Two-Thirds of a Whole
After turning the key to switch off the ignition, Nicolas Gage sat back and studied the nondescript building housing CI5. With a professional eye, he observed the men and woman who were reporting for work.
During WWII, Gage had been an agent for the OSS. The end of the war had necessitated its demise, where upon he'd found himself relocated to MI6. As an independent agent his transfer had merely been seen as a convenience for the paper pushers - until recently. For the first time since 1945, he required assistance. It had not taken him long to realize neither Willis, the head of MI6 or his men displayed the talents Gage needed. Which is why he'd been forced to turn to CI5 and his old friend, George Cowley.
Two men passed by close to the car. One had curly hair and tight jeans. The other was slightly taller with close-cropped hair. Though they hadn't appeared to take particular notice of him, Gage knew he'd been carefully inspected and judged as harmless. Bright blue eyes twinkled as he smiled. Though a few strands of gray streaked the longish blond hair, his face was still relatively unwrinkled. It was this boyish look of innocence that had fooled the Germans for the last thirty years. In fact, it was probably his strongest weapon in the game of espionage. Age had only added ammunition to his apparent defenselessness.
A crack of thunder reverberated through the air warning him of an impending shower. Pulling the key from the ignition, he quickly exited the car. It was time to face George in his own territory.
* * * *
Cowley enviously gazed at the man lounging in the chair in front of his desk. When he'd first met Nicolas Gage during an assignment back in WWII, he'd wondered why the OSS had recruited such a young boy - only to discover that Gage was several years older than himself. The passing years had left their mark on Cowley's craggy features, but seemed to have bypassed his companion. Along with the youthful features, there was a playfulness about the man that endured him to friends and strangers alike. Despite the reputation he'd cultivated with his agents, Cowley was no exception.
"I want to thank you for helping me, George," Gage said, trying to make himself comfortable in the unyielding chair. "It's the first time in many years I've had back-up."
"A circumstance that should be an embarrassment to MI6," Cowley angrily noted. The show of temper was directed at himself as much as at Willis. As often as circumstances permitted, he would meet Gage for dinner or a couple of drinks. Their fields of discussion were widely varied, rarely, though, had it centered on their work. It was only after Gage had asked for his help that Cowley realized the danger his friend had lived with since the war ended.
A self-depreciative smile that took even more years off the youthful features served to mollify the controller's ire. "Until now, I haven't needed a backup. This time, as you know, there's more at stake than just my life."
The intercom on Cowley's desk buzzed demanding his attention. Flicking the switch, he asked, "What is it, Betty?"
"3.7 and 4.5 are here, sir." The quiet professionalism of the secretary's voice broke through the static of the unit.
Hoping the young woman couldn't hear the eagerness in his voice, Cowley ordered, "Send them in."
Dressed in black trousers and jacket, Bodie already appeared to be prepared for the forthcoming operation. Only the red shirt, its collar folded neatly over the jacket lapels, added color to the somber outfit. On the other hand, the ragged jeans and t-shirt Doyle sported were more likely to be found on a stable boy than a highly trained CI5 agent.
"Have a seat, gentlemen," Cowley directed, indicating the two chairs he'd arranged at the side of his desk.
The formal request was unusual enough to cause the men to hesitate. Curious glances of puzzled recognition were cast at the unfamiliar occupant of the other chair as they finally complied.
"What I'm about to tell you is not to leave this room," Cowley decreed, his eyes resting first on one agent then the other. "No one is to ever know this conversation took place."
Doyle and Bodie exchanged glances in mystified unease. In the past, their silence had been tacitly perceived. This was the first time Cowley had ever demanded they verbally acknowledge it. His agreement coming only slightly behind his partner's, Doyle nodded. "Understood, Sir."
Inclining his head toward his mysterious visitor, Cowley announced, "This is Nicholas Gage. He's with MI6. Gage, why don't you explain why you're here?"
"Glad to, George." Turning his attention to the younger men, Gage revealed, "During WWII, I was a member of a three-man espionage team know as Jericho. The other two agents were Franklin Sheppard, an American Army Captain who'd studied engineering, and Jean Gaston André, a Lieutenant with the Free French Air Force whose specialty was weaponry. We were all proficient in most of the European languages, so we worked mainly behind enemy lines. Toward the end of the war, we went undercover in a little town southwest of Berlin called Magdeburg."
"I've been there," Bodie inserted.
"That could help," commented Gage, his gaze resting briefly on Bodie.
Cowley glanced sharply at his agent. Though Bodie had been under his supervision for less than a year, he'd been under surveillance for twice that. Despite this, and the extensive background check, the boy still had the ability to surprise his superior. It was a trait Cowley found ingratiating - as well as irritating.
The thoughtful look that had appeared on Gage's face disappeared as he continued his explanation. "André and I took jobs in a bakery run by an ally sympathizer. Sheppard was delayed in joining us by a bombing raid. As it turned out, it was a fortuitous occurrence. He was instrumental in saving the Burgermeister's life. In recompense, he was offered a job with the local government."
"It's the least they could do," Bodie sarcastically observed.
Red blotched his pale cheeks as Cowley reprimanded, "That's enough, 3.7."
"Actually, George," Gage contritely admitted, "I said the exact same thing myself at the time."
His expression softening, Cowley fondly regarded the man across from his desk. "Why doesn't that surprise me?"
"Anyway," Gage continued, blushing in embarrassment, "we were just about to complete our mission when the baker, André and I were betrayed. They tortured us." Averting his eyes, Gage watched the raindrops streaming down the window. Though there was no emotion on his face, his voice cracked slightly when he resumed his story. "André and our contact were killed. In his role as a government official, Sheppard was able to commute my execution until Germany capitulated. As soon as the allied forces became aware of Sheppard's position, they asked him to continue with his charade."
"He's a double agent," Doyle quietly interpreted.
Gage nodded. "And he thinks he's been sussed."
"You want us to go into East Germany and get him out," translated Doyle.
"Not exactly, 4.5," Cowley qualified. "Gage will be going. Bodie and I will be his backup."
An uncomfortable silence greeted this announcement. His glance shifting between the two older men, Doyle declared, "But I'm Bodie's partner."
"Not this time," Cowley said with an understanding compassion. He'd worked hard to make this partnership work. He didn't want to do anything to jeopardize it. "Gage and I will go in as business associates. Bodie will be our chauffeur."
"Why can't this Sheppard escape on his own?" Doyle angrily rose to his feet, releasing some of his frustration in movement. "Why are three people risking their lives for one?"
Also rising, Gage stood in front of the agent, preventing his pacing. His eyes compelled Doyle's gaze to meet his own. The tone of his voice placed no condemnation, only understanding. "Because that one is my partner."
"Bodie and I are going because there is more than one life at stake," added Cowley. "Sheppard has a family he can't leave behind for fear of retribution."
"A family!" Doyle's incredulous gaze shifted from the man before him to his superior. "You expect to get an entire family across the border?'
Gage shook his head regaining the agent's attention. "Sheppard's wife died a few years ago. All he has left is his daughter, her husband, and their two children."
"That's all?" Doyle sarcastically returned.
"That's quite enough, 4.5," warned Cowley. "We'll have special papers for each person. If all goes well, there will be no danger to anyone."
Obviously unconvinced, Doyle pressed, "And if it doesn't go well? You'll make a mighty nice trophy on some bureaucrat's wall." After a quick look at his superior's angry face, Doyle hastily added, "Sir."
More than anyone, Cowley knew what a risk he was taking. Not only with his own life, but with the lives his extensive knowledge touched - if he broke under interrogation. Even knowing this, he was determined to go. In his line of work, it was difficult to make friends. Many of those he'd made in his youth had succumbed to the dangers of their positions - or age. When Gage had asked for his help, he hadn't hesitated. The friendship meant more to him than his position or his life.
