The Marquess of Exeter, just off the Fulham Road, was an old establishment, but it was fairly close to Chelsea and there was enough left of its borrowed 60s glamour for the pub to still draw a mixed and fairly fashionable clientele. Youngish media types rubbed shoulders with well-heeled businessmen, and lovely girls of varied ages hung off their arms. They dominated the chatter in the pub, but there remained a fair scattering of locals with pint and newspaper and packet of crisps dotted around the tables that summer evening.
One of these more non-descript punters was a young man in a brown suit, with neat hair and an attempt at a moustache, sitting at a corner table out of general view. Though armed with a half of Watney’s bland and a library book, he didn’t look comfortable, and constantly fidgeted with either his glass or the book, shuffling them round the table. His eyes kept darting between the pub’s main door, through which a steady stream of customers passed, and the door to the gents – equally busy. But customers with their own social life to progress weren’t too interested in his presence.
About 8.30 the doors opened again to a crowd of new people and with them came a man in a green suede jacket and slacks. He quickly detached himself from the others and made for an isolated corner, on the far side of the room, where he seated himself at one of the small round tables dotted about. He sat there smoking for some ten minutes, idly gazing round the room, until another figure joined him at the table. Where this second man had come from wasn’t clear – perhaps the other doorway where there was a back way out to the alley behind the pub. The brown-suited young man still sat and watched the room, but now his gaze focused closely on that table. Perhaps only someone concentrating that hard would have noticed the small package slipped discreetly across the table between Green Suede Jacket and the new arrival.
Moments later, Green Suede Jacket extinguished his cigarette, pushed back his chair and moved towards the door. The brown-suited man twisted to see him leave, but his line of sight was suddenly obscured by a body of revellers, and when they had moved past, Green Suede Jacket had disappeared, as had the figure at that table. With a grunt of annoyance, the young man rose to leave as well, but a figure detached itself from the group of customers who had just spoiled his view and grabbed his arm.
“Colin! What on earth are you doing here! This isn’t your usual stomping ground, is it? Too far from the office, surely?”
The young man’s annoyance battled with his bashfulness.
“Oh, hello, Hilary! This is a bit of a surprise! I’m just here… I was… er… meeting someone and it looks like ... er… they may not be coming now. Just about to head home, in fact.”
“Oh, poor Colin, she’s never stood you up? What a shame. Look, next best thing – come and have dinner with me. This lot will never miss me, and, to be honest…” - she dropped her voice – “they’re getting a bit boring…”
“No, really, you don’t have to…..”
“Nonsense! We could both do with the company, right? There’s a nice little Italian place quite close by. Sorry, I know this is a bit second-best…”
“Oh no, Hilary! You couldn’t ever be second-best,” said Colin hurriedly, and a bit breathlessly.
They smiled at each other, Colin picked up his book and slipped it in his pocket, and Hilary took his arm, leading him through the throng to the main door. The air outside was blessedly cool compared to the fug inside. Hilary was still chatting away as she drew him along the road and into a small side street.
“…and I’m pretty sure we can make a short cut through here. You know, I’m so pleased I’ve bumped into you like this. I’ve been hoping I might have a chance to get to know you better.”
“Have you?” breathed Colin.
“And there’s just never enough time at work, is there? Oh, look, I think this is where we need to cross over.”
Colin, his vigil and his library book forgotten for the moment, smiled happily at her and stepped off the curb. They were halfway across the street when a black cab roared round the corner from a darkened alley and accelerated directly for them. Hilary screamed, and Colin flung her aside and started running down the street, back towards the Fulham Road. The cab made for him, barely missing him as he dodged onto the pavement and between lampposts, but then he stumbled, toppling back into the road; the cab surged forward and struck him a glancing blow. He sprawled out on the tarmac, winded, staring at the cab which now braked hard and swung into reverse gear.
Then the doors of the Marquess opened yet again and a knot of customers spilled onto on the pavement and stopped short in horror at the scene in front of them. Hilary’s scream reverberated down the road. The cab’s gears crashed again and it took off with a screech of tyres, tearing round the corner to be lost in the Fulham traffic.
Two men from the doorway rushed over to Colin, helping him up.
“You all right, mate? Bloody fool, that…”
Colin stammered his thanks, and brushed down his jacket, checking for his book. Hilary came rushing up, her face stricken, and he grabbed her arm and propelled her through the gathering crowd to the anonymity of the high road beyond.
“Do you come here often?”
The dark-haired man at the bar didn’t turn his head. He simply lifted his glass, drained the last drops of scotch from it and addressed the passing barman in peeved tones.
“Derek, my man, if you persist in allowing riff-raff like this in here, I can’t really count this as my favourite boozer any more, now can I?”
Derek raised an eyebrow at Doyle.
“Pint of best, please, mate, and another glass of gut-rot for my friend here.”
Bodie twisted his shoulders as Doyle slid onto the bar stool next to him, and gave his partner a pained look.
“Do you really have to follow me around so much, Raymond? People will talk.”
“Just doin’ me bit,” rejoined Doyle pleasantly, accepting the proffered glass from Derek and taking a long pull of the contents. “Partners and all that. Like Cowley said, we’re a team. Got to make sure we work together like clockwork, understand how each other thinks, back each other up, be ready to…”
“…finish each other’s sentences?” Bodie cut him off testily. “I’m sure you were a proper little boy scout, Doyle, but believe me, all this homework isn’t going to get you any further. We get along fine, okay? You may well be an aggravating little sod, but you’ll do as a partner, and that’s all I need to do my job. And frankly, mate, eighteen hours a day on the street is quite enough of your company. So can you cease and desist, all right?”
“Ah, you don’t mean that, really.” Doyle gave him a broad smile. Bodie studied his scotch closely and sighed.
“You know, six months ago, I wouldn’t have taken you for a clingy little git.”
“Can’t get enough of your sparkling repartee and warm-hearted banter, can I? Grown on me, you have.”
“Well, flippin’ grow off me, then!”
“I’m hurt, Bodie. I really thought we were gettin’ on well”
“Can’t help what you think, mate. I hate to break it to you this way, but… the novelty’s worn off. I’ve decided you aren’t the one for me. So … you know… hop it.”
Bodie jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the door. Doyle sighed theatrically.
“Wasting my hard-earned money on you, I am.” He drained the last of his pint, placed the glass carefully on the bar and clapped Bodie on the shoulder. The other man visibly flinched.
“But sadly, I just can’t keep away. Especially as I’ve been ordered here by the Cow himself to pick you up and deliver the both of us to a meeting. Pronto, toot-sweet.”
Bodie spluttered over the last of his scotch.
“What, now? I’m off duty!”
“Small print, my son.” Doyle took the glass from Bodie’s fingers and, with a show of mild distaste, deposited it on the bar next to his own.
“Sorry to shatter your illusions, mate, but your scintillating company is not what’s brought me here this fine evening. So come on, let’s be havin’ you.”
As all Doyle could say when Bodie asked was “I don't know, mate”, Bodie stopped pondering aloud what it was all about and they both sat out the rest of the journey in silence. Eventually Doyle could see that, by process of elimination, Bodie had worked out that they were headed for one of the more remote, rundown and uncomfortable safe-houses on CI5’s books. When the car drew up outside the shabby detached house on the sprawling commuter estate, he saw Bodie’s mouth open once again for the predictable question. He shot his partner a warning look and Bodie had the grace to keep quiet.
Doyle had taken great pains about making sure there had been no tail on their journey, but they still looked around warily as they got out of the car and made their way quietly up to the unlit doorway. Doyle knocked, and, after a pause, they were both a bit surprised to find the door being opened by Cowley himself.
“Och, you took your time.”
Disapproval was a steady state in their experience so far of Cowley, so they did not take his comment too much to heart. They squeezed past him into the long, dreary hallway.
“Have you been drinking, Bodie?” came the next bit of disapproval.
Bodie looked hurt.
“I was off-duty, sir!” He couldn't help sounding a bit plaintive.
“I thought, laddie,” snapped Cowley as he shut the door firmly behind them, “that after your few months with me you had by now ascertained you are never off-duty. It's in the small print.”
Doyle snorted, only to find himself the new target of Cowley's bad temper.
“You said something, 4-5?”
“Just the one, sir. I said he had just the one.”
“Aye, well, that better be the case. I look to you, Doyle, to keep your partner under control.”
Bodie's smirk at said partner was caught quickly by his boss.
“And that works both ways, 3-7. And don't either of you forget it. Now, second door on the right.”
It was another surprise to realise that Cowley was at the safe-house with no back-up; no other CI5 operatives were on site. Doyle exchanged a quiet look with Bodie - this was unconventional behaviour, and spoke both of the risk and the sensitivity of whatever had brought them there.
The small sitting-room was heavily curtained, and two men sat in its over-stuffed armchairs. One had the urbane look of a Whitehall politician, all swept hair and impeccable three-piece suit; the other was similarly smartly-suited but with the hard look of someone used to giving and receiving unpleasant orders without a second thought. Doyle saw Bodie's lips twitch with silent amusement, and realised he was thinking the same thing – ‘security services’ was written all over the man.
Cowley gestured to his two operatives to sit at dining chairs set directly in front of the guests. He himself, rather than sit down in the spare armchair, paced a little by the curtained window.
“Bodie, Doyle, I'm sure you recognise Sir Allen Scott, Minister with particular responsibility for the security services.”
The well-groomed man inclined his head graciously.
“You may not, however, have so far met our colleague, Colonel Mexborough, who heads up MI6's division in charge of industrial espionage. Sir Allen and the Colonel have asked for CI5's assistance with a small internal problem of theirs.”
Both Mexborough and the Minister looked decidedly displeased with Cowley's tone. Cowley took off his glasses and thoughtfully twirled them with one hand.
“It is a problem of some sensitivity,” he continued, “hence the rather extreme and unorthodox precautions we have taken tonight. MI6 would like our help in retrieving something, and I am minded to send the two of you to do so. But first“ - he turned to the Minister - “ I should be grateful if Sir Allen might explain the situation once again for your briefing.”
Sir Allen looked pained.
“I rather thought, Cowley, that our discussion so far would serve adequate purpose for your....” he glanced at Bodie and Doyle rather dismissively “....your operatives.”
“Aye,” nodded Cowley. “In the normal course of events that would be so, but your request is somewhat out of the ordinary, and I think we would all benefit from going over the facts once again.”
“Very well,” said Sir Allen, testily, and leant over to the dining table to pick up a 7-by-10 black and white photograph, which he passed to Doyle, the nearest to him. Doyle studied it for a moment, then passed it on to Bodie for a similarly unproductive glance. The photograph showed a young, dark-haired man with a scrappy moustache, leaving what looked like an office building. He looked somewhat harried, but that might simply have been because he was about to step out into the rain. They exchanged glances and then turned back to the MI6 men, shrugging their shoulders.
“Yes, well, I didn't expect you to identify the man. He's hardly running in your circles most of the time.” Mexborough took the photograph from Bodie and placed it in a thin file on the table.
“The man in this picture has disappeared with a significant number of technical and scientific data, any of which would be a feather in the cap of our world rivals should those state secrets be put up for sale. His name is Colin Grange and he is a Grade 3 officer at the Department for Science and Technological Innovation....”
“The DSTI? Since when do civil servants down on Victoria Street get to dabble with state secrets?”
“That's enough, 3-7,” snapped Cowley. “Your uninformed opinion on this matter is not what we are here to listen to.”
Bodie ducked his head at the rebuke.
“Didn’t think we had any secrets worth nicking anymore, that's all,” he muttered.
“And when was the last time you read the Financial Times, 3-7?”
“When they stopped giving the racing tips, sir,” rejoined Bodie, straight-faced. Doyle bit his lip to keep from laughing.
“Well, laddie…” began Cowley, but Sir Allen put up a restraining hand.
“Oh, it's all right, Cowley. I'm not at all surprised that ... ah, Bodie, is it?.... Bodie subscribes to the notion flogged by any number of our tabloids that Great Britain is no longer great and no longer leads the world in anything but industrial disputes and football vandalism.”
He turned to Bodie and Doyle with a patient smile.
“In fact, we have a great deal of scientific research in train which is unrivalled anywhere else, in particular as regards pharmaceuticals, aeronautics and computing. There is work going on, young man ...” he nodded sagely at Bodie “... that would make the state of the art computers your boffins currently use at CI5 look like clockwork toys. And if developed and marketed by British companies, we would have an industry to rival the United States powerhouse that people are beginning to call Silicon Valley.”
“So,” prompted Doyle, “Colin Grange has access to this stuff?”
“In a round-about way.” Mexborough picked up the tale. “He's got responsibility for monitoring one of HMG’s research-funding bodies, which brings him into close contact with the scientific developments.”
“Which, I must emphasise,” broke in Sir Allen, “are regarded in that Department as highly secret.”
“Indeed, Sir Allen. And hence MI6’s interest. Very recently we have picked up some electronic chatter amongst certain Russians we are keeping tabs on, which mentions industrial data likely to come onto the Black Market. The snippets pointed in the direction of Grange's department and some very quick checks ascertained that certain data had indeed be copied without authorisation and removed from the building. There has already been a fatality in that department. One of Grange's colleagues has been killed very recently in a car accident, but up until now this has been assumed to be a basic hit-and-run by a drunk driver. Now, with this covert information, the death has taken on a different relevance. Moreover, Grange's colleagues reported that he was behaving strangely - nervously. We were about to make our move when the man disappeared, together with a young woman - a secretary working for a technology transfer agency that works closely with the DSTI.”
Doyle exchanged a look with his partner.
“You suspect foul play?” he asked. “That these two have been removed from the scene as well? Or that the woman was kidnapped by Grange?”
“Any of those would be possible scenarios,” said Sir Allen, “were it not for the fact that Grange has this evening been in direct contact with me...”
“He had your number?” Bodie’s eyebrow was raised.
“I think he merely looked in Who's Who,” replied Sir Allen smoothly.
“Oh, yeah, right.” Bodie’s returning smile was blisteringly insincere.
“Another world, mate,” Doyle muttered under his breath. Sir Allen barely faltered in his story.
“He called me, asked to speak to me on a secure line, which I was able to arrange at my office at home, and told me that he had taken the data from the Department because he had been concerned that it was being stolen underneath everyone's noses, that he suspected corruption at a high level. He said he would only bring it to me personally, if I would assure him that his allegations would be looked into properly, and that he and his young friend Miss Wentworth would get personal protection. He claimed an attempt has already been made on his life.”
“Which is where you two come in.” Cowley had perched himself on the edge of the dining table, watching the exchanges with the MI6 men carefully. “Sir Allen has asked me to provide CI5 protection for Mr Grange and Miss Wentworth, to find them and bring them in, safely, so that we can get the details of his claims and investigate them.”
“So, how does Six come into this?” asked Bodie, wilfully. Mexborough sighed.
“If it had not been for the Russian radio traffic on this, Bodie, we probably would have passed Grange off as a nutcase, gone bonkers on the job. But what we hear on the intelligence grapevine, plus the fact that passers-by in west London this evening reported an attempted hit-and-run that involved two people matching the descriptions of our two runners here - all this makes us think Grange is on to something. Whether he's the innocent he claims to be... well, that will come out in the debriefing. He has stolen a computer disk of highly sensitive data, after all. We can't write any avenue off just yet, but if he'll come in quietly, so much the better.”
“Theft of industrial copyright and attempted murder,” took up Doyle, catching Bodie's drift. “Isn't that the Met’s job?”
“You forget, Doyle,” smiled Mexborough, “this is industrial espionage at the level of state secrets, with their possible loss to a foreign power. Of course it falls to MI6.”
“So why not bring him in yourselves?” Doyle looked questioningly from the MI6 men to Cowley, but it was the Minister who answered.
“Because I requested it. I am deeply concerned by these developments, and so are my colleagues at DSTI, and indeed the PM. Colonel Mexborough and MI6 acknowledge that, whilst we do not know the full facts about Grange and his claims, we also do not know how widely within MI6 this alleged activity spreads. It seemed only sensible to me to ask a third party to provide assistance - an organisation quite separate from Six or any other of the government departments which might be implicated, and hence not tainted with any of the accusations of criminality in this case.”
“But Grange is a pen-pusher in DSTI,” persisted Doyle.
“That is an over-simplification. Grange does in fact have a fairly lowly grade within DSTI, but part of his job involves liaison between his department and the security services on the matter of ensuring security and confidentiality of the technical work being done. This means he has a general acquaintance with operatives within both MI5 and MI6. Fairly routine, I admit, but there were things he inferred when he spoke to me over the secure line that indicate that he believes individuals within MI6, specifically, may be involved. So, in the interests of ensuring Grange's apprehension and the recovery of the data disk is not ... ah... hindered in any way, I approached Major Cowley and asked for CI5’s help.”
Cowley pushed himself off the edge of the table.
“Which I have given. Grange will only speak to Sir Allen, and Sir Allen will relay the location details to me alone. There will be no MI6 operatives involved until we can be clear whether any other security services are involved. Colonel Mexborough is fully in accord with this requirement. So you two now have the full picture, or at least as full as we seem to know it.”
He gave the MI6 men a hard stare, and then turned again to Bodie and Doyle.
“You will pick up Grange and Miss Wentworth as soon as we have the details of their location. Minister?”
“Grange said he will call again later tonight, for confirmation that his terms have been accepted. At that point, he will tell us where the pick-up will be.”
Sir Allen stood, brushing down his jacket fastidiously. Mexborough also rose, and took the file from the table. Doyle glanced at Bodie, his expression dark. Bodie picked up the thought.
“This all we have to go on? Plus it's all a bit too weighted in Grange’s favour, you know.” He spoke to Cowley, though the point was aimed at MI6.
“Aye,” replied his boss, replacing his glasses in his jacket pocket. “But it's how we have to work with this one. “
“Can we at least have the photo?” asked Doyle. Mexborough gave Sir Allen a quick look and then dragged the picture out of the manila folder and handed it to Doyle.
“I think this meeting is concluded, Cowley,” said Sir Allen pointedly. Cowley nodded.
“Bodie, see our guests out.”
Bodie ushered the two men back down the narrow hall and out to their cars, both to see them off the premises and to give the area a once-over as he did so. Back in the house, Cowley sought out some glasses and a bottle hidden in one of the cupboards, and poured out three drinks. Doyle was still pondering.
“This is weird, sir. We've got bugger-all to work on, and only their say-so for what's gone down. It puts us at a bit of a disadvantage.”
“Indeed, Doyle,” replied Cowley, handing him a glass and taking a sip himself. He made a face; a blend, not a pure malt. “But we have been officially asked to assist and at the highest level. The PM’s office called me as well before I left the office this evening. The PM takes this very seriously, we are to offer all assistance, etcetera, etcetera. And, to be fair, we are all, allegedly, on the same side. Nevertheless, you two need to watch your backs. There’s something not quite right here. I sense it, too.”
“And why us?”
Cowley gave him a sharp look, and then his face softened into wry amusement.
“I understand your caution, 4-5. It does you credit. You and Bodie are shaping up as a very good team, but don’t get too cocky. This assignment will add a little more to your experience - working with another security service. It’s a cross that falls to us all at some time or another, so you might as well get a grounding now.”
He took another sip and pushed the glass away from him on the table. Doyle downed his own drink in a quick gulp – he had no prejudice himself against whisky imposters.
“And how is young Master Bodie doing these days?”
Doyle gave him a guarded look.
“You made me his partner, you must trust him to be a good CI5 operative. Especially since you like to sell us all your line that our partners are our other halves, the be-all and end-all of working at CI5.”
“Aye, and I don't like having my philosophy spouted back at me with that degree of attitude, Doyle. But the fact is, you're both young and need to temper your aggression; more the wily fox than the bull at the gate. Bodie more than most, given his background. He needs some control.”
“I've kept an eye on him, like you requested, sir, but I don't like being asked to spy on my partner. He seems fine, fairly settled in the work, likes the thrill of the chase and all that. Tolerates me as a partner, or so he says. He's not one who's easy to get close to.”
“I suspect you're more alike on that score than you'll acknowledge, Doyle. Very well, continue to keep an eye on him. Watch out for squalls, and watch your back at the same time.”
Doyle felt peeved. Whilst he couldn’t say he yet had a full understanding of what made Bodie tick, he felt himself to be a pretty good judge of character, and he would have sworn that, beneath the swagger and the deliberate air of self-sufficiency, was a strong and loyal heart. Yet, in recent days, Cowley had been privately telling him to question that initial judgement in a way that made Bodie sound like a potential threat.
Doyle disliked the inference, and his role in it. It didn’t help, going into an assignment like this MI6 cock-up, to be told yet again that Bodie might be a difficulty. He opened his mouth to reply in a way which would probably have earned a further admonition, when there was the sound of the front door opening again and then being closed softly and firmly. A second later, Bodie appeared at the doorway, his eyes immediately alighting on the glass of amber fluid.
“That for me?” he asked, visibly cheering up.
Cowley ignored him.
“You two, go back to headquarters and sort out your safe-house, funding and any additional armoury you want. You will need to move as soon as we get the word from Sir Allen – I expect we’ll hear fairly shortly. And mark you, there’ll be no discussion with your colleagues – this must remain a secret operation if we are to ensure the safety of Mr Grange and his friend. You’ll take instructions from me alone. Contact me on the secure line as soon as you have the pair under your wing.”
He picked up the two remaining glasses of scotch and Bodie moved forward, his hand out, expecting a share. Instead, Cowley turned his back and deposited the contents in the wilted remains of a pot-plant.
Bodie’s face was a picture. Cowley caught his expression.
“Och, man, you’ll not have liked it.”
Around four o’clock in the morning, something hit the table where Doyle’s face was planted in sleep with a loud ‘whap!’. He jumped to his feet in an instant, reaching for his gun, to find both Cowley and Bodie standing by the doorway. Cowley looked irritated and his partner was fighting an evil grin.
“Stand down, 4-5! No need to start World War Three. The call’s come through. Grange has contacted Sir Allen again, using the secure line.”
“So, we know where he is?” asked Doyle, still feeling bleary-eyed.
“The gentleman has conveyed, not his whereabouts, but the rendezvous point he’s chosen himself. Doyle, for God’s sake, comb your hair before you rejoin the outside world. Now...”
Cowley took up the Ordnance Survey map he had slapped on the table, disturbing Doyle’s slumber, and spread it out.
“We've been given the coordinates for where you are to meet Grange and Miss Wentworth. They say they will meet you there by 6 o'clock this morning. Not an ideal pick-up, I must confess.”
He pointed at a spot way out in the Home Counties, in the Vale of Aylesbury. The only buildings on the map reference given appeared to be part of a farm. Bodie looked up from the map at his partner and made a face.
“Now, this is lovely. They might think they can spot who's coming, but....”
Doyle snorted and picked up the thought.
“...but the trouble is, it doesn't stop any bad guys getting to them. Then there's nowhere to run.”
“So you'd better get out there sharpish, so you can stop them getting ambushed before we've even started here,” rejoined Cowley. “You've decided the best place to take them?”
They had, in fact, spent part of the early hours reviewing their possible safe-house choices and refuelling on late-night chips and strong tea before they had succumbed to some uncomfortable slumber. Doyle felt compelled to be contrary.
“Can we trust you, sir?”
“Don't be so damned facetious, 4-5! You'd better hope you do have my assistance on this venture.”
Bodie wiped the smirk off his face and cleared his throat.
“Ah, sir, we've chosen the Notting Hill property; pretty unobtrusive but we can still get Grange into Whitehall or anywhere else quickly. Good thing, too, considering what a bloody awful place he's chosen to be picked up from. At least we’re on the right side of Town.”
“Very well.” Cowley folded up the map and handed it to Bodie. “Keep contact to a minimum, but let me know when all is secure. Use the private line, not through the switchboard. Until further notice, and as far as the rest of CI5 is concerned, you two are, to all intents and purposes, merely chasing down some possible gunrunners with Middle East connections. Now get moving.”
Both grabbed jackets and holsters and made for the door. Cowley stood frowning at their backs.
They stopped short, looking back over their shoulders.
“Ach,” continued Cowley, after a second’s pause, his eyes troubled. “Nothing, just....take nothing at face value, you hear?”
Bodie exchanged a glance with Doyle, who opened his mouth to reply. But Cowley's expression had already changed to one of steely resolve.
“Well, get a move on!”
They arrived at the location just after five-thirty, by the combination of Bodie’s customary breakneck driving and the light morning traffic on the new stretches of the M40 motorway. The sun had long risen and it promised to be yet another lovely early summer’s day. The Buckinghamshire countryside looked idyllic enough, spread out before them as Bodie cautiously coasted the Dolomite down the gentle hillside towards Watkins’ Farm. A scan of the surrounding fields on their arrival hadn't revealed any hidden threats, but nevertheless, both men were in a high state of alert.
There was no sign of life as they drew up to the buildings. Bodie brought the car to a halt behind a barn and they slipped out, guns at the ready, and began a textbook approach to the main house, hugging the barn wall and using both that building and a number of abandoned bits of farm machinery as their cover. Bodie broke away and started circling further out, intending to work his way around to the back of the farm house, whilst Doyle approached from the front. Doyle waited a few more seconds to give his partner time to cover the extra ground, and then made a last rush for the farmhouse door. He stood to one side of the door-frame and hammered on the door briefly.
“Mr Grange? Colin Grange? This is CI5. We're here to collect you.”
He darted to the other side of the door and then tried the handle; the door swung open and he moved quietly into the shadowy hallway inside.
“Colin Grange? Miss Wentworth? This is CI5. We're here to help you, at your request.”
Bodie’s voice came from the rear of the house.
“Back here, Ray.”
Doyle moved swiftly down the hall, still wary, and looked into a large, tiled kitchen, full of early morning light. He saw Bodie standing by the doorway, gun still in hand but with a pained expression on his face.
