Remember Me

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.

It was a spectacular, and messy, death. The tabloid press seized on it with enthusiasm. “Suicide at St. Paul’s” blazoned the headlines. “Death under the dome.” The facts in the reports below were scanty, though. A man, whose identity eluded the efforts of both police and journalists, had been acting oddly in the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul’s. Before anyone could take the responsibility of approaching him, he had shown signs of increasing distress, and in front of several horrified witnesses had pulled out a handgun and shot himselfwith professional efficiency. Beyond those grim details, no-one seemed to have any information.

The setting, the violence of the suicide and the continuing mystery of the man’s identity kept the story on the front pages for days. Interviews with the shocked on-lookers were followed by thoughts from the Dean and learned comments from the most sensationalist psychologists whom editors could find. Columns of print were filled, but nothing of relevance to the case emerged at all. The dead man did not register in any of the places where he should have done. No-one seemed to know him; no-one came forward to claim him. Even the police investigation only added more negatives: his prints were not on record anywhere and he had no licence for his handgun.

CI5 kept an eye on it as a matter of course, but the few facts there were did not really suggest a case for their expertise. There was no doubt it had been suicide. The fact the gun was an SIG and the way the man had handled it might have put him in their league, but neither he nor the gun featured in anyone’s records so they kept a watching brief. The police made little progress and eventually even the inventive journalists of the Evening Standard had to let the story drop. In order to be plausible, the most outrageous fictions needed a starting point.

Once scandal and the sorry state of the health service finally recaptured the headlines, the case dropped in George Cowley’s lap. At long last someone claimed the corpse. This, however, was not a matter for public information. The claimants were the CIA. Although he was not currently one of their own, he had been six months before he died.

“And he’s not the only one,” their representative said, allowing a certain bleakness to creep into his tone. “We’ve lostin one way or anotherfifteen operatives in the last year. And I mean lost, not had injured or killed. These men have just disappeared. ”

Cowley did not allow his opinion to show on his face, and his look at his agents encouraged them not to make frank comments on this track record. He was quite well aware of the current state of morale in the CIA. He’d brought Murphy, Doyle and Bodie in on this one, but made it plain that it was for their information onlynot because he wanted to hear their opinions. The CIA representative, Manninger, probably had no illusions about the response he was getting, but Cowley intended to keep it courteous.

“They’ve all been the same profile,” Manninger went on. “Loners, men who’ve come into the agency from a fairly mixed background. Men with military experience, often special forces. Perhaps they’ve been involved in a few questionable activities as well in the past, but there’s nothing wrong with our vetting system.”

Again a glare from Cowley ensured that his young agents held their tongues. To clarify his own thoughts, he said, “I take it you mean these men have gone over in some way…”

“No. Not gone over in a political sense. We’d have been screaming a lot more loudly, much earlier if we thought there was any question of that. At first we thought it was coincidence; none of them were men it was impossible to imagine breaking off on their own. The first one we located turned up in a private little war in central Africa. That wasn’t out of characterhe’d had a fairly chequered past. Another jumped from a fourteenth floor window. We looked at that very closely, but all the evidence shows he chose to do it. When a third turned up in the psychiatric ward of a local hospital someone used their brains and compared the files. Out of fifteen agents, not one had real ties to anyone. That’s perhaps less uncommon in our line of business than in an ordinary job, but well past being a simple coincidence. Not one of these men was even in touch with parents or siblings, and not a steady girlfriend among them. Besides the three I’ve mentioned, one more turned up, dead, shot in an armed raid on a bank. This is the fifth fatality.”

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Doyle said quietly. “If someone just wanted them dead or disabled there would be no need for them to disappear first. You think they’re all involved in some kind of criminal use of their abilities?”

“Yes. We all know such men are expensive. Highly skilled, highly trained. All sorts of organisations on the wrong side of the law would be glad to recruit them.”

Murphy asked the obvious question. “So who’s finding their price?”

Manninger had the look of a man who knew he wasn’t going to get an easy hearing for his answer. “We don’t think its working quite like that. What we do think, well, it may seem to you a little far-fetched. Hell, it did to me when one of our boffins first put it to me. But I’ve begun to think there may be something in it.”

“Go on,” Cowley said, in a voice that gave away nothing of what he was thinking.

“It’s only based on the one individual. The one who turned up in the psychiatric ward. We took him into the care of our own psychiatrists of course.”

No-one in the room had any illusions about that care. “And did this produce any information?” Cowley asked.

There was a long pause as Manninger appeared to choose his words with more than normal caution. Cowley was aware of his men. Murphy was sitting there with his best “I’m a CI5 agent and I’m listening attentively” look. Bodie’s expression might have been taken the same way by someone who did not know him well. Cowley knew him very well, and realised his mind was actually on something else altogether. And that’s happening far too much recently; I need to know the reason why. Doyle was the only one who was really paying heed to what was being said. He was looking at Manninger as if something the man had said had struck close to home.

“We had to base our ideas on the man in the psych ward, as I said. Looking for these men has been expensive and time-consuming, and with the poor success rate it was difficult to justify putting more resources in. We don’t really know if its reasonable to extrapolate from what seems to have happened to him…”

Cowley simply waited. He had run out of polite prompts. What was the man hesitating about?

Manninger finally got it out. “We’ve had experts on thisexperts from a lot of fields and without much limit to the methods they could use. In the end, either they failed or what they came up with, however unlikely, was the truth. They decided the man genuinely believed he was someone else. Apparently he had no surface memory at all of his time with the CIA, which covered about four years. His memory of his earlier life was completely intact. He was living under a false name, not too different from his own, and all our men in white coats were prepared to swear he was convinced this was his real identity. They believed it was the suppressed memories from his time with us trying to break through that had caused the schizophrenic symptoms which got him hospitalized.”

“Had he been in an accident?” Doyle asked. “Any sign of a bad head injury.”

“No, and that was one of the first things they looked for. It wasn’t just a question of amnesia, though. He had memories of those years, but they were false ones. Our shrinks believe they were implanted. He’d been working for an arms dealer before he had this breakdown, and he believed he’d been doing that sort of work for years. Of course, he was well qualified to do it, and we couldn’t pick up the man he worked for when there was no apparent offence.”

“But he’d been dabbling on the wrong side of the law?” Doyle asked.

“Almost certainly, and it fits with the profile of the other cases. I have to say, our records suggest he had no strong personal morality that would have prevented him becoming involved in such a business. With a few different turns in his life he might well have ended up there anyway. It’s not that that gives us cause for concern, so much as what seems to have happened to him. By all conceivable tests and measurements, this man had been brainwashed.”

“You said it wasn’t political,” Murphy murmured.

“No, we’re fairly certain of that. He might have had more defence if it had been. We believe that someone with the skills popularly known as brainwashing, and with access to the appropriate drugs and technology, has set up a very profitable business. A particular sort of ‘headhunting’ if you like. You can see the market opportunities. Suppose you’re an arms dealer with profitable sidelines to your legitimate business. You want a man who can handle tricky deals, who knows his weapons, perhaps has experience of the countries those weapons are going to or expertise in getting them there. Such a man is not easy to get.”

Cowley said dryly, “All the same, I find it difficult to believe they go recruiting in the ranks of the CIA. There’s the risk of an undercover job, apart from anything else.”

“What little we’ve been able to find out from his employers, without getting into a disastrous civil liberties situation, suggests they believed his fake history as much as he did. They had almost certainly paid someone very well for recruiting him though.”

Bodie stretched slightly, returning from whatever thoughts had been absorbing him. “So what you actually have is one ex-agent, involved in some shady weapons dealing, who’s convinced you he’s innocent because someone tinkered with his mind.”

“His mental problems were actually how he came to our attention,” Manninger said, unoffended. “If he hadn’t been admitted to hospital he’d probably still be selling guns and we wouldn’t know anything about his whereabouts. You don’t have to tell me what this story sounds like. I didn’t buy it for a long time, I’m not even sure I buy it now, but I sure as hell can’t think of another explanation that fits all our facts. And if you look at it from another angle, how difficult would it be? It’s not like convincing a man to betray his friends and his country.”

He leaned forward, his voice forceful in a last attempt to convince them. “This man was thirty-five years old. He’d been a loner all his adult life. Oh, he’d had friendsin the forces when he was there, friends in our organisation he drank and socialised with, but he had no family and no-one really close to him. Certainly no-one to tie him down. He’d moved about from one military-style group to another. He’d no deep convictions, except a loyalty to his colleagues. How much would this hypothetical recruitment agency really need to do? Thirty years of his life could be left pretty well unchanged. He’d done a bit of mercenary stuff; I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d done some arms dealing. He was a man used to making new starts in new places. In an anonymous hotel, in a different part of the country, doing work he was well equipped to do, how long would it take him to build a new life without questioning it? Such men don’t think about the past.”

He looked round the room, at the politely blank faces of three of the men, and the intent one of the fourth. As far as he was concerned, that was a better reception than he had been expecting. He left it at that. Pushing back his chair, he said, “You’ve been very patient, gentlemen. I wanted to give you the picture from our side. We’ll make arrangements for the body to be returned to the States, Mr. Cowley. There were one or two other matters…”

Cowley left the room with him. His agents relaxed, and Murphy grinned with easy Irish charm. “The old man gave them an easy ride. Bet he’ll be chuckling into his scotch tonight. ”

“Oh, he likes to think we can still do some things better than the yanks,” Bodie said. “It’s just a pity he had to keep us from going off duty to enjoy the show with him.”

The reminder that they had been heading out of the building when Cowley had sent for them got them all moving. Their controller’s belief that their time belonged to him couldn’t be argued with, but there was no point in being too easy to find.

“Coming for a drink?” Doyle asked.

“Not me,” Murphy said. “I’ve a long-legged blonde waiting for me, and she doesn’t do patience well.”

Bodie hesitated, then came along, but he was a silent drinking companion. Doyle knew the day that had just passed wasn’t on his mind; it was something else altogether, and whatever it was Bodie wasn’t talking about it. Doyle didn’t push it. He had tried that once or twice in the past weeks and it had only resulted in him being shut further out. Content for the time being with the fact that Bodie wasn’t actually disappearing off, he drank his beer slowly and let his own thoughts wander. For some reason the CIA man’s narrative had bothered him. He could see exactly why the others were dismissing it as a bit of transatlantic paranoia but he couldn’t get Manninger’s sincerity out of his mind.

“Penny for them?”

Doyle looked up startled. He must have been lost in his thoughts for a long time if he’d driven Bodie to starting a conversation.

“I was thinking about that chap Manninger,” he admitted. “He’s not a fool, wouldn’t be in that position if he was. He obviously believed what he was saying.”

“The CIA don’t know if they’re coming or going since the Pike Committee report,” Bodie said. “It’s no wonder they’ve had a few deserters. You don’t buy into all that brainwashing guff?” He looked at his partner, and laughed. “You do, don’t you. Liked that little glimpse into the world of spies and intrigue?”

His mocking held an edge of contempt. Most of his humour these days was cutting, Doyle thought. The old, easy joking seemed to have disappeared. He said, “I thought he made his case well enough, that’s all.”

“Oh, you’re afraid of being spirited away. Don’t worry. I think you’ll be safe to go out at night, if you don’t go down any dark alleys.”

The touch of scorn stung Doyle into a sharper reply then he had intended. “I wouldn’t be worrying anyway. I’m not the one with the shady past.”

He wished as soon as he had said it that he’d bitten the remark back. Bodie’s face hardened into the expression that had become much too familiar recently. He drained his bitter and stood up. “See you,” he said briefly, and left.

Doyle looked at the dregs of his drink as if they might hold some answer. What the hell was it with his partner? Was something wrong, or was Bodie just bored with the whole business? Was he tired of CI5 with the stakeouts and surveillance and rules to follow, and fed up perhaps with the ties of a partnership? It was bad timing for them to be at odds, with the grade sevens coming up, but even that would be familiar stuff for Bodie, skills he’d mastered long ago.

His partner’s erratic behaviour during the grade sevens tended to confirm him in his ideas about Bodie’s attitude. One thing he was absolutely sure of though was that, whatever else was the matter with Bodie, he had the ability still when he wanted to use it. “Nothing’s the matter with Bodie,” he snapped at Cowley, though a faint unease inside whispered that things weren’t right. “Bodie did all this stuff before he joined CI5; maybe he finds repetition boring.”

He didn’t convince Cowley, and he knew in his own mind that he and Bodie were uncharacteristically out of tune, but he was certain that Bodie still had the edge on all of them when he chose to involve himself. That didn’t stop him feeling thoroughly exasperated by the way Bodie messed up the stages of the exercises on which they were partnered, only to go on and ace the ones where they were in competition. The gap between them seemed to be growing unbridgeable, and it was with a feeling of making a last effort that he turned up with his bike on the downs in response to a curt summons by his partner.

Afterwards he thought he should have guessed Bodie was near the edge, and that the arrival of the Hell’s Angels was significant. Bodie’s joking and teasing was over the top before the race. ” You just beat them, Goldilocks, and you can have every phone number of each air hostess on every air line there ever was.” But his mind was on the course and Bodie’s manic reaction to his win struck him less than the homicidal aggression he’d just dodged. He was fed up with not knowing what Bodie was up to, and the copper in him didn’t like the whole set up.

When Cowley turned up in what for him amounted to panic, and he found out what was wrong, it hit Doyle like a physical blow. In fact, it knocked him harder than the swipe to his guts Bodie landed when he reached the fight. At least by then he was finally clear on what was happening and in no doubt where he should bebacking up Bodie against the gang of bikers who had killed one of his old platoon. He knew exactly what Bodie would do to King Billy if he was on his own with him. He dealt with those bikers Bodie had left standing, and hauled off the one who was half throttling him. Finishing that one without difficulty, he turned round to a scene which belonged to the end of the world as he knew it. Cowley held a gun to his partner’s head, and he could see in Bodie’s eyes how close he was to defying the old man and breaking King Billy’s neck.

He didn’t do it.

Doyle let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding, wincing at the pain that caused in his ribs. They had their witness and Bodie’s old comrade would get his justice through the courts. He couldn’t somehow quite get to grips with the clearing up as he ought to have done. He found himself drifting to Bodie’s side and stayed there, and for the first time in weeks Bodie also seemed to feel that was where he belonged. Doyle could feel the tension had gone. It was Cowley who found it really hard to handle what he had just done, not Bodie. And it was Cowley who walked away without a straight answer, when Bodie asked him if he’d really have pulled the trigger. Bodie said to Doyle quite calmly, “What d’you reckon?”

