"Call for you, Mr Doyle."
"Thanks, Penny." I took the receiver she held out and spoke absently into the receiver whilst watching her swish away down the corridor. "Yeah, Doyle. Who's this?"
A voice chuckled in my ear. "The proverbial bad penny, sunshine. How're you doing?"
"Bodie? Bodie! Where are you? How are you? Why the hell haven't you been in touch?"
He laughed again causing me to smile myself although he couldn't see it. I'd missed that laugh.
"You know me, Doyle, I 'bloweth where the wind listeth', I haven't got time for postcards and phone calls."
"Except today," he agreed and there seemed to be a sense of suppressed emotion behind his words. I could almost see his eyes dancing and face smirking, just daring me to ask.
"Go on then," I sighed and yet with a tingle of anticipation I hadn't felt for a quite a while. "Why is today different?"
"Because I need somewhere to stay for a few days and naturally I thought of you!" he said triumphantly.
"Naturally," I said and then his words sunk in. "You're back? Here?"
"Back in good old Blighty."
"Blimey, I'd better put out a warning for all men to lock up their daughters and put the squad on full alert."
There was a faint hollow laugh at the other end of the line. "Yeah, you do that old son. So, can I stay with you?"
"Sure. Come on over and I'll see if I can get away for a bit. If I'm tied up, ask for Nicole."
"Cowley's secretary and too young for you."
"Betty is on maternity leave. Baby due in about two weeks," I told him with the satisfaction of knowing I was dropping a bombshell. Can't help it, I do like to be first with the news.
Just then I heard my name being called and it sounded urgent so I told Bodie to come on over and hung up on any further questions he might have. Plenty of time to catch up tonight.
Anson came hobbling down the corridor towards me, still using a stick, his leg not quite healed yet after that fall last week. He was frustrated at being on light duties and raring to get back 'out there'. Why were we all still so crazy? I shook my head, no time for philosophising now either. Maybe that was something else Bodie and I could thrash out over a few drinks tonight.
"Doyle, the op over at Wandsworth has blown up. Peters has been shot, I don't know how bad yet."
"Oh shit! The bloody young fool. I told him to sit tight and radio for back up if he saw anything. Why can't anybody do what they're told?"
"They're young, they're keen. Same as you were." Anson tried to placate me.
"Yeah, well I didn't end up dead, did I?" He didn't answer me and I hared off to my car to see for myself just what kind of mess we were in.
"Anson, I'm heading over there. Tell the old man, will you?"
I was through the door without waiting to hear his reply and took the stairs three at a time. At the bottom I collided with Ruth and knocked several large files out of her hand.
"Sorry love, can't stop, emergency." She nodded and stooped to pick up the papers. Something made me pause and I clicked my fingers in remembrance. "Listen Ruth, do me a favour. Bodie's back and he's on his way over. Can you see Nicole knows to give him my spare key and address? Thanks!"
As I gunned the car it occurred to me that Ruth looked tired and not for the first time. There was clearly something wrong there. I made a mental note to find the time to have a word with her later. I shook my head and thumped the steering wheel; too much to do, too much to remember. Why did I still put myself through this every day?
Ray had sounded delighted to hear from me; it gave me another guilty pang as I remembered it had been nearly a year since I was last in contact.
And now I was back but it was under false pretences. How the hell did I get myself into this?
It had started - as it often did - because I couldn't resist a pretty face, but had swiftly become a matter of pride and old loyalties.
She was the last person I would expect to bump into in Singapore. I was hanging about in the foyer of the British Embassy in a state of impatience; knowing that it wouldn't make them process the paperwork any faster, but at a loose end as for somewhere else to be - I needed my replacement passport before I could move on.
I knew that I was lucky in one sense; a few years ago I could have been waiting several weeks for the necessary documents to be sent out from England to verify my identity. Now, fax machines meant my photo and details could be sent over as quickly as a phone call and the embassy could issue a new passport immediately - well, almost immediately. It had been three days already; they had promised to have it ready today but I'd been waiting most of the morning.
Sitting glaring at the floor, I was just wondering if there was any danger of it being ready before lunch when a pair of gorgeous legs passed within my gaze and I automatically followed them up.
The face matched the legs for looks, but it took me a split second longer than her for the recognition to kick in. "Bodie?"
"Clare...?" It had to be getting on for five years since I'd last seen Clare Terringham but she hadn't changed. I stood up to greet her. "What on earth are you doing here?"
She accepted the kiss to her cheek, although glancing fastidiously at my well-worn, travel-stained clothes. "Daddy is the Commissioner here. I'm just on a visit."
"With your husband?" 'Unofficially engaged' had become 'officially married' in a well publicised society wedding not long after the Rahad case, I remembered. Cowley had got an invite; Doyle had ribbed me for weeks about mine being missing in the mail.
"No." She smiled ruefully. "I'm unofficially divorced. Haven't you seen all the headlines?"
"I haven't been home in nearly a year, and not seen an English paper in weeks. Besides, I don't read gossip."
"It's probably just as well. But what are you doing here? Aren't you still with CI5?"
"No," I responded shortly. I'd come to terms with it, almost, but it was still hard to talk about. "I've been travelling, as I said. My passport was nicked last week, I'm only here to get a replacement before I move on."
Right on cue, the young nervous clerk I'd been dealing with emerged from his office. "Mr Bodie, we have your passport ready, we just need your signature... Oh, Miss Terringham..."
"Just a moment," I told him. "Clare, will you have dinner with me?"
She glanced again at my attire, and I laughed. "They only got my passport, not my wallet. And I do have some clean clothes, I won't embarrass you."
"All right. Pick me up here."
"At eight," I confirmed. "We can catch up on old times."
I watched her glide up the stairs, noticing that the clerk also had his eyes glued to her. I smirked; he didn't stand a chance.
"So, my passport."
"This way..." He completed the paperwork with the minimum of fuss, but I caught him looking speculatively at me, obviously unable to work out how I could know Clare. I wasn't about to enlighten him.
Thanks to the stolen passport I'd been in Singapore for longer than I intended, and had been staying in a small lodging house while I got it sorted out. It was cheap and the owner nice, but there was no way I was going to manage to get spruced up enough to take out Clare in the small box they called a bathroom. Collecting my backpack, I headed for a proper hotel.
Dishevelled though I looked, the Marriott didn't blink when I checked in, and I made immediately use of the laundry facilities to get my one good suit cleaned and pressed, while I showered properly for the first time in days.
Infrequent conversations with my bank manager back in London informed me the CI5 pension was piling up quite nicely; I might as well put some of that money to good use, so I called reception and asked them to reserve me a table at the Raffles, and also to find me a posh car with a driver for the evening.
My evening arranged, I stretched out on the bed to think. Clare was a face from my past; that past which for the last few years I had been trying to forget. She was sure to ask about CI5 and I wasn't about to shy away from telling her the truth.
I got up to get a drink from the mini bar and gazed unseeingly out across the rooftops.
The truth; that I wasn't good enough for CI5 any more. I hadn't been thrown out; Cowley had wanted me to stay. But I wasn't fit enough to be on the A Team any longer; might never be, they'd said, the bullets they'd had to dig out of me had caused damage that took too long to repair - and some that couldn't be repaired. The facts were indisputable but I wasn't used to being second-best at anything. If I couldn't do my job, the job, then there was no point in staying.
It wasn't the first time I'd moved on. But it was certainly one of the most difficult. Doyle - lucky bastard - had recovered quicker than anyone could have imagined from his shooting, and refused to believe I wouldn't do the same. He'd only finally believed I was really leaving on the morning he drove me to the airport.
I poured another drink - and would have to make that do, one of the things I now had to avoid was too much alcohol - and looked around the room. I'd taken a double room; partly because if I was going to pay to be comfortable I might as well make the most of it, but partly because of Clare. Force of habit meant I'd turned on the charm and asked her to dinner, hoping - anticipating - that she'd come back and spend the night.
I cursed. I still did it automatically; chatting up girls because I could. But the time when I would automatically spend the night with them was long gone. Just because I still looked handsome...
I tended to - wanted to - forget the scars on my body. Those caused by the bullets, and by the operations to repair me. They'd faded, but it still wasn't a pretty sight, and not one I'd inflict on a girl without warning.
I could be worrying unnecessarily. There was nothing to say Clare would want to sleep with me anyway; that one brief night of passion was a long time ago...
... but it was clear Clare still remembered it. She was ready and waiting when I arrived at the embassy, and dressed to kill. I had decided I wouldn't try to seduce her, but it looked now as if I might have to fight her off.
The Marriott had done my suit proud and I saw Clare's look of relief as I stepped from the limo. She hurried down the steps, giving a little wave to someone in the doorway.
"Daddy," she explained. "He remembers you."
Could be good or bad, I supposed. I remembered him; knew him to be a good friend of Cowley's. Anyway, Clare was a big girl now. "I'll have you home by midnight," I promised.
"You will?" Clare was surprised and sounded disappointed. "That's not the Bodie I remember."
"Things have changed," I murmured, and turned the conversation onto generalities about our location.
Our arrival at Raffles delighted her. "I didn't think we'd be coming here."
"Didn't think I could afford it?"
"Well, no, to be honest. You don't have to beggar yourself to impress me, Bodie."
"I'm not. And you deserve the best."
She seemed pleased but was obviously still unconvinced, probing again when we were seated. "Are you sure about this? I mean, if you're not working now - and I can't believe CI5 paid you that well..."
I reflected on her unexpected maturity; a few years ago she'd never have thought about where money came from. "I have a very healthy bank balance, Clare. I have to spend it on something. Anyway, tell me what you've been up to since I last saw you."
"Married and divorced," she said economically. "I stuck it out for more than four years but Gerald was completely wrong for me."
"So what are you doing now?"
"Nothing yet. I'd like to get a job, but I'm not trained for anything. Money isn't a problem; Gerald will be making a substantial settlement on me, but I'm not like my mother, I can't sit around sewing and arranging flowers all day."
"You'll find something."
"Of course I will."
It was said with the double confidence of youth and class. It was a long time since I'd been that positive about anything.
The waiter arrived and I ordered wine for Clare and iced water for myself; an action which generated another question. "Why aren't you drinking? Do you have an alcohol problem?"
"Not exactly." I could see she was wondering if that was the reason behind my leaving CI5. "I just have to keep my intake down. Bad for the health."
I pre-empted her as she geared up for the next question. "I got shot. Damaged a few things."
That was probably the understatement of the century. Unbidden, the memory flashed up; I'd walked into three bullets and if it hadn't have been for a combination of proximity to the local hospital and the speed with which Ray got me there, I wouldn't be sitting here now.
I had been extremely lucky; although there were times when I wished I hadn't.
"I wasn't going to be fit enough for CI5 for a long time. I've been bumming around and enjoying life."
"When we first met, you said you were married to the job." One of Clare's most attractive features was her large expressive eyes. Now they were expressing sympathy and understanding, and I wasn't ready for that.
"So now I'm divorced." I managed a grin to take the harshness out of the words. "Makes two of us."
She was bright enough to see I didn't want to talk about it; and lifted her glass to mine. "To divorcees and freedom."
We'd kissed in the limo, but my efforts to behave like a gentleman and return her to the embassy were rebuffed and at 11.30 I was fixing her a drink from my mini bar and trying to work out how to refuse her without offending her.
She had discarded the filmy jacket she had been wearing over her evening dress and was lounging suggestively on the sofa. I fought down the urges that had been assailing me all evening and deliberately didn't join her.
"Bodie..." I met her eyes, startled by the annoyance in her voice. "I can see you want me. Why are you avoiding me?"
"When I was shot... the surgery to save me was intrusive..."
Clare swayed gently towards me, and reached to start unbuttoning my shirt. "So you have a few more scars than last time. It's not what your body looks like, Bodie, it's what you do with it that matters."
If she was horrified, she hid it well. Her lips brushed mine. "Come to bed."
The front desk rang me at about 11. "Mr Bodie, Sir John Terringham is in reception. He would like to speak with you."
I headed for the lift with some trepidation. Clare was a truly amazing girl; her reassurance that things weren't anywhere near as bad as I made out had gone a long way to restoring my confidence, but she hadn't left me until it was nearly dawn and I hoped Sir John hadn't come to kick me out of the country.
Well, if he had, he hadn't come with any reinforcements; he stood alone, not looking like an irate father.
"Mr Bodie. Thank you for seeing me."
Why wouldn't I? Mystified, I shook the offered hand, and gestured to the lounge. "Shall we get a coffee?"
I began to make a sort of apology for keeping Clare out, but he waved it aside. "I'm not here about Clare. She might be my daughter, but she's a woman and can make her own decisions."
That was a relief, but left me even more puzzled.
He waited until the waiter had poured the coffee and we were alone. "I'm here in an official capacity. I have a proposition for you."
"Sir John, I'm no longer with CI5. I can't undertake anything official -"
"I know that. Let me explain before you turn me down." He glanced about to make sure no one was within earshot. "Clare arrived home in time to join me for breakfast. We don't have many secrets, Mr Bodie, I knew she'd been with you. She told me how you had left the service."
I sipped at my coffee, waiting to see where this was leading. I was having doubts as to how official this could be; why hadn't Sir John, as Commissioner, called me to the embassy?
"It occurred to me immediately that you could be perfect. I have spent several hours checking you out, and I have received clearance to make the proposition."
Perfect? "What proposition?"
"I have not been here long; prior to my posting I was involved in a security leak which the Foreign Office and MI6 had been trying to plug concerning some of our defence plans. The source of the leak has been positively identified as CI5, and it has to be someone in a senior position."
Now he had my full attention. "No way! There's some mistake."
"I'm afraid not. Of course it puts me in a difficult position, being such a close friend of George's... But this has been checked and double-checked, at my insistence."
"Does Cowley know? Have you told him the department is under suspicion?"
"No. George Cowley is also under suspicion."
"That's really barking up the wrong tree." I knew Cowley far too well. I began to have some inkling of what Sir John was after. "What's this proposition," I asked again.
"We - that's the Foreign Office and MI6 - want you to return to England and investigate CI5. You left CI5 before any of this started and have therefore been cleared of any involvement. You know that any attempt by MI6 to investigate would be detected immediately, but you can come and go as you please."
"Not quite. Cowley is a demon when it comes to security, even for ex-members of the squad."
"It will be easier for you than any outsider. And you know the people in the department; you'll be able to see instantly if anything has changed."
"It's been a long time. Things will have changed; people do." But he was right; if anything had changed fundamentally, I would see it.
But did I want to do it? I couldn't believe it of any of the squad members I'd known - it could involve new members, but Sir John had specifically said it was someone in a senior position. He saw my indecision.
"We are able to offer some recompense..."
"It's not money! I just don't know if I can do it."
"I'll be straight with you. I know what CI5 meant to you, I believe still does mean to you. Everyone is under suspicion; if you don't help us, CI5 might be disbanded altogether. I don't need to tell you what that would do to George." He stood up. "I'll leave you to think, but I need your decision by tonight, Mr Bodie."
I stood with him. "It's just Bodie. And you can take my decision with you now. How soon can I get a flight home?"
I hurled my car to a halt beside one of the two ambulances already on the scene. I could see Peters being attended to by a doctor I vaguely recognised and stalked over to him.
His face, already pale probably through blood loss, seemed to blanche further when he saw me.
"I... I'm sorry, Mr Doyle," he stammered. The kid looked terrified. Kid? I was mentally brought up short. He was new to the squad, hence being on what should have been a simple assignment, just watch and report, but since when did I think of a twenty-six year old man as a kid? Since forty started staring me in the face and laughing, I suppose.
I shook my head and focused on Peters. He was looking at me as if waiting for another bullet or something. What on earth was wrong with him? Well I suppose he had been on the end of a rocket or two from me recently. Bloody ki... sod, never seemed to listen.
I sighed. "Just tell me what happened," I told him.
"Can't this wait?" demanded the doctor irritably. "I want to get this man to the hospital."
"No it bloody well can't," I told him. "This place is a bloodbath and I need to know how it happened."
Peters swallowed hard. "I was watching as instructed. It was boring, just a typical stakeout." He must have caught sight of something in my expression because he hurried on. "Then suddenly there was a lot of movement; curtains fluttering, that sort of thing. Then the girl comes out and loads some suitcases in the back of the car and then she goes back to help the bloke. He's hopping and leaning on her pretty heavy. Well I realised they were getting ready to move out, so..." His voice faltered a bit. "So, I went to stop them."
"You were supposed to call for back up if anything happened," I said.
He looked down at the ground and mumbled something I had to strain to catch. "I thought I could take them. I mean; one girl and a wounded man."
I nodded. "Looks like you did too." I gestured around me. The ambulance men had just about finished loading up the bodies ready for transport to the morgue. "Pretty good shooting, even if you did get winged. I take it they were both armed?"
He looked up and nodded hopefully, scarcely able to believe his luck.
I leaned in closer. "Did it ever occur to you that you could have followed them? Seen where they went and called it in, instead of having the shoot out at the OK Corral? I wanted them alive!"
He flushed and hung his head. "Sorry Mr Doyle."
"Get to hospital, get yourself sorted out and then report back. Meanwhile, I'll try to stop this appearing on the evening news." I indicated all the curious faces of the public who had come creeping out of their houses once the shooting had stopped.
Despite the disapproving look the doctor was giving me I left him there without another word and headed back to the office to make my report to Cowley. He wasn't going to like this any more than I did.
I paid off the taxi driver outside CI5 HQ. Three years, no, nearly four, had passed since I was last here. I'd been back to London a couple of times, but had avoided the old place, even though I would probably have been welcomed.
I paused and looked at the building. It hadn't changed much; even the windows still needed cleaning. Although quite a few of the team were still based here this was now only a central office; most of the operations were handled from the new place out at Hammersmith which had just been established before I left.
I hefted the backpack onto my shoulder. It had been a long flight from Singapore and I was tired. I'd see Doyle - or pick up his spare key if he wasn't here - and get settled into his flat, then later tonight we could have a drink and I'd tackle him about this 'security leak' nonsense.
I knew what Sir John had said about everyone being under suspicion, but there was no way Doyle was involved. And since he wasn't involved he'd be able to help pinpoint who was.
The first stumbling block was the man on the security desk, who didn't know me. My general appearance had him bristling the second I stepped through the door, and the shiny brand new passport I handed him for identification was definitely suspicious as far as he was concerned.
"Look, I'm just here to pick up some keys from Doyle. I don't really even need to go in, if you can just phone him to come down..."
" Mr Doyle isn't in the building," he told me with a frown.
I blinked. Things had really changed. "OK, he said he might not be. He said he'd leave a message with Nicole - Cowley's secretary? - to give me the keys."
He seemed just as unwilling to phone her, and I sighed and tried again. "What about Ruth? Ruth Pettifer; if she's in she could vouch for me."
Mention of Ruth's name seemed to open doors; another interesting development. He dialled a number and spoke respectfully. "Miss Pettifer, I have someone down here claiming to be a former member of staff: name of Bodie?"
He handed me the receiver and I took it with a smile and greeted Ruth with my usual term of endearment. "Hello Ruthie!"
"Bodie," said the familiar voice tinged with asperity. "Doyle said you were back; and there's no mistaking your voice."
"Large as life and still twice as handsome," I agreed. "Did Doyle also tell you about me needing his spare key?"
"Yes. I'm just about to go into a meeting, but Nicole has the keys. Let me speak to Josh."
I handed the phone back to the security guard, who listened for a few seconds before putting it down. Returning my passport he reluctantly stood aside. "Miss Pettifer says you have security clearance and can go up to Mr Cowley's office."
"You can never get away from the Official Secrets Act," I told him, dumping my backpack. "Look after that. You don't need to come with me, I know the way."
At least, I did if Cowley hadn't changed offices and Nicole was where I'd have expected to find Betty. However, knowing Ruth's efficiency she would have given instructions if that were the case, and I confidently trotted up the stairs.
I tapped on the half-open door while popping my head around it. "Hello?"
Nicole was a looker; red hair cascading in gentle waves, and Doyle was right, she was too young for me. That never stopped me trying, if only to keep my hand in.
She looked up and smiled. "Hello, you must be Mr Bodie. I've heard about you."
"None of it's true," I smirked, bringing the rest of me into the room.
"Of course it isn't." Nicole sparkled at me. "It couldn't possibly all be true."
That was an encouraging start and I slid easily into 'chat-up' mode, and almost without thinking about it into 'questioning' mode, as it struck me that while I was here it wouldn't hurt to find out about some of the old crew. "Of course, it all depends on who you've been talking to. Who's still on the squad?"
She rattled off a few names I didn't recognise; young newcomers, I assumed. "What about Lucas and McCabe?" The names drew blank looks from her. I was obviously really out of touch. "Anson?"
"Oh, he's still here," she confirmed. "And Jax, although he's on sick leave at the moment."
"So much for the old names." I'd find out from Doyle later what had happened to them all. I threw a glance at Cowley's office. "Is the Old Man in?"
She looked a bit dubious at the nickname. "Mr Cowley is at meetings all day. Did you want to see him?"
"Not especially. But I'd have said hello if he were here. So what else has changed? If Betty were here she'd be telling me all the gossip."
She wouldn't actually, Betty had a notoriously tight tongue on most things; but I was betting that Nicole wouldn't know that and she obviously didn't. "Well, there are plans to expand the department further by creating regional offices, and Mr Cowley is concerned that there won't be enough control."
Or too many people to be controlled by one central office; Cowley didn't like delegating. Although from what I was seeing, since Doyle and Ruth had moved far enough up the chain to be receiving honorifics they were presumably senior enough to take on some regional manager job.
"Is there any juicy gossip? In my day," Hell, just saying it made me feel old, "there was always some scandal on who was sleeping with who..."
She giggled. "Not really. Although Mr Doyle -"
"Go on," I encouraged her. "What has the old dog been up to? Don't tell me he chats you up?"
She actually looked shocked by the suggestion. "No, not me. But I think he's secretly in love with someone."
I could make a good guess who it was, as well, but I'd probably better not say so it was probably still a big secret. "How do you know?"
"Well, he's always buying things and splashing out as if he's trying to impress someone. He bought a super car just a couple of months ago."
Ray Doyle, splashing out? That was a turn-up for the books. Doyle wasn't mean - although there had been times I'd had to put pressure on to get him to buy a round - but he was careful with money. "I'll have to make sure I get a ride in it then," I answered Nicole absently. "How's Ruth?" I added casually.
"She's nice to work for. But keeps to herself, doesn't talk to me much - she used to confide in Betty, I think." Nicole suddenly seemed to realise that perhaps I didn't need to know half of this. "I'll get Mr Doyle's key for you."
I gazed admiringly at her back view as she reached into a filing cabinet. Cowley knew how to pick secretaries all right, and he was definitely a leg-man...
Nicole handed me an envelope which had an address neatly typed on the front. "Here you are. Do you know where to find it?"
"Lived in London for more years than I care to remember. I'll find it -" I broke off as I caught sight of the address. Hans Place? That was a bit up-market... "This is the right address? I mean, if this is the sort of place Cowley is handing out now maybe I should reapply..."
"Oh no, that's not a CI5 flat. It's Mr Doyle's own place. I don't know it; is it a nice area?"
Nice? It was that all right, only about five minutes walk from Harrods. And Doyle had a place there, one of his own? I tucked the envelope into my pocket. "I can find it easily. I'd better get going and let you get on with something. Thanks for your help."
"It was a pleasure. I expect I'll see you again, if you're staying with Mr Doyle."
"You're bound to. We'll go for a drink, if Doyle lets you out occasionally."
I went looking for George Cowley as soon as I got back to Headquarters. Nicole told me he was in yet another meeting so I went back to my office and did what I could to salvage the Wandsworth mess.
Twenty minutes later Nicole buzzed me to say Cowley was back so I shot along to his office before he could get caught up in anything else.
It was, I admit, an only perfunctory knock I gave at the door before entering.
"Peters screwed up out at Wandsworth," was my opening line. " I've slapped a D-notice on it but that doesn't give us back any suspects. Stupid sod."
"And you, of course, told him so?"
"Yeah, I did. So?"
He glanced at his watch. "Sit down, Doyle."
I flung myself into his visitor's chair and waited to see what was coming. But I wasn't prepared for the bombshell he dropped.
"You've been riding young Peters pretty hard lately."
"Has he complained to you?" I demanded.
"No he hasn't but I can see and hear things for myself."
I shrugged. "He's not making the grade. He's too careless over too many things."
"He looks up to you."
I thought I was hearing things. "What?"
Cowley nodded. "He admires your record. A lot of the new intake do. Peters will take a lot from you before giving up but you'll get better results if you don't push quite so hard. His record is good and if you stop making him nervous, he might just surprise you."
"I don't remember you giving us an easy ride." Ok, my tone was narky, I admit it.
"I don't give anybody an easy ride but I could have been a lot harder on you than I was. Doyle, you have to learn when to push and when to encourage. You can't expect Peters to be now what you've become. He'll get there in his own time, with experience. And you are just the person to help him get that experience. Think about it."
He took his glasses off and lent across the desk, fixing me with his gaze. "Don't you realise I am expecting you to run this organisation after I retire? You need the back up and support, not to mention the trust, of the agents under you."
I gaped at him. "You are joking! I can't run this mob."