“They're here, Ray.”
And so they were. Two people sat at the scrubbed wooden table with empty mugs in front of them, and a plate of biscuits; a fair-haired young woman – perhaps late twenties, and very lovely – had her arm around the young man seated next to her. He looked unwell, his face ashen and his breathing quick and panicky.
“You Grange?” asked Doyle, his voice harsher than he intended. The girl flinched.
“Yes, yes, this is Colin. He's not well - I don't know what's wrong. He just started to feel bad about an hour ago. He had an accident yesterday, and I’m worried it might be that. I’m Hilary Wentworth. I sort of work with Colin.”
The young man smiled weakly at her.
“Stop worrying, Hilary. The car hardly touched me. I’m fine. It’s just flu or something.” He turned to the CI5 men.
“You have some identification?” Both Bodie and Doyle held their passes for inspection.
“You’re pretty relaxed about sitting here waiting for us, aren’t you?” snarked Bodie, replacing his pass and snagging two Rich Teas from the plate. He went back to the doorway, craning his head to keep an eye on the countryside around the farm. “How do you know we aren’t the bad guys?” His voice was slightly muffled by the two biscuits.
“Whoever they are,” added Doyle in an undertone, frowning at the scattered crumbs. Grange shrugged.
“I suppose I trusted the Minister to make sure only you would know about the location. If the Minister is involved in this whole mess as well, then I’m already dead.”
Doyle holstered his gun.
“Well, you do look a bit peaky, Colin. Let's have a look at you.”
Still protesting it was just a virus of some kind, Grange submitted to Doyle’s examination, and Ray wasn't too pleased at what he noted.
“Pulse fast and erratic,” he reported, at Bodie’s raised eyebrow. “He's very cold. You in pain, Colin?” he asked the young man.
“Hurts a bit,” admitted Grange. “My chest feels very tight. Can't really get my breath.”
“Bugger,” muttered Bodie, and then, more loudly, “Okay, folks, better get you in the car and out of here. Colin, we need to get you to a hospital.”
“No!” protested Grange. “No hospitals!”
“Colin,” began Hilary, clutching him tighter, “what if you’re really sick?”
“We haven’t got time for that! I need to see the Minister.”
“Well, let's at least get out of here,” said Bodie, jerking his head towards the door. Doyle took the hint and helped Grange to his feet, with Hilary's assistance. “What the hell inspired you to choose this place?”
Hilary looked unhappy.
“It was my idea,” she said. “Colin wanted somewhere remote, and this place belonged to my uncle. He's not long passed away and the place hasn’t been sold yet. I thought it would be a good hiding-place.”
“Could be a good dying place in an ambush,” replied Bodie, not unkindly. The girl was obviously distressed, and nothing appealed to Bodie more than a pretty damsel needing rescuing. “Nowhere to run to, see? Anyway, don't worry, we're here now. We’ll take you back to a safe place in London where Colin can talk to the Minister, like he wants.”
If he's still alive to do so, his mind added. The young man’s lips had a blue-ish tinge to them.
As if reading his thoughts, Grange suddenly drew himself upright and, detaching himself from Hilary, reached into his jacket pocket. Both men moved sharply, Bodie to bring his gun to bear on Grange and Doyle to wrench the man’s other arm behind him.
“No, no,” gasped Grange. “Look, I've got the disk, you need to take the disk. He thrust the white plastic object, about the size of a stereo cassette, at Doyle, who looked at it doubtfully, but took the object and stuffed it in his jacket pocket. He shot a glance at Bodie, who just nodded impatiently.
“Come on, Ray, let's get a move on. I'm getting that itchy feeling....”
Doyle grinned back at him, in spite of the situation.
“Har, har. If they are, I’ve caught them from that mop of yours. Load ‘em up and let's get going.”
Grange added urgency to Bodie’s irritation by collapsing a little more against Doyle. Hilary Wentworth looked more distraught than ever.
“We have to get him somewhere so he can get medical help!” she whispered to Doyle. “Please!”
“We're doing our best, love,” grunted Doyle, urging Grange through the door to the yard outside and the waiting car. Suddenly the young man grabbed hold of Hilary's arm and shook it to get her attention.
“The camera! Have you got the camera!”
She looked at him, eyes wide in apprehension.
“Yes, Col, it's in my bag. It's quite safe. We could put the disk there too.....”
“Give it to them!”
“What? Col, I've got it, it's quite safe. Honestly!”
“Give it to them, Hilary! They need to look at what's on it.”
Bodie by now was almost hopping with irritation and pent-up energy. He had the door of the Dolomite open and was trying, with Doyle’s help, to push Grange inside and onto the back seat. Grange held onto the side of the car, resisting.
“Give it to them, Hilary! They can keep it safe better than we can.”
“Look,” said Bodie testily,” just do all this arguing in the car, all right? Ray?”
Doyle nodded at Bodie and the two of them heaved Grange bodily onto the back seat. Doyle pushed Hilary in behind him.
“Bloody amateurs,” muttered Bodie, already in the driver’s seat. He released the clutch and made off in the cloud of dust just as Doyle hit the passenger seat beside him. The Dolomite slewed up the farm track, many times faster than it had driven down. It hit the road at the top of the ridge with a squeal of brakes and Bodie scanned for other cars waiting for them - nothing. He wrenched the wheel left and the Dolomite took off at serious speed for the A413.
Doyle twisted round in his seat to look at their two passengers.
“How is he?” he asked Hilary. The girl looked up with worried eyes.
“I think he's getting worse! Please, can we get to a doctor somewhere?”
“No, you don’t realize what’s at stake here. I must tell you what it’s about.” Grange was looking a bit better, not gasping his words out now. “It’s okay, Hilary, let me talk to them.”
He turned from the anxious girl to Doyle, who had twisted so he was looking back, over the front seat.
“I took the disk because I didn’t know who to trust, and I know I needed to get it stopped.”
“Get what stopped?”asked Doyle.
“The theft. I’m absolutely sure there has been serious theft of tech…” - he coughed again – “technological secrets from the CNRD.”
“The CND?” snorted Bodie. “I thought they were a bit anti-technology?”
“No, no! The CNRD - the Committee for National Research and Development. It’s a government agency. It was set up to provide funding for new inventions, encouraging research into areas that would boost the economy – biochemistry, electronics, genetics, that sort of thing.” Colin stopped, a bit breathless again, and then gave Doyle an apologetic look.
“Sorry, I don’t know why I’ve been like this. I’m usually so healthy. I think it’s passing now, though.”
“So, what was so special about the disk?” prompted Doyle
“It’s one of the most sensitive projects that the CNRD is funding. There are various companies involved doing different bits, but for once, the end user is going to be the British government. It’s going to be a software platform that will be able to track individuals wherever they are, using everyday prompts like National Insurance numbers and car tax, and NHS records – things like that.”
“Dog licences?” muttered Bodie under his breath. Doyle slapped his arm without even looking and continued to press Grange for answers.
“So a government, this Government – could track terrorists, and criminals, or just ordinary citizens if it thinks it’s got a suspicion about them?” Doyle couldn’t help but frown at the implication.
“Oh, yes,” beamed Grange. “It’ll provide fantastic advantages for law enforcement. But it’ll also track police and other agencies, making sure they’re in the right place at the right time. Two sides of the coin, if you will.”
Bodie joined in now.
“Yeah, but who’s doing the stealing, and why?”
Before Grange could answer, Hilary broke in.
“Isn’t it obvious? It’s got to be the Russians. Not only will this software provide superb advantages for the police but it’ll transform counter-espionage. It’ll make tracking agents much easier, and even throw up pointers of mole activity. It would be a fantastic coup for them to get it.”
“I assume,” said Doyle drily, “they aren’t creeping around your offices in stripy jumpers with bags marked ‘swag’, so how do you think this theft is happening?”
Grange leant forward in his seat.
“I think there are bad apples within the department involved. The software has been developed in stages and at each stage the data disk has been illicitly copied. I found this out myself by chance, just looking at the data records. It wasn’t an obvious thing to look for, but once you’d seen it, it was clear as day. My boss, Ed Sharpley….”
“The one in the first hit-and-run?” broke in Bodie.
“Yes, him. He had access to all the files and it would have been easy for him to make secret copies and drip-feed them to whoever wanted the data. So at first I thought it must be him, but then I saw Sharpley arguing with someone in the street a few days before he was killed. I didn’t know who that man was, but shortly after the accident – I’d had to take over Sharpley’s duties after that – the same bloke visited the office and it turned out he was MI6! Well, I see a lot of people from Six, liaising with the CNRD, but this bloke was new to me, although he had all the right authorisations. He asked for a copy of the latest development disk – and it was a really crucial phase this time. So I played along. He told me it was routine to make a copy for MI6 records, even though there was nothing in the protocol to support that. But I kept schtum and gave him a disk. Except I made sure it wasn’t the right data!”
He beamed triumphantly at Doyle, and then at Hilary, who simpered her approval. Doyle could hear Bodie snorting his derisive “amateurs!” once again.
“Then,” went on Grange, “I followed the MI6 man, the one who had taken the disk, to the pub in Chelsea. He handed a package over to a man I’d never seen before – I didn’t even see him come into the pub. Then they both left, and I thought I’d better follow one of them.”
“Which one?” asked Doyle, anticipating the answer.
“Well, I wasn’t too sure which…”
Bodie snorted again.
“… but when I went outside, that’s when the taxi tried to run us down, so it was all academic at that point. We just scarpered.”
“ ‘We’?” echoed Doyle.
“Oh, yes,” said Hilary proudly, beaming at Grange. “I met Col in the pub, by accident, really. We’re sort of colleagues – I work for the Committee - very menial and all that, just a lowly secretary, you know. But, well, Colin had caught my eye a bit already…”
At this, Bodie took his eye off the road to give Doyle a disbelieving look - this mousy little pen-pusher and this glamorous young beauty? Doyle couldn’t help but grin back. As Bodie turned away, Doyle heard him say softly: “Seriously punchin’ above your weight, Col, old son.”
Hilary was still talking.
“It’s just so funny. We got together the night someone tried to kill us! That doesn’t happen in Mills and Boon, does it?” She exchanged a warm glance with Grange and threaded her arm through his.
“Yeah, yeah.” Bodie raised his voice again over the noise of the engine. “But what’s on this disk that’s so valuable we had to do this cloak-and-dagger rescue for you, then?”
“The software that’s here has real data on it – details of actual agents-in-place across Europe right now, replied Grange. “I have no idea why CNRD asked for live data to be included, or why the Government approved it, but MI6 provided it, and it’s on that disk.” Grange pointed to the pocket in Doyle’s jacket where the data disk had been stuffed.
Bodie gave a low whistle.
“Bloody hell! All those agents – they’d be ripe for the picking…”
“So you see,” finished Grange, “it’s why I can’t trust any of the agencies who’ve been involved in the project to date, and so there’s no way I could let this disk get into the hands of anyone but the Minister.”
“And the first thing the Minister needs to do is set his dogs on this MI6 man you’ve been following,” said Doyle. “What’s his name?”
“Miller,” said Grange. “Peter Miller.”
“Well,” continued Doyle, “we can’t do anything about that until we’ve got you under wraps. We’re on radio silence for safety’s sake. But as soon as you’re tucked away, we can start our own enquiries.”
“And there’s this,” said Grange, fumbling in Hilary’s shoulder bag on the seat beside him. “The camera I told you about. I took pictures of the people in the pub. The two men and the handover. I took a whole roll of film of it!”
“This is a book,” said Doyle with suspicion, taking the proffered object.
“It’s hidden in the book. I made it myself.”
Doyle opened the book a little doubtfully and to his surprise extracted a small camera from its hiding place within the pages. He looked at Grange with a grin.
“Did you ever want to be a secret agent when you were a kid, Colin?”
“All the time,” admitted Grange, a little shyly, but smiling back nonetheless. “I still do.”
Bodie suddenly made a small hissing sound – breath sucked in between his teeth – and Doyle turned quickly to gauge what was wrong.
“You know the itchy feeling…?” said Bodie, sensing Doyle’s eyes on him, even though his own were flicking constantly to the rear-view mirror. “Well, the fleas have come out to play at last.”
Doyle twisted in his seat to see a long black car pulling out of the small side road they had just flashed past.
“Carry on, or lose them?”
Doyle looked sharply at his partner. So far in their work together, Bodie hadn’t been one to ask for advice too often. But Bodie’s face was set and focused, concentrating on the driving task at hand, and swinging the car expertly through the narrow lanes and tight turns. Doyle shoved the camera back at Grange and grabbed Cowley’s Ordnance Survey map from the footwell where he’d left it earlier, scanning it swiftly.
“Crap roads round here – too narrow, no suitable turns with decent escapes, too much of a chance of getting blocked in, especially if the fleas have friends. Let’s make a run for it to civilisation.”
“So…?” prompted Bodie.
“The next right turn will give us a shortcut to the 413. It’s a field road, and then through a woodland, but at the far end you’re pretty much out on the main road to Amersham. From there, we can duck down to new bit of the M40 again, and get back to Town.”
“Okay, turn in three, two, one…”
The car screamed into its sudden forty-five degree turn, as Bodie applied maximum handbrake and minimum regard for the engine. He rammed his foot down on the accelerator again and made off down the dusty lane, speed making the car lurch from side to side on the ruts.
The black car didn’t seemed to be gaining, and, as yet, hadn’t made any hostile move that involved bullets or any other armament, which was a positive feature, Doyle felt. Then the predictable happened. Round a bend lumbered a large, bright red tractor with a lethal array of tines projecting from its maw. It took up nearly all the lane, and pausing to let it squeeze past would have cost them all their advantage over their pursuers.
Bodie had no intention of doing that. Instead, he gunned the engine once more and shot forward, making a sudden swerve as car and farm machinery met almost head-to-head. They slid through the gap with no space to spare – the paintwork on the nearside screamed as the stones and tree branches of the hedgerow scraped down its flanks; on the offside, Bodie’s wing mirror detached itself completely and went flying over the back of the car.
As they passed, they saw how the farmer was struggling to keep his behemoth on an even keel, and this happily brought him back across the middle of the lane, effectively barring the way to the black car in pursuit. They could hear a horn blowing behind them as they sped forward, free, signalling that the pursuit car was trying to force a way through. Doyle looked across at Bodie and they grinned at each other; a little triumph was always worth celebrating. But their elation was short-lived. As Bodie took the next bend at high speed, the occupants on the back seat were thrown sideways, and, moments later, there was a cry of alarm.
“Colin! Colin! Oh, my god! What’s wrong?”
Doyle’s head snapped round and he saw Grange holding onto the door handle in a death grip, his face blue, his eyes bulging. Then he let go of the handle and clutched his chest, doubling up and falling against Hilary.
Hilary turned terrified eyes to Doyle, who put out a hand and grasped Bodie’s forearm to get his attention.
“Colin? Colin? Hilary, can you wake him up?”
Hilary gave him a wild-eyed look and patted Grange’s face. There was no reaction. Doyle leaned further over the seat and grabbed the man’s arm. No pulse.
“Jesus Christ! Bodie – heart attack!”
“You’re bloody joking, aren’t you?” came the retort. “Pursuit in train and we’ve got a heart attack on board?” Bodie twisted his head round to see, and swiftly turned back to the road again as the car came close to colliding with another hedge. He decided to let Doyle do the necessaries. Instead, with his eyes alternating between the country lane ahead and the rear -view mirror, he asked:
“Fast as you can, mate.” returned Doyle, grabbing for the map again.
“What’s the closest?” Bodie craned his head a bit to try to include the map in his field of vision.
“High Wycombe, I think. Yeah, High Wycombe would be the best bet for an emergency. Once we’re on the 413, we can head south for about six miles, and then pick up another A-road straight there.”
He turned swiftly in his seat so he was kneeling, and then tipped himself over into the back of the car. Hilary scooted to one corner, squeaking as Doyle stood on various parts of her anatomy, trying to get righted.
“Get into the front, there’s a good girl,” he panted, and she squeezed past him between the seats, giving Bodie a welcome flash of thigh in the process. In the meantime, Doyle had straddled Grange’s inert form, ripped open his shirt and was starting to thump the man’s chest.
“Hang on, love,” said Bodie kindly, patting the hand that gripped the seat beside him. “We’re going to go a bit fast here.”
And they did. Doyle, in the back, was hardly conscious of what was going on whilst he concentrated on hammering at Grange’s chest, trying to get the heart within started again, but the car was whipping along the by-road at a stunning rate of progress. Only a muttered expletive from the driver’s seat caused him to lose concentration for a moment.
“Still got vermin?” he panted.
“Not only that,” growled Bodie, “the vermin’s proliferating.” Doyle hazarded a glance out of the back window and saw three cars now, driving very fast and very close together.
“Jesus! Where did they come from?” he muttered. He turned back to the task of pummelling Grange’s chest again, keeping up the desperate rhythm but not finding any response. Bracing himself against the lurch of the car as it turned onto a further by-way, he ducked down to try to listen for a heart- beat; at that very instant, the rear window shattered above him. Bodie swerved wildly and changed down three gears at once - the car leapt forward. Doyle brushed the glass fragments out of his hair and looked up to see Bodie’s concerned eyes in the rear-view mirror.
“Ray, you all right?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” He saw Hilary’s head emerge over the top of the front seat. “Keep down, you dozy mare!” he barked and she bobbed down out of sight again. And not before time. He heard another bullet ping off the roof of the car, and then one hit the wing. Bodie swore again.
“I can’t believe they’re trying to take us out here - we’re practically on the main road! Can you use your gun, mate?”
The Walther was already in Doyle’s hand as he crouched down over the back seat and steadied his aim, then fired off a succession of deadly shots at the lead car – far more accurately than their pursuers had been able to attack the swerving pace of Bodie’s driving. He had the satisfaction of seeing one windscreen smash, though it barely slowed the car up as the occupants punched the broken glass out in front of them and fired again. So he turned his attention to the front tyres and got one on the third try. The tyre exploded in a burst of rubber fragments, and the car went into a screeching skid, slewing round in front of its travelling companions and cannoning into the car directly behind. Doyle grinned evilly at his own handiwork.
The third car was still attempting to drive round the battered vehicles when they disappeared from Doyle’s sight as Bodie finally swung the car out of the lane and onto the A413, joining a throng of early morning travellers - estate cars full of families, and caravans off to enjoy the good weekend weather. Earning himself no friends amongst the good drivers of Buckinghamshire, he powered the car through the gentle pottering stream, weaving in and out at breakneck speed to the accompaniment of honking horns, until they were well clear of the little knot of traffic.
Doyle had already gone back to his desperate first aid, more worried than ever now that he had had to interrupt the process to fire off his few shots, but Hilary raised her head cautiously over the seat again.
“I can’t see that car. I can’t see any of them.” She turned to Bodie, who stared grim-faced over the steering wheel. “That’s good, isn’t it?”
Bodie jerked his head toward the crumpled map on the floor by her feet.
“Make yourself useful, love, and see if you can tell me how I get to the closest hospital.” He looked up at the mirror again.
“Ray, how is he?”
“No idea,” returned Doyle, still at work, “but the sooner you can get there… Anyhow, let’s hope no- one’s going to take us out now, in amongst the general population.”
“Not making any bets,” shouted Bodie, in reply.
Nor were either of them making any bets on Colin Grange. In the event, they entered the grounds of the High Wycombe General Hospital unmolested, and with the headlights blazing and Bodie leaning on the horn, but Doyle was pretty sure they were too late. Even as the emergency staff rushed Grange into their treatment rooms to try and shock his heart back into motion, Doyle felt a heavy inevitability that Grange had been dead from the first seizure. He watched hopelessly as the stretcher disappeared, feeling the immediate come-down after the adrenalin of the chase – there was nothing to be triumphant about here, even though they had retrieved the precious computer disk.
“Poor bloke,” he muttered. “Only trying to be a good secret agent for his country.”
He felt Bodie’s presence beside him. Hilary was sitting desolate on a coping nearby. For once, Bodie ditched his back humour.
“Crying shame, that is,” he replied. “Here, Doyle, you got that disk, yeah? Let’s have a look.”
Doyle reached into his pocket numbly, and produced the plastic box.
“I bloody well hope it’s worth the effort,” he said grimly. Bodie prised it gently from his fingers.
“Oh, I think it is, mate.”
There was something about Bodie’s voice that made him turn and look. His partner was stuffing the disk into his own coat pocket. In his other hand he held his gun. Doyle frowned.
“What’re you doing with that?”
Bodie didn’t reply. He just took a swift step to Doyle’s side and took his arm conspiratorially, pressing his mouth close to Doyle’s ear.
“Doyle, I’m really sorry about this, you know.”
Doyle’s brain hadn’t got as far as framing the words to say “Sorry about what?” when the butt of Bodie’s handgun smashed down on the side of his head. The surprise felled him as much as the weight of the blow. Half-stunned, he forced his knees to straighten, but Bodie still had hold of his arm, and he found himself wrenched off his feet, falling again to a sharp blow to his right kidney. Then he was on the ground, desperately trying to scramble out of Bodie’s way, but the element of surprise still told in Bodie’s favour. The gun came down again on Doyle’s skull and he went out like a light.
There was no way to sweeten the pill. Doyle, a pantomime bandage round his battered head, painkillers in his hand and with strict instructions from the hospital to watch out for concussion symptoms, was a pathetic sight in CI5 headquarters some hours later. No matter how much he raged, internally and externally, at the manner of Bodie’s disappearance, the embarrassment of having to be collected from High Wycombe (as Bodie had, of course, nicked the Dolomite) and carted with a tearful and snivelling Hilary Wainwright to Cowley’s office, forced him to be pretty abject.
Cowley’s reaction didn’t surprise him either. Having packed Hilary off to the sickbay with Betty to be checked over, his boss glowered at him from across his desk.
“Your report, Doyle?”
And so Doyle had recounted it all. Hilary’s uncle’s farmhouse, Grange’s apparent minor illness, the car chase and the sudden medical emergency, the loss of the disk. The loss of the disk… and Bodie gone to the bad.
“Did you get a number-plate?” asked Cowley, levelly.
“No, sir. I was mainly concentrating on Grange. Bodie was driving and he had the cars in his sights. He would have clocked the number.”
“Much good that does us, eh, 4-5?”
“Sir, I didn’t expect… nothing led me to expect….” His voice trailed off.
“Aye,” returned Cowley. “Clearly you did not, even though I had told you to keep an eye on him.”
Doyle suddenly flared up, anger at his partner’s behaviour, anger at the injustice of Grange’s death and his own guilt burning hot.
“And you thought he would have done that, did you? If you were so concerned he was about to do a runner, why did you have him in the field?”
Everything in him screamed that Bodie should not have been capable of turning the way he did, yet a little voice at the back of his aching head nagged away about Bodie’s unorthodox career. Mercenaries went where the pay was best, didn’t they? Finer feelings weren’t a part of it at all.
“When I want my judgement on operational protocols questioned, Doyle, I won’t be asking you for an opinion. The fact remains that he got the drop on you, and now possesses a valuable piece of merchandise that will generate a great deal of interest amongst this country’s enemies. And even her friends.”
“We need to start combing the underground markets for this sort of stuff,” offered Doyle.
“Yes, 4-5,” returned Cowley, acidly. “That thought had already crossed my mind, but you will recall that a general alert of this kind is exactly what we do not want. The loss of the disk must remain completely confidential. And Bodie will know that, of course. But I also think he’s clever enough not to put the disk on the open market. He’ll have a few very select potential customers – the Russians, the Americans – och, don’t look like that, man! Do you really think our Cousins wouldn’t be delighted to get the key to the last of Britain’s secrets? – perhaps the Chinese, and of course ourselves. I suspect Bodie will make a direct approach to some or all of these interested parties. And you’re going to be there to stop him.”
“That’s a surprise,” muttered Doyle, under his breath. Cowley looked up sharply.
“Consider that your success may go some way to mitigating your part in the unparalleled balls-up this operation has been so far.”
“That’s hardly fair, sir,” retorted Doyle. “We had no tail out to Aylesbury. We were very careful. Those cars appeared from nowhere but they knew exactly where to pick us up. Colin Grange was convinced there were rotten apples. Someone in the DSTI or Six has had a hand in this. They’ve got to!”
“Have you considered, Doyle, the possibility that young Master Bodie has contacts aplenty in the dark world of soldiers for hire. Nothing to stop him organising that himself.”
Doyle stared at him in disbelief.
“Only that he never left my sight from the time we went to the briefing to the point he knocked me out cold!”
“Are you sure, 4-5?”
Doyle shut his mouth, his brain swirling. Yes, there were odd minutes, seconds, here and there where Bodie could have passed a signal or made a phone call – the petrol station on the way out, or when he insisted on getting sandwiches from that stall at the cab rank… but Bodie? Bodie running off with the treasure, Bodie ready to betray his employer and his country… and his partner? If only his head didn’t hurt so much he might be able to make some sense of all this.
But his head wasn’t the only casualty. As much as he’d told himself that his partnership with Bodie was one of expediency and duty, there was no getting away from the fact that over the past months he had genuinely enjoyed the man’s company, and had quickly grown to respect his skills and character – or what he had thought was his character. It was a further cause of shame that he now felt his trust and friendship – Bodie’s friendship – might be so misplaced.
“Ach, there’s no point in speculating like this,” continued Cowley. “Get back out there and start looking. You know where he’ll be heading, who he’ll be seeing…”
I wish I shared your optimism, thought Doyle miserably.
“… in the meantime, I’ll try to recover some of our lost face with the Minister and MI6.”
“And the camera.” prompted Doyle. “Grange could have captured some faces that could help. Have we heard from the local boys?”
