Private Danger

By Gil Hale —

Disclaimer: Characters from The Professionals belong to Mark-1 Productions Ltd and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

“That’s enough, Bodie!” Cowley had reached the limits of his patience. His voice was cold, and held the absolute expectation of obedience.

“Oh, no, it’s not nearly enough,” Bodie said. He’d responded in a way; he’d stopped shouting. Now his voice matched Cowley’s for chill, and there was a calmness about him which Cowley knew was no improvement. Heaven help anyone who crossed Bodie in this mood. “It’s not enough ’til we get Doyle back,” Bodie went on, “and if you have to take off every man on every case in the whole of the sodding UK it still won’t be enough.”

They faced each other across Cowley’s desk. In the week since Doyle had disappeared the tension had built to crisis point. The phone calls fuelled it.

“Have you seen Ray Doyle today?” the first one had gone, coming in direct to Cowley’s desk. “Don’t bother to look for him. I’ve got him on my side of the fence now.”

They had looked of course, but the anonymous caller had been right. They might as well not have bothered. They’d looked for a week and what they’d found amounted to nothing at all of value.

The phone calls had kept coming. They’d been too short to trace and too ambiguous to give much of a lead as to the caller.

“You don’t remember me, Major Cowley,” went the second. “But I remember you—very well. You’re going to pay, you and Doyle.” Later ones had been even shorter. “Do you believe in making the punishment fit the crime?” “You’ll get Doyle back, you know. But you’ll never be able to rely on him again.” “When you see Doyle, Major Cowley, remember you gave me the idea.”

They’d listened to the tapes of the calls ’til Bodie heard them in his sleep, but it had got them no further. This morning the caller had simply said, “I keep my promises too. I’ve been promising myself this for a long time.” Bodie had demanded that they put all available men on to retrace Doyle’s last known movements yet again. Cowley’s flat refusal had brought their present stand-off.

It was Cowley who defused the situation. He knew Bodie with a sure understanding, his strengths and his limits. He would never back down to him, but he knew when to stop pushing. Now he reached to the shelf behind him, and lifted down a half-full bottle of single malt. Without comment he poured two generous glasses.

“It’s not man-power that will solve this laddie, it’s brain power. We’ve hints here in the phone calls. Turn your mind to those.”

Bodie drank, almost automatically. “Someone who’s had a run in with you and Doyle, but not with me. But someone who makes a point of calling you Major.”

“Yes. But for Doyle to be involved it must be a CI5 case not the army. And I’ve been through the files of every case that Doyle worked without you; there haven’t been many, and none of them match with this.”

Bodie emptied the glass. “I’ll have a look at them. And I’ll get a list of all our cases. Just because we’re officially handling something together doesn’t mean we spend all our time joined at the hip. Maybe this was just a part of a bigger case.”

Cowley looked at him thoughtfully, as if the words had triggered some elusive train of thought. “Aye, you might be right. Now you are using your brain. Take the files home, Bodie. You’ll concentrate better there.” And it’s bad for morale when everyone else on the premises has to tiptoe round you.

He drained his own glass. Part of a bigger case. He pulled the tape recorder a little nearer and prepared to listen to the recorded messages once again.

Bodie pulled out into the snarled-up traffic, raising his hand in thanks to the cabbie who had let him in. His mind was on the pile of files on the seat beside him, and at first he barely noticed that the taxi remained with him, apparently following the same route. But it was still there as he pulled into the street where his current flat was situated, making no secret of its presence. That was beyond coincidence.

He had his eye on it as he pulled up, and was not surprised when it stopped behind him. The cabbie got out as soon as Bodie did. He was a small man with a sharp intelligent face, and enough self-confidence to run the country.

“You on your own?” he demanded.

“I’m not sure that’s any of your business,” Bodie said with deceptive mildness. “And unless your eyesight’s rather poor for the job you’re doing, I should think you can see I am.”

“Don’t you get funny with me,” said the cabbie, apparently unaware of his own bird-like build and Bodie’s solid muscles. “You could have a tart in the flat, or one of your heavies coming around. I’ve got a mate of yours in the back what wants to see you on your own.”

Bodie was amused by the cabbie’s sparky aggression, but it was the last words that really caught his attention. There weren’t a lot of people in the world who would describe themselves as ‘mates’ of his. He strode to the cab, removed the cabbie from the door with one hand, and stared speechless at the man in the back seat.

It was Ray Doyle all right, staring back as if he hadn’t seen Bodie for so long he’d forgotten what he looked like—or needed to be sure of him in some way Bodie didn’t yet understand. Ray Doyle, not visibly harmed but in some undefinable way looking all wrong. He sounded all wrong too, when he spoke.

“I need to see you on your own, Bodie. No CI5, no calling it in, just you and me.”

“I don’t know what the hell you’re playing at…” Bodie began, then stopped. “I’m on my own. Come on in. You’ve a lot of explaining to do.”

