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Sink or Swim

or, The Lads Afloat

or, CI5 Go On A Boating Holiday


          "I was in the SAS, not the SBS," Bodie grumbled, as we left the briefing room.
          Doyle grinned at him. "It's a canalboat, Bodie. I'm sure we can manage it."
          Susan raised one eyebrow at me, obviously already annoyed with Bodie. As if we were looking forward to this particular assignment any more than he was. "We'll both go home and pack a few things then, and meet you back here at one?"
          Leaving Bodie still scowling, I followed Susan back to the Lounge to collect our coats. "Honestly," she began, "why does Bodie think the world revolves around him?"
          "He just hates stake-outs."
          "I don't exactly love them. This is not my idea of a holiday - who does Cowley think he's kidding?"
          I didn't blame her. Susan's leave had been cancelled for this and although she hadn't complained outright, sensing her mood our boss had tried to cajole her with the idea that a couple of days on the river was all the break she needed.
          "And having to play girlfriend to Bodie..."
          I heard that with some relief but glanced sideways at her. Given the choice of course I'd rather be paired with Ray, although I wouldn't be so happy if any hint of our budding relationship had got out, and wondered why she thought that pairing was a foregone conclusion. "Well, I don't mind..." I began.
          Susan swept on. "I suppose it could be worse. I'm not sure I could play up to Ray, at least Bodie always looks a bit more presentable."
          I bit down on the instinct to defend Ray. I actually agreed; he could be incredibly scruffy most of the time and while I generally preferred men to be smarter, I was starting to find that scruffiness quite appealing. "Well, if we're supposed to be on holiday they'll both be casually dressed."
          "Yes, but Bodie even manages to look smarter then. Anyway, you always seem to get on well with Ray. One of us may as well have an easy job. Are you ready? We'll go to mine first; remind me to throw away the milk otherwise it'll be off before we get back..."
          I followed, smiling. Susan was efficient but I had no idea where she got her energy from and I always found her exhausting.

          "I don't see why Ruth and I have to go in the back."
          I didn't know whether Susan was genuinely objecting or if she was just winding them up. On the route between her flat and mine she'd seemed reconciled to the loss of her holiday and almost looking forward to the trip.
          "I'm driving and Doyle is navigating. Of course we both need to be in front," Bodie insisted.
          "I can navigate," Susan retorted. "It's not solely a male talent, you know. In fact, most men I know can't read maps."
          "Susan's right," I agreed. Female solidarity always had to be upheld, particularly in CI5. "Either of us could navigate. In fact, either of us could drive."
          Susan caught my eye as Bodie tried to find a way of denying that without sounding sexist, and I could see she'd decided to have some fun. I could also see an amused glint in Ray's eyes and looked away before we all gave the game away by laughing.
          "But it's my car," was the best Bodie could come up with.
          "Well, we can't stand here all day. So why don't we ride in the back on the way there, and then Susan and I can take the front on the way back?" Without waiting for agreement - mainly because I wouldn't get instant agreement from Bodie - I squeezed past the front seat into the rear of the Capri.
          Susan followed, smirking at me. "Nice move," she murmured.
          Doyle was also grinning as they settled into their seats, and ostentatiously reached for the map which I'm sure he didn't need just yet.

          Once we were on the road, Bodie returned to what he and Doyle had been arguing about when we'd arrived. "The whole thing is nonsense; sending all four of us out like this. I don't know why we can't just do a normal surveillance."
          "Were you listening at all during the briefing, Bodie? Putting a van in the road outside would be like advertising in the local paper."
          "Still, all this messing about on the river. What are we supposed to be doing?"
          "Having a holiday. Doing what couples on holiday do."
          Bodie raised a suggestive eyebrow over the back seat at Susan. "Well, what I generally do on holiday..."
          "Except we're pretend couples, Bodie," I quickly squashed him. "We won't be getting up to any of that. I suppose we could be bird-watching."
          Bodie exchanged a glance with Doyle. "I'm good at bird-watching."
          "I'll bet," Susan exclaimed.
          "S'true!"
          "He's a very keen twitcher," Doyle smirked. "He's always on the look-out for the Great Bustard."
          "Oh, I know where he is," Bodie replied swiftly. "We left him back in the office."
          Susan gave an unladylike snort of laughter at the gibe against our boss, which given the loss of her holiday I was prepared to forgive. Bodie scented an ally and winked at her.
          I exchanged a glance with Ray. At least if the pair of them united against Mr Cowley we might get through the next couple of days without too much moaning...

