Disclaimer: Characters from The Professionals are Mark-1 Productions Ltd
and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.


Outside Odds

Bodie frowned to himself as he scurried up the stairs; he'd been hoping to see Cowley about a few days leave...

By the end of the briefing, time off was looking about as likely as Cowley giving them all a payrise. Granted they had to be on more than general alert after the bomb that had exploded that morning, but no one had claimed responsibility and Cowley wanted them checking every lead and whisper. Any leave was out, the best they could hope for would be stand-by status.

Doyle caught his partner's scowl as they exited the briefing room. "What's up?"

"Timing. Bad timing." He waited until Lucas and McCabe disappeared past them into the Lounge and they were alone before explaining. "I spoke to Ronnie last night."

"Ah." The syllable spoke volumes. "And?"

"I was going down to see her. If I'd managed to grab a couple of days..." Resigned, Bodie shrugged. That was the job. Personal life and plans took second place, particularly with this sort of alert.

He'd been hoping for the chance to sort things out with Ronnie since the end of the case with Walter five or six weeks ago. Her reaction and rejection of him that day hadn't worried Bodie too much; her trust might have been damaged but he knew he could restore her confidence in him. If only Cowley hadn't demanded his immediate return that same afternoon.

They'd only taken a couple of days to track down Volker and deal with him, but since then it was as if Cowley was determined to keep them busy to make up for the quiet period they'd had; surveillance had followed a protection case, then another ambassador's visit...

She'd been distant on the phone, the couple of times he'd managed to call her; merely confirming that she was fine, Alice was fine and everything was back to normal at the stables. And making an excuse to hang up as soon as he tried to suggest a meeting.

Normally that would be enough to make Bodie give up; he never persisted with girls who weren't interested - after all, there were plenty of others who were. Not only was Ronnie different from the girls he usually went out with but the circumstances were different as well.

Doyle would probably call it a guilt complex, but Ronnie had been hurt because he hadn't taken proper care of her. Whatever it was called, it was important that he reached some sort of understanding with her, even if she never wanted to see him again after that.

The previous evening, Ronnie had finally agreed that he could go and see her. Now this... Doyle's voice interrupted his reverie. "You could ask her to come up to London."

"Eh?"

"Call Ronnie and see if she'll come up here for a few days. If she's really willing to give you a chance, she'll come."

Bodie was undecided. "I dunno. She didn't sound too enthusiastic..."

"Worth a try."

"Yeah, I suppose so. I'll phone her later."

"Good." Doyle grinned to himself. He'd better make sure he called Ronnie first; it had been hard enough to convince her to speak to Bodie, he wasn't sure how she'd take the invitation to come to London. He didn't often interfere in Bodie's affairs - that was one of the quickest ways to annoy his partner - but guessing the reason for his preoccupation hadn't been hard, and he didn't like having Bodie even slightly distracted.

Besides, it needed sorting out for Ronnie's sake as well, and the sooner the better...
 

Following Cowley's orders, the partners hit the streets. They weren't alone; they found themselves crossing tracks with Special Branch and the Anti-Terrorist Branch several times, a fact which exasperated Bodie, and which he made vociferously clear as they left yet another seedy pub half-full of security men. "Why can't we all get together and pool our resources? Save us all a lot of time and trouble."

"That'd also mean someone taking overall control and responsibility. They'd never manage to agree on who. And this way, if something goes wrong, there's always someone to pass the buck to." Doyle started the Escort. "Where next?"

"I dunno. This is a complete waste of time." Bodie slumped in the passenger seat. "No one knows anything."

"Or they're not telling," Doyle agreed, drumming his fingers impatiently against the wheel. "We need more to go on. Cowley seems to expect us to conjure up terrorists out of thin air."

"We can't even be sure it is terrorists. Anyone with a cause usually claims responsibility immediately and makes sure they get their publicity - whoever planted that bomb hasn't done that."

"Maybe they're shy. Or maybe it's someone like Mickey Hamilton; doing it for a cause only they understand..."

"In which case, we're worse off than ever. The only way to find a needle in that type of haystack is to sit on it." Catching Doyle as he opened his mouth, Bodie pre-empted his partner's next comment, which would no doubt be a joke at his expense. "Whatever you're going to say, don't."

Doyle confined himself to a grin. "Still, we've been lucky in the past. We just need a break-through."

"The bomb went off outside a building society, didn't it?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Just thinking that if it's not terrorists, then it could be a direct connection to the building society and maybe we should start by looking there."

Doyle shrugged. "The local CID will be handling that line of enquiry. Cowley hasn't told us not to get involved there - want to go and tread on a few toes?"

"Why not? Never pass up the opportunity to pester the locals..."
 

The arcade was small, and fortunately hadn't been that busy at nine-thirty when the bomb had gone off. Flashing their ID's at the copper at the barrier, the partners made their way towards the front of the damaged property where the Forensics team were still picking over the debris.

They were stopped again; the man was thin and anxious-looking but with an air of authority. "Inspector Bayford. And you are?"

Doyle produced his ID. "CI5. I'm Doyle, he's Bodie." The card was given silent scrutiny before it was returned. "Have you been specifically assigned here?"

"No." Doyle answered before Bodie could cut in. "But we have been assigned to track down the bombers, and we don't need any specific authority to do that."

Another few seconds of silence followed during which Doyle prepared himself to quote the small print, before Bayford nodded. "I suppose not. Do you have any leads?"

"Nothing so far. Have Forensics come up with anything?"

"Not much. They're a cautious lot." The Inspector led them towards the blast area. "The little they've given me so far is that it's looking more likely to be ANFO rather than Semtex. Makes it more likely to be a lone nutter than a bunch of terrorists, but there's nothing certain in this world."

Bodie was nodding knowledgably as Doyle dragged up details of explosives from memory. "Ammonium Nitrate?"

"Yes. Probably some sort of timed detonation; not that large a blast though. One of the clerks remembers seeing a box in front of the window where the blast occurred. But she wasn't suspicious because empty boxes are always getting left there from the supermarket next door."

They stopped by a ladder, Bayford glancing upwards at a Forensics man who was poking at some holes in the wooden-clad roofing. "If it was a timer mechanism, they reckon they'll find pieces up there..."

"Probably will." Bodie paced about, roughly measuring the extent of the blast. "About eighteen cubic feet. If it was ANFO that's at least six pounds of explosive. Any idea how big the box was?"

"The clerk wasn't sure. But whoever left the box there, it couldn't have been that big or heavy - they'd be noticed."

"And I take it no one did notice them?" Doyle was resigned. The odds should be in their favour - the bomb had gone off early meaning that there hadn't been as many people around to be injured, and should also increase their chances of finding whoever was responsible. But in so many cases, no one saw anything. "What about the security cameras?"

"They point inwards towards the counter, unfortunately. We're just lucky no one was killed."

Doyle was silent, angrily studying the building. The large panes in the front had been shattered inwards by the blast and had showered the office with shards of lethal slicing glass. One of the two young female counter clerks had been mainly shielded by a cabinet; the other wasn't so lucky and they were already talking about plastic surgery for her. The manager had been in his office at the back and escaped altogether; the few passers-by only had minor injuries.

"What do you think?" he asked the Inspector. "Your personal opinion; nutter or terrorist?"

"It feels wrong for terrorist activity. No claiming of responsibility, and this location - it's too small and insignificant."

Bodie was nodding in agreement. "And there's not been a sniff of anything on the streets. I think it's a loner. Some sort of revenge attack."

"At a building society?" Doyle shrugged. He agreed, but couldn't imagine what could have prompted it. Maybe they'd turned someone down for a mortgage. "Let's check in. Let Cowley know what we think; see if anyone else has turned up anything."

"Looks like it'll be our case then. But I'll send a copy of the Forensics report through to you." Bayford sketched a farewell before moving to speak to one of his team, and the partners returned to the Escort.

Bodie reached for the R/T. "3.7. Put me through to Alpha."

"Where are you, 3.7? What have you to report?"

"We're at the site of the bomb blast, sir." Hoping to pre-empt any explosion from their boss, Bodie hurried on. "There didn't seem to be any leads we could pick up, so we thought we'd take a look at this end..."

He paused, and waited. A stress-filled few seconds later, Cowley responded. "And what have you found?"

He sounded deceptively mild, and the partners exchanged a glance before Bodie replied. "We've spoken with the Inspector in charge, and looked at the damage. And we think we could be looking for a loner, someone with some sort of grudge. Sir."