Doyle got out, moving jerkily, as though he wasn’t comfortable inside his skin.

“Put him down, Bodie,” he said. “He’s done me one hell of a good turn today.”

Bodie had actually forgotten he had the furious cabbie still struggling in his other hand. He let go of him, and the man straightened his clothes hastily, saying, “You sure you want to stay with this lout, Mr. Doyle. You’ve always got a welcome with us; you know that.”

“I know that, Reg,” Doyle said. “I’ll not forget it. And I know you don’t want paying but I’ve kept you from making anything on your normal work. Bodie’ll see you right.”

Bodie was too disconcerted by the way his partner was fidgeting and by the odd taut look to his face to say any of the things which sprang to mind at this. He pulled out a tenner without even looking at it, and pushed it at the man.

“Thanks, Mr Doyle,” the cabbie said fervently. “You let me know how you get on, all right.”

“I’ll do that, Reg,” Doyle said, already moving towards the flat door. “And thanks.”

Bodie heard the cab drive away as he manipulated his series of locks, but his mind was on his partner and on the fact that there was something very wrong here. He’d known Doyle in almost every mood, but he’d never seen him like this before.

“What’s going on?” he demanded as the door slammed behind them. “Who’s had you? What’s the game with all this secrecy.”

Doyle looked at him and the expression in his eyes told Bodie it was bad.

“This is between you and me, Bodie,” Doyle said. “Or I’ve had it with Cowley and CI5, with anything in security.”

Before Bodie could speak, Doyle rolled up his sleeve, and then Bodie had no desire to say anything at all. He just looked at the tell tale needlepricks along the vein, seven of them, one for each day his partner had been missing.

“Eric Sutton,” Doyle said, jerking the sleeve down with enough force to tear the fabric. “Remember him? Susan Fenton’s pusher. Gave us Nesbitt. They never got him on the attempted murder rap, you know. Three years for supplying, bit off for good behaviour. I didn’t even know he was out.”

It was beginning to make a very nasty sort of sense to Bodie. “Sutton took you…” he began.

“Sutton’s spent the last three years thinking about how Cowley broke him,” Doyle said, moving restlessly. His face was whiter than it should have been, and Bodie caught the sheen of sweat on his forehead. “He decided to use the same method on me. Instant addiction, well not quite instant but we were well on the way. ‘Course, he’s access to the best quality stuff—just like Cowley.” He laughed harshly.

“He let you go?”

“Oh no, that was further down the line—a few weeks yet ’til he was sure of me. He let me hear him ring the old man, hear him tightening the screw. He was going to give me back to Cowley, wanted him to see me as an addict. Craving and crawling. Cowley said that to him. He’s been brooding about it ’til he’s over the edge.”


“But fool’s luck bust up that little plan. He’d got me stowed away in a backstage room at a derelict theatre—he knew all those places inside and out—and there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. But a tramp saw him leave this morning, and thought there might be something worth breaking in for. Once he was sure Sutton wasn’t coming back he came in. Scared him stiff when he saw me, and I was a bit out of it, but he didn’t just hightail it out of the place, he cut me loose and gave me a hand to get out. We sat among the dustbins together ’til he was sure I could get on my feet, then he took himself off. I knew where I was by then, and Reg’s old mother’s got a place there. She got hold of him and he got me to you.” He said it as if that had settled things. He’d got to Bodie. End of problem. But they both knew it was only the beginning.

Doyle was moving more now, hardly able to keep still for a minute, and he clamped his arms around his chest as if to hold himself together. He was in control though, almost sorry for Bodie. “No good looking like that, mate. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. I’m going to get through it though, and then I’m going to get that bastard Sutton, and until then no-one’s going to know where I am except you.”

Bodie understood well enough. Any question of an addiction like that and even Cowley would not be able to justify the security risk. Until he was through… whatever he was going to go through, Doyle would have to stay missing. And a CI5 flat was not the best place to be missing in. Not with a controller who had keys to the whole bloody lot and idiosyncratic ideas about privacy.

“We’ll have to get you somewhere safe and quiet,” he said slowly. “We’ve got to get this right, Ray. Do you know what to expect.”

“Oh yes, in detail. Been there, seen that, never expected to have to do it.”

“I know somewhere we could go. It’s a bit rough, but it won’t be on any of Cowley’s lists. Better leave the car, too.” He was thinking aloud, partly to take his mind off Doyle’s increasing shivering and pallor. “We’re okay there, I’ve got Inger’s motor in the garage; she’s gone on some French trip and wanted me to give it house room. Need to take some stuff with us.” He looked round uncertainly, picked up a rug, flung it down again, and faced the unknown. “Hell, Ray, you may know what to expect but I don’t. How bad is it going to be?”

Doyle managed a shrug. “People vary. Bad enough. Gets your stomach, sickness and so on, you can’t sleep, get cramps in your gut and all over, hot and cold, you’ve got to move about all the time, can’t settle. That’s the physical stuff. Then there’s the wanting it… and it messes your head up in other ways. If you can’t live with it better say so now.”

