Sam glanced in concern at his partner who sat in the back seat of the taxi-cab beside him. The American was notably quiet and had been for a couple of hours. They had just flown overnight from Nairobi so Sam assumed that Chris was feeling just as exhausted as he felt. Chris’s hand unconsciously went to his face, his fingers massaging his forehead.
“Headache?” asked Sam quietly.
Chris turned his attention to his partner.
“Yeah. I can’t wait to get to my bed. I think I’ll sleep for a week” he replied, self consciously dropping his hand.
“I know how you feel. I’m just glad that Malone doesn’t want to debrief us today”.
Chris grimaced and muttered.
“He may not be human but he’s not a monster” which brought a smile to his partner’s face.
They settled back into an easy silence, hardly noticing the hustle and bustle of mid morning central London. Finally, they arrived at Chris’s apartment and as the taxi stopped he sent a searching look towards Sam.
“Do you want to stay at my place?”
Sam had already considered the question but having seen Chris’s exhaustion had decided that the American needed several hours of peace and quiet to replenish his batteries.
“No, I think we both need our own beds for now. I’ll pick you up at 8.00am tomorrow. Don’t be late”
Chris left the taxi, collected his bag and leaned into the open window next to his partner.
“What fun would it be if I was on time. I’d only worry you. See ya in the morning partner,”
Grinning, he turned away with a short wave. He watched as the taxi turned at the end of the street and turned back to his front door. God he felt tired and his bed was calling him like a siren song. Their mission to Nairobi had been a waste of time and they had spent three unsuccessful days there before being recalled. One of those days had been spent observing an isolated villa deep undercover in the hot and damp jungle and they had both returned filthy and itchy to the hotel. Never had he enjoyed a shower more and he allowed himself a little smile when he remembered that Sam had joined him.
He disabled the sophisticated alarm system and climbed the stairs wearily, pulling the blinds shut as he dropped his bag by the kitchen door. Aimlessly he wandered into the kitchen and opened the fridge and looked in. Deciding that bare shelves and a bottle of Budweiser were not what his taste buds were anticipating he slammed the door shut and decided he needed to sleep more urgently than he needed to feed himself. They had eaten on the plane and his stomach wasn’t empty.
Slipping into the bathroom he swiftly stripped, leaving his crumpled clothes in a heap on the floor and stepped into the shower. After a long, hot soak he walked into the bedroom, pulled on a pair of shorts and finally collapsed into bed. He was asleep within minutes.
Sam dropped his dirty washing by the washing machine having already sorted out his bag and headed towards the bathroom. His mind finally dulling with tiredness, he showered and smiled at the same memory that Chris had recently experienced. Finishing and pulling on a pair of silk boxer shorts he went through to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of fresh orange juice. He sat at the table and sorted through his unopened post but nothing struck him as important and he finally succumbed to his fatigue. He headed towards the bedroom and like Chris he was asleep within minutes.
Sam came awake at the sound of the alarm and he blearily reached out to grab the bedside clock. He groaned as he read the time - 7.00pm and cursed sharply at his mistake. He had meant to set it for 7.00am and now he was awake he knew that he wouldn’t easily drop off again. Fiddling with the setting he re-set the function to the correct time and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He felt that the sharp edge of his tiredness had been taken away but still felt bone-deep weary. The luxury of five hours undisturbed sleep was something of a luxury recently. Both himself and Chris had been working non-stop for weeks and had barely had a day off for over 2 months. They were working on a very complicated case involving an eastern European drug runner and had travelled through several countries and time zones during the course of their investigations.
He knew that he was on the edge of total exhaustion and he was hoping that now they had been recalled from Nairobi both himself and his partner would be allowed a couple of days off.
He knew that even Chris’s enthusiasm had waned and they were both dangerously overtired. In fact, he was worried about Chris’s quietness and hoped that the tough American wasn’t sickening for anything. Sam knew that in their run down condition any bug would poleaxe either of them.
Sighing he padded into the kitchen and poured himself another glass of orange and then walked towards his laptop computer. He decided to finalise their report, the majority of which he had managed to complete on the flight. After working on it for another hour he found his eyes closing and he saved the information and closed the case. He returned to his bed and the next time he was aware was when the alarm sounded and it showed 7.00am.
“Shit, you look how I feel” was the greeting that the Englishman was met with when he knocked on the door of his partners apartment.
“Good morning to you too” he replied in amusement noting that the American had literally just got up. His brown hair was mussed up and he wore only a tight pair of shorts. Pulling the door shut behind him he wrapped his partner in his arms and gave him a big sloppy kiss.
“I’ve missed you”.
“Fuck off Curtis. I’m not even awake yet”
Sam grinned and let him go.
“Did you manage to get some sleep grumpy?”