          My heart sank again as we viewed our home for the next couple of days. Due to the short notice, Mr Cowley had said, there had only been one canalboat available to us. It was small.
          I understood there was a - probably very small - 'bedroom' and that the seating area converted to a double bed, but given that we weren't the couples we were pretending to be, I'd have to share with Susan - and the lads would have to share as well.
          As we all stepped carefully aboard, I caught a muttered comment from Bodie. "Think we'll be sleeping in shifts, sunshine..."
          Inside was as small as it looked from outside; I'd been hoping appearance was deceptive. There was a miniature cooker in the galley as we entered, the sink opposite - which at least hinted at running water being available - and the table which converted to a bed. A small closet further back was presumably the toilet.
          "There's not even room to swing a mouse, let alone a cat." Bodie was clearly horrified.
          I just hoped the good weather held. If we ended up cooped up inside here someone would be committing murder fairly quickly!
          "Well," Doyle dumped his bag in the seating, "may as well make the best of it and get underway. Where's the map? We need to work out exactly how far to go before we tie up."
          "I think I'm getting claustrophobia." Bodie dropped his bag where he stood and headed back up the steps. "I'll work out how the engine starts..."
          Having inspected the small bedroom - achieved by taking a few steps and moving the curtain - Susan put down her bag and followed him. "I think I'll join you. Two heads are better than one when it comes to working out these things..."
          Doyle raised an eyebrow at me. "Those two make for unlikely bedfellows."
          "United in the face of adversity, perhaps." I looked around us. "I've stayed in better places."
          "I've stayed in worse - and I'm quite sure Bodie has. Don't worry about his moaning."
          "I don't tend to let Bodie concern me," I smiled. "But we don't exactly have much space to escape each other."
          "We'll be taking shifts up top anyway. And we have to make at least one foray into the grounds, which we'd better do tonight if we can, just in case we have to move on tomorrow."
          I pulled the folder of information out of my bag and we spread the maps over the narrow table. We hadn't had time to study them after the briefing, and as we located the suspect's house backing onto the Thames, it struck me that it was indeed rather isolated.
          "Ray... did Mr Cowley think to check where we could eat?"
          He paused in his rough calculation of how far downriver we needed to go. "Eat? There are plenty of pubs up and down the river."
          "I'm sure there are. However, if we're supposed to be tying up here -" I pointed at the map "- I can't see any other buildings..."
          "I see what you mean."
          "So..." I looked at the small galley. "Do I have time to go shopping?"
          "You won't be able to cook in here." Doyle bent to pull open the cupboards and found the boat better equipped than he had anticipated. "Although I suppose there are a few pans."
          "I don't see what else we can do anyway. We can't starve." I giggled. "Can you imagine Bodie's face if he finds out there's no food?"
          That decided him. "We'd never hear the end of it. Can you be quick though? We need to get off."
          "I'll take Susan with me. I'm sure it won't take long."
          Bodie and Susan had apparently figured out the engine with little trouble and were now propped against the rail around the small cockpit area. "So we're just window-dressing?" Susan was saying.
          "I didn't say that. But it won't take all of us to check this place out..."
          I interrupted, waving my purse at Susan before she could continue the argument. "We need some shopping."
          Susan rolled her eyes. "I thought I was on holiday."
          "It's up to you," I added. "But if you want to eat..."
          I caught the look of alarm on Bodie's face. "There's no food...?"
          "There will be," I reassured him. "Just in case there isn't a handy pub."

          We found the local supermarket quite easily and stocked up on the essentials, plus a variety of foods which wouldn't go off too quickly and didn't need much cooking. For good measure I picked up several multi-packs of chocolate bars, having catered for Bodie's junk appetite before. Susan added a few items to the basket, including a box of Coco-pops which would no doubt find favour with Bodie as well.
          We returned to find them ready to leave. "We've got about two hours of travelling, if I've got the calculations right, and since we can't travel after dark we have to be in position by then," Doyle explained.
          "It stays light until at least eight anyway," Bodie said. "We should be able to do it easily."
          While I put away the shopping - even discovering a small fridge in one of the cupboards - Susan disappeared into the bedroom and emerged after changing, wearing jeans and a rather skimpy top.
          I stared at her. "Is that a good idea?"
          "If we're supposed to be couples, there's not much point in us looking like maiden aunts on holiday. Anyway, I got really hot rushing around the shops." Susan grinned at me. "And if I have to be here, I'm going to do my best to enjoy it."
          I have to admit I watched her agile ascent up the few steps with some envy. Granted we'd had to pack in a hurry but I didn't have many clothes that were suitable for this sort of holiday. I'd packed my only pair of jeans along with a summery skirt and lightweight blouses but I didn't have any plimsoles or deck shoes like Susan's and even my flat sandals probably weren't very suitable.
          I finished with the cupboards and went to change. At least I could get out of the rather formal suit skirt and blouse I'd started the day with, even if my casual clothing wasn't as relaxed as Susan's.

          Joining the other three, I found Susan reclining on the roof, partly because it would be the best place to get a tan and partly because there was barely enough space for Bodie and Doyle by the tiller.
          Glad that I'd opted to wear my jeans, I accepted Ray's help in joining Susan. From my high vantage point I had a good view, and decided to take my lead from Susan. This wasn't ideal, but we had to make the best of it.
          It had been a cloudy start to the day but now the sun had emerged the temperature had shot up, and the lads had divested themselves of jackets. With carrying their guns in holsters it was rare for them not to wear jackets for concealment - and even now, their jackets were carefully at their feet, no doubt hiding the handguns. Both were wearing t-shirts, and my attention was caught by the way the material stretched and flexed over their muscles as they moved casually about. I suddenly felt hot, and it wasn't all to do with the sun! Looking quickly away, I tried to distract myself.
          It was quite pleasant with the slow chugging of the engine and gently moving water, and I let my mind drift, remembering the briefing. We'd been passed information from Special Branch about the suspect, Omar Kali. Someone was recruiting an assassin, and their sources said it was Kali. Who he wanted to assassinate was another matter, of course.
          Mr Cowley was looking into his background, and since we knew little about Kali we'd got the short straw and the stake-out. However, Kali's house backing onto the Thames was isolated; and the only place to park a surveillance van outside would mean it was spotted immediately. There was no guarantee a narrowboat wouldn't come under the same suspicion, but at least the river had a lot of boats at this time of year, and we would stand out a lot less than a van.
          That was the theory, anyway. Once tied up for the night, we would behave like normal holidaymakers - until full dark, when Bodie and Doyle would scout the grounds, and possibly effect a break-in. As usual, they didn't know what they would be looking for...

