Of Tethered Goats and Tigers


Free time was not easily come by for Ray Doyle, and extended periods of it usually had a negating factor in the form of an injury to be recovered from. On this particular occasion, it was a flesh-wound in his upper left arm and concussion.

He was at the stage of repair when the headaches had gone for good, the new-healed scar itched infernally, and the damaged muscles had not quite knitted together sufficiently to please CI5's medical officer. Or Cowley. Maximum efficiency and maximum fitness. George Cowley would not settle for anything less in his operatives.

So Doyle had at least another week of twiddling his thumbs and performing meaningless callisthenics to tighten up his left arm. When he wasn't dismantling, cleaning, and tuning up a Norton grass-track motorcycle that had been the love of his life longer than any girl.

Whistling through his teeth, Doyle scratched absently at his injury, and reached for a new gasket set still sealed in its heat-shrunk polythene. He was sitting cross-legged in the small yard of his garden-flat, surrounded by the Norton's innards, and CI5 was, for a while, very far from his thoughts. The skeleton of the machine, minus both wheels, leaned against the far wall. In direct proportion to the cleanliness of the motorcycle's components, Doyle and his clothing were oil-streaked and rank. His hair, due to his habit of raking fingers through it, hung over his forehead in heavy, soiled, curls.

It was an unpleasing apparition, but Cowley did not hesitate as he pushed open the unlocked gate. The dourness of his expression, however, said it all.

"Good afternoon."

"'Afternoon, sir." Doyle spared him a swift glance before attacking the gasket set. The polythene was tougher than it looked.

"Have you ever considered philately as a hobby?" Cowley remarked, avoiding the scattered machinery with the distaste of a cat avoiding puddles. Doyle grinned, teeth very white in his blackened face.

"Used to, when I was a kid," he said, rubbing the back of his wrist across an itch on his eyebrow, redistributing some of the dirt. "Until my brother's dog ate all my hinges. So I fed him the stamps and album to go with 'em, and he sicked the lot up on Alex's bed."

"I see." Cowley's expression deepened. "Clean yourself up and change into something from the more respectable end of your wardrobe. You've got ten minutes. I'll wait in my car."

Nine minutes later, the passenger door opened, and Doyle slid into the Rover. He was resplendent in green shirt and tie, beige slacks and tweed jacket; face clean and shaven, hair still damp from shampoo and shower.

"I'm back on duty, sir?" he asked. His voice was casual, noncommittal, but the tension of eagerness and anticipation lay under the facade. Cowley permitted himself a half-smile.

"Aye, in a manner of speaking," he said. "You don't play golf, do you?"

"Uh, no."

"You're going to learn."

"Yes, sir," said Doyle, and the powerful car moved away from the kerb.

Doyle asked no questions, though they burned on his tongue, and Cowley vouchsafed no information. The hour-long drive was conducted in silence, broken only once as Cowley turned into the lodge-gates of a very exclusive country club.

"Are we followed?"

"No, sir." Question and answer were unnecessary, but like Doyle's waiting silence, it was part of a kind of ritual.

Other than mundane conversion with several club members met along the way, little was said between them until they had walked away from the club-house and had reached a deserted green.

Cowley drove down the fairway towards the distant flag, dropped the club into the bag slung over Doyle's shoulder, and said;

"Valery Andreivitch Torvenski."

If Doyle was surprised, it did not show beyond a slight twitch of his brows. But the coiled-spring tension increased.

"We're going for him?"

"I am going for him," Cowley corrected. "Or rather, I intend that he should come to me. How much do you know about him?"

"One of the KGB's top men, specialises in turning influential people, mainly operates in the States. C.I.A. haven't got him yet."

"He's a dangerous, damaging man, is Torvenski," Cowley said. "He's cost this country some good men, let alone America. And Lord knows who he's turned that we don't know about. Yet. So I think it's about time he turned me."

"Yes, sir." Doyle did not blink. "The money angle isn't going to be enough with him, not with your past record, so --"

" -- it's blackmail," Cowley finished for him.

"And Comrade Valery uses the dirtier kind. Have you dug up a steamy and sordid skeleton from your past, sir?"

Cowley's glance would have frozen milk-bottles on doorsteps.

"Why does that sound like something Bodie might have said?" he demanded.

"Great minds think alike?" Doyle said, unwisely.

"Aye. How does it go on -- 'and fools never differ'. A little more apt, perhaps. The skeleton is not in my past, 4.5, it's in the immediate future. I want to pick your brains -- which of my operatives would you consider suitable as the other party in a blackmailable liaison?"

"Operatives?" Doyle queried. "That's limiting."

"Maybe. But it's necessary. I won't involve anyone who can't take care of themselves."

"Yeah, point taken. Sort of lets out the Home Sec's wife." In spite of the facetiousness, he was frowning thoughtfully, and Cowley did not press for a more sensible answer.

They walked in silence down the fairway, the slanting rays of the cool, autumn sun throwing their shadows ahead of them, the younger man automatically shortening his stride to accommodate his companion's slower, limping pace.

"A viable and effective lever lets out our girls, as well," Doyle said at last. "And to be really feasible, bars most of the men."

"On what grounds?" Cowley asked, intrigued.

"Age, appearance and personality," he replied. "I'd've thought that someone like you would go for either the mid-teens, or early to middle twenties, looking for youth, fitness, good looks, and a personality and intelligence that matches your own. Don't think CI5 can supply all that in one package."

"So who do you suggest as a makeshift?" Cowley's accents were plummy, and it occurred to Doyle that he could have just jeopardized his next pay-rise, and any leave due to him for the next twelve months. But The Old Man had askedů

"Roy Bennett's right for the age and looks, but I doubt if he's got the experience to fake and stick to the situation. Bodie could do it, but he's over the age limit even if he doesn't look it. Gerry Harper's a good possibility, he should be flexible enough. Or Mark Goddard." Doyle paused, then nodded. "Goddard would get my vote, with Harper or Bodie as runner-up."

Cowley nodded. His own thinking had gone along much the same lines, with one notable exception.

"You've not put yourself on the list," he said.

"Too old," Doyle said, "by a good six years."

"I'll stretch a point."

His agent looked at him, exasperation and respect mingled on the mismatched features.

"You'd already made up your mind," he sighed.

"Yes. This is more than a top security operation, 4.5. The Home Secretary is aware of it, but apart from the two of us, that's all. And no one else will be told. Including Bodie. Torvenski is too big a fish to take chances with."

"Okay, sir."

"It will be a long term job, run in tandem with other operations and viable twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As far as the Department is concerned, they will no doubt put down my increased attention to you as a wish to groom a possible successor -- at first. Well, that is the basis. The finer details can be worked out at a later stage, when you are back to work. Do you play chess?"

"Uh, yes, sir."

"Good. We'll be spending a lot of time in each other's company, and it could become tedious. I'll take a wood for this shot, Doyle."

Back at his flat, after caddying for nine holes, and a meal that fitted the elegant surroundings of the Burnham Hall Country and Sports Club, Doyle was able to let out his held-back amazement. He took off his jacket, dropped it over the back of the couch and stood in the middle of the room, a widening grin on his face. In spite of the time-lapse, he was still mentally reeling.

"Bloody hell," he said aloud. (Trust the old goat to come up with a lulu. Torvenski!) Then his expression changed to mild outrage. (Why me, for God's sake? Do I look like a bloody fairy?) On the other hand, Cowley obviously had enough confidence in him to pick him out of the herd for this one, and that was quite an ego-boost. (Grooming his successor? Christ!) And he couldn't tell Bodie any of it, which was a tragedy. He'd give a month's pay to see his face -- in fact the whole set-up was guaranteed to appeal to his partner's vicious sense of humour, and that was reason enough to keep him in the dark. Bodie would find it hard to respond to the developing situation in a genuine manner. If it came to that, could he? Acting the part of Cowley's boyfriend was going to be bloody difficult. How the hell was he supposed to react in that kind of arrangement -- and how were they going to fake something like that to a degree that would fool an agent of Torvenski's calibre? Probably the old man had it already worked out. "Bloody hell," he said again. And then he wondered what Bodie's reaction would be when it dawned on him that he, Doyle, had suddenly become as queer as a nine quid note, and was having it off with Cowley, of all people.

Laughing like a drain, he went up to the bedroom to change back into his oiled-up work-clothes. There was the interrupted work to be completed on his bike.

The week did not pass quickly. Doyle's impatience to be back at work surprised no one, least of all Bodie. Who, being Bodie, did his damnedest to aggravate his partner's temper with snide remarks and speculations. That he failed was not through lack of honest effort, rather it was Doyle's preoccupation with thoughts of his own, thoughts he did not share with the other half of his unit.

To his intense relief, the doctor pronounced him fit for active duty, and Bodie unsuccessfully hid his own satisfaction behind a grumbling monologue of complaint, the main theme being the need to break in his team-mate all over again after so long a time lazing around.

"It was me that broke you in, sunshine," Doyle snorted. "I was in this mob before you, remember."

"Which proves nothing," Bodie countered, pleased at having finally won a retort from him. "A flatfoot, you were. Just a bloody copper. I on the other hand--"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. A poor-man's James Bond is what you were. And are. All mouth and trousers," Doyle cut back. It was an old argument, and one that did not pall for either of them. "I've collared nutters like you in my time, and put 'em behind bars."

"Listen, mate, I am unique," Bodie grinned. "Totally and completely--"

"'Course you are," Doyle agreed, straight-faced. "All the rest were smothered at birth. A zoo is where you belong --"

"Where I belong?" he exclaimed, voice rising. Then, "Yes, maybe you're right. Where else are they going to put you when you're too decrepit for CI5 but with the other laughing hyenas. Don't worry, old son. I'll see you're okay. I'll volunteer to be your keeper. After all, what are partners for?"

"God knows. I've yet to find out what you're for. You're not even bloody decorative."

"Doyle. Bodie." The chill voice stopped them in their tracks. "When you have finished re-establishing your relationship, I want to see you both in my office. At your mutual convenience, of course." They turned to meet Cowley's cold eyes. "The ritual is concluded? Good. In there."

Trailing in his wake like a pair of delinquent schoolboys, they entered the office, Bodie automatically standing at parade-rest, Doyle in a semi-slouch in front of the desk.

Cowley sat down, steepled his fingers and studied his operatives.

"Thefts from hotel rooms, and house-breaking," he said. "Gold and silver jewellery and ornaments are all that's taken. Plate is left behind. Electronic security systems are circumvented with knowledge and precision. It's a pattern that has become apparent over the last six months, and so far none of the items stolen have shown up, nor even been whispered about on various grapevines. What does that suggest to you?"

"Cached and/or smuggled out," Doyle said promptly. Cowley nodded.

"But," said Bodie, "that's routine police business. Isn't it?"

"On the surface, yes. However, a recent hotel robbery netted an antique set of necklace, brooch, bracelet and ear-rings in gold and sapphires, from the wife of an official in the Bulgarian Embassy. Unfortunately for her, the jewels belong to the State, and she was not with her husband at the time."

"Beautiful!" Bodie snickered. "The decadent West gets to 'em every time."

"Is she in a position to be useful to us, sir?" Doyle asked.

"No. Not at the moment. The situation is this; her husband is being cultivated by MI6, and he is beginning to sway. He does not know of his wife's current indiscretion, and both MI6 and Irina Makova are anxious that he should not find out. Since she was supposed to have been taking the jewels in for cleaning and a clasp-repair, but chose to spend part of the afternoon with her lover first, we have provided her with a receipt from Cartier's to back her cover."

Bodie's grin widened.

"Who's the other feller?" he asked. "Is he useful?"

"No. He has a very menial post in the same Embassy. The lady wishes the return of the jewellery, and is ready to sign a pact with the Devil if necessary to obtain them -- she does not know of MI6's interest in her husband. Our task is to locate and recover the things before her husband and the Ambassador discover the where and how of their loss. She has already been warned in the past that further extramarital carelessness on her part will result in her husband's immediate demotion and return to Bulgaria. Neither of them would welcome that."

"I'll bet," Bodie cackled, and collected sour looks from his superior and his partner.

"What leads do we have?" Doyle wanted to know.

"Very few. Scotland Yard has established a possible link between similar crimes and one Colin Connors. They investigated him as a matter of routine two months ago and drew a blank. But a young man resembling him was seen in the hotel lobby that day. So we start with him. Or rather, with his sister." He placed photographs in front of them, and Bodie whistled appreciatively. Doyle straightened out his slouch and took interest. "They are a twin. Lucy Connors is the younger by some twenty minutes." For form's sake, the agents spared a glance at Connors, but their main concentration was given to the girl. Her beauty was enough to justify their somewhat unprofessional bias. "She works for 'Pegasus', a fashion shop in Oxford Street," Cowley went on. "She and her brother are very close, but she appears to have no part in, nor knowledge of, his illegal activities. I want that checked out. Either way, we can possibly get to him through her. Bodie."


"Observe and make contact. Gain her confidence."

"Yes, sir." His swift enthusiasm got a scowl from Doyle. Trust Bodie to land a plum job like that.

"Don't get carried away, sunshine," he snapped. "CI5 won't pay up on a breach of promise or paternity suit against you."

"That's enough," Cowley barked. "4.5, Connors is your pigeon. He drives a van for Fenners Laundry during the day, and works some evenings for West End Taxis. He's twenty-four, and as far as the police can find out, seems as virtuous as a practising Quaker. He neither smokes nor drinks, belongs to no political party, is engaged to a rather plain girl he appears to adore. He is also a popular and hard-working employee, a dutiful and affectionate son. In short, a model citizen."

"Too bloody good," Doyle grunted.

"Aye. Perhaps. Police opinion, official and unofficial, is divided. Connors' link is a previous employment with S.H.S. -- Safe House Systems, a firm specializing in electronic security. They made him redundant, along with four others, eight months ago. S.H.S had installed the systems in three of the houses robbed, so naturally their staff, present and recently redundant, were questioned. He had a cast-iron alibi, thanks to his sister. But on several occasions, a young man answering his description has been seen on hotel premises at about the times of the robberies; again, his alibi held. Fenners Laundry deals with one of the hotels, but not with the Park View, where Irina Makova spent the afternoon. That theft was particularly audacious. The thief just walked in while Kuranin was taking a shower. Irina was half-asleep, and says she assumed it was her lover in a white bathrobe. By the time she realized her mistake, and that it was a stranger in a white coat, he was out of the room with thirty thousand pounds worth of gold. The intruder was tall and fair-haired, a description that fits Connors as well as Kuranin, and wore a knee-length white coat. Connors wears a white overall with Fenners monogram on the breast pocket when on his rounds."

"Cheeky bastard," Bodie drawled, admiration in his voice. "But --"

"But --" Doyle cut in, "if it was him, and unless it was pure serendipity, how did he know where she'd be, and what she'd have with her? Has she used West End Taxis?"

"I was going to say that," his partner complained.

"She has, more than once. 4.5, I want to know all his contacts, customers, casual acquaintances, friends and work-mates, past and present. Then we'll see how they tie in with what Bodie can learn from the girl. I may put you in undercover at either the Laundry or the Taxis. In the meantime, keep in close touch with each other, and remember that we are not out to arrest a gang, but to recover one set of jewels in the fastest possible time. Cartier's have quoted a delivery date of three weeks from now, so we must locate and retrieve before then."

"Yes, sir." A duet, one voice bright and crisp, the other little more than a growl.

"On your way, 3.7," Cowley said. "Doyle, one of Connors' friends at the Laundry has a record -- petty theft --" as the door closed behind Bodie. "It might be a lead. His name's Nick Jennings. As for Torvenski," he continued without a pause, "we will begin the operation tonight. If you have made other arrangements, cancel them. Burnham Hall has an indoor and outdoor pistol range you may well find interesting. In a few weeks, I'll arrange your membership."