His own anger abating as he compared his situation with Doyle's, Cowley appeased, "Rest easy, 4.5, I've taken the proper precautions to ensure there will be no involuntary disclosures to the enemy."
"I still think you could use more help," Doyle slyly suggested. "Couldn't I--"
"Another person of your age would be too suspicious," Cowley interrupted. "Besides, I need you here. No one is to know where I've gone, not even the Minister. As far as he's concerned, I'm on holiday, and I've taken Bodie along as a bodyguard."
Doyle unhappily regarded his superior before grudgingly agreeing, "Yes, sir."
* * * *
As he gently pressed the gas pedal moving the car forward, Bodie was still marveling over how easy it had been to pass into East Berlin at the Friedrichstrasse Gate, better known as Checkpoint Charlie. In his experience, the transition had never been quite this effortless. The papers Cowley and Gage were carrying must be very good.
By adjusting the rearview mirror slightly, the CI5 agent was able to bring Gage into view. The man had surprised him from the beginning. First, he'd shown no outward emotion while disclosing the death of his comrade. But, as good as the older man was at hiding his feelings, Bodie was experienced at reading beneath the surface. Thirty-two years had not eased the pain of the Frenchman's death. Imagining how he'd feel if he lost Doyle, Bodie understood and sympathized. It made him willing to risk his life - not for the double agent whose talents had been of great service to his country, but for the man who had suffered such a loss.
"Turn right onto the Autobahn, Bodie," Gage ordered. Two pairs of blue eyes met in the rearview mirror.
Without acknowledging the directive, Bodie did as instructed. Leaving the crowded streets of Berlin behind they merged onto the highway, allowing him the opportunity to relax and review what he knew of the operation. Since the Communist government would never allow an entire family to cross from the east to the west, Sheppard's family would, on paper, no longer be his family. His daughter, Helena, was to be Bodie's wife. "Their" children would be staying in the East with their maternal grandparents while the couple visited Bodie's "family" in Schoningen in the west. In the eyes of the authorities, the children would insure the parent's return. Using bicycles, the two young people would ride to the border crossing at Hotensleben.
Cowley and Lothar, Sheppard's son-in-law, would pretend to be a father and son taking their grandson/son, eight-year-old Stefan, into West Berlin for the day. They would drive the family car back to Berlin and cross at the Brandenberg Gate.
The most dangerous assignment, Bodie realized, would be Sheppard's and Gage's. They would be responsible for the five-year-old granddaughter, Katrina. Though she would be sedated before being placed in the hiding place that had been fashioned under the backseat of the limousine, there was always a chance the car would be searched and the hiding place discovered. When they passed into West Berlin at the Friedrichstrasse Gate, Gage would be the chauffeur and Sheppard his VIP passenger.
No matter how easy it looked, Bodie knew their plan was very dangerous. He'd been in East Germany before; he knew how quickly the government adapted to perceived threats. At this very minute, they could be adding a mark that would make the forged papers they carried obsolete. How strong were these people they were helping? Crossing guards would randomly interrogate civilians passing through the gates. Could they hold out against intense cross-examination?
"Take this exit, Bodie," Gage instructed.
Jolted from his contemplation, Bodie slowed to comply. When they entered Magdeburg, he saw the decay that had started in WWII had not been arrested. Buildings destroyed in the war had never been rebuilt. What could not be used by the present inhabitants lay where it had fallen over thirty years before.
A few more turns, following the route listed on their visa, found them in front of the modest home of Magdeburg's Burgermeister. Climbing from the car, Bodie opened the back door for his superiors. Though not appearing to do so, he kept a watchful eye on the street and the surrounding homes. Despite the fact that it was a cool, sunny day, there was very little activity. Most of the houses, including the one they were about to enter, had their shades drawn, making it almost impossible for him to know if they were being watched.
As soon as he entered the gloomy house, Bodie's eyes were drawn to the young woman sitting on the couch cradling a little girl. If this was to be his "wife," he might enjoy this assignment more than he'd expected. While not beautiful, she was also not unpleasant to look at. She had an hourglass figure with light brown hair and hazel eyes that seemed to be flecked with gold. They highlighted the ordinary features on the intelligent face.
Bodie's attention shifted to the rocket launching itself on the blond man at his side. Only the obvious delight in the shrill voice had stopped the CI5 agent from instinctively intercepting the small boy to protect his companion.
Swinging the child into the air, Gage grunted slightly at the weight. "It won't be too much longer, Stefan," the older man panted, "before I won't be able to do this anymore."
"You'll never grow old, Gage." A touch of envy tinged the deep voice of the older man standing protectively next to his daughter and granddaughter.
His eyes drawn to the double agent they'd been sent to rescue, Bodie studied the face he knew as Franklin Sheppard - a man who had spent the last thirty-two years as Hans Beckman. The photograph he'd seen of the American could almost be of a different person than the one who stood before him now. Most of the light brown hair was gone. The few remaining strands around the ears were pure white. Though Bodie knew Sheppard was only five years older than Gage, he looked twenty-five. His service to his country had not been an easy one.
"Sheppard, Helena," Gage introduced, "this is George and Bodie."
Again, Bodie was impressed with his new "partner." If captured by the enemy, neither the two adults nor the curious children could reveal facts they didn't know. Cowley's surname was widely recognized in the communist government. They would stop at nothing to gain the knowledge he possessed.
"Where's Lothar?" asked Gage, glancing around the darkened room.
"He should be here any minute," Helena reassured. "He went to work as usual. We didn't want to do anything out of the ordinary."
"Good," Cowley praised, putting the briefcase he was carrying on a table. "The fewer people who know the details, the safer we are. We'll go ahead and explain how you and the children are going to escape."
Helena's gaze rested nervously on the briefcase before shifting to her father's calm face. Forcing a smile, she nodded. "Gut."
Cowley started to outline the details of the escape, only to have his voice drowned by the unmistakable cry of a police siren. As the alarm drew nearer, Bodie forced himself not to run to the window. If this was their destination, he could not stop them. But if it wasn't, his actions would look suspicious to a neighbor or someone passing by on the street. The suspense abruptly ended when flashing lights penetrated the drawn shades, washing the occupants of the room in a blue haze.
"How did they know?" Helena demanded, clutching her daughter tightly to her bosom.
"That doesn't matter now," Sheppard snapped, grabbing the false identity papers from the briefcase. "We must hide these quickly."
Lifting the seat of one of the dining room chairs, Sheppard threw the papers in the small space hidden underneath. Snapping it shut, he grabbed the briefcase and carried it over to his desk where he threw some of the papers that littered the top inside. He had barely finished his task when the front door burst open.
In moments, Bodie found himself surrounded by East German Poliezei. He was led outside behind a protesting Sheppard, who was speaking such rapid German Bodie could barely interpret it. As he was thrown into a waiting van, the CI5 agent was surprised to see Helena and the two children had been left behind. The Poliezei had never discriminated against women and children before in their efforts to suppress the population. Why had they done so now?
* * * *
Doyle paced the small room the agents used to relax and enjoy a cup of tea in the rare moments Cowley didn't have them out pounding the streets. The first anniversary of his and Bodie's partnership was coming up in less than a week. Until yesterday, Doyle had been looking forward to the celebration they'd planned. Now it looked as though he'd be celebrating alone - if at all.
No matter how hard he fought it, he couldn't vanquish the anger he felt toward his superior. Though the partnership had looked to be a mistake in the beginning, Cowley had triumphed when they'd turned into the best team in CI5. Cowley knew it - though the older man wouldn't verbally acknowledge it.
So, why had he separated his best team? What kind of logic was there in such an action? Who was this Gage? Could he keep Bodie alive as Doyle had done this last year? As his anger burned hotter, Doyle found his steps becoming faster. All he had were questions with no answers.