          We were lucky that all the locks on the Thames were manned and we didn't have to work out the mechanism ourselves. All Bodie had to do was manoeuvre the narrowboat into the correct space and let the lock-keepers do the rest.
          Doyle and I stepped off to walk to the other side of the lock - I was already starting to find the boat claustrophobic and we hadn't even been inside for any length of time. Susan had apparently dozed off so we left her asleep on the roof.
          While Bodie waited between the gates, we wandered along the towpath a short way. Doyle gestured to the nearby pub. "We could get a swift drink."
          I shook my head. "If we do, Bodie will have to tie up and have one as well. And I don't want anyone drunk in charge of a boat."
          "One won't get us drunk. But we probably should keep going."
          Bodie pulled alongside, looking for all the world as though travelling through locks was something he did ten times a day rather than it being his first time. "All aboard the Skylark!"
          Doyle jumped over the gap and took my hand to help me. It was, if anything, even hotter now, and I headed inside to get some drinks. I checked the small fridge but I was being rather hopeful since it hadn't managed to produce any ice cubes yet. It had however cooled down the jug of water I'd put in there, and pouring squash into four glasses I passed two of them up to Ray.
          Bodie took his gratefully, and emptied it before I'd even got up the steps. "Thanks, Ruth. I needed that."
          "Pleased we're along now, then?" Susan asked from the roof, as she took her glass from me.
          "Look, I didn't say you were just along to make us look good. But it doesn't make sense for us all check out Kali's house."
          "Doesn't mean it has to be you and Ray, though. I hate the way you men always assume we're incapable."
          While that might be true of some of the operatives it wasn't Bodie or Doyle's style; if female agents were assigned to a case with them then they were treated in exactly the same way as male ones, albeit with a measure of protectiveness. They'd even taken orders quite happily from me before now. I opened my mouth to interrupt, but Doyle beat me to it.
          "You can go scouting with Bodie later, then. Ruth and I will check out the towpath when we first arrive, and when it's dark you two can do the B&E."
          They both stared at him; Susan in delight and Bodie in some horror.
          "Makes sense," I said. "If you are spotted then it'll be easier to claim you're looking for somewhere quiet."
          The practicalities - and possibilities - sunk in, and Bodie grinned at his partner. "You're on. After all, you're just not my type, sunshine."
          I glanced up at Susan. She wasn't his type either but that wouldn't stop Bodie trying it on, particularly if the circumstances gave him carte blanche to do so, but she didn't look worried. Susan could take care of herself...

          By the time we'd negotiated the second lock we only had about half a mile to go and would be tying up for the night quite early, and in order for it to look less obvious I had suggested having a meal ready - to which the lads had enthusiastically agreed, since none of us had time for a proper lunch.
          My selection of groceries had been based on the knowledge that cooking was going to be difficult, but also on the fact that we were in the middle of summer and it was hot. Collating the ham salad didn't take too long and Susan helped me take plates and glasses up top, and it was ready when the lads tied the boat up - seemingly randomly to an onlooker - just upstream from the rear of Kali's property.
          "Call this food?" Bodie muttered, but it didn't prevent him from launching into it. He'd be more impressed with the box of doughnuts we'd picked up for dessert, providing he got to them before the wasps.
          Polishing off the food didn't take long and after helping me remove plates back to the kitchen, Ray took my hand and announced loudly that we were off for a stroll and that Bodie and Susan could do the washing up. They had both flopped out on the roof - rather closer to each other than in normal circumstances - and waved disparaging hands at us.
          Down on the towpath I tried very hard not to react as Ray slid an arm around my waist. "Relax," he murmured. "I don't bite."
          "I know that. But I don't want the others thinking I'm a little too happy about it..."
          "They're not even looking, much less interested. We're all playing our parts, Ruth."
          I hoped that wasn't all I meant to him. Still, I supposed I could take advantage of the situation - even if Bodie and Susan did see us - and leant into Ray's embrace.
          "S'better," he grinned. "Now, how about a kiss?"
          I almost pulled away at his abruptness before I realised that he wanted a reason to stop in precisely that place, and let him turn me so that he was facing Kali's expansive garden. Cupping my face in his hands and apparently gazing into my eyes, he was really surveying the scene behind me. "Looks quiet. But there's not a lot of cover as far as the house from here. Might be better if they try approaching from the side."
          Dipping his head, he brushed my lips with his. "Think we're being watched."
          I wasn't capable of a reply - tense because of what could be happening behind me that I couldn't see, and more so because of Ray's closeness. Fortunately a reply wasn't necessary, and after another brief kiss Ray drew me back into the fold of his arm and we continued our stroll, although my thoughts were anything but peaceful at that moment.
          We didn't go much further before turning and strolling back, paying no attention to the house this time.
          On the boat Bodie and Susan were entwined and I glanced at Ray. We'd been far more restrained in our acting - and we weren't completely acting, although they didn't know that.
          Doyle shrugged. Bodie obviously didn't have any qualms about coming onto Susan, and I didn't see her struggling.
          Hearing us, Bodie looked up. "Oh, you're back already."
          "Not much to see," Doyle replied, winking at him. "I'd have thought you'd be using the binoculars to watch the birds."
          "Not for this particular bird, mate," Bodie smirked.
          "Nothing wrong with his eyesight," I heard Susan giggle as she sat up, adjusting her clothes.
          I headed swiftly inside. I would expect Bodie to try and take advantage, but was surprised that Susan wasn't keeping him at arm's length. Unless there was something going on which we didn't know about...?
          Susan followed me in. "Do you want to wash or dry?"
          "I thought you two were doing the washing up earlier?"
          "We had other things on our minds." Susan at least had the grace to blush slightly as she said it. "Getting into character."
          I stared at her. "You were a bit enthusiastic... you don't think you were leading him on?"
          "Oh, come on, Ruth. This is Bodie we're talking about - he does the leading. Anyway, we discussed it. It won't be going any further. It's just for cover and he knows it."
          As long as she did as well. I'd never previously seen anything indicating that Susan might be interested in him, but then I was doing a remarkable job of hiding any interest I had in Ray.
          "You can wash," I told her. "Call it your penance for not doing it earlier."