"Aye, OK. Report back to HQ."

Doyle started the engine. "Well, that was surprisingly easy. Thought we'd get the usual lecture about interfering with the local police."

"Must be my charm." Bodie smirked at the grimace on Doyle's face.

"In that case, you can make all our reports in future..."
 

They joined Murphy on the way to the VIP Lounge. "Did you find anything?"

"No one has," Murphy told them. "Everything's quiet out there, on all fronts. The Old Man was about to send someone out to talk to the local CID - you beat him to it."

"Not all your charm, then," Doyle chuckled at Bodie. "Makes a change for us to do something right."

"I couldn't agree more, 4.5." Cowley had appeared like a jack-in-the-box from his office. "Come in here and tell me what you discovered."

"We talked to the Inspector - Bayford, his name is. We don't think it's terrorists; the building society is small, it only has the three staff. Terrorists would be striking at a much larger target. Bayford is going to make sure a copy of the Forensics report is sent to us, but it looks like a home-made device, probably ANFO."

"So the locals will handle it; it's not really something we need worry about, sir."

"I'll tell you when to start and stop worrying, Bodie. And bombs - however small, and for whatever reason - are worrying." Cowley paused to make sure Bodie understood what he was saying. "Oh, I agree maybe the whole team doesn't need to be flying about; we can ease up a little. But terrorist or not, the bomber has to be found. And I'm not prepared to shirk any responsibility for that; and neither should you."

"No sir." Bodie swiftly decided that now wasn't the moment to ask about time off; he'd just have to do what Doyle suggested and ask Ronnie to come up to London.

"I'll talk to this Inspector of yours and make sure he keeps us posted. If he needs assistance I'll offer him your services..."
 

They escaped to the VIP Lounge. "Cowley doesn't really mean it, does he?" Bodie's alarm at the thought of having to work with the police was only half in jest.

"Wouldn't put it past 'im, mate." Doyle grinned. Even if they did, it was unlikely that they'd have to take orders from the Inspector, which was what really worried Bodie. "Anyway, it might all come to nothing. They might get lucky and find the culprit straight away."

"Yeah. Anyway, since we're on stand-by for a few hours I'm heading home while I've got the chance. I'll pick you up in the morning, if we don't get called in before..." Bodie vanished out of the door without waiting for Doyle's reply.

Doyle waited just long enough to make sure Bodie wasn't going to suddenly reappear, before fishing out his wallet for Ronnie's telephone number and dialling for an outside line. The phone rang seven times, and Doyle was just about to give up when the receiver was obviously snatched up, and Ronnie answered breathlessly. "Hello?"

"It's Ray."

"I've only just got in... I ran up the road 'cos I could hear the phone." He heard her take a couple of gulps of air before she continued, tone slightly bitter. "Let me guess, Bodie's changed his mind about coming down..."

"Not exactly. Did you hear about the bomb this morning?" Doyle didn't miss the gasp at the other end, or the sudden panic in her voice. "It was on the radio - he's not - ?"

"Bodie's fine, Ronnie. It's just that we're all on alert, he won't be able to get away. I suggested to him that if you could, maybe he should ask you to come here. He's going to phone you later."

"I'm not sure..." There was a pause. "I'd need to ask Col."

"OK. Think about it. But you two need to talk."

After hanging up, Doyle stared at the second piece of paper with a telephone number that had dropped out of his wallet. Lucy. Who on earth was Lucy? Oh yes, the blonde from the pub last week, that had slipped him her phone number when Bodie wasn't looking. Well, he could be on stand-by in a pub or restaurant provided he stayed off the drink, and Doyle reached for the phone again.
 

"Where did you get to last night?" Bodie's stare was accusing as his partner settled into the car. "I tried to phone you and got no reply."

"Went out for a meal." Doyle changed the subject swiftly before Bodie could ask any more questions. "Did you phone Ronnie?"

"Yeah. I explained about the bomb and being on stand-by and she offered to come here." Bodie sounded baffled. "She said she could get a couple of days off quite easily. Last week she'd hardly talk to me - I wonder what changed her mind?"

Doyle shrugged. "Don't ask me. When's she coming?"

"Today. She's going to phone when she gets to Paddington - if we can't meet her, maybe I can get Ruth to pick her up."

"Is she staying with you?"

In the middle of doing a three-point turn, Bodie stopped, the question obviously something he hadn't considered. "She didn't say she wasn't..." His brow puckered into a frown as he stared at his partner, thinking aloud. "I suppose she might not want to, given the way she seemed to feel about me. Although she seemed keen to talk... Do you think I should book a hotel room for her, just in case?"

"Well if she didn't ask, she's probably not expecting you to. Wait until she gets here - you'll find out soon enough. I'll tell you what you should do, though." At his partner's questioning look, Doyle gestured to the stationary cars, and visibly-irritated drivers, on either side of them. "Stop causing a traffic jam?"

"Everyone's so impatient these days..." Bodie completed his manoeuvre and waving blithely at the drivers he had been holding up gunned the Capri's engine and shot off down the road.
 

"Come in." Bodie ushered Ronnie into the flat and passed her the key, gesturing vaguely around. "You know where most things are. Make yourself at home; I'll be back as soon as possible." Ronnie nodded, standing awkwardly in the centre of the room.

"You'll be all right?" OK, she'd come to London, but Ronnie hardly seemed in a forgiving mood. The meeting at the station had been difficult. He hadn't expected Ronnie to be all over him, but she'd almost shied away from his touch and he hadn't wanted to start any conversations then since they'd only managed to scrounge enough time to pick her up, and were expected back almost immediately. And Doyle being in the car made that sort of conversation doubly impossible.

She nodded again. "I'll be fine. I'll see you later."

"OK. I should be back about six, if things are quiet. I'll call if I'm going to be later." He edged out of the door and escaped to the car.

"Everything OK?" Doyle asked. "She didn't bring much with her."

Ronnie's holdall hadn't been much bigger than the rucksack she'd arrived with before. "She travels light." Bodie pushed the car into gear and pulled away, discouraging further conversation. Although he hadn't told Doyle much it was obvious his partner had guessed enough, but he didn't want to discuss it - at least, not until he'd talked to Ronnie.

Satisfied that now Ronnie was in London they would sort it out, Doyle let the matter drop. It was an odd situation, and prior to the kidnapping, if it weren't for the fact that he knew for sure they were sleeping together, he would have said it was a platonic relationship. The way they treated each other was so casual, with barely a hint of the deeper involvement, and no sign of passion at all.

He lifted the R/T to notify Control that they were back in the car, just as a call came out for them. "4.5, 3.7."

"4.5, receiving." He raised his eyebrows at Bodie: what now?

"Message received from an Inspector Bayford, Islington nick. He's got something for us on the bombing yesterday; can you go over and see him?"

"On our way. Pass our position to Alpha One, will you? 4.5 out."

Bodie was groaning. "I knew it. We get to work with PC Plod."

"PC Plod?" Doyle grinned at the childish metaphor. "Didn't he live in Toytown? You've been reading nursery books again."

"Not me." Bodie grinned as the joke came to him, and posed an apparently unrelated question. "Do you know why elephants have big ears?"

Already anticipating Doyle's response as his partner shook his head, Bodie smirked. "Because Noddy won't pay the ransom..."
 

"We've managed to interview both the counter clerks now, and I thought you might be interested in the outcome. Coralie Welch, the more seriously-injured girl, has told us she saw a man hanging about on the previous day; she saw him walk past the office at least three times. We've got a description, but I'm not sure how much use it'll be."

"Can we get a police artist, get a drawing...?" The inspector was shaking his head at Doyle. "Glass in her eyes. They're not sure yet how much damage has been done."

"Anyone else see him?" Bodie cut in to ask the question, knowing Doyle was assimilating the information that the girl might be left blind by the attack.

"Possibly. We're still checking with other witnesses and the shops in the arcade. Sandra Jennings, the other clerk, wasn't working that day. She doesn't remember anyone hanging about in particular. And the manager spends most of his time in the office at the back, so he's not much use either." The inspector handed over a sheet of paper. "That's what we've got to work with."

"30's, tawny-brown short hair, tall, possibly 6 feet or more. Wearing tan jacket and blue jeans." Bodie read it out despondently. "Could apply to half the men in London."

"That's why we're still checking." The inspector shrugged. "We don't even know that's who we're looking for; he could be completely innocent."

"Which would leave us without any suspects at all..." Bodie mused.