Shotgun Tommy McKay's distant call echoed around the room stopping Doyle in his tracks. Crossing to the couch, he dropped onto the dilapidated cushions. Picking up a discarded newspaper, he flipped it open. Despite his worry, he found his attention drawn to the scantily clad model featured on page three.
"Yo, Doyle," Tommy repeated entering the lounge. "Barry wants to see us."
"What about?" asked Doyle, reluctantly closing the paper and climbing to his feet.
"How should I know? I'm only the bearer of glad tidings, not the head man himself."
While Doyle had known Cowley would appoint someone to temporarily fill the comptroller's position, he'd been surprised when that person had been Barry Martin. Doyle had nothing against the older agent. In fact, he quite liked him. However, putting his personal feelings aside, he also recognized the man's numerous shortcomings. He was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a leader of men. But the worst fault in Doyle's ex-copper's eyes was that Martin wasn't a team player. Doyle just hoped he'd never have to depend on the man to protect his back.
Following Tommy into Cowley's office, Doyle was slightly taken aback when greeted by a smiling face. It was something that was rarely seen in this particular room.
"4.5 and 5.8 reporting as ordered, sir," Doyle declared, stopping in front of the large desk.
"Easy does it, Ray," Martin warned, "this isn't the army, and I'm not George Cowley."
His face blushing a faint red, Doyle visibly relaxed his stance before replying, "Sorry, Barry."
"It's quite all right, old son," smiled Martin. "Now then, I want you two to stakeout a mansion called The Laurels on Gloucester between Brompton and Fulham Road."
"What will we be looking for?" asked Doyle, trying to hide his disappointment with the assignment. Stakeouts were always boring and often a waste of time.
The smile didn't disappear even as Martin took a sip of tea. Swallowing the hot liquid, he suggested, "I'd look for someone who's breaking the law."
"A particular law?" demanded Tommy, the tone of his voice on the edge of insubordination. "Or will any law do?"
"Any law is fine," Martin agreed, already ignoring the two men and returning his attention to the papers in front of him.
Shaking his head, Doyle led the way out of the office. As soon as the door had closed behind them, he locked gazes with Shotgun Tommy. "And I use to think Cowley kept us in the dark."
* * * *
His head spun as it was slammed into the high back of the wooden chair. Refusing to acknowledge any discomfort, Bodie bit the inside of his cheek to prevent a groan from escaping his abused lips. The bitter tang of coppery-tasting fluid cleared his head, allowing him to focus on the blood-spattered hand waving threateningly in front of his face.
"One more time," the deep voice of his interrogator demanded, "what is your name?'
A dry throat and a bruised and swollen jaw muffled Bodie's reply. "Wilhelm Bodensee."
"That is the name on your papers," the voice screamed. "But you are not German."
"Somebody better tell my parents," Bodie facetiously suggested.
Obviously frustrated by the response, the interrogator struck Bodie across the face, sending his head slamming back against the chair again. Though dazed, Bodie didn't relax his guard. Surreptitiously, he flexed his muscles hoping to return mobility to hands and feet numbed by bindings pulled so tight they dug into his flesh. If the opportunity for vengeance ever presented itself, he wanted to be ready.
Upon their arrival at the police station, the four men had been taken to a cell and locked inside. Knowing the room was bugged, they spent the next hour within the silence of their own thoughts - and fears. When the door finally opened, it was obvious their captors were frustrated and angry. Ordering Bodie and Gage to their feet, they had dragged the two men out of the room and down the hall to separate cells. Bodie was uncertain what had become of the other two men. He hoped they'd been left in their cell for later interrogation.
Though he couldn't be sure, Bodie was fairly certain Gage was receiving the same treatment as himself. Fretfully, he wondered how the older man was holding up. Would the memory of past tortures keep Gage strong or make it easier to break him? Though no man could positively judge what another would do, Bodie was confident it would take more than a few bruises to crack the tough, old agent.
Darkness fell over him like a shroud making Bodie jerk his head up in sudden fear. In the dim glow of the quarter moon shining through the barred window, he saw he was alone. Were his tormentors simply taking a break? Or had he been left to contemplate his future - a future filled with pain?
Taking advantage of whatever reason had caused their departure, Bodie struggled against his bonds. Handcuffs as well as ropes kept his arms locked behind his back. But his feet were bound only with the rope. With a little effort - and luck, he might at least be able to regain the use of his legs.
The hemp scratched against the soft flesh of his ankles leaving small burns in its wake. Ignoring the pain, Bodie increased his efforts. Another session with Ivan the Terrible would not easily be endured.
He stopped his struggle when the door squealed as it was pushed open. Anticipating the return of his tormentor, Bodie composed his face into an expressionless mask. No one would ever see his fear. The mask slipped as his eyes rose to rest on Sheppard and Cowley. The finger the American lifted to his lips demanding silence was unnecessary. Bodie couldn't have uttered a word if Cowley had made it an order.
The two men quickly crossed to their younger companion's side. While Sheppard unlocked the handcuffs, Cowley untied Bodies legs. They took a few precious moments to rub the circulation back into the temporarily paralyzed limbs before lifting him to his feet and helping him across to the door.
Boldly, Cowley stepped out into the corridor. After giving the all clear, he hurried back to assist his agent. At the next door, they stopped and listened. When silence filled their ears, Sheppard produced the large ring of keys he'd used to open Bodie's handcuffs. Cautiously, the American tested key after key. The necessity for stealth made the process slow. Sweat poured down his pale face before the bolt slid silently open.
Inside, they discovered Gage in much the same condition as Bodie. Still, despite the pain it must have caused, he gave his rescuers a crooked smile as they crossed to his side. Forcing his numb fingers to loosen the knots that bound Gage's feet, Bodie felt his admiration of the older man growing. Anyone who could smile with one foot at the gates of Hell was welcome to stand at his side, anytime.
Blood from both men liberally smeared the rope by the time it finally yielded to Bodie's efforts. The older muscles were less resilient than their younger counterpart. When Gage was finally released, both Bodie and Sheppard had to support the beaten man to the door.
Bodie's most vivid memory of their escape from the police station was Cowley's audacious behavior. Stalking the hallways as though he owned them, the CI5 comptroller would wave his companions forward only when the corridor ahead was empty. Between his bravado and Sheppard's endless ring of keys, they eventually found themselves shivering in a cool night breeze.
"Everyone snickered at my penchant for collecting keys," Sheppard chuckled, shaking the small pieces of metal so they danced a merry tune. "I bet they won't be laughing anymore."
"I'd love to see Boris' face when he comes back to an empty room." Gage's smile turned into a grimace when the movement stretched torn flesh.
"You might get your wish if we don't make tracks," noted Cowley his eyes continually searching the darkness. "Where do we go from here?"
"You're free to try to make a run across the border," Sheppard generously offered. "You know where the identity papers are hidden in my house. I must find my daughter and grandchildren. I have to know they're all right."
"After all these years, do you really think I'd just leave?" demanded Gage, grabbing Sheppard's arm.
When his initial attempt to pull his arm free failed, Sheppard shook his head. "This isn't the time or place to challenge my authority."
"That's always been your problem, mate," Gage sadly noted, releasing his grip. "You confuse duty with friendship."
Stepping between the two men, Cowley pointed out, "Those papers won't do us any good now. The authorities know our aliases, and they have pictures. Every border guard in the country will be looking for us. Our best chance to escape is to stay together and work as a team. Where do you think your daughter could be?"
Unaccustomed emotion kept Sheppard from answering immediately. With a roughness in his voice that hadn't been there before, he replied, "I'm hoping they let her go home."
With Sheppard's extensive knowledge of the town as a guide, the men quickly made their way to a small house several streets from the one in which they'd been captured. Though not as opulent as Sheppard's had been, it had a certain dignity of its own. From what little he knew of Helena, Bodie wasn't surprised. Clearly, this was a lady who was willing to fight for what she wanted.