"Yes, sir," Doyle said, somewhat weakly.

"And while we are supposedly off-duty, we will be on first-name basis. Maintain the 'civil servant' facade at the Hall, they've not much of an idea of the nature of our work."

"What else do they do there, sir? Apart from golf and pistol shooting?"

"Rifles, fencing, swimming, squash, tennis, judo, karate," Cowley said. "There is also a small but excellent stable and plenty of space to either hack or ride the several cross-country courses laid out. There are gymnasiums, saunas and a solarium, and a team of masseurs. Membership is by recommendation and subscription only."

"How long," said Doyle wistfully, "can we spin out this job? And do I retain my membership when it's over?"

"The operation lasts as long as it takes to hook and land Torvenski, and no, you do not retain your membership. Because I have no intention of paying it for you, and you cannot afford it since, per annum, it is more than your salary -- including dubiously gained expenses."

"I was afraid you'd say that," he sighed. "I'll enjoy it while I can, then. Connors hasn't got any form?"

"None at all. Not even a parking ticket. He's been questioned, but the identification is 75% positive from the Park View. I don't want him alarmed, Doyle."

"Sir." It was a dismissal, and he made for the door. Then paused. "Uh, what about tonight? I mean, what time and where --"

"I'll pick you up at your apartment at seven-thirty. On your way, 4.5."

Doyle bit back a facetious remark, thinking -- correctly -- that Cowley would not appreciate it, and took himself off.

'If you have made other arrangements, cancel them'. It so happened that he had made plans for the evening -- a double-date with Bodie and two Defence secretaries. The girls had dated them before, were used to last-minute cancellations from either or both, and Bodie would not cavil at the prospect of entertaining the pair of them. But Doyle had been looking forward to the evening, and the attraction of nailing Valery Torvenski began to fade in the resentment of handing Bodie a ménage a trois on a plate. Besides, without committing himself in any way, he was fond of Jenny. She had made his convalescence positively enjoyable with cordon bleu cooking and other home comforts. The Burnham Hall Country Club was poor compensation for a disrupted sex-life, he decided, while Bodie, the jammy sod, not only ended up with his girl as well as Anna, but could seduce Lucy Connors on expenses. There was no justice in the world.

Bodie's car was gone by the time he reached the garage -- probably breaking traffic regulations getting to Oxford Street, if he knew his partner. His mood worsened.

Once clear of Whitehall, Doyle thumbed on the r/t.

"3.7, 4.5 to 3.7. Come in."

"Go ahead, 4.5," came the reply. "'Pegasus' has a men's department -- shall I buy you a pressie, Raymond? Socks? Hankies? A tie, perhaps?"

"Sod off," Doyle suggested. "For God's sake don't over-play it. She could be a shy young virgin, so don't scare her with the caveman tactics."

"At 24, looking like she does? I should be so lucky," Bodie said cheerfully. "Anyhow, virginity is a very over-rated commodity, old son. And my tactics are geared for the girl and the occasion. Where's your first stop?"

"Fenners Laundry. I'm going to find out where his local is, who he hangs around with."

"He doesn't drink," Bodie reminded him.

"I know that!" he snapped. "Neither does Harry in the Armoury, but that doesn't stop him being captain of the Swans darts team, does it?"

"What the hell's got up your nose?" knowing exactly. "Thought you'd be pleased to be back at work."

"I am!" he hissed. "Bloody delighted. Until ten minutes ago." Bodie's crow of laughter came over the radio loud and clear.

"Serves you right for not being suave and debonair and incredibly good-looking, like me," he said. "Never mind, Ray, I'll tell you all about it."

"Pillock," said Doyle, and cut off the r/t.

Doyle found an ideal vantage point from which to watch Fenners' rear entrance on the first lever of a multi-storey car-park. With his Escort nosed up to the open-work concrete walling, he had a clear view of the bays, the vans and their drivers, with little chance of being spotted himself. Connors was easily identified, even without the benefit of the field glasses, but opportunity put Jennings into his reach first.

A morose, white-coated figure with name-badge above the monogram, slouched out of the Laundry's loading bay and across the road to a snack-bar. Doyle dropped the field-glasses and scooped up the r/t, switched it on.

"4.5 to Control. Am following up a lead and maintaining radio silence. Inform 3.7 if he calls in, advise I will contact him."

"Acknowledged, 4.5" Impersonal and efficient, the girl's reply came through faint static, and he closed the channel, tucking the r/t out of sight behind the sun visor.

The snack bar was reasonable full, and, cup of coffee and cheese sandwich in his hands, Doyle's advance on Jennings' table was not out of place.

"This seat free, mate?" he said. Startled out of a reverie that seemed to have little to do with page 3 of the Sun, Jennings looked up from the newspaper with a jerk.

"Uh, yeah. Help yourself," he muttered. There was an old bruise fading on his cheekbone, a look of baffled misery and resentment on his face, marring what would otherwise be aggressively handsome features. But the jaw was too stubborn for real strength, Doyle noticed.

He did not attempt to intrude on Jennings' silence until he'd eaten his sandwich, drank most of his coffer; then,

"'Ere," he said. "You work with that mob across the road?"

"Yeah," the young man nodded. "I'm a despatch clerk. Why?"

"Any jobs going over there?"

"Dunno. Doing what?"

"Anything. Used to work for a wholesale grocer, driving trucks. Got made redundant last month."

"Well, there's no harm in tryin', I suppose. You want to see Old Man Fenner -- steer clear of the son, he's a miserable bastard, wouldn't give you the time of day, but the boss is all right."

Once he'd had got him talking, Jennings was easy to draw out and steer along the required lines, and what he had to say about Connors was informative. Nor did Doyle have to dig to obtain it. Sensing a sympathetic ear, Jennings was only too eager to get his grievances off his chest. Doyle let him ramble on, putting in the odd word here and there, until Jennings suddenly realized the passage of time, and that his coffee-break should have ended five minutes before.

The CI5 agent returned to his car, and contacted Control. Bodie hadn't called in, which meant he was still on watch at 'Pegasus'. Or should have been. But he did not answer his radio.

As if he had extra-sensory perception, Doyle knew exactly what his partner was doing. Chatting up a girl whose beauty and charm leaped out of a photograph to fill body and mind with the pleasant warmth of speculative lust.

"Bodie!" He gripped the r/t as if it was the absent man's throat, and shook it. "Bodie! Answer, damn you!" Hatred, loathing and total contempt were in his voice, twisting his features to a vicious mask. "Bodie!"

"3.7." Crisp but breathless, the reply finally came through. "Where's the fire?"

"You bloody-minded crud! Where the hell have you been? You're supposed to be on watch!"

"I was. Am." Injured innocence oozed from the r/t. "'Observe and make contact', that's what Cowley said -- and I've been doing both." Smugness replaced the virtue, and Doyle could see in his mind's eye the expression that went with it; smirking complacence. His loathing reached new depths.

"Bloody-Cowley!" he snarled. "Since when were you so bloody-well keen on obeying instructions to the letter? Next time you're going to be buggerin' off --"

"Sour grapes!" Bodie warbled. "Just because I got the contact bit -- Raymond, you are a poor loser."

"Listen --"

"You should see her, mate. Oh, boy. That photo doesn't do her justice -- she should sue. Moves like a dancer -- and the perfume she wears --"

"Bodie --" Doyle took a deep breath and controlled the urge to speak his mind forcibly and at great length. "Don't let your enthusiasm for your work lead you astray," he said instead, wondering if he could get away with not passing on one or two details he'd found out. "Is she biting, or is she intelligent?"

"She's biting." The smugness was still there. "Which only goes to prove that she is not only a very bright girl, but has excellent taste as well. I'm taking her to lunch tomorrow."

"I hope," said Doyle, prayerfully, "you get ptomaine poisoning." The only response that got was a snicker. Professionalism warred with personal inclination, and after a struggle, won. "Pay attention, 3.7," he snapped, deliberately borrowing a Cowley-phrase and razor-sharp tone. "I've made contact with an ex-mate of Connors, Nick Jennings. He works at the same place, in the despatch office. They used to be good friends until Jennings met and fell for Lucy. He's got a record, and Connors didn't approve of his sister mixing with low types like that."

"I see. It's okay to be pally with one, but you don't let your sister marry one, that's it?"

"More or less, though I doubt if either of them had marriage in mind. Anyhow, Connors warned him off, and when he refused to take the hint, he floored him. Told him he'd castrate him with a boot if he caught him near Lucy again. Jennings believes him, says he's not the first guy that's been discouraged, either. Connors is very protective of his sister's virtue, and has a very chancy temper. So you'd better watch it."

"He wouldn't object to a respectable civil servant, would he?" Bodie chuckled.

"Why not? I would, mate," Doyle said. "I'd bloody-well discourage you if I thought any of my sisters were daft enough to fancy you."

"I think I'd make you a very good brother-in-law," he retorted. "And your sisters are lookers, every one of 'em."

"But unavailable. They've got more sense than to fall for you, sunshine, and they're all married."

"Cathy isn't."

"Having divorced one bastard, she's not going to go for another one, is she? Besides, she's thirteen years older than you. All my sisters are older than you."

"I won't state the obvious about older women. You've got nieces, Raymond, who are also stunners -- Sally and Elizabeth -- and I haven't forgotten the way they cornered me under the mistletoe last Christmas--"

"I'll see you in hell, first. Pack it in, Bodie. Apart from her address, what else did you learn from the girl?"

"Nothing. She doesn't strike me as grieving for a lost lover, though. Okay, my part of the operation is working well, so I can leave Lucy until tomorrow. Who do you want checked out?"

"S.H.S.," Doyle said. "Find out who his mates were, and if he still goes around with them. See if anyone else got involved with Lucy and was warned off."

"Right. A man with a grudge is talkative. You'll be where?"

"Investigating his locals. The Vine near Fenners, and the De Vaux Arms in Battersea. Keep Control informed, Bodie."

"Up yours," came the cheerful response, and the transmission was cut.

Six o'clock saw Doyle back in his flat, several Police and MI6 files dropped on his desk. He fixed himself a quick snack, made a pot of coffee, and dialled Bodie's number. The phone rang some time before it was answered.

"Did I get you out of the bath?" Doyle grinned.

"Yes, sod you. What's up?"

"I can't make it tonight."

"What? Why not? Don't tell me the Old Man's called you out on a job?"

"No, it's nothing like that. Just something that's come up unexpectedly, and I can't get out of it."

"Oh. That's a bugger. Have you phoned Jenny?"

"No, I'd promised her this night out. Will you make excuses for me? Tell her duty calls, even if it hasn't."

"You want me to lie for you, Raymond?" Bodie demanded virtuously. His indignation had lasted about five seconds.

"Yes," said Doyle.

"Okay. No problem. But you'll owe me."

"Like hell I will. You'll owe me, mate. A free run with two girls? Of course, if you think you can't cope, I'll ring her up and --"

"Did I say that?" Bodie interrupted. "Don't worry, Ray, I'll take care of her. She won't even notice you're not there. See you tomorrow -- the bath's getting cold and I'm dripping all over the carpet."

"Yeah," said Doyle. "Have a good time." His answer was a degenerate chuckle, and he slammed the phone down.

When Cowley arrived at 7.30 on the dot, Doyle was waiting, showered, shaved, and wearing the casually expensive outfit he'd worn a week ago. Cowley gave him a raking glance and a nod of approval.

"There'll be some people there this evening that I want you to get on good terms with. It will smooth your passage through the Committee if you can count them among your co-sponsors. One of them is the Captain of the Pistol Team, and since he is always trying to up-grade the team's standard, Tuck should view the advent of an ex-Met marksman as a gift from the Gods."

"Okay, sir. I'll do my best."

"I'm sure you will. Here," holding out the Rover's keys. "You're driving, Ray."

He took them, a rueful smile on this mouth. Then he looked Cowley straight in the eye.

"George," he said, "I challenge you. Whatever hand-gun you name at whatever range."

"Done," said Cowley promptly. "The stake? Loser pays for the meal and drinks?"

"No stake. The honour of victory."

"Afraid you won't be able to afford it, boy?" Cowley smiled. "You're right, you couldn't. Come on. Or are you intending to stand there all night?" and led the way out to the car. "I see you've been reading the files," he said, fastening his seat belt. "Does anything tie in?"

"Could be. Bodie has found a Frank Hoskins at S.H.S. who had a run-in with Connors over his sister. He said Connors' special mates were Pete Elland and Tony Styles. Elland was made redundant at the same time, but Styles is still with them. All three were field engineers, dealing with the installation and maintenance of the systems. Styles still is. Elland is a regular in the De Vaux Arms, and his bed-sit's only about five minutes away from Connors'. And Connors lives roughly the same distance from Lucy, all in Battersea."

"Good. Here's some details you won't have discovered. Ten weeks ago Lucy's flat-mate was arrested and convicted on a drugs charge -- Lucy herself was not implicated. The girl claims the drugs were planted."

"They always do," Doyle said.

"By Colin Connors."

"What? Why?"

"She said he wanted her out of the flat. She'd offered Lucy some marijuana at a party, and Connors got to hear of it."

"So he framed her and had her put away," Doyle said softly. "A vindictive bastard, this virtuous, spotless youth."

"It would appear so. Talk to her tomorrow -- Pattie Anderson. She's in Holloway. I've made the appointment. But we are not after him, Ray, except as a means to an end. I want the jewellery."

"But if we've got enough on him to hand him over to the Met --"

"No. Those jewels cannot be implicated in any crime, nor mentioned in any official report or court case. Him we can pick up at any time, but we have only three weeks to get them back."

"Okay," he sighed. "But it goes against the grain. The more I hear about this model citizen, the less I like him."

"Once a policeman, always a policeman?" Cowley murmured. "Patience, Ray. We'll give him enough rope, and when he's tangled himself up, you can have him."

"I'll hold you to that." Then, "Wonder how involved the sister is?"

"Impossible to say. He is so fiercely protective of her, it seems likely she isn't, but Bodie will find out either way."

"Yeah," he said, a sour note in his voice. "If he leaves himself enough energy. I had to back out of a double-date tonight."

Cowley made brief sound that could have been a snort of amusement or of disapproval.

"No doubt you'll make up for lost time once we've dealt with Torvenski."

"I'll do my damnedest," Doyle said. "How long have you been a member of this club, s-George?"

"A considerable number of years. Certainly long enough to be in a position of some privilege. I always had a feeling it would prove useful one day."

Doyle shook his head, a gesture of admiration rather than denial, but he did not comment.

"Who else do I have to get the right side of?" he said instead.

"William, the barman; John Mellors, squash and back-gammon fanatic; Rob Tuck, accounts himself a first-class all-rounder with firearms; Mitch Hendricks, an ex-MI6 man like myself, and a retired diplomat. He has a heart condition, so avoids active sports, but plays a vicious game of chess. He is probably the only one who might have an idea of what CI5 is about, but won't trouble his head to think about it. Chess, M.C.C, and the Test Matches are the only things he's interested in. The rest of the world can go hang for all he'd care -- as long as it did it quietly and didn't interfere with the cricket. Once, Ray, a long time ago, Mitch was a very dangerous man."

"I always wondered what happened to old agents," Doyle said, and Cowley chuckled.

"Mitch is a model to us all," he said. "He's lost little of his shrewdness, just rarely bothers to use it. Tuck, on the other hand," and went on to give a thumbnail sketch of the various individuals he would be meeting. Doyle interrupted with questions, comments and any restraint caused by the easy informality expected of him rapidly faded. Using Cowley's Christian name no longer felt, or sounded, stilted, awkward, not to say presumptuous, and by the time he turned the big car in the sweeping drive of Burnham Hall, he was relaxed, at ease, and anticipating a good evening. As Cowley pointed out, they were, to all intents and purposes, off-duty, and since he wasn't paying for any of it, he may as well get the most out of it. That was a philosophy that Doyle was in agreement with, all along the line.