Chris gave him a glare but then sighed . He knew he was in a grumpy mood but he was so godamn tired.
He scratched his chin
“yeah, maybe that’s my problem. Too much sleep. Heck, I can’t remember the last time I had a decent few hours.”
Sam followed him upstairs
“I know what you mean. I was so tired I set the alarm wrong and ended up being woken at 7.00pm last night.”
“God Curtis. You’re going to pieces. I think I’ll have to persuade Malone to give us a week off. “ He pointed to the kitchen.
“You know where everything is. You make the coffee whilst I get ready.”
Sam did indeed know where everything was because he had to endure the same routine from his partner every time. Chris was not a natural morning person and took his time to get ready.
“A couple of days off would do me” he called to Chris in the bedroom
“It’s the least he could do after sending us thousands of miles away on another goose chase”.
“I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to think we’re the only two agents left in CI5”.
He handed a steaming cup of coffee to his partner who had just come into the kitchen half dressed.
“I suppose it’s because we’re his two top men. Hell, the place would fall apart if we weren’t around to prop it up”. commented the American gratefully taking a sip.
“I don’t suppose you’ve got anything to eat in this hovel?” enquired Sam raising his eyebrow quizzically.
“Budweiser and empty shelves” pronounced the American sadly.
“Then I suppose we’d better eat out for breakfast. Your turn to buy” pronounced the Englishman slapping his partner lightly on the back of his head.
He couldn’t help but notice the wince and quickly asked
“Have you still got that headache?”
“I’m fine Sam”
Ignoring him, Sam carefully studied his lover’s face. Chris looked exhausted, his face pale and dark circles were prominent under his eyes.
“Are you sure?”
Chris returned the gaze annoyed at the fuss and then regretted it as he saw the concern reflected in the grey-green eyes of his partner.
“Yeah, I’m just tired Sam. I did sleep last night honestly but I think I’ll need a couple more nights before I’m up to speed again.” he replied quietly.
Satisfied Sam gently kissed his forehead.
“Sorry for being a fusser but I worry about you. I don’t like seeing you so run-down. I am going to demand we get a couple of days off.”
“God Sam, if we get two days off together you know we won’t be getting much sleep.”
Sam shook his head in amusement.
“No, I don’t suppose we will. Hell, how about one day off and we can just sleep in each others arms all day.”
Chris kissed his lover tenderly.
“Sounds wonderful to me. Just one problem.”
“Malone” they both chimed together and laughed.
“Come on, lets get this over with Keel” said Sam firmly gripping the American’s arm and leading him towards the door.
“Our taskmaster awaits.”
“Gentlemen, good to see you back. I look forward to seeing you in my office with a full report on your recent trip in precisely one hour’s time.”
Keel and Curtis exchanged a suffering glance as Malone strode away.
“Jesus. He hasn’t even let us take our coats off yet. That man is not human.” muttered Chris.
“He’s probably been in since 6.00am” commented Sam nodding a greeting to Backup and Spencer.
Giving them a quick wave Chris made his way to the coffee machine and poured out two strong black cups and sat down next to his partner.
“I suppose you’ve finished the report?” he asked, confident that if Sam hadn’t finished it yet, it was definitely on its way.
“I worked on it last night for about an hour so it shouldn’t take much finishing off.” He turned to the American.
“How about you finishing it off this time?” he asked brightly.
Chris held his hands up.
“Not a good idea if we want to get Malone to give us some time off”.
Sam nodded wisely. “You’re right. Ok, your job for the next hour is to keep me supplied with regular coffees and to take some of these painkillers for your headache.” Onto the desk he placed a pack of aspirin he had taken out of his drawer.
“Sam, I‘m f….” Chris started but was cut off by the stern look that his partner was giving him.
“Yes Mum” he grumbled.
Sam smiled and whispered “be a good boy and we can play a nice game later”.
Chris’s smile widened.
“I’ll keep you to that” he grinned taking the aspirin.
Chris tried to stifle another yawn as Malone continued his questioning of the two agents. Sam was doing most of the talking explaining the background of the report which lay on their boss’s desk. They had been in the office for over an hour and Chris wondered whether he was really needed as he hadn’t spoken for at least 10 minutes. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair willing his eyes to stay open. He didn’t want to fall asleep in front of Malone - he would never hear the last of it.
The Irishman observed the American from the corner of his eye whilst listening to Curtis as he answered his recently prompted question. He knew that he had been working both Agents hard over the last few weeks but unfortunately the state of the worlds affairs would not allow any respite. Since the terrorist outrage of 9/11 the Governments of all the countries of the western world were clamping down on the supply of arms and weapons to the various factions around the world - however tenuous the links to terrorism with the result that any group with a grudge was now targeted whereas in the past they might have just kept a sharp eye on them.