"Haven't the other witnesses been able to tell us anything?" Bodie heard the sharp note in Doyle's voice and flashed him a glance - he knew that tone. The severity of the injuries suffered by Coralie Welch meant his partner was gearing up for a personal vendetta.

"Sandra Jennings can't remember seeing anyone she wouldn't expect to see on her way to work. She was the one who noticed the box, but as far as she could see it was just an empty box, not that large. I interviewed the manager, Nicholas Decker, as well. He doesn't remember seeing the box, but confirmed what Miss Jennings said about the supermarket boxes being left there, and doubts he'd have noticed it. I asked him what might be a likely cause of someone trying to bomb the branch, and he's baffled. They have the usual mix of clients, both borrowers and savers, and he can't imagine any of them setting a bomb."

"Any more from Forensics?"

"They found pieces of an alarm clock which was obviously used to set off the bomb. Not much else, so far anyway."

"OK." Bodie couldn't see anything further to discuss, but Doyle wasn't ready to go. "What about us talking to the witnesses?"

The inspector frowned. "I can't see there's a lot of point. I don't suppose they'll tell you anything different."

"Probably not. Doyle, we should go." Bodie hustled his partner out. "I thought it was my job to wind the police up," he told Doyle as they got outside. "You as good as told Bayford he wasn't doing his job."

"I didn't! Well, perhaps I did." Doyle grimaced. "But we might ask different questions."

"Might only get the same answers. Save it for the bomber, Ray. Someone will track him down."

"I hope it's us." Doyle's face was dark. "That girl could be blind, Bodie. She's already lost any looks she might have had..."

"I know. I've seen the photos. And if it is us, he'll be sorry." Bodie pushed him towards the nearest pub. "C'mon, I'll buy you a drink." He forestalled any objections. "Just one, then we'll check in. The Cow can always find us if he needs us."
 

The one drink had stretched easily to two while Bodie worked on keeping his partner from getting moody. He had a modicum of success; for once Doyle was prepared not to brood on the injured girl, but Bodie still wouldn't give a lot for the bomber's chances if Doyle was first there.

When they eventually checked in, it was to find that Cowley had disappeared for a meeting with the Minister. Not completely convinced that the bomb wasn't the work of terrorists, he'd left instructions that they were to scour the files for any known activists who matched the witness description.

Several hours later, Bodie threw down another file. "Nothing."

Doyle stretched. "Or rather, too many to choose from. The description's far too vague, we could spend the next six months trying to haul in all those who match it."

"Exactly. C'mon, let's go; we can finish this in the morning. I want to get back to Ronnie; she's on her own."

Doyle needed no further encouragement and followed Bodie from the room. "Are you taking her out for a meal?"

"Naturally. As usual, I haven't had time to stock up on food."

Doyle grinned. "And even when you do, you only stock up on the sort of food you can fry, and ice cream."

Smirking, Bodie agreed with his partner, wondering if Doyle realised why he always had ice cream in the freezer...
 

As soon as he opened the door, Bodie could tell his oven was getting unaccustomed use. "Something smells good." He draped his jacket over the armchair and moved to give Ronnie a hug.

"You didn't have much in the fridge so I did some shopping. It's only a casserole." Avoiding him, she headed for the kitchen. "You sit down, I'll serve."

Bemused, Bodie took a seat at the neatly laid table. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, but being treated to a meal wasn't it. It was almost as if Ronnie thought she should be the one apologising to him. As she set down the plates Bodie caught her hand. "This looks great. Thanks."

"That's OK." She pulled away to sit opposite him, and Bodie reached for the wine bottle to pour two glasses. Ronnie seemed uncharacteristically shy and nervous; maybe some alcohol would relax her a bit.

"So how are things going at the stables? Are the horses running well?" That was the one subject he knew she'd talk about without reserve, and Ronnie launched willingly into descriptions of the horses and races, generating a conversation which lasted them through most of the meal.

"It sounds like you've been busy," Bodie commented, as she at last exhausted the subject. "I'm pleased you had time to come to London."

"I understand why you couldn't come down. And -" she paused, as if unsure what to say next, and standing abruptly, began to clear the table.

"And we need to talk." Standing as well, Bodie caught her hands. "Leave the plates, and come and sit down."

Backed into a corner, Ronnie complied, although a touch reluctantly, and joining her on the sofa Bodie launched into his overdue apology. "Look, I know you got hurt, and I'm really sorry. I'm not surprised if you blame me, but you know I didn't mean that to happen. If I'd had more time I'd've been able to tell you that weeks ago."

Shaking her head, Ronnie stared at him. "You don't get it, do you, Bodie? It wasn't because I got hurt."

Having bewildered Bodie with that statement, Ronnie ploughed on. "I don't blame you for what Walter and Gibson did to me. I made you take me along, and if I hadn't you wouldn't have found Alice. And I was more scared than hurt."

"Well, what -?"

"It was you, Bodie. You changed, from the person I thought I knew... Oh, deep down I knew what you were doing, just playing out your part like you had been all along, but you were so damned convincing..."

"I had to be, Ronnie, it was the only way out of that situation. We both knew Ray and Ruth were on the way -"

She ignored his interruption. "I was terrified of you. For that few minutes, you were like a stranger to me, someone I hardly knew; and that someone I thought was a friend - you were the one hurting me..."

Her words silenced Bodie. He hadn't realised just how deeply his 'betrayal' of her had hurt.

"Afterwards, when I'd had more time to think, I realised I didn't really know you at all. You were a stranger to me. I think you still are."

She sank back on the sofa with her final words, almost as if she was uncertain of what his reaction would be. Bodie stood up and headed for the whisky; he needed something stronger than the wine.

It wasn't the first time he'd been told that. It was a phrase that seemed to turn up in a lot of conversations Bodie had with girlfriends, usually when they were also telling him that he was selfish, uncommunicative and they didn't want to see him again. And mostly it was true; he deliberately kept his relationships superficial as a form of protection and self-preservation, something which worked well enough for a few weeks or months, depending on the girl involved.

If the inevitable break-ups were noisy, they were also usually fairly painless, on both sides. He never let himself get that deeply involved, and invariably the break-up happened before the girl had, although there were exceptions to that rule. "We've hardly spent any time together, not really."

"We've had enough time. At least - " Breaking off, Ronnie changed her mind about what she was going to say. "It's not just a matter of 'how long' - or I didn't think it was. We've shared a lot of things - you told me about Angola..."

"I probably shouldn't have." Bodie softened his tone. "Although you did help me. And you know more about me than a lot of people. But that doesn't mean I'm an open book, Ronnie."

"Oh, I know that. I know it now, anyway." Standing suddenly, Ronnie's retort was followed by a short bitter laugh, and Bodie latched onto it, crossing the room to stand next to her. "Sounds to me like you've decided you don't want to know any more. So why did you agree to come to London?"

"I don't know." Twisting to face up to him, she changed her mind. "Actually, I do. I wanted to see if I'd really been that wrong about you, or whether the man I thought I knew still existed..."

"And?" Bodie lifted her chin, and caught up in his gaze she stammered. "And... the answer's yes. I suppose there's more to you than I realised."

"That's what they all say. But I promise you one thing, Ronnie; I won't take you into danger again." Bodie kissed her gently. "Let's sit down and have another drink, and talk."
 

"Coffee, Bodie." He prised his eyes open, and focusing on the mug managed to pick it up without spilling it. Leaning back, he watched as Ronnie wandered about, getting dressed; not surprised that she was up earlier than him. Pulling on her jumper, Ronnie headed for the door. "Breakfast?"

Glancing at his watch Bodie forced himself to his feet. "Toast'll do. I'd better take a shower; Ray'll be here soon."

By the time he'd dressed, Ronnie had made several rounds of toast and more coffee, and was humming along to the radio. Bodie grabbed a slice and spread marmalade on thickly. "Will you be OK on your own today? Got any plans?"

"I'm going over to see Mr Laker. Then maybe do some shopping. If it's safe enough; I heard some more on the radio about the bomb..."

Bodie voiced some reassurance. "Don't worry. You're more likely to be killed on the roads."

She managed a grin, somewhat dubiously. "That's supposed to make me feel better? I'm not used to London roads, remember."

"You'll be fine. Cross at traffic lights, and make your own decisions - don't rely on other pedestrians; Londoners have a funny idea of when's safe to cross."

"Oh, that makes me feel a whole lot safer, Bodie. Anything else you'd like to warn me about?"

