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

Bystanders

Doyle indicated the signs ahead. "You going to stop for petrol?"

Bodie flicked a glance down at the gauge. The needle was hovering just above the red. "May as well."

He swung the Capri neatly into the semi-lit forecourt and pulled up smartly at the pump. "But you can go and pay. The Cow still hasn't signed my last expenses."

"Mine either. He thinks if yours are suspect; mine must be too." Doyle grinned at Bodie's indignant expression.

"There's nothing wrong with my expenses! Just because I had to shell out for that broken window - "

"Door", Doyle interjected.

" - all right, door - doesn't mean I'm trying to get away with fiddling my expenses ... " Bodie finished his sentence to thin air as Doyle got out of the car. He got out and regarded his partner balefully over the car roof, preparing to muster more arguments.

"And just because - "

"Bodie. I'll pay. Fill the car up." Doyle turned away to walk towards the cash kiosk, and Bodie called after him.

"Ray, get me something covered with chocolate, will you?"

A number of inapposite and ribald replies occurred to Doyle but he curbed the desire to utter them and merely waved an accepting hand as he crossed the forecourt.

Since the car was nearly empty and it would take Bodie time to fill the tank, Doyle wandered to the back of the small shop, browsing the number of extraordinary items petrol stations seemed to be selling these days. It used to just be petrol, oil and (quite illogically) barbeque coals, but there seemed to be a growing demand for 24 hour access to other things.

Hearing the door click behind him again, Doyle glanced out onto the forecourt. Their car still stood alone; Bodie still filling the tank. Doyle half-shrugged to himself. It was probably a late-night shopper, looking for - his eyes fell on a high-mounted shelf of condoms and he chuckled. He had to admit that 24 hour access to those could be an advantage ...

The next click he heard had him spinning quietly and reaching for his gun. He and Bodie had only been practising on the range that afternoon; the sound of a revolver being cocked was as loud and clear to him as if the gun had actually been fired.

"I want all the money from the till! Hand it over!"

The voice was young, and as Doyle neared the counter he could see that the voice didn't lie. The dark-haired youngster was perhaps 16; arms outstretched, holding the revolver in both hands - both shaking hands.

Doyle glanced out of the window. Bodie had finished filling the tank and was now leaning against the car, waiting for his return.

As the assistant hesitated, the lad shouted again. "The money! Now!"

Doyle released the grasp on his gunbutt. He could knock the gun from the boy's hands before the boy even knew he was there. As he took a step forward, the assistant flicked a glance towards him, and the boy started to turn, realising he wasn't alone in the shop.

Diving in low and hard, Doyle forced wrists and the gun upwards, but couldn't prevent the boy's finger from tightening on the trigger and blowing a hole in the ceiling.

It took less than 4 seconds for the door to bang open and his partner to call through. "Doyle!"

"All clear, Bodie." Doyle tossed him the revolver and indicated the teenager on the floor. "Just someone after the till money." He bent and hauled the boy to his feet, before flicking open his wallet to show the ID card to the shocked assistant. "We'll take him in."

Bodie looked up from emptying the chambers. "We will?" His expression reflected horror at the thought of form-filling.

"Come on, Bodie, the local nick's just round the corner. We can leave him there; get them to do the paperwork."

"Now you're talking." Bodie's expression cleared and he caught the boy's other arm. "Come on, sunshine."

Although the boy seemed shocked that his robbery attempt had failed, the partners were a little surprised at the lack of resistance they encountered as they put him into the back of the Capri.

"Right, Doyle, where's this nick?" Bodie started the engine and pulled up to the edge of the forecourt.

"Turn right. Then first left."

"No, please, wait." The boy spoke for the first time. "You can't."

Bodie glanced in the mirror. "Are you going to stop us?"

The boy flushed. "No, I mean - don't turn me in. Please."

"Why not?" Doyle half-turned in his seat. "You had a gun, you tried a robbery - can you think of a good enough reason?"

"I'm sorry. We needed the money."

Used to dealing with tearaway teenagers, his voice contained just enough of a plea to catch Doyle's attention. "Slow down, Bodie. We?" he questioned.

"I needed the money."

"You said 'We'." Bodie wasn't sure what Doyle was onto, but trusted his partner's instincts. Well, usually. Pulling over to the kerb he glanced at Doyle, but Doyle was focused on the boy.

"Well?"

The silence in the car lengthened; the partners well used to letting the menace of their dual personalities do any threatening for them. The street lights cast the usual orange glow and the boy grew more nervous under the pair of steady gazes.

"I'm living rough. I needed the money." The boy had decided to stick to his story.

Doyle sighed and turned to face front. "Police station, Bodie."

Starting the engine again, Bodie let the clutch up but only moved a few feet before the boy changed his mind.