"Och, I'm not in my dotage yet. It will be a few more years before I retire. But why do you think you were being given all this extra responsibility for heavens sake?"
I opened my mouth to speak, nothing came out. I tried again. "Well, I... I thought we were... well, you know, helping out." Actually although I seemed to have kind of drifted into doing more administration, I had thought it was down to my age. You know, leave the action stuff to the young bucks. I rather resented it at times. I still passed the last physical. I can still do it all.
Cowley was still speaking. "I have to be practical and recognise the passage of time. I need to look to those I trust to carry on the work I have begun. Those who know and understand my methods, my credo. You, Murphy, Ruth ... Well, maybe not Ruth. I don't think Whitehall is ready for a woman in charge of CI5, our present prime minister notwithstanding. Besides, I don't think Ruth's circumstances permit such thoughts at this time."
I stared at him. How much did he know? What had he spotted? I was fairly sure Ruth wouldn't have confided in him. "Ruth is doing fine," I said defiantly.
"Hmmmm," was all he said, looking all the while as if he could say more but chose not to. "Now I really have to get on but I expect you to think over carefully what I've said about young Peters and the rest."
I came out of his office in a bit of a daze. Fortunately the first person I saw was Ruth, coat on and clearly heading out the door.
"Ruth, have you got a minute?"
Her face fell. "Will it keep Ray? I'm just on my way home, reasonably early for a change. There's nothing on my desk that won't keep until tomorrow."
I nodded. "Yeah, it's ok love. It's not important." Then it burst out. "Did you realise the old man expects me to take over this outfit when he goes?"
A look of amusement came over her face and she said, "You know Ray, for an otherwise intelligent man, you can sometimes be very slow." She leaned forward, gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, straightened her shoulder bag and walked off down the corridor.
I touched my cheek where she kissed me and murmured, "I'll take that as a 'yes' then, shall I?"
I automatically wandered back to my office and surveyed the paperwork waiting for me with distaste. Was this what my future held for me? Paperwork, meetings, being diplomatic? Shut up indoors all day with the other pen pushers?
As I cast my mind back to more action packed days I suddenly remembered Bodie and leapt to my feet again. Hastening over to the connecting door, I stuck my head into Nicole's cubby-hole.
"Nic, did my mate Bodie pick up my keys ok?"
She blushed and I had my answer even before she confirmed it in words.
"Ok then. I'm off home and if anybody wants me it had better mean the world's ending," I told her and left quickly before anybody else could distract me.
Hans Place was a quiet square; with quiet houses and expensive cars. A new registration sports car stood outside number 36 and I eyed it curiously. Was this Doyle's new car?
No one took any notice of me as I approached the property and checked the entry bells. Four floors, four buttons only. If it took the whole floor, this wasn't even a small flat.
The largest of the three keys on the ring Nicole had given me fitted the street door and I jangled them thoughtfully as I made my way up the stairs to the top floor. The other two fitted the keyholes in the door to Flat 4 - and the second I opened it, a security alarm started bleeping a countdown.
Almost without having to think about it, I punched in the four-digit code Doyle had always used, and it stopped.
The interior matched the exterior. Apart from what the rent must be, money had been spent on this place. Avoiding the expensive-looking cream rug, I put my backpack down and explored. Kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms; one clearly Doyle's so I fetched my backpack and took possession of the other. The bed was already made up - did Doyle keep it ready just in case, or did someone stay over frequently?
I was starting to find it hard to think. I'd left Singapore on the early flight and spent over thirteen hours in the air - yet it was still only late afternoon and I was shattered, my body clock was all over the place. Maybe it was because I was tired, but something wasn't making a lot of sense about this. Why was Doyle suddenly spending on expensive cars and flats?
No, I wasn't going to get suspicious. There would be an explanation for it; first I needed to get some sleep and when I was more rational I'd talk to Doyle.
I grabbed a towel and headed for the bathroom to wash off the travel dust so's I didn't make the clean sheets mucky...
I let myself into the flat half expecting to see Bodie making inroads into my food and drink. But the place was quiet, no sign of occupancy.
I eased open the door of the guest bedroom and saw him. Sound asleep, covers up to his ears as usual. Just his hair and one eye visible. An open backpack was on the floor; he must have unpacked the few clothes he had brought with him.
I leaned against the door jam and studied my partner. Ok, ex-partner was more accurate but I hadn't got out of the habit of thinking of Bodie as my partner. After all, I'd never had another since he left. I'd worked with a variety of agents of course, but none of them permanently.
What little I could see of Bodie looked well. Maybe a touch of grey in the hair but still very little compared with myself, damn him.
I wandered back to the kitchen, made a cup of tea and sat in an armchair unsure of what to do with myself until Bodie woke. Who knew how long he might sleep for? There was no point in starting a meal yet.
I let my mind drift back to the last time I had seen Bodie. I'd tried so hard to convince him to stay with CI5 but he was having none of it.
"I'm not staying here doing half a job. Don't ask it of me Doyle!" he raged at me one day after I'd again tried to persuade him. Then he'd looked at me with the most completely naked emotion I'd ever seen in him. "Let me go, Ray. It's time."
After that I couldn't say anything else but wish him luck and urge him to keep in touch. Which he'd done for a while. Then the gaps between calls got longer and the letters and postcards dwindled. I could have tried harder to keep track of him I suppose but work was busy for me and I was never quite sure where to write, which country he was in this week.
While I felt a little guilty we'd not managed to keep in touch better the feeling was tempered by the relief at knowing at least he was still alive and well when it could so easily have been the opposite.
If I allowed myself to think about it, I still felt guilty at not having got to that warehouse sooner to back him up. If I had been just a bit faster that day maybe .... No, stop it! I'd done enough of this at the time and over the years since. Enough is enough. It happened, deal with it, Doyle.
I shook my head and took another gulp of tea. Easy to say, harder to do. I remembered the fear I felt when I saw Bodie lying on the floor and the blood flowing out of him like he was a watering can. The back up I brought with me took care of the gang while I tried to plug the holes made by the hail of bullets the dumb sod had been stupid enough to walk into. I remembered how I screamed at poor Murph to help me get Bodie into the back of my car. He wanted me to wait for the ambulance, not to move him. I knew Bodie didn't have that long. The doctors at the hospital had agreed with me, after they'd completed the patching up.
And now he was back, although who knew for how long. I wondered what to say to him. He'd seemed normal on the phone but an awkwardness was creeping up on me now I had time to think about it. We'd once practically lived in each other's pockets, now we hadn't seen each other for nearly four years. People change. I wondered once we got over the initial, 'do you remember...?' type reminiscences, if we had anything left to talk about.
Why do men have such a hard time expressing their feelings? Just occasionally wouldn't it be simpler to say what you felt instead of drowning those feelings in yet another pint of beer? Women have no trouble with feelings at all, unless they have too many of them of course. I grinned remembering a conversation along those lines I'd once had with Ruth.
Ruth... I frowned. There was another problem and one I couldn't do anything about. I'd only make matters worse. She had to find her own way of dealing with it but I hated the thought that another friend was slipping away from me. One I cared a great deal about.
My head snapped around to see Bodie in the doorway of the bedroom, wearing my bathrobe and grinning at me.
"I'd offer you a penny for those thoughts but if they make you look like that I don't want 'em."
"Oh, you couldn't afford 'em, mate." He stopped frowning and grinned at me instead, and setting down the mug he held levered himself from the armchair. "How're you doing?"
"Not so bad." I studied him; the friend I hadn't seen in four years. His hair was greyer than mine and he looked tired, but physically he hadn't changed much. What had changed was where he did his shopping; I was probably a bit out of touch when it came to the styles, but the quality of clothes he was wearing was in no doubt. I extended my arm; it felt a bit daft to shake his hand, but I could hardly rush over and hug him, no matter how pleased I was to see him. "Good to see you."
He wrung my hand fairly vigorously. "Certainly is."
Punching him with my left hand, I pulled at the jacket. "What's with the posh togs? Oxfam closed down, have they, and left you nowhere to shop but Harrods?"
The most shocking thing about Bodie at first glance, was the wicked looking beard he sported. It made him look quite piratical.
He came towards me, arm outstretched and I grabbed it feeling a rush of delight at seeing him. I felt like hugging him, coming hard on the heels of my thoughts about men and their feelings, but I didn't think we were quite ready for that so I settled for returning his handshake while simultaneously gripping his arm tightly with my other hand.
Naturally he got in a quick jibe about my clothes. I glanced down at myself. I'd got used to the change but I suppose it was somewhat different from what I used to wear. I shrugged. "Can't wear anything too casual these days, mate. I want the Whitehall wallahs to pay attention to what I'm saying, not focus on what I'm wearing."
"Since when did you care about things like that?" he demanded.
I pulled a face. "You wouldn't believe what the old man has me doing for him these days." This afternoon's conversation floated back into my mind. "He even has this crazy idea that I'm going to take over running the organisation when he retires. Did you ever hear of anything so stupid?"
I considered it. "That's not such a crazy idea. You'll have to learn how to kowtow though."
"Does it hurt?"
"Not if you do it right. I used to know this great little bird down in Chinatown..."
"I'll bet you did." Doyle smirked at me and the years fell away. This was my partner. My earlier doubts were ridiculous; whoever was leaking stuff - if in fact someone was, and I was by no means certain about that any more - then it wasn't Doyle.
My stomach rumbled and I realised I hadn't eaten since the in-flight meal, and that was never enough to satisfy me. "So, what have you got in the fridge?"
"If you'd given me some warning I might have had a chance to go shopping. Let's go out to eat. There are some new places we can try that have opened since you went walkabout."
"Great; I'll get dressed. Hope my suit won't be too creased."
By the time I emerged from the bedroom Doyle had been to change as well. I whistled. "That suit didn't come off the peg. You're getting overpaid, my son."
"Chance'd be a fine thing. Nah, I thought we'd go a bit upmarket. I just called to reserve a table at this French place."
"Let me guess; you're after a French maid..."
Doyle immediately broke into an atrocious accent. "'Ahhh, Yvette, ve must hide ze painting in ze knockwurst...'"
I groaned. "That's not still running, is it?"
"Yep. I don't have time to catch it often." He jangled the car keys at me. "Ready?"
"Lead on, Rene..."
"So, tell me about everybody." Bodie demanded when we were sitting down at the restaurant with our first drinks in our hands.
"Didn't you get all you wanted from Nicole?" I deadpanned.
He pulled a face at me. "Ha, ha, Doyle. She hadn't even heard of half the people I asked about. What happened to Lucas and Mac, for instance?"
"Mac was killed about ..." I thought back. "Oh, about eight months ago. Walked into an ambush. One of the Williams brothers out for revenge."
Bodie looked grim and his eyes unfocused for a moment. Probably remembering his own shooting. It hadn't been personal, not like McCabe's had been, but otherwise the circumstances were very similar. Not a good start to our evening.
"And Lucas?" he asked.
I shrugged. "Got shot trying to save Mac. Not bad but I think it was the final straw for him and he resigned."
"So, give me some good news." Bodie said after a moment. "I spoke to Ruth briefly this afternoon, she vouched for me with that security bloke, Josh. I take it she's ok?"
"Yeah, Ruth's fine. Are you ready to order?"
He scanned the menu and whistled at the prices. "Hey, this place is bloody expensive. Or have all the prices been hiked up since I've been gone?"
I waved dismissively. "Don't worry about it. It's on me."
He gave me a rather startled look then grinned happily and proceeded to order the most expensive thing on the menu. If he was trying to throw me, he failed. As I said, it's the least I could do for my prodigal partner.
"So," he said when the waiter had gone. "What on earth has happened to Betty? Married I suppose since she has a sprog on the way. How come I didn't know any of this?"
"Well if you will disappear to parts unknown and fail to do an ET from time to time..." I did the voice and the gesture. "...you must expect to miss out on little details."
We meandered the evening away like that. I filled him in on the lives of those he'd left behind and he entertained me with wild stories of what he had seen and done.
"So Suze ..."
I waggled my finger at him. "She would break your arm if she heard you calling her 'Suze'."
"Susan," he corrected. "Susan has got herself a promotion?"
I nodded. "Our Susan has done all right for herself. Working personally for the Home Secretary as Security Forces liaison."
Bodie chuckled. "Bet they don't know what's hit 'em."
Then he leaned forward and said more seriously, "What about you, mate? You've told me about practically everybody but you haven't said how you're doing."
For a moment I wasn't sure how to answer. I didn't want to ruin his first evening home with me moaning and groaning but ever since his phone call earlier I'd been looking forward to unloading to somebody who understood but didn't depend on me to be in charge and always right.
"C'mon, Ray. It's me. Just say it."
So I let him have it, both barrels. All the pent up frustration that's been building up in me, not just today but for quite some time. The stupid kids that are the supposed best the services turn out these days, the increasing amount of bureaucracy that pours out of Whitehall hampering even our best efforts on occasions, the amount of time I was spending at my desk instead of doing something useful ...
"I'm becoming deskbound, as if that was all I'm good for. And they're all so bloody deferential, as if I were ancient or something. I can still do the job and better than most of them. I'm not ready to retire just yet." I paused for breath and then made a dismissive gesture. "Aggggh, forget it. I might just surprise them one of these days and tell them to stuff the bloody job." I looked at him listening intently. "I might just join you on your travels. We could be like Butch and Sundance or..."
My voice trailed away as I saw his face. I expected him to be amused or possibly exasperated but instead he looked incredibly serious and thoughtful.
"I'd no idea things had got that bad, mate."
I'd picked up on some of his dissatisfaction while we'd talked. Most of it I'd put down to him just getting older; the loss of those colleagues we'd known, the good old times disappearing. But things had changed - Ray had changed.
"Does Cowley know how you feel?"
"Maybe. Probably. I don't know. Most of the time I don't care." He shrugged. "I dunno. I'm just starting to think there has to be more to life than work."
"You see, that's just what I've always told you. You always did take things too seriously."
"Yeah, well, maybe you were right. I'm starting to think you did the right thing, leaving when you did."
Considering how hard Doyle had tried to prevent me leaving, that's not what I was expecting to hear him say. "But you don't mean it - you're not seriously thinking of quitting?"
"Thinking, yes. Seriously?" I put a hand over my glass as he poured himself another glass of wine. "Not yet. But I can hardly stay there forever, anyway."
From what Doyle was saying earlier, Cowley's plans would see him secure in the job for many years to come, so if he left it would be his decision. I tried to lighten the mood. "You're a long way off the pension, mate, and you've been telling me for years Cowley doesn't pay you enough so you'd have to find another job."
He didn't elaborate further. At one time I'd have probed, asked him what he meant, bullied him into telling me how he was suddenly so flush - and the flat, the car, and this place was costing; no one could tell me otherwise.
I picked up my nearly-empty wine glass to hide behind; to hide my doubts. I'd been so confident Doyle wasn't responsible for the leak - I'd known him as well as I knew myself. But now, suddenly, I wasn't sure. My resolution to discuss it with him died away. I needed to talk to a few more people first.
He didn't seem to have noticed. "Let's have coffee back at my place," he said, signalling to the waiter for the bill and presenting a credit card, signing without a blink for what I could read upsidedown to be a considerable amount.
"What do you think of the new car, then? I'd've thought you'd have been champing at the bit to have a go..."
"It's great." I couldn't get too enthusiastic about it, for wondering how Doyle afforded it. "Why get this one, though? I mean, I'm sure you'll pull the birds better, but it's hardly inconspicuous for tailing suspects."
He snorted and grinned. "You're really out of touch if you think I'd use this for the job. Remember how bashed the Capris used to get? Full of bullet holes, flat tyres, blood all over the seats? No, this is my car, and it's staying in this condition."
"Better not let me drive it, then," I grinned. It was a long-standing joke that my cars had suffered more than Doyle's, but the only one who'd never realised it was Cowley.
Doyle grinned back. "I didn't say I was going to let you. Just surprised you hadn't asked to yet..."
"So, let's have it. What's up with you and Ruth?"
Back in my flat his question took me by surprise. "What do you mean?
"All evening you've avoided talking about her so now I'm asking, what's up?"
"I haven't avoided it. I told you how well she's done. I told you all about that conference she organised last month."
He leant forward shaking his head in that way I remembered that said I wasn't convincing him at all.
"You've told me all about the personal lives of everybody else I remember and a few I don't but any question to do with Ruth and you've changed the subject. C'mon sunshine, what could be so bad? She's ok isn't she?" Then as I still hesitated; "She's my mate too, Doyle."
So I told him.
As I did so his face grew grave but when I'd finished he said, "Steer clear Ray. Never and I mean, never, come between man and wife. You simply can't win and both sides will end up somehow making it all your fault."
Huh, Alan is already convinced it is. But I kept that thought to myself and just nodded noncommittally.
We sat a little longer, drinking nightcaps and talking. Shortly however Bodie said he would have to turn in and try to get his body clock reoriented as soon as possible. I teased him about getting old and unable to stay up drinking half the night but it was more force of habit than anything else and he disappeared first to the bathroom and then to bed.
I sat there a while longer nursing my brandy and thinking.
Work colleagues, close friends and sometime lovers although very few people knew the last part. Just Betty, Bodie and of course George Cowley. Not much got past him for very long. Not unreasonably, she eventually came to expect something more from me. Finally one night she told me to 'piss or get off the pot'. Unusual for her to be so... basic. And, to my everlasting shame, I got off the pot.
I've never really worked out why I wasn't prepared to commit to Ruth. She's beautiful, warm, intelligent, shares my sense of humour; well she laughs at my jokes anyway. She's everything I look for in a woman. And lord knows if I had to cancel a date because of work she only had to check with Cowley or more likely Betty, to make sure I was telling the truth. She understood the demands of the job.
Maybe it's like that old joke about the man who says his wife doesn't understand him when the truth is, she understands him all too well.
Maybe I was still kidding myself it was possible to have a life outside of work. Something that wasn't connected with guns and mayhem and murder. Something like an ordinary life. I shook my head in wonderment, why should I think I was entitled to an ordinary life? Things like that just didn't happen.
Still there it was. I was an idiot searching for an unidentified something and refusing to recognise what I already had.
A week or so later in the rest room Ruth casually dropped into conversation that she had a date that night. Although her comment was ostensibly aimed at Susan I knew she was really letting me know. I was hurt although I had no right to be and I was ungenerous enough to think she was just doing it to get back at me and maybe she was, but one date grew to two and two to several and six months later she married Alan Harris.
We had a flaming row just before the wedding when I asked her if she was sure she knew what she was doing. I knew I shouldn't have done it but I couldn't keep quiet. I'm still not sure which of us I was trying to throw the lifeline to.
We made it up eventually but things were cool between us for a while. Still, she seemed happy in her marriage and I was pleased for her if a little wistful for what might have been. Until one day when I asked her for a drink after work. Nothing personal, just a couple of work colleagues trying to unwind at the end of the day. It'd been a tough day; nobody died but it was a close run thing and two of ours were in hospital.
Ruth hung up the receiver and smiled her relief at me. "Mr Cowley says they'll be ok. Collins came through the op well and Johnson has come round and the doctor says he should be fine by the morning."
"Thank God for that. What's the old man doing now?"
" Driving Johnson's wife home, she's got the kids to see to. He said we can knock off too."
I ran my hand through my hair. "Another bloody crisis averted then. Everything in the garden is lovely and tomorrow is another day."
She smiled understandingly. "Not quite."
Despite everything the day had thrown at us, suddenly I was feeling calmer and without thinking I said, "Come for a drink?"
Her face changed, she went all distant and starting putting things into her briefcase. "I can't. I have to get home."
"Oh come on, we deserve it. Alan can do without you for once surely?"
She snapped her bag shut and reached for her coat. "It's rather more than just the once though, that's the trouble."
I stared at her. "What are you talking about? Alan hasn't got a problem, has he?"
She slammed her bag down on the desk again and glared at me. "Don't be stupid, Ray. The hours we work, there's no predicting what time I'll ever get home."
I shrugged, not sure quite what her point was. "It's the same for all of us. It's the nature of the job."
"It might be all right for you, you piss off one girlfriend, you just pick up another."
I opened my mouth to object but she carried on. "I'm married, Ray. And my husband would like it if I was home before him occasionally!"
Where did all this come from I wondered? I'd met Alan a few times; at the wedding, a couple of social events since, he seemed ok if a little, well, subdued for somebody like Ruth. He was some kind of financier so I suppose being rather formal came with the job.
Ruth slung her coat over her arm and made for the door. "Sorry, Ray but I have to go. See you tomorrow."
I should have left it there but I didn't. I caught her arm as she was leaving. "I could always have a word with Alan. You know, tell him this is what the job's like." I grinned at her. "Could convince him you really run the place and we'd fall apart without you, if you make it worth my while."
I expected her to at least smile but she just frowned and pulled away saying again that she had to go.
Now I knew something was wrong. I slipped between her and the door and demanded she tell me what it was.
"C'mon love, something's not right. Can't I help?" Then as she still didn't answer; "This is me, remember. Just tell me, eh?"
"And that's part of the problem." Ruth said in a low voice. "Working with you." She took a deep breath and finally looked at me. "Alan is jealous of you."
"Of me? Why on earth ... He's got you!" The response jerked out without thinking but it did at least bring a faint smile to her lips.
Her smile dropped away almost at once and although she turned to go again she also didn't protest too much when I drew her back to the armchair I had recently been sitting in.
"Now tell me what's going on." She hesitated and bit her lip.
"I want to help, Ruth."
She sighed. "I suppose I had better tell you just so you won't interfere. You can't help Ray, so don't even try."
"Ok," I agreed while thinking I'd be the judge after I'd got the story out of her.
It turned out when she and Alan realised they were getting serious they had one of those daft talks where they were honest about previous relationships. And she told him about me. Although he didn't say so at the time, he apparently wasn't happy about Ruth continuing to work closely with somebody she'd ... well, been close with. If that wasn't enough, the silly sod had heard enough about CI5 to think it was a very glamorous occupation; all secret spies and gadgets, just like in the films. So the upshot was that he didn't trust his new wife around me. Which just proved that he didn't know either one of us.
I had to let her go home after that. And the next day she kept out of my way as much as possible, clearly regretting having told me. I've asked her once or twice how things are but she only smiles brightly and tells me she's fine. I have to respect her wish not to discuss it but there are days when I could cheerfully pay a visit to that idiot and thump some sense into him.
The clock on the mantelpiece chimed quietly and I looked up with a start. It was two in the morning. I eased myself out of the chair and put the unfinished brandy glass on the table. If I was to be one of Cowley's brightest performers once again, I had to get some sleep...
It must have been Doyle going to bed that disturbed me. My watch told me it was after two, where I'd been just recently it was nearing mid-morning so it was no wonder I woke. I knew from long experience that I wouldn't sleep again until my body was ready, so I put my hands up behind my head, relaxed and stretched out.
And started thinking.
About everything that Doyle had told me about the old crew; what he'd said about Ruth, and more importantly, about the things he hadn't told me.
I'd been saddened to hear about McCabe; we'd been on the team a long while together. Lucas' decision didn't surprise me; if it had been Doyle I'd've walked. I'd have to catch up with some of the others while I was here though; Jax, Anson, Lake - maybe I'd even give Susan a call and take her for a drink.
I shifted onto my side as my thoughts turned to Ruth. Trust Doyle to get himself into a mess over a woman - it was even more typical that it was Ruth. They'd managed to keep their liaison quiet for a long time before I found out - and amazingly, most people had never known - but I can't say I was surprised they'd got together.
I suppose I'd expected to come back and find them in the same state of limbo. Doyle wasn't marriage-material any more than I was - at least, I'd never thought he was. I'd detected a distinct wistfulness when he was talking about Ruth.
So, he hadn't wanted commitment. The fact that Ruth had, and had made the decision to marry someone else didn't surprise me. Most women want the commitment of marriage, and possibly children. Ruth was sensible enough to recognise that if she waited for Ray Doyle she'd never get it.
It sounded like she'd rushed into things though; and if they were having problems only six months into the marriage, maybe she'd made a mistake. Doyle would make things worse if he interfered - I hoped he'd listened to my warning.
Finally, I thought about Doyle. He'd been frustrated with the department before; that was nothing new. I could sense more than the normal dissatisfaction in him; question was: was he dissatisfied enough to be selling defence plans?
I couldn't believe it. I knew him too well. But there was still a small niggling qualm. I flopped unhappily onto my back again. How could I doubt him?
But I did. I sighed. Tomorrow I had to meet up with the MI6 contact Sir John had arranged; he'd fill me in with any details Sir John didn't have. That was going to be fun...
I heard the phone start ringing loudly into the silence, and Doyle's lethargic and grumbling answer. A call-out, I deduced, since the phone went down almost immediately and Doyle started shifting about.
I joined him in the lounge. "Trouble?"
"Always." He yawned whilst fumbling with his socks. "Sorry if the phone woke you."
"Already awake. Jet lag does weird things to the sleep patterns. Can I do anything?"
"Nah. 'My presence is required...' It probably won't be that serious. Although -" he focused on his watch, and was obviously disgusted to find it was only just past four "- I probably won't be back by morning. Help yourself to whatever's in the cupboards - maybe you should call me, I'll try and make myself free for lunch..."
"I'll phone. But it's no problem if you're busy, I have people to catch up with."
