Excerpt from Sam’s Diary, October, 1982, age 19 and a bit
I admit that for the whole of my first term at Oxford I felt a little out of place. It wasn’t that anyone treated me in any particular way to make me feel like that - it was more my own pre conceived ideas that were causing the insecurity. I was from a working class background and yet here I was studying languages at Brasenose College. In my mind it just didn’t compute. Yes I’d had a little bit of financial help through some kind of ‘Gifted and Talented’ bursary scheme, and yes I had a weekend job as an Oxford Tour Guide to help with the money, but it still took me a long time to get used to the fact that I was just as entitled as anyone else to be studying at the country’s most well known and auspicious university.
Once Fresher’s Week was over and we were closeted within the walls of the beautiful campus I immediately felt more at home than I’d ever felt before. My little room didn’t have to overlook the quad to make me feel like Lord Sebastian Flyte, and every time St Mary’s Church bells rang it reminded me of where I was and how lucky I had been to get there.
It had been a long haul. Brought up in East London in a council flat with my Mum and Dad, I don’t think anyone really expected me to amount to much. And I spent much of my early teens trying to prove them right. I started off as a bit of a petty thief then progressed to selling cigarettes in the school playground. It was when the cigarettes turned into cannabis that the local police got involved and I gave my poor Mother the fright of her life.
You’re not supposed to regret things in life, are you? But I regret that. I’ll never really know if what I put her through caused my Mother to go to an early grave but I’ll always blame myself. And so did my Dad. When Mum died he withdrew from me and we argued a lot. So much so that I preferred to sleep on the streets if I couldn’t find a mate who would put me up. It was only the local bobby who had originally arrested me that saved me from going off the rails completely.
PC Doyle dragged me, virtually kicking and screaming, to the local Army Cadets and although eighteen months of that proved to me that the Armed Forces really wasn’t for me, it did give me exactly what I needed at precisely the right time in my life. It gave me some discipline, it grounded me, and it made me realise how my actions impacted on others.
I moved back in with Dad and we achieved a sort of mutually agreed distance between us, but at least I had a roof over my head again. I started to work harder at school and found, to everyone’s complete surprise, that I had a bit of a talent for picking up languages.
I became the first person in my family to ever stay at school long enough to take A Levels and if I looked into it I’d probably be able to say that I was the first person from the neighbourhood to end up at Oxford University.
PC Doyle wrote me a glowing reference and my immediate future was sealed.
End of Excerpt
Sam often wondered if there was a risk that one day he might start feeling resentful about having to go and stand outside Trinity College in the rain to pick up whatever tourists he could while the other students stayed in the warm, but he was still full of the adventure of the thing, the pride of just being there, so he was happy enough with his lot.
As it turned out his inexperience could have saved him the trouble. If there are any tourists in Oxford on a cold rainy Saturday in January then they are going to be in the pubs and tea rooms, not queuing up for a walking tour of the sights. And so at around 3pm he eventually gave up and started to walk back to his digs.
It was then that he saw him.
Sam had been a little shocked by, but had quickly got used to, Oxford’s small community of beggars. He soon learned that he couldn’t do a lot to help them, that there were a few genuine cases but that others spent any money you gave them on booze or drugs. And that some people had turned begging into a career, their main targets being the tourists and shoppers. So he turned a blind eye whenever he saw someone begging and tried to tell himself that there was nothing he could do.
Today though something, somehow, changed that.
For a start, this lad wasn’t actually begging. He was just sat on the steps of the Radcliffe Camera curled up against the weather, trying to keep out of the rain. He wasn’t asking anyone for money. He looked like he had no possessions but the clothes on his back, and his jeans and hooded jumper weren’t up to the job required of them. Sam noticed him first when he left that morning and was amazed to find him still there on his return. He didn’t appear to have moved in all that time.
Something started ringing alarm bells in Sam’s head and he just couldn’t switch them off. Not this time.
He walked up the path and approached the entrance to the Camera, standing on the step and holding his umbrella over them both.
“You’ll catch pneumonia sat there all day,” said Sam, cheerfully.
As the lad raised his head raindrops dripped off his hood and tracked down his cheeks. Sam found himself suddenly fixated by bright blue eyes that looked up at him somewhat mournfully.
“They wouldn’t let me stay inside,” the lad explained, nodding towards the library interior.
“You’re American?” Sam asked, momentarily confused by his accent and wondering if he was a tourist who had lost his way, or something of that nature.
The lad nodded in reply. Sam paused for a moment, not sure what to do. And then suddenly he knew exactly what he wanted to do. Sam wanted to do for this lad what he had been unable to do for all the others. He wanted to help.