Until new Agents finished their training he had unfortunately had to keep his experienced men and women busy night and day.
He became aware that Curtis had finished speaking and was looking expectantly at him. Leaning back in his chair he studied both of his best Agents. Curtis looked tired but Keel looked absolutely exhausted.
“Are you feeling alright Mr Keel?” he asked as he stared directly at the American.
Chris’s eyes widened as he felt an irrational sense of being caught out by the headmaster.
“I’m fine Sir. Just a little jet-lag”.
Chris felt Sam cast him a sympathetic glance and he knew that he expected a sharp retort from Malone. Malone shocked them both by apologising.
“I’m sorry. I know that you’ve both been working non-stop for weeks now. I just wish that I could give you a break but every small minority group seems to be hunting for armaments at the moment.”
He saw that both men nodded their head. They understood the reasons for the work and the vital importance of stopping the supply.
“I must remember that they’re human beings not machines” thought Malone. He knew that both Agents would work through their exhaustion without complaint if that was what was required but he also knew that everyone had a breaking point and he felt that Keel in particular was close to his. A few days off would be ideal but his desk was so full that it was impossible. He leaned forward as a thought came into his head.
“Gentlemen, a report came across from MI5 the other day about a possible link to your recent case. It appears that an ex-employee of Adam Sandling has contacted them and is willing to pass on some information. They thought that we’d like to talk to him. “
Sam looked puzzled.
“Sir, I thought that Sandling was out of the country?”
Malone nodded thoughtfully.
“Yes, he is. The last contact we had was that he was in Estonia.”
Chris was confused
“Then why are you interested in his guy if you know his location”.
Malone closed the file in front of him.
“Because, I need someone to talk to him to get some background information off him. Perhaps he could give us some clue as to Sandling’s British customers. It would mean a trip to Derbyshire.”
Sam realised what Malone was doing and turned to his partner with a smile.
“I think that he could have some helpful information Chris.”
Chris was still confused. Surely one of the junior members of staff should be assigned to such a simple case. Hell, it would only be a chat with an informant - two days travelling for half a days work.
Suddenly the light bulb illuminated in his brain and a slow smile spread over his face.
“It would mean an overnight stay Sir” he said looking directly at his boss.
“No, Mr Keel. I think that Neville Broughton may have more information to give than that. I think that two nights may be more appropriate”.
Curtis cast a grateful smile to Malone. Although the words were unsaid they all knew that Malone was giving them the break they needed.
Malone dismissed them. “I shall get Miss Backus to book you a B & B in a nice little village called Castleton. Please read the file and then you can get going this afternoon.”
Chris followed Sam out of the room and followed him towards Tina’s desk.
“I’ll never understand Malone” he muttered under his breath so that only his partner could hear. “Works us like dogs for weeks and then turns out to be a nice guy for once”.
Sam gave him a friendly pat on the back
“Don’t get used to it Keel. He’ll soon be bawling you out again.”
Tina looked up as they came to stand by her desk.
“Hi guys” she said brightly. “What’s up?”
Curtis perched on the side of the desk.
“Malone wants us to go to Derbyshire to have a word with Sandling’s ex-employee. He said you’d give us the file”.
“Yes. Just bear with me a minute while I pull it up.”
They waited patiently as Tina tapped away on the computer keyboard and shortly the file was displayed.
“Neville Broughton - aged 52 - works as a tour guide at the Blue John Cavern in Castleton, Derbyshire.”
“Right in the heart of the Peak District” observed Sam.
Tina turned to the American catching him in mid yawn.
“Ever been there Chris?” she asked.
“Nope. What’s it like?”
Sam clapped his hand on Chris’s arm.
“Full of sheep and grass and hills and …….”
“Caverns” finished Tina.
“Sounds great” said Chris with a smile. “So, do I pack my hiking boots?”
Sam nodded. “Although we’re supposed to be working if I remember rightly Castleton is pretty much in the middle of the Peaks and I’m sure a little walking wouldn’t be uncalled for if we want to blend in with the locals.”
Tina pulled a disk from her computer.
“Here, feed this into your laptop. Its all the background you need. It should be a nice easy interview for you two. In fact, I’m surprised that Malone has given the job to you considering how busy we are.”
“Chris yawned at him until he decided to give us a break” commented Sam pocketing the disk.
Tina’s face showed understanding. “Have a good time you two. Read through that file and I’ll book you a nice cosy B & B.”
She smiled wickedly and added quietly “and I’ll make sure it’s a four poster bed”.
That made the two men laugh. Tina was one of the few people at CI5 that knew of their relationship and although a little disapproving at first had now seen the positive result of the effects on both of her closest friends.
Sam glanced at his partner who was just stirring in the seat beside him. Chris had been asleep for most of the journey.
“Hey sleepyhead. Nice to get a bit of company round here.”
