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One-Way Ticket

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 One-Way Ticket

 

  

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‘Yes, I’m just coming, Sheila love.  Won’t be long now.’

He looked down at Doyle, on his knees at the side of the bed, mouth hollowed round his cock. 

Sheila’s squawking faded momentarily in his ear as his balls tightened and Doyle’s eyes gleamed up at him before a finger traced around his arsehole and plunged in.  With a silent grimace, Bodie was coming, ejaculating down Doyle’s throat, fucking the long, elegant length of it, grasping his partner’s hair with his free hand while the other clutched the RT to his ear.

He came back to himself as Doyle released his cock, licking his lips, to hear Sheila demanding indignantly, ‘Did you get that, 3.7?’

‘Sorry, bit of interference on the line there.  Can you repeat?’

‘I said, report to Alpha One at Northfleet Hope Terminal, Tilbury immediately.  I tried to raise 4.5 but I couldn’t reach him.’ 

‘Don’t worry about it, darling.  I’ll do all the raising necessary.’  He looked down at his partner who was grinning.  ‘Done that,’ mouthed Doyle silently.

‘He should have his RT on, you know that.  He could get into trouble.’  Sheila was insistent.

‘Trouble’s his middle name.’  He winced at a dig in the ribs.  Doyle was dressing quickly, motioning at him to get cleaned up and dressed so that they wouldn’t be late.

‘All right, 3.7 out.’  He clicked off the RT and turned to his partner.  ‘That was close.’

‘Sheila’s timing’s lousy.  I did wonder how you were going to answer it though.’

‘I didn’t want to disturb you.’  Bodie struggled with a recalcitrant sock.

Doyle passed him the other sock and mopped considerately at Bodie’s belly with the edge of the sheet, where Doyle had come messily earlier.  ‘I was brought up not to talk with my mouth full,’ he said with a sunny twinkle.

db

The Capri rolled to a stop at the edge of a scene filled with more activity than CI5 usually encountered.  Bodie and Doyle got out of the car and scanned the fire engines, ambulances and police cars, looking past them for Cowley or any of the Squad.  Doyle coughed as the rancid smell of the docks rolled over them:  diesel, a vague hint of seaweed, oil and rubbish.  Bodie inhaled dramatically. 

  

 

police-containers framedBD

‘Ah, takes me back to my youth, this does.’

‘What, when you stowed away on the Birkenhead ferry?’

Pennington jogged past and caught sight of them.

‘Hey! Over here!  The Old Man’s down by the water.  Make for the crate with the most action.  Oh, and roll your trousers up, it’s bloody gruesome.  Worst I’ve ever seen.’  He pulled a face and carried on.

‘What?  Oi – what does that mean?’  Doyle glared after his colleague.  ‘Typical.  Probably trying to maintain his Man of Mystery persona.’

‘Pennington?  The only mystery about him is how he manages to get his shoes on the right feet in the morning.’  Bodie was still scanning the activity around them. 

They were interrupted by a shout from their boss.

‘You’re late.’

‘Sorry, sir.’

‘Something came up.’  Bodie glanced across as he said this in order to catch the smirk he knew would grace his partner’s face.

Cowley raised his eyebrows ‘Did it indeed?  Aye, and it may do again.  I hope you didn’t have time for breakfast.  This way.’

‘What is it with all the cryptic comments this morning?’ Doyle grumbled as they followed on behind.  Bodie skipped to catch up. 

‘What’ve we got, sir?’

‘It’s a bad business.’  Cowley led them back towards the river.  Doyle stared in astonishment as they by-passed an ambulance man who was vomiting onto the ground.  A colleague was sitting on a box next to him, his head in his hands.

‘It must be.’

‘Aye.  Brace yourselves, lads.  I’ve not seen anything like this before.’

They made their way past a fireman huddled against a wall.  The sound of his harsh sobs was loud even above the hubbub around them.

Bodie nudged his partner as they followed Cowley.  ‘You ready for this?’

‘I’m not sure I want to be,’ Doyle said, a grim expression on his face.  ‘These guys have seen a lot, and if they think it’s bad, it –‘ He broke off and gagged as the smell reached them.  Bodie put his arm over his nose and mouth and followed in Cowley’s wake cautiously.

‘Sir!’  McCabe picked his way towards them.  He was pale and sweating, and he was wiping his mouth as he approached.  ‘Sorry, Mr. Cowley.’

‘Not your fault, laddie.’  Cowley turned and regarded his two top agents sombrely. 

‘I’ll tell you this, it’s bad.  Take a minute, because apart from the mess, there’s children in there.  Go and take a look, then come and report to me.  I’ll be talking to Johnson, over there.’  He indicated the fireman they’d passed.  ‘He and his team broke the doors of the container open so they saw it all first.’  He set off, calling for McCabe to follow him.

Bodie watched Doyle square his shoulders and take a breath.  ‘Okay?’

‘Yep.  You?’

He pulled a face.  ‘Can’t be much worse than the things I saw in Africa.  And you must have been called to the odd decomposing granny in your time?’

‘Yeah, fifteen pints of milk on the doorstep and no one caring except the milkman, and that only because he wanted his money.’

They looked at one another.  ‘Come on, then.’

They ducked under the fluttering blue-and-white tape and made their way to the shipping container.  They could see where the firemen had had to chop at the heavy bolts on the doors to release them and open the container.  As they came around to the front and could see into the container itself they stopped in their tracks, almost unable to process what they were seeing.

It was dark inside, but that didn’t entirely obscure the bodies heaped on the floor.  They had seeped and oozed unpleasant liquids as they had started to decompose, but in addition there was a great deal of congealed blood.  The walls were stacked with small bags and boxes and there were threadbare blankets and worn pillows scattered around, now dabbled and blotched with blood.  There was no food in sight and all the water bottles were empty.  The stench of decay and sweat and human filth was sickeningly sweet.  Flies buzzed in and out, their drone audible above the noise of the docks and the bustle of the activity around them.

‘Christ.  There must be a dozen of them.’  Doyle swallowed gamely in an attempt to contain his rising gorge. 

‘Poor bastards.  What the hell happened though?’  Bodie cautiously stepped into the container, wincing at the pitifully small bodies.  Still curled possessively in the thin, bird-clawed hand of one child was a shabby cloth doll, now stained and soaked in liquefied filth.  Bodie turned away abruptly.

‘There’s one with a cut throat there, look.’

‘That one’s got defensive marks on his – no, her, arms.’

Doyle was reluctantly looking closer.  ‘I don’t think they all died or were killed at once.  This one’s still fairly fresh, but this one’s all bloated, look.’

Bodie was peering intently around the container.  ‘That’s odd.  Those look like bite marks.  You don’t think some idiot brought an animal with them, and it went mad, do you?’

‘There’s enough shit and piss in here that you can’t tell.  Christ, it’s disgusting.’  Doyle turned away, hand to his mouth.

Bodie looked across at him quizzically.  ‘As in, the shit and piss? I’d have to agree there, mate.’

‘No.’ Doyle had managed to get his rebellious stomach back under control.  ‘Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant.  That these poor bastards felt life was so bad at home that they’d go through this to get here.  And then for this to happen – whatever did happen.’

‘Mmm.’ Bodie was preoccupied with the bodies.  ‘They are bites, you know.’  He straightened up, looking sickened.  ‘Ray, they’re not just bites.  There’s whole chunks missing.’

Doyle stared at his partner.  ‘What d’you mean?’

Bodie was pale, but held his gaze sombrely.  ‘I mean something’s tried to eat them.’

‘An animal.’  Doyle was definite.

Bodie shrugged mutely.  Doyle stared at him.  ‘You can’t mean it was one of them?’

‘Let’s hope not, eh?’  Bodie turned away to look for the Controller, leaving Doyle to shake his head in disbelief. 

Cowley was heading back towards them, finishing a conversation with a Port of London Authority official who was mopping futilely at the vomit stains on his jacket.  He signalled for them to join him as the PLA man left.

‘Sir.’

‘He knows little about it.’  Cowley waved them away from the scene towards his car.

‘How did they find all this then, sir?’ Doyle’s gesture was comprehensive. 

‘They were unloading a ship which had been delayed due to a storm.  Some of the containers had slipped so they were having to go slowly at sea.  When they were unloading, one of the men thought they heard a noise from a container so when they unloaded it they tried to investigate but the door mechanism had been damaged.  When they finally got someone to open it, and I quote the gentleman who just left, “a madman sprang out and ran away.”  I gather that while everyone was in a state of shock at the contents of the container no one thought to try and catch him.’

‘No animal, then?’  Doyle was worrying about the possibility, and the unthinkable alternative.  Cowley frowned at him, uncomprehending.

‘Why us, sir?’ Bodie asked.

Cowley nodded.  ‘A fair question.  There doesn’t seem to be anything here for us at the moment.  I think we were called because it’s outside of anyone’s experience.’  He surveyed the scene.  ‘Finish up here, but if you don’t find anything other than the admittedly very unpleasant obvious, wrap up and come back to HQ.’

As he left, one of the PLA men was gazing disapprovingly at the container. 

‘Who would be so stupid as to trust their lives to one of those for three weeks?’  Bodie and Doyle ignored him, but he continued, ‘They were bloody lucky the air holes didn’t get blocked.’ 

They looked at him in disbelief.  He flushed.  ‘That is, I suppose that might have been more merciful.  In the end.  Suffocation.  Do you think?’

They moved away without dignifying his yammering with an answer.

‘Poor devils.’  Bodie was sombre.

‘Makes you wonder what their lives must be like, that they’ll risk a journey like that locked up in a shipping container crammed in with other people and only one pot to piss in.’

‘And the rest.’  Bodie winced fastidiously.  ‘Not our business, though, is it?’

‘Nah.  Port Authority and the coppers.  Let’s turn it back over to them and then head back.’  Doyle sniffed the fresher air.  Bodie shifted his shoulders under his leather jacket, looking down the river.

‘Reminds me, this.’

‘Of your misspent youth?’

‘Misguided, more like.’

‘Tell me later, sailor.’  They exchanged a small grin, private in the noise and the chaos around them, and turned as one to go back to the CID officers, Doyle leaning briefly and unobtrusively into his partner’s dark strength as they passed the container again.

db

A few days later, Cowley wound up the daily briefing.

‘For those of you who were down at Tilbury the other day, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know the ball is back in our court.  For those who weren’t there, you’ve probably heard all about it, aye, and more.  There’s one poor woman who survived:  she’s in Guy’s Hospital at the moment, seriously ill.  Someone will need to interview her.’  He surveyed the room full of agents before continuing.  ‘We initially thought it was none of our business but there’s a rumour that there’s another container and that this one’s full of arms and ammunition.  There’s a separate whisper about Cuban involvement, and as you know, Cuban often leads to Russian involvement somewhere.  I need more than rumours!  Find out, ladies and gentlemen.  If there was another container, it wasn’t on the same ship, so where is it now?  If the Cubans are involved, who?  Why?  Why now?  Facts, not whispers.  And as soon as possible!’  He aligned his papers together on the desk with a bang and swept out.

McCabe turned to Lucas.  ‘Crap.  I hope it is only guns and ammo in any other containers.  That was horrible.’  His partner patted him on the shoulder consolingly.

db

‘Who are we here to see?’

‘Don’t play dumb.  Mrs. Broome, at number 21 Rosemount Road.’  Bodie swerved the Capri into the kerb.

‘Number 21, saah.  And – oh, I don’t believe it!  Is that her?  The woman with the broom?’

‘Mrs. Broome, with an actual broom?  Nah, can’t be.’  They grinned.

One of the houses did indeed have a woman sweeping the tiny pathway ferociously.  She paused as they approached, watching them looking at numbers on doors and gates, and glared at them suspiciously.

‘Fifteen, seventeen, nineteen – it is, you know.’  Doyle moved in front and took the lead.

‘Mrs. Broome?’  Bodie turned away, coughing.

‘Oo’s asking?’

‘Doyle and Bodie, CI5.’  They showed their badges, which she examined minutely.  ‘You reported seeing a stranger when the police did a door-to-door enquiry recently?’

‘Strange?  Wot’s strange these days?’  She eyed Doyle’s jeans, Kickers and battered leather jacket and sniffed.  Bodie’s cough was explosive this time.  ‘Got you back for Marge,’ he murmured.  Doyle ignored him pointedly.

‘Wot is it now, then?  I spoke to that copper.’

‘We’d just like to hear a bit more about the man who spoke to you.’  Doyle was at his most reassuring.  ‘It’ll only take a few minutes.  We’d be very grateful,’ and he flashed his wide white smile at her.

She eyed him, still unimpressed.  ‘Like I said.  ‘E looked suspicious, I thought that right from the start.’  She sniffed again, obviously not thinking much of the CI5 men sent to ask her questions either.  Doyle nodded patiently.  Bodie rolled his eyes, turning away slightly.  His partner did this so much better than he did.

‘What made you think that?’

‘Is eyes.  Never still, they weren’t.  ‘An ‘is smile weren’t real. Never opened ‘is mouth properly, did ‘e?  ‘E gave me a real bad feelin’, that’s all there were to it.  ‘E were askin’ about strangers too.  Foreigners.  Posh geezer, ‘e was.  Smarmy.’  She looked at Doyle as if comparing the posh geezer with Doyle’s casual toughness.

‘All right, Mrs. Broome, thanks for your time.  We’ll be in touch if we need anything else.’