Sam reached out his hand, clearly indicating that he wanted to pull him up from the wet step. “Let me get you a coffee,” he said.
The lad’s hesitation was clear but Sam kept his hand outstretched until, somewhat nervously, he took hold of it and allowed Sam to help him to his feet.
“You don’t need to...” he began.
“Because you’ve got somewhere else to be?” Sam interrupted. “Somewhere that doesn’t involve you sitting in the rain?”
The lad released the hold he had on Sam’s hand and looked downwards. “No,” he whispered. “Nowhere else to be.”
“Then come on. I know a really nice cafe just around the corner.”
Again there was a slight hesitation as if he didn’t know whether to give his trust or not, so Sam smiled at him encouragingly. “My name’s Sam.”
He received a little half smile back. “I’m Chris.”
“Come on then, Chris. Before we both catch our death.”
Sam wasn’t at all sure if he’d ever seen anyone eat quite so much in his life before. They perched together on the high stools in the back room at Heroes, out of the way of the other customers and near the warmth created by the open door of the kitchen. Luckily for Chris, Sam had become quite a regular at the little old cafe that provided cheap but filling home-made food, away from the tourists. When the two of them walked through the door Katie, the owner, took one look at Chris and immediately seemed to make it her mission to feed him up. As Sam happily munched his own huge all day breakfast Chris steadily made his way through an impressive not one but three platefuls, with Katie whispering as she put the plates down that it was ‘on the house, poor love’.
While he ate Sam took the opportunity to look over his new companion. He appeared to be a little younger than Sam, maybe not quite University age yet. His clothes, although sodden and ineffective against the bad weather, looked to be good quality – his jeans were Levi’s, something Sam himself couldn’t afford. His hair was a bit floppy and bedraggled but it had been cut recently. And so Sam found himself pondering on what on earth his new friend’s story could be but at the same time worrying that if he voiced his fears it might cause him to bolt.
Slowly Chris’ assault on the food ceased and he picked up his mug of hot chocolate, cupping it with his hands to warm them through.
Sam started with something simple. “When was the last time you ate?” he asked, quietly.
Chris sipped at his chocolate, his eyes downcast. “This morning,” he replied, the lie obvious.
“You don’t need to worry about me,” he said, looking up to gaze at Sam. “This...” he gestured at the empty plate, “was very nice of you, but I’m okay now. Honest.”
“I think that’s the one thing you do owe me.”
“What?” Chris looked confused.
“A little honesty,” Sam replied. “Come on, you didn’t eat this morning, did you?”
Chris blinked his eyes a few times, nervously, before shaking his head.
Another shake of the head.
“The day before?”
And again came the hesitant, silent response.
“Bloody hell,” Sam muttered.
“I’m not your problem, Sam,” Chris replied, his voice quiet.
“You’re wrong,” Sam said, smiling at him, and suddenly feeling happier than he had done in a while. “Once, someone went out of their way to help me, to get me back on my feet. Without him I don’t know where I’d be now.”
“So I’m your charity case?” asked Chris, somewhat bitterly.
“No,” Sam replied, putting his hand on Chris’ still damp shoulder. “I’m someone like you, who just wants to help. Will you let me?”
Again with the nervous blinking, something that Chris evidently did when he wasn’t sure about something. And then he smiled, causing dimples to appear, and he nodded, one single nod, before whispering in reply, “Thank you.”
You might be forgiven for thinking that life at the Oxford colleges was one of luxury and plenty. In reality there were times when the facilities didn’t really meet modern standards. Brasenose College was beautiful and very inspirational to work in, but Sam’s rooms were rather on the small side and hidden up in the attic space. There was a tiny single bedroom with a pitched window that looked out over the neighbouring church, and a slightly larger room for everything else. Studying, socialising, eating, reading... all was done in a room that was only large enough for two stuffed arm chairs, a small desk and chair, a coffee table, and a portable TV. But to Sam, it was a palace. Two whole rooms entirely for his own use - he certainly felt like a prince.
The ancient electrics weren’t up to students having their own kettles in their rooms – too many fuses had been repeatedly blown over the years to allow that - however they were allowed an electric element that heated up one cup at a time and it was this Sam used to make drinks while his guest took a shower. As the water started to boil in the second cup Chris came back into the room wrapped in Sam’s towelling bathrobe, clutching damp clothes in his hands.
“Okay?” Sam asked, moving to take the clothes as Chris closed the door behind him.
