There was a slam at the door, a voice full of violence whispering threats through the keyhole and the smell of drink, noticeable from here. Boy huddled back at the opposite wall, terror and fury vying for attention. He'd barricaded the door on him, the sheer implications of defiance enough to raise the drink-addled vengeance of his father to almost unforeseen proportions. Boy curled in on himself, tasting salty tears. He couldn't take this much longer and, with a sinking heart, he heard a female voice on the other side of the door pleading with the monster outside the castle. "He's your son; he loves you, you know that. Just come to bed and leave him…" The slap froze his blood.
"Shut up woman. That boy is no son of mine. He was never my kid. You whore!" Boy's fists curled but he remained trapped between his honour and sense of self-preservation. "Bloody kid's gonna be a poofter the way you keep encouraging him. Get out! I'll deal with this."
"Shut up! Do you hear me, boy? You get out of here if you know what's good for you! I'll break the door down so help me! Won't be laughing then will you, you piece of shit!" Boy wiped his hand across his nose and swallowed down bile. The flimsy barricade across his door shifted and he squeaked in fear. It wouldn't be long. The door flew open, his chair cracking to the floor.
"No, no, no, no, please!"
Afterwards, when the pain had dulled, he could always remember his mother sitting with him and weeping. "Mum," he managed through the agony, "we have to get out of here…"
"So I walk alone down the darkest roads
'Cause I've always known how the story goes
When the curtain falls, I'll be wearing thin
Clawing at the walls as they're closing in."
"Oh god! Terry! Down here!" Voices clamouring, asking and a pain so hot and sharp that for a few, brief seconds of coherent thought he wondered if he'd been burned.
"Can you hear me, son? We're going to help. Do you know who did this to you?" a groan was all he could manage, nausea sloshing around in his stomach. "Val! Phone an ambulance!" A hand flitted to the injury, backing off at his faint whimper.
"Oh, Jesus… it looks like he's been knifed. His face is…" the voice was distinctly feminine, fingers interlocked with his, trying to bring him strength. Like they were rusty, slowly his hand clenched hers, drawing warmth and comfort from the merest of human contact. If he was going out now, at least, someone had shown him kindness. Who cares now what had been done to his face…? Dying in a gutter; he was just about worth that. The woman lifted his hand onto her lap, still whispering platitudes, trying to keep him awake. He could hear the man, Terry, talking into a phone.
"A young man, about eighteen or nineteen, he's bleeding all over the alley…"
Sirens began to sing in the distance and the woman squeezed his hand tighter, her other hand brushing back his curls. A strange, terrible smile pulled at his lips bringing fresh pain, burning and sweet.
"In this twisted plot, I was destined for
I'm an astronaut on the ocean floor
So misunderstood 'till the bloody end
How I wish I could do it all again."
There were still people turning to look at him in the locker room and whispering to each other in low, polite tones. "There goes Raymond Doyle, yeah… Syd Parker's partner. Poor kid… can't imagine losing your partner like that. Goes with the job… but damn…"
Raymond Doyle did his best to ignore them and to ignore the aching dullness in his chest that at times was so heavy that he had to stop and just breathe, in case he broke down in front of everyone and just started crying. He could still see the messy trail of blood that led to Syd Parker's body and dimly access the blind rage that he compelled him to hunt down his mentor's killer. In the dark of the night, he still woke, full of fear and fury that it took him a few moments to convince himself that he wasn't standing in that apartment room with Syd Parker curled up at his feet.
The killer had been caught and brought to justice in remarkably short time, but Raymond wouldn't – or couldn't shake the feeling of vengeance and loss that he attributed to the senselessness of the killing. Every injustice, no matter how small, set him off into a mindless red mood that forced him to work twice as hard, twice as long to put away villains. Each criminal that he put away he hoped would be the final one to wash away the stains on his soul. Each threat taken off the street was personal penance for Syd Parker – the closest thing he'd ever had to a father – and his pointless murder in that shabby block of flats…
One more, just one more and he could wipe away the debt…
"It feels like I'm a lone survivor
Forgotten in a dark and deadly world
And on my own I walk alone
To see the sun again I'd give anything."
The glares were nothing. Since the court case, he had been completely and utterly alone. He tried to tell himself that that was fine, he was OK with that. Justice had been done, hadn't it? The law upheld? Still, it was the little things that bothered him. The slurs painted on his locker. His superiors giving him worst cases on the streets. The unsociable hours that left him slumped on his bed and incapable of taking the time to go out and find someone to talk to, someone who wouldn't sneer at him, or jeer, or simply ignore him completely. DC Ray Doyle was a snitch, everyone knew it and so everyone hated him. Occasionally, in his most lonely and desperate hours he contemplated quitting, but sheer obstinacy kept him from going through with it. There were also the tiny shards of pride, knowing that if he really tried he could make things better on the streets by tackling criminals with little to no regard for his personal safety. But even that candle of hope flickered and struggled to stay alive when he realised that it was just an endless circle: hunt, catch, put away, watch the gap be filled, hunt, catch, put away, watch the gap be filled…
It was only when he was cornered in the locker room by several of his co-workers, his head held under the water in the sink and kicked around until he fell did he grasp just how bad it was.