“Hmmm…” Cowley took off his glasses and polished them, looking thoughtful. He replaced them carefully on his nose. “That’s an interesting point. You say it was gone after you recovered consciousness and went to check on Grange’s body. Miss Wentworth is also unaware that it vanished. So far, the enquiries at the hospital have revealed nothing.”
“Grange definitely had it on him. He showed it to me but I gave it back to him while we were running from the first car.”
“Perhaps you should reflect, Doyle, that in our line of work, as in so many other walks of life, a bird in the hand is worth a plethora of local bobbies scouring the wards and corridors of the Wycombe General.”
Doyle made to protest, but Cowley stopped him with a raised hand.
“There’s a more important point you need to focus on right now. I want you to be clear, 4-5. 3-7’s actions have put all of UK security at serious threat. He has also turned against his obligations towards CI5. You have my authority to use maximum force to retrieve the disk.”
“You surely don’t mean…”
“Yes, 4-5, I expect you to find the disk, and to eliminate Bodie.”
For a second, Doyle couldn't speak. Then suddenly the words came rushing out.
“Eliminate? Let's cut out the James Bond stuff. You mean kill, don't you? Let's call a spade a bloody shovel, here, shall we? You want me to kill Bodie? My partner? Not even tell me to bring him in? All judge and jury now, are we?”
Cowley slapped his hand down on his desk, shocking Doyle into faltering in his tirade.
“You will remember where you are, 4-5. You will remember that when you joined CI5 you agreed to operate at my direction. There is no room in this organisation for second-guessing and liberal sensitivities. You should have worked that out by now. You know damn well that part of CI5’s remit is to do the work that other institutions aren't equipped to carry out. We are not constrained by the sorts of controls that beset the Met, and for good reason. Because sometimes, sometimes, it is necessary to put aside the mores that most civilised people operate by, and apply the strict law of expediency.”
Cowley stood and walked around the desk, the better to fix Doyle with his gimlet glare.
“You‘ve heard that roses and lavender speech before,” he continued coldly. “I make it to you new recruits for a reason. You are in CI5 for the express purpose of carrying out the work that others cannot or will not do. If you are not able to fulfil that kind of order, I don't want you here.”
“But, sir! I ... I just don’t… I can't believe that all there is to this is Bodie gone wrong. Who's to say it’s as simple as that? Let me bring him in –we’ll still have the disk, but we can give him a chance to explain.”
“Use your head, man! In doing what he did, Bodie has stuck two fingers up to both of us - to all CI5. He estimated the worth of that disk and he was prepared to betray us for it. He has forfeited any right to be treated with benevolence, and CI5 cannot allow him to continue with his plans. Ach, I should have trusted my gut with that one. I felt that something wasn't quite right, but I decided to put some faith in the two of you instead. But now we have to excise the rotten limb for the sake of the whole tree.”
Doyle scrubbed at his hair in frustration, dislodging the bandage.
“But, sir…” he began again. Cowley held up his hand.
“That's enough, 4-5. This is not for debate. You have your orders; I expect you to carry them out.”
“And what if I refuse?”
Cowley took off his glasses and stared hard at him.
“You surely don’t need me to clarify that, 4-5. If you put yourself on the side of Bodie, you will be regarded by the organisation in exactly the same way as it regards your former partner. CI5 does not tolerate renegades, and I do not entertain second chances in such circumstances. No one is indispensable, yourself included, especially if you act in a way that is detrimental to the good of this organisation and its work – in short, in the way Bodie has behaved. Your priority is to recover the purloined disk. You and I both know enough about 3-7 - the former 3-7 - to be aware that the retrieval is likely to be marked with extreme violence on his part. I expect you to respond in kind. CI5 has no room in its ranks for traitors, and I don't intend to waste time on judicial proceedings in a case such as this. I expect you to do what you have to do, Doyle, in the interests of CI5; to which you belong, body and soul, and don't you forget it!”
This tirade was brought to an abrupt halt by the door opening after only the most perfunctory of knocks. Betty’s head appeared.
“Sorry, Mr Cowley, but Colonel Mexborough’s here...”
“Dammit, woman! I’m not finished with Doyle....”
But Betty simply gave a helpless, wide-eyed shrug, and the door swung fully open to admit Mexborough, his face like thunder. He dispensed with any preamble.
“When the Minister deputed CI5 to assist in this matter, he did not expect the utter chaos that has ensued! My intelligence tells me that rather than being recovered, the disk has been taken by your own operative. Is this correct, Cowley?”
Cowley turned to face Mexborough squarely, motioning Betty to close the door behind her.
“Colonel Mexborough, if your intelligence told you that much, it will also have told you that this operation was clearly infiltrated from the start. My men were ambushed at the pick-up point. As no one in CI5, other than Bodie, Doyle, and myself, knew anything about this mission, there has obviously been a leak, and from your side. I suggest you reflect upon that before you throw any more accusations at my organisation.”
Mexborough pulled up short, stalled for a moment, but he soon retaliated.
“Your man has absconded with the disk. Hardly difficult to see where the infiltration might have come from.”
Cowley gave a little snort of derision.
“Aye, I can see why you might think that, Colonel. But you're a little too quick to cast stones here. The fact of the matter is that my operative took the initiative and has gone into hiding with the disk. All part of his brief, should the situation deteriorate in the way it did. So far, all our precautions have paid off.”
Doyle was thunderstruck at this sudden and inspired obfuscation, but did his best to make sure the surprise didn’t show on his face. Despite his anger with his boss at the distasteful and mystifying orders he had just been given, he felt his erstwhile respect for Cowley grudgingly return, higher than before. He had never seen Cowley in action against the top brass, as personified by the ex-military bigwig with the posh accent glaring at them from across the room, and his pounding headache was forgotten for the first time in hours as he stood carefully to one side, fascinated by this standoff between two Whitehall bull elephants.
“You’re asking me to believe,” retorted Mexborough, “that this disappearance is all a charade? That you planned this to happen in the first place? It beggars belief, man!”
“You forget, Colonel,” replied Cowley, relatively mildly now, gesturing to Doyle to break out the scotch, which Doyle duly did with alacrity, “CI5 is not hidebound by formal procedures, which is precisely why the Minister was keen on our involvement in the first place. We are fleet of foot, and we intend to stay that way.”
He took a glass from Doyle and watched as Mexborough accepted his drink, clearly timing his next words to coincide with Mexborough’s first sip.
“And where our feet take us now is towards your own department, as Colin Grange was able to implicate one of your own team before he died.”
Mexborough spluttered. Doyle saw a gleam of triumph in Cowley’s eye, even if the man’s face showed nothing of the sort.
“Gone down the wrong way, Colonel? It’s a fiery dram, no doubt about it.”
“Who?” gasped Mexborough, now a little red in the face. “Who, in my department?”
“His name is Peter Miller,” broke in Doyle, feeling this to be his cue to speak. “He’s the liaison between DSTI and Six.”
“And he’s been seen doing what, exactly?”
Doyle felt Cowley’s presence next to him as his boss moved to stand with his operative, shoulder to shoulder, a united face against hostile attack.
“Well, that’s part of our investigation at the moment, Colonel, as you’ll appreciate. But we’d be grateful for details of Miller’s current whereabouts, his accommodation and so forth, so that Doyle here may follow up this intelligence.”
“That’s hardly your job, Cowley! Your task is to retrieve the disk, nothing else!”
“But Colonel,” continued Cowley smoothly, swinging his glasses in one hand, “this brings us back to the start. There has been a breach, it’s coming from your stables, and there’s an obvious inference to be drawn between that and Grange’s allegations in general. So you see, it’s entirely within our purview for this operation.”
Mexborough glowered, and put his glass down roughly on Cowley’s desk, turning to look out of the window.
“You’ll let us have those details shortly, no doubt?” persisted Cowley.
Mexborough swung round sharply and fixed them both with a cold stare.
“I’ll relay that information to your office today, Cowley. In the meantime, I’ll take Miss Wentworth home, if I may. There’s no reason why she should remain in these drab surroundings any longer. I feel some responsibility for her, as her entirely innocent role in CNRD has brought her into such peril, and she looks completely miserable, sitting out there in your secretary’s room.”
Doyle frowned at this bald statement, and felt Cowley’s stance stiffen slightly beside him, as if he, too, sensed too glib a construction. Then Cowley leant over his desk and hit the intercom.
“Betty, would you bring Miss Wentworth in here, please.”
“Poor girl” continued Mexborough, musing, “sitting there with her hands over her face, crying away; a picture of unhappiness. She’ll be better off in her own home.”
The door opened again, and Betty ushered Hilary in. The latter’s shoulders were stooped, and she had her face pressed into her palms, as if stifling her sobs. Then she dropped her hands and raised her head, to reveal red eyes and a rueful expression. She glanced at Mexborough, her eyes questioning.
“This is Colonel Mexborough from MI6,” explained Cowley, by way of introduction. Hilary nodded an acknowledgment.
“I’m sorry, it just came over me, all of a sudden. Everything, Colin dead, those men….” She clamped her hands back over her face and started sobbing again. Doyle went to put out a hand, but Mexborough blocked him smoothly, drawing his own arm over Hilary’s shoulders.
“There, there, Miss Wentworth, let’s get you back home. Maybe there’s a friend you’d like to call, to be with you?”
The girl raised her head again and looked mournfully at the MI6 colonel.
“Yes, yes, my neighbour. She’ll be home, I know. I’d like to get back to my own place, if you think it’s safe.”
She cast a worried look at both Cowley and Doyle, but Mexborough got in first.
“I’d be happy to give you MI6 protection, until all this is over. Just some men outside your home - nothing obtrusive - if it would make you feel better.”
Hilary nodded violently.
“Well, that’s settled, then.” Mexborough looked back at the CI5 men. “I’ll be in touch later, Cowley.”
And with that he was gone, sweeping Hilary out of the room. Betty gave them an appraising look as he strode past her with Hilary in tow, and turned to raise an eyebrow at Doyle. Then she closed the door of Cowley’s office discreetly. Doyle let out his breath in a loud exhalation, and turned to his boss, who was staring out of the window, watching their visitors disappear out of the building.
“He’s gone all cuddly, then, all of a sudden.”
“Aye,” replied Cowley, still looking out of the window, biting gently on the arm of his glasses. “Not a characteristic we should rely upon, I believe.”
“And you took the heat off Bodie…” began Doyle, unwisely as it turned out. Cowley spun from the window, his eyes flashing with anger.
“Such temporary deflection as I have achieved, I have done for CI5 alone; not for you or your erstwhile partner. CI5 comes first, last and always with me, and it will do so for you, as well. That’s your job, and don’t you forget it! You have your orders, 4-5. About time you got about them!”
The heavy-set man, wearing an ill-fitting brown suit and tie knotted hard enough to give himself asphyxia if he caught it at the wrong angle, balanced a carrier bag and two cans of cola precariously in the crook of one arm and, with the other, wrenched open the door of the large Ford. The car was parked in a relatively quiet street of tall redbrick mansions in west London – not one of the most expensive areas, but select and well-to-do nonetheless. Cars lined both sides and there was a sporadic traffic of women with shopping bags or prams along the pavement; all very genteel and bourgeois.
“All very bourgeois,” commented the man as he squeezed back into the car. “I have our shopping, Lekha. Has anything been happening?”
His companion in the driver’s seat gave a jerk.
“For the love of God, Aleksei Nikolayevich! Have you been sleeping again? I only went to the little shop. I have been gone less than ten minutes, you lazy oaf!”
“I have not been sleeping, I will have you know, Boris Mikhailovich! I have been awake all the time,” said the other indignantly, though suppressing a yawn. “But you must admit, Borja, this is one of our more tedious assignments. To observe who may or may not be entering that block of flats down there is hardly worthy of operatives of our calibre.”
“Indeed, comrade. I can only assume that the task must nevertheless be very important indeed. Roast chicken flavour or smoky bacon?”
“Thank you. This time the smoky bacon, I think, Borja.”
Boris wrestled with his carrier bag and, after a lot of rustling, produced a packet of crisps. He handed it over.
“Lekha, you will kindly pass me that jar of pickles…”
There was a soft, entirely familiar click, and the bag of crisps stayed suspended on its passage between the two men. They both swallowed audibly. The barrel of a gun appeared between their heads, and a moment later a hand deftly plucked the crisps from Boris’ numb fingers.
“Mmmmm, smoky bacon. My favourite.”
There was a ripping noise, followed by the sound of crunching. The gun disappeared and Aleksei ventured a glance into the back seat. A dark-haired man in a polo-necked sweater and a jacket far too bulky for the summer weather was casually sitting there. He waved the gun at Aleksei in a friendly fashion.
“Ta for this. I was gettin’ a bit peckish.”
The man tweaked the lip of the packet and tipped back his head; the rest of the crisps slid down his throat as if he were drinking beer. Aleksei saw his chance and reached for his own gun, but, in a lightning flash of movement, the dark-haired man leaned forward, grabbed Boris by his tie and pulled him hard back against the headrest; the gun was now pressed against Aleksei’s temple.
“Come on, mates, no funny business, eh? I’m not here to hurt you, just to ask you to pass on a message.”
Aleksei let his gun drop. The tie was released and Boris gasped thankfully, rubbing at his throat.
“You are treading on dangerous ground, Englishman,” snapped Aleksei tartly. “We are cultural attachés, very high up in diplomatic circles. You do not want to make trouble with us. We shall complain to the British Government!”
“And what culture is it that you’re enjoying in Soho every other night, eh? Come on, mate, I know a spook when I see one, so let’s not play games here. I just need a message got to your boss, Gennady.”
Boris now turned round in surprise.
“Comrade Lebedev? He is a very senior attaché. A real cultural attaché! What do you want with him?”
“Nothing you need to worry your little wooden heads about, lads. You just tell him to meet me, all right? Did you say you’ve got roast chicken there?”
“Crisps. Roast chicken is my next favourite.”
Aleksei gave Boris a wide-eyed look and handed over the packet; more crunching ensued.
“Tell him,” continued the man, through a snowstorm of crisp fragments, “that I’m a friend of Pavel Ilyich. He knows what that means.”
“But what do you want to talk to him about?”
“An item of lost property.”
“That is not a subject of interest to Comrade Lebedev!”
The man leaned forward with a grin and patted Aleksei on the head.
“Never you mind that, Boris.”
“Pardon me,” said Boris, thoroughly confused. “but I am Boris…”
Aleksei ignored his comrade, and put as much scorn in his voice as he could muster, whilst still keeping a weather eye on the man’s handgun.
“And if Gennady Davidovich should wish to speak to you, where is he to find you, please?”
“Tell him to go to the concert tonight, and at half-time to skip the ice cream and come and see me in my office.”
“Third red star on the right, and then straight on till morning. Mind you tell him all that exactly, right?”
Both men sat silently mouthing their instructions while the dark-haired intruder smiled benevolently. When he was confident they had got the gist, he tapped the front seat with his gun and pointed down the street.
“And while I’m about it, here’s a little tip for you two. See that curly-headed bloke down there?”
Two heads turned to look in the direction of the pointing finger. A hundred yards or so away, a silver Capri had cruised to a halt outside one of the mansions. A lithe figure, cheesecloth shirt and jeans topped with a mass of curls, swung out of the driver’s side, paused for a moment looking casually at the buildings on either side, and then made his way swiftly up the steps to the front door. Boris and Aleksei looked at their passenger expectantly.
“Thing is, he’ll shoot your balls off, soon as look at you. So, don’t mess with him, eh?”
Open-mouthed, they turned to look at the fabled warrior, who was now, to a KGB agent’s eyes, clearly doing his best to fiddle the lock.
“But who is this man…” began Aleksei, turning round again.
Apart from a couple of empty wrappers and a lot of crumbs, the back seat was empty.
Ray Doyle slid the Capri into a narrow space on Carrington Road and craned his neck to look through the window at the red-brick buildings on either side. They were Edwardian townhouses, carbon copies of each other. They reflected the prosperity of the area when they were built, and although Carrington Road was no longer the height of fashion, the individual apartments that now hid behind the tall façades still commanded a fair price. CI5 flats might be found on similar streets, but not often; he guessed that Miller must be someone’s blue-eyed boy to get this allocation.
He climbed out, taking with him the battered envelope from a gas bill that somehow had been left in the car with the usual detritus. Moving to the curb, he made a show of consulting something on the piece of paper, lifting his head now and then as if to consider the buildings on both sides of the street. The play-acting gave him a chance to survey who was in the area. MI6 cars usually stood out a mile to CI5 eyes, but there was nothing that leapt out at him there and then… except for that big Ford down the road, two bulky figures in the front seat. A bit obvious that, he mused, tapping the envelope against his upper lip as though deep in thought. But the occupants didn’t seem to want to make a move, so he turned and made his way up the steps to number 54.
According to the intelligence provided by Mexborough, Miller was not on duty that day. He had asked for a leave day to deal with some personal issues, and, according to the MI6 colonel, his work at present wasn’t deemed urgent enough to refuse him. Though Doyle had no information that Miller was at home, he thought it was as good a place to start as any. In fact, all to the good if Miller was out; it would give Doyle time to turn the place over, in a hopefully unobtrusive way, and get some background on the man.
With a final look at the street, he turned his attention to the doorway. The lock was a basic Yale and the door frame rattled. There were a number of buzzers by the door jamb, each with a label, and various hands had scribbled names into most. Flat 8, on the second floor, had no name next to it. Doyle didn’t bother to press the buzzer; he extracted a small knife from his pocket and, shielding the action with his body, he ran the blade between the doorframe and the lock. The pressure easily pushed the lock back and the door swung open. He slipped into the hallway and closed the door quietly behind him.
Inside, some post lay on the tiles and a bicycle was propped up near one of the doors of the ground floor flats. A radio was playing somewhere, but otherwise it was quiet and calm, the noise of the street outside muffled by the door. Doyle made his way quickly up the stairs, alert to any possible challenges and, in particular, any chance that someone else might also be looking for Miller.
The second-floor corridor was similarly quiet, and sunshine streamed in through a landing window. A push-chair stood outside the door to one flat and there was the faint noise of a crying baby. He made his way down the corridor to Flat 8 and listened quietly at the door; no sounds of activity within. He decided to chance it, and rapped firmly on the door, waiting in the hush for an answer.
Nothing; he rapped again.
“Peter Miller? Can I have word with you?”
Before he had finished speaking, he had the blade out and was sliding it into the frame. The flimsy lock gave way quickly. As he stood in the doorway, listening for movement, his eye was caught by the state of the door. Though the lock he had just forced was hardly secure, the rear of the door revealed a large number of deadbolts and security devices, and none of them had been in use. So Miller, if he had gone out, hadn’t set his locks; if he was still inside the flat, then he hadn’t bothered to lock himself in.
Lazy and complacent behaviour for anyone in Intelligence, thought Doyle. You wouldn’t catch me doing that.
He drew his handgun and moved silently down the narrow corridor into what appeared to be the main living area. Notwithstanding the period charm of the exterior of the building, the interior of Miller’s flat was bang up-to-date. There was a lot of loud colour and low-slung furniture in the latest fashion, quirky lamps and shaggy rugs. The curtains were still closed.
And there was a body on the floor.
Still alert to the possibility of other intruders, Doyle knelt next to the body on the rug and turned it over. Miller: that was clear from the photo Mexborough had provided. The man’s face was quite blue, his eyes half-closed and glassy, and his mouth drooped open. Doyle felt for a pulse but wasn’t surprised to find nothing. The body was stone-cold; he must have been dead for hours. Holstering the gun, Doyle checked for signs of injury, but, apart from the blue skin, and traces of vomit on the rug beneath the body, he could see no obvious cause of death. In normal circumstances, it might have been anything from alcohol poisoning – though he couldn’t smell drink on Miller - to heart failure. But, mused Doyle, Grange’s sudden death not hours before put a whole new complexion on things.
Leaving the corpse where it lay, he stood and started a quick check of the rest of the flat; there was no one, alive or dead, in the bedroom, bathroom or the kitchen area. The bed was still neatly made, the bathroom was tidy and there was fresh food in the refrigerator. Nothing looked like it had been disturbed.
Miller’s clothes were smart and new, no scuffed shoes or frayed jeans on show. In the bedroom, Doyle dragged his hand through the clothes in Miller’s wardrobe – all quality stuff, some of it very expensive if the labels were any indication. A distinctive green suede jacket stood out from the array of sports jackets and classy suits, and Doyle found himself coveting it rather, but there was nothing in the depths of the wardrobe, or in the chest of drawers near the bed, that revealed anything other than a serious interest in shopping. Likewise the small desk in the lounge held little more than odd bank statements, receipts and paid bills. A cursory examination of the kitchen drawers and cupboards similarly drew a blank.
Doyle returned to the lounge and contemplated the scene. By the standards of most civil servants, even secret civil servants, the interior of Miller’s flat spoke of a pretension to fashion and considerable disposable income. More income than an MI6 agent was likely to earn? Doyle certainly couldn’t have afforded that furniture, but, on the other hand, he thought, frowning at the garish colours, he wouldn’t have chosen it either.
So, here was a man implicated by the deceased Colin Grange, who was now himself dead from unnatural causes, Doyle guessed. The coincidence was too close for comfort. He would have to call it in; this was something both Cowley and Mexborough needed to know about. Miller was clearly part of this picture in some way, just as Colin had suspected, but it was no help whatsoever that he couldn’t be brought in for questioning in his current state.
Still pondering, Doyle returned to the front door to let himself out of the flat. As his hand reached out for the handle, the door burst open and he went flailing backwards with the impact. Three men crowded into the flat, two of them grabbing Doyle and twisting him round so that his face smashed against the wall. His arm was twisted up behind his back, and he felt his handgun being wrenched from his grasp.
“Just stay quiet, mate,” said one, “or we shoot you where you are.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake!” gasped Doyle from beneath the punishing grip. “What are you? Special Branch? MI5? Six? I’m CI5, just let me get to my ID!”
“You been visiting Peter Miller, have you? What do you want with Peter Miller, eh?” said the voice. Then, clearly addressing one of his colleagues: “Larry, check the flat.”
Doyle felt a set of hands pull off him, and he took the opportunity to kick back with all his might, twisting hard as the remaining man staggered backwards. His arm was still imprisoned but he was now facing the man who had spoken. The third man was just disappearing into the lounge of the flat.
“Look, just check my ID, okay?” yelled Doyle, furious.
The first man, sports jacket and neat moustache, reached into Doyle’s inside pocket and extracted his wallet, flipping it open. Doyle heard a muffled expletive, and the man threw the wallet onto the floor.
“What the hell are you doing, checking up on Miller, eh? CI5? What’s he got to do with you?”
“Are you going to let me go now?” spat Doyle.
At that moment, there was a shout from the lounge.
“Chris! He’s dead! Miller’s dead.”
Doyle was pushed back against the wall again, his arm twisted further upwards.
“Yeah, he’s dead!” he yelled back. “If you check, you’ll see he’s been dead for hours. I found him less than quarter of an hour ago!”
The man reappeared from the lounge. At Chris’ questioning look, he nodded.
“He’s right, Chris. Long dead. Maybe heart, maybe poison, can’t say. No sign of a struggle.”
“Oh, bloody hell. Okay, we’d better get this sorted.” He gave Doyle a hard look.
“What’s going on here?”
Doyle glowered at him.
“You going to let me go?”
Chris gestured to his colleague and Doyle was released. He rubbed his arm and reached down to retrieve his wallet.
“It’s not your worry why I’m here or what I’m doing, all right? I’m on CI5 business. If you want to shoot up W9 for the hell of it, go ahead, but leave me alone!”
“What’s your interest in Peter Miller?”
“What’s yours? And give me my soddin’ gun back!”
Doyle pulled out a handkerchief and mopped his nose, which was bleeding slightly from the impact with the wall. In itself it was no big deal, but being smashed into a plastered surface not long after being hit over the head by a bloody annoying, treacherous half-Irish git was doing nothing to help his headache.
The man who had taken Doyle’s gun gave him a black look and handed back the weapon.
“MI6. We had an anonymous tip-off that one of ours was being targeted by an extreme right terrorist cell.”
The man called Chris pulled out his own ID. Doyle squinted at it.
“And that operative was Peter Miller? Why are terrorists after him?”
“Look, mate – Doyle, is it? I don’t know. We just got told to get down here quick and make sure our man is protected. What are you doing here, anyway? You after Miller?”
“Like I said, it’s CI5 business and I can’t discuss the case with you without say-so from the top, all right? But what I can say is that I had some routine enquiries to make, and Miller just happened to be someone on the list. Though obviously he’s not going to be answering questions anytime soon.”
Chris heaved a sigh.
“Well, good luck with that, then. We’d better get on the blower and get the body tested, find out what happened to him. Here, where do you think you’re off to?”
Doyle was already halfway out of the door.
“Nothing to keep me here, mate. Dead-end, literally.”
“I’ve got your number, Doyle, all right? You can go now but I’m going to be looking for you if this mess here gives me the slightest provocation.”
Doyle glanced back, looking unimpressed.
“You work for Mexborough?”
“Mexborough? No, not our division.”
“Miller’s one of Mexborough’s men. You find out anything about how he died, then you can come looking for me, with pleasure. Better still, tell George Cowley.”
He turned again and opened the door.
“And where will you be, then?” called Chris irritably.
But Doyle was already gone.
Colonel Mexborough regarded George Cowley darkly from across his desk.
“No, Cowley, we do not yet have any results from the examination of Miller’s body. These things take time, as you well know. I doubt if anything will emerge for a few days.”
“It would be of great help to this investigation if the process could be expedited…”
Mexborough waved his hand impatiently.
“No, Cowley, I’ll tell you what would be a great help. And that would be for your man to find that disk. Miller is simply not relevant anymore.”
“That’s hardly the case, Mexborough. Find the man’s killers and we will be closer to understanding what’s happening with the loss of the secret data. Miller’s death is a crucial development.”