"I'm with my sisters."

Doyle turned back. "Your sisters? You're all living rough? Where?"

"In a warehouse. About 10 minutes from here."

The partners exchanged glances; both reading the same thought on each other's faces. It could be a trick to get them to let him out of the car so he could try and escape.

"Doyle? What d'you think?"

"Worth 10 minutes to take a look?"

Bodie nodded and they both looked back at the boy. "Where's this warehouse?"

"Down here. It's a turning to the right further along."

As Bodie moved the car away once again, Doyle glanced at his watch and took up the R/T. "Better let Control know where we are. We're due in shortly."
 

"In this door." They followed the boy through the half-broken sliding door, and up the dusty metal staircase, using their torches to pick their way over various lumps of debris; the obscured half-light from security floodlights outside making things more difficult to see. Doyle had one hand securely around the boy's arm; neither of them completely convinced yet.

"Where are they?" Bodie couldn't see any signs of anyone living rough here, let alone three kids.

"Up in a loft. But you won't be able to get up there; the hatch is really small."

"Then you can call them down." Doyle wasn't about to get caught like that.

"They may not come down. I told them to hide." The boy stopped, and Bodie shone his torch upwards.

The hatch was small, and the partners acknowledged that much at least was true. A nearby crate obviously provided the leg-up, and Bodie moved to drag it over. Doyle released the boy's arm as he scrambled onto the crate. "Call your sisters down. I don't want any tricks."

Banging on the wood panel, the boy shouted. "Nicky? It's me. Come and open the hatch."

Scuffling from above proved someone was up there, and the hatch suddenly opened into a black square. "Paul?" The partners caught a glimpse of a pale face before she spotted them and drew back. "Who's that with you?"

"Nicky, you have to come down."

"Who are they?"

"It's OK, Nicky ... " Paul looked down at Doyle. "Let me go up and talk to her."

"Go on then." As the boy disappeared through the small aperture, Doyle followed him up onto the crate. He might not fit through the hole but he could get his head through and see what was happening.

At the back of the loft he could hear whispering, and called to the kids. "Come on, don't take all night."

Paul answered him. "We have to get some stuff together."

"Quickly, then." Doyle flashed his torch towards them but couldn't see anything; they were hidden by too much rubbish.

There was some more whispering and more scuffling before Doyle suddenly saw three figures emerging from the gloom in front of him. Relieved, he dropped his head down and jumped down from the crate.

Paul put his head out. "I'll drop our stuff down first."

Bodie caught the rucksacks as they appeared, and tossed them out of the way to one side. "Right, who's first?"

Seeing the small pair of feet that appeared through the hatch, Doyle quickly jumped up to catch the small body that accompanied them, and handed her down to Bodie.

The child was about 8 and she regarded Bodie solemnly. He set her down, returning the look. "Hi, sprout."

Her face crinkled into a smile, and she tossed her long, dark pony-tailed hair back. "Not a sprout."

"No? What are you then?"

"I'm Katie."

Doyle meantime was catching the next body down, another girl, not quite a teenager; her long dark hair clearly marking them out as siblings. "Nicky?" he asked, receiving a nod.

She jumped down next to Katie and Doyle joined her as Paul came through the hatch and dropped onto the crate, then the floor.

"All present and correct?" At three small nods, Doyle grinned. "Then let's get you out of here."

Nicky and Paul bent to pick up the rucksacks, and following the light from Doyle's torch they all began to make their way towards the staircase; Paul between his sisters, the partners flanking them all.

They had taken only a few steps when Nicky suddenly threw herself at Doyle, knocking the torch from his hand. As the torch skittered away, Doyle saw Paul start to run and shouted to Bodie whilst trying to free himself from Nicky's hampering weight. Swinging her round he saw Paul disappearing down the staircase before finally managing to get Nicky off him and hold her to one side.

Glancing over, he realised why Bodie hadn't run after Paul; Katie was wrapped securely around his ankles and his partner was having trouble staying upright.

Frustrated, he brought his arm up to run a hand through his hair - and Nicky flinched back away from him, dropping to her knees, ducking the anticipated blow. Doyle brought his hand back down slowly; it looked like that was one reason for the kids' living rough.

Exchanging a glance with Bodie, who hadn't missed the reason for Nicky's movement, his partner shrugged philosophically at Paul's abrupt departure, before bending to lift Katie up and tuck her under his arm.

"Oh well. Come on, sprout."

Muffled squeaks of protest brought grins to the partners' faces, and Bodie turned Katie upright. "OK, I know. You're not a sprout." He started to make his way towards the staircase carrying her, and Doyle looked down at Nicky, still grinning.

"Well, I'm not carrying you." He held out his hand to her, but Nicky scrambled to her feet without help, and picked up her rucksack again.