"Ah Doyle, there you are. Good." George Cowley was in the corridor as I flew in through the outer door. He took another look at me. "Good God man, have you not been to bed at all?"
Two hours sleep. Less actually; I might have gone to bed at two and got up again at four but there wasn't much sleep in-between. I looked and felt like crap but here was George Cowley, suit, tie, clean shirt and freshly shaven. Didn't know how he did it. Wasn't natural.
"Bodie's back in town," I started to say by way of explanation but Cowley took it as the whole defence.
"So you spent half the night carousing?" He turned away heading back to his office.
"It wasn't like that, sir," I began, hurrying after him. Then despite myself I chuckled. It was as if the years had dropped away. It was exactly like that. It was good to have Bodie back; I wondered how long he was staying for.
As we passed my office heading to Cowley's to hear what latest disaster had befallen us, the door to my office opened and Susan came out.
"Oh Ray, there you are," she said. What was this, get at Doyle day? I hadn't exactly dawdled getting here.
"Susan, good to see you. What's going on? Is this your shout?"
I got on much better with Susan these days, now she wasn't working in the department. She dropped a lot of her ice queen act around me. Susan had been good at her job and knew it but like a lot of the women agents, she'd battled to be allowed to do more and while Cowley would use them in dangerous situations when he had to, he also kept them out of it as much as possible too. It was a policy I was comfortable with. I respected their ability and motivation but women aren't front line material. They get too emotionally involved for starters and besides, I don't want to see any them getting hurt. Bad enough when a bloke did.
The various women operatives dealt with the realities of this policy in their own ways. Ruth developed her organisational skills. Susan used the kudos of working for us as a stepping stone and got out when the job with the Home Office came along. She always was ambitious.
In Cowley's office Susan let us in on the reason for the call out.
"Regional Crime Squad have been reporting unnaturally high levels of activity in the Benson gang. Tonight a group of them have moved into a disused warehouse in Dagenham. We have good idea of what they're up to and we need it stopped."
"Yeah, and why us? This isn't our territory," I snapped.
Susan glared at me "I thought you would appreciate it."
"Appreciate getting dragged out of a warm bed in the middle of the night...?"
"I don't want to know about your sordid sleeping arrangements, Doyle! I want this group rounded up with the least fuss and I thought CI5 was best way to achieve that."
"I agree." Cowley had to have his say. He'd allowed us to spat for a bit but the decision was ultimately his, as always. "I assume whatever information we obtain will be jointly shared?"
"Well, yes of course. Regional Crime will receive a full account of anything you get," Susan answered instantly.
"Good. Then we can expect full reciprocation. I want copies of Regional's files on Harold Benson himself on my desk later this morning."
While I suppressed a grin and before Susan could come up with an answer, Cowley began issuing instructions.
"Doyle, get two teams together. Three men each. Get over there and wrap it up, quickly and quietly. Before the world wakes up for the day."
I nodded and turned to go.
"Oh Doyle, when you have a minute you might return that MI6 file outlining strategies against terrorist alerts. I'll need to see the minister about it later."
"Can do." I left to start making calls to shake more men out of their well earned slumber.
After Doyle had disappeared into the grey dawn, I rolled back into bed and managed to drop off for a few hours.
The flat was quiet when I emerged. I fished in a few cupboards and the fridge and put myself a breakfast together, and carried the plate back to the lounge, making a mental note not to spill anything. I wasn't sure about this new expensive style of Doyle's; I much preferred it when I didn't have to worry about knocking over a mug.
Although things weren't all that different; the glass on the coffee table was ring-marked in one or two places, and if you looked closely around the sofa there were inadequately cleaned stains on the carpet, which I found reassuring. Not everything had changed with my partner, then.
I decided to watch Breakfast TV, remembering the first - and last - time I'd watched it a couple of years ago, when I'd thought that Selina Scott was a bit of all-right. I was out of luck though; Selina had apparently moved on and some young blonde called Jill was on screen instead, doing a much more professional job of announcing the news.
When she'd finished, I turned off the TV and looked at the magazines on the table. The latest edition of Bike Magazine was already well-thumbed, with markers in a couple of places, and I flipped through the pages. Doyle was clearly still obsessed with bikes, and I boggled a little at the prices before I was brought up short by the note written in the margin of one of the most expensive: 'Could get for me. Will have to check insurance.'
I put the magazine down. Doyle had not long bought that car, and the fact that it was a Japanese job didn't mean it hadn't cost a bundle. This was a recent magazine, so he was obviously thinking about buying a bike as well.
I didn't like where my thoughts were taking me.
When I'd landed at Heathrow the previous day I had two calls to make: one to Doyle and another to a number Sir John Terringham had given me.
The second had been answered brightly by a young girl. "Morris and Enwright, how may I help you?"
"My name is Bodie. I'm calling to confirm an appointment with John Clifton."
"Just a moment..." I'd been put on hold with some ghastly musak, but at least it wasn't for long. "Mr Clifton will meet you as arranged at eleven am tomorrow."
So, eleven am duly found me hurrying towards my contact point the maze of small streets around Victoria had pointed me in the wrong direction and I was running late. I didn't know the man I was meeting but hadn't been told wear a red rose or hold a copy of the Times or anything like that, so presumably he would know me. Only one person stood at the alley.
"Clifton? I'm Bodie." He'd been trying to look inconspicuous but not succeeding, and he frowned at me, indicating a cafe down the alleyway. "Let's go down here."
Around my age, short and scruffy, he wasn't what I was expecting. "Sir John forced our hand on this one. We didn't want you on this job."
Charming. I cast a sideways glance before responding; antagonism between our two departments had always been present and Clifton was old enough to have been one of Willis' men. "It's not a job I'm relishing either. We're stuck with it."
"Unfortunately." He shrugged. "The background: someone is leaking our secrets to foreign powers. Thought it was someone at the Foreign Office to start with, but they've all been cleared. So we looked around at who else has access to the data."
"CI5 first port of call?" I asked, sourly.
"Actually, no. There's never been a sniff of a leak from your department before about anything. Took us a while to believe it."
That was honest, anyway - although I still wasn't sure I believed it. Personal doubts notwithstanding, the department had been set up by MI6 before. "But you've got no idea who's responsible?"
"We know CI5's security's is tight, so it has to be someone senior enough not to raise suspicion by handling confidential documents. We don't have the resources to watch all your operatives, even if we could do it without being spotted almost immediately." He gave me an almost-friendly grin. "Spying on spies is nearly impossible."
"Tell me about it." The waitress came over with our coffee, and I waited until she was out of earshot before continuing. "OK, so that's my job. Is there anything else I need to know?"
"You're acting unofficially. Whatever you find or suspect, you're not to make any moves on your own."
That rather depended on what I found; I wasn't about to make any promises either way and shrugged noncommittally. "I can still remember the drill. I haven't been away that long."
He didn't seem entirely convinced of that. "Maybe. Was it such a good idea to stay with your ex-partner?"
That sounded as though they had a watch on me, which was not entirely surprising - unless it was Doyle they had under surveillance. "There'd be nothing more guaranteed to make him suspicious than to come back to London and not stay with him."
At least Clifton seemed to appreciate my argument. "OK. You have my number if you need to contact me. We'll use this as a location; just leave a message about the time."
As I drove the familiar route back home through the now bustling streets, I stifled a yawn. A real jaw breaking one followed and I knew I really had to get my head down for a few hours. Whatever Cowley was on, I could do with some of it. Suddenly my flagging concentration was caught by a man standing at the entrance to a narrow alleyway. He was pretending to read a newspaper. How did I know? Done a bit of that myself in my time. He kept looking around him, down to his watch, then back to his paper for a moment before repeating the routine. Clearly waiting for someone to show and getting anxious about it. Nothing strange in that in itself but something was bothering me. I'd driven almost to the end of the street before my fuzzy brain kicked into gear. Finnegan, first name... uh... James! That was it, James Finnegan, known IRA activist. I thought he'd been killed in some action about a month ago but obviously that was duff information. What the hell was he doing here?
I swung the car around in a swift U-turn and headed back up the street just in time to see Finnegan and another man duck down the alley. Clearly his meet had arrived. I brought the car to a halt two doors down and jumped out. At the corner of the alleyway I cautiously risked a glance. About a hundred yards down the alleyway opened out into a tiny courtyard set with tables and chairs. It was one of these glammed up, rip off, chichi little cafes that seem to be springing up in every available space. No way I could get closer without being spotted and although I'd never seen Finnegan except on the wanted posters his companion would certainly know me. Much as I wanted to believe otherwise, there was no mistaking the face I'd only seen a few hours ago in my lounge. It was Bodie.
I pulled back out of sight in case they should glance my way. I felt physically sick and my heart was pounding. Bodie meeting with Finnegan. There was no possible good reason for it. What on earth was he up to? The obvious answer came and I pushed it away. I knew Bodie, knew him probably better than anybody did and he wasn't a terrorist. But I couldn't come up with a rational explanation. He'd said he had people to meet. This sort of people? With a sinking heart I headed back to the car and pulled out my RT. I told the dispatcher to send over Mitchell and Yates, they were new since Bodie's time and wouldn't know him, and therefore he wouldn't know them either. I gave strict instructions that they were just to observe the meeting and where each man went afterwards and then report directly to me.
I waited until they arrived to make sure we didn't miss them if Bodie and Finnegan moved on and repeated my instructions along with dire warnings of what would happen to them if they fouled up, then finally drove back to my flat. I still desperately needed sleep but I was no longer confident of getting it.
Clifton left the alleyway first; I paid the bill and finished my coffee, thinking. They'd given me a nearly impossible job here with very little to go on, other than my previous experience of the team and instinct.
The requisite five minutes passed and I made my way back to the main road, noticing almost without trying the man who picked me up instantly. I grinned; I wasn't sure why MI6 didn't trust me, but I'd lead this one a dance anyway.
Spotting a phone box, I dug out the number Clare had given me. We'd flown back together when she learnt I was returning to London, and it had been good to share the long flight with her - it had stopped me brooding about my task, for starters.
Call made and dinner arranged; it was time to go shopping...
Back home I flung my clothes off and dropped into bed but as I had suspected, my thoughts were too busy to allow me the rest I needed.
Bodie and Finnegan. Bodie and the IRA. Ridiculous! No way! There had to be some other explanation. Something perfectly innocent. Bodie didn't know who Finnegan was, that had to be it. So who does he think he is a little voice in my head whispered. And why didn't you confront him then and there if you think it's so flaming innocent?
I turned on my side and tried to calm my breathing. This was Bodie I was talking about. My partner. My friend. He'd stuck with me through the thick and thin of working for CI5, through all the ups and downs of my so-called idealism. Yes, and argued seven bells out of you for it as well that annoying voice said. He's been out in the world again for years now. Maybe he found a way of life he missed while he was reined in back here.
I sat up, thumped my pillow into more reasonable shape and flopped back down again. This was bloody stupid and getting me nowhere. When Bodie came back I'd ask him about his meeting simple. He'd tell me the truth, I'd confess to what I'd thought and we'd have a good laugh about it. Yeah, right. That was definitely the way to handle it.
I finally fell asleep only to wake a couple of hours later from dreams of Bodie's bearded face grinning wickedly as he lit the fuse on a cartoon bomb saying to me, 'it's the only way, Ray. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'
Groggily I made my way to the shower and then to the kitchen to make coffee in an attempt to clear my head.
When I was back at my desk I ignored the files demanding my attention and put in a call to Immigration. I wanted to know if Bodie had been back in England prior to yesterday. They squawked at the amount of work it would take but I ignored all that. They couldn't refuse a request from CI5 and they didn't need to know that this wasn't entirely official.
I bit the end of my pen and thought about that. Cowley would have my balls for not telling him about the meeting I'd witnessed, but I wasn't ready to share it yet. I was still hoping it could all be explained away.
There was a quick knock at the door and Yates poked his head around. When he saw I was there his face fell but he came on in and stood before the desk.
"Thought you might still be at home," he said, waving a piece of paper in his hand. "Was going to leave you a note."
"Saying what, exactly?"
He looked apprehensive. "I lost him. Sorry."
"Oh terrific! How the hell did that happen?
"He jumped on a bus ..."
"He jumped on a bus." I repeated in disgust. "Oh well, that was completely unpredictable, wasn't it?" Yates flushed. "Go on, get out."
As he reached the door I suddenly thought to ask, "by the way, which one were you following?"
"Finnegan." He threw back the reply before shutting the door none too gently behind him.
Damn. I wanted to know where Finnegan went even more than Bodie. I sat and thought for a minute and then pulled the phone towards me again. I put in a call to MI5 and requested their file on Finnegan. The person I spoke to swore they weren't authorised to give out that information but would get back to me. I had to leave it for the time being but I wasn't going to wait too long. If it came to it, I'd get Susan to order it but I hoped it wouldn't come to that. She'd want an explanation before she interceded and I wouldn't put it past her to inform the old man. Like I said, she was ambitious and going behind his back wouldn't do her much good if he found out.
For the next hour or so I managed to get some proper work done and my mind was only brought back to my other worries when Mitchell phoned in.
"Er, Mr Doyle, that man you told me to follow ..."
I sighed. "Don't tell me, you lost him." Maybe I should just concentrate on organising refresher courses for the whole squad. Still, a part of me was pleased Bodie hadn't lost his touch.
"No, sir. It's just that ... Well, he's in your flat."
Despite myself I had to smile. Mitchell sounded puzzled as well he might.
"Yeah, he's a mate of mine. Never mind that, tell me where he went after I left you."
"A friend. I see." Which he clearly didn't. "Ok, Mr Doyle. Well he didn't do anything of interest. He just went shopping."
"Shopping?" Now I was puzzled.
"Yeah. I've trailed him around more shops than I've ever done with a girlfriend. He's bought a suit, shirts, even shoes. Then he went back to your place. Well I was a bit worried about that but he didn't break in or anything..."
"And he's still there now?"
"Yeah. What do you want me to do?"
I thought furiously for a minute. "Nothing. Don't do anything, just stay there for now. I'll get back to you."
I cut the connection on Mitchell's plea for some relief and dialled my own number. Maybe I should follow my own advice of earlier and try the direct approach.
"S'me. I'm stuck here for a while yet. How was your day?"
"Not bad. I've been shopping for a few essentials. Amazing how fast the places change. I haven't been away that long!"
So far, so true. "Can't turn your back on London, mate. You should know that."
I heard him chuckle.
"So how about these people you said you had to see? Did you do that?"
Was that a moment of hesitation I heard before he said...
"No. Tried a few numbers but they weren't there or were working - suppose I should expect that, being midweek. However, I do have a date for tonight." I knew that would get Doyle going - only back in the country 24 hours and set up with a bird already...
He wasn't surprised. "Well, that hasn't changed, has it? Anyone I know?"
"Oh, I doubt it, mate." I'd already decided against telling him who I was meeting. It would only involve long explanations as to how I'd met up with Clare again and where, and I would inevitably have to lie at some point. "Anyway, I'll be out for dinner, and maybe a club afterwards, so don't wait up."
"Charmin'. I offer you my hospitality and this is how you abuse me." Ray didn't sound all that put out really. "OK, but I'll expect all the gory details in the morning, right?"
"Oh, I have been, mate..." I heard him laugh as Ray put the phone down, and replaced the receiver wishing I hadn't been landed with the job of looking for a CI5 rogue. We'd slipped back so easily into our former relationship; it was hard keeping secrets from him.
I shook the thought away. I had a date to prepare for.
In the bathroom, I regarded myself in the shaving mirror. The beard had grown as a result of laziness mainly; I liked it myself, but Clare had been a bit dubious - she thought it made me look dangerous. I grinned evilly at myself. Mad, bad and dangerous to know.
At times it could be damned itchy though, and I reached for the razor; it was time to lose the face-fungus.
The finished result didn't look too bad; I'd been a bit worried I'd be two-toned but my tan wasn't that heavy. And I had to admit the handsome devil in the mirror was going to knock Clare dead...
A couple of hours later, spruced up in my new togs and doused liberally in some of Doyle's aftershave - it was the one thing I'd forgotten to buy this afternoon - I was ready to leave. Doyle hadn't shown up - not that I really expected him to, we'd never been clock-watchers and it sounded like his new responsibilities were keeping him busy - and in a way I was relieved.
Clare was sharing a flat with a friend until her divorce was finalised, just off the Kings Road. I decided to walk, taking pity on my tail who might not get a taxi as easily as me, although he'd stuck with me fairly doggedly through the shops and on the tube. I'd be getting a taxi with Clare though, so I might lose him then. Of course, it would have been easy for me to lose him at any time if I had really needed to, but I had nothing to hide.
Although he'd obviously been trained well, someone without my training might not have seen him. It occurred to me that he'd been following me for hours without a break, presumably someone else would be taking over soon. I hoped I'd see the change-over; it would be much easier than having to pick out a new face.
I strolled to the rest room, made myself a cup of coffee and, since there wasn't any company to distract me for a while, took it back to my office and the ever present files.
Bodie had lied to me. This time there could be no doubt. He sounded perfectly natural but I couldn't doubt the evidence of my own eyes. So, what was I going to do about it?
The first step was easy. I radioed Mitchell and told him Bodie would be leaving for an appointment soon and that he was to stick with him and let me know the rendezvous point. He made mutterings about food but I ignored that.
I hung up and took my coffee mug to the window where I stared out at the good old dirty London street. Even this secluded building had its fair share of bustling passers by. Each of them wrapped up in their own world, oblivious to anything else going on around them. Did any of them know what it felt like to be betrayed by somebody you thought you could trust with your life?
I should tell Cowley, I thought. I've no more excuses for holding back. But still I didn't move from the window.
The lamppost outside when it lit up as dusk fell brought me back to myself, and I sat back down at the desk. I reluctantly toggled the switch on the intercom and asked Nicole if her boss was still around.
"No, Mr Doyle. He's left early today. Dinner with the minister, you remember?"
Yes I remembered. Or maybe my subconscious had done at any rate.
"Is it urgent, do you want me to call him?"
"No thanks, Nic. It'll keep till morning. Don't want to spoil his appetite."
So there. I had one more evening to decide what to do about this mess. My mind, relieved at some action being taken or rather, some action definitely not being taken, I tried to settle back down to some work.
It took a while but I finally forced my mind to ignore its wild imaginings as to what Bodie might be doing and get some work done. I was successful enough that I actually jumped in surprise when there was a small tap at the door and Peters edged his way into the room.
"Er, Mr Doyle? Can I talk to you for a minute please?"
I gestured to a chair. "Sit down before you fall." His arm was bandaged and in a sling and his colour was pale. Still, if Cowley were to be believed, that was all due to his fear of talking to me. I sighed and prepared to listen to what he had to say.
"I've been thinking," Peters began.
With an effort I stayed quiet.
"If we tracked back on those two I... um... killed yesterday, we could probably pick up who their contact was. They weren't exactly subtle in their movements, you know."
"So where do you think we start?" I asked.
He suddenly seemed more confident. "Well, we have the trace on the phone - we can backtrack on the numbers they called. And I checked the registration on the car - it's not in either of their names, yet it's not been reported stolen, so it might be registered to a contact. Then there's the informant who gave us the initial lead - we could start by leaning on him again."
I gently closed the file on my desk, which detailed the same thought processes he had just run through. I'd checked out the possibilities earlier and had been about to allocate a couple of people to follow it up.
"Ok. That sounds good. Why don't you take ..." I mentally ran over the duty roster. "Lake and Henderson with you. You can brief them on the way. Call in if you have any trouble."
"I will." He headed for the door looking a lot happier than when he came in. Maybe my lectures had made him start using his brain. And, maybe I could also afford to dole out a little of Cowley's attitude too.
"Peters, that was good work. Well done." He flashed me a grin and disappeared.
God, being encouraging was tiring. I decided I had done enough for today. The essentials were cleared and I wanted to get home and be able to think through the Bodie situation without being disturbed.
I picked up the phone and called Mitchell. "Where are you?"
"Outside a restaurant called Oslo Court. Very classy joint in St John's Wood. Your mate is with some high class blonde bird. At least one of us is having a good time. Do you know it's starting to rain?"
Possibly I had put him through enough. "Ok, you're breaking my heart. I'm on my way over with your relief. Just grit your teeth another twenty minutes."
His thanks were in the most friendly tone I'd heard from him today. I cleared my desk and went looking for Yates. I knew he was on duty still and as I suspected, I found him chatting up Nicole. It was a popular pastime with the younger agents and some of the not so young, much as Betty had been a challenge to us only a few years ago.
Nicole had her coat on and was clearly ready to leave for the day. Yates didn't know when to take a hint and was talking about a drink.
"Forget it," I told him. "You, are still on duty and right now, you're with me. Nicole will have to struggle on without you. Don't look too upset, love, you'll encourage him."
Nicole smiled and slipped out the door with a quick, murmured, "see you tomorrow," which could have been directed at either or both of us.
"Where are we going?" Yates asked as we made a dash for my car through the now heavy rain.
"You're going to relieve Mitchell and this time, try not to lose your man." I told him.
"Oh thanks a bunch. In this weather!"
"Cheer up, you won't shrink."
The Oslo Court restaurant was well established with a highly respected reputation in a reasonably quiet square. Double yellow lines abounded, which meant an absence of cars and due to the weather, only a few taxis cruising the wet streets. I pulled up a few doors along and Mitchell splashed over to us. He'd been sheltering in a phone box but as I knew from experience, you can only fake a phone call for so long.
"Good luck, mate," he said as Yates scrambled out of the car, tugging up the collar on his raincoat as he did so.
"Huh!" was the only comment we heard, thrown back over his shoulder as he took up his watch.
"Your friend has got the window table," Mitchell said to me. "He must have flashed some money around to get that. It's secluded and on a good night, has the best view."
I made no comment but my sick feeling came back with a vengeance. Where was Bodie getting this money from and, more to the point, what had he done to earn it?
I did a slow crawl past the restaurant frontage and spotted Bodie and his date sitting at the sole table in the window alcove. I knew the face but couldn't place her. As I set out for Mitchell's home I wracked my brains. If she was an old girlfriend then why hadn't Bodie said? I flipped through my mental card index. Not a girlfriend and I didn't get a sense of her being a criminal. That left a big list of 'people we had known once' and good though my memory was, it could take a while for a name to pop up.
Mitchell muttered a goodnight when I dropped him off and shot indoors as if he were afraid I'd come up with some other little job for him to do. I drove home, letting my mind free associate. Mitchell had been right, the woman was very classy. Just the sort Bodie liked but this one was out of his class or so I'd have thought. Very expensive tastes. Hard to keep up with. Expensive ...expensive ...bloody hell! My mind flashed back over the years; Clare Terringham! We'd, ah ... 'borrowed' her, as camouflage in a job once and Bodie had implied he'd seen her again later but I thought it was just him winding me up as usual. If he was running in that class I was seriously worried.
Back home again I prowled the flat unable to settle. I cracked a can of beer and stared moodily at the contents of my fridge. I'd still not had time to shop and there was nothing to tempt me into eating.
I rang into HQ and asked one of the data operators to run a search for Clare Terringham. Might as well find out what I could about her. I didn't really see her a high-class terrorist doing the odd weekend hi-jacking but stranger things had happened. Patty Hearst and Ulrike Herzl to name but two.
I idly flicked channels on the television but nothing held my interest for long. Soap operas and quiz shows were not my cup of tea. I left BBC1 running some drama programme in the background waiting for the News to start and took a second can of beer from the fridge.
The phone rang. It was Penny with my information on Clare. She rattled off details of her recent divorce and current address and other pertinent facts. As I had suspected there was nothing in her background to suggest Bodie was with her for anything other than the obvious.
As I tried to concentrate on the latest round of war, famine, pestilence and death on the News I kept glancing at my watch. A quarter to ten; how much longer would Bodie be at that restaurant?
As if on cue the phone rang. It was a very agitated Yates chattering into my ear about how Bodie and Clare had jumped in a taxi and vanished before he could find another one and follow. He was clearly expecting another bollocking from me and started stammering out how I'd driven him there and not suggested taking a second car. I groaned, he had a point. Cutting through his wittering I snapped out Clare Terringham's address and told him to grab another taxi and check there.
I waited long anxious minutes for him to call back. If Bodie had spotted the early tail, he could also have spotted this one and deliberately lost it. He could have done that just because he didn't like being followed but it could also be because he had some meeting he didn't want anybody to know about.
When Yates rang back and reported seeing both Clare and Bodie in her flat just before she closed the curtains I was so relieved I told him he could go off duty. This was turning out to be just an ordinary night for Bodie and I couldn't be happier for him.
Which left me with enough time to do something I'd been trying to argue myself out of all evening. Searching Bodie's things.
Clare stirred and propping herself up on one elbow regarded me drowsily. "Can't you sleep?"
I smiled at her. "No. But there's no one I'd rather have insomnia next to."
"Flatterer." She traced one finger along the largest of the scars on my stomach. "Do you want to talk?"
Catching her hand none too gently I pressed it flat to immobilise it. Clare had tried earlier to get me talking about the shooting - it would do me good, she said. "Not about that."
Accepting defeat with a smile, she snuggled down beside me again. "Well, I'm going back to sleep..."