Bodie was already halfway out of the gate and Doyle was putting away his pen when the woman said, ‘‘E weren’t from round ‘ere, you know.’

Doyle didn’t bother to mask his smile this time.  ‘I don’t suppose there’s many left like you round here, love.’

‘Naow.’  She ignored his banter, impatient with his flattery.  ‘I meant, not from London.’

Doyle frowned at her.  ‘Not from London?  How can you tell?  You said he spoke with a posh accent.’  He leaned over the gatepost and whistled to Bodie, already ensconced in the Capri.  His partner cut the engine and opened the door. 

‘Problem?’

‘Not sure.  Get back here.’

With Bodie standing next to him, Doyle turned back to the old woman.  ‘Right, Mrs. Broome.  Tell us that bit again.’

She looked at him, jaw set tight.  ‘Not that much to tell. But ‘e said ‘e’d come up from Green-witch.  That’s ‘ow ‘e said it, Green-witch.’ 

Bodie raised an eyebrow at his partner.

‘If you didn’t know how Greenwich was pronounced, that’s how you might say it if you’d only seen it on a map.’

Doyle’s eyebrows rose too.  ‘Back to Father?’

‘On the double.’

Doyle turned back to the old woman.  ‘Thanks, Mrs. Broome, you’ve been a great help.’

‘It reminded me of the war, when the Jerries would pretend to be hitchhikers and not know how far it was from the seaside.  But I didn’t say nuffin.’

‘Very sensible, I’m sure,’ said Bodie, taking Doyle gently by the elbow and ushering him back down the path.

She shook her head disapprovingly at the squeal of the tyres as the car leapt away from the curb, and went to fetch her broom.  The last they saw of her in the rear view mirror showed her still sweeping the path to her tiny house, as if to sweep away their intrusion into her domain.

‘Her and her war stories.’

‘Was she old enough to have been in the war?’

‘She looked it.’

db

Murphy and Anson were waiting for them as the partners arrived back at the squad room.  Anson was drinking tea and Murphy was refilling the kettle as they came through the door. 

‘Ah, cheers, mate!’ said Bodie, reaching out for a cup as Doyle collapsed into the least-worn of the available chairs. 

‘No, no, don’t get comfortable.  You’re off out again,’ said Murphy as he sniffed the milk cautiously, decided it was passable and added it to his mug.

‘What?  We’ve been trawling round town all day!’

‘Trawling.  Good word.’  Anson smirked and raised his mug to Murphy.  They nodded to each other.

‘’Cut the comedy act,’ said Doyle, scowling suspiciously.  ‘What’s going on?’

‘One of Bodie’s contacts got in touch.  He wants to meet in –‘ Murphy consulted his watch –‘an hour.  On the Woolwich Ferry, he said.’

‘Oh, great.’  Doyle closed his eyes.  ‘Just what I need after a day like today.’

‘Ah, come on, Doyle, Marty’s all right.’  Bodie said defensively.

‘Take Murph with you.  He’d like Murph.’  Doyle grinned wickedly at his colleague, while Bodie looked at him as a lion summing up an antelope.  Murphy gazed back warily, unsure of the joke.

‘Hmmm, good body, long legs, pretty face.’

  

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Murphy yelped in startlement and Anson cracked up with laughter but Bodie carried on, ignoring them.  ‘You’re right, but it’ll be quicker to take you.  Come on, sunshine, get your party knickers on.  Or off, in Marty’s case.’  They swept out, Doyle complaining bitterly all the way, leaving Anson and Murphy in sole possession of the VIP lounge again.

‘What the hell was that about?’

‘Dunno.  Did the bloke on the phone sound like a ponce to you?’

‘No.  Ah, it’s just those two pratting around again, you know what they’re like.’  And with that, the two agents resumed their peaceful tea-drinking.

Doyle paused before putting the key into the ignition. 

‘Martell.’

Bodie winked.  ‘Your favourite sailor.’

Doyle shook his head.  ‘Do I have to come with you?’

‘Ah, he’s harmless.  Let him have his thrills.’

‘He looks at me like I’m a prime steak,’ Doyle objected.

‘Well, you started him off.  “Rob all the women, rape all the men.”  Got the poor old lad all in a lather, you did.  Got his hopes right up – and other things.’  Bodie grinned salaciously.

‘Yes, it’s the other things that bother me.’  Doyle hit Bodie in the ribs.  ‘Stop it!’

‘Oof!  Don’t worry, petal,’ Bodie deepened his voice and puffed out his chest,’ ‘Martell knows you’re mine.’  He bent double, wheezing in pain as Doyle squeezed his balls hard, and croaked out, ‘You’ll be sorry when you want to play with those later!’

Doyle grumbled all the way to Marty’s self-styled office on the Woolwich ferry.  Bodie tuned him out, thinking about what attracted Martell to Doyle.  It was the combination of menace and unexpected beauty, wildness and full, lush lips, toughness and long, lean legs – the same things, he knew, that still made him weak at the knees occasionally.  Secure in their relationship, however, he could still get a kick out of Martell’s dry-mouthed lust and Doyle’s irritation at the arms-dealer’s blatant admiration.

They boarded the ferry, Doyle following in Bodie’s wake.  Martell was in his usual spot, inconspicuously guarded by his usual minder, who took a step forward when he saw them approaching.  Bodie ignored him, and Martell waved him away.

‘Marty!’ he said effusively.

‘Bodie.’  There was a small but perceptible pause as Martell’s gaze shifted to linger on Doyle.  ‘Doyle.’

Doyle pushed his aviators further up the bridge of his nose and stared at Martell.  Bodie smirked cheerfully.

‘You said you have some information for us, old son?’

‘Yes, possibly, but what do I get out of it?  I’m not CI5’s private grass.  It’s starting to feel as though I should be on Cowley’s payroll.’

Bodie flicked a glance at Doyle.  True enough, they’d been to Martell a few times recently, enough to justify the annoyance he was showing.  Over to his partner then, to charm the information if he could.  He was aware of Doyle’s exasperation with him and with the whole situation, but he stepped forward, a slight, insolent smile on his face, looking up at the older man from underneath his fringe of heavy curls.

‘Come on, Martell.  We’ve heard there’s a big container load of arms lying around somewhere out there.  That’s not good for your business, mate.  We wouldn’t want you to - go down, as it were.’

Martell swallowed, and Bodie turned away to hide his grin.  Good old Doyle, playing it for all it was worth.

‘That’s hardly likely, although I thank you for your concern.’

Bodie stepped back into the conversation.  ‘Come on, Marty, anything you’ve heard, we need it.  Especially about Cubans.  Or Russians.’

‘Cuban?  Zeljak mentioned a big deal, but I don’t know who with.’

There was a snort from behind them as Martell’s minder approached from his position against the rails.  ‘He is stupid man, that Zeljak.  He ask me to be present at meeting, to stand, to guard.  He believe all he is told because he is greedy.’

As one, the two agents turned to face him.  ‘What do you mean, Mr. – Gyurchev, isn’t it?’

Gyurchev nodded.  ‘He tell me this man English, but I hear him set next meeting for Chis-wick.  That how he say it, as two words.  Chis-wick.  Ha!  I have been in this country only one year, and I know it is not said like that.’

‘Do you know who he was, this other man?’  Doyle leaned forward, his leather jacket pulling taut against his back.

‘No.  I not see him before.  Zeljak, he is careful only because he know I work for Mr. Martell.  He don’t want to give too much information.  But they speak of a container.’

Martell was distracted by the way Doyle’s jacket wrapped so tightly around his shoulders, the leather gleaming softly in the light.  He drifted into a daydream, pleasant thoughts of Bodie taking Doyle filling his mind.  He imagined them together, the two naked bodies writhing, struggling for domination, Bodie’s powerful shoulders, strong thighs, and firm buttocks outlined in the soft light.  Doyle’s curls were almost down to his shoulders at the moment and although his frame was sparer than Bodie’s, the shoulders were just as wide, if his flanks were leaner.  He could see them now, locked on the bed – no, would he put them on the bed, in this scene he was constructing in his heated imagination?  Yes, perhaps, on his eau-de-nil satin sheets, rumpled and forming a beautiful background for the contrast of Doyle’s tanned, sinewy limbs against Bodie’s alabaster, more muscled form.  He eased himself discreetly in his Armani slacks.  Bodie would top, obviously, although then again, it might be interesting to see him give himself up to -

‘Oi! Are you paying attention?’  Doyle was glaring at him. 

‘Sorry, dear boy.  Did you get what you needed?  From Piotr, I mean?’  Doyle was still glaring at him, and he drew a breath.  Oh, to have all that energy focused on him for the right reasons…  Bodie intervened smoothly, barring Doyle’s move forward with an outstretched arm. 

‘So basically, Marty, you’ve heard that there’s something moving but you don’t know what.  Your man here knows there’s someone linked to Zeljak, but that’s more to do with people than arms, is that right?’  Martell shrugged airily.  ‘D’you think you could try just a little bit harder?  Before Doyle here gets really ratty?’  Martell’s eyes widened.  Bodie shook his head.  Martell sighed. ‘Well, there has to be an incentive, Bodie.  What can CI5 offer?’

‘Great,’ muttered Doyle.  ‘Cowley’s gonna love this.’

db

 ‘That was a complete waste of time.’  Doyle left the ferry, irritation apparent in every strike of his boot heels against the wooden walkway.

Bodie hung back in order to enjoy the full effect of Doyle’s long-legged stride from the rear.  His partner turned when he reached the car.  ‘Hey!  Are you coming, or what? You’ve got the key.’

‘Yeah, yeah.’  Bodie jogged to catch up, opening the car door with a little bow.  ‘Your carriage awaits, sir.’  In the driver’s seat and starting the engine, he thought for a minute.  ‘It’s confirmation, though.  Marty knows there’s a big deal hovering out there on the market.’

‘He doesn’t know who the Cuban is though, does he?  That other guy was Eastern European, from what Marty’s minder said.’  Doyle rocked back in his seat as Bodie gunned the engine.

‘Zeljak?  Yeah, he’s just a middle-man, a fixer.  He doesn’t matter.  What interested me was the one Gyurchev heard at the meeting, the one who asked about Chis-wick.  Even Marty’s guy noticed it, and he can hardly string two words together himself, but that’s not a native speaker, is it?’

‘Chis-wick?  Doyle rolled the two syllables around his tongue thoughtfully.  ‘Hmmm.  Chis-wick and Green-witch.  Someone who’s not been in London very long, d’you think? Back to Cowley, and let’s see what he makes of our news then.’

db

‘Is that it?‘  The Controller was on his way out to a meeting and was not impressed.  ‘You spend all morning and all you can tell me is that there’s a foreigner involved?  Ach, you make me tired, the pair of you.  Go and talk to the CIA.  I can’t do it, I have to go and brief the Minister, but if there’s anything to do with Cuba they’re likely to know something.’

Doyle groaned theatrically.  ‘Please tell me we don’t have to be nice to our American friends.’

‘You’re never nice to them,’ objected Bodie.

‘Co-operation, Doyle.’  Cowley fixed him with a stern glare.

‘I’ll co-operate with them if they’ll co-operate with us.’  Doyle refused to back down.  ‘You know what they’re like!’

‘Yes, sir.  Co-operation, sir.  That will be our watch word.’  Bodie pulled Doyle towards the door, happily aware of the little smile that Cowley was trying unsuccessfully to hide.

db

The atmosphere in the room was chilly.   The CI5 agents hadn’t appreciated having to go to the American embassy, and had appreciated even less having to check their weapons at the entrance.  The two CIA agents had an insufferable attitude, they felt, and Bodie for one wanted to wipe the supercilious expression from the over-muscled clod in front of them.  Webster, was his name?  Winston?  He looked like a Winston.  Constipated.  He came back from his thoughts to hear Doyle explaining in his patient voice, the one he kept for idiots, what they were looking for. 

‘This man who was on the ship.  In a shipping container.  From Cuba.  Do you know anything about him?  Officially?’

The other agent looked back at Doyle blandly.  ‘You’ll have to submit a request.’

Doyle’s eyes narrowed.  ‘We haven’t got time for that, pal.  It’s a simple enough question:  do you know him, or not?’

Denney could do patient as well, it seemed.  ‘I’m not at liberty to divulge that information.  Submit your request through formal channels and it will be expedited as soon as possible.’

Bodie snorted.  ‘Pathetic.  What happened to inter-agency co-operation?’

‘This is inter-agency co-operation.’  Denney’s face was poker-straight, but his partner was grinning unpleasantly.

Doyle glared.  ‘Come on, Bodie.  No need to waste any more time on these two.  We have work to do, even if these berks haven’t.’

They were escorted out in chilly silence.

db

At St. Bartholomew’s hospital, the survivor from the container was in a private room.  She looked very small in the bed, the covers flat over a thin body.  The steady beeping of the monitors was the only sound in the dim room.

‘Mrs. Fuentes?’  Bodie grimaced as the woman didn’t stir.  He turned to the doctor.  ‘Can she hear us?  Does she speak any English?’

‘She has been severely traumatised, not only physically but also psychologically, by what she experienced.  She is in deep withdrawal.  I really must insist that you limit your questions.’  The doctor’s tone was hushed but curt.

‘Doc, we need to know as much as we can.’  Doyle was urgent, staring at the woman as if he could communicate by the heat of his gaze alone.

‘I realise that, but the welfare of my patient has to come first.’  The doctor frowned, disapproving of these tough young men bringing their pent-up energy into the sanctuary of his hospital.