Bodie might have won Katie over, but Nicky was going to be more difficult. Doyle waved her ahead of him. "Let's go."

Shutting the driver's door behind the girls, Doyle looked at his partner. "D'you think it's worth looking for Paul?"

Bodie shook his head. "He'll either be securely in hiding or a mile away. We've got the gun." He looked at the girls in the car. "They've run interference for Paul before."

Doyle nodded his agreement. "And Nicky's been thumped for it as well."

"What are we going to do with them?"

"We could take them round to the local nick." Doyle looked at the two scared faces staring out at them and changed his mind. "No. Back to HQ. Find a secretary to look after them until we can hand them over to Social Services."

Bodie grinned. "Cowley will love that. And it's nearly 11; all the secretaries will have gone home ..."

Walking round the car, Doyle grinned back. "Yeah. Well, maybe I'll leave you to babysit, instead."

That wiped the smile off Bodie's face. "Not likely." He dropped into the car and glanced back at the girls. "Did you get my chocolate bar?"

Settling into his seat, Doyle shook his head. Suddenly struck by another thought, he started to laugh.

"What's hit your funny bone?" Bodie couldn't see anything remotely amusing.

"What with all the kerfuffle over grabbing Paul," Doyle glanced at the girls in the back seat, still chuckling, "not only did I forget your chocolate bar, I clean forgot to pay for the petrol ... "
 

As Bodie stopped the car, he glanced into the back seat. Katie was nearly asleep, cuddled up to Nicky. Nicky was wide awake, looking worried, as Doyle pulled the seat forward and beckoned them out.

"Wake up, Katie." Pushed by Nicky, Katie stumbled drowsily out of the car, and Bodie immediately picked her up. She dropped her head on his shoulder and fell asleep again, causing Doyle to grin. "Not the usual effect you have on girls ..."

Bodie pulled a face, and turned away to the door. Doyle beckoned to Nicky again. "Come on. You too."

Scrambling forward, Nicky reached back for her rucksack, missing her footing as she got out and banging against the arm-rest of the open door. The sharp intake of breath indicated that she had hurt herself, and Doyle frowned. She hadn't fallen that hard.

Leading Nicky, he followed Bodie inside to the lift. The building was quiet, which not always the case; but there were always people around in case things started to hum. He and Bodie were on stand-by that night; Bodie's least favourite job. Not that he particularly enjoyed it either.

The corridor upstairs was quiet as well. Bodie spoke quietly but hopefully. "Perhaps the old man's gone home."

"You underestimate me, Bodie."

Doyle wiped the smile off his face as they turned back to face their boss. "Sir."

Cowley's gaze took in the two girls. "Are we starting a kindergarten?"

The partners looked at each other, and Bodie inclined his head. Doyle had got them into this.

"Well? I got a message about a boy and a gun; not two girls."

"They kind of came as a package, sir. And we've got the gun."

"But the boy got away," Bodie felt compelled to add.

There was a flicker across Cowley's face that might have been amusement. "Get the girls settled somewhere. Then my office, Doyle."

"Yes, sir." Turning back to Bodie, Doyle glared at him. "Thanks for nothing".

They turned into the Restroom. "You were the one who said we should bring them here. I was all for going to the local nick." Bodie let Katie down into one of the armchairs before turning back to Doyle. "Better not keep him waiting."

Doyle grimaced and held out his hand. "I'll take him the gun. Give him something to chew on."

"Takes more than that." Bodie extracted the gun from his waistband and dug in his pocket for the remaining bullets, grinning. "Good luck."

"Mind you, I said you'd be babysitting ..." Grinning himself, Doyle vanished out of the door.

Nicky was still standing by the door, and Bodie told her to sit down whilst walking over to the small sink area to fill the kettle. "Do you want a drink?"

She shook her head.

"Sure? We've got tea, coffee - " frowning, Bodie looked up from the fridge " - but no milk."

This time, Bodie got a slight smile as Nicky shook her head.

"You don't say much." Given the complete trust Katie had reposed in him, Nicky's almost total distrust seemed disproportionate.
 

"So what's the story, Doyle?"

Briefly, Doyle explained the situation. "We brought the gun in; thought we'd get Forensics to take a look, you never know ..."

"And the girls?"

So far, Doyle hadn't been able to gauge Cowley's mood. "Well, I thought they might tell us something. They might know where Paul went to."

"Not really our case, Doyle."

"No, sir."

"You're both on stand-by tonight?" At Doyle's nod, Cowley allowed himself a smile. "Well, you can leave Bodie with the girls. Put the gun in and go and check the files; see if you can find out who the girls are. But make contact with Social Services as early as possible; I don't want CI5 accused of waging war on children."

"Yes, sir." Grinning to himself, Doyle took up the gun again and returned to the Restroom to give Bodie his task.
 