Doyle was still thoroughly shaken by the whole scene. “I reckon he might have done.”

“Yeah. ”

Doyle looked at him searchingly and realised that Bodie had almost found it a relief to have Cowley set the limits, however ruthlessly. The old man hadn’t needed to pull the trigger, perhaps had known instinctively that he wouldn’t need to, but he seemed to have blasted the demons away anyway. Or maybe Bodie just felt things had come to an acceptable end. At any rate, when they’d sorted out the details, taken the bikes back, and the girls had made it clear they’d had enough of them, Bodie was the one who said, “Coming back for a drink?”

Doyle was aching across his stomach and stiff from the race, and had mud in places mud ought not to have been able to get, but he felt absurdly cheered up by this. “Yeah. What’ve you got?”

“Dunno. Haven’t been home much. We’ll stop at an off-licence on the way.”

The silence as they headed for Bodie’s flat was companionable, the old ability to communicate without words operating again. Doyle knew what Bodie wanted. This wasn’t just going to be a drink at the end of the day, but a wake, a sign it was over and the dead could rest. They let themselves into Bodie’s flat with enough alcohol to give a fitting farewell to Keith Williams and the other dead men from Bodie’s platoon, and they drank to them from the warmth and life of their surviving partnership.

Sometime during the evening, Murphy called in on quite other business, and the Irish in him responded to the scene. He stayed, and they generously poured him double portions until he had caught up with their level of inebriation. In the early hours of the morning, Doyle stirred on the sofa and realised he had definitely drunk too much to move. The table held more empty bottles than he could focus on, and the room was inclined to spin gently, but he felt entirely satisfied with the world. Murphy was sitting on the floor, leaning against the armchair with his eyes closed, occasionally singing a line or two of a song Doyle didn’t recognise. Bodie was beside him on the couch, snoring.

“Shurrup,” he said indistinctly and elbowed him in the ribs. Bodie opened bloodshot blue eyes and smiled with uncomplicated affection. The only thing Doyle could remember clearly in the morning was that smile and the certainty that it gave him that the past was done with. His partner was back.

Even the unpleasant awakening the next day, and Cowley’s total lack of sympathy for any of them, didn’t dampen his sense that everything was right in the world again. The week was a wash out, with one boring job following another, but they joked along and dodged Cowley when they could, making allowances for old age and the fact they’d probably tried his patience. It never occurred to Doyle that anyone else would doubt that all was right with Bodie again when it seemed so obvious to him.

At the end of the week, they had a routine day off which Doyle spent on a duty visit to an elderly aunt who was moving in to a nursing home. What Bodie did with the day no-one seemed to know, but at the end of it he had disappeared. So too had his clothes, kitbag, and a number of personal belongings. It was only then, to his utter fury, that Doyle realised just how little anyone else really understood about Bodie’s reactions to what had happened the week before. What to Doyle shouted foul play and disaster, was viewed with resignation and little surprise by Cowley and the ice queen. His own angry protestations that there was no way Bodie would have walked out, were treated kindly but firmly dismissed, which made him even more furious. It took him the whole of the first day that Bodie was gone to realise no-one was going to listen.

“There are absolutely no signs of foul play,” Cowley told him wearily. “You’ve looked yourself at what he took; it’s consistent with what he’d pack if he was leaving. Och, laddie, it’s no good trying to fool yourself. I’ve been half expecting this for a while now… I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d gone after that business with the German girl, let alone after this last week.”

Doyle stopped himself from banging his fist down on the table, though he couldn’t keep the frustration out of his voice. “Bodie was okay,” he said. “He was okay with what had happened; he was okay with what you did. This is what this is all about isn’t it. You bloody well feel guilty. You think he’s walked out because you held that gun to his head. Well it wasn’t like that. Bodie was glad you stopped him. He might have walked out a month ago but he wouldn’t now any more than I would. He’d got it sorted. And if you let the fact you feel screwed up about it stop you…”

“That’s enough!” Cowley was on his feet now, as well and looked as if he was about to react as violently, then he turned aside and that treacherous kindness was back just as Doyle thought he was getting somewhere. “You’re relieved of duty for today, laddie. I’ll not talk about this with you again until you’ve had time to think it through. Maybe Bodie just needs a bit of time. If he comes back, we can deal with this.”

“And what if he can’t come back,” Doyle said bitterly. “What if he happens to think we’re pulling all the stops out looking for him.”

Cowley shook his head. “We’ve gone through all the normal channels, and there’s no hint of anything wrong. I’m sorry, Doyle.”

Doyle looked at him with a mixture of rage and disbelief that he couldn’t find the words to express, then he turned and walked out. He must have walked along the corridors, but he wasn’t aware of his surroundings until he was outside and a thin drizzle was blowing into his face. With a mood about as cheerful as the leaden London sky he stood and wondered where he went from here. His partner was missing, and he knew that there was something disastrously wrong, whatever it looked like to the rest of the world.

Turning his collar up against the rain, he walked off into the busy streets of the capital, and in spite of the crowds of people around he had never felt more alone.

Doyle’s feeling of isolation increased, painfully, as the weeks passed. He learned to conceal it; Cowley was getting concerned about him and he definitely could not face that. He’d managed so far to dodge a session with Kate Ross, but he knew it would not take much for Cowley to enforce one. So he put up a good act. The only person he allowed anywhere past the barriers to get a glimpse of how strongly he still felt was Murphy.

Murphy was one of the few CI5 agents without a permanent partner. Gradually he and Doyle had found themselves working together more often than not. It suited both of them. Murphy’s sunny temper was proof against whatever mood his partner threw, and on the whole Doyle was grateful for someone who had the ability to keep his mouth shut when tact demanded it. Professionally they had confidence in one another and enough experience of working together to make an effective temporary team. As far as he was close to anyone other than Bodie, Doyle counted Murphy as a friend.

Five weeks after Bodie had gone, they were on their second night of a very tedious stakeout, watching a suburban house that might be in use as a neutral meeting ground for the heads of two criminal empires. “Might” was the operative word, and it had rained for the whole period of the surveillance. At two in the morning, with the rain dripping down their necks from the saturated undergrowth, Murphy touched on the subject that everyone else around Doyle avoided.

“It’s times like this that I really wonder why I joined CI5. You know, Bodie may be well out of it, somewhere hot and dry.”

Doyle was too cold and too wet to resent the implied question. “No. Wish I could believe it sometimes, but I don’t.”

“Still think the same about it?”

“Yeah, more so if anything.”

Murphy flicked a slug off his boot, and the movement sent more water cascading onto them. “Find anything?”

He knew, though Doyle had concealed it from everyone else at CI5, that Doyle spent almost all his scant amount of free time following up any information or half-clues that might give him some idea of how Bodie had spent the last couple of days before he went.

Doyle shrugged damply. “Nothing I could take to Cowley. A girl who was expecting to see him, stuff he ordered delivered after he’d gone… Cowley would say he’d just cut his losses. They’re trivial things, I suppose.”

Murphy tried to make out his expression in the dark and failed. “Maybe, but the little things can be a pointer. If you made a guess at what had gone down with Bodie… what would it be?”

For a while the only thing that broke the silence was the noise of the rain, then Doyle said slowly, “If Cowley gets to hear about this, he’ll really think I’m losing my mind.”

“He won’t get to hear about it from me.”

“No, sorry.” Doyle didn’t sound it, but actually he was. Murphy had proved he could be trusted. He’d covered for Doyle more than a few times in the last few weeks so that he could follow up leads which had come to nothing. All the same, he wasn’t sure of Murphy’s reaction now. “I got in touch with Manninger last week.”

It took Murphy a moment to place the name, a little longer to pick up on the implication. “The CIA man? Oh come on, Ray, you can’t think…”

He broke off, because the silence, the increased tension in the man beside him, told him that Doyle was thinking exactly that.

“It’s a chance,” Doyle said, perhaps trying to convince himself as much as Murphy. “God knows, I’ve followed up everything else possible.” He had, at the expense of sleep, meals and any downtime at all. He’d worked through files of almost every case he and Bodie had ever handled, followed up on prison releases and escapes and called on his usual sources of information. And he’d got absolutely nowhere.

Murphy thought when he heard this that he might be doing Doyle no favours at all by keeping quiet about his obsessive search for his partner. Somehow Doyle’s absolute conviction had begun to get through to him. Also, he had seen Bodie the night after King Billy’s arresthe’d even backed Doyle and told Cowley it was over and done with and not a reason for Bodie to walk. He’d been brushed off even more brusquely than Doyle, though he’d been sure he’d been right. But this last idea of Doyle’s really took some swallowing.

“If you’re considering that a possibility,” he said slowly. “What then?”

Doyle brushed wet curls back from his face. “Got to consider Bodie’s talents. I’m going to go and see one of his arms-dealers acquaintances.”

Late the following morning, he stood on the windswept deck of the Woolwich Free Ferry. He’d had too little sleep, and the hasty cup of coffee he had grabbed on the way out had done little to soothe his sore throat. He knew he looked tired and scruffy. Marty Martell, who had reluctantly agreed to the meeting, was as impeccably dressed as always. He looked at Doyle with the same mixture of distaste and reluctant appreciation that he had shown on their first encounter.

“Welcome aboard. We haven’t had the pleasure of your company for a while. Business is it… or you’re always welcome to explore the world of the Vikings.”

“No, thanks,” Doyle said abruptly. “I’m hoping you might be able to help me…”

“Any time, dear boy,” Marty said blandly. “You’ve lost something again, perhaps. Do I expect an imminent visit from Bodie as well?”

Doyle’s hands clenched round the railings, but he kept his voice casual. “As a matter of fact, it’s Bodie I’ve lost.”

“Ah.” For a moment Marty was evidently weighing his words. “You might like to… er… elaborate on that. Lost as in the sense of a CI5 partner or as a more personal one?”

“Lost as in ‘disappeared off the face of the earth’,” Doyle said hastily. “Lost as in ‘I don’t know where the bloody hell he is and I wish I did’.”

Marty nodded slowly. “Perhaps you’d better come inside and tell me about it.”

Doyle had boarded the ferry with considerable reluctance. He didn’t like what Marty did, and he hadn’t missed the undercurrents at their previous encounter. On the other hand he knew that Bodie trusted Marty more than most of his profession, and even to a limited extent considered him a friend. He needed someone with a knowledge of the world of illicit arms deals and the trade in mercenaries that went along with it. Nevertheless, he went down below deck with Marty with something of the feelings of a fly heading much too close to a web.

“Bodie’s been missing for more than a month,” he said, watching the taller man’s face. Telling the story of it wasn’t so hard; he was surprised to see something that might have been a distant relation to compassion in Marty’s expression. Explaining what he thought might be the cause of it all was more difficult. He described Manninger and his theories with as much accuracy as he could. “I know what it sounds like,” he finished. “I’m dodging our lady shrink as it is, without trying this one on at work. But I thought you might at least be able to tell me if Bodie could be used like that. And if so where I could look…” He stopped quickly before it could sound too much as though he was begging.

“Mr. Cowley thought that the Americans were suffering from some form of collective hysteria,” Marty guessed, not inaccurately. “It’s an understandable reaction, I suppose. But as it happens, I don’t think so. I’ve heard one or two things that make me think you may be nearer the truth than he is. He doesn’t deal in commodities. Those of us who do, realise that all sorts of skills are marketable. And there have been rumours. It’s certainly worth looking into. I have the contacts, of course. If what you imagine is right, the north of Britain seems a possibility, or at least somewhere a good distance from London. Why don’t you leave it with me.”

Doyle pushed himself away from where he had been slouched against the wall, surprised and more than a little relieved. “Thank you,” he said, and meant it. For the first time there seemed a slight gleam of hope.

“Bodie’s been a friend for a long time,” Martell said. “If I get anything, I’ll be in touch. And, if I were you, I’d leave it to see if a lead comes that way, and get some rest.”

“I look that bad, do I?”

“Worse, dear boy, worse.”

Doyle grinned reluctantly. “I’m afraid there’s a Scotsman with a strongly developed Protestant work ethic who definitely doesn’t have rest in mind for me.”

Marty started to say something, changed his mind and simply said, “I’ll be in touch.”

Doyle swung off the ferry with a rather lighter heart than he had boarded it. He still felt uncharacteristically tired and aching, but Marty’s reaction, and tacit support, had made him feel less alone than he had for a long time. That evening, back under their favourite bush but thankfully dry this time, he told Murphy, “Think I might have got just a glimmer of something.”

Murphy listened to his rather hoarse voice, and felt him shiver. “What I think you might have got is a touch of flu,” he said. “Let me get Lewis in, he’s on call. You go on home and get some sleep.”

“Nah, not worth it. I’m not sleeping well anyway. Can’t help wondering where Bodie is and what the blazes he’s up to.”

Some two hundred miles north of them, a man was entering one of the few good hotels of the dockland town which was his current base. It was a depressed and depressing place, dirty, vandalised and high in unemployment. For his purposes it was fine. Tough and jobless young men with plenty of banked up aggression provided natural recruits, and most of them wanted more money and quicker action than their own armed forces were likely to supply. The dockland setting, and the fact most people would turn a blind eye to anything that promised a profit, made it convenient for his other “trade” as well. At the moment, though, he was glad to put his day’s work behind him.

He smiled with habitual charm at the pretty receptionist. “Good evening, Mr. Philips,” she said politely. She made a point of learning the names of visitors, and had noted his scrawl of ‘Andrew Philips’ in the guestbook. For some reason she felt the name didn’t suit him, was not enigmatic enough for his dark, hard good looks .

Philips took the key and went up to his room. His head was aching slightly, and he felt more like relaxing than womanising for one evening. The headaches didn’t bother him too much now. They had been a natural enough result of the attack which had led to his move to this town. The doctor at the private clinic which his bosses had paid for, had told him they would gradually fade. More annoying was the fact he could still remember nothing about the attack, though he knew that too was common enough with head injuries. Obviously he’d got across someone, and a move had been a good idea.

He looked round his empty, tidy room, without enthusiasm. Still, it was clean and as expensive as this dump of a town offered. His bosses did at least value his services. He wasn’t quite sure why he felt vaguely negative about the whole thing. Once he’d finished here, perhaps he’d push for a trip abroad, somewhere hot with a beach.

He sat down with a cup of indifferent coffee, and flicked across the TV channels, settling at last for a soccer match, although it was a European Cup fixture and neither of the teams was English. The commentators were trying nobly to give it a bit of local colour: “And of course, Kevin Keegan, who played such a major part in SV Hamburg’s Bundesliga triumph, will now be a key figure in their drive to become champions of Europe.”