“Yeah,” Chris replied, watching as Sam draped the clothes over the end of the coffee table so that the two bar heater could have a go at drying them.
“Saturday night’s normally good for showering,” Sam commented, as he carried on with his self-appointed task. “Everyone else is out so the bathroom’s normally free.”
“Oh,” said Chris, still standing somewhat nervously in the middle of the room.
“Come on,” said Sam, gesturing him towards the other arm chair. “Come and get warm. I’ve made coffee, hope that was okay?”
“Sure,” he replied, taking a seat. “Thanks.”
“You don’t have to keep doing that,” said Sam as he sat down opposite him and placed the mugs on the table. “Thanking me, I mean.”
“What else can I say? You’ve helped me so much.”
“No more than you would do for me,” Sam replied, confidently.
“You don’t know me at all,” Chris replied. “How do you know what I would do?”
“I like to think I’m a good judge of character. Am I wrong to trust you then? Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”
“No, sorry, I didn’t mean that. It’s just, you’ve taken me in without knowing anything about me. It’s a big thing to do.”
“Like I said, I just want to help, if I can.”
Chris picked up his coffee and took a sip, pointedly not responding to Sam’s unspoken question.
“If you’re in trouble...” Sam tried again.
“No,” said Chris, too quickly. “Everything’s just... peachy.”
Chris shook his head. “I can’t tell you, Sam. Please don’t ask me.”
“I’m sorry,” replied Sam, eager to put things right. “I won’t pry. Just know that I’m here to help, and we’ll leave it at that, okay?”
Chris nodded again and Sam sighed, wondering what on earth his new friend’s story was and how he could possibly help. But maybe all he needed was a friend he could trust in a world that had obviously treated him badly? Well Sam knew he could provide that, all he had to do was convince Chris.
Excerpt from Sam’s Diary, January 1983, age 19 and a quarter
The following 24 hours were one of the happiest days of my life and to say that about someone I’d only just met seems crazy but it was true. Waking up on my folding camp bed was no hardship because when I looked into the bedroom to check on Chris he was still fast asleep and had obviously had a really good night’s rest. The fire went on again and I got dressed in front of it before popping downstairs to the communal kitchen to make us tea and toast. In hindsight that was probably my first mistake of the day but I won’t think about that for now. When I got back to the room Chris was up and dressed in his now dry clothes and he smiled at me as I entered with the tray.
“I was thinking,” I said, as we sat in front of the fire to eat our toast.
“Should I be worried?” asked Chris, with a shy grin.
I laughed. “No, but I was just wondering if you’ve got anything planned for today.”
“You know I don’t, Sam.”
“Then I do. Tell me, have you ever been to a rugby match before?”
End of Excerpt
If Sam was happy that day then it was also very clear that Chris was too. He found the under 21s varsity match highly entertaining and asked question after question. So many, in fact, that any answers Sam couldn’t provide were given by those standing around them who, like anyone they seemed to meet, instantly took to Chris and his enthusiastic beginner’s interest in the game. They were then invited to a post match get together at the Turf Tavern where Chris had his first experience of a proper high tea, as well as a pint or two of bitter. And so they were full of spirits of both kinds and still laughing as they made their way back to Brasenose. Chris seemed to have forgotten his troubles during the day and the difference in him was clear. But as they got nearer and nearer the college his mood darkened visibly and he slowed his pace until he finally came to a halt just outside the entrance.
“You okay?” Sam asked, turning towards him as if he knew already what he was about to say.
“I can’t keep staying with you, Sam,” he replied. “I don’t belong here.”
“Until I know you have somewhere else to go, I’m not about to let you leave. You’re my friend and I look out for my friends.”
He shook his head, sadly. “This can’t last.”
“Maybe not,” Sam agreed, “and tomorrow we’ll look into finding you somewhere safe to stay. But until then I’m not letting you sleep on the streets. Come on.”
And, again in hindsight, that was mistake number two. They had only been back in the digs for a couple of minutes before someone was, quite literally, pounding on the door and all of a sudden the Dean, the Housekeeper and a Policeman were all crowding in the little room. Sam tried his best to take control, determined to try to bluff it out for Chris’ sake.
“What’s wrong, Professor Plum?”
“I think you know exactly what’s wrong, Curtis,” replied the Dean. “This young man stayed in your rooms last night in complete contravention of our college rules.”
“A rule that is broken almost every weekend by somebody,” Sam replied, putting on a strong front despite the intimidating circumstances. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“I might agree with you if this young man hadn’t been seen stealing from the college. He was identified by Mrs White when you left together this morning.”
At this Mrs White nodded. “Yes, that’s him, Officer!”