"Why me?"

"Cowley knows how much you love babysitting. Anyway, it's that or the files. You could take your pick."

Bodie glanced over Doyle's shoulder. Katie was deeply asleep, and although awake, Nicky was quiet. Infinitely preferable to digging around in the filing system. "The girls."

"See? Even with a choice ..."

Nicky interrupted them. "Can I use the toilet?"

The light wasn't particularly good in the Restroom, but it struck both partners at the same time that Nicky looked pale.

"I'll take her." Doyle led Nicky out to the Ladies just down the corridor. She was definitely looking pale. "Are you feeling OK?"

He got a nod as she vanished inside. When Nicky hadn't emerged five minutes later, Doyle pushed the door open and called her. "Nicky?

There was no response, but he could see her leaning against the washbasins, and went in. "Nicky?" Now, Doyle could see Nicky was shaking and she looked hot. "What's wrong?"

"I'm OK." Pushing him away, Nicky made her way unsteadily towards the door. She managed it as far as the door of the Restroom before Doyle had to catch her and carry her the last few feet.

"Bodie, call the doctor up." Nicky was still wearing her jacket, and Doyle began to undo it. Nicky was faint but began to resist, pushing his hands away. "No, leave me alone ..."

"It's OK, Nicky."

"Doctor's on his way." Bodie put the phone down and came over to help Doyle, and between them they got her jacket off. Her reluctance became obvious when the partners saw the bruising on her arms.

Hearing the lift arrive, Doyle stepped quickly outside to speak to the Doctor. "I'm not sure what's wrong with her. I want you to check her for bruising; other than the obvious. She knocked herself earlier and it hurt more than it should have."

The Doctor brooked no nonsense, and the struggle to get her jacket off seemed to have tired Nicky out and she raised no resistance to her t-shirt being pulled off.

The bruising over her right ribs was probably a couple of days old; but still painful. Leaving her to the Doctor, the partners retreated to the other end of the room, Bodie finishing pouring his coffee. "More used to being thumped than we realised."

Doyle nodded, annoyed that he hadn't spotted earlier that Nicky had been in pain.

Bodie guessed his thoughts. "Hey. Not your fault. I didn't see it either."

"No. I guess it explains why she didn't want to trust us."

"Probably. Who do you think? Her father?"

"At her age, most likely. I think we should track him down."

Bodie recognised a vendetta in the making. "Don't make it personal."

Promising nothing, Doyle shook his head, glancing down the room. "You don't think Katie - no." He answered his own question. "No, she's too trusting."

The Doctor interrupted them. "Looks like she was kicked, but no broken ribs. She said she just suddenly felt faint. And although she's got a slight temperature I don't think it's anything serious. At a guess, she's taken a battering in the last few days, and she's scared and tired out. Let her sleep. I'm on duty overnight; call me if you want."

"Thanks, Doc."

Nicky had put her t-shirt back on, and Doyle was relieved to see she no longer looked as pale.

"Feel better?" Doyle got only a wary look in return; Nicky still wasn't going to trust anyone. He fetched a blanket from the cupboard and tucked it around her. "The Doctor said you should get some sleep."

He turned back to his partner. "Over to you, Bodie. I'm going to take that look at the files."
 

It was a couple of hours later when Doyle returned, opening the door to the Restroom quietly. Having turned off the main lights, Bodie was sitting at the far end reading by the desklight, and Doyle joined him.

"Anything?"

"Plenty. And you don't have to worry about that vendetta; someone got to their father first." Doyle tossed the file down.

"Dead?" Bodie flicked through the file.

"With two shots - from that revolver. The kids - surname of Palmer, by the way - are listed as Wanted/Missing. Someone thinks they might be involved."

"They think the kids shot their father?"

"I guess it's not impossible. If he was beating Nicky, Paul might - if he knew where the gun was - "

"And Paul did take off."

"Yeah. But the other thing is that the gun's been used before - on two different bank raids."

Bodie shook his head. This was getting more obscure by the moment. "Did the father have a record?"

"Long as your arm. And he was draughtsman on a couple of bank jobs."

"Far more likely to be thieves falling out, wouldn't you say?" For some reason, Bodie couldn't believe the kids would shoot their father.

"Maybe." Doyle got up. "I'm going to update Cowley. We'll need his backing if we're going to question Nicky."

"Are we?"

"The kids have the answers, Bodie."
 

Once in possession of the facts, Doyle got immediate clearance from Cowley. "Start by questioning Nicky."

"Yes, sir. But she's asleep at the moment, and in view of what the Doctor said, I don't think I should wake her."

"As soon as you can, then. And call me, I'll sit in on the interview."