‘Look, this man killed fifteen people!  He ate bits of them to survive, dammit!  Don’t you think it’s worth asking a few questions to catch this monster?’  Doyle’s explosion raised a faint echo from the woman on the bed.

‘El monstruo…’ she sighed.

As one, the CI5 agents moved closer to the bedside. They could see her eyes were still closed, sunken and bruised in her pale face. Her dry and cracked lips, unsupported by a toothless mouth, trembled as she breathed noisily.

‘Mrs. Fuentes?  Can you tell us anything about the man in the container with you?’

‘Mi hijo.’  Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes.

Doyle pulled a face.  ‘The man, Mrs. Fuentes?’

‘Mi esposo.’  Her body started to heave as she sobbed, deep, racking sobs that sent the monitors into a frenzy of bleeping.  The doctor recorded her vital signs and administered a drug directly into the I.V. cannula.  ‘Hey, wait a moment!’ Doyle objected, but it was too late.  The woman was already calming, with the doctor watching the monitors in satisfaction.  ‘I’m sorry, but I told you she was very unwell.  You’ll have to come back later,’ he said.

There was nothing else to be done as the woman was unconscious again, so they left the little room.

‘Fat lot of use that was.’

‘Perhaps she’ll have more later.  At least she’s still alive to talk to us.’  Bodie was philosophical about it.  ‘Let’s grab a coffee and come back in a bit when they’ve got her settled again.’

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 ‘Cuba.’  Doyle was doodling on a sheet of paper.

‘It’s the largest island in the Caribbean.  Capital city, Havana, chief exports, sugar and tobacco, guy called Fidel Castro in charge running a socialist republic –‘

‘Yeah, yeah.’ Doyle interrupted his partner’s list which sounded as though it could have gone on for some while.  ‘You reckon King Leon might have some info about this guy?’

Bodie hooted with laughter.  ‘Did you not do geography at school?  Jamaica and Cuba, different islands, about a hundred or so miles apart!’

‘Oh.’  Doyle thought about that briefly.  ‘Well, you never know.  Might still be worth asking.  We’ll go and see him later.’

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‘Well?  You took your time.’  Cowley was impatient.

‘We had to wait to speak to Mrs. Fuentes. She’s not doing very well.’

‘With the help of a translator,’ Bodie intervened, in case Cowley went mad and thought they both now spoke Spanish.

The corner of Doyle’s mouth twitched but he continued.  ‘Apparently they’d all paid Zeljak to get into the country.  Fifteen people from four families, all nice and cosy in the one container.  Then at the last moment there was an addition, a Luis Manzano.  A big man in Cuba, apparently, not to be crossed.  He has a bad reputation and everyone was scared of him.  When the delay started and the food began to run low, he took it, and the water.  They were banging on the crate but they were getting weaker and weaker and none of the crew heard them.  This Manzano had a knife, killed the stronger men first, then the kids.  Some had already died by then anyway.  She was very weak and just played dead, lying under her husband.  She saw him eating from some of the bodies though.’

There was a brief silence while they contemplated her ordeal.

‘And now he’s loose in our country, with connections to the Russians and a lost shipment of arms.  This is not a good situation.’  Cowley glared at his agents.  ‘Find him.’ 

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Doyle pressed the buzzer for Bodie’s flat and, frowning when there was no immediate response, pressed it again, harder.  He was pulling his RT out of his pocket when there was a crackle from the intercom and a voice said, ‘Yeah?’

‘Meter’s running on your taxi, sir.’

‘Yeah.’  Surprised by the lack of enthusiasm, Doyle jogged up to Bodie’s second-floor flat, to be greeted by a wan-faced partner.  ‘Blimey, mate, you look rough – bad night?’

‘Terrible.  Puking and the shits all night.’

‘Reckon it was something you ate?  I’ve been fine.’  Doyle frowned, thinking back over what they’d eaten the previous day.

‘Dunno.  Don’t care.’  Bodie drooped over the settee.

Doyle studied him.  ‘You coming into work?’

‘Suppose I’d better, or the Cow’ll be after me.  I’ll be all right.’

‘You sure?  You really don’t look well.’

‘Don’t fuss, Ray.  I’ll be fine.’

They made it into HQ with only one stop for Bodie to throw up in the gutter, and he slumped into a chair in the squad room and closed his eyes thankfully.

‘What’s up with him?’  Jax peered doubtfully at Bodie.  ‘He’s not infectious, is he?’

‘No, just got an upset stomach.  Must have been something he ate.’  Doyle cast a sympathetic eye at his partner, knowing the teasing was only just about to start.

 ‘Got the squits?’  As Anson said this, Bodie put one hand to his lower stomach, then leaped from the chair and hurried towards the door.

‘Lovely.’  There was jocular speculation on whether Bodie had made it to the gents, and if he had met anyone in the corridors, but then the sufferer returned, rather white about the face.

Allison jeered at him ‘Thought you could eat anything, after Africa?’

Doyle leaned in close to him and murmured, ‘I’m not putting anything up there until you’re better, sunshine,’ then, conscious of the other agents present in the VIP lounge, raised his voice to say, ‘That’ll teach you to polish off left-over sandwiches.  I told you no filling should be grey.’

‘Ha! – he thought it was elephant.  Elephants are grey.’  Allison was enjoying this.  Anson threw a pencil at him. 

‘Put a sock in it, Robbie.  It wasn’t funny the first time.’

Bodie turned a delicate shade of green and bolted for the door again, clutching his stomach.

‘And there he goes again.  Remind me to use the bogs upstairs today,’ said Murphy, reaching for the paper.

His quest for information was foiled by Cowley’s abrupt entrance into the room.

‘4.5, take 3.7 and go and see a Madame Valdes.  Get the address from Betty.  She may have information about this man we’re tracking.’

‘Sorry, sir.  3.7’s indisposed at the moment.’  Doyle’s face was grave but his eyes sparkled with suppressed humour. There was a snigger from elsewhere in the room.

‘Indisposed?  What do you mean, man?’  Cowley frowned, suspecting a joke.

‘He ate something he shouldn’t and it disagreed with him.  He’s running to the bog- er, gents every half an hour.’

‘Ach.’  Cowley frowned, then the frown turned into a reluctant chuckle.  ‘I thought Master Bodie had a cast-iron stomach?  Well, take 6.2 with you instead.  It won’t wait.’

Murphy jumped to his feet.  ‘Yes, sir.’

Doyle turned to Pennington before he left the room.  ‘Tell Bodie not to follow up with King Leon on his own, okay?’

‘I’m not your bloody secretary, Doyle.  Tell him yourself.’

Doyle turned back to Murphy, who was more in awe of the Controller than Doyle and consequently was fidgeting in the corridor, fretting about wanting to leave.  ‘Yeah, all right, I’m coming.’  He turned back to Pennington.  ‘I haven’t got time, Penn, you heard the Cow.  It’s important – tell him for me, yeah?’

‘Doyle, he’s a big boy now.  He doesn’t need you to hold his hand at every verse end.’

‘Just fucking tell ‘im!’

As the door banged closed behind him, Pennington shook his head and reached for the paper Murphy had abandoned.  Doyle, Bodie – they were like an old married couple, he reflected.  He put his feet up on the chair opposite him, tented the paper comfortably over his head, and went to sleep.

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 ‘Why all the rush about going to see this woman?  And who the hell is she, anyway?’  Doyle was still annoyed about having to leave a message for Bodie.  Not that he minded working with Murphy, but it was unlike Bodie to be ill and he wanted to make sure his partner stayed tucked up in HQ until he was feeling better.  Bodie had an over-exaggerated sense of his own capabilities at times, and Doyle wasn’t used to him being ill.  Injured, yes, they were both used to the odd injury here and there as part of the job, but illness was a different matter, even if this was only a stomach upset.

‘Apparently she’s some Cuban courtesan, very highly placed and thought of, and very exclusive.  She’s only over here with her current fella for a short while so we have to talk to her now.’  Murphy headed the car sedately towards Mayfair. 

‘Courtesan?’  Doyle hooted with laughter.  ‘What dictionary have you swallowed?  If you mean call girl, say so.  And d’you think you could put your foot down?  It’s like driving with my granny.’

‘Just because you and 3.7 trash cars doesn’t mean everyone drives like that, you know.  And yes, I used the term courtesan deliberately because that’s how the Cow’s briefing referred to her, as you’d have known if you’d taken the time to read it instead of chatting to Pennington.’

‘Fuck off,’ Doyle replied amiably as he reached for the folder on the back seat.  Leafing through it he whistled as he saw the black-and-white photo.  ‘Bloody hell.  She’s quite a girl.’  Then, reading further, ‘Or no, not a girl at all.  Forty-two.  She’s getting on a bit.’ 

Murphy spared him a glance from where he was negotiating his way around a minor pile-up, flashing his badge at the copper on duty. ‘You’re the one gets on with older women from what Bodie says, you can do the chatting up.’

‘Marge?’  Doyle waved two fingers at his colleague.

Murphy responded with a grin and a vicious twist of the wheel as he sped away that sent Doyle flying against the door.

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Bodie was hopeful that his stomach was now settled.  He’d looked into the VIP lounge and found it strangely quiet, with only one agent resting silently underneath the Times – Pennington, judging by the cheap jeans and shabby, unpolished shoes – and had then searched for his partner without success.  He’d ventured a cup of tea and been optimistic when it had stayed put without any further eruptions, and had then searched out Betty to ask where Doyle was.  On learning that he and Murphy had been sent to interrogate a female informant who was also a high-class call girl he complained about being left behind but was sent off with a flea in his ear, Betty being busy with Cowley’s correspondence and not inclined to pander to Bodie’s whims.  He cast around for something to do. 

King Leon.  He could go and check to see if Doyle’s informant knew anyone in Cuba, although he thought it was unlikely.  He grinned to himself at his partner’s optimistic grasp of geography.  He grabbed his jacket and left the building.

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Murphy had the gift of giving someone his complete attention, so that they could believe they were the focus of his entire world.  It worked well for him with women and Doyle had had a moment of doubt even with Bodie, watching them together preparing to climb that chimney together, so long ago, but Doyle had seen Murphy use it on men, women, old, young alike, and all fell for it, every time.  He was using it now, on Madame Valdes, but she had a remarkable charm of her own.

They had arrived at the Dorchester and had been shown up to the Harlequin Suite.  She had received them in the sitting room, discreetly attended by her maid, and had welcomed them warmly.  Doyle was surprised.  She was not at all what he had been expecting.

‘Forty-two,’ he’d said to Murphy almost dismissively, but her age didn’t matter, because she was agelessly beautiful, with immense dark eyes and honey-toned skin.  She was of medium height, with a full, rounded figure, and her scent, something warm and spicy, redolent of hot air and clear blue island skies, turned the very air around her to sunny gold.  She wasn’t, in herself, conventionally attractive:  her nose was snub, her eyes, although large, were slightly hooded, and she had, already, a slight double chin.  But she had about her a rare attraction, this woman.  Even though his heart was Bodie’s now, and his body, his blood warmed at the sight of her, and his cock gave a hopeful little twitch as she looked his way and smiled.  ‘Down, boy,’ he thought sternly, and grinned to himself where no one would see.  Her charm, her slow blink and smoky voice were all part of her appeal.

‘So,’ she said after the introductions had been concluded, ‘you want to know about Luis Manzano.’

Murphy nodded.  ‘If there’s anything you can tell us, Madame , we’d be very grateful.’

‘Tell me why,’ she said, her face gravely attentive.  Her accent was of the Islands, and there was a direct, sensual lure about her any man would feel like a small electric shock as soon as she lifted those long-lashed eyes to his and smiled.  Doyle brought his mind back firmly to the subject. 

‘He’s suspected of gun running, but he’s committed some dreadful things to get into the country.’  She nodded, encouraging him to continue, but Doyle paused, not wanting to tell her of the atrocities he’d seen in the container.  It was not that she was innocent, for how could she be innocent, at her age and with her history, but that she projected a warmth and a charisma that appealed to his chivalrous nature.  Murphy gave his colleague a glance and stepped into the breach.

‘Several families came into the country in a shipping container.  This man joined them at the last moment.  They were prepared for the journey but unfortunately the ship was delayed by a storm and they started to run out of water and food.  He killed them to survive, but when that wasn’t enough, he cannibalised their bodies.’  She shook her head gravely, not flinching from the gruesome details.  Doyle took over again.

‘Now he’s loose in this country with a load of guns and ammunition.  We’re trying to trace him before he can sell them on.  We spoke to one woman who survived, but she doesn’t have any contacts here, it was her husband who’d set up their new life, and now she’s lost him and their only child.  She didn’t know anything about Manzano.’

‘The poor woman.  To have gone through all that, and to have lost everything that makes life worth living. I’ll see if I can do anything for her before I leave.  But that’s not why you’re here, is it?’  Those dark eyes were fixed on Doyle again. 

‘No, we were hoping you’d be able to tell us something about this Manzano.’ He hesitated briefly, unsure of quite how to phrase his next query.  ‘We were told you might have information about his background?’

She sighed, and nodded, pausing to test the temperature of the coffee pot with the back of her hand before she continued.  Turning back towards Doyle, she said, ‘If there’s ever a man convinced that the world should run to his pleasure, that’s Luis.’  Satisfied that the coffee was still hot enough, she made a little play of refreshing their cups, pushing Murphy’s towards him with a small smile. 

