"You all right?"
Jerked from his reverie, Doyle glanced down at his blood-soaked shirt and grimaced. "Yeah." His partner continued to stare at him quizzically. "I'm fine, Bodie. None of it's mine."
A few more seconds silence before Bodie interrupted his thoughts again. "So, are we going back to the pub?"
Dammit, why couldn't Bodie shut up for a bit? Reluctantly, Doyle dragged himself back to the present, nodding. "You just want to get back and chat up the barmaid."
Although agreeing with a grin as he wheeled swiftly away and down the corridor, Bodie cast an anxious glance back to make sure his partner was following.
Back in his room, Doyle stripped off the gory clothes and dropped them on the floor before turning the shower on full and stepping underneath it.
The water ran red as the blood was washed from his hands and arms but even when it was running clear he continued to stand there, letting the force of the water jets pound him.
It wasn't the blood. He'd seen enough of that - including his own - in the past few years.
The shower was beginning to run cold, and he snapped off the tap, and vigorously towelling himself dry walked through to the bedroom. Automatically turning to the wardrobe he pulled out clean clothes and dressed, still focused inwardly.
It wasn't actually the fact that the lad had died. It wasn't the first, and probably wouldn't be the last time someone died literally in his arms.
No, it was the fact that every time it happened, particularly if it was a stabbing, it dragged up the memory of Andy...
He moved to the window to shut the curtains. The large ancient hill was clearly visible, looming huge in the moonlight, and Doyle paused as he reached for the curtains.
Bodie would be down in the bar, waiting for Doyle to join him. But he needed to be alone...
Realising Bodie was fortunately engaged in trying to chat up a couple of girls, Doyle had slipped past the end of the bar. There were no street lights where he was heading, and Doyle fished for his keys and took one of the torches from the Capri before setting off down the dark path, heading for the open ground.
He wasn't sure what was drawing him, but he felt some compulsion to climb the hill in front of him; St Catherine's, if he remembered it rightly from the map.
The day had started much like any other. After a long, fruitless search for someone who could tell them about some missing weapons, the partners had reported in and before they'd even reached the VIP Lounge Betty had summoned them to Cowley's office.
Neither of them liked the assigned task; they'd both protested. Cowley had overruled them. "I know this isn't our case. But I don't want to run the slightest risk of O'Donahue getting away, so you two will bring him back tomorrow."
Betty had given them the details. O'Donahue was being remanded at Winchester Crown Court the following morning; they'd travel down and stay overnight. She'd already reserved rooms at a local pub.
Bodie had complained non-stop as he collected his clothes together. "I sometimes wonder why I joined this outfit. Cowley'll be putting us in uniform next."
"What sort? Always thought you'd look cute as a French Maid..." Doyle had neatly dodged the cushion Bodie threw at him, and escaped to the car, laughing, to wait for his partner.
However, he'd had to agree. This wasn't exactly what they'd been trained for. Looking on the bright side, things were quiet, and Cowley had a disconcerting habit of putting agents in the Records Office if they weren't occupied elsewhere.
They'd had a leisurely trip down the motorway; Bodie content for once to let everything else overtake him. Arriving just after 7, they followed Betty's very efficient directions along the Winchester bypass to the Bell Inn. Doyle had insisted on checking in, although acceding to Bodie's request that they hurried straight out again to find a restaurant.
Emerging from the Chinese just as a group of teenagers had rounded the corner, followed swiftly by another group, the partners had found themselves in the middle of a fight. Unwilling to involve themselves they'd already begun to walk away until they both caught sight of a flash of steel. While Doyle threw himself forward, Bodie had opted for drawing his gun and firing it into the air.
The kids had scattered, both groups splitting up and making a run for it - apart from the one writhing on the ground, bleeding.
Doyle had done his best, but whoever had used the knife had hit an artery and by the time the ambulance had arrived, the kid had bled to death.
Crossing the still-busy dual carriageway at the traffic lights, Doyle switched on the torch and followed the well-trodden path leading up the hill. It was much darker here, but he picked his way sure-footedly onwards.
They'd spent the last hour in the police station. All Bodie's assurances, that it hadn't been their fault and they'd done everything they could, hadn't helped. It wasn't that Doyle felt responsible, as such. But whoever had stabbed the lad, he could guess how they'd be feeling...