Doyle nodded. "Should I make contact with the CID officer in charge of the case?" Protocol might demand it but Doyle didn't want to. Much better to keep things in-house.

"Not yet. I'm sure we can handle it." Cowley obviously had the same opinion.
 

Bodie had progressed from reading to dozing, although he came alert as the door clicked open to Doyle's entry. Doyle saw that Nicky had also woken, although she pretended she hadn't.

Bodie hadn't noticed. "What did Cowley say?"

Doyle answered him quietly, hoping Nicky couldn't hear him. "Question Nicky as soon as poss. He wants to sit in; guess you're stuck with Katie."

"At least she's quiet."

Doyle nodded. "I know we don't have to follow the rules, but I'm not sure I'm happy about questioning Nicky without a parent or guardian there - she's only a kid."

"That's probably why Cowley wants in, to make sure no one can accuse you of beating her up." Bodie had spoken lightly, but they were both conscious of Nicky's sudden movement as she heard him, and Bodie immediately felt guilty. Nicky was scared enough without hearing comments like that.

"Nicky?" There was no reaction to Doyle until he touched her arm. "I know you're awake."

Her eyes came open reluctantly, and she sat up, shaking him off.

Doyle decided not to beat around the bush. "We know what happened to your father. We need to talk to you."

Her reaction - almost none - was odd, but it struck both partners that Nicky was already so scared that things couldn't get much worse, until Doyle took her arm.

"Where are we going?" Standing reluctantly, Nicky stammered the words out; her glance at Katie explaining the fresh anxiety.

"An office just down the corridor. We don't want to wake Katie, but you won't be far away."

"I'll look after Katie," Bodie added. "We're not going to separate you."

Whether she believed them or not, Nicky followed Doyle without resistance to the door. "We'll be with Cowley."
 

CI5 interview rooms were designed to encourage villains to talk. Since it wasn't necessary to scare Nicky further Doyle had decided to take her to Cowley's office, and he tapped lightly on the door.

"Nicky's awake now, sir."

"Bring her in." Cowley got up to put a chair in front of his desk, which Nicky subsided onto, hands clutching the seat. She was rapidly acquiring a 'rabbit caught in the headlights' stare, and Doyle leapt in, hoping to shock her into talking.

"We know your father was shot, Nicky. We know he's dead."

Once again, virtually no reaction. "Did you shoot him?" Cowley's quiet question got the response they were looking for; and shaking her head, Nicky stared wildly between them, Cowley seated at the far side of the desk and Doyle leaning against it in front of her.

"Was it Paul?" Doyle followed up with the question swiftly.

"No, no, it wasn't ..." Her response was even more vehement on behalf of her absent brother. Nicky was now tense enough to snap, and Doyle quickly crouched in front of her and grabbed her hands tightly.

"It's OK, Nicky. We believe you." Keeping the pressure on her hands, Doyle gradually felt some of the tension subside, and for the first time that night, tears started down her cheeks.

They were interrupted by a tap on the door as Bodie brought Katie in. Katie immediately flung herself at Nicky, and Doyle and Cowley retreated to the doorway with Bodie.

"Couldn't you keep Katie quiet?" Doyle was a little sarcastic.

"Keeping her quiet wouldn't be a problem." Bodie was defensive. "It's like they're telepathic or something; she was fast asleep one moment and wide awake the next and demanding to see Nicky. And when I told her she couldn't - "

"She started crying?" Doyle guessed.

"Worse. She held her breath." Bodie was clearly taken aback at such tactics and didn't appreciate Doyle's grin. "It's not funny."

"Cut it out, you two." Cowley was amused, but keen to get on with things. "See if you can convince Katie to let go of Nicky."

Nicky, however, was doing that herself. "It's OK, Katie, everything's OK. You go back to the other room; I won't be long."

"Promise?"

"I promise." Nicky smoothed Katie's long hair back. "Go on."

Katie reluctantly allowed Bodie to lead her away; casting dubious looks over her shoulder. As the door closed behind them, Nicky subsided back onto the chair.

Regaining their own places, Cowley resumed the quiet questioning. "Do you know who shot your father, Nicky?"

Seeming calmer now, Nicky shook her head.

"But you saw him?" Doyle could sense she wasn't deliberately holding out on them. Nicky just wasn't sure how or what to tell them.

The tension was building up on her face again as she nodded, and Doyle shot an anxious glance at Cowley, worried that Nicky was going to collapse again.

Fetching her a glass of water, Cowley pressed carefully on. "Tell us what happened, Nicky."

She took the glass and sipped at the water without seeming to realise she had done it, mind busy with memories. Doyle took the glass as it began to slip from her fingers, and his movement brought Nicky back to the present.

"I was there." Getting the first words out seemed to help and she leant back into the chair. "Dad let him in. They were shouting, something about money and shares, and then there were these loud bangs ... and they stopped shouting. Dad fell down."