"Only sundry con men and pickpockets." He grinned as they heard a blare from a car horn outside. "That'll be Ray. I'll find you an A to Z so you don't get lost." Gulping the last of his coffee he swiftly scanned the bookshelf, and extracted the battered pocket-sized atlas. "There y'go. Dunno what time I'll be back. You've got the number if you want to call; Control will patch you through."

Dropping a kiss haphazardly on Ronnie's cheek, Bodie seized his jacket and dashed out of the door, hearing the Escort's horn blaring again. Doyle was probably double-parked. That was the problem with this flat; the road was always so crowded.

He flung himself in beside his partner, Doyle not sparing him a glance before letting up the clutch enabling the vehicle to spring forward. "Morning."

"What's the rush? We've only got the files to go back to."

"Just trying to clear the traffic. How did last night go?"

"OK, I suppose." That was all Bodie was inclined to tell his partner. They'd talked; and Ronnie seemed happier, although he could still detect some wariness. At least she hadn't wanted to rush off home; he could talk to her again later. "We sorted a few things out. She's staying until tomorrow, anyway."

"That's good." Doyle let the subject drop, long experience telling him he'd got all he was going to from Bodie.
 

They'd expected to be back checking the files that day, but instead discovered they'd been assigned as the security team to Senator Rockwell. Cowley had taken the tip-off about his possible assassination seriously, providing round-the-clock protection for just over a week now, and since the Senator was due to fly out that afternoon if anyone was going to make an attempt on his life they didn't have much time left.

So they'd spent hours waiting around while the Senator finished his meetings with various ministers, before escorting him to Heathrow for his four-thirty flight. Which was, of course, delayed.

Fortunately once the Senator had boarded the plane just after five Cowley stood them down, and they took the opportunity to vanish off home, rather than risk returning to HQ and getting caught up in something else.

Ronnie was curled on the sofa watching the news when Bodie got in. "Good day?" she asked, brightly.

"Boring day." Bodie folded his arms around her in a hug from above. "How about you?"

"Not bad. I managed to get to Oxford Street and back without getting run over. I didn't know what time you'd be in; I haven't cooked anything yet."

"No need. I'm taking you out tonight. Just give me a chance to get changed."

"Nowhere posh?" Gesturing to her somewhat scruffy jumper and jeans, Ronnie grinned at him. "I didn't bring any smart clothes."

"Don't worry. I'm sure I can find a place where jeans will be acceptable."
 

He'd taken her to one of his favourite places; a small family-run Italian restaurant that Doyle had first taken him to not long after they became partners. Despite serving good food the location was unfashionable and really only served the local community, so their casual clothes didn't stand out.

One drawback to the place was the lack of a liquor licence. After the meal Bodie led Ronnie through the mews to the nearest pub, and pointing towards the only free table fetched the drinks before joining her.

"There you go." He set down the glasses to a roar of laughter from a group at the far end of the bar, relieved that the restaurant had been quieter. He'd deliberately kept their conversation general and Ronnie's lingering reserve had seemed to evaporate as their evening went on, giving him hope that things were definitely okay between them again.

She grinned. "My round next. You've paid for everything so far."

"And you paid for the shopping yesterday." Ronnie had filled the fridge. "Anyway, I never let girls pay for me."

"You're too macho, that's your problem."

Bodie grinned. "That's a problem? Most girls jump at the chance of a free evening."

"I'm not most girls."

"No, you're not." Bodie reached across the table and squeezed her hand. He caught a brief flicker of unease before she smiled. "Just you remember it. You're not taking me for granted."

"I wouldn't dare." He lifted her hand to kiss the back of her fingers; a corny gesture but one that never failed. Sure enough, Ronnie gave a delighted, if slightly embarrassed giggle. She'd mentioned going home the next day, and Bodie wondered if he could delay her departure till the weekend. "Do you definitely -"

He never finished the sentence.
 

Bodie shook his head, his ears ringing. Around him were moans and cries... Another bomb... He groped for Ronnie in the dark; she'd been right beside him - his mind flashed him back to the restaurant bombing, and Claire... Oh God... "Ronnie?!"

"Here." Her hand found his; she was coughing on the dust. "Is it a bomb?" she added, in a small voice.

Pulling her close, Bodie ignored the naivety of the question. It felt like a chair or table had landed on top of him; his shoulders were already aching with bruises. "Are you hurt?"

"I don't think so." Ronnie was gripping his hand tightly and he felt her flinch as some of the cries began to build into screams. "Bodie..."

He returned the pressure on her hand; the last thing he needed was Ronnie in hysterics. "Stay calm. We're safe; we'll get out."

The dust was beginning to settle. Distantly, Bodie could hear sirens. He managed to get to his feet, pushing the debris away from them, and hauled Ronnie up beside him. The dim illumination revealed a graze across one cheek and slight cut on her forehead, but she seemed otherwise unharmed. Her eyes were huge in a pale face, and she was breathing shallowly, trying not to cough, and he smoothed her hair back, feeling the grit under his fingers. "OK?"

Ronnie nodded, the momentary panic subdued, and Bodie hugged her close as he fumbled his R/T from his pocket and called in. "3.7."

"3.7, we were just trying to raise you. There's been an explosion at a pub in North One - "

"Already here." He paused, holding the channel open and picturing their consternation, as they heard the noises from around him. "I'm inside."

There was a stunned silence on the other end before the control room came back swiftly. "Injuries?"

"No, I'm OK. The pub was crowded; we're going to need a lot of ambulances, fire brigade with lifting gear..." There hadn't been a warning. Bastards...

"All on their way, 3.7."

Cowley's voice suddenly cut into the transmission. "Bodie? What's the status?"

"Bad, sir..." With the dust clearing, Bodie could now see that the table that hit him on the way over was against the wall just beyond them. There was no movement from the couple that had been sitting there... He swallowed. "I'll do what I can."

Tucking the R/T back into his pocket, Bodie pulled out his key ring and small torch he had attached to it, thankful that he'd only just replaced the battery. The door they'd entered by had vanished behind chairs and tables; a quick flash around with the tiny beam identified bodies, some moving, some still. They were going to have to climb over people to get out.

Ronnie was calmer, even though she could now see some of the surroundings. "Where do we start?" she asked.

"By getting you out." Bodie could hear noises from the far end of the pub; the first rescuers were getting the door open. There were some ominous creaking noises from overhead beams, and he could hear sparking from broken electrical cables. He prayed the blast hadn't ruptured a gas main.

"But what about everyone else? We can't just leave them." Without waiting for his response, Ronnie stumbled forward and began to right a table, helping the woman trapped underneath.

Shrugging mentally, Bodie helped her. It would be easier to get out if they didn't have to walk on other people, and the fire brigade would be there to help out at any moment.

His R/T bleeped insistently at him, and using one arm to support the woman he was helping, he answered it. "3.7."

"Bodie, I'm outside. Where are you?"

He knew Ray wouldn't be long arriving. "Right side of the pub. Near the back. Door's blocked, though. The brigade are clearing a path through the front."

"Coming in."

Passing the woman along to someone else in the human chain, Bodie turned back. Most of the walking wounded had done just that and were outside, now they needed to get out and let the fire brigade free the trapped and unconscious, and the ambulance men bring the stretchers in. Where had Ronnie gone? He flashed the torch around again, worrying when he couldn't see her.

"Bodie, over here!"

He followed the sound of her voice towards where the bar had been, and found her scrambling up from her knees. "The barmaid's trapped under here. She's hurt."

"They'll get her out, Ronnie. We should get out of the way - "

"But she's bleeding, Bodie. We have to help her." The high, keening cry Bodie could hear grated at him, and he allowed Ronnie to drag him to his knees, to the narrow gap the damaged bar counter had created.

Ronnie whispered to him. "She's bleeding... can you see?"

Playing the tiny torchbeam through the gap, he could. The girl's arm was slashed, oozing blood steadily; he couldn't see if she was trapped. She was eerily lit from beyond and he realised that she must be lying in front of one of the bar fridges which by some miracle still had a working light.

"Can you reach her?" he asked Ronnie but as she nodded, Bodie hesitated. He shouldn't ask her, but the barmaid needed help and there was no telling how easy it would be to get her out.

Pulling off his jacket he used it to brush the worst of the broken glass aside then folded it over the area Ronnie would have to kneel on. "Get next to her. Put your hands over the wound, try and stop the bleeding. Keep up a firm pressure. And talk to her; try to keep her calm. I'll let them know we need help under here."

"Bodie?!" He could hear Doyle calling him as he scrambled to his feet.