“Hardly. I’ve got a pretty good idea what’s behind it. Whomever Miller was working for, they’ve clearly got tired with the man’s inability to deliver the product they’d purchased, since the thing has been taken out of the picture. So Miller was eliminated. Either that, or it was a simple falling-out amongst thieves. It’s secondary to the main issue of retrieving the disk and I am most unhappy – most unhappy – that your man is still out there with nothing to show for the exercise other than yet another dead body. The Minister wants results, Cowley. He’s been onto me, so no doubt he’s been on to you!”
Cowley regarded the other man coldly.
“Aye, and he’ll get results. Not based on supposition, but on sound investigation, which is what CI5 is doing at this moment.”
Mexborough gave him a disdainful look.
“Quite the contrary, I believe. I’ll have you know, Cowley, that I’ve seen through your little obfuscation of earlier. Your man Bodie has clearly turned. He’s been observed in contact with some low-grade Soviet embassy staff, clearly looking for a purchaser for that disk. Yes, I thought that might surprise you! Not exactly the story you tried to sell me, eh? All your effort now needs to be focused on taking him out and getting that disk back. Meanwhile, your other operative has been wasting time treading on ground that needs no investigation. Bodie is the target, and Bodie is what he has to focus on.”
“We have our own methods, Mexborough. I’ll thank you to refrain from questioning the operation of my own organisation, especially whilst your own is so … shall we say ... beset with rumour?”
“Just get on with it, Cowley. Because I’m warning you, my men will be joining this operation from now on. I’ll not sit back to watch CI5 flounder, and precious secrets fly out the window into Soviet hands.”
Cowley’s lips thinned.
“This is not what was agreed with the Minister, and may well compromise the safety of my own men and jeopardise the operation as a whole…”
“Keep Doyle on a leash and focused on the case, and there’ll be no problems, but I won’t brook him diverting into areas he has no reason to be poking his nose into. His job is to remove your traitor and get the disk back, and, if he falls foul of my men whilst he’s doing it, then it’s no fault of ours.”
He pointed a finger at Cowley.
“Mark this. If he doesn’t look sharp soon, I’ll be forced to conclude that he and Bodie are in this together. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. If that’s the case, then extreme measures will be employed.”
Livid with fury, Cowley stood.
“I shall for the present ignore that gross slander on my men and my organisation. In the meantime, what has happened to Grange’s body? I gather that it was removed from the hospital at High Wycombe earlier today, together with all Grange’s effects.”
“Normal Six procedure. It’ll be in the system somewhere. Hardly a priority.”
“Hardly a priority? What are you talking about, man? The cause of his death could be the pointer to whoever is responsible for the whole enterprise. It’s the same reason why finding Miller’s murderer is so important. Do you seriously not understand that basic fact?”
Mexborough’s face went white with barely-controlled anger.
“Are you questioning my department’s capacity to run this investigation?”
“Frankly, yes. Where, for instance, is the camera that Grange had on him earlier today? There are, potentially, photographs on it that could be vital to discovering the villains of the piece...”
Mexborough burst out laughing.
“The camera? Grange’s camera? Oh, for heaven’s sake, Cowley! That was an amateur’s attempt at playing James Bond. He might have thought he was taking pictures, but the film in the device was unusable. There was nothing on it; just a broken Instamatic tacked into a book on philosophy.”
Cowley held out his hand.
“Then may I see it?” Mexborough waved him away.
“It’s with Grange’s effects somewhere. We’ve checked it over. You don’t need to concern yourself with it now. Just get on with your job, Cowley. Try to make good your catastrophic disaster of the last twelve hours, eh?”
Cowley stared hard at him for some moments. The other man didn’t flinch.
“The Minister will have a report from me later, Mexborough. Whatever your men do, I expect to be kept informed.”
“And I expect to hear some good news from you. In short, that your renegade is dead and the disk is back. But don’t be surprised if MI6 right your wrongs for you. This was a mistake in the first place, getting CI5 involved. But never mind, we’re there now.”
“Aye, and that’s what worries me,” muttered Cowley as he turned on his heel.
Doyle slipped down two flights of stairs to Hardware, more than a little shaken by his recent interview with the Cow. Whilst Doyle had surreptitiously downed four Disprin dissolved in cold tea, his boss had paced his office, viciously angry, tight-lipped and white, and had refused any discussion with Doyle about possible other answers for Bodie’s involvement.
“I know that Miller is now established as part of the picture, 4-5, but it doesn’t mean that running head-on into MI6’s territory is going to help you with your task. I want you concentrating on tracking Bodie right now, especially as Six are also on his tail. You need to get there first. I’ll not allow CI5’s operatives, however false, to be targeted by another agency in this way – we clear up our own messes.”
Doyle had found himself protesting yet again.
“I still don’t see that we know for sure that Bodie’s gone bad. He could have genuinely felt that the disk would be better out of sight, and he knew he’d have an argument with me about it, so he didn’t bother, and just walloped me. It’s not completely out of character for him….”
“And neither is taking the best offer of financial gain, I’ll remind you, Doyle.”
“But he was regular soldier, too, sir! He took the King’s shilling and gave an oath of allegiance. I don’t think that’s something he would do lightly…”
“Bodie has been seen talking to Soviet agents. There is only one conclusion we can draw, Doyle.”
The bombshell stopped Doyle dead in his tracks, his mouth still open. It was moments before he could speak, but then the words started pouring out.
“Bodie? No, sir, I don’t believe it! The more I think about it, the more wrong it sounds. He’s a loose cannon, yes. But he wouldn’t stoop to treason. Not for financial gain, and especially not with an enemy of Britain. Not a soldier like him!”
And yet Doyle had been dismissed along with his argument. His instructions remained the same – track Bodie, get the disk, remove the problem; no further help or advice was offered. Feeling bleak and barraged by a constant dull headache, he refreshed his tea, dunked some Rich Tea thoughtfully – the process made him oddly nostalgic for nagging about Bodie’s crumbs and his partner’ parrying complaints about Doyle’s inability to drink delicately – and tried to come up with a plan.
If Cowley thought he’d joined CI5 and left his faculty for judgment at the door, then Cowley had another think coming….
Down in Hardware, the corridors seemed even browner and grimmer than the rest of CI5’s premises. Des Blackwood, horn-rims and brown work-coat, was coming out of a glass-panelled door.
“I'm off for me tea-break, young Raymond. You'll have to come back later if you want anything. In any case, I wasn't aware you were up for supplies today.”
“That's all right, Des,” replied Doyle pleasantly as they met. “It wasn't you I was after. Just wanted to say hello to Dottie.”
Des paused as he passed by Doyle, looking at him firmly over the horn-rims.
“Now don't you go corrupting my Dottie, young Raymond. She's a well brought-up young lady and far too good for the likes of you. And she'll be used to lads with a bit more class, too, boyo.”
“I can try, Des. Nil desperandum and all that.”
“Well, I don't want you disrupting her work and setting her behind. Don't linger, young Raymond. I don't expect to see you here when I'm back from my biscuits.”
Doyle waved absently at his departing back and opened the door to Hardware. Inside, long workbenches full of bits of electronic equipment lay quiet, the rest of the technicians already with their mugs of tea and custard creams in the break-room. The only person left was a dark-haired girl at a desk, rattling through requisition forms on a typewriter.
She looked up with a bright, friendly smile.
“Well, hello, Raymond, my love! What brings you to the depths? You just missed Des.”
Doyle perched himself on the edge of her desk and grinned at her.
“Wasn't after Des. Came to have a chat with you.”
Dottie leaned back in her chair and gave him an appraising look.
Doyle had known Dottie for a couple of months now. It was a comfortable, bantering acquaintance with no pressure on either side to turn it into something else. In any case, Doyle always felt that Dottie saw right through him, so the charm offensive really wasn't much point. He already knew her to be ferociously intelligent, a graduate in electronic engineering with far more talent than most of the male technicians wearing the brown coats and working on the covert gizmos mainly produced in that part of Hardware. He'd chided her about it before now, saying she should be out in the real world, where there was a chance if her getting proper recognition for her abilities, but she would just say she was biding her time. She had, after all, sought a transfer from MI6 to work at CI5, so she was not about to give up easily.
“Ah, that’s nice of you, Ray. It can get lonely down here. Where’s that big lad of yours, anyway?”
“He's off on his ownsome today, Dot.”
“Pity, he gives you a touch of class, you know. You should hang around with him more. He might stop you getting beaten up so regularly. Need an aspirin for that bump?”
“Now, now, Dorothy,” said Doyle, wincing at the unconscious irony of her words. “Look, love, I need a favour.”
She gave him an arch smile.
“Oh, why am I not surprised, you skulking down here when the chaps are out playing, taking advantage of my poor feminine weakness. Look, Ray, I like a joke with the rest of them but I'm not helping you two get revenge on Anson for something crass he's done by bugging his lav, or anything like that....”
“No, Dot, this is serious.”
She looked at him sharply, and both his tone and expression gave him away.
“What are you after, Ray?”
“I need a small device. Just for slipping into a coat pocket or a briefcase. I need to track someone.”
She pursed her lips.
“Just a small device, eh? Via the back door? Normal channels not fast enough for you, Ray?”
“Don't want anyone to know, Dot. Thought that was already obvious. Look, there's something going on, something involving both Bodie and me that's a bit extra-curricular, if you get my drift. Can’t really say any more right now. Trouble is, we're a bit worried that we’re not playing with a full deck - things are being withheld from us. We're getting concerned about our role in the outcome, so we sort of want to even up the odds.”
Dottie's wary expression didn't change.
“This what Bodie’s off doing? There's a rumour he's gone AWOL.”
“No,” said Doyle sharply, perhaps a bit too sharply. He tried to soften his tone. “But he does need a bit of help. We both do.”
Dottie stared hard at him for a moment, then sighed and pushed back her chair.
“All right. My trouble is, I'm a sucker for a pretty face.”
She rummaged in a cardboard box underneath her desk, providing Doyle with a pleasant glimpse of leg as she did so, and emerged with some bits and pieces and a few wires.
“There's stuff all over the shop here. Mainly defunct, used for cannibalising, but I can build you one easily out of this. It'll work on the transponder in the car. You've still got a CI5 car issued, I take it?”
“Good. Okay, leave it with me. I can start now, do some more when the boys have gone home. Come back at 8?”
Doyle leaned over the desk and planted a smacking kiss on her forehead.
“Bless you, Dot! Take you for dinner when it's all over?”
“Oh, I don't know, Ray. I'd settle for a cup of tea in bed, the morning after...”
Her eyes were twinkling. Despite his worry, Doyle burst out laughing.
“Dorothy Bailey! And you a convent girl!”
She tapped her nose.
“It's us convent girls you need to watch out for, my lad. But to be honest, Ray, you aren't my type. Very much not my type.”
There was something in her voice that made him look at her again, this time really noting the expression in her eyes. The penny dropped.
“You don't say, Dot.”
“Oh, I certainly do, Raymond. Though, our secret, yeah?”
He grinned at her, and tapped his nose back.
“Safe with me, Dorothy. And dinner with Bodie and me when he's back. He'll be paying so it'll be a slap-up meal.”
She waved him away, already prising bits of plastic apart, but as he went to open the door, she looked up again.
“Oh, Ray, I meant to ask. Was that Hilary Neff I saw wandering around upstairs earlier? I thought it looked like her, but I couldn’t be sure. She was making such a fuss, sobbing away.”
Doyle was taken slightly aback. He hadn't realised how much the comings and goings had been noted. Couple that with the 'rumours' about Bodie, and there was even more to worry about.
“The blonde who came in with me? You know her?”
“By reputation. She was at Six for a while when I was there. A rising star, they said. That performance yesterday was a bit rich.”
“Well, yes. The damsel in distress stuff. From what I remember about her, I'd wager she hasn't got an emotional bone in her body. Totally out of character, all that face-in-the-hands stuff. You might almost think she didn’t want to be recognized…”
They exchanged glances.
“She now goes by the name of Wentworth,” said Doyle guardedly.
“Really?” Dottie’s eyes narrowed. “Well, maybe she wanted a change of image. Last I heard, she’d left Six to work for the opposition.”
“The Russians?” Doyle was aghast. Dottie burst out laughing.
“No, you berk! The Yanks!”
Doyle frowned at this new piece of information. The frown, and the concentration that went with it, made his head hurt again. He rubbed his brow, pulled himself together and smiled as winningly as he could at his colleague.
“Dottie, you are a mine of information.”
“Aren't I just? Now bugger off and let me do my illegal work for you. Go and look after that boy of yours.”
“He's not mine, Dottie,” said Doyle as he closed the door. He could hear her snort of derision through the glass panel.
Gennady Lebedev, senior cultural attaché at the Soviet Embassy, made his smiling way through the throng on the carpeted upper foyer of the Festival Hall toward the staircase. He nodded to many of the well-dressed crowd – this was a prestigious concert, and the great and the good were all present. So, sneaking out at the interval was not really acceptable behaviour for someone in his position - such occasions were all about the small talk to be made at the margins - but his wife would be able to hold the fort until he returned.
In any case, he really did need some fresh air. In the press of people, the atmosphere was heavy and the French champagne had unsettled his stomach. He far preferred the Soviet version, even if that was the only thing he did prefer about his native land.
If only, he thought, they would bother to invite us when there was something other than Tchaikovsky on the programme.
A fashionable-looking woman grabbed his arm.
“Are you escaping, Gennady? We really can’t have that. Come and have a drink!”
He detached himself with a smile.
“A breath of fresh air and a cigarette, Laura. I promise I will be back soon.
Outside, the terrace was similarly crowded with concert-goers. He threaded through them and made his way along the building until he found a spiral concrete staircase descending to ground level. It took him into a different world. There, underneath the lights and affluence of the concert hall audience was a second city, one full of hopelessness and despair.
The concrete canyons running beneath the buildings on the South Bank had begun to be colonized by the homeless of London, their ranks swelled each day by people who had come to the big city on the promise of fortune, only to find failure and poverty. It being a hot evening, there were at least no pathetic huddles of people trying to keep warm, but space was still guarded jealously. Men and women lounged in cardboard encampments that covered the ground and stretched out of sight into the far recesses of the concrete undercroft.
Embarrassingly conspicuous in his dinner jacket and sensing himself being watched by scores of potentially hostile eyes, Gennady walked along the pillars at the entrance to the undercroft until he found the one he was looking for; a red star had been emblazoned on it in spray paint. He kept walking – a second, and a third…
At that pillar, he turned to follow the passageway that led under the building. The looks became more curious and he felt some unease, but was also comforted by the presence of a small handgun in his jacket pocket that, he felt, ought to be enough to counter any hostility. The passageway was dark and the air fetid, but the space quickly opened out into a wider area, which gained some additional light from a gap between the buildings above. There on a wall, over a huddle of sleepers, in white paint and in letters three feet high, were the words ”Good Morning, Vietnam!”
He looked around expectantly, but, apart from some cursory looks, none of the inhabitants was paying him much attention. He checked his watch – he’d need to get back soon if he was to rejoin the rest of his party, and even though this meeting could be to his advantage, he couldn’t afford just then to occasion too much interest in his behaviour.
Suddenly, a voice spoke from the gloom.
“All right, comrade? Thanks for coming.”
He spun round. A man emerged from the shadows to stand mere feet away from him. The light was still poor, but Gennady could see the dark hair, sharp eyes and lazy smile he had been expecting. He looked around quickly – no one else seemed to be taking any interest in the exchange.
“You are Mr Bodie, I presume.”
“The one and only. And it’s just ‘Bodie’. You brought friends with you?”
“Of course not. But Bodie, we have to be quick. I can’t spare much time now. I have come here because of Pavel, but I expect there to be a good reason for your request.”
“So he told you about me, then?” The man looked pleased.
“Of course, he told me a great deal about your meeting. His description of you matches exactly, I must say. I knew you at once.”
“So, how is the young tyke?”
Gennady found he had to pause and swallow, despite the passage of time.
“He is dead, Bodie. Three years ago, now.”
The man froze; his lips thinned and he looked away quickly to stare into the gloom. When he turned again, the casual charm had gone and his face looked stony.
“I’m really sorry to hear that, Gennady. Really sorry. In another time and place, I’d say, tell me who did it and I’ll get them for you, but in a warzone it’s all to be expected. Still… very sorry….”
Gennady took out a packet of cigarettes and lit one, Bodie declining his offer of a smoke with a small wave of his hand.
“Oh, it was worse than that, in fact. My nephew had gone back for a second tour. It was over and he was on his way home. But a drunken ground crew and a badly-maintained machine meant the helicopter crashed on take-off. Fifteen men died. Those responsible have, of course, been dealt with, but… the loss still cuts into our family. Pavel was an exceptional soldier. He was destined for great things.” Gennady stared at the ground, his face a mask of sorrow.
“My sister, she took it very hard, is still inconsolable, and that’s a woman from a military family. Our colonial aspirations carry a heavy price, Bodie.”
The other man was once more staring into space.
“You know, I always thought we might meet up again, in that daft way that soldiering can be a very small world. Well, well, so long, Pavel Ilyich. What a bloody waste.”
Gennady pulled himself together.
“What was it you wanted, Bodie?”
The man visibly straightened and turned back to the Russian.
“You heard anything about a disk of intelligence data going missing over the past few days?”
Gennady felt himself slip back easily into his professional persona.
“And your interest is…?”
“C’mon mate, don’t play games. Do you know something about it, or not? This is a bit important.”
“Yes, Bodie, we have heard something of the kind. In fact, we have been aware of chatter from our radio network about the illicit transfers of British intelligence data for some while. We have been watching with interest. It has been clear that whatever has been going on has been building in importance, especially with the latest disk. We are also aware this disk has gone missing. I don’t suppose you have anything to do with that, have you?”
The man lifted an eyebrow.
“And you are looking for a market, I presume? You are right to suppose we would be very keen to obtain this disk. We have a great deal of interest in its content, of course. You have the disk with you?”
“Don’t be daft. In a safe place, isn’t it? So you’re willing to buy?”
“If the price is right, yes. And to be honest, Bodie, the right price could be very high indeed, if that would encourage you to favour us with your business.”
“Yeah, thought so. So, you didn’t start this ball rolling, then?”
“Whilst I would love to claim responsibility for the subterfuge that has been going on, alas, it is not I. The Soviet Union would be have been delighted to have set up an arrangement that is to cause such havoc to British Intelligence, but it seems we just don’t have the contacts in the right places.”
The man put his head on one side and regarded Gennady carefully, as if deciding whether to believe him.
“We would of course be very happy to join the supply chain,” Gennady continued.
“Can you tell me who is in this supply chain, then?”
The man huffed.
“Look, mate, sorry, but the disk isn’t for sale right now. I need to consider all my options, see? But if you can tell me who else I’m up against, who I’ve got to be careful of, then that might sway my decision.”
“Ah, Bodie, you raise my hopes. Why is it I feel you are only going to smash then with your next move?”
“Feel what you like, mate. But I would be grateful for a nod and a wink about what’s going on, you know. I’m a bit exposed out here, to be honest.”
Gennady looked at his watch again.
“I have to go. I shall consider what you have said. If there is anything more to say, I shall be at the north side of Blackfriars Bridge tomorrow morning at five-thirty. You know the car park there? Third floor. Perhaps I shall see you there?”
The man nodded.
Gennady put out his hand.
“And if I don’t, then I will say now, I am pleased to have finally met my nephew’s most unlikely friend.”
The man returned the firm handshake.
“Likewise, Comrade Lebedev. Sometimes your worst enemies can be your best friends, and sometimes, it’s the other way round. You know what I mean?”
“All too well, Comrade Bodie. All too well.”
Doyle had spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening chasing his tail. Following his orders to trail Bodie by checking out his old haunts and mates, only demonstrated how little he knew about the man he had called his partner. Oh, there were pubs he’d gone to with Bodie, ones that Bodie had said were his favourites, but, with the exception of Derek’s boozer, there were none that Bodie in fact visited that often, and Derek claimed he had seen neither hide nor hair.
Then there were Bodie’s friends, or lack of them. Oh, yes, Bodie had talked about his mates and his contacts, but the trouble with soldiers and mercenaries was they were seldom in town when you wanted them. Even then, should Doyle actually remember where to find them, they certainly didn’t want to be found, apparently preferring to remain just as shadowy as Bodie’s deliberately shadowy past.
Finally there were the girl-friends. He remembered quite a few of those, mainly because they were the ones he’d tried to pinch, or they had made a particularly generous impression at the time. But where he could track them down, they were, in general, polite but firm. No, they hadn’t seen him; yes, it had all ended, thank you and goodbye. The exception to this involved the lady in question throwing something at the mention of Bodie’s name. Doyle had judged the reaction genuine, and had hightailed it.
The overall experience was exceedingly dispiriting. This was a man upon whom he relied to keep him safe in difficult situations – who had, in fact, kept him safe - and with whom he spent the major portion of his waking life. CI5 work being what it was, off-duty and on-duty tended to blur together until not having Bodie beside him had become an exceptional situation, not the rule - not that he had noticed this until now. And apart from the predominantly salacious stories with which Bodie had regaled him, and which Doyle had automatically written off as exaggeration, he had no information with which to get a sense of the real man.
And yet, despite the impression that Bodie was going all-out to give people at that moment, Doyle still felt convinced that there was more to his partner’s behaviour than met the eye. For all his ruthless past and pragmatic ways, Bodie had certain core values that were immovable. Loyalty played a big part in his moral code, Doyle was sure. His current actions were out of character, unless one found another explanation. The only one that Doyle felt held water was that Bodie had judged that the existence of the disk would be better guaranteed if he went to ground. It was the explanation he’d tried on Cowley, to zero acclaim, but that didn’t stop him feeling that, at base, it was correct.
Nevertheless, these finer feelings were easily trumped by the sour sense of disappointment that Bodie had chosen to go it alone, rather than share his concerns with his partner. That sourness was with him when he crawled back into CI5 at almost half past eight to see Dottie. He found her sitting on the edge of her desk, handbag in hand, clearly ready to leave the premises.
“Am I late?” he offered by way of apology. Dottie gave him a wry look and reached over the desk to pick up a small package, which she handed to him.
“Some of us have lives to go to. Look, this is the receiver. Just put it on the dashboard. It’s got a radius of two miles. The bug itself is magnetic, so you can put it on a vehicle if you want, or you can just slip it into clothing – whatever you choose, really. It’s got a life of about three days, so don’t mess around.”
“Three days,” repeated Doyle heavily, his head suddenly feeling worse than before. “We don’t have three days.” Dottie looked at him with concern.
“When did you last eat, Ray? Or sleep? Go home now, get some rest and start this tomorrow. Otherwise, you’ll keel over.”
He gave her a wan smile.
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“Good. Hop it then and don’t take any more Disprin tonight. You’ll need a stomach pump soon.” She grabbed her bag and jumped off the table. Doyle stood there, looking at the contents of the package as if in a dream.
“I don’t suppose you could lend me a little camera?”
He had to talk to Cowley before he went home, but that was easier said than done. Betty was just about to leave after what had clearly been a difficult day, and regarded Doyle’s last-minute arrival on the third floor with undisguised irritation.
“I’ve not seen him for hours,” she snapped before he’d even had a chance to open his mouth. “He’s been refusing to take calls, off somewhere in Whitehall, and I’ve been fielding every man and his dog who’s been after him. There’s a pile of messages a foot high on his desk. You can leave yours there.”
Doyle grabbed a notepad and a biro, and went into Cowley’s office, brushing aside the admittedly quite significant bunch of telephone messages so that he could scribble his own contribution. It was a fairly short note, written in large capital letters, summarizing what he suspected about Hilary Wentworth, aka Neff. He then ripped off the sheet of paper and placed it squarely on the centre of the desk, with the intention it should be the first thing Cowley saw on his return.
He was getting up to leave when he saw the message on the top of the existing pile:
‘Colonel Lebedev Soviet Embassy called 8.45pm. Please ring back. Urgent.’
Doyle frowned at that; the Soviets contacting Cowley? Did that mean they had the disk and wanted to broker a deal with a bit of blackmail on the side? He shook his head; no point trying to work that out now. He needed sleep, just as Dottie had said, before his poor brain could perform any further acts of derring-do like solving a puzzle.
He wasn’t so brain-addled, though, that, on reaching his flat, he couldn’t spot that someone had been at the locks. Expertly, too; the door had been opened, the alarm unset and then everything put back in its place.
Cursing MI6 under his breath, he drew his gun, unset the alarm, and moved stealthily down the hall towards the lounge. Most likely they’d buggered off, but there wasn’t such a thing as being too careful after the events of the past 24 hours.
The lounge was in darkness. Pausing at the edge of the doorway, he held his breath, trying to detect any sense of another person, or persons, in the room, then lifted his hand to the light switch. But before he could flick it on, a lamp clicked at the far end of the room. In the pool of light it created, sitting in his favourite armchair, bold as brass, was Bodie.
Doyle brought the gun up right away, training it on the other man; Bodie lifted his hands as if to say: ‘Unarmed here, mate,’ and got up from the chair.
“Stay right where you are, Bodie. I’ve got a million reasons to shoot you, you bastard.”
Bodie’s lazy smile emerged, enfuriatingly.
“’Cept then, you wouldn’t know where the disk was, would you?”
“I’d take a chance on that. I’m serious, Bodie. You’re on borrowed time with me. What the hell are you here for?”
“Wanted to see how you were.”
“Oh, that’s rich, that is! You got a nerve, Bodie! You weren’t so concerned when you knocked me over the head. No, don’t come any closer…”
“Can’t see from here, can I?” said Bodie, ignoring Doyle’s warning. “Put the gun down, Ray, you aren’t going to shoot me.”
“You want to bet?”