          "No-one about, and not too much moonlight," Bodie said, as he came back down. "You ready, Suze?"
          Susan had obviously intended to be involved in the night-time activities and had packed a dark shirt and trousers. She'd also come equipped with a dark wrap to cover her hair, but Bodie had vetoed that. "Dark clothes are one thing, but if we get caught our best bet is to pretend we're simply a courting couple - they won't believe that if you're dressed for invasion."
          We watched them go, not without some apprehension on my part. It did make sense for Susan to partner Bodie, but I couldn't help but feel that Mr Cowley wouldn't approve. We really didn't know what we were dealing with with Kali; he could be extremely dangerous.
          "They'll be OK." Doyle could see my anxiety. "Just a quick look round the grounds. Bodie won't attempt a break-in unless it's really deserted."
          I hoped not. Bodie could be reckless at times, and Susan's normal level-headedness seemed to have disappeared. I nodded and went back inside. I'd make coffee while we waited.
          Doyle perched on the steps and watched me, while keeping an ear out for noise above. "So," he began, "do you think there's anything going on between them?"
          "Susan says not. Although -"
          "Yeah, pretty chummy earlier if not. I asked Bodie but you know what he's like; he just smirked."
          "He's never slow to take advantage."
          "I didn't notice Susan fighting him off." Doyle was quick to defend his partner, but since I'd thought the same thing myself, I couldn't argue. "So do you think we're both taking advantage?"
          I sighed. "I hope you're not. And Susan is probably taking as much advantage of Bodie as he is of her. You know how she wants to be treated like one of the lads."
          Doyle snorted. "I hope Bodie never treats any of the lads like that. He'd get thumped."
          In spite of reassuring me, I could tell Ray was concerned about his partner from the glances he kept giving to the outside world.
          I handed him a coffee. "Let's sit up top."
          Barely had we sat down than we suddenly heard shouting. Dropping the coffee Ray took off without even pausing to wait for me and by the time I'd snatched up a torch and followed, and was close enough to see what was happening he was already backing Bodie up in his argument with two men. Dodging a lunge from one of them, Bodie took a step backwards and slipped on the grass, losing his footing and plunging backwards into the canal.
          I knew Bodie to be a good swimmer and the canal wasn't that deep, but what if he'd hit his head? Reaching the edge I was relieved to see him upright, shaking water out of his eyes - and looking furious. Looking back towards Doyle, I could hear for the first time what was being said - or rather, shouted.
          "Keep away from house! It is private property!"
          Susan had appeared on the other side of Doyle, apparently upset and still acting her part. "We told you, we weren't doing anything. You've got no right..."
          "Private property!" The men's heavily-accented English wasn't good. "Stay away. Move your boat."
          "We can't move till morning," Doyle told them bluntly. "Regulations don't allow travel at night. Anyway, we're not doing anything wrong - you don't own the river or towpath."
          His assurance gave them pause, and they conversed briefly in something foreign before issuing a parting shot. "You stay away. Go in morning."
          We watched them go with relief. Of course we could have taken them between us, even without using weapons, but we didn't know what or who Kali was, or what Mr Cowley's orders would be, so staying undercover was our priority.
          Actually, our main priority was getting Bodie out of the water. Once Doyle was satisfied the men had gone, he turned and bent to grab his partner's arm to haul him up the bank, but once Bodie was part-way there he waved Doyle away. "Look after Susan."
          I realised that Susan had sunk to the ground as the men left, and scrambling to my feet I followed Doyle to where she sat, one hand to her head.
          "What happened?" As she lifted her head we could both see a cut to her forehead, and Doyle scowled. "Did they hit you?"
          "No..." She seemed a bit dazed, and joining us while screwing water from his jacket, Bodie continued for her. "It wasn't deliberate. They were hassling us out of the garden and Susan tripped and banged her head. That was when it got nasty because they wouldn't let me help her properly, just kept shoving me along in front."
          Doyle put a hand under her elbow to help Susan to stand, and we trooped back to the boat, where I first put the kettle on again and then found the first aid box and disinfectant. Under better lights we could see that Susan's cut wasn't serious, but it needed cleaning.
          Bodie watched from the doorway. "Is she OK?"
          "It's not too bad." I glanced at him. "You need to get out of those clothes."
          He grinned. "That's not an offer to turn down."
          I would have put him in his place, but it raised a smile from Susan. "I'm not up to you doing a strip-tease."
          "Spoilsport." Bodie took off his jacket and dropped it outside. "But since I don't have anything to change into, there's not much point."
          "Didn't you bring any spare clothes?" I know we were only supposed to be here for one night, but we couldn't just nip home to change if Mr Cowley decided we had to stay longer.
          "Didn't think I'd need them." Bodie shivered. "Anyone bring a dressing gown?"
          I giggled as I had a sudden image of Bodie wearing nothing but my lacy black dressing gown. Maybe it was just as well I hadn't brought it with me.
          "I brought a large towel," Susan offered; while Doyle rummaged in his rucksack and produced a spare shirt. "Don't you go ruining this one as well."
          "This'll have to do, then." Bodie squelched his way behind the curtain, re-emerging a short while later wearing Doyle's shirt and wrapped from the waist in a large pink bath towel.
          He frowned at our collective grins. "At least I'm dry. Any chance of a hot drink?"