Playing a full size torch over Bodie, Doyle managed a grin, obviously relieved to see his partner unharmed. "You look a mess."

"Be more careful where I drink in future." Knowing what he must look like, Bodie didn't feel much like smiling, and called to the nearest fire officer. "We've got a woman trapped under the end of the bar here. My friend's with her, but she's bleeding."

Doyle's humour vanished. "Ronnie's under there?" He ducked down for a look of his own and shone his torch through. "Ronnie? How are you doing?"

"OK." She didn't look OK, she looked scared, but after her initial acknowledgement of Doyle she returned her attention to the woman. "Liz, this is Ray, he's going to help get you out." He heard a faint murmur in return, and twisted the torch downwards, and spoke encouragingly. "Hi Liz. Won't be long now."

The light from the fridge suddenly went out and Ronnie gasped as they were reduced to the glow from his torch, and Doyle hastened to reassure her. "They've turned off the power, Ronnie, just for safety." Voices overhead proved Bodie was directing the firemen, and within seconds the solid bar counter was tugged away.

Ronnie was lifted bodily out of the way and set on her feet near Bodie as ambulance men rushed in to help the barmaid. He immediately turned her face to his chest before leading her out of the pub. The improved lighting provided by the fire brigade was revealing far too much detail that he didn't want to see and remember; Ronnie was already shocked, he didn't want her to see any more of it.

Outside, he waved the ambulance men away, simply holding Ronnie. It was beginning to rain; he didn't care. It felt great. Ronnie was shaking; it was a strange feeling, almost like a double vibration, which puzzled him until Bodie realised he was shaking too...
 

He saw Cowley arrive; flinging himself from the car driven by Ruth, and gently passed Ronnie over to Doyle, meeting Cowley half-way.

"Bodie." Cowley's glance encompassed Ronnie, checking them both over. "How many?"

Bodie was used to the verbal shorthand. "At least two that I saw. Maybe more. From the blast pattern I think the bomb was left in front of the bar, just about centrally in the pub. I didn't see anything; had my back to that area." He caught Cowley's glance past him to Ronnie, the unspoken question, and half-turned. "Maybe. She was facing the right way. But - "

"- not tonight, no," Cowley finished. "Do either of you need a doctor?" He didn't wait for Bodie's response, hurrying towards Doyle and the girl. Bodie caught him up and answered. "No, sir. But a shower would help."

"Doyle, take them home, and I'll see you back here. I'll talk to you tomorrow, Bodie."
 

He'd declined Doyle's offer of help, leading Ronnie slowly upstairs to his flat, and refusing to let her sit down once they got there. "You're not messing up my sofa." Ronnie stared at him blankly. "You're no cleaner than I am," he added, leading her into the bathroom, and starting to strip.

She was still looking strung out. "Bodie..."

He took her face in his hands, tilting her chin up towards him. Ronnie's eyes were still wide, almost as if they'd been stretched by what she'd seen and would never return to normal. "Listen. We'll get a shower, and a stiff drink. Then we'll talk, OK? Until then, don't think about it. Focus on us, now."

He finished undressing, then helped Ronnie as she slowly stripped off her t-shirt. Her jeans bore several small rips, and large dark patches of blood. She dropped them on the floor, and managed a rueful smile. "I suppose this will teach me to bring some spare clothes."

"We'll get some tomorrow." He lifted her into the shower and shut the door behind them, turning the tap on full and holding her as the jets began to sluice the dust away from them. After a few minutes he reached for the soap, and automatically began to work up a lather.

In spite of what he'd told Ronnie, Bodie's mind was replaying the images from earlier. The explosion, the dust he could still taste, the injured bodies... It wasn't as if it was the first time. The results of a grenade explosion produced a similar scene. But it wasn't something you got used to.
 

He curled his body protectively around her in the bed. They hadn't talked. Ronnie was fast sinking into exhaustion and sleep would do her more good than conversation.

He could feel her shaking, very slightly; guessed she was crying. "Shh... 's OK..."

Ronnie twisted in his arms to rest her head on his shoulder; he could feel the hot tears on his skin, and tightened his hold on her, smoothing down her still-damp hair. She whispered just the one word. "Why?"

Why. Why me, why us? Why them? It didn't really matter. Just 'Why', at all?
 

Ronnie was still deeply asleep when Bodie woke just before eight. He made a coffee, then called HQ, unsurprised to find Doyle there. "Get any rest?"

"Couple of hours in the VIP Lounge. How's Ronnie?"

"Still asleep. Poor kid was wrung out last night. What's the latest?"

"Three dead. Two on the critical list. No one's come forward to claim responsibility; looks like it could be the same bomber. And Cowley wants to talk to you both."

"Could be a problem with that, unless you fancy doing some shopping? Ronnie's jeans were pretty much ruined last night, and she didn't bring spares."

"What size?" Doyle laughed. "I'll ask Ruth or Betty to go then come and pick you up."

"Hold on." Bodie fetched Ronnie's jeans from the bathroom, and checked the label. "Size twelve."

"OK. I'll raid the petty cash. See you later."
 

It was just nine-thirty when Doyle buzzed at the door to be let in. "That was quick."

"Ruth knew exactly where to go. She got two pairs; she wasn't sure which length Ronnie would need." Doyle followed Bodie through to the kitchen. "Is she OK?"

"It was nearly two before she fell asleep properly; I haven't woken her yet. Coffee?" Bodie opened the fridge to get some milk, and Doyle pounced on the open door with an exclamation.

"I've never seen your fridge so full! Did you rob the supermarket? You've even got veg in there - and not a sausage in sight!"

"There isn't?" Receiving that piece of news with mock dismay, Bodie peered into the fridge. Ronnie's idea of shopping and his didn't exactly coincide. Although there were some biscuits in the cupboard...

"Ronnie did the shopping." He handed Doyle a mug and headed back to the lounge. "If you're lucky I might let you eat some of the healthy stuff."

"Well, you won't know what to do with it." Doyle followed him, grinning. Pausing at the end of the sofa, he stopped and picked up Ronnie's jeans where Bodie had left them. "I see what you mean about ruined. Maybe she should've seen a doctor last night."

Bodie gave a short laugh. "Ronnie is about as fond of the medical profession as we are. Doubt I'd've managed to persuade her."

"Maybe." Soberly, Doyle held up the bloodied denim. "But have you really looked at these? There are tears across the knees - if Ronnie got these while crawling around then she could have some nasty cuts, and pieces of glass still in her."

Crossing the room, Bodie took a closer look for himself. Doyle was right; the pub floor had been lethal where Ronnie had been with the barmaid. "We showered last night; I don't think she was bleeding - at least not badly. I'll get a doctor to take a look at her."

"What for?" Wrapped in Bodie's bathrobe, Ronnie had emerged from the bedroom in time to hear Bodie's last words. "I'm fine."

For answer, Bodie drew her forward to sit on the arm of the sofa, and crouching in front of her pressed a finger gently over the fresh scabs on one knee. Ronnie yelped and winced, and stopped him from repeating the experiment on the other leg.

"You've got glass in there, sweetheart. It'll need treatment."

Ronnie was obviously reluctant but sensible enough to realise they were right. "I suppose. As long as I don't have to sit for hours in casualty."

"You don't even have to go to a hospital," Doyle reassured her. "We've got a full-time medic at HQ."

"What about my jeans..." She took the bag Doyle held out, puzzled.

"All part of the service," he told her. "I sent Ruth shopping, so you can blame her if they don't fit."

"Thanks. I'll get dressed." Grabbing Bodie's coffee mug from him with a grin, Ronnie disappeared into the bedroom.

"I'll make another one, then, shall I?" Bodie called after her. "Cheek..."
 

"Ah, Bodie. How's your young lady this morning?"

"Still a bit shaken, sir. We've just taken her up to see the doc; Ronnie's got some cuts that might have glass in them."

"Right. Now, last night. How long had you been in the pub? I'm assuming you didn't see anything yourself?"

"The bar was busy. We'd only been there about fifteen minutes; I didn't recognise anyone or notice anything suspicious."

"Maybe Ronnie did," Doyle offered. "What about our vague description?"

"Oh, there were at least ten men who fitted that, if not more." Bodie frowned. "Are we sure it's the same bomber?"

"Given the locations are barely two miles apart and no one has claimed responsibility for either attack, it seems highly likely." Cowley tapped his pen impatiently on the desk. "Your inspector is covering the second bomb as well; I've left a message for him to call us. He'll need statements from you both."

