Disclaimer: Characters from The Professionals are © Mark-1 Productions Ltd
and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

The song which inspired this story has haunted me for years, and on getting a recording a couple of months ago I finally did a search for the lyrics to find out exactly what it was all about. It struck me immediately that there might be a story in there and following a highly inspirational day spent with Sue <waves>, I was listening to the CD when the idea for this hit me.

In the Field of Conflict

          It was the call I had been waiting for, but dreading. "Yes, it's me."
          "I've had word. The ship docks on Tuesday."
          I swallowed. "OK. What time?"
          "It'll be arriving around eleven. I'm taking the train down on Monday afternoon."
          "I'll be there on Tuesday with you."

          I set off early. It felt strange not to have Doyle by my side, but I could hardly expect Cowley to give him leave as well.
          The roads were quiet and once I hit the M3 it was inevitable that my mind wandered. This would be hard.

          Gerry had been my sergeant when I first joined up, and could be a hard taskmaster. In spite of my dubious background Gerry and I hit it off, maybe because I was something of a 'star pupil'; my time with the mercenary forces having put me ahead of the pack when it came to basic soldiering. In addition, I was older than the average squaddie and Gerry couldn't drink me under the table...
          He was around five years older than me; a career soldier who'd been in the forces since he was 17, and showed no signs of leaving. He and Kay had been childhood sweethearts, married at 18 and still together; she'd followed him to postings wherever she could, suffering marriage-patch houses and bringing up Andrew.
          The first time I'd met them both I'd felt at home. Kay had made me so welcome when I'd called with a message for Gerry that I'd stayed for hours, only realising how late it was when it got dark. Andrew had been about seven, a friendly but scruffy child who ran about with his toy gun pretending to shoot us. I'd indulged in a mock-battle with him and won a friend for life.
          I was given an open invitation to call at any time, and lacking home comforts of my own I took full advantage.
          I'd wanted to take advantage of Kay as well. I wasn't short of girlfriends by any means, but most of them were empty-headed blondes; just kids who hung about Aldershot of an evening hoping to get picked up. I had my share of them but I wanted more.
          She didn't encourage me or even acknowledge it, but I think Kay knew how I felt. I'm sure Gerry didn't realise. Or maybe he did but wisely kept silent, trusting me and knowing that I'd never act on how I felt - his friendship meant too much to me. He certainly never minded me being with Kay and Andrew when he wasn't around.
          Life was good; until the battalion was posted to Northern Ireland...

          I'd emerged unscathed after the tour of duty with only invisible scars. But Gerry...
          "Bodie...!" I ducked, rolled and ran, Gerry's warning coming not a moment too late as the wall behind where I'd been was stitched with holes. He wasn't so lucky; two of the bullets catching him. I'd stayed with him and got him to the medic, possibly saved his life, they said.
          I shook my head and concentrated on the road. Less thought about Ireland the better.
          I visited them as soon as I got back when Gerry was out of hospital but still convalescing. He'd been lucky; his injuries weren't so serious that he would be invalided out, but he'd be off active service, and that was bad enough.
          Being Gerry, he wasn't going to get depressed about it. As he put it to me, at least he wouldn't have to go back to Northern Ireland, and that would be a relief to Kay.
          Based back in Aldershot, I was on the doorstep and could call every few days, an arrangement which seemed to please all of us. Gerry liked the company, and since he still wasn't up to much I was the one playing football with Andrew and taking him to local games. Constantly being in Kay's company didn't do much to reduce my attraction to her, but we were just friends.