“Just working out what to take,” Bodie said quietly.

“Yeah. Sorry. Forgot the irritability. That’ll probably get worse too.” It wasn’t much of a joke, but Bodie gave him eleven out of ten for even making the attempt. He moved round his flat quickly, packing a couple of bags, trying to think of the problems they’d be facing. He’d have to pick up some food. Come to that he’d have to tell Cowley something or the old man would think he was missing as well. He ought to put him out of his misery about Doyle, too.

He got Doyle into Inger’s car, trying to look as if he hadn’t noticed the worsening spasms gripping his partner. “Hold that,” he said, dumping the rug open on his lap. Then he swopped the cars round, leaving the Capri in the garage, and before he closed the door called in on the RT.

“3.7. here. Can you take a message for Alpha 1.” He’d not speak to him direct if he could avoid it, the old man was too quick. “I’ve got a hot lead I’m following up. I’ll keep radio silence for the time being. Tell him to expect me when he hears from me, and not to worry about Doyle—I’ve got him and I’ve got things under control. Yes, I know he’ll love it. Just do it, there’s a good girl.”

He slammed the garage door down, and drove off rapidly, hoping Cowley wouldn’t actually get the message yet. It wasn’t until he was heading safely out of London on the A3 that he felt they were clear. Beside him, Doyle had been moving almost continuously ever since they started out. It was nothing dramatic: slight shifts in position, edgy hand movements; he’d begin a sentence and break it off. For a few minutes he’d pull the rug round himself, then throw it off and open a window. As the journey got longer, he seemed to find it harder to control the restlessness. Then eventually he began almost doubling up in the seat.

“You want to stop,” Bodie asked.

“No. Yeah…” Bodie glanced at him, swerved into a lay-by and leaned over him to open the door. By the time he’d got out himself, his partner was being thoroughly sick. He waited, knowing better than to offer sympathy except by the way of a helping hand back into the car.

“Tell me if you want to stop again,” he said. “Got to think of Inger’s upholstery.”

With a visible effort Doyle replied in kind. “Yeah, she’ll have you writing lines. ‘I must not borrow things without asking.'”

They stopped twice more before they reached the hideaway Bodie had been making for, and by that time it was early evening. He pulled up into the overgrown driveway, and they tumbled out into what in other circumstances would have seemed an idyllic setting.

“I’m impressed,” Doyle managed to say, before doubling up yet again. “Typical merc. Always got a bolt hole.”

The dilapidated cottage was tucked away in the New Forest, more than a mile from another house. ” The only other blokes with a key are out of the country,” Bodie said as he helped him upright. “Come on, sunshine. Lets go and enjoy the facilities.”

The cottage was rough and ready, but it had a bathroom and a kitchen and a couple of beds with blankets piled neatly on the ends. Bodie put a kettle on the cooker and watched his partner roam about. He felt more apprehensive about the coming night than he’d ever felt about going into action. He’d known addicts of course; pitied them a bit if they were young and pretty; always had an element of contempt for them. He’d never seen anyone come off the hard stuff, but he’d definitely assumed it involved doctors and clinics. Doyle seemed to think all he needed was Bodie. Bodie wished he felt the same confidence.

George Cowley re-entered CI5 headquarters after a prolonged and boring meeting with a long-winded and boring under secretary. He wasn’t in a good mood. It was made worse by the niggling feeling that there was something familiar about the voice on the tape, and that somewhere at the back of his mind those enigmatic remarks were trying to strike a chord in his memory. Bodie’s message was a neat light to the touchpaper.

By ten o’clock that evening George Cowley had made a surprising number of people’s lives a misery. He still had no idea where Bodie was, or Doyle, and he had a hunch that he wasn’t going to be finding out. It was some comfort that Doyle was apparently all right, but it didn’t appease him. His mind lingered wistfully on some military punishments which had gone out of fashion even in the forces, and which would unfortunately grab the headlines if used in a civilian organisation. When he got hold of Bodie…

“I’ve brought you a cup of coffee, sir.”

“Thank you, Miss Pettifer,” he said formally, but his smile was genuine. Ruth had been in his line of fire all evening and had taken it like a saint. When he discovered the coffee was liberally laced with liqueur he added, “I don’t deserve you.” She took that as the apology it was intended to be, returned the smile with a warmth that would have alerted any of his younger agents, and left quietly. Cowley picked up a pile of files. It was going to be a long night.

Bodie spent a longer one. When morning came he stood leaning on the front door of the cottage, watching the light and shade move across the grass. He felt beyond tired.

The night had been grim. He’d listened to Doyle’s forecast of the physical symptoms he would experience, but it hadn’t prepared him for the reality of it. The continual rounds of cramps and vomiting had been bad enough, but Bodie had seen men sick with malaria and dysentery and worse. What really threw him was the manic restlessness, like a caricature of his partner’s usual energy. That and the fact he felt totally useless.