"There's not much we can tell him. He'll probably get more from others."

Doyle disagreed. "Not necessarily. I spoke to him briefly last night; most of the other witnesses are either too badly injured or shocked to be of any use. And you and Ronnie were the only uninjured victims who didn't get yourselves out first."

Bodie nodded. Of course, his training and experience accounted for his own ability to cope in adverse circumstances. He could only suppose his apparent composure had reassured Ronnie, at least while they were still inside. "Ronnie was pretty shocked later."

"And still is this morning," Doyle added. He'd picked up on her forced brightness even if Bodie hadn't; but his partner agreed. "Yeah. She's hiding it well."

Betty buzzed through at that moment. "The doctor's finished with Ronnie, sir."

"I'll fetch her." Bodie hurried up to the medical room; horrified to find that Ronnie limped towards him. She gave him a faint smile. "Knew it was a mistake to trust doctors. Hurts more than ever, now."

"I didn't think it was that bad..." Sliding an arm supportively around her waist, Bodie's concern was obvious and Ronnie retracted the complaint. "It isn't, really. It's just sore, I'll be fine in a bit."

Leading her slowly down to Cowley's office, Bodie paused just before they reached the door. "Sorry."

"What for?"

"I promised I wouldn't take you into danger again. Didn't take long to break that one, did I?"

Ronnie shook her head. "Bodie, you just took me to the pub; you didn't know about the bomb. I can't exactly blame you for that."

"Doesn't make me feel any less guilty. You still got hurt."

"It could've been worse. Much worse." Ronnie swallowed, the memory obviously haunting her, and hugging her, Bodie led her into Cowley's office.

Once she was seated, Cowley resumed his questioning. "You'll need to give the police a statement in a while, but did you notice anything suspicious in the pub before the explosion, Ronnie?"

There was a pause before she nodded. "I think I did."

Her quiet reply stunned them all, particularly Bodie. "What? How come I didn't see anything?"

"It was from where I was sitting. There was a small suitcase under one of the tables near the bar. The table itself would have hidden it from above. I think I only noticed it because it's a strange thing to take to a pub; but there was someone at the table, and I just thought it must belong to him..."

"Can you remember what he looked like?" Cowley cut in brusquely.

"I've been thinking about him this morning, trying to remember everything." Ronnie sighed. "The light wasn't good in the pub, but I think his hair was lightish brown. He was 30s, round face, and I think he was quite tall."

"Sounds like the chief suspect." Cowley picked up the phone. "I'll call the inspector and get him to organise a police artist. You two take Ronnie over to the station."
 

The inspector met them at the front desk and immediately ushered them through to an interview room. "I've got someone finding me an artist. I'll get your statements first - Mr Cowley said you'd seen the suspect?"

"There's not much I can tell you," Bodie admitted. "I might recognise Ronnie's man once I see a picture, but I've only got a vague impression of who was sitting near the bar."

"We'll start with Ronnie, then." Inspector Bayford flipped open his notebook. "Take your time. Describe to me where you were, and what you saw."

"When we got into the pub, Bodie went to the bar and I went to sit down. It was busy so Bodie had to wait. From where I was sitting I could see along the front of the counter. It was kind of a shifting scene; someone would move away, then someone else took their place. For a few moments though, there was a gap and I could see all the tables." She paused. "It might be easier to explain if I drew it..."

The inspector pushed his notepad and pencil over to her, and Ronnie sketched in the angled bar counter, with an X to one side. "I was sitting about here. There were tables - about five of them, I think - in a sort of arc, from here to here." Five circles joined the picture. "And under this third table, was a suitcase."

"Can you describe it?"

"I only saw it for a few seconds, really. Not large; not the sort you'd go travelling with. I suppose it was the sort of size that you could take onto a plane, rather than putting in the hold? Dark colour; brown or black probably. I noticed it because it seemed odd to have in a pub; a briefcase wouldn't have looked out of place."

Retrieving his notepad, the inspector jotted down a few words. "What about the man at the table?"

"Dressed casually; jeans, I think, with a leather jacket. Hair lightish brown, in his 30s. I got the impression he was tall because he was sitting sideways, as if he couldn't get his knees under the table."

"Did you see him leave?"

Ronnie shook her head. "Bodie had come over by then. We were talking. And it was still busy."

"Well, the description doesn't fit any of our dead or injured, so it sounds like we can confirm him as our Number One suspect." A tap at the door heralded the arrival of the police artist, and leaving him with Ronnie, Bayford led the partners to his office.

"Hopefully your girlfriend will be able to give us some idea of who we're looking for. But we've got a clue as to who the bombs were meant for. I checked the names of those killed and injured last night, and the barmaid is Elizabeth Decker. She's the wife of the building society manager."

"So someone's after him or his family?" Doyle glanced over at Bodie. "Have you interviewed her yet?"

"She's being allowed home this afternoon; I've made arrangements to see her then. I take it you two want to come along?"

"Damn right we do..."
 

Ronnie scrambled from the Escort after them. Bayford hadn't wanted to bring her along, and as much as he appreciated the inspector's reasons, Bodie hadn't wanted to leave her at the nick or let her return to his flat alone. They'd compromised; Bodie agreeing to get Ronnie to wait in the car. "We'll be as quick as possible."

"Don't worry," Ronnie assured him, pointing to the corner shop. "I'll get myself a magazine to read; I'll be fine."

Bodie watched her disappear inside before following Bayford and Doyle the short distance to the Decker's house. He wasn't at all certain Ronnie was fine; reliving the bombing to make a statement had upset her, particularly when the artist had reproduced the man in her memory. If this interview looked like it was going to drag on he'd leave Doyle to it.
 

"Liz has told you everything she remembers." Nicholas Decker was busily fussing around her, and wasn't keen on having the three of them questioning her.

"Nick, stop fussing. I feel OK. Although I'm not sure what else I can tell you, Inspector."

Bayford produced a copy of the picture. "One of our other witnesses has described this man to us. We've reason to believe he might be the bomber."

Liz took the photocopy and stared at it, brow wrinkling. "Yes - I remember him. He was in the bar last night. He's American - at least, he has an American accent."

"Are you sure about that?" Doyle interrupted.

"It's not just from last night; he's been in the pub before - last week sometime. When he ordered his drinks there was a definite accent."

"Did you get talking to him? Find out his name or where he was from?"

Liz shook her head at Bodie's question. "It was too busy. I didn't have the time to talk to anyone. Although - "

"Yes?"

"I'm not sure. I think, last week, that he said something about how things had changed. But I don't know what he meant; it was just one of those off-the-cuff comments you smile and nod at before you serve the next punter."

"So he's been in the area before?"

"Could have been last month, year or decade for all we know." The identification made; Bayford moved onto his next question, of why. "Can either of you think of a reason why someone would want to kill you?"

They were clearly both bewildered. "Us?" Nicholas Decker shook his head. "I thought it was just a coincidence..."

"It could well be," Bayford acknowledged. "But the two bombs seemed to be placed specifically at each of your places of work, so it's a coincidence we have to check out. And at the moment we don't have any other motive for the explosions - the only link between them is you."

"No one has threatened either of you? No phone calls, letters?"

"No..."

Unlike Doyle, Bodie wasn't too interested in the motive - they had someone to be looking for; they could find out why later, when they caught him. He made leaving signals to his partner.

Doyle ignored him. "You need to think hard about this. If he is after you then he could try again."

This worried the Deckers still further. "What should we do? Should we go away?"

"You can't disappear forever; he could just wait for you to come back." Doyle shrugged. "Maybe you need protection. Inspector?"

"I'm not sure. I might be able to organise some patrols - but without a positive target..."

"So you're just going to wait until he tries again?" Now convinced they were at risk, Nicholas Decker was alarmed. "You can't do that. You have to protect us!"

Getting up, Bayford calmed him. "We'll do what we can. If we discover you're definitely his target, then we'll be able to organise round-the-clock protection." They didn't look particularly happy, but accepted the inspector's further reassurance that dialling 999 would bring them immediate assistance.

Leaving the couple with instructions to be especially vigilant, Bayford joined the partners at the front gate. "Well, if they are the targets, they don't know why."

"It's too coincidental to be random attacks, and the description we have from the girl at the building society matches Ronnie's photofit. They might not know why, but I'm convinced the Deckers are the intended victims." Doyle glanced at his partner for confirmation. "Do you agree, Bodie?"

"Yeah..." Having reached the pavement, Bodie was scanning the Escort. It was empty. "Where's Ronnie?"