As though they'd worked together all their lives, the four men separated to search the surrounding area for the presence of a surveillance team. When they regrouped at the back door, a simple nod of the head was all that was needed to acknowledge the all clear.
Pulling out the ring of keys, Sheppard quietly opened the back door and they cautiously entered. Though there had been no one outside, that was no guarantee there wasn't someone on the inside.
Bodie knew from the moonlight reflecting off pots hanging on the wall, they'd entered the house through the kitchen. A single door led out into the rest of the house. Raised voices penetrated the thin walls. It'd been a few years since he'd used it regularly, but Bodie's understanding of German was proficient enough for him to know that Helena was arguing with her husband.
"How did they know Lothar?" Helena demanded, the fear in her voice clearly audible. "Why did they take Papa and the others but not me and the children?"
Light momentarily blinded Bodie when the door between the two rooms was suddenly thrown open. Stepping into the small living room, Sheppard calmly declared, "I'd like to know the answer to that question myself."
"Hans?" First shock then fear flashed across the thin face as the younger man regarded his father-in-law. He took a few steps toward the door before Bodie moved to block the exit. Though Bodie was several inches shorter than his opponent, it was obvious the German knew he was no match for the lethal looking agent. He'd learned at a very young age not to oppose someone who was obviously superior.
"Answer Helena's question, Lothar," Sheppard demanded in a voice that wouldn't be ignored.
Throwing his shoulders back, Lothar raised his chin, assuming a false bravado. "What makes you think I can?"
"You're the only other one who knew what was going to happen today," Sheppard pointed out. "Yet you weren't arrested."
"Do you think I'd betray my own family?" Lothar protested without much conviction.
His attention directed at Gage rather than his son-in-law, Sheppard nodded. "Your father did. Who's to say you're as different as you led me to believe?"
"My father was a patriot who bravely fought for his country," defended Lothar, his eyes on the ornately framed picture of a man whose features closely resembled his own.
"He was a scared man," Sheppard contradicted, shifting his gaze to his son-in-law. "He betrayed his brother and the two agents sent to work with him in his bakery."
Hatred twisted the pale face. "My father was a loyal German. It was my uncle who was the traitor."
"No," said Sheppard shaking his head. "Your father was a loyal Nazi. It was your uncle who was loyal to the German people."
Bodie's fingers curled into fists, but it wasn't Lothar he wanted to strike out at - it was Sheppard. The American knew who had betrayed his friends so many years before. Yet, even with this knowledge, he'd risked all their lives by placing a trust where it wasn't warranted.
"How long have you known?" demanded Gage, the deep blue of his eyes a small stormy sea in his pale face.
"Almost from the beginning," the American reluctantly admitted.
Gage's blue eyes darkened as they rested on his partner. "You didn't think I'd like to know who was responsible for André's death?"
"What good would it have done to tell you?" Sheppard calmly insisted. "There was a chance you might do something to endanger our operation here."
Gage disgustedly regarded the man who'd been his partner for over thirty years. "You always did have strange ideas of what was important, mate."
Red was suffusing the wrinkled face when Cowley stepped forward. "You can debate this later. Right now, it isn't important who betrayed who today or thirty years ago. What's important is that we get out of here before someone comes looking for us."
Even as Bodie agreed with his superior's sentiments, he was disappointed by the interruption. He would've liked to have heard Sheppard's response. How did one justify ignoring such a heinous crime? In death as well as in life, you backed your partner. If you failed to keep him alive, you avenged his death. Sheppard had denied Gage the internal peace that would've freed him. "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord" doesn't apply when it's your partner who's paid the price.
"Where will you go?" Helena cried, clutching her father's arm.
After a cautious glance at his son-in-law, Sheppard observed, "We'll have to try to escape to the west."
"Take us with you," the young woman pleaded, her fingers twisting the fabric of her father's coat.
Sheppard shook his head as he put a soothing hand on his daughter's arm, "It'll be too dangerous. Now that Lothar has proven his loyalty, you'll be safer here."
"I don't care," Helena bravely proclaimed. "I want my children to have what I never had - a chance to grow up knowing what freedom means, not just dreaming about it."
"I forbid you to leave this house," commanded Lothar, taking a few threatening steps toward his spouse. "You're my wife! You'll do as I say!"
Even though his body was bruised and sore, Bodie's movements were fluid as he placed himself between the couple. "She could easily become a widow," he coldly warned in a voice that would put fear into Satan's soul.
Dismay flooded Lothar's weak face as he protested, "Helena, you can't leave me."
"Do you think I could live with a husband who betrayed my father? How long would it be before you betrayed me?" asked Helena. Despite her words, there was no anger in her voice - only pity. "Do you think I want my children to grow up with a father they can't trust?"
"How can you talk about trust when your father's a double agent?" Lothar sneered.
Helena sadly shook her head, "Since you have to ask the question, I know you would never understand my answer." Releasing the grip she had on her father's arm, she crossed to a narrow set of stairs leading to the floor above. "I'll have the children ready in five minutes, Papa."
There was no argument this time, which didn't surprise Bodie. Their chances of escape were slim to none, but Helena's illustration of the life facing her children couldn't be disputed. Even a slim chance of freedom was better than the stagnation and fear they were leaving behind.
* * * *
Frustrated beyond endurance and feeling slightly claustrophobic in the small car, Doyle reached for the handset. He flicked the switch. "4.5 calling headquarters."
"Headquarters. Go ahead, 4.5."
"Patch me through to Alpha One," demanded the irate man.
Obviously hearing the anger in the tone as well as in the words, the operator didn't tease the agent as she might have on another occasion. "Right away, 4.5."
Doyle didn't even glance at McKay as he impatiently drummed the fingers of his free hand on the armrest. Stakeouts were generally uncomfortable and often a waste of time. But the hours he'd spent in the small vehicle with Tommy McKay had been pure torture. The man rarely spoke, even to answer a question. The few times he did, Doyle wished he hadn't. Cowley and Bodie would have a lot to answer for when they returned.
"Alpha One here, 4.5. What can I do for you?"
The cheerful request only served to fuel Doyle's anger. Gritting his teeth, he asked, "Are you sure this house is occupied? No one's gone in or out since we got here."
"Have faith, Raymond, old son," advised Martin.
"Faith can move mountains, or so I've heard," Doyle amended, "but it doesn't solve a case."
"If you don't like your assignment, you could always contact the Major," Martin sweetly contended.
Glad the older man couldn't see his face, Doyle counted to ten before replying, "Message received, Alpha, 4.5 out."
"What was that all about?" inquired McKay, the tone of his voice making it clear he didn't care if Doyle answered him or not.
Replacing the handset, Doyle explained, "There isn't anything in that house. This is Barry's way of telling me he resents the fact that I might know where Cowley is and he doesn't."
"Do you?" Tommy uncharacteristically probed, taking a sip of tepid tea.
"What difference does it make?" challenged Doyle, irritated by his companion's sudden interest. They'd had more conversation in the last five minutes than they'd had in the previous five hours. "The point is Martin's wasting two good agents on a useless stakeout."
"Let's see if it is useless," McKay suggested.
Doyle suspiciously regarded the older man. "How?"
"Go take a look inside."
Shock made Doyle momentarily speechless as he watched Tommy check his gun before opening his door. The action mobilized the paralyzed agent. Putting his hand on the thin arm, Doyle protested, "We can't break into a private home without just cause."
"Why not?" McKay nonchalantly replied as he pulled his arm free and exited the car.
Loath to leave any agent, even one as crazy as Shotgun Tommy McKay without backup, Doyle reluctantly followed his temporary partner. His thoughts alternated from what he was going to do to Barry Martin, to what he planned to say to Cowley upon his return. Who would've thought a few short months ago he'd actually miss William Andrew Philip Bodie?
* * * *
Cowley hunched his shoulders against the cool early morning breeze penetrating his jacket as he anxiously awaited Gage and Bodie's return. If the two men didn't arrive soon, he would have to assume they'd been captured and take the appropriate action. Time seemed to move in hours rather than minutes. To divert his thoughts, he reviewed the events of the evening before.
