The scream jerked me out of the uncomfortable half-conscious doze I'd fallen into, and I scrambled to my feet shouting. "Ray! Can you hear me? Leave him alone, you bastards!"
There was another scream that sounded to me to have less volume to it. I didn't know how Ray was. The bastards had us in separate rooms and for the last couple of hours - estimated since my watch had been broken - I hadn't seen anyone, only heard the screams.
I couldn't prevent the feeling of fear with each one that soon, it would be my turn...
I tried to mentally block out the sounds, even resorting to putting my hands over my ears. But the exercise was futile: I could still hear them and my imagination unhelpfully did the rest.
Eventually - although probably not very long afterwards - silence fell again and I sank back to the floor. The cellar was cold but I was sweating, from fear and adrenaline. I'd woken with the sort of dizzy headache I associated with chloroform or ether, with my wrists in manacles and chains fixed to the wall. The chains were long enough to allow me to sit or stand as I wanted, but I couldn't see a way out of them.
I tried very hard not to think about exactly what was happening but Ray Doyle was no wimp. We'd both been through the mill - shootings, stabbings, beatings - over the years and Doyle had suffered in silence through most of it. I'd heard people tortured before and those screams had the ring of pure pain and terror; they were beyond the control of the person making them.
I didn't even know who had grabbed us. I shivered now. Whoever it was meant business; and enemies have long memories.
It had to be someone out of our past. That had been my first conclusion when I'd come round; neither of us had been so personally involved in cases recently. And this was personal.
I'd been content with life over the last six months; rejoining CI5 had been a good move. Generally I was restricted to training up the youngsters and running the refresher courses but just occasionally I made it out into the real world, even if I was rarely involved in the real action. But then, neither was Doyle much these days, he was finding it too hard to stay at the peak level of fitness required for A-Squad ops and had reluctantly begun to delegate control for individual ops to some of the more experienced squad 'youngsters'. It didn't stop him being on the ground as often as he could and I made it my business to get out there with him if possible - we were still partners, after all.
And none more so than last night, when I'd poured my nearly incapable partner back into his flat after we celebrated his birthday - the big four-O. As I could no longer afford to get drunk and incapable, I'd only had a few myself and having tipped Ray onto the sofa I went back to the car to fetch my overnight bag. They took me completely by surprise and I'd had little chance to fight them off - even if there hadn't been at least three of them, and the bag thrust over my head had been soaked in whatever substance they'd used to knock me out...
Ray'd been so drunk they probably hadn't even needed to drug him - he certainly hadn't been capable of fighting them off.
At first I'd classed myself as lucky that I'd woken from the drug; inexpertly used, chloroform could kill. Once I had woken properly and assessed my situation - and the fact that whoever had used the chloroform knew what they were doing - I wasn't quite so thankful. I couldn't have been out for too long although the lighting wasn't good and my watch smashed so precise times were beyond me. Without any way out and still groggy, I'd allowed myself to cat-nap, alert to any noise.
The noise, when it came, was a scream. The first of many.
The small high windows were filthy but let enough light in to tell me it had to be full morning. I'd heard footsteps pass the room once or twice before but whoever it was had ignored my shouts. It didn't stop me shouting again as soon as I heard someone - and this time, they stopped. I got to my feet as I heard a bolt shot back on the door, ready to face whatever bastard came through.
Ten years on, bearing more scars than I remembered, but I recognised the face. The eye-patch was a dead giveaway as was the slim knife he held. Franky. And where you found Franky, you found...
My certainty, that whatever was going on we would get out of it, began to slip away. I swallowed down on the hard knot of fear. "Krivas."
He'd aged, but not unrecognisably so. He'd spent the last decade in jail, where we'd put him; where I expected him to stay until he died. Now, some do-gooder had released him, and we were paying the price.
The screams, the sounds of torture I'd been hearing, suddenly made sense. Franky, sensational with a blade, and enough of a psychopath to enjoy his work.
"So, you've got me. You can let Ray go."
Krivas smiled. That hadn't changed either; it was still the same evil expression I remembered all too well. "Ah yes, your partner, Ray Doyle."
"You don't need him." I wasn't going to grovel, but I had to get him to release Ray. "It's me you want."
"Indeed it is. And eventually, I'll get to you. But Franky is already a little busy; I'm sure you won't mind waiting." He gestured to Franky and they left, ignoring the curses I sent after them. I heard the bolt thrown over again and silence fell.
For around five minutes, until the next scream...
I closed the office door behind me gently. At least I'd made it this far without being spotted. I half lurched across the room to the refuge of my chair, stumbled as I reached it, grabbed at the desk to steady myself and my flailing hand caught the pen pot, which went flying, spilling its contents across the desk. Not that much noise on any normal day but today it was like a heavy volley at the range. I definitely winced and I think I even moaned out loud before sinking into my chair and letting my eyes close involuntarily.
"Good morning Mr Doyle. You made it in then, I see."
I opened one eye cautiously. Nicole was far too cheerful first thing. Why had I never noticed that before?
She laid some papers on my desk with unnecessary force. "I think some people will have lost money. They were mostly all convinced you wouldn't be seen today at all."
"Mostly?" It came out as a croak.
"Well Mr Murphy said you'd be in and so did Miss Fischer, I believe. Mind you, Donna rang five minutes ago to check on you and she said Mr Murphy wasn't in yet either so maybe-"
"Nic, shut up!" It came out with more force than I thought I was capable of and I winced again.
She stopped chattering though, her face frozen for a moment, then she turned abruptly and left the room.
I'd have to apologise, but later. Much later. I closed my eyes again only to open them a moment later when I heard her come back in. She placed a glass of water on my desk and very deliberately dropped first one, then another white tablet into it. 'Plink, plink, fizz' as the advert will have it.
"Drink it," she said. "And maybe I'll see you later." She left again shutting the connecting door between our offices firmly.
Nicole had come a long way since she'd joined us, not nearly so timid as she'd once been. Since her guilty secret had been exposed and we hadn't sacked her, she'd grown in confidence and had the makings now of a first class secretary.
I eyed the frothing liquid balefully. Nothing for it but to get it over with. I gripped the glass, tipped the contents back in one long draught and shuddered. Why had I come in today? I hadn't been aware of any bets being laid against me and I'm not sure I'd have forced myself into work for somebody else's benefit if I had known. OK so I didn't actually book a day's leave in advance but if you can't take a day after your fortieth birthday then when can you? It wasn't as if there were anything that urgent going on that I would be missed for one day.
I sighed. I knew exactly why, when I'd woken up this morning feeling as if I was on a merry-go-round while all the cannons of the Light Brigade's charge were going off around me, that I still made myself get showered (even the water hurt!) and dressed and come in here (at least I had the sense to take a taxi). Forty. Being bloody forty. Fantastic excuse for a party, yes, but it felt like marking the end of my peak, that it was all downhill from here on in. So, naturally, I have to try and prove - to myself as well as everybody else - that I'm still young enough to tie one on and still be at peak fitness the next day.
'Ray Doyle, you're a prat,' I told myself severely and, this time quite deliberately, closed my eyes again.
When I awoke I had to admit, apart from a slight crick in my neck, that I felt quite a bit better. Halfway human at least. The band in my head had reduced to background music. I glanced at my watch. I'd been asleep nearly two hours. I stood, stretching and glanced out of the window. It was going to be a glorious day and although, right at this minute, I didn't care if I never drank alcohol again, lunch in the park seemed a distinct possibility.
But first, time to mend some bridges. I took my kettle into the rest room and filled it with water. Back in my office, I spooned coffee into two mugs and when the kettle boiled, poured out the water and added milk and sugar. I went through the door into Nicole's office. She glanced up from her typing but said nothing. I put one of the mugs on her desk. "Sorry, love. I shouldn't have snapped at you."
She smiled her usual happy smile, picked up the peace offering and took a sip. "That's all right, Mr Doyle, you haven't exceeded your quota yet."
Like I said, gaining in confidence all the time.
"You said something about some bets. Has Murphy come into work yet?"
She glanced at the clock. "Not since I last checked about ten minutes ago, no."
"But you did tell Donna I was in?" I said anxiously. Even if I wasn't in for any payout, I still had a reputation to maintain.
"I told her," Nicole said with a tiny smile.
"So, " I said, sinking into a chair. "How about I get Bodie to take us both to lunch on his winnings?"
Her smile became mischievous. "Oh, my spies tell me Bodie bet against you."
"He did what? The bastard! No wonder he was pushing drinks on me all evening."
"Ah, Doyle, there you are. A fine party last night, wasn't it?"
The Old Man, bright-eyed and chipper. Well he would be, wouldn't he? I had a clear recollection of him leaving about ten-thirty last night.
"Good to see you, er...available. Nicole has been telling anybody who wanted you this morning that you were in a meeting."
I shot a glance at Nicole. She flushed a little but kept her eyes on her work.
"Well I'm free now, was there something you wanted?"
"Nothing urgent. Just those papers on the Security Conference next month."
For a moment my mind was a blank then I caught Nicole's intense look and remembered. "On my desk. I'll bring them through in a minute."
"Fine, as I said, no hurry." On that suspiciously benevolent note, our boss wandered back to his own office.
"Thanks, Nic. You're a life saver. Listen, get hold of Bodie and tell him he owes us both lunch regardless. Tell him I said so. Bloody cheek, betting against me. His own partner. Just because he has his limits these days. And you can tell him that too."
Her lips quirked. "I'll get hold of him but I might just let you tell him yourself. You're so much more eloquent than me."
"Watch it or you can make do with a sandwich at your desk." On that note, feeling much more cheerful and alert, I went back to my office to at least pretend to do a little work.
Krivas. I should have bloody known, the way I was snatched. I focused on my loathing of him in an attempt to avoid thinking about how Ray was faring.
Even before his path had crossed with CI5 Krivas had good reason to hate me; putting a stop to his retirement plans wouldn't have done anything to improve that. The time he spent inside would simply have compounded his hatred and given him another target in Doyle. And possibly Cowley as well - I didn't even want to think about the Old Man in Krivas' hands but I had definitely only heard one person.
I should have got rid of him when I had the chance.
The screams seemed to have died down fairly quickly this time but that wasn't necessarily a positive sign, and it was with an odd kind of relief that I heard the door being unlocked again. If they were coming to start on me it meant they would leave Ray alone, maybe it'd give him a chance to recover, just a little...
The bulky man through the door first this time was known to me as well. Tub Weston. "Well, well, the gang's all here," I quipped, trying to keep any tremor out of my voice.
He was good at following orders but had never been the brightest spark in the box, and Tub nodded. "All here," he confirmed.
"I thought that while Franky was busy, you might like to get reacquainted with Tub," Krivas sneered.
It seemed Tub already had his orders from Krivas as he lumbered towards me and I braced myself for the beating. The length of the chains gave me some chance of movement but barely enough to defend myself let alone fight back. I rode the first few punches as best as I could before Tub caught me square in the stomach and I dropped to my knees, gasping in air, arms folded to protect my face from the anticipated kick.
It didn't come. "Get up," Krivas ordered me to my feet.
Sucking in air, I scrambled up. "Playing by the nice rules, are we? Don't kick a man while he's down?"
"I don't want you damaged too early." He nodded, and Tub waded in again.
For all that Tub was older and clearly not as fit as he had been - no doubt prison life with bad food and restricted exercise hadn't been good for him - I was the proverbial sitting duck and it shouldn't have been hard for him to knock nine bells out of me. Although the punches were connecting - and hurt - they lacked the power I was expecting.
I took every advantage to drop down, hoping that Tub would remember that he wasn't allowed to kick me yet, that Krivas had enough of a rein on him.
Another punch took my attention away from thinking and forced me to concentrate on dodging, but I was growing tired and the next blow got through the weak guard I was trying to maintain. I'd been taking longer every time to get back to my feet and this time I wasn't sure I could manage it.
I heard Krivas' boots cross the floor and he hauled my head up with a savage grip in my hair. "Enjoying the reunion, Bodie?" he hissed. "And it's only just begun. We're going to take our time with you."
He crunched away towards the door and Tub followed more slowly, glancing back at me before he left. I took a deep breath as the door slammed, and began to explore the damage, finally letting the bruises hurt. I clamped my jaw shut though, I was damned if I was going to let Krivas hear me yelp.
Ten minutes later, I'd come to the conclusion that Tub definitely hadn't been hitting me as hard as he could. I had painful bruises, but very few of the punches had been to the head and I was still thinking clearly. I'd saved Tub on a few occasions where Krivas had always ruled with violence and threats and I felt a glimmer of hope that Tub still felt some sort of allegiance to me. Maybe there was a way out for us.
Of course, it could just be that Tub was completely under Krivas' control and simply following orders about not damaging me too soon...
It was about half an hour later when Nicole came back into my office with a puzzled expression on her face.
"I'm sorry, Mr Doyle, I can't find Bodie anywhere. Nobody's seen him this morning."
I looked up from my paperwork frowning at the interruption. "Well he must be somewhere. He was sober last night, or as near as makes no difference."
"I've spoken to everybody I can think of and even rung his home. There are those two new recruits waiting for him in the gym and I don't know what to tell them."
I put my pen down and thought. "He'd be unlikely to be at home. He stayed with me last night to save him driving home again. And," I added with a flare up of the annoyance I'd felt first thing. "His car was gone from outside my place when I got up so he was obviously all right to drive even if he couldn't be bothered to wake me first."
I looked at her anxious face. "Don't worry, Nic. He'll turn up and when he does I'll give him a piece of my mind. He can't be this careless any more. He should be setting an example." Then I snorted with laughter at the very thought of Bodie setting anybody an example. "Give me another twenty minutes with this lot and if he still hasn't surfaced, I'll take you to lunch and he can jolly well pay me back later."
She went obediently back to her office but she'd broken my train of thought and I sat idly fiddling with my pen and thinking about Bodie. For all that I'd made a joke of it, Bodie had settled down a lot. He was practically a responsible member of CI5 now and it was unlike him to pull a stunt like this. If he'd been drinking as much as the rest of us last night he'd have been in the same state as me this morning and we'd have shared that taxi. As it was, I had been annoyed at not finding him in the flat but hadn't thought too much more of it. Now I even began to wonder if he'd even stayed the night. The bed in the spare room had looked pristine when I poked my head around the door but that didn't mean anything in itself.
I frowned harder, forcing my mind back to the night before when Bodie had driven us both back to my place. He'd definitely brought me inside, I had a vague recollection of some comment about my weight as he dumped me on the sofa, then... What had he done then? I snapped my fingers as the memory came back to me. Gone to get his bag. That was it. He'd gone to collect his overnight bag from the car.