As she fell silent, Doyle prompted her. "And?"

"He began to tear the room apart, looking in drawers ... I don't know what for. Then he saw me."

"Where were you, Nicky?"

Even though her father was dead, some sort of loyalty meant it was a question she had difficulty with, and she avoided Doyle's eyes. "I was - in the corner. The sofa hid me."

Doyle nodded, having no difficulty picturing Nicky cowering in the corner after being kicked there.

"What did the man do when he saw you?"

"He took the gun out of his belt, and began to point it at me ... " The memory caused her to shake, and Doyle reached forward to squeeze her hand reassuringly. "And then Paul came back."

"He must've heard what happened, and he rushed in, and crashed the chair over his head." A slight grin touched her face as Nicky recalled the scene. "Paul knocked him out. And he grabbed the gun, and said we had to leave because the man had friends and they'd be coming after him. So we fetched Katie from her room and ran."

"Did you check to see whether your father was dead?"

Nicky might feel a curious sort of loyalty, but clearly had no regrets. "Yes. And he was. So there was no point in staying."

"Why didn't you phone the police?"

Nicky didn't answer Cowley's question; she just shrugged.

Doyle ignored that and asked another question of his own. "Does Paul know who the man was? Did he recognise him?" Suddenly wary, Nicky nodded slowly.

"Nicky, do you know where Paul's gone?"

She dropped her eyes away and shook her head.

Abruptly, Cowley stood up. "I think Nicky should get some more sleep. We'll talk again in the morning, Nicky."
 

Back in the Restroom, Katie was asleep once more, and Nicky didn't resist as Doyle tucked the blanket around her on the sofa.

"Get some sleep, Nicky." Doyle glanced at his watch; it was nearly half three. Cowley had followed them, and now signalled both the partners out into the corridor.

After briefly filling Bodie in, Doyle turned to their boss. "We have to find Paul, sir. Before the killer does."

"I agree. But do you have any idea where to start?"

Doyle glanced into the Restroom. "I think Nicky knows where Paul is."

"Well, from what Katie's said they probably do." Bodie halted Doyle's protest. "I haven't questioned her. She was chattering; I just let her."

"Well?"

"Katie told me that she preferred the warehouse to the other place; it was more like a tree-house and she could pretend to be a castaway."

"What 'other place'?"

"I asked her that. She didn't know - or wouldn't say - but it wasn't far from her 'tree-house'."

"Somewhere in the same warehouse complex?" Doyle frowned. "We'd need a huge team to search that."

Cowley nodded. "We'll have to call in the local force."

Bodie didn't see a problem. "Not if we can persuade Nicky to tell us exactly where Paul is. Failing that, Katie can probably show us. She's bound to recognise where she went."

"No." Doyle didn't want to put any pressure on Katie, and Cowley agreed.

"If Nicky won't tell us, we'll organise a search." Cowley consulted his watch. "You two get some rest. We'll talk to Nicky again and make our decision later."
 

When Doyle woke it was to the sound of the kettle boiling. Bodie was already making coffee.

"Want a cup? We've even got milk; Cheryl's just arrived."

"Thanks." Doyle stood up and stretched. "I think I'd better have black anyway." He looked at his watch; it was still early, only just after 7. "Why's Cheryl in so early?"

"Cowley called her. He wanted someone here to look after Katie if we take Nicky out."

"If she agrees to tell us where Paul is." Doyle still had his doubts.

Bodie handed him a mug. "She will; when we point out the danger Paul's in. Those kids are close, Nicky wouldn't want anything to happen to him."

Although speaking quietly, the sound of their voices had disturbed Nicky. They both saw her wince as she sat up, stiff from sleeping on the sofa, and Bodie took down another mug from the shelf.

"Hi. Sleep OK?" Doyle still spoke softly; Katie was showing no signs of waking yet.

"Sort of." Nicky looked tired and gratefully took the coffee Doyle offered her.

"Nicky, you said last night you didn't know where Paul is, but you do, don't you?" If Doyle had hoped to catch her off-guard, he failed.

"No." It didn't sound convincing, even to herself, and Nicky looked away.

Bodie joined Doyle. "Come on, Nicky. He's somewhere at the warehouse. We just need to know exactly where."

Nicky was at first startled, then glanced resignedly at Katie as she realised who had given the secret away.

Doyle tried another angle. "You said Paul knew the man who shot your father. Do you think they're going to leave Paul to tell the police what he knows? He's in danger, Nicky. You have to tell us where he is."

They could see the alarm building as Nicky realised what they were saying, and she cast another anxious glance over Katie before coming to her decision. "You won't find him. I'll have to show you."

"Good girl." Doyle took the coffee mug from her. "Get your jacket on."