          Gerry was the one to encourage me to apply to the SAS even when I thought they'd reject me, and he'd been delighted when I made the grade.
          The downside of course was that I was rebased in Hereford and then of course on operations around the world. It had made keeping in touch nearly impossible but Kay was a good correspondent, keeping me up to date with letters and photos even if I only managed a phone call to them every few months.
          I smiled, remembering I'd been determined to spend a weekend with them just before I started my training with CI5. I'd taken Gerry to the pub and we'd got rolling drunk; Kay had put both of us to bed with amused tolerance - I remember I'd told her she was lovely and I think I propositioned her. Fortunately Gerry was too drunk and didn't hear, and she never told him.
          The Sunday had been spent recovering from the hangover; relieving old times. Contrary to my expectations Andrew had been uncommunicative; a petulant soon-to-be teenager who preferred beating his brains out with the latest loud music to talking. I didn't really resent it, I'd gone through a similar stage myself.

          I would always be thankful I'd made that weekend possible. The phone call came from Kay just a couple of months later as I finished my training...
          She was crying. "Bodie, is that you? I need you to come, please..."
          "Kay, what is it? What's happened?"
          "Gerry... he's dead. Please come, Bodie..."

          Getting leave from Cowley had been surprisingly easy. It was only later I learnt that he knew so much about our backgrounds, my friendship with Gerry Beech was on record and I only had to mention his sudden death to be granted leave.
          Gerry had been involved in a car crash. It hadn't been that serious; everyone else had walked away with scratches, but Gerry's near-miss in Ireland had left him with a weakened heart and he'd died in the car.
          By the time I arrived, Kay had pulled herself together, as I knew she would. There was Andrew to think of; funeral plans to be made. Recognising she needed to be busy I let her take the lead and was simply there to support her if she needed it.
          Andrew was a different matter. He tried to hide his grief, managing quite well until the funeral when he'd resorted to biting the back of his own hand rather than let himself cry, poor little sod.
          While Kay was busy distributing tea, cake and sandwiches to those people who'd accompanied us back to the house, I slipped out into the garden to find Andrew.
          He was sitting motionless on his swing, the one Gerry used to push him on a few short years ago. The black suit made him look paler than he was. "You all right, Andy?"
          He nodded, probably not trusting his voice.
          "It's okay to have feelings, you know. You loved your Dad. No one will think any the less of you if you show it." Andrew shrugged, not answering me. At least he was still listening. "I'm here if you want to talk."
          He glanced up at me. "Nothing's the same any more." I waited, not wanting to spout nonsense about everything changing. "Before Northern Ireland, everything was fine. Then Dad got hurt and it all went wrong. And you went away."
          I sighed. "You understand what the army's like, Andy. They tell us where we have to go."
          "But if you'd stayed with the Paras you wouldn't have gone. And now you're not even in the army any more."
          "I've got a new job; doesn't mean I can't visit."
          "Mum misses you."
          Maybe I read more into his glance than was there, but I didn't think so. "I'll be here for both of you."

          I would have to head back to London the following day; that evening I made tentative, 'possibly in the future' noises. I suppose I wasn't surprised when Kay rejected my advances.
          "You're a good friend, Bodie, and much as I appreciate everything you've done to help, I just think we should keep it that way. I've always been faithful to Gerry, and there's Andrew to consider. We don't want to do anything either of us will regret."
          I nodded, giving her a cheeky smile. "You'll let me know if you change your mind?"
          She sparkled at me in the way she used to, when I first got to know her. "Promise."

          Of course, my resolutions of seeing them had been frequently and consecutively squashed by various CI5 operations, but Kay had kept up the letters and photos. Andrew followed Gerry into the army as soon as he was old enough; we were both proud when he got into the 3rd Paras, although they were now based at Tidworth so Kay didn't see as much of him.
          Now, I wished now that I had made time and effort to see them.

          I glanced at my watch. I was making good time and could do with a break, so pulled into Fleet Services. Fetching a coffee, I returned to the car to drink it, idly watching the cars and people coming and going in the car park around me.
          So many people, lives untouched by recent events. For most of them it had caused a brief flurry of excitement, something to watch the TV news and read the papers for. There was an enemy to hate; land, clearly British, to be defended. Battles in the air and at sea; a war. For many, the first conflict of its sort in living memory.
          To a degree, I was no different. Being born just after the end of the Second World War, I grew up with it fresh in everyone's memory and the unintentional indoctrination left a mark - enemies were to be fought. Although my route there was unorthodox, I had eventually followed my father's wishes and joined the army, although he never knew it.