Reaching the top of the hill, Doyle cast about with the torch and continued following the path until he reached a plateau. Aided by the moonlight he spotted a bench, and made his way towards it.
For a few minutes he just sat, let the chill dark wash over him, watching a few bold rabbits playing.
Then he let the misery of Andy's death creep back.
Ray Doyle hadn't been much to look at, as a kid. Small and scrawny, he'd always been picked on in school, or by other local kids, out on the street. He'd always fought back, of course. His dad had made sure he knew how to defend himself.
One particularly successful such defence (it was Russell Harris he'd beaten up; two years older and bigger) had led to him joining the gang. Morris - no one knew his first name - ran it; and Harris - previously second in command - had been trying to take over.
Not that he got Harris' former position of course. Ray Doyle started at the bottom, getting thumped by members of his own gang as well as others. But he belonged, and that was enough.
He'd paired up with Andy; they knew each other from school and made a good team, becoming best mates and taking on all-comers together. By the time Morris had been carted off to Borstal for getting caught just once too often, Andy had been in a position to take over with Doyle as his sidekick.
And for months their gang had been the toughest around, with few willing to argue with them. Anyone who did was swiftly brought back into line; it wasn't quite open warfare on the streets, but there were more than enough things Doyle was ashamed of now.
It was their last year at school. Although he'd never exactly shirked on his schoolwork, Doyle wasn't particularly concerned about it either. There was plenty of work out there; you didn't need exam results to find yourself a job. There were more important things in life; as far as Andy was concerned, one of those things was his girl, Cynthia, and he was spending more and more time with her. He'd already been promised a job when he left school and was growing rapidly away from the gang culture he'd followed faithfully for the last three or four years.
Left in charge, Doyle had been keeping the gang together, even against another gang of youths. Occasional clashes between rivals outside the cinema were common, but becoming more frequent.
Doyle shifted abruptly as he forced himself to remember; scaring some rabbits, who thumped a warning and disappeared swiftly back towards their burrows. It was surprisingly quiet up here, considering how close it was to a major road.
On that Friday night, there'd been a skirmish with the other gang as they queued for the film; a few heads got kicked before the Commissionaire broke it up with the threat of the police. Inside, the other gang had grabbed the balcony seats and bombarded them with popcorn and sweet wrappers.
The two groups had left by separate doors, but the conflict was inevitable and it happened at the back of the cinema, in the semi-dark of the alleyway. Pushing their girls to safety in the doorway, Andy and Doyle had pitched in with the rest of the gang, determined to kick the shit out of their rivals and win this battle if not the war.
It was dark; and noisy. Although they'd gone in together, Doyle had lost sight of Andy almost immediately; more concerned with his own survival. In that strange way time had of telescoping, Doyle would've sworn they'd been fighting for an hour or more, but it was apparently only some 15 minutes before the police bells were heard, and the blue lights seen...
As they began to split up, neither side wanting to be taken in by the cops, Doyle heard the girls starting to scream, and turned back towards them. As the kids dispersed, he could see someone on the ground.
He'd held Andy, trying to stop the blood pumping from the gaping stab wound. Cynthia had been at his side; her best friend, his current girlfriend Maggie, with her.
By the time the police had called an ambulance it was too late. Andy was dead, and Ray Doyle had just one thought on his mind as he relinquished the body. There was no doubt about what he was going to do.
The coppers had approached him, where Doyle stood stiffly, arms now holding Maggie. "You all right, son?"
Son. They weren't much older than him. He'd nodded, not trusting his voice. Behind them, the ambulance doors were shut on Cynthia's weeping and the vehicle pulled away, watched silently by the small remaining group.
"We need some details." The older of the two coppers had reached for his notebook. "Who was he?"
Maggie answered for him. "Andy. Andy Blackman, 7 Arcadia Terrace."
"Did either of you see what happened?"
Doyle had found his voice, and silenced Maggie with a squeeze of his arm. "No. It all happened too fast."
The policeman had looked at him with compassion, perhaps misled by Doyle's undersized appearance into thinking him younger than he was, but not mistaking the shock. "We'll need you to make a statement. Get yourself home and cleaned up. Come down to the Station as soon as possible."
