Saturday 22 October 1977
“You know …”
Bodie glanced across to his partner who sat fidgeting in the passenger seat of the Capri. “What?”
“I can think of a hundred things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday afternoon than sitting here for …” Doyle emphasized his words by studying his watch “two bloody hours waiting for his nibs to show.”
Bodie hid a small smile. Ray Doyle could be such a drama queen at times. “Yeah, well, he couldn’t give me an exact time.”
“He never can, Bodie.” Doyle scrubbed a fist across the steamed-up window to clear a space to peer through. “Tell me again why he picked the most out of the way, derelict pit to meet with us.”
Doyle was right on one count. The old Victorian mansion was derelict. But it only had the appearance of being out of the way due to the overgrown jungle of a garden which surrounded it. In its heyday, the two acres of gardens would have been magnificent with manicured lawns and rose beds, and a long sweeping gravel drive up to the front door. Now the weeds infesting the gravel deadened the sound of anyone or anything that trod on it, and the lawns and rose beds had long since been overrun by brambles and nettles.
At least the walls of the house looked solid enough, Bodie had thought as he parked the car in front of it. After all, things were built to last back then. The downstairs windows were all boarded up and covered in graffiti, and several of the upstairs ones were broken allowing the ivy which shrouded the north and east facing walls to creep inside.
The original owner of the place would be turning in his grave if he knew what had become of the old house.
“Nah, it’s more Scooby Doo.” He grinned at Doyle. “You know, if it weren’t for you meddling kids,” he continued in an awful American accent.
Doyle looked him up and down, then shook his head with fond exasperation. “And you see yourself as Fred, I’ll bet.”
“At least I’m not Shaggy.” He laughed out loud and ruffled Doyle’s hair.
Doyle thumped him on the arm, and turned back to the windscreen which was fast steaming over again.
Rubbing his bicep which he was sure was going to bruise, Bodie cleared his own peep hole. “I can’t see anything through all this rain.”
“How much longer are we going to wait?” Doyle asked him.
Bodie shrugged. As Marty Martell was one of his contacts, it was Bodie’s decision. He’d never admit it to Doyle, but he was himself getting pissed off at Marty’s tardiness. He glanced at the clock on the dashboard. Two thirty-five. Christ, there was no way he’d be home in time for the three o’clock kick-off on the telly. He’d been looking forward to seeing Liverpool play today, as well.
“Come on, sunshine. As we’re here we may as well have a look-see.”
Doyle raised one eyebrow. “Out there?”
“You’re not scared, are you?” Bodie teased. “Don’t worry, Shaggy. I’ll protect you from all the monsters.” He grinned widely when Doyle glared at him.
“It’s you who should be scared, you pillock.” Doyle hissed. “Of me.”
Doyle threw open the door and jumped out into the downpour. Bodie turned up the collar of his leather coat and braced himself. He didn’t mind rain, but this deluge was something else. By the time he caught up with Doyle, his partner was standing in the covered porch of the Victorian mansion, shaking his head violently to get rid of the drops of rain caught in his curls.
Bodie swiped his hand over his face in an attempt to dry it whilst trying to ignore the fact that his cords were plastered to his legs in a most uncomfortable way. “That’s not rain,” he grumbled. “It’s a bloody monsoon.”
“Well it was your idea to check out this place.”
Bodie mimicked him childishly. So what? It made him feel better.
“When you’ve quite finished.” Doyle, the grown-up, paused with his hand on the door knob. The door knob which was fixed to a surprisingly well preserved and solid front door, albeit one covered in graffiti proclaiming that anarchy was well and truly alive and that God should save the Queen and the fascist regime.
“Doesn’t this strike you as a bit odd?” Doyle asked, his voice low and his eyes narrowed.
“Perhaps it was just well made.” Bodie answered, not sounding convincing even to his own ears. “Probably oak. That stuff lasts years.”
“Yeah, well, well-made oak door or not, this brass work wouldn’t look this new and shiny after fifty years, let alone one hundred. And if this door is one hundred years old I’ll eat my hat.”
Even as Doyle spoke, Bodie felt a prickling up his spine. All business now, he unzipped his leather jacket and slipped his hand inside to reach for his Browning Hi-Power nestled in its shoulder holster. At least his shirt was dry, he noted wryly, and then nodded to Doyle to try to open the door.
Neither of them was surprised when the door swung inward without so much as a creak.
Doyle looked at Bodie and raised his eyebrow. He stepped back and waved Bodie forward. With a quick smile and shake of his head at Doyle’s generosity, and with his weapon in hand, Bodie stepped into the gloom of the interior. He moved quickly to one side to both give Doyle access behind him and to make his body less of an easy target silhouetted against the daylight.
The hallway beyond the vestibule they stood in was empty except for a dusty Victorian hat and coat stand fixed to the wall on his left. What little light there was coming from the open door highlighted the cobwebs that covered it. There was no other furniture or furnishings. The floor was covered with worn tiles, the pattern faded and the colours dull and muted with time and dust, and the grand staircase in front on him had long since had any carpet removed.
Bodie felt Doyle at his back seconds before the door was shut as quietly as it opened and the light all but vanished. “What do you think?” He whispered.
“Can’t see a bloody thing in here. That’s what I think.” Doyle grumbled back quietly.
“Don’t suppose the leccy has been turned back on.” Bodie felt along the wall, trying to find a light switch.
“What do you mean, turned back on? Age of this place, I bet electricity was never installed in the first place.” Doyle pulled open the front door and, with a curse directed at the downpour, dashed back out to the car.
He returned minutes later, dripping water onto the tiles in the vestibule and brandishing the torch they kept in the glovebox of the Capri for such eventualities.
Bodie gently pushed the door closed again as Doyle turned the torch on and swung the beam slowly around the long corridor. Seeing the interior with more light did nothing to improve his first impression of the old Victorian home.
The wide hallway was lined with ornate dark wood panelling that led the eye to the imposing staircase. Bodie noted six doorways set into the panelling, three down the right side, two down the left and one at the end, tucked underneath the staircase where it turned a ninety-degree angle halfway up. A stone fireplace stood on the left side between the two double-width doorways, its limestone mantle an inch thick with dust and the grate with what looked like a pile of half burned logs and ash still in situ.
Doyle brought the beam of light to rest at their feet, casting earie eerie, elongated shadows of their bodies against the panelling.
Suppressing a shudder, Bodie turned away and pointed to the first door on their right. Although protected from the weather, the interior doors were in a far worse state than the front door, showing their age and years’ worth of neglect. As Bodie turned the knob with his left hand and slowly pushed the door open the hinges screeched with resistance.
“Christ.” He winced at the noise and let go of the knob, rubbing his ear to emphasise his discomfort. If there was anyone in the house, Bodie had just well and truly announced his and his partner’s presence.
Doyle eased past him. “Can’t take you anywhere, can I, sunshine?” He managed to slip his lithe body through the narrow opening and disappeared into the dark room, only to return seconds later.
“Completely empty,” he announced. “Except for the rather disturbing portrait of an old man over the fireplace and the footprints in the dust.”
“Footprints?” Bodie’s sense of alert heightened and the grip he had on his weapon tightened.
“Yeah.” Doyle’s cheek twitched with suppressed humour. “They’ve got some monster mice in here, you know.”
“Monster mice?” Bodie pulled a face in disgust, not at the idea of monster mice but at Doyle’s dodgy sense of humour. “Monster mice.” He repeated, turning away with the added “aren’t those called rats?”
He smirked when he caught sight of Doyle’s look of horror.
Crossing the hall, he opened the door to the left of the fireplace. This one opened much easier, and Doyle obediently shone his torch into the room when Bodie stepped aside for him.
Peering over his partner’s shoulder, Bodie let out a quiet whistle through his teeth. “Phew, that’s some room,” he admired the huge open space of what had once been a ballroom.
Doyle swung the beam around the room from left at what was the front of the house to the right at the back, but the room was too large for the light to reach all the corners. From what they could see, it too was empty.
Systematically they checked all the rooms on the ground floor, then moved up to the first floor and then the rooms in the attic. It was pretty much the same story everywhere. Very little remained of its previous occupancy. A couple of pieces of heavy furniture, a few portraits, and moth-eaten curtains on a couple of the windows. And copious amounts of dust and cobwebs. But definitely no sign of Marty Martell.
They ended up back on the ground floor by the door which led into the cellar. They’d purposely left this until last, wanting to make sure there was nobody hiding anywhere else in the old house. Not that someone couldn’t slip in once they’d gone down, but still.
“After you, sunshine.” Doyle stepped back.
Bodie took one look into the dark hole. There seemed to be a theme here with Doyle letting Bodie go first into unknown dark places. He’d have to put a stop to it. “You’ve got the torch.”
Doyle easily rectified that and shoved the torch at Bodie. He grunted as it hit his stomach with more force that was probably necessary.
“Thanks, mate.” Bodie grumbled, and cautiously made his way down the brick stairs. And as he descended it wasn’t his fault if his body blocked the majority of the torchlight for his partner, was it?
The brickwork was crumbling in places and there was a definite hollow in the centre of each step attesting to much use over the years, but considering the dampness pervading the cellar and its age, it wasn’t in too bad condition.
Once he reached the bottom, Bodie swung the torch back to the stairs so that Doyle could see his way down, rather than have to feel.
As Doyle joined Bodie, he gave him a glare. “Thanks, mate. Very helpful.”
Turning away to hide his grin, he shone the torch around. They were stood in a narrow corridor leading from the front of the house to the back.
“Doesn’t look much like any cellar I’ve seen,” Doyle commented. “Usually it’s just one big open space.”
Bodie grunted his agreement.
“Front or back?” Doyle asked.
Bodie glanced at Doyle blankly.
“Left or right?”
“What are you on about?”
“This corridor,” he pointed to their left, “that’s the front of the house, and that’s …” he pointed to their right, “the back of the house.”
“Right little know-all, aren’t you?”
With a harrumph sound, Bodie looked both ways like he was following the green cross code before crossing a road. “Start at the front, I reckon.”
They followed the corridor until they hit a solid brick wall.
“That’s odd,” Bodie commented, shining the torch to either side of them, looking for another opening in the brick walls. Estimating how many steps they’d taken, he commented “we must be under the front door, then.
“Nah, don’t think we’ve come far enough.” Doyle started knocking on the walls. They all sounded solid enough, but the mortar between the bricks was falling out in several places.
“Oi, be careful. You’ll bring the whole lot down on us.”
“Just checking. This corridor must have gone somewhere.”
“Not any more, it doesn’t.”
Doyle agreed. “Come on, then, let’s see what’s the other way.”
They turned around and retraced their steps, passing the staircase and heading towards the back of the property.
"Is it getting colder?” Bodie asked with an unexpected shiver.
“What school did you go to?” Doyle asked in criticism of Bodie’s poor English.
But Bodie was right, there was a distinct breeze blowing along the corridor. Doyle licked his finger and held it up, gauging the direction of the draught they could feel.
And then the walls either side of them suddenly disappeared as the corridor ended abruptly at the entrance to a small room. As the torchlight illuminated the space, Doyle let out a whistle between his teeth.
Lining the walls stood wooden box after wooden box after wooden box. Twenty-four of them in total, in stacks of three.
“Holy cow.” Doyle murmured.
“Reckon we’ve found what Marty wanted to show us.” Bodie slipped his weapon into its holster and fingered the lid of the nearest crate, trying unsuccessfully to lift it. “It’s sealed tighter than a virgin’s legs,” he muttered, the next second hissing when a splinter found its painful way into his finger.
“It’s no wonder you’re still single, you know.” Doyle muttered distractedly as he, too, tried to pry off the lid. When his efforts had no more luck than Bodie’s he reached into his pocket and pulled out his penknife.
“You’ll need something bigger than that,” Bodie grumbled.
Doyle smirked, his mind well and truly in the gutter. “I’ve never had any complaints before.”
Choosing not to encourage his partner, Bodie looked at the crate on top of the next stack along. “What about this one? The lid seems a bit looser.”
Doyle worried away at a nail that hadn’t been driven all the way into the wood and soon had an inch gap into which he could slip his fingers. Pulled up with brute force, the six-inch wide board soon came free of its neighbours and left a gap wide enough for the partners to peer into.
“Would you look at that?” Bodie reached inside and carefully drew out a rifle.
“It’s a PSG1,” Doyle identified the sniper rifle made by German manufacturer, Heckler & Koch.
Pulling out another, Bodie said “it’s full of them.”
“Looks like we need to put a call in to Cowley.”
The door had been left ajar which accounted for the breeze, but it opened soundlessly on its well-oiled hinges when Bodie pushed it. They looked at each other, and Bodie re-drew his weapon. There was no need to take stupid chances. Quietly, they entered another dark corridor permeated with damp. The air smelled of earth with a distinct hint of … river?
Soon the corridor turned more into a tunnel with a barrel roof and uneven dirt floor, and the eerie stillness and silence started to lift as noises infiltrated the underground space. Was that an engine? When the blackness took on a grey tinge and the tunnel suddenly ended in a tangle of brambles and undergrowth growing through an iron gate, Bodie was not surprised. He pushed and then pulled the gate but it wouldn’t open. The shiny new-looking padlock explained why.
Bodie peered into the gloom of a wet October dusk. It was very nearly dark, and the glimmer of twinkling lights shone off water. “We’re only ten, maybe fifteen, feet from the river. Looks like they’ve got their own landing dock right here, too,” he added as he spotted a solid structure before the water’s edge.
“Perfect set-up,” Doyle commented.
“Yeah, if you’re a gun runner.” Bodie took another long look outside before stating the obvious: “not much more we can do here.”
Together they made their way back to the weapons stash.
“I doubt they leave the crates in here for long.” Doyle pulled his radio transceiver from his pocket. “It’s too damp. They must be moving them out quickly.” He tried to connect with HQ, but cursed when met with silence. “There’s no signal down here.”
Shaking his head, Bodie grinned. “We’re underground. Half the time those things don’t work even if you’re stood on top of a bleeding tower block. Come on, sunshine, time to go back upstairs.”
Before he had gone two feet, Doyle snatched the torch out of his hands. “Don’t think I don’t know what you did before,” he grumbled, leading the way. “This time it’s your turn to feel your way on the stairs.”
