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There is no money being made from their use.

Cow, Queen and Country

by Amanda

There was the target. Bodie easily picked her out from amongst the motley group of local villains at the grubby pub. He sighed inwardly; the camera certainly hadn't lied here. She really was as unattractive as the harsh black and white photo had intimated; late 40's, Caucasian, slab-faced, slab-bodied. Bodie had the uncomfortable feeling his flippant statement of 'under 50, still warm and comes across' had returned to haunt him. Dammit, and he'd had this night all planned out.
         Doyle had been there when Cowley had handed Bodie this particular stinky fish. His ratbag 'partner' had gone to very obvious pains for hours afterwards not to say anything, especially after the dark look Bodie had given him, a not-so-subtle warning to say not one word, mate, not one. However, Doyle's alternating looks of delighted malice and ostentatious pity had made mere words redundant. Bodie sighed again and lowered his eyes to the half empty pint glass to cover the pouty grimace he couldn't quite stop. The woman had as much appeal as an army barracks.
         Why me? - he groused silently - How come Doyle gets all the good-looking ones to pump for information? Bodie allowed himself the small luxury of self-pity, conveniently forgetting all the less than horrific information-gathering assignments he'd been handed over the years. Oh well, he straightened up and assumed the pose of arch-seducer that was second nature; he had a job to do, best be getting on with it; soonest started, soonest finished, blah blah...

It didn't take her long to notice the darkly handsome man at the bar, watching her as he sipped his lager. She looked directly at him, challenging - and the cheeky bugger winked! She raised a sardonic eyebrow, casually sipping her own G&T, and waited. Sure enough, he pushed himself off the bar and sauntered towards her, strong, arrogant, confident - and young; she figured he must be at least 15 years her junior. He was also tall, broad, and well-built without being too bulky; dark hair and eyes, pale skin and smooth, even features; nice mouth. A man who knew what he looked like and probably had no compunction about using it to get what he wanted, she thought sourly. She watched him prowl over to her, eyeing the lines of his body through his dark and well-tailored clothes. His attention was focused solely on her, his eyes dark and intent. She repressed a smirk. He was very good, if she had only half a brain she might've fallen for his whole 'you are my sexual prey' act, and an act it was, she had no doubt. Fortunately, she had more than half a brain, and a long lifetime of experience to draw on. She wasn't fooled, and her own sense of devilment was prodding her to see how far he'd take it before he got around to the actual point. Could be fun; and here she was thinking it was going to be just another boring night at the local.
          He finally stood in front of her, having taken his time getting there to give her ample opportunity to appreciate his charms. She grinned mischievously and looked up through her short lashes at the, to her, young man - deep blue eyes and long, long lashes. Quite nice really, she knew women who'd kill for those lashes. She raised her head and looked him full in the face, tilting her head slightly. Inside, she was hooting with laughter. Yes - she knew all the moves; all the unconscious and conscious signals that indicated attraction, although admittedly, coming from her they could look nothing short of grotesque. The thought didn't rankle, she'd known for most of her life what she looked like. The best she could aspire to was 'homely' and even that was only after a ridiculous amount of time and money had been spent having some fluffy, over-talkative school-leaver fussing over her. But there was more to success in life than being pretty.
         He was smiling down at her, in no doubt of his attractiveness.
         Come on, she thought, give us the killer line.
         "Hi there."
         Deep, resonant, a hint of smugness - she gave it a 6; what it lacked in originality was compensated by the accompanying smouldering look.
         "Hi there, yourself." She replied lightly, keeping the rim of her glass coyly close to her thinnish lips.
         "Can I get you a drink?"
         "Got one." She held her half-full glass up to him.
         "Then I'll get you another one later." She raised an eyebrow again; he wasn't just confident, cocky too.
         "Can I join you?" he nodded to the empty chair.
         "Why? Am I coming apart?"
         She could've kicked herself; she hated it when other people made stupid, obvious jokes like that.
         He laughed, "I've got a friend who says things like that."
         "Poor thing," she commiserated insincerely, looking up at him, then "oh, for god's sake sit down, I'm getting a crick in my neck." He sat; or rather, he made the act of sitting down a quietly theatrical piece about taking sensual possession of a physical space. And all this was for her benefit; she did laugh then.
         He looked at her quizzically, she smiled and shook her head slightly. "It's nothing, a joke I heard earlier."
         They chatted about inconsequential things; the weather, the price of petrol. The conversation was light on the surface but a whole different dialogue was rippling underneath. Despite her best efforts at distance, she realised she was enjoying this man's attention.
         Whoops, time to move on and get this over with before she started believing he could actually be interested in her.
         "Fancy a drink at my place?"
         "Why not?" he said, downing the remains of his lager quickly and beaming at her. "Take my car?" he asked, reaching into his pocket for the keys. She hesitated for a moment then gave a tiny shrug; she'd be well able to look after herself if things got rough. "OK."
         He opened the pub door for her, and then the car door.
         "You always this considerate?" she asked, genuinely curious.
         "'Course - it's the gentlemanly thing to do." And he flashed her a blindingly impudent smile. She laughed and gave him directions to her flat.