"Okay," he grinned. "Lie back and think of England?" he added.

"If necessary, yes," Cowley cut back. "Try and curb your natural facetiousness, that is all I ask. Park over there, under the yew tree."

And it was quite an evening; lack of female company notwithstanding, Doyle had not spent a more congenial and enjoyable time for years. Hendricks, resembling a dissolute and obese caricature of Sir Anthony Eden, had squinted at him over a chessboard, and demanded to know what position he fielded in, what number bat he was, did he bowl, and what did he think of the current Australian Tour.

"I don't play cricket, sir," he'd said. The first and major hurdle -- he couldn't pretend an interest in a sport he did not follow.

"What?" The bloodhound eyes had bulged a trifle. "What do you do, then?"

"Shoot," he replied succinctly. "Handguns mainly, though I'm pretty fair with a rifle, longbow and cross-bow. Squash. Boxing. Judo. Karate. Kendo --"

"Whoa back. Bloody-natured young savage. Has to be one of your boys, George. No team sports at all?"

"Basketball?" Doyle had offered.

"Imported rubbish. D'you play chess?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, that's something in your favour, I suppose. George, you'd better introduce him to Rob. Kindred spirits, by the sound of it."

The most important seal of approval. After that, Tuck was a pushover. Cowley and he had had their challenge match, and, very much on his mettle, Doyle had won. But the margin had been close. It was some time since he'd gone in for the strict formalities of target-shooting, and he was moderately pleased with himself. So too was Rob Tuck, an eagle-eyed spectator. He had pounced on Doyle with the enthusiasm of a large dog on a bone, and towed him away to the Club's Gun Room while Cowley returned to the lounge and Hendricks.

It was Tuck rather than Cowley who took him round on a detailed tour of Burnham Hall's facilities, introducing him to members and staff as a soon-to-be member of the pistol team. Most people wanted to know his job, but on hearing 'Home Office', enquired no further.

After a leisurely meal, the rest of the evening was spent between the lounge and the snooker room, and Doyle received something of a shock when a quietly amused Scottish drawl told him it was almost one o'clock. He'd seen little of Cowley; Tuck, Mellors, and several of the pistol team monopolising his attention. However, he was aware of his acceptance into that narrow and elitist group, an acceptance based initially on Cowley's introduction and Hendrick's approval, but ultimately on his skills and personality. The old-school-tie facade was just that.

One day, he told himself wistfully, as he reached his flat in the small hours, he'd be a bona fide member of that club, able to pay the fees -- one day. Or maybe he could get a job there -- range master -- martial arts instructor and coach --

Bodie, unshaven, heavy-eyed, and insufferably complacent, turned up on his doorstep at seven o'clock.

"What the hell?" Doyle snapped, letting him in.

"Just want to borrow your shower," his partner announced. "We ended up at Anna's place -- what's for breakfast?"

"You dumb crud! D'you think I'm going to feed you after you've spent half the night having it off with my girl?"

"Yes," said Bodie with simple faith, and disappeared up the stairs.

When he reappeared twenty minutes later, slightly damp and smelling of Doyle's aftershave, the only items of clothing that were his own were the light grey trousers and suede shoes. Everything else, Doyle guessed sourly, from underpants and socks to roll neck sweater and jacket, belonged to him. It was his own fault, he knew. He preferred shirts, sweaters and coats that fitted loosely over his light-boned frame, which meant they fitted his stockier partner as if they'd been made for him, a situation that Bodie exploited to the full. Of course, it cut both ways; in fact, he might need to borrow one of Bodie's dinner-suits and dress-shirts in the not too distant future. So he put eggs and bacon into the frying pan for him with only a token protest.

"What time are you seeing Lucy?" he asked.

"One. I'm going to have another chat with Hoskins before then. How about you?"

"Holloway. Lucy had a flat-mate. Seems like Connors shopped her with planted drugs."

"Yeah? Why?"

"Offering his sainted sister pot."

"Really? I like this boy, he's got style."

"That's what you call it, is it?"

"Don't tell me -- he offends your honest copper's soul," Bodie grinned. "Raymond, old son, sometimes you're as predictable as Pavlov's dogs. Jenny sends her love -- to quote her exact words; 'Tell Whatsisname I missed him.'"

"Lying sod."

"Would I lie to you?" soulfully. "Where's the tomato sauce?"

"In the cupboard beside you. My appointment at Holloway is at nine. As soon as I get through I'll contact you."

"Better make it via Control -- okay, don't say it. I'll log in as per The Book. Where did you go last night?"

"Out of London. Why?"

"We came by on the way back to Anna's to see if you were in. Your car was, but you weren't."

"That's right," said Doyle. "Pour me a coffee, will you? I've got post to open."

"Big secret, is it?"

"No. Book Club circular -- Access -- electricity bill -- letter from Meg in Hong Kong --"

"You are deliberately misunderstanding me," Bodie pointed out. "I have done my course in Every Boy's Guide to Interrogation, and received my length of rubber hose and steel toe-caps."

"Curiosity," said Doyle, "killed the cat. You intrude enough into my private life as it is."

"Who, me? Never!"

"Screwing my girl doesn't count, I suppose?"

"I seem to remember you and Anna getting extremely carried away on our last double-date. Would have taken tyre-levers and hydraulic jacks to separate you." Bodie countered, effectively side-tracked. And with any luck, Doyle reflected, he would not realize he'd been diverted for a while. However, show Bodie a mystery and then withhold information, and he would move heaven and earth to get to the bottom of it. It was, Doyle acknowledged, one of the traits that made him a good CI5 operative, and if played correctly, would suit Cowley's purpose to a T.

Pattie Anderson was small, plump, with curling dark hair that framed an attractive urchin-face, and she eyed Doyle with wary speculation as she sat down opposite him.

"You're a copper?" she demanded.

"No, Home Office," he smiled. "Name's Ray. Ray Doyle. I'd like to talk to you about Colin Connors."

"Oh, no," she said. "Not likely."

"You've claimed he framed you."

"I've made no official statement, and I won't," Pattie snapped.

"That suits me. I don't work within the official structure. Nothing you tell me will go into writing or appear in a law court. But it might help us to nail him on other counts. I need leads; names, faces, incidents -- and when I get him, he won't know what hit him."

She stared at him, then a slow smile parted her lips.

"I like the sound of that. As long as he never gets to hear about me."

"He won't."

"Okay, Ray. We can talk."

"Good girl. Tell me about him?"

"You've met him?"

"No. Not yet."

"He's two-faced. Hail-fellow-well-met, all-mates-together, as long as he can use you. If you cross him, though, he'll get even -- with interest. Takes his pound of flesh, as well, if you owe him, and then some."

"You crossed him," Doyle said softly. She pulled an expressive face.

"Yes, I suppose I did. And look where it got me. Shows what kind of fool I am, doesn't it?"

"Not necessarily. Do you smoke?" holding out a new packet.

"No," she said, and hesitated.

"Take it anyway. It's good currency in places like this."

"Yeah, I've already found that out." She tucked the cigarettes into her skirt pocket. "Pity you didn't bring chocolates instead."

"I'll bring some tomorrow. What kind?"

"Terry's All-Gold," she said promptly. "Or those Swiss liqueurs. For real?"

"For real. This is your second time in prison?"

"Yes. And my last. I swore I'd never end up in here again after last time. But thanks to him I got six months. With time off for good behaviour I could be out in a few months, but --" She broke off with a shrug. "No flat. No job --"

"You'll be okay," Doyle said. "I've got contacts, strings I can pull."

"Just get that bastard behind bars," she hissed, then her expression lightened into the mischievous smile again, "and send me chocolates, and we'll be quits."

"Okay, luv," he smiled back. "So tell me what happened? You've been done before for drugs?"

"Yes, for smoking pot. The last time, I got stoned in Hyde Park, and they picked me up. Haven't touched anything stronger -- coke, acid -- forget it. I've had the occasional smoke, though, but that's all. Lucy knew about it all, right from the start, so did Colin -- hell, she didn't have to take the other room in the flat."

"How did you get along with her?"

"Fine, I thought. She's a sweet kid." An interesting choice of words, Doyle noted. The files showed that Pattie was two years younger than Connors' sister. "We didn't quarrel, didn't argue that much, and didn't fight over boyfriends. Mind you," she continued, gazing at him through lowered lashes, "we didn't fancy the same kind of man."

"Did you double-date?"

"Oh, yes. Quite often. Even swopped dates sometimes."

"How did he frame you, and why?"

"Well, we'd had a party, some friends had brought a few joints, and we passed them round. It was nothing new. Lucy turned them down, as she usually did, and that was that. The next I heard of it was a month later when Colin turned up one evening when she was out. He told me to pack up and clear off. I had until the next evening to get out. I told him to get lost. I wasn't going anywhere. Damn it, the flat was in my name, and he wasn't my landlord! Anyhow, he turned nasty, started to threaten me, and when he came at me I ran into the kitchen and grabbed the carving knife. Colin Courageous decided discretion was the better part of valour, and hopped it. When Lucy got back, she didn't know anything about it -- said he was joking, and I was exaggerating. The next week Drugs Squad turned up, and found coke Sellotaped under the fridge, behind the side board, and under the carpet in my bedroom. Literally minutes before they arrive Colin phoned me, told me they were on their way, and why. Said that if I implicated him or Lucy in any way, he'd treat me to a vitriol face-pack when I got out of prison. I was so bloody furious when the cops came and found the stuff, I told 'em straight out who'd put it there. They didn't believe me, of course. Who would, with my record? By the time I had to make my formal statement I'd cooled down and was seeing sense. You're read it? I take full blame, didn't mention either of them except to stress Lucy wasn't involved, didn't know a blind thing about it."

"Has she visited you?"

"No. Colin won't let her. I've had letters, though. Do you want them?"

"If you don't mind."

"I'll swap 'em for chocolates."

"Done. Pattie, you said she usually refused pot."


"That implies she sometimes accepted it."

"Yes, she did. Once in a while, depending on the guy. It gives her quite a charge when she's with a fellah."

"A sexual charge?"

"Is there any other kind? Turns our little Lucy into a raving nympho," Pattie grinned. "Takes away all her inhibitions."

"Does Connors know?"

She shook her head.

"I very much doubt it. He'd probably lock her up in a nunnery if he did. Doesn't even like the idea of her going to bed with a man all that much. He's nearly as bad as a Victorian mother."

"Have you dated Connors?"

"Strewth, no. I don't like being on the receiving end of power-games in bed, thank you."

"Does he use drugs?"

"No way! He doesn't even drink! You know why, don't you?" She leaned across the table.

"No," he lied, leaning forward to invite the confidence. "Tell me?"

"Because he won't let go. He's afraid of being out of control, making a fool of himself, maybe giving someone else the whip hand. He's got to be the Big Boss Man, Mr. Popular, all the time."

"A psychiatric case, perhaps, but is he also a criminal one? That's what I want to know."

"Well, to be honest, I haven't a clue. The only things I know of are his threats with the vitriol, and buying coke to frame me."

"House-breaking, Pattie-luv. Thefts from hotel rooms. Gold. Silver. Jewellery."

"Strewth. Not exactly big-league stuff, is it?" she sniffed. "I'd've thought he'd go for the Crown Jewels at the least."

"I don't intend to give him a chance to graduate. His friends I know about, but it's his enemies I want to talk to. People with a grudge."

"Would you believe half of London?"

"Narrow it down, luv," he said. "You've been on the fringes with the drugs-scene, you know the average villain when you see him. Who of the anti-Connors lobby that you've come across has form?"

She sat in frowning silence for a while.

"Well, only one that I can think of," she said eventually. "Nick Jennings. He and Colin had a run-in over Lucy --"

"I know about him. No one else?"

"I mean, it's always blokes who've fallen for Lucy like a ton of bricks. Seems as if the moment they get serious, he gets rid of them for one reason or another. How far back do I go?"

"As far as necessary. Why?"

"There was a man, back in the beginning of the year. He was hopping mad about something -- came looking for Colin, was going to duff him up. He scared Lucy rigid, she had nightmares for a week. Apparently he'd followed her home, then walked in on us, wanting Colin. Said he'd done him out of a job, and he was going to get even. Told us to tell him he was after him. He was a bit of a crook, I think -- at least, that was the impression I got -- but we never heard any more of him, so I don't know if he found him or not."

"Who was he?" Doyle asked, cutting through the tangle of pronouns.

"Wilson? Wilkins? No, Wilcox. Jack Wilcox."

"My height, straight brown hair and a broken nose? Strong Cockney accent?"

"Yes, I think so. It was a long time ago. You know him?"

"Could be. Pattie, my love, you've been a gold-mine. Keep on thinking, and I'll see you tomorrow with some chocolates."

"Don't stand me up," she smiled. "Good hunting."

"Vitriol?" said Bodie. "Now, that is not neighbourly. Sonny Jim has just gone down in my estimation."

"Good." Doyle's smile was without amusement. "Because I am going to nail him." His partner's chuckle crackled over the r/t.

"Do I detect a certain vindictiveness, 4.5?" he drawled.

"Yes," said Doyle.

"Ah, but don't forget the Bulgarian sapphires."

"I won't. I can wait."

"A right little Hound of God, aren't we?" But Doyle was not disposed to be amused.

"Pack it in, Bodie," he snapped.

"Yessir. Does Cowley know about your crusade?"

"Of course he does," impatiently. "Connors is mine. I've got his word on it."

"You have?" His startlement was obvious, and Doyle smiled.

"I'm going to see if I can track down Jacko Wilcox. Enjoy your lunch-date."

"Oh, I will, mate."

There were those in the East End who remembered Detective Constable Doyle from both his Flying Squad and Drugs Squad days. He did not ask about Connors -- such questions sometimes seeped through the grapevine and got to the ears of the subject -- but Wilcox should be safe game. It didn't take him long to locate him; Wormwood Scrubs, serving time for housebreaking.

But when Doyle radioed in to report his morning's progress, he was ordered back to Whitehall to give it in person.

So, sitting in Cowley's office, unconsciously rubbing his left arm, Doyle gave a concise run-down of his findings.

"Very interesting. Is that injury troubling you?"

"Uh, no. Just itches," he said quickly. "The new skin pulls a bit sometimes. I'd like to have a chat with Jacko." He'd been on his way to Wormwood Scrubs when he'd been called in.

"Will he know you?"

"Yeah. I nicked him once, but he's not one to bear a professional grudge over a thing like that. He's been in and out of jail most of his life, has Jacko -- belongs to the school of thought that says he does his job, and the cops do theirs, and regardless of who loses out, there are no hard feelings. But he's annoyed by dirty deals, sell-outs and the like, and if Connors did cheat him in some way, he might shop him."

"Good. I'll organise a meeting." He looked at the hard, fiercely eager face across the desk, and smiled. "Got the scent in your nostrils, 3.7?"

"We're getting close to him, I know it."

"Give him the rope, remember, let him run on it for a while."

"Yes, sir. Do you want me to move in on Fenners? Or the taxis?"

"No. We'll see what Wilcox has to say first."

"Well, how about Bodie?"

"He can stay with Miss Connors. Hopefully he can meet her brother without arousing suspicions. I want to know what his instincts tell him."

"Takes a nutter to know a nutter," Doyle muttered under his breath.

"That," Cowley pointed out, "can reflect on you as well as Bodie. Go and see the M.O., have that arm checked again."

"What? But, sir--"

"That's an order, 4.5. Do it. Now. Then report back here. And don't make any plans for the weekend. You'll be spending most of it at the Hall."