As they made their way back along the corridor, Bodie kept close to his partner’s back. If Doyle asked why Bodie kept stepping on his toes, he’d tell him it was because he couldn’t see. There was absolutely no need to admit to Doyle that he was unnerved by the prickling sensation on the back of this neck and the shivers running up his spine from the cold.
oOo oOo oOo oOo oOo
Doyle pocketed his RT having reported in to Ruth who was manning the desks today. “He probably thought we’d figure it out on our own. You know, get bored and go sniffing around ourselves.”
“Bit of a clue would have helped, though.” He slowly turned in a circle. “Give me the torch. I can’t see further than my bloody nose in here.”
“It’s not that bad.”
Doyle tossed the torch at him without any warning and Bodie nearly fumbled it as he made a grab for it. “Pillock,” he muttered. He switched the torch on. “Do you reckon there’s more stashed anywhere else?”
“What? That lot downstairs not enough for you?”
“More than enough.” Bodie swung the torch around the room, its beam not powerful enough to reach into the furthest corners.
“Ostentatious lot, weren’t they?” Doyle commented.
“You what?” Bodie turned slowly, taking in the ornate wooden panels and the probably fake marble pillars that lined the walls of the ballroom as the torchlight touched it.
“Liked shoving their wealth into their peers faces, did the Victorians. You know, my ballroom’s bigger than your ballroom.”
“Is that what they were called back then?”
Doyle looked confused for a minute, then must have realized that Bodie’s mind had dropped into the gutter. Fighting a smirk, he muttered “you priapismic monster.”
“Look it up.”
“Swallow a dictionary, did you?” Bodie grumbled and wandered away. “How big do you reckon this place is, then?”
“Big.” Doyle answered unhelpfully.
Having turned in a full circle, Bodie swung the torchlight upwards. Again, the beam didn’t reach quite far enough to hit the ceiling, but the light reflected off the thousands of crystals attached to the chandeliers still hanging down from what Bodie imagined were highly ornate ceiling roses.
“Wow.” Bodie breathed out.
“Wonder why they were left?” Even Doyle sounded impressed. He answered himself. “Probably cost more to remove than they were worth.”
Bodie grunted a noncommittal reply, then “how long till the team get here?” He swung the torch to his partners’ face.
With a hiss at his near-blinding, Doyle shaded his eyes with his hand. “Watch what the hell you’re doing with that bleedin’ thing.” He blinked rapidly. “About forty-five minutes, Ruth said.”
As he spoke, something dropped on the hand covering his eyes. “That better not be a bloody spider.” He grumbled.
“Not scared of a little spider, are you, sunshine?”
Bodie stepped closer, taking pity on Doyle and shinning the light on his hand instead of his face. “Well, it’s not a spider,” he advised as he peered at the dark viscous blob stuck on Doyle’s hand. “What the hell is that?”
Doyle looked up to the ceiling but it was too dark to see anything up there. He brought his hand to his nose, almost reluctantly, and took a sniff. “I think it’s blood.”
“You cut yourself?”
“No.” He answered with certainty.
Bodie swung the torch upwards again, directly above Doyle’s head. He peered into the near dark, and saw a dark shape hanging there, similar to the chandeliers in their regimented lines but with no reflection of light off crystals. A sickening realization started to dawn on him.
“I think …” He hesitated and swallowed hard.
“Bodie?” He sensed Doyle looking at him when he took a little too long to continue his sentence.
“I think we just found Marty.”
oOo oOo oOo oOo oOo
He’d wanted to help, to do something so that he didn’t feel quite so useless. After all, he was no use to anyone just sitting on the side-lines and waiting. He’d kept it all together when the first of the support teams had arrived and he’d helped unload the equipment and bring in and set up the lights. But as soon as the switch was flicked on and the ballroom flooded with unforgiving light, he froze. He didn’t know what he’d been expecting, but the reality was gruesome and it wasn’t long before he lost what little remained of his long forgotten breakfast.
Marty had been impaled on a giant hook bolted to the ceiling, just like all those worms Bodie had slipped onto his fishing hooks without a second thought when he was a kid fishing on the banks of the River Mersey. But unlike all the worms Bodie had sacrificed over the years which wriggled furiously trying to get away, Marty hung lifeless from the hook, eyes wide open and staring, mouth open in what looked like an unfinished scream, his arms and legs dangling, and his body dripping blood onto the once beautiful parquet floor beneath it. The exit wound in his chest, from which the point of the hook protruded, gaped as gravity pulled the weight of his body away from the ironwork.
Bodie had fled the room, barely noticing that Doyle had turned a worrying shade of green and was covering his mouth with his now clean hand. It wasn’t as if Bodie and Marty were particularly friendly. They might have gone months without meeting, and then it was nothing more than a five-minute clandestine get-together out of the way while Marty imparted some useful, or otherwise, information. And, let’s be honest, in the CI5 line of work you saw some pretty grim things on a daily basis. But the horror of this really took the biscuit. It had certainly knocked Bodie for six.
As the nausea settled he found himself sitting on the staircase, keeping out of the way but still able to see what was going on. At some point, and probably following a great deal of discussion, someone had arranged for an internal tower scaffold to be brought in to get Marty down. The ceiling must have been thirty feet high, and there was no way a ladder was going to reach. Bodie found himself wondering how Marty’s body had got up to the ceiling in the first place. It seemed like a lot of trouble for his murderer to go to: erect a scaffold, coax Marty up it, kill him, climb down, dismantle and then remove the scaffold. There were far easier ways to hide a body.
He’d watched for a long time as crate after crate of weapons had been brought up out of the cellar and loaded into the back of a heavily guarded and armoured army truck. But once you’d seen one crate of weapons being carefully carried, you’d seen them all, and after a time he’d found his attention wandering back to the door of the ballroom.
As the mutilated body of Bodie’s former informant was brought out of the ballroom on a stretcher, covered with a sheet to hide the grim reality of his death, Bodie could feel the nausea rise again and closed his eyes. The feeling of overwhelming despair was like a weigh crushing down on him. What the hell was wrong with him? He’d seen far worse sights in Africa, for God’s sake. And it wasn’t like he’d never seen a grisly murder back in Blighty, either. He’d just never felt this … desolate before.
He heard a creak on the stairs and opened his eyes to see Doyle.
“You okay, mate?” His partner asked with concern.
“Yeah.” They both knew it was a lie. And judging by the pallor of Doyle’s skin, he knew exactly how Bodie was feeling from first-hand experience.
“Cowley’s on his way.”
“Yeah? Surprised it took him so long.” Bodie shifted his bum on the wooden stair tread, trying to alleviate some of the numbness.
“Got tied up in Whitehall, apparently. Probably having to justify the budget again.”
Bodie just nodded.
“He wants to have a word with us before we bugger off.” Doyle sat down next to him. “Hope he doesn’t take too long. I can’t wait to get out of here.” He rubbed his hand through his curls, dislodging cobwebs and goodness knows what else. “You want to go get a pint when Cowley’s done with us?”
“Yeah, I could do with one.”
“You and me, both, sunshine.”
Bodie felt some measure of comfort with his partner’s shoulder pressed against his own, a solidarity which he found went some way to restoring the strength that had been leached from him when they’d found Marty’s body.
“Do you feel alright?” He asked Doyle, and even though he kept his gaze fixed firmly ahead of him, he sensed Doyle’s eyes on him. When Doyle didn’t immediately answer, he felt the need to elaborate. “I mean, we see some pretty grim stuff in this game, don’t we?” Encouraged by Doyle’s slight nod, he continued “do you normally feel this … depressed, I guess, after?”
“Bit girly, innit?” Doyle leant back, his elbows resting on the stair above them. “Talking about … feelings?”
Bodie offered a weak grin. “Yeah, I know. It’s just … it doesn’t normally hit me this hard, you know?”
“It must be this place,” Doyle tilted his head to indicate the building around them. “I mean, we don’t usually end up on the ready-made set of a horror flick, do we?”
“Nah, I guess not.”
Their attention was drawn to the vestibule where a not-so-dulcet Scottish burr demanding to know what was going on announced the arrival of their boss.
“Show time.” Bodie pushed to his feet and stretched, before leading the way down the stairs to meet Cowley in front of the fireplace.
“Bodie. Doyle.” Cowley looked around himself with distaste. “Managed to find yourselves a bit more trouble, eh, lads? Care to enlighten me.”
Falling into soldier mode, and consciously quashing his emotions, Bodie gave a factual run through of the events of the afternoon. When he’d finished, Cowley looked at Doyle who was standing slightly behind Bodie.
“Anything to add, Doyle?”
“No, Sir. Bodie’s covered it all.”
Cowley gave a short nod. “Any thoughts as to who is to blame?”
They both shook their heads in the negative.
“Martell didn’t say anything?” This directed to Bodie.
“Nothing specific. He just said he had some information and to meet him here.”
Cowley turned his back on his operatives to stand in the wide-open doorway of the ballroom, studying the scene with impartial eyes.
“A nasty business,” he finally said, and glanced back over his shoulder to the partners. “You’ve been all over the house?”
“From top to bottom,” Doyle confirmed. “It’s virtually empty. Even the attics were cleared out years ago. Only signs of recent activity were in the cellar and here in the ballroom.”
A police technician tried to squeeze past Cowley in the doorway, but the Scotsman stopped him with a hand on his arm. “How much longer until you’re finished?” He asked.
“Nearly processed everything, Sir.” The man replied to the authority without hesitation. Cowley’s reputation went far and wide.
He shook his head. “No fingerprints of any use and the dust on the floor was too disturbed to pick up anything useful.” Cowley raised an eye at Bodie and Doyle as if to say why am I not surprised? Doyle just shrugged. There was no point in apologizing. They hadn’t knowingly disturbed a crime scene. Bodie didn’t meet Cowley’s eye.
Cowley thanked the man and let him go to finish up.
He turned back to Bodie and Doyle and studied them for a long, disconcerting minute, finally dismissing them with “I doubt you can do much more here tonight. Get yourselves off home.”
Bodie rubbed an exhausted hand over his face. “Thank you, Sir. We’ll get back on to it in the morning.”
Having already dismissed them, Cowley was distracted when he replied “I doubt the reports will be in until Monday at the earliest. Not much you can do before then.”
Saturday 22 October 1977
“There you go, sunshine. Just what the doctor ordered.” Doyle placed an ice-cold pint of lager on the table in front of Bodie, next to the decimated remains of the beer mat that Bodie had shredded whilst waiting for him to make it to the front of the queue and place their order.
“I thought it was an apple a day,” Bodie replied as he picked up the glass and took a long swig.
“What the doctor ordered. Wasn’t it an apple a day?”
“You do come out with some rubbish, sometimes.” Doyle shook his head and drank from his own glass. “Christ, I needed that.” He pushed a packet of chicken flavoured crisps towards his partner. “Here. Keep you going until the food’s ready.”
Bodie beamed at his partner and quickly opened the packet. His stomach rumbled just as he bit into the first of the crisps, and Doyle grinned at him.
“Feeling better, I see.”
“Yeah.” Crumbs sprayed from his mouth as he spoke, and he quickly swallowed. “Don’t know what it was about that place. Felt right queer.”
Doyle raised an eyebrow. “Wasn’t like you,” he agreed.
“Didn’t you feel it?”
“What exactly?” Doyle raised his glass to his lips again.
“I dunno, really. It was like the weight of the world was on me shoulders. I feel alright now.”
Bodie frowned at his partner. “Seen enough blood and gore over the years. There’s not much that shocks me nowadays.” He wasn’t bragging, just stating a fact.
Doyle raised his glass in acknowledgement, before having another drink. “You’d known Marty a long time.”
Bodie shrugged. “Known a lot of people a long time. Wasn’t like we were best mates.” He stared off into the distance, thinking. “No, it was something about that place.”
Doyle grinned. “Maybe it’s haunted,” he teased.
“Whatever it is, I’m damned glad to be away from there. Ah, here’s our grub.” Catching sight of a barmaid wending her way through the Saturday night drinkers who stood six deep at the bar, Bodie was glad to steer the conversation away from haunted houses.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in them. Far from it. He’d seen enough when he’d been a mercenary in Africa to make him question everything he’d ever been taught, things that couldn’t be rationally explained away. And he’d heard of even more from quite sane, normal colleagues who had told him stories of paranormal activities that he prayed he would never came across: white ladies, wendigos, and poltergeists were just the start of the list.
No, he was the first to admit that he was quite open minded on the subject of the supernatural. And being open minded certainly helped to explain why his reaction to Marty’s death was just … wrong.
There was no way in the world that he had suddenly become a sensitive soul who couldn’t handle death when he saw it. The feelings that had swamped him at Oakleigh weren’t a natural reaction for him. Ergo they had to be unnatural, and the conclusion he drew from that involved the supernatural. After all, what was it that Sherlock Holmes had said? “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.
Unfortunately, his partner, Ray “down-to-earth and straight-laced” Doyle was not a believer. If his partner even suspected that Bodie believed in spooks and ghouls, he would never live it down. Not only would Doyle take the piss something chronic, the whole of CI5 would know about it within five minutes.
There was no point in rocking the boat until he had something solid to go on, something more than just feelings. Tucking into his steak and kidney pie and chips, he vowed to keep all thoughts of the supernatural to himself for the time being.
Monday 24 October 1977
“Got the pathologist’s report.” Doyle slapped a manila folder down on the desk in front of Bodie. At Bodie’s raised eyebrow, he added “It’s not what you know …”
“… but who you know.” Bodie finished. “Never thought I’d admit it but your past life as a copper does come in handy sometimes.” He grinned. They would have received the report, eventually, through the proper channels but Doyle was right. When you knew the right people to talk to, things did have a habit of moving somewhat faster.
Doyle slapped him on the shoulder as he passed. “My past life comes in handy all the time.”
Bodie opened the folder and swallowed hard when he saw the black and white photograph stapled to the front inside cover. The image of Marty laid out on the mortuary table like a slab of meat burned itself into his memory, and he felt the bile start to churn in his stomach. He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths before he started reading, his eyes firmly fixed on the right-hand side of the open folder.