He received a bleary glance from the American who stretched his muscles trying to get the stiffness out.
“Where are we?” he asked gazing out of the windscreen.
“Still on the M1. We’re probably about an hour away.”
Sam glanced at this partner, Chris still looked exhausted.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine Sam. I feel a bit better for a sleep. I’m getting hungry.”
“You must be feeling better. Can you wait till Castleton or do you want to stop at the motorway services?”
Chris shifted his stocky frame into a more comfortable position.
“I’m ok for now. I can wait.”
“Fine. Do me a favour and check in with HQ.”
Chris picked up his mobile and clicked the speed dial and spoke to Tina briefly.
“All quiet on the Western Front” he said as he ended the call and put it back into his pocket.
“For now” thought Sam
Chris gazed in appreciation at the green countryside and gentle rolling hills they were driving through. Quaint villages and farms were nestled in the verdant dales and there did indeed seem to be sheep everywhere you looked. Finally spotting the sign for Castleton he studied the piece of paper he held in his hand showing the location of their B & B. It proved to be a quaint stone coaching inn probably around 300 years of age and as Sam pulled the car into the attached car park Chris wondered at what stories were held within the historical walls. Sam turned off the engine and glanced at his partner, smiling at the rapt expression on his face. Even though Chris had seen and experienced the darker side of the world Sam was amazed at how much the American appreciated the wonder of new experiences.
“I hope Backup wasn’t kidding about that 4 poster. I’m dying to try it out.” whispered Sam kissing Chris’s ear.
Chris turned to him with a mock glare.
“We are supposed to be working here Curtis. Don’t think we’re on holiday!” he muttered darkly and glanced at his watch. “Although of course, we knock off at 5.00pm so I suppose that means that work is finished.” he added in a brighter voice.
They laughed, sharing a quick kiss before opening the car doors.
The room proved to be very quaint, furnished with a double bed and antique style furniture. Old brasses were hung up everywhere and a picture window flanked by thick damask curtains revealed a picturesque view of the green peaks.
“I am absolutely starving” said Chris throwing his bag down near the bed. “Let’s eat.”
Sam eyed him warily. He wasn’t entirely sure whether his partner meant food because that phrase had come to mean so much more since they had become lovers. In fact, it turned out that the American did mean food and they soon found themselves in the dining room of the B&B sharing a healthy meal of pork and apple. Chris also managed to demolish a plate of freshly made apple pie and cream before he was satisfied.
Sam shook his head. “ I just don’t know where you put it” he commented - again this phrase being an ‘in joke’ between them.
Chris completed the sequence “well I know a good way to work it off”.
“Promises, promises” smiled Sam. He looked out of the window. It was a warm September evening and it was still only 7.00pm.
“How about we go for a walk around?”
Chris nodded his head and rose to his feet. Casting out his hand he grasped Sam’s arm and pulled him up. “Not too far though. I’ve got plans for tonight and I don’t want to wear myself out.”
Sam couldn’t help but laugh.
Later, they returned to the coach inn and shared a final pint in the bar before retiring to their room. Chatting to the landlord they learned that the Blue John Cavern was only a couple of miles away but the Old Mam Tor Road was closed due to subsidence. He recommended it as a nice reasonably easy walk and they decided to make contact and arrange a meeting with Broughton for the next day. Sam made the call as Chris took a shower. Broughton sounded nervous and Sam tried to reassure him that there was no reason to worry. It appeared that Broughton had something vital he wanted to share with the authorities and wasn’t willing to trust anyone. After a long discussion Sam suggested that they would be best to meet at the cavern and enter as part of the final tour group of the day at 5.00pm. Then he and Chris would wait below whilst the other people exited and Broughton would come back and talk to them. He finished the phone call just as Chris came out of the bathroom rubbing his wet hair with a towel.
“All sorted?” he enquired looking at his partner.
Sam nodded and explained the plan. Chris smiled and lay back on the bed.
“You know that means we’ve got all day to amuse ourselves before we need to go to the cavern”.
Sam kissed him. “Why do you think I suggested it. Look I’ll take a shower whilst you report back to HQ.”
Chris nodded his acceptance and grabbed the mobile phone.
“This is going to be an enjoyable couple of days” he thought as he stabbed the keypad.