They stared at each other for a few moments, then Bodie raised an eyebrow. As if that was his signal to comply, Doyle wearily un-cocked the gun.
“All right, but so help me, Bodie, you try anything now and it’ll be the last time you do.”
Bodie shrugged slightly and moved forward some more, regarding Doyle intently.
“You okay, Ray? How’s your head?”
“Just lovely, thanks. I should try it more often.”
Bodie had his head on one side.
“The quack check you out for concussion?”
“Sod off, Bodie. You aren’t shining any lights in my eyes. You forfeited the right to be all caring when you walloped me.”
“Only asking. Did they check you properly?”
Doyle didn’t answer, and simply glowered back, hardly trusting himself to speak. The bloody cheek of the man! Waltzing in there, acting like he’d never destroyed their partnership…
“It’s just… well, there are few more bruises on your phizzog that weren’t there this morning. I didn’t give you those.”
Doyle automatically brought his hand up and rubbed his cheek.
“Yeah, well, I had a little conversation with our friends in Six, didn’t I? So, as a matter of fact you are responsible because if you hadn’t sodded off with that disk, I wouldn’t have been bushwhacked. What did you do it for, Bodie? Why’d you run off?”
“Had my reasons.”
“Reasons you couldn’t have told me about? Reasons you couldn’t have trusted me with? Have you gone bad, Bodie? Turned traitor?”
Bodie visibly bristled.
“Who says I have?”
“Only about everyone in London. But I don’t care about them. I care about why you never talked to me. You saying you aren’t a traitor? Why did you take it, then?”
“I can’t go into this now, Ray...”
“I’m your partner, for crissakes!”
Bodie’s nostrils flared with sudden anger.
“Yeah? See, I wasn’t too sure where you stood. ‘Cos lately all I’ve been conscious of is you in my face all the time, checking up on me, following me around. Not puppy-love, I know. You being a good boy-scout, Doyle? Got special orders from Father, did you?”
“I never…” started Doyle, then his shoulders slumped. “Look, Bodie, Cowley had me checking a few things, yes. Didn’t like doing it – told him so - but I went along, in the interests of the organisation and all that crap. I’m sorry, all right. But that’s not being a traitor to my country.”
“It’s betrayal in my book, Doyle. It’s not the way partners operate, in my book!”
“I said I’m sorry…”
“And that makes it all right, then, does it? Don’t call me a traitor!”
“If you’re not, then tell me what you’re doing!”
Bodie let out a long breath.
“I can’t tell you, all right? Not now. Just… stop prying, Doyle. Something bad’s going to happen if you carry on.”
“Well, thank you, Gypsy Petulengro! Any more helpful predictions? Of course something bad’s going to happen, Bodie! You’ve got all the security services in London after you - ours and theirs! It’s a good bet someone’s going to die in a hail of bullets fairly soon. So stop the lone wolf act!”
“Just stop poking into it, Doyle. It’s not your problem. Stay away from me.” Bodie moved to pass around Doyle and leave, but Doyle caught his arm and held on.
“ ‘Stay away’? You stupid bastard, what do you think’s going on? What do you think my orders are? Cowley wants you dead, and me to do it!”
Bodie froze for a moment. They looked hard into each other’s eyes; Doyle was determined not to blink first.
“Well, well, does he, now?” said Bodie, after a breath. “That’s a turn-up for the books, and no mistake.”
“Bodie, I’m doing what I can to keep him and everyone else off your back, but I can’t do it alone. You have to cooperate. I’ll help you if you can just tell me what you’re trying to do!”
“What, and me a traitor?” The lazy sarcasm was back.
“No, I don’t believe that. I don’t believe you would be.”
Bodie shook himself free, and made for the door.
“Stay out of it, Doyle. Look after yourself. I’m fine.”
“You idiot! You aren’t fine! You’re very far from fine! Don’t you understand that?”
Bodie didn’t turn around. Doyle heard the outer door click shut again. He moved to the window to check the street but there was no sign of Bodie – of course there wouldn’t be. Aimlessly, he went back to the armchair and saw that Bodie had been helping himself to his scotch as well. Doyle stared at the bottle for a few moments, then picked it up and with cold precision threw it at the wall opposite, feeling absolutely no gratification as it shattered and showered the room with its glittering fragments.
Just before five-thirty, and the summer morn had already been on the go for over an hour. Bodie made his way along Upper Thames Street, through the dark underpasses by the Mermaid Theatre, and into the concrete hulk that was the NCP car park, as unlovely a structure as any of its 60s-built fellows at Blackfriars. The City of London seemed unusually quiet, even for the early morning, until Bodie remembered that it was, in fact, a Saturday. He sighed: the past thirty hours or so had been a blur and he was getting extremely weary. And also extremely hot; the new day promised to be another scorcher, and he greeted that news with a grudging stoicism.
He didn’t have long to wait before he heard the squeal of tyres at the entry, and a moment later the same black Ford he had been sitting in the day before came swinging up the ramp from the floor below. It drew up a little way from him, close to some other cars that had been left there overnight; maintaining cover should things go wrong, thought Bodie approvingly.
He could see his crisp-eating friends in the front seats, and gave them a salute. They looked back stonily. Then the one on the passenger side got out and gave the area a once-over. Only then did he give a signal to the other occupant of the car. The rear door opened and Gennady Lebedev got out. He leaned on the open door for a moment, looking weary, and gave Bodie a tired smile.
Summer sunshine was streaming in through the open section of the car-park’s walls on the south side. Gennady gestured towards it.
“Let’s take a look at the river, shall we?”
He walked towards the far wall, and Bodie joined him there.
“I see you’ve bought Abbott and Costello with you again.”
“What? Oh, I see. Yes, they are not among the brightest stars in the KGB’s firmament, but they are unfailingly loyal. That is a quality I value very highly. I suspect you feel the same way.”
“My main loyalty is to myself, Gennady. Keeping me alive.”
Gennady looked at him appraisingly.
“I think you like to put people off the scent, yes? Tell them you have no care for anything other than yourself? But that’s not true, in fact.”
“All very fascinating, I’m sure. Do you have anything for me?”
Gennady looked out over the river.
“I am very fond of London. I’ve been here a number of years now, and I shall be sad to leave it. Yes, you see, Bodie, I have come to the end of my posting here. I have to return to Moscow, very soon – a couple of weeks, in fact – in theory to take up an even more senior post. There has been talk of Washington. But at the moment it is all uncertain. Dangerously so.”
Bodie frowned. “You’re in danger? Why? Because I stole the disk?”
“The timing of the theft is quite unfortunate. But it’s not in fact your fault. Certain factors are currently seeding stories amongst the radio traffic we routinely pick up that the data theft, not just this disk but the whole process, has been a Soviet enterprise. That would please my masters in Moscow very much, if it were not for the fact that these stories are convincing them that I personally have acquired the stolen data, and am aiming to feather my own nest with it.”
Gennady turned away from the river and leaned against the coping.
“I am very concerned to be returning to Moscow in such an atmosphere. It’s exactly what our adversaries – yours and mine - want. They have been aiming to implicate the Soviet Union in the data theft to divert attention from themselves. And whilst the Soviet Union might like to have the acclaim of succeeding in such a coup, for me personally it will almost certainly to lead to disgrace and probably execution, as it will be very difficult indeed to prove that I did not, in fact, obtain the merchandise. Those who have it will aim to keep extremely quiet about their achievements. When the truth comes out, as I am sure it will do at some point, it will be far too late for me.”
Bodie made a face.
“Quite. Bodie, there are people within British Intelligence who are working against their own country, and dealing with a foreign power to sell this secret data. Normally, that is stock-in-trade for us in the Intelligence community, of course, but I have no heart to see this particular enterprise succeed. Now, I have thought hard about this. I greatly respect your employer. George Cowley is a shrewd man; I would say he is almost Russian, such is his capacity to construct complicated and successful stratagems. I also believe him to be an honourable man. I think he will want to expose the people behind this theft, and I would be content to assist him. It will, in fact, not do the Soviet Union any good to be thought to have such data if we cannot in fact use it – my masters will realise that, sooner or later. And speaking personally, Mr Cowley’s quest might offer a way out of an awkwardness that could have fatal consequences for me.”
Gennady pulled a folded piece of paper from his inside jacket pocket and passed it to Bodie. It was a photograph, clearly taken with a long lens on surveillance, of a heavy-set individual with greying hair and a florid complexion.
“This is Robert Hinxman, a senior CIA staffer in Britain at the moment. Our routine observations of our colleagues and adversaries in the little world of Intelligence here in London have shown that he has been very frequently seen meeting people who play, or who have played, a vital part in the data theft. I suspect that he, either as an individual or as a representative of his country, is the buyer of these secrets, and he will be looking for the disk right now. I suggest that you focus your attention on him. Whether you want to make a sale, or if in fact you want to help George Cowley, and me, then I hope you will use this information wisely to get to the heart of the matter.”
Bodie studied the picture intently for a moment, his lips compressed, then folded it again and slipped in into his pocket.
“Thanks. Thanks a lot. I’m in your debt.”
Gennady smiled sadly.
“I think perhaps Pavel thought he was in your debt. So we have maybe balanced the books.”
Bodie shook his head.
“If he thought that, he was wrong, Gennady. We saved each other out there.”
“Even so, that is what friends do, yes?” He put out his hand and Bodie took it. “And for that reason, let me say that your friend needs to watch out. He, too, is following the right trail, though a different one to yours, but that trail is dangerous for him.”
Bodie watched as Gennady went back to the car, and he waved as the man disappeared inside. The car drew away smoothly, but then suddenly took a loop and came towards where Bodie stood. It stopped opposite him, the engine idling, and the passenger-side window was rolled down.
“Good luck, Englishman,” said Aleksei. Boris leaned over his partner to extend his hand through the open window. He was holding a pack of smoky bacon Golden Wonders. Bodie took them, amused and more than a little touched.
“Good luck, Englishman,” echoed Boris. The window rolled up again and the car moved forward to disappear down the exit ramp with a shriek of rubber and a flash of tail lights.
Just off Fleet Street, Bodie swapped his current vehicle, an Escort – nice car, clutch a bit sticky, though – for a grey Vauxhall. He thought it looked suitably nondescript. So far, the West End was as quiet as the City that morning, so he made good progress over to Grosvenor Square. He eschewed a parking place near the US Embassy itself, and instead drew up near some tall town houses at the other end of the square. Then he slid down in the seat until only a very curious passer-by might notice that the car actually had an occupant, and through half-lidded eyes he started his watch on the CIA London outpost.
It took getting on for a couple of hours, by which time he was uncomfortably hot, his back was stiff and his stomach was growling continually. The crisps were long gone, and the packet of Polos he’d found in the glove compartment hadn’t gone far in dealing with his growing hunger. Then, just after half-past seven, the dark blue door of the one of the buildings opened and the man in Gennady’s photo came out, a jacket slung over his arm in deference to the warm morning. He was followed by two others, the last shutting the door firmly. The three immediately put on sunglasses, and Bodie had to bite his lip to stop himself laughing out loud.
They got into a silver Mercedes parked outside… Bloody hell, thought Bodie, No security check, no preliminaries… and made off through the quiet streets, giving no sign its occupants had noticed the nondescript grey Vauxhall that followed in their wake.
“Eh? Doyle? What the hell are you doing here? Get out of my way, man.”
“Sorry to catch you at home so early, sir. Just wondered whether you had any more information yet on Miller’s death?”
“For God’s sake, CI5 are like a dog with a bone! It’ll be with you when it’s ready, Doyle! I’ve already told Cowley that! I have also already told him that it’s really of no consequence to your investigation how the man died.”
“But sir, it’s got to be important…”
“Spare me your ex-policing homilies, Doyle. Just get on with the task in hand, which is tracking down that disk and your erstwhile partner. I’m very disappointed with the results so far. He’s already been spotted hobnobbing with the Soviets. He should have been eliminated before that happened.”
“You sure about that, sir? About the Soviets, I mean?”
“Don’t you get briefed by your superior, Doyle? Now, get out of my way!”
“Yes, sir, will do. Just checking, you know…”
“Get out of here, Doyle!”
“Let me get that door for you, sir?”
“What? Stop that, man! I can open my own door! Don’t be facetious!”
“Me, sir? Wouldn’t dream of it, honest. Have a nice day now, all right?”
The Daimler took off. Doyle gave it a jaunty wave, went back to the Capri and switched on the transponder. A happy beeping sound filled the car and the small screen lit up. He smiled: bless Dottie’s little cotton socks. Tailing Mexborough without a tracker would have been too risky – Doyle was a known quantity now around MI6. But the tracker’s working parameters of two miles were quite enough to allow him to follow the MI6 colonel wherever he was going.
Doyle followed him right out into Surbiton, to a quiet, leafy street lined with gracious Victorian villas, all with their own sizeable garden, and still quiet and empty; its residents were no doubt taking advantage of a Saturday morning lie-in. The tracker indicated that the Daimler was now behind the high stone wall of one of these residences, and a couple of passes were enough to give him a glimpse of the vehicle parked on a wide gravel driveway in front of high windows.
Doyle parked and wandered past on foot. The garden itself was secured by a tall wrought-iron gate, securely locked. Too obvious to make an approach that way, he judged; he would have to see what the rest of the wall afforded by way of an entry point. He followed the perimeter, ducking under fragrant branches of Mock-Orange and heavy limbs of rhododendron that were overhanging from the garden, until he spotted a section with enough gaps in the pointing to offer a few toe-holds. With a quick look around to check whether there were any twitching net curtains in sight – too classy a neighbourhood for nets, he concluded wryly – he slung the camera over his shoulder, ducked under some more vegetation and started to climb.
He landed amongst more thick rhododendrons. It was dim and damp underfoot, and the foliage was dark and thick enough, he felt, to offer him pretty good concealment. Moving forward, he studied the house which looked the epitome of a Home Counties vicarage, with tall, stone-framed windows and a short flight of steps leading up to the heavy front door.
There were no obvious security devices or electronic surveillance stuff that he could see; this was either a seldom-used MI6 safe house or something connected to Mexborough personally. The Daimler was parked just in front of one set of windows, behind which he could see a flicker of movement. There was nothing else to indicate any occupants at the other windows, so he dodged under some more branches, took a wide sweep through the shrubbery, and then, crouching low, made a quick dash to the space between the car and the house. It was then just a quick shuffle to the flowerbed in front of the window where he had seen the movement, and he concealed himself behind the broad foliage of the hydrangeas planted there.
As the next half-hour dragged onwards, he increasingly doubted his choice of location; there was nothing happening in the room behind the window, as far as he could tell, other than the rustle of papers from time to time, and the sound of someone pacing. Then, just before half-past eight, a silver Mercedes appeared at the gate and hooted its horn. Mexborough emerged from the front door - ah, thought Doyle, no one else there, then - and walked to the gate to let the car in.
Doyle lifted the camera and started snapping as the car came clearly into view. He kept on clicking as its occupants emerged - all three stocky and suntanned, and wearing sunglasses. Mexborough, though, spoke only to the burliest of the three, and Doyle guessed that he was the bloke in charge. He couldn’t hear their brief exchanges, but as the men went up the steps, the burly boss turned to his colleagues.
“For crissakes get to the kitchen and get some coffee brewing.”
Then all four disappeared inside the house, and Doyle waited to see whether anyone would turn up in the room above the window. A few moments later, his prayers were answered as he heard footsteps on a wooden floor growing closer, and then voices. One - he guessed, the boss-man - was clearly American.
“I’m not happy about this meeting, Charles. Contact was supposed to be kept to the bare minimum and there’s been too much you’ve needed to talk to me about these past two days.” The voice, gravelly and irritated, continued. “Things get noticed. Jesus, I even got a five a.m. call from Langley this morning, checking up on my current cases. ‘Current cases’, my ass! They’re unhappy, I can tell.”
“I wouldn’t have asked you to meet unless I felt it absolutely imperative,” came Mexborough’s clipped tones, sounding edgy and equally irate. “Some factors are becoming more insistent, and hence dealing with them, more pressing.”
"Speak English, for crissakes! You telling me we got more problems now? Look, I’m done with all this messing around, Charles. Where the hell is that disk? I’ve got a timetable to stick to!”
“I regret to say we are not yet in possession of the disk, but I wanted to make you aware that the Soviets are getting very interested. It’s taking more and more time to work around them. Look, I have those photographs here. Our mutual friend managed to get hold of the stupid fool’s toy camera. You can see the KBG boys in the picture. Spot them? At the back, behind you and Miller.”
“Goddammit. Not that the Soviets are a surprise, but if Langley gets wind of this via another route then things will get really difficult. These are the only photos, yeah?”
There was a pause for a moment, the American clearly pondering his next move, then he finally spoke.
“Okay,” he said, heavily, “I’ll watch the Soviets. Don’t worry about them. I’ll run some more interference. As far as I can tell, they haven’t yet made any attempt to source the disk on the Black Market or anywhere else. But CI5 is more of a problem, because I’m pretty sure Cowley has got your number.”
“I’m working hard to get him off the track. Yes, I agree, he knows more than he’s letting on. But he’s got no evidence, and without that, we’re clear.”
“Then we better make sure he never gets that evidence, right?” snapped back the big American. “It’s a nasty loose end and it needs to be tied off. Cauterised, you get my meaning? Cowley’s still got his guy on the case, yeah? So, get hold of him, question him! Find out what Cowley knows, then get rid of him. And I expect you to dispose of the runner as well by the end of this. Jesus Christ! Why is this simple job taking you so long? You got all of British Intelligence to work with, for crissakes!”
“I am already having that man watched.”
“Enough with the watching! Get your men after him, after them both. I want a result by the end of the day, Charles. No joking, this needs to be wound up and I need my merchandise. Our business is at a critical stage here. None of it works without that last disk, and I don’t need to remind you, do I, that you won’t get paid unless I get it! Now, where the hell is that coffee? I hope you got some food in this stately pile. We all missed breakfast on account of Langley, and now you.”
Doyle heard them leave, their footsteps echoing in the high-ceilinged room, then he inched up to the level of the window and saw a packet – he assumed the photographs - tantalisingly on the table. He bit his lip; this was the mother-lode. Colin’s photographs would identify not only the MI6 rat but also the identity of whoever was the recipient of the packages of data.
He considered the risk of entering the house to get them. Mexborough was unlikely to leave them there when he left, so Doyle needed to get copies of them before the men returned. If he got caught, Doyle could tackle Mexborough alone - one-on-one was acceptable odds, especially with a bureaucrat like Mexborough - but taking a key player out of the picture before Cowley could unravel the whole conspiracy was not an acceptable strategy. If he got caught by the Yanks, then he didn’t rate his chances of getting out alive too highly.
He sighed. Taking out his knife again, he climbed onto the sill and slid the blade along the cross-bar, twisting the old lock aside. The window slid up and Doyle slipped into the room. He opened the folder, his eyes focused the desk but his ears tuned to the muffled sounds from the kitchen, and tipped the photos out, spreading them onto the desk.
They weren’t great quality. They were very similar shots of people sitting at tables in a pub, or standing chatting, and most of the snaps were of one particular table and its occupants. But aesthetic appreciation aside, they were more than adequate for Doyle’s, and Cowley’s, purposes. Doyle opened his camera and took hurried shots of each of Colin’s photos, grateful for the strong light now coming in through the elegant windows. He had almost finished when there was a sudden scraping noise – chairs on a wooden floor – from the rear of the house, then voices, getting louder.
Oh, bugger. They were coming back.
Doyle felt the familiar rush, a mixture of pure fear and intense excitement. He thrust the photos back in their folder, slung the camera across his neck and made for the window.
“… and I want those photographs destroyed, here and now…” - the American’s harsh voice was coming from the corridor directly outside the room.
Too late to jump, too late….
His handgun was out, his eyes scanning for a hiding place, when there was the distant sound of shattering glass, and shouts from the rear of the house. Footsteps skidded and scuffled in the corridor outside, as two men went running back towards the noise.
Doyle did not stop to consider what the hell had just happened. He jumped over the sill, pulled the window down behind him and ran, crouching, back through the rhododendrons and over the wall. His heart didn’t stop beating triple-time until he was threading the Capri through growing Saturday traffic on the South Circular and heading back towards Town.
“Major Cowley, I am trying to be as cooperative as possible, I assure you, but I simply can’t answer your questions. We no longer have Mr Grange’s body, and even if we did, I’m not sure I’m at liberty to let you have any information about it.”
Cowley paced to the door of the Doctor’s office and then back again, working hard at keeping his temper at bay.
“I’ve explained, Dr Daniels. CI5 has full powers for obtaining information without any kind of warrant. I would only use that power in extremis, but this occasion is just that. It’s vitally important I find out more about Colin Grange’s death. I have complete authority in this matter – you can ring the Minister if you like. I’ll give you his number.”
Dr Daniels threw down the pen with which he had been nervously playing.
“Out here in leafy Buckinghamshire we don’t tend to get the high security cases you are used to dealing with, so our experience of the security services is not a daily occurrence. But I don’t like being pushed around, Major Cowley! However high your authority comes from, I can tell you that our Bursar will fight it tooth and nail. This is a hospital! For healing people! Its priority is not criminal investigations. I take very great exception to the way we have been treated.”
Cowley paused in his pacing and looked intently at the man across the desk.
“You’ve been threatened, I take it?”
Dr Daniels averted his eyes and picked his pen up again, to tap it repeatedly on his blotter.
“Was this MI6?” persisted Cowley. “A man called Miller, or maybe Mexborough?”
“Don’t you people talk to each other?” muttered the doctor irritably. Cowley changed his tack.
“Doctor, I’m very sorry if that has happened. Very sorry indeed, and very angry, too. I’m going to confide in you, if I may. The men who have been threatening you - who took Grange’s body – they are not in fact not acting with the best interests of Britain at heart. We are dealing with very dangerous and corrupt men – traitors, in fact.”
“And you wonder why I’m worried?” spat the doctor.
“Please help me, Dr Daniels. Just anything you feel you can tell me. I don’t need records, I don’t need hard evidence. Just what you know.”
The man looked at Cowley warily.
“You realise that we no longer have the body. These men took it almost immediately. Our mortuary team were over-run. The pathologist had no time to start the post mortem, let alone complete it. They took the body and all the paperwork we had already filled in. From the point of view of hospital records, Mr Grange was never brought here.”
“And all his effects?”
“Oh yes, they took them, though there was nothing other than his clothes, as I recall.”
“A camera? I didn’t hear anyone on the staff mention that…”
“We believe he had a camera on him, one that could hold some very important information for this case. Is there anywhere it could have been left? Or where someone could have got to it before your team had a chance to remove his clothes?”
“Well, it was very chaotic in Emergency at that point. We tried to revive him, of course, but I was clear myself that he was already dead and there was nothing we could do to help him. Then the young woman who came in with him burst into the treatment room, right through the staff outside, yelling that your operative – Mr Doyle? – had been attacked and that we needed to save him. She was pretty hysterical. Then she threw herself onto Grange’s body, sobbing. It took several of us to prise her off him. Very sad. Then she calmed down, but we gave her a little pill to take, nonetheless... Then, after that, his clothes would have been removed and kept in a bag near the body. It was all taken down to the mortuary.”
“Did anyone check the bag at that point?”
“It would have been inventoried, yes. I don’t recall anyone mentioning anything other than clothes, shoes, belt, and so on. Anyway, your Mr Doyle said someone would be out to talk to us about the PM, but no sooner had he left, we were invaded by this man Miller and his team, like one of the plagues of Egypt. They were here so quickly, you would have thought they’d been hanging around outside! They took everything, and made some very direct threats to me and my immediate staff. We were not to say anything at all about what had happened, on pain of… etcetera, etcetera. Now, we all here understand the Official Secrets Act and so on, but this was very direct. Explicit, shall we say. It rattled me, I admit.”
“Doctor, this has all been most helpful and I am extremely grateful to you. I must just ask you one last question.”
Dr Daniels looked up at Cowley, still clearly nervous.
“As a medical man - and I appreciate that a post mortem examination had not been carried out – as a medical man, to what would you attribute Mr Grange’s death?”
The doctor frowned.
“It’s a little difficult to disentangle. I would say that the immediate cause was massive heart failure. The condition of the body, in my judgment, indicated that. But what caused it? Again, there were things about the body – the skin, the eyes and so on – that made me think that the cardiac arrest had been brought on by something introduced into the bloodstream.”
“Like a poison?”
“Exactly. I couldn’t hazard a guess as to which, but yes, some kind of poison.”
Doyle’s report had been detailed in the extreme – Cowley had seen to that. One of the results was that he now had an exact recount of the route Bodie had taken to Wycombe General, and he followed it as closely as possible on his way out to Watkins’ Farm. Once off the main roads, the lanes got narrower and more tortuous, and he smiled wryly at the mental image of Bodie thrashing the Dolomite through that rural maze.
A few miles from the farm, he turned a corner and slowed to manoeuvre past four boys with their bicycles, who were scrabbling excitedly by the verge. Looking more closely as he passed, he noted some debris on the ground indicative of a collision, or similar damage to a motor vehicle. He pulled the car over against the hedge and got out. The boys straightened up and looked at him warily.
“What have you there, boys?”
The boys looked at each other.
“Nothing, mister,” said one, rapidly shoving something in his pocket.
Cowley smiled in what he hoped was a friendly way and went over to where they were standing. He crouched down to look at the ground, and almost immediately saw what they had been hunting – spent shell cases from a handgun. He picked one up and held it to the light.
“Well, well, what have we here, boys? Have you found a few of these, then?”
“They ahn’t nothin’,” said the one who had spoken first, clearly the ringleader; the others stood by in mute wariness. “They were just there, we ahn’t stolen them or nothin’…”
“No, indeed, I’m not saying you have. But I applaud your keen sight, lads. You’d make good police officers, one day.”
“You a copper, then?” the boy asked.