The scowl lightened, but not by much, and Doyle left, indignation bristling like a porcupine's quills.

The Doctor had obviously received instructions by the time he reached the surgery-cum-medical unit, and the disgruntled agent was submitted to an examination more rigorous than the one that had got him back on duty.

It took a while to complete, and when he was finally allowed to leave, he found Bodie waiting outside in the corridor.

"What's up, then?" his other half demanded. "Fractured an eyelash?"

"Pack it in!" Doyle yelled, effectively startling him and several passers-by. "Nothing's up, sod it! That bloody witchdoctor checked me through from liver and lights to my bloody toenails!"

"Then why --"

"Don't ask me! I only bloody work here! Cowley got some bee in his bonnet just because this damned arm itched a bit, and I was railroaded down here so fast you'd think I had bubonic plague!"

"That's daft," Bodie said, puzzled. "New skin always itches."

"I know that!" Doyle raved. "So does bloody Cowley! So does that fuckin' doctor! All he did in the end was tell me not to scratch!"

"Well, at least you know now beyond a doubt that you're sound in wind and limb," Bodie pointed out.

"I knew that before!" It was another head-turning bellow, and Bodie towed the furious man into the conveniently near-by canteen.

"I hate to remind you," he said, pushing him into a chair, "but I'm the lunatic half of this team. Calm down."

"I am calm!"

"Yes, Ray. Anything you say, Ray."

"He must be off his rocker." This time it was muted to a growl. "What does he think I am? Made of Dresden china? Just because my bloody arm itched!" He raked at the injury angrily, and Bodie slapped his hand away.

"Don't scratch," he grinned. "Have a cup of coffee and cool off. Want something to eat?"

"No. How did you get on with Lucy?"

"Extremely well, of course. Got her eating out of my hand."

"Then she is simple. I got that impression from Pattie."

"Who? Oh, the framed junkie."

"She's not a junkie, and she was framed."

"I'm not arguing. How about Wilcox?"

"Nothing yet. He's in the Scrubs. Cowley's going through the channels. Did you mention Pattie to her?"

"Not directly, naturally. She was happy enough to chatter about her flat though. Didn't say anything about sharing it, either now or in the past."

"And Big Brother?"

"Every other sentence. Colin says this, Colin says that. Colin says the other."

"What is your considered, impersonal opinion of her?"

"She's charming, sweet-natured, and a child of very little brain," Bodie said cheerfully. "She knows what she's got and what she can do with it, but she'll never qualify for Mensa. She hasn't got much in the way of initiative, likes her decisions made for her, responds beautifully to masculine authority --"

"Just your type," Doyle interrupted.

"Yes," he agreed. "And yours. For a one-night-stand every now and then. Anything more than that, and I think her lack of conversation might pall. She hasn't got an idea of the real world -- 'sheltered' doesn't begin to describe it. Big Brother virtually arranges the whole of her life, and she's happy about it."

"Hmmm. What cover story did you give her?"

"The up-and-coming executive one -- Foreign Office."

"Good choice. In fact, it could be an idea to challenge Connors' authority. He might be spurred into something illegal."

"Like attempted murder, you mean?" Bodie grinned.

"No. More like intimidation and/or GBH," Doyle snapped. "When are you talking her out again?"

"Tomorrow night. A meal in a posh West End restaurant, a show or a film, or soft lights and sweet music and an early night if she plays her cards right."

"Not at your flat, mate. You'll never convince her it belongs to your F.O. whiz-kid. Looks more like a cross between an S.A.S doss-house and a Spartan barracks."

"Okay. Give us your key and --"

"Not bloody likely. You'll have to do some redecorating and designing -- unless Cowley'll let you use Safe-house 4."

"Hey, that's an idea! -- He'll never wear it."

"It's worth a try. Hang on here, and I'll be back. I've got to report to him anyway, so I'll see if I can swing it for you."

"But --" Bodie started, found himself talking to thin air, and stopped with a shrug. Cowley did not like using safe-houses for set-ups, but the expensively furnished mews cottage in Kensington would be a perfect setting for the seduction of Lucy Connors -- enough to sweep an impressionable girl off her feet and away from her brother's influence.

One cup of coffee and five digestive biscuits later, Doyle returned, a bounce to his stride and a cocky grin on his face.

"Catch," he said, tossing a pair of keys on a ring over the table. Bodie snatched them out of the air.

"You crafty sod! How the hell did you do it?"

"Mentioned vitriol a few times, and the urgency of givin' Irina her sapphires back, and speculated what Connors would do when he graduated to shotguns and security vans or banks."

"My God," Bodie said, admiration written large on his features. "What do you do for your next trick? Stick your head in his mouth?"

"To the shoulders, sunshine. Jacko's waiting at the Scrubs, want to come along?"

"Sure. Always keen to widen my education, I am."

"Yeah. He probably could teach you a thing or two, at that. But for God's sake, don't put his back up."

Bodie was outraged. His feelings were hurt, he said, and in retaliation he remembered Doyle's evasion on his activities the previous evening and began to dig. It got him nowhere, which only served to pass the time on the drive to Wormwood Scrubs, and to whet his curiosity to a razor-edge.

There were no introductions, and for three-quarters of an hour, Doyle and Wilcox talked over old times with friendly nostalgia. Bodie was bored, and made no secret of it, but his displeasure was ignored. Until Wilcox shot him an amused glance and said to Doyle,

"Who's yer 'appy friend?"

"Don't mind him, he's got girl-problems," Doyle said. "Or rather, a girlfriend brother-problem."

"Me 'eart bleeds for 'im," Wilcox grinned. "You should be stuck in 'ere, sunshine. Cure all yer problems, that would."

"No thanks," said Bodie. "I'd sooner see Connors put away. That would solve everybody's problems."

"Connors?" Wilcox' eyes fastened on the ex-policeman. "Mr. Doyle, me old mate, you wouldn't be settin' me up, would you?"

"Who, me? Perish the thought. But I wouldn't mind a friendly little chat about Colin Connors."

"Who's 'e?"

"You tell me, Jacko," Doyle said softly.

"Now, I'd 'eard you ain't a copper no more, Mr. Doyle," Wilcox lit another cigarette. The CI5 operative had brought in a hundred of them. Sobrianes. Bodie coughed loudly and pointedly. "So why would you be askin' me about Whatsisname?"

"Because he threatened to treat a pretty little girl to a facial with vitriol."

"Oh. A bit extreme, that. What did she do, fer Gawd's sake?"

"Offered his sister a joint."

Wilcox whistled and shook his head.

"That's not on," he said. "No wonder your mate's sweatin'."

"I," said Bodie with some asperity, "am not sweating."

"Never mind him," Doyle cut in before he could elaborate, "he can look after himself. I'm objecting to my girl being threatened. I want him for that, Jacko. Now. I've heard a whisper that he put one over on you with a job, round about the New Year. Why don't I even the score for both of us?"

"Mr. Doyle, even supposin' that whisper was 'alfway true, which it ain't, 'ow do I prevent this bloke -- Conroy? -- chuckin' the acid at me when I get out of 'ere?"

"Easy, sunshine. The way I'm going to get him, he isn't going to know who -- if anyone -- dropped him in it."



"Yeah? What line of work you in, these days, then?"

"Crime prevention," Doyle said, "same as ever. Give him to me, Jacko. What job did he do you out of?"

"Me regular fixture. I worked for this bloke in the jewellery business, nickin' gold an' silver. Gawd knows 'ow Connors got to know about it, but 'e did. Went to me boss, 'e did, the cheeky sod, told 'im 'e wanted me job. 'Course, old Laurence told 'im 'e already 'ad a supplier, but then 'e said that if the kid could lift certain items from a certain 'ouse, the job was 'is. So the bastard did, an' I was kicked out on me ear. I went lookin' for 'im, didn't find 'im, cos the little pillock was layin' low -- 'e'd 'eard I was on his track. Any'ow, the next time I did a job, the cops were waitin' for me, weren't they. All too pat, that was. You 'ear things in 'ere, an' he's bin puttin' it around that 'e got me locked up."

"Connors is a newcomer, Jacko," Bodie said. "How come he did the job so smoothly?"

"Knew the security system, didn't 'e? Bleedin' whiz-kid. 'Im and 'is mate used to be in the business."

"Laurence was your fence?" from Doyle.

"Nah. 'E's an amateur. Name's Randolph Laurence, got one of them fancy shops, in Bloomsbury. All arty-craft, an' so bloody exclusive it makes yer teeth ache. It's called Samarkand. 'E says it's a jewellery workshop an' boutique, 'e's a regular gold-smif, see. Makes 'is own gold an' silver stuff, an' flogs it for three an' four figures prices. Gold an' silver is all 'e wants nicked."

"Don't tell me," Bodie whispered. "He melts it down and reworks it into his own designs..."

"Yeah, that's right."

Doyle made a strange sound in his throat.

"Where does Laurence keep the stuff before he melts it down?" he asked.

"Like I said, 'e's an amateur. In 'is 'ouse, in Windsor. Got a wall-safe in 'is library."

"Who does his security?"

"Electro-Guard. Got their latest gadgets, 'e 'as. Includin' an 'ot-line to the local nick."

"He must get stones as well, what happens to them?"

"'E re-cuts 'em, 'imself."

"Busy, isn't he?" Bodie muttered.

"Is Connors the only one working for him?"

"Yeah. 'Im an' 'is gang. There's three of 'em."

"Do you know their names?"

"Pete, an' Tony."

"That figures," Doyle said. "How long does he keep the stuff in his safe?"

"Hard to say. Until 'e needs more to work with, I suppose. Then he takes it in to 'is workshop and melts it down."

"It stays unbroken until then?" asked Bodie.

"Yeah. Usually. Why? Thought you wanted Connors?"

"I do," Doyle said. "I want enough to nail him good, with as much of the haul as possible."

"Yeah. While you're at it, why don't you feel Laurence's collar as well?" Wilcox suggested. "Business is business, but we 'ad an arrangement, an' 'e shouldn't 'ave dropped me like that."

"I'll see what I can do. Thanks, Jacko."

"Just don't involve me, Mr. Doyle. That's all."

"I won't."

"Jacko," said Bodie. "According to his sister, the sun shines out of Connors' backside. Ray's girl has been threatened with vitriol. What's your opinion of him? Unbiased, if you can manage it."

"I can manage it, mate," Wilcox snorted. "I already got 'is number before 'e elbowed me out. A bleedin' nutter, is what 'e is. Got an instinct about these things," tapping the side of his nose. "But no one ever listens to me. If 'e said acid to your bird, 'e meant it. 'E don't bluff."

"Thanks, Jacko," Doyle said again, and stood up. "D'you want us to keep you posted?"

"Not bloody likely. I don't want nothin' to do with it. But I'll get to 'ear, sooner or later. That'll suit me."

"Okay. See you around, old son."

"Not if I see you first, you won't."

Doyle gave him a grin, and followed Bodie out. But his expression changed to a frown as soon as the door of the interview room closed behind them.

"Bloody hell," Bodie whimpered, lengthening his stride to a near-run. "Melting down and recutting an international incident. Cowley'll have heart-failure."

"MI6 won't be too pleased, either," Doyle muttered. "Jesus! Took ten years off my life, that did."

"Well, at least we know where they should be. Better give his place the once-over."

"Yeah. As soon as possible. Like last week. You going to report in, or me?"

"You, mate!" Bodie said quickly. "You're the blue-eyed boy at the moment -- he'll probably hire me out as a traffic warden."

"Thanks, partner."

"Listen, if you can wheedle safe-house keys out of him, you can spring this on him without getting blasted out of your shoes. I'm not going to stick my neck out."

"That's what I like about you, Bodie. Your heart-warming loyalty."

"Yes. Endearing, aren't I?" he beamed. "Better strap yourself in tight, Raymond, I'm going to break the land-speed record to Windsor."

"Oh, Christ. That's all I need. Just don't get us arrested, or I'll kill you, and what Cowley'll do to y--"

"I don't need to know that. I've already had one severe shock today, another is superfluous to requirements. Y'know, we're going to have to do some burglaring before long."

"Yeah," Doyle agreed. "I wish to God there was some way of knowing they're still intact. But we can't go in until Cowley's got the security plan from Electro-Guard."

"Unless," said Bodie, "we take a chance."

"Not with an unknown safe, we don't, sunshine. Let alone a security net straight out of Star Wars. Electro-Guard goes in for infra-red, laser, heat-sensitive, pressure pads -- you name it, they do it."

Bodie was not so much impressed as indignant, but he did not voice it. Once clear of the prison gates, they sprinted for the car, and as Bodie sent the Capri accelerating away, Doyle reached for the mike.

Cowley's reaction could not be read from the momentary silence that followed Doyle's report, and the two operatives found themselves holding their breaths for some reason.

"It would appear," Cowley said finally, "that the odds are stacked against us."

"They usually are, sir." Doyle said. "Until we swing 'em the other way. If you can get the plans from Electro-Guard, and the safe-type, we can go in tonight."

"And if Laurence is at home, which is highly likely?"

"We deal with him," said Bodie, a cold finality in his voice that spoke more than the four prosaic words.

"A hood, a gag and nylon cord'll hold him." Doyle glared at his partner over the microphone. "And anyone who's with him." There was another silence. They could almost read Cowley's mind; a rushed job could be a botched job -- but time was against them, and CI5 operatives were supposed to be able to react efficiently to emergency situations --

"Very well," he said, and they discovered they'd been holding their breaths again, emptying their lungs in a double sigh, both pairs of eyes glittering with the beginnings of an adrenalin surge. "Check out the area. I'll do what's necessary from this end. I should have the plans by the time you get back."

"Yes, sir," said Doyle crisply. "4.5 out."

"There you are," said Bodie, as he replaced the mike on the clip. "The blue-eyed boy. What did I tell you? Keep it up, Ray, and you might be able to ask for that raise you've been on about for years -- and get it."

"If not promotion," he drawled, and settled back to enjoy Bodie's fast and skilful driving as the white car headed out of the city towards Windsor.

Laurence did not keep dogs, which was an advantage. The house and grounds presented enough problems without adding livestock to the list.

Leaving the black Rover 3000 parked unobtrusively in the lane at the rear of the Gables, Bodie and Doyle pulled black ski-hoods over their heads, black gloves on their hands, and tackled the eight-foot boundary wall. It was 1.35 am; they were armed, wore black, close-fitting clothing, had small haversacks strapped to their backs carrying various items of electronic gadgetry for circumventing the security network, plastic explosive for the safe, and they intended to be in and out again in less than thirty minutes. God willing.

There was a light behind the leaded panes that framed the front door, and a faint glow filtered through more leaded panes in the lounge windows from a narrow gap between heavy velvet curtains. Occasionally the light from the lounge blinked out as someone walked across.

Their plans, worked out in meticulous detail during the late afternoon and evening, covered all eventualities, and no discussion was required.

They got in through the back door. Laurence had put all his trust in electronic wizardry and Yale locks; hadn't bothered to fit old fashioned bolts.

Dvorjak's New World Symphony came muted from the lounge, but they didn't head straight for it. Moving like two silent, sable ghosts, they went through the big house checking rooms. All except the lounge were in darkness and empty.

Carefully, Bodie turned the handle and eased the door open. In the subdued light the top of a bald head showed over the back of a large leather armchair. Smoke rose from a cigar in an ashtray on the onyx coffee table, the column of blue swirling as draught from the opening door took it. The operatives slid into the room, any sounds they might have made swamped by the surging music. The only company Laurence had was them. Bodie drew his gun.

"Evenin'," said Doyle.

An expensive lead crystal goblet dropped to onyx and shattered. The pungency of brandy filled the warm air, covering the cigar's aroma. The bald head jerked round as if on strings, and pale eyes bulged at them from behind gold-framed spectacles, horror draining blood from the man's face.