Unfortunately everyone was unaware that Neville Broughton’s telephone was bugged and 3000 miles away Adam Sandling received a telephone call. Listening to the recording he barked out a firm command. Broughton was to be terminated before he could divulge any confidential information. When asked what was to be done to the two agents he merely acknowledged that if they learned of the information they were to be terminated also. Despite protestations that it would take time to organise, Sandling firmly dismissed his underling. He knew that his British connections could be trusted to carry out his orders and he leant back in his chair and pursed his hands together. On reflection, employing Broughton had been a mistake. Broughton had a clever and incisive brain and was a financial expert who specialised in laundering dodgy money. He had been recommended by one of his British contacts but it turned out that the man had been too soft and could not handle the fact that in Sandling’s line of business people got hurt. After a particularly bloody termination of a business rival Broughton had disappeared together with a disk showing the names and addresses of all his British contacts and details of transactions. If that disk ever got into the authorities hands then his business dealings in Britain were destroyed and it would cost him millions. He had tried to track down Broughton but the man had seemingly disappeared. However, he had many contacts, including a particularly advantageous one in the security services, and had been waiting for an opportunity to track down and trace him. He smiled in satisfaction. Now was the time for Broughton to suffer and he made sure that when he had ordered his termination that his death was not to be made easy. He felt no sympathy for the two unlucky agents who would be caught in the middle of the mess. ‘Such is life and death’ he mused before returning to the computer screen in front of him.
Sam came out of the bathroom and grinned at the sight before him of Chris asleep on top of the covers. The Englishman was just glad that his partner was resting although a little disappointed that he wasn’t going to keep his promises tonight. Ah well, he thought. At least we can have a lie-in tomorrow. Pulling the covers from underneath the sleeping form he wriggled into bed and snuggled close to his lover, finally settling the covers back over their naked bodies. He kissed him on the neck softly. “Night Chris” and turned off the light. He was asleep within minutes, his body lulled by the warmth of his lover.
Sam awoke to the feel of a hand on his cock. Only half awake he lay still and enjoyed the sensation as his lover caressed him gently. A breathy kiss was laid on the nape of his neck and he couldn’t stop himself groaning quietly.
Opening his eyes he found himself staring into Chris’s laughing blue eyes, a smile lighting up his face.
“Mmm, nice way to wake up” murmured Sam stretching as Chris’s hand continued it’s slow pace.
“Just relax and let me do all the work. I’m sorry I fell asleep on you last night”.
Sam groaned as the sensations pulsed through him. Chris knew his body well and knew the rhythm that his lover liked. Gently he guided his hand along the glistening shaft subtly pressing his thumb against the end every so often. Sam tried to reach for Chris but the American stopped him.
“Let me do all the work” he whispered quickening his pace.
Sam cried out in ecstasy as he let go, his thick seed covering his lover’s hand.
Finally coming back to his senses he smiled and raised his head to kiss his partner.
“I love you” he whispered, moving his hands over the firm golden muscles of his partners bare back and buttocks. He felt Chris’s aroused cock butting against his thigh and looked into his lovers eyes. Seeing the heat of desire he turned onto his front and offered up his buttocks.
“I want you in me Chris” he muttered, wriggling his butt as if to prove the point. He felt the American get off the bed and open a zip on his bag. Collecting the lube and a condom Chris kneeled back on the bed and kissed his partner gently on the buttocks. Sam lay on his knees patiently waiting in anticipation and groaned aloud as he felt a slicked finger enter him. One became two and two swiftly became three as Chris expertly prepared him, scissoring his fingers to widen the entrance. Sam twisted in joy as his lover’s fingers scraped across the pleasure spot deep within him. Finally satisfied, Chris rolled the condom onto his rock hard cock and nudged against his lover pressing himself deeper slowly and surely. Sam groaned as he felt the fullness he loved so much. Settling into the well practiced rhythm that they both enjoyed Chris thrust forward as Sam pushed backward, their groans of pleasure joining into a single cry of ecstasy and love. Reaching round Sam’s hips Chris once again began to caress his partners cock and together they reached a single simultaneous mind shattering orgasm both crying out each others names.
It took them a little time to come back to their senses and they shared a final sensuous kiss before Chris pulled himself out of Sam’s body.
“That was worth waiting for” gasped Sam breathing heavily.
The American fell back against the pillows “Yeah” he replied simply and then they both closed their eyes and fell asleep.
They had a late breakfast and walked around the village, climbing the hill to Peveril Castle. It afforded fantastic views of the hills and they spent an enjoyable few hours just revelling in the fact that they had nothing to worry them. Returning to the village they had a later lunch of steak and eggs and returned to their room to do some final preparation for their evening task. Finally, having kitted themselves out in sturdy hiking boots and warm clothing and with a rucksack on each man’s back, they left the B & B and made their way up the Old Mam Tor Road. The roadway had subsided badly in many places and the track was tricky in parts but they took their time, enjoying the easy conversation and light hearted mood. Neither of them was worried about their meeting. They had no reason to believe that Broughton was in any danger today and even if he was their meeting 250 feet below ground was just about as secure as they could get.