At this Chris spoke up. “I’ve never stolen anything in my life!” he exclaimed. “I’ve gone hungry rather than take anything that doesn’t belong to me.”
“Now, now, young man, calm down.” The Policeman got his notebook out. “I am PC Mustard and I need to take a few details. If it all seems relatively trivial then you won’t need to go with me to the station. As for whether you should be bunking down here in the college, that’s not my concern, but we have had a spate of thefts here and that is something I’m interested in.” He gestured towards the door. “Professor Plum, Mrs White, can I ask you to wait for me downstairs while I interview the suspect. And you, Mr Curtis, is it? Can you wait in the other room please?”
As the two college officials left them to it Sam retired to the bedroom, purposely leaving the door ajar. A bit of shameless eavesdropping meant he heard most of what Chris said next, and he found himself wondering if the Policeman had noticed all the obvious holes in the story. Somehow Chris managed to avoid saying why he was in Oxford in the first place and just accounted for his whereabouts at the key times that were under investigation. Luckily for Chris Sam wasn’t his only alibi as they were both in Heroes at the time one particular crime had taken place. Chris’ explanation for Mrs White’s identification of him was that she had seen him around and just thought he was the perpetrator, in a kind of ‘all youngsters look the same’ way. Thankfully, his story seemed to convince the Policeman who soon called Sam back into the room.
As Sam entered, PC Mustard was standing by the door, copying something into his Police issue notebook.
“Here you are, Mr Keel,” he said, handing Chris back what looked to Sam to be some kind of ID. “Only one last thing and that should be an end to the matter.”
“And that would be?” asked Chris.
“By rights because you’re under 18 I shouldn’t have interviewed you without your parents present and that’s my mistake, I admit it. At the very least though I will need to contact them to let them know what’s gone on and just hope they don’t throw in an official complaint against me.”
At this Chris visibly paled and his suddenly shaky hands caused him to nearly drop his ID on the floor. “Then... why...” he stammered, “I mean, if you’re going to get into trouble, why tell them?”
“More than my job’s worth not to! I’m not afraid of admitting I made a mistake, but I’ll soon put it right. I’ve got everything I need now, thank you, lads.”
At that he left the two friends to it and, as soon as the door had closed behind him, Sam rushed over to Chris.
Chris shook his head. “Nothing, sorry, nothing, I... I can’t tell you, Sam, I’m sorry...”
“Maybe I can help?”
“Oh, God!” Chris swayed slightly and Sam caught hold of his elbow, manhandling him across to the armchair and pushing him down into it. Chris carried on talking as if the somewhat alarming moment hadn’t just occurred. “If he finds me, if he finds us... Sam, I don’t know what I’d do!”
Sam sat down opposite him and leaned forward, putting his hands on Chris’ knees to try to get him to calm down. “Chris, take a deep breath,” he instructed. “And just tell me once and for all what has happened and who you are so frightened of.”
Calming somewhat, Chris carefully put the ID back in his pocket and looked directly at Sam, evidently trying to decide what to do for the best.
Decision apparently made, the words came out in a rush. “If that Policeman gets hold of my Mom then my Stepfather will come looking for me.”
Sam shrugged. “Okay. And that would be a bad thing because...?”
“I know things about him, Sam, bad things. And he knows I know. It’s why I ran away.”
“What bad things?”
“It’s best you don’t know.”
“I disagree,” Sam said, firmly. “If it’s going mean trouble for me then I need to know what I’m getting myself into, don’t you think?”
Again Chris gave him that intense look that seemed to see right into his soul before, without warning, standing up and reaching out his hand. “I’ll tell you one day, I promise, but now we need to pack,” he said, pulling Sam to his feet. “Because when that Policeman makes that call, trust me, we need to be outta here.”
One Week Later...
Doyle was asleep. Bodie didn’t mind Doyle being asleep, he completely understood how totally knackered his partner was after an intense fortnight of being undercover. At first he had driven to the sound of the radio but eventually had turned it off, allowing himself to become absorbed in the drive. It was the darkest of nights with no moon, and the section of road they were driving on was unlit by anything but the hypnotic line of cats eyes that stretched before them. And now that the car was silent of music Bodie found his own breathing falling into the same rhythm as his sleeping partner’s.
Bodie smiled to himself. At last, after so long of being on duty almost non-stop, they had been allowed to take some annual leave and the two of them were now off to deepest darkest Buckinghamshire to see the other love of Bodie’s life – the big rambling and half derelict farmhouse that he and Doyle had sunk their life’s savings into.