He was disappointed that the report didn’t really tell them much more than they already knew. The hook which passed right through Marty Martell’s body, damaging muscles, a lung and arteries on the way, was what killed him. Bodie skimmed past the description of how the fatal wound was enlarged due to how Marty’s body had been left hanging. He paused at the summary of the facts. “So, it was the hook that killed Marty, in situ, and something with superhuman strength thrust him with force onto it in the first place.”
“That’s pretty much what the pathologist said. Although his words to me were supernatural not superhuman.”
“There’s a difference?” Bodie asked with forced indifference.
“Don’t ask me. Whatever it was, it had some force behind it.”
“But why up there on the ceiling?” Bodie paused. “And how much time did the killer have? We were waiting in the car, what, two hours? How early did Marty arrive, then? The killer didn’t know we’d wait two hours before having a look around.”
“Must ‘av been desperate or stupid. Or both.” Doyle murmured from his side of the desk.
“How did the killer get him up there that quickly? We had to bring in specialist equipment to get him down, and that took over an hour to put up. There was no sign in the house of anything anywhere near high enough to have done the job, so where did the killer hide it?”
Doyle contemplated Bodie. “It’s really playing on your mind, isn’t it?”
“I don’t like mysteries. Something doesn’t add up here.”
“Maybe Marty arrived much earlier than we did.”
“The report said he’d only been dead a maximum of four hours.” Bodie tapped the folder in front of him.
“He might not have died instantly.”
“There is that,” Bodie conceded.
Doyle leant back in his chair and propped his feet up on the corner of the desk. “What we need to do is try to track down where all those bleeding weapons came from. I’ve put some feelers out, so hopefully we’ll start to hear something fairly soon. Do you know if Marty confided in anyone?”
“Other than me, you mean.”
“Yeah, other than you.”
Bodie shook his head. “I’ll ask Benny. They sometimes met for a cuppa, but I doubt he knows anything. Marty tended to keep his cards close to his chest.”
“You know Cowley wants us to get this wrapped up quickly. The murder of an informant isn’t that high a priority in the scheme of things.”
“Those his words?” Bodie raised his eyebrow.
Doyle grinned, then sobered as he continued. “I know this feels personal, mate, but don’t get too involved, yeah? We’ve got these weapons off the street, but we need to make sure the supply chain is cut off. That’s what we’ve got to focus on. If we get the bastards that are bringing the weapons into the country, we’ll have Marty’s killer.”
Bodie nodded. He’d tell his partner that he wasn’t convinced when he had something more concrete than a hunch to go on.
Monday 24 October 1977
Bodie stood in Richmond library and stared at row upon row of wooden shelving not sure where to start. He’d never set foot in a library in his life but he figured that, as well as the local Church, were probably the best places to go if he wanted to find out about the history of the house.
He was on his own time, having left his partner at his flat for the evening after a quick pint and a bite to eat at Doyle’s local pub. It was probably for the best seeing as Doyle was getting frustrated with Bodie’s preoccupation. Doyle was under the assumption that Bodie had a hot date with Andrea the accountant, and Bodie hadn’t corrected him. It was best he checked this out on his own until he had more than just a feeling of … wrongness to go on.
He hadn’t really intended to go to the Library but as he drove passed he saw lights on, and realized it was its late night opening to eight o’clock. With barely half an hour to go before closing, he slipped through the door and hesitated.
“Can I help you?” Bodie swung his attention from the shelving to the desk where a middle-aged man stood waiting to help the public. His clothes looked rumpled and dusty and he had about him the air of someone who couldn’t wait to get home after a long day’s work.
“Um, yeah. I’m trying to find out about a house in the area. Wondered if you had a local history section.”
“Of course, Sir, follow me.” He left his position behind the desk and led Bodie towards the darkened back of the room. The musty smell of disused books grew stronger as they passed by the fiction and reference sections. “What house in particular are you interested in?”
Bodie told him.
“I think you might be in luck. There’s a Local History book of Richmond which mentions several of the larger families in the area. There’s bound to be something in there.”
The librarian led him to the shelves which housed the tomes relevant to the local area, and quickly found the book in question. Bodie took it and started to scan it while the librarian continued to study the shelves in front of them. Within a few minutes, Bodie had amassed a small pile of books relevant to the area.
Towards the main area of the library, a voice called out advising the customers that the library closed in fifteen minutes.
Bodie cursed silently. He needed longer to study the books.
“Would you like to borrow them?”
Bodie nodded. “But I’m not a member.”
“We’ll soon rectify that, Sir.” The librarian briskly took him back to the main desk and within a few minutes he was heading out of the door.
Back in his flat he poured himself a whiskey, settled into his most comfortable armchair, and started to read.
By twelve thirty he had learnt the history of the Hamilton family who had resided at Oakleigh House. Built in 1843 by banker Charles Hamilton for his growing family, the Victorian mansion had been ostentatious to the extreme. No expense had been spared, and every possible architectural style had been incorporated, from the turret on the northern corner of the house to the Georgian style pillars in the ballroom. The author of one book on the subject had been particularly scathing about the ugliness of the house, calling it an architectural nightmare. Bodie found himself agreeing.
Not only was Mr Hamilton a successful businessman and banker, he also fathered nine children who, remarkably for the time, had all survived childhood. Five boys and four girls. His wife had died a young woman of only 32 when the last child, Maria, was born in 1846, and the children had been raised by a succession of governesses after then.
The eldest child, a son and heir also called Charles, was noted for being something of a horrid little boy according to a diary kept by the housekeeper at the time of Mrs Hamilton’s death. Not only was he cruel to animals (and Bodie cringed when he read reports of a couple of Charles Junior’s antics), he was known for bullying his siblings, and playing pranks on members of staff. Bodie guessed this would account for the high turnover of servants during the 1840s and 1850s.
The Hamilton’s had their share of tribulations over the years. The middle son, Benjamin, who was known as a quiet, bookish lad, brought shame on the highly religious family when he seduced a sixteen-year-old maid, Lizzie, and got her pregnant. He left Oakleigh under a cloud in 1862 and, according to several of the books, shipped out to the USA where he joined the Civil War. No-one knew what side he fought on, and he was never heard from again. His baby was still-born, and the maid was allowed to continue working for the Hamilton’s. No doubt Mr Hamilton senior thought she should repent her sins to those she sinned against, or had sufficiently repented that she should be allowed to remain in her position.
No matter the reasons for allowing her to continue working there, Mr Hamilton came to regret his generosity when she upped and poisoned the family with rat poison five years later. Eldest son Charles managed to ingest the highest dose and died, along with his two youngest sisters who were unmarried and still lived in the family home. The remaining family members recovered after varying degrees of illness. Lizzie was arrested, tried and hanged for the crime. Doctors’ reports at the time suggested she had gone quite mad, but the judge was most unsympathetic.
Once everyone had recovered, the family moved lock, stock and barrel to Berkshire and the house was sold. It was turned into a school for a few years, and then back into a family home again, but no-one ever stayed there very long and eventually it was boarded up and left.
One of the books that Bodie had borrowed, and the one he left until last on purpose, was a tour of haunted houses in Richmond.
This particular book featured Oakleigh quite prominently, and Bodie hoped he would find out something that would explain why, if not how, Marty had been all but eviscerated on the ceiling of the ballroom. Bodie read with interest one report of an elderly woman who had just retired to bed when she saw the image of a new born baby floating in front of her fireplace. Apparently, despite being attended by her physician and being given a sleeping draught, the old girl never recovered from the shock and passed away in her sleep two nights later.
Other reports mentioned wailing, unexplained winds whistling through the corridors, knocking sounds, cold spots in the house, the feeling that someone was touching you. Every possible ghostly encounter was included, and Bodie wondered how just how far the author had gone with artistic license.
The final encounter to be included in the book was the story of the last person to occupy Oakleigh who had lived in the house in the early 1900s. Interestingly, after insisting for many years that he had seen two ghostly figures of men fighting with each other on the staircase, he was later sent to a sanatorium for the insane. Bodie supposed that it was quite possible to go mad having witnessed that and then having no-one believe you.
Bodie took the majority of the stories with a pinch of salt. The noises, winds and cold spots could easily be explained away. The house was old and was bound to be draughty. Winds could howl through cracks and disturb possessions which could knock together and rattle. It didn’t take much to stretch the imagination into thinking things were there that actually weren’t.
The baby was more interesting, but Bodie couldn’t imagine why the ghost of a baby would kill Marty that way. Not that he was an expert, mind. And the report of the two ghosts fighting. That could be interesting. Certainly there was more violence and strength involved in that scenario, but none of the other books mentioned a fight on the staircase which had led to death.
Bodie took another sip of his largely forgotten whiskey and lent back in the chair, closing his eyes as he let the alcohol sink into his bloodstream and mulling over what he had learnt. Overall, the most interesting occupants of Oakleigh were the Hamilton’s and his gut feeling was that if there was a ghost it had something to do with that family. And that was the major quandary, wasn’t it? If there was a ghost.
Tuesday 25 October 1977
Bodie spent the majority of Tuesday trying to track down another of his and Doyle’s informants, Benny, no last name. He wasn’t in any of his usual haunts, and Bodie was foot sore by the time he collared him in a little pub called The Sneaky Fox. The name was quite apt, really.
“Benny, my man. You’re a difficult man to track down.” He positioned himself next to Benny and leant on the bar. The snitch looked as dishevelled as he always did. Ripped and dirty jeans, a sweatshirt that had been sweated on a few times too many, unwashed and greasy hair, and a beard that would give Father Christmas a run for his money. Bodie tried very hard to ignore the beer foam that clung to the wispy red hairs of his moustache. And was that food stuck in his beard? He hoped his cringe didn’t show.
Bodie could see Benny’s eyes flick to the door behind him, and turned to lean on one elbow ready to grab him if he tried to do a runner.
“What do you want.”
“Just a little chat, Benny. Need to ask you some questions.”
Benny knocked back the dregs of beer in the glass that he was holding and nodded. “Outside, then.” He looked over his own shoulder, and then nodded to the back door of the pub that led to a beer garden.
Bodie followed him. In the miserable October weather, the garden was deserted. Even the tables sitting under a covered pergola couldn’t tempt patrons outside. Benny sat down on one of the dry picnic benches, and pulled a packet of fags out of his pocket.
“Want one?” He held the packet up to Bodie, who shook his head.
“Suit yourself.” He pulled one out and stuck it in his mouth, but didn’t immediately move to light it. “So, what do you need to know?”
Despite all appearances to the contrary, Benny was one of CI5s better informants. He kept his nose fairly clean, if you ignored the occasional handling of stolen goods, but still managed to keep in with the right crowds. Well, the wrong crowds, but the ones of most interest to Bodie and Doyle. The snippets of information he passed over were usually worth following up, and the odd times they hadn’t been didn’t really bare thinking about.
“Have you seen Marty Martell recently?”
Benny thought. “Reckon it was a couple of weeks back.”
Bodie nodded. “Did he say anything?”
“Anything that might be going down up Richmond way?”
Benny let out an undignified snort. “You got to be joking, man.” He fumbled around in his pocket and then drew out a book of matches, no doubt pinched from a hotel or a club somewhere, before continuing. “Our lot aren’t exactly cut out for Richmond society. Stand out like a sore thumb, you know. Bunch of toffs.”
Bodie joined in the joke. “Don’t reckon I’d fit in there, either.”
Benny finally lit his cigarette, shielding the tip against the wind until it had caught alight. He shook out the match and then dropped it in a puddle on the paving slabs.
“He didn’t mention a job that was coming up?”
Benny looked at him. “That’s serious stuff, Bodie. You know I’d never get involved in the likes of that.”
“I wasn’t suggesting you were, Benny. I just wondered if Marty had mentioned anything to you. I know you two used to meet up for a bevvy sometimes.”
“Marty got ‘imself in trouble, ‘as ‘he?”
“You could say that.” Bodie waited to see if there were any signs of knowledge written on Benny’s face. He’d lay money on the fact that Benny had no idea about Marty’s demise.
“For God’s sake, Bodie. Just spit it out already.” Patience had never been one of Benny’s strong points.
Bodie looked down at the ground briefly, and then caught Benny’s eye. “He was found dead on Saturday. In an old house in Richmond. We …” he momentarily hesitated over including himself, then continued “we believe it’s connected to a recent illegal shipment of weapons.”
Benny was genuinely shocked.
“So … did he say anything, at all?” Bodie waited.
Benny took a long drag of his cigarette, thinking. “You know what he’s like, Bodie. Doesn’t … I mean didn’t really say much about himself. Very good at listening, though, if you know what I mean.”
Bodie knew exactly what Benny meant. Marty would have made a good interrogator. And what was worse was that you never knew he’d been grilling you.
“He did say there was something big going down, but ‘e never gave me any details.”
Bodie had no choice but to accept what Benny told him. He pulled his wallet out of his inside coat pocket and took out a fiver. He held it just out of reach of Benny’s outstretched hand. “You know how to reach me if you think of anything, right?”
“Of course, Bodie. You know I won’t let you down.”
He handed the note over, and left Benny without another word. Another dead end. What a waste of a day.
Tuesday 25 October 1977
By the time Bodie climbed into the Capri to head home it was nearly six. He managed to convince Doyle that he had a date with the lovely Julia, and in many ways he wished he had. He could do with a bit of tender loving care with his feet aching the way they were after his day trudging around. He guessed it was time to invest in some new footwear.
Instead of cuddling Julia in her flat, he found himself outside the Holy Trinity Church in Richmond. The lights were still on in the Church, but the list of services on the noticeboard showed that nothing was taking place tonight. On the off-chance he might catch the Vicar at a quiet time, he pushed the heavy wooden door open.
Cringing as the door banged against a stack of chairs situated behind it, he looked around. There was a woman down by the altar arranging flowers, but other than her no-one else was in sight.
He shut the door more gently, and started down the aisle. The woman looked up as he drew closer and smiled at him.
“Is the vicar around?” He asked.
“Oh yes, he’s just popped into the vestry. Let me get him for you.” She disappeared through a door on the left, just a little too keen for his liking, and he waited patiently.