And within a few seconds she was. Clare had only been out in Singapore for a week or so; not long enough for her body clock to need readjusting. It was going to take a few more days for me yet.
I didn't need Clare to psychoanalyse me. Any resentment I felt at having to leave CI5 was directed at myself, not the organisation; not even the man who'd pulled the trigger.
I could still hear the sound of those bullets. The ones which missed, whining away around me. The ones that hit. It had been the sounds which told me I'd been hit, at least at first.
I knew Doyle was coming; knew he would be there within minutes and that all I had to do was hang on. I could manage that.
He hadn't let me down. I could remember certain bits with startling clarity: Doyle shouting at Murphy, for instance; being shoved into the rear of a car by the pair of them. Doyle, screaming that I 'wasn't to fuckin' die' before he reached the hospital. If I'd had the breath I'd have told him I didn't intend to, but that was beyond me.
No, I didn't need to talk about it, I was over the shooting; at least as much as I was ever likely to put it behind me.
I turned onto my side, trying not to disturb Clare. Sleeplessness wasn't a problem, I had plenty to think about; in fact, it had been the sort of evening to make me think. Clare had suggested the restaurant which served extremely good food and was suitably expensive; she'd obviously taken me at my word when I said money wasn't a problem. However, when I suggested going onto a club she wasn't keen. It had taken a while to get her to admit why, and that had taken me aback.
I suppose I'd been ignoring the march of time but to suggest I was too old to hack it in a club was an insult; I was as fit now as I had been ten years ago. I grinned; once we'd got back here I'd proved it to Clare...
The other thing on my mind was far more important. Now I'd had longer to think about it, the fact that I was still being followed - my tail had been replaced by another man, who was probably still outside - was making even less sense. Unless I had been right to be suspicious of MI6 earlier, and they were trying to set up the whole department for a fall and thought I might be a good way of doing it?
It was beginning to sound like one of Cowley's triple-think plans, and I'd always relied on Doyle to understand them and just point me in the right direction. It occurred to me that I couldn't be certain that this wasn't one of Cowley's plans. It would be just like him to set up his own department to catch someone out; Doyle could be working with him...
This was no good. It wasn't the first time I'd had to work alone undercover, but at least usually I knew who the good guys and bad guys were. As things stood, I wasn't sure if I was coming or going.
I came to a decision. I would leave early in the morning, in time to catch Doyle before he left for HQ, and we'd have this out. Whatever was going on, he couldn't be involved in this - but the only sure way to establish that was to tackle him with it. I'd know immediately if Doyle were lying to me.
Although what I would do about it if he were wasn't something I was about to consider, just yet...
I went into my guest bedroom and glanced around. Apart from a pair of casual shoes by the window and a book on the bedside cabinet, it was as neat and tidy as it was in its unoccupied state.
I picked up the book and read the title. The latest paperback best seller by Frederick Forsythe. Bodie had probably picked it up at the airport to keep him amused on the flight and kept it by him for reading at night when his body clock wouldn't let him sleep. The corner of one page had been turned down to mark his place and I idly flicked through the book. My eye was caught by some pencil markings in the margin crap, one comment read and, never happen in a million years, another. I chuckled, I'd often had those thoughts too when reading detective novels. I don't mind the gifted amateur stories, you don't have to take those too seriously, it's the ones that balls up police procedures that make me throw the books across the room in disgust.
This was just prevarication. Was I going to go through my best friend's luggage on the off chance of finding anything to incriminate him or not?
I searched the clothes hanging in the wardrobe and checked the bedside cabinet. I turned the knapsack inside out and then I did a thorough search of the rest of the room in case he had hidden anything under the rug or the bed or anywhere else. I found nothing. Short of ripping the carpet up and taking the furniture apart there was nothing here to find. Naturally I was pleased but my mind wasn't entirely set at rest. Bodie would've had to forgotten all he ever knew to leave any evidence where it could be found so easily. I just thought he might have relaxed a bit here.
I went back to the kitchen and took the last can of beer from the fridge. I was really going to have to make time to go shopping tomorrow. I flopped down on the sofa and focused on the television I'd left running. One of the numerous Carry On films had just started. That would do to keep me company until Bodie got back. The only thing I could think to do now was to have it out with him. There simply had to be a better explanation than the obvious and I was going to make him tell me what it was.
I vaguely remember Sid James' raucous laughter and Barbara Windsor's answering giggle a couple of times before my eyes closed and I only woke several hours later when I heard Bodie's key in the lock.
"Blimey, you look rough? What's wrong with your bed?" was his opening comment.
I stared at him, bleary eyed. "What time is it?"
"7.30. You been there all night?"
"Yeah. Shove the kettle on, will you? I've got to wake up," I croaked at him and staggered to the bathroom. Bodie, of course, was looking freshly shaved and immaculately dressed in his new finery. Hang on a sec ... I stuck my head back out the bathroom door. "Didn't you have a beard yesterday?"
I heard his chuckle from the kitchen. "Change is the spice of life, Doyle. You should try it sometime."
I ducked back into the bathroom and hastily took a leak, splashed cold water on my face and cleaned my teeth. Feeling a little more awake I went back into the living room massaging a crick in my neck as I did so. I was definitely getting too old for sleeping in awkward places.
I gratefully took the cup of tea Bodie handed me and wondered how to start my questioning. Might as well just come out with it.
"Bodie, look, I wanted to ask ..."
"Ray, I need to ...."
We both started our sentences together, stopped, grinned and made after you, no after you type gestures.
"Bodie," I started again. "Yesterday I saw ..." I cursed as the phone rang. I snatched up the receiver. "Yeah?"
There was a slight pause and then a man's voice said; "May I speak to Mr Bodie, please?"
I hesitated. "Who's calling?" I saw Bodie's head come up and his eyes narrowed.
"Just a friend, er .... Tell him it is John."
I held the phone out to Bodie. "For you. Who the hell have you been giving this number out to?"
He grabbed the receiver from me. "Just a bit of business. Nothing to worry about."
He clearly wanted me to leave the room and give him some privacy, turning away and muttering into the receiver, but I planned to stay right where I was. The voice on the phone had a faint Irish lilt to it. The man was trying to suppress it but it was there nevertheless.
Just then my other phone rang. The one in the bedroom, the red one, the one I'm not supposed to ignore on pain of death or Cowley. I swore and dived through to pick it up.
"Doyle. This had better be good."
"Mr Doyle, it's Nicole. Mr Cowley needs you to come in to the office right away."
"Ok, Nic. I'll be there as soon as I can. I have something I need to do first." I strained my ears to try and overhear any of the conversation in the other room.
"Um ... He's pretty wound up about something. That's why I'm here so early. I need to tell him you're on your way."
"Nicole. I'm in the middle of something important. I'll be there ..." I heard the sound of the other phone being put down. "Got to go, bye."
I shot back into the other room in time to see Bodie disappear into his room.
His muffled voice came back to me. "Getting changed. Be out in a minute."
I paced and fumed until he emerged, wanting to get this over with. But when he did come out he headed straight for the door.
"Bodie? What's going on?"
"Sorry Doyle, gotta run. I'll drop by the office later if I can. Maybe we can have lunch."
"Bodie, wait up!" I grabbed his arm and he stared at me in astonishment but before either of us could say anything more, the phone rang again and I answered it on reflex.
"Doyle, the fact that you are answering your phone proves you are not on your way in as you should be." I groaned, Cowley.
"Sir, I am in the middle of ...Bodie!" Damn the man. With a wave and a whispered, "see you later," he was gone.
"Doyle. I am still waiting. Your presence is required in this office in fifteen minutes and I will accept no excuses."
I sighed heavily but with Bodie gone I had nothing keeping me here.
"On my way, sir."
No matter that I'd run half the way, Clifton was already waiting for me near the cafe. He hadn't wanted to say much on the phone but it must be important to risk contacting me.
Cowley's phone call had been extremely timely in diverting Doyle and letting me get away; it was only after I'd left the flat that I began to wonder if the two emergencies were connected.
"What's the crisis?"
It was far too early for the cafe to be open and I fell into step as Clifton started walking. "A file has turned up in the Middle East," he ground out. "A file detailing MI6 plans against terrorism, containing names and addresses, which was last in the possession of CI5. Your precious Mr Cowley demanded to see it."
I suppressed my initial outraged reaction. "And it has to be CI5 that leaked it? What about a leak from your side?"
"Impossible. Our file is still under lock and key - anyway, it was the version we'd sent CI5..."
Which meant the file Cowley had been given was different, probably incomplete. I didn't comment on that; I was quite sure that Cowley never sent full copies of any of CI5's stuff to MI6 either - we'd never been one big happy family sharing everything. But it did make it fairly indisputable that the leak was at CI5's end.
"What have you turned up?"
"Nothing yet; I've only been back a couple of days after all. I couldn't just barge into Headquarters and start questioning people, that'd make them suspicious. And if they get suspicious then they'll clam up."
"You'd better get your finger out. Much longer and there won't be anyone to get suspicious."
Clifton took off, looking sour. We'd walked quite a way and I decided to get myself some breakfast - I'd only grabbed a coffee before I left Clare's, and had less than half that mug of tea at Doyle's before the phone call had interrupted us.
I remembered there used to be an excellent small cafe catering for workmen near the coach station and was delighted to find it was still in business. Taking a seat by the window I ordered a full fry-up - always easier to think on a full stomach - and let my mind wander while watching office workers hurrying to their jobs.
Another debacle blowing up in the same hour wasn't impossible, but it was now looking extremely likely that Cowley's call was related to the missing file; I'd caught some of the Cow's tone when Doyle answered the phone and it hadn't sounded good.
I made inroads into eggs and bacon trying to sort out my confused thoughts. One thing was clear: CI5 had a leak. What I didn't know was whether Cowley was oblivious to it - or at least, had been, if that was what the disaster was; presumably by now he knew.
On the other hand, if he had known and this was one of his plans to set someone up then something had gone drastically wrong; this file Clifton was talking about was too significant to have been sacrificed. Someone had messed up and Cowley would have their head on a plate. It was hard to imagine that being Doyle unless he hadn't been given the full story. Even then, Cowley always backed his men.
It didn't leave me any closer to knowing who the leak was. I still couldn't believe it was Doyle - although I needed to have it out with him; something was behind his recent extravagance. Cowley was beyond suspicion - almost.
I glanced at my watch; it was just coming up to nine. I'd had every intention of going into Headquarters this morning to catch up with whoever might be around, and I couldn't see any reason to change that plan. In fact, it would be a good time to do it, if the missing file was of such earth-shattering importance it was bound to have caused some ripples which I might be able to take advantage of.
When I arrived at HQ I went straight to the Cow's office. When he speaks in that tone of voice, you don't waste time getting coffee first.
He was on the phone and didn't acknowledge my entrance. His voice was highly agitated and he was turning over the pages of a file on his desk as he spoke.
I leant against one of the filing cabinets and watched him with increasing concern. Whatever this was about it was serious, I couldn't remember seeing him in such a muck sweat.
"Ah Doyle, there you are." Cowley hung up the phone and turned his attention to me. "What the hell have you done with that MI6 file?"
I stared at him. "Is that what this is about? It's in my desk along with all the others you've been throwing at me lately."
"No, it isn't. It's missing," he said flatly. He ran his hand over his head and sighed. "I was hoping you had taken it home or put it somewhere else for safe keeping."
"My desk drawer should have been safe enough. Are you sure it isn't there? I'll go and look, it's probably got mixed in with something else." I turned to leave but his voice stopped me.
"It's not there, Doyle. I've had Nicole turning the place upside down this morning. When did you last see it?"
I sank into a chair, the implications just starting to hit me. If that file really was missing there was no telling where it might have gone, where it might end up or... who might have taken it.
"Um... I definitely saw it yesterday first thing. You didn't say it was urgent so I only glanced at it at the time. I was intending to get on with it but ..." My voice trailed away not wanting to mention my preoccupation with whatever Bodie was up to. I'd decided I'd talk to him first and that was what I was going to do.
Cowley didn't seem to notice my evasion, another sign he was definitely rattled.
"Well it seems to have been spirited away by somebody. It's no longer within this building."
Unwilling to believe what I was hearing I tried to think of an alternative. "Have you really looked everywhere? I'll check the files again and Nicole can..."
Cowley waved me back down again. "Nicole and I have been through every file in every cabinet in every office. We've also checked everybody's lockers. The file is gone and I have to account for it to the minister. You are coming with me."
I was reeling from one blow after another. Ok, it seemed like the file was genuinely gone and I had to admit, I was now worried too. I didn't like the idea of Cowley searching our lockers but for now I had to let that ride.
"Me, coming with you to see the minister, why?"
"Doyle, you were the last person to see it. The minister will want to question you himself on something this critical." He seemed to notice my appearance for the first time that morning. "Och man, could you not have taken the trouble to dress with more care? You knew it was important. It seems no sooner does Bodie come back than you slip into your old ways."
This was just too much. "Now just a minute, this has nothing to do with Bodie..." Not entirely true of course but certainly not in the way he thought.
Cowley wasn't listening. He opened the cabinet where he kept his spare shirts and so forth and selecting a tie, threw it to me then reached for his coat. "Come along, Doyle. We can't afford to keep the minister waiting. Not today."
He barely allowed me time to grab my razor from my office before he practically frogmarched me to the car park.
I'd intended to walk but spotted a Number 11 at the bus stop and remembering it went right past the door, I was in a very short space of time persuading Josh that my security clearance hadn't expired in the last couple of days and it would be safe to let me up to the VIP Lounge.
My entrance was well-timed; there was quite a crowd in the Lounge and I was relieved to see I recognised at least some of the occupants. The welcome was warm.
"You old sod, where have you been hiding yourself?"
Over a coffee I chatted and answered questions fired at me, amused to see that several of the unidentified youngsters were hanging on my every word. It was nice to be a legend.
Even without knowing most of the assembled agents, try as I might I couldn't pick up any signs of a problem; the atmosphere was relaxed - as much as CI5 ever relaxed - and even those with assignments took their time leaving, but eventually I was left with just Lake, Anson and Murphy.
Murphy hadn't changed much, he was smartly turned out as befitted his status; Doyle had told me he was now running the operations at Hammersmith. "So, when did you get back?"
"Couple of days ago. I'm staying with Doyle."
"He never said." Anson was vigorously chewing gum rather than smoking; that was a change for the better.
"He doesn't talk to us minions any more." Lake said it jokingly, but I caught a fleeting, resigned glance between Murphy and Anson, as though it were a familiar gripe.
"He's been so busy he's hardly had time to talk to me."
"I haven't seen anything of Doyle last couple of days, anyway," Murphy added. "This is the first time I've been into HQ this week; you were lucky to catch me. I'm too busy going to meetings for Cowley. The Old Man's trying to spread us too thinly these days."
"Where is Cowley, anyway? He's normally chasing you all up."
Whatever had happened, so far only Doyle knew about it; Murphy was too casual in his reply. "That's what I'd like to know. We're supposed to have had a meeting first thing; I arrive and he doesn't. Nicole said he'd had a summons from the Minister and gone rushing off with Ray. Christ knows when they'll be back."
Someone's head appeared around the door: one of the youngsters from earlier, Peters I think his name was. "Lake, we're heading out."
"Duty calls." Taking his time, Lake followed.
Anson meanwhile had consulted his watch before reaching for the stick by his chair. "I'm on Control Room duty again. Better go and see if there's anything important I need to know."
I got up to put the kettle on for a refill as the door closed behind them. "Another one?" I asked Murphy.
"No, I'm not going to wait any longer. I've got more than enough paperwork I could be dealing with; Cowley can shift himself out to Hammersmith and see me instead."
Left alone, I made my coffee and mused. None of them seemed to know about the missing file and I hadn't made much progress in questioning them because whatever I could have asked would have raised suspicions.
Maybe Nicole would give me some more information if I could get her talking. I rinsed the mug and headed along to her office.
I slid behind the wheel of the Rover and glanced at Cowley. "Back to HQ then?"
He nodded and I put the car in gear and pulled out into the busy traffic. We were both quiet for a while, lost in our own thoughts. The minister had been as remote and authoritative as I'd ever seen him. None of the old pals act with his friend George, it was Mr Cowley this and Mr Cowley that all the way through our interview. You'd never have thought that Cowley had been having dinner with the man only a few hours ago. I was shocked to learn that this was not the first file to go missing in the last few months and moreover that they were so sure they could pin this one on us.
Ok, so maybe I am a bit slow sometimes but it took a while to catch on to the fact that the minister was insinuating that I'd had something to do with it. His questions were very pointed and while I tried to stay calm at first, something else I've had to learn to do in recent months, when his real intent penetrated I was furious and started to broaden his knowledge of ancient Anglo Saxon. Cowley of course leapt in to shut me up and to be fair, he argued strenuously back at the minister defending the whole department but his argument was weak since the file had definitely turned up abroad in the wrong hands and if the information was to be believed, it was the doctored file given to us by MI6.
Basically we were sent out of there with one clear instruction; find the leak and plug it!
We were only a couple of streets away from HQ, halted at some traffic lights, when I finally broke the silence.
"Sir, you don't really think one of us is responsible, do you?"
Cowley was silent for a long moment, then, "What else am I to think, Doyle? The evidence is too damning.
"But nobody would ..." My voice tailed away. I couldn't deny somebody obviously had. Cowley continued in that deceptively quiet voice of his.
"Whoever it was had access to files at the highest level of our security. Also the knowledge to know which ones would fetch the highest price. This last one now, nobody else had seen that one except you and I. Not even Murphy yet."
I stared at him. "Just what the hell are you saying?"
"What did you do with the file, Doyle?"
The sudden honking of the horn from the car behind brought me back to myself and I flung the car forward impatiently. Cutting up and weaving in and out of the traffic in a frankly, reckless manner which provoked several more blasts from horns, I screeched into the car park at HQ and jerked on the handbrake.
"If you don't trust me after all these years then you can have my fucking resignation. It'll be on your desk in ten minutes, Cowley!" I slammed the door behind me hard enough to violently rock the car and was halfway across the car park before I heard his voice behind me. "Doyle, 4.5 wait up now!"
I ignored him and swept through the lobby ignoring Josh too and took the stairs three at a time, too flaming angry to think about taking anything as staid as the lift.
At the top of the stairs I sidestepped Anson who waved a bunch of papers at me. "Doyle, good. I need your signature on these."
"See Cowley, I don't work here any more!"
"Wha... Hey Doyle, wait up! What are you talking about?"
I mooched around Doyle's office thoughtfully. After some general chinwag to get her chatting I had posed a few questions to Nicole about the agents old and new, but didn't learn much I hadn't already worked out for myself.
However when I'd asked about the emergency call-out Nicole had been polite but surprisingly unhelpful; even when I practically lied, said I knew about the file and hinted that Doyle had told me, the need for confidentiality seemed paramount and she simply smiled blankly as though she hadn't a clue what I meant.
There wasn't much else to do but wait. Doyle should be back soon. In the meantime I could take advantage of his absence to poke around his office. The filing cabinet as I expected was locked but there were some loose files on the desk.
I flung open the door to my office so hard the door bounced back against the wall. Bloody Cowley! How dare he accuse me, me, of selling out! I had had just about enough of this outfit, I decided.
Bodie jumped up, taken by surprise at my entrance. He loosened his hold on the file he had been reading and the papers scattered on the floor.
"Bodie! Bodie? Just what the hell do you think you are doing?" I strode over to the desk as I spoke and glared at my ex-partner.
"Doyle!" He took a step backwards. "I was just waiting for you."
"Oh, and you thought you'd read some confidential papers while you waited. What's the matter, mate? The Sun not good enough for you anymore?"
"Jesus, Doyle. What are you so wound up about, it was only a flaming duty roster!"
"Yeah, and that was only because everything else was locked away. What would you have read next if I hadn't come in, huh?" I slapped the file out of his hand as I spoke.
"What are you on about ...?"
I jabbed my finger in his chest. "Just what has your buddy Finnegan got you looking for, Bodie?"
If I hadn't been so angry, I might have seen the puzzlement in his eyes but all I noticed was his building annoyance.
"Who the hell is Finnegan and what the fuck are you on about, Doyle?"
"Don't play the innocent with me, Bodie, I saw you! I saw you at that cafe with your IRA chum." I felt a sickness welling up in me. "Oh Bodie, I wouldn't have believed it if anybody else had told me. What made you do it?"
I'd seen the realisation on his face that he couldn't fake me out any longer but he wasn't defensive. The anger was retaliatory.
"What about you then, Doyle? Don't act so bloody holier than thou. Maybe you should be the one explaining where all your money's been coming from."
That pulled me up short. "What on earth are you on about?"
"Oh come on. That flat, the car, your clothes. You didn't get all that on CI5 salary..."
I think he saw something in my eyes then because he took two quick steps behind the desk to put some distance between us. In a part of my mind I didn't blame him. I was having one hell of a shitty day and to have yet another person accuse me of... well, god knows what... was more than I could stand.
"You bastard!" I moved swiftly round the desk to confront him again. I reached out to shove him and my momentum carried us the few feet to the wall. Bodie hit it with some force and he was quick to push me away.
"Other people have been asking questions, Doyle," he snarled. "You and CI5 have got some answering to do."
I lunged for him then, grabbing the fabric of his shirt and pushing him back against the wall. "Just what the fuck is going on here, Bodie? How can you accuse anyone, after what you've been doing?"
I was dimly aware of the adjoining door opening and Nicole looking white and scared but I only broke eye contact with Bodie when he shoved me backwards again and I felt my back hit the chair and I slid to the floor. Nicole ran back into her office and I hooked my feet behind Bodie's legs to bring him crashing to the floor beside me.
Before he could recover his breath I pinned his shoulders to the floor and for good measure stuck my knee in his stomach.
Panting I said to him, "Right sunshine, how's about you doing some explaining?"
"Well, well, well. This does look like fun, boys." I looked up at Ruth who was standing over us with her most haughty expression on her face. "I suppose you do have a good reason for terrifying poor Nicole?"
I stared at her blankly for a long moment unable to completely bank down the red mist that had been driving me. Then I felt a slap on the arm.
"Get the fuck off me, Doyle." I looked down at Bodie, almost surprised to see him there. His words were harsh but his tone was mild and I saw a spasm of pain cross his face. Alarmed now, I rolled off him and held out a hand to pull him to his feet. That he accepted it so readily said as much as the fact that his other hand rubbed at his stomach.
"Good. Now do you think you two can play nicely if I leave you alone again?" Ruth was still at her cutting best and didn't wait for our replies but turned a shapely heel and marched out the door shepherding the silent Nicole before her.
Left alone again, Bodie and I shifted from side to side not quite meeting each other's eyes. I noticed Bodie still rubbing absently at his stomach. "You ok?"
He nodded firmly and dropped his hand. "Take more than your weight to flatten me." He reached to pick up the chair and I bent to collect the papers and slip them back into the folder, which I then laid neatly on the desk. It was as if nothing had happened.
"So where do we go from here?" he asked, looking at me properly for the first time.
"Down the pub. I'm sick of the sight of this place. C'mon." I turned and marched out the door confident he would follow.
I collected a couple of pints and took them to the table Doyle had chosen. He gestured to my glass. "Should you be drinking that?"
"Don't fuss. One's okay. Anyway, you're the one who gave me gut-ache..."
"Forget it. We have more important things to talk about." I sipped the pint; even if I shouldn't have been drinking it, I needed it. "I'd guess that you're in such a ruck because there's an important file gone missing and you're being held responsible?"
"What? How the hell -?" I saw his suspicions flare up again and hastened to explain.
"Just listen, OK? You remember Sir John Terringham, the guy who was at the Foreign Office when we sorted out Rahad?"
"Of course I remember him. I've been trying to work out why you're knocking around with his daughter again."
"How did you know that?" I grinned as the answer became obvious. "You haven't been having me followed?"
"Well, yes..." Doyle half-grinned himself, defensively. "You arrive back in the country without warning and then I see you with Finnegan, a known IRA suspect. Of course I'm going to have you followed. What's going on?"
"He's not Finnegan - at least, that's not what I know him as. Look, let me tell you this from the beginning, eh? Sir John is based out in Singapore now, and I bumped into Clare when she was visiting him. He approached me on behalf of MI6 to look into this leak that they're convinced CI5 have. They thought I'd be ideal because I had to be clean because of when I left and could get in without suspicion."
"Sneaky bastards." He frowned. "Why d'you agree to do it? "
"Because you're all under suspicion, mate. The whole damned department, including Cowley. Sir John said that CI5 could be disbanded. I might not be part of the team any longer but I wasn't going to let that happen."
Doyle nodded thoughtfully. "Did you suspect me?"
"Of course I knew it couldn't be you. But then I get here, and find that with no obvious increase in your income you're spending like there's no tomorrow. So I wait for you to tell me you won the Pools or something, but you don't. You've got to admit it looks suspicious, Ray."
He frowned. "You could have asked me."
"Maybe I didn't because I wouldn't have had to, before. You'd have told me anyway."
He nodded, but came back on the attack. "Well, you haven't exactly been honest with me either. Sneaking around and meeting suspects."
"He's no suspect; the man you know as Finnegan I know as Clifton - he's my MI6 contact."
Doyle shrugged and shook his head. "Don't ask me. Maybe he's got a double or something. I've got a check out on him; that should confirm things one way or another."