He glanced at the screen with more interest. Like most of the country, he’d thought it was a damn shame when Keegan left Liverpool, but at least the ‘mighty atom’ was always worth watching. It was raining at the match, and the players’ shirts hung wetly, their shorts and legs mud-stained. One of the Hamburg defenders tackled well, and sent the ball upfield to Keegan, who immediately began a jinking run that frustrated the opposing players.

Philips had seen that type of run before and he’d seen Keegan play plenty of times. But now as he watched something very odd seemed to be happening in his mind. He saw the deceptively slight figure, wet curls flying behind him, get past two defenders and suddenly he was seeing someone else altogether. Someone… who mattered; whose name he simply couldn’t recall. Someone with that slight build and wiry strength, and the same tangled mop of hair. His mind tried to capture the memory, and he slammed his hand into the arm of the chair with frustration when he couldn’t pin it down. This had been happening ever since he woke up in the clinic, memories that seemed on the edge of his consciousness, but he’d accepted the doctors’ words about traumatic head injuries and got on with his life. It hadn’t prevented him from working, and it hadn’t bothered him too much ’til now. Now he was abruptly certain that this time the memory was important.

A completely illegal tackle scythed Keegan into the mud. He bounced back up with surprising resilience, and one of the other Hamburg players grabbed him before he could retaliate. Philips stood up, his head suddenly pounding. Who was he seeing? He could almost feel the strength needed to hold him back from the fight. What the hell was going on in his mind? He flicked the picture off, flung down the remote and turned away.

Gradually the sense of near-panic died down, and his heart stopped its frantic thumping, but his head was aching unmercifully now. He took a couple of tablets, the ones he’d been given when he left the clinic, and stretched out on one of the twin beds. After a while, when the tablets had had some effect, he got undressed, but he was still disturbed by what had happened as he fell asleep.

Images. Fragmentary pictures gradually coalescing. He was in a car, someone beside him joking; he was clambering down a wooded slope, someone beside him who moved in perfect synchronisation; he was about to make a run knowing that he was covered by someone who would not make any mistake. But the figure was shadowy, an impression, and he fought for a clearer look.

He woke, sweating and troubled. Where had those scenes come from? It had started somehow with the football match, and the man whose name had escaped him. That’s who the shadowy figure had been, who had been beside him in every dream. Why couldn’t he see him clearly? Angry with himself and the world in general he got up and poured a large whisky. When he went back to bed he slept heavily and dreamlessly, and it was easy in the light of the day to dismiss the whole thing.

That was, until the next night. This time he couldn’t blame it on anything from the evening. He’d had a pleasant time with a compliant northern lass, and returned very late to a dour look from the night porter. If he had anything on his mind when he went to bed, it was whether to try to see her again the next day. But regardless of that the dreams came.

He was shooting cans from a wall, and the vague figure from his previous night’s dreams was beside him matching him shot for shot, then the scene jumped, and they were in the water, and the image was clearer, wet curls plastered to a pale face, but he couldn’t focus on the features. He was shooting at the feet of some leather-clad thugs armed with chains and worse, and again time shifted and he was half-lifting the same man into some sort of van, and he knew in the dream, though God only knew how, that he had to be gentle. And still he could not see the face clearly, only the fallen halo of dishevelled hair. He strained to find a clear sight, to say a name, but all he could see was the man again, this time walking away across a stretch of wasteland and he needed to shout because it was such a bloody stupid thing to do when a gun might be trained on his back, and the need to shout…

… Woke him.

He lay there miserable, resentful, more tired than if he had stayed awake. Why was this happening? Who the hell was this who’d taken it on himself to haunt his dreams? Above all, why when he woke up did he feel as if it was reality that was the nightmare. At this rate he’d be drinking more in the early hours of the morning than he ever did in a normal day.

He left the hotel early, got through more work than he needed to do, found a scruffy gym to work off as much energy as possible and persuaded Sharon, the pretty receptionist, whose shift worked out in his favour, to take care of the rest. He would have been glad if she’d stayed, but obviously it would have put her in a difficult position, and anyway, she said, her mother worried if she didn’t come back at all. He took the precaution of having a large whisky before he went to bed this time, and between that and being generally knackered he thought he would sleep like the dead.

Unfortunate image. It was the dead he dreamed of.

Too many dead. A young man’s body on a stretcher, and in his dream he felt bitter frustration and anger; someone else sprawled bleeding and broken on a river bank; a corpse in the remains of an exploded car, a dying man nearby. As he dreamed, he searched frantically for the companion of the previous nights’ scenes and just as the suffocating fear became unbearable realised that he had been there beside him all the time, their reactions so exactly in tune they needed no words. But where was he now? That was the body he was afraid of seeing.

This time he just got up and dressed, be damned to the fact it was still barely five in the morning. He was literally shaking, and he began to wonder how long he could go on like this. Was it some bizarre after effect of the blow on the head, or had he really known this man? He spent a couple of hours getting himself into a mood to function efficiently through the day, but the streets and dockside seemed even bleaker and his life oddly empty, in spite of the good money he was earning and the success he was making of the job. He couldn’t quite understand that. What he was dreaming about seemed pretty rough by comparison, so why was it making his real existence seem so grey and substanceless. He would have been quite pleased to work off his black mood in a fight with someone, but perhaps it showed in his face, because everyone walked warily round him.

He met one of his employers over dinner, an American called Henderson. “You’re doing an excellent job, Philips,” Henderson commented. “Are you having any problems.”

Philips imagined the reaction he would get if he complained he was having bad dreams. “I’m still getting the odd after effect from the head injury,” he said. “A few headaches, some odd lapses of memory, nothing significant.”

He was interested to see that this got a reaction; it only showed in an almost imperceptible increase in tension across the table, but it was there all right. “If you have any problems at all, we can have you checked up at the clinic. They have excellent doctors,” Henderson said just a little too quickly.

It made Philips slightly wary. “I wouldn’t call it a problem,” he lied. “Now, with regard to that consignment of rifles…” Their talk became businesslike, and he did not think about anything else until he had to face the night again.

Doyle shrugged his clothes on hastily and grabbed a cup of tea and a couple of aspirin. His watch told him it was two in the afternoon, and he needed to be back at headquarters by five. Over the last few days, he’d taken more aspirin than he normally took in a year. It wasn’t flu though; he could keep going more or less. Just a throat that felt as if everything he swallowed was broken glass, and a hacking cough that hurt his chest. He looked at the food on offer and decided he’d eat something later.

It was five days now since he’d contacted Martell, and his more hopeful mood had long since disappeared. He’d caught Cowley looking at him dubiously more than once in that time, but the Cow seemed to have put his looks down to his cold, and actually told him to take some time off if he needed it. That was so out of character he almost went to Kate Ross and asked her if she thought the old man might need someone to talk to; in Doyle’s opinion he hadn’t been his normal ruthless self since Bodie’s departure.

As he reached the door, the phone rang. He picked it up hastily, as he had done every time recently, hoping for some sort of news. This time it actually was. At least, it was Marty.

“I’ve reservations about the telephone as a vehicle for confidential information,” Marty said in his usual impeccable tone. “Can we meet ?”

“Same place?”

“Why not.”

Doyle could think of several reasons, including the fact that he hardly had time and that the chill drizzle that was falling did not make the deck of a ferry very appealing, but they were all trivial compared to the thought he might actually have a lead. Marty looked at him dubiously when they met, and moved the conversation under cover. “Are you sure you should be out?” he asked, not unkindly.

“Bit of a cold,” Doyle said. His mind was on Bodie. “What have you got?”

“It’s promising,” said Marty, which from him was enthusiasm. “Really quite promising. A fellow I employ who knows Bodie from long ago is almost certain he saw him the other dayworking in our line of business you might say. He seems to be going under the name of Philips, but that doesn’t mean very much. I got him to follow Bodie back to his hotel, so I can give you an address but…”

“But what?”

Marty studied the grey surface of the Thames as though it was of absorbing interest. “It does occur to me that if you’ve made a mistake, Bodie may not want to be found.”

“I’ll have to take that risk, won’t I.”

Doyle wrote down the information and looked at his watch. “If I set off now I can be up there by early evening. I’ll call in sick; I’ve been coughing over them all week so nobody’ll be surprised.”

Marty nodded. “One more thing,” he said slowly. “If you are right about what’s happened, Bodie’s new employers will be very unhappy about someone from his past showing up. And although I’m no expert on these things, it seems obvious that Bodie’s memories are going to be… distorted. You may have to approach matters with some caution.”

Doyle looked up. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “I know. There’s one more thing you could do for me. If I don’t get back to you to let you know what’s happened, maybe you could contact a chap called Murphy. He’s a good bloke, a friend as well as a CI5 man. Let him know how things stood when you last saw me.”

“Of course.” Marty’s face showed that he still wasn’t happy, but he raised no more objections. Only as Doyle was about to leave the ferry he called after him. “I’ll give you forty-eight hours.”

Philips left his car in the secure carpark beneath the hotel. He would change, relax for a while, perhaps go out for a meal. He had the money to do what he wanted. Unfortunately that thought didn’t shift the grey depression that was the colour of his life at the moment.

As he went through the foyer and up to his room, the relative luxury of his surroundings grated on him. He was successful. His employers valued him. The men he met envied him, and plenty of women seemed aware of his charms. So why did he feel as if something vital was missing?

He thought of the young docker he had just finished speaking with. Tough, brash, he’d been more than ready to be recruited. Philips had given him a realistic idea of the difficulties as well as the rewards he would face as a mercenary, but the lad had the self-confidence of a born survivor. He probably would survive. Philips knew that one of the things that made him good at his job was his ability to pick the right ones.

He’d not offered him any illusions. He’d even given him some idea of what it was like to be in a Congo jail. What he hadn’t given him was the understanding that even if he came out rich and at the top, he’d have lost something along the way. He slammed the door behind him angrily, rejecting that thought even as it slid round the barriers of his mind. Where was his negative mood coming from?

The trouble was, he knew the answer to that. The dreams had continued, not nightmares but stupid glimpses of a life he wasn’t living. He was sure he’d never dreamed like that before. The night sometimes seemed to have more reality than the day. And haunting his dreams, refusing to get the hell out of it and leave him alone, the man who partnered him, whose face always seemed just to elude him.

The whisky bottle was almost empty. He’d have to get another from the bar. With habitual self-discipline he shook off his dark mood with his clothes, then showered and dressed. He hadn’t decided where to go. Maybe he’d eat in the hotel. Maybe he’d drive inland, get away for a while to a good country pub.

Sharp, trying to penetrate the edge of his mind was the thought it would have been a good evening to have a mate along, but he shut that out too. He wasn’t going to think about it, or about the sense of loss he’d woken up with for the last several mornings. He’d had mates, and most of them had let him down one way or another. He was better just relying on himself.

The telephone rang as he picked up his tie. It was the receptionistnot Sharon, but a pleasant middle-aged woman. He had asked the desk to let him know whenever he had any would-be visitors. In his line of work it was best to be prepared. “Shall I send him up?” she asked. “He wouldn’t give me his name.”

Philip’s hand slid to the gun already holstered under his jacket. Not that it meant much; most of the people he dealt with were chronically reluctant to give their names to anyone. “Yes, that’ll be fine,” he said.

He wasn’t sure who to expect at the door. He hadn’t been here long enough to have many acquaintances except in the way of business. He flipped over a few possibilities in his mind, and was just wondering if Sharon had forgotten to mention a jealous boyfriend when the knock came.

“Come in,” he called, and was ready for almost anything but what he saw as the door opened.

Scruffy, pale and tired, his hair dishevelled, his jeans and leather jacket looking as though they might have been slept in, the man who had been bugging his sleep was instantly recognisable. His eyes fastened on the familiar face that had escaped him in his sleep, and he wondered how he could have forgotten the battered cheekbone and wide-set, wary eyes. But still he could not think of the name, and the effort caused the usual splitting pain in his head.

The man hesitated in the doorway, but his voice was casual as he said, “Hi! Remember me? I had to come this way and thought I’d look you up.”

The voice was as hauntingly familiar as the face. Philips stared helplessly. He was going to answer, but the connection between his brain and his voice didn’t seem to be working. He’d been on his feet when the door opened, but now he found himself sitting on the bed as though his legs were unable to hold him. He could see concern leap into the pale face, and thought for a moment perhaps he was dreaming after all, because he was sure that no-one in reality gave a damn what happened to him. In any other circumstances he would have fought with all the strength of his will against the numbness that was creeping over him, but he was too taken aback even for that. He just sat and stared as the real world and the dream one met head on.

The real world won. Perspectives shifted, there was a disorienting pain in his head, but he never quite lost his grip on reality. Even so, he couldn’t have done much to help himself if his scruffy visitor had had hostile intentions. He watched with a detachment he couldn’t shake off as the man walked into the room. All he did though was to find a clean glass and pour the remaining whisky into it. He pressed the glass into Philips’ hand, and the cold smoothness of it told Philips his senses were awake.

“Here. You look as if you need it.” The words were distinct enough. Yes, he could see, touch, hear. It took an effort of will to lift the glass to his lips, but once the whisky was warm on his stomach his surroundings became sharper and clearer, and he was angry. What was the matter with him? He was a realist, he was used to handling unexpected situations, how the blazes could he be so thrown by the sight of anyone. Quite unreasonably, he directed some of his anger at his visitor.

“Who the hell are you anyway?” he demanded roughly.

“Thought you recognised me.”

There wasn’t an answer to that. He hadn’t exactly reacted normally. It was more than just simple recognition, too. The man had moved over to the wall, and Philips knew before he did it just how he would stand there, leaning against it, arms folded, legs half crossed. It was like an itch he couldn’t scratch, knowing him so well and yet coming up with only a blank for his name and the connection between them. Why couldn’t the bloke just give him a straight reply and put him out of his misery.

“Just tell me your name, all right. I had a bust up with some thugs a few weeks ago and got a knock on the head that left my memory unreliable.”

He didn’t like admitting that much, but he expected it to bring an answer. Instead, his visitor said slowly, “You’ve called me a number of things in your time. And you weren’t called Philips when I last saw you.”

It was evasion. He could see that as clearly as he could see the drawn, tired lines on the man’s face. Something was going on, and he didn’t like it. “That’s not good enough,” he said and didn’t try to keep the threat out of his voice. “Tell me who you are and what you want or get out. You can’t kid me you casually dropped in to see me. The only place you’d be going if you had a choice is home to bed. You wouldn’t be here unless you had a bloody good reason.”