After the confrontation with Lothar, they'd left the house in a hurry - packing only a few essentials. While Cowley helped Sheppard assemble a small kit of foodstuffs, Bodie and Gage took particular delight in securing Lothar to the banister. There was little danger in leaving the German behind. He couldn't tell the authorities anything they didn't already know.
With Sheppard and Helena carrying the two sleepy children, they'd slipped out the way they'd entered. Laden with the weight of his grandson, Sheppard's breathing soon became labored. Nonetheless, he'd refused to relinquish his burden. Despite his obvious exhaustion, he led them unerringly to a small copse of trees about a mile from the border. His intimacy with the details of the security measures that faced them had already proven to be substantial. They'd learned the watchtowers closest to the border were empty due to the tendency of the guards to desert. Instead, observation platforms had been built in the trees with the guards always patrolling in pairs.
Within the protection of the last hours of darkness, Bodie had decided to scout the small section encompassing their escape route. Though he was still suffering the effects of his interrogation, Gage chose to accompany him. Cowley could see his old friend felt deeply hurt by what he perceived as Sheppard's betrayal. It was a jagged wound that couldn't be healed with words of justification. Only action - and time - could lessen its pain.
The first rays of the sun rose above the horizon. All his senses alert, Cowley scanned the area surrounding their refuge. He was acutely aware of the nervous young mother cradling her sleeping children and the distress of her father. Just as he could feel the man's turmoil, Cowley could also tell it wasn't born of trepidation, but rather of confusion. He wasn't surprised when the older man abandon his family and approached him.
"You should be resting," Cowley pointed out.
His need almost tangible, Sheppard shook his head. "I was hoping you might be able to clear something up for me."
"If I can," Cowley amiably agreed, leaning against a tree.
"I've known Gage a long time," confessed Sheppard his voice hesitant, almost embarrassed. "Sometimes, I still don't understand him."
Even though he knew what the older man was hinting at, Cowley refused to make it easy for him. In this particular instance, Sheppard didn't deserve the comfortable road. Vaguely, the Englishman replied, "That's true of many relationships."
Cowley watched unobtrusively as the American fought with his frustration and pride. To get the answer he wanted, he would have to humble himself by confessing to a need he'd obviously hoped to keep hidden.
"What I don't understand," Sheppard finally whispered, "is why Gage was so angry with me after he learned about Lothar's father?"
"You didn't trust him, and it hurt," explained Cowley, the ease of his answer demonstrating his understanding.
"Trust him!" Sheppard indignantly cried, almost yelling in his amazement. "I've trusted him for over thirty years with my life and the lives of my family."
The cool wind blew against them, sending a shiver up Cowley's spine. He listened for any sound that would warn of an approaching patrol or the return of Gage and Bodie, but there was nothing to hear. Certain they were as safe as they could be under the circumstances, he pointed out, "You didn't trust him enough to reveal the identity of the man who betrayed them."
"I couldn't take the chance," defended Sheppard, running a hand across his hairless scalp. "If he'd taken his revenge, it could've jeopardized the whole operation."
"That's why he's angry. You didn't have enough faith in him to know he wouldn't do that," Cowley noted. The man beside him stiffened as though he'd been stabbed. Despite a momentary feeling of remorse for the pain he was inflicting, Cowley continued his attack. "Haven't you ever wondered why Gage never married?"
"I guess I figured he never found the right girl," Sheppard admitted, the ambivalence of his emotions clearly apparent.
His bad leg aching more than he could ever remember, Cowley lowered himself to the ground so he could massage the muscle. He was encouraged when Sheppard joined him. The American's pride had finally taken a backseat to his need for Gage's friendship.
"One night, many years ago," Cowley commented as his hands kneaded the muscular flesh of his thigh, "Gage got drunk. He told me about the betrayal; how André had died and how he himself had been tortured. What he couldn't tell me was who had double-crossed them."
"Which is why I never told him," Sheppard triumphantly declared.
"From the day he entered that Gestapo cell until tonight," Cowley continued, fighting his anger, "Gage wondered if it was something he'd done that gave them away. By denying him the truth, you denied him peace of mind and the freedom to go on with his life."
Sheppard shook his head. "He's a hell of an agent. He wouldn't have done anything to give them away. He had no reason to think it was his fault."
"Even the best agent can slip," Cowley quietly contradicted, "and he was well aware of that."
"I didn't know." The voice cracked on the whispered admission. "Why didn't he ever tell me?"
"Maybe you should've gotten him drunk sometime," suggested Cowley.
"Maybe I should've."
There was no noise to announce Bodie's and Gage's return, but Cowley knew that they had - he could feel it. Giving the older man time to compose himself, he addressed the two agents, "What did you find?"
"There's an observation platform about two hundred meters north of where we want to cross," Bodie replied.
"We stuck around long enough to see how often the guards check in," added Gage. "It's approximately ten minutes past the hour."
"Which means we'll have less than an hour to make it across the five kilometer forbidden zone and three barb wire fences," Cowley thoughtfully noted.
"Don't forget the mine field," Gage helpfully supplied.
Putting as much sarcasm as he could in his voice Cowley agreed, "We certainly don't want to forget the mine fields."
"If I stayed up in the tower to answer the phone," suggested Sheppard, "it would give you more time."
"Why should you be the one who stays?" Gage angrily demanded.
His tone matching his partner's, Sheppard returned, "Because I've spent the last thirty years in East Germany."
"Well I've spent a great deal of time here myself," defended Gage.
Trying not to raise his voice, Cowley ordered, "Stop it, both of you. It's a good idea, but it won't work."
"Why not?" both men belligerently demanded, their response made almost in unison.
Even as he wondered how the two men had survived the thirty-year partnership, Cowley elucidated, "Since our escape, they'll be taking special precautions. Possibly a special codeword for each call in."
"George is right," admitted Sheppard in self-disgust. "I should've thought of that myself."
"You're tired," Cowley gently appeased. "Why don't you try to get some sleep? Bodie and I will take the first watch."
As Sheppard and Gage slipped off to join Helena and the children, Bodie moved closer to his superior. "They don't know each other at all. How did they survive this long?"
"Luck, skill," listed Cowley, "and a partnership that draws on the strengths of each individual. Don't forget, they've been operating as only two-thirds of a whole since André's death."
* * * *
"What the bloody hell kind of game were you two playing?" demanded Martin the speed of his pacing increasing with each angry word.
Even though Doyle knew it was a rhetorical question, it was the first opening in the almost incoherent tirade they had endured for the last fifteen minutes. Taking advantage of the opportunity, he explained, "The stakeout wasn't proving very productive. We decided a more direct approach was indicated."
"You had no authorization," Barry pointed out, slamming a fist onto the desktop.
"An agent in the field only needs just cause," recited Doyle.
"If I remember your last report," Martin snapped putting his face up close to the younger man's, "you said there was no activity. How does that give you just cause?"
"It's very absence made us believe there was a reason why no one approached the house," Doyle reasoned.
"Such as a dead body."
"Brilliant!" His face flushed a bright red, Martin resumed his pacing. "I'm sure that explanation will appease Paul Culbertson, the owner of the house."
"We did find evidence of smuggling, both drugs and illegal aliens," Doyle indignantly replied.
"All of which is no good since it was obtained illegally."
Wishing McKay would contribute to their defense, Doyle counted to ten before noting, "At least we know to keep an eye on Culbertson. He'll slip sometime."
"You let me worry about Mr. Culbertson in the future." Stepping behind the untidy desk, Martin growled, "You just be glad you still have your jobs."
Doyle wasn't intimidated; he was angry. He knew only Cowley or the Minister could fire him. However, he didn't appreciate Martin's attitude. Fearing he might really lose his temper, he suggested, "We better get started on our reports if you want them by the end of the day."
