a big thanks goes to abbeyjan for all her help

Chapter 1

Ray Doyle closed the door to his flat with a deep sigh. Three things were high on his list of priorities: a painkiller to stop his head throbbing mercilessly, a shower to wash away the dirt and grime of the op - which had resulted in another whack on his head - and last, but not least, a good night's sleep.

He had stubbornly refused Cowley's order to have a proper hospital check-up. When Bodie had dared suggest the same while driving his mate home, Doyle had shut him up with a cold glare. He wanted to spend the night in his own bed.

With two quick steps, he crossed the hall to the bathroom. Opening the medicine cabinet, he let out a groan of despair. There were no painkillers left - not even an empty packet. Nada. He quickly checked his watch. The pharmacy round the corner would still be open... just.

By the time Doyle reached the pharmacy, he felt like his head was about to explode, and the nausea began to rise.

"If the painkillers don't work, I'll call Bodie to take me to hospital," he thought. "I'll never live down changing my mind, but I prefer the ribbing to dying of a bleed in the brain."

To his relief, the queue at the counter was short. An elderly lady was sent on her way with detailed instructions on how to take her antihypertensive. The next customer was a young man with unkempt hair and beads of sweat on his forehead.

"How may I help you?" asked the pharmacist. Her smile vanished as her customer produced a gun and pointed it at her. The hand holding the weapon trembled and the man's voice was hoarse, but still determined.

"I want all the drugs in your safe."

Waving the gun in the direction of the back room, he went on: "Don't try any tricks, I'll be right behind you."

The pharmacist turned and headed unsteadily for the back room. She could feel the gun barrel pressed against her temple and the man breathing heavily against her neck.

Doyle groaned silently. "Out of the frying pan and into the fire!" he thought grimly. Even though he was not exactly in the best condition to intervene, he knew urgent action was needed. That man was a junkie going cold turkey and there was no knowing what he was capable of. Doyle drew his gun.

Quietly and cautiously, he followed the man and his hostage. He thanked the Lord for small mercies that there were no other customers around and others were unlikely to come in as it was now past closing time.

Once in the back room, there was a moment when the armed man had to step back to allow the pharmacist to open the safe. He moved the gun away from her head and Doyle reacted immediately.

Fighting a wave of nausea, Doyle managed to keep his voice firm and his gun pointed at the man.

"CI5! Drop the gun and turn around with your hands up!"

If he hoped his order was going to be followed, he was quickly disappointed. The man wrenched the pharmacist up, wrapped his left arm around her throat and pointed the gun at her temple. He pushed her violently forward until they stood face to face with Doyle.

The man asked: "So, you're CI5? Trained to protect Queen and country?" His plan had worked out even better than he'd dared to hope.

Doyle felt distinctly dizzy, yet noticed the almost cheerful tone of the man's voice. He puzzled over it for a fraction of a second before replying. "That's right!"

The man grinned as he tightened his grip on the pharmacist until she began to choke.

The man's finger on the trigger tightened. "Then let's see if you can save this subject of the Queen."

Doyle's vision began to fade. All he could see was the pale face of the pharmacist and the horror in her eyes. All he could hear were the gurgling sounds coming from her mouth.

He blinked and his vision cleared. He took aim.

A single shot hit the man's throat and sent him flying backwards. His gun dropped from his fingers and landed on a table covered with the glass utensils used for mixing ointments. The sound of the shattering glass mixed with the pharmacist's screaming as she staggered away from the prostrate figure of the man who'd tried to kill her.

Doyle holstered his gun. In an attempt to calm the pharmacist, he held her close for a few seconds. When he felt her relax, he said gently: "Call an ambulance."

Wiping the tears from her face, she nodded and walked over to a phone on a nearby desk.

Doyle took a deep breath and walked over to the man. The pool of blood under his head was spreading rapidly and his eyes were closed. As Doyle bent down to feel his pulse, he opened them and said in a weak voice: "Thank you very much."

Then his eye-lids slid shut again.

Doyle frowned. None of this made any sense.

When he heard the screech of tyres, he made his way to the shop door. The sound of gunfire had attracted an anxious crowd of people outside the pharmacy. The car which had just stopped was a very familiar-looking Capri.

"Bodie! What the hell are you doing here?"