He wanted to be able to do something tangible. Doyle wouldn’t accept comfort, wouldn’t be touched. The most Bodie had achieved was to get him to drink a bit in between bouts of sickness. He couldn’t even seem to talk to him: the hyperactivity made Doyle jump from one bit of conversation to another, unable to concentrate for more than a few seconds. He watched Bodie though; all the time as he walked about, even when he was doubled up with cramp. He was watching him now, though he still moved restlessly, shifting odds and ends or just pacing. Bionic golly on steroids, Bodie thought with black humour. There’s no way he can go on like this. He must have walked twenty miles round and round the room, and he’s been throwing up all the time he hasn’t been walking.

He turned his back on the sunlight and went to put the kettle on. “Better get some more fluids inside you. I’ve seen the effects of dehydration.” He paused, then added, “How long is this going to go on. You’ll have to get some rest sometime, Ray.”

Doyle didn’t seem to hear that. “He used to come this time of day, bit earlier maybe,” he said, as if they had been talking about his imprisonment. “Not to talk, just to bring a syringe full of the big H. It was weird, you know—wanting it and not wanting it. I’d struggle, but the muscle he brought with him would hold me down. I’d yell and kick, for all the good it did, but when that needle went in a part of me was thinking that in about thirty seconds I was going to feel really good, and the bastard knew it. That’s the way it is, Bodie—however much you don’t want it, it makes you feel like, I don’t know, like you just feel better than you’ve ever felt in your life before, no pain, everything wonderful. You don’t care about anything else; it can’t reach you.” His voice trailed off then he slammed his fist violently against the table. “God, Bodie. What am I going to do?”

Bodie caught his wrist before he could repeat the action. “You’re going to get through it,” he said with absolute certainty. “Then we’re going after Sutton, and he’s going to wish he’d never been born.”

Doyle’s eyes met his for a moment, then he took a deep breath. “Yeah,” he said.

He looked down at his reddening and split knuckles as if realising for the first time what he had done, and went impossibly paler. Bodie saw the pain hit him and slid an arm round him.

“Come on. Let’s take a look at those,” he said. He knew how bad his partner felt when instead of shrugging him off, Doyle leaned heavily against him. He was shivering and his hair was damp with sweat; he smelt of sweat and sickness. For a moment Bodie felt a fierce helpless anger, but he smothered it. This wasn’t the time. At the moment he needed to be calm and in control. Gently he eased Doyle down into the sagging armchair. He squatted beside him and examined his hand.

“Bloody stupid,” Doyle muttered, looking at the damage. He went on moving restlessly even in the chair, but he seemed to have reached some sort of limit. While Bodie patched up his knuckles he sat there staring at nothing, but his other hand drummed on the arm of the chair then fastened on Bodie’s sleeve. Bodie stayed there a while, until he realised the kettle was filling the room with steam. He went and made a cup of tea, and felt they were making progress when Doyle drank most of it.

“Why don’t you lie down for a bit,” he suggested. “Give it a chance to stay inside you.”

Doyle didn’t answer, but after a minute he pushed himself upright and let Bodie help him over to the bed. He sat on the edge, hunched over, his bandaged hand tucked against him and his feet shifting uneasily as though he wasn’t sure whether to stay there or start walking about again. “I’m losing it, Bodie,” he said bitterly. “I can’t do it any more.”

Bodie sat down beside him, and got hold of him in a grip he couldn’t break even if he wanted to. “It doesn’t matter if you lose it,” he said quietly. “That’s why I’m here, right.”

Doyle made a sound that might have been an attempt at a laugh. “Knew you were here for something,” he said shakily. He shook and shuddered in Bodie’s hold, but with his good hand he held on savagely instead of trying to push away. Bodie had lost all idea of time, but he was sharply aware of any infinitesimal change in his partner. He felt every spasm and cramp, and the shivering that followed. He knew when the worst of it was over and he lifted him back then so that he lay on the bed, his body curled in on itself. He pulled one of the blankets up over him, and saw that even if he was still restlessly awake he was going to stay there.

Bodie walked back to the open door, and looked out at the day. It was incongruously beautiful. The forest was at its best now, when the light was more golden and slanted in through the leaves. Bodie remembered that he liked this place. It was England as old Robert Browning had thought of it when he was stuck in Italy. You could forget the dirty streets and dirtier criminals and breathe a bit deeper. He stood there for a while, getting the strength to go back inside.

To his surprise—and relief—Doyle was actually asleep now. He was stirring restlessly, and sweating ’til his hair was plastered to his face, but it was still an improvement. Bodie sat on the doorstep where he could watch the world outside and still keep an eye on his partner. The sun was warm and he was achingly tired. He caught himself dozing, and decided now would be as good a time as any to catch a little sleep. He thought he would be too uncomfortable where he was to stay asleep for long, but it was dusk when he woke.