‘Yes, I knew him.  I knew him when we were children.  He’s younger than I am by a few years, but he’s selfish, selfish and determined to get what he wants, always.  He broke his mother’s heart early in life, oh, just by taking everything she gave him, and then by taking everything she had.  And then when she was turned out onto the street, why, he was gone, left the island.  He’s always been a criminal, you know?  Starting at school, he’d steal from the little children, and then later, he’d steal from shops and from neighbours.  No one dared to challenge him.  He is one of life’s destroyers.  There are some men made so, who kill for love of killing.’  Doyle flicked a glance at Murphy, for they knew men like this, but it was odd that this painted and pampered woman recognised the same attributes.  ‘Many men have something of destruction in them, but few are destroyers through and through.  He is such a one.  I knew him years ago but I don’t know where he might be here.’  She looked at their disappointed faces and said kindly, ‘I can ask Jorge, though.’

‘Jorge?’ said Murphy.

‘My man.  He may have heard something.  Where can I reach you?’

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Bodie arrived at the alley housing the gaudy club that King Leon used as his headquarters and considered his approach.  He supposed he should have waited for Doyle, but this shouldn’t take long, and really, if he couldn’t handle a couple of street toughs on his own, it was time for him to hand his ID in and look for something else to do.  Such as take up flower arranging.  With this in mind, he met the first of Leon’s reception committee still smiling.

  

bodie and leonframed

‘King Leon in?’

‘Who’s askin’?’

‘You remember me.’ 

A door opened and another thug joined his colleague.

There was another one now so he moved in an attempt to keep them all in view.  ‘CI5.  I’ve been here with Ray Doyle.’  Shit, there was another one over by the door.

‘Where’s Mister Doyle, then?’

‘You come on your own?  Down here?’

They were circling him like hyenas.  He couldn’t keep an eye on them all.  He backed up to the wall, carefully, cursing himself for not taking Doyle seriously.

‘I’ve come for a word with your boss.  No hassle, I just want some information, that’s all.’

‘The King don’t give no information.’

‘Yeah, man, what you think this is, a library?’  They laughed nastily. 

‘Look, there’ll be trouble if you don’t take me to Leon now’, Bodie threatened, but it was in vain.

‘Trouble? Yeah, man.’

And they were on him, all four of them, piling in with fists and knees and boots and something harder, something that left great knots of pain round his ribcage and kidneys and his left knee.  He struggled using all the dirty techniques he knew but suddenly there was a spike of agony in his head and he lost consciousness.

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It was dark and he couldn’t breathe properly.  The air was too thick and close, tight and filtered around his nose and mouth, suffocating him in treacly darkness.  The thought made him gasp faster, panic setting in, increasing the speed of his breathing, which in turn decreased what little air his lungs could catch.

Calm down.  Breathe slowly.  There was a bag on his head.  He couldn’t see because there was a bag on his head, that was all, and that was impacting his breathing as well.  He took a shallow breath, then a deeper one, willing it further down into his body, invoking his biometrics to slow, piecing together the state he was in.

His head ached and felt thick, and his stomach was roiling uncomfortably.  There was a foul, bitter taste in his mouth and his head was thumping.  Drugged, then, possibly.  He put that aside for now and concentrated on breathing.  In, out.  Slowly.  What else?  He extended his senses around the rest of his body.  His hands were tied behind his back, and his ankles too.  He struggled briefly against the ties and as if the greater pain had been waiting to be noticed, it was as if he had been hit by a truck.  Ribs, back, shoulder, knee, he’d been beaten, he thought hazily, so perhaps he hadn’t been drugged at all, just beaten beyond his body’s capacity to bear.  Darkness overwhelmed him again and he gave in almost gratefully.

When he came to again he had no notion of where he was or how he had come to be here.  He jolted into consciousness and cried out at his body’s stiffness and the pain running through every limb.  He had a vague memory of waking before in confusion and pain, struggling with the thing over his head, being unable to breathe properly.  His hands and feet were still tied.  Calm.  Relax.  Listen.  Was there anyone else nearby?  It was hard to hear through the pounding in his head, and the pain was making him feel sick.  He made a conscious effort to relax each limb and test how much damage there was.  He didn’t think anything was seriously broken.  Okay.  But how had he got here?

There was nothing but darkness in his mind.  He couldn’t remember, didn’t know where he was or how he’d come to be in this place, who he’d fallen foul of.  He started to panic again, struggling against the ties, and the restraints cut cruelly into his wrists and ankles as he thrashed, the sharper pain adding a counterpoint to the pain from his injuries and the ongoing bass thump of his headache.

Training cut through his panic and he lay still again.  Bodie.  Agent 3.7.  He couldn’t remember how he got here, he didn’t know where here was, but he knew that at some point someone would be looking for him.  He needed to be ready for them.  They would be looking, he was sure.  If he’d left any indication of where he was going when whatever it was had happened.

His partner.  Doyle.  Doyle would find him.  His head hurt, though, and it was hard to breathe.  It was hard to think as well.  It was too cold in here.

He tried to roll over, retching as the pain hit.  Too many hurts to count, they all merged into one mass of pain, a dull ache with silver flashes of agony here and there.  He blanked his mind to his body’s demands to stop, to curl up and deny what was happening, and focused on the only thing that mattered.  Doyle would come.  Soon

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Doyle and Murphy spent the journey back to HQ speculating about Madame’s man Jorge and the nature of their relationship.  Murphy was looking forward to teasing Bodie about the opportunity he’d missed, but Doyle was anxious to know that his partner was recovered after his bout of food poisoning.  Bodie was rarely ill, and Doyle had been uncomfortable with his inability to show his concern.  Entering the VIP Lounge, Doyle was surprised not to see his partner at first glance, but then rationalised that he was probably still suffering in the gents’.  He and Murphy reported in to Cowley and headed back to the VIP lounge.  When Bodie was still not present, and on a quick check of the rest of the building Doyle couldn’t find him anywhere, he tracked down Pennington.

‘Did you give Bodie my message?

‘What message?’

‘Not to go to see King Leon on his own.’  Doyle paused.  ‘You did, didn’t you?’ 

Pennington shrugged. ‘Didn’t see him.’

‘Penn!  I told you it was important!’  Pennington shook his head, uninterested.  Doyle grabbed the other agent by the shoulder.  ‘Did he go?’ 

‘I don’t know.’ Pennington shrugged free.  ‘For fuck’s sake, Doyle, you’re like a mother hen! Bodie’s perfectly capable of going to see a grass on his own.’

‘Not this one!’ Doyle spat, and raced off to check the building again.  But Bodie was not there.

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They’d found Bodie’s Capri, abandoned and festooned with two parking tickets near the warren of alleys leading to Leon’s club.  They’d burst into the club, to find it empty apart from two girls high on ganja, who giggled at them but were unable to provide any information about Leon’s whereabouts.  They’d searched the club, they’d searched Leon’s known hideouts, but Bodie was not there either.  In the end they had to withdraw and wait until the drug dealer resurfaced.  They left one of the B-squad to keep a discreet eye on the place and headed back to HQ.  It was a long night.

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‘Leon!’  Doyle erupted up the stairs.  The drug dealer’s minders stepped forwards out of the shadows but the man himself waved them back lazily.  Before they had a chance to withdraw, Doyle was on them in a vicious, all-out attack, giving them no chance to draw their weapons.  Within minutes they were both lying on the floor, one unconscious, the other whimpering in pain, and Doyle had King Leon in an unbreakable arm-lock, forced to his knees on the floor next to his incapacitated bodyguards.

‘You see that?’  Doyle pushed the drug dealer’s head close to the minder’s shattered kneecap.  ‘He’ll never straighten that again.’  He dragged Leon over to the other man so he could see the ruined face.  ‘Look, just like mine.  Cheekbone, I reckon.  Might lose the eye too.’  The man’s remaining eye rolled around imploringly to stare at his employer and a bubble of blood burst at the corner of his mouth.  His colleague was very still.  Doyle flung Leon onto his back and put his booted foot down on his throat.  ‘Do you want the same?’  he yelled.  ‘Because if you don’t tell me where my partner is right now, I will destroy you!  I’ll tear you apart, Leon, bit by stinking bit, and so help me, you will talk, you won’t be able not to talk, you’ll tell me whatever I want to know.  Do you understand me?’  He glared down at the drug dealer under his foot and all the pent-up frustration and worry for his partner was clearly visible in the snarl on his face.

King Leon raised his hands and beat feebly at the boot on his throat, twisting his body in an attempt to get free.

‘You’ve got something to say?  Something I’ll want to hear?’  Doyle removed his foot and bent to grab a handful of the man’s hair, pulling him up and flipping him over with an expert, contemptuous ease, leaving Leon’s head twisted at a cruel angle.

‘Man, man, I’ll talk!  Anythin’, anythin’ gimme a break, man, please!  What you want to know?’  Leon was pleading, desperate to get free of the CI5 agent.  Out of the corner of his eye he could see his two bodyguards and knew that they would need help very soon.  He did not want to be the next victim of Doyle’s frenzy.

‘Where is my partner?’  Doyle spoke very distinctly into Leon’s ear.

‘Yeah, yeah, man, right!’  He was relieved that this was all the madman wanted, and that it was something he could deliver.  ‘He’s down at Trinity Buoy Wharf in Tower Hamlets.  Vic an’ Delly took him there when he came roun’ askin’ about this Manzano you wantin’ to know about.  They wouldn’ tell him nothin’ but I’ll tell you whatever you want to know, Mister Doyle, just gimme a chance!’

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The Capri squealed around the corner almost on two wheels.  Doyle only had one hand on the steering-wheel because he had the RT in the other hand and he was yelling into it.

‘Priority A-3!  Agent 3.7 in need of assistance!  Send a team to Trinity Buoy Wharf in Tower Hamlets immediately.  This is 4.5, I’m on my way there now.  Over and out.’

Arriving at the address King Leon’s men had given up, he burst through the doors.

‘Bodie!’  Pausing at the top of the rotting stairwell, he listened anxiously.  A faint mumble reached him from below.  He flung himself down with no thought for the condition of the old wood or what might lie below, bent only on reaching his partner.  If it had crossed his mind at all, he would have been arrogantly certain that King Leon would not have dared to lie to him about the place being empty, given his fury at what his men had done, and how he had expressed that fury in the only way they understood and, reluctantly, respected.  But he had no mind for them, being focused solely on rescuing Bodie from the place and state the men had said they’d left him in.

There!  His partner was lying in a heap over by the wall, crumpled uncomfortably on his side, his arms tied behind him and his ankles lashed together so his feet were crossed one over the other.  There was a coarse sack over his head which was blood-stained, and his shirt was ripped half off his body.  Doyle crossed over to him in three long strides and crouched down, extending a careful hand.

‘Bodie-mate.  ‘S okay.  I’m ‘ere.  We’ll get you out of this, don’t worry.’  He felt around his partner’s neck, trying to work out how the sack was tied, not wanting to pull at it any more than necessary to remove it, and in the end whipped out his Swiss Army knife and cautiously ran the smallest spike through the centre of the knot holding the sack at the back of Bodie’s neck.  ‘Easy, sunshine, hold still.  Don’t wanna make things any worse.’  The knot came free and he eased the sack away.  In the dim light, Bodie looked terrible.  His face was swollen and bloody, and his eyes were half-shut, blinking against even the little light available.

‘Doyle?’  His voice was hoarse.

‘Yeah, that’s me.  You look horrible, mate.’  Doyle was busy with the ties at wrists and ankles, frowning as he felt the heat of Bodie’s skin and the deep furrows the ties had left.

‘Knew you’d come.’  Bodie’s head fell back.

‘Always.  Just sorry it took so long.  But what the hell were you doing?’  Doyle could hear the sounds of an ambulance and other personnel arriving now, and here was McCabe bounding down the steps and arriving with a frown and a questioning glance at Doyle’s side.

But there was no answer from his partner, and although Doyle stayed by his side throughout the evacuation from the make-shift dungeon and the journey to the hospital, Bodie didn’t regain consciousness.

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From optimism, Doyle’s spirits took a dive into negativity and anxiety.  It seemed there might be more wrong with Bodie than he’d first thought.  He’d assumed that King Leon’s men had merely beaten him up but he’d then been dumped in a damp cellar, immobilised and almost suffocated. The medics were having trouble regulating his temperature and stabilising his breathing. ‘Pneumonia certainly, possible pneumothorax’ they’d said. ‘We’ll have to wait for the results of the x-rays.’

Doyle looked down at his unconscious lover.  The doctors had tried to explain the injuries to him but he’d stopped hearing much after the words possible pneumothorax, rib fractures and chest drains. The rest of the medical jargon was outside his comprehension and he worried the more for not understanding the implications.   

Cowley sent him home, but on the winding and complicated way out through the corridors of St. Thomas’ he passed the hospital chapel.  He hadn’t set foot in a church for years, but it was dark in the corridor, and no one was around.  He slipped through the door.  The grandeur of the place took him by surprise, with its Baroque gilding and regular, mathematical arches, but the smell was the same.  God, the smell took him back.  Dust, damp and age.  Whispering and giggling with the other kids unfortunate enough to be forced into the choir, until he’d been thrown out for bad behaviour. 

He didn’t believe any longer, if he ever had.  How could he, with all the pain and suffering and uncaring that they saw on a daily basis?  And yet his mum would say that everything was sent for a reason, and you only had to ask to be given the strength to bear what you were given. No, he didn’t believe, he’d seen too much, but the memories went bone deep.