Doyle caught the hint of alarm in his voice. "Still in the shop?" Together they scooted down the road, Bodie veering across to the shop. Seconds later, he ran back to the car, still scanning up and down the road. "Not there. What's happened to her?"

"She came back to the car." Fishing for the car keys, Doyle pointed into the vehicle, where a magazine lay discarded on the front seat. "And wherever she's gone, she took the time to lock the car, so she's not been taken by force."

That reassured Bodie only slightly. "But why has she gone?"

Unlocking the Escort, Doyle dropped into the car and unhooking the R/T called in. "4.5. Bodie's girlfriend didn't call in for help, did she?"

"Negative, 4.5."

"She wouldn't just take off. She doesn't even know where she is..."

Equally concerned, Doyle agreed. "We should look for her. You take that way, I'll take this."

"I'll put out a call," Bayford offered, heading for his own vehicle. "One of the area cars might have seen her."

They had barely taken three steps before Doyle spotted Ronnie rounding the corner, and shouted for his partner. Bodie caught her as Ronnie reached the car; she'd obviously been running for some way. "Where have you been? What happened?"

"Let me get my breath back..." Accepting Bodie's support, Ronnie swept her hair back. "I saw him."

"Who?"

"The man I described, the one from the pub. I glanced up from reading, and he was just standing there; looking at the houses."

"Did he see you?"

"If he did, he didn't recognise me. After a few moments he carried on down the street, past the car, so I followed him."

"You should've come after us." "Why didn't you use the radio to call for help?" "You should've dialled 999."

Receiving three simultaneous and different responses from the men Ronnie managed to separate and answer each of them. "I didn't know exactly which house you were in, it would've taken too long to find you. I wasn't sure how to use the radio, and there aren't any phone boxes around to call the police. Anyway, how long would it have taken me to convince someone to help? He'd have vanished before anyone got here."

She had a point, Doyle admitted to himself. Control might have reacted fast enough to radio them on their own R/Ts, but even that might have been too long. "How far did you follow him?"

"I thought he might be going to a house or something, but he only went as far as the tube station. I tried to get close when he bought his ticket, but I couldn't hear where he was going... and I was scared to follow him any further."

Bodie gave her a hug. "You did the right thing. If he had spotted you following him you would have been in danger."

Bayford was nodding as he moved away. "I suppose this confirms the Deckers as targets. I'll call for back-up, and get some officers over to the tube station with copies of the photofit."

"I'll update Cowley." Doyle slid into the car, and Bodie gave Ronnie another hug, realising that now the adrenaline rush had faded, she was shaking. "You did OK. We'll track him down, don't worry."

"I didn't really think about it; I just followed him. But when we got to the tube I suddenly realised how dangerous he was..."

"So much for me keeping you out of danger. You're out finding it for yourself."

Bayford rejoined them just as Doyle emerged from the Escort. "Cowley's given us clearance to set up a surveillance on the Deckers. Inspector, if you can find us a suitable vantage point, we'll collect some gear and come back."

"I'll speak to the Deckers and then go and talk to the neighbours. I'll call you."
 

"Are you sure you're OK?" Ronnie had been very quiet since they'd arrived back at HQ to drop Doyle off, and barely spoken to Bodie on the way back to the flat.

"I'm just tired." She did look tired, and Bodie gave her a hug. "Get yourself something to eat, that'll help."

"Mmm. Bodie, do you - when will you be back?"

"I don't know. Maybe not at all - we may have to stay on the surveillance overnight if Cowley can't spare anyone else. Wouldn't be the first time. But I'll phone you if that happens."

"All right." Ronnie nodded. "I'll see you later, then."

"You can always phone me." Bodie wished he didn't have to leave her since Ronnie was obviously unhappy, but Doyle couldn't cover the surveillance alone.

The smile was forced, tinged with exasperation. "I know, Bodie, I'll be fine. Go on; I'll see you later."
 

He caught up with Doyle in the VIP Lounge. "Are we set?

"Most of the gear is downstairs; we just have to put it in the car." Busy loading a film Doyle paused and tossed Bodie a file. "Take a look at that."

Flipping it open Bodie stared at the photo stapled to the inside of the cover. "It's him."

"Yeah. In our files all along; Ruth turned him up once we'd got the photofit." Knowing Bodie wouldn't take the time to read all the details, Doyle summarised. "Kenneth Carmichael, wanted on suspicion of involvement with the IRA. Belfast got too hot so he skipped to London, and then slipped the net and went to America. That was about seven years ago but we've kept the file current because he's known to be active among the sympathisers."

"Explains the choice of bombs, then. Anything on why he's targeting the Deckers?"

"Not so far. There's nothing suspicious in their past. Ruth's still checking." He snapped the camera shut, listening with satisfaction as the motordrive wound on. "That's ready. We should get going; Bayford's fixed up with one of the neighbours for us to use a bedroom and he's waiting until we get there."

Bodie was heading for the door. "Yeah, OK. Won't be long, I just want to speak to whoever's on duty in the Comms room."

Doyle hoisted the heavy camera bag onto his shoulder and followed his partner, wondering what Bodie had to say that he couldn't have communicated by R/T. "So if she calls, you'll let me know, yeah?"

Of course, Bodie was still concerned about Ronnie; she was more shaken up than she was letting on. Doyle hoped Cowley would keep his word to sort out the shifts for later and find a team to take over.
 

The neighbour had willingly provided them with the comfortable front bedroom to watch from; and Doyle glanced back at his partner dozing on the bed. "Think it's about time you took a turn with the glasses."

Bodie reluctantly opened his eyes and pushed himself to his feet. "I suppose." The street was dark, under-lit with inadequate streetlights, and he peered through the window at the house opposite. "Do you think he's going to show?"

"These'll help." Doyle passed Bodie the infrared binoculars. "He seems fairly determined to kill the Deckers. They're indoors and staying there; if he wants them he has to come here."

The binoculars improved the visibility, and Bodie slowly scanned the shadowy paths - tensing as he caught movement, only to realise it was a cat. Rubbing at his eyes, Bodie forced himself to relax. Christ, he was tired; they'd been working long shifts for weeks now. Another check of his watch revealed it wasn't yet ten-thirty. Another couple of hours before they could hand over to their relief team, always supposing Murphy and Anson actually arrived.

Doyle had stretched out on the bed and was already snoring, and Bodie resisted the urge to wake him up again. It was quite likely his partner had even less sleep the previous night than he had. Instead, he scanned the street again. If he couldn't talk to Doyle, he'd have to rely on activity to keep himself awake.

Wondering how Ronnie was, Bodie debated with himself whether to call her; there was a phone in the bedroom, he wouldn't even need to get a patch-through from Control. But she'd been tired when he left and was probably asleep; he didn't want to risk waking her.
 

By the time Murphy and Anson arrived, Bodie was more than ready to leave. Doyle had to be shaken awake, his intended forty winks having descended into deep sleep, and he was drowsily apologetic on the way back to his flat. Bushed himself, Bodie wasted no time in dropping his partner and driving home.

The flat was in darkness and Bodie let himself in quietly. Clicking on the light he was startled to find Ronnie still up, curled awkwardly on the sofa. "Why are you sitting in the dark? Are you all right?"

She didn't answer him, but slid willingly into the protection of his arm as he sat beside her. Hugging her, he felt her sigh. "I was just waiting for you to come back."

"You knew I'd be late. You should've gone to bed."

"I was thinking." Against his chest, her voice was muffled. "Bodie, I want to go home tomorrow."

He was conscious of the rigidity of her shoulders. "Maybe you should wait a couple of days, until you're feeling better -"

"I want to go home."

"If you're sure." Bodie felt the tension slip away from her as she nodded, tilting her head back, relief clear in her eyes that he wasn't arguing with her decision.

"I am." Smiling slightly, Ronnie brushed her lips softly across his. "Let's go to bed."
 

"You've only got about ten minutes. Do you need anything for the journey; drink, magazine?" It had been a rush to get to the station since they'd had to pick up Doyle as well, but the lack of time and his partner's presence was a relief in a way. Bodie could understand Ronnie's determination to leave London, but she seemed to be putting a distance between them that he stood no chance of bridging before she left.

"A drink would be good."

"I'll buy you something." Setting down Ronnie's rucksack, Bodie headed for the kiosk.

Doyle watched the way Ronnie's gaze followed Bodie. "You know Bodie cares about you, don't you? If you need him he'll come running."