His first thought was to check on his partner. Doyle was still asleep, but barely, tossing and turning and drenched as if he’d run a race. He opened confused eyes as Bodie stood there, and would have jerked upright if the blanket hadn’t been so tangled around him.


“Still here,” Bodie said untangling him and giving him an arm ’til he surfaced properly. He tried not to worry about the slight tremors he could feel and the fact that he could feel his partner’s heart thudding too fast against him and concentrated instead on the awakening spark that made Doyle look somehow more like himself.

“What time is it?” Yes, he still looked awful, but Bodie could hear a difference there, a break in the total self-absorption he’d needed to hold on to before in order to cope. He’d stayed in one place, in the circle of Bodie’s arm, since he woke too, though he was fidgetting with the edge of the blanket and the bandage on his hand.

“It’ll be dark soon. Thought I’d make something to eat. Think you could drink some soup?” Apart from the fact he was hungry, it seemed to Bodie that any normal action had to help.


“Why don’t you get a shower then, and I’ll sort out some tins.”

“The Bodie school of cookery—first take your tin-opener…”

“Don’t turn your nose up at it mate, there’s good stuff in cans. Go and wash or we’ll have to eat in the open air.”

Doyle ran a hand through his sticky hair, and looked at himself, probably for the first time since he’d got to Bodie. “Shower, yeah. Sounds like a good idea.”

Bodie had refused to think beyond the present at any time in the last day and a half, but now he let himself hope that they were making progress. Doyle had only had the stuff forced into him for a week; maybe that meant his system wouldn’t take too long to clear. When he came back showered, and with his hair clean and damp rather than sticky with sweat, he was visibly improved. He still moved too much, and the cramps were still there spasmodically but Bodie felt as if he was getting his partner back.

“How did Sutton get you anyway?” he asked with his mouth full.

“Set up. Went past the mouth of an alley and I heard this yell—there was a girl up against the wall and a man threatening her. I ran down towards them, the girl stopped screaming, then the bloke hit me from one side and Sutton and his heavy from the other. That was it really. Only I’ve had time to think about it since. I got a good enough look at that girl and I’ve seen her before. I think she was one of Sutton’s users before we picked him up. If she’s still seeing him, she might be our best way of getting to him.”

Bodie nodded. “And when we’ve got to him, what do we do? It’s not enough to scare the piss out of him; he should go back inside. But how much would come out if we got him for taking you?”

Doyle shrugged and pushed away his half-empty bowl of soup. He hadn’t thought of an answer to that one yet.

Cowley, on the other hand, was getting nearer to some of the answers he was looking for. He’d started with a thorough look round Bodie’s flat, and found the Capri carefully parked in the garage and various small items of personal kit missing. It didn’t take a genius to work out that Bodie had planned to be away for a little while, and intended to avoid the attentions of the organisation which paid him what Cowley considered to be a generous wage.

On the positive side, the phone calls had stopped coming which confirmed Bodie’s message if he’d had any doubts. That didn’t alter the fact he would like to see Doyle for himself, he would like to know what the blazes Bodie though he was doing, and he would very much like to get hold of the man behind Doyle’s disappearance in the first place.

Ruth came in during the evening, when he was playing over and again the taped messages. They had just been subjected to another battery of scientific tests which had produced a long and completely useless report. He glared at it as he listened. Ruth smiled. “No luck with the experts, sir?”

Her words sounded over the voice of the anonymous caller, and Cowley started.

“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to…”

“No, no. It’s not a problem. It was just something you said.”

He rewound the tape yet again and listened to the first message “… on my side of the fence now.”

“That’s it,” he said with satisfaction. “Experts, you said, Miss Pettifer. Experts on my side of the fence. That’s what I’ve heard that man say before. Get me the file on the World Chemicals case and Charles Nesbitt.”

By the end of the week, Bodie and Doyle were emerging from their own very private hell. Doyle’s restlessness remained, driving them out of doors even when the weather changed, but he was definitely better. When he dragged Bodie out on a long run in the rain, Bodie decided the time had come to risk going home.

“Which home?” Doyle asked, seeing the problems.

“Someone else’s, I think. Cowley’s probably booby-trapped mine. Look, Ray, you’re calling the tune on this one, but if we want jobs to go back to, we’d better start thinking about how we’re going to handle things.”

Doyle shrugged. ” I’ve been thinking about it for the last two days. Let’s get Sutton. You tell Cowley you got a lead to him and rescued me. Sutton goes down for kidnapping. He’s not going to make things worse for himself by explaining what he tried to do.”


“Yeah, but if he’s got us both back and he’s got Sutton… the old sod won’t be satisfied, will he?”

“We’ll work on the details,” Bodie said. “Like you said, Sutton’s the priority. How are you going to find this bird.”

Doyle thought back. He was almost certain now he could place her. “She was a stripper—you know, small theatre, afternoon show, reasonably tasteful. She might be in the same line of business.”

“I like it,” Bodie said, with more enthusiasm than he’d shown for days. “We go and watch a few shows and see if she turns up.”