Bodie followed her up the stairs and into her 3rd floor flat. Nice area, nice place, decorously and expensively furnished; she was obviously doing well for herself. She led him into a lounge-room that was dominated by a floor to ceiling window that looked out over Wandsworth Park with a glimpse of the Thames beyond.
         "Wow," he said, impressed, "how come I never get views like that?" She chuckled and he turned back to her, readying himself for battle - so to speak. But something had changed; in the pub she'd been very open and attentive, now she seemed closed off and her arms were folded defensively across her chest. The look she was giving him wasn't very friendly.
         "What do you want?" she asked brusquely. Bodie blinked then recovered himself.
         "Eh? I thought I'd made that pretty obvious back at the pub," he leered, moving in close to her. He reached out to put his hands on her hips.
         "Oh, stop it," She said crossly and stepped back out of his reach.
         "What do you want?" she repeated, harsher this time. Bodie swore inwardly, realising he'd been sprung. What gave it away? She must've seen the question in his face; she smiled thinly, a little bitterly, and spelt it out for him.
         "You're gorgeous, and 'gorgeous' doesn't come on to me unless they want something. Do you think I was born yesterday?"
         Damn, damn and double damn. She obviously wasn't stupid. Maybe if Cowley'd sent one of the less... aesthetically enhanced agents after her, she'd have believed it? Bodie took refuge in silence; she waited; he gritted his teeth.
         Oh, what the hell.
         "I need some information." He grated it out, finally goaded by the image of the scowl Cowley would use on him if he came back empty-handed.
         "Fancy that!" she marvelled sarcastically, "about what?"
         "Bannerman; Mendoza; drugs for armaments."
         She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "That lot?" she sounded weary, "Yeah, I can give you something."
         Bodie started to smile; could it really be as easy as just asking for the information?
         "But I want something in return."
         Nope, it couldn't; Bodie gloomily steeled himself for the worst.
         She 'tched' at him irritably. "Oh don't worry, I'm not going to hold you to your 'invitation'. I do like my partners, infrequent as they are, to be genuinely enthusiastic." Bodie tried not to grin like an idiot at the relief he felt. He was pledged to Cow, Queen and Country - in that order - but there were limits to what he could reasonably be expected to do for the job.
         "Who do I have to kill?" he asked lightly, making a joke of it.
         "Funny you should say that," she said, her obvious amusement lifting her face to a lighter shade of unpleasant. "No, no, not dead," she amended when he frowned at her, "I just want someone thumped, that's all."
         "What did they do to you?"
         "That's none of your business."
         "How badly 'thumped' do you want them?" he asked cautiously.
         "Bit of pain, some visible bruises, and - " she held up her right index finger, " - one broken bone."
         "Uh, look, I dunno about this," Bodie said quickly, while wryly noting the coldly professional part of his mind had already chosen which bone. "I need to talk to - "
         "No." She spoke with finality. "I've no idea who you're from, I don't care. But I imagine you need this information a.s.a.p.?" Bodie nodded tersely.
         "Fine, so I want your decision now, or no deal. Simple."
         Bodie thought quickly; Cowley - CI5 needed this information, with it they could stop some very nasty people from doing some very nasty things. What would Doyle do? What sort of dumb-arsed question was that?- he berated himself; but considered it anyway. Knowing Doyle, he'd probably tell her to go stuff herself. But then, he could just as easily do what she asked and happily wallow in guilt for hours afterwards. Moody sod, just when you think you had it pegged which way he'd jump, he'd do the opposite. Bodie unconsciously chewed his lip as he weighed his options. He eventually took comfort from CI5's 'by any means necessary' brief.
         He squared his shoulders and nodded. "OK, but nothing fatal."
         She smiled and leant forward to pat his hand, adding insult to injury by calling him a 'good lad'.
         'Lad'? - humph, she wasn't quite old enough to be his mother. He followed her down to the residents' carpark and smirked to himself as a thought occurred; if she had been his mother, he'd obviously got his looks from his father.