It was unnervingly easy to read the man’s thoughts. He shouldn’t be able to work out so well what was going on behind the wary eyes. He could though: cautionuncharacteristic that; then calculation, as if somehow there was a lot of choice as to how he answered; uncertainty; finally frustration. Philips almost smiled as he recognised the signs of patience running out. His visitor was about to throw tact out of the window, which suited him fine. However, the man’s first effort at speaking was cut off by a fit of coughing so violent that it left him gasping for breath and wrapping one arm painfully round his ribs.

Philips was filled with exasperated concern. He smothered the feeling. “What’s this?” he asked. “A sideline in germ warfare? You’ve got ten seconds. Give me your name and your business or you’re out.”

He would have done it too. He felt a driving need to be in control of the situation, and he was angry enough to relish the prospect of some aggression. The watchful eyes that never left his face must have registered that fact. He could see the moment when a decision was made. He tensed as the man’s hand went inside his jacket, but it was only to bring out an ID. It was held out to him in a movement that was also disconcertingly familiar. “Ray Doyle, CI5,” his visitor said in a tone that suggested he was rapidly losing his own temper too. “And if you had a couple of brain cells to rub together you’d remember you’re Bodie, also CI5.”

The words dropped into the silence of the room and for a moment they made no sense to him at all. Then the effect was explosive, as if somewhere inside his head a pin had been pulled on a grenade. In control? That really had been a joke. He’d thought he was getting back on top of the situation. Now he knew he’d only just begun to lose it.

There was no slow, shocked realisation this time that somehow the world was out of synch. The words reverberated round his mind. Doyle, CI5; Bodie, CI5. The chain reaction that the familiar introduction had started brought a blinding pain in his head, chaos, a cacophony of movement and sound so intense that he was not sure whether it was in his mind or in the room about him. Everything that had been his world disintegrated in one prolonged and violent shattering.

It went on longer than he could stand. Then abruptly the pain ceased, the noise ceased and there was oblivion.

Oblivion was welcome. He tried to hang on to it. Here, in some dark, inner place the world made sense and nothing that hurt could reach him. He did not want to surface and face the chaos left by mental walls falling into rubble. It was peaceful down here.

Only now, quiet, insistent, reaching right through to that inner place, came a voice he’d never been good at shutting out.

“Come on, Bodie,” it urged, a note not far off despair there. “Talk to me, damn it. Don’t bloody well give in. You can get past this. Come on, mate. ‘S my fault, I probably broke every rule in the book for handling this sort of thing. Should’ve taken it a step at a time. Just open your eyes and say something.”

He knew that persuasive tone; it fetched suicides down from ledges and persuaded headcases to hand over their weapons. Things shifted in his mind, memories sharpened. He was glad the voice went on. While he could hear it he could sort out the confusion in his mind. Slowly, firing the fuse of a dark fury somewhere deep inside, he began to realise what had been done to him.

“Bodie, you know who I am, you know who you are. You recognised me, Bodieyou knew your name. You can find the memories. Cowley, CI5, it’s all there.

It was there. Bodie had a feeling he’d been listening to him for a while, but the words were finally beginning to make sense. Everything was beginning to make sense in fact, and he was appalled enough at it to stay in the dark a little longer. His partner’s voice went on, however. “Come on, Bodie. You can do this. Don’t let those bastards win. Talk to me, mate, I know you’re in there somewhere.”

Poor sod sounds as if he’s had about enough, Bodie thought, and reluctantly made the effort to answer. His voice sounded odd in his own ears, rusty somehow, as if he hadn’t used it for days. “Okay. Give me a minute.”

He caught the sigh of released tension before it ended in another fit of coughing. It took a surprising amount of energy to open his eyes, but he did it. The sight of the room made him blink.

The chaos hadn’t all been in his mind, then.

They were both sitting on the floor. The bedside table was upturned and broken, the chair on its side. The lamp seemed to be in several pieces, and the whole room looked as if a wild party had just finished. There was a reddening mark on Doyle’s jaw, but judging by his expression, that had been the least of his worries.

“Bloody hell,” Bodie murmured, impressed. “Did I do that.”


Their eyes met.

“It’s okay,” Bodie said. “You can stop looking at me as if I’m an unexploded bomb. I’ve got things more or less straight now.”

“Believe me,” his partner said with feeling, “there was nothing unexploded about you.”

Bodie looked again round the scene of general destruction. With detached interest he asked, “How long…?” He realised as he said it that perhaps it wasn’t the best question.

“How long what?” Doyle said, relief spilling over into irritation. ” How long did it take you to floor me and bust the place up? How long were you out of it? What d’you think I was doing? Sitting here with a stopwatch? I have got absolutely no idea. I don’t know what time it is now, come to that I don’t know what time it was when I got here and…”

Bodie knew he could go on like this almost indefinitely, so he cut him off by the simple expedient of a hand over his mouth. “Pack it up, Ray. I get the idea.” He looked at Doyle with an odd feeling of seeing him for the first time. His mind was clear now, more or less, but he had somehow not quite got over being Philips. It was like having been undercover for just a bit too long.

Doyle looked back searchingly. “You mean it, you’ve got things straight. You do remember now?”

“Yeah. Enough. Too much. Don’t push it just now.” He didn’t want to talk about it, not yet. He just wanted to sit and get over the feeling that he’d gone through a brutal training session followed by a half marathon. Doyle was leaning wearily against the bed and showed a similar disinclination to move, but he would probably have gone on talking if another fit of coughing hadn’t left him breathless. As it was, when he’d finished wheezing he just grinned wryly at Bodie. “You look about as good as I feel,” he muttered.

“Yeah,” Bodie agreed. “Ready to take on the world, eh?”

The world, in the person of the deputy night porter, was already several steps ahead. The senior night porter was elderly and bad-tempered, with a rooted disinclination for physical labour. This made a vacancy for a deputy, and the current one was an unattractive teenager called Wayne Higginsan unhappy combination of the robust world of Yorkshire with his mother’s TV preferences.

He was a sharp, knowing eighteen-year old who went through life in a general state of resentment. He envied and disliked anyone who had more than he did, but especially men like Mr Philips with his smooth clothes and flash car… and women.

On the day of Philips arrival, a man had approached him. A man with a slight foreign accent who introduced himself as Mr Smith. Wayne didn’t care what he called himself. Mr Smith suggested Wayne could earn himself a useful payment for a nightly bulletin on Philipswhat time he came in, if there was anyone with him, any news at all. It was easy money. The reports had become a regular part of Higgins’ evening.

Tonight, once he’d got a few chores out of the way he went over to the reception desk as usual. He could see that Philips was in, but he’d need to gossip with Mrs Daniels to find out if he was on his own, or what bird he had up there this time.

“Hello, Mrs Daniels. Quiet tonight?”

“As the grave, love. How’s your ma? I heard she wasn’t right.”

“She’s not so bad,” Wayne said. “It’s worrying about our Charlene that does it.”

He knew that would start the silly old cow off on her favourite speech about the girls of today, which was the opening he wanted.

“Well, they’re all hanging round men like that Mr Philips,” he said. “Who’s he got up there tonight? Not Sharon?”

Sharon’s scandalous behaviour had given the rest of the staff hours of enjoyable conversation.

“No, ” Mrs Daniels said rather regretfully. “Not a young woman at all. He’s got a friend called round tonight.”

“Didn’t know he had any friends.”

Mrs Daniels was always happy to gossip. “”Well, I suppose it could be some sort of business. He wasn’t from round here, anyway.”


“Oh, no, quite rough looking. Not nicely dressed like Mr Philips. He didn’t give his name either, but Mr Philips said to send him up and I’m sure he can look after himself.”

The grumpy voice of the senior porter brought Wayne’s conversation to a halt, and it was a little while before he could slip away to a phone. He took out a grubby slip of paper with the number on it, but after so many days he could have dialled it from memory. “Higgins. He’s in tonight. Got a visitor, a bloke. He came before I was on duty but reception says he was a bit rough looking, not from round here.”

This was usually the point where the curt voice at the other end thanked him and dismissed him. Tonight, though, Mr Smith simply said, “Go and get a better description and call me again.”

Wayne sighed heavily. Still, it had been easy money so far, and it wasn’t difficult to get Mrs Daniels to talk. She’d obviously had quite a good look at the man; she was always a nosy old bat.

“Maybe he was a relative,” Wayne said to her. “Look much like Philips did he?”

“Oh, no, nothing like. He wasn’t so tall, nor so strong looking. Actually I didn’t think he looked well. And he had his hair quite long and curly like a lot of those footballers do now. Mr Philips has more the look of a soldier and he dresses smartly. This lad looked a bit of a roughleather jacket and jeans, and a mark on his cheek, a scar or something.”

It didn’t seem a lot out of the ordinary to Wayne and he wasn’t prepared for the effect it had on the man at the other end of the line. He could hear him cursing and talking to someone else in the room, then he came back on and started giving orders. Wayne was rather alarmed at what he was being asked to do. “I can make sure their phone won’t get through, but I can’t do any more,” he said, panicking slightly. “There’s other people on duty. Well, yes, I suppose I could watch the stairs if I don’t get called away. What… what are you sending men round to do? Yeah, all right, I’ll let them in the back way, but I don’t want anything else to do with it.”

He put the phone down as if it had burned him.

Wayne Higgins wasn’t the only person whose evening was being disrupted. Mr. Henderson, Bodie’s current employer, had been having an after-dinner coffee with a business contact. She was elegant, beautifully made-up and her father’s favourite offspring. She was also extremely good at what she did. Her father was big in munitions on both sides of the law, and she knew his business as well as he did.

Henderson found her disconcerting. When he dealt with young women, they were normally from extremist groups. They didn’t look like the front page of Vogue or have names like Serena. The fact that Serena had a first class degree and a general air of supreme self-confidence only made him feel at more of a disadvantage.

The sound of the phone came as a relief at first. He had only been listening for seconds when that turned to dismay.

“What? You told me this couldn’t happen. I thought your contacts said they’d lost interest. Are you sure… no, well I suppose we don’t want to take any chances. What if he’s not… yes, all right, I’ll take some papers with me, but that won’t be very convincing if your thugs have just kicked the door in. All right, I’ll meet you there.”

He stood there thinking for at least a minute before he remembered his guest. Serena, of course, behaved in the tactful manner instilled by several excellent schools. “I can see you’ve some urgent business, Mr Henderson, and I promised I wouldn’t be late home. Daddy will be in touch with you next week about the date of the consignment.”

As it happened, her tailing skills were as exemplary as the rest of her accomplishments. Henderson was too hurried and alarmed even to consider the possibility he was being followed, and she remained at a discreet distance. She was sure her father would be interested in whatever it was that had galvanised Henderson so dramatically.

Bodie and Doyle had made a certain amount of progress. They’d got off the floor and in keeping with local custom had made a strong cup of tea. It had taken them a ridiculously long time. Bodie spooned a generous helping of sugar into his cup, and as an afterthought added some to Doyle’swell, he looked as if he’d had a shock, looked generally under the weather in fact. Bodie’s brain was starting to function a bit more efficiently, and he’d started to work out some of the implications of Doyle’s arrival. If he could get there and still dodge his partner’s attempts to talk things out, there were details he wanted to know.

“You’re on your own?” he asked.

“Yeah. They think you walked.”

That bald statement told Bodie a lot. He could guess what Doyle wasn’t saying and imagine the scenes in Cowley’s office. “I see.”

“The old man couldn’t get past the business with the bikers; thought you’d been brooding on that. I tried to get it over to him you were okay with how he handled it, but that just convinced him I wasn’t facing up to reality. He’s taken it hard though, I’ve got to call him, Bodie. He has no idea…”

Bodie’s hand closed over the receiver before he could lift it.

“Hang on a minute.”

“Look, he’s got to know.”

“Not tonight. No-one’s expecting you to call anything in, right? A few hours won’t make any difference. Lets just take a bit of time over this.”

Doyle hesitated. They both knew the appalling battery of questions and debriefings and psychological tests that Bodie would face when he returned. And if he called now, the Cow would undoubtedly order them to start straight back.

“Okay,” he said slowly. “But one call I must make. Marty helped mea lot. I told him I’d let him know if it was you, and how things worked out. Marty won’t go talking to anyone.

Bodie didn’t prevent him lifting the receiver this time, but after a moment Doyle said, “It’s not working.”

They looked at each other with awakening caution.

“Never happened before,” Bodie said, moving automatically to the window to get a view outside. “I think that’s just a bit too much of a coincidence.”

He tried the phone for himself, walked quietly along to the head of the stairs and saw Wayne lounging at the bottom. Through the landing window he saw two cars pull up at the front and didn’t wait to see who was in them.

Hurrying back, he grabbed Doyle’s arm. “Quick, lets get out onto the fire escape while the yard’s empty. I think we might be going to have visitors… and for goodness sake smother that cough a bit, they’ll hear you out at sea.”

They had just reached the bottom when they heard the voices. As one, they scrambled into the shadows below, behind the bins and rubbish bags. Five men appeared, and Bodie breathed a commentary. “I was right. Someone must have seen you arrive. Lucky they weren’t quicker. That’s Henderson; he pays mebetter than Cowley’s ever likely to actually. And that bastard behind is from the clinic. I don’t remember much about it but I remember him. The rest look like muscle. Oh yes, and the little weasel letting them in is on the staff. Maybe that’s how they’ve been keeping an eye on me.”

All five went in, and Bodie and Doyle took the opportunity to slip round the side of the building towards the street. Bodie took the lead. He was feeling better now, the cold night air helping, and he felt a growing urge to find and take apart everyone who had tried this on with him. His mind was running rapidly over possibilities. “Where did you leave your car?”

“Just up the street a bit. I brought that old blue van you once dredged upyou remember?”

Bodie gave him his best blank look, but took pity on him and allowed the smile to show.

“That’s not funny,” Doyle said angrily.

“Seriously, Ray, I think my memory’s fine now. What did you bring the van for though?”

“In case Cowley thought of putting an APB out on the Capri.”

Bodie thought they’d go into that later; what mattered was to have a vehicle the men wouldn’t recognise. “OK, lets get in it ready. I want to follow that doctor, if that’s what he is. The clinic’s the root of the trouble. This might be our best chance to locate it.”

Doyle followed him. “You don’t know where it is?”