They reached the entrance to the Blue John Cavern about a half an hour before closing and enjoyed a cup of coffee whilst they waited for the final party to be allowed down. Chris nudged Sam as he spotted Neville Broughton who had just emerged with the previous group. He was a tall thin man with grey hair and a dusty blue uniform. Seeing the two agents casually leaning against the gift shop wall he cast a searching glance in their direction and Chris gave a sharp nod of acknowledgement. Getting confirmation Broughton disappeared into the back of the gift shop into the staff quarters. Satisfied Chris turned to his partner who was casually scanning the few assorted people still hanging around. The mine was due to close and there were only four other people there - two pensioners who were kitted out in dated but well kept hiking gear and another two younger women who looked like students. They turned out to be German and he subtly listened to their conversation. It was the normal chatter of two girls and there was nothing that alarmed him. In fact he smiled as he heard them throw a comment about the two ‘hunks’ waiting nearby and wondering if they were staying in Castleton
“What are you smiling at” muttered Chris eyeing the girls suspiciously.
Sam grinned and whispered. “Seems we’ve got a couple of admirers”.
Chris pouted “I’m not sharing you with anyone” and kissed him possessively. Sam chuckled as he heard the blond girl comment
“Why are all the nice ones always gay?”.
After a short wait Neville Broughton came out of the staff room and held a large torch lamp in his hand. He walked over to the entrance and unlocked it and waved everyone forward. Paying their £6.50 entrance fee, the two agents followed the pensioners and students down into the depths of the cavern. After a sharp flight of steps they gathered at the bottom in a high chamber and Broughton began his presentation. Chris and Sam played their roles as tourists, gasping and showing their appreciation at the wonder of mother nature and the power of water. They travelled down further and further into the mountain through different levels, the colours of the minerals shining in the lights. Strategically placed electric lights showed the different colours to their best and various fossils threw shadows across the rocks. Chris found that he had to concentrate on his footing as the stone steps were wet and slippery and he followed his partner ducking occasionally as the roof closed in. Their guide continued his commentary until eventually they arrived at the lowest viewing platform. The cave continued further but this was where the tours ended.
After Broughton finished and declared that they had the hard part of the tour to do now - just 280 steps up to the exit - he led the way and the pensioners and students followed obediently. Taking out his camera Sam made a pretence of trying to set up a decent shot of the iron deposits scattered over the walls and then indicated that he wanted Chris to pose against one that looked like Elvis. From the corner of his eye he watched as Broughton nodded and told them loudly to follow when they were finished.
“Impressed?” asked Sam coming to stand by his partner who was watching the retreating group.
Chris turned and threw his arms around his partner. “By you? Always. By the cave? Its pretty neat.”
Sam cuddled back and they shared a deep and meaningful kiss.
“How long do you reckon before Broughton gets back?” he asked
“I guess about half an hour. He’ll come down as soon as he’s got rid of the tourists”.
Chris settled down on a nearby rock and eased the rucksack off his shoulders. “Fancy a mars bar?”
Sam grinned. “You’re always prepared aren’t you”.
Eventually they heard steps and instantly went on alert, splitting up and covering the entrance. Broughton came into view holding his hands up as he spotted the two agents.
“Only me” he called, not wanting to upset the strangers. He was already terrified and he was unsure of how to proceed. He stopped at the foot of the steps and looked at the two silent figures.
Sam stepped forward and held out his hand with a smile.
“My name is Sam Curtis, this is Chris Keel. We’re with CI5. I understand you have some information for us”.
Broughton heaved a sigh of relief and took the proferred hand shaking it firmly. He nodded to Chris.
“That’s right. I’m sorry but I’m wasn’t sure what to expect.”
“That’s ok, we understand. Now, what is it that you want to tell us?”
Broughton pulled a disk from his pocket.
“That is a list of Sandling’s British connections. You’ll find names and addresses and details of transactions.”
Chris took the disk and looked at it in awe.
“Do you know how long we’ve been chasing this guy? This is the mother lode Mr Broughton.”
“What’s your connection to Sandling?” asked Sam watching as Chris stowed the disk in the knee pocket of his combat trousers.
“I helped with the financial side of his business. When I first came into his employment I thought he was just a businessman wishing to hide certain funds from the taxman. I didn’t realise what a savage he is. I managed to escape with that disk but he’ll kill me if he finds me.”
“That’s how you ended up here in the middle of nowhere” commented Sam, more of a statement than a question.
“But you couldn’t hide for ever. Even in the middle of nowhere” came a voice from behind them.
Sam spun around and came face to face with a muzzle of an automatic pistol.
“Hands up” indicated the voice. Sam could not do anything else but he noticed Chris edging towards the side.
“And you” said the voice sharply. Two people came into view both holding pistols. Chris swore, it was the two pensioners that had been part of the tour party.
Chris saw that his partner’s head was in the sights of both pistols and reluctantly he raised his hands.
Broughton cried out in fear and the woman glanced at him in disdain.