He stepped slowly up the aisle, approaching cautiously, as if on stake-out.  It was warm, and quiet.  Peaceful.  Was he honestly going to ask?  Ask what?  He snorted.  This was ridiculous.  He should get himself home and cleaned up so he could get back up to the ward to be with his partner.  There was a candle on the altar.  He gazed at it.  In the dim light, it flickered.  He rubbed one grubby hand over his cold face.  Please

   

please frame4

In his befogged state of mind, it seemed as though the flame seemed to tilt, politely, towards him.  He nodded back, a single, sharp inclination of the head, turned on his heel, and left.

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It was quiet in the hospital, other than the normal purposeful movement of the staff through the corridors.  That was the advantage of visiting at three in the morning, thought Doyle.  Bodie had been transferred from Casualty to the Respiratory Ward the evening before.  He entered the side room silently and sat by his bed, content just to watch his partner breathe.  He knew now that all was well and that Bodie would recover.  The bruises he could see over Bodie’s face, torso and arms were spectacular and he could well-imagine how sore he’d be feeling.  They expected the pneumonia to respond well to the IV antibiotics and they’d managed to treat his hypothermia and mild dehydration efficiently. He understood, from personal experience, that there’d be some residual effects from the concussion, cracked ribs, cuts and abrasions to both wrists and bruised kidney but at least none of the injuries had proved to be fatal and he knew now that Bodie would recover.

Doyle let his head drop and sighed. A nurse looked in, saw it was Doyle, smiled and retreated.  He sat on in silence, and gradually his eyes closed, lulled by the peace and dim quiet.

‘Hullo.’

‘Bodie!’ He clutched at his partner’s hand, making the other man wince.  ‘Sorry, mate.  How’re you doing?  Need a drink?’  Bodie nodded.  There was a jug of water and glass on the locker and Doyle helped him to take a few sips.  ‘Better?’  Bodie nodded again, sinking back against the pillows.

‘Wha’s happening?’

Doyle gave a grim little smile.  ‘You’re recovering.  Leon’s minders might, or they might not.  It was a bit touch an’ go when I left ‘em.’  Their eyes met, and Bodie nodded slightly.  ‘Leon can’t do enough to help.  He’s got all his contacts asking around for us now.’  He paused, and ran one finger lightly up the other man’s arm.  ‘I was a bit worried for a while there.’

Even through the haze of drugs Bodie had a good idea of what this meant, and of the havoc a furious and scared Doyle was likely to have wreaked on anyone he suspected of complicity in his partner’s disappearance.

‘How long?’

‘Till you’re out of here?’ Doyle translated automatically.  ‘You’ll be in here for about a week, they say, then home for a bit of convalescing. You should be back on light duties in a couple of weeks.  No problem.’  He watched Bodie intently as he spoke, for there had been problems, and Bodie wasn’t out of the woods yet, but Doyle was aware of his partner’s astonishing recovery rate and fully expected him to be out of bed before he had permission and out of hospital before he was supposed to be even walking.

‘So you just lie here, mate, and enjoy all those bed baths while you can.  I’ve checked all the nurses out personally, told them just how you like your tea, and-‘  Doyle stopped and drew the covers gently over his sleeping partner, brushing a hand over his hair before he withdrew again to his chair at the side of the bed.

db

There was a message waiting for Doyle from King Leon, asking for a meet.  When Doyle arrived at his club, he found it empty apart from Leon and a thin teenager.

‘Mister Doyle!’  Leon hustled forward, almost bowing.  ‘How is Mister Bodie?  I done got rid of those lagga heads.  There be no trouble now.’

Doyle glanced at him contemptuously.  ‘Too right there’ll be no trouble now.  What do you want, Leon?  I hope you’re not wasting my time?’ and he took a step towards the Jamaican.

‘No! No, I got somethin’ for you!  Look!’  He extended an arm and dragged the teenager towards him, holding him up to Doyle like a dog presenting a stick to its master.  His face had the same hopeful expression as he nodded enthusiastically, and Doyle was hard-pressed not to look for the wagging tail.  The kid struggled to be free.

‘Gerroff me, you bastard!’

‘Who are you, then?’ Doyle motioned to Leon to let him go and the boy staggered a few steps away and stood pulling his sweatshirt straight again and scowling.

‘This be Joe.  I bin askin’ around for you, Mister Doyle.  You wantin’ to know about Luis Manzano, Joe here, he know him.’  Leon beamed.

‘Fuck off.’ Joe made for the door.  Doyle reached out and stopped him.  ‘How do you know Leon, then?’  They both looked at him incredulously.  ‘Ah, okay.’  He supposed the too-thin body, sunken eyes and bad teeth should have given him the hint, never mind being found in association with Leon.  ‘How do you know Manzano then?’

‘You can fuck off an’ all,’ the boy muttered, twisting unavailingly in Doyle’s grip.  Doyle held on effortlessly and pushed up one of the boy’s sleeves, shaking his head.  ‘Look, kid, you can either tell me now, or you can come back with me and be locked up for a day or so without your fix.  That’s not going to be much fun, is it?’

Joe wrenched his arm away.  Leon pounced on him.  ‘You tell the man what he wants, yeah?  Or you don’t get nuthin’ from me no more.  I put the word out, you don’t get nuthin’ from no one.  You done, man.’

Joe scowled.  ‘Might have given ‘im a bed for the night.’

‘Why the hell would you –‘ Doyle broke off.  ‘Never mind.  Is he still there?’

‘Dunno.’  But his eyes slid to the side.

‘Do you know what this man did?’  Doyle watched the expressions fleet over the thin, dirty face:  denial, greed, calculation.  ‘He killed at least fifteen people, some of them children.  What makes you think you’re safe?’

‘What’s in it for me, then?’

‘Oh, for Pete’s sake!  Let’s catch him first and then we can think about your petty little reward.  Where is he?’

Faced with Doyle’s intensity, and Leon’s threats, Joe capitulated.  ‘I’ve got a place in Limehouse.’  Within minutes, Doyle had called it in and they set off.

When they arrived within a couple of streets of Joe’s address, Doyle pulled into the kerb behind Lewis’ car and got out, telling Joe to stay where he was.  He joined Lewis, Jax and Allison further down the road.  ‘Are we all set up?’

‘Yes’, Jax replied.  ‘Cowley’s around the corner somewhere.  We’re just waiting until we’re all in place.  Should be ready soon.’  As he said this, Cowley appeared and hurried towards them. 

‘Doyle.  Good work.  Where’s your informant?  We’ll need to know the layout of the house.’

‘He’s in the car, sir.’  They headed back up the road but as they approached his car, Doyle stared at it.  It was empty. 

‘I don’t believe it!’

‘Where is he?’ Cowley had caught up to him.  Doyle looked wildly up and down the street.  ‘I don’t know!’

‘Ach, I canna believe you were so stupid as to leave him in your car, man!’  Doyle grabbed for the RT and alerted everyone to keep an eye out for Joe, and Cowley shouldered him aside and issued brisk instructions for the op to converge on Joe’s lodgings in the hope of finding Manzano still in residence, but they both knew that the chances were that Manzano was gone.

Sure enough, when they arrived at Joe’s room, there was evidence of a hasty departure. 

‘It looks as though there were a couple of people living here, sir,’ said Lewis.  ‘I think one might have been a girl,’ he continued, regarding a pair of skimpy purple knickers dubiously.  ‘There’s clothing and makeup and stuff here as well.’

‘Oh, brilliant,’ Doyle jeered.  ‘You should transfer to Scotland Yard, Lewis.’  The normally stolid Lewis flushed and turned around to his colleague, but Allison stepped in.

‘Oi!  Just because you fucked up, Doyle, don’t take it out on the rest of us.’  Doyle snarled and thumped the back of a chair.  ‘Sorry, Richie,’ he said to Lewis.  ‘I’m pissed off that I let him get away.’

‘Aye, and so you should be.’  Cowley entered the room in time to hear Doyle’s comment.  ‘I’ll have words with you later, 4.5.’  There was a general wince around the room.  ‘Right, gentlemen, back to HQ if you please.  7.7 and 9.1, speak to everyone in this building.  Track down this Joe and everything to do with him.  I want to know where else he might go.  We’ve flushed Manzano out again, so where might he go next?  He’s on the run so I don’t want any more massacres.  Come along.’ 

Liz Spalding gave Doyle a look of dislike as she passed him.  ‘I had a date tonight’, she hissed.  ‘I hope Cowley reams you a new one.’ 

‘Now you can spend the evening with me instead, interviewing the charming residents of this delightful establishment,’ said Marriott as he headed out of the door.  Spalding snarled.

db

 ‘Doyle, someone on the blower for you.  A bit edgy.’

‘Thanks, Anson.  Any idea who it is?’

‘He won’t give his name.  Mind, his accent is so thick it would be hard to understand it anyway.’  Doyle considered that Anson’s Guards’ drawl came into the same category at times, but he held his tongue as he reached for the phone.

‘Hello?’

‘Ray Doyle?’ The Yorkshire accent was unmistakeable. 

‘Joe?’ 

‘Yeah.  Leon gave me your number.  Meet me down where you found your mate.  I’ve got summat to tell you before I go.’  And the phone crashed down in Doyle’s ear.

Hoping Joe had changed his mind about telling them Manzano’s location, Doyle got to Tower Hamlets as fast as he could.  Abandoning the car, he cast around for Joe.

‘Up ‘ere,’ came a voice from the top of the building.

Doyle looked up to see Joe perched on the edge of the roof.  ‘What the hell are you doing up there?  Come down!’ he shouted.

Joe regarded him sombrely.  ‘You come up if you want to hear what I’ve got to tell you.’  Doyle swore under his breath and looked for the way up.  It appeared that Joe had taken the fire escape for most of the way and then scrambled up onto the parapet.  Doyle followed, carefully.  Bodie would not be pleased if he were to join his partner in hospital, although, he allowed, as he looked down, he would more likely end up in the morgue.  It was a long way down.  He hissed as his foot slipped and grabbed at the stone to right himself.  Doyle approached cautiously.  When he arrived next to Joe, he whistled as he looked out over the river.  ‘Nice view.’

The boy was squatting on the edge of the roof, looking down to the pavement below.  ‘Yeah, grand.’

Doyle moved sideways, slowly, so that he wouldn’t shock the boy into sudden action, and spoke gently.

‘What did you want to tell me, Joe?’

‘I wanted to make it right.  I’ve bin thinking about what you said.  About those people.’

‘In the container?’

‘Yeah.  I didn’t believe you.  Not really.’

‘But what, then?  You saw it on the news?’  Doyle was guessing, feeling his way with the blank desperation in front of him, unsure where this conversation was going but determined to try to pull the information out of the boy if at all possible.

‘News?’  Joe looked at him scornfully.  ‘I don’t watch that crap.’  Doyle waited.  ‘I met ‘im again.’  He was fighting tears, Doyle saw.

‘Look, whatever it is, I can help.’

‘You can’t help.  No one can help.  I’m past help, believe me.’

‘What do you need?’  Joe shrugged one thin shoulder with a teenager’s impatient disdain for all adults: what a stupid question.

‘Tell me what happened, Joe.  I promise I’ll do my best for you.’

The boy took a deep, shuddering breath.  ‘I met ‘im, like I said, after I ran away from you.  I’d found a place not far from ‘ere.  It’s like a forgotten house or summat, that someone’s made, where there’s two buildings and someone’s made a roof over the gap.  You can only get in there from the water, so it’s private.  Me an’ this girl, right, she were called Sammie, she hadn’t got nothin’ either, but we were gonna live there for a bit.’  He stared out over the roofline, tears streaking down his face unnoticed.  Doyle stayed silent, recognising that to interrupt now would be to lose Joe, possibly for the last time.

‘I hadn’t told Luis about Sammie.  He turned up and he weren’t pleased.  We said she wouldn’t tell an’ he asked her to go to the shop for some fags.  He slipped out after her an’ I thought that was a bit odd like, so I followed him.’  He wiped his nose on his sleeve.  ‘He cut her throat,’ he said baldly.  ‘Just up an’ cut ‘er throat.  Came up behind ‘er and that were it.’  He gave a huge, racking sob. ‘An’ that were my fault an’ all!  Everything I fucking touch!’

‘Joe, that wasn’t your fault.  This guy is a killer, he’s way above your league.  I’m sure you’ve been in trouble before but Sammie wasn’t your fault.  There was nothing you could have done to stop him.’

‘I could ‘ave told you earlier!  Not taken ‘im there!  Then she’d still be alive.’  The tears were constant now and his breathing was erratic.  Doyle watched him carefully, concerned about his position at the edge of the roof.

‘Look, we’re struggling to deal with this guy, and we’re trained for it.  There’s no way you could have known what he’d do.  I’d never seen anything like what was in that container, and believe me, I’ve seen a lot.’  Doyle paused.  ‘You just came up against the wrong person this time.  Nothing you could have done.’

‘Oh, yeah, that’s what they always say.’  Joe sniffed ferociously and glared at Doyle.

‘They?  Who’s that, then?  Family?’

‘Yeah.  “Not your fault.  You tried.  Don’t worry about it.”  Every fucking time.’

‘Well, that’s a good thing, surely?’ 

‘They’ve forgiven me over and over again.  I’m sick of it!  I’m sick of them!  When are they gonna realise I’m not worth it?’