He'd led Maggie away, mind still frozen by Andy's death. Part of him was ice-cold, trying to deal with it, accept it... But the rest of him was raging. He'd get home and cleaned up all right, and collect his flick-knife whilst he was there. He didn't know exactly who was responsible, but somebody was going to pay...
His parents were out. Just as well. He'd changed his t-shirt; left his cords. They were black; he could still feel the damp blood on them but you couldn't see it. He reckoned that there'd be more blood on them before the night was out anyway.
Maggie had waited for him. "What are you going to do?"
Doyle had avoided her eyes. "Find them. Give them the same as they gave Andy." He had tucked the flick-knife into his pocket. He should've been carrying it earlier.
"Ray..." Drawn by the soft plea he had met her eyes. Maggie was scared for him. "I won't be alone. I'll get some of the others together."
Recognising he wouldn't be deterred Maggie had nodded. "I'll come with you." She silenced his protests. "I saw them, Ray. I know who stuck the knife in. I can point him out."
Just for a split second, Doyle had hesitated, traces of his upbringing surfacing. If Maggie knew who had killed Andy, maybe she should tell the police, let them deal with it. Then the anger swept in again. Andy hadn't been given a chance; Doyle wouldn't give the murderer a chance to get off.
Looking back, Doyle couldn't actually recall much of that evening. Driven by his fury and lust for revenge, he had gathered up another five of the gang, and they'd headed into town, to the café where they knew some of their rivals would be. Hurling a brick through the large picture window they'd enticed their enemies out, and the fight had spread down the street.
He'd knifed several of them.
He could remember that. But the one he wanted, that Maggie had pointed out to him before he'd made her go home, he'd escaped. The café owner had called the police, and this time it was Doyle and his friends who fled, leaving bodies bleeding on the ground.
The police had called the following morning. Andy's parents had given them the addresses of his friends, and they came not only to ask about what had happened to Andy but also to ask about the later fight.
Doyle had lied; smoothly and without a quiver. If they'd had any proof he'd been involved in the second fight they wouldn't have been sitting in his parents' front room politely asking questions, he'd have been in the local Nick. 'Yes, he'd come home after leaving the cinema, after Andy had been killed. No, he hadn't gone out again. No, he didn't know who had stabbed Andy, it had been too dark, too fast to see anything.'
That night, he'd got his revenge.
Alone, he'd followed the gang until they split up, then followed Andy's killer, striking three blows before the kid could react, and another two before he was interrupted and had to run.
The police had visited again; more suspicious this time. Someone had seen a lad running away who answered Doyle's description. But they still didn't have any proof, and once again had left empty-handed.
The sergeant had paused at the door, turning back to speak to Doyle. "The kid will live. But he won't use his right hand again; the knife severed the tendons."
"Shame." He hadn't managed to prevent the satisfaction from creeping into his voice, and the sergeant had stared at him. "I wouldn't sound so pleased, son. I might just think you know more than you're letting on. But you think about it. It could be you, crippled for life."
It had taken a few weeks, but the words had sunk in. He didn't exactly regret what he'd done. But he couldn't feel pleased about it either. He never carried a knife again, not until he joined CI5.
Doyle jumped as a flash from a torch cut across in front of him. "That you, sunshine?"
Bodie. Might've known. "How'd you know where I was?"
Bodie adopted a cowboy twang. "Weel, pard'ner, first sign 'f trouble, youse heads for the hills..." Doyle grinned in response, and Bodie dropped the phoney accent. "So I looked for the nearest hill. And you can't get much bigger than this one."
"Could hardly miss it, could you?"
Bodie slumped onto the bench next to him. "Well, there I was in the bar, with these two girls hanging on my every word, just waiting for my mate to join us. When you didn't arrive, I went upstairs. And where were you? Gone walkabout. So I came to find you."
Doyle glanced about him in some disappointment; Bodie's arrival had scared the rabbits away. "Couldn't you cope on your own, then?"
"Just thought you might want to talk."
"No." He'd never talked to anyone about Andy. Probably never would. "But thanks."
Standing up, Doyle stretched, and looked round. Strange, desolate place, this; the sort of place people might imagine they'd see ghosts. Well, he'd been dealing with a few of them himself.
He turned to face Bodie. "So, are these two girls still waiting for us?"