Within a few minutes she was back with a tall, skinny man with a shaggy mop of white hair, dressed in a black suit with the obligatory white collar. He must have been in his seventies, but he held himself upright and moved with the grace of someone younger. The vicar smiled at him beatifically.
“I’m the Reverend Jones. I understand you were looking for me.”
“Not you, specifically, I’m just looking for some information about a family who used to live around here in the 1850s. I wondered if you could help.”
The vicar beamed at him. “I know I’m getting on a bit in years, young man, but not even I am old enough to have been around in the 1850s.”
Bodie returned the smile with embarrassment. “I’m sorry, I meant do you have records that go back that far?”
The vicar nodded and led him back towards the vestry. “Our records go back quite a bit farther than that. What’s the family’s name?”
“Hamilton. Used to live at a property called Oakleigh near the river.”
“I think I know the place. Been derelict for as long as I can remember.”
He reached for an ancient register sitting on a shelf behind his desk, and blew the dust off it before sitting it down.
“The Register of Deaths.” He stated, ignoring the fact that Bodie could read the gold writing on the cover. “We also have the Register of Marriages and Births.” He started turned to pages carefully. “What exactly are you looking for?”
“Anything, really, about the family. I’ve read some local history books that mention a mass poisoning. Three of the adult children died.”
The vicar paused and looked up at Bodie. “Oh, that family.”
“You know of them?”
“When I was first assigned to Holy Trinity, a long time ago now, I found myself volunteered to join a local history group. It was quite fascinating. After my initial … doubts, I found it helped me to learn a lot about my parishioners and the area. A most valuable experience.”
“Do you remember any details about the Hamiltons?”
Reverend Jones leant back in his chair, and gestured for Bodie to take a seat on the other side of the desk.
“I believe they were a highly religious family. The father ruled with quite the firm hand, if I remember correctly.”
“He was a banker.”
“Indeed.” He steepled his fingers together and rested his chin on them. “He had a large family, didn’t he?”
“Nine. Five boys and four girls.”
“That’s right. And his wife died in childbirth, didn’t she? Quite tragic, dying at such a young age. Still, it happened a lot in those times.”
“Do you remember anything about the children?”
The vicar thought for a minute, then shook his head. “No particulars, I’m afraid. It was a long time ago, and the old memory isn’t what it used to be.”
“I understand, Sir.”
“There was one son who had a relationship with one of the servants.”
“That’s right. A maid called Lizzie Prince.”
Reverend Jones chuckled. “You seem to know all about the Hamiltons already, young man. What do you need me for?”
Bodie smiled slightly. “I only know what I read in the books. I thought local … er … gossip might shed more light on the family.” He paused for a few seconds. “Do you know what happened to that son. The one who got the maid pregnant?”
“The reports we came across just said his father was disgusted with his behaviour and had him banished to the New World. I don’t think he was ever heard from again. There is no record of his ever coming home. Mind you, if it had been after the awful tragedy he might not have been able to track his family down. You know they moved after the poisonings?”
“Dreadful business, but the story of the Hamiltons misfortune became quite the talk of Richmond. It brought quite a bit of notoriety to the area.”
“People love that type of drama.”
“Indeed they do.” The Reverend looked at a clock sitting on the shelf. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No, thank you. I won’t hold you up much longer if you want to get on.”
“Not at all. It’s nice to take the weight off my feet.”
“Do you know if Lizzie Prince had any family?”
“There was never any mention of them in the newspaper reports. Even though she was found to be insane, according to two independent doctors at the time, she still had to stand trial for the murder.”
“There was no doubt that she did it?”
The vicar shook his head. “None. She was able to describe in perfect detail how she committed the crime, from taking the box of rat poison from the garden store to putting it in the food. She swore she was told to do it by her lover, the Hamilton son who was banished to America.”
“Benjamin Hamilton? But he left years before.”
“And that would be why she was declared mad. She insisted that Benjamin talked to her every night while they lay together in bed.”
“Did she give any other explanation as to why she did it?”
Reverend Jones shook his head. “I suggest you need to read the newspaper reports of the time. I know several of the local dailies still had them in their archives in the 1950s.”
“Do you remember anything of the eldest son? The one who died from the poisoning?”
The vicar went back to searching the register in front of him, and stopped on the page which detailed the burials of the three Hamilton siblings in 1867. There was little detail – names, address at time of death, date of death, reason for death. Bodie jotted it down in his notebook. He repeated the process with the Register of Births, and the one for marriages. At least he’d get a clearer picture of the family when he could place their ages with the various important dates.
Bodie stood to leave. He put his hand out to shake Reverend Jones’ hand. “Can I ask you one more thing?”
“Have you ever heard about Oakleigh being haunted?”
Bodie saw the vicar’s hand shake slightly as, ignoring Bodie’s outstretched arm, he raised his hand to run his fingers through his hair. Bodie waited patiently.
“Of course there have been rumours,” he finally answered. “One assumes that is why the place has been unoccupied for so long.”
“What rumours?” Bodie pressed gently.
Reverend Jones smiled but there was no warmth to it. “Oakleigh appears to have been overrun with ghosts, if you believe half of what you hear. Everything from apparitions that can pass through solid walls to poltergeists.”
“What are your views about the rumours?”
Bodie was subjected to an intense gaze while the vicar studied him. “I don’t believe you told me why you are so interested in the Hamilton’s and their house.”
Bodie considered how much he should tell. Reverend Jones was most unlikely to have any connections with the gun smugglers, but you never knew. In the end, he decided on a half-truth. “I’m with CI5, investigating a murder at Oakleigh.”
“I didn’t think CI5 stooped as low as investigating crimes. Don’t you usually chase down terrorists and the like?”
Bodie gave him a small smile and answered cryptically “we go where we’re needed.”
“And you were needed at Oakleigh?”
The vicar took a deep breath. “Let me ask you, young man. Do you believe in the paranormal?”
“I have an open mind,” Bodie answered without hesitation.
“And this murder you’re investigating. Something has made you believe all is not as it should be?”
Silence stretched between them as Bodie carefully chose his words. “There is a certain amount of … improbability about the circumstances.”
The vicar nodded. “To answer your question then, yes, I believe there are such things as ghosts and the like. I have seen much over the years that cannot be explained in any other way.”
“And about Oakleigh?”
“As I said, I have heard the rumours, but I’ve not visited the house so can’t say with certainty that they are true. On balance, I’d say there’s probably a grain of truth in them.” He stood up. “It is up to you to find what that grain is.”
Thanking Reverend Jones for his time, Bodie took his leave.
Wednesday 26 October 1977
Bodie and Doyle spent much of the next morning either on the telephone in their office at HQ, or searching through files. With very little to go on, they had decided to follow up on everyone CI5 had on file whose modus operandi included weapons.
It proved to be an arduous task. Many of the felons they had previously come across were either dead or locked away in prison. Not that that meant anything. No end of criminal masterminds managed to run successful operations while staying at Her Majesty’s pleasure, and Bodie wouldn’t have been surprised if a few managed to run things from beyond the grave, whether or not one believed in the supernatural. And there were a few unknowns. Unknown as in disappeared off the face of the earth but could still be out there somewhere. Still, with nothing else to go on, it was as good a place as any to start their investigations.
Bodie acknowledged to himself that finding the culprits who had stashed the weapons was a low priority for him. And God help him if Doyle, or Cowley, found out that fact. His mind kept mulling over the tragedy of the Hamilton family, and the excursion he had planned to the newspaper office to peruse its archives.
Bodie was contemplating getting up for a stretch and to grab a cuppa for both him and Doyle when the phone on his desk rang.
“Bodie,” he answered it gruffly.
“Bodie, it’s Benny.”
He grabbed his notebook and pen, hoping that his informant had something positive to report.
“Got word from a mate that ‘e’s ‘eard of some geezer from the Home Counties who’s spending a ruddy fortune on weapons. Doesn’t want to get ‘is ‘hands dirty so ‘e’s got some lackeys doing the actual deal for him. Me mate says he’ll try to find out who it is and see if he can get some more information.”
“You’ve no idea who it could be?”
“Someone new to the game, ‘e reckons. One of those toffs, I’ll bet. All la-de-da lords and ladies who think they’re better than everyone else. Half of ‘em get away with murder half of the time.” Benny really did have a chip on his shoulder about the upper classes.
Bodie chuckled. “You’ll let me know the minute you hear something concrete?”
“Course I will.”
Wednesday 26 October 1977
Using his masculine charms and allowing a quick glimpse of his CI5 credentials, Bodie rapidly gained access to the archives of the Richmond Daily. Years ago the newspaper itself had been swallowed up by one of its larger, neighbouring rivals in Wimbledon and was now rebranded the Wimbledon and Richmond Weekly News, but the original archives had been transferred at the same time as the ownership and were now gathering dust in the cellar of the Weekly News’s offices.
The blond girl who had been easily persuaded with a smile and cheeky charm to bypass the usual stringent procedure for allowing access to the archives, led the way into the cellars and along row after row of boxes and transfer cases full of old newspapers. Bodie had to keep ducking his head under pipework that felt hot to the touch, as he could attest when he touched one and burnt his fingers.
“Oh, I should have warned you about those,” the girl blushed.
“Strange place to keep your pipes.” Bodie answered through a mouthful of fingers as he tried to ease the sting.
“The heating furnace is down here. Helps to keeps the archives dry.” She replied, coming to a stop at the end of one row. “Here we go, Richmond Daily, 1851 to 1900.”
Bodie looked in despair at the aisle. “Don’t you have them on microfiche?”
She smiled brightly. “It’s an ongoing project. We haven’t got back that far yet.”
“Great.” Bodie murmured.
“What year are you looking for?”
Bodie told her and she led the way towards the end of the aisle. “Here you go,” she indicated a couple of shelves of boxes covered in dust. “I’ll leave you to it. I’ve got to get back to the desk.”
Very trusting, Bodie thought, considering he’d only flashed his credentials at her and didn’t have any kind of warrant. He’d have a word with her once he’d found what he was looking for.
Blowing the dust off the box for January 1867, Bodie lifted it down and knelt on the floor to start riffling through the contents.
It took hours. The problem with the Richmond Daily was just that: it had been a daily paper. He painstakingly went through every edition from cover to cover, and it wasn’t until he’d gone through 194 fragile editions that he found something on 14 July.
The reports printed in the newspaper from that day until after Lizzie’s trial and the sentence had been carried out didn’t really give him much more information than he already had. He guessed that all the reports he’d read and heard had ultimately come from the same source – these archives. What was of interest, however, were the eye witness reports that hadn’t been published in the books.
There were no end of people willing to come forward to express their views of the family. Servants and tradesmen, and the like. He wondered if, back then, having your name mentioned in the paper was a claim to fame for the working class, something to be proud of. And of course there might have been a healthy dose of sour grapes and the opportunity to air their grievances to an audience eager for all the details they could find. Whatever the reasons, the Hamilton family wasn’t shown in the best of lights.
One account said “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer chap” in response to Charles Junior’s death. Another stated that he “was a most unpleasant character”. One claimed the family patriarch was a tyrant and it was no wonder the son had turned out so bad, with most of his siblings not that much better.
There seemed to be quite a lot of sympathy for Lizzie Prince amongst her colleagues. Now that was interesting. She was portrayed as a shy, innocent sixteen-year-old who wouldn’t hurt a fly and who had been very much in love with Benjamin. Lizzie’s fellow servants were reported as saying that Benjamin felt the same way and that they couldn’t understand why he didn’t take her with him when he left after one argument too many with his father and eldest brother. When Benjamin walked away, Lizzie was heartbroken, and when she lost the baby a few months later she was never the same again. She would talk herself to sleep every night, but carrying out her duties during the day she effectively became a zombie.
Bodie read with interest the newspaper report on the testimony of a servant who had left the house not long after Lizzie gave birth. Bodie assumed the Defence had called her to the stand as a character witness, but what they’d hoped to gain was a mystery as she’d left long before Lizzie exacted her revenge on the Hamiltons’; five years was plenty of time for someone to change. But, interestingly, she swore on the Bible that the baby son Lizzie birthed was not stillborn. She assisted with the birth and stated “the whole house could hear the little boy’s cries until Mr Charles the younger entered the room and took the bairn away”. Apparently, the baby was never seen alive again. When cross-examined she swore that Charles Junior had smothered the baby.
The questioning of the ex-servant was brutal, but she kept insisting that Charles Junior had killed the baby and that he bullied everyone afterwards to keep silent. When asked, she stated that she left the Hamiltons service because she didn’t feel safe in the house. Eventually the Prosecution discredited her by calling into question her own mental health when none of the other servants backed up her claims.
Ultimately, the newspaper reports on Lizzie’s trial painted a picture of a young woman who had lost her mind at the same time she lost her lover and her baby. Her claims that Benjamin had told her to poison the family, and the exact method to do it, were met with derision and mockery. The poor girl hadn’t stood a chance.
Wednesday 26 October 1977
For once it wasn’t raining when Bodie stepped out of the car at Oakleigh, carrying a plastic bag of supplies from a shop in Soho specialising in the occult. The full moon shone through the scuttling clouds, allowing Bodie to pick his way to the front door without turning on his torch. He couldn’t suppress the shiver that ran up his spine when he looked up at the foreboding façade of the Victorian mansion. Something about the dark made it seem much more eerie. And the bats swooping around him on the hunt for food didn’t help, either. Weren’t they hibernating yet?
“I must be mad,” he muttered to himself. “Why the hell am I here, again?” He didn’t bother answering himself.
He needed to find some proof that backed up his theory before he approached Doyle. His partner was going to think he was bonkers anyway, so he was looking for anything that proved he wasn’t barking up the wrong tree.
Taking a deep breath and holding it for what seemed like minutes but was probably no more than twenty seconds, Bodie braced himself and pushed open the heavy door. As he entered the dark interior, he switched on the torch, holding it down low so just a small area in front of his feet was illuminated but not much more.
Without turning, he used his free hand to close the door behind him and then stepped back slightly so his back was pressed up against it. He listened.
For a minute he thought there was complete silence, and then as his ears became adjusted he realized he could hear the creak and groan of old wooden beams and doorframes as they shifted with the humidity. Logically he knew it was the differences in humidity that made the wood swell or shrink, but knowing that didn’t make him feel any better in a house that he had no doubt was home for a ghost.