"'Ope you don't 'ave an 'eart condition, mate," Doyle said cheerfully, his accent planted squarely within the sound of Bow bells. "Don't try an' be clever, an' my oppo won't get trigger-'appy."

"What do you want?" Laurence croaked.

"S'funny," Doyle observed. "They always say that, even on the telly. Word's got round, Mr. Laurence, that you keep some nice stuff in your safe, sometimes. We've just popped in to see if we can strike lucky. If we ain't, well, you got some choice antiques knockin' about in 'ere, an' there's always Samarkand, ain't there?"

While he was talking, Bodie was fastening the man's wrists together with nylon cord.

"Who told you about my safe?" Laurence's voice was working a little better.

"No one, me old mate. Just a question of bein' in the right places an' keepin' our ears pinned back. You know what kids are like these days -- can't keep their bleedin' traps shut to save their lives. Goin' to open it up for us, or do we have to use plastic?"

"Plastic?" the jeweller bleated.

"Yeah. As in explosive," Doyle explained. "We don't mind. But your neighbour's hear the bang, an' they might call the filth. You'd 'ave an 'ard job explainin' to them about the stuff we nicked, wouldn't you, Mr. L?"

"There's nothing in there, only papers."

"No kiddin'? then you won't mind openin' it up, willyer?"

"I --" Laurence began, then the bulky shoulders slumped. "All right. -- How the hell did you get in here?"

"Trade secret," Doyle chuckled. "After you."

They had struck lucky. Out of Laurence's safe came gold and silver pendants, chains, bracelets, rings, brooches, bowls, plates, serviette rings, and cups. Including the Bulgarian sapphires. They took the lot.

Laurence was escorted back to the lounge, replaced in his armchair, and his ankles were tied. Doyle added a few more loops and knots to the cords around the man's wrists, gave them an experimental tug.

"That should keep you busy for about 'half-an-hour, sunshine," he said. "Just don't break your dentures. Oh, yes. An' you better give your lads a lecture on shootin' off at the mouth. Evenin'."

They left the way they had come, retracing their steps and dismantling the various by-pass circuits as they went. They did not relax nor speak until they were in the black Rover and heading for London at a sedate pace.

"We should change our jobs," Bodie said. "What's the going market rate on this little package of goodies?"

"Not enough to be kicked out of the mob for," Doyle grinned.

Bodie chuckled, and stretched his stocky frame as much as the passenger-seat would allow. Which was quite a bit. He scrubbed his fingers through the short cap of hair, sweaty from the close-fitting fabric of the hood, and laughed again.

"Thought the poor bastard was going to shit himself," he drawled. "You did a nice job of dropping Connors in it, as well. Did I ever tell you about this devious and vindictive streak I sometimes see in you?"

"Yes," said Doyle."

"Thought I must have done." And decided to enliven the journey with a return to his interrogation. "Who is she, then?"


"Not what, who. This date of yours you won't tell me about. Special, is she?"

"Nice weather for the time of year."

"At least you can tell me her name, can't you?" Bodie snapped, exasperated. "You're not usually so scared of competition -- share and share alike --"

"Not this time."

"Aha. That special, eh? Like Ann Whatsername?"

"Holly. No. Pack it in."

"Not bloody likely! What's so all-fired secret about your latest passion that -- got it!"

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yes. Raymond, my dark horse, you've lost a marble or two and have got hooked on the kinky stuff. News of the World fodder, right? C'mon Ray, you can tell me, can't you? Takes a hell of lot to shock me, mate, I've seen it all. And I promise I won't laugh." He paused, but Doyle did not react. Eyes front, he was concentrating on his driving, face an expressionless mask. Bodie recommenced the attack. "Damages your image, does it?" solemnly, "I can see it all -- you in frilly lace panties, suspenders and silk stockings, her in black leather, spike heels, a whip, riding you hollow -- " Doyle's spontaneous hoot of laughter drowned the rest of it.

"Pack it in," he said again, grinning.

"Partners," said Bodie, hurt, "shouldn't have secrets from each other. Especially in our job."

"Partner you may be, but that doesn't give you a free run through my private life twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We are not Siamese Twins. Right now, though, what you're doing is giving a bloody good imitation of a nagging wife. Do you want to check my lapels for the odd blonde hair, lipstick traces --"

"If I was your wife I'd divorce you. A blonde, is she?"


"Your date!"

"Did I say so?"

"You said blonde hair --"

"A generalization, and insignificant. Do you want me to help you move into the mews flat tomorrow or not?"

"Yes, of course --"

"Then shut up about it."

"Okay," he sighed. "How are you fixed for the weekend? We could set up a date with the girls Saturday evening."


"Friday, then."

"Can't. My weekend's booked up from Friday night on."

"With --" Bodie started, and collected a cold stare from green eyes. "Okay. When will you be free for a double date?"

"Don't know. Go ahead and arrange what suits you, but don't count me in yet."

"It all sounds too bloody hush-hush --" Bodie said, then cut off the sentence himself. "Ray," he said abruptly, "pull over a minute."

"Why? Can't it wait? Cross your legs."

"Want to talk. Seriously. No fooling around."

"Can't it wait?" he said again.


"The next lay-by, then. I'm not stopping here."

Five minutes later, Doyle turned the big car off the road, braked to a smooth halt. Bodie reached up and switched on the ceiling light, the better to watch his partner's face.

"Listen," he said. "Don't jump down my throat, but if someone was putting pressure on you through a girlfriend, you'd tell me, wouldn't you?"

"Sure, I would," Doyle said. "No one's pulling the old badger game on me, or trying to turn me. If they were, you'd be the first to know before I wade in and damage them. We'd both wade in and damage 'em."

"That's okay then," Bodie muttered lamely. "Looks like it's going to turn out to be your lace frillies after all. Bet you look cute."

Doyle smiled tolerantly. The depth of Bodie's brief concern was not lost on him, but he knew Bodie would not want it commented on.

"Seems to me you're the kinky one. I'd've never thought that up," he drawled.

"G'wan, admit it!" A sharp elbow dug into Doyle's ribs. "Tell all to Uncle Bodie. Confession is very good for the soul."

"You," said Doyle," are an aural voyeur. Get your cheap thrills from someone else, if you can't -- uh -- manufacture them first hand, so to speak."

"I'm not absolutely sure, but I think you've just implied something rather questionable about my sexual habits." Outraged virtue in Bodie's face and voice. It was one of his favorite expressions.

Doyle cackled.

"Don't fret, sunshine," he grinned. "I've seen you in action enough times. The only questionable thing about your sexual habits is pride in your ability."

"Nothing wrong with that. If you've got it, and I have, then -- okay, truce. What time are you coming around tomorrow? This morning?"

"Early. I'm seeing Pattie again sometime during the morning, and we'd better have you sorted out as soon as possible."

"Yeah." Bodie half-closed his eyes, sprawling relaxed in his seat. "Y'know, I could get very attached to a place like that," he sighed.

"Know what you mean," Doyle said quietly, Burnham Hall rising in his mind's eye. "Enjoy it while you've got it, Bodie."

"That is the whole philosophy of my life, Raymond," he announced, and was ambushed by a yawn. "Wake me up when we get there."

Cowley received the sapphires with no discernable emotion, of relief, or praise or censure, despite the fact that the jewellery had been recovered with ease and speed and a vast amount of the devil's own luck. All in a day's work. Laurence, he told them, had phoned no one after they'd left, not even Connors. It was possible he was still tied up in his chair, of course. None of them were grieved by the thought.

A short time after Cowley locked the haul in his safe, the two operatives were asleep in their respective beds, alarms unaltered. They would be up at six-thirty, ready to start on the safe house by seven.

Not that there was a lot to do. It was merely a question of shipping in Bodie's personal effects, stocking up the fridge and kitchen cupboards, and making sure the place had that lived-in look. Within a couple of hours it was done, and they sat down to second breakfasts satisfied with their morning's work so far. They ate in the kitchen-dinette, a modernistic creation in pine, ethnic tiles and gleaming chrome, with every labour-saving device available built into the fittings. The L-shaped lounge was rich in deep-piled carpeting, velvet floor-to-ceiling curtains and matching suite, a large sheepskin rug was spread in front of the open fireplace, and the room glowed in cream and gold and burnt-orange. Upstairs, the large bedroom was coloured in cream and gold alone, more sheepskin rugs sprawled about the floor around the king-size bed, and the pine bedroom suite reflected pale sunlight that seeped through windows framed in cream velvet curtains.

"Home, sweet home," was Bodie's verdict, and he let it be known that CI5 could have trouble evicting him from it at the end of the Connors case.

Doyle left him to memorize the layout of his new home, and departed for Holloway via Harrods. If he hadn't wanted the arrest and incarceration of Colin Connors so badly, Bodie's undeserved good fortune would have irked him far more than it did. As it was, Burnham Hall, Connors' eventual comeuppance and his partner's rabid curiosity were partial compensations. Though he'd have to be wary about that curiosity. He was well aware that Bodie would go to any lengths to find answers to questions that did not appear to have answers readily available, no matter how trivial they might be. That could well prove a problem.

In a drab interview room in Holloway, a large box of very expensive Swiss Liqueurs and another of All-gold were exchanged for half a dozen letters. Doyle also received a swift hug across the table from a delighted Pattie, and he felt a momentary pang of regret that he'd be walking out of her life when he left. He would have liked the chance to get to know her better. When she was out of prison, maybe she'd like help finding a job, a place to live, and someone to take her out on the town some evenings to get Holloway out of her system. Though, of course, that would be dependent on Torvenski being out of action, one way or another, unless he could persuade Cowley that he would still be dating girls, if only to camouflage their 'relationship'.

There was little of interest in the letters, save only that they underlined Bodie's reading of Lucy Connors' character. Cowley tapped the lilac sheets into a neat pile, put them into a folder.

"Good," he said. "We'll let the Connors stew quietly in their own juices for a while. Bodie can maintain contact and work out of house 4 at the same time. In fact his F.O. cover will be of use. I'm giving him escort duty on Sir Kevin Morant as of tomorrow. Also as of tomorrow, you'll wear shirt and tie as a matter of course. You'll be going with me to various high level meetings, spending more time away from field duty." That did not go down too well, he noticed.

"You're changing my coding, sir?" and there was a slight anxiety in Doyle's face and voice that had slipped past his control.

"I might," Cowley said. "Certainly you'll be in charge of a couple of operations." The anxiety was replaced by a glitter of anticipation, and Cowley smiled slightly. Ray Doyle was not without ambition.

"Lucy," Bodie murmured, burrowing his face in blonde hair spread over his pillow. Warm silken strands moved under his cheek as the girl stirred, and her perfume filled his head with sweet memories and promises. "Lucy."


He gathered her close, lips exploring her ear and the curve of her throat, one hand caressing down to rediscover the soft plain of her belly and the gold curls below.

"It's half past six."

"Mmmm?" again, and she arched under his touch, thighs parting, her body awake before she was. He chuckled, forgetting what he was going to say for a while. More important at the moment was starting the new day the best way there was, in his book. Lucy was more than willing, welcoming his love-making with an avid, if sleepy delight.

He'd already found out on the previous Wednesday evening that she was no virgin -- neither was she experienced. However, after a weekend's intensive tuition from Bodie, plus her natural aptitude, Lucy Connors was learning that sex was far more of an art than she had originally thought, and was eager to learn more. As Bodie intended she should. He had guessed, correctly, that he was different from her usual run of boyfriends; older, sophisticated, world-wise -- and with the male strength and arrogance that worked on her more effectively than any fabled aphrodisiac. And by Monday, Lucy's infatuation was complete.

Bodie had shown her that her body had been half-asleep for years, had taken her to a depth of pleasure she'd not known before, had played on her like a concert pianist on a Steinway, and had taught her the many ways of pleasing in return. In short, Bodie was the new God in her heaven, and he knew it.

"Lucy," he whispered against her breast.


"It's half past seven. Make up a cup of tea, love?"

Some girls would have laughed, found ways to distract him. Others would have told him to make it himself, or pushed him out of the bed to make it for both of them while they took over the bathroom for half an hour. Lucy, warm, sleepy and sated, slid out of his arms, wrapped his dressing-gown around her, and wandered down to the kitchen, happy to obey. She'd be cooking him breakfast as well, if Saturday and Sunday morning were anything to go by.

Bodie yawned and stretched, a smug and complacent grin on his face. Then he reached for the bedside phone, dialled a number. It was answered on the fourth ring.

"Yeah?" said a brisk voice.

"Good morning," Bodie warbled. "Have a good weekend?"

"Yeah. Great," Doyle said. "You?"

"Likewise. And I still am."

"Anna, Jenny, or Lucy? Or all three?"

"I am not greedy, and my job comes first," he said virtuously.

"I see. Jammy sod. I take it it wasn't much of a sacrifice on your part?"

"Dead right, old son. You ready to tell Uncle Bodie about her yet?"

"Get lost," Doyle chuckled. "Just be thankful you're getting plenty of job-satisfaction. See you around." And the connection clicked out. Bodie snickered, rolled out of bed and ambled into the bathroom. Job-satisfaction was a very gratifying thing. There were times when he thought he should be paying CI5 rather than them paying him. But underneath his complacency there was a thread of disquiet. It wasn't like Doyle to be so close-mouthed about his girlfriends, even when he was half-way serious about them. Except Ann Holly, and he nearly married her. Would have done if she hadn't run out on him. Stupid bitch.

With one side of his jaw shaved clean, Bodie paused. Was Doyle getting that involved again? He hoped not. Being in love to the point of contemplating marriage had not done much for his partner's general efficiency. It had interfered with that cold, clear thinking he'd always admired in Doyle, and, he remembered with a chill, had threatened their team-work.

However, looking back over the week, although he hadn't seen that much of him from Wednesday onwards, he could detect no change in Doyle. His chagrin at having to cancel the double date and at missing out on Lucy Connors was nothing out of the ordinary, and it wouldn't have been there if a serious love affair had entered his life. So, what was he left with? One statement that something had come up that Doyle couldn't get out of. And it wasn't a job.

Family problems?

He continued shaving, anxiety killed. That had to be it. And Doyle wouldn't be likely to discuss family problems with an outsider, even if he, Bodie had been made to feel part of the clan on the few occasions he'd met the Doyle tribe. It would be good for a laugh, though, to carry on the pretence of curiosity, to see if his more outrageous suggestions and probings could get under Ray's skin. They hadn't had a good scrap for months.

Nursemaiding Sir Kevin Morant was not Bodie's idea of fitting work for a CI5 agent of his calibre. He did not enjoy protection work unless there was a specific threat and imminent danger of a hit attempt. Sir Kevin was merely one of half a dozen officials who had attended a conference in Dublin, and subsequent rumours had hinted at a possible reprisal attack on the British attendees. That, in Bodie's not so humble opinion, was no justification for his presence in the F.O. as the man's supposed P.A. and bodyguard. His place was out there in the street-jungle, hunting. He was rather pleased with the analogy and it bolstered his good humour enough to get through the morning without too much visible effort. It could have been worse, of course. Sir Kevin was a decent bloke, and there were perks. Like lunch with Sir K. at his club. Since the club was also Cowley's, he was no stranger to it, but rarely had he eaten there. Sir Kevin dined there almost every week-day, and Bodie went with him.

It was inevitable, therefore, that he would meet his boss -- Bodie did not however, expect to see Doyle as well. Sitting at a table in his good suit and Bodie's dark brown tie, relaxed and at his ease in the company of Cowley and a Special Branch top-dog.

So he ambushed his partner in the cloakroom.

"Still the blue-eyed boy, I see," he drawled.