“Now, you all need to get on your knees for me” she snapped coming into the chamber.
“What the hell is this about?” demanded Curtis trying to play for time, waiting for an opportunity to react.
The assassin pointed to Broughton.
“Mr Sandling has a message for you Neville.”
Broughton fell to his knees begging for mercy, knowing what message he was to receive.
The woman took a step towards him raising the pistol.
“Mr Sandling says that we are to make you suffer before we kill you. Jack and myself are rather good at that. Jack here can make someone last for days and at the end of that time be begged by the victim to die.”
Jack nodded sharply as if to emphasise the point. The woman continued.
“The cavern is closed for the night. We’ve got plenty of time to play before we finish you.”
Broughton screamed and rose to his feet, his terror and survival instinct forcing him on the attack. Seeing this, both Chris and Sam attacked and tried to overpower the aggressors. It was a short struggle but three against two prevailed and soon the machine pistols were in the hands of the CI5 agents.
Broughton had received a savage kick to the ribs and was lying on the floor panting in pain.
“Chris, tie them up will you, I’ll see to Broughton”.
Chris nodded and pulled out the wire handcuffs from his pocket. Swiftly disabling the two struggling pensioners he sat back and looked at Sam who was helping Broughton to his knees.
“Are you ok?” he asked looking at the guide.
“Thanks to you yes. I can’t understand how they found me.”
Sam grimaced. “People like Sandling have ways of finding out information. You’d be surprised who will sell information to the highest bidder.”
He rose to his feet pulling the older man with him.
“Come on let’s get out of here. Chris, you lead the way”.
They made their way to the middle level, Chris now about 10 meters in front as Sam was slowed by the injured informer. Turning a sharp corner he saw a flash of silver and felt a sharp pain in his side. Crying out in alarm he slumped back just as Sam came up behind him. Instinctively Sam dropped Broughton and went to help his partner but was stopped by the sight of the two German students, one holding a pistol and the other a bloodied knife.
“Stop where you are” demanded the blonde “or your boyfriend dies”.
Sam could only look on helplessly as the pistol was aimed at Chris’s heart.
Chris groaned in pain as he looked down to see his side. His shirt was already stained with blood.
Sam weighed up the situation and decided that there was no option but to once again surrender.
“My compliments to you. You certainly had me fooled.”
The blonde smiled at the comment and raised the gun away from Chris and indicated for them to go down. Sam knew he couldn’t fight in such a restricted place as the stairway and he reluctantly retraced his steps helping Chris and urging Broughton down in front of him. The older man was crying now, begging for mercy, promising that he hadn’t done anything except run away. The assassins were unaware of the disk that lay in Chris’s knee pocket.
Helping Chris to sit leaning against the balcony rail he ignored the students and tended to his partner’s wound. Opening the shirt he found that the knife had sliced into him just above the hip. It wasn’t too deep but the wound was bleeding profusely. He looked into the American’s face and grimaced at the pain found there.
“I thought she was supposed to fancy me” muttered Chris trying to ride the sharp pain and seeing Sam’s concern etched on his face.
“I need to get the first aid kit from my rucksack” said Sam looking up at the blonde. The dark haired student was cutting the bonds of the two pensioners. They traded a long look and then she nodded her head.
“I will be pointing my gun at his head. Any sudden moves and he dies.” she snarled.
Sam nodded and removed the rucksack from his back. Finding a bandage he applied pressure to the wound apologising to the American when he squirmed in pain.
“Bind his wound and then sit back against the rail” snapped the older woman coming to stand beside the blonde German. She would take no chances of the two agents overpowering them again. Sam did as he was told, trading a long look with Chris before moving away. The dark haired German pulled his hands behind him and bound them to the railing. She went to do the same with Chris but he cried out in pain. She examined his wound, noting the amount of blood now beginning to soak through the bandage and decided that he was too injured to be a threat.
“Marika. You watch them whilst we talk to Neville” said Jack rubbing his sore wrists and throwing a dirty look at the two prone agents.
Broughton shrieked in fear as he saw the icy look in the face of the older woman as she slowly drew a knife from her pocket. His cries echoed through the cavern as Jack and his wife began their task. Chris cast a horrified glance to his partner but they were unable to do anything to help the poor victim.
The torture went on for over an hour, Broughton’s cries getting weaker and weaker. Chris had tried to close his mind, thankful that it wasn’t either of the CI5 agents that were suffering. His side hurt but he felt that the bleeding had slowed and clotted. Weak and dizzy from blood loss he lay slumped against the rail beside his bound partner.