“No, woke up in it, don’t remember getting there. Then Henderson picked me up from it at night, and we seemed to drive round country lanes a lot. If we want to find it, this is the opportunity.”

He took the keys from Doyle, and pushed him into the passenger seat, then got behind the wheel. Neither of them had noticed Serena, pulled in some distance up the street, but she had seen them and recognised Bodie.

When she was much younger and he was doing some deals for the middle east, she’d allowed herself briefly to succumb to his charms. It was a pleasant memory. But just now she was very interested indeed as to what he might be up to in her territory. She could think of one person who might be able to tell her, and in the meantime she would wait and see how the evening worked out.

Smith, Henderson and their large companions had entered Bodie’s room, and were staring at the chaos there. Wayne Higgins had provided the key, but he stayed well back until he was sure the occupants had gone.

Henderson looked at Smith. “What do you think?”

“I don’t understand it. It looks as if he resisted, but if he’d been arrested and taken away…” He turned to Higgins. “You said no-one left or even came downstairs.”

“I was in the foyerI could see the stairs and the lift, but Mr Philips don’t often use the lift.”

“They might have used the fire-escape,” Henderson said. “If there was a fight and Philips took off that way, the other man might have followed him down.”

“We saw nothing,” Smith said dubiously. “But if that were so, where would Philips go if he got away?”

“To me, almost certainly. And if he didn’t get away?”

“I have a contact in London who should be able to tell me if CI5 have him. But it was clear that they’d written him off. It seems unlikely.”

They were not satisfied, but they left the way they had come and Wayne went downstairs to break the interesting news that there seemed to have been a fight in Mr Philips room, and perhaps the man in the leather jacket had murdered him.

Smith parted with Henderson after making some emergency arrangements. When he drove off, he had not one but two cars following his lead.

Doyle watched the car they’d allowed to get a safe distance aheadsafe from their point of view, as they tucked themselves in behind other traffic. He was trying to get some sort of a grip on all that had happened. He couldn’t handle the way Bodie had gone into action as though they were on a normal case. What he wanted to do was sit down and talk things through until he’d forgotten those long minutes after Bodie had flattened him and wrecked the room, when he’d talked and talked and Bodie had sat there completely unresponsive. He’d begun to think his partner was heading for the psychiatric wards before Bodie finally answered him. They couldn’t simply put it in the past and carry on with the rest of their lives.

He’d only just recovered enough to think when Bodie had bundled him out of the roomquite rightly as it had turned out. Then he’d been fully occupied making his unaccountably shaky legs carry him down the fire escape fast enough, and somehow Bodie had taken complete charge so that they were off on a chase with no back-up and no clear plan. He’d got to put some sort of a brake on things.

“We’ve got to call Cowley soon,” he said. “This isn’t just about you and them, Bodie. It’s an international thing and it’s certainly some sort of threat to national security.”

They were on a major road now, and he could get a good enough look at his partner from roadlighting and other headlights. There was a set to Bodie’s jaw he knew only too well. Bodie had understood exactly how they had used him and he was going to make someone pay. Personally.

“Lets find the place first,” Bodie said evenly. “Then we’ll work out how to handle it.”

“We’ll call it in,” Doyle said sharply, too sharply, because it started him off coughing so much he lost the thread of his argument, and before he could find it again Bodie had swerved sharply off the road then killed the headlights. Doyle could no longer see him, but he could feel the mood. Bodie was hunting, and CI5 was the last thing on his mind.

“Got him,” Bodie said.

The car ahead had turned into a driveway, and at the far end was a lighted building. Bodie went on past and pulled off under some trees. “Lets check it out,” he said.

Doyle could see that if he argued Bodie would simply go alone. Trying not to think of all the reasons why this wasn’t a good move, he followed Bodie along the shadows of the verge and up onto a wall. The chill air made him want to cough again, and he smothered it with difficulty. He didn’t usually feel so rough with a cold; maybe it had been a bad idea to miss so many meals. Bodie, who really ought to feel worse after the events of the evening, seemed to be full of energy, and he found it a challenge to keep up with him.

At least there didn’t seem to be much security round the place. It was set up like a normal nursing home; he guessed it probably functioned as one. After all, their specialised activities could be kept in a separate wing. He felt a reluctant admiration for their organisation. There was absolutely nothing here to encourage any suspicion.

“Are you sure?” he whispered to Bodie. “If that bloke’s really a doctor he might just have a call to make.”

“I recognise it,” Bodie said flatly. “I don’t remember what went on, but I remember the place. It looked just the same the night I left.”

“Fine, great, that’s what we came for. Now can we get the hell out of here.”

For a moment Bodie hesitated then his mind was made up for him. “I can hear a dog. Come on.”

Whether the dog was loose or tied, it began to make a lot of noise, and they tore back across the lawn to the wall without waiting to see what would come of it. In the distance, behind the house somewhere, a man shouted, then another voice yelled something about rabbits.

Bodie vaulted up on to the wall and over. Doyle, stumbling more than the ground warranted, found he hardly had the energy to pull himself up. He wobbled on the top and half fell down the other side.

“What are you playing at,” Bodie hissed. “Come on!”

Doyle pushed himself to his feet with one hand on the rough surface of the wall. The wall seemed to rock and for one crazy moment he thought he’d leaned too hard and the old stones were falling. Then he realised it was himself, not the stones, and he clutched at it. Between the dark and the dizziness he’d lost track of Bodie and was startled to feel a hand on his arm.


“Been a long day,” he said. “Be okay when I’ve got my breath back.”

He didn’t sound convincing even to his own ears. Bodie hauled him upright with an arm that felt more solid than the wall and half carried him to the car. “Okay, my son. Lets get out of here and then I’ll get you sorted.”

Doyle coughed irritably and wished he hadn’t. “I’m all right, except for tearing round the country with lunatics who haven’t the sense…” He was coughing again before he could finish, and wheezing audibly. “We’re going to call Cowley and then I’m going to bed,” he finished.

Bodie turned the heater up to full. “We’ve got to find somewhere safe for that,” he said thoughtfully. “And I don’t think now’s the best time to get Cowley. We want to get him direct. No leaks. I’ve got an idea.”

Doyle closed his eyes against the spinning lights of the main road. Had Bodie always been this difficult, or was it the result of having been on his own for a few weeks? He hadn’t the energy to fight with him. “Where are we going?”

“To see a man whose daughter I got out of trouble.”

Doyle had to think about that one. “Out of?” he asked doubtfully.

“That’s right,” Bodie said cheerfully. “He’s just the man we need tonight. He’s got seven daughters actually, and all very pretty.”

He went on, but Doyle had stopped listening. It was warm now, and he felt as knackered as he did after a session with Macklin, and anyway it was good to be sitting in the car with Bodie beside him talking nonsense. He would have drifted into sleep, but every time he was about to drop off he coughed himself awake. In the end, he was in an uncomfortably half awake state, where nothing made much sense and what had really happened got oddly mixed up with what he’d feared might happen.

Time passed. The car stopped. He felt Bodie get out, and fumbled with the doorhandle to follow him, but by the time he’d got co-ordinated enough to open the door and stand up Bodie was back. “Out you get,” he said. “Mr Patel is lending us his basement. I’ll give one of his boys the keys to take the car round to the back.”

They were in a backstreet of terraced houses and small shops. “Mr Patel’s the chemist,” Bodie said. Doyle blinked at the sight not only of the hospitable Mr Patel, but quantities of women in saris. “And I’d like you to meet his wife and two of his sisters, his mother and his older daughters,” Bodie added, giving him an unobtrusive hand up the steps.

Bodie was obviously very popular with the whole household. Doyle let the noise and warm greetings wash over him, and tried not to lean too obviously against Bodie. He was relieved when they were ushered downstairs into a tiny bedsitting room.

“It has its own bathroom, and no-one but the family will know you are here,” the chemist assured them. “I will see that the women don’t chatter. Ela will bring you some food down in a little while, and I will arrange the other things you asked for, Mr. Bodie.”

Doyle wasn’t sure he was awake; it seemed such an unlikely setting for Bodie.

“They’re nice people,” Bodie said, slightly defensively. “Can’t do enough for me just because I stopped a couple of nasty little thugs from bothering one of the girls. What are you grinning at.”

“Never seen quite so many women all over you all at once,” Doyle said, but he was pleased somehow. Bodie had been set up as a hard case in a hard town, but the Bodie he knew had still been there underneath.

Ela, shy and silent, brought plates of Indian food and cups of tea in the English style. Bodie ate most of it, but he made Doyle eat as well. “When did you last have a meal?”

Doyle shrugged. “I wanted to get here at a reasonable time, and in case you haven’t noticed, we’ve been busy since. I can’t taste much anyway.”

“Well you get something inside youhave some of these little sweet things if you can’t face much else.” Doyle again found it easier to give in. He wondered if it was the realisation of how he’d been manipulated that was making Bodie so determined to be in control now. It was exasperating, but if he was honest with himself it made him feel he could relax. It was only now he began to realise quite how isolated he’d felt for the last few weeks.

Maybe some of his thoughts showed; Bodie was too good at reading him. At any rate, Bodie said slowly, “You were on your own with this, you said. How did you find me?”

Doyle told him the bare bones of it. “I wouldn’t have found you without Marty,” he finished bluntly. “You owe him. He did it as a friend, not for what he could get out of it.”

There was a knock at the door and Mr Patel came back, armed with three bottles of pills. “Everything you wanted, Mr Bodie.” He turned to Doyle. “You are not allergic to penicillin? In your country you should see a doctor for this, but Mr. Bodie said that would be impossible.”

“I’m not allergic to anything.” Except being mothered by Bodie. What on earth has he got the poor bloke to do?

Mr Patel checked Doyle over thoroughly. “I think Mr Bodie is right, and you will be better for some antibiotics. I brought those, Mr Bodie, and of course some paracetamol, and—”

“That’s fine,” Bodie interrupted him rather hastily. “Dosage on the bottles? Thank you.”

Mr Patel nodded and left.

Doyle glared at Bodie. “You shouldn’t have done that. You put him in an impossible position.”

“Nah, any problem we’ll say we nicked the stuff. Hell, I’ve been to plenty of countries where you can just buy antibiotics over the counter. And you need something, Ray. Even I can hear you wheezing.”

Bodie poured another cup of tea for him, and handed him a succession of tablets.

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with you,” Doyle grumbled. “You’ve forgotten what the word partner means. It doesn’t mean you tell me what to do.” This remark was rather undermined even in his own eyes by the fact he was obediently swallowing them. “How come you don’t feel lousy, anyway?”

“I’ve got amazing powers of recovery,” Bodie said cheerfully. “And since I feel fine and you look terrible, I’ll let you have the bed.”

“I’ve already got it,” Doyle pointed out. Bodie had dumped him on it as soon as they got into the room and he hadn’t moved. “And you needn’t think I’m going to sleep ’til we’ve got a few things sorted out. You can’t handle this as a personal vendetta.”

“We can talk about it in the morning,” Bodie said casually.

“We can talk about it now.”

Bodie pulled his chair over to the side of the bed. “It wasn’t your mind they fucked with,” he said quietly. It was the first time he’d said anything about what happened, and Doyle wanted to listen. He rubbed at his eyes, trying to push away the heavy sleepiness that threatened to close them. He tried to say something, but all he managed was a yawn. Bodie looked at him oddly, relief and amusement and guilt there if you knew him well enough to see them. Doyle did.

Even half asleep, he could detect with the best of them. Antibiotics, paracetamol…”Bodie,” he said ominously. “What was in that third bottle.”

He could hear amusement winning. “You couldn’t sleep in the car,” Bodie said, not very apologetically. “You look as if you need a decent night’s sleep. Too late to argue about it now, anyway. We’ll talk in the morning.”

“In the morning,” Doyle said with drowsy conviction, “I am going to kill you, Bodie.”

But by the time he woke, he had forgotten his anger. He’d slept well for hours and felt a lot better. Maybe there was something to be said for Bodie’s arbitrary methods. Light came in at an odd angle through the high-up window, bright enough to suggest it was well into the morning. It fell on Bodie, still sitting by the bed but sprawled forward so his arms rested on it and his head rested on his arms. Doyle had the vaguest of recollections of Bodie waking him around dawn and making him swallow another dose of the antibiotics. He evidently hadn’t moved since then, or maybe he’d been there all night. Doyle moved cautiously to sit up and Bodie jerked awake. For a moment there was a very odd expression on his face.

“Dreaming?” Doyle asked.

“Nonot now. I suppose since you’re here…” he bit off whatever he’d been going to say, and headed for the bathroom.

It was midday before they were both washed and as respectable as they could be given they’d slept in their clothes. Doyle finished a cup of tea which he wished was coffee, and decided now was finally the time to make a stand.

“Okay, Bodie. Time to talk, I think. You’ve had it your way so far. We’ll have a lot to explain as it is. Now we’re going to do it my way. We’ll ring Cowley and…” He broke off.

Bodie was relieved ’til he followed his gaze. Out on the pavement, only visible as silhouettes against the light, he could see three tall figures. They were watching the house, and they didn’t look like customers.

“Trouble?” Doyle asked softly.

“Can’t see how anyone could know we’re here.” But Bodie was uneasy. He walked over to the window to try to get a clearer view, but as he did so the three went up the steps to Mr Patel’s front door. They heard the insistent knocking, as if from men who were determined to come in.

Bodie looked round the basement room. The window was high and barred. There was no exit other than up the stairs. It had seemed a safe haven the night before; now it seemed like a trap. They were both armed, of course, but there was a house full of innocent people upstairs, all easy to use as hostages or human shields. He trusted Mr Patel, but he couldn’t forget the man was a father. Threaten his family and he would be vulnerable.

Doyle must have been thinking on the same lines. “If they actually know we’re here, we’re in it up to our necks,” he muttered.

Bodie motioned him to silence and went and opened the door a crack. He listened, puzzled. It didn’t sound like an argument upstairs, more like a babble of female greeting. He motioned to Doyle to join him. “What do you make of that?”

Doyle shrugged. “Maybe they’re just putting up a good show. Confusing the issue.”

“No, I don’t think so. I can hear a voice I know, I’m sure of it.”

A moment later Mr Patel appeared at the head of the stairs. He came down hastily. “Mr. Bodie, there are people upstairs who say they are friends of yours.”

“Oh yes?”

“And one of them is Miss Braithwaite.” He paused as if they ought to be impressed. Doyle looked blank. Bodie suddenly placed the surname and groaned.

“May I bring them down?”

“If Serena wants to come down I don’t suppose you’ll be able to stop her,” Bodie said with resignation. “Who are the others?”