Down near the fireplace on his left he sensed movement. A pair of eyes shone in the torchlight, blinking furiously, before the rat they belonged to turned tail and disappeared into a crack behind the fireplace. The rat’s sudden movement caused a dusty cobweb, which stretched from the wall to the side column of the fireplace, to billow and send dust motes into the air.
Bodie felt his heart pounding. “For Christ’s sake, get a grip,” he admonished himself, taking several deep, calming breaths, and slowly swung the torch beam around the hallway, remaining in the relative safety of the vestibule. At least if there was anything sinister there with him he was right by the door and could make a very quick getaway. He hoped.
Other than himself, however, the hallway was empty. With a deep breath and a reminder to himself that he’d been in the SAS, for Christ’s sake, he stepped forward into the hall proper and braced himself for the stupidity that he was about to do.
He wasn’t sure how to go about summoning a spirit. It wasn’t anything that he’d done before, so following in the tradition of all the best séances he’d seen depicted on television he started with a barely audible “is there anybody there?”
He wasn’t really surprised when he didn’t get a reaction.
He repeated himself, louder this time. “Is there anybody there?”
Feeling the chill in the air, he pulled the collar of his coat up around his neck. Alright, he thought, on to plan B.
He knelt on the floor and from the plastic bag pulled out an Ouija board. He laid it on the floor and followed some of the instructions that the shop owner had given him. He chose to ignore the sage advice that he had been given that Ouija boards should only be used in a group and never in a haunted house. He only wanted the answer to one or two simple questions, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to overlook some of the guidelines.
He’d be more comfortable sitting cross legged on the floor, but decided to remain kneeling in the interests of a quick getaway should it be needed. He laid the torch by his knee, facing the board so he could read any answers he received. Placing his hands on the board where he had been told to put them, he breathed deeply a few times, and then repeated the question “is there anybody there?”
He very nearly jumped out of his skin when the pointer under his fingers started to move of its own accord. Yes.
“Oh fuck,” he thought.
“Are you Charles Hamilton Junior?”
He wondered if he should take it the questioning any further, and then thought “what the hell, in for a penny in for a pound.”
“Did you kill Marty Martell on Saturday?”
The yes was unmistakable, but it was hard to keep his fingers on the board when the floor underneath him seemed to start shaking and a strong wind rose and howled through the hallway. The dust in the atmosphere started swirling around, particles coming together to form a thick cloud that rose higher and higher in a tight tornado that clung to and violently buffeted his body.
Struggling to breathe in the thick air, Bodie started to cough. The tornado picked up the torch and Ouija board and added them to the maelstrom surrounding him. He felt his own body start to rise and as his weight came off his knees he kicked out with his now free legs, needing to fight back but incapable of doing anything else.
In the dark cloud there were flashes of light as the torch spun out of control just above his head. It made him feel sick. Or possibly that was his first close encounter with a ghost. Whatever it was causing the nausea, he felt the overwhelming need to try to switch the light off. He managed to raise his arm above his head and reached out. Something sharp smacked into his wrist, right on the bone, and the sudden pain momentarily overrode all other feelings. As the light swung again, he realised that the culprit was the Ouija board. Right, if he was within distance of the board, he was within distance of the torch, he reasoned. Doing his best to ignore the pain in his wrist he reached again, and his fingers found the smooth cylinder of the torch.
His thumb slid the switch off, and it was as if he had turned off the tornado. As the room was plunged into complete darkness, the wind suddenly died and gravity took over. Bodie crashed back down to the ground, his shoulder smacking into and dislodging the coat stand as he came down at an angle. He staggered, nearly lost his footing but managed to stay upright by grabbing onto the edge of the coat stand.
The air was still thick with dust. Bodie couldn’t breathe and he needed to be out of the house. Now. He didn’t give a thought to the Ouija board or the bag it had come in, just stumbled towards the door gripping the torch tightly.
He fumbled for the door knob, starting to panic when he couldn’t feel it. He switched the torch on for just as long as it took him to find it, then stumbled through the open door into the fresh and cool air of an October night.
The door banged shut behind him, but he didn’t stop moving until he had the Capri door open and had collapsed onto the driver’s seat. He locked the door, and gripped the steering wheel tightly with both hands, trying not to pass out.
That was certainly one way to have his suspicions proved right. How the hell was he going to explain this to Doyle?
Thursday 27 October 1977
Bodie had no sooner hung up his leather jacket on the hook behind the door and stepped back to his desk before his partner slammed the door open and strode into the room.
“’Bout time you showed up, sunshine. It’s all been happening while you’ve been getting your beauty sleep.”
“What’s been happening?” Bodie glanced at the clock on the wall as he spoke. It wasn’t even eight o’clock yet. He didn’t think he was doing too badly for someone who had spent half the night getting up close and personal to a malevolent spirit in an old abandoned house. Well, maybe not half the night. He absently rubbed his shoulder where a bruise had coloured the skin purple and left the area tender after he had slammed into the coat stand.
“Got some intel back from Dawson in the Met.”
“Are you sure you’re working for CI5 now?” Bodie asked. “You seem to spend a lot of time with your old mob”.
Doyle was distracted. “Yeah, yeah, I know. Mock all you want. Just remember it pays to never burn your bridges.”
“It’s a bit late for that for me, mate.” Bodie said with a grin, knowing that a lot of bridges with his own past were well and truly scorched.
“Yeah, well they say some things are better kept in the past.”
Bodie sat down, hoping his partner didn’t notice his wince when his aching muscles objected. “So, what has Dawson got to say for ‘imself?”
“They’ve heard on the grapevine about a delivery coming in tonight from the continent. Word has it, it’s coming up the Thames and it’s destined for short term storage in a river property in Richmond.”
“That’s as likely as anywhere else.”
“Bit of a bloody risk, isn’t it? Richmond’s a hell of a way up river. What about the lock and weir?”
Doyle shrugged. “You get the right boat, a pleasure cruiser with the right kind of people on board, you’d probably sail under the radar.”
Bodie snorted when Doyle said right kind of people. “Drunken toffs, you mean?”
“Nobody would bat an eye at a party going on. And time it right, and you’d get free passage through the weir at high tide.”
Bodie acknowledged it was speculation, but it was obvious there were ways and means for the delivery to take place.
“So, what’s the plan?” He asked. “The boys in blue going to collar them on the boat?”
“Nah, I managed to persuade Dawson to let them reach their destination.”
“What if they’re nothing to do with Oakleigh? They could stop anywhere.”
“Thought about that, didn’t I?” Doyle grinned at him across the desks. “CI5 will be waiting at Oakleigh, the Met will have their own boats waiting at strategic spots up and down the Thames.”
“So if they land at Oakleigh …”
“… it’s our collar and we get to question them first.” Doyle finished.
Bodie mulled things over.
“We’ve got nothing to lose, mate.” Doyle continued.
“Cowley agree it?”
Bodie had to concede it was a good plan. And Doyle was right, they had nothing to lose. But “you do realise, though ...” he paused for dramatic effect “… you’re going to be in debt to Dawson.”
He saw Doyle’s grimace and laughed out loud.
oOo oOo oOo oOo oOo
After greeting Reverend Jones, Bodie got straight down to business.
“I had something of an encounter last night.”
“From your tone, I assume you mean the kind that goes bump in the night.” The vicar didn’t sound too surprised.
“Exactly.” Bodie explained what had happened, and took his dressing down like the soldier he had been when Reverend Jones told him in no uncertain terms how stupid he’d been.
“You’re lucky to have got away unhurt. I take it you are unhurt?” He added as an afterthought.
“Just a few bumps and bruises. Nothing I haven’t had before.”
“I can imagine. So, how can I help you this time?”
“I’m looking for advice. How do we get rid of Charles Junior?”
“You’re talking about an exorcism. You do realise that it’s not something men of the cloth are called upon to carry out in this day and age?”
Bodie was surprised. He would have thought there was quite a need to perform that service for the community.
“You don’t know how to do it?” He tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
The vicar’s sigh could be heard quite clearly over the phone line. “I know the theory of carrying out an exorcism. That’s not to say that I have ever had the need to put it into practice.”
“Would you be willing to do one?”
“Oh, there’s no need for a vicar or a priest when carrying out an exorcism. That’s just something made up in fiction and films.”
Well, that was a surprise.
“You just need a Bible and a cross to hold, and to recite certain passages from the Bible.”
“That’s it?” That sounded far too simple.
“The theory is that it will work.”
Bodie had hoped for something a little more concrete than a theory, but it was worth a shot.
After arranging with the vicar that he would pop around to borrow the required Bible and cross, and to find out the passages that he had to read, he hung up. After his run in the night before, he was certain he couldn’t do this alone, and the only person he trusted to have his back was his partner. Which meant he had to try to get Doyle on board, and that wasn’t going to be easy. He’d have to let them get this bust out of the way first, though, before he incurred the famous Doyle wrath.
Thursday 27 October 1977
Bodie couldn’t help but be relieved when Cowley vetoed Doyle’s suggestion that they wait in the cellar at Oakleigh to nab the gun runners, assuming Dawson’s intel paid off. It might be damp and uncomfortable crouched in the brambles near the river end of the tunnel, but the location afforded a great view of the river and Bodie doubted they would upset the current occupants of Oakleigh too much out here.
Doyle argued that out here in the open the gun runners could scatter into the wind the minute they caught sight of the CI5 agents. And Bodie had to agree that he had a point. Cowley’s response was that the tunnel was too dilapidated and any firefight that might take place could bring down a whole lot of Victorian brickwork and tons of earth on whatever poor sod happened to be in there. And he, too, had a point. Bodie wisely kept his own counsel and let them fight it out themselves. He knew Cowley would be victorious.
It was close to midnight. Bodie had caught himself nodding off several times as the hours wore on, and each time he had jerked awake with a guilty start, hoping that those around him hadn’t noticed. He was tired from burning the candle at both ends, and needed a good night’s kip. He’d be the first to admit that it probably wasn’t too good an idea to be on a stake out with sleep deprivation, but no way was he going to say anything to Cowley. He needed to be here to see this through.
The chimes of Big Ben striking midnight could be heard in the distance when Doyle elbowed Bodie and nodded towards the river once he had his attention. Bodie shifted, waking up his legs which had been lucky enough to get some sleep, and reached for his weapon.
A bobbing light on the water was heading in their direction as the boat was steered towards the ramshackle wooden dock.
“Wait ‘til I give the signal, lads,” Cowley spoke quietly to instruct the hidden agents. At this time of night sounds tended to travel quite a long way.
Bodie could make out more detail of the boat as it drew level with the dock, and saw that it was a modest sized pleasure cruiser. He could just see the name, Emma Jane. If there had earlier been a party on board to avoid suspicion, there was no sign of it now. The crew worked in silence and it was impossible to see how many people were actually on board.
As the Emma Jane docked, three dark silhouettes jumped into action working efficiently to secure the cruiser to the dock, before being joined by another four figures. Still working in near silence, the seven crew members started unloading and it wasn’t long before a stack of ten crates sat beside the obscured tunnel entrance. Finally, the boat slipped its moorings and made its way further upstream. Only four men were left behind on the dock watching its departure, before the shortest one turned towards the crates and the others followed dutifully after him.
Bodie delighted in their stroke of luck. The only escape for these four was either to swim for it or take on the CI5 agents. They couldn’t have planned it better if they’d tried.
“Now!” Bodie leapt to his feet at Cowley’s command, his partner by his side. There was pandemonium as the gunrunners made a break for it.
The shortest of the four, the leader Bodie assumed, ran right in front of him. From a slightly elevated angle, Bodie launched himself through the air and knocked the man over with his flying tackle. Although his landing was softened by the man’s body as it cushioned his fall, he still had the breath jolted out of him momentarily and his previous aches and pains flared up again. His opponent should have been knocked out cold from the force of the tackle, but Bodie could feel him wriggling underneath him and when he shifted slightly to get a better hold on the man, suddenly there was a knee digging into his crown jewels.
With a shout of pain, Bodie rolled off the man and grabbed at his groin. His opponent scrambled away from him, slipping in the mud of the river bank which caused him to slide backwards towards the water. Furiously blinking away tears that had pooled in his eyes, Bodie pushed through the pain and went after him.
“No you don’t, sunshine,” he muttered to himself, grabbing a fistful of the man’s collar and hauling him back up. The gunrunner’s hand slipped inside his pocket, probably reaching for a gun, and Bodie twisted the man’s arm up behind his back, perhaps a bit more sadistically than he should have done. He was still smarting, in more ways than one, about the damage done to his balls. At least, he hoped no damage had been done to his balls.
Side by side, the gunrunner was a good head shorter than Bodie, and Bodie used his considerably more substantial body to his advantage, bearing down with his weight to render the man immobile. When the wriggling subsided, he straightened up and dragged the man back up the slope towards where his colleagues were rapidly overpowering the other three men.
Doyle, covered in mud and scratches from the brambles, was sitting triumphant on the back of his opponent. He grinned up at Bodie. “I love a good fight.”
Now that the dirty work was over, Cowley gingerly stepped forward trying to avoid the worst of the mud with his dress shoes. He pocketed his RT.
“Good work, lads. Just heard from the Thames Division. They’ve stopped the boat upstream. We’ve got the lot of them.”
Friday 28 October 1977
Bodie stood at the back of the interview room, leaning against the wall and letting his partner interrogate the prisoner. This one was the man Bodie had taken down, the one who had kneed him in his balls in his futile attempt to escape. Watching Doyle work, Bodie could feel the bruising in his privates and resisted the temptation to shift to find a more comfortable position. He guessed he would be feeling it for a while to come.
The man had been identified as Krivas, a small time Greek crook with big time contacts. With a record as long as his arm, he was well known to the police.
Doyle had been at it for well over an hour now without much luck. Krivas was stone faced and refused to answer any questions, staring blankly at the two-way mirror in front of him. The only sign that he was under pressure was the nervous tick in the corner of his eye which he was incapable of stopping.
“Where are the weapons coming from?” Doyle leant over the table in another attempt to intimidate Krivas. Again, there was no response.