"Most like a jack-of-all-trades," Doyle said lightly, drying his hands. "I've got to take his place in a discussion group with Scotland Yard next week. He's off to a security conference."

"Discussion group?" Bodie echoed.

"Yeah." Doyle's face expressed his opinion. "'A meaningful exchange of theories, case-histories, future policy and procedural formats.'"

"Bloody hell," Bodie said.

"Quite. I wanted to go undercover on the Connors case, but he wouldn't wear it. But he may change his mind -- I'm working on it. How are you getting along with little Lucy?"

Bodie kissed his fingertips.

"Smooth as silk. She's a real raver, that girl -- fantastic. If your mysterious lady X is half as good, you'll be lucky."

"Huh." Doyle turned away, heading for the door. "Don't forget she's part of an operation, and could be an information source. Have you found out what she knows about her brother and his mates?"

"No, not yet, but --"

"Excuses, excuses. Maybe you're getting lax, Bodie." But there was no jibe in his voice. He was serious.

"Lax?" Bodie squawked, offended. "Listen --"

"Perhaps I better recommend you for a refresher course," his partner said thoughtfully. "You're putting on weight, as well. Can't have that, 3.7."

The cloakroom door was slammed on Bodie's charge and when he jerked it open he met the startled gaze of a retired general. By the time he had manoeuvred past the man's bulk, Doyle was back in his place at Cowley's table, and unassailable.

"You wait," Bodie muttered. "I'll --"

"Pardon?" said Sir Kevin.

"Nothing, sir. Just talking to myself. Insanity is one of the prerequisites of CI5." And for dessert he ordered Black Forest Gateau. Revenge, he decided would be as sweet.

Mid-week, Sir Kevin took a flying visit to Geneva, and his protection was taken over by the operative who watched him at the weekends. Cowley did not want his one contact with Lucy Connors out of the country. Bodie was hoping for a free day, but was disappointed. Summoned to the drab building off Whitehall, he found a few surprises waiting for him.

Cowley's latest secretary, a lovely, leggy, and highly efficient girl -- as were her predecessors -- was wearing an uncharacteristic frown.

"You'll get wrinkles," Bodie told her cheerfully. "Where's the Old Man? In the classroom?"

"What? No." Paula's thoughts were clearly elsewhere.

"Thought he was giving the young hopefuls their blow-by-blow lecture on A Real Case History, or, How CI5 Can Get Away With Almost Anything."

"No, Ray's taking it."

"Eh?" said Bodie, blankly. "Ray who?"

"Doyle, of course," impatiently. "How many Rays do we have, for heaven's sake?"

"Strewth." Which did not go anywhere near expressing his surprise. "What's up, then? The Cow's been called out?"

"No." Paula hesitated, then, in a rush, "he's going for a medical." The frown, he suddenly realized, was anxiety rather than displeasure. "The second one in three weeks," she blurted. "I -- I think something's wrong."

"His leg?" The obvious conclusion.

"I -- I don't know. For God's sake don't spread it around. I shouldn't have said anything, but -- I'm worried about the old b-bastard!" and groped for her handkerchief. She blew her nose with more vigour than gentility, and riffled through her shorthand notebook. "He'll be back in an hour," she said, in control again. "He said for you to wait."

"Oh," said Bodie. Still, if he had to mooch around anywhere kicking his heels, he'd sooner it was CI5 than the Foreign Office. So he took himself off to the canteen to drink coffee and make outrageous suggestions to the women behind the counter.

On the way there he poked his head round the door of one of the small lecture rooms. Doyle saw him, but did not break stride, continuing with his crisp, matter-of-fact rundown on the pictures showing on the screen behind him. Bodie gave him a malicious leer, and carried on to the canteen.

It was occupied by Don Campbell, who had joined CI5 the same time as himself. They'd gone through the initial training period in the same group, had similar backgrounds, and in those early months had become a formidable and unofficial team. Before Cowley had decreed otherwise, teaming both of them with ex-policemen. Now Campbell and Morgan were back at HQ after some weeks undercover in the North.

"Long time, no see," Bodie drawled, sitting opposite him. "How's life, old son?"

"Not so bad. Glad to be back, though."

"I'll bet. Where's Taff, then? Left the poor sod up there?"

"Out on assignment. I'm working the other half of it. Seems like we've missed out on some changes around here -- there's a hell of a lot of news to catch up on."

"No more than usual," Bodie shrugged. Campbell's rugged features showed surprise.

"Well, you're taking it cooler than I thought," he said. "Who's your new partner going to be?"


"Oh, come on. Don't play the stone-face with me. The whisper that's going round about Doyle coming out of the field into admin."

"Rubbish," Bodie snapped, startled, hiding it under scowling anger. "A load of crap. Who told you that?"

"One of the girls said she'd heard Cowley talking on the phone to someone about the possibility of changing Doyle's coding -- sounded pretty vague, though, she said. Didn't the lad get himself shot recently?"

"Yes. A flesh-wound, that's all. He's been passed A1 fit."

"Well, he's certainly doing some stand-in work for The Cow. Some of the other guys are a bit peeved about it."

"Why, for Chrissakes?"

"They're older, higher-ranking, more experience, have been here longer," he said, listing them out on his fingers. Typically, it had taken Campbell only a few hours to glean all the news and the ramifications. "It looks like your oppo's bucking for promotion out of turn, and it's climbed a few noses."

"Not Ray. Drive him potty stuck in here most of the time," Bodie said curtly. "What do you think he jacked the Met for, eh?"

"That's what I'd've thought. But you never can tell, Bodie, my lad. And Ray's a bit of a dark horse at times. Unpredictable. Worse than you, in a way, because you don't expect it from him the way folk do from you."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah, and it's making one or two of the Establishment sweat bricks. Mind you, Taff reckons it's a load of bullshit, but I don't know."

"Taff's right. Doyle is one half of a unit, and what one knows, the other knows." Angry and unsettled, he got to his feet and stalked out, Campbell's 'You sure of that, Bodie?' echoing uncomfortably in his ears.

His unease did not last long, and Doyle himself dispelled it. Bodie returned to the classroom as the new intake were trouping out, and he joined a disgruntled and frustrated Doyle at the front desk.

"Bloody Cowley," the smaller man snarled, shoving assorted notes and files into a folder. "He needn't think he can pull this stunt again. What the hell does he think I am? A field operative or a bloody university lecturer?"

"Gone to see the M.O., hasn't he?" Bodie asked, idly poking through a sliding stock of photographs and transparencies.

"Yeah. Get your paws off. How's it going with the Connors girl?"

"Fine. Been doing quite a bit of stand-by duty for the Old Man these days, I hear."

"Once or twice isn't quite a bit, but it is more than enough," Doyle growled. "I'm fed up with it. I want back on the street."

"Yeah, but if he changes your coding --"


"There's a rumour going round you're being --"

"Not bloody likely!" Doyle exploded. "The only way he can justify that is if I'm passed unfit for active duty. And if he tries it he'll have a fight on his hands!"

"Hey, whoa back," Bodie drawled, eyebrows climbing. "You're over-reacting, mate. It's only a rumour."

"Yeah, well, it better stay that way," his partner snapped, and marched out, spine bristling with indignation.

Bodie chuckled, and followed him, lengthening his stride to catch up.

"You're not pushing for promotion, then?" making a joke of it.

"Nope. Bloody daft idea. Unless the pay's right," he added.

"Naturally." It became clear to Bodie that if Doyle was on the edge of a raise in status, then the impetus did not come from the man himself. Someone else was doing the pushing. "Hey, why don't we go out for a drink this evening? I'm not picking Lucy up until nine. That gives us time for a couple of quick halves."

For a second, he knew that Doyle was on the point of accepting. But then the untidy brown head was shaking.

"Thanks, but I can't make it tonight."

"Not even one quick half?" Bodie demanded incredulously. "A packet of crisps?"

"Some other time?" Green eyes flickered to his face, then away again.

"Raymond, this is beginning to get awfully monotonous," he announced.

"Bodie," snapped Doyle, mimicking his phrasing and intonation, "if the highlight of your social life is having a beer with me --"

"Doyle. Bodie." A crisp bark behind them inspired Bodie to feign a heart-attack. "In my office."

"Sir," said Doyle, obediently about-turning, "Colin Connors -- someone should be keeping an eye on him. If I go in on Fenners --"

"I'm sending Campbell in. Morgan's already with the taxis."

"What?" A yell of outrage, and Doyle pounced into the office on Cowley's heels as if he would like to take his boss by the throat and shake him.

But Cowley rounded on him with a ferocity that took Bodie, at least, by surprise.

"I am the Controller of CI5," he hissed, the sibilance more effective than a bellow. "And until I am forcibly removed from that post you will remember that 'Controller' means exactly that! I have already told you once you're not going inside on that case!"

(Another one over-reacting) Bodie thought, eyes wide under climbing brows. (Unless the M.O. had some bad news to deliver?) But Doyle was not giving ground, which Bodie found equally surprising.

"Connors is a time bomb," he said levelly, hard green eyes locked with a slate-blue gaze as cold as highland lochs.

"Aye, I know that. You don't charge at time bombs, Doyle. That can be as fatal as leaving it too late. You'll have your chance at him. When I say so, and how I say so." He was grim, obdurate, and dominant, and Doyle's eyes finally dropped.

"Yes, sir," he sighed. Not bitter, Bodie realized, but rueful, wryly amused at his own expense -- and then Bodie discovered he was holding his breath. Feeling somewhat foolish, he let it out in an unobtrusive sigh.

Cowley smiled, good humour restored by victory, and he delivered a light blow Doyle's shoulder.

"Patience, 4.5," he drawled, voice rich with amusement. "Only fools rush in, and that young man isn't going to graduate to the big time in the next few weeks, not with his copy-book blotted in Laurence's eyes."

"Unless he thinks he has to prove something." Doyle took the words out of Bodie's mouth.

"That's a possibility," Cowley conceded. "Even so, you will turn your attention to one Harold Skinner. Drugs Squad put him away for seven years for drug offences -- with remissions, he was out four months ago, and he's dealing again. All we have is a possible link with Brittany and the cross-channel ferries. Take Fletcher, Hayes, Bryce and Milwards, and mount an operation. There are the relevant files. I want him, his supplier, the source, and the transportation method." Doyle's expression lightened, while Bodie's jaw dropped, unhinged by three words -- 'mount an operation' -- Doyle did not seem at all amazed. He merely exchanged his folder for the batch of files.

"-- Bodie," Cowley snapped impatiently, and not for the first time, and his agent paid belated attention. "Start feeding Lucy Connors some snippets of information about a rich, well-placed relative of yours."

"The one in the country with the house full of Georgian gold and silver?" he said brightly. "Great Aunt Flora. An aged old maid -- life blighted by a youthful love affair --"

"That'll be enough." Cowley's expression was as effective on Bodie's facetiousness as paraquat on weeds. Unfortunately, it was also temporary. "Don't over-do it, 3.7"

"I dunno," Doyle snickered. "He could always sell it to Women's Own."

"You are a Philistine," Bodie told him. "Which house do I use, sir?"

"Mill Cottage, Henley-on-Thames," Cowley said. "Don't make your relative too far-fetched, we may have to produce her."

"Ah, yes. Tea and crumpets by the river," Bodie burbled happily. "Aunt Flora in chintz and old lace -- playing croquet --"


Out in the corridor, summarily evicted with his ears burning and his ego smarting under a broadside of Cowley's more lethal home-truths, Bodie elaborated upon his Great Aunt Flora.

"Poor old dear," he sighed mournfully. "The Family is quite concerned about her, you know."

"I can imagine," Doyle grinned.

"Oh, she's absolutely harmless, really. Takes high tea with the vicar -- very big in the W.I. -- her rhubarb chutney is devastating -- but she's a little behind the times. Still thinks we have an Empire -- and is convinced Wedgwood Benn is a dinner service --"

"Visit her regularly, do you?"

"Oh, yes. I am very dutiful. And she is very rich. Y'know, Ray, I see her as a frail, bent old lady, white haired, lavender and shawls -- sort of like Cowley, in drag."

There was a stunned silence of about five seconds, then Doyle collapsed against the wall, howling with laughter. Bodie was somewhat taken aback. He didn't think it was that funny. Still, it was nice to have one's wit appreciated.

The carriage clock on the mantel shelf told him it was a quarter to seven, and Bodie was forced to acknowledge that A, he was bored, and B, at a loose end. There was nothing on TV he wanted to see, nothing on the radio to listen to, no books he wanted to read, and he had more than two hours to kill before he met Lucy. A couple of pints with Doyle would have solved both problems, but that was out.

Or was it? If he couldn't nag Doyle to a pub he could get in some therapeutic needling, maybe even winkle information out of him. And it would all help to pass the time, if nothing else.

Shortly afterwards, he parked the Capri in front of Doyle's car, and played his usual fanfare on the doorbell, hunched into his collar against the rain. There was a pause before the intercom crackled.

"What the hell do you want?" demanded a weary and unsurprised voice.

"Just passing by," Bodie said. "Can't I come in? It's bloody wet out here."

"Come on, then," a disgruntled mutter, and the door release clicked.

Bodie let himself into the small yard, and ducked into the flat.

"Nasty weather out there," he said, shaking water from his hair. "Where are you off to, tonight?" eyeing Doyle up and down, from his combed hair, nearly new Arran sweater, best slacks and good shoes. For a short while, at least, his partner looked shop-window-neat. Until he ran his fingers through his hair.

"Out," snapped Doyle, running his fingers through his hair. "Told you I couldn't make it for a beer tonight."

"Yeah, I know. Was just passing, and thought I'd cadge a cup of coffee."

"Is that a hint?" An unwilling smile grew on Doyle's mouth.

"Subtlety," said Bodie, "is my strong point."

"I've noticed," Doyle sighed, and disappeared into the kitchen.

With one ear on the clatterings from that area, Bodie mooched around the living-room. There was a brand-new black attaché case sitting on the table, almost covered by Doyle's good tweed jacket, and he automatically investigated it, knowing Doyle didn't own such a thing. Or hadn't. He opened it, and gaped at the contents.

In a moulded bed of blue felt lay a pistol, surrounded by empty clips, ammunition boxes and other bits and pieces, each in its own compartment. Carefully, almost reverently, Bodie lifted the weapon out of its place; a Walther GSP Match pistol, .22 calibre for competitive target-shooting, an ugly/beautiful piece of work, and not cheap. The butt did not fill his hand, the shaped stocks were uncomfortable. It did not take much of a guess to assume those glossy walnut stocks had been tailored to the narrow hand and thin fingers of Ray Doyle. A very expensive refinement.

A small white card had dropped out as he lifted the gun, and familiar writing caught his eye. He did not need to pick it up to read it. 'This should improve your performance. Good luck. G.' (G for Cowley as in George?) he thought wildly. As improbable as a geriatric snowball in hell, but that was who the writing belonged to -- A mug of coffee was put in front of him, and Doyle took the pistol away, put it back in its place and closed the case.

"Drink it quick, I've got to go soon." he said.

"Off to practice for the next Olympics?"

"Not quite."

"That's a beaut of a gun, Ray. Had it long?"

"No," and he paused, not looking at him. "I'm going to sight it in tonight."

"Oh. Didn't know you're going in for target-shooting."

"Neither did I. But the team captain's a fanatic, and I got my arm twisted."

"Anybody I know?"

"Doubt it. Rob Tuck." Bodie had never heard of him, but he filed the name away.

"Must have cost you a packet," he said. "It sure as hell didn't come out of the Armoury." Doyle shrugged, but did not comment.

"Have you got anything from Lucy about Pattie yet?" he said instead.