I sat back in my seat, the grin of triumph of brain over alcohol fading as I realised that didn't get me any further forward. Bodie should have still slept in my spare bed and been there - and here - this morning.
So just where was the silly sod?
It was too quiet. It had been too quiet ever since they left. I told myself that Doyle was unconscious, and that they weren't torturing him right now because torture was only any fun if the victim was awake and feeling it.
I didn't believe myself.
I stared at the windows and watched the angle of light slowly shift and change, the only physical sign of time passing, sharply alert to the slightest sound beyond the room, and trying to block out rational thought.
Not really expecting an answer I dialled Bodie's flat, his current answering machine message amusing me despite my growing concern. ‘If you think it's important, leave a message. If I think it's important, I'll call you back.'
"It's me. Call me," I said tersely.
Deep in thought, I wandered through to Nicole's office. "Nic, get me a sandwich, if you would and whatever you want yourself. I'll take you to lunch properly some other time if you don't mind." I dropped a tenner on her desk as I spoke.
"Certainly, Mr Doyle," she said instantly, then she hesitated. "You do think something's happened to Bodie then?"
'Something' was always happening to somebody around here but I shook my head slowly. "I'm not sure. He might have made plans for the night and I've just forgotten."
"Plans?" Nicole arched an eyebrow and I grinned at her. "You never know. He's still got it or so he keeps telling me."
"But you don't think so?" she said astutely.
I shrugged. "We'll see."
My mind made up I trotted downstairs to the radio room. Sarah was on duty and she looked up as I came in, greeting me with a pleasant smile.
"Good morning, Mr Doyle and thank you. I can buy a new dress with the money I won betting on you."
"Glad to be of service," I said absently. "Listen, love, I want you to put out a call for Bodie's car. If anybody spots it anywhere, I want to know."
"Bodie's car?" She looked at me in astonishment.
"Yeah, quick as you can, there's a good girl." I winced as the words left my mouth. Susan had always been quick to put us men down for our somewhat flippant remarks, claiming we were thoughtless at best and sexist brutes at worst but lately even Ruth had pointed out that some of our endearments might be considered patronising by women less understanding than herself. I couldn't see it myself. If no offence was intended why were some women so quick to take it?
Still, Sarah seemed not to notice; she just nodded, turned away to her board, ran a finger down a list pinned above her head and began to broadcast Bodie's car registration number to all units. Ruth's other remark came back to me. That I got away with more than was good for me.
Deciding not to linger I headed back upstairs. Time to update the boss.
Pausing only to let Nicole know what I'd done in case any calls came in, I tapped briefly on the interconnecting door to Cowley's office and let myself in.
"Bodie's missing," I said without preamble.
"What do you mean, missing?" Cowley snapped, his benevolent mood from earlier seemingly disappeared.
"Disappeared, absent, lost, misplaced," I snapped back. "In other words, missing."
He set his pen down very deliberately and looked at me. "Explain."
When I'd finished he frowned. "That's not a lot to go on. There could be some other explanation."
"Well, it wouldn't be entirely unknown for Bodie to take up with some young lady or other." He coughed gently. "Even before I had left the party I had noticed him paying attention to Miss Adams from accounting."
I waved a hand dismissively. "That's old news. There's nothing going on there, not any more. And besides, he would have said if he had anything on. Or left me a note. He didn't."
"Nevertheless, make a check of all likely friends and locales where he might have spent the night before you turn this into a full scale alert."
I started to interrupt and he held up a hand. "I trust your instincts, Doyle, but the correct processes need to be followed first. Let me know if you hear anything more."
With that he picked up his pen and bent over his work again. I was clearly dismissed.
I shut the door none too quietly behind me and went back to my own room. Sighing I pulled the phone towards me. Until I had something concrete to go on I didn't have a direction to tear off in, so, much as I would have liked to get out on the streets looking for Bodie I'd be better employed eliminating the other possibilities, however slight.
I sent Nicole down to accounting to chat to Lucy Adams. I rang his much more recent but still ex girlfriend, Jackie and then spent some time tracking down the numbers for a couple of his army buddies he still kept in touch with. I rang the hostelry where we'd held last night's bash and endured more disbelief that I was still among the land of the living. Just how much had I had last night? I then tried a few more local pubs that Bodie and I had frequented enough times to be known at.
Drawing the expected blank at all these I then began to make a list of other places to try. Bookies, restaurants, even his local dry cleaners. I would send an agent or two around to ask if they'd seen Bodie while I nipped around to his flat and got his address book so I could check with people I wasn't so familiar with. I was frustrated at being held up in this way, I knew it wouldn't do any good. Something had happened to Bodie that wasn't just being waylaid by a pretty girl or more drink.
When the door next opened Tub was alone and he held out a cup. "Thought you could use a drink."
Hope flared again. I knew Tub of old; he might have been a mercenary but was primarily a soldier, not a cold-blooded killer like the other two. I took the cup gratefully, wondering if he'd shown the same compassion to Ray. "Tub, listen, I know you've been coerced into this. You can help us get out of here, I can make sure you face a lesser charge -"
"It's too late. He's dead."
None of his punches had hit me as hard. "What?"
"He's dead. Krivas and Franky are dumping his body."
I swallowed, mind reeling. Ray, tortured to death. They'd pay...
I bit down on the swelling rage. Right now, I had to pretend I hadn't just lost Doyle; I needed to get out of here and get away otherwise no one would pay. With Krivas and Franky absent I wasn't going to get a better opportunity, but I needed a clear head to do it.
"You have to help me, Tub. I know you're not a killer, you can't let Krivas get away with it."
"Revenge, he said. I didn't bargain on murder." Uncertain though he clearly was, Tub wasn't in any rush to free me, and I tried again. Krivas could be back at any moment.
"You know Krivas. He doesn't leave anyone alive to tell any tales. I won't walk away from this, and there's every chance you won't either." I don't know if that thought hadn't occurred to him before but it appeared to hit home and convince him to help.
He gestured vaguely at the cuffs. "Krivas has the keys."
Of course. "Find something to break the padlocks or chains then. I can deal with the manacles later if necessary, but we need to get out of here."
He nodded and disappeared through the door, and I counted the seconds. I had to be far enough from here - wherever the hell I was - before Krivas returned, because he wouldn't hesitate to track me down.
Tub was back in exactly forty-nine seconds which was around forty longer than I was happy with but at least he was carrying a hammer and crowbar. Though sturdy, the padlocks were the weakest link in my restraints and a few sharp blows split the shackles apart.
I massaged my wrists, wincing at the scrapes and grazes the cuffs had left, but knowing it all could have been far worse. "Which way out?"
Tub wordlessly led the way turning right out of my cellar and I followed, swinging my arms to loosen up the muscles still aching from his earlier attentions.
We emerged into a kitchen above the cellars and Tub pointed. "We get out by the door over there. I need to get some stuff before I go."
I called after him as he headed along a corridor. "Two minutes. Otherwise you're on your own."
The kitchen - and presumably the rest of the house - was empty, but I checked a few of the drawers and found some abandoned cutlery, amongst it some steak knives. They were slightly rusty and certainly weren't as sharp as they needed to be, but they were a weapon of sorts which I just might be needing. I put the two sharpest into my jacket pocket, relieved to find as I did so that my wallet and ID were still there.
I was relieved when Tub reappeared with a small rucksack. Technically he was my prisoner but just at the moment I'd rather have him on my side - time enough to think about arresting him when I was clear. I didn't know whether he thought I'd let him go once we were, but I'd deal with that when it happened. I'd stand by my word and try and get him a lesser charge, but he was still an accessory to Ray's murder, and no one was walking away from that charge...
I put ramifications aside and followed Tub outside.
Try as hard as I might I couldn't see anything out of place at Bodie's flat. Everything looked to be in place and the only things I could see missing were the sort of toiletries he would have packed for the overnight stop at my place along with clothes for work today.
Finally, reluctantly, I collected his address book from his desk and went back to HQ to spend a fruitless half hour ringing any likely and some unlikely numbers.
A couple of women claimed they'd never heard of him and one sounded as if I'd woken her up and swiftly hung up on me when I mentioned his name. And why on earth did he have a number for a bingo hall in Rickmansworth?
After a time I gave up trying to decipher the names that had been crossed out over the years, sat back with a groan and scrubbed my hands over my face. Reports from the agents I'd sent out on the hunt had been radioed in; all had drawn a blank as I expected they would.
I ate the last bite of the sandwich Nicole had left on my desk and drained the almost cold tea. Then I swung the chair around and gazed out of the window at the clouds scudding across the sky as if that could give me the answers I wanted.
"Come on mate, give us a bloody clue. I don't know which way to turn."
As if on cue, Nicole came through the door, notebook in hand. "The Chiswick police have just been on the phone. They've found Bodie's car but there's no sign of him."
I leapt to my feet. "Chiswick? What the hell's it doing out there?"
She glanced at her notes. "No idea but there's a PC Longman waiting with it outside number 23 Ennismore Avenue. Apparently there's been a collision with another car."
I snatched up my jacket and headed to the door. "Tell Cowley where I've gone. I'll be in touch when I get there."
Ennismore Avenue turned out to be a quiet, leafy cul-du-sac at Turnham Green. I couldn't think of any reason for Bodie to be in the area, it didn't look like a place where our sort of trouble lived.
I recognised Bodie's bright red Scorpio easily, which saved me having to check for house numbers. The police car a few yards away was a bit of a giveaway too. One copper was talking to an elderly man while his partner sat in the car, clearly bored by the whole thing.
I left my own car, a sludge green Cavalier grabbed from the car pool, a few yards down the street and hurried up to join the party.
I flashed my ID as I approached and the policeman looked relieved.
"Glad you've come, sir."
"What's the story?" I demanded, already beginning to scout around the car looking for any evidence of Bodie having been there.
"Far as we can tell the car was just parked here. Not well, mind but OK, but then Mr Perkins here..."
"It was my fault, sir. Totally my fault. Are you the owner, sir?"
The little grey-haired man was tottering by my side, tugging on my elbow. I shook him off as gently as possible and looked at the copper.
"Mr Perkins hit the car, sir, when he reversed out of his drive. Very distraught about it and since there was no owner in sight, he called us. We ran a check and thought we'd better call you."
"You won't take it further, will you? I'll pay for the damage, obviously."
"He's a bit worried he'll lose his licence, given his age and all." PC Longman confided. He'd obviously heard all this more than once since arriving at the scene.
The keys were still in the ignition I noticed. Bodie was lucky it hadn't been nicked.
"How long's it been here?" I asked. Mr Perkins did his eager best to answer me.
"Well, it wasn't there when I got back from the shops. That would have been about half past one. I'd just missed the news on the radio so I settled down to the crossword and a cup of coffee. I can usually do the crossword in about twenty minutes but today it took me a bit longer and when I'd finished, I realised I needed to get a move on if I were not to be late getting to my bridge club. I suppose that's why I hit the car. I'm very sorry." He ran down and stopped like some clockwork toy, hanging his head, dejectedly.
I sighed and patted him on the arm. "Look, no harm done. We were looking for the car anyway so you've sort of done us a favour. Don't worry about it."
I glanced at my watch. About an hour or so then. Could knock on a few doors, see if anybody had noticed who parked it but what were the chances?
I reached for the door handle then hesitated. Could it be booby trapped? It seemed unlikely; there'd been no attempt to let us know where the car was, so it wasn't aimed directly at CI5. Unless it was a random snatch of a car, any car. In which case, why was Bodie still missing? But still, better safe than sorry, maybe.
I nodded to PC Longman. "Take Mr Perkins inside, will you? And get your mate to move the car back a bit."
His eyes widened with sudden comprehension and he scurried over to the copper in the car, who had hadn't moved since I arrived. He leaned his head out of the window as his partner approached, listened for a moment, then swiftly started the car and backed it down the road at least a couple of hundred yards. I think it if weren't for his partner still being there, he'd have taken off altogether and I didn't entirely blame him.
PC Longman was urging Mr Perkins up the drive to his house. "There you go, Mr Perkins, I said we could get this all cleared up in no time. Now why don't you go and make a nice cup of tea. Make you feel better."
He looked at me over his shoulder. "Shouldn't you call someone? You know, 'someone'".
Despite myself my lips quirked a little. Like the bomb squad he meant but he was doing his best not to put the wind up the civilian. I shook my head. "Nah, I need the practice."
Taking a deep breath I gently opened the door and began to examine the interior of the car. Nothing had been visible when I'd peered through the windows and I didn't see anything now. Cautiously I lifted the lever and tipped the driver seat forward but there was nothing underneath it. I leaned across and pulled up the door catch on the passenger side, went around and checked under that seat as well. Clean as a whistle. While I was there, I checked the glove compartment. Not for an explosive device but to see if there were anything to solve the mystery of Bodie's disappearance.
There was the usual assortment of maps, pens, notepad, emergency Mars Bar, but nothing useful to me today.
Back around the driver's side I flipped the bonnet catch and checked out the innards of the car and finally dropped to the ground and scrutinised the underside.
Having got that far I could be fairly sure the car was clean. Oh I'd call out the boys just to make sure but I felt a bit happier as I extracted the keys from the ignition and headed for the rear of the car.
PC Longman, to give him his credit, had come back after shutting Mr Perkins up indoors and was watching me from the driveway. I gave him a reassuring grin as I unlocked the boot and lifted it.
The grin froze on my face as I saw the body. 'Bodie!' I thought and my gut twisted painfully. But before the thought could even manifest itself properly, my subconscious reasserted my reason. The man was fair-haired, not dark and that wasn't my partner's body shape. Nor, the hysterical thought bubbled to the surface, would Bodie be caught, even if he were dead, wearing anything like the clothes this body was dressed in. Cheap and shabby and ill fitting.
Knowing, even as I did so, that this person was dead, I nevertheless touched the side of his neck, checking for a pulse. Found none and was therefore less careful in my handling as I pulled the body around so I could see the face.
Contorted in a painful grimace the man had not died peacefully but even without that look he'd not been a pretty sight. He'd taken a beating, a bad one and there was dried blood on his swollen face and down the front of his shirt and trousers. There were multiple slits in the clothes; the fabric stiffly caked in his blood, my mind instantly assessing them as made by a knife. As I had turned him his arm flopped over his body and now, as my eye travelled downwards, I noticed raw and broken skin at the wrist. Whoever he was he'd been manacled for some time before dying. I could almost see how it would have been; the constant jab, jab, jab of the blade going in. No one thrust would kill but over time the blood loss would add up. Growing slowly weaker and no chance to defend himself against this calculated attack. Tortured to death, basically.