‘Come on, Joe, they still think you’re worth it.  They still love you, I’m sure.’  Doyle winced internally, wondering if this was the case.  Joe shook his head vehemently.

‘They’d be better off without me.  They could all get on with their lives and not have to bother.’

‘It’s not a bother to them –‘ He was interrupted as the boy flung round from the edge of the roof.

‘Every fucking time.  They come and dig me out of whatever shithole I’ve got myself into.’

‘Well… that’s good, isn’t it?’  Doyle advanced a step, but the boy backed off again sharply.  ‘Steady!  Steady, careful there.’  He paused.  The boy looked ready to take flight, a thin figure poised again on the edge of the roof.

‘I want… I wish I could go back.’

‘’You can go back.  Come with me, now.’  Doyle reached out a hand, carefully, so as not to spook the boy.

‘No.  I mean I wish I could go back to when I was younger.  To make different choices.’

‘Come on, you can still –‘

‘No!  There’s no way back now.  I’ve fucked up so badly this time.’

He turned back to look out over the rooftops.  Doyle was hit by the sense of inward-turning intensity coming from him.  Joe seemed incapable of registering anything outside his own concerns, and wasn’t really aware of Doyle.  He was burning up inside with the all-darkening despair of the young.  How old was he?  Eighteen, nineteen?  Young, anyway, young enough for anything to seem final, impassable.  Doyle knew that shit happened, and that mostly you got used to it, and you did what had to be done, and you carried on with life.  But this boy was going to throw himself off this roof, was going to nerve himself to leap into that void because he couldn’t see any future beyond this moment.  Oh, perhaps Doyle could stop him now, could use all his powers to persuade, to calm – but he didn’t think so, looking at the despair in those eyes.

‘You don’t know what I’ve done.’

‘We know some of it.  You helped Manzano, didn’t you?  You helped him hide.’

‘Oh, yeah.  Wasn’t just that, though, was it?  Sammie.  Sammie, she was just this girl, right?  Not much loss, but she was in his way.’  He broke off, pressing a shaking fist to his mouth.  ‘And I went along with it.  I didn’t stop him.  Oh, can’t you see?  Even if you take me in, lock me up, how can I live with this?’  The last part came out as a cry.

Doyle looked at him, defeated, shaking, and couldn’t help but agree.  But it wasn’t in his nature to give up, and he had to try and help this boy, if only to get the witness Cowley needed.  ‘Come on, Joe, let’s step back and think about it.  Wouldn’t it be better to try and make things right?  However you can?’  It was the wrong thing to say.

‘Step back?’  The boy laughed wildly. ‘That’s funny!  That’s what I’m going to do, yeah.  Then they’ll be left with Ben.  Good old Ben, he’ll do ‘em proud. Then they can forget all about me.’  He sobbed once.

‘Ben?’ Doyle enquired.

‘My little brother.  He’s clever.’  There was a wistful note in his voice, the premonition of someone who knew already that he would never be anything more than what he was:  failed student, sacked bartender and addict.  Never quite measuring up to expectations, though they were kindly lowered after each new venture, he was dimly aware that he would be forever a disappointment to those around him, brisk in their forgiveness.  He rose to his feet and stepped closer to the edge.  ‘Don’t beat yourself up, man.  You tried.  But this is the best way, honest.’

‘Joe, don’t do this.  Make it right, for Sammie.  Don’t do this to Ben – he won’t understand.  Come with me, now.’  Doyle was urgent in his protests, moving towards Joe as he turned his face outwards across the river towards the Greenwich skyline.  But Joe was in his own world now and never heard Doyle, never saw him as he leapt frantically to grab him, never felt him as his fingers missed Joe’s sleeve and never knew Doyle’s sense of failure as he saw the boy step up and out, and heard the thud after the long fall down.

db

Later, at the mortuary, Doyle finished his report to Cowley.

‘So there’s nothing useful, sir, other than that he helped Manzano, which we knew, and anecdotal evidence that Manzano killed this Sammie, but no idea where her body is either and nothing to tie him in definitely.’  Cowley grunted.  ‘I’m sorry.  I tried, sir.  I tried.’

‘Aye, I know.  You did your best, 4.5.’

‘It doesn’t matter now, does it?’ asked Doyle wearily.

‘No,’ Cowley said quietly.  ‘I’m afraid it doesn’t matter at all.’  They stood together, looking down at the ruin of the boy in front of them, all life stilled.

db

True to form, Bodie was back at work within a couple of weeks, although confined mostly to HQ.  He chafed and fretted silently when Doyle was out without him, and seized the opportunity granted by a message from Martell to leave the building on his own.

‘You look as though you’ve been in the wars again, dear boy.’  Martell’s gaze ran over Bodie, assessing him closely.

‘Bit of a misunderstanding,’ Bodie said tersely.

‘Mmm, I heard.  King Leon’s boys, wasn’t it?’  Martell smiled.  It rather resembled the grin of a shark.  ‘I understand your colleague was a little upset, and that Leon is now on the side of the angels.’  Bodie grunted.  ‘And that his minders are very nearly with the angels?  Doyle did a lot of damage, from what I hear.’

‘Yeah, all right, Marty,’ Bodie said impatiently.  ‘No need to go on about it.  What have you got for me?’

‘No need to be hasty.  In fact, you look as if you need to sit down.  Do come in and tell me all about it.’  Martell tucked a hand under Bodie’s elbow and led him below decks to his quarters, where he took his rain-darkened jacket, installed him in a chair and gave him a drink.  ‘Now,’ he said, looking at him expectantly.

Bodie sighed.  The reason Martell was so good at his job was because he collected information, distilling and analysing titbits and gossip from his extensive network to form what was usually reliable information about the arms scene in Europe and often further afield.  If he didn’t know about it, he could generally make enquiries, and Bodie, on behalf of CI5, made use of his services more frequently than Martell thought reasonable.  This, Bodie knew, was payback time.  Martell had a prurient interest in Bodie’s partnership with Doyle and had long believed that there was more than the professional relationship that most people saw.  Bodie did trust Martell, but he was not comfortable discussing Doyle with him.

‘I went to see King Leon and got caught out by his minders.  They beat me up and threw me into a warehouse.  Doyle found out and came and got me.’  Martell tutted at the bald statement.

‘I hear he’s rather fierce when he’s angry.  And he is protective of you, one can see that.  But what about you,’ said Martell, giving up on the topic of Doyle for the moment, ‘should you be up and around yet?’  His gaze flickered over Bodie again.

‘I’m fine.  Restricted to light duties, whatever the fuck that means.’  He winced at his inept phrasing as Martell’s lashes fluttered and a small smile played over his lips.

‘I think it means no rough play.  Really, Bodie, you need to be more careful.  What would CI5 do for information if you weren’t around to ask me anymore?’

Bodie ignored the innuendo.  ‘Go on, then.  What have you heard?  We’re looking for info on that shipping crate at Tilbury the other week.  Is there another one?  We’ve heard there might be more ammo, but what do you know?’

‘Well, I’ve done some asking around for you, and it does seem as though the Russians are involved.  I can’t find anything to do with Cuba so it may be just this one Cuban.  That’s your good news.  The bad news is that there isn’t one more crate, there are two of them.  One’s filled with a lovely mixed bag of weaponry and the other contains all the ammo needed to start a small war with it.’

Bodie groaned.  ‘Great.  And do you know where they are?  Or who’s involved?’

Martell produced a piece of paper from his top pocket.  ‘Don’t say I never do anything for you.  This is all the information I could find.  It’s not complete, but it’s a start.  And keep my name out of it, will you?  The last thing I need is to have my reputation ruined.’

Bodie pushed himself to his feet and grabbed the piece of paper.  ‘Ah, cheers, Marty, you’re a pal.’

‘Yes, well, just remember this the next time I need a favour.’  Martell watched his disappearing back view.  ‘And don’t do anything stupid!’

db

‘You’ve got a message.’  Betty smiled as she handed over the piece of paper.

‘Ta, love.’  Doyle looked down at it and whistled.  ‘When did this come in?’

’10:42am. She sounded very nice.’  Betty’s eyes twinkled as Doyle left the office at a near-run.

‘Bodie!  Come on – Madame Valdes rang in.  She’s got some info for us.’  He urged his partner down the stairs, ignoring Bodie’s protests about missing his lunch, and hurried them towards the Capri.

‘I’m doing you a favour, old son.  You’ll enjoy this.’

‘Oh?’

‘Oh, yeah.’

Bodie was suspicious of Doyle’s serene smile, suspecting another Marge, but his face when they reached the Dorchester and he saw Madame was a treat to Doyle.

‘Mister Doyle.’  He smiled as she took his hand but waited with interest as she turned the full wattage of her charm on his partner.  ‘And -?’

‘My partner, Bodie.  Bodie, this is Madame Valdes, who’s been kind enough to help us with information about Manzano.’  He waited as her smile, her eyes, her scent hit the other man and he grinned to himself, knowing the effect it was undoubtedly having.

‘My, CI5 must only employ the handsomest men in town, I think.  Although you look a little… bruised?’  Her eyes ran over his face consideringly.  ‘Have you not brought Mister Murphy with you today, Mister Doyle?  Not that it’s not a pleasure to meet you, Mister Bodie.’  She gave him her hand and he bowed over it royally.

‘No, Murphy’s busy on a different case, I’m afraid.  He asked me to pass on his respects though.’  She regarded him gravely and dipped her head in acknowledgement, a queen receiving her due adulation.

‘Thank you.’  There was a little delay while she poured them coffee and made sure it was exactly to their liking.  Bodie and Doyle, accustomed to drinking the liquid from the machines at Headquarters, let her take her time and settle herself, sensing that any effort to hurry her would result in yet more delay.

Finally they were all seated in the green silk chairs, with coffee in front of them to Madame’s exacting standards.  ‘So,’ she said.  ‘Luis Manzano. Last time I told Mister Doyle about how I knew him from a long time ago.  You wanted to know more and I said I would ask Jorge about him.’  They nodded encouragingly.  ‘I have had to wait and choose my time.  Jorge is a busy man, an important man, and he has brought me here for his pleasure.’  Bodie choked on his coffee, and her perfectly-shaped eyebrows rose slightly.

‘I am too direct for you?  This is my role, Mister Bodie.  I am here for all aspects of my man’s comfort, whether he needs me to look beautiful on his arm at an important dinner, whether he needs someone to tell him how rich and strong and clever he is, or whether he needs to relax with sex.  There is little time for what I might want.’  Bodie blinked at her. 

‘It’s just Bodie, actually.’  Her mouth quirked upwards in acknowledgement and she continued.  ‘I went to see Senora Fuentes in hospital.  So sad, what happened.  To go through all that, and to have no one left, at the end.’  She shook her head, considering.  ‘And she is a woman who needs people, that one, whether it is family around her or close friends who care.  I have said I will help her return, if that is what she wants.  You should go and see her again, she may talk to you more freely now.’

‘Thank you,’ Doyle said, wondering to himself if she would ever get to the point, but she looked at him reprovingly, sensing his impatience, however contained he thought it was, and continued.  ‘I told you and Mister Murphy about Luis.  Jorge knows many people, both here and at home.  I got him to talk about his business deals, and I told him how clever he is, and how rich, and how well he has done.  I started him talking about people from home, and Luis.  I did not tell him that I knew Luis, you understand.  That would not be proper.  But I said that there is a woman here who I would like to help, because she is in trouble, and because it means nothing to him, and because he likes to look good for me, he asked some questions.  So here is the name of the shipping agent in Havana, and the manifest.  I think you will find it has been altered, but Jorge says that there are three containers there that are all in the same consignment.’  She passed them a sheaf of papers and sipped her coffee, blinking slowly in the steam rising from her cup.

‘This is fantastic!  Thank you!’  Doyle took the papers and rose, eager to leave and get back to HQ to check out the manifest.  Bodie rose too, but more slowly, and paying more attention to the woman in front of them. 

‘Thank you, Madame.’  He took her hand and bowed deeply over it, raising it to his lips and just brushing the scented skin. ‘We are very grateful.’

She smiled.  ‘Carlotta will show you out.’

db

Back at Doyle’s flat, he had suggested that Bodie test his fitness and recovery rate to make quite sure, he said solemnly, that Bodie was up to the job.  ‘Can’t have you running out of stamina,’ he said with a glint in his eye that Bodie responded to immediately by tackling him onto the bed.  ‘Otherwise I shall have to request my continuing partnership with Murph for a while –mmphf!’

Bodie had stopped his conversation by the simple expedient of kneeling over his partner and offering up his cock.  Doyle responded enthusiastically until Bodie was almost on the verge of coming.

‘Hang on a mo – you want my arse?’  Bodie looked down, dazed, missing the warmth round his aching cock.  Doyle had pulled off, licking his lips, and running his hands over Bodie’s buttocks.  ‘Wha’?’ Bodie mumbled unintelligibly, all blood diverted from his brain, and Doyle snorted, pushed him out of the way, and flipped over to offer his backside.

‘Oh, yeah!’  Bodie was back on track now, grabbing the lube and applying it enthusiastically where it would do most good.  He sank into the welcoming depths of his partner’s arse with a groan of relief, and no more was said for a minute or two.

Recovered temporarily from the brink, Bodie thought of something.  ‘So, Murph, eh?’  He was thrusting slowly and smoothly in and out of Doyle’s arse.

‘Not me, you moron, you.  Ohhhh…’

‘Me?’  Bodie was indignant.