"I know." Pulling her attention back to Doyle, Ronnie forced a smile onto her face. "Try and stop the idiot from getting himself killed, will you?"

"I'll do my best." Bodie's return curtailed further conversation, so Doyle settled instead for giving Ronnie a hug. "Stay in touch."

She nodded, accepting the bottle of water Bodie passed her, before picking up her rucksack. "Thanks. I'd better get going, if I want to get a seat."

Arm around her, Bodie walked with her to the gate. "Are you sure you're OK? You can stay longer if you want."

"No, I've got to go. I'll be fine."

"OK. I'll come down and see you as soon as Cowley lets me grab some time off." Bodie kissed her, not sure what else to say although he was acutely conscious that there should be more. The relationship they'd appeared to salvage seemed to be slipping away again, although this time he had even less comprehension of why. Lamely, he added, "Take care..."
 

Bodie had worked his usual charm on the neighbour, and they were drinking their second mug of tea when Ruth called them. "I've found Carmichael's motive for you."

"Go ahead, Ruth."

"Carmichael had a sister who died about three months ago. I checked the case; apparently she committed suicide, there was a 'balance of mind disturbed' verdict at the inquest. She'd lost her job and got into a lot of debt, and the final straw was a letter from the building society threatening to foreclose unless the mortgage payments were sorted out."

"And this letter was signed by Nicholas Decker?" Doyle guessed the rest. Carmichael was trying to get his revenge, even though Decker wasn't personally responsible.

"That's right. Decker gave evidence at the inquest as being one of the last people to see her alive. It wasn't the first letter he'd sent her; he'd already given her time to try and sort herself out, but it was obvious things were just going from bad to worse and after another futile meeting he issued the final warning letter."

"And pushed her over the edge. Anything else?"

"We've had a telex from the FBI. Carmichael is known to them; they think he's responsible for some bank robberies they're investigating, which ties into our information about his IRA sympathies. They have him categorised as probably armed and definitely dangerous."

"Thanks, Ruth. Helps to know what we're dealing with. We'll stay in touch."

At the window, Bodie was shrugging. "I suppose Carmichael thinks he has good reason, and with his background the violence was inevitable."

"Yeah. I just hope we can grab him before anyone else gets killed." Doyle joined his partner at the window. "And sooner rather than later; I'm not sure how long Cowley will let us run with this."

"There were only two days between the first and second attacks. If he runs true to form, he should make a move today." Bodie grimaced. "Be just our luck he doesn't. I wonder if we'd have more luck tracking him down..."

"Bayford's got men checking the hotels in the area. They might turn something up -"

"They might not need to." Snatching up and focusing the binoculars, Bodie made sure of the sighting before passing them to Doyle. "It's him."

"Let's go." Swiftly confirming Bodie's identification, Doyle followed his partner, and together they hurried down the stairs and out through the back door, emerging into the street. Carmichael was already walking away from the Deckers' as they picked up his trail.

"Looks like he's heading for the tube station again. That'll be busy; we should probably take him before he gets there." Hurrying behind their suspect whilst trying to look casual in case Carmichael spotted them, Bodie was also trying to shield Doyle as he called in.

"4.5... We're on Carmichael's tail now. We've just left Leigh Road, he's on the pathway across Highbury Fields, probably heading for the tube station. Can you find us some back-up?" Doyle disconnected and slid the R/T away, not waiting for the response from HQ. Whether back-up was on the way or not, it would probably be down to him and Bodie to handle this.

"If we get a chance. It's pretty busy here as well," he answered Bodie. It was the weekend; there were a large number of people about, particularly kids. "Let's stick close."

Carmichael had slowed, and appeared to be enjoying his stroll through the park. The partners slowed behind him - had he spotted them? There was no sign of it, however, as Carmichael continued along the path. He was watching the children playing, but hadn't looked behind him.

As they reached Highbury Place Doyle hung back, indicating the road to their left. "I'll head up here, try to get around in front of him. Call me if he takes off across the park instead of staying on track for the tube..."

Bodie nodded and continued his measured stroll behind Carmichael. He didn't know the roads as well as Doyle, but conscious of the sound of suddenly pounding feet, guessed his partner was having to run to get in front of their target. The noise also caused Carmichael to glance back, but Doyle was out of sight and he obviously saw no cause for alarm.

A look at his watch, however, and Carmichael quickened his pace; Bodie lengthening his own stride behind. He couldn't let Carmichael get too far ahead; but he was too close to warn Doyle to move quickly. He pulled the zip on his jacket loose; if he had to draw to stop Carmichael getting away he'd only get one chance, he couldn't afford to fluff pulling the weapon. So far, so good; at least Carmichael was sticking to the road and giving no indication that his destination was anywhere but the tube station...

Blood pounding in his ears, Doyle rounded the corner of Calabria Road. A quick glance showed that he'd come out in front of them; Carmichael was heading towards him, still some twenty-five yards away.

He began to cross Highbury Place hoping to cut Carmichael off; with any luck he could intercept him and with Bodie close behind maybe they could grab him before Carmichael knew what was happening...

It couldn't be that easy, of course. As the gap closed, he saw Carmichael's eyes narrow in suspicion at his approach, the glance back showing him Bodie closing in - and he was away to the side, across the grass and heading towards a cluster of local kids on their bikes.

Guns drawn, the partners could only follow. They were close, but it would be madness to fire after Carmichael, and he knew it. Conscience didn't stop Carmichael from firing on them however, and as the terrorist swung round Doyle caught sight of a flash of metal and flung himself to the ground as a bullet whined away into the distance.

But the move had been a mistake. Turning to fire had delayed him; Bodie had kept going and a rugby tackle brought Carmichael crashing to the ground...
 

Bayford led Carmichael away to the police car, and Bodie brushed himself down. Carmichael hadn't given up easily; Doyle's handcuffs had come in handy whilst waiting for the inspector to arrive. Thankful as he was that they'd been the ones to get the terrorist, Bodie was also relieved that it had been such a public place; any notion of retribution that Doyle might have been harbouring had been kept carefully under wraps in front of the swiftly gathered crowd of excited kids.

"Why didn't you duck?"

Doyle's question took Bodie by surprise. "Eh?"

"When Carmichael started shooting. Why'd you keep going?"

"Oh, then. I just figured he'd be more likely to shoot at you, being closest. And I was pretty sure he'd miss, as well - nothing in his file indicates he's a good shot."

Bemused, Doyle stared at him. "I didn't think you'd even read the file."

"I had to read something to keep myself awake the other night, while you were snoring. The alternative was old Mrs Larkin's knitting patterns..."

"You couldn't be sure he'd miss, though." Ronnie's plea was still with him, and Doyle felt compelled to remonstrate with his partner.

"You trying to wrap me in cotton wool, mate?" Clearly surprised, Bodie grinned. "Got a few lives left yet, y'know."

"Yeah. It's just you seem determined to use them all up. It's not a race, you know," Doyle added awkwardly.

"Yeah, I know. You can play hero next week, Raymond, OK?" Bluntly dismissing the whole case, Bodie turned to head back through the park. "Anyway, let's get back and tidy up. This gives us a free afternoon, and I have ideas on how to spend it..."

Hurrying to catch up with his partner, Doyle shrugged to himself. He could never understand how Bodie found it so easy to shake off things, but they'd worked together for long enough for Doyle to know what he was like and that he wouldn't manage to change Bodie now. "So what's her name...?
 
 

Bodie tossed down the magazine. It was no good; he couldn't concentrate. He'd managed to lose his partner but the intended distraction of a night out with Julia hadn't materialised since she was already busy. Restless, he prowled to the window, and peered out. The street was quiet; it was too late for kids but too early for the party crowd.

Conscious of a growl from his stomach, Bodie headed for the kitchen. He'd get something to eat; that would make him feel better. Maybe a bacon sandwich...

Opening the fridge Bodie stopped, hunger forgotten. The fridge was still full of the shopping Ronnie had done. Ronnie.

Grabbing a beer, he slammed the door shut again, and stalked back to the lounge, the source of his frustration suddenly clear.

He'd decided, after seeing her onto the train, that he'd have to let the relationship go. He couldn't work out what was bothering Ronnie, and he didn't have the time to find out. But the resolution hadn't lasted long.

It couldn't be anything he'd done, this time. At least, not as far as he could work out. Irritated, Bodie crossed to the phone. He could at least call Ronnie; make sure she'd got home safely.

No answer. He scowled at the handset, blaming the inanimate object for his failure. He'd just have to try later...


© 2002, May, Carol Good




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