And now, here he was, in the boot of Bodie's car. And Bodie was missing. Was he chained up somewhere, going through the same sort of hell? I had to find him and I didn't have a clue where to start looking.
"Bloody hell." The quiet utterance behind me startled me. PC Longman had come up behind me and was now peering over my shoulder curious to see what was holding my attention for so long.
"Yeah," I said, releasing a breath I didn't know I was holding. "Not pretty, is he?"
"Who is he?"
"How the hell should I...?" I broke off and forced myself to stare harder at the face of the dead man. Grey streaks shot through the dirty blond hair. Blood and dirt plus that look of agony on his face obscuring the features but, if I took off ten years or so....
From somewhere in the back of mind I could hear Bodie's voice saying, "Benny...Benny...." But Benny who? I screwed up my face in an effort to remember. "Marsh!" I shouted out loud. "Benny Marsh!"
But I had no time for Longman now, I finally had a lead to follow. I spun round. "Listen, I've got to go. Call the wagon for him and until they get here, don't let anybody touch anything, keep the public well back if they start to show an interest." I began to run towards my car. "Tell your lazy partner to get off his arse and do something!"
Not waiting for his reply I leapt into the car and snatched up the handset. "Put me through to Alpha, now!"
The garden reinforced the theory that the house was empty by being overgrown to the point of wilderness, very in keeping with our former stamping grounds. Tub led me along what had previously been a garden path and through an ornate metal gate into what looked like a park. "Where the hell are we?"
"Richmond," Tub threw over his shoulder. "If we follow this path it'll bring us out to a park exit." Presumably leaving by the front door would have taken us straight out to a main road but no doubt the back might help us avoid Krivas if he returned...
"Tub!" We both heard the shout at the same moment, and I shoved Tub away from the path and towards the trees ahead. They were too cultivated, branches too high to provide cover but would be better than nothing. I didn't know it well but Richmond Park was huge, if we could only put a bit of distance between us surely we could lose them.
As we reached the line of trees I heard the gate crash back into its frame and a quick glance back showed me that Krivas and Franky had seen us, and had stayed much fitter than Tub...
"Keep going!" I shoved him again. If necessary I'd leave him to his fate but there was no way they were taking me again. His own fear made Tub kick up his heels and we accelerated towards another, thicker belt of trees. We could still do it.
A bullet whizzed past us to bury itself in a trunk and we both instinctively ducked. It was unlikely they'd take the time to aim and fire, but still stood a good chance of hitting us with random shots - us, or anyone else unfortunate enough to be walking in this part of the park this fine afternoon...
Weaving and ducking - the old habits died hard - I overtook Tub as we broke from the belt of trees, dismayed to find that we'd emerged onto an avenue with a road to cross and the nearest cover a couple of hundred yards away.
Our salvation came from the right. The gardener in his drop-side van was going slowly, obviously watching out for pedestrians and wildlife, and took little notice as we angled out towards his vehicle. In fact, he slowed just in case we were trying to get across in front of him, giving me the perfect opportunity to get my foot into the step and throw myself into the back of the muddy, grass-strewn van.
Tub, a fraction behind me, missed his step and stumbled but the gardener by now had realised we were trying to leap on and braked, gesticulating through his cab window at me to get off. Instead, I shouted over my shoulder at him to keep going. As I reached for Tub to haul him on board Krivas and Franky appeared from the trees; their shots immediate and this time, hitting their target. I clutched at Tub's jacket still hoping to pull him in, shouting again at the driver, who had realised that whatever was going on he'd be better off putting his foot down than stopping and the van jerked suddenly forward.
Tub was too heavy for me. In any event the next round of shots were more accurate and he fell back, probably dead before he hit the ground. I flung myself below the drop-side, hoping that whatever weapons they had wouldn't penetrate the metal...
I don't know what the speed limit is in the Royal Parks but I'm sure the driver exceeded it at that moment. He slowed all too soon, looking worriedly over his shoulder at me. Sticking my head up I could see the road split ahead, one track going on and the other leading out of the park past some houses. Even if there wasn't a phone box I could bang on someone's door... Scrambling my ID out of my pocket I slapped it against the small cab window. "Police," I shouted. "Let me off, and get out of here."
He couldn't possibly have read the card but my tone and action was obviously enough for him, and he braked sharply; stopping just long enough for me to drop over the edge before taking off again.
My legs had gone to jelly, but I couldn't stop. We'd only gone maybe half a mile, Krivas and Franky could be onto me again within minutes. Forcing myself upright I trotted along the minor road, seeing with relief that it led to the gateway Tub had spoken about, leading to civilisation. And, miracles abounding, there was a phone box.
Everything was shaking as I lifted the receiver to dial Cowley's number and I dropped the coin three times before managing to get it into the slot, balancing my hands on the phone in order to select the numbers properly. Everything hinged on getting this call through, quickly. If they came after me, I didn't have time...
"Bodie, where are you?"
"Richmond Park. Listen, I only have a couple of minutes. Krivas could be after me. You need to get a team together, I don't know the exact address but it's an empty house, about half a mile north of here..." I hadn't had time to rehearse what I needed to tell him. My voice cracked. "They snatched us... they've killed Doyle and dumped his body. You have to get over here..."
"Bodie, wait, listen!"
"Just get here." I left the receiver hanging so that he could trace the call and pushed the kiosk door open, checking the road towards the park. No sign of them...
"Good to know you're still alive, Doyle."
I blinked at the handset before replying. Over the years I'd become accustomed to our leader being seemingly omnipotent but this was a bit clever even for him.
"Thank you, sir, but I still think it wouldn't hurt to have the bomb squad check the car over before moving it."
The radio was strangely silent for a long moment before he answered. "Doyle, I was being ironic. I didn't actually expect you be anything else but still among the living. Bodie, however, has other ideas."
"Bodie! You've spoken to him then?" For a long moment I thought all I'd imagined since recognising Marsh's body to be false.
"Aye, briefly. He was snatched last night by..."
"Krivas. The mad bastard!"
Another pause. "You seem to be ahead of me, Doyle."
"I've just been looking at the body of Benny Marsh. Tucked away in the boot of Bodie's car. Doesn't take a genius to figure out who off'd him. But never mind that now. Where's Bodie?"
"He was calling from a phone box. We've traced it to Warboys Road, Richmond. He said he'd been held in an empty house about half a mile north of there, inside the park perimeter. Unfortunately he thought he was being followed and terminated the call too quickly for me to correct his misapprehension that you had been killed by Krivas."
That spurred me into action. I knew what I'd feel if the position were reversed. We'd both had our close shaves over the years and knew the fear and the sick feeling of loss more than once and yet time and again had been so lucky not to have lost each other permanently. If Bodie now thought I was dead, killed by Krivas, there was no knowing what he might do.
I'd grabbed the A-Z from the glove compartment as soon as Cowley mentioned an address and now, with a route to Richmond firmly in my mind, started up the car and headed down the road. If Bodie was up against Krivas he'd be needing back up double quick.
I'm not sure why I decided to go back to the house rather than wait for back-up. Maybe it was the realisation after another couple of minutes that they weren't coming after me; that they would cut their losses and get away...
I retraced my steps as far as the park perimeter. Still no sign of them. The pathway immediately inside the perimeter had to be the same one Tub had intended us to take, it would lead me straight back to the house.
Without any hesitation, I started along it, striding at first, but then jogging, running. I had to get back in time to stop them leaving; I had to delay them until Cowley arrived.
The stupidity of going up against them armed only with a couple of rusty steak knives was obvious. I didn't care. As long as I could delay them...
I hadn't exercised much caution as I went back through the garden and barged into the kitchen. I shouted, knowing that Krivas would be arrogant enough to come out and face me if he were still there, but there was silence.
I checked swiftly along the corridor where Tub had gone to collect his bag and could easily see where the three of them had spent a few nights but anything of a personal nature was gone.
Against my will I was drawn to the cellar, past the room where I'd been held, to a second on the opposite side.
This was where he'd been. Blood, a lot of it; even in the half light I could see it, some dark and congealed, some still bright, almost fresh...
Why had they taken it out on him? Why not me?
Because Krivas had wanted me to know Ray was suffering before they started on me... Bastards. I realised my nails were cutting into my palms, I had my fists clenched so tightly, and forced myself to put my hands flat against the door instead.
They had to pay. There was no sense in waiting for back-up now. Krivas had to be tracked down and I was the only one who could do it. And when I found him, he wouldn't walk away again. No more chances; it was him or me.
I took one last look at the cellar; the place where Ray had died. I would remember this, every detail, when I had the chance to mourn him properly.
Then I was pounding up the cellar steps, and out of the house hearing sirens in the distance. It was far too early for the team to have reached me; it had to have been the gardener calling in the local boys. They'd start with Tub's body; by the time they reached the house Cowley would be there to explain.
I had somewhere else to be.
I spotted the kiosk in Warboys Road and, as I drove past, saw the receiver still dangling loose waiting for the next user to replace it on the cradle. I followed the road down to the nearest park entrance. Usually barred, the gate was swung back and there were tyre tracks leaving the path and cutting across the grass. I could see a gathering of spectators a few hundred yards away so I pointed the car that way.
By dint of leaning on the horn, the small crowd parted for me and I could see the rear entrance to an overgrown garden. A policeman came hurrying towards me as I pulled up next to the two police cars already parked there, indignation and officialdom writ large on his face.
"'Ere, you can't park there."
Wasting no time in debate I slammed the car door and flashed my ID at him in passing as I headed for the garden and the rear door of the house. Under other circumstances I might have thought what a shame it had been left empty and unattended because it could be an attractive little place but right now I had no time for eyeing it up and I strode inside, half dreading what I might find.
The kitchen was deserted but I could hear voices seeming to come from beneath me. There was a wooden door with steps leading down, presumably to cellars or storage below so I followed them.
Several heads turned as they heard me coming. One young lad looked as if I'd scared him out of a year's growth. I stared at him for a minute. When did they start making policemen quite that young?
"I'm sorry, sir, you can't come down here," one of them started to say, his voice trailing off as he saw my ID.
"What have you found?" I demanded.
"Lot of blood mainly. And some chains. Very nasty. Looks like two people were held here, separate rooms." He gestured across the passage to another room. "We've carted away one body from just out back, but we've got nothing on who the other person might have been."
My stomach muscles tightened and I felt that sick feeling again. If I was right and Benny Marsh had been one of the victims here, then who the hell was the other body? Had Krivas caught up with Bodie since his phone call?
"Who...?" I swallowed and tried again. "Who was it?"
"Big bloke, overweight, you know. Fair hair, what was left of it. Moustache. He was wearing dogtags with the name Wilson on them."
The relief must have shown in my face.
I waved a hand dismissively. "My partner's missing. I thought.... Never mind."
He nodded understandingly. "Any orders, sir?"
"Yeah. Clear everybody out. Post some additional men to make sure the public stay out but leave everything in here to us."
I could see by his face that he didn't like it. CI5 barging in and taking over as usual, keeping all the excitement to ourselves. But I couldn't risk losing the slightest bit of evidence through lack of experience. Something that could help me find Bodie and anything that could help us convict Krivas. I didn't yet know how come he was even on the loose but next time he went down, he was never coming out. I'd make sure of it.
I fairly chivvied the disgruntled coppers out of the cellar, through the kitchen and out through the garden before their size twelve's could trample over any evidence.
When they were out and I was sure they were staying out, however peeved, I got on the radio and demanded Jack come down with some of his boys and go over the place with a fine-tooth comb. He didn't sound any happier at my tone than the police but I wasn't concerned with pleasing people, not today.
Once I was assured they were on their way I got back in the car. Much as I wanted to tear the place apart, convinced there would be a major clue just waiting for me, I knew I had to leave it to the experts. I was itching for some action and had to plan my next move. I wanted... I needed... to find Bodie, reassure myself he was all right and then the two of us seek out and take down Krivas and his bloody knife-wielding accomplice once and for all.
Once out on the main road I had quickly got my bearings, and jumped on a number 85 towards Putney Bridge before changing for a 37 towards Clapham. My closest lock-up was in Lebanon Gardens. It wasn't the one I'd have preferred to have gone to but the better car and rifle were lodged further north and I didn't have the time to waste in getting there.
The one snag was I didn't have the keys; I kept them on the fob with my flat keys but they'd been in the overnight bag in the car. Just as well the old dear who rented me the garage had spares; I could break in but it would take time I didn't have and might just attract unwanted attention.
My luck held; she was at home. "Oh, Mr Bodie. I didn't expect you."
"I need the car, bit unexpected, and I left my keys behind. Could I have the spare key to the garage?"
She reached behind the door to take it from the hook. "Is everything all right, dear?"
"Sudden trip I need to take, that's all. Family emergency." I forced myself to smile and nod, knowing that I had to look dishevelled at least. Just as well she couldn't see the bruised ribs.
"Oh dear. Well, drive carefully."
I would. Unless I happened to have Krivas in front of me, and then I'd drive carefully at him.
Old Mrs Garner here and Mr Chandry in Hackney had no idea what was kept in the garages they had no use for. I kept the cars maintained, checking them over every couple of months, and cleaning and oiling the guns. You never knew when your life could depend on them.
Nonetheless, I checked the Browning again, working the breech a couple of times before snapping in the ammo clip. I knew the FN was OK, I'd used it on the range just a few weeks ago. Lastly, I snapped a magazine into the H&K MP5. Securing the rifle into the boot, I pulled on a shoulder holster for the Browning, and tucked the H&K securely under the driver's seat, before unclipping the trickle charger from the battery and dropping the bonnet closed.
The car fired up immediately and I left it running while opening the garage door before inching the Sierra out of the narrow gap. The road was quiet as I closed the garage door behind me, and sliding back in I revved the engine. I was ready.
Now to find someone who could tell me where I'd find Krivas.
Driving the short distance down Merton Road I parked the car at the side of the Gardeners' Arms and tapped on the back door.
The landlady had known me for years; the place had been my local when one of my CI5 flats was just down the road. "Bodie! I haven't seen you in ages."
"Been busy, love. Listen, I need to make some calls and I don't have enough change for a box. Can I borrow your phone?"
"Of course, come in." She waved me into the bar and passed the phone across. "Can I get you anything?"
"No, thanks." I began dialling.