Nicky didn't move. "What about Katie?"

"Cowley's secretary's here. Cheryl will look after her until Social Services can get here." Doyle's words didn't reassure her, and Nicky still didn't move.

"Social Services will split us up." Nicky glanced between them. "Can't you call my Mum?"

This was unexpected. "Do you have a number?" Doyle asked her.

"No. We don't know where she is; she left a few months ago."

"Because your father kept hitting her?" Bodie guessed.

Nicky didn't acknowledge him, appealing instead to Doyle. "Can't you find her?"

"Well - we can try. What's her name?"

"Louise. She's got a sister; I don't know where she lives, but Mum might've gone there."

"All right. Get your jacket on. I'm going to fetch Cheryl."

Nicky seemed to approve of Cheryl and raised no further objections to leaving Katie, especially when Cheryl agreed to get busy on the phone to try and track down their mother.

Bodie had already gone out to start the car, and as he hurried her along the corridor, Doyle was surprised as Nicky slid her hand into his. He glanced down at her, and got a smile in return; a bond of trust finally established.
 

"OK, Nicky, where do we need to go?" Checking his mirror, Bodie swung the car into the trading estate.

"It's close to where we were last night."

"I'll park in the same place, then." Bodie turned the corner around the end of the building - and slammed the brakes on to avoid the car already parked there. "What the hell - "

Doyle glanced back at Nicky, catching horrified recognition. "Nicky?"

"That car - it was outside our house - "

Doyle snatched up the R/T. "4.5 to Control. We're going to need back-up. Soon as. Out." He turned back to Nicky, ignoring Bodie, who was checking his gun. "Where exactly is Paul?"

She shook her head, still staring at the car. "You won't find him."

Now Doyle did look at Bodie, as they both thought the same thing. They should leave Nicky outside. On the other hand, if they were going to find Paul easily they needed Nicky with them, and it could be just as dangerous to leave her outside the warehouse.

Doyle threw the door open and pulled his seat forward. "Come on." As Nicky scrambled out, he caught her arm. "But you stay close to us, understand? Very close."

Nicky nodded, watching wide-eyed as Doyle drew his own gun and flicked the safety off. "Ready?" he asked his partner.

Bodie nodded. "Which way, Nicky?"

"Round the back." Doyle was reluctant to let Nicky lead; but initially they didn't have any option. He stopped her as they reached the door, and slid through the gap himself.

It was all quiet inside. Picking his way carefully forward, Doyle had a quick check round before retracing his steps. "OK. All clear."

Bodie followed Nicky through the door, and Nicky pointed, speaking softly. "Down there. We've got to get through to the next building."

Doyle led the way; Nicky taking him at his word and practically clinging to the back of his jacket. Bodie brought up the rear, keeping an eye on their backs.

Following Nicky's directions, they made their way through another warehouse before Doyle heard something ahead and waved the others to motionless silence.

"... be here somewhere. We saw him come in. There's only so many places to hide." A crash sounded loudly as something was thrown aside in their search.

Another voice; older, heavier: "We'd better find him. He can take us down."

Doyle glanced back at Nicky, raising an eyebrow, and she nodded and whispered. "One of them."

"Is Paul along there?" Bodie spoke softly; it carried less than actual whispering.

Nicky nodded again, and the partners exchanged a glance over her head; this could be difficult. Nicky however was tugging Doyle's arm.

"We can go through there." She pointed up, and they saw what Nicky was referring to; some sort of ducting channel. "It'll take us past them to where Paul's hiding."

"Are you sure?"

"We've used it before."

Bodie shook his head at Doyle. "It won't take our weight. And if they hear anything they'll shoot straight up into the ducting. We should take them first."

Doyle couldn't argue with that but had another concern. "Paul doesn't know we're here. What if he makes a run for it?"

"Let me go through and find Paul." Nicky had been following their conversation. "Please. There's no way out from there."

The partners exchanged glances again. It was another Catch 22; letting Nicky go would put her in greater danger, but just might stop Paul from rushing into someone's firing line ...

Doyle raised an eyebrow at Bodie to gain his opinion. Bodie gave an imperceptible shrug: 'it's your call'.

Nicky was trying to railroad him, and Bodie wasn't helping. "No. It's too risky." Doyle half expected Nicky to argue, but although appearing disappointed she didn't.

Decision made, Doyle looked round, assessing the situation. "Bodie, can you get round the other side? We'll move on your signal."

Bodie nodded and disappeared back in the direction they had come. He'd need to backtrack to get across the building.

Doyle took a look around the base of the ducting. There was space for Nicky to hide, and he beckoned her forward.

"Wait for us here. Understand?" Doyle didn't wait for her response. Bodie would be in position shortly.