Eventually the motorway turned into a road which turned into a lane which turned into a driveway as, at last, they arrived. Bodie pulled on the handbrake and switched off the engine, dark eyes glinting as he looked at the silhouette of the old house in the cold midnight air.
“Here already?” mumbled Doyle, stretching his arms out and yawning, apparently totally uncaring of Bodie’s personal space.
“Yus M’Lady,” replied Bodie, in his best Parker impersonation.
“S’gonna be freezing in there,” said Doyle, shrugging down into his jacket.
Bodie rubbed his hands together in what can only be described as glee. “Bagsy I get to light the fire.”
“Right. Well, the sooner we get in, the faster we get warm.”
Bodie threw the door of the Capri open, the sudden draft of cold air making Doyle rush to get out with him. Together they pulled their bags from the boot, locked the car, and made their way inside.
It was pitch black.
They paused in the hall and there came a repeated click, click, click noise as Doyle tried the light switch.
“They still haven’t re-connected us, then?” Bodie asked.
“Ah,” replied Doyle.
“What does that mean?” asked Bodie, into the blackness.
“Think I got sent undercover before I could pay the electric bill.” Doyle sounded contrite but as Bodie couldn’t see him he couldn’t really be sure.
“You can hardly say it’s my fault.”
“I could try.”
At that Doyle flicked his lighter, causing a miniscule flair of light to encircle them.
“Here.” Bodie moved quickly to the hall table and grabbed the candle they had left after their last visit, holding it out for Doyle to light.
The resulting flame glowed brightly, enabling the two men to move further into the interior of the house.
“This place is a bloody death trap,” muttered Doyle, as he picked his way around a pile of rubble that was in the doorway of the next room.
“Maybe,” agreed Bodie, “but it’s OUR death trap. Wait!”
Bodie reached out to grab Doyle’s arm and held him still for a moment.
“What?” whispered Doyle.
“Think I heard something.”
“Come on. Together,” Doyle replied, moving into the main lounge with Bodie and the lit candle immediately behind him.
There, curled up in sleeping bags in front of the open fireplace, with the remains of a small fire still smouldering in the grate, were two sleeping bodies.
As quietly as possible Doyle stepped forward and crouched down by one of the figures, pulling the sleeping bag back a little from the hidden face.
“Sam bloody Curtis,” he whispered, smiling up at Bodie in the candlelight.
“Oh you are kidding me,” replied Bodie, moving forward to take a look for himself.
“I’m not. I knew we shouldn’t have brought him here last month to help with digging over the garden.”
“And who’s the other one?”
Doyle moved to pull back the second sleeping bag when Sam’s sleepy voice stopped him.
“Leave him alone.”
“You’ve got a lot of explaining to do,” said Bodie, stepping over Sam’s legs and reaching to light the two candles that were on the mantelpiece.
“I only did what Ray’s always told me to do,” replied Sam, sitting up and gathering his sleeping bag around himself to stay warm.
“Which is what, exactly?” asked Doyle.
“You said to come to you if I was ever in trouble.”
Doyle looked up at Bodie, a half grin on his face. “He’s right, you know.”
“Bloody breaking and entering...” muttered Bodie. “And our own house, too, not some CI5 flat. So who’s this?” He pointed at Chris, who was still fast asleep.
“A friend. He needs help.”
Doyle studied Sam’s expression, noticing the concern etched on the youthful face. He sighed. “Bodie,” he said, “let’s get that fire lit. We can talk in the morning.”
“Thank you,” whispered Sam, settling himself back down in his sleeping bag as Bodie moved to bank up the fire once more.
They would all talk in the morning.
“Can you see far?” asked Chris, as he walked across to the upstairs bedroom window to take in the view.
“Watch it,” warned Bodie. “Don’t lean on the sill. Nearly broke my foot last time I did that.”
“Sure.” Chris peered outside without touching the loose stone. “How far does your land go?”
“We’ve got about seven acres. Enough for a ride-on lawn mower.”
“Can I have a go on it?” asked Sam, as he joined them in the room.
“In the spring, maybe,” replied Doyle, who was right behind him. “We’ll see.”
Chris turned back to face them all, his face lit up with excitement. “I can see why you bought the place, it’s awesome.”
“It’s a money pit,” commented Sam, smiling at him.
“It’s a project that needs a bit of work,” corrected Bodie. “And now you two have had free bed and breakfast, it’s time to pay something back.”
At this Chris started to look a little worried. “Er… I don’t have any money,” he said, looking to Sam for reassurance.