"I'd already turned around, determined to handcuff you and drag your sorry arse to hospital. Seems like you need someone watching out for you 24/7. How'd you manage to get yourself into trouble again so quickly?"

"I'm not sure. On the face of it, it was just a bloke trying to get his hands on some drugs. But I think there might be more to it."

He shrugged. The pain in his head was becoming unbearable now and another wave of nausea hit him with full force. He managed to move away a little from Bodie before throwing up.

"I told him he had concussion," Bodie thought as he rushed to his partner's side. He was only just in time to prevent Doyle keeling over into his own vomit.

Chapter 2

When Doyle woke, he found himself in a hospital bed. The pain in his head had gone from excruciating to bearable, so he risked looking around the room. His vision was a little blurred, but even a mole would have recognized the smug smile on Bodie's face. His partner was sitting at his bedside, looking mightily pleased with himself.

"The doctor confirmed my diagnosis. You have concussion, Ray. You should have listened to me and Cowley."

Doyle grunted. "Yeah, all right. Point taken. What about the man I shot in the pharmacy - and the lady?"

"She's been given a mild sedative and her husband took her home an hour ago. The man you shot, Peter Boyd, is still in surgery, but the doctors say he will pull through."

Doyle let out a sigh of relief.

Bodie grinned. "Cowley was here, but as you were out for the count, he left. He asked me to tell you that you did well. A robbery stopped, a citizen saved and the villain alive. Our fearless leader was well pleased."

Doyle yawned. "That's all right, then." He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

When Doyle woke the next morning, he found Cowley sitting at his bedside, frowning. The head of CI5 wasn't in the mood for niceties, like asking Doyle how he felt.

"Doyle, the man you shot yesterday died during surgery and the gun he was using was fake. In other words, you shot an unarmed man, when you were in no condition to fire a shot at all. There will have to be an inquiry."

Doyle sat bolt upright, grimacing as the sudden movement triggered a sharp pain in his head.

"The gun wasn't real?" There was a tone of utter disbelief in Doyle's voice. "It looked damn real to me and I had to do something to save the pharmacist."

Major Cowley said: "All this will be gone into in great detail during the inquiry. In the meantime, is there anything else you want to tell me?"

Doyle thought for a moment. In his mind, yesterday's events flashed past in a flurry of pictures. "There was something odd. After I had shot him, he thanked me. I've been wondering about that. It was almost like he wanted to get shot."

Cowley was silent for a few seconds. "That is odd. We'll investigate." He rose from his chair. "I'll keep the attorney off your back till you're feeling better. Now I have to go and pacify the press."

He walked out the door and left Doyle to his thoughts, which ran around in a loop. A loop entitled: "I killed an unarmed man!"

Chapter 3

Late in the afternoon, Doyle was awoken from an uneasy sleep by a commotion outside his room.

"You can't go in now. Mr. Doyle needs to rest."

The stern voice of a nurse was drowned by another loud, female one saying: "I don't give a damn!"

To Doyle, having a visitor was preferable to returning to the nightmares, in which the shooting in the pharmacy was repeated over and over again.

The door opened and a lady came in, dressed entirely in black. Her eyes were red from crying and she dabbed at them with a handkerchief.

Doyle swallowed convulsively. Suddenly, he wished he was asleep again and the visitor just a part of a nightmare.

When Bodie had mentioned the name of the man he had shot, it didn't occur to Doyle that Peter Boyd was the son of Lorna Boyd.

Lorna and her husband Ken owned a shop not far from his apartment. He often shopped there and was on friendly terms with the Boyd family, especially with Mary, the daughter. Mary had sometimes talked about her brother Peter, who, she said lived in a flat on the other side of the river. But try as he might, Doyle couldn't put a face to the name.

In a low, raspy voice, he said: "I'm so terribly sorry, Lorna."

Lorna Boyd gave Doyle a long searching stare, as if a thorough scrutiny could answer the question uppermost in her mind.

When that failed, she asked: "Why did you kill my son? I've always respected you for defending the innocents...and my boy was totally innocent."

That wasn't entirely true, thought Doyle. "I didn't know he was your son and he had a gun pointed at the head of a pharmacist."

Lorna Boyd's voice was shrill. "A fake gun! You should have known the difference. You're a trained agent."