"Yes, as a matter of fact." Bodie wandered over to the couch and sprawled on it. Doyle brought both mugs and perched on the arm, and all Bodie could see was his profile. It wasn't very informative. "Cried on me, she did. Was very upset to discover her best friend was into horrid things like cocaine and heroin. She wanted to visit her in prison, but Colin said no. She wrote to her, though. Until Colin found out and said she mustn't."

"Colin said, Colin said," Doyle muttered, scowling into the murky depths of his coffee.

"Quite," Bodie said. "I'm beginning to find it a little tedious myself. Where do you shoot?"

"Keep working on her, and maybe she'll bore the pants off him with 'Bodie says'," Doyle chuckled. "Then the fun'll start. He'll probably rip off Great Aunt Flora out of sheer spite."

"Yeah," Bodie grinned. Then, "Where do you shoot?" There was another fractional pause.

"Out of town."

"I see. Big, black secret, huh? Don't worry, old son, I won't arrive and show you up on the range."

"There's no way you can out-shoot me with a hand-gun," Doyle snapped, rising to the bait.

"Says who? A challenge, Raymond? Any gun, any distance, your choice. This Rob Tuck can officiate."

"You're on. But it'll have to wait for a few weeks, maybe a month. So you better get in some hard practising, Bodie. Come on, drink up, or I'll be late."

"Okay, okay." He sipped the hot liquid, then said abruptly, "What's up with the Old Man and these medical checks? Do you know?"

"No more than anyone else." Doyle's frown deepened. "His leg's been giving him hell lately, and the M.O. sent him to a specialist."

"The visit this morning?"

"No. That would have probably been to find out the results."

"Are they finally going to operate?"

"How the hell would I know?" Doyle snapped, irritated. "He's said often enough he'd sooner have one and three quarter legs and an active job than one and an early pension. He's good for another nine, ten years yet."

Bodie didn't answer. Doyle did know more than most, surprisingly, and didn't sound as if he was convinced by his own argument.

"But if he does get the Golden Handshake before time --" he said after a while.

"But what? We get a new Controller." Doyle put his half-empty mug onto the coffee table. "God knows who. How could anyone replace The Cow? Sod it, the man is CI5. The next one would have to be bloody good to fill those shoes, and off-hand I can't think of anyone who could do it. Or who I'd lay my hide on the line for." And that was the bottom line, the fine print that did not appear on contracts. It took a special kind of captaincy to order men into life-or-death situations, and to have their implicit faith, confidence, and trust that was, of necessity at times, completely blind.

"Me, neither," Bodie said quietly. "That's one of the disadvantages when a leader leads by personal loyalty. Not that he set out to make it that way."

"Yeah," Doyle agreed. "He's just George Cowley."

"Cowley's Irregulars," Bodie toasted the unofficial name with his coffee. "He's the best bloody commander I've ever had."

"Sod it, this is sounding like a bloody wake!" his partner flared, and bounced to his feet, angry and restless. "Drink that stuff and hop it, will you?"

"Okay," he sighed, and drained the mug. "Do you have to be so obvious about it? My feelings could be hurt." But he let himself be chivvied out of the flat with only token protests, sprinted through the pelting rain to his car and drove off.

He didn't go far. He parked the Capri out of sight, walked back to the corner and waited, invisible in the night-shadows.

At seven-thirty a familiar Rover drew up, Cowley got out and rang the doorbell. Doyle joined almost immediately, attaché case in his hand. The two men got into the car, Doyle behind the wheel, and the Rover accelerated smoothly away. Conversation between them had been brief, and the gusting wind and rain had carried most of their words away from Bodie's straining ears. But he'd heard enough to learn that agent 4.5 and the Controller of CI5 were on first-name terms.

"What the hell --?" he demanded aloud.

Slowly Bodie returned to his car. He was wet, soaked to the skin across the shoulders, and cold. But physical discomforts were ignored.

The number of times his partner had been in the unprecedented situation of standing in for Cowley at important meetings, the primary lecture the Old Man had never before delegated, the instruction to mount an operation, added to Cowley's possible health deterioration, all seemed to add up to one thing.

Cowley had decided Doyle was going to be a contender for the succession, and was grooming him accordingly. It was a sobering thought.

If his partner had been some ten years older, then, yes, he could see that he would be a bloody good choice as Controller. But right now the man himself not only hadn't the experience for that kind of upward step, but would be more than unwilling to take it. Of that, Bodie was sure, and he couldn't see Cowley missing it, either. Of course, a lot depended on what kind of time-scale Cowley was working to, why and when he had made up his mind that Doyle would follow him. But Bodie had a feeling that it couldn't be a long one; the change in duties were coming too fast and frequent for it to be years rather than months. Which just didn't make sense.

One other thing puzzled Bodie. Did Doyle, or did Doyle not, know he was the Heir Apparent? On the one hand he obviously knew a lot more about Cowley's condition than he was letting on, and was worried about it. On the other, he resented the assignments that took him out of field while accepting, as a matter of course, that he had been singled out for those and other responsibilities. Like the Skinner operation. And where in all that, did the expensive target pistol and Rob Tuck fit in? Social grooming? Bodie speculated -- getting to know the right people -- 'How to be Polite and Subservient to Politicians and Still Get Away With Blue Murder.' -- If anything was guaranteed to get Doyle's goat, that would. His own feelings were ambivalent; a mixture of puzzlement, amusement, irritation, and a growing unease. The question of Doyle's latest lady and his secrecy concerning his outings lost all importance in the face of these new developments.

He had plenty of time to return to the Kensington mews and change into dry clothes. Plenty of time, too, to review again the last two weeks and the actions-reactions of his partner and Cowley. All of it underlined his assumption, and if he was right, which seemed pretty certain, where did that leave him? Partnerless, or teamed with another operative. Neither option filled him with enthusiasm, but he'd take the former if he had to. The latter wasn't even in the running as far as he was concerned.

In the meantime, he was on assignment, and Lucy Connors should be receiving all his attention. He was certainly receiving all hers.

She had been watching for him from the window of the first floor flat, and was waiting in the doorway as he ran up the stairs. In her three inch spike-heels, she was nearly as tall as he was, but slender boned fragility gave her a model's elegance, and the smile that had glowed charm even in a CI5 surveillance photograph transformed an already lovely face.

He folded her into his arms and kissed the mouth raised to him. The scent and the taste and the feel of her started the slow sweet fire in his blood, but he was in no hurry. First a meal in a West End nightclub, then either back to Kensington or Battersea for the rest of the night.

"Ready?" he murmured in her ear.

"Yes, I'll get my coat. It's not still raining, is it?" touching his hair with loving fingers.

"'Fraid so. But the car's right outside."

"Bodie," long -- naturally long -- eyelashes swept down, and she cuddled closer, "can we stop off at the De Vaux? Just for a little while?"

"Sure," he said. "Any particular reason?"

"Colin'll be there --"

"Fine. We'll all have a drink." He kissed her again, gently, then released her to gather up the white hooded jacket on the back of the couch. "Where is the De Vaux?"

Once in the car, she gave him directions interspersed with happy chatter, to which he listened with less than half an ear. She was, he gathered, pleased that he and Colin were going to meet, was sure they'd like each other -- they had a lot in common -- she'd told Colin all about him -- Bodie swallowed a snort of amusement, remembering Doyle's cheerful speculation.

This coming meeting was something he's been looking forward to ever since they'd started on the Connors case. It would be highly interesting to meet in the flesh the man who'd become virtually an obsession with his partner, and he'd judge for himself if Doyle's instincts were right, or a symptom of paranoia. All Doyle was going on were a series of reports from people with grudges -- circumstantial evidence, the lot of it, he decided smugly, congratulating himself on thinking like a cop, as Doyle should be doing. Okay, there was no question that Connors was bent, but was he also the potentially dangerous villain Doyle seemed to think? He, Bodie, would give his expert opinion, based on a long-term observation of and association with the more chancy members of the human race.

Even without the benefit of the many photographs taken of the man, Bodie would have recognized Lucy's brother immediately. Expensively dressed in tailored suede jacket, cords and tooled leather boots, Colin Connors was another whose photos did not do him justice. The likeness to his twin was startling, the feminine softness of Lucy transformed in his features to masculine strength and extreme handsomeness. The charm was there, too, in the ready smile. But it was a conscious thing with him, and the grey eyes were cool, assessing, and resentful. Dislike was instantaneous and mutual.

Bodie smiled his best shark-smile.

"Hello," he said, shaking the offered hand. "Glad to meet you, Colin. Lucy told me a lot about her one and only brother."

"Really?" polite, cautious.

"Yes, really. What'll you have?"

"Perrier water for me."

"Right. Cinzano, love?"

"Please." Lucy linked her arms through theirs, joining the three of them into a single unit. Face flushed with excitement, eyes brilliant, she was lovely enough to stop a man in his tracks, but she was unaware that, temporarily at least she was not the centre of attention for her two men.

Bodie ordered the drinks, paid for them with a fiver from a packed wallet, and settled down to an enjoyable quarter of an hour in a verbal parry and riposte with an increasingly hostile Connors. His opponent had a quick intelligence, Bodie discovered, a biting sarcasm that was delivered with smiling charm, and a deep-seated objection to having his authority challenged. With the aid of two inch heels on his Frank Wright boots, Connors was three inches taller than Bodie; he tried to use the psychological advantage the extra height should have given him, and failed. Bodie had been looked down on by better men than him, and had cut them down to size without any problem. But the tension between them grew; two dominant, arrogant males clashing head-on in an instinctive aggression, the young hound and the battle-wise wolf, savagery cloaked by civilized convention.

Just as Bodie was thinking it was time they left before he gave in to the urge to needle Connors into starting something, they were joined by a red-haired young man, Pete Elland. There was a certain amount of sullenness about the newcomer, an expression of dissatisfaction on an averagely forgettable face, and there was constraint between him and Connors. The aftermath of the CI5 burglary on Laurence, Bodie speculated, and would have liked to have drawn Elland into the conversation. But Connors, either wishing to continue the duel, or wanting to keep his friend out of it, was determined to hold the floor. Bodie let him do so, viewing the silent challenges thrown down by body-language with the cynical amusement of a master studying a tyro. Clearly Connors considered himself top-dog on his particular dung-hill, and recognised Bodie as a palpable threat. Consequently Bodie, being who and what he was, permitted a little of that condescension to show through. Connors saw it, recognised it, and was not skilled enough to rise above it.

But all the underplay was completely lost on Lucy.

"I knew you two would get on," she laughed as they returned to the car.

"We should double-date some time," Bodie said smoothly. "You and me, Colin and his fiancée. He looks a lot like you."

"Don't tell him that," she giggled. "He gets very cross -- says I look like him, not him like me. But I can't see the difference." And she shrugged.

"Semantics," Bodie said. "What would have happened if we didn't hit it off?"

"Happened?" Lucy echoed, eyes wide. "Nothing. What do you mean?"

"Supposing Colin doesn't approve of your choice of boyfriend, what happens? Does he tell you to chuck 'em, or what?"

"Heavens, no! Well, once or twice he's warned me about a boy -- and he's been right -- one was married, and another had been in prison. But he likes you. I know he does."

Bodie laughed, and stroked her cheek.

"Let's hope he continues to like me," he murmured. "I wouldn't want to be ditched because he suddenly decided he didn't like the way I comb my hair."

"Don't be silly," Lucy giggled again. "I wouldn't do it, even if he told me to."

"That's nice," he said. "And fortunate. Because, Lucy, my love, I would not let you chuck me over. His mate didn't seem too happy. What's up with him? Toothache?"

"Pete? No. One of his deals fell through, I expect. He buys broken-down cars, repairs them and sells them on. He makes quite a bit of money that way."

"Colin helps him, does he?"

"Sometimes, but he's not that interested in car engines. You did like him, didn't you?"

"Love at first sight," Bodie assured her solemnly. "But you're much prettier, so I'll stick with you." She giggled in delight, and he found himself wincing. "Well, having met part of your family, I'll see what I can arrange for you to meet part of mine."

"Who? Your parents? Sister, brothers?"

"My God, sounds like a tribal convention. No, love, I don't have any brothers or sisters, my father is dead, and my mother I wouldn't inflict on my worst enemy. Great Aunt Flora," he pronounced with something of a flourish. "A dear old soul, and an excellent excuse for a weekend in the country."

"Sounds fun. Where does she live?"

"Henley-on-Thames. Well, just outside. She has this cottage on the river. Like a picture on a bloody chocolate box. I've told her about you, and she's insisting I bring you out to see her."

"Oh." Lucy sounded doubtful. "She's not -- I mean, she won't -- will she --"

"My sweet, she is not a dragon-lady, I promise. She's a vague, empty-headed maiden aunt who doesn't know how to think ill of anyone. She'll adore you, because you are young and lovely and totally captivating."

"Flatterer. Don't you get along with your mother?"

"No. We loathe each other."

"Bodie!" she protested. "You can't! I mean -- your mother -- nobody loathes their mother!"

"I do," he said cheerfully. "Can't stand the sanctimonious old bitch. She won the Nobel Prize for Hypocrisy, you know."

"Stop it," laughing, but unsure. "Tell me about Aunt Flora?"

So he launched into an enthusiastic catalogue of the mythical lady's charms and idiosyncrasies that dispelled any doubts and uncertainties Lucy may have had. At the same time he was wondering with a certain malicious delight who Cowley would land for the role of Flora Bodie.

Having now met both Connors and Elland, Bodie was free to pump the girl for information. She needed little excuse to talk about her brother and his friend, but could tell Bodie little that he didn't already know. But she did admit that there had been a major disagreement recently, and that Connors had been in a foul mood for days. It had all blown over, and things were back to normal. She hadn't an idea, though, as to what had caused it in the first place.

The evening and night followed Bodie's preset design, and he left Lucy's bed in the early hours to return to Kensington. He was tailed by the brown Scimitar belonging to Colin Connors.

"Well?" demanded Cowley.

"Colin does not love me," Bodie mourned, and Doyle snickered with amusement.


"And he may well do something about it, sooner rather than later."

"Is he dangerous?"

Bodie considered the question.

"Yes," he said eventually. "He's cold, calculating, and ambitious. Got an inflated sense of his own importance, as well. Which is what everyone else has been telling us. But he hasn't got the flair to be a high-powered villain, though he's vicious enough to cause a problem or two." At his side, Doyle was nodding agreement.

"That's what your instincts tell you?" Cowley pressed, and Bodie shrugged.

"Yes. He's a nasty piece of work that needs stepping on, and he's likely to savage your ankle while you do it, if he can't get you first."

"Murder?" Doyle put in.

"If he thought he could get away with it. The trouble with him is he sees himself as a genius, and the rest of us as cretins put there for his benefit. And he hates competition."

"Sooner rather than later," Cowley murmured thoughtfully. "I can get Henley set up by the weekend. Lucy can be relied upon to talk freely?"

"Like the proverbial babbling brook," Bodie said, voice rueful, "to whoever'll listen. He'll have no trouble getting information out of her."

"Good. Give Paula a run-down on all you've told the girl about this -- er --"

"Great Aunt Flora," Doyle supplied, straight-faced. "Who will you send in, sir?"

"An ex-MI5 and 6 operative," Cowley said. "She should fit Bodie's Aunt Flora to a T. And if Connors does attempt the Georgian plate, she can more than take care of herself."

"What's her name?" Doyle asked, intrigued.

"Ruth Wojeck," he replied, and smiled at their blank faces. "I'd've been surprised if you had heard of her. Ask Hendricks about her, Doyle. He could tell you stories about Ruth that would take the curl out of your hair." Then the smile disappeared, and he looked at Bodie with cool disapproval. "About your expenses, 3.7. They are excessive."

"But, sir --!" Bodie protested.

"I suggest that having impressed the child, you now take her to somewhat less prestigious restaurants and nightclubs."