“A sort of copper, yes,” smiled Cowley. “Shall I tell you what these are?”
“Bullets!” burst out one of the other boys, who then immediately clapped his hand over his mouth and went pale.
“Quite right. They are bullets, but these are a special kind of bullet. They are Russian-made. Did you know that?”
The boys all shook their heads at varying degrees of speed, in wide-eyed awe. Cowley straightened up.
“Would you help me, lads? I want these taken into High Wycombe. All you can find, right? Here’s a fiver now, and there’ll be another reward when you hand them in. Can you get into town?”
Three faces looked expectantly at their leader, who spoke up again.
“We can get the bus.”
“Good. Collect all you can, the bits of plastic as well. Do you have a bag? Oh, good, that’ll do nicely. Put them all in there and then take them to High Wycombe Police Station. Tell them Major Cowley of CI5 sent you. They’ll be expecting you.”
The eyes got even wider.
“CI5?” they breathed, as one.
“Off you go! Make sure you get them all, now!”
As Cowley pulled away, he could see in the mirror four small figures combing the ground expertly. He reached for the radio transmitter to put the call through to the Bucks constabulary, and smiled for the first time in days.
A short while after his encounter with the youngsters, he took the gentle hill down to Watkins’ Farm. The buildings stood sleepy and quiet in the summer morning.
He parked in the farmyard and got out, looking about him cautiously, and was just about to start to poke around when the sound of a revving engine caught his attention. He turned, to see a Landrover approaching at speed down the hill. The vehicle drew up and a ruddy-faced young man in corduroys jumped out and hurried towards him, hand outstretched.
“Mr Murray? James Paterson, land agent! I’m so sorry I’m late. Little problem with a tractor. I hope you haven’t started without me! Where would you like to look first, now I’m here?”
Cowley put up a hand.
“I’m sorry, I think there’s been some misunderstanding. My name isn’t Murray.”
“Oh, so you’ve not come to look at the property?” The young man looked puzzled.
“Well,” extemporised Cowley, “I was looking in the area. I had heard a rumour this farm was on the market. I saw no signs up, though.”
“We’ve just had the notification to act. No time yet to put them up. Have you spoken to our office?”
“I’ve spoken to so many agents I’ve lost track,” smiled Cowley, noting with wry amusement the double meaning of his own words. “I was under the impression that the gentleman who ran this farm is recently deceased. I heard from his relatives, you see. So I thought I would come and have a look.”
The young man frowned.
“Well, you are more than welcome. How useful I was scheduled to be here, though I have no idea what’s happened to Mr Murray. But I’m afraid you aren’t quite correct, Mr…er…?”
“Fox. George Fox.”
“… Mr Fox. The land here has been owned by an agricultural conglomerate for many years now, and rented out to local farmers. We are acting for them in the rental of the farmhouse only. We literally just heard that the previous occupants have skipped. No forwarding address, back rent owing - you know the story. One of the tenant farmers rang this morning to say it looked like it was vacant. And then, lo and behold, this Mr Murray rings out of the blue and asks if it was for rent. So I’ve come down here to meet him…”
His voice tailed off; his eyes had drifted to a point over Cowley’s shoulder. Cowley turned to look in that direction. The front door was clearly ajar.
“Dammit!” groaned Paterson. “Has there been a break-in?”
The traffic turned out to be so bad that a fuming Doyle didn’t get back to CI5 until late morning. Just north of the river, he stopped by a phone box and called Dottie at home, it being her day-off, to drag her back in. Her response was less than enthusiastic, so he promised her lunch, and then, having replaced the grimy receiver, called into a nearby health-food café, all earnest posters in the window and rustic brown paintwork, to get some acceptable fare.
Headquarters was fairly empty, as it was a Saturday, and there was surprisingly little on the books. Cowley himself was out, though Betty was in her room, getting work done ‘in the quiet’, she said darkly. Downstairs, also quiet as not many technicians worked weekends, they easily found an unoccupied dark room. Doyle dumped his parcels on the table and produced the camera.
“You’re good at this, yeah? Developing film?”
“Child’s play,” snorted Dottie. “I’ll teach you.” She carefully opened the film canister, Doyle watching her intently, and got the process under way, mixing chemicals quietly and methodically. The red light brought back Doyle’s headache and the minutes dragged on. Eventually the leaves of acetate were swimming in their little baths.
“Will you stop drumming your fingers? It won’t make it go any faster, you know.”
“Sorry, Dot. How much longer?”
“A couple of hours for printing…”
“A couple of hours?”
“You won’t be able to see the images properly until them. The quality isn’t good enough with lots of them.”
“If you feel like that, perhaps you should have taken them to Boots.”
“Sorry, Dot. It’s just… “
“Yeah, okay, I know. You’re worried. Look, why don’t you go and find something to do? Raid Cowley’s office, or get my lunch.”
“I got you lunch! This is it!”
Doyle pointed at the slightly oozing packages on the workbench, and Dottie poked them gingerly with a finger.
“Humous, and alfalfa salad.”
Doyle had to admit that, in the eerie lighting of the dark room, the food took on an ominous glow.
“Raymond, when a bloke promises a girl lunch, even if it’s a working lunch, then she’d be expecting smoked salmon, at least!”
So Doyle had to kick his heels ungraciously for a further couple of hours until the pictures were ready. He ventured up to the third floor again. Betty was still there, still with that “touch me not, nor bother talking to me” look on her face. Against all the indicators, Doyle tried to charm his way into Cowley’s office. He quickly regretted the attempt.
“No, 4-5, I’m not letting you in there. It’s locked for a reason. Mr Cowley wants his papers kept just-so, and no one disturbing them, least of all clod-hopping, untidy oiks like you. So can you just go away, please? This week’s been difficult enough without you hanging around like a lost soul. Why don’t you go to the Zoo, or something?”
And exchange one monkey house for another… thought Doyle, doubting very much that the locked door was just to keep Cowley’s desk tidy. He decided not to press his luck, and so made some more tea, took some more Disprin, and went back to see Dottie and poke impatiently at the alfalfa.
Eventually the photos were ready. First, those from Surbiton; the individuals weren’t immediately recognizable, but Doyle had brought the files of known Intelligence faces down to the dark room to study, and quickly found the heavy-set man who had visited Mexborough. He was one Robert Hinxman, a senior CIA staffer in London for a number of years. His brief seemed to have some technology and industrial links that could mean he might be in contact with either Mexborough or Miller, but it was stretching a point for them to be clandestinely trading packages in a London boozer, which the photos from Colin’s camera clearly showed.
Many of Colin’s photos were of the same small table, with either Miller waiting on his own, or with Miller and Hinxman together. He scanned the background and spotted other faces that he found he could match up to some KGB operatives attached to the Soviet Embassy. So, the Russkies were watching the Yanks, who were watching the Brits….
“It’s pretty obvious from these that the CIA are working with the blokes from MI6,” said Doyle, staring at the photos, with Dottie hanging over his shoulder. “Colin was right, there’s a real conspiracy. I bet we can tie his death to these men as well. We need his post mortem report – that must surely be here by now - and anything that Cowley’s got.”
“Well, ask him!”
“I can’t. He wants me out looking for Bodie. I’ve been ordered off any other investigation. But I’m absolutely certain that Bodie’s not the problem. It’s these guys… “
His voice tailed off, suddenly conscious of his faux-pas, and looked over his shoulder to find Dottie frowning at him.
“And why should Bodie be a problem?”
“He’s got this disk you’re after, hasn’t he?” When Doyle didn’t answer directly, Dottie let out a sharp, exasperated sigh.
“That’s why I want to find out what Cowley’s working on,” persisted Doyle, selecting one of Colin’s photos and shoving it into his back pocket for future reference. “He thinks Bodie’s gone bad, but I just don’t…”
“No,” said Dottie quickly, “neither do I.”
“….which is why I need you to get into Cowley’s desk. Please, Dot…?”
“Me? And what happens to my job if I get caught?”
“What? Oh, sorry, Dot. I didn’t think.”
She gave him a pained look.
“No, you never do, do you? Oh, don’t look like that. I’m not that worried about getting the sack, to be honest. You get out of here, get looking for Bodie.”
“Thanks, Dottie.” He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’ll call you later to see what you’ve managed to get.”
“I’ll have to wait until Betty’s gone home, you realise?”
“Well, you weren’t doing anything else, were you?”
He could have sworn she showed him two fingers, but the gesture was fleeting. She turned back to the photos.
“Push off, then. Be careful, and…. Ray!”
Halfway to the door, he turned quickly at the tone of her voice.
“Look at this. In the background of the Surbiton pictures…”
Doyle squinted. There, in amongst the thick rhododendrons of the villa, shadowy and obscure and easily over-looked, lurked some familiar features.
“Bodie was there? Why?” Dottie’s voice was tight.
“I don’t know, Dot. Honest.” Doyle suddenly remembered the breaking glass that had allowed him time to escape. “Was he watching my back, was he watching the CIA…?” He shut his mouth quickly to stop the words getting out.
Was he waiting to make a deal? Oh god, Bodie, no…
Doyle got back in the Capri, feeling frustrated and helpless. He had no idea where he was going. He made some fruitless circuits: Bodie’s flat – pointless; Derek’s pub – pointless. He sat outside the Soviet Embassy for half an hour before being moved on – pointless. It was four-thirty; he was about to point the Capri in the direction of Surbiton again as a last resort when the RT squawked.
“4-5, a lady called Hilary Wentworth wants to meet you. Says it’s urgent.”
He pulled the car over and sat, tapping the receiver against his bottom lip in thought.
“4-5, did you receive that? What’s your response, please?”
“Yeah, sorry. Ask her the location.”
There was a pause, and then the radio crackled again.
“Millbank. She’s at the Tate Gallery – outside.”
He made a quick decision.
“Tell her okay, half an hour. Out.”
He jumped out of the Capri and went to a phone box. Dottie’s reaction was predictable.
“You must be mad! It’s Neff! She’s dangerous!”
“Look, if I don’t call you back by tonight, take all the photos to Cowley and tell him everything, okay?”
“I’m coming with you!”
“No! I need you there. Find that information about Grange – anything you can. I’ll ring you later!”
Dottie’s frustration and concern were practically vibrating down the phone-line.
“Oh, dammit! Where’s Bodie when you need him!”
“You saw the photo, Dot. Bodie’s on the wrong side.”
“I don’t believe that! You don’t really think that, do you?”
He paused, gripping the receiver tightly, biting his lip.
“Right now, I don’t know what I think.”
It was towards closing time at the Tate by the time he got there, and crowds of visitors were milling around, saying their goodbyes to friends, ambling back to the Tube, buying ice creams. Doyle saw Hilary sitting on the steps outside in a pretty summer sun-dress. She looked worried and deep in thought but, as soon as she spotted him, she jumped up and rushed over to him as he was walking towards the steps, grabbing his arm.
It was all a little too conspicuous for Doyle’s liking. He pulled her quickly away from the steps and into the shadow of the building.
“Ray!” She was breathless and wide-eyed. “I’m so pleased to see you!”
“What did you want, Hilary?” he asked non-committally, playing along with the charade. “You’re supposed to be tucked up at home, all safe, aren’t you?”
The worried look came back.
“I’m very nervous of those MI6 men.”
“Really? Do you think they were following you today?”
“Oh! I didn’t think about that! But I don’t think so. I haven’t seen them and I’ve been waiting here for a while. I was wondering, can we go and have a meal or something?”
Doyle shook his head impatiently.
“Look, Hilary, that’s a nice idea but I’m pretty busy. You said you had information about Colin. What is it?” Her face dropped.
“Oh, well, I remembered that Col had said one of the men had a green suede jacket on. And the other looked like a KGB colonel Colin had seen at some official function – a cultural attaché, but that’s a cover, of course.”
“Thanks. That it?”
“Sorry. I thought it might be useful for you.”
“Very useful, yes. Now, get home and stay there. Right?”
“Ray, I’m still so nervous. Ever so shaky. I know you’ve got things to do, but… do you think you could come back with me for a while, check out my flat for… I don’t know… bugs and stuff?”
Doyle gave her a bland smile.
“Why should there be bugs there, Hilary? Aren’t you just a secretary?”
“I don’t know, Ray... I just…. all right, I’ll be honest. I just wanted to see you, really.”
Doyle groaned inwardly. This was hardly a subtle ploy for getting him out of the picture.
“Hilary, go home. We’ll contact you later, all right?”
She gave him a bashful little smile.
“Walk me to my car?”
Betty was far too devoted to her job, thought Dottie as she hung around in the vacant rooms on the third floor waiting for Cowley’s secretary to pick up her bag and go home. It was close to five-thirty – and on a Saturday, too! – when Betty finally closed her typewriter, shuffled the last few papers and went out, closing the door behind her. Dottie waited mere seconds before she judged the coast to be clear, and let herself into Betty’s room.
Betty’s desk was immaculate; nothing to be found there. But it was Cowley’s office that was the target and, according to Doyle, it was locked. She verified that quite quickly, and looked round for inspiration, biting her lip.
It was her experience that, irrespective of the organisation, most people who wanted to conceal something in an office used pretty much the same hiding places. In quick succession she tried under the pot plants, in the sugar jar, in the box of paper clips, and then - classic of classics – underneath the pencil tray, where she found a key sellotaped securely. Naturally, it fitted the door to Cowley’s office.
Cowley’s desk was the complete opposite of Betty’s; the piles of paper and files were neat, but practically the whole surface was covered. Dottie started moving the piles around, trying to work out what each was concerned with, and thus where any medical reports might be lying. There were a lot of photocopies, she noted; much of the hoard related to a government department, the DSTI, and the CNRD, a body she had come across in college days.
Most of the photocopies seemed to be of file logs, attendance records, visitor books, and so on. Someone, presumably Cowley, had annotated the papers with circles and underlinings in red biro. Fully engrossed in spotting the common denominators identified by the circles, she didn’t sense a presence at the doorway. Only when a shadow fell across the paper she was reading, did she jump back in surprise.
And then stood up in alarm; George Cowley was facing her across the desk, his face implacable.
“Miss Bailey, I believe? I hope you have a staggeringly good reason for rifling through my papers in this way?”
For once, Dottie’s sang-froid forsook her.
“Doyle…” she started, then managed “post mortems!” and then “photographs…!”
Cowley’s expression didn’t change.
“And where is 4-5 at this moment?”
She finally got control of her voice.
“He’s with Neff! The idiot went to see Hilary Neff!”
Cowley reached for the telephone and handed her the receiver.
“Then I suggest you get him on the RT right way, Miss Bailey! He’s in serious trouble!”
Bodie’s frown deepened when he saw whom Doyle was meeting at the Tate, and his concern grew as she wheedled. He didn’t like the set-up at all; Doyle was too much of a sucker for a pretty face. What the hell was the man doing, running around after this one without even looking out for trouble? Just as well Bodie was watching his back - still. He relaxed slightly as he saw Doyle finally dismiss her, wave her off towards Vauxhall Bridge Road, and make his own way back to John Islip Street at the rear of the Tate, where the Capri was parked near the Chelsea Art School.
Bodie moved, too, keeping track of Doyle’s progress. He was already nicely positioned between Doyle and the car; far enough away from his partner – ex-partner – not to be noticed, but close enough to verify that the stupid git got back to his vehicle and away. Doyle was still walking towards the Capri when Bodie heard the familiar bleeping of the RT from the interior. Trust Doyle to have left it behind at a crucial point - Gordon Bennett, Ray, that’s basic, innit?
Then three men emerged from another parked car, making a rough circle around Doyle and barring his way. He heard Doyle’s weary voice.
“Oh, bloody hell, Chris Larter. Not you again!”
“You weren’t sensible, Doyle. You’ve been prying into Six stuff where you’ve no business to be. We have our orders. We need to take you in, so come quietly, there’s a good lad.”
“And interrogate me? Make me disappear? Is this Mexborough’s orders?”
Bodie tensed, ready to power out of his hiding place and onto the street.
“Doesn’t matter whose orders, mate. You’re coming with us.”
Doyle made a lightning turn, twisting away from the grasp of the men around him, but Larter’s mates were on him too quickly. They held him by the arms and smashed his head against the side of the nearest car. Doyle’s knees gave way and he slid down towards the tarmac, the men still holding him upright.
That was enough. Bodie started running from the other side of the street, pulling his handgun out of his holster. The men hauled Doyle up again, the one called Larter punching him hard in the small of the back for good measure, and then started dragging his weakly-struggling form the few yards to where their own car stood, its doors open. Bodie had levelled the gun, and was opening his mouth to shout a distraction - something to get the men to step back and away from Doyle so he could take a clear shot - when a beige Wolseley came careering around the corner, wrecking his aim and almost knocking him over. He stumbled back and fell awkwardly over the kerb.
The Wolseley screeched to a halt, scattering the three men; before they could regroup, Doyle was off the ground and into the back seat of the still-moving vehicle. Bodie hared back to the Vauxhall and leapt in, gunning the engine. The car leapt forward and he made for the parallel Herrick Street, aiming to cut into the Wolseley’s path further on and thus pick up its tail unobtrusively, but as he roared off down the quiet street, he automatically glanced behind him to gauge the competition. To his surprise, Doyle’s attackers had already got matter-of-factly back into their own car and were making off in the opposite direction.
“I need a drink. You really need a drink.”
Doyle drew the curtains and turned from the window where he had been watching the street. He touched his head and winced “And some painkillers.”
“I’ve got lots of first aid stuff. Anyway, here’s a scotch.”
He was astonished to see that she had already changed. She had shed the sundress and was in a fairly gauzy dressing gown. He blinked and screwed his eyes up against the glare of the lamp she switched on. He was in no fit state to be seduced by anyone, let alone a former MI6 operative with homicidal tendencies.
“I don’t see anyone after us, anyway,” he offered.
“Thank God! Here, drink this, it’ll do you good.”
He made a play of putting it to his lips, then put the glass down.
“Do you think I could have some water first? For the aspirin, yeah?”
She gave him a slightly brittle smile.
“Sure, coming up. And I’ll just look for the plasters and stuff.”
“Hilary, thanks again for the help. That was a bit sticky, back there.”
She smiled winningly.
“My pleasure, Ray.”
“You were pretty handy with that car, and all. A natural. Been taking lessons?”
The smile stayed in place.
“It’s amazing what adrenaline can do, isn’t it? Now drink up. I’ll just get the first aid kit.”
She disappeared into another room, which Doyle presumed to be the bedroom. Keeping an eye on the door, he grabbed hold of the telephone that stood on a nearby table, lifted the receiver quietly and dialled the CI5 switchboard - no time to bother about radio silence - and in a low voice requested to be patched through to wherever Cowley was. Hilary was still rummaging, he could hear. As he waited, he pulled her handbag across the table towards him and opened it, to peer inside.
The operator came back on the line, her voice tinny.
“Alpha One is at HQ. Just putting you through.” The line clicked and a familiar voice, and not the expected one, answered.
“Bloody hell, Ray! Is that you? We’ve been radioing and radioing.”
“I’m with Hilary….”
“Then get out of there now! Grange was poisoned! She’ll be after you, too!”
Even as he heard the words, he was grabbing the top of the handbag and tipping the contents out of the table. There, rolling around amongst the handkerchiefs and coins, was a syringe.
“Got you loud and clear, Dot!”
He slammed down the receiver, reaching for his jacket as he made for the door. But it opened before he got to it, and four men pushed their way into the flat. His handgun was part-way out of his holster when it was knocked from his hand. Two of the men got hold of his arms, twisting them back so he was pinioned between them, and he was turned and frog-marched back into the lounge.
Hilary stood in the bedroom doorway, with her own gun calmly trained on him.
“Sorry, Ray. Though you must have worked it out by now.”
One of the other men stepped forward and rammed his meaty fist into Doyle’s stomach. Doyle doubled up with a shout, and the man did it again, and then again. He was gasping for breath as they twisted him round once more and forced him down onto the couch, his arms still trapped and stretched painfully out to the sides by his captors. He kicked upwards, arching his back to struggle against them, but the two other men grabbed hold of his legs and he was immobilized. He tried shouting for help, but all that came out was a rasping cry. Hilary put the gun down and leant over him.
“Such a waste, darling.” She patted his cheek and then pushed his left sleeve up beyond the elbow.
“Six are so clumsy in their methods. I like to do things quietly. My employers would rather not have the fuss, you see.”
Wild-eyed, he watched as she crossed the room to retrieve the syringe.
“Like Colin, and Miller, you mean?” he ground out.
“Fewer questions that way. Colin was going very nicely with the stuff in his tea, but I had to hurry things along once it was clear you would lose the tail. MI6 are such idiots. They were supposed to have cornered you in the car and killed the three of you, leaving little bits and pieces at the scene to point to the Soviets. Still, not to worry. It’s all sorting itself out, isn’t it?”
She was still smiling to herself as she brought the syringe over to where he was lying. She tapped the sides expertly.
“Miller was just unlucky, really. He’d been identified by you lot so he became a little sacrificial lamb, in the hope it would throw you off the trail.” She looked down at him. “I’d like to say this won’t hurt, but….”
He couldn’t take his eyes off the needle as she brought it down against his arm. He felt it brush his skin; he braced himself for the scratch that meant it was all over.
The room suddenly erupted in gunfire from the doorway. The man on his left was hit first, lurching backwards with the impact of the bullet and taking Hilary along with him. Doyle could just hear her yelp of surprise over the deafening reports of a Walther in the small room. Then the man on his right was gone, falling in a shower of blood. The two at his feet were up, guns out, but they weren’t quick enough. There was a flurry of movement and Doyle, struggling to right himself on the couch, saw one kicked backwards into the room, cannoning into his colleague. Then Doyle felt himself lifted off the couch and dragged to the door.
He went down the stairs like a sack of coal, which was just as well as he was having real trouble in getting his arms and legs to work properly again and he could barely catch his breath. The man carrying him turned again and there was more gunfire. He heard another scream at the top of the stairs and suddenly things went quiet. He could only hear pigeons cooing and the heavy breathing of the man half-carrying, half-dragging him down towards the hallway and the front door.
Being outside in the sunlight of the summer evening seemed surreal. He managed some steps along the paving stones, his head still down and under his rescuer’s arm. A window pane smashed above them and bullets pinged at the pavement and cars around him. But Doyle found himself already on the back seat of a strange car and, seconds later, that car was screeching off in a cloud of Chelsea dust.
“Just loiter there, sunshine, and let me get the locks done again.”
Doyle felt himself being propped carefully in what seemed to be a long coat cupboard, while Bodie shut the battered door behind them and fiddled with a padlock. Then he felt his partner move past him and there was a soft click. The coat cupboard, now illuminated by a battery-operated lantern, resolved itself into a corridor, full of junk - bits of wood, scraps of broken furniture. Bodie picked up the lantern and went back to Doyle.
“All right to move now? It's just down there.”
He jerked his head towards the end of the corridor.
Doyle nodded, wondering why his faculty of speech had deserted him. Everything seemed very difficult, even putting one foot in front of the other. Luckily, Bodie was prepared to do the walking for him, and he gratefully leaned into the solid body at his side as he was coaxed further along until they were at another doorway. He looked around a little. It was some kind of flat, but a real wreck, with plaster hanging off everywhere and most of the doorways of the corridor boarded up. The planks at one had been wrenched off, and it was through there that Bodie led him, the lantern now lighting a shabby room, equally full of rubbish and dirt.
“Love what you've done with the place,” he managed.
“Haven't had much time to tidy up, sorry. Come on, let's get you sitting down, eh?”
Bodie urged him a little further in, and then eased him into sitting position against one of the walls. Doyle found he was on something soft, and he put his hand down to investigate - a sleeping bag. Another sleeping bag was produced and it was draped over him. Something redolent of Bodie - his jacket maybe - was slipped behind his neck, and he let his head loll back. He felt more relaxed than he had for days, but maybe that was because he was past caring.
There was the rasp of a match and he saw Bodie was lighting candles, positioning them around the two of them. He had left the lantern at the door, lighting the corridor.
“This is all very romantic.”
Bodie looked up at him and grinned.
“But I have to warn you,” Doyle continued, “I don't put out on a first date.”
“That's not what I’ve heard,” returned Bodie, with heavy emphasis, and he shuffled back towards Doyle. “How're you feeling now?”
“Rubbish, to be honest. All muzzy, can’t think straight.”
“Ah,” said Bodie brightly, “back to normal, then!”
He crouched over Doyle’s legs, and glanced up, catching Doyle’s arch expression.
“Keep your hair on, your virtue’s safe! But now I really am going to shine a light in your eyes, mate. Look up for me.”
Doyle flinched as the beam of a pocket torch probed. It felt like it was scything through his brain.
“Hmmm,” murmured Bodie, switching the light off again and giving Doyle’s face a gentle pat.
“ ‘Hmmm’, what?”
“Well, dunno, actually, but from the look of It, and the way you're acting, I think you’ve got a bit of concussion. It acts in mysterious ways, you know.”
“Tell me about it.”
Bodie moved back and settled against the wall next to Doyle.
“When did you last eat something?”
“Eat? Gawd knows. That alfalfa was horrible.”
“The what? Never mind, got just the thing here.”
There was the rustle of a plastic carrier-bag, and he felt something thrust into his hand.
“Sausage roll, Wall’s finest!”
Doyle tried to give him a pained look, but Bodie had already turned away and was shuffling yet more equipment. There was a hiss and another match was struck. A small burner sprang into life and a camping kettle was clapped on the top of it.
“Did you raid Everest base camp?”
“You may mock, but you aren't going to turn down a nice cup of tea, now, are you?”
“God, no. I'm gasping for one.”
Bodie patted his knee.
“All you need to set you right, my son. A cuppa and a bit of lard, and you'll feel like a new one!”