Doyle was peering over his shoulder up the stairs, and caught a glimpse of a very familiar figure. “That looks like Murphy,” he said slowly, not convinced he was quite awake. “But how…?”

The puzzle was solved as all three of the visitors looked through the narrow doorway above. The lovely Serena was flanked on one side by Murphy, and on the other by Marty, who was clearly the link. Bodie, who didn’t believe in looking as though circumstances had taken him by surprise, smiled charmingly up at them. “Nice of you to drop in,” he said.

“I sponsor a club for Asian girls,” Serena said, sitting elegantly in the one chair. “I know Ela and her sisters quite well. I was surprised to see you come here last night though.”

“And exactly how did you see that?” asked Bodie, who had become immune to her charms long ago.

“Well, I followed youout into the village and back here. I was curious; it was never your area, and anyway you were out of our business long ago,” Serena explained. “You were rather careless actually, but I wasn’t. I’m sure no-one else tailed us. Anyway, after I’d followed you here, I thought I would just find out a little more about it. Daddy prefers me to give him the whole story. Naturally I telephoned Mr Martell,” she favoured him with a smile that made Bodie wince, “and he told me all about it. I haven’t actually mentioned it to Daddy yet; apart from anything else you know how he feels about you.”

“Considering the old buzzard held a shotgun on me last time we met, yes,” Bodie said with feeling. “Lets just leave Daddy out of it for the moment, sweetheart.”

Serena frowned a little but continued. “Well, Mrs Patel and the girls are always very welcoming. We thought perhaps we’d better ask for you as Mr Philips, then Mr Patel said you told him last night not to call you that any more, so we knew it would be fine to come down and see you.” She knew better than to waste a smile on Bodie, so she turned the full impact of it on Doyle. “Mr Martell said you’d evidently sorted him out.”

“Leave him alone, he’s convalescing,” Bodie said. “Anyway, I thought Daddy only liked men in suits. Yeah, Doyle and I had a chat, and I decided Bodie suited me better. So now we’ve got all that straight, what’s Murphy doing here?”

No-one pushed it; in fact Murphy and Martell probably hardly noticed his haste to get on to the next topic. He knew Doyle hadn’t missed it, but that was between the two of them.

“I told Marty to get in touch with him if he didn’t hear from me,” Doyle said.

Martell nodded. “After I heard from Miss Braithwaite…”

“Serena,” said Serena sweetly.

“After I heard from Serena, it sounded as though you might be having problems. I thought perhaps someone in CI5 ought to know.”

Doyle had been following this thoughtfully. “Know, yes. That’s not quite the same as dropping everything and coming along. We were just about to call Cowley. Does he know you’re here?”

“Well, no,” Murphy said, to Bodie’s secret relief and Doyle’s visible dismay. He hesitated, as if uncertain how much to say. “Yesterday morning Cowley got a phone call from Manninger, very hot and bothered. Cowley went off to meet him and came back early in the afternoon, not at all happy and wanting to see you. You’d called in sick by then, and the old man pretty soon found out you’d done a bunk. Lucky you didn’t take the Capri or I think he’d have had a few forces out looking for it. He was hell to live with after that. Anyway, he cursed you and laid down the law thoroughly, and then took himself off all steamed up to another meeting, and I found out from Betty it was with Willis. I’m fairly pally with one of Willis’ mobwe used to climb together. I took him out for a drink and we did a bit of putting two and two together. All very unofficial of course.” He hesitated again.

Bodie helped him out. “But perhaps not all our departments were completely ignorant of this new departure.”

“I think so. And if they were already aware of it, and Cowley wasn’t…”

“Cowley might not be calling the tune,” Doyle finished for him.

“Yes. Then Martell here rang me at the crack of dawn. I tried to get hold of the old man a bit later, and found he was already in a meeting with the minister. So I left him a message to say I was following up some information and came along. That was it really.”

“And about enough,” Doyle said. Bodie heard the resignation in his voice. Reading between the lines, there seemed a danger Cowley was losing this particular fight with MI6, who obviously had some twisted agenda involving the set-up at the nursing home. Doyle could no doubt see it becoming more likely they’d have to do it Bodie’s way. Bodie’s own agenda was simple. He wanted to take apart the place where they’d monkeyed about with his mind and make anyone involved very sorry they’d picked him as a subject.

Serena’s expression did not show how much of this she had followed, but Bodie knew from bitter experience that it was little use to try and keep her in the dark. She addressed them all briskly now, as if they were a backward village committee. “I think we need to know a few more facts before we decide what to do next. But first we must thank Mr and Mrs Patel, and move somewhere more suitable; Bodie has trespassed on their hospitality quite long enough. My old nanny has a cottage a few miles out of town, and Daddy’s sent her to Spain for a few weeks, so we can go there.”

“That’s the nanny who said you were the bossiest child she’d ever come across,” Bodie muttered. In fact, though, he was slightly relieved. The nasty few minutes before he’d realised who the visitors were had made him decide to leave the Patels in peace as soon as possible.

He glanced at Doyle. He looked a bit more human this morning, but even Bodie knew that three doses of antibiotics weren’t going to have cured him. Still, he was coughing a bit less and had given up looking at Bodie as though he might disappear any minute. His mind was obviously working too, because he said abruptly, “Manninger. That’s who to contact. Sounds like he can tell us what we want to know, and he’s got no jurisdiction over us.”

“Probably be glad of a chance to put one over on Willis, too,” Murphy said with a grin.

Bodie simply nodded. His feelings about Willis bordered on savagery; the man was an amoral bastard in his book, though a sort of cold patriotism perhaps justified his position.

They followed Serena up the stairs, trying not to look as if they were trailing along in her wake. Bodie was grimly amused to find that his status in the house was definitely a poor second to hers. He was really grateful to the family though, and he and Doyle were warm in their thanks. Mr Patel left the shop to say his goodbyes, and congratulate Bodie on his good fortune in being an acquaintance of Miss Braithwaite. If he was puzzled by the fact they left at intervals and headed away in different directions he didn’t say so.

Bodie drove out of town following Serena’s instructions. She’d been insistent they went by different routes, and after the previous night Bodie agreed it made sense. He made sure he wasn’t being followed this time, and he could see Doyle also checking the road behind.

“Reckon we’re clear,” Doyle said. “You got any more girlfriends up here likely to be following us about?”

“It was years ago,” Bodie said. “She was just the same even then. I just about escaped with my life. Believe me, Ray, she’s the one Kipling was thinking about when he wrote that stuff about the female of the species. You’d better hope she’s got her eye on one of the others.”

“You trust her?”

“Have we got a choice? I do, actually, though. In fact, autocratic old bastard though he is, I’d trust her old man on something like this. He’s got more of a moral code than Willis.” ”

He saw Doyle wince, and wasn’t sure if it was physical discomfort or the thought of getting involved with Mr. Braithwaite, but he gave him the benefit of the doubt since he didn’t actually start quoting arms regulations at him. He was aware of a sort of tension there though. He’d been Philips for long enough to get back into the habit of doing things his way. CI5 still seemed remote.

“Next turn,” Doyle said, reading the map. “Couple of miles then apparently there’s a turn on the left past the Rose and Crown.”

They were the last to get there. Bodie pulled the van into the driveway next to Serena’s spotless Rover. He noticed that Doyle was still a long way from his normal level of energy. He got out of the car as if it was an effort.

“You take another dose of that stuff when we get inside,” Bodie said.

“I’m all right,” Doyle said irritably.

“Now, now. You wouldn’t want me to tell Serena you’re not well. She probably likes taking charge of things like that.”

He saw with amusement that his partner got the message. “All right, I’ll take the things,” Doyle muttered. “But I’m fine now. I just needed a bit of sleep.”

Bodie looked him over thoughtfully. “Definitely pale, still coughing on and off, breathing as if you’d just run upstairs and…” he made a grab, “… running a fever I’d say.”

Doyle shoved him off ungraciously. “And would any of that stop you? I’m not claiming to be a hundred percent, but I’m okay. Leave it.”

Serena looked out of the front door at them. “You’re not bickering are you?” she inquired. “Come in, I’ve made some coffee.”

She seemed in some miraculous way to have procured a chocolate cake as well. She had her good points, though eating her cake was as close as Bodie wanted to get these days. He demolished more than his share of it while they all listened to one side of the conversation between Doyle and Manninger. As Doyle’s part mostly seemed to consist of saying yes or no, they didn’t get a lot of information until he put the phone down and relayed Manninger’s side.

“Well he won’t be joining Willis’ fan club,” he said. “Sounds like you were right, Murph. He reckons MI6 actually knew about their missing manbefore he blew his brains out. Obviously Cowley hasn’t told him what’s going ondoes he ever tell anyonebut his opinion is that Cowley’s snarled up in red tape. He also thinks any op that Willis knew about wouldn’t find anything on the premises, though that may be slander. He didn’t come right out and say it, but the implication was if we wanted to see an end to the place we’d be better unofficial and on our own. Preferably keeping a few people alive to do some talking about what’s going on over the pond. Oh, and you’ll like this, Bodie. He near as dammit offered us a job if Cowley’s not happy with how we do it!”

“Work for that rabble,” said Bodie scornfully. “Still, I suppose he means well. You don’t think he got any impression of our location?”

“Not unless he traced the call.”

“I doubt if he could,” Serena said. “Daddy takes all the appropriate precautions, and of course Nanny still works for him in her own way.”

“Gone to Spain with grenades up her corsets,” Bodie commented to Doyle under his breath. Then more loudly, “We’re on our own then.”

Doyle looked at Murphy, who shrugged. If you can’t handle Bodie, I can’t, was the obvious implication. Doyle said, “I don’t like it, Bodie.”

“You don’t have to like it so long as you do it. Look, Doyle, if this one’s done by the book it’ll be Willis’ book and these bastards will get away with it. If we did contact Cowley, you know what he’d do? He’d make it an Operation Susie, and even then he’d be in a difficult position. Believe me, he’ll be happier with it done this way.”

“What way?” Murphy asked. “Have you got something in mind.”

“Yes. Hit them hard and very fast. The Germans had a word for itBlitzkrieg. That’s what we want here.”

“We’re not going in shooting,” Doyle said flatly.

“Who said anything about shooting. Just shut up a minute and listen to what I’ve got in mind.”

They listened. They didn’t really have a lot of choice. And with a few reservations they were impressed.

“Very good,” Marty said. “How long have you been working this out?”

“Oh, it just comes naturally,” Bodie said lightly. “It does mean we’d need some help from Mr Braithwaite, and even if there’s some profit in it, it’s asking quite a lot of him.”

“Oh, Daddy will want to help,” Serena said confidently. “I’ll talk to him if he’s difficult. Anyway, he won’t be very happy that this has been going on in his area.”

“Without him getting a cut?” asked Doyle cynically.

“No,” Serena said. “Well, in other circumstances, yes, perhaps. But Daddy really won’t like this. He was with the troops who went into Eastern Europe at the end of the war. He didn’t like what he saw there. He wouldn’t be a part of anyone treating people like lab rats. But, Bodie, we need to find out about the real nursing home side of the business. There are probably some confused old people there.”

Bodie hadn’t liked the lab rat remark, and he caught a glance from his partner that suggested Doyle had noticed. He pushed the feeling aside. The plan was what mattered at the moment.

“You’d be the best person for that, Serena,” he said with his own charm. “I’m sure you know plenty of people who’ll gossip to you about it.”

Serena gave him a withering look, but picked up the phone. They listened to her for a while in slightly bewildered admiration. Her ability to get information while sounding gushingly informal was outside their normal interrogation techniques. After the third call their staying power wouldn’t take any more girlish laughter though, and they went to raid Nanny’s kitchen.

Serena found them there and put the lid on the biscuit tin. “It all sounds quite promising,” she said. “I’ve found out everything you want, I think. Fortunately there are just seven elderly residentsit seems to be rather exclusive, but everyone speaks well of it. There are two nurses and another member of staff who are local, and I think must be assumed to be ignorant of the other uses of the place. There are no catering staffthe nurses do breakfast and tea, and a hot midday meal is brought in from the village. There’s a cleaner who works from seven ’til nine in the morning and then from three in the afternoon. All the nursing home part is in the main block of the building, but it has a separate private wing. Mr Smith, the manager, lives there, and there’s a Doctor Brandt who’s supposed to be doing medical research. He has a lab assistant, and there are a number of outside staff. Emily, who I ride with, says they’re not local, and the villagers think they’re louts, so we’d better take them to be Smith’s men.”

She paused briefly, either for breath or to enjoy the open mouthed admiration she was getting from everyone but Bodie, then went on, “It looks as if this will work quite well with Bodie’s plans, but obviously we need some of us on the premises from the start. I’ll make an appointment to look round tomorrow morning. I’ve an aunt who’s a bit gaga. We wouldn’t dream of putting her in a home of course, but they won’t know that. Marty can come as my escort and we’ll be your people on the inside.”

“You don’t think that either of you might be recognised?” Murphy asked doubtfully. On the whole, Serena seemed to be recognised everywhere.

“Oh but that’s the beauty of it,” Serena said confidently. “They will know me, but as it’s all true about poor aunty there’s no reason for them to be suspicious. Daddy always patronises local places. And even if Marty was recognised it wouldn’t matter, because of course he’s in the business and actually he’s the sort of person Daddy would think very suitable for me.”

She turned the full battery of her charm on Marty, who, Bodie was horrified to see, looked flattered, and went on, “And now we’ve sorted that out, I think it would be rather nice if you all came to dinner. We obviously have to explain the whole thing to Daddy now.”

“I need a change of clothesor possibly full body armourbefore I contemplate dinner with your father,” Bodie pointed out.

“That’s all right. I’ll fetch you something suitable and break the news to Daddy. What about you, Ray?”

“A change of clothes would be great but I can’t do dinnerI’m dropping Murphy off, to do a bit of stake-out.”

They had agreed before Serena joined them that someone ought to keep an eye on the place overnight, and Murphy had volunteered. Serena accepted the loss of two of her dinner guests philosophically and went off to fetch the much-needed clean clothes.

Bodie sighed with relief when she’d gone. “Trouble is, it’s like that peaceful bit in the middle of a tropical storm. You know the bloody thing’s coming back, probably worse than before.”

“That’s a little ungrateful, dear boy,” Marty said reproachfully. “She’s been most helpful. Quite remarkable really.”

Bodie shook his head despairingly, and began a really thorough study of a map of the area. “The worst thing is having no RT,” he said after a while. “You’ll be on your own there, Murph.”