"Anyway, I was going to tackle you this morning, but the phone call from Clifton got in the way."
Doyle grinned widely. "Even after all this time, we're still doing things like that simultaneously. I was about to tackle you this morning as well."
"Wish I'd arrived back earlier then. We could have avoided all that rolling about on the floor of your office." Unconsciously I rubbed at my stomach again. "So you thought I'd sold out to the IRA and was back to see what information I could grab?"
"I don't really know what I was thinking," Doyle sighed. "I had Cowley and the minister on my back this morning practically accusing me of selling out, and I arrived back in my office to see you looking through confidential files. I leapt to the obvious conclusion, even though you couldn't possibly have managed to take that file."
"So if it couldn't possibly be me, and it's not you, who was it?" I drained the last of my pint: damn, that had gone down far too quickly, and I would be asking for trouble to have a second. I left Doyle thinking that one over and went for refills, ordering myself an orange juice. At least I could pretend there was a vodka in it. Doyle cast a glance over the glasses as I returned, but managed not to ask whether there was any alcohol in mine.
"Well, Sherlock? Who's the guilty party?"
The old nickname raised half a smile but it was troubled. "That's the problem, isn't it? The file was locked in my desk. Only Cowley and Ruth have keys, apart from mine."
"And it can't be either of them?"
"No. They have to be above suspicion, both of them. If you can be so sure it's not me, Bodie, then I can be sure about them."
Try as I might, I couldn't hear complete conviction in his voice. I nodded, but not in agreement. "Then let's go and talk to Cowley."
"When I've finished this." Doyle was clearly in no hurry, although he glanced at his watch, suddenly grinning. "I was coming back to my office to write my resignation letter; I'd told Cowley he'd have it in ten minutes - he must be wondering where I've got to..."
Nicole appeared like a jack-in-the-box as we stepped out of the lift. "Mr Doyle, Mr Cowley's looking for you..."
"I bet he is. We don't want any interruptions." Doyle waved her to one side, striding purposefully towards Cowley's office. Cowley might get Doyle's resignation yet.
"4.5." Cowley's greeting was terse as Doyle appeared around his door but I was close enough behind to see the puzzled relief on his face at Doyle's empty hands. I just got the puzzlement. "Bodie? What are you doing here?"
Doyle shut the door firmly behind us. "Right, let's get one thing clear. I am not responsible for that missing file. If you don't believe me, I'll go and write my resignation now."
Both of us saw Cowley visibly relax. "Och, laddie, I'm not accusing you. The evidence might be damning but I know who I can trust."
"Question is, can we trust you?" I saw Cowley swiftly re-evaluating my presence in his office as being more than just support for my former partner.
"And just what's that supposed to mean?" He might look older and greyer, but Cowley's voice had lost none of its sting. "You're no longer part of this organisation, Bodie, and you have the audacity to march in here and start accusing me?"
"I'm afraid I am." Out of the corner of my eye I was conscious of Doyle watching him intently. For all his confidence in Cowley, there had to be some niggling doubts. "It's not a coincidence that I'm back; I've been recruited by MI6 to investigate this leak in CI5."
"You're investigating us?" For a moment I thought Cowley was going to choke at the thought of his former agent working for MI6, against him. Suddenly he laughed. "And the pair of you have decided that since Doyle can't be responsible, I must be?"
"The file went from my desk." Doyle's tone wasn't quite accusing. "There are only three sets of keys."
"And it can't, of course, be Ruth. You'd know that, given your former relationship." Cowley succeeded in stinging Doyle into an honest, if sharp reply.
"Of course it's not Ruth!"
"No, of course it isn't." Cowley glanced at me. "For heaven's sake, Doyle, it's not impossible someone has copied those keys. So shall we agree that it isn't me either, and we'll work on finding out who it is?"
I could see that was all Doyle needed to hear and was convinced myself, not that I had really believed it of Cowley anyway. I grinned at Doyle. "Be just like old times, sunshine."
"I sincerely hope not, Bodie." Cowley would have me back to help them solve this, but he was still in charge. "What about your 'association' with MI6?"
"Well, I don't have to tell them anything. As far as they're concerned, I can still be sniffing around. We can sort this without them getting involved."
"Damn right we can." Cowley waved Doyle in the direction of the filing cabinet. "Get us a drink."
I declined with a shake of my head before Doyle asked me; not drinking could be a bloody nuisance.
Cowley accepted the tumbler but sat staring at it rather than drinking. "I never thought we'd be in this situation. Our security should be better than this..."
"Who might have a chance to copy the keys?"
"No one should have that chance," Doyle frowned as he answered me.
"Probably too many people," Cowley contradicted him. "If I ask Nicole to fetch files from your office or Ruth's when you're not there she uses my keys. You do the same, as does Ruth. If you leave your office for a few minutes, do you lock all the cabinets and take the keys?"
Doyle shook his head, as the possibilities were pointed out. "No. But it would make it impossible for things to function if we did..."
"Exactly. And someone has taken advantage of the fact that we should be secure enough in our own building."
Doyle frowned as the intercom buzzed and Nicole squeaked nervously over the connection. "I know Mr Doyle told me not to interrupt, but the minister is on the line..."
"Put him through." Cowley lifted the phone rather than putting it onto the squawk-box. "Minister, have you managed to get the information I need?"
He listened for only a few moments before cutting across whatever was being said. "That's not acceptable to me. No one else -" I got a slightly sour look "- is going to investigate this department; we clean our own doorstep. No, you find me the details I asked you for. We'll take it from there."
He put the phone down without waiting for any acknowledgment. "I've requested all details of exactly what has gone missing in the past and when. If we are to trace a mole we have to know who could have had the opportunity of taking the files."
"It might narrow things down a bit." And it might take too long: I didn't think we could afford to hang about on this. "Who can we rule out? It sounds as though Nicole has had access to all the keys at one time or another. Is there any chance it could be her?"
"If Betty were still here there'd be no need to ask that question," Cowley replied. "But Nicole has only been with us a few months..."
Doyle was uncertain. "We poached her from the Home Secretary's offices. She'd have been thoroughly checked out when she first applied for a job; we did the usual basic follow-up. I don't think it can be her, but..."
"We don't really know her well enough; we have to recheck. Background and any new acquaintances. Doyle, you take care of it." Cowley stared into his drink again. "There is one other person who has regular access to the keys, whose presence in our offices would not be questioned."
"Murphy," Doyle said flatly.
There was a pause while we all considered that. It was plain none of us liked the idea, and I was first to break the silence. "It can't be."
"I'll talk to Murphy," Cowley said. "But in a roundabout way because for the moment, I want this kept between us three; no one else is to know about the leak - even Ruth," he added quickly before Doyle could object. "We don't want to scare off whoever it is by letting knowledge of the investigation out, and you know how easily these things spread."
Reluctantly, Doyle nodded as Cowley stood up. "No time like the present; I have to go and meet with Murphy anyway. Get Nicole's file from Personnel yourself."
I headed up there with Ray and we waited without chatting while it was retrieved.
Doyle flapped the file thoughtfully in his hand. "I don't think we should study this in the building - back to the pub?"
Settled into our corner once more, we scoured Nicole's career history and background. Turning the last page, Doyle shrugged. "I can't see anything suspicious in here; all the usual checks on parents and contacts came up clear. Susan recommended her when Betty's departure became obvious. I suppose it could be something since she started with us."
"Which will make it harder to trace. I know what Cowley said about keeping this quiet, but is it worth tackling her directly? After all, she knows the file was missing since Cowley had her looking for it, even if she didn't know how important it was or where it's ended up."
"Probably. I'll do it when I get back."
"I wonder how Cowley will tackle Murphy? Surely it's impossible to not tell him what's happening. I mean, it's not as if any of us can believe it's him, anyway..." Doyle's expression gave me pause. "What don't I know about Murphy that makes him a suspect?"
"If I tell you, it goes no further. There's only me and the Cow who knows the problems he's having." He received my nod, and continued. "He got married. Our steady, level-headed Murphy had a whirlwind romance and tied the knot in less than a month, and promptly proved the adage true: 'Marry in haste, repent at leisure'. Within three months there was a child on the way and she's turned into the wife from hell. So a year later, he's divorced but still paying for it. She squeezes him for every penny she can get, and he won't fight it - says he has to support her and the child. I don't even reckon the child is his, but he dotes on her."
Having got that information out of him, I remembered that although he claimed to have a good reason for his extra income, Doyle hadn't told me what it was.
Bodie swallowed the dregs in his glass and glanced at me. "Your turn." I nodded and stood to go to the bar but he shook his head. "Your turn to confess, sunshine. Where did the money come from?"
Ah. I sat back down and wondered where to begin. Not that I had anything to hide and not that Bodie didn't have a right to know, but I hadn't told anybody. I had to take a moment to put my thoughts in order.
"It was about a year or so ago. I got a letter, from a firm of solicitors. I was asked to contact them, prove my identity, that kind of thing. They said they had something for me."
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "Legacy from a long lost auntie?"
I shook my head, he knew I had no rich relatives, lost or otherwise. "It was Andy. My mate Andy." I sat there staring absently into space for a moment. "We met on our first day at Hendon. Went through training together. Even got posted to the same nick to start with." I fell silent again remembering those days. God, were we ever green.
I glanced up. Bodie was watching me with sympathy in his eyes. He thought he could tell how this story ended. He'd certainly seen enough friends die.
"Andy always argued with me about my ambition, especially when I joined up with this mob. We nearly fell out over that. He said I was selling out. That I was a good copper and I could do more good by staying in the force ... staying a 'real' policeman. Like he did." I glared at Bodie. "And he was good, you know, Andy. Bloody good. Didn't make waves like I did. He'd just been made Detective Inspector when he got the news."
I took a deep breath. "Cancer. Pancreatic. Gone too far to treat." I grabbed my glass and swallowed the last inch or so of liquid then slammed it back onto the table. "He was my best mate once and I didn't know! Because of this stupid job I never had time to stay in touch. I never... made the time."
"Happens." Bodie's tone was heartless, his expression wasn't. He got up and went to the bar. Came back with a double whisky. Despite myself, I smiled.
"So, it was Andy who left you untold riches then?"
"Have some sense Bodie. I was his friend, not family. He had a wife and two kids. They got his money."
"What then? What was it he left you, at the solicitors?"
I shrugged. "Some souvenirs mainly. Mementoes, you know the sort of thing. And a letter." A long letter. I was touched he'd taken the trouble to write so much when he was so ill. It rambled somewhat. Reminiscences of things we done in our early days, of discussions we'd had when we thought we could conquer the world the criminal one at any rate. We were going to be the best, the brightest, the most ... We had bets on who would be the first to get promotion and how quickly. He'd reminded me of the nights of celebration after a good arrest.
Bodie sat quietly waiting for me to continue. "He wrote me a letter. Told me not to let life pass me by. Not to get so caught up in beating the bad guys that I forgot to have a little fun too."
I took another swig of the whisky. "There's me risking death every day, what with mad bombers and terrorists and gun runners and the rest and there's Andy who had every chance of making it to a happy retirement getting struck down at no age at all."
I raised my glass. "To Andy."
Bodie clinked his glass with mine. "To friendship."
I grinned at him, pushing the bad feelings back where they belonged. "So, I decided Andy was right. It was about time I had a little fun since I could die tomorrow with nothing to show for it. So... I spent my savings."
Bodie stared at me. "You did what?"
"Blew the lot." I said cheerfully. "Well, almost."
"What savings? You were always screaming poverty!"
I chuckled. "You know me, I like to plan ahead. I knew I wouldn't always be working for CI5 always supposing I didn't get killed. And, if I wasn't working for it, I'd need to find somewhere to live, which takes money."
"So, I put away a portion of every wage packet as if I were paying a mortgage. Swore I wouldn't touch it no matter what. And I didn't. Until Andy's letter came."
"And that's it? That's all there was to it? You had me really confused, Ray. I mean, that flat, the car..."
"Well the building society still own a fair chunk of the flat but the car is all mine." I scowled at him. "I still can't believe you could really think that I could be on the take."
He spread his hands wide and gave me his best innocent look. "Can you blame me? Besides, you thought the same about me."
I drained the last dregs out of the glass. "Come on then, we'd better get back and start investigating our colleagues."
Bodie shook his head. "Your colleagues, sunshine, not mine. Not all of them and not any more."
I glared at him. "We're in this together, remember?"
He grinned. "Finally. But seriously Ray, I can't go interrogating Nicole, it won't work. That's down to you. If you find out anything, give me a ring."
"So what are you going to be doing then?"
"Getting my head down for a bit. I'm shagged out. What with jet lag, a disturbed night and then getting back to yours early this morning."
"A disturbed night?" I was frankly envious. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had the time let alone a willing partner.
He winked at me. "Jet lag isn't all bad."
Back in my office I thought about how best to check out Nicole. Her file contained glowing reports of her previous work at the Home Office. I noticed the signature of the person signing off her last appraisal and decided to give them a ring.
"Miss Grey is on leave at present. I'm covering for her, can I help at all? My name is Wilcox."
I hesitated, reluctant to discuss Nicole with anybody other than the woman who had been her immediate supervisor. But on the other hand it could hardly wait until she came back to work and this person might also have worked with Nicole. I asked him.
"Nicole Richmond? Yes I worked with her, why are you asking?"
"We're just checking up on her references. Just routine," I assured him.
The voice at the other end sounded suspicious. "Taking your time, aren't you? She's been with you three months at least. Has she said anything?"
"Nothing. Nothing in particular. I just wondered ..." His voice trailed away and I sensed I was onto something.
"Her references are excellent," I probed. "Is there anything else you want to add to the report?"
"Oh her work was ok, I suppose," he said. "I might not have said excellent, but she did all right."
"Something else then?" I persisted.
"Oh well, she just didn't mix very well. Didn't get on with people, you know. Could be quite stand-offish on occasions."
That seemed to be all he was willing to say and it didn't seem enough to really worry about. I'd certainly seen no sign of Nicole being remote or unfriendly since she'd been here. A bit quiet at first perhaps but that was only to be expected in a new job, but she seemed to be settled in now ok.
I sighed to myself. There was nothing for it. I was going to have to have a chat with Nicole.
No point in putting it off. I went through to her office and found her at her desk, fingers flying over the keyboard. She glanced up as I came in. "Nic, I need a word," I said and she stopped typing and looked at me expectantly.
Where to start? I pulled out one of the office chairs, reversed and straddled it. "How long have you been with us now?" As openings go, it was pretty weak but I hadn't thought this through.
"Three months, two weeks and one day," she said with a grin and then the smile faded. "Is something wrong, Mr Doyle?"
"No, nothing wrong," I lied. "How are you finding it here? Getting on all right and so forth?" I groaned inwardly. Being avuncular was not my forte. Cowley should be doing this not me.
She nodded. "Everybody has been very kind and I like my job very much."
"What about your previous place, at the Home Office wasn't it? How did you like that?"
To my surprise a look of fear came into her eyes. I really had thought I was barking up the wrong tree but maybe there was something to be discovered.
"Everything was fine there too," she stammered.
"Was it though?" I said. "Because I've just spoken to a Mr Wilcox and he led me to believe..."
"Nigel Wilcox? Oh no. Mr Doyle please. Don't listen to Nigel."
"Why not Nicole? What's he going to tell me?" I asked softly.
"Nothing," she began but the look on my face told her that was not going to work. "What did he tell you, please?" she asked timidly.
"He suggested your references weren't quite as accurate as they should have been for starters."
She bit her lip and tears came into her eyes. "I don't want to lose my job. I've been happy here."
Damn it. I hate it when women cry. Especially pretty ones. Especially pretty ones that I think are probably innocent after all.
I fished a tissue out from the box on her desk and handed it to her. "Better tell me all about it Nic."
"All right," she said. "It was nothing to do with the quality of my work. Miss Grey never had any trouble with my work, she would have said so. She was very strict but she was fair. She said I was doing all right and I'd probably move up the salary scale in a few months time."
I don't claim to know a lot about secretary's pay scales but I knew a lot more than I used to. "So you weren't as highly qualified as your references say you are?"
She shook her head. "No, but I've done all right here, haven't I? I've not made any mistakes?"
I shrugged. "You've done all right as far as I can see and Cowley's like your Miss Grey. You'd know if you'd screwed up for him. Go on. Tell me the lot."
"It was Nigel Wilcox. He was the most senior secretary in our group and we had to take orders from him when Miss Grey wasn't around. He was always telling me I had to work late, just me and him."
I thought I knew where this story was going but I didn't interrupt.
"He was always asking me to go out with him and when I refused he would keep finding fault with my work and saying it had to be done over again, things like that. And when we were alone he would make comments about my ... my legs and th..th..things." She gave a sob and snatched at another tissue.
"Didn't you tell someone? This Miss Grey, for instance?"
She shook her head. "I didn't want to make trouble. I liked my job and I didn't want to get a reputation for causing trouble. He was so much more senior than me and has been there ages. Why should they believe me?"
"So what happened?"
"I'd stayed late one night to finish a report. I thought everybody else had gone but then Nigel came in and started to ... to bother me. I told him to leave me alone but he...he said it was all my fault and I should be a bit more friendly and try to fit in. Then he kissed me."
I sighed. Betty couldn't have been much older than Nicole when she first came to work with Cowley but she'd never had any trouble in putting any of us down if we got out of hand. But then we'd never had anybody who went so far over the line as this bastard.
I didn't want to make a wrong move but she just looked so piteous that I reached out and touched her gently on the shoulder. "What did you do, love?"
She blew her nose and continued, seemingly determined to get it all out now. "I pushed him away but he was strong and I was frightened but then your colleague Miss Fischer came in and he leapt away, made some excuse and left. I was so pleased to see her and she must have sensed something was going on because she asked me outright if Nigel had been har ... harassing me."
Nicole looked up with shining eyes. "Oh Mr Doyle, she was wonderful. She said I shouldn't have to put up with that and she knew of another job coming up and would put in a word for me and that's how I got this job. She also said she would speak to Nigel and see he didn't bother me any more and she must have done because it was at least another week before I moved and he didn't even speak to me again the whole time."
I grinned. Good for Susan. She must have known some at least, attempted, sexual harassment in her time looking the way she does but I bet no bloke tried it on more than once.
I patted Nicole's shoulder again. "Ok, listen Nic, I've got to tell Cowley but it won't go any further, ok?" She nodded looking relieved. "You've not had any trouble since you've been here, have you?"
She shook her head. "Oh no, Mr Doyle. Everybody here has been very nice. Very ... well, normal."
I laughed. If there's one word I wouldn't use to describe our mob, it was normal but I saw what she meant. "Good, but if you do have a problem you tell me or Cowley or if you can't tell us, tell Ruth. We won't stand for any nonsense of that sort."
Nicole nodded confidently. "Miss Fischer said I wouldn't have any trouble here. She said..." She flushed a little. "She said I could trust you to see I was all right."
I left her to go back to her typing then. I was glad to feel we could cross her off our list of suspects but it had unfortunately put another one in my mind. Susan. She might not have quite the free run of the place that she once did but she was in and out a lot and she was alone in my office just the other day.
I rang Bodie, hoping I wasn't waking him. "Got a job for you, sunshine."
I set the phone down with a frown. Susan. Even though there'd been one or two occasions where circumstances had brought us closer together we'd never been close friends. Mostly because she kept turning me down, I thought to myself with a grin, but it was more than that. Ruth always turned me down as well, but we were - and I hope still are - friends.
No, Susan was different. I suppose I've always admired her in a way; one of the few female agents to stay the course and impress Cowley, and she'd worked bloody hard to get there. She was completely focused on her career and had always been ambitious; her promotion came as no surprise.
Which is why it was startling that Doyle could suspect her; I'd never have believed she'd put her job on the line. Although he had said his suspicions were purely circumstantial, just that she'd been alone in his office at the right time to have snaffled the file.
Anyway, she was down to me, he said, since he couldn't question her openly and there was no way he could suddenly develop an interest in her socially in order to have any off the record chats. She might be sceptical of my motives, but at least I could claim I was just looking up an old friend after some time away.
No time like the present. I dialled the number Doyle had given me and it was answered on the second ring. "Susan Fischer."
I hadn't spoken to her in nearly five years and didn't expect her to recognise my voice. "Hello Susan."
"Hello Bodie. How are you?"
I was struck dumb - almost. How did she know it was me? "Did Doyle tell you I was back?"
"No. But I have my sources," she told me complacently. "What can I do for you?"
"I, ah, wondered if you wanted to go for a drink tonight. For old times sake," I added, wondering now why I'd thought she would only be sceptical. Under normal circumstances she was probably the last girl I'd ring to take out.
"I'm busy tonight."
"Oh." We needed to rule her out quickly, but I couldn't let her know there was any urgency. However, before I could even think of what to say next, Susan spoke again.
"Of course, they're still open; I could give you an hour now if you want?"
I agreed, probably a little too eagerly, and put the phone down wondering what Susan would be making of it all. I hadn't expected her to be so keen to see me; surely she couldn't be under any delusion as to my feelings for her...?
She was already waiting when I got to the pub, and I decided all my apprehension was unfounded as she gave me a friendly but business-like welcome. "It's nice to see you. You're looking well."
"Thanks. So are you."
"I got the drinks in."
I groaned inwardly. I'd already had more than enough alcohol today but wasn't about to admit that to Susan. "Thanks."
"I always stand my round, you must remember that."
"Of course." I sipped cautiously at the drink expecting to taste vodka or gin - but it was pure tonic water.
She ignored my surprise. "So, what have you been up to? Travelling, last I heard."
"Yes, I've been all over. Taking advantage of the pension and too much free time on my hands." I was beginning to wish I had postponed this meeting until tomorrow; I hadn't had nearly enough time to work out how to approach her. It struck me that Susan's sources might have told her how abruptly I'd arrived back. "In fact, I was out in Singapore only a few days ago. And I suddenly realised that although I was enjoying all the travelling, what I really wanted was to come home. So I hopped on a plane and did just that. Stupid really, getting homesickness..."
"If that's what it was. After all those years of being Action Man you were probably just bored."
"More than likely." I wasn't here to talk about me. "What's been happening with you, then? I hear from Ray that you're working directly for the Home Secretary now - that has to be a good job."
"As good as I can get, for the moment. There are plans for expansion - I intend to be part of that."
"Yeah, Nicole was telling me that Cowley's thinking about creating regional offices as well. Seems the whole security network is getting a shake-up."
"We're all moving with the times, Bodie. The criminals and terrorists are getting more organised, we have to as well."
"And that includes working more closely with each other? Of course, you've got a head start because you know CI5 procedures backwards."
Was the look she gave me suspicious? "I'm sure you can remember most of them yourself, Bodie. Things haven't changed that much."
"I dunno. I was in there earlier and everything seemed to be under lock and key. Wasn't like that in our day."
"Oh, it was, Bodie. I should think that was just another one of the procedures you failed to follow quite often." She grinned broadly; I'd forgotten how much Susan enjoyed taking me down a peg. "But it is more difficult to track down the right key nowadays; it used to be simple, anything important would be in Cowley's office. Now the information could be with Doyle or Ruth or sometimes even out with Murphy."
"So you don't have keys then?"
"It would make my job easier, but no. And frankly, I wouldn't want them. If anything went missing I know where the allegations would start, and even being an ex-member of the squad wouldn't save me."
Although she'd always been good at bluffing, I couldn't see anything Susan's manner which suggested she was lying to me, and was coming to the conclusion that Doyle was barking up the wrong tree.
"So, now you're back, what are you planning to do?"
I shrugged. "I haven't really thought about it. I know plenty of people though, I'm sure to find something."
"Do you want me to find you a job?"
I choked on my tonic water. "What?"
"Bodie, we were never best friends. There has to be some reason why you were keen to see me. If you're not going back to the squad, maybe you're looking for another job."
"At the Home Office? I dunno... They'd probably want me to wear a suit." As excuses went it was weak, but Susan had taken me by surprise.
"I expect so. But you could do that, you always looked good in a suit." She saw my astonishment. "I'm serious, Bodie. That expansion I was talking about: we're going to need security experts, you've got all the training."
"Yeah. Uh, maybe. But I hadn't thought - "
"So think about it." She glanced at her watch. "Look, if there's nothing else I really have to get back. You've got my number, call me."
Well, that had given me something else to think about. Never one for forward planning I'd probably still have been drifting if Sir John hadn't approached me, but Susan was right, I had been getting bored. That was probably another reason I'd taken the task on.
From Susan's perspective, her reasoning was spot-on. I'd come home suddenly and contacted her when there was any number of women I could have rung to take for a drink. But a job with the Home Office?
What had she said? 'If you're not going back to the squad.'
I finished my drink and left the pub slowly, musing. If. There was nothing to stop me - as Susan said, I'd got all the training and I doubted Cowley would turn me down, if I offered to become an instructor or something. No, nothing to stop me, except myself.
When I left it was because I couldn't do the job I'd been doing. Did that matter now? If I was going to go back to work, wouldn't it be better to take on a job I knew? Things had changed at CI5, making the prospect both better and worse. A lot of the old faces were gone but the new ones would show me more respect - I doubted I could have been like Doyle, and been promoted over my peers. And I did know all the CI5 procedures - it wouldn't take me long to learn anything that had changed.