          "Do you think it's worth us trying again?"
          Hands cupped around a coffee mug, Bodie shrugged at his partner. "They had no especial reason to be on their guard and were still pretty sharp in ejecting us. We run the risk of making them suspicious - and they might not be as careful next time."
          "On the other hand, we have nothing whatsoever to tell Cowley. I'm sure the tale of your late night swim will make him laugh, but it's not what he's hoping for."
          "Ha ha. Well, I'm up for it, but we'll have to wait for a bit; time for them to relax - and for my trousers to dry off."
          "An hour or so then." Doyle glanced at Susan, who was huddled into the corner of the seat, eyes closed. "Suze? Are you all right?" She didn't respond, and he shook her arm gently. "Susan?"
          Her eyes opened and focused on him with effort. "Tired..." she murmured.
          "Looks like she's concussed. Did she lose consciousness?" Doyle asked his partner.
          "No, but I'm surprised she didn't. I didn't see what she hit her head on, but I heard it happen. She'd be better off in bed."
          "We need to keep an eye on her, just in case it's worse than it looks." I ushered the lads off the bench sets. "Let's make this seating up into the bed."
          Helping Susan up, we left Bodie supporting her while Ray and I worked out how to fit the table top and cushions into the space and make up the double bed. I couldn't see that it would be the most comfortable of beds but it would do.
          "Come on, darlin'." Bodie carefully let her down onto the cushions and she immediately stretched out while I fetched a pillow and blanket. "Are we supposed to keep waking her, or something?"
          "Only if she seems to be too deeply asleep, I think. If she didn't lose consciousness then the concussion probably isn't too bad."
          "Good." Bodie swallowed uncomfortably and rubbed suddenly at his stomach. "Oh hell..."
          "What?"
          "I managed to swallow some of that canal water..." He was turning green even as he spoke. "'scuse me..."
          He just made the small closet in time. Ray looked at me. "So, looks like it's down to us..."

          Bodie wasn't happy. Neither was I, particularly, but Ray couldn't go alone and Bodie couldn't guarantee he was over his vomiting or that he was fit enough either - he looked like death warmed up and could barely stand straight.
          "We don't have much choice, Bodie. Keep an eye on Susan; we'll be back as soon as we can." I had recently checked on Susan, disturbing her slightly and getting a grumbled response, so I didn't think we had much to worry about. "And try and drink some water yourself."
          "Yes mum," Bodie grinned - although I had a feeling he'd be back in the bathroom as soon as we headed up the steps.
          I followed Ray up to the towpath. The sky had clouded over and it was even darker than earlier, and we both carried small torches. Our plan already made, we didn't need to talk and Ray led the way straight towards the road before cutting back towards the side of Kali's house. Bodie and Susan had gone the other way, past the rear and up the side of the garden, and come a cropper quite early by running into the Kali's two henchmen, who had seen them from the house.
          Reaching a fence, Ray paused and waited for me. Putting his head close to mine breathed rather than whispered a comment. "I'm going to check for gaps. Wait here; I'll signal."
          He vanished into the dark, and I waited, wriggling my toes inside Susan's deckshoes. She took a size larger than me and even with socks they didn't feel entirely comfortable. I hoped I didn't have to do any running in them.
          There was a brief flash of torchlight; very small and low to the ground. Ray's signal: come here.
          I made my way towards it, managing not to jump as Ray suddenly appeared out of the hedge and whispered to me. "There's no fence here and we're in the shadow of the trees."
          Taking my hand, he guided me through a jumble of logs and tree stumps - I've no idea how he managed to find the route - and we emerged into the dark shadows of the house, right up to the side wall. The upper windows were all in darkness, so unless anyone was sitting without lights then they were all in bed.
          "Which way?"
          "Bodie said the goons were in the kitchen - he saw them about the same time as they were spotted. So I think we need to stay away from the kitchen door - let's try towards the front first."
          Ray flashed his torch briefly at the ground, checking for any obstacles before leading the way. We came first to a door: solid and bolted - at least, turning the handle didn't work and there was no sign of a lock to pick.
          Just beyond that was a set of three windows. Ray approached the first carefully: listening before peering around the frame, then with increasing confidence peering further into the room.
          I found I was holding my breath. I hadn't done enough of these night-time jaunts to be taking this one calmly and Bodie and Susan's experience was still fresh in my mind. Ray tried the frame with his fingertips, but the window was firmly closed.
          The second window was the same, but I saw Ray smile in delight as he tried the third and it opened. He beckoned me forwards but I hurried past him, catching his arm and pulling him back. "Don't you think it's a bit easy? They could be setting a trap."
          He glanced into the room. "Maybe. Can't see or hear anything."
          I looked past him. The internal door stood open and there was a light somewhere beyond it, casting some poor illumination.
          Ray came to a decision. "I'm going in. If it is a trap, you get yourself back to Bodie and the boat, understand?"
          I nodded, but as Ray eased the window fully open and squeezed through into the room I almost called him back. If I was Bodie the partners would be going in together - there'd be no nonsense about one of them running for help. So if Ray needed help, I'd be in there with him...
          Almost before I'd had time to worry about him, Ray was back. "All clear."
          I lost no time scrambling through the window after him and he pulled it shut. The room was a lounge with sofas dotted about and not much else, and I followed Ray towards the door where once again he paused. I was grateful that he was still being cautious.
          "We need the study..." he breathed, opening one of the doors from the hallway, keeping an eye up the stairs. The third turned out to be our goal but as Ray was closing the door we heard a noise...