It had never been easy keeping tabs on Cusak. Up until I'd left CI5 I'd always had an idea of where to find him but since I'd been away he'd dropped below the radar and now I wished I'd made more attempt in the last few months to track him down.
I did however know where Marty was to be found.
Like this place, his local was probably already closed but I knew he'd be there anyway, and sure enough, he came to the phone with a sigh. "I've retired, dear chap."
"I'm not buying. I need to find Cusak and I need to find him quickly."
"Cusak's dropped out of sight," Marty replied. "Someone told me he wasn't in the business any longer."
"And you believe that? Cusak will still be dealing guns from his coffin. C'mon, Marty, this is important."
"I can make a few calls, see if I can find him. But if you're not buying..." he left the question hanging.
"He can tell me where to find someone." I felt a wave of anger and sorrow. "The person who's just killed my partner."
"Doyle?" Marty didn't wait for my answer. "I'll make some calls. Where are you?"
I gave him the number. I didn't want to wait around but knew better than to expect Marty to give up his contacts, and besides, I was suddenly exhausted. Leaning back in the seat I closed my eyes, hoping to doze.
After a few minutes I gave that up as a bad job. All I could see was the cellar; I couldn't sleep when Ray was dead. Once I'd got Krivas, when it was over - then I'd sleep.
The landlady placed a glass and plate in front of me. I looked up, bemused. "I didn't - "
"Eat it, Bodie. You look like you need it."
In truth, I didn't feel in the least like eating but I had to be practical. I was already feeling ropey from lack of sleep and Tub's attentions, and if I wanted to be fit enough to track Krivas down I would need something. The sandwich was thick-cut, with plenty of butter and substantial slices of ham, and once I'd started I suddenly found I was hungry enough to eat the lot, even if I had trouble swallowing past the knot in my throat. The pint glass contained nothing but orange juice; again just perfect since I needed a clear head.
Of course, the downside of the food was that it made me extremely sleepy which was a reaction I couldn't afford. I didn't have time for that. I got up and paced the bar a few times, accepting the offer of another glass of juice. The landlady was clearly concerned about me but thankfully showed no inclination to engage in conversation, leaving me alone with my thoughts and making my wait both easier and harder.
I'd spent the first half hour determined to stay awake and focused but it was impossible not to think about Ray; every thought was linked to him, no matter what I tried to think about.
I couldn't mourn him yet, but I couldn't shut him out either.
Eventually I sat back and tried to clear my mind of everything, forcing all stray thoughts away, knowing I was tired enough to sleep, and knowing too that I wasn't going to sleep properly for a long time to come...
When the phone rang I snapped awake, immediately looking at my watch. It took a couple of seconds to remember that it was broken, and as I answered the phone I twisted to look at the clock over the bar. Nearly an hour had passed.
"Did you find him?"
"I've got an address. Everyone said he's no longer dealing."
"Doesn't matter. He'll know where Krivas is, I could take bets on it."
"Krivas? That's a name from the past."
"That's where he should have stayed. Cusak's address?"
"There's a lock-up just off Strathmore Road in Teddington. But that was about a month ago. No guarantee he's still there."
"Thanks, Marty. I owe you one."
"In actual fact," Marty said, "you owe me several. One of these days, I shall collect."
"One of these days, I'll let you..."
Back at HQ I went straight for the files. Although my memory was good, even I couldn't remember a name and a location from just the one occasion ten years ago.
"Mr Doyle, nice to see you. Great party last night." Robson, one of the younger agents was on duty sorting files. His punishment for some misdemeanour or other. The Cow didn't like to mess with a system that worked.
"Yeah, terrific." I wasted no time on small talk but headed for the rear of the room where the oldest files were.
"I didn't think we'd be seeing you today. In fact I lost money on it. Seemed like a sure thing the way you were knocking 'em back."
I ignored him and ran my eye down another cabinet, checking the labels on each drawer. 1980, 1981, 1982...
"Where the hell is the early stuff?" I demanded.
"How much earlier do you want?
"I don't know exactly. '77, '78, about then."
"Blimey, reliving your glory days, are you?" The look in my eye convinced him I was serious and he finally stammered out something useful. "'S'all being computerised, isn't it? Oldest first. They've got the files in No Man's Land."
I nodded and left without another word. Behind me his plaintive cry floated on the air. "If you'd said it was urgent..."
No Man's Land was the name given to the area of office space set up to house a bunch of temps, carefully screened of course, to bring us into the twenty-first century by putting all old files, reports and case notes onto computer. I vaguely remembered Ruth saying something about it when she been handed the job of organising it but we hadn't spoken recently and I'd forgotten about the project in my concern over Bodie.
Deeming it important work and knowing the sooner it was over, the sooner we could stop paying them, Cowley had determined the rooms out of bounds to male agents, hence the nickname.
Bowling into the large room I was momentarily halted as a dozen pairs of female eyes looked at me.
"Should you be here?" Ruth asked, mischievously looking up from her desk, then her expression changed. "Ray, what is it?"
"Old case Bodie and I worked on. '77 or maybe '78. Need it urgently."
She nodded and ran her finger down a list in front of her. "Paula and Tracy have those." She led me over to two girls sitting by the window, who, along with the rest of the room, were watching us closely.
"Mr Doyle needs to go through the files you have."
Their heads bobbed in unison and one of them gestured slightly to a pile of brown folders in front of them.
"Which doesn't mean you need to stop working," Ruth added severely. "And," she glanced around the room. "That goes for the rest of you as well."
"Yes, Miss Pettifer," they chorused and returned to making their computer keyboards rattle.
Another time I might have teased Ruth about being such a hard task mistress but now I was too intent on finding some useful information.
"What are we looking for, Ray?" Ruth asked, taking some of the files from the pile.
"Bodie, me, Cowley too. A bunch of mercenaries from Bodie's past. I don't remember the exact date. Not winter. Maybe spring of '78." I was flipping through files as fast as I could. A quick check was enough to eliminate most of them.
"Look for Krivas, Francois le Page, Benny Marsh..."
Ruth nodded and began turning pages in turn.
I was peripherally aware of the two temps nudging each other, then one of them spoke. "Excuse me, Miss Pettifer."
"What is it, Paula?
"I've just finished inputting that case."
I stopped dead and fixed her with a look. "Where is it?"
"He...here," she stammered and, rifled through a stack to the far side of her and handed me a folder. "I...I recognised the names when you said them."
I flicked through a couple of pages, just enough to confirm it was the one I'd been seeking and a grin spread across my face. "Great, thanks love!"
She blushed. "Is the..there anything else I can help you with, Mr Doyle?"
"Nope, thanks. This is all I need." I turned away already hurrying to the door.
Ruth touched my arm. "Tell me about it when you can."
I nodded and left the room, hearing her say as I went; "OK, you can carry on with your work. Nothing more to see."
I took the stairs three at a time and entered Cowley's office hurriedly without knocking.
"Krivas," I said, waving the file in my hand.
He nodded, "Aye, Krivas - and the rest."
"Tug Wilson is dead, no idea how or why yet, but he's joined Benny Marsh in the eternal jungle so unless Krivas has recruited anybody else, we've just left with the one-eyed Frenchman."
"And that's bad enough." Cowley rubbed his shoulder absent-mindedly as he spoke and I remembered his knife wound at the hands of Franky le Page. Old wounds provoke old memories and we all had our share of them.
"Do we know how come they're on the loose?"
Cowley shrugged slightly. "Our current best guess is bribing a guard to look the other way while they were being transferred but since he then ended up with a makeshift knife between the ribs it's not been possible to question him."
I nodded, not really that interested in the how. I was much more concerned about making sure we caught up with them before they did any more damage.
As if he read my mind Cowley continued; "So, where do we go from here?"
I concentrated on the file once more. "I need a name. A name and a location.... Ahhh!" My eyes lit upon the relevant information. "Cusak. That's the man."
I nodded. "One of Bodie's contacts. We went to him when we were hunting Krivas last time." I grinned at the memory. "He didn't like me for some reason. Think I'll go and give him a reason to dislike me some more."
"Take someone along with you for back up, Peters or Johnson or somebody, and keep me informed."
I nodded, more in response to the second request than the first. "And if Bodie should call in again..."
"All operators have strict instructions to impress upon him your continued existence."
"That and a location where he can be found and the day might start to look up." With that I left to pursue the longshot of getting a lead on Krivas and therefore Bodie. A longshot because the chances of Cusak being in the same place after all this time was a bit remote. But it was all I had to go on.
Cusak, never did learn his first name, was a part of Bodie's nefarious past. The part I knew he wished he could forget. Gun runner, supplier to mercenaries of all colours. Defensive, secretive, but reasonably loyal, which is why he was reluctant to give even Bodie any information about Krivas' activities. I doubted he'd talk to me without some persuasion but was fairly certain he'd clam up completely if I took one of the youngsters with me as back up as Cowley suggested. Therefore I left the building without another word to anybody and drove as quickly as possible to Cusak's last known address in Edgware.
As I approached the area I mused on the irony of needing this address so many years later. At the time writing my report I'd included meeting Cusak and his address. George Cowley demanded full reports and that's what I'd been used to handing in during my police career but it had caused a full-scale row between myself and Bodie. He didn't want his friends - and for the purposes of this argument he'd included Cusak in that category although I doubted he'd normally consider him a friend - or any of his contacts listed in any official documents for all the world to see and didn't I know the first thing about protecting contacts?
Which, of course, caused me to lash out at him in return. In those days it seemed it only took the slightest thing for us to be at each other's throats. In the end I took the details off the report and peace was restored. But, I included my own notes on the case after Cowley had signed them off and they'd been filed. And I continued to do that with all our future cases as well. I knew the value of protecting informants, of course I did, but I also knew the importance of having vital information and never knowing what might be valuable or when.
So, here I was with my small notebook and an address that might just help save Bodie's life. If I could catch up with him in time.
The building, when I reached it, had changed out of all recognition. When we'd been here previously the abandoned school had been just left to quietly fall apart. Goodness knows how Cusak had got permission to use it as a store or who he paid rent to, if anybody.
But now the rambling building had been converted into some very exclusive looking flats. There was a 'For Sale' sign alongside the drive and a man in a suit, clipboard in hand and 'estate agent' written all over him was just coming out of the communal front door as I pulled up. He looked relieved to see me.
I shook my head, "Nope, sorry."
"Damn. Looks like the bugger's not going to turn up." He suddenly looked hopeful. "Any chance I could show you around? They're lovely properties."
"Sorry," I said again and drove back the way I'd come, leaving him looking after me with a puzzled look on his face. There was no point in telling him I'd been hoping to find somebody who used the boiler room as a weapons store.
Now I had a direction. Fighting my way through the denser traffic, it took me nearly half an hour to get to Teddington - at least Cusak didn't keep office hours, if he was there I wouldn't miss him.
I left the car at the roadside and scouted the area, bypassing the larger units. Cusak wouldn't be in one of them. At the rear were three smaller units, two proudly displaying company names, the third run-down, looking unoccupied.
The door creaked loudly as I entered the third. Deliberately left without oil I guessed, Cusak didn't believe in doorbells. Inside was dark; the cheapskate didn't believe in turning on the lights much either. Hand already around the butt of the Browning I paused for a few seconds to let my eyes adjust to the lower light level before advancing swiftly through the nearly empty front office to the half-open door at the back.
Cusak was already heading for the back door.
"Hold it." My words did less to convince him to stop than the glance over his shoulder. I waved the barrel. "Away from the door."
"You sound pleased to see me."
Moving as instructed he managed a grimace that could have been a smile. "Always pleased to see old customers..."
"Yeah." I closed on him, holding the Browning steady while I reached into his jacket and pulled out the gun from his shoulder holster. "Who else has been around lately? What other 'old' customers?"
"No one, it's just a figure of speech..." he gulped as I pushed the muzzle closer.
"Here's another figure of speech for you. You'll tell me where Krivas is or I'll blow your head off."
"I don't know where he is: I just supplied him with a few guns."
"Not good enough." I seized the front of his jacket and pulled him closer to the gun.
"I don't know what he's doing, I swear..."
"What he's doing." The image of the bloodstained cellar flashed through my mind. "He's already done it, Cusak. He murdered my partner, and you're going to help me find him."
"I had nothing to do with it! I haven't even seen him, Bodie." Sweating now, Cusak looked just terrified enough to be telling the truth.
"So how do you know the guns were for him?"
"It was one of your old crew that came, he said Krivas had just one thing to do before he got out of the country for good. They just wanted the guns, and that's all I know."
I relaxed my grip on his jacket slightly. "Did you take the guns to them?"
"No, Benny came here, he said it was his last job as well, once he'd got Krivas off his back -"
"Benny? Benny Marsh?" The one remaining member of the team conspicuous by his absence; I'd supposed Krivas hadn't called him back into the fold after he betrayed them.
"That's him. He didn't look too happy about it - said he was through with the old days and was only helping Krivas to get him out of the country and off his back."
That made sense. Benny had never been happy about Krivas' style of leadership. Maybe when he found out what Krivas' plans were for me and Ray he'd pulled out altogether. "And he didn't say anything else; how they were getting out?"
"I swear, I don't know anything. Not my business, you know that." Cusak sank onto a chair in relief as I released him, knowing that was the truth. Cusak never wanted to know anything beyond what your requirements were and that you had the cash to pay him.
"Tell me exactly what Benny said..."
Back in the car, I forced myself to patience as the queue of traffic rolled slowly south past Hampton Court. I only had a few miles to travel and instinct told me I would have hours to wait, unless Krivas changed the habits of a lifetime.
Benny had apparently done quite a bit of moaning but Cusak hadn't been able to tell me much more, remembering only that Benny had agreed to one last job because he needed the money and Krivas had promised him a good payoff, if he helped organise a way out of the country afterwards.
And that was why I was heading for Esher. It was a long shot, but back when we were working together Benny had got us into the country and out again without anyone in officialdom knowing, with the help of a cousin who owned a light aircraft.
I'd debated with myself whether it would make sense to track down Benny first but that would take more time and I could find myself heading away from the area; and there was no possibility of using any of CI5's resources to trace him. If I made contact with HQ, Cowley would pull me in, and that wasn't going to happen. Not until Krivas was dead. And there was always the chance that Benny was actually at the airstrip anyway.
No, all I had to do was find the patch of ground which had been used as an airstrip, and hope it hadn't been built on in the last fifteen years.
Back on the main road I thumped the steering wheel in my frustration. It had been a longshot but now I didn't have anything to go on. Suddenly a thought struck me.