Like Susan said. I should think about it.
I was closer to Headquarters than Doyle's flat, and in spite of only having got a quick kip in wasn't feeling too tired.
Doyle's office stood empty and I ventured into Nicole's, catching her filing some papers in the bottom drawer of the cabinet. It was a fine sight, and I enjoyed it for the few moments it took her to realise I was standing there.
"Oh, Mr Bodie. You made me jump."
I grinned to myself, remembering a similar occasion when I'd made Betty jump - and not just by appearing in the room either. It had just been the one occasion though; I don't bruise easily but Betty had made a lasting impression.
"Sorry. I was just looking for Ray: is he about?"
"He's with Mr Cowley; they've been talking since Mr Cowley came back from Hammersmith."
She didn't offer to disturb them and would have found it extremely odd if I'd asked her to; likewise I couldn't interrupt them. Nicole might not have been around very long, but even she would wonder at an ex-member of the team joining what was clearly a confidential meeting.
"OK. Is it all right if I wait in his office?"
"As long as you don't start fighting again." She gave me an awkward smile. "Miss Pettifer said that whatever the argument, it had to be both serious and stupid, because you were such good friends."
"She was right on both counts. Don't worry, it's all sorted out now."
Doyle's desk had been cleared of files; clearly he was taking no chances with anything now, not even the duty roster. I settled into his chair, marvelling at what a difference just a few hours could make. Last time I'd sat here, I had been imagining all sorts of things.
I took up the The Sun and flicked idly through the pages, hoping I wouldn't have to wait for too long.
The door opened, and Peters peered in. "Is Mr Doyle about?"
"He's with the - boss." I managed not to say Cow; I had no idea whether the nickname had persisted to the younger generation. "Can I give him a message?"
"I was just going to bring him up to date on the suspects I've been tracing. I'll write up the file and come back..." He disappeared, and I returned to the paper: specifically, I returned to page three.
When the door opened again a short while later I expected Peters, but it was Anson who limped in. "Trying the seat out for size, Bodie?"
I grinned at him. "Not likely. Far too much paperwork involved in sitting behind a desk."
"But you wouldn't say no if the Old Man offered you a job?"
Bloody hell! Did they all think I was desperate and looking for work?
Anson grinned at my expression. "Come on, Bodie. What other reason can you have for hanging around here?"
He had a point. Maybe if that's what they were thinking I'd better confess to it, before they started wondering what the real reason was. "OK, so I was getting bored. But I'm only taking a job if it has a dolly bird secretary to go with it..."
"You haven't changed." Anson turned as the door opened behind him. "Doyle, at last. Have you decided whether you still work here yet? Only these papers won't sign themselves..."
"Yeah, I'll do them. Leave them with me."
Anson took the hint and made a swift exit.
I folded the paper and stood up. "Any news?"
"Plenty." Doyle produced a key, opened the desk drawer and shoved Anson's papers in before relocking it. "Cowley's told me to get lost for the rest of the day, so let's do just that..."
Back at my place I put the kettle on, I figured we'd had enough to drink for the moment.
When I brought the mugs through to the living room, I could see Bodie was fighting hard to stay awake. I thrust a mug under his nose. "Coffee."
He nodded his thanks and took a gulp and then sucked air as he realised how hot it was.
I chuckled and dropped into the other armchair. "So, how did you get on with Susan?"
He gave me a bemused look. "She offered me a job."
"She offered me a job, over at the Home Office. She assumed that was why I came back and obviously I didn't tell her otherwise."
I shook my head. "What a cheek! If you're coming back to work, you're coming back to us!"
He grinned. "Who says I'm coming back to work at all? I might be enjoying the life of the idle rich."
There was a thoughtful tone to his voice that made me wonder but I didn't think now was the time to pursue it.
We exchanged notes on our separate interrogations of Nicole and Susan. We happily agreed that they were both, almost certainly, off our list of suspects.
"We do have a bit more information to go on though. The minister came through on the information Cowley requested. We've now got a list of the exact files that have been leaked and when they went missing. Well, not missing exactly."
"How d'you mean?"
"Cowley has checked against the list of documents and other than the last one, none of our files are missing. He believes they were all copied and passed to someone, or several someones."
"Ah, so all we need to find is someone with easy access to the files and a photocopier. Easy."
"Idiot. That gives us exactly the same people as before."
"So, did the Cow have his chat with Murphy? I take it he's cleared as well?"
Regretfully I shook my head.
"You have to be joking." Bodie said incredulously. "Murph's one of us. He wouldn't do anything like this."
"Cowley says Murph was awfully cagey when he spoke to him. Obviously Cowley didn't tell him the whole thing but he couldn't account for some of his time, time when the files went missing. When George pushed it, Murphy just stormed out."
Bodie whistled. "That does not look good."
"I know. We'll have to follow up on it. I can't believe it either but he's going to have to talk to one of us."
"So what's our next move?"
"Expand the search I suppose.
Just then the phone rang. "Ray, what the hell is going on? Nicole has just refused me access to the operations file. She said there's a security flap on. Why don't I know about it?"
"Ruth," I mouthed at Bodie. I hesitated. I had no doubt that Ruth was clean but I also knew I shouldn't tell her anything. "The Cow's just running some checks, love. Nothing to worry about."
"Yes, and I'm in line for the throne. Come on Ray, I know when I'm being fed a line, especially by you."
I sighed. I never could get away with anything with her. "I can't tell you Ruth. Not right now. Just catch an early night and I'll see you in the morning."
A long silence at the other end and then; "You might just mention to our beloved boss that if I don't have those files, the end of month report doesn't get done." The receiver went down with a click and I pulled a face at Bodie. "I bloody well hate this. There's no way Ruth is involved."
He nodded. "I can't see it either but you know the only way to be sure is to keep schtum with everybody."
"Me and thee against the bloody world again. Nothing changes." I sighed again.
"Aren't you lucky then that you've got me?" he said cheerfully. "You could have been stuck with Anson."
I looked at my watch. Five o'clock. "Have you had anything to eat lately?" Bodie's eyes lit up. "Nope, and I could eat a scabby horse. What did you have in mind?"
"Well, since I still haven't had a chance to do any bloody shopping, let's get a takeaway. I can think better on a full stomach."
A quick car journey later we were ensconced with a double helping of sweet and sour prawn balls and rice and several cans of beer. There was a James Bond film on the telly and we decided we needed to switch our minds off for a while and unwind. Easier said than done and I'm sure Bodie was still churning things over just as I was but we did our best to enjoy the free evening.
I'd also picked up some coke and orange juice and switched to it when Bodie did.
"You don't have to do that," he said.
I grinned at him. "I've had a fair bit today. I need a clear head tomorrow. Can't keep on putting it away like we used to."
"You poor old sod."
"Don't remind me. There had better be plenty of wisdom lying in store for me 'cos I can't see any other benefit to this aging lark."
By the end of the film we were both yawning our heads off and I drained my glass and flicked the button on the remote to switch the television off. Bodie's eyes opened.
"You missed the end of the film." I told him.
"It's always the same. Villain defeated and Bond gets the girl. Just like all our ops."
"You've developed a very selective memory since you've been gone." I yawned again. "Right, I'm off to bed, having been on the run since the crack of dawn. I've got an op to co-ordinate tomorrow regardless of what else Cowley has us doing. You're welcome to do what you want."
He stood and stretched. "I've got some catching up to do as well." He smirked. "Didn't get a whole lot of rest last night."
I threw a cushion at him. "I'm still not encouraging your boasting. See you in the morning then."
Staying awake as long as I had the previous day had been a struggle, but it also seemed to cure my jetlag. My sleep had been fairly dreamless, surprisingly because I had enough on my mind, but I woke bright as a button and fresh as a daisy as my gran used to say.
Sipping coffee, I waited for Doyle to come round and pondered our problems.
Murphy. No matter what his personal circumstances I couldn't believe he was selling secrets. But he was acting out of character; storming out on the Cow was definitely not the Murphy I remembered. Not much I could do though, it would have to be Ray or Cowley who followed up on that.
MI6 had been convinced the leak was at top level but having eliminated the most likely candidates from the list of suspects it had to be someone else in the team - and anyone could have copied the keys and was capable of using a photocopier.
I supposed we could fairly safely ignore those personnel out at Hammersmith, they had to sign in and out of Headquarters, even Murphy. Those staff based in the building were supposed to sign in and out as well, but I shouldn't think things had changed much and I never used to remember often, particularly if there was some sort of flap on.
So we'd have to start by looking at the rosters to see who could have been in the building when the files went missing. I was beginning to think Ruth would have to be put in the picture because from what I'd learnt she'd pretty much taken over that side of things. If Doyle was going to start pulling old rosters she'd want to know why, particularly if I was poking my nose in as well.
Once our thief had the papers they had to copy and return them before anyone noticed. Gaining access to a photocopier was easier these days than it used to be. When we'd first started the typists were still using carbon paper to duplicate letters: the only copier in the building was a huge model which filled a basement room. Using it involved signing for a key to the room and having a department code to punch in before the thing would work. I never had to use it myself but I remembered Betty complaining about it, particularly when it broke down.
I expect the basement room still has a monster that churns out anything of volume but now there were personal computers on desks and small photocopiers in offices. Nicole had one. Her office was between Cowley's and Doyle's, just along from Ruth's.
I heard the door open behind me. "Ah, Sleeping Beauty awakes," I began, before I turned and caught sight of Doyle. "Or do I mean Rip Van Winkle?"
His reply was growled back at me as Doyle vanished into the bathroom. "Stick the kettle on, before I turn into an ogre."
Chuckling, I hastened to comply, spooning coffee granules into a mug. Doyle always needed caffeine in copious amounts when he was tired.
Electric razor in hand he wandered into the kitchen just after the kettle boiled; frowning as I handed him a mug of black coffee. "No milk, I suppose. I really must get some shopping."
"You need a good woman to do it for you."
Remembering the call the previous evening, he groaned. "What am I going to tell Ruth?"
"Seems to me you've got two choices. You tell her, or you don't."
"Brilliant, Einstein." Doyle peered hopefully into the fridge. "No bread either?" As I'd snaffled the last slice earlier I surreptitiously slid my toast-crumbed plate out of sight.
"Anyway, I have a third choice." He straightened up. "I can avoid her altogether and let her tackle Cowley instead."
"Still-alive-in-one-piece wimp," he corrected me. "You know Ruth. Why shouldn't Cowley deal with it anyway? He's the one who wants to keep it from her: let him find an excuse as to why she's locked out of the filing."
"It's an idea."
"It's a damn good idea, from my viewpoint. I have to head out to Essex this morning - nothing says I have to go via Headquarters first, the teams are all organised and going straight there, anyway."
"I suppose. I've been mulling things over. If we've got to the check the rosters it'll be nearly impossible to keep Ruth out of it and it would be a damned sight easier if she knows because she can help us."
"Exactly." Doyle checked his watch. "You go talk to Cowley; see if you can get him to agree. I need to get going; I'll see you later."
I headed into Headquarters - via a bakery: one slice of toast wasn't enough breakfast - and after making myself a coffee in the Lounge I went in search of Cowley. I was lucky: he was in his office and alone.
"Morning, sir." Unusually, he looked about as good as Doyle had first thing. I wondered if he'd been here all night. "Can I get you a coffee?"
"No, thank you." He relaxed back into his chair and stretched. "Has Doyle gone on to Barking?"
"He went straight there. Is Ruth in yet?"
Cowley looked at me warily. "Not that I've seen. Is there something I should know?"
"Oh, no suspicions of her. She called Ray last night; wanted to know why she was being kept out of the files?"
"Ah." Cowley studied the papers on his desk for a few moments. "And you think we should tell her what's going on?"
"You'll have to tell her something. Why not the truth? We all know she's not involved; she can keep her mouth shut and it would make it easier to check things out with her help."
"You always could muster a convincing argument, Bodie. Ask her to come and see me when she gets in."
Nicole found me in the VIP Lounge. "Miss Pettifer has arrived, Mr Bodie."
In spite of nipping straight into the corridor Ruth was already on the phone when I got there, and pausing outside the open door I unashamedly eavesdropped. Her voice, at first conciliatory, was rising to impatient.
"I don't know what time I'll be home. I've told you not to arrange things without giving me adequate warning; you know how busy I am, I can't just drop everything. I have to liaise with Ray so I could be late." A pause while she listened to the other side of the conversation, then, barely controlled anger: "Alan, he's a friend and colleague. What else am I to call him? Mr Doyle? Sir? Oh for goodness sake...!" She slammed the phone down then, elbows resting on the desk, she put her head in her hands. "Bloody men!"
"Want to shoot the lot of us?"
She looked up and gave me a weak smile. "Oh, Bodie."
In spite of warning Doyle not to interfere I could see how upset Ruth was and cursed her husband. "Anything I can do?"
"No." She took a deep breath. "No, I'm fine. Did you want something?"
"The Old Man needs a word with you."
Even in the midst of personal problems, Ruth's antenna was working. "And he sent you to tell me? Where's Ray? Is this to do with this security check I don't know about?"
"Ray's out running some operation. Come and talk to Cowley."
It was a long morning. Ruth had taken some convincing, but once she understood Cowley wasn't joking we had her full support.
She had ordered all the relevant files brought to her office, dismissing the complaining filing clerk with a story about needing to check overtime claims, and together we'd ploughed through them, matching times and locations and looking for ambiguities.
Long before we finished Ruth had laughed sourly. "This is obviously an exercise I should be undertaking more often. Several of the team are cheating on their overtime claims."
Despite ruling out those members of the team who clearly couldn't be responsible, the list of names remaining was still too long. Some of the names were familiar; those agents who'd been around for years, the ones that couldn't possibly be guilty...
"Eeny Meeny Miny Mo..." I sighed. "All these new agents, Ruth; you know them and I don't. Any ideas on who you think it could be?"
"I know you'd like it to be someone you don't know, Bodie, but it's just as likely to be one of the old crew."
Reluctantly, I nodded in agreement. "Tell me about them anyway; use it as a starting point."
"I can't tell you much more than what's on file. It's hard to get to know someone when you're in charge." Ruth looked down the list and sighed. "Collins and Johnson were part of the intake just before you left. Good team members, both injured in an operation a while back but neither seriously. Mitchell and Yates have been here about two years; Hamill, Jacobs, Peters, Issacs and Henderson nearly a year. All still learning, but good at their jobs."
That didn't tell me much. Maybe Ray would know more from working in the field with them.
"Actually, there's something odd going on with Mitchell and Yates. They've been on duty for the past couple of days but not on any job I'm aware of - Nicole said they were out on Ray's orders..." She trailed off as I grinned.
"I think you'll find Ray's had them following me."
"He's had them...?" Ruth shook her head despairingly. "I suppose this is something to do with that fight you had yesterday?"
"Just a misunderstanding; we got our wires crossed."
Fortunately Nicole appeared round the door at that moment and prevented Ruth from questioning me further; Cowley hadn't revealed my role as potential MI6 spy and I wasn't keen to explain why Ray thought he should suspect me.
"Miss Pettifer, Mr Dowland is here for your meeting."
"Is it that time already? OK, thanks, Nicole. Fetch him a coffee and tell him I won't be long, will you?"
She collected some papers together before hurrying from the room, leaving me pondering the list.
The files hadn't actually been taken from the building - or if they had, they'd been returned. Needing to work to some sort of criteria, we'd narrowed the list down to fifteen people who could have been on the premises the day before the leaks became known, but realistically we could still be way out - the files might have been copied earlier.
Finding a needle in a haystack would definitely be easier. I flicked pages idly but to continue going through the files alone was pointless; I needed Ruth or Doyle there to give me the background on the new agents.
It was only a quarter to one but my stomach rumbled; I knew I should have had more than one Danish. If I was going to find food, I'd need a drink to go with it. Stopping by the Lounge, I found Anson alone. Anson had never been a close comrade, mainly because of his smoking habit, and Ray and I had always done our best to avoid operations where he was around. But he seemed to have kicked the evil weed and was a link to my past with CI5. "Fancy a pint?"
I twirled my gun around my finger before sliding it back into its holster.
"Oi, Dead-eye Dick," Lewis said as he led a handcuffed man towards the waiting cars. "That was mighty fine shootin' back there but you have to come back to reality now, the sheriff will want his report."
I grinned at him and followed them to the car. I could afford to be cheerful, it wasn't often an op went as smoothly as this one. We had all the opposition still alive and rounded up. Ok, one or two had minor bullet holes in them but that's the risk they run when they go up against us. Yeah, ok, I was feeling cocky. They were still all alive for questioning and none of us had so much as a scratch. How often did that happen?
I waved at Susan who hadn't been able to resist coming to see the play out of her operation.
"Not a bad result, eh? Thanks to your meticulous planning." I could afford to be generous with the praise. Susan was an excellent organiser.
She strolled over to the car, smiling at me. "You weren't so bad yourself. I see you keep your hand in."
"In where?" I said before I could stop myself and she frowned. "That's a Bodie line. He's only been back five minutes and he's being a bad influence already. Shame, you had shown signs of becoming a reasonable, adult, human being."
Then before I could protest she went on; "Mind you, you look a bit more relaxed since he's been back so maybe it's not altogether a bad thing." She flashed me another smile and moved on to her own car.
I stared after her. Susan frequently leaves me bemused by her thought processes. Since Bodie had been back I'd had sleepless nights, long days, and more worry than in the previous six months, first about him and then a probable internal security breach, and Susan thought I was looking more relaxed. Women, who could fathom them?
I shook my head and slid into the driving seat alongside Lewis.
"Wagons roll, boss?" he suggested.
I flashed him a wicked grin and put the car in gear. "Yippie ki yay, cowboy!" And floored it.
Once back at Headquarters we locked up the ten men in as many separate rooms as possible. I visited each one and left the men in no doubt as to what we expected from them and then left them to sweat on it for a while. I left instructions that the doctor be sent in to patch up the wounded and then let my men go to grab some lunch with instructions to be back in an hour to start the interrogations. We'd had a busy morning and needed some sustenance. Maybe I'd even send some in to the prisoners. Maybe, if they co-operated.
I took the stairs two at a time. I deserved some lunch as well and was looking forward to bending Bodie's ear with the morning's exploits, although given that it was now after two, I wouldn't be surprised if he had already eaten. It wouldn't do for him to go too long between meals.
Before I hit my office I tapped on Cowley's door and popped my head in without waiting for an answer. For once he was in, although on the phone. He beckoned me in and wrapped up the conversation even as I dropped into his visitor's chair.
"How did it go?" he asked.
"We got 'em!" I said. "Every last one of them. Got them banged up downstairs. I'm letting them worry for a while before we talk to them." I corrected myself. "Or rather, before they talk to us. And they will."
"Good, well done."
For such a successful outcome Cowley was sounding rather distracted and I was somewhat annoyed but before I could comment on it he spoke again. "Have you seen or heard from Murphy today?"
This complete change of subject threw me. "No, I spoke to him Tuesday but I haven't seen him for nearly a week. Why?"
"I haven't been able to contact him all day. No reply to his phone, home or office, nor the R/T, and nobody has seen him." He looked at me meaningfully.
And I was back down to earth with a bump. All the elation of the morning gone, just like that. It wasn't that I'd forgotten this other mess exactly but on a job like this one you have to concentrate. People get killed if you aren't concentrating in a gunfight. Besides, I knew Bodie and the old man were working on it. Nobody better to make progress, ferret things out.
"No," I said. "Not Murph. Look, anything could have happened to him. He could be in trouble. Did you think of that?"
He nodded. "I sent somebody around to his flat. No sign of forced entry, no struggle, nothing. I'm making no assumptions yet, but it is worrying and we need to find him."
I shook my head. "I don't believe it, I won't believe it. Not Murphy." I got up. "Look, I'll go round his place later. There's got to be a simple explanation."
"I hope you're right, Doyle." Cowley put his glasses on and picked up his pen. "Let me know how the interrogations go, won't you?"
God he could be heartless at times. No, only seemingly so. I knew him well enough now to know that if Murphy did turn out to be our traitor then it would cut him to the quick. Much as it would me. But I didn't believe it yet. It would take more than one day's unexplained absence to convince me our Smurph could betray us after all these years.
We adjourned to the local and ordered a couple of ploughman's and pints to wash them down, chatting companionably about agents past and present and how things had changed.
We'd finished before I spotted someone clearly trying to get my attention without Anson realising he was there. Clifton. Well, he'd have to wait. I didn't want Anson to catch sight of him - it'd be just my luck that Anson would recognise him as this terrorist Doyle thought Clifton was.
I had no idea what Clifton wanted. I'd deliberately not contacted him; the longer I could keep quiet about CI5 doing their own investigation the better, so why had Clifton tracked me down?
Fortunately for Clifton's blood pressure - even across the bar I could see him getting aggravated at the delay - before long Anson checked his watch and announced his intention of returning to the grind of the Control Room.
Clifton waited only seconds before joining me at the table. "I need a word."
"Obviously. Do you want a drink?"
"No. I want to know what's going on. We've been warned off the investigation of CI5. Did you tell Cowley about it? You're supposed to be working for us!"
His voice was rising along with his temper, and I got up. If we were going to have a fight, it wouldn't be in the pub where anyone could hear us. He followed me outside and caught my arm. "Bodie! What are you playing at?"
I shook him off and turned to confront him. "I'm not playing at anything. To start with, I agreed to help you look for the leak - I'm not working for you. Even if I were, I know how to keep my mouth shut. Cowley was tackled by the Minister over the files; of course he wants to run his own investigation and keep others - particularly MI6 - out of it."
Clifton backed off slightly. "I thought it was a mistake to involve you. I knew you'd stick together - old loyalties die hard."
"And who are you loyal to?" Doyle's suspicions were in the back of my mind. "I've been told you're John Clifton MI6 agent - my partner reckons you go by the name of James Finnegan, an IRA activist."
He actually looked shaken. "When did Doyle see me?"
"He saw us together at the café, and since he thinks you're a terrorist it got him suspicious about me. So what's the story?"
"I was undercover. Things suddenly got hot and Six pulled me out. As far as anyone else knows, Finnegan bought it in a gun battle. But you have to keep that quiet - other people could be at risk if it gets out."
"I'll try and persuade Doyle not to spread it around," I told him. "Anyway, it doesn't concern us. You can go back and tell your bosses that CI5 will sort out their own problems. We will find the leak and plug it, without your help or interference."
I have to admit given the list of potential suspects I wasn't especially confident but wasn't about to let him know that, but Clifton left then, expression sceptical.
I turned back to Headquarters. Doyle should be back by now and we needed to get on with shortening that list.
Back in my office, which had a Bodie-sized hole in it, I found the report I'd requested from MI5 about James Finnegan. It didn't seem so important now since Bodie and I had talked but I skimmed through it anyway. As I'd remembered, Finnegan had been an active member of a prominent IRA cell but accordingly to Five's report, he'd been killed about a month ago on the Armagh border.
My stomach gave a sudden rumble and I put the folder down. It had been a very long morning and I'd survived only on coffee and half a Kit-Kat shared with Lewis about four hours ago. I was just starting for the door, keen to get some proper food, when it suddenly opened and Bodie walked in.
"Oh good, you're back," he greeted me. "We need to start narrowing down these names. I've just sent Clifton off with a flea in his ear and a promise we can clean our own house, thank you very much, so we'd better get on and prove it."
"Oh, this would be Clifton aka Finnegan who died a month ago in Armagh, would it? I got a report from MI5 just now."
Bodie nodded. "Yeah, that's the boy. Six recalled him when things got too hot. Finnegan dies and good old Clifton resurfaces over here. But that's still hush hush so we have to sit on that bit of information, just in case, ok?" He waited for my answering nod before continuing. "Look, what about this list of names? Ruth and I have narrowed it down to a short list but we need to go over it and see if anything strikes you."
I sighed. I knew he was right. "Hang on a sec," I said and opened the connecting door to Nicole's office. She looked up from her typing. "Nic, do me a favour. Pop out and get me a sandwich or something, I'm stuck and starving."
It was a phrase I'd used before, hopefully not too frequently to push my luck. Nicole gave a sigh and shook her head reprovingly at me. "You don't take enough care of yourself, Mr Doyle. If you can hang on another ten minutes I'll go when I've finished this batch of reports."
I gave her one of my best smiles. "Thanks Nicole, you're a lifesaver!"
"Bring me back a Mars bar," came a shout over my shoulder and I shut the door quickly.
I turned back to Bodie. "Right, what's this about a list then?"
Bodie drew a sheet of paper from his back pocket and unfolded it. I scanned it quickly. A dozen or so names, one of which was a possible traitor. With a sigh I hooked a foot around the leg of my chair and drew it under me as I sat down at the desk. "I don't like this. I can't really believe one of these people is copying files and selling them off to the highest bidder. I've worked with them all, I know them!"
"I know how you feel, sunshine, but I don't think there's much doubt about it."
I flicked my finger angrily at the page. "Well you can't honestly think Julie and Liz have had anything to do with this? I can't believe Ruth even put them on the list."
"Ruth is being practical, which you need to be as well, " Bodie said. "C'mon Ray. Stop fighting this and accept the facts. Somebody is doing this and we need to find out who. If only to clear the others."