          The voices were faint above us, followed by sounds seeming to indicate someone was getting up before we heard footsteps on the stairs. Then nothing.
          After a few minutes, Ray came to the far side of the room where he'd waved me earlier. "Sounds like perhaps we caught the goons on a cross-over. One gone up to wake the other to take over the watch."
          "What do we do?"
          "What we're here for. Search the place, and keep your fingers crossed he doesn't come in..."
          It wasn't easy to search with just torches - whilst making absolutely no noise - but we started on the desk, the most obvious place. The drawers weren't locked but didn't contain anything of interest - at least, if it did I couldn't read it. There were some reports in folders written in something which looked Turkish, but it wasn't a language I'd ever taken lessons in. "Is it worth taking any of this?"
          Ray looked over my shoulder. "Dunno. Maybe a page from each - not enough for them to notice it missing immediately, but might be enough to give us a lead."
          I dutifully selected a page from near the back of each folder and put them to one side before tidying the folders back into the drawer, in the right order.
          Ray had discovered a filing cabinet behind a cupboard door, and I joined him. "Far too much in here," he muttered. "Just look for anything in English."
          Since he was working from the top I rifled through the lowest drawer. A variety of English newspapers bore headlines relating to oil shares and I tried to memorise the details - we couldn't take everything. As I pushed it closed and straightened up I heard footsteps in the hall.
          Ray had heard them as well and pushing me into the small space beside the filing cabinet pulled the cupboard door shut on us.
          Once again I found myself hardly able to breathe, although it wasn't all nerves this time. I was squashed right up against the back wall with Ray squashed up against me, holding me in the only position possible, and somehow even in the pitch black I knew he was smiling. "Could be worse. I could've been with Bodie..."
          That of course made me smile as well, however briefly as we heard the study door open. My hands were somehow already up against Ray's chest, and I twined my fingers tightly into the material of his jacket and prayed...
          He'd come in to use the phone. We heard a ding as the receiver was lifted, then dialling, and then half a conversation in Turkish. Too bad neither of us understood - it might have been useful.
          Eventually the strip of light around the cupboard door disappeared and everything was quiet again. "You can let go now." Ray sounded as though he'd been holding his breath as well.
          "What if he didn't close the study door?"
          "We've got to get out sometime." Ray sounded almost amused. "Just take our chances."
          Perhaps for my sake though, he waited another few minutes before reaching behind him to release the door handle. Tensed for a shout which would mean we were discovered, I hung back until Ray was fully in the room. "S'okay," he whispered. "Door's closed."
          I almost stumbled out, I was so relieved - but we weren't out of the woods yet, we were still stuck in the study. Ray had crossed to the door and was attempting to look through the keyhole. "I can hear him in the kitchen," he murmured to me. Crossing back to the windows, he attempted to open them. "No good. Some lazy sod's painted them shut."
          "So how are we going to get out? What if he hears us?"
          "There's no need to panic." It was all very well for Ray, he was used to this sort of thing - I had so much adrenaline rushing about my system I felt lightheaded. "We'll just wait for our moment and go out the way we got in."
          As easily as that. I hoped he was right...

          The sounds of chummy in the kitchen were clearly reaching us, so at least we knew where he was. I couldn't relax; holding myself ready in case Ray suddenly hauled the door open and expected me to run for it.
          Ray had stationed himself next to the door and peered frequently through the keyhole. "Making something to eat, by the sounds of it. I wouldn't mind something myself."
          "I thought it was Bodie who was always hungry?"
          "He's always hungrier than me." Ray smiled up at me. "I usually get to eat when he does, so I let him do the complaining."
          I felt in my pocket for the chocolate bars I'd picked up before we left. I'd thought they might be welcome if we were waiting outside for an opportunity to break in, not thinking that we might be stuck inside. "One of these do?"
          "Ruth, you're a lifesaver." He unwrapped it as quickly as he could whilst not making any noise with the foil.
          "Just don't drop any. They'll know they've had visitors if there's chocolate all over the carpet..."
          Ray waved me to silence as we heard footsteps and peered through his keyhole again. "Damn..."
          "What?"
          "He's gone into the lounge with his cup and plate. Wonder if we can get out through the kitchen door instead?"
          "Wait, Ray," I almost squeaked whilst trying to speak quietly. "Wait until he's settled - he might go back for something."
          Within a couple of minutes we could hear a radio, and Ray took that as a good sign. "It'll muffle any noise we might make. Wait there."
          Turning the handle minutely, Ray opened the study door and peered out. Obviously what he saw satisfied him, and he padded softly across the hall towards the kitchen. I held my breath and waited as instructed, ready to join Ray if he signalled to me, but I saw him returning looking disappointed.
          Closing the door behind him, Ray shook his head. "Door's locked and no sign of the key."
          "Do you think he might fall asleep if we wait?"
          "Maybe - but I'm not sure I fancy tiptoeing past him even if he does. It'll be hard getting out of the window without making any noise."
          "What about the front door?"
          Ray stared at me, then grinned. "Cheeky, but worth a try..."