Now he was definitely still in the same place, at least as of a couple of months ago according to a mutual contact I'd bumped into. Boats are considerably more manoeuvrable than buildings but moorings were getting increasingly hard to come by and Brownie would be unlikely to give up his while he could still function. Accordingly I swung my car along the North Circular towards the East India docks.
Traffic was heavier now and it was nearing six as I pulled up at the nearest slipway to Brownie's mooring.
I swung out of the car just as the RT buzzed. I considered ignoring it but conscience got the better of me and there was always the possibility they'd heard from Bodie so I dropped back onto the seat and picked up the handset.
"4.5, hold for Alpha 1."
I pulled a face and braced myself.
"Doyle? Where are you? Have you found out anything?"
"Not yet. Cusak's disappeared. I'm about to try someone else."
I sighed. "Brownie. Remember him and me swinging in mid air while that bastard Preston played with that American 180 rifle?"
"Ah yes." A pause. "Well if your friend Brownie can't or won't help, maybe you could approach Bodie's other arms dealer friend. The one he got the other 180 from."
That's the Old Man for you. Brain like his beloved filing system.
"I'll bear that in mind, sir. Have you heard anything more from Bodie?"
"Not a thing."
I sighed and for a moment rested my head on the hand clasping the RT. Then I straightened again. I couldn't, wouldn't believe Krivas had caught up with Bodie again. I didn't yet know how he'd got hold of him the first time but on his guard I'd back Bodie against Krivas any day.
I flicked the transmit button again. "If there's nothing else, sir, I'll get on."
"Just one more thing, Doyle." His voice was quiet and I tensed.
"You, Doyle, have not got any back up with you. Against my express orders."
Damn. Just as I'd half suspected, he'd found out I'd not taken Peters or anybody else with me.
"Yeah, well I'll have all the back up I need when I catch up with Bodie, won't I?"
Before he could answer I'd cut the connection and swung out of the car, slamming the door shut behind me. I'd answer to him later if necessary. Right now I needed to do something, feel I was getting somewhere instead of just floundering around.
I walked down the pontoon glancing at the boats and marvelling at the money literally tied up there. Brownie's boat was gleaming in the late evening sun, the paint was fresh and the brass rails shining. Clearly he had time and money on his hands.
As I stepped onto the gangplank Brownie popped his head out of the cabin. His enquiring look changed on seeing me.
"Oh no. No, not again. I'm having nothing to do with you. Clear off."
"Now that's no way to greet an old friend, Brownie."
"Yes, well, friends don't get other friends nearly killed."
"Nearly got myself killed rescuing you though. Should count for something."
"You didn't save either one of us, that was your mates, that was. And only just in the bloody nick of time."
I took the opening. "Talking of mates, I've mislaid one."
He looked at me sharply. "Laughing boy?"
He hesitated a moment longer then stood back a little and gestured. "Come on aboard. Bit more private than out here."
I followed him into the small cabin and as was his habit, he pulled a couple of cans out of a tiny fridge. I hesitated briefly but then popped the top and took a cautious sip.
"It's been a while, Ray. You've gone up in the world." He ran his eye over my suit.
I shrugged. "Thought you'd appreciate being left alone after the last time."
"And you didn't need anything from me," he suggested, sagely. "Until now."
"Until now," I agreed.
He sighed. "Come on then, son, let's hear it."
I told him as much as I thought was good for him. When I'd finished he was shaking his head. "A bad business. I know of Cusak. Can't help but hear about other players but I shouldn't like to know his customers. He's out of my league and I'm happy to keep it that way."
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. In a way it was no more than I expected. The shifty, sly Cusak and his clientele were another level to Brownie and his more homegrown business. So what now? Did I try to find Marty Martell as Cowley suggested? And what if he too had packed up or moved on?
I pushed myself to my feet with a groan, feeling tired, worry crowding in on me. "All right, Brownie, thanks anyway."
"Hey now, wait a minute. Just because I said I didn't know him, doesn't mean I can't find him for you."
I looked at him sharply. "You can?"
He shrugged. "I make no promises but I know people who know people. It's a small world and all that."
"It's important, Brownie, and urgent."
"You think I don't know that? Look, you sit down there and keep quiet while I get on the blower and see what I can scare up. OK?"
I nodded and sank back down again as Brownie turned to his radio set. I looked at the can of beer but felt no great urge to drink any more. My mid-morning snooze had helped and the urgent dashes from place to place this afternoon had kept me going but sitting here quietly now my tiredness was making itself felt again.
It was warm in the cabin and the gently rocking of the boat was soothing. I could hear the water lapping gently against the sides of the boat and the occasional call of seagulls wheeling overhead. I could hear Brownie's voice too, deliberately kept low to avoid me overhearing too much but I wasn't even trying to listen. Without even noticing I slipped into sleep.
I had no clear recollection of the roads around Esher - not least because we'd landed at dusk and taken off at dawn, and everything looked different. The only thing I could remember was a building at the entrance to the farm. Of course, that's if it was still standing.
Since I was looking for a large patch of green ground I'd driven as far south as the Common but that was too heavily forested to be where the plane had landed. I turned and drove back towards the town, taking the next road towards Cobham, but once again there were too many trees and once I'd gone over the A3 knew I was too far south.
Returning again to Esher I headed this time for Weybridge. To start with I thought I was still on the wrong road but as I passed over a bridge I got a flash of recognition. Sure that the turning opposite was the right place I pulled into a small lay-by, angling my mirror to look over the road without being too obvious.
The building I remembered had gone and the entrance was more overgrown but I remembered the curve of the road and the fact that the strip of land was bordered on one side by the river. This had to be it.
I drove on another hundred yards and pulled into a close leading to some houses to park. I didn't know if Krivas and Franky were here yet, but if they hadn't I'd rather they didn't see a car parked out on the main road which might make them suspicious.
I glanced at the car's clock; it had just gone six. Another hour before it started to get dark; I needed to scout around before that to get my bearings, and would prefer to get the car closer - if nothing else it would make it easier to get the weapons inside, the FN wasn't exactly shoulder-holster material - but didn't want to do that if there wasn't anywhere to hide it.
But I couldn't afford to scout around without weapons, given that Krivas might already have arrived...
In the end, I risked carrying the H&K under my coat. The bulge drew a few curious looks from passing motorists as I dived between their vehicles to cross the busy road but no one stopped. I slid under the brambles realising that I wasn't going to get the car any closer by this route; the gate was securely fastened with a sturdy and shiny new padlock.
The tarmac track was starting to be reclaimed by nature, the edges broken up and covered with tree roots. I kept to the edge, remembering the track widened past some barns - in common with a lot of working farms they'd been pretty ropey last time I was here, they may not even still be standing.
They were, although it looked as though they wouldn't be for much longer. The brick-built farm cottage opposite was shabby, windows either boarded up or broken, but it would do as a refuge if I needed it while waiting.
Hand securely gripping the H&K, I scouted further along the track. A few more crumbling barns before the area opened out into fields, and I was relieved to see that although it appeared the farm was now disused it had been abandoned recently enough that the ground wasn't overgrown. It would be a bumpy landing, but a good pilot could still manage it - and Benny's cousin was a good pilot.
There was no sign that Krivas and Franky were here. Granted they wouldn't exactly be standing around in full sight waiting for the plane and there were plenty of places to hide, but I could just feel it. If things ran true to form the plane would come in just after dawn, and Krivas would see no need to get here much before that.
A voice nagged in the back of my mind that I could have it wrong. The pair could be openly boarding a plane at Heathrow or driving towards Dover; there was no guarantee that they would use the escape Benny had organised. I ignored it. After my phone call Cowley would have had all those exits covered anyway, and I knew I wasn't wrong.
Whenever they arrived, they'd find me waiting.
I returned to the car quickly; although it would be another hour before full dark the light was already starting to fade from the sky. I flipped open the boot and grabbed the rucksack containing some rations to keep me going; cereal bars and bottled water and some packets of dried fruit. I added the torch and spare batteries.
I ran my hand over the FN. It wasn't dark enough yet for me to get it across the road unseen, and the last thing I needed was a concerned member of the public calling the locals to a madman with a rifle. Reluctantly I left it and locked the boot. Although it might be useful, the H&K or the Browning would probably be all I needed to deal with Krivas - after all, I wanted to be close enough to see him die; I didn't intend to make this a sniper job.
The door to the farm cottage was wedged closed but gave way easily. I checked quickly around to make sure the place didn't already have a squatter before fixing on a room to wait. The front parlour still contained a couple of chairs and I moved one next to the window, placing it so that I would be able to see any movement at the end of the track.
Trying it for size, I could understand why this chair hadn't been taken when the occupants moved out. The padding on the seat had worn thin while the uneven legs made sitting motionless almost impossible and after just a short while I was wondering if it would be better to stand. On the other hand, at least being uncomfortable meant I wouldn't drop off to sleep.
Not that there was much danger of that. My earlier tiredness had vanished, helped by the short doze in the pub and the sustenance of the sandwich. I could still feel the various spots where Tub had punched me and knew there would be bruises, but provided I kept moving my muscles wouldn't seize up.
I knew time was going to drag. Not having a watch would make the wait even harder; although it wasn't something I'd had in the jungle and we'd never had any trouble timekeeping then.
However it was with some relief that I heard a clock striking the hour at eight; probably the church that I'd passed several times half a mile away in Esher. I couldn't recall hearing it earlier but even if it only struck the hour I'd have some idea of how time was passing, and dawn approaching.
Now all I had to do was wait.
"Ray. Ray!" I felt a hand shaking my shoulder and a voice practically bellowing in my ear and I opened my eyes.
"Lord, how you sleep," Brownie said. "Here, catch hold of that." He thrust a mug of tea into my hand.
Automatically I took a gulp and then gasped for air. It was scalding. "How long...?" I spluttered and looked at my watch. It was almost seven-thirty.
"Shit!" I leapt to my feet. "How the hell could you let me sleep that long?"
"Because there didn't seem any point in waking you until I had something to tell you," he said sharply.
"And you have? Got something?" My head was clearing rapidly.
"Here." He thrust a piece of paper at me. "You don't deserve it, you ungrateful sod."
I scanned the paper. It was an address in Teddington. "And this is where I can find Cusak?"
He shrugged. "Doesn't come with a money back guarantee but that's what I'm told."
I took another hasty gulp of tea and moved to the door. "Thanks, Brownie. I owe you."
"Oh trust me, son, I'll collect."
I pulled up outside the small group of industrial units and glanced at my watch, cursing under my breath. Thanks to a broken down vehicle on the Hammersmith flyover, it had taken over an hour to get here. Most businesses would be long closed for the day but I had to bank on Cusak's customers not exactly being the nine to five sort.
The units all looked proper jobs with business names neatly displayed and all were tightly locked up. However there was one exception, a small, shabby unit set further back. It looked abandoned, unused, and I crept nearer, one hand sliding inside my jacket to touch the hilt of my gun.
Ignoring the front door I sidled around to the rear and found a Volkswagen Jetta highlighted by some security lights, its boot open as if ready to receive something.
A moment later a man came out of the rear of the unit carrying a large cardboard box. He struggled a little under the weight of it and half dropped it into the boot of the car.
"Moving out or just a late night delivery?" I called out and he spun round, clutching his chest, eyes widening in shock.
"I...we're closed," he stuttered and reached up to slam shut the car boot.
Now I saw him face on I was certain it was Cusak; that same shock of grey hair, the large nose and prominent eyes. He was considerably older of course but his eyes were still bright and alert behind his half-rimmed glasses and I could see him frowning slightly as if trying to place me.
"Long time, no see, Cusak."
A brief nod. "Help you?" he offered cautiously.
He was good, he didn't start, but there was a tiny flicker in his eyes before he spoke. "Never heard of him."
"Now we both know that's not true, Cusak."
He made a sudden move towards the inside of his jacket but I had my gun out before he could complete the move and he put his hands up in supplication. "No need for that."
"No need at all," I agreed. "Provided you cough up the information I want, right now."
I moved forward as I spoke and pulled the concealed gun from under his jacket.
He muttered something I didn't quite catch.
"What was that?"
He cast a glance around looking hunted. "Twice in one day. That's all I said. Twice in one day somebody takes my gun off me. I must be getting old." Suddenly his gaze sharpened and he stared at me intently.
"I know who you are. You're that partner of Bodie's. But he said..."
"Bodie? When was he here?"
"Couple of hours ago. But he said you were dead. He said Krivas..." He stopped abruptly, not quite able to believe the inconsistency in what his old mate Bodie had told him and the living contradiction in front of him.
"I know what he thinks, and what do you think Bodie's going to do when he catches up with his old mate, Krivas, eh? Yeah, exactly. So if you don't want to be responsible for that, you'd better start talking."
"I don't know anything. Honest."
I shoved him up against the back wall of his unit, arm across his throat and stuck the gun in his face. "Not good enough, Cusak. Now tell me exactly what you told Bodie. And don't leave anything out." I hadn't liked this guy first time around and he was no more appealing now. I was also scared time was running out. Bodie was ahead of me every step of the way and I had to catch up with him before he did anything irrevocable.
Back in the car I consulted my ancient notebook and then the A-Z. Cusak hadn't been much use, kept claiming he knew nothing about Krivas' plans, that he'd only supplied weapons when requested. I'd pushed him until he was practically cringing in front of me but he stuck to his story.
Eventually I had to believe him. It made sense after all. From all I'd seen and heard of him, Krivas was not the sort of bloke to tell his plans even his nearest and dearest, assuming he had any, let alone a mere supplier of arms.
But something he said must have meant something to Bodie. He said Bodie had been satisfied with what he'd told him, the exact same things he just told me, and Bodie had taken off for parts unknown.
It had to be connected with Benny Marsh. Marsh was the only link between Krivas and Bodie - and he was dead.
So, following another tenuous link I was now heading over to the last address we had for Benny Marsh, the block of flats where his common law wife and his child had lived last time we'd tangled with Krivas and his gang of mercenaries.
Hazelwood Towers was even more run down than I remembered. Graffiti covered every inch of the walls and the stink of piss permeated the hallways.
The lift was out of order, naturally, so I took to the stairs.
As I reached the landing on the third floor I saw a WPC emerging from a door about halfway along. She was followed by a man in a suit that had policeman written all over it. It buoyed my hopes that at least somebody connected with this case hadn't moved in the last ten years and I hurried along the landing towards them.
"You've broken the news then?" I asked, pulling out my ID.
The man nodded. "Several hours ago but she was having nothing to do with us then. Thought we'd come back now and have another go." His eyes were bright and eager. "The report said CI5 were involved. Is there anything we can help with, sir?"