Doyle rolled his skull sideways on the wall to look at Bodie. There he was, grinning, waving a packet of sausage rolls and a milk bottle like the world’s biggest Boy Scout. Like they weren't holed up in the Kilburn equivalent of the Black Hole of Calcutta, on the run from most of the world’s security services. And he realised that all he really, really wanted, was one of Bodie’s cuppas.
“Go on!” the man urged. “Start eating, it'll go cold!”
“It is cold, you berk.” He took a bite through the flakes of fat-impregnated factory-produced pastry into the mush of salt, cereal, antioxidant and hint-of-pork, and chewed. It was heaven.
They ate in silence for a while, and Doyle felt a warm lassitude seep through him, courtesy of the food, and especially of the tea. He was on his third thermos cup of it before he felt able to start talking sensibly, and he put the cup down and looked at Bodie. He was surprised to find Bodie looking back at him intently, a half-eaten pork pie in his hand. It was the lack of interest in food that made him realise that Bodie was ready to talk.
“Tell me, then,” he said. “Where is it?”
Bodie reached back to the wall behind him to move a couple of splintered planks. Behind them was yet another hole in the plasterwork from which Bodie extracted a Marks & Spencer’s carrier-bag, tipping the contents into Doyle’s lap. It was the disk.
“Ah,” said Doyle, “that looks familiar. I haven't seen that since... oh , when was it, again? ... our trip to the country, when you knocked me out with your gun. Seems like only yesterday, but then it was, wasn’t it?”
Bodie ducked his head, looking sheepish.
“I'm sorry about that Ray, really I am. I didn't want to have to hit you so hard but you wouldn't stay down, see? I forgot you had so much concrete up there.” Bodie sketchily indicated Doyle’s head.
“Stop bloody joking, Bodie! Why did you do it? Steal the thing, I mean. Why've you been on the run, talking to Russians and trying to sell it?”
“I haven't, mate. Not trying to sell it. I wouldn't. Not my style.”
“Then why the bloody Russians!”
“I'll tell you later. I took it because I was ordered to.”
Doyle sat up straighter.
“What? Cowley ordered you?”
“Yep, just after we saw Mexborough and the other bloke that first night. You were having a kip, and that was when he told me I had to get the disk and disappear with it, and wait for further orders after that. But he’d told me about a week back that he was looking to send me on a solo op. Said I was to put some distance between you and me, so you didn't get wind of anything.”
“That’s why you were so snotty with me?”
“Partly, yeah, ‘cos I needed to stop you poking around in what it was I might be doing. But also… well, it narked me, having to do it. Made me bad-tempered. And it narked me even more that you seemed only too ready to do Cowley's snooping for him.”
“You'd already guessed that, then?”
“What, that he’d told you to watch me? Yeah. Sort of made sense, I suppose. The old bastard doing belt-and-braces, let me loose but keep you on my tail. But I didn't like the fact that you were doing it.”
“I told you before, I didn't like it either, Bodie. Not my way of keeping a partnership together. It went against the grain. But you haven’t made things easy. You didn’t tell me what was going on. I'm your partner!”
“Yeah, I know. You want any more tea, Ray? I can warm up the water.”
“Nah, not right now, thanks.” Doyle drew a deep breath, and went on.
“I didn't know, I have to admit it. I didn’t know whether to trust that you’d actually gone and done it for a good reason, like going to ground to keep the thing safe, or whether you’d really gone bad. It unsettled me, you know? I thought I was beginning to work you out and then you go and do a thing like that. I didn’t want to believe you were a traitor, that my judgment of you was so wrong. When Cowley told me to go after you, I was pretty mixed up about it all.”
Bodie leaned back against the wall again
“Hmmm, yeah, that was a bit of a shock, to be honest, finding out he'd ordered my execution. That's not what you hope to hear from your employer, you know. Not this one, anyway. It would be like being back in the Mercs. I know it's a jungle out there but that's taking it a bit too literally.” He sipped some more of his tea. “Would you've then?”
“Killed me, for Queen and country?”
“Don't joke about it, mate.”
“I'm not, actually. I'd sort of like to know. Whether you'd be prepared to … you know … put a bullet in me, ‘cos Cowley said so.”
Doyle rubbed his hand over his forehead.
“I'm sorry, Bodie. The last two days, it’s been like Alice in Wonderland. I didn’t know what to think. Whether what I was being told was right – you know, accurate - or whether I was being strung even more lies. I wanted to sort it out myself, try to find out what was really going on and why you were doing what you were doing. But you got me very worried, mate. First they said you were talking to the Russians, then we spotted you at that Surbiton place. You were in the shots I took of the Yanks that visited Mexborough.”
“Never! You could see me? Bugger, that wasn’t such a good hiding-place after all, was it?”
“Never mind that. Why were you there?”
“Watching you, you pillock. Someone had to.”
Doyle looked at him in surprise.
“You were following me?”
“Of course. Not night and day, but near enough to check what was happening to you. Just as well, eh, considering your faulty judgment. I almost had to make an intervention at the Tate, but that evil bitch got there first. Though I could see that was never going to end well.”
“Ta, mate, for being there tonight. It was definitely not going to end well, I assure you.”
“No problem, just doing me job.”
There was a thoughtful silence for a moment, then Doyle pressed on.
“So, you weren't there to see the boys from the CIA?”
“Well, in a way I was, but not to flog them the disk. I couldn’t just sit around on my backside waiting to be called back in, especially with you let loose on your own all over London. And I had my own deep misgivings about why I’d been given the job – all a bit too exposed for my liking. So I started to do my own digging. I had a contact at the Soviet Embassy, so I followed that up and got some information about the CIA connection. The more I found out about things, the less I liked being sent out alone and being told to give you a wide berth.”
Bodie finished off his tea, tipping his head back so the last drops could fall into his mouth.
“The Russians told me they were being set up as fall guys for the theft, even though they'd never seen hide nor hair of the data. But they had been tracking MI6 and CIA radio traffic about it, and had their own feelers out. They also guessed that Cowley was investigating. I’ve thought a lot about what I was told, Ray. About the things I found out. I think we were the veritable pawns in these little shenanigans. It didn't matter to anyone whether we came out of this alive or dead, as long as we cast enough of a false trail for people to get worked up about, while Cowley found enough proof to nail the conspirators. And that’s a reasonably charitable explanation of his motives.”
“I couldn’t work him out,” mused Doyle. “One minute he was defending you to Mexborough, the next he was handing me a gun. He wouldn’t listen to anything I was telling him about what we’d discovered…”
“ ‘We’ ? You been cheating on me, Ray?”
“Idiot. Dottie Bailey’s been really helpful. You owe her dinner, by the way.” Doyle shifted uncomfortably, twisting round to reach into his back pocket, and Bodie put out a hand to help.
“No, it’s okay,” puffed Doyle, pulling the copy of Colin’s photo free. “Just getting this. It’s from Colin’s camera. Have a look.”
Bodie squinted at the scene in the poor light.
“Ah, the handover,” he concluded after a moment. “That’s Hinxman, isn’t it? Who’s the other bloke.”
“Well, well. Bang to rights, eh? Good work, Colin. And there’s a host of familiar faces in the audience. Crikey, that pub looks like the spooks’ summer conference. There’s a couple of KGB boys…”- he pointed at some faces in the crowd and Doyle peered over Bodie’s shoulder – “… and – well, look ye here!”
Doyle looked. In a far corner of the photo, clearly observing and not part of any crowd of revellers, was Hilary Neff. He smiled wryly.
“Hah! Not a surprise, though, is it? As if poisoning people left, right and centre wasn’t incriminating enough, it looks like she’s been in on the conspiracy from the start. Grange must have been spotted doing his James Bond act and she was peeled off to help deal with him.”
“The one bit of help I’ve had from Cowley the past two days is the news that Neff poisoned Grange to stop him talking; she killed Miller, too. But as I got this snippet just before she tried to stick a needle into me, if really wasn’t a lot of help.”
Bodie huffed in annoyance.
“So, what’s the old man been up to, in all this?”
“He’s hardly been seen in the office for the past two days, out ferretting on his own somewhere, but no one knew at what.”
“Hmmm, he was being given the run-around, I suppose. But knowing the Cow, he had his own plan. We were part of that, though without our full knowledge. I think the Yanks and the bad apples at MI6 were setting the Russians up to take the blame, and then they set up Cowley and CI5 to act as investigators to keep Whitehall happy, all the while intending that we got nowhere. I reckon Cowley was onto them. We were the perfect foot soldiers, you and me, sent out to draw fire while Cowley did his own work.”
Bodie turned to face his partner, and Doyle could see his deep unease.
“This was a put-up job, Ray. This whole op has been a carefully-constructed net to catch the MI6 thieves. You and I weren’t told enough about it to keep ourselves safe. The rules of the game had already been established without our knowledge or consent, and we’ve been dealt a hand of cards from a dodgy pack. We might live through it and we might not, and on balance I expect Cowley thought we wouldn’t, but he doesn’t much care, as long as he gets his conviction, see? He’s set us up, like he was set up, and sent us out there without support, and without each other. You keep talking about betrayal. That’s betrayal in my book. We’re expendable to Cowley and he doesn’t care what he does with us. We have the proof of that right here.”
“That's makes a lot of sense, mate. It's more than I could work out in the past forty-eight hours.”
“Yeah, well, you did have a bit of a battered noggin. That can scramble brains when they're as curly as yours, you know!”
Doyle ducked the hand that tried to make its way into his hair to ruffle it, and Bodie withdrew swiftly from the rebuff, his face suddenly troubled.
“I am sorry, Ray. About hitting you. I rabbit on about partnership, but I hit you - attacked you - and that's not what should happen. It won't happen again, mate.”
“Yeah?” Doyle looked blankly at him, not prepared to give anything away.
“Promise.” Bodie’s face was as serious as Doyle had ever seen it.
“So, you’re thinking about us having a future in CI5, then?”
Bodie looked away into the darkness for a few moments.
“Is there a future, do you think? To carry on with this mob? To carry on together? ‘Cos I can see why you wouldn't to want to pitch your lot in with me again.”
“Why wouldn’t I? I'm the one who was sent to kill you.”
Bodie turned back again with a half-smile.
“But you wouldn’t have, though, would you?”
“You reckon, eh?”
“Yeah, I reckon. I reckon I know you well enough for that. I don't think you would. I think you'd do all in your power to try to find out whether it was justified, before you even thought about doing it. Which is why you've been all over London following every trail but mine most of the time, isn't it?”
Doyle smiled inwardly at Bodie’s intuition, but felt impelled to press.
“And if the boot was on the other foot, would you have followed Cowley's orders, and put a bullet in me, ‘for Queen and country’?”
Bodie drew a deep breath and let it out again slowly.
“I've had orders like that before. And I've done the job without much complaint. But then ... well, I wasn’t working with you then, was I?”
“Is that a yes or a no?”
“Don't be an annoying oaf.”
They looked at each other for a moment; Doyle still wary, Bodie unreadable.
“Thing is, though,” persisted Doyle, “- and it pains me to say it - I sort of understand why Cowley’s done this, set us up this way. We’re part of his machine, just a couple of cogs. If he’s concentrating on the big stuff, the little cogs aren’t much to worry about as long as they do their job, one way or another. If they get broken, they can be replaced.”
“You mean that’s the nature of being in CI5? We signed up to sacrifice ourselves?”
“Sort of. Not exactly, but sort of. You get what I mean?”
“Yeah, sort of. So, let me put it to you this way, sunshine. Cowley can think that’s what we do, but we know differently, right?”
There was silence again for a few moments. Then Doyle cleared his throat again.
“Yeah, I'll carry on with you, if we’re both going to carry on with this mob. I don’t think I want to do the job with anyone else, anyway.”
This time he allowed Bodie to ruffle his hair, very gently in deference to his many injuries, and even grinned as he suffered it.
“So,” said Doyle, through another sausage roll, “now you have to tell me about the Russians.”
Bodie was fussing with the sleeping bag over Doyle’s shoulders. He sat back and regarded his partner closely.
“How are you feeling now, truthfully?”
“Better, mate, honest. The tea and the food has done me a lot of good.”
“A bit, but manageable.”
“Not really. The Russians, Bodie. You said you'd tell me later.”
“You sure you're not cold? I think you need a nip of the hard stuff. We both do.”
Bodie rifled through another carrier-bag and produced a bottle of whisky.
“Not as nice as what the Cow drinks, but it'll warm the cockles, anyway.”
He filled the empty mugs and handed one to Doyle, who took it gratefully and sipped.
“Very restorative. Now, the Russians.”
“It wasn't a very nice unit I was in. Didn’t like them much, but it was paying well, and the blokes in charge of it were okay, so I threw my lot in with them. We were helping the government with supplies, mainly – armaments, hardware, y’know - but once you’re in-country, well, anything might happen, especially in the remote areas. Nine times out of ten we’d have skirmishes with one of the rebel groups, usually the MPLA, either on our way in or way out, dodging between villages. Wretched part of the country, nothing but scrub and low hills, and dry river beds - very little cover…. you want a bit more of this? Put your cup out, then. Say ‘when’.”
“Ta, ‘when’. Oi, that’s enough, Bodie! So, go on.”
“Well, the MPLA had their own help, didn't they? All sorts of eastern bloc armaments and soldiers used to turn up in different parts of Angola, on an advisory basis in theory, but they were embedded with the MPLA, made them more efficient. Sometimes they'd be Cuban or East Germans, then one tour, there were loads of Russians around.”
Bodie took another sip of his whisky.
“So there we were... you sure you're warm enough? Okay. So there we were, trundling along near a dry river, lots of deep sand channels, when we suddenly run into an MPLA unit with their Russian helpers. Immediate chaos, guns firing everywhere, jeeps running into the river bed - total confusion. I took a slug to my thigh...”- he slapped his right leg – “… a complete through-and-through. It knocked me right off my feet and next thing I knew, I was lying on the river bed. I’d been knocked right over the edge, see? There was a whole pile of kit around me, MPLA stuff. And I thought, ‘Bugger. I’m on the wrong side.” So I haul myself up and I’m using this AK 47 as a crutch - no, seriously, I was - trying to find a way out of this trench, but my leg kept giving out, so I wasn’t getting very far, and all the while this firefight was going on overhead. And I was thinking, this really is not very good ‘cos I don't know how I’m going to get out of this hole with my leg like this, and the MPLA are going to shoot me soon as they see me. That’s if I’m lucky. They had other ways of dealing with the enemy, you know?”
“I can guess, mate. You must have been losing a lot of blood, surely?”
“I think I was, yeah. I don’t really remember much about the injury at the time, just that I couldn’t really walk on it. So I was dragging myself along, and then suddenly, about ten feet in front of me, this bloke comes flying over the top of the riverbank and lands on his back in the sand, pouring blood. Very blond, he was, what you could see of his hair, ‘cos he’d been hit in the head by a bullet and the blood was just flying everywhere. And he was very obviously Russian.”
Bodie shifted, and offered the bottle to Doyle, who shook his head. Bodie poured himself another shot.
“That put me in a real bind, ‘cos if I picked up the gun, I was going to fall over, so I was just hanging there on one leg, and he got up really slowly. And I saw he had a huge knife in one hand and a revolver in the other, and blood was just pouring down his face. He looked terrifying, like something out of the Old Testament. You know, when you’re out there, you have to stop yourself thinking about all the ways you could die. But even if you don't think about them, they come to you at night, and he was looking like your worst nightmare of your own death…. Ray, you all right? You need something?”
“No, no, I’m fine, just getting comfortable. Is this really the truth this time, Bodie? Not one of your tall tales?”
“I promise you, Ray, this is the truth. I wouldn’t joke about this. Anyway, he’s there staring at me with the gun and the knife, and all I’ve got is an AK47 that I’m leaning on. So I decide I have to pick it up, and right away I just fall on my arse, in the sand. Pathetic – can’t even get the gun pointed at him - and he just looks at me, and then his face splits into the biggest grin you could ever imagine, and he starts laughing, and I start laughing, and he’s laughing so hard he falls on his knees in the sand in front of me, and passes out. And just at that second, there is the most almighty explosion above us. Something must have hit a rocket store in one of the vehicles, ‘cos it all went up, shrapnel whizzing everywhere, a lot of screaming, a lot of flames, and I just don't think about it…. I just grab him and pull the both of us into one of the cavities in the sand underneath the riverbank. I piled us in there and grabbed some of the MPLA kit that was lying around for cover, and we just waited until it was all quiet.
“He came to a while later. The bullet hadn’t gone too deep but had knocked him silly for a bit. We just lay there, not talking, hardly even breathing, until we thought there was no more movement above us. Then he packed my wound with some bandages from the kit lying about, and tied it up nice and neat, and I had a go at sorting out his head wound. It was a bit like the blind leading the blind, to be honest, but we did it. I wasn’t feeling too clever. You don’t want that sort of wound out there, you know. But he found some South African beer and produced the most amazing chocolate I’ve ever eaten. Russian chocolate – it’s like cardboard, doesn’t melt, doesn’t even smell like chocolate, but it went down a real treat. Then eventually, we put our heads over the edge.”
Doyle, watching Bodie intently throughout his story, saw his face go very hard.
“It wasn’t nice. The MPLA were dead, the Russians, too. The rockets had done a lot of the damage, it was their truck that blew up. A few of the men from my unit were there on the ground as well, but the rest had buggered off, didn't even think to look for me.”
“That was kind of them.”
“Well, they got their just desserts in the end. When I got back to civilisation I got in touch with the blokes who’d hired me, and found out that my unit had been wiped out a week later in an ambush. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch.”
“And what about the Russian?”
“Yeah, well, when he woke up he turned out to be a really nice bloke. I know it sounds stupid, ‘cos we were there to kill each other, but when you’re miles from anywhere and likely to die anyway from blood-loss, you get a different perspective on things, you know? He knew a reasonable amount of English, which was just as well, ‘cos I know sod-all Russian. We got ourselves as far away as possible from the carnage, knowing it would bring in vultures and then the animals, and other soldiers, too, and we were in no fit state to deal with them. We didn’t get far, but we found ourselves a nice little niche in the riverbank about half a mile off, and then just stayed there, not really able to move much more. We swapped a lot of stories. It turned out he was well-connected in the military, and very well-educated – Pavel Ilyich Polunin, he was called. Young – three years younger than me, and I wasn’t very advanced in years myself back then. Kept telling me about how good a soldier he was going to be, how he was going to serve the Soviet Union overseas, like his Uncle Gennady. He’d say, ‘Vhen you get back to England, Bodie, you must wisit Uncle Gennady in the Embassy. I vill tell him all about you! He vill be able to help you in your career, I haff no doubt!’ Dozy prat, as if me talking to Russians was going to help me get a job in the Army!”
Bodie’s face had taken on a curious animation in the flickering candlelight. Doyle saw him smile reminiscently as he relived it all, a stranger in a strange and hostile land, with no one but a mortal enemy to help him.
Bodie felt silent, and Doyle waited a moment before he prompted him again.
“So, what happened then?”
“What? Oh, well, we got through the night somehow, and then the next day another MPLA patrol came past. They’d been out to check on the unit that got blown up. Pavel just took control in an instant. He was really going to go far, I could tell – real leadership. Told them how I was his prisoner, and they had to take us to the nearest hospital as I needed treatment so I could be interrogated. They were a bit suspicious, but were worried enough about keeping the Russians sweet to follow what he ordered. I don’t think he shut his eyes once on that journey, making sure the two of us were all right. They took us to a mission hospital and left us there, and Pavel got me sorted with the sisters, actually found some blood to put into me, got me some drugs to fight the infection. Well, yeah, of course it was infected by this point. He did everything he could, but I still wondered whether I’d look round the next minute and there’d be a load of Russians there to question me, and worse. But he’d just give me this inscrutable smile. Then two days later, he was off. He’d found another unit who were going to take him back to his HQ. He came to say goodbye, and to thank me, he said, for saving his life. Me! I’d be dead on that dry riverbed if it hadn’t been for him! But he just laughed, and then he left, and that was that. I never saw him again.”
“And Uncle Gennady…?”
“…Was the Russian I spoke to. Nice bloke. He was a great help, I tell you. Put me onto Hinxman.”
Doyle shook his head in wonderment at the whole story.
“And I thought you hated the Russians.”
“No, I don’t. Don’t hate anyone, really. Not on account of their country, anyway. Would be a bit of a nonsense when you’re prepared to hire yourself out to whoever pays the best. I just don’t like anyone messing around with our interests, but that goes for any nationality.”
Doyle nodded, considering, then thought back to the story.
“And Pavel? What happened to him?”
Bodie’s face was a blank.
“Dead. Killed out there on his next tour, Gennady said.”
“Jesus. I’m sorry, mate.”
“Fortune of war, innit? And it’s not like I knew him long, after all. But tell you what, I’ve been thinking about him a lot these past two days, especially after I met Gennady. Thinking back to what he and I’d talked about, how easy it was to get on with him. You know, I always thought that best friends would be the people who came from your home-town, who did the same things as yourself, had the same way of thinking – like at school, or in the Army. But it turns out, you find them in the most unlikely places, and they can be the people you least expect.”
And Bodie gave Doyle the briefest of glances, then looked away again to stare at one of the guttering candles. The flickering light cast his face in gold and deep shadow; it made him look timeless, young and old together. Doyle watched him for a while and then put out a hand.
“Help me up, then.”
Bodie looked at him, bemused, as if he’d come back from a far-away place and was surprised to find himself in a Kilburn squat.
“Help me up. We’ve got a visit to make.”
“I’ve got good news and bad news,” said Doyle, leaning on the door-jamb and leering as Cowley tutted at the state of him. “The good news is that I’ve found Bodie…”
Bodie poked his head around the door-frame to leer as well.
“Hello, Sir! Nice to see you again!”
“… and the bad news is, I haven’t shot him.”
“Ach, get inside, the pair of you!”
They followed their boss down the short corridor into his flat. Doyle could feel the gentle pressure of Bodie’s steadying hand in the small of his back, and he was grateful for it. He felt strangely giddy; in part it was no doubt due to the mashed condition of his brain, but there was also an unexpectedly holiday feel to everything now that Bodie was back in the picture once more, standing by him - or rather behind him most of the time, ensuring he didn’t fall over – as his partner.
The corridor opened up into Cowley’s spartan sitting room, heavily curtained and lit by a single lamp. Bodie nudged his partner and indicated the couch with a slight tilt of his head. Cowley was more direct.
“For god’s sake, Doyle, sit down before you fall over.” He turned to Bodie. “What’s wrong with him?”
“Mild concussion, I’d say,” returned Bodie, making unerringly for the drinks table, and opening a bottle of malt scotch. “He’s been hit on the head a few too many times in the last two days, starting with me.” He gave Cowley an unreadable look.
“You’ll need that looked at when this is all over, Doyle. By the way, if that lock downstairs is broken, the cost will come out of both your salaries.”
“That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest,” muttered Doyle. Cowley ignored him.
“I take it you weren’t followed here tonight,” he asked Bodie, glancing at the man sharply as he was handed a liberal glass of his own pure malt.
“Amazingly, seeing how much the two of us are in demand, we weren’t. You’ve got a watcher, though.”
“MI6 are rather keen to talk to me, but I don’t want to talk to them just yet. My sources, though, tell me that, souls of discretion that you are, you have cut a swathe through west London tonight and brought yourselves to the attention of our key players. MI6 rightly suspect you would come to me, hence the watcher. They didn’t see you? Och, don’t look like that, man. I’ll get Anson to move him along later.”
Bodie walked over to the couch, handed Doyle his drink and then sat down by his partner, quite close. His eyes were fixed on Cowley, a rather insincere smile on his face. Doyle was leaning forward, the glass pressed against his forehead
“Have you got it, then?” snapped Cowley. Bodie reached into his jacket pocket and extracted the disk. He tossed it at Cowley, who caught it one-handed with a muffled oath.
“I think we deserve an explanation, don’t you?” asked Bodie smoothly. Cowley returned the hard look and then, relaxing a little, nodded.
“I think that would be in order, yes. You’ve put up with a lot the past few days. You deserve to know the full picture.”
Doyle’s head came up, his eyes searching. Cowley went on.
“A short while ago, I became aware of something amiss in MI6’s dealings with CNRD. There had been some routine radio intercepts which hinted at technological data being available to the highest bidder. I even had a tip-off from some of our Soviet contacts, including Bodie’s friend, Colonel Lebedev. Oh, yes, Bodie, I know about that. How you happen to have that particular connection - one that hasn’t been disclosed to CI5 before, I would point out - is the subject of another debriefing we will have quite soon. So I felt it appropriate to start some covert investigations.”
“ ‘Covert’?” questioned Doyle.
Cowley moved to a winged armchair and sat down, toying with the whisky glass.
“Yes, initially our own Minister wasn’t too keen on stirring things up on the basis of hearsay, but I had a very strong gut-feeling that these snippets were all leading somewhere. And if I’d noticed, then others would have, too, and those responsible would be getting nervous. So I wasn’t surprised, then, to be approached by Mexborough with his own Minister in tow. Allen Scott had been leant on by the PM’s office to start making enquiries, and Sharpley’s death had just occurred.”
“So you knew it was Mexborough?” Bodie was frowning. Cowley shook his head.
“I believed the trail was already leading to Mexborough’s department, but it was faint. Too circumstantial, too few definite names. But the havoc you two created gave me enough time and cover to work out how the theft had been happening - following up, in fact, on the work Colin Grange had already started. The various strands of evidence I’ve managed to pull together, together with what we learned from Grange, and the work that Doyle has been doing – against orders, I might add,” – he gave Doyle a dark look – “now clearly incriminate Mexborough. He had recruited both Peter Miller to assist in the enterprise, and the woman Hilary Neff, who appears to be acting as a free-lancer.”
Cowley took a sip of his scotch, lost for a moment in thought, then continued.