“Who’s your supplier?” Nothing.
Doyle was getting more and more cheesed off, and even under the bruises from last night’s fight, Bodie could see that his face was getting redder. When he spoke again, he was really gritting his teeth. “Who are you selling them to?”
Bodie stepped forward and gently touched Doyle’s shoulder, silently asking permission from his partner to step in. Doyle glanced at him and then nodded.
Bodie generally employed different techniques to Doyle where prisoners were concerned. Whereas Doyle was ‘get in their faces and let them wet themselves with fear’, Bodie was more ‘sit back and offer them a cup of tea, and then go for the kill when they least expect it’. Generally, the bad cop good cop routine worked very well for them. He hoped it would this time.
Bodie pulled out the chair that Doyle hadn’t bothered with and sat down gingerly, surreptitiously easing the seam of his trousers away from his balls. He rested his forearms on the table, hands resting together, and waited. Doyle retreated to the back of the room and took up the position that Bodie had previously held.
Several minutes passed, and Krivas started to fidget.
“How’d you get the body up on the ceiling?” After all his investigating, Bodie was convinced Krivas and his gang of gun runners had had nothing to do with Marty’s murder, but by changing tactics and the focus of questioning he hoped to be able to wrong foot the crook enough that he would start answering the questions about the guns. An added bonus was that Doyle would see that there was an alternative solution to Marty’s murder.
“What body?” Krivas asked confused, the first time he had opened his mouth since being escorted into the room from his cell.
“Marty Martell’s. You murdered him and left him hanging from a hook in the ceiling.”
“No, I bloody did not.”
“One of your gang, then.” Bodie stated.
Krivas shook his head.
“Did you know Marty?”
Krivas didn’t answer.
Bodie opened the folder in front of him and slid out the black and white photograph showing Marty lying on the mortuary slab, his chest bare and the fatal wound in all its horror on full display. Bodie didn’t look at the photograph. He didn’t need to. The original had been more than enough for a lifetime. Krivas glanced at it and his face blanched.
“What’s the matter? Never seen a corpse before?” Bodie asked in the same, quiet voice.
“We didn’t kill no-one, I swear.” Krivas was starting to look distinctly green around the gills.
“Yeah, well, you see, Krivas. Marty here …” he tapped the photograph for emphasis … “Marty here was killed last Saturday. At Oakleigh house.”
Krivas’ eyes flicked up to meet Bodie’s.
“He was run through. With a hook. Fixed to the ceiling.”
Bodie felt sure that Krivas was about to lose his breakfast.
“It … it wasn’t us, for God’s sake.”
Bodie leant back in his chair and regarded Krivas. He went back to his silent observation for a few minutes.
“Where are you getting the weapons from, Krivas?”
And so the questioning went on and on for hours. Switching between questions about the weapons and questions about Marty, trying to keep Krivas on his toes, taking it in turns to ask. Krivas wasn’t giving much away, but even if Bodie hadn’t been certain before, he came out of the interview room absolutely convinced that Krivas had nothing to do with Marty’s murder. He just hoped that Doyle could see it, too.
“I don’t know about you,” Doyle took a deep breath, “but I could do with a strong cup of tea right about now.”
“And something to eat.” Bodie was aware that his stomach was rumbling. A glance at his watch told him that lunch had passed nearly two hours before.
After making sure that Krivas was returned to his cell, they left CI5 headquarters and made their way to a café a couple of streets away. Lunch might have passed, but this place was renowned for serving good food all day long.
Tucking into his eggs, bacon and beans, smothered with ketchup, Bodie spoke around a mouthful. “What do you reckon, then?”
Doyle swallowed before answering. “It’d be easier to get blood out of a stone.”
“I don’t think we’ll get any more out of him.”
“I agree.” He paused to slurp at his tea. “I’m hoping Benny will come up with something. That lead he gave you sounded promising.”
Bodie nodded. “What about Marty?” He asked as casually as he could. “Do you think Krivas’s lot did it?”
Bodie felt himself relaxing marginally.
“What about you?” Doyle continued.
“I agree. I do have a theory, but …” he paused, still not entirely sure Doyle was ready for his theory.
“But what?” Doyle slurped his tea.
“You won’t like it.”
“You’re not telling me he climbed up there and hung himself off the hook.” Doyle chuckled.
“No.” Bodie took a moment to smile and share Doyle’s humour. “But I don’t think it was done by anyone else either.”
Doyle frowned and studied Bodie over his mug. “For god’s sake, Bodie, stop being so cryptic.”
“I think it was supernatural.”
Doyle’s eyes narrowed. “What? Your theory is that a bloody ghost decided to off Marty?”
“Just hear me out.”
“Please.” He wasn’t above begging to get what he wanted on occasion.
Doyle closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Bodie waited patiently.
“Go on, then.”
Friday 28 October 1977
Doyle sat quietly in the café drinking his second mug of tea and listening to Bodie’s theory about Charles Junior. He was obviously cynical, if the occasional snorts of derision were anything to go by, but he let Bodie finish telling him about the history of the house, and how Bodie had come to that conclusion that Charles Junior had murdered Marty. His only verbal response was “stupid, bloody plonker” when Bodie described his successful attempt at making contact with the dead.
“So, you think it’s this sadistic son of a bitch because a, the spirit said he was, b, he’s a sadistic son of a bitch, and c, he himself was murdered.” Doyle summed it up. “And you’re convinced it’s a ghost because there is no other way that Marty could have got up on the ceiling.”
“That’s about it.”
“Why did Charles kill Marty?”
“I don’t know.”
“What about Krivas and his men? Why didn’t Charles go after them?” Doyle interrupted him.
Bodie shrugged, then repeated “I don’t know.”
Doyle went very quiet after that, mulling it all over for what seemed like hours to Bodie. Finally, Doyle nodded, obviously having made a decision. “OK, Bodie. Supposing you’re right, and just so you know I don’t for one-minute think that you are, how the hell do you stop this ghost?”
Admitting to Doyle that the advice the Reverend Jones had given him wasn’t exactly tried and tested, and that he didn’t really know if it would work, probably wouldn’t convince his partner to offer his assistance. So Bodie did what he was good at. He bluffed.
“Apparently the first thing you do is take a Bible and a cross, and ask the spirit to leave in a firm voice.”
Doyle nearly snorted tea through his nose. “Really? You’re going with that?” His scepticism was palpable.
“That’s what the Reverend Jones told me.”
“And Reverend Jones has exorcised how many ghosts?”
Bodie shrugged again.
Doyle shook his head. “Assuming this ghost of yours doesn’t want to leave, what then? Hhhmm, shout at it maybe?”
“Don’t Ray me, Bodie. I think Reverend Jones is nuts and I think you’re nuts, if you must know. There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“You don’t know that. What happened at Oakleigh ... The things I’ve seen in Africa …”
“Yeah, when you were three sheets to the wind.”
“I was stone cold sober at Oakleigh.” Bodie was quick to point out.
“Humph.” Doyle grunted and rubbed his hand through his curls. “Look, I’m trying to be open minded here, but you’re not making it easy. You’re obviously convinced that what happened at Oakleigh is supernatural. I’m thinking it’s more super criminal, myself.”
“Yeah, because they teach you how to make spontaneous tornados at Crime School down the local Tech.” Bodie could do sarcasm just as well as Doyle, when he wanted to.
They stared each other out in silence. Bodie backed down first.
“Look, what have we got to lose?” Bodie half pleaded. He could do this himself, but he really wanted his partner there as back up. And, he supposed, childishly he wanted to be proved right in front of Doyle. “We run over to Oakleigh, have a chat with Charlie-boy, ask him to leave, and that’s it.”
“And what if he doesn’t want to leave?”
“Then we have to find his final resting place and pray over it.”
“Reverend Jones said not. Just a bible in one hand, cross in the other, and read certain passages out loud.”
“And if that doesn’t work?”
Bodie shrugged. Reverend Jones hadn’t exactly reassured him that any of it would work. But there was no way that Bodie going to admit to Doyle that it wasn’t an exact science and that he was basically flying by the seat of his pants. There had to be some truth to the accounts the good Reverend had referenced, hadn’t there?
“Do you know where his final resting place is?”
“The family vault in the Richmond Cemetery, apparently.”
Doyle took a deep breath. “Two hours, mate. I’ll give you two bleeding hours and that’s all. After that, you knock all thoughts of ghosts on the head and we start doing things my way. Yeah?”
Bodie pursed his lips. He only hoped two hours would be long enough to get the job done or convince Doyle that he wasn’t barking up the wrong tree, or barking mad. “Okay,” he finally agreed.
oOo oOo oOo oOo oOo
“You coming, then?” He leant back down and peered at Doyle.
Doyle sighed, closed his eyes with a muttered “I can’t believe I agreed to this” and followed Bodie out of the car. Bodie winced slightly as Doyle slammed the door shut.
“Go on then, sunshine. This is your party.” Doyle indicated that Bodie should go first with an impatient flap of his hand.
Bodie led the way up the path to the front door. The sense of foreboding grew as he got closer to the building and his steps faltered. He could already feel the oppression that he’d felt on his last visit. He would never have owned up to being afraid, especially not to Doyle, but to himself he could admit that whoever Charlie Hamilton had been in life and whatever he’d become in death scared the bejesus out of him.
Doyle poked him in the back with his finger. “Oi, you’re not stalling, are you?”
“Don’t you feel it?”
“Feel what?” Doyle sounded genuinely puzzled, looking around him.
Bodie shrugged. He found it hard to articulate exactly what he felt, but now that he was aware of it, the evil within the house was cloying. It felt like it was swirling around him, pushing him one way then pulling the other, clinging to his every pore, and it was hard not to sink into it. How Doyle could be completely oblivious to it was beyond him.
Taking a deep breath, he opened the door, switched on his torch and stepped inside. Doyle was right behind him. Nothing much had changed since his visit two days ago. The coat stand that he’d dislodged when he’d fallen onto it was still standing at an angle, the cobwebs behind it still in place.
Doyle noticed the Ouija board and nudged Bodie’s arm, murmuring with humour “looks like they’ve ‘ad visitors. They should learn to clear up after themselves.” Bodie bit back his retort. Doyle could be a right little shit sometimes.
“So, what do we do?” Doyle asked.
“Wait, I reckon.”
“Clock’s ticking, Bodie.”
Bodie glared at his partner. “Do you always have to be such an arsehole?”
Doyle smirked. “I’m just saying. We’re not getting any younger here.”
Bodie stepped away from him, forcing himself not to react to Doyle’s efforts to wind him up. He didn’t need a confrontation with his partner at this time. The upcoming conversation with Charles Hamilton the second was more than enough to keep him occupied. He laid the torch on the mantelpiece positioning it so the beam shone across the hall, and grasped the cross in one hand and the Bible in the other.
He spoke out loud the words that Reverend Jones had given him, and pretended that he didn’t feel just a little bit stupid doing so. “Charles Hamilton the second, I instruct you to leave this house in the name of our Father.”
Out of the corner of his eye he could see Doyle roll his own eyes.
Even with the door shut behind them, he could feel a strong breeze coming from somewhere, disturbing the dust and blowing cobwebs into his face and hair, and he braced himself for a tornado to build up like it had before. But nothing else happened. He waited a couple of minutes, and then spoke the words again, raising his voice just a little. In the torchlight he noticed his breath fogging, and realized just how cold the house had become while they’d been standing there. He started to shiver.
He opened his mouth to repeat the words for a third time but the wind suddenly intensified and he felt as if he was walking into a gale, one that snatched his breath away and left him gasping to get air into his lungs, bent over with his hands on his knees, the cross and Bible dropping unheeded to the floor.
The wind dislodged the torch and it rolled off the mantelpiece onto the floor, starting to spin slowly then faster and faster, flashing even more eerie shadows around the hall on each rotation.
“Bodie?” Doyle’s hand touched his back.
Bodie shook his head, trying to convey that speech was beyond him at the moment. Spots started to dance in front of his eyes and he realized that he was on the brink of passing out. He felt Doyle grab his shoulders and he was forcibly turned away from the stairs, his face pressed into the warmth of Doyle’s chest. He fought for each breath, aware that his partner was shouting something, but the words were lost in the cacophony of sound as the wind howled around them.
And then, just as suddenly as it had started, the wind was gone. Bodie greedily sucked in air, feeling weak and disorientated. Doyle gently lowered him to the ground and knelt down behind him so Bodie had something to lean against. Gradually his heavy breathing slowed and returned to a more normal level.
The spinning torch slowed down and then stopped, its beam coming to rest on the hearth.
“I guess old Charlie-boy wasn’t too happy about leaving.” Doyle said into the silence with something like awe in his voice.
“What did you say to him?”
“You were yelling. What did you say?”
Doyle chuckled. “Just started quoting from the Bible. Anything I could think of, really. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. The Lord’s Prayer. That sort of thing.”
“Didn’t know you were religious.”
“Sunday School when I was a nipper. It’s amazing what sticks with you.”
“Well it worked.” Bodie felt strong enough to support himself and lifted his weight off his partner.
Doyle shifted so he was sitting on his arse instead of his knees, and reached for torch. “You reckon he’s gone for good?”
Bodie shrugged. “No idea, mate. We could try talking to him again?”
“Do you really want to go through that for a second time?”
They sat in silence, listening to the house settling around them.
“You believe me, then?” Bodie eventually asked Doyle.
Looking slightly sheepish, Doyle offered a small grin. “Hard not to after that demonstration.”
Bodie nudged his shoulder to show there were no hard feelings.
“So …” he started.
“I think that was too easy.” Doyle jumped in. “There’s no way that me shouting the few odd Bible verses I remember would have sent him packing. He’s just hiding somewhere, waiting.”
“Don’t you think I’ll have enough nightmares without you saying that?”
“Don’t worry, sunshine. I’m going to have enough of my own nightmares. I’ll be needing to see a shrink for years.”
Bodie grabbed the Bible and cross and struggled to his feet. “Come on. I don’t want to try that again. Let’s go and find the family vault.”
Doyle let himself be hauled up, and they staggered back out into the drizzle.