Only after that, as he limped out of the room, his head still held high, did he begin to seriously consider other employment options.
"It's so deathly dark in the alleyway
And a bleeding heart makes you easy prey
I would run and hide for the afternoon
With the butterfly in the panic room."
There was a crisp, white envelope sticking through his door when he got home that night. Bone tired and fed up, he gave it no more than a customary glance, slamming the door with more force that he usually did. Then he stomped over to his desk, pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper, snatched a blotchy pen and –
Sat there, still as a statue, his brain finally catching up with his emotions. Here he was, all steamed up and ready to quit, but it wasn't like there was anything else he could really do. He'd gotten little on his O levels, hadn't even taken the A levels and was nowhere near skilled in any of his hobbies. The painting was all well and good, but it wasn't like he had talent and he couldn't think of a way that he could make riding his motorbike into a career. Sagging back in his chair, it was only then did he remembered the strange letter. Finally, he levered himself up and went back for it, scooping it off the floor. It looked official and was addressed to DC Raymond Doyle in neat cursive.
Curious, he ripped it open, his fingers fumbling inside for the letter.
Raymond Doyle, you have been extended an offer to be recruited into Criminal Investigations 5, also known as CI5, due to your excellent record as a police officer…
Doyle sat back on his bed, rereading the first sentence over and over again. A clash of shock, exhilaration and a little sadness fought for supremacy in his mind, as he just stared at the letter, the words not really penetrating. CI5… what he'd talked about with Syd, what had always been on the fringes of his mind since the moment he had heard of it. This was an organisation that wouldn't be corrupt – its creation was due to the overwhelming corruption. He read the letter again, his mouth hanging open. It was signed by one Mr George Cowley. He'd heard his superiors mention that name; from all accounts they thought he was an overly sharp, unconventional, nosy bastard.
Doyle decided that he liked him already.
As he lay back on the bed, the paper still clutched in his hand, a small grin began to form.
There was light – there was light at the end of the tunnel.
"But life demands a final chapter
A story that we all must leave behind
It's do or die, and this is mine
The anthem of a bird with a broken wing."
Doyle rapped on Cowley's door, still feeling like he was walking on air. The testing process had been gruelling, but he'd survived it and become fitter than he had ever been before in his life. As he'd waited outside his new boss' office, he had absentmindedly been rubbing the bruises that the sadist, Macklin had heaped upon him and the other new recruits. In fact, towards the end of examinations, he had even managed to beat Macklin, although he suspected that it had been more luck than skill.
Still, he'd made it; he was out of the police force and into something new. Cowley's speech when he had officially announced who was in had contained some worrying hints of his new life – Doyle wasn't sure that he was looking forward to the first time he had to pull the trigger with someone on the other end, but the promise of helping to clear the streets of crime and corruption and to protect Joe Public had evaded these fears. Now, all that remained was to see who he was going to be partnered with. Cowley's words rang in his ears, "You'll be partnered off and from then on, you're the Bisto Kids…"
From inside he heard Cowley's gruff tones, "Come in!" Doyle pushed open the door, attempting to make himself look presentable when he stopped, confused.
There was another man in the room with him. Doyle recognised him as one of the SAS recruits – 'is Cowley partnering police and army?' he thought, 'this won't work!' It was the tall, dark one who Doyle had only been partnered with once or twice. Privately Doyle thought that this man was too arrogant, but even with his best attempts to dislike him and the man's best attempts to rile him up, Doyle found that there was a grudging admiration for his skill. The SAS man looked almost as surprised as he did. They stood there, sizing each other up as Cowley sat back behind his desk. There was a small smile on his lips.
"Bodie, meet Doyle. Doyle, meet Bodie. You two are going to be partners and incidentally, you two lads are the highest scoring pair in training. Congratulations." Cowley was still smiling, the corners enigmatic. It looked like he was having a laugh at their expense. What was the old bastard up to?
A test, it had to be a test. Doyle extended his hand, determined to pass it, "Doyle," he said.
"Bodie," the hand clasped his. Doyle offered his new partner a half smile. "I guess I'll just have to grin and bear it," Bodie continued with a mock sigh. Doyle raised his eyebrows, intrigued by his uncommitted annoyance with the tease. He looked into Bodie's eyes.
He saw several possible futures looming in the distance and branching off from each other.
Doyle's grin became genuine.
It was time to choose one.
"Tell the world I know that my mind is made
It's a horror show, but I'm not afraid
Though I won't be missed, I would say it's time
For a different twist in the story line."
Lyrics borrowed from Owl City's Bird With a Broken Wing