          We fled down the front path hand in hand like teenagers. It had been surprisingly easy after all; Ray had acceded to my request for patience and we'd waited another half an hour, but since there had been no noise from the man in the lounge in that time we deduced - hoped - he had fallen asleep, before we tiptoed along the corridor to the sturdy front door.
          Secured only by a Yale lock, as Ray let us out he expertly slid a strip of plastic - his personal lockpicker - behind the lock cam in order to shut the door noiselessly behind us.
          Once we were safely away from the front and heading back along the side of the property, Ray stopped, grinning broadly. "That was a neat job."
          "You call nearly getting caught a neat job?" Relief might be making him exuberant; it was simply making me tired.
          "We didn't. Anyway, it's all in a night's work."
          "Just as well we weren't there all night." I started walking again; now the adrenaline was ebbing away I wanted to sit down and a damp field wasn't where I wanted to sit.
          We risked using our torches again which helped us pick our way rather more capably back to the boat. Bodie was lurking in the doorway - fully dressed, although his trousers couldn't possibly be completely dry yet - and was relieved to see us. "You've been ages. I was beginning to think I'd have to come after you."
          "We got a bit held up." Doyle had also calmed down a bit, although I could see he was longing to tell his partner all about it. "How are you feeling?"
          "Considering I've thrown up everything I've had today, pretty good. I could feel a lot worse..."
          "And how's Susan?" I asked.
          "Still asleep. I shook her about half hour ago and she woke up enough to tell me to piss off, so I think she's okay."
          I tiptoed down the steps - I'd been doing nothing but tiptoeing tonight - and unzipped my jacket to pull out the papers I'd taken from the study, and began to straighten them out. Doyle came down and added those he'd taken to the pile, and joining us Bodie looked through them. "Can't understand a word of it."
          "Neither can we," I admitted. "It's a random selection which we hope might bear some fruit. I did find a lot of newspapers which indicate Kali is interested in oil shares and prices, but not much else. I hope some of it means something; after what we went through to get it."
          Doyle was philosophical. "If the Cow can't give us a proper brief as to what we're looking for, he's got to expect us not to get the right stuff."
          Shuffling the papers together I yawned; now the excitement was over I was exhausted and beginning not to care whether we'd got anything of interest.
          "Bed down next to Susan," Doyle advised. "We'll keep watch up top."
          I'd never heard such a good idea. I didn't even bother getting undressed, just kicked off the deck shoes and wriggled out of the jacket, before sliding onto the bed. Turning the lights off, the lads disappeared up the steps, and I could hear the low murmur of their voices as I drifted quickly off to sleep...

          The loud clunk of metal on wood woke me suddenly, and sitting bolt upright I found myself staring at Susan, who looked equally shocked awake and bewildered.
          "What...?" I managed. Doyle was looking sheepish, kettle in hand. "Sorry. I meant to make tea to wake you both up, but I dropped the kettle..."
          "It's the thought that counts." I slid off the bed quickly so that I could stretch. I'd been right; the bed hadn't been comfortable although I had obviously slept through since it was daylight outside.
          Susan had flopped back down. "Wake me when the tea's ready."
          "How's your head?"
          She rubbed it carefully. "OK, I think... I don't remember much, to be honest."
          "You fell and hit it. Gave yourself a concussion." Now that we were both awake Doyle saw no reason for keeping quiet and was bashing about with the kettle. "So, did you buy any bacon yesterday?"
          Was it only yesterday? I couldn't remember.
          "In the fridge. I'll have two rashers, thanks." Bodie appeared in the doorway. "Morning, girls. I won't come down; our friendly goons are keeping an eye on us and I'd rather like to keep an eye on them as well."
          I left Ray making a mess of the kitchen - it was nice to know he had some talents in that direction though - and joined Bodie, who was scanning the sky with binoculars. "Not much up there but sparrows," he commented, "but I thought I'd try and keep our cover intact."
          Glancing that way, I could see the henchmen lurking in the bushes at the end of Kali's garden. "They haven't come over?"
          "Nah. I think if we continue to play tourist, have breakfast and set off they'll lose interest."
          "Well, keep up the good work. I'm going to get changed." I left Bodie scanning the trees in search of more birds.
          I've never been a fan of sleeping in my clothes - although in our job it happened more often than we liked - and a quick wash and change would make me feel much better. However once the smell of freshly-cooking bacon hit me I decided changing could wait until after I'd eaten, and I joined Susan in loading up a tray with tea mugs. Ray passed them up to Bodie, and we followed with plates of bacon sandwiches, playing the tourists in front of our watchers and pretending not to notice them.
          Bodie had obviously got over his stomach problems of the night before and eagerly tucked in, and even I tackled the doorstops Ray had produced with enthusiasm.
          Once we were finished the lads prepared to cast off while Susan and I got changed, and we were underway before we emerged back into the sunshine.
          "Why are we still heading downstream?"
          Bodie grinned at Susan's question. "In case you hadn't noticed, this crate doesn't have a great turning circle. We need to find a wider part of the river unless you want us to get stuck widthways."
          "And we were hoping the goons would have given up watching by the time we turn back," Doyle added. "They might just have been a bit suspicious if we'd turned around immediately; they made no secret of watching us leave."
          "But this'll do us." As we approached a wider bend in the river, Bodie slowed the engine in preparation for turning. "It should be far enough; much further and we'll end up having to go through more locks which'll slow us up."
          "You sound curiously keen to get back to work, Bodie." Susan smirked at him.
          "Just keen to get back on dry land. Never was too enthralled by messing about on the river." In spite of that, he expertly swung the boat towards the far bank and started to turn us around. "And there's a pub next to the first lock we came through. I thought we could have lunch there."
          "We've only just had breakfast," I sighed.
          "Yes, but by the time we get there it'll be getting closer to lunchtime," Susan supported him. "After all, if we get back to London too quickly we probably won't get any lunch at all. Anyway, I'm going to work on my tan."
          She scrambled up onto the roof and pulled off her t-shirt to reveal a bikini top which covered even less than the previous days' clothes. The lads stared - even I stared, although for undoubtedly different reasons. Fortunately Bodie recovered quickly enough to prevent us hitting the bank, but it was a close-run thing.
          "They're so shallow," Susan winked at me as I joined her, and I glanced back at the lads, who were now attending to the boat and studiously avoiding looking at her. She wasn't exactly being a model of decorum. In fact, Susan was giving Bodie so many green lights I was beginning to think there really was something going on - or soon would be.
          Coming level with Kali's garden again I was dismayed to see both the henchmen were still patrolling the grounds, and saw us pass. The lads shrugged it off. "It'd have been better if they hadn't seen us, but what are they going to do?"
          "Maybe we should have gone on further instead? We could have tied up at the next lock, called in and got picked up."
          Bodie brushed aside my thought. "Too late now. Anyway, we'd still need to pick up the car. Relax, and take a leaf out of Susan's book."
          Well, I'd follow her lead and sunbathe, but if Bodie thought I was going to start peeling off...? I caught Ray's eye. He was clearly thinking the same thing and I treated him a brief glare, at the same time feeling pleased that he was interested.
          The river was quiet and I dozed as we chugged along, only waking as we approached the second lock. "I'm looking forward to lunch," Bodie grinned at me.
          "It's nowhere near lunchtime," I felt obliged to point out, although I could see the pub was open and there was no real reason for us not to stop.
          "It will be by the time we've had a drink, or two." Manoeuvring us out of the lock Bodie cheerfully but determinedly swung us into a mooring at the bank and Ray jumped onto the towpath to tie up.