I ran both hands over my face and through my hair while giving vent to a long, drawn out groan. "Ok, ok, I know you're right. Let's have another look at these names."
"Start with somebody newer," Bodie encouraged. "What about...Peters, for instance. What's he like?"
I started to give my opinion of Peters and then paused remembering Cowley's words of a couple of days ago and spoke more slowly. "Peters is keen, wants to prove himself. He takes too many chances but he's ok."
"Ok, how about Hamill?"
We worked our way through the list like this for at least another twenty minutes by which time Nicole had fetched my sandwich and Bodie's chocolate fix. She'd either taken to him very quickly, Bodie's preferred option, or she was still just unsure enough of herself to risk refusing his request. I made us coffee and as I ate and drank I could feel some of the tension unwinding in me. I might not have Bodie's prodigious appetite but I do like to eat on a fairly regular basis, say at least once a day, or I can get a bit grouchy.
As I drained my second cup I caught sight of the time and leapt to my feet. "I really need to see how those interrogations are getting on." I grimaced at Bodie. "I might have to put the fear of God into any bastard who's not yet spilling his guts."
"Nobody better suited, chum," he said.
"Oh thanks a lot. I always thought you did a nice line in menacing, yourself. Listen, I don't know how long this could take. If you've got nothing else lined up would you take a run out to the Hammersmith office and see if Murphy has turned up? If he's not there you could check his home as well. I don't believe he's done a runner and I'd feel better knowing he was ok."
Bodie stood up and stretched, the thought of action always more appealing to him than paperwork. "Yeah, I can do that. What do I say when he wonders why I've come searching for him though?"
"You'll think of something. Take him for a drink and tell him stories of the Orient."
I scribbled both addresses on a bit of paper for him and left for the basement to see how well our captive birds were singing.
A tube ride and short walk later I arrived at the new office block. I'd been reintegrated into Headquarters so easily it was as though I'd never been away, and I'd forgotten that no one at Hammersmith would know me. Asking for Murphy at the front desk resulted in a blank look. "And who might you be, sir?"
Unless I put in a call to Doyle I wasn't going to get far, but luckily I remembered Ruth telling me that Sally was working with Murphy and asked the security guard to phone her.
"Bodie, how are you? What are you doing here?"
"I'm fine. I was looking for Murphy."
"He's... not in." Sally sounded worried.
I didn't want to alert security to any problems. "Have you got time for a coffee?"
Ten minutes later, we found a secluded booth in the small cafe round the corner. "Has something happened to Murphy?"
I stirred sugar into my coffee. "I was rather hoping you could tell me that, Sally. He apparently had a barney with the Cow yesterday."
"Yes, I know. Those of us around Murphy's office at the time could hardly fail to know. But I don't know what's going on. Murphy was due to have a meeting with Mr Cowley yesterday morning but he arrived back here much earlier than I expected. Then Mr Cowley arrives and goes into Murphy's office, and within a very short space of time Murphy stormed out and left without a word to anyone. And we haven't heard from him since."
"Neither has Cowley." I didn't want to give too much away so had to tread carefully. "Did he seem to have anything on his mind over the last few days?"
"He's been preoccupied for several weeks, really. I mean, he's been doing his job just the same as usual, but there have been those moments when he thinks no one is watching him, when I've caught him looking so - stressed. I know he worries about his little girl."
"Worries? About what?"
"Whether her mother is looking after her properly." Sally bit her lip. "He told me that in confidence."
"I won't say anything," I promised. "Do you think that's all he's worried about?"
"What else is there? What was his argument with Cowley about?" It suddenly struck Sally that I was no longer on the team. "And how are you involved?"
"It's a long story, and I really can't tell you any of it. Doyle knows I'm here, before you start worrying."
She accepted it, but I wouldn't be surprised to find she checked up on me anyway. "Murphy didn't come in this morning, and hasn't called in. It's so out of character for Murphy - there have been a few occasions when he's not turned up, but he always calls me."
I didn't have any reassuring answers for her. I finished my coffee. "I'll go round and check his flat. I'm sure it's nothing serious; he'll probably be back and giving you hell tomorrow."
Sally made me promise to phone her if I found or heard anything, but Murphy's flat was deserted. The local was closed so he couldn't be there, and there was little point in hanging around to see if he came home. I headed back to the tube, selecting the Piccadilly line as opposed to the District; it was already gone four and I had no reason to return to Headquarters.
Instead, I went back to Knightsbridge and did something Doyle didn't believe me capable of - I went shopping...
By five, I was back in his flat unpacking the produce. I'd developed a craving for lasagne, but since I wasn't quite domesticated enough to turn out a homemade meal, a frozen one would have to do. I phoned Headquarters and spoke to Nicole, learning that Ray was already on his way home, so put the tray straight into the oven.
By the time Doyle got in, the smell was already tempting. He came straight into the kitchen. "Who are you and what have you done with Bodie?"
"Ha ha. I could not offer you any of my lasagne, y'know."
He grinned. "I take it back. That's definitely you."
"Make yourself useful and find us eating irons. This won't be long; I just need to put the garlic bread in the oven."
It took us very little time to polish it all off. Doyle leaned back and rubbed his stomach. "I reckon you missed your vocation in the army; should've joined the catering corps."
"Amazing what you can do with a freezer," I agreed. "And a few handy shops. How did your interrogations go?"
"I've left some of the team still at it. One or two still have something to tell us before we hand them all over to Susan. I take it you didn't find Murphy?"
"No. I chatted to Sally - she knows something of his personal problems and thinks that's the reason he's not in contact."
"It could be. Still not like him to go AWOL, though. I wonder if I should go round there now?"
The phone rang. "That'll be Cowley," we said in unison.
And it was. Doyle listened but said only a few words before putting the receiver down. "Well, we don't need to worry about Murphy's whereabouts - he showed up at Headquarters just after I left. He was looking for me, but of course Cowley collared him. Not that things have been resolved at all - Cowley tackled him about walking out yesterday and not following procedure today, and although he got an apology, Murphy has refused to say where he's been or what's going on."
"It's serious, then. But it doesn't mean Murphy's the leak we're looking for."
"I dunno. Anyway, Cowley has sent him off tonight with instructions to report in tomorrow. Official meeting when he wants some answers."
"Or else?" I added.
Doyle shrugged. "Cowley won't put up with it, you know that. I hope Murphy's got some good answers."
I woke to the smell of bacon and eggs frying. Doyle delivered the plates to the table as I reached it. "Ta, mate."
"You're welcome. You wouldn't be getting it if you hadn't done the shopping, after all." He sprinkled his eggs with salt. "So, are you coming into Headquarters with me?"
"May as well. I have nothing better to do. I can always chat up Nicole again."
"I've told you, she's too young for you," Doyle glowered at me. Of course he was right, but I could rely on Doyle's protective streak to react to a wind-up. "She's only twenty-four and it's not like you need another conquest anyway. You stick to Clare, mate."
His words sobered me. There were a lot of differences between them - Clare's background for instance, and she'd been married and divorced already - but she was only twenty-four as well, and I'd never thought she was too young for me.
Doyle grinned at my expression, misunderstanding. "Downside to getting older. Comes to us all."
"Came to you sooner than me," I retorted. "Anyway, you're just jealous."
He drained his teacup. "Better believe it, mate. Right now, I'd accept any blind date you care to line me up with."
"What, even -"
"The gymnast, yes." He reconsidered. "I think..."
Feeling pleasantly full, I drove us into HQ. Bodie's shopping expedition hadn't come a moment too soon being as I was right out of just about everything.
Of course I took the piss about it, he wouldn't have expected me to do anything else, but honestly, even Bodie hadn't been able to persuade a bird to cook for him every evening. Besides, anybody can cook a bit of pasta, can't they?
On arrival at the office I first stuck my head in at Nicole's little office to say good morning as usual. Unusually she wasn't at her desk so I moved to the other connecting door and found Ruth already hard at work, head bent over a stack of folders.
"Morning Ruth, have you seen Nicole?"
"She's at the dentist, Ray. Won't be in for another hour or so, I shouldn't think. Was it anything urgent?"
I shook my head. "No, just keeping track." She nodded and her eyes were back on the paperwork in front of her before I shut the door.
I checked my desk. There was a message from Immigration saying that they were still working on the information I had asked for but that it would take at least another couple of days before they could have a definite answer for me. It took me a second or two to realise what information I had asked them for and when I remembered I made a mental note to call them back and cancel the request.
Several preliminary reports on yesterday's interrogation were piled up waiting for me as well. I skimmed through them. Nothing unusual, most of the men had talked, but Jax and Anson believed they still had some more info they could spill if we just pushed a bit harder.
I spun the last file across the desk to Bodie who had started on the discarded pile, more from boredom than real interest, I thought. "I'm going to pop downstairs and see how things are going. You know, switch things around a little, see if a different face makes a difference."
"Jax and the rest can handle it, you know, Ray."
I nodded. "I know they can, but it's good to keep on top of things, and it was my case anyway."
He leaned across the desk, a big grin on his face. "Go on, admit it."
I looked blankly at him. "Admit what?"
He smirked. "You love this job."
I stared at him. "Are you crazy?"
His grin just widened and he waggled his finger at me. "Don't try and deny it, Ray."
I was still shaking my head as I went downstairs to the interrogation rooms, leaving Bodie in my office to amuse himself. Which he seemed all too capable of doing. Ok, so I do enjoy the job when everything is going well, like today. It was a well planned, well executed bust, and now the birds were singing. But days like these are few and far between and Bodie knows it.
I spent a bit of time in each room, checking over what had been said, what had only been hinted at and what we still expected from them. The younger agents seemed happy I was there to give my approval of their performance. My own cronies were different; a mixture of amusement and resignation that I should be checking up on them. Eventually I had to accept they had it all under control and that I could safely leave squeezing the last drops of information to them.
I left the last room resisting the urge to wave benevolently in the manner of Young Mr Grace and murmur, "You've all done very well," as I went.
Whistling some vague ditty I headed back up the corridor towards the stairs. Just as I got there, a long, dark shape peeled itself from the wall. Murphy. We'd been scouring the city for him and suddenly here he was as cool as could be, as if nothing were wrong.
"You sound pleased with yourself."
Taken a bit aback, I shrugged. "Pleased with the team, more like. They've done a great job in there."
"You lead 'em, Ray. They're your team. You've done a good job with them."
I shrugged again. "Naaah, long practice is all. You, me, Jax, Anson, we all learnt from the best."
He shook his head. "Jax and Anson, they're good, no doubt about it but they're followers not leaders. They couldn't do what you do. You're a good leader, Ray. I thought I was too once, now... I'm not so sure."
I looked at him sharply. This kind of talk was strange, unfamiliar, coming from Murph. He smiled at me then. That friendly, confident smile that was his trademark. As if he knew more than he was telling. "Take no notice of me, I'm not quite myself at the minute."
"Want to talk about it?"
He nodded slowly. "That's why I came looking for you."
Relieved, I was about to suggest going back to my office when we both heard footsteps on the stairs. Only one person in our organisation has that very particular footstep. Not quite the full dot and carry one but still a slight hesitancy in the second step, especially on stairs.
Murphy slipped back into the darkness under the stairway as George Cowley came into view. Clearly he wasn't ready to share his thoughts with our boss just yet. When he told me whatever was on his mind, I hoped it wasn't something I would be forced to share against his wishes.
"Ah Doyle, there you are." I turned to him, keeping my expression as blank as possible. "I thought I should see how things were going. I never seem to have the time to get down here these days."
He took a few more steps towards me as he spoke and I gestured back towards the occupied rooms, eager to keep his attention. "It's all going very well, sir. Come and see for yourself."
He took another step down the corridor but then some slight noise or movement on Murphy's part caught his senses and he stopped suddenly.
Murphy stepped out from the shadows again. "Sir." His voice was flat, toneless, giving nothing away and yet so unlike his normal self.
"We have been...concerned about your...absence." The old man was picking his words carefully. "I think you and I had better have another little chat."
"I've got nothing more to say, sir."
"My office, now!" On the other hand, he wasn't going to be denied.
I trailed the two of them upstairs to Cowley's office, whereupon he tried to dismiss me. "All right Doyle, you can go now."
I shut the door, leant back against it and shook my head. "No."
"This does not concern you."
I glanced at Murphy. He was standing, almost to attention in front of the desk, eyes front, doing that gaze into the middle distance thing. You don't often see the effects of his military background but the remnants are still there. I shook my head again. "You want me to do more, to be involved more, to take more responsibility? Well this is more."
He gave up then, too much effort to argue with me when he needed to be concentrating on Murphy.
It didn't take long. Cowley again demanded to know where Murphy had been and what he had been doing, who he had seen. His temper rose swiftly with each shake of Murphy's head. Murph even tried to claim a private life only to be shot down with words we'd all heard several times over the years. "You have no private life. Your life and everything in it belongs to me while you work for this organisation."
I groaned softly as Murphy said the predictable; "Well maybe it's time I didn't work for this organisation any longer." He slammed gun and ID down on the desk. "I resign."
Cowley bounced to his feet in an instant. "Resignation refused."
"You can't refuse it."
"Nobody comes into this department, and certainly nobody leaves it without my express permission," Cowley snapped back. "You are hereby suspended until further notice."
"Fine!" Murphy turned on his heel and practically ran out of the room. I barely moved out of his way in time as he reached for the door handle.
I called after him as he moved swiftly away down the corridor. "C'mon Murph, don't do this, come back."
"I'll call you, Ray. Maybe," he flung over his shoulder as he disappeared through the swing doors.
"Yeah, right." I wouldn't be holding my breath.
I stormed back into Cowley's office and slammed the door shut. "Well you really screwed that up, didn't you?"
Cowley glared at me. "Murphy's position is compromised, we can no longer trust him. What did you expect me to do, over look his behaviour?"
"You could have handled him with a bit more finesse instead of sounding off at him like that."
Cowley gave a snort of derision. "You, lecturing me on finesse, Doyle? I may yet live to see it all."
"Listen to me you stubborn old man. He came here to talk to me, to confide in me. If you hadn't interfered, we'd know what his problem is!"
"He might have told you a story, but would you have believed him?"
"We'll never know now, will we?"
I slammed out of Cowley's office and took fast, quick strides back along the corridor to my own. It was empty. Damn Bodie, why couldn't he stay where he's put for five minutes? I yanked open the connecting door to Nicole's office and saw them both in there, Nicole obviously back from her trip to the dentist. There was no doubt they'd both heard the row. She looked somewhat alarmed despite having heard me argue with the old man before this. Bodie on the other hand looked amused although he tried to put a more serious expression on his face when he saw me.
"You got the gist of that, I suppose?"
He nodded. "Never heard the Smurph so wound up." He cocked an eyebrow at me. "Do you think it's our business?"
"I don't know." I sighed. "I just don't know. I still can't believe it, don't want to believe it, but he's behaving very oddly. And now he's run off again. We're back to square one."
"So, now what?"
"We're going to have to start pulling people in, I suppose. Question them." I thumped the nearest filing cabinet in frustration. "Damn it, I hate this!"
"Got to be done, sunshine. Otherwise you're all considered guilty by those wonderful people over at MI6 and this whole organisation is in big trouble."
"Mr Doyle?" Nicole's voice interrupted us. While we'd been talking she'd started to go about her business again. With part of my mind I'd been aware of her working; seen her label some files, staple some paperwork together and then move over to the small photocopier. She'd opened the lid, slid a piece of paper onto the glass and shut the lid again; pushed some buttons...
"Mr Doyle, look," she held out a crumpled piece paper to me. "It was jammed in the machine."
Ray took the paper impatiently; eyes scanning it distractedly with his mind still focused on Cowley, Murphy, and the big problem. I saw the double-take as he took in some of the content and his eyes returned to the top to read more carefully. He glanced up at Nicole. "This was in the copier? It's not something Cowley asked you to copy?"
"No. I haven't seen Mr Cowley yet this morning - and I've only just turned the photocopier on. It wasn't there last night."
"What is it?" I attempted to peer over Doyle's shoulder although the little I could see didn't mean much to me.
"Something which has no right being outside the locked safe in Cowley's office..." Doyle turned and headed for the door, pausing as he reached it. "Nicole, you'd better come in with me - us," he added, as I clearly wasn't going to be left behind...
Doyle didn't hesitate in his entry to Cowley's office, the argument forgotten; but Cowley was startled and still angry. "What now!"
"This." Doyle shoved the crumpled paper onto Cowley's desk and waited for the reaction.
"What - where did this come from?"
"Nicole found it. In the photocopier." Without waiting for any direction, Doyle was already selecting a key from his ring and opening the safe. He handed a file to Cowley, who flicked through it.
"All the pages are here."
It was already obvious to me that this was the latest file to be pilfered and copied but Nicole was only just cottoning onto the importance of what she'd found, and when all eyes turned to her she flushed and stammered. "I don't know anything about it..."
"It's OK, Nicole. You haven't done anything wrong. Did anyone else use your copier yesterday?"
"No. At least..."
I swung a chair around and gently pushed Nicole onto it. If Doyle was going to start questioning her, she could at least sit down. "What do you know?"
"I don't..." She hesitated and stopped again. "I don't want to cause any trouble."
"Just tell us!"
Doyle was getting impatient and I frowned at him. "Don't shout at Nicole, Ray. Take your time, love. It's important."
"Well, I left at the usual time last night. Mr Cowley was busy with Mr Murphy, so I didn't interrupt them. Halfway home, I realised I'd forgotten to put a memo into the post-tray. It was important, and I knew I would be late in this morning, so I came back to the office - I arrived at about half past six. As I put the memo into an envelope I thought I heard someone in here, but when I looked in the room was empty."
"You didn't see anyone?" Cowley rapped out the question.
Nicole hesitated again. "I opened the door to the corridor... someone had just reached the end of the corridor and was turning down the stairs..."
"Who?" we all asked at the same moment.
"I think it was Mr Murphy..."
There was a few seconds stunned silence from us all, before Doyle lifted the phone and spoke to Josh. "Has Murphy left the building?"
He replaced the receiver, nodding. "As soon as he left here. I can't believe it."
Cowley obviously couldn't either; he looked very old at that moment. I motioned to Nicole to get her to leave; we needed to talk about this and she didn't need to be there.
"Murphy left before me," Cowley was saying. "Like today, he refused to give me any sensible answers and left abruptly. I rang you, then left myself."
"Nothing to say he came back." In spite of all the evidence, I still couldn't believe Murphy would sell out.
"Even if he had, no one is going to question Murphy's presence." Reluctantly, Doyle was facing the possibility that Murphy could be guilty. "What do we do?"
"First, I have to warn the Minister that this document may have been copied. Then we have to question Murphy."
"If we can find him. You suspended him, remember? He's not going to be sitting meekly in his office at Hammersmith."
"Try his R/T. If you can't contact him, put out a call for him to be detained."
"You can't arrest Murphy!"
Cowley looked at me impassively. "If he's responsible, Bodie, then that's exactly what we'll be doing."
He picked up the phone. "Keep me informed."
I followed Doyle along the corridor. "You can't put out a call to arrest Murphy."
"I can, if I have to. I'm going to try his car, but if I can't get a response, or he won't come back or talk to me, what choice do we have?"
"I suppose... How will you explain that to the rest of the squad?"
"Christ knows." Doyle pushed open the door to the Control Room; Anson was on duty.
"Do we know where Murphy is?"
Given the way rumours spread around the building Anson had probably heard about the row, but he gave no sign of it. "I thought he was in the building - I saw him earlier."
"He was - but after he saw the Cow he left. I need to get hold of him." Doyle took the mike from Anson. "4.5 to 6.2."
There was no response, and Doyle tried again. "4.5 to 6.2. Come on Murphy, I need a word."
Still nothing. Doyle handed the mike back to Anson, and with a glance at me, opened his mouth to issue an order - and the loudspeaker sounded out. "6.2 receiving."
Doyle fair snatched the mike back. "Murphy. Where are you?"
"In the car." Murphy's tone was guarded, and I guessed that it had taken a lot for him to respond to Doyle's call.
"We need to talk. Tell me where I can meet you."
There was a pause. "OK. The pub closest to your place. I'll only talk to you, Ray - no-one else."
"Fine. I'm on my way."
Once again I pursued Ray down the corridor. "You're not meeting him on your own."
"Why not? This is Murphy we're talking about, Bodie, not the enemy. Anyway, I thought you believed he was innocent?"
"I do. But if he isn't, if he is the one we're after, things could turn nasty."
"And you want to come along and hold my hand? Don't you think I can handle Murphy if I need to?" We reached the stairs and Doyle put up his hand to stop me following him any further. "I'm going alone. See what you can do to stop the Old Man brooding before we get the facts."
That was a non-starter. By the time I'd got back to Cowley's office it was empty, and I went through to Nicole. "Where's the Old Man disappeared to?"
"He couldn't get the Minister on the phone and he said it was too important to leave a message." She might not have the whole story, but Nicole knew enough to realise something was very wrong and that it looked like Murphy was somehow involved, and she was miserable.
"It's not your fault, love. We'll get to the bottom of it." She nodded at my reassurance, and turned her attention back to the computer.
At a loose end until I heard from Ray or Cowley returned, I picked up my coffee mug to head for the VIP Lounge, but as I passed Ruth's door I heard what was unmistakably a sob.
I didn't bother to knock. Ruth wasn't quite in floods of tears, but the fact she was crying at all meant it was serious. "Ruthie? What's wrong?"
"Alan... just a stupid argument." She plucked a tissue from a box and rubbed her eyes. "I'm okay."
"You're obviously not." I perched on her desk and squeezed her arm; about as familiar as I was going to get with Ruth. "C'mon, tell Uncle Bodie all about it."
"It's nothing." At least I made her smile, but she could see that wouldn't fob me off. "We went out for a meal last night. Alan misunderstood something I said about Ray, and we ended up arguing..."
"The berk is jealous, is that it?" It proved to me that he didn't know his wife at all. Having taken a vow of marriage there was no way she'd have an affair, even with an ex-lover.
"Yes. It was just so embarrassing. And when we got home he wouldn't stop going on about Ray, and how he was always there in the background... Alan even started smashing things..." She sniffed. "I can't make him see there's nothing going on."
"He's an idiot." The 'smashing things' sounded worrying - I'd never met Alan but he sounded unhinged. "Are you worried about being with him?"
"Of course not! Alan loves me."
"Maybe. But it doesn't sound like he trusts you, and you've given him no reason not to." It wasn't quite a question; I'd known Ruth too long to be fooled into thinking she no longer had feelings for Ray. "If you need to talk to anyone, remember where I am."
She nodded, but reluctantly. "I'll be fine."
I wasn't so sure about that, but I could hardly force her. I left her, and went in search of coffee.
Returning to Doyle's office, I could hear the copier running next door. It stopped abruptly and Nicole uttered a very unladylike word, so I popped my head in. "Can I help?"
"It's jammed again. It's always jamming..."
"Just as well," I told her. "It's helped us."
"Mmm." She pulled the side panel and then the front of the copier to open it, and reached in to pull out the crumpled paper, carefully folding it. "This damned toner gets everywhere if you're not careful."
Dumping the wrecked page in the bin, she turned back to reverse her actions with the panels, and paused. "Mr Bodie, look at this."
Advancing to her side, I looked where she was pointing. On the inside of the front panel was a clear thumbprint in copier toner. A large thumbprint, clearly not Nicole's.
"Who else uses the copier?"
"Mr Cowley, Mr Doyle, Miss Pettifer..."
"Well, that's not Ruth's."
"It wouldn't be Mr Cowley or Mr Doyle either. Neither of them know how to clear paper jams. They leave it for me."
"Did the machine jam yesterday? Do you remember seeing this thumbprint then?"
"It jammed yesterday, just after lunch. I didn't need to use it after that. But I don't remember whether this was here or not."
Chances were, it hadn't been. "Who do we have in the building who can take fingerprints and analyse them?"
The pub had barely been open ten minutes when I pulled up outside, which enabled me to get a parking space practically outside.
I ordered a pint and stood at the bar sipping it while I waited for Murphy. I wondered what on earth he was going to say to me. What I wanted was some bloody good explanation for his recent behaviour. The fact he was willing to meet with me was hopefully a good sign. I didn't want to think him guilty of betraying us but I'd been too long in this job to put anybody entirely above suspicion.
After I'd checked my watch for the third time, the barmaid wandered back in my direction.
"Late, is she?" she asked.
I looked at her, a pretty blonde, hair pulled back into a ponytail and a red sweater that suited her a treat. She was new since I'd last been in here.
I smiled at her. "It's not a girl." Her smile faltered a little and I hastened to reassure her. "I'm just waiting for a mate but it's quite urgent."
The interest came back in full but before either of us could make the next move, Murphy barrelled in.
"Well I'm here, this had better be good," he said belligerently.
Oh we were off to a great start. "What do you want to drink?" I asked.
He reached for his wallet. "I'll get them."
I slapped his arm. "You're suspended, you berk. You'd better hang on to your money. Now what do you want?"
"Whisky," he said sullenly.
I turned back to the pretty barmaid who had been watching us closely. "Two whiskys, love. Make 'em doubles."
She nodded and turned away to fetch the drinks. We stood in silence until she returned and I handed over a note in payment.
I gestured in the direction of a small alcove set with two chairs and a small table. "That'll do us."
