "Ta, mate."
Doyle's fingers brushed Bodie's arm, and then he was gone.
Bodie's eyes once again strayed to the window. He reminded himself that he should examine the incoming reports. Instead, despite his best efforts, he wondered what Christmas meant to an overworked and widowed detective inspector.
Less than two hours later, as Bodie's various channels of surveillance sang out in emergency alert, he headed for his car at a run to find out.
The security team at the house balked at the idea of Bodie driving into the night unescorted. He made it clear in no uncertain terms that he didn't require anyone's permission to do anything. Apparently his glower had not lost its power to move, if not mountains, then at least the muscled men who did a passable job of impersonating them.
He knew some of the agents would follow him, but from a discreet distance, and with a healthy degree of fear and trembling. He wouldn't arrive on the scene with a bloody entourage, thank God.
The location in question wasn't in the belly of gang territory, but it wasn't far from it. Seedy, one might say. Disreputable. Not altogether safe.
Just like the old days.
Bodie parked a couple of blocks from the address. He wondered idly if his car would still be there, in one piece, when he returned.
He walked at a casual pace, gloved hands thrust deep in the pockets of his wool coat, alert eyes sweeping his surroundings. The various weapons he wore fit naturally against his body, familiar and reassuring. The streets were all but deserted, no doubt because of the weather, but from the windows rising up on either side of him Bodie caught glimpses of cheap tinsel and fairy lights, green trees and silver angels, festive bows and shining ornaments. A thick, frozen silence enveloped the space immediately around him, but distant echoes of traditional carols and contemporary party music ricocheted above his head, an incongruous blend of human voices, piano chords, and heavy bass tracks.
Perhaps the holiday season itself was getting to him. Bodie might've spent every single Christmas of the last forty-two years without his son, but this was the first Christmas that he was aware of that fact, the first that he realised what he had missed and what he was missing.
He swallowed the bitter thought and frowned into the folds of his scarf. The matter at hand was what the hell he intended to do once he reached his destination.
Good question, that.
As he rounded a corner, shifting layers of darkness took shape and moved forward from the entrance of a narrow alleyway. A string of curses and street slang carried to him, with a few words repeated by various teenaged voices like a chorus: "wallet" and "watch" and "phone."
He had no time for it, no time at all.
"You don't want to do this," he told the world at large.
One youth stepped closer. Bodie registered the glittering of his eyes and his flick knife. "Fuck you, old man."
This one wasn't worth arming himself.
"Son," Bodie said, "go home."
The blade rose higher. "I said, fu—"
With one blow Bodie put the boy on the pavement. The knife clattered into the night, unclaimed. The youth blinked and groaned feebly, but he made no effort to rise.
"Anyone else?" The sound of running feet was his only answer.
He felt no satisfaction. These were only children; they should be indoors celebrating the season, not preying on anyone unfortunate enough to be out in the weather with them.
Bodie put another block behind him.
At the sound of an approaching car, he edged farther from the street. When a large black sedan drew up beside him and stopped, he halted in his tracks, heaved a sigh, and rolled his eyes.
The back door opened, and a feminine voice said, "You'd be warmer in here."
It was a waste of a perfectly good double entendre, for the elegant brunette spoke without inflection, eyes riveted to the BlackBerry in her hands. She was wrapped in fine fabric and fur like a tastefully understated extra from the set of Doctor Zhivago; Bodie had to move a pace closer to discern her face.
God, he thought, she's just a baby.
As if reading his mind, she glanced up at him. "Yes, I'm new. Yes, I'm young. But I'm highly qualified, in constant contact with Mr Holmes, and fully authorised by him to share information of certain interest to you, if you will return the courtesy."
"Or," she added, when he failed to reply, "you can freeze to death." Her eyes returned to her personal data assistant. "I get paid either way."
Despite the gravity of the situation, Bodie felt the urge to laugh.
As he climbed in, she slid over and settled a laptop computer on the seat between them. The moment Bodie closed the door, the driver pulled away from the kerb.