          Kay had phoned me on the ninth of April, a week after the Argentinians invaded. "Andrew is leaving on the Canberra today. He's part of Spearhead Battalion."
          I had been expecting it; Andrew was nineteen, a fully-trained soldier in a top-notch regiment. But for Kay's sake I wished it hadn't happened. "Wish him luck from me, if you speak to him."
          Our lives had carried on. CI5 had been on a heightened state of alert; there was no telling who might try an attack on England while we were all looking towards the South Atlantic.
          It was to be a short, bloody conflict. There was initial euphoria of 'our Empire at war' but it would fade quickly once our lads started getting killed. The General Belgrano was sunk to cheers from our side, but it was a different matter when the Sheffield was sunk just two days later with the loss of 20 lives.
          I followed the news as best as I could. Even though the news teams were on the spot, censorship meant that not everything was reported, but I was alert to any mention of the 3rd Paras. By mid-May it was reported that the troops on the Canberra had arrived at Ascension and were being transported closer to the islands, and within days the Paras and Royal Marines were involved in the fighting.
          The reports were coming in thick and fast by the end of May. The Paras were involved in the battle for Goose Green, Port Stanley was surrounded. Into June, and the horrific outcome of the attack on the Sir Galahad.
          And just a few days later on June the thirteenth, I woke to the news that Mount Longdon had been taken, but at the high expense of the lives of 23 members of the 3rd Paras...
          I had old contacts; they regretfully confirmed my fears. I couldn't just phone Kay; once again I had requested immediate leave from Cowley, and driven to Aldershot.

          I crumpled the coffee beaker and restarted the car; I didn't want to be late.
          I negotiated the road system around Southampton's busy town centre to the docks, arriving at the main gates just before ten-thirty.
          I didn't have any official paperwork but as I'd anticipated my CI5 pass worked just fine and I was directed to the right area. It wasn't hard to find exactly where I should be; if there's one thing the British Army does well it's honouring the dead.
          There were a lot of people waiting. Parents, sweethearts, wives with children. Most just sitting or standing quietly in small groups and showing little emotion. Months had passed; the edge had already gone from their grief.
          I spotted Kay with some other women. "Bodie, thank you for coming."
          "No trouble." I nodded politely to the group. There wasn't much I could say to them; it was hardly the occasion for polite chit-chat. We drifted apart, and I took a good look at Kay.
          I'd been too busy over the last couple of months to get down to Aldershot, but had stayed in touch. She had assured me she was coping and I had to believe her; now I wasn't so sure. She was 42, and looked ten years older.
          She saw my scrutiny. "I'm not sleeping well, Bodie. Once I have Andrew home and everything finalised, I'll be OK."
          Understandable. I didn't comment, instead leading her to the seats. The Sir Bedivere was ready to unload its sad cargo.

          It was a long ceremony. There were over sixty fallen servicemen to be repatriated; the receiving parties bringing them across in front of the seated ensemble as their names were read out. I felt sorry for the colour party; it was a heck of a responsibility to stand to attention on such an occasion, on a cold and grey day like this.
          I had recognised one of the officers saluting their men home; Draker, now a Colonel and obviously still with the Paras. After the long line of coffins had passed, he approached Kay. "Mrs Beech. My condolences."
          "Thank you." Composed, Kay gestured to me. "You remember Bodie?"
          "Bodie... yes. Used to be a sergeant with the team."
          I wasn't surprised he remembered me. I'd hated him on first sight at Aldershot and was sure the feeling was mutual, given the number of times he'd tried to put me on a charge. "Over ten years ago, now."
          "Really?" He glanced over my formal suit. "Left the service?"
          "Since I left the SAS, yes. I'm with a civilian force now. CI5," I added, in case he misinterpreted that to mean some dodgy security company.
          He'd heard of them. "I see. Good..." His gaze passed back to Kay. "You received all of Andrew's things?"
          "Yes, thank you, Colonel. If you'll excuse me, we have to speak to the undertaker."