‘Yeah.  I thought… uh –‘  Doyle broke off in mid-sentence as Bodie’s cock brushed across his prostate and sensation won out over conversation.

‘You thought what?’  Bodie was deliberate.

‘Look, finish what you’re doing, yeah?’  Doyle was breathless, wriggling slightly in order to try and encourage the same angle again.  ‘Then we can talk all you like after.’

‘No, I want to know what you mean.’  Bodie slowed, withdrawing slightly.

‘Bo-day.’  It was a growl, and Bodie grinned to himself.  He wasn’t as calm as he appeared but he was damned if he’d give Doyle the satisfaction of knowing that.  He could keep this up for a bit longer, he reckoned, provided his partner didn’t wriggle too much and upset his rhythm.

Doyle groaned in frustration.  ‘It’s the way he looks at you sometimes.  Just wondered if you’d ever thought about screwing him.’

‘Raymond Doyle,’ Bodie said primly.

‘Well, ‘ave you?’

‘You don’t think you’re enough for me?  Bodie gave an extra thrust and Doyle groaned again.

‘Well,’ and suddenly he hoisted his arse up an inch, changing the angle and allowing Bodie to slide unexpectedly deeper.  ‘Oh, that’s good.  No, you’ll do for me,’ and Bodie drew a breath, caught up in sensation, fucking him harder now, driving them both over the edge into sweaty completion, and no more was said about Murphy.

db

A big, sorrowful man, shabby in an old grey suit, attracted Bodie’s attention. ‘Excuse me, lad.  They said to come ‘ere to identify someone.  Am I in’t right place?’

‘Yes.  Are you Mr. Fairbrother?’  Bodie moved towards the visitor. 

‘Aye.  They said you’ve got my son ‘ere.’  He had been a big man, but now his shoulders were stooped and his muscle had wasted away.  His eyes were haunted, and he had a look of long-term disappointment with the world.

‘Bodie, CI5.  If you’d come with me, Mr. Fairbrother.’

They moved down the corridor together to the mortuary.  The attendants had done their best but the boy’s body was still not an easy sight, and Bodie winced internally as he drew the sheet back from the battered, swollen face.  Mr. Fairbrother gazed down for a long, sombre moment. 

‘Aye, that’s him.’  He swallowed, then nodded sharply and turned away. 

Bodie pulled the sheet back up.  ‘You confirm that this is Joseph Fairbrother?’

‘Yes, I do.’  He was at the door, impatient to be gone.  Bodie offered the bag of Joe’s things to his father but the man rejected it with a wave of the hand.

‘Thank you, Mr. Fairbrother.  I know this must be difficult for you. You can claim the body for burial any time now.  I’m sorry for your loss.’ 

Fairbrother shook his head.  ‘No.  That’s nobody I know now.  Nobody I loved, tried to do right by.  Five years ago, he was my son.  Bury him, and let him go.  I’ll have nowt more to do wi’t matter.’  Adamant in his rejection, he was apparently heedless of the tears tracking down his face.  As Bodie stretched out a hand towards him, he blundered through the door, and was gone.

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Madame Valdes greeted them at the hospital.  She looked out of place, with her exotic beauty, her discreet scent and her languorous walk, but she was all practicality as she met them at the door.  ‘You understand that Senora Fuentes is still very unwell?’

Doyle nodded impatiently.  ‘We need the information though, if we’re going to catch Manzano before he does any more harm.’  Bodie interrupted smoothly, ‘Whatever she can tell us, Madame, will be of use, and we’re very grateful for your help, of course.’  She looked him up and down.  ‘Come, then.  I have been talking to her and trying to reassure her.  It’s not easy, when she has lost everything, and is fearful also of the authorities.’  She turned to Doyle.  ‘It will be well if you can remember this, and perhaps try to put yourself in her place.’ Reproved, but anxious to get what they needed, Doyle opened his mouth again but Bodie elbowed him in the ribs before he could say anything.

She led them to Senora Fuentes’ bed.  The woman still looked desperately ill, hedged around with monitors and hooked up to wires and drips, but she roused slightly at their entry and managed a faint smile for Madame Valdes.  There was a brief conversation in Spanish and Madame turned to Bodie and Doyle.

‘Senora Fuentes speaks very little English.  I have said I will help her.  Ask what you need to, and I will translate.’

‘Can you ask her if she knows if Manzano has a contact here in England?’ There was an exchange between the two women, and Senora Fuentes turned her head to the wall.

‘She does not want to say.’ 

‘We need that information!’ Doyle swung around to the bed, and the woman let out a wail of distress.

‘Mister Doyle!’ Madame Valdes glared at him, and Bodie put his hand on his chest.  ‘I will ask again.’  Doyle subsided against the wall, rubbing his thumb against his upper lip.

Another exchange, this one longer, and Madame Valdes patted the other woman reassuringly before turning to the two men.  ‘She needs to know that you will not punish those involved. They are her family.’

Bodie nodded.  ‘I reckon those involved have been punished enough, Madame.  Except Manzano, of course.  We can’t make any promises about him, or anyone who helps him.  You know that.’

She regarded him gravely and turned back to the woman in the bed.  They talked briefly, and Madame turned back to the two agents.  ‘It was her husband’s cousin.  He is the one here in England who knew Luis.  That is why she is ashamed, because Luis found out through her husband when he wrote to his cousin to ask him to prepare for their arrival.  The cousin must have told Luis, and therefore she believes that she is responsible for the deaths of all the people in the container.’

Bodie raised his eyebrows.  ‘Can she give us the name of this cousin, and where to find him?  He might still be in contact, and we could track Manzano from there, perhaps.  It’s worth a try.’ 

Doyle added, ‘We need to make sure he’s safe, as well.  Manzano doesn’t leave anyone behind who can identify him, it seems.’

‘I will ask.’  Madame turned again to Senora Fuentes, speaking soothingly, but the woman became agitated, until Madame indicated Doyle, obviously passing on what he had said, and Senora Fuentes turned to him, speaking to him impassionedly in Spanish.  He shrugged helplessly, turning to Madame Valdes for assistance.  ‘She asks if you believe that to be true.’

‘Yeah, I reckon.  We’d be better assuming that anyway, rather than thinking he’ll be okay, and then finding that Manzano has got there before us and killed him.’

Bodie nodded.  ‘We need to find him.’

She turned back to the woman in the bed, patting her hand and speaking softly.  They talked for a while, and finally Senora Fuentes nodded, the tears running down her face.  She spoke again, and Doyle caught what sounded like an address, but it was hard to make out through the woman’s accent and her sobs.  He looked at Madame Valdes, who said something short and final-sounding in Spanish as she rose from the bed.  She turned to the two agents and signalled that they should leave the room.  Outside, she said,

‘19a Providence House, Tiller Road, Poplar.  This is where her husband’s cousin lives.   His name is Rolando Gavilan.

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Gavilan was very nervous on the telephone, but eventually agreed to meet the two agents.  His message came through a couple of days later and specified a time late in the evening and a place down at St. Katherine’s Docks. 

‘Lovely.  Why does no one ever set up meetings for a nice warm café on a Tuesday morning?’ groused Doyle, as he tried in vain to get warm in the teeth of the draught blowing through the open windows of the car, left cracked open to stop them steaming up.  There was no reply from Bodie, and Doyle settled back into resigned silence.  The rain pattered on the windscreen.

‘I used to go down to the docks when I was a kid.’  The comment came out of the dark, unexpectedly, and Doyle waited to see if there might be more.  Bodie rarely talked about his past.

‘Yeah?’

‘My dad was a docker.  I worshipped him when I was a lad.  He was this big, strong bloke, y’know?  Big Billy Bodie, my dad.  I used to sneak off whenever I could to see if I could see him loading a ship. We didn’t live far from the docks and I usually got sent back with a flea in my ear if he or his mates spotted me.’  He fell silent again.

‘What happened?’ asked Doyle, half-expecting a story of a swinging bale and a tragic end.

‘He went out one morning and didn’t come home.’  The flat statement surprised Doyle.

‘What, that’s it?’  Doyle was indignant. 

‘Yep.  ‘Course, at the time, I was convinced it was foul play.  Ran everyone ragged insisting something must have happened to him.  He’d seen something dodgy and been bundled onto a ship to stop him reporting it, he’d stepped in to stop a fight and been hurt so bad they’d taken him on board and he’d died, anything.’

‘No?’  Doyle sensed there was something bleaker here.

‘Well, at eleven, you don’t think your dad’s left you and your mum for his latest floozie, do you?  I reckon his mates must have been really pissed off with me but they cut me some slack.  Mum never said anything, was probably relieved he’d gone, although money was tight after he left.’

Doyle absorbed this information.  ‘Was that why you ran away then?’

‘I went off the rails a bit after he left.  I used to spend a lot of time skipping school, back down at the docks, looking at every ship, wondering if he was on board – or had been.  Looking for clues, you know?  A right Bulldog Drummond.’  He smiled ruefully.  ‘Ended up one morning down at the docks again instead of at school and just walked onto the first freighter I saw.  You know the rest.’

 

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Doyle thought to himself that actually he didn’t know all the rest but that he now at least had a beginning, and a lot of food for thought.  ‘Ever wonder where he is now?’

‘Nah.’  The stubborn jut of chin was visible in profile in the reflected light off the water.  ‘I’ve managed without him all these years.  I wouldn’t know what to say to him now.’

Doyle left it a few moments to see if there was going to be any more, then when nothing else seemed to be forthcoming, ventured, ‘What about your mum?’

‘She died.  Leave it, Doyle.’

As the use of his surname was rarely a good sign, Doyle subsided, but made a mental note to return to the subject at some other point.

After a couple of minutes silence: ‘I used to like the names on the ships.’  Guessing that the non-sequitur was a peace-offering, Doyle made an encouraging murmur.  ‘I always used to wonder where they were going to, or where they’d come from.  I liked hearing the different languages and looking at the flags.  It seemed romantic somehow.’  He laughed briefly.  ‘Of course, it didn’t take long to kill that idea once I was on board the Westerdam.’ 

Doyle was about to probe further but movement caught his eye.  ‘Hang on, we’re on.’

A figure approached, and they got out of the car to meet it.  It proved to be a very unhappy Senor Rolando Gavilan, intent on washing his hands of his cousin’s wife as soon as possible.

‘She is here illegally.  I work here, I have my life here.  I have my papers!’  He shrugged further into his coat in the needling cold of the rain surrounding them.   ‘I never wanted to get involved,’ he said in a lower tone of voice, turning away to look out across the water.  ‘My cousin begged me to help, but look what happened!’

‘What about this Manzano?  Did you know him, back in Cuba?’ asked Bodie.

‘No!  I do not mix with those sorts of people!  What do you think I am?’

‘All right, calm down,’ Bodie said.  ‘We just need any information you can give us.’

‘But I know nothing about this man!  My cousin asked me to arrange somewhere for him and his family when they arrive, that is all.  He say that they have paid for the journey and papers.  Now Elena will have no papers and I cannot help her.  I cannot get involved.’  He looked down at his feet. 

‘She nearly died.  She’s still in hospital.  She’s lost everything, including her husband and her child.’  Doyle’s voice was rising.  ‘Can’t you at least try and help her?’

‘No.  I am sorry.  I know nothing.’  He turned and walked away.

‘That’s not true, though, is it?’  Bodie raised his voice to carry over the distance between them.  ‘You did know Luis Manzano.’  Gavilan stopped.  ‘Fuentes wrote to you and you told Manzano they were coming, and how.  That’s how he knew to get in the container.’  Gavilan was shaking his head.  ‘Yes,’ continued Bodie, ‘because Senora Fuentes believes it’s her fault, but actually it’s yours.  Isn’t it?’

‘No!  No!  I did not know he would do that!’

‘You might not have known he’s a killer but you do know how to contact him.’

‘No!  Only in Cuba!’

‘Oh, come on.’  They were crowding him now, pushing closer until he was backed against the wall. 

‘How did he get in touch with you here?’

‘Did he ring you?’

‘He’s here, isn’t he?’

‘Does he come round to your house?’

Doyle grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him into the light.  ‘Do you leave a message for him somewhere?’  He let Gavilan go with a hard shove.  ‘Where?’

Over Doyle’s shoulder, Bodie caught a glimpse of movement.  ‘Down, Doyle!’

Doyle dropped to the ground as there was a crack of a gunshot, and Gavilan followed Doyle to the ground.  Doyle rolled and came up running, following Bodie across the space to the building at the entrance to the docks.  They were just in time to see a car accelerate away down the road.

‘Did you get the reg?’ Bodie asked urgently.

‘No, too dark.  I didn’t even see what the car was.  You?’

‘No.  Bollocks.’  They ran back to Gavilan but the assassin’s shot had ripped into his upper body and the man died as they reached him.

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The next morning at HQ Cowley called them in.  ‘I’ve been thinking.  And so should you two, only you, Doyle, are still mourning that young good-for-nothing, and you, Bodie, are still nursing your bruises.  You didn’t land on your head, as far as I know!’

‘That’s a bit harsh, sir,’ said Bodie.  Doyle said nothing, but stared moodily at their boss.

‘Aye, well.  I believe we’re in a position to know where Manzano is hiding.  If he’s still there, of course.’

‘Really, sir?  Joe never said where his bolthole was, just that it was near where Bodie was found.’

‘Exactly, Doyle, and that you could only enter it from the riverside.  Tell me, Bodie, what were the contents of Fairbrother’s pockets?’