"Thanks but I'll take it from here."
His face fell but he accepted it philosophically. "Dunno what you'll get out of her. She claims she knows nothing about anything Marsh might have been involved in. You know the sort. They'll swear black is white to us."
"Is there anybody with her?"
The WPC spoke up. "Said she didn't want anybody, sir. Certainly didn't want me to hang around." She sniffed indignantly. "Had a bit of a cry but when I tried to comfort her she turned nasty and told us to get out."
"Can't win 'em all," I said. "Thanks again but you can get off now."
"Come on, Lisa, back to the workhouse for us," the CID man jerked his head and they started off back down the corridor towards the stairs.
The front door of the flat was still slightly ajar where I'd interrupted her closing of it. I knocked gently and stepped across the threshold.
The tiny hallway was cramped and dark but pushing through the further doorway took me directly into the kitchen.
A fair haired woman was sitting at the kitchen table, her head in her hands but she looked up as I opened the door.
"I told you..." she began, then her expression changed. "Who the hell are you?"
"Ray Doyle." I again flashed my ID.
"You're the bloody mob that put Benny away the last time. You can just clear right off out of it!"
"No can do." I pulled out the chair opposite to her and sat down. "I need your help."
"My help? I've got nothing to say to you, to any of you and I told Bodie so. Sent him away with a flea in his ear too."
"Bodie? When did you see him?" Damn it, I'd been one step behind Bodie all day.
She glared at me. "Ten bloody years ago. He came around to let me know Benny was banged up again. Wanted to apologise. Huh! Like that was going to help me any, his apologies. "
Bodie never said anything to me about coming back here. Just like him though. He and Benny might be on opposite sides now but Bodie never forgot a mate. Still it didn't help me in the here and now.
"So you've not seen Bodie since then?"
She shook her head. "Not him, not much of Benny either thanks to you and your lot. And now that stuck up pair just came to tell me...tell me Benny..." The anger dissipated and her voice broke. She didn't cry but there were tears in her eyes and she sniffed loudly.
"All right so he was gone more than he was ever here and he didn't always walk the right side of the law but he was good to me. Nobody messed with me while he was around."
I said nothing but I thought plenty. What sort of life must it be to settle for so little.
"And besides," she added, defiantly. "Nobody deserves to go like that. Carved up for somebody's enjoyment."
I had to agree with her there.
"Mrs Marsh," I said, cautiously, affording her the courtesy. "I know who did that to Benny. I believe you can help me find him."
"Oh I know who did it too," she surprised me by saying. "It was that bastard Krivas and his pet psycho, that French bloke."
"You know them?"
She nodded, clearly still angry. "They came here, just the once, a week or so ago. Recruiting, they said. I begged Benny not to get involved with them again. Begged him. But he said it was just one job. One last big job and he'd be free of them."
She looked me. "That one-eyed bastard just stood there," she pointed to the back door of the flat that lead out onto the fire escape. "Watching me and turning his knife over and over in his hands. Stroking the blade as if..." she shuddered. "Benny saw I didn't like it. Told him to get out, but he didn't move until that Krivas told him to go and then he was smirking all over his face. I begged him not to go with them," she repeated helplessly.
I opened my mouth to make another plea for help but before I could speak the inner door opened and a lanky teenage lad came through, lightweight headphones on his head and carrying a Sony Walkman. He ignored me completely and spoke to his mother. "Mum, he won't leave me alone. Make him go to bed."
"Oh Jimmy, he just wants you to play with him. Can't you do that, just this once?"
"No I bloody can't. I'm not your babysitter."
Their conversation became clear when another, much younger boy of maybe seven or so, poked his head into the room.
"Go on, Jimmy, g'us a listen." He made a snatch at the Walkman and the older boy slapped his hand.
"Get your thieving hands off my stuff, Danny. How many times do I have to tell you?"
"Muuuuum," they both wailed in chorus and she looked haunted and tired.
"Hey," I said and their attention suddenly swung round to me. "Your mum's had a bit of a shock so why don't you two just play nicely for once, like she said and leave us to have a chat."
"Yeah?" Jimmy said, his chin coming up defiantly. "And who the hell do you think you are? You ain't my probation officer and you ain't my dad, that's for sure." And he sniggered.
"No, I'm worse, much worse," I said, having had enough of this cocky youngster who could be so callous. I rose from the chair, took him by the shoulder, twisted him around and forcibly marched him back through the doorway into the tiny lounge. He wriggled trying to break free but I gripped him tightly and finally thrust him down into an armchair.
He bounced back up again but I pushed him down and leaned over him. "Listen, sonny, you're going to sit there like a good boy while me and your mum have a chat." He opened his mouth but I overrode whatever he might have been going to say. "And if you don't stay quiet I just might have to enquire where you got that player from. Maybe I should take a look around your bedroom, see what other goodies you've got stashed there. You smoking anything good, for instance?"
He glared at me but stayed quiet.
"Better," I said. I glanced around at his brother who'd followed us and was now watching wide-eyed.
"You want to watch television?"
He nodded eagerly and then glanced at his big brother.
"Oh don't worry about him. Jimmy's going to sit here nicely and watch it with you, aren't you Jimbo?"
"Fuck you," was Jimmy's contribution but I took it as assent and returned to the kitchen.
"Thank you," she said as I returned. "It won't last but the peace and quiet is lovely. Benny could never control him. He'd been away too much for Jimmy to have any respect for his dad."
"And the other one, Danny?"
Her eyes flashed. "Benny was away. I didn't know if I'd ever see him again. I didn't owe him faithfulness. I was young and lonely and I wanted some company, all right? Not that it's any of your business!"
I put my hands up defensively. "As you say, none of my business. I was just wondering where his dad was."
She shrugged. "Gone. Couldn't take it. Jimmy always arguing and making the baby cry. It's better he's gone really. And then Benny came back, full of promises about settling down at last and now this."
She dropped her head in her hands but still she didn't cry. She ran her hands over her face and let out a deep breath.
"So, now I've given you my life history, what else do you want, Mr CI5 man?" Her tone was not unfriendly though and I sat back down in the chair.
"I want to get Krivas and Franky. I mean to have them, but more than that, I've got to find them in order to catch up with Bodie."
I gave her the potted history of my day and she listened thoughtfully.
"So you see," I finished. "Bodie knows something I don't. Some place he thinks he can catch up with Krivas and I've got to get there first. Bodie'll kill Krivas and then he'll be finished. I'm not going to let that happen. Is there anything, anything at all you can think of to help me? Please."
"Bodie was kind to me, even though I threw him out," she said quietly. "Gave me some money. I always liked him best of Benny's friends."
She suddenly stood up and reached for a pen and a notepad on the worktop. She scribbled something and handed the page to me. "Benny's cousin. He flies a light aircraft. Sort of courier service but he does a bit on the side too. If the price is right. He's helped Benny out before, not that I'm supposed to have known that."
She gave me an awkward smile. "That's all I know about him. I hope it helps."
I snatched at the piece of paper. "It's got to be it! Thank you." I made to leave and then hesitated. "Will you be OK? Are you sure there isn't somebody I can call for you, to come and sit with you for a while?"
She shook her head. "I'm all right. Benny was gone too much for me to really care. I'm just a little shocked and a little sad. I'll be fine."
She seemed to mean it and I was anxious to get going. There seemed nothing else to say, I'd got what I came for, so I nodded my thanks and left. Relieved to out of the claustrophobic little flat and the life so like that I saw so much of in my days on the beat. I doubted very much either of those boys would turn out to be pillars of their community and I cursed the useless waste of it all as I hurtled down the stairs and back to the fresher air outside.
It was about ten and completely dark by the time I stepped out of the building. The lampposts gave no light, most of the bulbs broken by well aimed stones, no doubt. I could just see the shape of several kids standing around staring at my car. As I approached I could hear the voice of Control coming over the RT and although I couldn't quite make out the words, the tone suggested the duty operator was more than a little fed up.
"Hey mister, did you know your car is calling for you?" one dark haired boy said.
"Just call it KITT," I said, unlocking the door and sliding into the seat. "And shouldn't you lot be home in bed by now?"
That got me a Mexican wave of two fingered salutes before they slowly mounted their bikes and rode away to bother somebody else.
"4.5, will you please answer this call before I scream?"
I picked up the handset and thumbed the button. "OK, Julie, you've got me. Where's the fire?"
"At last. I thought it was only your partner who left his RT in the car. Listen Ray, you'd better get back here on the double. The Cow's been shouting for you for over an hour now."
Which was precisely why I'd not taken the RT with me. "What's he want, love?"
"I have no idea. He won't say. Just said to get you back here soonest."
I hesitated. I didn't want to go back to HQ; I wanted to stay on Bodie's trail, but what if Bodie had been in touch again?
"Can't you just put me through to him?"
"No can do. He says he's got to see you here, in person."
An unspoken fear suddenly stabbed at me. What if Krivas had caught up with Bodie again and killed him? Cowley would be sure to tell me in person to stop me chasing after Krivas as much as out of compassion. Or what if Bodie had killed Krivas? Maybe he'd immediately given himself up. Or would we have to hunt him down and bring him in?
"Are you still there, Ray?"
"Yeah, yeah, still here." I swallowed. "Tell the Old Man I'm on my way."
With nothing to do but wait, it was inevitable that I would think.
At first, I thought about Krivas. I hoped I would have ample opportunity to make him suffer in the same way that Ray had suffered during torture, but if there was the slightest possibility Krivas would get away then I'd simply shoot him outright. He'd had every chance he was going to get.
From there, my thoughts moved to CI5. When I left after I was shot, I'd assumed that was it and I wouldn't have any more to do with the organisation but deep down, no matter how far I'd travelled, I suppose I'd always known that Cowley would have me back and it had truly felt like coming home when I'd rejoined. Now though, it was over.
Even if I still wanted to be part of CI5, in just a few short hours I would put myself outside the law. Cowley wouldn't have me on the team; I'd be lucky if he let me escape prosecution. It didn't really matter. With Doyle gone, there would be nothing to tie me to the place. What happened after that was immaterial.
So lastly, my thoughts moved painfully to Ray, and I allowed myself to think about my partner.
Just this time last night we'd all been propping up the bar, ragging him rotten about getting old and not being able to pull the birds anymore. Nicole had organised a large card for department to sign and nearly all the comments had made cracks about his age, even Cowley's. It had been an evening of laughter, fuelled liberally with alcohol and behind Ray's back the betting money had been going both ways almost equally, at least to start with - every time I handed Ray another drink the numbers betting on him not making it to work the next day swelled.
It had been a special occasion but an evening much like any other. I'd had no premonition that it would be the last one; that it would be the last time I'd haul my drunken partner out of a car, the last time I'd hear his raucous, dirty laugh...
I got up and moved around the room again, realising as I heard the clock strike that it was eleven already. Outside was quiet; the place seemingly deserted even by the wildlife, the only thing I'd seen moving so far had been a cautious rat - just not the one I was waiting for.
I propped myself back on my chair. Painful though it was, I had to continue with my thoughts.
I could see the cellar clearly, could visualise Ray, manacled as I'd been, picture him being cut and sliced by Franky as though he was on the spit for a kebab. It wasn't imagination. I'd been there too many times when Krivas had wanted information and Franky had found a way of making someone provide it.
The memory made me feel cold and sick and I automatically reached for a bottle of water, although nothing was going to wash away that feeling of horror; the fact that my memories of Ray would forever be tainted by the knowledge of how he died. I wondered if he'd known I was there, within earshot but powerless to help him, or whether he'd been so eaten up with pain he wasn't aware of anything beyond that.
They were going to suffer; I'd see to that. If I could leave Franky to die in agony it would go a small way to avenging all those people he had tortured. And Krivas. I wanted him to know he was going to die, but equally I wanted him to take his time in going. Unluckily for them, I knew a lot about the best places to cut or shoot someone in order to cause maximum pain but not kill - at least, not immediately.
My stomach rumbled but I ignored it. Eating wouldn't take away the nausea and I needed the sharpness of that hunger to keep me awake and focused. I settled instead for another sip of water, barely moving my eyes from the track outside.
I slewed the car to a halt in the car park and took off at a run, through the main door and past security with no more than a token wave at Josh and up the stairs two at a time, coming to an abrupt halt outside our controller's office.
Taking barely a moment to compose myself, I tapped at the door and went straight in.
Cowley looked up as I entered.
"Well?" I demanded.
He, very deliberately I thought, took his glasses off, folded them neatly and tucked them into his breast pocket before picking up a folder from the desk and holding it out to me.
"Preliminary indications are that Benny Marsh died of heart failure rather than the knife wounds inflicted on him."
Expecting almost anything but that it took me a moment or two to take in his words.
"And that's why you've dragged me back here?"
He replaced the folder on the desk. "No. I brought you back here because I can't have you running around without back up. Not when you are dealing with the likes of Krivas."
"I was seeing informants," I said, exasperated. "Ordinary little people, not terrorists. Not even Cusak could be considered dangerous enough to need back up."
"Maybe so, but would you have come back here now if I hadn't forced you to?"
Unconsciously my hand slid into my jacket pocket to check the slip of paper was still safe. I pulled it out and waved it at him. "Need our resources for the next step of this treasure hunt so yeah, actually, I would have come in."
He sighed, leaned forward and clasped his hands in front of him. "Doyle," he said, in earnest tones. "You have to consider your position. As my right hand you have to be seen to set an example and while I appreciate your concern over Bodie, when tackling the likes of Enrico Krivas and Francois Le Page you have to take the necessary precautions."
He had a point, of course. I would have torn a strip off any of my men who had thoughtlessly put themselves in danger.
"In fact I've been considering pulling you from the active roster," he continued.
"Not now, of course. I know better than to expect you to stay quietly here when it's Bodie in trouble but as titular head of CI5 you cannot afford to get injured or possibly killed by foolhardy actions."
"Now look, what the hell are you saying? That I can't hack the job any more?"
"Of course not. I'm saying that your job is changing and you should be changing your behaviour to suit."
"Oh, like you did, I suppose." I stared at him. "That's it, isn't it? Too old yourself to get out there any more, you want to stop me doing it as well."
"Och, that's ridiculous, Doyle. It's simply that I have the experience to realise the error in judgement I made and don't wish to see you repeat that mistake. The organisation cannot afford the risk."
I shook my head in disgust. "I don't have the time to debate this now..."