“Don’t worry,” said Sam. “They mean us to work it off. It’s how I spend most of my free time. Bloody child labour, if you ask me.”
“You’re nineteen now,” commented Doyle, slinging a friendly arm around the younger man’s shoulders. “Time to learn what a hard day’s work really is.”
Finishing his own allocated chore for a moment Sam paused to watch Chris and Bodie in the distance as they worked together to cut a large conifer tree down.
“Want to help me make lunch?” asked Doyle, joining him.
“Yes, of course.”
“Sam, can I ask you something?”
“Are the authorities looking for you two?”
Sam hesitated a moment.
Doyle put his hands on his hips, and gave Sam a considered look. “Oh come on, Sam, this is me, remember? I need to know. Because if they are then I can make that particular problem go away.”
“I think there might be a chance that they are, yes,” replied Sam, carefully.
“Okay, I’ll make a phone call, get it sorted.”
Doyle looked across towards Chris and Bodie. “He means a lot to you, this one.”
“Why? What’s his story?”
Sam let out a big heavy sigh. “I don’t know, he still won’t tell me. Says it’s best I don’t know.”
“And how long did it take you to get from Oxford to here?”
“We arrived the day before you did. So, about a week of hiding out and hitch-hiking.”
“Blimey. Well at least you’re safe here. That’s something, at least.” Doyle reached out and ruffled Sam’s floppy hair, causing Sam to laugh and duck away. “Come on, come and help me burn bacon.”
It was a long hard day’s work for all four men and, luckily for anyone stood downwind of them, Bodie and Sam had managed to get the electrics on, the boiler working, and enough hot water for baths - as long as they were shallow ones.
Bodie and Doyle won the game of rock paper scissors which mean they were able to get cleaned up first and were now working on dinner. Or at least Bodie was working on it, Doyle was supervising.
“You’re going to need more ginger than that,” said Doyle, peering into the huge bubbling pot of curry that Bodie had assembled.
“You put ginger in at the start, philistine.”
“So sorry, Saint Delia.”
“I’ll have you know I learned this recipe in Angola, not from some poncy cookery book.”
“And what was that made from then, goat? Wilderbeest? Sweeping majestically across the plains…” Doyle giggled and poured himself another glass of wine.
“Idiot,” said Bodie, with some affection. “Here, stir this. I need to get the rice on.”
Putting down his wine glass Doyle took the proffered wooden spoon and started to gently stir the curry. “What did you think of the kid?” he asked.
“Chris?” responded Bodie, as he reached over Doyle’s head to reach a large saucepan from the shelf. “Yeah, nice lad.”
“He didn’t tell you, did he?”
“Tell me what?”
“I thought not. Must be something about me that makes them confess all.”
“You been using thumbscrews on our guests again?” Bodie clattered the pot down onto the spare ring of the Aga and started to chop more onions.
“Not lately, no.” Doyle grinned, a slightly drunk, wonky grin which distracted Bodie from the onions somewhat. “Seriously, I got talking to him when we were mending that window frame this afternoon. He’s scared stiff, mate.”
Bodie looked up at him. “What’s wrong?”
“Well you know he’s American?”
“Er, yes, I had noticed.” Bodie wiggled an eyebrow and added the rice to the fried onions.
“His Mum left his Dad and moved over here with Chris and his little sister, then took up with someone who you might say was from the criminal classes.”
“Most definitely.” Doyle put the wooden spoon down and placed the lid on the pot. “And this bloke’s a bit of an arse, from the sound of it. Then there was a bit of a horrible thing happen. Chris’ kid sister got hold of some drugs because this bloke left them lying about. She thought they were sweets.”
“Exactly. Dead within minutes. Chris saw what happened and ran away and this bloke is now after him.”
“I take it Chris is the only witness?”
“You got it.”
“And how, exactly, did he hook up with Sam and end up kipping on our lounge floor?”
“Because, my dear Delia, Sam is a nice kid who wants to help people if he can.”
“Does Sam know why Chris is on the run?”
Doyle shook his head. “Don’t think so, no. He only told me because….”
“Because of your superior interrogation techniques?”
“Because I think he wanted to tell someone. And the time for telling someone was now. I just happened to be there.”
“And maybe he knows you helped Sam, so he trusted you.”
“Maybe. Sad though.”
Bodie finished his cooking and wiped his hands on the t-towel. “No,” he said. “He’s now joined the club.”
“Ah, the club,” said Doyle, giving Bodie a knowing smile. “The Lost Boys, eh?”
“Something like that.”
“And we help people who are in the club.”
This time it was Bodie’s turn to smile. “Of course we do.”