‘Not much.’  Bodie frowned, trying to remember what was in the bag the older man had refused to take.  ‘Rubbish really, a few fag ends, an old key ring, no keys though, a hook thing –‘

‘Yes! I think what we’re looking for is a door near the water, but not a conventional door.  I think we’re probably looking for something that can be pulled to with that hook.  Remember he told you it was a space between two buildings, Doyle?’

‘Yes,’ said Doyle, considering.  ‘Yeah, that makes sense.  How are we going to find that without spooking Manzano though?’

‘Your friend Martell, does he have a boat?’ asked Cowley.

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‘Marty!’

‘Oh, for heaven’s sake, now what?’  Even Doyle’s charms were not working their usual magic on the arms dealer.

‘How d’you fancy a little boat trip?  With one of our most glamorous girls and a couple of bottles of champagne?’

Martell’s flat stare said he was unimpressed.

‘Come on, Marty, this last time pays for all.  Honest.’

‘But it won’t, Bodie, you know that’s not true.  The next time CI5 wants something you’ll trot down here with those baby blue eyes wide open, completely unashamed.  Friendship only goes so far.’

‘Marty.’  Bodie dropped his voice.  ‘It’s more than friendship.’

‘Yes, all right, obligation.  But on both sides, I’ll remind you.  And I am getting very tired of this.’

‘Look, if you don’t fancy Susie – and she’s a cracker, she really is – have you met Murphy?’

There was a muffled explosion of laughter in the background.  Martell turned to examine Doyle.  ‘Something wrong?’  ‘No, no.  Not at all,’ Doyle said hastily.

As they drove away, Bodie feeling very pleased with himself at the arrangements, Doyle asked, ‘Does Murph know you’re pimping him out for CI5?’

‘Ah, he’ll be fine with it,’ Bodie said expansively.  ‘It’s not as though he’s got to do anything.  Just sit in a boat for the afternoon and scan the banks for this hideaway.’

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At the briefing the next morning Bodie was mysteriously absent.  Murphy was present, alternately wincing, rubbing his shoulders and scowling horrendously when he wasn’t confirming the details of the upcoming op.  As soon as they were released, he made a beeline for Doyle.

‘Where’s your partner?  He seems to be avoiding me.’

‘Did you have a nice afternoon, Murph?’

‘I’m going to kill him.’  Murphy’s normally pleasant face was warped into a hideous snarl.

‘Who, Martell?’  Doyle was enjoying this.  ‘Nah, he’s harmless.  Bit of a letch, but he’s no trouble really.’

‘That bastard!  He had me climbing all over him in that bloody rowing boat!  First he was rowing, then we had to swap because he said he was tired, and that sodding boat was rocking all over the place.  I could feel his eyes all over my arse – yes, and his hands, at one point, just to steady me, he said!  I don’t like boats anyway, thought I was going to be sick at one point – and then he said the best thing for that was to lie flat and let him rub my belly!’

‘Were you this butch?  Because I think he quite likes that, y’know,’ Doyle said confidingly to the man looming over him.

‘What?  Don’t you fucking start,’ and Murphy made a grab at his colleague, who promptly shouted, ‘Help! Help!  This nasty rough man is being brutal!’

‘Hit ‘im with yer handbag, flower,’ said Stuart in his deep voice.

‘Never mind, Doyle, we’ll save you!’ and Lucas and McCabe piled in.  There was a happy rough and tumble until Murphy, blowing his fringe out of his eyes, spotted Bodie peering in through the door.  The struggle suddenly became short, sharp and focused and Murphy left the room at speed.

‘Ow!’, said McCabe, rubbing his knee.  ‘What was that for?’

Macklin materialised and looked down disapprovingly.  ‘Sloppy.  Very sloppy,’ he said, before leaving the room.

‘Bastard!’ said McCabe with feeling.  ‘Where did he come from?’

‘His usual haunt,’ said Lucas, glaring after the instructor.  ‘Hanging from the ceiling, probably.’

‘Still here, 2.4,’ came a disembodied voice from the hallway.  ‘Looking forward to your next refresher.’  He popped his head back into the room.  ‘Which needs to be soon, on that pathetic showing.  I’ll put you both on my list.’ 

‘We were only messing around!’ McCabe said indignantly.  But the instructor was gone again.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ Doyle said, giving him a hand to pull him up from the floor and brushing the dust and fluff from his back, ‘I only hope Bodie and Murph don’t beat each other up where Cowley can see, that’s all.’

‘I don’t give a toss about them!  In fact, I hope Murphy gets it in the neck!’  Lucas glared after Macklin, then transferred his attention to his partner, still rubbing his knee.  ‘You okay?  Nothing that’s going to bother you this afternoon?’

‘No, I’m fine, ta.’  And with that, they were all business again, preparing for the takedown of Luis Manzano.

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Between them, Martell and Murphy had identified the most likely place for Manzano to be hiding out.  Bodie had a fleeting wish that he’d seen them, floating past in the dinghy, with Martell trying to feel Murphy up and Murphy trying to wriggle out of the way.  He put the thought out of his mind and concentrated on the briefing for the op.  It was going to be a tricky place to get into, but then again, it looked as though there was only one way out.  He looked at the plan again.  They'd brought a lot of the Squad in for this op, for there was no telling if Manzano had other people with him in the sordid little hideout, or positioned around the area.  Corrigan and Williams, the sharpshooters, were placed in adjoining buildings.  Murphy, poor sod, was already high up on a roof opposite, having had to climb at night in the hope that he wouldn’t be seen.  Not a job Bodie would envy.  The rest of the squad would be dotted around the surrounding area, waiting for the signal.  Except Bodie and Doyle, with the faithful Martell one more time, relying on his experience and expertise to bring them in for a direct frontal hit on the entrance to the hideout across the water, this time from one of Martell’s powerful launches.

‘Right, ladies and gentlemen,’ Cowley concluded.  ‘Let’s go. 

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From his vantage point near the entrance to Joe’s hideout, Doyle knew it all depended on their timing.  He watched Martell skim the launch gently towards them, his eyes flicking between Jones and the currents he could see ahead in the river. In a last-minute change of plan, it was Jones in the boat with Martell, manning a small rocket launcher the arms dealer had provided that was guaranteed to blow the wooden door clean off.  Martell was all business now, his mannerisms subsumed by his concentration on the task at hand, and Doyle fully understood for the first time how Bodie could trust him so deeply.  Cowley was on the RT with Jones, co-ordinating their attack. 

‘9.6, approach and fire when ready.  All units stand by.  Go, go, go!’

Doyle saw Martell’s hand move on the throttle and the powerful engine roared as the boat came around and crossed the river in an arc, giving Jones a clear field of fire.  Doyle saw the weapon kick in Jones’ hands and a searing line of fire hit the door to the hideout, rebounded and exploded.  He was up and running with Bodie by his side, but instead of the gaping hole he expected to see there was a bent and twisted steel hatch.  Joe had said that this front entrance led to a narrow passageway between two buildings, which in turn led to a small room deep inside.  ‘Fuck,’ said Bodie as they pulled at the wooden splinters, ‘bastard’s reinforced it.’

Anson was with them.  ‘Wonder what else he’s got inside.’

Together they yanked at the steel and it gave way.  ‘Careful now.’  Taggart edged past them and headed down the passageway, sidling along the wall.  There was little room in the confined space and it was dark and damp, monster shadows flickering behind them in the dim light from the entrance.  They followed Taggart, not bothering to be quiet.  Manzano knew they were coming now.  ‘Back off a minute, Tag,’ said Anson, reaching out a hand just as Taggart stumbled over a tripwire.  There was an explosion and part of the wall came down, burying him under rubble and dirt.  ‘Tag!’  Anson scrabbled at the mound while Bodie and Doyle kept their guns on the darkness behind the cave-in.  ‘I can’t get him out.’

‘The others are nearly here now.  They’ll help him.  Let’s go and get this bastard,’ said Bodie grimly.  They could hear footsteps behind them as they moved onwards, but Bodie could hear something else, a creaking and ticking.  He turned.  ‘Geoff!’ he yelled, as another portion of the roof detached itself.  Anson crumpled to the floor and was still.  Doyle dropped down to check on him but rose again, at Bodie’s insistent signal.

They reached the end of the wall and paused at the corner.  They looked at each other in silent, deadly readiness.  Bodie nodded.  ‘Manzano!’ he shouted.  Three gunshots was the response, clattering and echoing in the small space.  The two agents ducked in reaction, then with hand signals to indicate positioning, burst around the corner together. 

Manzano was waiting in the small room at the end of the passage.  Bodie stepped around the corner and into the room, gun firing, while Doyle launched himself across the room, firing as he leapt.  With two separate targets on different sides of the room, Manzano was unsure where to aim and with a split focus, was fatally slow.  His body jerked and was thrown back against the wall as rounds from both agents’ guns hit him.  He sagged, and lay still.  Bodie approached and kicked the gun out of his hand.

‘Dead?’ Doyle rose from the floor.

‘Very.’

‘You or me?’

‘Hard to tell.’  They looked at each other, and then down at the unlovely corpse at their feet.

‘Bodie – his teeth!’  Doyle gazed down in macabre fascination.  Manzano’s lips were pulled back in a grimace and they could see that his teeth were filed to points.  ‘That’s disgusting!’

‘Come on, let’s get out of here.  I can hear the others with Geoff and Tag.  Let’s leave this scum here.’  Bodie called in on the RT and pulled his partner away from the body and back up the passageway, where they met the rescue team digging out Taggart.  Anson had already been removed.  They met Cowley on his way down.  ‘Well?’ 

‘Yes, he’s down there.’

‘Dead?’

‘Yep.’  Doyle continued up the passageway.  Bodie shrugged at their boss and followed his partner outside.

Martell had pulled Jones out of the water and was administering first aid.  The agent was bleeding badly and Martell looked relieved when an ambulance crew pushed him out of the way and took over.

‘You owe me a launch!’  Martell was shivering, plucking at his wet clothes distastefully.  ‘And a new pair of trousers and a shirt.  These were Armani, you know, not Moss Bros!’   

‘What happened to the boat?’  Bodie snagged a blanket from a passing stretcher-bearer and draped it around Martell’s shoulders.

‘The mortar came straight back at us.’  Martell looked rueful.  ‘I saw it coming:  your man didn’t.  Experience tells, I guess.’  He looked at Bodie somewhat anxiously.  ‘I did try to pull him down, Bodie.’

‘Yeah, I know,’ said Bodie absently, his attention on Doyle.  ‘Send Cowley a chit for the launch, that’ll make his day.  Thanks, Marty,’ and he gave Martell a light punch on the arm and drifted over to find Doyle, who had been catching up on the effects of the op.

‘Another bloody shambles.’  Doyle rubbed gingerly at a gash on his arm.  ‘Jones looks done for, Taggart’s probably not going to make it, Anson’s still out cold, Jax has a through and through.  It’s too much.’

Bodie looked at him.  “And there is no discharge in that war.”

‘Keats again?’  Doyle’s voice was sardonic.

‘No, Kipling.’  Bodie took in the carnage around them.  ‘There’s always going to be another op.  But it makes a difference, Ray.  You know it does. Don’t let it defeat you, mate.’

‘For how long?’  Doyle gazed around moodily.  ‘You’re right.  There’s always going to be another op, because there’s always more villains.  They never bloody stop.  I’m tired, Bodie.  Tired of doing this job.’ 

He walked away, turning his back on Bodie and heading down to the water’s edge.  Cold grey mist against cold grey stone, cold grey water:  the tartan of Doyle’s scarf showed up shockingly bright, even sodden and dirty as it was. 

  

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Bodie watched him go, shaken and unsure inside. Did Doyle mean to resign from CI5?  Where would that leave them?‘Take him home, lad.’  Cowley had arrived unnoticed at his side.  ‘He’s tired and hurting.  Don’t take it to heart tonight.’

His direct gaze implied that George Cowley knew very well the nature of their relationship.  Nothing was said, nothing needed to be said, yet this was another blow to Bodie’s peace of mind coming hard on the heels of Doyle’s declaration. 

‘Sir.’  Cowley nodded, and Bodie went to collect his partner. 

‘Home.’  Doyle nodded dispiritedly and allowed himself to be steered up towards the car.  Cowley turned and took a moment to watch them, and saw Bodie say something to his partner.  He saw Doyle shake off Bodie’s light touch to his elbow, and Bodie’s entire body stiffen at the rejection.  He frowned as Bodie stopped, and Doyle swung round, jabbing at his partner with a finger as he said something.  Bodie responded, chin jutting out, shoulders hunched, but Cowley saw Doyle stop, frown, shake his head and say something else, head tilted.  There was no response from Bodie for a moment, then he took a step forward, looking down at his feet.  He kicked the ground in front of him in a decidedly Doyle-like movement, and Doyle was next to him in two swift strides.  One hand on his partner’s sleeve, he was talking urgently now, looking into the downcast face, shaking the arm he held slightly in his passion, until Bodie looked up, and Doyle’s shoulders relaxed.  They held each other’s gazes for a moment and then Bodie gave a small nod, reaching out to put a hand flat on Doyle’s chest as Cowley had seen him do so many times before.  Doyle let go, and they both smiled.  They turned and continued on their way to the car, but this time they were in step, and their shoulders were touching.

Cowley nodded to himself.  Bodie and Doyle, never far apart.  They would be all right.

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