“Nah, too slow. We could get the theatre’s records, but I think we need to bring Benny in on this one. He won’t go round talking. He was on Sutton for months; and he busted that place a few times anyway. He might know who she is, and save us the bother.”

“I wasn’t thinking of it as a bother,” Bodie said regretfully, but the thought of doing anything was cheering him up. He looked his partner over, assessing how far they’d come. He was still irritable and a bit hyperactive, and was eating badly, but there wasn’t much that would catch the eye. In fact, the only visible damage about him was his hand which was still bruised.

“What?” Doyle asked, catching his scrutiny.

“You’ll do. Ray Doyle, back in action.”

“Yeah. And, thanks. Now lets go and frighten the life out of Benny.”

All roads lead to Rome, they used to say. It was surprising how often different approaches to an investigation led to the same point. If Cowley had known he was following the same path to Sutton as Bodie and Doyle he would have called it logic, not coincidence.

He’d got there through different channels. He’d linked the phone calls, in his own mind if not with evidence, to Eric Sutton. It explained a lot, not least why the calls only mentioned himself and Doyle. After that he’d contacted a number of authorities, and sifted methodically through their reports.

A lot of Sutton’s contacts had been in the small theatre where Doyle arrested him. It now went by the unlikely name of The Ritzy, and was apparently still putting on the same type of show. If Sutton wanted to get back in business, or to look up his old customers, that was where he was likely to start. Unfortunately, if he really was involved in Doyle’s kidnapping, he was probably lying very low. Cowley would have no problems getting his young men on surveillance at the theatre, they would no doubt be queuing up for the job, but he didn’t think normal surveillance would be adequate here. He wanted someone who could get on the inside.

As he considered it a thought, almost an image, presented itself to him. He contemplated it for a moment, nodded and reached for the intercom. That would be the most promising way.

A couple of minutes later Ruth appeared in answer to his summons. She looked neat and charming as usual, and although he had never claimed to be able to undress a woman with his eyes in the way Bodie did, it seemed to him she would meet the most exacting requirements.

“Close the door, Miss Pettifer,” he said. “I want to talk to you about a rather unusual undercover assignment.”

“You bastards!” Benny was not amused. Bodie and Doyle had ambushed him neatly in a rather dark alley near his home.

“He’s losing his sense of humour,” Bodie commented.

“Yeah, and he was slow; needs a refresher course. He shouldn’t have walked into us like that.”

Benny got over his fright, and realised what he was seeing. “Doyle. You are all right then. The old man said he believed Bodie had it sorted. He’s in a bloody awful mood about it though.”

They were emerging into the main street now. “Buy you a drink,” Bodie offered. “Then you can get us up to date.”

“Last time you bought me a drink it was lemonade. Anyway, aren’t you going to see the Cow? He’s been looking forward to seeing Bodie again.”

Bodie winced slightly. Doyle propelled Benny towards his flat. “You can make us a coffee then. We want to draw on your years of experience, my boy. You followed Eric Sutton about for months, didn’t you?”

“Oh, it was Sutton who had you,” Benny said brightly. “That’s what Cowley reckoned.”

Bodie and Doyle looked at each other. It never paid to underestimate the old man.

“And how’s he going about finding him?” Bodie asked as casually as he could.

“You won’t believe it,” Benny said.

“Try us.”

“He reckons that the most likely contact is the theatre—you know—the strip show. It’s still running, quite a lot of the same girls.”

“Got a lead on one of them has he?” Doyle asked.

“Nah. Just keeping an eye on the place. Listening to phone calls and so on.”

“Lovely job for someone,” Bodie said enviously. “What did you do, draw lots?”

Benny grinned. “Wouldn’t have minded, but Cowley had a different idea. You’ve got to hand it to him.” He smiled rather smugly. It wasn’t often he knew something Bodie and Doyle didn’t know. “He’s sent Ruth in, undercover, as one of the girls.” He looked at their blank faces. “You know, as a stripper.”

For a moment Bodie and Doyle were speechless, then they both spoke at once.

“Is Ruth all right with that?” asked Doyle, the chivalrous.

“What, right down to the…” Bodie spluttered.

“Nah, it’s tasteful, you know, bikinis and so on. We’re not allowed to go, of course. Look Bodie, if you haven’t got anything else you want why don’t you two shove off. And leave my biscuits alone.”

“Now now, where’s your sense of hospitality,” Bodie said.

“We do want something,” Doyle said hastily. “We know Sutton’s still seeing the girl he was supplying when you and I picked him up three years ago. Do you know if she’s still at the theatre?”

Benny thought about it. “You know, you really ought to be going to the Cow with this… oh all right, but I’ve never seen you, okay. I don’t want any part of what you’ll have got coming. You mean Pam, don’t you?”

Doyle nodded.

“Pam Simpson. Yeah, she’s still there. Kicked the habit apparently—Cowley’s got information on all the girls. But why her particularly?”

