RESPITE.

Paperwork. Piles and piles of paperwork litter my desk, a never ending stream of files and reports vying for urgent attention and, as yet, unread newspapers to keep me on top of ever changing world events. And as I survey the mounds I realise that this isn't even half of it. My secretary sits outside trying to prioritise and keep in order the rest of it whilst fielding calls on a phone that never seems to stop ringing.

Heading a crack team of men to combat terrorist movements, bombings, hi-jackings and kidnappings it would seem I have to be one step…no, make that two steps ahead these days just to stay even, to have any fighting chance. Sometimes, like today, I wonder what it's all for. Why am I doing it? I should be at least thinking about taking it easier at my time of life.

Tired and irritable after too many late nights I throw my pen down and sit back to drag weary fingers through my thining fair hair. There is a taut line of muscle between each shoulder blade that refuses to soften. Even the copious amounts of tea and coffee I am periodically provided with nor the generous helpings of pure malt scotch secreted from the bottle in the bottom drawer of the desk do little to ease the persistent tension that visits me daily. As I rub my forehead and smooth down my eyebrows there is a sudden shout from outside and then a high pitched laugh. What the devil's going on out there? I top up my glass with scotch and go to the window to look out onto the gardens below the old building.

I am surprised to find two of my best men kicking a football about on the thin grassy margins and the footpath that edge the rosebeds. Surely Macklin's not finished their intensive training session already? If he's worked them hard enough they should be on their knees begging for mercy. I'm about to open the window in annoyance and bawl at them when I stop myself and instead lean against the window frame to watch them.

Doyle easily kicks the ball from between Bodie's legs and charges off with it at his feet. It doesn't take long for Bodie to regain possession but in his eagerness he has let it fly into the thick of the rosebeds and now their play has come to an abrupt end. Bodie is making it clear he's not going in after it and risk getting scratched and pricked dispite Doyle's appeal with outstretched arms.I can't help but smile at their antics. Perhaps I see my former youth and zest for life reflected in their play. I am not sure why but they are more special to me than the other agents in my hand picked squad, not that I would ever make that known to them.

Their play has descended into a game of tag and I laugh aloud as Bodie acts the fool prancing teasingly just far enough away from his partner so as not to get caught. He screams 'like a girl' as Doyle would put it when Doyle lunges at him and nearly catches him. Oh, how I wish I had that energy of youth again! Neither of them know it but I've heard them call me 'the old man'. Old indeed!Yes, I concede, I'm old enough to be their father and I sometimes wonder if they are the sons I never seemed to find the time to have. Certainly I'd be proud to call them so.

And they needn't think I don't know the other name they have for me. The Cow. This would have come from Bodie, Doyle would not be so irreverent. I would hope, however that both names are said with affection.

Taking a long sip of whisky I am aware that the tension lodged between my shoulder blades for the best part of the day is slipping away. I laugh again as Doyle catches Bodie and tackles him in a throw any rugby player would be proud of. They both crash to the ground but are soon on their feet playful boxing with each other.

Its good to watch them unobserved having such simple fun given the work that they do. This will do them more good, I realise, than any amount of training sessions. Strange that they should be so different in many ways yet clearly have such a strong bond with each other. I hope they both take time out to have the families that I didn't though I am acutely aware that I leave them little time for this. I should do something about it,I know, as they are not getting any younger and I don't want either of them to end up like me. Oh, I'm happy enough most of the time, my work is all I have now but I want more for these boys.

Either tiredness or boredom has crept up on the pair for they have collapsed onto the wooden bench beside the rosebeds. Bodie ruffles Doyle's hair with obvious affection and they sit close together lapsing into conversation, unheard from my position. I let them have five minutes more together as I continue to enjoy watching them, letting my own mind have some much needed time off. Then I drain the last of the whisky from my glass and open the window wide. Time to change my expression to one they are more familiar with.

"You two! In here now!" I bellow as, in unison both heads turn sharply in my direction. "And get that football out of there!"

I don't need to look to know that it will be Doyle that's left to retrieve it but I do so anyway and smile in satisfaction that my assumption was correct. As if on cue the phone rings but before I answer it I open the door and call out.

"Sally, when those two reprobates I laughingly call my two best agents arrive send them in will you?"

As I finish yet another phone call now requiring an urgent follow up Bodie and Doyle enter my office. Bodie's carrying the football which he places absentmindedly on my desk failing to notice my look of disapproval.

"Ah gentlemen. How long is it since you had some time off?"

"Time off, Sir? What's that?" replies Bodie in amusement.

"Yes, quite." I agree thoughtfully. "Right then, I don't want to see either of you back in here for a month."

"Sir?" they reply together looking at me in astonishment.

"You have a month off as of now and yes, Doyle it will be paid leave."

"Why, Sir? " Bodie's surprise turns to suspicion.

"Why, Bodie? Because I say so. What, do you not want that long away? Be happier with just a week would you?"

"No Sir, I just meant…"

Doyle pulls at his partners sleeve and begins to push him towards the door incase my offer should find itself withdrawn.

"What he meant Sir, was thank you very much." he tells me.

"Good, now get out of here the pair of you. Didn't anyone ever tell you there is more to life than work? All I ask is that you spend the time wisely."

Still looking at me as if I've gone mad they bundle themselves out of the door. I can hear Bodie whooping with pleasure as I turn back to my paperwork and lay eyes on the football. 'That boy!' But I can't help smiling and then, once again the phone comes to life putting an end to my rare benevolent thoughts.