"Agreed. When you go after Krivas you will take Anson, Peters and Collins with you. They are waiting in the rest room. The rest we can discuss at another time."
I jabbed my finger at him for emphasis. "Count on it."
All but slamming the door on my way out I hurried down a floor to the data processing offices.
My mood lifted a little when I saw Debbie on duty. She was bright and efficient and that was exactly what I needed right now.
"Got a job for you, love," I said, fishing the piece of paper out of my pocket again.
She took the paper and scanned it.
"It's all I've got but I need the bloke's address and need I say it's urgent?"
She flicked me a glance. "Everything's urgent with you, 4.5. Don't you ever do anything at a leisurely pace?"
I felt a smirk spread across my face. "Oh it's been known to happen from time to time. When this is all over maybe I could show you?"
"I look forward to it. In the meantime, go away and let me work. I'll let you know when I've found anything."
She made a shoo-ing gesture and I took the hint.
Up in the rest room I found the team waiting for me. Anson waved a hand in greeting. "Doyle, at last! Cowley said you were on your way so we saved you some but I'm not sure what it tastes like now."
The table had a multitude of foil containers with the remains of half a Chinese menu. The smell suddenly made me realise how long ago my lunchtime sandwich was and my stomach gave a huge rumble.
I sank into a chair and pulled a container of rice towards me and began shovelling it onto a spare plate.
Having loaded the plate with rice, sweet and sour chicken and some spare ribs I began shovelling it in my mouth. There were some untouched cans of beer on the table as well amongst the empties and I reached for one, cracked it and took a long swallow.
It was only after another couple of mouthfuls of food washed down with another gulp of liquid that I realised the silence around the table and glanced up to see three pairs of eyes watching me.
"What?" I glanced down at myself and was relieved to see I hadn't spilt anything down my suit. "What are you lot gawping at? Haven't you seen a starving man eat before?"
Anson leaned back in his chair and extracted a pack of his ever-present small cigars from inside his jacket, a grin on his face.
"Glutton for punishment, Doyle? I would have thought you would have had enough booze last night to do you for at least a week."
I froze, can halfway to my lips. Damn, I'd forgotten. Force of habit had made me reach for the can. Now I'd been reminded I would rather have had water or something.
Catching sight of the expression on the faces of the two youngsters I completed the movement and took another swallow as nonchalantly as I could.
"Mind over matter, Anson, mind over matter."
"And if you lose your mind, it doesn't matter." Peters grinned.
I shook my head at him, trying to look stern. "Your turn next, sunshine. We'll just see how much you can take next month." Peters would be thirty then.
"Drinks on you? Yes, sir!"
Anson was looking highly amused. His fortieth had passed nearly two years ago but he'd been in hospital and well sedated. By the time he was home again and off the medication the moment for a big booze up had passed so he'd got off quite lightly.
He blew a stream of cigar smoke, which wafted across the table over the food. My expression changed and I glared at him. "D'you mind? If I wanted everything smelling of smoke I'd have set up a barbeque."
He waved a negligent hand, picked up an ashtray and moved to flop into one of the nearby armchairs.
"Keep your hair on, Doyle and tell us while we're still here at this time of the night instead of tucked up snugly in our beds."
In-between clearing all the foil containers of their remains and washing them down with the rest of the beer I did just that.
"So as soon as we get the address we go find the pilot and he tells us where to find Krivas and where we find Krivas..."
"We find Bodie," Anson finished.
"Right." I got up, stretched and moved over to the sink to fill the kettle, plugged it in and flicked the switch. Coffee would probably be a good idea now.
I'd had time for two cups of coffee and much fretting and the room was fast becoming thick with Anson's cigar smoke before Debbie sauntered into the room.
"Ah there you are," she said. "Well I think I've found your man. There were two possibilities but, in the end, since one of them was a retired office manager now doing voluntary work for the local citizens advice bureau I went with the other Dave Smith....Aaand you're very welcome," she said as I snatched the slip of paper out of her hand.
"Debbie, you're a star! Come on you lot. Shift it!"
Collins and Peters jumped up from the impromptu card game the three of them had started, but Anson merely rolled his eyes and scooped his winnings into his pocket first before getting to his feet and slipping on his jacket.
"Tidy the cards away for us, Debbie, thanks," he said, sticking his cigar back in his mouth and strolling to the door.
"What did your last skivvy die of?" Debbie threw at his retreating back. Nevertheless I noticed as I followed the troops from the room, she turned to the table quite willingly and began to sweep the cards together. She'd almost certainly do the washing up and generally tidy the kitchen as well. Our ancillary staff were very good about that whenever we got called out on a shout. Their way of helping; CI5 was nothing if not a team effort.
Out in the car park I headed towards my car but Anson caught my arm and swung me around to his own.
I opened my mouth to protest but he overrode me. "If you're going to direct operations when we get there then take the opportunity to rest up on the ride there." Then, before I could say anything. "Shut up, don't argue. Just sit in the back and be quiet."
I might have argued but he had already unlocked the doors and the others were climbing in. I gave in gracefully and got into the back with Peters.
"Here," Anson said, throwing the A-Z at Collins. "You can navigate."
I don't say I slept but gazing out into the darkness broken only by the lights of houses and other vehicles flashing by was almost restful and the journey seemed to pass quickly. I was surprised when I heard Collins say that we must only be a couple of minutes away now.
I shook myself and felt my ever-present worries crowding in on me again. This had to be our last stop, surely. Surely this time we would be able to get some concrete information on where to find Krivas and his pal. And Bodie. As sure as I knew anything, I knew Bodie was ahead of us and I was afraid we might arrive too late.
"There it is, number twelve." Anson bought the car to a gentle halt and we all clambered out. All the houses were in darkness and we had only the light of the streetlamps to guide us. The street seemed the perfectly ordinary kind consisting of small, uniform houses where multitudes of average families with their 2.3 children lived out their lives.
I sent Collins and Peters around to the back of the house, shinnying over the small back gate to do so. I didn't really think our man was likely to do a runner out the back door but I wasn't taking any chances either.
I knocked at the door and waited a moment or two, then knocked again, louder. Still no response from inside so I let loose with a thunderous hammering. Lights were now appearing in the windows of adjacent houses but when I stepped back and looked up at the front of number twelve it was still all in darkness, although I thought I saw the curtain twitch a little. I hammered again and kicked at the door for good measure.
"Steady on, Ray." Anson caught at my arm. "We don't know he's anything to do with this, not really. You can't go breaking his door down."
"I know," I said, fiercely. "I can feel it."
"Excuse me. Who are you? What do you think you are doing?"
We turned to see a man in pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers standing at the gate, looking at us somewhat apprehensively.
"I must tell you," he continued. "My wife is holding the telephone at this very minute and I only have to wave to her and she will dial the police immediately."
He was attempting defiance and only achieved trepidation and I swallowed a smile. Good old Joe Public.
"Go and deal with him," I said to Anson and watched him trot down the path and show his ID card to the concerned neighbour. He spoke in low tones for a few moments and the man nodded his head several times, finally backing away and hurrying up his own path and back indoors.
Anson rejoined me at the door. "Mrs Smith is in there on her own and you terrified her with your knocking. She rang her neighbour and he's now going to tell her to come down and talk to us."
No sooner had he said that than a light went on in the hall and we heard locks being turned and the door opened a crack. A woman's face peered out over the chain. She was tiny, barely five foot, I would have guessed, fluffy blonde hair tousled from sleep and big blue eyes looking fearful.
"Hello, love," I said, showing her my ID. "Sorry we had to wake you. Can we come in?"
"Why? What's it all about?"
"We just need to ask you some questions about your husband. About his job. We could do it here on the step but you'd be much more comfortable sitting down and we'd love a cuppa." I gave her my best cheeky smile and she smiled back weakly. She pushed the door to a little, we heard the chain rattle and then the door was opened wider. She stood there in a cotton dressing gown clutched tightly around her and bare feet. She smiled timidly at me but then her eyes widened as she looked over my shoulder. I turned to see Collins and Peters appear behind Anson, having worked out that what action there was, was taking place at the front of the house.
"You two wait in the car." No sense in scaring her any more than she was already.
"OK if we come in then, Mrs Smith?"
Her glance this time went around the bedroom windows of the neighbouring houses where people could be clearly seen watching us with fascination.
"Yes, yes, come on in," she said and held the door wide.
I took a moment to wave cheerfully to the windows and grinned as curtains were dropped and lights hastily switched off, then I followed Anson into the house.
She led us into the kitchen and headed straight for the kettle but her hands were shaking so much that Anson took from her before she dropped it. "Let me do it, eh, love? You sit down there and talk to our Ray."
I guided her to one of the pine chairs around a matching table and took the one opposite her.
"What's Dave done? What do you want with him?"
"We don't know he's done anything yet, Mrs Smith. We just need to talk to him."
"But you're not the police though?"
"No, not police." For some reason this seemed to reassure her.
"Where is your husband tonight?"
"He's working. Got a courier job over to Bruges."
I smiled and relaxed a little. We had the right man.
"And he'll be there now?"
She glanced at the clock on the wall and nodded. "He should be. He said he wasn't flying until at least five but he went in early because he had paperwork to do and stuff."
I was itching to get going and half rose from my chair but she grabbed my arm. "Tell me what this is all about won't you?" Her blue eyes were wide with fear and despite my urgent wish to move on I sat down again.
"Do you know a man called Benny Marsh?"
She nodded. "Dave's cousin. He doesn't see that much of him. I've never met him...." Her voice trailed away and her eyes widened again. "Is that what all this is about? Has he got my Dave into trouble? I warned him. I said he shouldn't do it."
"Do what, love? Tell me what happened?"
Anson silently put three mugs of tea down in front of us and took a seat next to me. Two people watching her seemed to unnerve her again but with a little encouraging she told the story.
Turns out Dave Smith had a history of flying a bit close to the wind, pun intended. No criminal record but the local police knew of him and had warned him off once or twice. Finally he'd landed this flying job and promised his wife faithfully that he was on the straight and narrow from now on.
The other week he'd let slip that his cousin, Benny, had been in touch about a favour for some friends of his. Mrs Smith had told him in no uncertain terms to have nothing to do with it but it would seem the temptation of easy money was too great if our suspicions were correct.
"You won't let him be arrested, will you?" Mrs Smith leaned across the table and put her hand on my arm, her gaze fixed on my face, pleadingly.
Anson raised an amused eyebrow in my direction and buried his face in the mug of tea.
"I'll do what I can but it'll be better if he cooperates with us," I told her.
"He will. He will. Tell him I said so. Please."
I rose from the table. "I'll tell him but first we've got to catch up with him." I took a deep gulp from the rapidly cooling tea and jerked my head at Anson. "Come on, you. We've got a plane to catch."
This time I sat in the front and gave Anson directions, constantly urging him to hurry.
"He's not flying 'til at least five, she said, so why don't you relax a bit."
"'She said.' What does she know about what her old man gets up to? We could be too late already. Put your bloody foot down!"
As we swung into the aerodrome car park my heart sank. The place was in darkness, or so I thought. Then my eye caught a light in a far hanger and I jabbed my finger. "Over there!"
Anson tooled the car across the grass, brought it to a halt outside the hanger door and we all leapt out.
The door of the hanger was slightly ajar and as we bundled through the door a man standing by the plane, clipboard in hand, looked up in alarm.
"Who the hell are you?"
"Dave Smith?" I jerked out my ID and held it up. "What time are you picking up Krivas?"
He caught his breath and swallowed hard. "Who?"
"Don't waste my fucking time. Krivas and Franky. We know you're their escape route out of the country, what we don't know is the when and the where."
"Look, I don't know what you're talking about. I've got a job to do. Courier packages to Bruges. It's all perfectly legit, see for yourself." He held out his clipboard, presumably with his flight plan all neatly printed out. I ignored it.
"Yeah and what about a little side trip on the way? Bet your bosses don't know about that, eh? How'd you like us to tell them?" Then, as he still hesitated, I turned to the others.
"Peters, go see if there's anybody in the office. Anson, get on the RT, find out who owns this place. Wake 'em up and get them down here."
They nodded and moved to the hanger entrance.
We all looked at the, by now distinctly nervous, pilot.
"No need for all that. My boss'll have a fit if you call him out."
"Better start talking then." I took a step towards him. "Your wife says you'll be very co-operative."
"Oh Christ, you've spoken to Jane? She'll kill me!"
"She'll have to get in line."
He looked from one to the other of us and did the only thing possible. He talked.
"I didn't want to do it. My boss has been good to me here and I wasn't going to mess up and lose this job but what else could I do? Benny came to see me and he said they'd kill him if he didn't help them. One quick pick up and drop off and that's it. We'd never see them again."
He shrugged. "What else could I do? I've never seen Benny scared before. I mean we might not see that much of each other what with him being away so much and all, but he's family when all's said and done."
I sighed and rubbed my face. "Yeah, look, about Benny...."
Somehow we all ended up in the airfield rest room where it was warmer and there was coffee to be had.
Smith showed us on the map the field in Esher where he was to make the pick up.
"We agreed on six. I needed it to be light for the landing."
I glanced at the clock on the wall. Three fifty-five. Nearly two hours to wait.
"Nothing to be done, Ray. We'll just have to wait it out." Anson put a soothing hand on my shoulder. "I know you want to get going but we can't risk blundering in ahead of time. Krivas might not even be there yet but he will be there to meet the plane, we know that much."
I knew he was right but even after years of practice the waiting never got any easier and especially not this time when Bodie was out there alone stalking two mad killers.
Still, there was nothing else for it we had to kill time somehow. I swung round and rubbed my hands together in an effort at cheerfulness. "Right, who's got any cards?"
We played for a while but I couldn't concentrate and at five I made a decision. "Right, Anson, Collins, you start off. It'll take you about an hour to get there by road so if you go now you can join up with us when we fly in."
Anson looked up, startled. "Oh no, Doyle. We stick together. We'll go in mob handed, there's only two of them after all."
"Did you notice that plane out there?" I gestured in the direction of the hanger. "It's a Cessna 172. Only seats four people. Right?" I shot the question at Dave Smith who had been sitting quietly watching us.
He nodded. "Oh yes, only four seats and I've got all my boxes stored aboard as well, It was going to be a cramped journey anyway."
"There you go then," I swung back to Anson. "You'll be our back up just in case."
He looked mutinous for a moment and then gave in. "Ok, whatever you say. You're the boss." He threw his cards down on the table. "Come on, sunshine. You're navigating again." He and Collins pulled on their jackets and headed outside to the car. I followed to see them off.