Midnight came around again quickly. The four men had eaten their fill of Bodie’s spicy curry and had camped out in the lounge again, partly for the fun of it but mainly because the bedrooms were uninhabitable and freezing cold.
Bodie had taken some pleasure in teaching Chris how to set a perfect fire in the grate and now they were taking turns to poke it with the fender and throw new logs on. Chris responded well to the instructions and looked like he was genuinely having a lovely time.
Doyle, never having been one for idle hands, was cleaning an old brass door knocker that he had found half buried in the garden. He chewed on his lower lip, thinking hard about something.
“You alright, Ray?” asked Sam, sitting beside him on the sleeping bag.
“Yeah, it’s just… I’ve got a feeling I’ve missed something important.”
“On the doorknob?”
“No, idiot,” replied Doyle, fondly.
“Did you make the phone call?”
Doyle’s hands froze in their task. “The phone call…”
Sam was quick to reassure him. “It doesn’t matter if you forgot.”
“No, I didn’t forget. I made the call.”
“Oh. And that’s bad because?”
“Because I don’t think I know the full story, do I?”
“Ray?” Sensing the change in Doyle’s mood Bodie looked up from where he and Chris were still playing with the fire.
“Shit!” Doyle put down the door knocker and pointed at Chris. “How old are you?”
Chris squirmed a little, evidently uncomfortable by Doyle’s question. “I’m seventeen.”
“Which means the bloody phone call I made earlier will have gone straight back to…”
“Chris’ Mother,” finished Bodie.
“What phone call?” asked Chris, his eyes widening with realisation.
“I wanted to make sure they called off the search party for you two,” explained Doyle.
“When instead you’ve probably just put Chris’ Stepfather right back onto his trail again.” Bodie puffed his cheeks out.
Chris stood up. “I’m going to have to leave,” he said, his voice wobbling.
“No!” said Sam, also getting to his feet. “You’re safe here.” He turned towards Doyle, his voice trembling almost as much as Chris’. “Tell him he’s safe here!”
Doyle sighed and shook his head. “I can’t be a hundred percent sure of that. I’m sorry.”
Before anyone else could say another word there came, from the other end of the house, the sound of breaking glass.
Chris took a step backwards. “He’s come for me,” he whispered.
It was then that Bodie and Doyle showed themselves to be not just the kindly benefactors that Chris and Sam knew them as. They became, suddenly, the highly trained CI5 agents that they really were. In a few swift moves Bodie had Chris and Sam placed in a safe position near the fireplace and away from the windows while Doyle turned out the light and moved towards the doorway, silent even through the rubble and squeaky floorboards that would have given a lesser person away.
It is true to say that their new visitor made a few basic errors. For one, he evidently expected Chris to be alone and friendless. If he had caught up with his Stepson a few weeks earlier he may well have been right in that expectation but not now. Now Chris had backup.
However he did not make the mistake of coming alone and had in fact brought several accomplices with him, presumably to make sure that they could be successful in their attempt to silence Chris.
A bloody and ferocious fight ensued. With only the fire providing any light to see by the men struggled as Bodie and Doyle set upon them and this gave the CI5 agents an instant advantage. However, as Bodie and Doyle were outnumbered, this advantage didn’t last long. Blows were exchanged on both sides but Bodie was trying to handle two assailants by himself while Doyle was using all his different fighting styles in quick succession. It was then that the younger people in the room decided that they weren’t going to stand by and watch if they could be of any use.
As Bodie kicked one man away Sam saw his chance to help and got hold of the man by the arm, swinging him into the centre of the room, just as Chris hit the guy with whatever he could get hold of. It did the job, but then being hit around the head by a brass door knocker tends to have the same result on a person no matter who you are.
It was then than Doyle lost hold on his own, somewhat slippery, customer, but instead of retreating this man made straight for Chris, grabbing hold of him with an arm around his neck. When everyone saw the knife now being held to Chris’ throat, they all froze into a somewhat gory tableau.
“Bloody hell!” exclaimed Bodie, taking in the scene.
“You!” spat the man now holding Chris.
“Coogan!” In anger and frustration Doyle kicked at the legs of the man that Bodie had just knocked unconscious to the floor.
“Sam,” ordered Bodie, “over here.”
Sam moved carefully around Coogan to make his way to where Bodie was standing. As he passed Chris they locked eyes together. To Sam’s surprise Chris didn’t look like the terrified lad he had expected to see. He looked calm, and as they gazed at each other it almost seemed that Chris was trying to reassure Sam, rather than expecting reassurance himself.