          By three-thirty I was pulling into Farnham, to the small church where Gerry had been interred. Andrew could - and should - have been buried with full honours at the military cemetery at Aldershot, but Kay had wanted him to lie next to his father.
          "It's not that I'm not proud of him," she had explained on the drive. "He deserves every one of those honours and the recognition. But to accept them validates war and glorifies the deaths, and now more than ever before I can't accept that. His resting place should be with his father."
          Had Gerry been alive things would have been very different; he wouldn't have understood that at all. Andrew himself wouldn't have understood her either. They were career soldiers, both of them.
          Kay was now alone, both her men lost to her by the army. I could understand her.

          It was later that night that Kay finally broke down. She'd waited five long months for her lost son to return home and now everything was finalised. Except it wasn't all over.
          I let her cry in my arms until she hiccupped to silence. Fetching her a brandy I gathered her back against my shoulder and pressed the glass into her hand. She sipped it tentatively before whispering to me. "Thank you, Bodie."
          "You've got no need to thank me. Told you I'd be here for you."
          "I know. But I wouldn't have managed today without you there." Kay drew away from me and stood up. "I'm exhausted; I'm going to bed. Your room is ready for you."
          "OK." I let her go, not believing that was the end of her grieving for the night; but I was here if she wanted me.
          Turning the television on, I kept the sound down low. The news was just starting; they were carrying a report on the arrival of the Sir Bedivere with the last of our taskforce lads to return home from the Falklands. I'd seen the TV cameras at the dock, but they'd been circumspect and respectful, which was a change.

          It was nearly three when I was woken by a noise. Kay was in the doorway.
          "I can't sleep. Will you hold me?"
          I wordlessly held back the covers for her to join me; she'd put her robe on but it was a cold night, and I folded my arms around her, feeling her shiver.
          She wasn't crying; had no tears left. "It's cold."
          "You'll soon warm up." Fogged by sleep, my action had been instinctive; to comfort. Coming more awake, I was conscious of her curves, that the object of a long-held desire was in my bed, in my arms.
          And I couldn't even think of making a move on her.
          Kay's breathing evened out into sleep, and I relaxed my hold on her and laid back.

          I woke to find her leaning on her elbow, watching me.
          "You look so young when you're asleep, Bodie. So young and innocent..."
          I laughed. "Hardly. How did you sleep in the end?"
          "I slept. Which is more than I've done for months."
          "You look better," I told her honestly. "A few more nights like that..."
          "What, just like that?" Just for a second, there was the Kay I'd known ten years ago; happy with a husband and child but not above teasing another man. Her eyes flicked over the covers, no doubt knowing I was naked beneath them.
          Uncharacteristically, I blushed. "Well, maybe not quite like that..." I started to sit up, to find her hand pushing me flat.
          "You told me to tell you if I ever changed my mind, Bodie. Well, I have."
          Not like this. Kay was still distraught, not thinking clearly. I couldn't take advantage of her. I didn't need to speak; she saw my decision. "I see. So have you..."
          "No, Kay, it's not that I don't want to... But you can't be thinking clearly, we only buried Andrew yesterday."
          "I know that." The happy young woman was gone; the grieving mother back in her place. She got up and walked out of the room.
          Finding my trousers I hastened to follow. Kay was in the kitchen, putting the kettle on.
          "s'OK. It's just..." She turned to face me. "I'm selling this place, Bodie."
          "What?" It was a shock. They'd lived here ever since I got to know Gerry; it was a second home to me.
          "I've been talking to my sister. I'm selling, and going to live near her. That's why I wanted Andrew to be with Gerry; I'm leaving them."
          Kay's sister lived in the back of beyond in Yorkshire. "It's too soon to make a decision. You have to think about this."
          "I've been doing nothing but thinking for the last five months." She began to put teabags into the pot. "I decided a long time ago."
          "But..." I had no arguments to make her stay; and it would be unfair of me to try. She was probably right to go, she had no reason to stay.
          "It's for the best, Bodie. I have an estate agent coming round tomorrow. They think I'll probably sell quite quickly; there's a ready market for homes here..."
          "Are you sure?" I moved close to slip my arms around her. "It's a big step."
          "I'll have my memories, no matter where I am. And they're what's important, not a house." Her voice broke, and I turned her towards me.
          Given the proximity of Aldershot to London and how little I'd seen of her over the past few years, Yorkshire might as well be Mars. I might never see her again.
          "Do you want another memory to take with you?" It might be a huge mistake, but somehow I knew she'd been thinking about this for months as well. She lifted her face to me, and I kissed her properly for the first time...