“I can wait to see where he sets himself up, and go back around dawn to get a bulletin,” Doyle said. “In fact, I could take over then.”

“Not while you’re still coughing your guts up,” Bodie said. “Just take him a flask of coffee; he’s a big strong lad, aren’t you Murph. He can manage.”

In fact, when he pulled the van into the side of the village road later that evening, Doyle was not sorry he was only stopping briefly. The wind was blowing in from the east coast, and heavy clouds threatened rain to come. The footpath they had planned to follow was thoroughly overgrown, and by the time they’d fought their way far enough along it for Murphy to get a good vantage point he was as tired as if he’d done a ten mile run.

Murphy had binoculars, and settled himself in a patch of scrub very close to the side fence. From there he could see the building, grounds and drive. He could see if someone arrived, though the drive was only lit near to the house, and more important he would know if any of the key players were out when it was time for the action to start. At the moment everything was quiet.

“Looks like you’re in for a boring night,” Doyle sympathised.

“It won’t be the first one,” Murphy said philosophically. “Go on, you’d better get back. Someone might notice the van.”

They hadn’t really thought parking for half an hour would be a risk, but in that they’d underestimated the nervousness of the opposition. “Mr Smith” had been uneasy all day. Bodie and his nameless visitor had disappeared from the face of the earth, and Henderson’s best efforts to find them had come to nothing. It was possible of course that Bodie had simply gone into hiding, if the man had tried to arrest him. He might be having problems with severe headaches or flashes of memory, and they’d got local clinics and hospitals being checked. His worst case scenario, though, and the one that was making him jumpy, was the possibility that Bodie had got his memory back in part or in whole.

He did not see how Bodie could place the clinic, even if he did remember what had happened, but he’d stepped up security anyway. Since midday, some of his staff had been making regular checks of the grounds and the village. Now Simmons, officially his gardener, reported, “There’s a van parked off the road down by the stile. Probably someone taking the dog out for a late walk, but you said you wanted to know about anything.”

Smith nodded. “You and Carter keep an eye on it. If it’s someone with a dog, just let them drive off but follow them. If there’s no dog, ask them what they’re doingsay we’ve had vandals. If it’s Philips, I want him. If its anyone you’re doubtful about, bring him here.”

Doyle found the trudge back to the van almost worse than the way out. The path was no easier in spite of the undergrowth they’d trodden down, and the rain that had been threatening was now falling. Added to that, he seemed to have no energy at all. Shivering he climbed over the stile at last and then training and instinct kicked in as he saw someone move by the van.

It was no good going back over the stile; it was hardly possible to move on that path let alone outrun someone. Instead he sprinted sideways towards the verge and the shadows, hoping that he’d take whoever it was by surprise enough for him to lose himself in some gateway or turning. He had his gun of course, but he wouldn’t think of using it unless he was fired on.

He would have got away with it if there had been only one man there. Simmons was as unenthusiastic about the weather as Doyle, and frankly thought watching the van was probably a waste of time. It was only when Doyle was already past him that he recovered from his surprise enough to shout. Carter had been out watching the road, in case the driver came back that way. He cut Doyle off as Simmons finally began to move.

Doyle sent Carter flying, but it slowed him down. He was aware of movement just behind him and half turned, but a fist sledged into the side of his head sending him stumbling. He struck out dizzily, and doubled Simmons up, but by then Carter was back on his feet. Something very solid struck him on the back of his head and the world exploded in pain and light.

He never knew how long he was out. Consciousness came back slowly, with a throbbing pain in his head and a chill feeling of sickness. He lay still, concentrating on controlling that for a while, perhaps quite a long while. Then slowly he became aware of other things. He was tied, hands and feet, but not gagged. He lay in total darkness, and from the musty smell and the damp concrete of the floor he thought he must be in a cellar or outhouse.

Time passed. He made a few further, not very comforting, discoveries. He’d been tied by experts. His gun was gone and so was his jacket. The floor was getting damper, perhaps because it was raining hard outside. The pain in his head was subsiding a little, but the chill was getting worse. He was shivering uncontrollably. He made himself move a little, trying to loosen the cords tying him, trying to warm himself up.

He wondered what the time was, and how soon the others would guess what had happened.

Bodie and Marty returned in the early hours of the morning.

“You met the old man before?” Bodie asked.

“Once or twice, in the way of business. He was… surprisingly helpful tonight, I thought.”

Bodie nodded. “He doesn’t like the fact this was going on right under his nose. Maybe he doesn’t like the set-up at all, to be fair. And Serena can wind him round her little finger, of course.” He thought over the arrangements he’d just made. It had all been quite satisfactory. Now he wanted to hear if Murphy was in position, then in a few hours they could start.

The first hint that there might have been a setback to his plans came when they pulled in by the cottage and found the van missing. There was no note indoors, nothing to suggest a change of plan.

“Maybe Doyle decided to stay,” Marty said slowly. “Or perhaps they just set off later than they intended and he’s not back yet.”

A couple of hours later, neither of those possibilities was looking good. “Murph would have sent him back long ago,” Bodie said, watching the rain slant across in the wind. “Something’s gone wrong. I knew it would be a bloody nuisance sending them off with no way of keeping in touch. At least we’ve got these now.”

‘These’ were a sophisticated RT system loaned by Serena’s father. Bodie didn’t care where he’d obtained them. They were going to be very useful.

“It’ll be light soon,” Marty said. “What do you want to do.”

Bodie looked at the sky. Even with the heavy clouds, it was possible to see that dawn was near. He thought for a moment. “We’ll have to go with the original plan as far as we can. You and Serena stick to the appointment at ten. But I want to get out there now. I’ve been looking at the map. If you drop me outside the village, here, I can make my way in across country. I’ll contact you as soon as I have any news.”

He wanted to be on the move. Something definitely wasn’t right. But he wasn’t taking any risks either. He slid hastily from the car a good way outside the village on an empty road, and began to make his way across the flat Yorkshire fields with as much caution as he’d ever shown in the jungle. He was as well armed as he’d ever been then too, although he wasn’t planning to use any of it lethally. Courtesy of the Braithwaites he had smoke bombs and incendiaries, and an SLR as well as his hand gun. It would be just his luck to run into a gamekeeper, he thought wryly. It would look as if he’d declared outright war on the pheasants.

In fact, he met no-one. As the day lightened and he drew nearer to the grounds of the nursing home he moved more stealthily. He saw Murphy after he’d been watching for a while, because a momentary break in the cloud cover allowed the light to catch the binoculars he was using; Murph was well hidden though. Bodie called to him softly to avoid startling him into action as he came up.

“Where’s the coffee?” Murphy asked, quite cheerfully for a man who’d been out in the rain all night. “I thought Ray was coming.”

“He didn’t come back,” Bodie said. “When did you last see him?” He couldn’t keep the tension out of his voice now.

“Last night,” Murphy said with growing concern. “Hours ago; we were here just after dark. We found this position then he went back to the van.”

Silence. Bodie ran over a number of possibilities in his mind and didn’t like any of them. He and Murphy looked at each other for a minute. Then Murphy said, “Not long after he’d gone, something came up the driveswung round to the side before it got properly into the light. It could have been the van; it was big enough.”

“You didn’t see Doyle, or whoever else might have been driving it?”

“No. You can cover the front entrance from here, and the garage, but not the far side and there must be staff entrances.”

Bodie looked at his watch. Six a.m. He had four hours to decide whether to go ahead. “You stay here,” he said briefly. “I’m going to scout round, see if I can see the van.”

As he pushed his way through wet branches, he wondered just what sort of night his partner had spent.

Doyle had spent it alone. He was grateful for that; he wasn’t looking forward to an interview with the proprietor. Soon after he’d recovered consciousness, someone had looked in on him, but he’d stayed motionless. Whoever it was had walked in and turned him over with his boot, but he must have looked convincing. Someone else outside said, “Leave him. Smith says he’ll keep ’til morning. He’s not going to go anywhere is he? If he spends a night down here it’ll soften him up a bit.”

Doyle found two things that helped him endure the night, though. The first was anger. He’d been suppressing anger for weeks; now he let it fill him with a savage determination not to give these people any satisfaction. It gave him a stamina and energy that he could never have found any other way, that had nothing to do with physical strength but everything to do with will.

The other thing was a slight but real chance of doing something for himself. Once he was reasonably sure he wouldn’t be interrupted, he wriggled across the floor ’til he bumped into the wall. He found, as he’d hoped, that it was rough brick. His hands were tied behind him, so he sat with his back against it and edged round. His hands were half numb from the cold and the tightly tied ropes, but in the end he found what he wanted: a brick badly set in, its slightly jutting edge a sharp surface to chafe a rope against.

He wasn’t so worried about the rope round his ankles. Odds on, as soon as they wanted him to walk anywhere they’d take that off. He squirmed so that the rope round his wrists was in position, and slowly began to rub it on the edge of the brick. After a while his arms ached. He could feel the chills and the pain in his chest getting worse as the night wore on, but he pushed the awareness aside and continued with the friction. He didn’t care how long it took, so long as it worked. And it was working. He could feel the minute change in the tension as some of the fibres gave.

He had no idea what the time was, or how long he worked on the rope. Eventually the muscles in his arms seemed to be on fire, and the rest of him was numb and cramped. He coughed until he was almost sick, but he refused to let any of it matter. Up and down, over and over again, while tiny fragments of brick powdered off, he kept the movement going. Before they came for him in the morning the rope gave way.

He let himself rest for a bit then, rest and think, though he’d already had plenty of time for thinking. He knew the important details of Bodie’s plan. It was likely that they would come back for him earlier than that, so he needed some sort of delaying tactics. He had to be there when Bodie’s blitzkrieg went into action.

Common sense whispered he wasn’t in a state to do much. The knock on the head and a night tied up wouldn’t have done a lot for him, even if he’d been a hundred percent to start with. But he ignored common sense. He had to be there for the simple reason that no-one else had the slightest idea what it was going to mean for Bodie when he saw inside the place. Bodie had managed to give the others the impression that he was back to his normal, casual, confident self. Doyle, with the memories of Bodie’s first reaction to him still uncomfortably vivid in his mind, knew there was an awful lot more than Bodie admitted going on under the surface. Bodie hadn’t really remembered this place, not clearly. He’d recognised the outside appearance, as he saw it when he left. How he’d react when he saw the rooms where presumably he’d been treated, Doyle didn’t want to guess. He did want to be there. When he’d done that, his body could have a say.

Bodie was finding it vaguely disturbing moving round the place and recognising different parts without a clear context for when he had seen them, but his mind was on his partner. He was relieved when he did see the van. It wasn’t concealed, just parked at the side of the drive.

“It’s promising in two ways,” he told Murphy when he got back to him. “It means there’s a good chance that Doyle is on the premises, and since they haven’t hidden the van away, they’re probably not expecting anyone else.”

“So we go ahead?”

“Yeah. Doyle knew the plan. Anyway, it’s our best chance of getting in to him. I just hope he can string them along ’til then.”

Doyle was doing his best. Carter and Simmons had come for him, as he’d expected, a bit too early. He managed to look at one of their watches as they hauled him to his feet and it was just after eight-thirty. That meant ad-libbing for nearly two hours.

Otherwise, things went as he’d hoped. He’d rolled back to the middle of the floor as if he’d been there all night, and carefully grasped the frayed edges of the ropes together within his hands so that he still looked bound. There was blood on his wrists, he knew, where he’d scraped skin off on the wall, but if they noticed that they’d probably think it was where the ropes had rubbed. He didn’t have to try very hard to look sick and dazed. They certainly didn’t seem suspicious; they just hauled him to his feet and sliced through the rope round his ankles.

“Right, upstairs,” Carter said.

Doyle’s legs were too cramped to hold him for a moment, and the returning circulation was agony. They took an arm each and got him moving. He was allowed a rather humiliating visit to the facilities, but a request for coffee just amused them.

He found he had been held in a basementbelow the private wing he guessed, as he was taken into what looked like a private living room. He recognised the man there; he’d been at the hotel. No doubt he was the conveniently named Mr Smith. On the table were Doyle’s jacket, his gun and his ID.

“I wouldn’t mind having those back,” he said casually.

“I don’t think so, Mr Doyle. You won’t be needing them you know. You’re going to tell me all about why you were prowling round my property, and then if you’re lucky I may find a use for you.”

Doyle had decided on his approach. He waited for a bout of coughing to pass and tried what he thought was his best gambit. “You’ve got my ID. I’m a CI5 agent. You’re interfering with the course of justice.”

Mr Smith shrugged. “So far, since you attacked two of my men, who didn’t know who you were, I don’t think you’ve much of a case. But perhaps you’d like to explain to me what interests CI5 here?”

“We’re looking for a rogue agent,” Doyle said. “I tracked him up here, and was close to arresting him, but he escaped from me at his hotel. When I was going back to the room, I saw you and some other men leave it. I followed you back here, and enquiries suggested you had some connection with him. I thought you might be concealing him on the premises. And in case you’ve any wrong ideas about it, my boss knows where I am and is expecting me to check in after” he moved to look at the clock… “ten thirty, when he finishes a meeting with the minister. If he doesn’t hear from me you can expect a lot more visitors, feeling a lot more aggressive.”

He found it hard to get enough air in his lungs to get through the speech, but he saw it give the man pause. That was all he needed. Stall them ’til ten-thirty and they were in for the surprise of their lives.

Mr Smith looked at him a while. “I have to make some phone calls of my own,” he said abruptly. “You can certainly contact your superior later; we’ll have a chat before that about what you’re going to say to him. In the meantime, since we are not inhumane, you may wait in this room. Carter, come with me. Simmons, you stay here.”

Doyle dropped thankfully onto a chair, and let himself slump against the back. He’d bought his time. He needed to look harmless now, and get back enough strength to give Simmons a shock.

At about the time Mr Smith went to make his urgent phone calls, Bodie and Murphy moved round so that they had a good view through the patio doors of the residents lounge, and were only a few seconds away from them. Serena’s information seemed to be good. By nine o’clock they were all gathered in there, and seemed set to stay for the rest of the morning.

Bodie and Murphy waited in silence, their natural tension increased by the thought that Doyle was somewhere inside. A brief word from Marty on the RT at least let them know that everything was in place. A few minutes before ten o’clock a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce swept up the drive carrying Serena. Marty followed in Serena’s Rover.