          We took our time over the first drink, whilst deciding what to order for lunch with the second. It was as the lads got up to go inside and order, that I could see down the towpath to our boat - and spotted someone on board.
          "Who's that?" I wasn't instantly alarmed; it could be the lock-keeper, looking for us.
          Ray glanced over, shading his eyes from the sun, and I saw his casual expression sharpen. "It's one of Kali's men!"
          Bodie had already taken a few steps towards the pub but was swinging around even as Ray spoke and they slammed the glasses back onto the table almost simultaneously before beginning to run up the towpath.
          Susan and I were only seconds behind them; by the time we reached the boat Bodie had disappeared inside and Ray was arguing with the man I'd spotted, having dragged him back onto the towpath.
          The second of Kali's men appeared from inside the boat, with Bodie shoving him from behind. "Get out!"
          Both men were shouting back in a mixture of Turkish and English, and we were attracting no little attention from other river users. "He was searching our things," Bodie called to me, as he gave the man another helping shove off the boat.
          As soon as I could I jumped past them and hurried to check the papers we'd stolen, but the small briefcase was untouched and I went back up the small steps. "Nothing's missing," I called to the lads, although I wasn't sure they'd hear me.
          Kali's men were backing away, and I called again to the lads. "Let's get going."
          They both nodded, and keeping one eye on them Doyle trotted to the front of the boat to loose the mooring tie while Bodie went to the rear one.
          As he straightened up with his back to Kali's men, I saw in horror that one of them had drawn a handgun and was now aiming at Bodie. I let out a shriek of warning; Susan reacted instantly by launching herself at Bodie and both of them dropped into the canal as the bullet winged harmlessly over their heads.
          Doyle had obviously spotted the weapon in the same moment and charging at the pair knocked them and the gun flying. Picking himself up and drawing his own gun before they had chance to recover, he held them at arm's length. "Everyone OK?"
          "Yes..." I could see Bodie and Susan had surfaced without trouble and I hurried up to Ray, picking up the discarded handgun. "Shall I call the police?"
          "No need." We could both hear the sirens already; this sleepy pub just upstream from Henley had probably never had so much excitement, and a crowd had already gathered. Bodie and Susan were being helped from the water; Bodie looking thoroughly disgusted with his second dunking in two days.
          The lock-keeper came forward with two young PCs, and Doyle gestured. "Take care of the formalities, will you Ruth? I'll keep an eye on these two."
          I fished my ID from the bag which still hung from my shoulder - I know the lads always joked about it, but there wasn't much that could separate me from my handbag - and held it out. "We're CI5. We need you to arrest these two and hold them until further notice." I'd need to call in and get instructions - they'd forced our hand but Mr Cowley wouldn't be pleased about the sudden high profile - and started towards the pub to borrow a phone.
          However a familiar voice shouting from the other end of the towpath halted me, and I turned to see Murphy arriving on the scene, followed at a distance by our boss.
          "We were looking for you. Special Branch came through with some more info on Kali and Cowley's having him picked up, and needed to know if you'd found out anything." Grinning, Murphy looked past me to where Bodie and Susan were now dripping beside the boat. "I see you found out that Bodie can swim."
          "For the second time," Doyle imparted, also grinning.

          It didn't take long for our boss to take charge and sort out the locals, before he turned his attention to us.
          "I take it you found something in the house?"
          I handed him the folder of papers I'd fetched from the boat. "Not much, and nothing that we could understand. Kali seems to be very involved and interested in the oil markets."
          Mr Cowley flicked briefly through the folder. "I'll get these translated - if it was important enough for those two to come after you, there must be something incriminating in here. Good work."
          He looked round at Bodie and Susan, who were both wrapped in blankets and sipping brandies thoughtfully provided by the landlord at the pub. "You two had better come back with me. Doyle, you and Ruth take the boat back to Henley and retrieve your car, and I'll see you later."
          Without waiting for any agreement he walked away. Passing Ray the car keys, Bodie issued instructions. "You take care of my car, and don't forget to bring all our stuff back."
          We watched them squelch away. "I wonder if Bodie swallowed any more water," Ray mused. "Do you think Cowley has any sickbags in his car?"
          He gave me a sudden grin. "Shall we have lunch before we start back?"
          "Why not?" It was now lunchtime and we had nothing to rush back for. "Doesn't Bodie trust you with his car?"
          "About as much as I trust him with mine. Anyway," his grin widened, "I thought you were going to drive us back..."



© Carol Good - September 2007