The dark haired German girl was watched them both closely - the dark haired Englishman’s face was flat and expressionless, his grey-green eyes glittering icily. He kept on throwing concerned glances at his partner before returning his gaze to her. She noticed that he did not look at the scene of torture being acted out only a few meters away. The American lay slumped, his face pale and his breathing erratic. The bandage around his waist was soaked in blood and she saw no threat in him. However, Chris was more alert than she thought and was just waiting for the right opportunity to strike. A particularly harsh scream from Broughton as Jack hacked off his little finger was all that it took and she turned around to see what had happened. Chris shot to his feet and clubbed the back of her neck with as much force as possible. As she dropped with a broken neck he grabbed her gun. Alerted to the danger the blonde twisted round, raising her pistol but was stopped by a bullet between her eyes. He shot the older woman before she could get to her knees but this gave Jack time to get to his feet and he charged at Chris with a knife in his hand and murder in his mind. The knife slashed down and Chris cried out as blood erupted from his arm. Pushing himself into the assassin’s torso to avoid another slash he brought his hand up and punched the old man, breaking his nose. Crying out in fury the older man wrestled for the gun in Chris’s hand and they both struggled. His rage made him strong and Chris began to panic as he felt his strength waning. Sam could only look on in horror as the battle for the gun unfolded. He knew that if Jack got control of the gun they would both die in this cavern and probably not in a pretty way. Sam flinched as the gun went off the bullet hitting the electricity transformer box. The cavern was immediately plunged into darkness. He heard the curse of his partner as he still struggled with the assassin. Suddenly a single shot rang out through the cavern echoing against the walls and everything went quiet. For a long moment Sam held his breath searching for anything in the darkness but finding nothing. Then he felt a hand on his leg and hot breath on his cheek.
“I think I’d like to get out of here now” was mumbled into his ear before he felt a knife slicing through the bonds freeing his hands.
“Chris, thank God” he cried throwing his numb arms around his partner.
The American groaned in pain and Sam quickly pulled his arms away.
“How bad are you hurt?” he asked worridly examining his partner by touch.
Chris sighed. “I’m just leaking a bit of blood. I’ll be ok when they patch me up at the hospital.”
“Damn it Chris. Why do we always get into these situations.”
“Just lucky I guess. I think I’ll just rest here whilst you find that flash lamp that Broughton brought with him. You can’t expect me to do all the work”.
Sam grunted and rose to his knees searching blindly for the lamp. Eventually his questing fingers butted the handle and he pulled it forward in triumph. Feeling for the switch he pressed it on and recoiled in horror as the beam picked out the shaking body of Neville Broughton. The guide was covered in blood, the consequence of hundreds of small cuts. His maimed hand lay limply in his lap and Sam could see that the man was in deep shock. Placing a hand on his shoulder he told him that help would soon arrive but he didn’t think that the traumatised man heard anything he said. Turning around he climbed over the bodies of their aggressors and shined the light into his partner’s pale face. Chris was shivering, the weakness and blood loss now taking over, his strength finally drained now that the adrenaline rush had tailed off. Sam put a comforting hand on his partner’s arm. “I’ll get you out now Chris then I’ll come back for Broughton”
Chris gripped his arm. “No, you know that civilians come first”.
Sam shook his head “Broughton is a criminal. You are my lover. No contest Chris - you’re going first”
Chris couldn’t argue with that and so weakly he raised his arm for help. Sam gripped the proffered arm and levered the American up against his shoulder. “Come on Chris. Only 280 steps up”.
“15 stitches and a pint of blood. That’s not bad for you” commented the dark Englishman as he helped his American partner pull off his bloody shirt. The Doctor had wanted to keep Chris in overnight for observation but Chris was adamant that he wasn’t going to stay in a strange hospital. Reluctantly, the Doctor had allowed him to go when Sam had assured him that he was quite used to looking after his wayward partner. Now they were back in the B & B room and Sam was laying the injured man back against the pillows. Wincing Chris pulled a face but then relaxed allowing his sore muscles to sink into the soft bed.
“Thanks Sam” he mumbled, his mind woolly from the pain killers that had been administered before he left.
Sam stood up and crossed to his laptop. Inserting the disk he downloaded it to CI5 HQ in London and getting confirmation that the data had been received he closed the lid with a loud snap.
“Malone says we don’t need to follow up on Broughton. Apparently Peters and Jeffries are on their way up to debrief him.”
“Wonderful” mumbled Chris.
“And” Sam moved and sat on the edge of the bed “Malone says we can stay another night just so that you can get your strength back.”
Chris smiled lazily. “I’m feeling really tired Sam. I don’t think I’ll be strong enough to travel for a while.”
“A couple of days?”
“I’m feeling really weak”
“Weaker than that”
“Maybe even a week” mumbled Chris his eyes closing.
“Now you’re pushing it” laughed Sam gazing fondly down at his lover. He kissed him lightly on the forehead, stood up and pulled the covers over the sleeping man.
“Night Chris” he whispered.