“Just a hunch,” Bodie said blandly. “Got an address for her?”

“Yeah, for all of them. We’ve kept an eye on their places, but obviously we couldn’t search them all with nothing to go on. As far as Cowley’s concerned it’s just speculation that there might be a link.”

“Don’t you worry about it,” Bodie said kindly. “The address? Thank you. Now don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

They were gone before Benny could think of a reply. He looked disconsolately into his empty biscuit tin, and comforted himself with the thought of what Cowley would probably do to them when he caught up with them.

Ruth, dressing after the afternoon performance, had an eye, and more importantly an ear, on Pamela Simpson. She liked most of the girls she worked with; a lot of them were young and cheerful and easy to get on with, but there was something sly about Pam. Ruth had read the reports, and she was one of the most likely girls for Sutton to contact. This afternoon she’d seemed slightly agitated, and as soon as they were in the dressing room she’d grabbed the phone. Ruth edged near enough to hear above the babble of talk.

“Are you definitely…?” Pam didn’t finish. Someone at the other end had obviously interrupted her. “Yes, I know you need the money, but I don’t like it. I’ve done enough for you.” A pause, a frown on her face. “Even if it’s only this once… oh, I suppose so, but I don’t like you using my place. It’s one thing staying, another thing setting up something like this there.” She paused and looked round, but everyone was busy. “Look, I’m staying here ’til after tonight’s performance. I want them out of the place by the time I get home, and you as soon as you can.”

Ruth finished fastening her sandals, exchanged a few words with some of the others on the way out, and went to a public phone box round the corner.

Cowley thought it was promising. “Thank you, Miss Pettifer. I’ll get on to it straight away. If it turns out to be Sutton, you’ll be able to hand your notice in tonight.”

Ruth laughed. “Well, I wouldn’t be sorry, but it hasn’t been that bad, sir. Most of the girls are nice enough, and the dancing is a better way of keeping fit than some of our training.”

Cowley caught himself smiling at the phone as he put it down, and scowled instead. Now, who was he going to send. If Bodie and Doyle… He decided in the end to use Benny, McCabe and Lucas and to go along himself to see it was handled properly.

Bodie and Doyle got to the building first. Pam Simpson had an apartment at the top of a converted Victorian house.

“There’s a fire-escape,” Bodie said, checking.

“Should have brought Benny along.” Abruptly he hauled Bodie back out of sight. “Hey. I know those two who just pulled up. They work for Ezra.”

Bodie looked at the two men who had just parked a large and expensive car and were entering the building. “Ezra as in ‘runs half the crime in this part of town’?”

“Who else. And we’ve a good idea he’s behind a lot of the hard drugs that have been flooding this area. I think our Eric is going back into his old trade.”

“He’s chosen some hard boys to play with this time.”

“Yeah, well, beggars can’t be choosers. Makes our life a bit more difficult though. Three of them, and those two will be carrying.”

Bodie still had an eye on the street. “You kick any black cats today? Look who’s coming now.”

Cowley’s Granada swept up, followed by another from the pool. Bodie and Doyle looked at each other. It was all too obvious what was happening.

“They won’t know those two are up there,” Doyle said, walking out into the open. “We’d better put them in the picture. Could turn nasty.”

Bodie followed him. “Hope he gives us a chance to speak,” he muttered. “He may just shoot us on sight.”

Cowley, who disliked being surprised, was taken aback enough by their sudden appearance to be momentarily without words. Doyle didn’t waste the opportunity.

“We think Sutton’s up there, sir, and he’s got a drugs deal going down right now.”

“Two of the Barnes gang, sir,” Bodie contributed.

“What the hell have you two been…” Cowley began explosively. “No, never mind. Now’s not the time. But I assure you there is going to be a time and your explanation had better be extremely good. How long ago did they go in?”

“Just before you got here, sir.”

“We’ve had a look round, sir,” Bodie said. “There’s a fire escape.”

“Aye, there would be. All right, Bodie; you and Doyle take the inside, and Lucas and McCabe the back. Which was their car—that one? Benny, you watch that.” It occurred to him belatedly that he hadn’t seen Doyle for some time, and that he had been kidnapped. “You are all right, Doyle?”

“Yes sir. Thanks to Bodie, sir.”

The look Cowley gave Bodie suggested that the last thing he was thinking of was thanking him. “Well, get on with it then.”

It ought to have gone down smoothly. The element of surprise was in their favour, and there seemed a good chance they would get their men without having to fire a shot. As all four of them said forcefully afterwards, it was Benny’s fault. Benny said that he couldn’t have known; after all how many English cars had car alarms. At any rate, he walked round the car a couple of times then tried the driver’s door. Immediately the alarm went off at full wailing volume. Cowley cursed. Bodie and Doyle sprinted up the remaining stairs. One of the two gang members came out onto the landing as they panted up, fired wildly at them and slammed the door shut. Sounds of shooting outside suggested one or more of them were tangling with Lucas and McCabe.