Richmond Cemetery only lay five streets away, but Bodie and Doyle drove there from Oakleigh. Bodie had done some detective work before leaving the office earlier and had a rough idea where the Hamiltons were buried. As one of the families with the highest standing in the area, they would have been allowed to rest in the area of the cemetery designated for the well-to-do. With that information it didn’t take long to find the crypt which was the last resting place of the three siblings who had been poisoned, along with their mother who had died in childbirth. There was no mention of the other family members, so Bodie assumed that they were buried somewhere in Berkshire where they’d moved after the murders.
Bodie pulled the Bible out of his pocket and opened it at a bookmarked page. The Reverend had made it very clear that the words of the verse he had to read had to be spoken with the right inflection, otherwise they would be meaningless. Even though he’d practiced several times in Reverend Jones’ presence and been given his approval, Bodie doubted that he’d remember it all.
Doyle turned his collar up against the rain, and held the torch so that it shone on the book. “Come on, mate. Let’s get this done so we can go to the pub.”
Bodied just glared at him. “We can’t rush it. It has to be done right.”
“I know, mate. I’m sorry. I’m just trying to keep the demons away.” He looked so earnest that Bodie felt obliged to believe him.
Bodie took a breath, and started to read. The words came out clearly and he hoped with the right pronunciation. When he finished, they stood there in silence, waiting. Nothing happened. No winds, no cold spots, no nothing.
“That was a bit of an anti-climax.” Bodie offered.
Doyle just grunted.
“I hate to say it, but I’m not sure that is it.” Bodie continued.
“I know what you mean.” Doyle turned his back on the crypt. “I guess we’ll have to go back to Oakleigh and see what happens there.”
Doyle thought for a minute or two. “I guess another night, or two, isn’t going to hurt.”
Saturday 29 October 1977
Coming to Oakleigh was becoming a habit, Bodie thought wryly as Doyle, driving this time, indicated to turn up the drive. The weather was dry, but the weak morning sunshine did nothing the make the house look any less intimidating.
“I really don’t want to be here,” Doyle muttered.
“Yeah, me neither.”
Neither one of them was in a hurry to get out of the car, but eventually Bodie shifted himself with a “might as well get it over and done with.”
As they stepped into the vestibule, Bodie left the door wide open letting the light illuminate the interior. It didn’t improve anything.
“You want to do the honours,” he asked Doyle, trying to hand over the Bible and cross.
With a wry grin, Doyle shook his head. “This is your shout, mate.”
They stayed near the door and with a heavy heart, Bodie followed the same procedure as before: Bible in one hand, cross in the other, and polite words demanding that the spirit depart. It wasn’t really a surprise when a gust of wind slammed the door shut behind them. They didn’t hang around. As one, they turned around and Doyle tugged the door open again, using both hands to grasp the knob, and shoved Bodie outside ahead of him.
Leaning on the car, catching their breath after the mad dash, Doyle grunted “well, we got our answer, then. Charles is still around.”
“He does seem to be a bit of a stubborn bastard.”
“What do you want to do now?”
Bodie thought about it for long minutes. “Back to the good Reverend, I reckon. See if he has anymore bright ideas.”
Doyle’s face lit with a smile. “Do I sense a bit of dissent about the good man’s advice?”
“Do you have a better idea?”
Doyle shook his head with a grin.
“No, I didn’t think so. Come on then.”
Bodie drove them to the Church where they were told by a lady tidying the Bibles and Hymn books on a shelf by the door that “Reverend Jones has Saturdays off. You’ll have to come back another time.”
Bugger that, Bodie thought, then mentally apologised for swearing in a Church.
They left without questioning her further, and walked down the street to the Vicarage. The housekeeper who answered the door was equally brusk and determined that her employer was not to be disturbed, but Bodie’s plea that it was a matter of life and death, and “could you please tell him Bodie from CI5 is here” seemed to do the trick.
They were left on the step, the door firmly shut in their faces while the housekeeper went to speak to the Reverend Jones. When she returned nearly five minutes later, her face showed her displeasure but she invited them in and showed them into a small study.
“Mr Bodie, a pleasure to see you again. Am I to take it that all is not well?” He looked between the two men.
Bodie introduced his partner, and then explained all that had happened.
“What a disappointment,” the vicar muttered.
There were quite a few words that Bodie could have used to describe what had happened at Oakleigh. Disappointment was not one of them. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Doyle’s expression of amazement.
“Do you have any idea what else we could do?” He asked.
“Well, …” The vicar adopted his usual thinking pose, hands resting on the edge of his desk with fingers steepled. This time, he closed his eyes too. “It could be that there is something keeping him anchored to the house.”
“Yes, something like a treasured possession, maybe part of his earthly body. That sort of thing.”
“There’s nothing there.” Doyle said. “The house is virtually empty.”
“Maybe it’s something that you can’t see. If he had lost a tooth in that house, you wouldn’t necessarily have found that, would you?”
“A tooth?” Doyle’s scorn mirrored Bodie’s. “How the hell … pardon me … are we to find something like that?”
Reverend Jones just shrugged.
“I don’t know what else to advise, gentlemen. As I explained to Mr Bodie before, I have never experienced this sort of thing myself.”
Doyle glared at Bodie. With hindsight, perhaps Bodie should have been a little more upfront with him about the vicar’s knowledge of the removal of ghosts. Too late now, though, he thought.
“Assuming there is a possession keeping Charlie-boy there, what do we do if we find it?” Doyle asked.
“It will need to be destroyed. Fire would be the most cleansing option.”
“Burn it, you mean?” Straight to the point, as always, was Doyle.
They thanked the vicar for his time and as they left he said “I will pray for you during the services tomorrow.” They’d need something far more tangible than a prayer to succeed at this, Bodie thought uncharitably.
Saturday 29 October 1977
“So,” Doyle started, “any idea what it might be, then?”
“Not a clue.”
“I hope to hell it’s not a tooth. That’d be like looking for a needle in a haystack.”
“Could be worse.” Bodie commented wryly.
“Could be a finger nail.” He paused. “Or a hair.”
Doyle just raised his eyebrow to demonstrate his disgust.
“How’d you want to do it. Start at the top and work down, or the bottom and work up?”
Doyle looked around a bit before answering. “Top down, I reckon. Might as well make use of what little daylight there is.”
They both hesitated before entering, each one hanging back slightly to see if the other would go first. Bodie realised what they were doing and mentally kicked himself. He opened the door wide and strode inside. No ghost was going to frighten him. Much.
They made their way upstairs to the attic and start going through the old servants’ quarters and storerooms. They scrutinized everything from the coving to the skirting boards. They wouldn’t have been able to find a finger nail or a hair if indeed that was what they were looking for. There was too much dirt on the floor. They would have needed a sieve to go through everything. As it was, there was nothing personal up there. There was nothing, full stop. Not even Charlies Junior put in an appearance to see what they were up to.
They had no better luck on the first floor. Some heavy items of furniture had been left and between them they examined every dovetailed joint, and every drawer and every bed post. A couple of portraits had been left hanging and Bodie lifted them down from their ancient fixings and left them stacked at the top of the stairs ready to take down with them.
“Taken a fancy to them?” Doyle asked, inclining his head towards the pictures.
“You never know, it could be one of them. I’d rather not take the chance of leaving them.”
Doyle conceded that he had a point, and added a couple more pictures to the pile himself.
By the time they reached the ground floor the light had gone from the sky and it was pitch black inside. Out came the torches – one each this time – and they continued. A couple more portraits joined the others sitting by the front door. But again, that was all there was.
“Just the cellar left, yeah?” Bodie straightened up from his examination of the fireplace and the partially burned logs in the grate.
“Don’t think there’s anything down there. I mean, the army lads cleared out all the weapons and there was nothing left when they’d been through it.”
“While we’re here …” Doyle had a point, and Bodie didn’t really want to go downstairs, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that they should.
They descended into the damp and stood at the bottom of the stairs.
“Reckon we should just check out the storeroom down there,” Doyle flashed his torch to Bodie’s right. “After all, that way just led to a brick wall.” He flashed the torch the other way, and they both froze. In the light stood a young man, clear as day. He was looking straight at them, and his gaze didn’t falter. Then, smiling at them and pushing a pair of glasses back up his nose, he turned leisurely and started walking away from them.
“Hey, you there, wait.” Doyle called, grabbing hold of Bodie’s arm and hurrying him along after their fugitive.
But as they drew towards the end of the corridor, and the torchlight reached the brick wall ahead of them, Doyle stopped abruptly. Bodie slammed into his back.
“Hey,” he grumbled, “what’d you stop for?”
Doyle was frantically shining his torch back and forth. “He’s gone.”
“What?” Bodie peered around his partner’s shoulder. “That’s impossible.”
“Impossible or not, he’s bloody disappeared.”
“There must be a hidden door. Something we missed before.” He started running his hands along the wall, trying to feel for any break in the brickwork. But it was all rock solid. Even with the crumbling mortar, the bricks at the end of the corridor didn’t house a hidden door.
Bodie’s mind started working on overdrive. “You don’t think …”
“We didn’t imagine it.” Doyle was quick to jump in. “Not both of us. There’s no such thing as a simultaneous hallucination.”
“I was going to suggest it was a ghost.”
Doyle opened his mouth, obviously wanting to discount what Bodie said, but when words failed him he snapped it shut again.
“But I don’t think it was Charles.”
“How the hell would you know that?” It was obvious that Doyle’s fear was manifesting itself as anger.
“Because it’s always been about the shock factor with Charles. You know? The winds. The cold. Instilling fear.”
“So who the hell’s this, then?”
Bodie turned to the wall and started to worry away at the mortar. “Only one way to find out.”
“The whole place will come down on us.”
“I don’t think it will, mate. Don’t you think it’s an odd place for the corridor to end. The passage to nowhere. Hey, that would make a good book title,” he was well aware that he tried to joke to keep the jitters away.
Doyle obviously wasn’t quite so in tune with him and just glared.
The mortar came away easily, in some places no better than thick clumps of powder. Bodie used the penknife he always carried in his pocket to scrape away at one specific brick and it wasn’t long before he could slip his fingers either side and pull the brick forward. Minutes later and another two bricks were on the floor next to the first. Bodie shone his torch through the gap, and whistled.
“I was right. There’s a room back here.”
“Let me see.” Doyle elbowed him out of the way and peered in as well. “We need to make this gap bigger. I can’t see if there’s anything in there.”
Together they worked for twenty minutes until the hole was big enough for one of them to stick his head and shoulders through. Bodie stepped back and gave Doyle the honour of being the first to get a good look at the hidden room. While he waited for Doyle’s verdict he wiped his sleeve across his forehead to mop up the sweat that was cooling on his skin.
“See anything?” He asked as Doyle drew back out into the corridor.
“Yeah. And not exactly what I was expecting.” In the torchlight he looked almost pale.
Curious, Bodie stuck his arm through the hole and shone his torch around. “Oh,” was all he said when the beam of light shone on the skeletonised remains propped up against the far wall. It was vaguely disgusting that all the clothes remained intact, even the glasses propped on the bridge of the bony nose.
He stepped back and turned to Doyle. “Definitely not Charles. He was poisoned and buried.”
Doyle wasn’t listening to him. His head was cocked to one side and he was half turned, looking back towards the stairs.
Instantly on alert, Bodie quietly asked “what is it?”
“I can feel a breeze. There’s a door been opened somewhere.”
Bodie felt it too. “I don’t think it’s a door.” Before he had finished speaking, the breeze intensified. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“Charles.” Doyle wasn’t really asking.
They reached the bottom of the stairs without any problem, but when Doyle started to climb up it was as if the floodgates had opened. It was impossible to make progress when what felt like a hurricane was blowing down the stairs. Doyle was lifted off his feet and thrown back down the stairs to land in a heap at Bodie’s feet.
“You ok?” He asked his fallen partner, shouting to be heard against the roar.
Doyle nodded and held out his hand to be helped up. “We’re trapped.”
“Come on.” As he hauled Doyle up, Bodie turned and ran towards the storeroom which had previously held the crates.
The noise intensified into an inarticulate roar of fury as the wind swirled around them, and Bodie swore the sound was words even if he couldn’t make any of them out. He felt fingers on the back of his neck, above his collar, intensely cold and sending icy tendrils down his spine. He twisted, trying to get away from the sickening sensation, and in the next second his head was propelled towards the wall.
He fell, there was no way to avoid it after taking a hit that hard, and found himself eating a mouthful of dirt. His torch bounced on the ground ahead of him, vainly trying to chase after Doyle it seemed. The beam came to rest illuminating the corridor and he could see his partner, oblivious to Bodie’s fall, as he kept fighting to get away.
Bodie shook his head. He was sure his vision would have been fading at the edges if there had been enough light to see by. He still hadn’t really got his wits about him when he felt his ankles being grabbed, and he tried to prevent the entity behind him dragging him back by clawing at the ground beneath him. Kicking, he found out, was just as futile.
He spat the dirt out of his mouth, and took a deep breath. “Doyle.” Thank God he didn’t have to repeat himself. His partner jerked to a halt at his shout, and turned back without hesitation.
“Come on, Bodie.” He groused, seemingly oblivious to the force pulling his partner away. When he realised that Bodie was moving, his eyes widened momentarily before his face fixed in that way it did when he was being stubborn.
Grabbing hold of Bodie’s arm with his free hand, he started chanted biblical verses. Bodie felt as if he was the rope in a tug of war, feeling the painful stretch in his muscles even with adrenaline coursing through his body. When Doyle started on the Lord’s Prayer, Bodie joined in. The pressure around his ankles suddenly disappeared and he scrambled to get his feet under himself.
Feeling decidedly woozy, he was grateful when Doyle heaved him up and kept his hand fixed firmly on Bodie’s bicep. They staggered away, Doyle still reciting whatever he could think of from the Bible. Bodie fell silent, needing the oxygen just to breath and to keep himself moving.
As they entered the storeroom, Doyle swung the door shut behind them. There was little point in doing so, but Bodie conceded that it made them feel a little better to think there was something solid between them and Charles.
“You able to make it?” Doyle asked.
Bodie nodded, ignoring the weakness he felt in his knees. He could do nothing to disguise the tremors wracking his body, though. Thank God Doyle kept hold on his arm.