Murphy nodded and we moved over and sat down.
I expected him to speak first but he didn't. He downed half the drink in one gulp and sat there glowering at me.
"Come on Murphy, give a little will you?" I sighed. "You agreed to meet me, you knew you'd have to talk, so talk."
"You Cowley's stooge now, Doyle?" he asked.
I held my temper. "You know better than that Murph. We're concerned about you."
"Who's 'we'?" he asked suspiciously.
"Me, Bodie, Sally. Even the Cow, though you'd have to twist his arm behind his back until it broke before he'd admit it."
That at least got me a small smile.
I tried again. "We've been friends a long time now, mate. You came and found me earlier. I was ready to listen then and I am still am. Will you please just trust me and tell me what the hell is going on in your life for you to screw up like this?"
Ok, that could have come out a bit better. Murphy clearly thought so as well because he glared at me and stood up. I leapt to my feet too, ready to stop him leaving but he simply drained the contents of his glass and said; "I need another drink."
I made a move towards my wallet but he stopped me with a gesture. "I can still buy a couple of bloody drinks!" he snapped and headed towards the bar.
I watched him closely, all ready to chase after him if he decided to do a runner, and of course he noticed. He's not one of our best agents for nothing.
"Just what the hell is going on?" he said when he got back to our table with fresh drinks. "You were thinking I was going to take off, weren't you? I may not like it, but I've come here to talk and I will." His tone was more puzzled now than belligerent.
I sighed in relief. "Just tell me your story mate and then I'll tell you a tale."
It was a sad little story that unfolded. Murphy's ex-wife, not content with screwing him for every penny she could get out of him, had now hooked up with some new bloke and was talking of going abroad to live, permanently. Not that she'd be any great loss but it was his daughter Murphy was concerned about. He knew that it probably meant he would lose touch with her however good his intentions of staying in touch were. And that was assuming he would even be allowed any access. Certainly if Helen, his bitch of a wife, had her way he could kiss his daughter goodbye at the airport.
Of course Murphy had been frantic and had been rushing all over the place trying to find some way to stop her. He'd made impassioned pleas to Helen not to go and when that failed, he tried a solicitor to see if he had any legal way of stopping her.
Murphy was a private person, a naturally quiet individual. He'd never shared the details of his short-lived marriage with any of us. Only Cowley and I had heard bits and pieces over the last year. It was no wonder he'd not talked about this additional problem.
When he finished, choking out the last few sentences, we sat in silence for a minute or two.
"I'm sorry," I said finally. "If there's anything I can do." It sounded lame but what else could I say?
He shrugged. "Nothing to be done. It's my problem."
I braced myself for the big question. "Where did you go last night after you stormed out on the Cow? Specifically where were you at about six thirty?" I watched him closely for his reaction.
He looked puzzled again. "Just what is going on, Ray? There's more to this that you're not telling me."
"Just answer the question, Murphy."
He shrugged. "I was propping up the bar of my local, drowning my sorrows. And yes, 'they will confirm it, constable'. I've been there too often lately for them not to recognise me."
I sighed with relief. I'd never thought him guilty, not really, but with Nicole's statement it had seemed at least a possibility.
"You'll have to tell the Cow," I said next.
Murphy looked thoughtful for a moment. "Tell him for me, Doyle. No..." as I opened my mouth to protest. "I think I've let things slip about as far as I can. I want to get back to the office and get some work done."
"Sally will be relieved to see you. Consider yourself reinstated." I grinned at him. "Come on, we'd better both be getting back."
He put a hand on my arm as I rose to leave. "Not so fast, mate. You haven't told me what all the flap is about."
I tried to put it as succinctly as possible. He whistled when I was done.
"Well I can see why the old man was so bloody shirty now. But you didn't really think this traitor was me, did you?"
I shook my head. "Let's just say I'm glad I didn't have to clap the cuffs on you and drag you back to the dungeons."
He gave an uncertain laugh. "You wouldn't do that." Then he saw the expression on my face. "You would too, you bastard." But his tone was mild, we'd all done things we'd rather not do for the greater good and banging up a mate was almost to be expected.
We left the pub to return to our respective cars, but not before I'd exchanged smiles with the blonde barmaid. I'd try and make a return visit soon.
Our bespectacled specialist lifted the print from the copier and comparing it to the one that Ruth had retrieved from Murphy's file, he shook his head. "No, that doesn't match."
"Are you sure?" I'd been certain Murphy was innocent; this was possibly one step closer to proving it - still assuming the print had been left by our villain, of course.
"See for yourself."
My untrained eye couldn't see much difference in the whorl patterns but Murphy's print had a mark, probably a scar, and there was no way the print on the copier belonged to him. I grinned happily.
"Question is," Ruth commented wryly, "who does it belong to?"
"It won't take long to find out, surely. And if it's someone on our list of suspects we're home and dry."
Ruth didn't look convinced. "It proves someone used the copier and fixed a paper jam. And even if the squad aren't supposed to be in Nicole's office using the copier, the fact is that most of them have done it, at some time or another. That print could belong to someone completely innocent."
I was deflated, but Ruth was right - as usual. I stood my ground. "It has to narrow the field. What about the file which was taken out of Cowley's safe? If we test that for prints as well and get a match, we'll know they belong to our suspect."
"We'd need to eliminate Cowley's and Doyle's first. But it's an idea."
"Well, let's get on with it..."
When Cowley returned from seeing the Minister, Ruth and I had raided his safe for the buff-coloured file and our specialist was testing the pages for prints. He stared in bemusement at the crowd in his office. "Anyone want to explain what's going on?"
"We've got a fingerprint from the copier, sir. We thought if it matched anything on this file, we'd have our man."
"Inspired, Bodie. I'm glad to see those years of training are still paying off."
"Not quite." Ruth looked up from the desk. "There are only two recognisable sets of prints on this file: yours and Doyle's. Everything else is smudged and smeared."
"He wore gloves," Cowley said. "Wouldn't you?"
"Probably," I admitted. "But why did he take them off at the copier?"
"Because he couldn't get the paper jam out?" Nicole spoke up shyly. "It's really fiddly, getting hold of the paper to pull it out; I couldn't do it in gloves."
"And your hands are probably quite a bit smaller than his. It's possible."
"None of this is getting us any further," Cowley announced impatiently. "Can I reclaim my office now?"
When the Old Man put that tone in his voice, everyone jumped. Nicole scurried back into her room, Robin gathered up his brushes and pads and hurried out, and Ruth tidied the file away into the safe before she followed.
I wasn't going anywhere, and opened the filing cabinet to retrieve Cowley's bottle of scotch. "What did the Minister say?"
"It wouldn't be repeatable in mixed company." Cowley accepted the glass I passed him. "At least we're onto the possibility of the leak before any damage has been done. He's going to instigate changes immediately; whatever information has been gleaned from the document will be useless."
"That's something." I sipped at the half-inch of liquid I'd poured for myself. Something told me I shouldn't overindulge too early; today was shaping up to be one I'd like to end with a glass in my hand.
"If not much. What's happening about Murphy? And where's Doyle?"
"Murphy agreed to meet Ray, to talk. I haven't heard from him."
Cowley raised an eyebrow. "Talk? Was Doyle hoping for a confession?"
"I shouldn't think so; he doesn't think Murphy is guilty. Neither do I."
"Och, don't look at me like that, lad. Whatever it looks like, I don't believe it's him either. But Murphy has some explaining to do."
"He's done it." Doyle lounged into the office and headed straight for the glasses. "I'll fill you in later, but let's just say I'm completely satisfied that Murphy isn't our guilty party."
"Where is he now?"
"In his office at Hammersmith. I reinstated him."
Cowley took several gulps of air as he tried to find some words. I was put forcibly in mind of a fish and didn't dare look at Doyle for fear of us both laughing.
"You... reinstated him," he finally got out.
"I did." Doyle had that look in his eye that I'd encountered often, where he dares you to argue with him. I generally didn't, and I was relieved when Cowley didn't either. "So, what's been going on here in my absence?"
Bodie brought me up to date with the findings of paper and fingerprint, which seemed to give Cowley time to accustom himself to my authoritative action.
"Seeing as you've taken it upon yourself to reinstate Murphy, you had better give these back." Cowley took Murphy's gun and ID out of his drawer and pushed them across the desk towards me. Now he'd had time to recover from my bombshell he had that sort of approving look when an agent has done something unexpected but useful.
I scooped them up thinking I would get them couriered over as soon as possible.
"So, where do we go from here?" Bodie asked.
Right on cue the door opened and Ruth poked her head in. "I've got copies of the prints from those agents on our shortlist and I'm heading over to the Met with Robin to get them run through the computer."
Cowley had that look on his face again and I wouldn't have been surprised if mine had matched it.
"Nice one Ruth," I said. "Mind you make them bump this to the top of their list."
"Why do you think I'm going and not just sending Robin?" she replied tartly but flashed a quick smile at us all before leaving.
"She'll go far, she will." Bodie said, approvingly.
"Perhaps you would also care to go," Cowley said. "Then I could get on with some work until such time as we have more information to go on." His tone was more mild than his words and some of the stress had gone from his eyes. "We do appear to be getting somewhere now, lads."
We took the hint and wandered back to my office.
"Breakfast was a while ago," Bodie observed hopefully.
"Don't you ever think about anything but your stomach?"
"Don't tell me you're not hungry too? Unless, you already ate at the pub with Murphy."
I shook my head, grinning. "Nah, too intent on beating a confession out of him." I saw a note on my desk and reached across for it. It was from Jax telling me they had just about wrapped up the statements from the men down in the cells. It ended; 'join us down the pub for a celebration if you can get away'.
I showed it to Bodie. "Looks like you get your wish. They'll all be at the King's Head, they serve good grub in there. Come on."
We came back a little under two hours later having joined the team and toasted their success rather thoroughly. Even for me, these days, I'd had rather a lot to drink and was wishing that I'd joined Bodie in orange juice for at least part of the time. I nipped across to the rest room and filled my kettle so we could have some tea and try to sober up a bit.
"Good to see some things never change," Bodie said as I plugged the kettle in and flicked the switch. "That was just like us in the old days."
"Work hard, play hard, you know us."
We'd barely finished the first cup when Nicole opened the connecting door and said Cowley wanted to see us both.
When we went through into his room, Ruth was there as well, her hands clasped on top of a file on her lap, her head slightly bowed. Cowley was sat behind his desk, a stunned look upon his face. They both looked at us as we came through the door.
"It's Lake," Cowley said without any preamble.
Ruth held out the file to me. "See for yourself. It's definitely his print."
I took the file and scanned the contents, Bodie reading over my shoulder. It seemed as if there could be no doubt about it.
We'd have been shocked no matter who it turned out to be, I suppose, but Lake was one of the old hands. He joined CI5 round about the same time I had and although we'd never been close friends, we'd saved each other's lives a time or two and that kind of thing forges links that aren't easily broken.
"How do you plan to tackle him, sir?" Ruth asked. She'd obviously had longest of all us to come to terms with the news and was already thinking ahead to our next move.
"Pull him in, question him," Cowley replied with a gesture. "Where is he today, anyway?"
"Out at Wembley with Johnson. Doing obbo on that gun importer," I said. "Not happy about it either." I remembered how Lake had complained bitterly at being stuck on observation duty but with my op running there were limited options in who else I could send so I'd ignored his protests. After all, none of us enjoy obs, it's just a necessary evil.
"Call him back then, Doyle. Give some excuse obviously, and we'll see what he has to say for himself when he gets here."
"Yeah but wait a sec," Bodie interrupted. "He's not going to say anything, is he? We don't have a lot to go on if what Ruth says is true about the squad using Nicole's copier. He could just say he used it in all innocence and doesn't know anything about that bit of paper."
"True," Cowley said. He looked round at us all. "Suggestions?"
"Set a trap." Ruth said quietly. "If he's innocent, he won't fall for it. If he is..." she shrugged.
"What did you have in mind, Ruth?"
We discussed it until we were sure we had covered all the angles, called Nicole in and told her the part she had to play and then I went off to the Control Room to call Lake back into HQ. At least with his having been out all day he would be unaware of all the comings and goings and Robin's involvement and so would not be on his guard.
It was only a minor case I'd put Lake and Johnson on. One of those fishing expeditions you do from time to time that mostly net minnows and sometimes the bigger fish that make all the other occasions worthwhile. Neither of them were too surprised therefore, to be called back in.
They came into my office to make their report. Ruth was already sitting beside me when they arrived. I explained that she had come across information that might link up with theirs and it was easier for her to hear their report first hand.
They were about to start when Nicole came into my office as arranged. She held out a file to me. "The papers you wanted, Mr Doyle."
"Thanks Nic, you can get off now. Don't want to be late for the dentist, do you?" We needed her out of the way and it was the simplest excuse to use, being foremost in my mind.
She pulled a face, nodded and turned to go. Just as she reached the door, Ruth came in on cue. "Oh Nicole, before I forget, I've left a sheet of paper on top of the filing cabinet. I went to use the copier earlier and found it jammed in there. You'll probably know best which file it came from."
Nicole nodded but said; "I'll deal with it tomorrow if that's ok, Miss Pettifer. I do have to run just now."
Ruth said that was fine, Nicole left and we returned to debriefing Lake and Johnson. We'd all played our parts and now it was up to Lake to show himself as innocent or guilty. If he was our man, he needed that sheet of paper to complete the set for his paymasters. He must know he was nearly caught last night when Nicole came back to the office so unexpectedly.
I dismissed them both after another half an hour but not before Ruth had slipped in the information that she and Cowley were off to a meeting at Whitehall and she had no idea what time they would be back. We had to leave the coast as clear as possible for Lake to encourage him to take the opportunity.
I waited silently in Nicole's office for them to finish; sipping tea and thinking.
Lake. I was shocked that he could betray CI5, I suppose; but deep down I wasn't surprised it was him. It wasn't anything I could put my finger on but there was something about him I'd never entirely trusted; particularly in the months following Williams' death. Lake had seemed to blame Cowley for his partner's demise.
We still had to wait for him to make his move of course, but I was convinced. I recalled the conversation in the VIP Lounge just a couple of days ago; Lake's complaint about Doyle had more behind it than I'd realised. He'd been on the team for as long as Doyle but was still just one of the agents taking orders. Nicole mistaking him for Murphy was understandable; they were of a similar size and build, and I'd done it myself on a couple of occasions.
When Nicole had left, I checked our scenario. The vital piece of paper was waiting on the filing cabinet, ready to be stolen. The connecting doors to the offices were shut. Turning off the office lights - there was enough light from the windows to see by so that it wasn't completely dark, but the shadows would be useful - I squeezed myself into a space between the two cabinets near the door.
By the time the debrief was over, Lake would know that Nicole had left for the day and that Ruth and Cowley were off to a meeting. Doyle was going to make a point of announcing his departure. As far as Lake was concerned I hadn't been near the building all day, and he wouldn't miss his opportunity.
I heard Doyle wrapping up the meeting, making loud noises about finding out what Bodie had been up to all day, and wouldn't it be good to have that much leisure time.
Footsteps in the corridor: two pair going towards the VIP Lounge, one away, towards the stairs.
The stage was set, now we just needed our villain...
He didn't disappoint us.
It was only about twenty minutes later that the door to Nicole's room inched open, and I stopped breathing. Satisfied the room was empty, the incher came fully in, pushing the door to behind him. Not bothering with the lights, he made his way to the filing cabinet beside the copier, and I saw a small torch come on and flick swiftly across the page lying there before the paper was picked up and folded.
I pointed my own torch directly at him and blinded him with the beam, whilst moving to put the lights on.
"What the -? Who's that?"
"Just your friendly neighbourhood security man," I replied.
"Bodie?" Lake blinked as the lights revealed me, and I turned off the torch. "What the hell are you doing?"
"One could ask the same question of you." Doyle had made his way silently back to his office and now stood in the doorway.
"Ray?" Even caught in the act, Lake still had to try and bluff his way out of it. "I just came in to use the copier - I know we're not supposed to, but it was just one page and I didn't think Nicole would mind..."
"Just the one page now, maybe. How many did you copy last night?"
Doyle was clearly in no mood to be messed around. "Oh, give it up. We know, Lake. All about the files you've been stealing and where they've been ending up. It's time for us to have a chat - downstairs..."
Whether he thought we were bluffing I don't know, but Lake continued to protest his innocence all the way to the interrogation room. Once there, Doyle attempted to exclude me from the questioning, proposing to call Cowley in.
"Knock it off, Doyle. I'm in on this one. Don't forget my MI6 role in all this."
Doyle grinned. "I thought they sacked you."
"I resigned. Still, it was my case before it was yours, sunshine."
He gave in, of course, although the questioning was pretty fruitless even with both of us there. Recognising at last that he had indeed been caught and there was no getting away with it, Lake didn't hold back on the reasons for his treachery, and they were many and varied - and imaginary, if Doyle's bewildered reaction was anything to go by. According to Lake, Cowley, Doyle, Ruth and Murphy had all been conspiring against him for months, taking away any responsibility he might have had and denigrating him in front of the younger agents when he should have been in charge. He'd run up gambling debts (obviously because CI5 didn't pay him enough!) and when someone had offered him a way out by stealing information, he'd grabbed it with both hands. He wasn't showing the slightest sign of remorse though, and I was sure that the debt had probably been cleared long since - Lake was now paying CI5 back for slighting him.
Once that diatribe was out of the way, Doyle attempted to question Lake about who was paying him, but that was where Lake clammed up. After only a short while, Doyle gestured to me, and we left the room.
"It's not worth the effort." Doyle looked sick with disgust at Lake. "I think we should just lock him up and let Cowley handle it."
"You think he'll get more out of Lake?"
"No, I should think he'll throw the bastard to MI6 and let them work on him." He pushed the bolt over on the door. "I'll get a couple of the lads to keep an eye on him tonight. I don't want to talk to him again."
After assigning two of the younger agents, we made our way back to Doyle's office. "We should go and have a drink to celebrate catching him, anyway."
"I suppose." Doyle didn't seem that keen but it might stop him brooding.
The noise from Ruth's office stopped us both in our tracks. Since there hadn't really been any meeting to attend with Cowley Ruth had taken the opportunity to go home early, so who was in her office?
We bowled in together - and were brought up short by the sight of Ruth.
She turned away as we came in but not quickly enough. I strode across the room and pulled her round to face me. My quick glance had been right. The right side of her mouth was cut and starting to swell.
"I... I just came in to get the key to safe house four. I'm not sto..stopping." She sank down onto the nearest chair and it was only then I noticed the small case by her feet.
"Ruth, what's happened?"
"I've left Alan," she said in a voice so soft I could hardly hear her.
"Did he do that?" I didn't need to wait for her answer. "Bastard!" I turned for the door but her voice stopped me.
"Ray, no!" Her voice broke in a sob. "Please don't." She was holding my arm tightly. I could have shaken her off and gone but... I didn't. Instead, I held her in my arms and let her cry. I was vaguely aware of Bodie leaving the room but I wasn't concerned about him. I was more worried about seeing my strong and capable Ruth broken up like this.
Through her tears, I could just make out the muffled words. "Bastards. All you men are bastards."
"Yeah, love," I agreed stroking her hair. "We are."
I left the office fuming. Ruth's return in these circumstances had squashed any pleasure we had in catching Lake; I didn't feel like celebrating now and was sure Doyle wouldn't either.
I wasn't worried about leaving them alone, I could rely on Ray to do the right thing and comfort her, and then persuade her she had to give her marriage another go. He was that sort of idiot.
My advice would be to dump Alan, immediately and for good, but I don't suppose Ruth would want to hear that. Her husband didn't deserve her.
I pounded down the stairs to the exit, hearing some sort of kerfuffle going on ahead of me. "I want to see Ruth, and I want to see her now!"
I paused, out of sight, to listen. I didn't know Alan, but it sounded as though this was the man himself.
"I'm sorry, sir. I can't let you into the building, you know that." Josh sounded barely polite, and I wondered just how much he knew about the situation - I assumed Ruth had come into the building by this door, and Josh wasn't blind. "I'll phone up to her office for you."
Ruth certainly didn't want to see Alan, and I doubted she would speak to him either. I waited, wondering if he would leave quietly once she refused.
"Oh, Mr Doyle. I have Mr Harris here asking to see his wife."
Uh-huh. Alan wouldn't like that: Doyle in Ruth's office answering her phone. I risked a look around the corner: Alan didn't see me but I could see his expression. As I expected, I heard Josh putting the phone down.
"Miss Pettifer doesn't want to see you, sir. I suggest you go home now and come back tomorrow."
"Don't you try and tell me what to do!" Clearly a man accustomed to being in charge, who disliked taking orders from anyone else. Not the sort of person I would have expected Ruth to marry. "She's my wife!"
"I understand that, sir. But this is a secure building, and you have no reason to be here. I think you should leave, sir."
The implication in Josh's words was clear: 'before we make you.' Alan obviously heard that as well, and without further argument I heard the door bang behind him.
I sauntered from my hiding place. "Problem?"
"Not really, Mr Bodie. Just Miss Pettifer's husband, asking to see her. I had to remind him that he has no authority to be in the building, if Miss Pettifer herself hasn't arrived with him."
His loyalty contrasted sharply with the traitor we had downstairs. I nodded as I passed the desk on my way out. "Keep up the good work."
Just outside, Alan Harris was still loitering; seemingly trying to decide whether to go home or go back inside for another go at Josh. I turned in the opposite direction and then just stopped out of sight.
Decision made, Harris started towards the tube station, and I started after him.
The drive back home was not nearly long enough for me to even begin to calm down. Ruth had been adamant she wanted to be alone and eventually I'd had no choice but to leave her at safe house four. It wasn't a bad idea of hers to go there. Alan would have no idea where she was, unlike if she'd gone to friends or relatives where there was a chance he would track her down. I couldn't believe the effrontery of the man to have followed her to headquarters after what he'd done.
Bodie wasn't at the flat when I got there which surprised me. Since he'd discreetly left the office, leaving Ruth and me alone, I'd assumed he'd come back here.
I snatched at the bottle of whisky on the sideboard and poured myself a generous drink.
"Is that a belated celebration drink?" Bodie's voice came from the doorway. I glared at him and he put his hands up in an attitude of surrender. "Hey, only asking. How's Ruth?"
"How do you think? The man must be off his head! I've still a good mind to go round and sort him, except that Ruth made me promise not to."
Bodie shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and came further into the room. "What's she going to do?"
I shook my head. "I don't know. I don't think she does either. A few days away from that bastard might give her some perspective. I'll go and check up on her tomorrow."
I glared at him again but he said no more. I understood his warning all right though. I'd given advice before on warring couples and got burned by both sides. Given my history with Ruth, Bodie was concerned that I wasn't exactly thinking straight myself.
I gestured to the whisky bottle. "Do you want one?"
"Thought you'd never offer. I've held back all day in the expectation of a few this evening."
I poured us both drinks then prowled the room, unsure what I wanted to do next. I was aware of Bodie watching me as I drew the curtains with a jerk, snatched up some newspapers and stuffed them into the paper rack and then beat a couple of recalcitrant cushions into submission.
"You could always put that energy into good use and make us something to eat," he finally said, plaintively.
"Food! Is that all you ever think about?"
Bodie put his glass on the little side table with a bang. "Come on, Ray," he said. "I know you're concerned about Ruth but there's nothing you can do about it right now. On the other hand, you've had a blinder of a take down all wrapped up and we've put an end to Lake and his games. We deserve a bit of a celebration, so give over with the dramatics and make us some grub. That ploughman's at the pub was hours ago!" He ended on a pathetic note and as on so many occasions in the past, I found myself smiling against my will and some of the tension eased out of my muscles.
"All right, all right, you win. Let me see what's left from your shopping blitz." I went through to the kitchen and started rummaging through cupboards, my mind running on the events of the last few days. In a perverse kind of way it had been fun on the whole. It took me back, back to when Bodie and I had been partners. Was it just nostalgia for the good old days that made me think they were the good old days?
While I stirred and simmered various pots on the stove, I thought some more; I'm supposed to be good at that.
When I came back through into the living room with two steaming plates, Bodie looked up in anticipation. I handed one to him and sat down with the other in my hand. As he forked up the first mouthful I launched my attack.
"You can't expect this all the time, you know. When you've got your own place again, I expect a few meals from you."
He looked up in surprise, swallowed his mouthful too hastily, half choked and quickly reached for his drink. "What do you mean, a place of my own?"
"Well you certainly can't stay here indefinitely, can you? You'd certainly cramp my style."
"What style?" he said automatically. "And what makes you think I'm staying around anyway? I've done what I came to do and now I can get back to..."
"Yeah? To what?" I demanded as his voice trailed away.
"To anything I want," he shot back. "There's plenty of the world I've not seen yet."
"Bodie, you've had the time away to sort yourself out, now just admit that you're bored. You're bloody well fit enough and you ran half this case on your own. Now, I want you back on the strength and I'm not taking no for an answer!"
"I'll think about it," he said grudgingly. "I'm making no promises, mind!"
I thought I'd settle for that.
Well, I can't say I'm surprised. And of course I'd be saying yes, although I might keep him guessing for a few days.
One thing I would need was a training refresher. I clenched and unclenched my fist again. It's a long time since I hit anyone like that...