"I assume you're here for the same reason we are," she began. "What do you know?"
This was no time, Bodie reckoned, to indulge in a pissing contest with Mycroft Holmes or his proxy. "Word of an alleged suicide. Not uncommon during the holiday season, of course. But the identity of the body has yet to be reported, and so-called suicides do, on occasion, turn out to be murder. This area has seen more than its share of violent deaths. I know my—that is, I know Detective Inspector Lestrade was here, but unofficially, off-duty. Seemed unusual. Thought I'd look about, make certain… well."
She nodded. "The detective inspector was here because of Mr Holmes's brother. It seems they are both alive, and they have no connection to the victim."
For several heartbeats, Bodie closed his eyes. The sheer physical force of his relief took him by surprise.
"I should be able to verify that momentarily," she continued.
He considered the screen. "You're monitoring the brother's flat."
"He maintains several 'boltholes,' as he likes to call them, located around London. We don't know the exact number, but fortunately this is one that Mr Holmes discovered and routinely keeps under surveillance." Her slender fingers danced across the keyboard and then returned to her BlackBerry.
Bodie studied the feed. It revealed a dingy, miniscule space nearly devoid of furnishings. Empty at present.
He'd seen Greg Lestrade in a few televised clips from press conferences, but never in a candid situation, never when speaking solely for himself rather than the whole of Scotland Yard. An unspecified yearning welled up inside of him.
He loosened his scarf. The young lady continued typing.
The seat was spacious as far as luxury automobiles went, but Bodie was a rather broad-shouldered man bundled in many layers. He shifted to see the small monitor better, extending an arm behind the woman's shoulder to brace himself.
"Excuse me. May I, Miss…?" he asked.
Arching an eyebrow, she gave him a look that would've put any of Hitchcock's ice queens to shame.
"If you've read my file, then you know I'm harmless," he said.
"I've read portions of your file," she replied. "And 'harmless' is the very last word I'd use to describe you." Nevertheless, she leaned forward just a fraction, making room for his arm. "You may call me 'A.' Shall I call you 'B'?"
"Yes. Thank you, A."
Had he ever been that youthful, that keen to prove himself? Of course he had. He felt full almost to overflowing with advice he wanted to impart to her, insights about loyalty and commitment, discipline and realism that he wished he'd known decades ago as principles rather than mere gut instincts.
But who was he, really, in the final analysis? A man who hoped to catch sight of his son in someone else's surveillance footage. He held his tongue.
"I can show you a muted image of DI Lestrade, to prove that he's well," she said. "Then we'll take you back to your car, or wherever you wish."
"I'd like to stay and watch, if it's all the same to you," he said, perhaps a beat too quickly.
"Mr Holmes prefers that his brother not be seen in—"
"I don't give a toss about Sherlock Holmes or whatever state he's in." He wasn't a pleading man, but he dredged up a single, quiet word from a place that felt raw and, God help him, desperate: "Please."
She never looked once in his direction, but she went still as he spoke. Her brow furrowed, and then she redoubled her efforts on the BlackBerry.
Some moments later, an intercom buzzed. "We're being followed," the driver said.
They both peered over their shoulders.
"Four back, that's my team," Bodie said.
"That's fine," A confirmed to the driver. "They're with our guest."
Just then movement showed on the laptop. A shadow first. Then a gaunt young man stalked into the frame, one hand scrubbing through his dark curls. He appeared to vibrate with unspent energy, his motions jerky and unceasing.
Bodie looked to A, wordlessly asking permission.
She consulted the BlackBerry once more. "All right," she said. "If you continue to watch DI Lestrade, you may see Sherlock Holmes in this… temper... anyway. Needless to say, Mr Holmes relies on your discretion." As an aside of her own, she added, "I expect you'll owe him a favour."
"Of course." Bodie swallowed. "Thanks."
She met his eyes for a brief moment, her expression unreadable, and then she turned her attention to the film footage.
Concluded in Part 2.