Doyle would have had to agree, had he been able to talk. The pain in his head had suddenly become intense. When he tried to say something, it was incomprehensible.

Bodie arrived for his afternoon visit just in time to see his partner pass out for the second time in 24 hours. He shouted: "Ray, wake up!"

Even when Bodie shook him gently, Doyle failed to react.

The nurse heard Bodie's anxious calls. A few moments later, a doctor took charge. "He needs a CAT scan urgently. There might be a bleed in his brain."

Bodie and Mrs. Boyd were pushed out of the way as Doyle's bed was wheeled out of the room.

Chapter 4

"Bodie, how is he?" Major Cowley entered the hospital waiting room, where Bodie had just downed his third cup of tea.

"The doctor's just been in. Not in danger - there's no sign of a bleed in his brain. The doctor thinks the confrontation with the mother of the boy he shot and finding out that he knew her, was simply too much for him to take in."

Cowley nodded. "Can we see him?"

Bodie shook his head. "They transferred him to Intensive Care. He regained consciousness briefly after the CAT scan, but passed out again a little later. He's not allowed any visitors for at least 24 hours."

"Probably for the best," said Major Cowley. "What attorney Stevens is going to say when he hears all this, is a different matter. He's bombarded my new secretary with calls all day, demanding to see him."

Bodie gave a rude snort. "He won't get anywhere near. Do I have your permission to stay here for the night, Sir? I want to make sure Doyle doesn't get more shocks to the system. I can't cope with seeing him keel over for a third time."

"You do that, Bodie. I'll have a word with attorney Stevens."

Chapter 5

Bodie observed the goings-on in the Intensive Care with a frown. The drama titled "coaxing Ray Doyle to eat breakfast" had just reached its climax with the nurse saying: "If you don't eat your porridge, Mr. Doyle, we'll have to put a tube down your nose and pour it through that."

Doyle grunted and made no move towards the bowl the nurse was holding out to him.

Before the nurse had a chance to exchange the bowl for a feeding tube, Bodie took it from her hands, saying: "Leave it to me!"

The nurse gave Doyle a stern look. "I'll be back in fifteen minutes. If that bowl isn't empty when I come back..." She left the sentence unfinished and tapped the side of her nose. She gave Bodie an encouraging smile and walked out of the room.

Bodie pulled his chair close to the bed. "You heard the lady, Ray."

Doyle glared at him coldly.

"Right," said Bodie, "we'll try what my next door neighbour always does whenever her little boy won't eat."

He scooped up some porridge with a spoon. "They play the airport game. The spoon is the plane and the little boy has to open his hangar to make room for it. His mum tells him stories about planes and he usually forgets the fact he doesn't want to eat."

With a grin, he moved the spoon closer to Doyle's mouth. "This is a Boeing all the way from China and it needs to come down really fast because it's almost run out of fuel."

To his astonishment, Doyle's mouth opened and Bodie was able to spoon in some of the food. Doyle reached for a cup of tea on the bedside table, took a sip and said: "The plane needed a wash."

He took the spoon from Bodie's hand. "No need to feed me like a toddler, Bodie. I'll eat my porridge. Don't want to have a tube shoved into my nose."

Bodie sat back in his chair and watched while Doyle ate. For a moment, Doyle toyed with the idea of flinging some porridge in Bodie's direction to wipe the smug smile from his face, but thought better of it.

After Doyle had eaten his third spoonful, Bodie said: "I hope this will cheer you up. You missed a visit by the boss because you overslept. He and Dr. Ross are on their way to attorney Stevens as we speak. Dr. Ross is convinced that Peter Boyd wanted to die. She has with her case files from all over the country to prove her point and hopes this will stop the attorney from pressing charges."

The spoon dropped from Doyle's fingers. "Getting someone to kill him - like a suicide? I've heard about that before. It would explain why he thanked me for shooting him."

Picking up the spoon again, he added: "I can't say it makes me feel any better. Still, I hope Cowley and Dr. Ross can convince the attorney."

The nurse entered just as the last spoonful of porridge was washed down with tea. She favoured both men with an approving smile. "Well, done. Mr. Bodie! We have some more tough customers on this ward. Want to try your luck with Mr. Meyers in the next room?"

Suppressing a shudder, Bodie replied: "No, I'm perfectly happy at CI5. It's a tough enough job watching this one's back and stomach, thank you very much."