Sam moved to Bodie’s side, not taking his eyes of Chris. Without warning Chris slumped, as if he had passed out, and Doyle, never one to mess about in such circumstances, pulled the gun from his previously hidden from view shoulder holster and fired at Coogan.
Bodie quickly turned the lights back on and Sam ran back to check on his friend, who was now lying on the floor under a very dead drug dealer.
“Chris!” Sam dropped to his knees and tugged at Chris’ shoulders, struggling to pull him out from underneath the body. Happily, he found himself looking into an unhurt and smiling face and together they pushed and pulled until Chris was free.
And now, for the first time in a while, he really was.
It had been a long hot summer and Doyle was out in the back paddock watering the fruit trees that they had planted in spring. It was there that he found Sam, sitting in the shade of a big cooking apple tree, looking thoroughly miserable. Unable to resist the temptation Doyle turned the hose on his friend, sprinkling him with cold water, but if he thought he was going to get a reaction he was sorely disappointed. Turning the hose off, Doyle walked across to the tree and sat down next to Sam, leaning back against the firm tree trunk.
“You miss him,” stated Doyle.
“Like you miss Bodie,” replied Sam.
“But Bodie’s only gone to Liverpool. Chris is in bloody America.”
“And Bodie will be back tomorrow when I don’t know if I’ll ever see Chris again.”
Doyle turned towards him at that. “You do understand why Chris had to go, don’t you?”
“I’m not a child,” replied Sam. “Don’t treat me like one.”
“Perhaps not,” snapped Doyle. “But you are a bloody sulky teenager.”
Sam looked contrite. “Sorry.”
Both men lapsed into a comfortable silence for a moment.
Sam picked up a windfall apple and threw it across the field as far as he could. “If only it hadn’t been an animal like John Coogan…”
“Then maybe he could have stayed. Yes. But once we realised who was behind all this there was only one option. Even dead, Coogan has too many people who would be out for revenge, Chris would never really be safe.”
Sam ran his fingers through his hair. “I know it was the best thing for Chris… but…”
“You miss him. He’s out there with his real Dad, having a wonderful time going to Naval College and training to join the SEALs one day, and you’re stuck here.”
“Living it up having a wonderful time at Uni, with this place to come home to whenever you want. With MI6 already interested in recruiting you once you get your degree and the whole world at your feet.”
“Well, when you put it like that…”
“Precisely. Now stop moping about and live your life, Sam. You and Chris will get back together one day, I guarantee it.”
“Come on,” Doyle stood up. “Let’s get a beer and see if America have woken up yet.”
Sam looked up in surprise. “But Bodie banned me from making International calls.”
“Just call it my treat.”
And suddenly Sam’s future felt brighter than ever before.
For more than twenty years since its explosive, controversial conception CI5 had followed the same, tried and tested, pattern. Yes, they kept up to date with modern technology, vehicles and communication but the fundamental bedrock that CI5 had been built on by George Cowley remained, more or less, unchanged. That the best, most effective, format for organising their field agents was into teams of two.
When Harry Malone took over from a reluctantly retiring Cowley he had no intention of trying to fix what wasn’t broken and with him CI5 moved into the modern age, the start of a new Millenium. Still controversial, even unliked in some quarters, nobody could argue with CI5’s incredible effectiveness wherever they were sent to work.
It was into this illustrious company that Curtis and Keel came to work as partners, influenced by the agents of the past, a new 3-7 and 4-5 for the future.
“Still two sugars?” asked Curtis, as he picked up the coffee pot from the hot plate.
“Mmm. Thanks. Nice suit,” replied Keel.
“Cheers. Hugo Boss.”
Curtis passed Keel his coffee and set about preparing his own cup. “Got any thoughts about this weekend?”
“Yeah. Don’t wear the suit.”
“You know what’s going to happen when we get there just as much as I do. We’ll be painting, digging holes, dry walling…”
“Plastering,” corrected Curtis.
“Whatever. Don’t wear Hugo Boss for it.”
“Good point.” Curtis picked up his coffee and tentatively sipped, unsure of how hot it was going to be.
“Hey, Sam,” said Keel, as they strolled along the corridor together. “Do you think they’ll ever finish doing up that old ruin?”
“How dare you!” replied Curtis. “You are talking about a beautiful piece of English architecture, full of original features and charm.”
“Now you sound just like Bodie and Doyle,” laughed Keel.
“Anyone would think they had some kind of influence on me after all these years,” smiled Curtis. “Come on, we’ve got the world to save.”
If you would like to read more of teenage Chris and Sam's adventures my sequel can be found here...