"No reports," Martin hastily contradicted. "I'll take care of it myself. Dismissed."
As he followed McKay from the office, Doyle knew why Martin didn't want them to fill out reports. He didn't want Cowley to find out what had happened. With any luck the whole incident would be dead and buried by the time the old man returned. Doyle wasn't a snitch; he'd keep Barry's secret. He just wasn't sure he'd ever fully trust the man again.
Blindly, Doyle continued to follow McKay out of the building and across to the car they'd signed out for their surveillance job. Climbing into the passenger seat, Doyle braced himself. Tommy could start an engine and pull out of a parking lot even faster than Bodie. When the car remained stationary, he turned a questioning gaze on the older man. "What are we waiting for?"
"Barry," Tommy succinctly replied.
"Why?" demanded Doyle. "Didn't you get chewed out enough?"
His eyes never leaving the entrance to the building housing CI5, McKay said, "We're going to follow him."
"You want to stakeout our own superior?" gasped Doyle in astonishment.
"Why not? You never know what useful information can result from a simple surveillance."
* * * *
Bodie crouched in the deeper shadow of a tree as he assessed the situation. In almost pitch darkness, with only the dim glow of an elusive moon to guide him, he was going to climb an eighty-foot tower. The fifty-five-year-old man at his side his only backup. Not for the first time, Bodie cursed Cowley for leaving Doyle behind. He had talked about how Sheppard and Gage were only two-thirds of a whole. What was Bodie without Doyle? Would he only be half as good?
"Are you ready?" whispered Gage, checking to make sure the piece of rope tied to his belt was securely fastened.
His eyes resting with concern on the slighter, older man, Bodie resignedly admitted, "It's now or never."
Even as he followed Gage to the base of the tower, Bodie wished he was making the journey alone. He'd come to respect Gage - almost as much as he did George Cowley, but admiration couldn't replace ability, or subtract years. The blond man would be lucky to make it to the top alive.
Using the strength of his arms and the power of his thighs, Bodie shimmied up the thick leg of the observation tower. About twenty feet from the ground, he reached the first set of support beams. Pausing to rest, his eyes pierced the darkness to see how Gage was doing on the other side of the structure. The moon peeked out from behind a cloud long enough for him to see that Gage had already passed the first support and was already halfway up the second.
Momentarily shocked into immobility, Bodie finally resumed his climb with more speed than he'd used in the first section. The plan called for the two men to enter the guardroom at the same time. Bodie had worried that Gage wouldn't be there to back him up, now he was worried he wouldn't be there for Gage.
When he finally reached the last support, he took a small flashlight from his pocket. Shielding the light with a cupped hand, he held it over his watch to check the time. He had five minutes until the time for the agreed upon entrance. Even as he silently counted off the seconds, Bodie marveled at the ability of the agent he was beginning to regard as a partner. How could Sheppard have ever lacked faith in this man who'd stood beside him for so many years?
A silent alarm sounded in his head, mobilizing Bodie into action. One end of a piece of rope wrapped around his right hand, he climbed the last few feet to the top. The whisper of the wind rustling the branches of a tree followed him inside.
A guard, sitting with his back to Bodie, noticed Gage's entranced immediately. Before he could call out a warning, a rope snaked around his neck. Nails dug into the tender flesh as the desperate man fought for his life. Bodie didn't need to look to know that Gage had taken care of the other guard. With the dead weight of the body pulling on his arms, he released his hold. Bending down, he checked the carotid artery to be sure the man was dead. Straightening, he glanced across to where Gage was inspecting his own handiwork. "Where did you learn to climb like that?"
Taking a few deep breaths to control his reaction - even when it was necessary, it wasn't always easy to kill - Gage smiled. "Didn't George tell you I was an aerialist with the circus before the war?"
"No," Bodie disgustedly noted, "he didn't tell me."
"I guess we better get back down. We've only got a little over an hour before the authorities try to find out why this post doesn't answer when they call."
Before making their retreat, both men pocketed the Walther P1's the guards had holstered at their sides. Bodie followed the older man down the tower. The route was easier than the one he would've chosen. At the bottom, Cowley waited for their return. Not even bothering to confirm they'd accomplished their goal, he led the two men to the barrier cordoning off the hinterland. Crouching down next to the fence, they made themselves as inconspicuous as possible.
Taking a handful of sticks from his pocket, Cowley handed them to Bodie. "You and Gage go ahead and mark a safe passage through the minefield. Sheppard says they used Russian pressure plate mines."
"I know the man who designed the field," Sheppard added as he joined his colleagues. "Chances are they'll be laid out in an S pattern. Each mine will be set at precise distances. Once you discover the initial base, the rest should be easy."
"'Easy' he says," Bodie muttered as he took the stakes from Cowley and handed him the Walther pistol he'd taken. His attention would be focused on the minefield. The pistol would do him no good there.
"On your bikes, lads," suggested Cowley, the catch in his voice barely audible. "It won't be long before they miss this station."
Time didn't give them the luxury of being subtle. Moving at a moderate jog, Bodie and Gage crossed the distance separating them from the first fence. Cutting a hole through the barbed wire, Bodie cursed softly when the rusty metal cut a furrow down the back of his right hand.
His mouth close to Bodie's ear, Gage whispered, "Are you all right?"
"We can't worry about that now," Bodie reasoned, touched by the obvious concern in the other man's voice. Pointing to the strip of land separating them from the second barbed wire fence, he pointed out, "I'm more worried about those mines right now than I am about lockjaw."
Kneeling, Bodie used every piece of knowledge and experience he'd acquired while a member of the SAS. His hands shook slightly as he waved them across the ground so low they almost touched it. Every sense tuned to his mission, he relied on Gage to cover his back. It was a gift he rarely bestowed. Even Doyle had not won his trust so quickly. Finding the first mine, he stuck a stick at its edge. His hands moved to the right until they found a second mine. Another stick was pressed firmly into the ground to mark its location. When Cowley, Sheppard, Helena, and the children reached the minefield, the sticks would guide them down a safe corridor.
Though it was a cool night, sweat soaked Bodie's clothes before they were halfway to their destination. When he was with the SAS, he'd had to take an endurance march in the Brecon Beacons that had not seemed half so strenuous. Glancing behind him, he wasn't surprised to see Gage practically on his heels. The older man could've stayed a safer distance away; Bodie found it inexplicably reassuring that he hadn't done so.
His attention returned to the danger ahead with renewed confidence. He was so focused on his task, he often forgot to breathe. Only his training and Sheppard's information was making this journey possible. When his hands brushed against barbwire, he closed his eyes in supplication. Now all that lay between him and the border was two more fences and a strip of cleared land. "We made it," he whispered to the man behind him. Wire cutters separated the rusty strands. Crawling through the hole, Bodie turned to give his colleague a hand.
Passing Bodie the pistol, Gage suggested, "You go on ahead. I'll go back and guide the others through the minefield. You can cover us from those trees."
Bodie wished he could think of something to say to keep this man safely at his side, but this wasn't the time or place to debate the logic of the plan. Offering a swollen right hand, he sighed, "Good luck."
Gage disappeared into the darkness before Bodie turned away. For the first time since it'd been scratched, Bodie was aware of a stabbing pain in his hand. Grateful he was ambidextrous, he switched the gun to his left. Ahead of him was a strip of cleared ground. Once he entered this area, his only protection would be the darkness of the night. Checking the position of the moon and the clouds, he took several deep breaths. Crouching low, he crossed the cleared area to a strip of land that had originally been plowed, but had long since become overgrown with weeds.
The last barbwire fence was so old and rusted, all it took was a kick from his foot to knock it down. One last strip of land separated him from the border - and freedom. Before he could cross it, a shot echoed through the night.
* * * *
The parking garage smelled so strongly of gas and exhaust fumes it made Doyle ill. Rubbing his throbbing temple, he demanded, "What exactly have we accomplished following Barry around all day?"
