George Cowley was standing in the doorway of the briefing room as Ray Doyle hurtled round the corner and came to an abrupt halt in front of his boss. Bodie, unprepared for his partner's sudden stop, crashed into his back with a muttered curse. Doyle pushed him away and then began to speak.
"Er, sir. Mr. Cowley, sir. I'm sorry we're late for the briefing."
Cowley was aware that Murphy was making frantic signals behind him. But Doyle continued, oblivious.
"I know you said that if we messed up one more time this week we'd be in trouble, but it wasn't my fault. Was Bodie's. The daft bugger was still in bed when I went to pick him up."
There was a cessation of movement behind him as Murphy abandoned his attempt to stop Doyle, giving it up as a lost cause .
"Said he was kept up all night by a cat," Doyle explained.
Cowley ignored both Murphy's comment to the effect of 'Are you sure it wasn't a bird rather than a cat?' and Bodie's indignant response.
He glared at Bodie, hiding his sudden grim amusement.
"A cat, Bodie?"
He watched as Bodie scowled at his unrepentant partner, then turned his attention back to his boss. The blue eyes began to twinkle. It was the look that Bodie often got in his eyes when he submitted the more 'creative' of his reports. George Cowley, despite himself, had always enjoyed reading those reports. Though wild horses would never drag from him just how amusing he found his subordinate's attempts at humour.
"Yeah, a cat. A randy old ginger tom, it was. Yowled all night, it did. Didn't get a wink of sleep."
Cowley turned his laughter into a credible snort of disbelief.
"Och, I haven't got time for this now. I'll see you later, Bodie. Now get in the room, all of you. Murphy, now you've finished your rather bad attempt at semaphore, would you give out the files while I go and get some papers I need?"
He shut the door to his office and opened a drawer in his desk. He turned a dial and listened:
".....prat, Doyle. Why weren't you paying attention? I was trying to shut you up!"
"Oh? Thought you had an itch or something. Anyway, why did you want to shut me up? Reckon I should have taken the flak with Bodie, do you?" Doyle asked aggressively.
"No, you idiot!" Murphy's voice was suddenly filled with glee. "It's just that the Cow was late as well. He only just got in himself. Seems his alarm clock didn't work this morning. If you hadn't said anything, he'd have probably thought you went to get yourselves a cuppa while you were waiting."
Cowley grinned as he heard Doyle's groan of annoyance. Picking up the papers he'd used as a excuse, he walked back to the briefing room.
Later, when the briefing was over, Cowley called Bodie and Doyle over to him.
"Doyle, I think you'd benefit from a little reminder of the necessity of self-discipline. I'm sending you to Brian Macklin for a week."
He allowed himself a mental chuckle at the badly-controlled look of horror on his agent's face. Then he turned to Bodie.
"Walk with me to my office, Bodie. I think we need to talk."
He watched as Doyle shot Bodie a look of shamefaced apology. Cowley was quite aware that while his agents took his public rebukes with equanimity, they all dreaded his one-to-one 'talks'. He rather thought that a week of Brian Macklin would be preferable in his men's eyes!
When they got to his office, Cowley gestured to Bodie to proceed him, then turned and locked the door. He regarded the young man in front of him. Bodie's face expressed a mixture of amusement and apprehension.
"Well, Bodie, 'A randy old ginger tom cat', wasn't that what you said?"
He kept his voice rather harsh and watched as the amusement began to fade from the younger man's eyes.
"Yes, sir. Er, I had to think of an excuse for why I wasn't ready. Ray was half convinced I'd had a bird at the flat, last night. And he swore he'd kill me if I cocked up again this week. I've been a bit distracted this week, sir. It was the best I could come up with on the spur of the moment."
Cowley frowned. They'd have to work on this distraction thing. In Bodie's line of work he couldn't afford to be distracted. Ah, well, he thought, it was an unusual situation. Hopefully, as Bodie got used to it he would settle down.
"A randy old ginger tom!" He suddenly found himself grinning like an idiot. Bodie met his eyes and gave a blinding smile.
George Cowley reached for his agent, grasping him round the waist and pulling the younger man towards him.
"I've told you before, lad," he stated, "less of the old!"