Checking his gun again, he quietly made his way towards where they had heard the voices, casting glances across the building in case he could see Bodie.

There were still some noises; the voices clearer now. "We're getting nowhere. We ain't gonna find him."

"Keep looking."

Suddenly Doyle could see them, and he froze. He had to wait for Bodie's signal, which, although undiscussed, would probably be his partner leaping out and demanding they dropped their weapons. Subtle wasn't Bodie's style.

Another cautious look was somewhat reassuring; the men might be armed but they weren't holding their guns. Maybe they could get the drop on them, after all. Where the hell was Bodie?

A scuffling noise from above and behind him made Doyle prick up his ears; what was that? Glancing up at the ducting, Doyle was struck by a thought: had Nicky disobeyed him and got up there anyway?

In the second that he realised that the sound was coming from his left, rather than his right which was where Nicky was, whoever was in the ducting - Paul, he assumed - slipped, producing a loud metallic bang.

If the searchers hadn't heard the scuffling there was no way they could miss the bang, and they weren't slow in realising where it came from, drawing their guns and firing upwards, and effectively pinning Doyle, just below where they were shooting, down.

Before Doyle could move, Bodie made his entrance by springing out of cover, gun aimed and shouting. "Get your hands up!"

Doyle winced; clichéd, or what. Although it had the desired effect; taken by surprise the two men dropped their guns and did as directed, and Doyle was able to sprint forward to grab the weapons, before he and Bodie spun the men up to the wall to frisk them.

Behind them, they could hear Nicky shouting to Paul, and Bodie jerked his head at Doyle. "See to the kids."

Doyle found Nicky trying to drag a crate over to the end of the ducting, still calling to Paul, apparently without response, and he gave her a shake. "Nicky, calm down." If Paul had been shot, they could do without Nicky being hysterical.

He finished dragging the crate over, although there was no way he was going to let Nicky get into the ducting. He'd risk his own weight there rather than let Nicky discover her brother hurt, or worse.

Almost before he'd finished moving it Nicky was up on the crate and calling along the ducting. "Paul? Paul!"

There was a long - worrying - silence before they heard him, sounding puzzled. "Nicky?" Then - "I'm OK."

"Can you get out?" Doyle was hoping for a positive answer; the ducting supports looked pretty flimsy.

"Yes. Give me a minute." A minute was too long for Nicky, but she stifled her impatience as they heard, and then saw, Paul, half crawling along the ducting.

Jumping down himself, Doyle insisted Nicky get down as well, to give Paul room to get out of the ducting onto the crate. As Paul did so, the end support gave a loud crack and came away, dropping Paul unceremoniously onto the crate.

Rolling over the edge onto the ground, Paul rubbed various bruises, and grinned at them, before hugging Nicky. "I never thought I'd be pleased to see the cops. You OK, Nick?"

Doyle's reply would have been slightly sarcastic but went unsaid as their back-up team arrived, and he directed them to where Bodie was still holding the two men, before ushering Nicky and Paul back to the car.
 

"His name's Vic Williams. He and Dad worked on jobs together. He was the one who shot Dad." Sitting close beside Paul, Nicky was nodding. The kids had refused to be separated while Paul talked to the partners.

"Do you know why they argued?"

"It was to do with Dad's share of the last job. They'd brought in that other guy; Dad wasn't happy with equal shares, he said Williams had brought him in, he could pay him out of his share." Glancing at Nicky, Paul added, "I just wish I'd been there."

As he stood up, Doyle spoke consolingly. "Don't blame yourself, Paul. You probably couldn't have saved your father."

The kids grinned, obviously understanding each other, where Doyle didn't. "That's not what I meant. Dad was mad at me; if I'd been there Nicky wouldn't have got the kicking ..."

Leading the kids from the interview room, they heard Katie call them from along the corridor, but it was the woman standing beside her that Nicky and Paul both focused on. With the same dark hair as the three kids, she could only be their mother, and Nicky gave a single, thrilled glance at the partners before running to throw herself into her mother's arms, Paul by her side.
 

As the partners left the office later, Bodie was grinning to himself. "I do like a happy ending."

Doyle pressed the button to call the lift. "I've said it before, Bodie. You're just a great big softie underneath it all, aren't you?"

Bodie looked at him sideways. "And who was the one who picked up the kids in the first place, and didn't want to drop them at the local nick ...?"

"OK, OK." Doyle admitted defeat with a grin.

"Bodie - could I have a word?" Cowley stepped out of his office just as the lift arrived, and Bodie grimaced at Doyle before turning round.

"I'll catch you downstairs," Doyle told him, getting into the lift. Pressing the down button he caught Cowley's words as the doors were closing ... "Bodie, I've just had a report about your car, and a petrol station ... "


© Carol Good - January 2000