“I suspect that things were beginning to look rather uncomfortable for Mexborough, so when his own Minister was instructed to start an investigation, Mexborough took advantage of CI5’s involvement. His plan was to divert attention, getting us to flush Colin Grange and the missing disk out of the undergrowth, so that he could remove Grange, and get hold of the disk he needed, in one fell swoop. This action was also intended to implicate the Soviets as being the prime movers. I already suspected the early rumours about Soviet involvement to be red herrings - you'll forgive the pun - but at that point I couldn’t work out who the end purchaser and co-conspirator might be.”
“The CIA,” muttered Doyle. “The Yanks.”
“Lebedev said that, too,” put in Bodie.
“Indeed, your photographs, Doyle - and Grange’s - are pretty conclusive proof as to who is on the other side of the transaction. But it’s not clear whether Hinxman is a loose cannon or in fact working at arm’s length from Langley itself. Our colonial friends would be pleased to have yet another means of exerting influence over British Intelligence, I have no doubt, and casting the Soviets as the villains of the piece would merely form a tiny element of their bigger Cold War strategy - relatively immaterial, whatever the outcome. But the main aim of the theft appears to have been commercial gain, so I suspect Hinxman and his friends are working alone.”
“Yeah, okay, I get that,” growled Doyle. “Why set us up, though? Why couldn’t we have known the score? You get us out there, exposed, at each other’s throats…” – his voice started rising in volume – “how the hell did that form part of your ‘strategy’?”
Bodie put a warning hand on Doyle’s arm, but Doyle continued to fix Cowley with a dangerous stare. Cowley sighed.
“There was even more at stake here than State secrets, as far as I am concerned. CI5 is still a relatively young organisation. Certain other agencies resent its youthful vigour, and the powers we can use to carry out our work. Mexborough knew he could use this rivalry to his own purpose, if he presented his colleagues with the right scenario. I had no doubt that, should CI5 be found wanting in this case, then that would be used to clip our wings and reduce the scope of our operations. By stacking the deck against us, Mexborough would have been hoping he’d have enough of an advantage to make sure we didn’t succeed, and he’d thus have both safeguarded himself, and removed a rival from MI6’s territory.”
“It doesn’t explain why you hung us out to dry” retorted Doyle. Cowley looked displeased, his patience wearing thin.
“To the extent I need to give you an explanation, 4-5 – and I’m making allowances for your behaviour here, as your injuries have clearly affected your judgement - here is my perspective. I’m aware of your abilities and I knew you’d both do well out there, together or alone. But as a partnership, you two are relatively untried. That was something I could use to CI5’s advantage. I suspected Mexborough was setting us up, so I set him up. I wanted a way of diverting his attention, to keep him and his friends off my back while I ferreted around in the records, getting enough to convict him and the other MI6 personnel involved – the outside interests, too, if the conviction would hold.”
“Yeah, we guessed that much. So you decided to set Bodie and me against each other?”
“I decided to play along with the reticence I had picked up, yes. Oh, I know good partnerships take a while to pull together. That didn’t worry me. But it did help me form a strategy where Bodie would act as a decoy from the main action, and you would reinforce the performance by haring after him, keeping MI6 guessing as to who knew what. I had warned Bodie to keep his distance from you in preparation for just such an assignment – I’m sure he’s told you this already. But I wasn’t sure how I could put the plan into action until the disk went missing and the perfect opportunity presented itself.”
“So why not tell me? Let me work with Bodie rather than against him?”
“I needed you to put on a convincing act for MI6. I have to say, Doyle, you have given a less than stellar performance, leading everywhere but Bodie most of the time.”
“Got you what you needed, though, didn’t I?”
Cowley nodded, reflecting.
“Yes, indeed you did. The two of you have come up with the missing links in the case which, I’ll admit, were eluding me.”
Cowley looked up sharply at the tone. Bodie nudged his partner.
“Come on, sunshine…”
“No, Bodie. It’s not good enough, and you know it.” He turned again to Cowley. “You played along with this whole MI6 charade, sent us out at a disadvantage, and allowed Colin Grange to endanger himself, when in fact CI5 could have gone in mob-handed and reduced the threat. Meanwhile, you could have picked off most of the culprits right away. You could have stopped the thefts there and then, with everything you knew already!”
“A moot point, Doyle. I was concerned about how watertight such a conviction would be in those circumstances; our Minister, too, once he had begun to recognise the importance of this case. We had to play the whole thing out.”
“Colin Grange didn’t know this. He thought he was the only one in the world who had any clue. He deliberately put himself in danger to protect the data and look what happened. He got killed. You…” – he shot his arm out, pointing at his boss – “… you got him killed.”
“A necessary evil, Doyle.”
“Oh, that’s a good excuse, that is. And us? What about us? What if I‘d killed Bodie?”
“If you had, as part of this exercise, then you would have been following my orders. And I expect you to follow my orders, Doyle.”
“You ordered me to kill him! My own partner! For something that was a complete lie!”
“You are expendable, Doyle, you and Bodie both, if the overall strategy demands it.”
Doyle slammed his glass down on the table near him.
“I didn’t sign up to this organisation to be given orders like that.”
“On the contrary, Doyle,” retorted Cowley, his temper rising, “when you signed up to this organisation, you were agreeing to do just that. You are part of CI5 and you will do as CI5 dictates!”
“As you dictate…!” Doyle began scornfully. Bodie swiftly put a calming arm around his partner’s shoulders.
“Yeah, but it’s not as simple as that, is it?” he broke in mildly, addressing Cowley. “In fact, you expected us to break the rules.”
Cowley looked at him appraisingly.
“That’s partly true,” he replied, after a moment’s reflection. “I know you well enough to guess that you would probably put your own embellishments on what you’d been told to do, especially in this kind of situation. And I had intended to limit your exposure, as far as possible. If you’d played a straight bat, both of you would have been out of the main picture; you, Bodie, on the run and you, Doyle, chasing around London after him. It would have allowed me to do my own digging while MI6 was diverted. The trouble is, you started thinking for yourselves, and got yourselves into more trouble.”
“Did our job, you mean!” shouted Doyle, trying to get up but finding himself restrained by Bodie. “Found out what was going on, you mean!”
“Aye, I’ll grant you that. You’ve been thinking, thinking as a team. That surprised me, the degree to which you were prepared to stand up for each other. I’m pleased with you. I admit you’ve come on well, both of you. The way you work now… it’s a new dimension to your pairing. I’ll have to bear that in mind in future.”
“Always supposing the two of us agree we have a future with CI5….”
“Doyle, your brains are addled, that’s quite clear!”
Bodie let Doyle go and gave his partner an affectionate pat on the head. He turned again to Cowley.
“You’ll have to forgive Ray, sir,” he said, amusedly. “He’s not quite himself right now. But I have to say…” – and his voice changed completely, now hard and cold – “that I’m in agreement with him, and we both need to think quite hard about our futures in CI5. Just letting you know, is all. In case you want to do some thinking of your own…”
Cowley stared back at him for a moment, and then gave a snort of amusement.
“Och, drink your scotch and stop grousing. First of all, we need to see this thing through to the end, and with the evidence we now have, we can make our move on Mexborough. He’ll be worried, though, about what I already know.”
“Neff tried to kill Doyle tonight,” offered Bodie. “I think the other blokes at the flat were CIA heavies, but I wasn’t sure. They weren’t Six, anyway.”
“Six tried to pick me up when I met Hilary Neff.” Doyle took up the story. “She’d called earlier, wanting a meet. From what Dottie Bailey had told me, I knew she was a suspect, but I thought I’d play along. When she left, that bloke Chris Larter from Six – the one I’d bumped into at Miller’s place - turned up with his mates. Very insistent, he was, about me coming back to theirs. But Hilary came along in the nick of time and swept me away with her.”
“That seems a rather elaborate ploy to get you out of the picture. Was Larter working with Neff, do you think? If so, that would mean another MI6 department is involved.”
“They didn’t follow the car,” put in Bodie. “They just left Doyle with Neff.”
“Possibly they were told to leave the matter with her. And at the flat, Doyle - what names did she mention?”
“Only that she’d murdered both Grange and Miller, and that MI6 were useless.”
Cowley allowed himself a wry smile.
“Indeed. Well, I think we need a meeting with Allen Scott and our friend Colonel Mexborough. I want him out in the open, and he daren’t refuse his Minister. Scott should be happy to come if I hint that the disk has been found, and Mexborough will hope he’s off the hook, and will want to know what his next move ought to be.”
He got up and went to the telephone. Bodie gave Doyle a look.
“You should get some kip, mate.”
“I’m too bloody angry to sleep!”
“I know, he’s an old bastard. But as long as we remember that in future, we’ve got a head start, right?”
Doyle narrowed his eyes at his partner, considering. Bodie gave him a disingenuous grin.
“It’ll all seem better in the morning…”
“Bodie, it is morning.”
“Told you, we need a kip.”
Cowley had been connected to Sir Allen Scott, and they listened to the one-sided conversation, and their chief’s blatant manipulation of the facts.
“Yes, Sir Allen, positive developments. My operatives were tonight involved in a gunfight which left one dead and one mortally wounded. Before he died, this man was able to point to Hilary Wentworth as a conspirator. He also told us where the disk is hidden and we are currently retrieving it. But there are other parties involved – you know, of course, of the Soviet connection - and I should like a private meeting with both you and Colonel Mexborough to discuss the next steps. Yes, Sir Allen, I regard it as very important that you both attend. There are questions of your own personal safety that need to be considered. Oh yes, quite. Indeed. Shall we say, 5am this morning at Hanbury Square? Very good. And you will speak to Colonel Mexborough yourself? That’s very kind of you, Minister. Indeed. Until later, then.”
Cowley turned back from the telephone with an air of mild satisfaction and looked at his two men. Doyle was still glowering on the sofa; Bodie was already slumped back, mouth open.
“The trouble is,” he mused to himself, “to give the impression everything is all right, I need things to look normal.”
“Or as normal as it can be around CI5, you mean.”
“Ideally,” continued Cowley, deliberately ignoring his jibe, “I need a driver. You two can’t be seen, and I don’t want to bring any of my usual team into this right now…”
In spite of himself, Doyle grinned.
“I know just the person!”
At four-thirty that morning the Rover pulled to a halt at the gates of Hanbury Square’s private garden. Cowley, somewhat lost in thought in the back seat, was suddenly aware of a pair of dark eyes watching him in the rear-view mirror.
“Ah, we’ve arrived, I see. Thank you, Miss Bailey.”
“That’s all right. Sort of what I’m here for, isn’t it?”
His hand on the door-handle, Cowley paused; something in her tone of voice made it imperative to acknowledge her help
“Ah, Miss Bailey, I’m aware none of us has taken the time so far to thank you for your assistance in this rather unorthodox mission.”
The dark eyes regarded him wryly.
“I have to admit you had so far escaped my attention in CI5,” he continued. “And whilst I might in other circumstances have had to reprimand you for your unauthorized activities, in this instance I – the three of us, indeed – have been very pleased to have your help. And I have been most impressed by your contribution. When the dust has settled, I hope you and I can have a discussion about the possibility of moving you to somewhere closer to the third floor.”
He hadn’t really expected a response, other than perhaps some wide-eyed thanks, but she replied immediately.
“That’s awfully nice of you, Major. But it seems to me, the girls on the third floor don’t actually do much but file paper and drive men around in cars. Certainly that’s all I’ve been allowed to do, the past two days. So, thanks, but I’ll decline. I’ve been offered a job at IBM, building intelligent machines. Think I’ll try my luck in another area of Intelligence instead!”
There was no time to reel at this unexpected rejection. Another car – a Daimler with Metropolitan Police markings - drew up and decanted three uniformed men. Cowley got out to meet them, and the Daimler took off again.
“Chief Superintendent, good morning. Thank you for meeting me here.”
“Good morning, Major Cowley. How do you plan to play this?”
“I’d like you and your men to conceal yourselves in the park until I give the sign. Then you can make your arrest. I’m sorry about the hide-and-seek, but I don’t want our target spooked.”
The Chief Superintendent nodded and gestured to one of his men to open the lock on the gate; the small park was privately owned by residents of that rather exclusive little London Square, and the general public were certainly not invited to enjoy its leafy calm. As Cowley turned to follow the police in, he saw his two operatives approaching along the pavement.
He appraised them as they drew nearer. He could tell that Doyle, slim and edgy, was fighting hard to conceal the effects of his injuries; Bodie, as usual, looked like a sleek and well-fed panther closely related to the Cheshire Cat. In fact, it appeared rather as though young Master Bodie had been feeding a little too well lately, if that bulky waistline was anything to go by; Macklin would have to have words later.
“And I want you two concealed, as well,” he directed them, as if they had been party to the previous exchange, which no doubt they had overheard, anyway. “No need for you to play any part in this unless it all goes nasty, which I hope it will not. We have the Met on board to prevent that happening, and we are only dealing with one man, after all.”
They walked past him without a word, and he saw them disappear into the shrubbery on one side of the central lawn, opposite where the men from the Met had taken up position. Cowley then went to the garden seat in the middle of the lawn and sat down. By the time Sir Allen Scott and Colonel Mexborough arrived, just after five o’clock, he gave all the appearance of a man basking in the first touches of sun on a lovely June day.
Cowley let the Minister and Mexborough walk right into the centre of the park, a move he knew would annoy both of them as failing to demonstrate what they would have considered due deference. He then stood and smiled a greeting.
“Thank you for turning up so early, gentlemen, but I thought you would like me to brief you immediately on the most recent developments.”
“You have some news, Cowley?” asked the Minister, clearly none too happy to have started his Sunday at such an early hour. “Your telephone call earlier implied there have been important events.”
Cowley considered them both. Sir Allen Scott looked mildly irritated, now the first shock of the telephone call had faded; Mexborough was clearly working hard to maintain his urbane exterior, but was nevertheless looking tense and worried
“Indeed, I do. As I mentioned to you over the ‘phone, my operatives involved in this case were caught in a gunfight with persons unknown yesterday. Both were seriously injured and, although they escaped, subsequently died of their injuries. They were able, however, to implicate the woman calling herself Hilary Wentworth, who has been working for outside interests to steal the secret data. She obviously used her role in CNRD to get close the relevant DSTI personnel. Who those outside interests are, we have yet to clarify, but the Soviets have been very active, as you know. In the meantime…” - Cowley reached into his pocket and extracted the disk, wrapped up in a polythene bag - “… we have recovered the lost item.”
The Minister’s face broke into a broad smile; Mexborough visibly relaxed.
“Well done, Cowley,” brayed the Minister, his hand held out for the disk. “I knew your chaps could do it. I said to myself right at the start: ‘This is what CI5’s thugs do best!’”
Restraining himself from commenting, Cowley put the disk back in his pocket; the Minister pulled up short, looking slightly offended. Mexborough took the initiative.
“I’m still not satisfied that your operatives themselves weren’t seriously implicated in this theft, Cowley. There have been far too many questionable actions. I have already agreed with Sir Allen that my department will be carrying out its own investigation into CI5’s handling of this case. Now, let’s have that disk, man.”
“Oh, Bodie and Doyle aren’t the ones who’ve been implicated. They’re good men; amongst my best. They were never the villains here. The reason neither of you will have the disk is that it is a central piece of evidence in my case against key members of the British and US security services.”
“Evidence?” The Minister was frowning. “What are you hinting at, Cowley?”
“I’m hinting at nothing. I have solid proof that there has been a long–term campaign to divert British technological knowhow and Intelligence data to players in the United States. Those men may or may not be acting in an official capacity, and I don’t hold out much hope of finding that out one way or another, but my recent research on the paper-trail at both the DSTI and at CNRD makes it very clear that Peter Miller was actively involved in this theft. This disk, the final piece in the puzzle, was taken by Colin Grange before it could be spirited away. Grange suspected that the theft was going on, and he was correct. In the event, he paid for his loyalty and keen sight with his life.”
“Indeed,” said Mexborough, feigning boredom. “We all know about Miller. A rotten apple in our ranks; very regrettable, but he has been removed.”
“But what I can also prove, Minister,” replied Cowley, directing his words at Sir Allen, “is that Peter Miller was working for Colonel Mexborough, and that it is Mexborough who has been the king-pin of the scheme, working directly with his CIA contacts.”
Cowley raised his hand slightly and at once the three police officers appeared from the shrubs close by, the two constables taking the MI6 colonel by the arms before he had a chance to react.
“Chief Superintendent, I should be grateful if you would arrest Colonel Mexborough for offences under the Official Secrets Act.” Cowley turned again to the Minister.
“I apologise for this little subterfuge, Sir Allen, but it was imperative that I got Mexborough out in the open, where we could apprehend him safely. As I said, Mexborough was the prime mover here. His deal with the CIA operatives was most lucrative for him personally. Miller got a share of the proceeds as well. They’ve been assisted in their work by the woman calling herself Hilary Wentworth, who was an employee at CNRD. Her name is in fact Neff, and she was formerly an MI6 staffer. Lately, she’s been working in an unofficial capacity for the CIA. Without a doubt, she killed Colin Grange by injecting him with a poison which induced a cardiac arrest when my men were bringing the two of them back to London. I suspect she felt Grange was about to tell us too much. She and Miller also set up the ambush on the road to remove both my operatives and Grange, with a little bit of theatre and some props left behind to make it look like a Soviet hit. Only the skill of Bodie and Doyle here…” he motioned his men out of their own hiding place, “… got them out alive. Yes, they aren’t dead, in fact – a little white lie was needed to get us to this point. By the way, I also suspect Neff was responsible for the death of Peter Miller, and last night she attempted to murder Doyle.”
“This woman Neff,” asked the Minister, wide-eyed at the revelations. “Has she been apprehended?”
“Sadly, no, replied Cowley, “and I suspect we are unlikely to find her now. She’s gone to ground with her CIA accomplices. They’ve probably already left the country. My organisation is checking the airlines now, but with the CIA’s resources and Neff’s adept use of aliases, I doubt we’ll catch them; this time at least.”
“Well, I can only thank you, Cowley, most wholeheartedly, for your dedicated and perceptive work.”
“The paper records indeed provided vital evidence of what has been happening,” replied Cowley smoothly, “but it’s been the work done by Bodie and Doyle here that has uncovered many other essential elements of the conspiracy. They were instrumental in drawing all the puzzle-pieces together.”
“Her Majesty’s government is equally grateful to them for doing their job so well…” Sir Allen inclined his head slightly to the two men, and then turned abruptly to the police officers who were about to lead Mexborough away. “No, please, no handcuffs. The Colonel will, I am sure, be clear there is no point in resisting. I don’t like to see such a senior figure restrained in that way, when the general public might see…”
“I’m glad to hear you acknowledge the work of my men, Minister,” returned Cowley testily - whether there were handcuffs or no was hardly going to change public perception of the sight of three policemen marching a man out of a park at half-past five in the morning -“because I wanted to make something plain to you.”
He gestured to Bodie and Doyle to draw them closer.
“CI5 thugs, you called them. I’ll have you know, Minister, that my men are hard men, they’re tough – I admit that, that’s why they’re chosen - but they’re not thugs, nor ever will be. CI5 personnel, like these men here, are intelligent, reasoning and perceptive. Above all they’re brave and honourable. I take strong objection to the way CI5 has been manipulated in this affair. Och, I know full well that we were set up to provide a diversionary foil to Mexborough’s activities. I was already alert to the espionage that was taking place, so Mexborough’s ploy was easy to deal with. But you, Minister, you’ve happily maligned my organisation. You took Mexborough’s part and approved his judgment over mine, sending my men on an assignment that could have ended with their deaths.”
He was conscious of Bodie and Doyle coming to stand with him, not quite shoulder to shoulder, but almost, to face Sir Allen. He took some satisfaction from the feeling that, despite their disenchantment with him personally at that moment, they were united in their defence of CI5.
“So,” he concluded with a flourish, “CI5 won’t be treated that way again. Please bear that in mind n our future dealings.” There was a murmured voice in his ear, all dulcet tones.
“And you won’t treat us that way again, either.” He flicked his eyes to his right; Bodie was smiling, but his eyes were cold. On the other side, Doyle spoke up, equally softly.
“That’s right. We stay together, we do this work together. We’re a partnership.”
“You do what I tell you,” he hissed. “You belong to CI5.”
He was turning again to the floundering Minister when he felt Bodie tense beside him; then Doyle was shouting at the departing police officers.
“Here, you have disarmed him, haven’t you?”
Everything happened at once, and very quickly. Cowley saw a sudden movement as Mexborough threw off one of his escorts, reaching into his jacket to bring out a handgun, and he saw the barrel pointing right at him; he knew exactly what would happen next.
Except that even as the report sounded, he was being bulldozed aside. He felt the lurch that Bodie gave as the slug found a target, then they both hit the ground, Bodie landing heavily on him.
Doyle’s gun was drawn and, even before Bodie had fallen, Mexborough’s weapon had been shot out his grasp; then the man was down, with bullets in thigh and knee. Cowley struggled to move, pushing the heavy weight off him, trying to assess how badly Bodie was injured.
The weight suddenly disappeared. Doyle was on his knees with Bodie, still face down, on the grass beside him, and was scrabbling at the sweater where a scorched hole showed in the region of his partner’s upper back.
“You bloody fool!” he was half-spitting, half-shouting. “What did you do that for, you bloody fool?”
Then his hands stopped pulling, and he looked in bemusement at the layer beneath the sweater. Bodie coughed and turned his head slightly, opening his eyes.
“Bloody hurts, that does.”
“A vest? You were wearing a vest?”
“Why do you think,” rasped Bodie, “I’ve had so many layers on? It is June!”
“You feel the cold,” said Doyle distractedly, and then his face split in a brilliant, heartfelt smile, one that Bodie returned in warmth, albeit the effect was slightly distorted by his odd angle on the ground. Cowley felt strangely surplus to requirements, watching this brief connection between them, watching Doyle shuffle back and take Bodie’s arm to pull him gently to his feet. He, too, put out a hand to help, but Doyle blocked him.
“We’re fine, ta,” said Doyle coldly.
Bodie stood, wavering a bit and still gasping.
“You sure it didn’t go through, sunshine? Feels like it did.”
Doyle reached under the bullet-proof vest again to check.
“You’re still in one piece, mate. It’s just the bruising.”
“You should get to a hospital, Bodie. Get it checked!” insisted Cowley, feeling uncomfortably as though he needed to regain control of the situation. “There’s an ambulance coming. Doyle, make sure he gets that seen to!”
His attempt failed abysmally; they stood before him for a moment, both stony-faced.
“We’ll check in later,” said Doyle at last. “Feel we need a couple of days, all right?”
Without waiting for an answer, Doyle helped Bodie turn. They started to shuffle away across the lawn, the solid Bodie leaning heavily on his slim partner, heads close together. Cowley strained to hear some muttered words.
“… and then sit down, eh? You’d be better sitting down for a bit, mate.”
“ Somewhere out of sight, Ray. Don’t want to collapse with him looking on…”
They limped off towards the far end of the park, away from him, away from the flurry of activity around the fallen Mexborough. Cowley watched them go. If anyone had taken note of his face at that moment, they might have said there was a look of grim satisfaction there.
“Aye,” he muttered, “they’ll do. Even better than I’d hoped.”
Then he turned and made his way towards the gates, following the departing and somewhat discomfited Minister. He saw Dorothy Bailey charging past, face white, making for the two figures in the distance. An ambulance crew were approaching swiftly with a stretcher, and he grabbed one of them by the arm.
“My men back there...” he pointed at the retreating figures. “… they both need attention, too.”
The man nodded, and Cowley let him go. Then the head of CI5 straightened his jacket, and walked out of the little park and into the peaceful Sunday morning.
A/N: The wonderful Gvenanne’s work is full of imagination, flair and artistry, and I am honoured and privileged that she chose this story to illustrate. She has also provided tremendous help throughout with her telling comments and observations on the text. I adore the concept and the style she has chosen to use – all of which has taken immense work - and her illustrations are packed with so much clever detail. She has such an intuitive sense of the key elements of a scene, and here combines images and text brilliantly. She has been an inspiration throughout, and her images transform and enrich this story immeasurably. No author could be luckier than to have her as a co-conspirator! Thank you, Gvenanne!
Thanks also are due to my lovely beta, Alobear, for her constructive and insightful comments, and attention to detail. Moreover, she is as fanatical about commas as I am! I am grateful, too, for her preparedness to turn the document around in record time, Any errors in the text that remain are mine alone.
And finally, many thanks to the Big Bang Mods for running this wonderful event, and for their constant patience with my slow progress!
Some technical notes:
1. The eagle-eye among you will notice that I’ve included Cardboard City, a terrible indictment of London’s attitude to its homeless people, implying that it existed in the 70s. In fact my recollection of it is that it was indeed there in the 70s, but the histories I read tell me it was primarily on the South Bank in the 80s. I hope readers will forgive this little bit of plot licence!
2. I wanted to get Bodie’s experiences in Angola into this story, but am aware of the timeline inconsistencies it throws up with canon, as many before have lucidly set out. Here, I am siding with the theory that Bodie’s group was loosely allied with government forces in the War of Independence - maybe gun-running, but perhaps more besides - and have left the details deliberately vague, as I’m sure Bodie would have done *g*. I hope this little bit of obfuscation doesn’t detract from enjoyment of the story!
3. There is no government department, then or now, called DSTI, though obviously I’ve loosely based it on the Department for Trade and Industry which existed until 2007 (and which was largely located around Victoria Street in London), nor to my knowledge has there been an agency called CNRD. There was, however, the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), a technology transfer agency which aimed to help British technological innovations into the marketplace, and at which I briefly worked in the early 80s. It was later subsumed into other government quangos. Such was my lowly position there, I would never have known whether it had any working relationship with the security services, but I suppose all things are possible!