“Right. Come on, then.” Together they crossed the room to the tunnel entrance, and swung that door shut behind them too.
“My hands are full,” Doyle stated the obvious, with Bodie supported by one hand and the torch held in the other. “Can you get your gun out?”
Bodie raised his head in question, but obediently reached for his shoulder holster. His fingers fumbled for a few seconds but then he had them wrapped around the grip and he managed to pull it out without dropping it.
The wind was picking up behind them, and Doyle once again started reciting the Lord’s Prayer. It was enough to keep them a few extra feet ahead of the entity.
“Here,” Doyle breathlessly released Bodie’s arm, and ripped his gun out of his hand. As they reached the iron gate, he shone the torch beam on the padlock, and next second there was a deafening retort as he shot the padlock. The gate swung wide, and then they were through, Bodie falling to his knees without his partner’s grip to hold him up.
Dropping his hands to his own knees, Doyle bent double trying to catch his breath before reaching once again for Bodie. “Come on, sunshine. It’s still not safe here.”
With less haste, they clung to each other and made their way through the overgrown garden to the Capri parked at the front of the house.
Sunday 30 October 1977
If anyone had asked Bodie what death warmed over looked like, right at this minute he would have pointed to himself. He’d slept, but there had been nothing restorative about his rest. In fact, the few places on his body that had escaped relatively unscathed from the previous night’s shenanigans had obviously decided to join the party. There was not one inch of him that didn’t hurt or ache or throb.
He forced his eyes open and stared up at the ceiling. Blinking was movement enough for the next few minutes until the need to empty his bladder grew too strong and he forced himself to roll over.
He staggered to the bathroom, on the way passing Doyle who was still laid out on the sofa. One look at his partner’s face confirmed that he had slept just as badly. “Morning,” he said as he passed.
Doyle grunted “it’s afternoon” in reply and Bodie looked at the clock. Doyle was right. It was two-thirty in the afternoon. Bodie had slept the clock around, and then some.
He did his business and splashed water on his face. It woke him up somewhat but didn’t do anything to help his injuries. He braved a look in the mirror, wished he hadn’t bothered, and then went in search of coffee.
“So, you ready to talk about it now?” Doyle asked some time later as they settled down side by side on the settee, each holding a mug of coffee with a plate piled high with buttered toast balanced precariously between them.
“Wasn’t my fault I was comatose.”
Doyle snorted. “The word you’re looking for is drunk.” The evidence of Bodie’s bender was displayed on the coffee table in front of them. An empty bottle of pure Malt Scotch - and not a cheap brand, either - lay on its side next to two dirty glasses. Oh yes, Doyle had been quite willing to drink his share. He was just able to hold his alcohol better.
They’d made their way back to Bodie’s flat the day before, each choosing to ignore the advice of the other to visit A&E. For once Bodie’s boiler decided to work, and there was enough water for them both to be able to enjoy a soak in the bath. The administration of some TCP and a healthy dollop of Savlon was all the doctoring they required. And though he might be stiff and sore, Bodie knew there was nothing seriously wrong with him.
“How is the head?” Doyle asked sweetly.
His hangover feeling a little better now he was up and about, Bodie chose to ignore Doyle’s question. “So I guess we know why Charlie is hanging around. His treasured possession is a skeleton.”
“Whose, though? Can’t be his, because he was poisoned. A servant?”
“I doubt it. The clothes were too good to be a servant.”
“Or a member of the family.”
“They’re all accounted for.”
Bodie was fairly certain he knew whose body it was. “All except one.”
He reached onto the coffee table for his notebook which he tossed to Doyle. While his partner read in silence, he munched on the toast.
“You think it’s Benjamin Hamilton.” Doyle finally looked up and asked.
“So, he was killed by his brother because he got the servant pregnant. Bit melodramatic, isn’t it? I thought in those situations it was always the poor girl who usually took the blame.”
“You’ve been watching too much television.” Bodie took a sip of his cooling coffee. “I suspect there was more to it than just getting a servant pregnant. All the accounts I’ve read amount to the same thing: Charles was evil. I wouldn’t mind betting he was jealous of his brother, or angry that he was in love with a lowly servant.”
“Someone else in the house must have known what Charles had done. Why wasn’t it reported?”
“The servants were all scared to death of him. And I don’t think his father was much better than him, so they couldn’t have gone to him.”
“You think his father knew?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. Maybe the other siblings, as well. Certainly some of the servants, otherwise there would have been questions about that other part of the cellar being bricked up.”
“Do you think Lizzie was innocent of the poisonings?” Doyle asked after a few moments.
“No, I’m sure she did it. But … You’ll think I’m mad.”
Doyle smirked at him. “I already do, but go on.”
“You read my notes on the court case?” Doyle nodded. “The servants said that Lizzie used to talk to herself every night.”
“You don’t think she did?”
“I think she talked to Benjamin’s ghost. I think she was telling the truth when she said Benjamin told her to do it.”
Bodie didn’t know if Doyle meant Lizzie or Benjamin. The sentiment fitted both of them.
“What about Marty? Where does he fit into this?”
“Your guess is as good as mine. I’d imagine he was sniffing around while he was waiting for us, and got a bit too close to Benjamin’s remains.”
“Or maybe Charles got bored and decided to have a play.” Doyle added his own speculation.
“I guess we’ll never know for sure.”
They finished off the toast, and Bodie made them both another coffee.
“We gonna go back?” Doyle asked, head resting on the back of the settee and his eyes closed.
“Can’t say I really want another encounter with Charlie-boy.” Bodie stirred the sugar in his mug, probably long after it had dissolved. “But I hate to leave him there for someone else to come across.”
“Ah, Bodie, ever noble, I see.” Bodie didn’t think Doyle was being sarcastic, but still it stung a little.
“What would you do, then, smart arse?”
Doyle opened his eyes and turned to look at his partner. “Believe it or not, I agree with you.”
“We’ve got to get Benjamin out of there. Once the skeleton is gone, we should be able to banish Charles.”
“Should be able to?”
Bodie pursed his lips. “We will be able to. Better?”
Monday 31 October 1977
“Tell me, Bodie. Why, exactly, are we doing this on All Hallows Eve?” The partners stood shoulder to shoulder in front of Oakleigh. “And at eight o’clock in the bloody evening.”
Bodie shrugged. “Not my fault Cowley had us covering that conference today. Besides, we already know ghosts exist, so there’s nothing going to shock us there.”
“But what if there’s more? You know, the 31st of October is the day when the veil between the living world and the dead world is meant to be at its thinnest.”
“You suddenly become an expert, then?” Bodie said with amusement.
“No more than you,” Doyle huffed. After a few seconds pause, he added “I just …”
“Yeah, I know.” Bodie knew exactly how Doyle felt. Charles Junior was more than enough to deal with. Why make things more complicated? But the thought of turning around now and coming back another time was unpalatable. The job had to be done, and today was as good a day as any.
Bodie shifted the body bag he was carrying over his shoulder. Who knew these things weighed so much? It seemed to catch every single bruise that Bodie had acquired over the last week.
Some would say that forewarned was forearmed, but Bodie felt no such thing. Knowing what was coming just made everything so much worse. He was almost hyperventilating just thinking about the fury that Charles Junior would unleash on them.
Shaking off the morbid thoughts, he asked “you got the Bible and cross?”
“Yes, mum. And my torch and sledgehammer.” Doyle wasn’t joking. He really was carrying a sledgehammer. Bodie felt in his pocket for the box of matches he’d put there. The thought of burning the skeleton sat heavily with him, but they had no choice. They had to be sure that Charles had gone.
“Right, then, let’s get this show on the road.” He said with false bravado.
They made it all the way downstairs before there was any sign that Charles was stirring. Doyle started to loudly recite prayers, and that seemed to do the trick. Charles obviously wasn’t happy, but the turbulence remained on their periphery. Illuminated by Doyle’s torch, Bodie swung the sledgehammer at the wall, three, four, five times, and the wall crumbled beneath the onslaught.
Doyle took a breath, and the pause gave Charles an opening. Wind whistled around them, coming closer and closer, and Bodie felt the sledgehammer being pulled from his hands. He quickly took off where Doyle had paused, quoting James 4.7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
The commotion died back down and they stepped into Benjamin’s tomb, both keeping up their litany. Doyle laid out the body bag on the floor and together they gently placed the skeleton in it. Outside the corridor was in turmoil, the wind howling, bricks and mortar flying around in a vortex. Bodie picked up the sledgehammer again and laid it alongside Benjamin before zipping the body bag up. No way was he letting Charles Junior get his, er … hands on that.
Doyle caught Bodie’s eye and flashed a quick grin at him while the Lord’s Prayer got yet another rendition. He tilted his head towards the opening they had made, indicating that Bodie should go first. Bodie took a deep breath, joined in with the words Doyle was reciting, and awkwardly started to back out into the corridor.
The urge to raise his arms to protect his head against the flying debris was so strong. But the prayers seemed to work and kept the worst of the onslaught away from them. He nearly lost his footing several times, and one time when he tripped over a brick he actually dropped his end of the body bag. He apologised silently to Benjamin, picked it up and carried on.
As they reached the stairs, they could see that Charles was really going to town on them. The wind was so violent that it was levering bricks out of the staircase and adding them to the maelstrom that blocked their way.
Doyle’s voice raised in a shout to get Bodie’s attention, and he pointed down the corridor. Bodie nodded in agreement. Their first line of escape had completely disappeared, so they had no choice. He hadn’t taken more than ten shuffling steps back when his heels caught on some obstacle and, with a cry, he fell flat on his back, the force of his descent pulling the body bag out of Doyle’s hands.
Bodie lay there, wheezing, trying to catch his breath and ignoring the pain in his ribcage where he had hit a particularly sharp edged brick. In the dark, he only realised that the body bag had come to rest on top of him when he felt Doyle trying to lift it. Repulsed by the thought that he was as good as cuddling a skeleton, he scrambled to push it off him and find his feet. By the time he was upright, Charles Junior had taken full advantage of their distraction.
If they thought what the ghost had thrown at them before was bad, it was nothing compared to what they now faced. Restarting the prayers didn’t seem to have any effect; Charles Junior had regained complete control of the situation and Bodie and Doyle would just have to take what he was throwing at them. And he was throwing absolutely everything their way.
Bodie found himself twirled around in some macabre dance as another tornado encircled him and pulled him into its eyewall. He was completely cut off from Doyle by the moving tower of bricks. He tucked his head down towards his chest and tried to cover it as best he could with his arms to avoid the blows raining down on him as the bricks surged and fell with the wind. Some were glancing, some more painful, and he knew if he got out of this alive he’d be completely black and blue. He couldn’t see how Doyle was faring, and prayed it was better than he was.
When the end came, he dropped to the floor along with all the masonry. The wind had died, completely. It was suddenly still and silent, and in terror he reached for the still-lit torch near his hand shining it around to find his partner. Doyle stood only five feet away from him, supporting himself with one hand braced on the wall. Blood streamed down his face from a cut above his eye, and he was completely grey with dust. Glancing down at himself, Bodie realised he wasn’t in a much better condition.
“What the hell?” Bodie asked breathlessly as his thumping heart gradually slowed down.
Doyle just shook his head, looking around for … anything.
Then they heard it, the sound of a bare-knuckled fistfight. Bodie swung his torch back the way they had come, and they saw two figures locked in a brutal fight in the space where the stairs once stood. One looked like the lad from before, his glasses skewwhiff on his face, the other an older larger version without the glasses. Bodie was transfixed. This was Charles Junior and Benjamin? The two brothers were oblivious to anything around them, each intent on being victorious. It was like an echo from the past, a replay of the events that had seen Benjamin murdered and a family destroyed forever.
Doyle staggered towards his partner and helped him up.
“We need to go. Now,” he instructed as Bodie hesitated.
Doyle started towards the tunnel. “What about the skeleton?” Bodie asked.
Doyle looked back at the body bag. “Let’s burn it here.”
“What?” Bodie’s voice came out as a squeak.
“Bodie, neither of us are in any condition to face this again. It’ll only slow us down. We need to go now while he’s distracted.”
His partner was right. Charles Junior had to be stopped while they had the opportunity. He drew the box of matches out of his pocket but his fingers were shaking too much to get one out of the box let alone strike it. Doyle took them off him, and Bodie was gratified to see that his hands weren’t that steady, either. It took Doyle three attempts before a flame flared. He tossed the match onto the canvas of the body bag, where it lay burning itself out. Then with a whoosh, the canvas caught fire.
“Come on.” Supporting each other over the rubble they soon reached the storeroom and almost threw themselves against the closed door. It opened with a groan of rusty hinges, and Bodie swung it shut behind them. It would give them precious extra minutes to get clear. They shut the tunnel door behind them as well once they had entered the outer tunnel. From here it didn’t take long to make it to the iron gate and outside, especially now they weren’t hampered by rubble on the floor.
oOo oOo oOo oOo oOo
“We don’t have to tell him anything.” Doyle was equally fixated on the scene.
A few minutes later “we could go now. Nobody would ever know we were here.”
Bodie had to admit he was sorely tempted. If only he could be bothered to climb to his feet and walk to the car. As they’d lurched from the tunnel and made their unsteady way around the house they’d realised how close the Capri was parked to the building. Doyle had driven it down the drive to the road, and parked it out of the way of the fire engines which they would call when they were sure that the house couldn’t be saved.
“Nah, the Cow would know we’d had something to do with this.”
“Do you think he believes in ghosts?” Doyle asked.
“So, what do you reckon? Lightning strike?”
Doyle snorted. “You’ll think of something. You’re good at that.”
More minutes passed.
“It had to be done,” Bodie said, trying to reassure himself that, in this case, the arson was justified.
Next to him, Doyle nodded.
Bodie pulled out his RT and put a call through to HQ. It was time to face the music.
When they could hear the sirens of the fire engines approaching with speed, Doyle stood with a groan and held his hand out to Bodie. Bodie allowed himself to be hauled to his feet, and side by side they waited.
Much later, watching Cowley drive off towards the city and the minister he would no doubt have to placate, Doyle gently slapped Bodie’s shoulder.
“Come on, sunshine, time to go. We’ve got us a gunrunner to catch.”