The nurse gave Bodie a wink and attached a blood pressure cuff to Doyle's left arm. After she had finished her check-up, she added: "You might be back on the normal ward this afternoon."

She gave Doyle a stern look and added: "If you're sensible."

Chapter 6

At the same time, four miles across town, Dr. Kate Ross, Major Cowley and attorney Stevens were deep in conversation in the attorney's office.

Dr. Ross tapped on an open file on the desk and said: "This is just one of five cases like the one we're dealing with. A young man took hostages in a dental surgery. He threatened to blow up the building with grenades if he wasn't given a substantial amount of money.

"He let most of the hostages go during the day. In the evening, when he and two assistants were the only ones left, a special squad stormed the surgery, killing him and freeing the hostages. It turned out that the man had been suffering from depression and had been treated for it.

"The police spoke with his psychiatrist and he told them he considered this patient capable of committing suicide. Obviously, he wasn't able to carry out the act himself, so he sort of hired the police to do it for him. The grenades were fake and none of police-officers was charged."

Attorney Stevens took a while to digest the information. He picked up the file and scanned through it.

"I don't see how this case connects with Agent Doyle. Was Peter Boyd also depressed?" He sounded sceptical.

Major Cowley replied. "He was a drug addict who spent time in a rehab clinic last year. Last week, he got in touch with his doctor and asked if he could check back in."

Dr. Ross pointed to a calendar on the desk. "He was told they'd have a free bed today. His doctor thinks it's possible he decided to commit suicide instead of going through the withdrawal symptoms again."

Attorney Stevens drew in a sharp breath. "It may well be possible, but I need proof to let Agent Doyle off the hook. Can you bring me that? I heard that most people who commit suicide leave a note. Did Peter Boyd write one?"

"We searched his flat," replied Cowley. "But no note was found."

"I'm afraid it's not good enough," said attorney Stevens. "Now I need to raise some other issues. Agent Doyle was seriously injured last year. Is it possible that he lost his nerve after that? Maybe his trigger finger became a little itchier?"

Major Cowley found it hard to control his temper. "Agent Doyle may be impulsive, but he has never had an itchy trigger finger. Not before and not after the shooting which nearly cost him his life. He used his weapon only in self-defence or to protect civilians. I'm sure Dr. Ross can confirm that."

Dr. Ross nodded. "Absolutely!"

"Be that as it may," attorney Stevens said. "But this impulsive agent has been under investigation before. When a man died in CI5 custody after a blow from Doyle."

Cowley tried not to raise his voice. "He was cleared of that charge."

Attorney Stevens rose to his feet with an air of finality. "Unless you find solid evidence that Peter Boyd used this rather complicated way to commit suicide, Agent Doyle is a long way from being cleared of this new charge."

Major Cowley and Dr. Ross left the office disappointed and low.

Chapter 7

When Doyle heard the bad news in the evening, even Bodie couldn't make him eat his dinner.

The patient had slept almost the entire day, which probably explained why sleep failed to come that night. When he did nod off for a while, he thrashed around in his bed and brought the nurses rushing to his room,

Doyle wasn't the only one who found sleeping difficult that night. Mary Boyd tossed and turned in her bed, thinking about what Major Cowley had told her and her parents that afternoon.

In contrast to her parents, who had dismissed the idea that Peter may have committed suicide and practically threw Major Cowley out of the house, she considered the idea quite plausible.

She was seventeen years old, five years younger than her brother, and in many ways she was closer to him than his mother and father. When he had succumbed to the temptation of drugs again about a month before, he had confided in her, urging her not to tell their parents.

The last time she had seen him, a couple of days ago, he had been acting strangely. Now she wished she had persisted, instead of believing him when he'd said: "I'll be all right. I love you, Mary!"

Her thoughts returned to the note Major Cowley had mentioned and the fact that none was found in Peter's flat. An idea suddenly struck her. When they were children, she and Peter had often hidden notes and little presents for each other in a woodpecker cavity of a large oak tree in the garden.

Discarding the duvet, she jumped out of her bed and put on her dressing gown. She grabbed a torch from her bedside table and, on tiptoe, crept silently to the front door and headed out into the garden. A full moon shone from a clear sky, causing the old trees to cast bizarre shadows. There was a small pond in the garden and the frogs living in it broke the silence of the night with their croaking.