"Call me when you get there. Do not move in without my say so," was my parting shot and I got a wave of an arm from the side window in reply.
Back in the office Smith, Peters and I looked at each other and down at the cards on the table.
"Another round?" Peters offered.
I shook my head. Neither Smith nor I had been playing with anything like proper attention. My thoughts were with Bodie and his, very probably, with Benny. I doubted he was that upset given that he'd already said they weren't close but being told somebody, anybody you know has been murdered tends to make you a bit reflective for a while.
"Not for me. I've given Anson quite enough cigar money for one night." I picked up a newspaper from a nearby table and flopped into an armchair intending to give a good impression of somebody engrossed in day old news.
Smith shrugged and Peters shuffled and dealt the cards. I looked at the clock. Forty minutes to go.
I jerked awake as the chair rocked on its uneven legs, looking automatically at my wrist. No watch, dammit, and the last chime I remembered from the church was three.
Even balanced awkwardly on the chair I'd found it impossible to stay awake, dropping unwillingly into catnaps and waking suddenly, but clearly this time I'd been asleep for longer. I peered at the sky, no longer so adept at telling the time from minute degrees of change in light values but it was obvious quite some time had passed. Dawn hadn't arrived yet, but it couldn't be far off.
More to the point, had Krivas arrived? I stared across the yard, able to see more now than previously. Nothing was moving out there, but it would have been all too easy for me to have missed them.
I made my way to the door and stood in the shadow, listening. There was the usual rumble of distant traffic noise but no voices or footsteps, nothing to tell me if anyone was out there.
One thing I could see is that it was later than I thought. It was so dark in the farmhouse it had disguised how light it really was, and I began to count as I heard the church clock starting to strike. Four... five... six...
I was already back in the farmhouse by the last chime, collecting a torch along with the H&K. Within half an hour - possibly even within the next fifteen minutes - the aircraft would be coming in. Whether Krivas and Franky had got past me or knew another way in they would be waiting for that plane to touch down, and I had to be there.
Warily I made my way towards the fields along the track I'd taken the previous evening. Krivas could be in one of the barns ahead of me; I could risk it or waste time checking them out...
Caution won; it was worth the couple of minutes to not have them coming up behind me. But the barns were empty with no signs that they'd ever been occupied and I hurried on, slightly less cautious now. They had to be ahead of me.
My eyes had rapidly adjusted to the half-light but I was alarmed to see how much lighter it was growing by the minute. It seemed it would be a fine day.
I reached the edge of the main field, the only one long enough for the plane to land. Krivas could be anywhere along the perimeter; taking advantage of the dark shadows. I took advantage of them myself and crept slowly along the southern edge of the field, grateful that the clothes I'd been wearing for Ray's party - while now much the worse for wear - were dark. From the far corner I could see the whole field, the sweep of the river off to my right and the hedgerow bordering the track to my left, and I strained my eyes trying to see any sign of movement.
Nothing. I strained my ears as well, listening for the drone of a small engine, but if anything the area was even quieter now. I couldn't remember if I ever knew where Benny's cousin hangared his aircraft; it made trying to work out how long it would take him to get here if he'd taken off at dawn impossible.
What if I'd got it wrong? What if Krivas and Franky were getting out of the country by another route?
No. I froze as I caught sight of something, trying not to blink in case I missed it. There, again. Something had moved alongside the hedgerow. I forced myself to relax while remaining immobile, focused on the spot. If it wasn't them, a fox or something...
After a couple of minutes I heard the low engine note of a small aircraft, and all my doubts disappeared as I saw movement again. It was them. I remained still, waiting for the plane to land as they would before they came out of hiding and glanced up to see it banking around, the pilot's course indicating the north to south landing that I had anticipated, given the shape of the field and trees surrounding the area.
I tensed. I'd have to get around the plane and cut them off.
As the plane dipped lower I peered out of the small window, craning my neck, looking anxiously for any sign of movement. We skimmed the tops of the trees bordering the end of the field and the plane dropped alarmingly. Peters moaned in surprise and my stomach, which I had forgotten I had, suddenly popped up to remake my acquaintance.
"Sorry about that." Dave Smith threw the words back over his shoulder. "Had to miss those trees and get low enough to land safely."
I felt the bump as we touched ground, rose again and then bumped again. Smith swung the aircraft around in a wide arc and taxied across the grass, obviously setting up the optimum position for takeoff.
The sky had grown rapidly lighter even during our short flight and I now had a good view of the surrounding area. I fidgeted in my seat, anxious to be out of here now and doing something. Suddenly a flicker of movement to my left caught my attention. As I watched two men broke cover from the hedge and started to run towards the plane.
"That's them!" I slipped loose of my seat belt and was at the door before the plane had halted.
The plane lowered swiftly to the ground, touching down roughly on the uneven surface and bumping back into the air a few times before settling into a slow, irregular taxi towards me. My gaze was however fixed on where I'd last seen movement: which way would they head?
As the plane slowed still further in order to turn I saw the two figures straighten up and start towards it, and me. I used it to disguise my own movement and ran forward, getting far too close to the wing as the plane swung around, but coming up on the other side just where I wanted to be - between them and the plane.
With the advantage of already having the H&K in hand I sprayed the ground ahead of them before either of them could draw their guns, glad that it was light enough for me to see their shock as they realised I stood between them and escape. It was a fleeting reaction though; splitting further apart they both pulled guns and fired and it was my turn to duck while running.
As I began to follow Krivas to the right I was subconsciously aware of the plane behind me, and the fact that someone had started shooting from it. Was it Benny? However, the shots weren't coming in my direction, so I ignored it and concentrated on catching up with Krivas, whose headstart had taken him nearly to the edge of the field.
Except he wasn't going to get away. Pulling up the H&K I fired again, spraying ahead of me at knee level this time, and to my satisfaction he stumbled and fell...
I untoggled the door and let the steps fall to the ground. Leaning out I caught the sharpness of the early morning air. Suddenly I saw a figure I knew appear almost from underneath the plane and run across the field towards the two figures coming towards us, spraying a hail of bullets from a sub machine gun as he went.
"Bodie! Bodie, over here!" It was no use, over the dying note of the aircraft engine as it wound down and the noise from his machine gun, there was no way he could hear me.
Clearly if he'd just wanted to kill them they'd already be dead given he had all the element of surprise. So I had to be thankful he wanted a face-to-face confrontation because it brought me valuable time to catch up with him.
Even as I watched the two men pulled guns and returned fire while splitting and running in opposite directions.
Bodie followed the shorter, stockier figure, which had to be Krivas. I flung some shots in the direction of Franky Le Page but over that distance I knew I had little chance of hitting him without taking the time to aim more carefully than I was doing now and I wanted to get after Bodie.
"Get him," I said to Peters and leapt to the ground, taking off at a run without waiting to see if he obeyed.
I reached Krivas before he could retrieve the gun he'd dropped as he fell, and kicked it away. He glared up at me, seemingly unfazed by his injury or the turn of events. "Go ahead. Shoot me."
"Just like that? I thought you were keen to relive old times?" I slung the H&K over my shoulder and drew my Browning. "After all, we've been here before. And this time, you aren't walking away from it."
Krivas sneered. "Under the skin, we are brothers. You are no better than me."
My mind flashed back ten years. Doyle had said that... and I'd let Krivas live. Now Doyle wasn't here - had been killed by this madman. Although I struggled to suppress my fury I held the Browning steady. "That's a matter of opinion. And the only one whose opinion mattered is now dead. I've nothing to lose."
I saw the merest flicker of apprehension as he realised I meant what I said, but he'd faced death too often before for him to feel anything but resignation.
"So go ahead," he repeated. "Seal your own fate, along with mine."
The shout from behind had sounded like Doyle. Even dead, he was still being my conscience. Krivas grinned evilly at me as my finger tightened on the trigger. "Go on," he goaded, eyes flickering past me. "Get it over with."
Closer now, whoever it was still sounded like Ray. Wishing I could have dealt with Krivas without witnesses I risked a glance sideways to see who was approaching...
... and blinked. I was tired, sure, but I had to be hallucinating...
"Ray?" He looked rough, but he most certainly wasn't dead. I shook my head in bewilderment. "But..."
His run slowed to a trot. "I'm OK."
Well, obviously. But I could find out later what had really happened. Right now, I had Krivas to take care of. One shot: that's all it would take.
"Put the gun down, mate." I stared at Krivas, knowing him too well, able to see that he believed I'd give in and he'd triumph again.
"C'mon, Bodie. You're better than he is."
Those words again. I hoped it was still true, but I couldn't let Krivas go on living; he'd cost me too much even though Doyle was alive...
He must have known my finger was tense on the trigger, but Ray reached me, touched my shoulder, and stepped in front. "Can't let you do it, mate."
I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding, relaxing my finger. "Sure?"
He nodded. "Cowley wouldn't like it."
"And we have to pander to Cowley."
As I let the gun barrel drop I saw Krivas move, his hand going under his jacket, and didn't hesitate. Doyle leapt away as the Browning fired past him, clapping a hand to his ear. "Bodie!"
It was over; he was finally dead. The bullet had taken him cleanly; I hadn't aimed but at that short distance any shot was likely to kill...
"You just couldn't help yourself, could you..." Doyle was staring at me.
I shook my head, reaching under Krivas' jacket to pull out a Magnum. "He was going for this."
I felt myself shaking, anger rising in me like a tidal wave. After all the hours spent chasing his trail like the hound to his fox, terrified I wouldn't arrive in time, the relief in catching up with him before he could do anything irreparable. Feeling I'd saved my partner from both Krivas and himself. Only now to have him throw everything away. Everything we'd ever worked for, believed in, or so I thought.
I felt my hands curling into fists. "You crazy, stupid bastard!"
He looked punch drunk from the multiple shocks but rallied quickly enough. "Now look, Ray...."
"Nice shooting, Bodie. Nothing wrong with your reactions."
We both turned and glared at Peters as he approached.
"What?" He looked from one to the other of us. "What did I say? I saw him going for a gun, you were too close for me to risk a shot, and you didn't hear me shout. I thought you were both gonners."
I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I hadn't lost my partner. The first time we'd gone up against Krivas something I'd said at the time had tempered Bodie's wish for revenge and Krivas had lived. Now he was dead, killed, but in self-defence not murder.
Glancing back at Bodie I could see the anger fading from his face as well. "Sorry, mate."
He shrugged. "Another minute, who knows? You could have been right."
I didn't want to think about how close this had all been. I turned back to Peters. "What about the other one?"
He jerked a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the plane. "Bleeding a bit but he'll live."
I looked over his shoulder and saw Franky by the plane, his awkward stance and jerking movements making it clear he was securely handcuffed to the steps.
I nodded. "Nice work." I meant it. Not that I'd given it any thought in my anxiety to save Bodie, but sending a junior agent after somebody of Franky's calibre had been a risky thing to do.
"Got another job for you," I told him. "Deal with this one as well, will you? I've got a couple of things to take care of."
"Sir," he nodded and then grinned. "Any chance that might include organising breakfast?"
"Oh you might just have earned a plate of cholesterol when we get back," I agreed and his grin widened.
Bodie gave a long last look at Krivas' body and then fell into step beside me.
"Dead. He said you were dead," he muttered.
"Did he? Well he lied, obviously."
"There was a body. Tubs said..."
"It was Benny Marsh, sorry mate," I apologised again.
Bodie stopped and exhaled. "Benny, Tubs, Krivas himself. It never bloody stops, does it? Christ, Ray. I listened to those screams all fucking night long, thinking it was you!" His voice shook slightly and he swallowed convulsively.
I'd seen Franky's little torture chamber and could dimly imagine what Bodie had been through. "Hey." I put my hand on his arm and swung him round to face me. There were deep shadows under his eyes and a lot of dark beard stubble but I doubted I looked very much better.
I held his gaze and spoke firmly. "Never, ever hang up on Cowley. OK? He would have told you it wasn't me they'd grabbed. We could have met up and taken them down together. We didn't need this bloody game of follow my leader." I smiled at him encouragingly. "C'mon, Bodie, I'm getting too old for this."
That seemed to pull him together and I got a faint grin in acknowledgement. "I suppose this means I lost the bet?"
"Big time," I assured him. "And just what the hell do you mean by rigging it anyway?"
"Nothing of the sort," he replied with dignity. "Just helping a mate celebrate his birthday in style. No expense spared."
We stood there for a long moment just looking at each other, a stupid smile on both our faces. Bodie might have a few more nightmares to deal with for a while but once again we'd saved the day and ourselves. I stretched and looked around me. The sun was making itself felt now and it had the makings of a nice day.
"Reckon I could manage a decent breakfast myself. Oh, and you owe me lunch by the way. Come on."
There was a shout from the gate at the corner of the field; Anson and Collins, and Doyle quickened his pace towards them, leaving me to follow. I supposed they had come in by road. No doubt Doyle would fill me in later, on how he'd managed to trace Benny's cousin and get on the plane.
Benny. I wouldn't exactly mourn him but no one deserved to die like that. But it hadn't been Ray. Safe and well and issuing orders, my partner.
I paused and glanced back over my shoulder. The ground where I'd tackled Krivas was too overgrown for me to be able to see him clearly from here, but Peters was by the body, marking the place. They should probably leave him there to rot. A decent burial plot was wasted on Krivas. In fact, probably better to cremate him. Make sure the bastard really was dead...
I took a deep breath, feeling myself shake slightly. I could finally let go of the memories and lay her to rest. A whole graveyard of ghosts laid to rest. A far cry from the jungle, this unkempt field in leafy Surrey, but maybe it was all finally over.
Doyle had finished briefing Anson and Collins and the pair of them were making their way towards the plane and Franky. Even at this distance I could see Doyle's concerned expression and set off again, albeit slowly. If I didn't, he'd come back for me.
Krivas was dead: I was alive. Did that make me better than him? It didn't feel like it. Better at pulling a trigger, maybe. I guess Doyle's morals must have rubbed off over the years; Krivas was dead and I should be celebrating, but instead I just felt - empty.
Maybe I should ask Doyle. At least I know I'll always get a straight answer with him. On the other hand, maybe I won't. Doyle never did get the full story on Krivas out of me - not much point in telling him now.
"Ready to go?"
I reached the gate where he was waiting for me and nodded. "My car's parked up the road a bit. Then you can buy us breakfast, since I'm going to be brassic for the next few weeks."
"Breakfast on me, lunch on you," he agreed, grinning.
And right at this moment, that felt like a good deal.
Feedback welcome on or off list to Carol or Sue