"Don't know now," Tommy McKay morosely admitted, "but you never can tell when knowledge will be useful."
A car roared to life as Barry pressed the accelerator. Shaking his head - and instantly regretting the action - Doyle pointed out, "So what if he's got a spare car? CI5 has them scattered all over the city. You know that."
"This isn't a CI5 car. This is his own personal car."
"So what?" Doyle impatiently repeated.
"So," drawled Tommy, never taking his eyes off their target, "I don't trust a man who keeps secrets from his colleagues."
"Not trusting Barry Martin is like not trusting George Cowley," Doyle declared, surprised by Tommy's admission. "Barry was the first agent the old man recruited when CI5 was formed. I'm not too happy with him at the moment, but that doesn't mean Martin isn't a good agent."
"Just don't forget what you've learned today," McKay solemnly advised.
* * * *
Every muscle in his body ached as Gage slowly traversed the minefield. Having a mapped route diminished its ability to frighten him - but not by much. He'd learned a long time ago that in his line of work, over-confidence could be as deadly as a bullet.
The danger of the initial journey had given him a new perspective on life. What was important - what wasn't. With death tapping him on the shoulder, his anger at Sheppard had abated. Though the wound was still raw and painful, he realized his partner's reasons for keeping the traitor's identity secret had merit. It couldn't have been easy living a double life twenty-four hours a day for thirty years.
The problem facing Gage now, was how to convey his understanding to Sheppard. The American had always been insular, burying his feelings behind a brick wall. For him, the job always came first - his partners second. While neither Gage nor André agreed with his assessment, they'd admired his abilities and followed him without question.
Almost immediately upon crawling from the minefield, Gage heard muted voices. Certain neither Cowley nor Sheppard would be making so much noise, he approached the area with caution. Facing away from him, two guards had their rifles trained on his friends. When one of the guards lowered a hand to pull out his radio, Gage knew he would have to act quickly - and quietly.
Wishing he still had the agility of his youth, he crept forward. When he was within arm's length of the two guards, he reached out and tapped them on the shoulder, "Excuse me, does anyone know the time?'
Shock and confusion marked both of the young faces as they turned to confront this new danger. Gage's kick to the stomach caught the guard slightly lower than he'd intended. Grimacing in sympathy for the writhing man, he turned his attention to the other guard. One glance told him his initial decision to take out the guard on his right first had been wrong. The smell of gunpowder reached his nostrils only seconds before a bullet tore into his mid-section.
At first, Gage felt more surprise than pain. Dropping his eyes to his hands, he watched in fascination as blood seeped between his fingers. When the pain finally hit, his knees buckled. Peripherally, he was aware of Sheppard and Cowley disarming the guards. Strangely, he no longer seemed to care. The fire in his belly consumed every thought and feeling.
One of the guard's rifles in his hand, Sheppard dropped to his knees beside his partner. "Gage?"
Focusing on the face that had been his entire existence for the last thirty years, Gage whispered, "You've been a good mate, Yank."
"Please hold on, Gage."
A hand cupped his head. Small drops of moisture splattered across his face. Humbly, he realized this was the first time in their association Sheppard had allowed himself an emotional release in his presence. How sad it had taken death to bring them back together. As he closed his eyes for the last time, a single tear rolled down his cheek.
* * * *
Flicking off the safety, Bodie pointed the Walther back along the route he'd just cleared. Uncertain whether he should stay where he was or go back to help, he was grateful when the decision was taken out of his hands by Cowley's sudden appearance.
Emerging from the weeds with the two children, the older man practically threw them into his agent's arms. Pointing across the border, he ordered, "Get them into that stand of trees, now."
When his superior started back through the minefield, Bodie protested, "Couldn't I--"
"Your responsibility is the safety of those children, 3.7," Cowley interrupted, the tone of his voice making it clear he wouldn't tolerate any insubordination.
The pain Bodie felt as he walked away wasn't associated with his hand, but with his heart. As he awkwardly tried to comfort the distraught youngsters, he desperately wished there was someone who could assuage his own fears.
Just inside the trees, Bodie sank to the ground. Keeping an arm around the weeping children, he anxiously watched and waited, listening for the sounds that would tell him the things his eyes couldn't see. Engines roared in the distance signaling the arrival of East German troops. Torn between his need to help the others and his responsibility to the children, Bodie fought his conscience.
A rustling in the bushes drew his attention. Pushing the children behind the protection of a tree, he checked to be sure the safety was off before aiming the pistol at the spot he calculated his quarry would emerge. His finger tightened around the trigger as a shadowy figure pushed through the bushes, quickly followed by two others. Though he couldn't see their faces, Bodie knew by the shapes that it was Cowley, Sheppard, and Helena. "It's all right, kids," he whispered as he rose to his feet. "It's your mother."
The children rushed to their mother's side. Snapping the safety back on the Walther, Bodie asked, "What happened?"
"We were surprised by a couple of guards," explained Cowley, avoiding his agent's piercing gaze. "Gage got the drop on them, but before we could disarm them, one got a shot off at Gage."
Tears blinded him as Bodie headed back to the border. "I'll go get him."
"He's dead, Bodie."
"It doesn't matter. I'm still going to get him."
Cowley's voice cracked as he put a hand on the taller man's arm. "You can't help him."
"He deserves better than that from us." Bodie was grateful for the darkness - it hid the tears he couldn't suppress. Less than a week ago, he hadn't even known of Gage's existence. Now, he felt as though he'd lost his best friend. "I can't just leave him there."
Cowley's grip tightened. "You can and you will. He's dead; if you go back you'll be dead, too."
Merry blue eyes danced in Bodie's memory. They'd been partners in everything but name. Bodie had never had to worry about his back when Gage was there to watch it. Turning away, he walked rapidly toward freedom - toward Doyle.
* * * *
Doyle anxiously observed his partner. Since his return, Bodie had barely spoken. Though customarily reticent, the dark-haired man's silence wasn't normal. It was filled with a pain Doyle could see but couldn't touch.
Pouring two cups of tea, the curly-haired man dropped two sugars in one before placing it at his partner's elbow. Bodie ignored the offering as he skimmed through a German language newspaper. Taking a sip of the hot liquid, Doyle's eyes never left his partner's face. He wanted to be there when the first crack in the wall Bodie had built around himself appeared.
"I knew it!" Anger flushed the pale face a bright red as Bodie tore a section out of the newspaper. Rereading it, he tore it in half before throwing it to the floor and rising to his feet.
Curiosity as well as fear made Doyle confront his obviously irate partner. Grabbing Bodie's arm, he demanded, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing you can fix," Bodie coldly remonstrated.
Before Doyle could press for an explanation, Bodie strode from the room. Picking up the torn pieces of newspaper, Doyle practically ran to his superior's office. Ignoring Betty's outstretched hand, he entered the room without an invitation. Putting the two pieces of newspaper in front of Cowley, he asked, "What does that say?"
Cowley's initial anger quickly disappeared as his eyes scanned the bold headline. Putting the torn slips together, he put on his glasses to read the small print.
"Well?" Doyle pressed.
His face suddenly looking older, Cowley removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "It says the body of an unidentified man was found in a field near Hotenslaben. Cause of death was an apparent heart attack."
"Why would the discovery of a body in Germany upset Bodie?" a mystified Doyle requested.
"Bodie saw this?" Cowley urgently inquired, quickly replacing his glasses.
Confused, Doyle's fear grew as he watched a matching emotion appear on his superior's face. "He's the one who tore it in half."
"Where is he now?"
"I don't know," Doyle reluctantly admitted. "It was more than my life was worth to try and stop him."
"You're supposed to be willing to put your life on the line for your partner," snapped Cowley, slamming a fist down on his desk.