Bodie winked at Doyle and crashed the door open. One man in the back doorway spun round but before he could fire Doyle’s shot took him in the shoulder. The other was already outside. Doyle turned to find Bodie had Eric Sutton in a lock that Doyle knew could easily break his neck.

“Don’t,” he said quietly. “He’s not worth it Bodie.”

“After what he did?” Bodie’s voice rose angrily.

“It’s over. He’ll go down for a good while for this, without the kidnapping charges. Leave it at that.”

Sutton stared at Doyle as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “You… you were…”

“Oh yes, I was. But I’m not now, Sutton. And unless you want a lot of extra time on your sentence I think you’d better forget about it. Or, of course, Bodie here could just finish what he’s started.”

Sutton’s eyes were full of hatred and calculation. Calculation won. “I’m not going to make things any worse for myself,” he said bitterly.

They took him down to Cowley. It was a relief to find Benny had temporarily diverted his wrath. Once the ambulances had gone, and Sutton had been taken away, Cowley left them with orders to be in his office first thing the next morning with their excuses.

Doyle, Bodie, Lucas and McCabe looked at one another. The unlucky Benny had been sent with Sutton.

“Judgment postponed,” Lucas said.

“What’s Cowley got on that’s more important than annihilating you two?” McCabe wondered.

Bodie was looking at his watch. An idea had occurred to him. “What time’s the evening performance at the Ritzy? We might just make it. It’ll be our one last chance.”

Lucas and McCabe looked at him in admiration, and Doyle doubtfully.

“I’ll let the rest of the lads know,” McCabe said, pulling out his RT.

“She wouldn’t mind you know,” Bodie was saying to Doyle. “Bit of natural aesthetic appreciation…”

Doyle wasn’t convinced, but he owed Bodie a few. He went along.

George Cowley was rather surprised at how empty headquarters seemed to be when he got back there. However, everyone seemed to be about something important, and he had other things on his mind. He was pleased he would be able to relieve Miss Pettifer of the job she had carried out so efficiently. He decided to let her know in person, and to show his appreciation by taking her out to dinner.

Ruth got his message when she came off stage, and smiled. She had not been unaware of the unusually large contingent in the back row, and she hoped they wouldn’t actually run into him. When she left the theatre, Cowley was waiting for her, dressed smartly and carrying an expensive bunch of flowers.

“Well done, Miss Pettifer,” he said, escorting her to the car. “A very successful operation all round.”

As the car rounded the corner, two or three passers-by were surprised to see a number of rather rough-looking young men emerge from doorways and behind walls.

“Close,” said Bodie, amused.

“Too close,” said Murphy with feeling. “Still, the old man didn’t see us, and that’s what counts. Let’s go and celebrate with a drink.”

Much later that evening, Bodie and Doyle returned to Bodie’s flat. Doyle’s had been turned over by his colleagues when they were looking for clues to his disappearance, and, worse than that to Bodie’s mind, it was empty of anything edible.

They were slightly the worse for wear, and they had Cowley to face in the morning, but their mood was up-beat. Bodie summed it up. “Well, sunshine, things went down nicely. Sutton’s out of the way again without any testimony from you and Cowley ought to be in a good mood tomorrow with the evening he’s got lined up.”

“Yeah. Did you see those roses. I’d call that fraternisation.”

“Nah. Just like him giving us a scotch,” Bodie said.

He sprawled on the sofa, and glanced at his partner. He seemed okay, but he was still a bit thoughtful. “Ray, you all right with everything now?”

“Yeah. I won’t forget it, but I can live with it.” He met Bodie’s eyes, and Bodie saw it was true. He stretched out with a great sense of peace.

“Bodie,” Doyle said as an afterthought.



Bodie opened his eyes. “Oh no, you did it for yourself mate. I just hung around.”

Doyle smiled at him lazily. They both knew it wasn’t true. “Well, thanks for hanging around,” he said.

Bodie closed his eyes again. He felt slightly drunk and more than slightly inclined to sleep. “I’m your partner,” he said with the sort of logic that seemed more convincing after several pints. ” ‘s what partners do.”

“Not all of them,” Doyle said argumentatively. “One in a thousand, that’s you, Bodie.”

Bodie thought about it for a while. “How come I’m not one in a million?” he asked eventually.

Doyle sounded even less coherent than Bodie was. “Nah. Thousand. It’s a poem, you berk. You’re the one who reads poetry. Called the Thousandth Man or something like that. That’s you.”

Bodie wondered how drunk Doyle was. Maybe he’d look the poem up and see if it existed. He evidently wasn’t going to get any more sense out of his partner tonight. He yawned and decided he was too tired to move but he hung on to being awake for a minute to enjoy this half-drunk companionable quiet. Just as well he hadn’t killed Sutton; like Doyle said, the man had failed. It had been a very private sort of danger this time compared to the ones they usually faced, but they’d beaten it the same way. Together.

~ End ~