With a few quick steps, she crossed to the large oak tree at the back of the garden. She had to stretch up until her fingers reached the woodpecker cavity she was looking for.

Her heart missed a beat. There was something inside.

She finally grasped the object and pulled it out. With the help of the torch, she examined it. She was holding an envelope with the words "For Mary" written in Peter's handwriting on the front.

With trembling hands, she opened it and took out a sheet of paper. Tears filled her eyes as she read:

My dear Mary,

I can't live with my addiction not a single day longer. I'm going to bring this to an end. Please don't tell our parents. They're better off thinking somebody else killed me.

I love you to bits.

Peter

Wiping away the tears, she thrust the letter into the pocket of her dressing gown. She made a vow that moment to grant Peter his last wish. The letter would be put into Peter's grave during the funeral. Her brother's secret was safe with her.

Chapter 8

A week later, Bodie collected a very pale Doyle from hospital and delivered him straight to an interview with attorney Stevens, from which Doyle emerged looking even paler. Back in his apartment, he went straight to bed and slept restlessly till the next morning.

Bodie spent the night on the settee in Doyle's lounge. After a quiet breakfast, Doyle checked his watch and said: "Peter's funeral should be over soon. Can you take me to the cemetery?"

"Do you think that's wise?"

Doyle looked his friend straight in the eyes. "Please, Bodie. I need to go to Peter's grave."

With a resigned sigh, Bodie stood up to fetch the keys to the Capri. They left the flat and were soon driving through the streets of London in the pouring rain.

The Capri had barely stopped before Doyle was out and walking through the cemetery, oblivious to the downpour. Bodie quickly locked the car and retrieved an umbrella from the boot. He caught up with Doyle before he was completely soaked.

When they approached the fresh grave, covered with wreaths and flowers, they saw a lone figure standing beside it.

Bodie tried to stop Doyle. "We'd better go and come back another day."

Doyle shook his head. "That's Mary, Peter's sister. We've always got on okay."

Bodie thought that it was a tad optimistic to think that Doyle and Mary were still on friendly terms, but to his surprise, Mary silently accepted Doyle's condolences.

They stood next to each other, lost in their thoughts. Eventually, Mary turned to Doyle with tears in her eyes.

She held out an envelope. "I really want to grant Peter his last wish, but I can't. Doing so would mean forcing other people to live with a lie and I can't do that."

She cried silently while Doyle read the letter. He handed it to Bodie and drew Mary close.

Pressed against Doyle's chest, Mary said in a muffled voice: "You've always been so kind to me. I can't stand the thought of you going to prison. I hope my parents will forgive me."

Seeing that Doyle wasn't able to speak, Bodie said: "They will appreciate knowing the truth, Mary, and they will be able to deal with it."

Doyle asked gently: "Mary, can we take you home?"

She shook her head. "No, I'd rather walk. But ... maybe you can take me on a trip on your motorbike soon like you did last year?"

Doyle gave her a small smile. "Name the date!"

She nodded and turned to go. Bodie and Doyle watched her disappear behind a row of graves.

Pointing to the grave, Doyle said: "You know, I feel sorry for Peter and angry with him at the same time. And I still feel guilty. Maybe attorney Stevens is right, I should have recognised the fake gun. But you saw it Bodie. Nowadays it's almost impossible to tell the difference.

"I feel sorry for Peter for being an addict and not seeing any way out except suicide. But I'm furious that he made me do something he couldn't do himself. I feel used, Bodie. Used, sorry and guilty. That's what I'm going to tell Dr. Ross tomorrow and see what she makes of it."

They walked quietly back to the car park.

Chapter 9

A few hours later, Doyle received an urgent phone call from attorney Stevens who told him that no charges would be pressed against him.

Doyle was even more relieved two months later when Mary paid him a visit. She carried a large basket filled with fruit and the sort of goodies he'd always bought at her parents' shop before the shooting.

Mary handed the basket, which was almost too heavy for her to carry, to Doyle and said: "From my parents. And they want you to know that they'd be very pleased to see you again, anytime, in the shop."

Doyle's face lit up. "Tell them I'll be around tomorrow."

Mary turned to go. Doyle called after her: "Fancy a ride on the motorbike?"

The girl turned around, and smiled.

THE END