Throwing back his shoulders, Doyle indignantly declared, "If I'd known he was in danger, I would have. Neither of you have been very forthcoming about what happened last week."
"Never mind," Cowley unhappily sighed. Rising to his feet, he crossed to the coat rack. Dropping his trench coat over his arm, he admitted, "I know where he's gone."
Doyle anxiously followed the older man from the office. Though almost twenty-five years younger, he was hard pressed to catch his superior. Their trail led to Cowley's car. Taking the wheel himself, the worried man drove with an urgency Doyle had never seen before. The route took them down Oxford Street to the Mayfair Hotel. Rushing past the front desk, Cowley stopped at the bank of lifts. A finger pressed firmly into a glowing button summoned their transport.
Blindly following, Doyle wondered what they - and Bodie - could be doing in one of the poshest hotels in London. His question was answered as soon as the lift door opened on the sixth floor. Raised voices echoed down the hallway. The words were indistinct, but the emotion was clear. Uninvited, the two men entered the suite.
Confronting a man Doyle had never seen before, Bodie announced, "He was your partner. Now, he'll be buried in a common grave. How could you let that happen to him?"
"Do you think that's what I wanted?" the stranger cried. "As you said, he was my partner, not yours."
"If he had been mine, he might still be alive!" Bodie shouted.
Without raising his voice, Cowley defused the angry confrontation. "That'll be all, 3.7."
"Hello, George," greeted the American, visibly trying to control his anger. "Do you know what this is all about?"
Closing the door to the suite, Cowley gestured to the luxurious couch and chairs grouped together at the far end of the suite. "Why don't we sit down?"
Doyle gently steered his partner toward the couch. Joining Bodie, he sat close enough to offer support, yet far enough away so he wouldn't crowd the distraught man. Satisfied he had done what he could for him, Doyle switched his attention to the strange American he now realized must be Franklin Sheppard.
Relaxing into one of the plush chairs, Cowley said, "There was an article in the East German paper about the discovery of an unidentified body."
"After what he did for you and this country, Gage doesn't deserve a pauper's grave," Bodie morosely observed.
"Don't you think I know that?" Sheppard cried pointing a shaking finger at the younger man. "Our war didn't end thirty years ago. It ended the day we crossed that border."
"But only one of you made it across," Bodie quietly observed.
"And in your opinion it was the wrong one," Sheppard noted, appearing older than he had only moments before.
Without the slightest hesitation, Bodie nodded. "Yes."
Experiencing a touch of jealousy at his friend's passionate defense of Nicholas Gage, Doyle suggested, "Couldn't someone claim the body and have it flown back here for burial?"
"If we did, we'd be admitting we sent a spy into their country to rescue another spy," Cowley replied, shaking his head.
"And of course Parliament doesn't dare admit it has spies in East Germany," Bodie sarcastically noted. "No one is supposed to know."
In the three hundred sixty-four days and two hours they'd been working together, Doyle had never seen Bodie so upset. In fact, to be painfully honest, he hadn't realized the man was capable of such strong emotions. Jealousy ate at him as he realized Gage was the recipient of these feelings - and not himself.
His face showing every one of his fifty plus years, Cowley sighed. "It's over Bodie. There's nothing more anyone can do."
Doyle's eyes searched each of the faces in turn. His partner's was once again the shuttered mask that had become so annoyingly familiar to him. Cowley had the look of a man who had just lost his best friend - which may very well be true. Sheppard looked lost, like a ship without an anchor.
In a voice that lacked its normal authority, Cowley ordered, "Take 3.7 home, 4.5."
"Yes, sir." Grateful to leave the solemn faces behind, Doyle pulled Bodie to his feet and pushed him out the door. He felt as though he were leading a child as the taller man meekly followed him onto the lift and out through the lobby.
For the first time in his life, Doyle was the recipient of one of the amenities associated with a luxury hotel. The doorman raised a hand and a taxi magically appeared in front of them. Digging into his worn jeans, Doyle flushed red with embarrassment as he slipped a shilling - the only coin he possessed - into the wrinkled palm of the doorman.
The door almost closed on Doyle's foot as he hastily entered the spotless cab. Effortlessly, the taxi merged with the lunch hour traffic as Doyle frantically searched his pockets for the money he'd need to pay for their transportation. A wallet landed in his lap making him jump. Raising his eyes, Doyle rested them on the back of his partner's head. An intense blue gaze was studying buildings that normally held little interest for the ex-merc.
What had Gage been like? Doyle wondered. What traits did he possess that commanded such loyalty from a man who prided himself on his independence? Jealousy stabbed at an already aching heart.
With a screech of brakes, they pulled up outside the apartment building where Bodie currently resided. Hoping to wrest a response - any response - from his silent partner, Doyle pulled a twenty-pound note from the wallet and handed it to the driver. "Keep the change."
"Ta, Guv'nor," the elderly man gratefully accepted.
Even this failed to elicit a response from Bodie. Disappointed his plan hadn't worked, Doyle followed his friend into the old building. Worn steps creaked underfoot as they climbed to the third floor flat.
Bodie's continued silence was grating on Doyle's nerves by the time they entered his partner's flat. Dust from a week of neglect lightly coated the furniture and danced in the dim sunlight streaming through the window.
The disarray from his normally meticulous partner was unusual enough to cause Doyle deep concern. "I only met Gage the one time. What was he like?"
The answer was so long in coming, Doyle had begun to think there wouldn't be one. Crossing to the sofa, he sat down. Words didn't have to be spoken for him to know his friend needed support.
Standing at the window, Bodie stared out onto the London street below. It was obvious his eyes - and mind - were seeing different views. "I was so scared in that minefield. If I made even the tiniest mistake, we'd both be dead. Gage stayed right on my heels. It gave me the confidence I needed. Without him, I don't think we would've made it."
"The sign of a good partner," Doyle graciously observed.
A fist slammed into the windowpane so hard it almost broke the glass. "He watched my back, but I didn't watch his."
"Bodie…" Rising to his feet, Doyle crossed to stand beside the tormented man. "I know you try to be super-human, but you're not. You can't be in two places at once."
"Next time it might be your back I'm not there to protect," Bodie pointed out.
"If it's humanly possible, you'll be there for me. I know that." Leaning against the wall next to the window, Doyle tried to force Bodie's eyes to meet his own. "Our trust in the partnership is what keeps us alive. Even in the beginning when we didn't get along, we always had that."
"Two halves of a whole," whispered Bodie.
Not sure he'd heard right, Doyle ignored the interruption. "Granted, this partnership makes us vulnerable, but it's our only chance to survive. The job we do is dangerous. In all probability, one of us will die in the line of duty. The other is going to have to learn to live with the loss."
"What if he can't?"
"Then he has no business being in CI5," Doyle succinctly stated.
"Or MI6," added Bodie in a firmer voice. "Gage didn't die in that field. He died when he found out Sheppard hadn't trusted him. For thirty years that was all that kept him alive, and even that was taken away from him in the end."
"But it hasn't been taken from you," Doyle hesitantly inquired. "Has it?"
"Not if you buy me dinner." Bodie's smile was weak.
Surprised by the response, Doyle swallowed the lump in his throat before mockingly inquiring, "Why would I do a silly thing like that?"
"It's the least you can do after that tip you gave the taxi driver - with my money."
Doyle conceded his defeat. Looking like a man about to be led to the gallows, he said, "Do I get to choose the restaurant?"
"Not on your life," said Bodie, shaking his head. "I want something a little more tasty than raw fish and tofu."
"Then I hope you've got some money I can borrow. I gave what I had to the doorman at the Mayfair."
As he prepared to follow his partner from the flat, Bodie softly noted, "You would've liked him, you know."
"Who?" Doyle absently inquired.
Gently, Doyle probed, "Why would I have liked him?"
Light sparkled in the glistening blue eyes as Bodie smiled. "I wish you could've discovered the answer to that question for yourself. You would've enjoyed it."