They travelled in her car this time and it didn't take long to get to their destination. Bodie absently noted the route taken as he tried to think of a way out of this.
         Maybe he could just hit them, but, not necessarily break that one bone, that might work.
         She must've been bloody psychic.
         "I want this done properly, understand?" She didn't take her eyes off the road but used her left hand to stab the air for emphasis. "The information you're getting will give you a couple of days leeway. If I find out my request hasn't been carried out to the letter I'll let the boys know someone's onto them. They'll pack up the operation faster than shit down a toilet. Got it?"
         "Got it." Bodie said, feeling oddly relieved now the decision had been taken out of his hands.
         They pulled up in a not quite affluent but nice street.
         "In there." She pointed to a modest, two-storey semi-detached box of a house. Bodie automatically catalogued it. Tidy garden, clear path, un-obstructed windows - no obvious security. There was a lamp shining in the front room, and the flickering quality of light indicated the television was on. He quickly checked the rest of the street. The adjoining house had no lights showing; they were either out or asleep then.
         "You can't mistake him; 5'8", middle-aged, dyed black hair, unhealthy looking."
         "Anybody else likely to be there?"
         "Not on a Wednesday."
         Bodie nodded and began to open the door. She grabbed his arm and said in a low voice. "Tell him, 'hands off'."
         "That's it?"
         "Yeah, you don't need to say who it's from, he'll know. I'll park up the road a bit." He nodded and left the car, shrugging off the thought that she might just take off and leave him there. He padded over to the front door, shoulders hunched, head down, hands in pockets; an inconspicuous pose for an inconspicuous person, he hoped.
         Bodie rang the doorbell and waited, feeling a lot less impassive than he looked.
         The door opened and a greasy, sallow-skinned man with jet-black hair peered out at him with surprise and suspicion. Bodie looked at him closely and felt a flood of relief that he didn't know the man; the way his luck'd been running he wouldn't have been surprised if he'd turned out to be one of his or Doyle's snouts.
         "Hello," Bodie said pleasantly, using his bigger build to bull-doze the man back into the hallway. Bodie closed the door with his foot leaving his hands free to pin the smaller man against the wall.
         "What do you think you're doing?" the man demanded weakly.
         "I've got a message for you," Bodie said in a passable imitation of his boss's brogue, belatedly remembering to disguise his voice.
         "Oh yeah? What?" the man was tense, wary, obviously expecting something bad.
         It could be worse, mate, Bodie silently informed him then hit him twice, once in the stomach, and again in the jaw as the man sagged forward with a muffled groan. Bodie blanked his mind and as the man was coughing and gasping for breath around the pain, grabbed his left hand and casually snapped the little finger backwards. 'By whatever means necessary' he reminded himself, ignoring the man's howl of anguish. Bodie grabbed the man's sweaty, pallid face and forced him to look at him.
         "Hands off." He duly repeated the message, the man watching him with huge, shocked eyes. Bodie awkwardly patted him on the shoulder and left, closing the door quietly behind him. He walked briskly, not looking back, to where she had parked the car. He got in, grim-faced, and nodded to her. She smiled a little in acknowledgment and took off sedately down the oblivious street.
         Bodie said nothing on the way back. He was uncomfortable with how easy it had been, and surprised at his discomfort. Maybe Doyle's ethics were rubbing off.

Back at the flat she was all business, starting to give him the information before he'd even got his notebook out. When she was done, Bodie smiled. She'd given him more information than he could've hoped for, certainly more than he was expecting; the Cow was going to love this.
         They parted formally, with no physical contact; he sincerely hoped he'd never have to deal with her again.

Bodie had been right, the Cow was pleased. Within 36 hours the entire operation had been dealt with, concisely and decisively. No one was going to be getting off on 'technicalities' this time.
         Bodie took the accolades as his due. Doyle especially evinced amazement at Bodie's ability to perform 'under difficult circumstances'. Bodie was modestly pious, but smug, telling his partner how thinking of Cow, Queen and Country had helped to 'stiffen the sinews'. Doyle, predictably, had laughed like a drain.
         There was a lot of good-natured ribbing from the other agents about how he'd got the information and Bodie cast a jaundiced look at his grinning partner - how did they find out? Doyle just grinned harder.

Later, over the traditional post-op drinks, as all the team got squiffy in celebration and his reputation as an unstoppable sex machine reached new heights, Bodie idly considered letting Doyle in on the secret.
         Not yet, he decided, he'd leave that little titbit to liven up a stakeout, or more likely, blurt it out in the midst of a drunken deep-and-meaningful conversation; the sort of conversation they could only have when they were both completely plastered.
         He watched his partner coming back from the bar and chuckled at Doyle's dexterous avoidance of Murphy, as the larger man attempted to hijack one of the beers Doyle was carrying back to the table. Even half-cut 4.5 could be slipperier than an eel. He wondered again how Doyle would've handled the situation with that woman...
         "Wassup?" Doyle's question interrupted Bodie's train of thought. Bodie blinked and realised he'd been so lost in thought he'd not noticed Doyle sit down.
         "Nothing," he said quickly, then seeing the sceptical look on Doyle's face he added, "I'll tell you later." Doyle nodded, blearily satisfied.
         "A toast!" Bodie said grandly, holding his glass aloft.
         Doyle smiled wickedly. "To Cow, Queen, and Country! - And whatever they may ask of us!"
         Bodie laughed and clinked his glass unevenly against his partner's.

© Amanda Birchill - March 2001

© 2001 WordWrights.

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