          I put my overnight bag in the car, and turned back to the house, possibly for the last time, I reminded myself.
          Kay was smiling as I went through to the lounge, holding out something to me. "This is for you. To remember us all by..."
          The photo in the frame was an old one. We were all in the garden. Andrew was apparently holding me at gunpoint, Kay standing behind laughing, Gerry - who had set the camera timer - had tripped in his hurry to be in the shot and landed at our feet. It was a miracle that it had come out at all.
          It was the summer of 1970, before Gerry and I went to Northern Ireland; before, as Andrew had said, everything went wrong.
          "You'll keep in touch?"
          "Yes, Bodie, I promise. And you know I keep my promises."
          I smiled with her, thinking of earlier. If I ever found that one who was right for me, she'd probably be a lot like Kay.
          "I won't come out." Kay gave me a hug. "Stay lucky."

          She waved from the door; even at that distance I could see the tears on her face.
          There was no more I could do. I turned the car onto the road and headed for London, leaving her to her memories.

© Carol Good - February 2004

The Falklands Conflict, April-June 1982.
With due respect to the memory of those who fell, on both sides.

* * * * *

Lyrics reproduced without permission but with no intent to defraud

Army dreamers

© Kate Bush

Army dreamers
(Mammy's hero)
(Mammy's hero)

Our little army boy
Is coming home from B.F.P.O.
I've a bunch of purple flowers
To decorate a mammy's hero

Mourning in the aerodrome,
The weather warmer, he is colder
Four men in uniform
To carry home my little soldier

What could he do?
Should have been a rock star
But he didn't have the money for a guitar
What could he do?
Should have been a politician.
But he never had a proper education
What could he do?
Should have been a father
But he never even made it to his twenties
What a waste
Army dreamers
Ooh, what a waste of
Army dreamers

Tears o'er a tin box
Oh, Jesus Christ, he wasn't to know,
Like a chicken with a fox,
He couldn't win the war with ego

Give the kid the pick of pips,
And give him all your stripes and ribbons
Now he's sitting in his hole,
He might as well have buttons and bows

What could he do?
Should have been a rock star
But he didn't have the money for a guitar
What could he do?
Should have been a politician
But he never had a proper education
What could he do?
Should have been a father
But he never even made it to his twenties
What a waste
Army dreamers
Ooh, what a waste of
Army dreamers
Ooh, what a waste of all that
Army dreams
Army dreamers
Army dreamers, oh...

Army dreamers
(Mammy's hero)
Army Dreamers
(Mammy's hero)
No harm heroes
(Mammy's hero)
Army dreamers
(Mammy's hero)
No harm heroes
(Mammy's hero)
Mammy's darling
(Mammy's hero)

[B.F.P.O. = British Forces Posted Overseas.]

If you're interested in hearing the song that inspired this story, please visit here

This is probably one of the cleverest songs I've heard - listen carefully for the sound of the gun breech being worked on the backing track...