They were met at the door by the senior nurse, who, Serena had been told, dealt with all the day-to-day administration. Bodie, watching through the binoculars, had to admit Serena performed beautifully, and Marty, as her escort, was suitably unobtrusive. Serena swept from room to room, viewing everything in detail and talking constantly. Unnoticed in her wake, Marty planted some discreet smoke bombs, all linked to a remote control in his pocket. Outside, the chauffeur, strolling about as if to stretch his legs, surreptitiously lobbed some more into the flower beds below the front windows.

Marty had noted the position of the fire alarms in the hall. Serena had managed to dictate the tour so that they made the residents lounge their final stop, and in spite of talking all the time, she had remained accurately aware of the time. At 10.20 she entered the lounge and began to chat to the residents. Two of the nurses were already there by now, and the senior one remained in attendance on Serena. Marty lingered in the hall, apparently admiring some photographs.

At 10.25, exactly on schedule, he triggered the smoke bombs with the remote control and sounded the fire alarm. The fire engine at the nearest depot would be automatically called out, but as it happened the route it would take to get to the village was blocked by a tractor from one of Mr Braithwaite’s farms.

The moment the alarms sounded, Serena took charge. The nurses were quick to help their charges. Marty and Serena ushered them out, Serena deftly opening the patio doors for Bodie and Murphy before she brought up the rear. As soon as they were all gathered outside at the top of the drive, Serena exclaimed, “You can’t possibly stand around in this. It’s far too damp and windy. Judging by the smoke, it’ll be ages before you can get back inside. Get into our cars. You can come to Daddy’s house and Marty will come and tell you when it’s safe to come back. Do get in. It will be a little outing instead of a crisis!”

She was quite capable of getting complete strangers to do what she said, but in this case she was helped by the fact all the nurses knew of her and were slightly in awe of her. By 10.40 both cars were sweeping out of the gate, and as soon as they were clear a farm lorry swung in, followed by Mr Braithwaite in another car. The men on the lorry were all from his estate, and were used to being called up for action in a way reminiscent of the best traditions of the feudal system.

In the meantime, a considerable amount had happened in the house.

Doyle had been waiting for the moment, still sitting slumped in his chair and looking completely out of it. In fact, he was watching the clock carefully, and as the time approached he moved slightly to get himself poised ready to catapult from his position. Smith had not yet come back, and Simmons had long since lost interest and was idly turning the pages of a magazine.

Doyle let the rope slip from his wrists, and called up all his reserves of strength. The alarm sounded. Simmons began to stand and Doyle erupted into action. Before the man had even taken in what was happening, Doyle had crashed one fist into his midriff, doubling him over, and as he came down, Doyle’s other fist met his jaw with stunning force.

Doyle stood there for a minute panting and coughing, and tried to ignore the fact the room seemed to be rocking around him. Grabbing up his jacket, card and gun, he headed for the door. He opened it a crack. Smith was just hurrying past, and someoneDr Brandt he supposedwas shouting, “See if it is a false alarm. Otherwise we must get everything out.”

Smith opened the door that joined the wing to the rest of the house. Smoke billowed in, followed much more solidly by Bodie and Murphy. Smith was flat on his back on the floor before he even had a chance to recognise them. “Take him outside, ” Bodie yelled over his shoulder and Marty appeared coughing from the smoke to do as he said. Bodie himself went on towards the door at the end of the corridor so fast that Doyle could see he knew where he was going.

Doyle couldn’t get co-ordinated in time to intercept him, but he went after him, calling to Murphy to deal with Simmons and remove him from the building. The acrid smoke was just beginning to drift up to him and he began coughing again, but he followed Bodie as he flung open the door.

Bodie was operating on something quite other than his plan now. Some instinctive memory had led him directly to where the doctor carried out his treatments. He flung open the door, and without deliberately making a decision he dropped the SLR into his hands ready. What he saw flashed him back to days he’d lost from his conscious mind. The doctor in his white lab coat, piling papers into the hands of his assistant, was bad enough, and the paraphernalia of the room, but what really got to him was something none of them had even considered. Lying dazed on the bed, like a caricature of what he himself had been, lay a man in a hospital gown, staring at nothing.

Before his eyes had even registered it all, Bodie had the SLR directed at the doctor and his technician. He wasn’t thinking clearly. He wasn’t even seeing them as human beings at that point; they were just part of the room, and the room meant pain and tormenting voices, drugged distortions of reality, and worse than all that a sick realisation he was losing himself. The anger he felt was an echo of the helpless rage that had gripped him in this room before.

His finger tightened on the trigger. Someone at his side knocked the gun upwards and the bullets tore into the ceiling instead of the terrified men in front of him.

“No!” Doyle shouted, as though Bodie was the length of the house away, not right next to him. “Look at me damn you! You’re past this, Bodie.”

Bodie, jolted back to the present, did look at him. In a detached sort of way his eyes told him his partner looked awful, white and dishevelled and unsteady on his feet. In spite of that, for him, just then, Doyle was the most solid thing in the universe, and sanity was anchored to his voice.

“We’re sticking to the plan,” Doyle was saying fiercely. “They can’t touch you now. You’ve beaten them already. They’ll pay all right, but not like that.”

Then Murphy and Marty were back in the room, and suddenly Doyle was giving them orders and Bodie was back on course.

“Get that poor bastard out of here,” Doyle yelled at Murphy, indicating the man on the bed.

Shocked, but handling the man with natural compassion, Murphy helped him from the room. Marty and a burly man from Mr Braithwaite’s forces took the doctor and his assistant out. The room was empty and suddenly quiet.

Bodie’s eyes met Doyle’s for a long moment. He couldn’t find any words. Doyle might have done but at that point someone must have opened an outer door and the smoke swirled round them with a vengeance. Doyle began to cough and choke so violently this time that Bodie grabbed him and bundled him hastily out into the fresh air. He sat him down on the grass with his head on his knees, and squatted beside him to rub his back and help him breathe. For a moment they were an island, separated from all the activity.

Around them the blitzkrieg swept remorselessly on. Men ran in and planted the least detectable types of incendiary devices in the wing, closing the doors that interlocked with the main building. Others collected all the empty smoke canisters. Simmons, Carter and another couple of thugs were tied and bundled into the lorry where Smith, Brandt and the other man from the lab were already held. Mr Braithwaite stood watching as if he were appreciating a skilled performance at a sheepdog trials.

Fire flared as the incendiary devices went up. It was eleven o’clock.

“The tractor will be moving in the next couple of minutes,” Mr Braithwaite said. “I’m leaving one of my men to let the fire crew know there’s no-one in the building. He’s been told exactly what to say.”

He looked down at Bodie and Doyle. “You’d better get into my car. Hurry up.”

“He needs a doctor,” Bodie said, lifting his partner to his feet and holding him there.

“I can arrange that. Get in, quickly.”

Murphy had helped the man they had rescued into the front seat of the van, which had fortunately been left with the keys inside. “I’m going to take this one to hospital,” he shouted. “I’ll tell them to get in touch with the Cow to find out what to do with him. What do you want me to do then?”

Mr Braithwaite was about to pull away, with Marty beside him and Bodie and Doyle in the back, but he leaned out of the window to shout. “Come to my place, young man. Anyone will give you directions.”

He accelerated down the drive, closely followed by Murphy in the van. Behind them, the wing was blazing fiercely, but the fire hadn’t yet spread to the rest of the building. As they turned out onto the village road, they could hear the wail of the siren as the fire engine finally got through.

“Very satisfactory,” Marty said, going for understatement.

“Aye, my lads know what they’re doing,” Mr Braithwaite agreed. “It’ll be an expensive day’s work though. I hope you’re right about that CIA man paying for the main players.”

“Oh, he’ll pay up,” Bodie said with confidence. “Told you it would go like clockwork. We know what we’re doing too, eh, Goldilocks?”

Doyle sighed. It was too much to hope Bodie would have forgotten that particular nickname. He thought rather hazily over the extremely eventful morning. An awful lot could have gone wrong, but it hadn’t. The operation had been near perfect. Bodie had got through itwithout killing anyoneand it was finally true to say it was over. He let his eyes close and flopped sideways. There was rather a lot of Bodie taking up room on the back seat, but he could live with it. He was giving up, and not surfacing ’til someone else had tidied up the details.

In fact, he didn’t quite get away with not surfacing. He had to open his eyes enough for Bodie to walk him into the house and up to the room Mr Braithwaite made available, and then some time later he had to put up with the administrations of an elderly doctor who was evidently Mr Braithwaite’s regular medical support and who seemed slightly puzzled to find that a knock on the head and mild pneumonia were the worst of his problems. “You’d be surprised what I’ve had to deal with,” he told Bodie. They’d both been discussing Doyle as if he wasn’t present. “It’s usually bullet wounds, but we had a lad the other year with some very nasty injuries from a faulty grenade. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with this one that rest and a course of erythromycin won’t cure. Just see that he eats and sleeps and takes all the medicine. I’ll have a word with Miss Braithwaite if you like.”

“No, no, that’s okay,” Bodie said hastily. “He’ll be good.”

Doyle couldn’t find the energy to glare at him. He swallowed the tablets, turned over and went back to sleep. When he woke again, he knew hours must have passed because it was dusk outside and he felt more interested in life. Bodie looked in, went away and came back with soup and fresh bread.

“All right, what’s been going on?” Doyle asked, trying not to cough over his soup.

“You eat, I’ll talk,” Bodie said. He thought. “Where to begin? Yeah, Smith, Brandt and their tagalong. Your friend Manninger has a generous budget, or maybe the dollar exchange rate is good. Anyway, he paid up nicely, and he and his goons have already been to collect those three. Mr Braithwaite apparently has a regular policy with the others. A fishing vessel of his acquaintance will nip across and dump them on some of our European neighbours. He’s not very fond of Europetypical Yorkshireman. Serena sorted out the people from the nursing home. They’re in a nice small hotel, and some of the cash from Manninger will take care of their future. She hopes to be able to arrange for the nursing home to be up and running againtheir part wasn’t badly damaged.”

“What about that poor bastard from their lab?”

“Oh, Murph took him to the big general hospital in town. Flashed his ID round a bit. Told them it was an important security matter, they were to treat him carefully and get in touch with Cowley. Then he hopped it quick.”

“So we don’t know who he is?”

“No. And we probably won’t find out. But Murph’s going to ring Cowley in the morning. We’re about finished up here.”

Doyle thought for a minute. “What about that man who… bought your services? Henderson was it?”

Bodie nodded. “Yeah. Thought I’d better leave him to the law. Murph got him picked up and held. He’ll go down for his normal business dealings.”

Where Doyle lay, he could see down the driveway of Mr Braithwaite’s large house. He’d been watching it idly while Bodie talked. Now he noticed something disconcertingly familiar about the car driving up.

“Bodie,” he said slowly. “I know it’s nearly dark, and I’ve been fairly out of it all day, but would you please tell me that’s not who I think it is.”

Bodie walked over to the window with the air of humouring him, and jumped back as if he’d spotted a sniper. “Shit,” he said eloquently.

“It’s the Cow, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. I should never have let Murphy… oh well, it’s too late to worry. We’ll have to face the music.”

Doyle slid down under the bedclothes and smiled smugly. “Not me, I’m ill, remember. You go and chat to him. I shall be asleep if he comes up here.”

He didn’t seriously think his partner would have too much trouble. Bodie might not believe it, but Doyle knew how pleased Cowley would be to have him back. All the same, he was very curious to know what was going on. He was just about to make the effort to listen at the door, when Bodie came back, not looking very chastened.

Doyle waited.

“We’re off the hook,” Bodie said, trying not to sound too relieved. “Apparently the man we found was importantmore important than anything Willis thought he was doing. Beyond that, the old man doesn’t want to know. He’s sitting drinking Braithwaite’s scotch, and being chivalrous to Serenanot a pleasant sight but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.”

Doyle thought about it. “So it’s all back to normal. We can go home.”

“If you feel up to it.”

Doyle thought longingly of grimy London and the routine of CI5. “It’ll be a rest cure,” he said. “I just have a feeling Cowley might have some little extra for us.”

“Files and surveillance for weeks and weeks?”

“If he can’t think of anything worse.”

Murphy took the van back to London that evening. Cowley accepted Mr Braithwaite’s offer of hospitality for the night, and in the morning with the doctor’s permission ordered his top team into the car. He didn’t actually say he didn’t trust them out of his sight, but they got the message.

“I’m going to stay in this area for a few days,” Marty said. It would have seemed an innocent enough comment, if Serena hadn’t been at his side and displaying what Bodie considered to be an entirely predatory enthusiasm. She smiled at Bodie, and slipped her arm through Marty’s immaculate suit sleeve. Mr Braithwaite, if not equally enthusiastic, wasn’t reaching for the shotgun.

They parted with suitable thanks and civilities, but once they were in the car Doyle looked back in amazement. “Marty? I just don’t believe it. Would you have thought she was his type?”

Bodie was extremely amused. “Never mind, sunshine, I still appreciate you.”

“Oh yeah? You’ll just forget me the next time a mad scientist comes along.”

“Not me. This golly cut would haunt my nightmares.”

He reached out to ruffle Doyle’s hair, but Cowley put a stop to any further amusement.

“I’m pleased to see you’ve been doing your best to foster amicable relations with our American cousins,” he said over his shoulder.

There was an instant wariness in the back seat.

“Yes sir?” Doyle said cautiously.

“Manninger speaks extremely highly of you both. He wishes more of his men showed your initiative and expertise.”

“That’s very complimentary of him, sir,” Bodie said blandly.

“Exactly. In view of that, I’ve agreed that he will send some of his younger agents for a quick training course at CI5. You two will be in charge of it.” He looked with satisfaction at the dismay on their faces, and went in for the kill. “And in order to make sure you’re up to date yourselves, once you’re fully recovered Doyle, you’ll both be spending some time with Macklin.”

The silence from the back seat lasted all the way home. Around Watford, he glanced round and saw that they’d gone from subdued to fast asleep. He did allow himself a slight smile then. He couldn’t really regret they’d done what they did. They were good lads, and he was more pleased than they’d know to have them back as a team. But discipline had to be maintained, and he was the man to maintain it.

He eased the Granada into the London traffic.

Bodie stirred, opened one eye and decided life wasn’t so bad. Cowley was an old bastard, but you had to respect him. Now he could actually think about it, it had been hell being Philips. He’d settle for CI5 and London traffic. He glanced at his partner who was managing to grumble without waking up. For a moment he couldn’t quite place what he felt. Then he realised. It wasn’t a concept he’d had for most of his adult life, but he felt as if he’d come home.

~ End ~