"Yeah," said Doyle with a grin. "Take her slumming."

"That's an idea," Bodie countered. "I'll bring her round to your place for a meal."

"Failing that," Cowley raised his voice above the exchange, "your expenses will no longer be met on this particular case. Taking advantage of Lucy Connors is one thing, taking advantage of petty cash is another."

"Oh, well," Bodie sighed, accepting the inevitable. "It was good while it lasted. I hope she'll settle for Aunt Flora's rhubarb chutney."

"Sir," said Doyle, deflecting the broadside Cowley was about to deliver. "Can we set up another bait for Connors, as well as Henley? One of the girls using West End Taxis and getting friendly? Like Irina."

"Aye, it's an idea. And it'll keep him away from the general public. But it's out of your jurisdiction, 4.5. You should be giving Skinner your attention."

"Yes, sir," Doyle sighed.

"On your bikes, then. You're spending too much time off the street," Cowley snapped, and they removed themselves from his office with more haste than dignity.

"Bloody hell, he's in a chancy mood these days," Bodie muttered.

"Yeah. Leg's giving him gyp, so he gives us gyp," Doyle said. "Q.E.D."

"Q.E.D., eh? How did the shooting go last night?"

"Pretty good once I got it sighted in." He gave an almost embarrassed chuckle. "Couldn't bloody miss if I tried."

"I see. On the team, are we?"

"No, not yet. I'm not a full club-member, but it's getting pushed through the Committee as fast as Rob and a few others can manage."

"Good God, Raymond, what are you involved with? The Mayfair Mafia?"

"Don't be daft. It's only a sports club."

"Only, he said, clutching more than a couple of hundred quid's-worth of small-bore target pistol to his bosom. Do they have full-bore shooting as well? Rifle?"

"Yeah, both."

"Then why .22?"

"Why not? Sod it, I can fire anything up to .44 magnum every working day. This is target shooting, not practical. It's different. Disciplined."

"If you say so, old son. Does your Lady X know she has a Walther GSP for a rival?"

Doyle grinned.

"I'm taking Jenny to the Casa Roma tonight," he said. "Are you working or can you bring Anna along?"

"Aha. The plot thickens. I should think I could persuade her to waste an hour or two in your company."

"Don't force yourself. When do you see Lucy next?"

"Tomorrow night. Thought I'd give Big Brother a chance to work on her if he wanted to. But he's more likely to move against me first."

"Yeah," Doyle frowned. "You ought to have someone watching you."

"That, Raymond," said Bodie acidly, "is what partners are for."

Doyle didn't answer, but his frown deepened, and he shoved his hands into his jacket pockets, face sullen and unhappy.

But he had regained his good humour by the evening, and the double-date was a cheerfully dissolute success ending up at Anna's flat.

Bodie had not been followed during the evening, but when he got back to Kensington round about four o'clock, he was not too tired, sated, or hungover to notice the brown Scimitar parked a short way from the mews entrance. Connors may be an expert with security systems, Bodie decided, smirking as he fitted the key in the lock, but he wasn't worth a damn when it came to surveillance.

He made his careful way up the stairs, and into the bedroom, stripping off his clothes as he went. The shirt, he discovered, was Doyle's. That struck him as funny, and he was snickering as he collapsed on the bed, bundling the duvet about himself like a cocoon. They'd dressed in too much of a hurry -- as usual on double dates with Anna and Jenny. In fact, only one thing cast a slight shadow over his memory of the evening; he had not had the chance to get Doyle on his own and quiz him about his apparent rise in Cowley's favour, and find out what was in the wind regarding the Old Man's health, retirement, and successor. Since he, Bodie, had a vested interest in all of the ramifications, he intended to get to the bottom of it, no holds barred, in the fastest possible time. No more pussy-footing about. And if Doyle did harbour delusions of grandeur, and saw himself as the next Controller of CI5, he would make sure his partner received a very rude and swift awakening. That decided to his satisfaction, Bodie fell asleep.

Two and a half hours later, the alarm dug him out of a pleasant dream, and he lurched for the bathroom, heavy-eyed, heavy-headed, and yawning. It took him a little while to realize it wasn't the bathroom of his Chelsea flat, that things were in different places, and that he wasn't going to find his shaving gear in the airing cupboard. But by the time he'd showered, shaved, and downed the first of several cups of black coffee, he was more alert than he had any right to be.

Which was as well, because the doorbell rang, and it wasn't the postman.

"Colin," he beamed on the blond, clean-cut vision on the doorstep, marvelling at the youth who could sleep all night in his car and still look like a fashion-plate at seven in the morning. "Come on in, old son. Coffee? What can I do for you at this ungodly hour?"

"I was passing on my way to work," Connors said easily, following him into the living room. "Though we could have a chat."

"Why not?" Bodie drawled, pouring coffee. "Sugar, or are you sweet enough?" Connors blinked at him, and his smile came a fraction too late.

"No, thanks. I would have called last night, but you were out."

"That's right. F.O. business. In other words, a diplomatic booze-up."

"Feeling fragile?" Connors asked, one eyebrow climbing. Bodie cackled.

"Not so you'd notice," he said. "Anything in particular you want to talk about?"

"Yes. Lucy."

"Lucy?" Bodie feigned surprise. "Aren't you a little young for that?"

"For what?" Connors snapped, a faint staining of colour on his cheekbones.

"The Victorian father bit. Are my intentions honourable, and all that."

"You haven't got it quite right." Connors put down his untasted coffee. "It's more a case of 'Never darken my doorstep again'. And all that."

"What?" said Bodie, blanking, enjoying himself.

"Our parents live in Guernsey, so I am sort of -- in loco parentis -- if you know what that means. And I don't think you're the kind of man I want my sister associating with."

"Now, hold on a minute, Connors," he started. "You can't --"

"It's a nice place you've got here, Bodie. It would be a crying shame if anything happened to it."


"As I was saying, I don't approve of you and Lucy. So you won't be seeing her again. You can phone her, tell her the date's off, and --"

"Colin, my son," Bodie smiled lovingly on him. "You can strut and crow like a bantam cock, but it won't do you any good. I like Lucy. I like Lucy very much. And she likes me very much. In fact, she loves cooking for me, sewing buttons on my shirt, warming my slippers, and is fantastic in bed. Which she also loves. I am not giving her up on your say-so."

There was white, pinched look about Connors' nostrils, and his mouth was a furious line.

"Bodie, I'm warning you," he whispered. "Keep away from Lucy, or you'll regret it."

"Really? How? What are you going to do about it? Stamp your foot? Write rude graffiti on my door? Hold your breath until you turn blue? If that's all you've come to say, you better hop it, sonny, before you get your ear clipped."

Connors took a step forward, but Bodie did not react. He remained relaxed and smiling, supremely confident. Connors drew himself up to his full height, and matched him coolness for coolness.

"Threats can be empty things, Bodie, and I don't make them. I don't fool around with bluffs, either. So I'm telling you. Stay away from Lucy if you want to keep your home and your kneecaps intact. A five-pound hammer can do a lot of damage."

"Do tell," Bodie snickered. "Colin, you'll make a lousy brother-in-law. I think Lucy would be better off removed from your highly dubious influence. On your bike, boy. You've wasted enough of my time."

"You are going to be very sorry," Connors said evenly, and walked out.

Bodie bounced to the phone and dialled Doyle's number.

"My kneecaps are in danger," he announced gleefully, as a yawning voice answered. "So's the pad. Colin the Wonder Boy has been talking hammers."

"Doesn't waste time, does he?" Doyle said, abruptly and fully awake.

"Nope. He was waiting in his kiddie-car when I got home, but at least was civilized enough to let me have a couple of hours sleep."

"Considerate of him."

"That's what I thought. I could get quite fond of the boy." He held the phone away from his ear as Doyle hooted with derisory laughter. But it became clear to Bodie that his partner was not entirely happy with the situation.

"Listen," Doyle said abruptly. "Watch it. He's moving too fast for my liking, and this could turn sour on us."

"Don't worry. I know what I'm doing," he said, "and I can handle that young punk with one hand tied behind my back. My kneecaps have been threatened by better men than him."

"That I don't doubt. Sod it, why the hell did he have to land me with the Skinner op?"

"Thought you were pleased about it."

"I was," he snapped. "But -- listen, crud-head, do anything stupid, and I'll damage your guts, let alone your bloody kneecaps!" and the phone was slammed down.

Exasperated, Bodie glared at his phone.

"You are getting as bad as the Cow," he announced, and replaced the receiver on its rest with meticulous care.

He travelled to the CI5 building via the Foreign Office, just in case Connors was still playing Junior James Bond, and headed for Cowley's office on the fourth floor. He passed Morgan on the way, and collected a rather strange stare along with the greeting.

"Hey," said Bodie, stopping in his tracks. "What's up, Taff?"

"Nothing," Morgan shrugged.

"Then why look at me as if I've sprouted two heads overnight?"

Morgan's glance slid away.

"It's nothing to do with me," he muttered. Then swore under his breath. "Fuck it, yes, it is. Bodie, we've got to talk."

"What about?"

"A possible security problem," Morgan said, voice and face expressionless. Bodie's eyebrows climbed.

"You should be talking to Cowley, mate, not me."

"Bodie, he is the problem."

"What?" disbelief and anger coming suddenly. "Never in a million years!"

"We can't discuss it here. Not in a bloody corridor!"

"Okay. Where?"

"St. James' Park. The Horse Guards' Gate."

"How traditional. Morgan, you better have a convincing story, or I'll have your guts for garters."

"You'll probably try it anyhow," he snapped, and went on his way, stride lengthening as if he wanted to be out of range of Bodie's angry questions as soon as possible.

Bodie did not leave straightway. He poked his head round Paula's door.

"Where's Ray, d'you know?" he asked.

"With Mr. Cowley." She didn't look up from the notes she was typing.

"Damn. I'll catch him later. Tell him to hang around for me, it's important."

"All right."

Both Morgan and Campbell were waiting for him by the park gates, which was unexpected since Campbell was supposed to be driving a delivery van for Fenners. But Bodie was not deflected.

"Okay," he said without preamble. "Cough up, and it better be good."

Morgan did not look happy. Campbell's rough-hewn features were expressionless. "Well?"

"Where's Ray?" Morgan asked quietly.

"With Cowley. I couldn't get hold of him."

"Yes, well," the Welshman cleared his throat, uncomfortable and obviously unsure where to start. Bodie did not help him. Neither did his partner. "I overheard a shouting-match," he said. "This morning, just before you turned up. Between Cowley and Ray."

"Ray?" he said blankly. "What's he got to do with it? He's not a security --"

"Let Taff finish, Bodie," Campbell put in.

"Ray was tearing into the Old Man, really laying down the law. He didn't like being hauled in off the streets -- he wasn't going to have his coding changed -- he wasn't going to have the team split -- and he wasn't going to put up with being treated like a piece of eggshell porcelain. Unquote."

"So?" demanded Bodie, "what's fishy about that? He --"

"Cowley said something about not wanting to risk his life, I couldn't catch it all." Morgan paused. "Then he said -- clear as a bloody bell -- 'I don't want to lose you now I've only just discovered you.' And Ray said --"

"Now, hold on a minute --"

"Ray said," Morgan ploughed on remorselessly, "that they'd agreed their relationship wouldn't affect their jobs, and that if Cowley continued to wrap him up in cotton-wool he'd walk out on him, and he could find someone else to warm his bed --" He ducked and leaped back as Bodie attacked, but Campbell had been waiting for it as well, and got a chokehold on the furious man, ignoring the curious stares of passers-by.

"Pack it in," Campbell snapped, tightening his hold. He was inches taller, and pounds heavier, but knew that wouldn't count for much if Bodie got into his stride. "Cool off, damn you! What are you trying to do? Get us all arrested?" Bodie stopped trying to get at Morgan, and after a while Campbell let him go. "That's better."

"You misheard it. Ray's not queer," Bodie said, voice rigidly controlled.

"I didn't mishear it," Morgan said quietly, "and I don't give a sod who he sleeps with, until it becomes a potential security risk. Whether it's a diplomat's wife -- or the Controller of CI5 -- the risk is there. The KGB would leap on that with happy little cries of joy. I overheard it, and I wasn't the only one passing the door even if I made sure I was the only one hanging around with his ears flapping. You know how rumours get around, even in our Department. If it leaks outside, Cowley -- and Ray -- could find themselves up to their necks in shit."

"You misheard it," Bodie repeated, jaw jutting stubbornly.

"Okay, find your own proof, and while you're at it, just remember that if I misheard, so did a few others. In the meanwhile, what do we do about it?"


"Use your gumption, man," Campbell sighed. "Suppose Gregor and his mates got hold of it? Regardless of whether it's true or not, it's still damaging to a man of Cowley's rank. So do we let him know they've blown their cover, and to watch it, or what?"

"Never mind Gregor. There are enough politicians of our own who'd like to sling CI5 on the scrapheap," Morgan said. "Or see Cowley out of a job. Wouldn't do Ray's career any good, either. Look great spread all over the Sundays, wouldn't it? It'd make the Thorpe case look like Jackanory."

"Cowley wouldn't be so stupid as to get himself in that kind of mess!" Bodie kicked savagely at a stone. "Nor would Ray. He's not queer."

"So warn him," Morgan suggested. "He's your partner. Tell him what could come down, the way it looks between him and the Old Man."

"The way it looks," Bodie snapped, "is that Cowley's leg is pushing him to an early retirement, and that he's decided Doyle is going to be the next Controller. He can swing a Government appointment, with his background and track-record. Or hadn't that occurred to you?"

"Yeah. It had occurred," Morgan said. "And until I heard the argument, that's all I thought it was. Maybe it started out that way, I don't know. But there's a whole lot more to it now."

"No. They wouldn't be so bloody stupid." But his voice was a whisper. "Look. I'd've known, wouldn't I? If Ray was queer -- fuck it, he doesn't even swing both ways. Straight as a bloody die, he is! We've had enough double-dates and weird parties for me to know if he wasn't. As for Cowley -- for God's sake, we're talking about an ex-MI5 man who's made CI5 what it is. Do you honestly think Cowley is going to risk losing the Department, or endangering its security merely because he's in lust for a bloke? It doesn't wash, mate. That man would sacrifice his own mother for CI5 -- he may well weep tears of blood while he did it, but he'd do it."

"I heard --"

"Yeah. Okay. You heard. Maybe you were meant to hear. Thought of that one? If I were you, I'd forget about what I did or didn't hear, and carry on as if nothing had happened. Could be Cowley's mole-hunting." He turned on his heel and walked away from them, furious, confused and hurting. His spur-of-the-moment could be the truth, but regardless of his arguments against Morgan's evidence, he could see a possible pattern there that might link the two men. More unlikely things had happened in the past, and Cowley's own private life of virtual celibacy was in itself a strong factor. Not that he gave a damn either way. The Old Man could screw his way through the whole of CI5 for all he cared -- it wouldn't change either his loyalty, confidence or blind trust. But when he got to Ray Doyle, Bodie drew the line. Drew the line, built the security fence and put up the signs. Keep Out. Restricted Area.

His temper was held down to a slow, dangerous simmer by the time he got back to Whitehall. Doyle was in the restroom, drinking coffee, and an aura of anger hung around him. That much, at least, Morgan had got right, Bodie reflected. Doyle had had a shouting-match with someone, okay, and the aftermath of unspent energy seemed to cackle around him like static electricity. A wrong word from either of them, and if Bodie wasn't careful they'd be at each others' throats. That, he knew, would solve nothing, and would certainly not provide any answers.

"Morning," he said. "Pour me some of that rotgut, will you?" Without speaking, Doyle obliged. Bodie spooned in sugar, stirred and drank slowly. "How's the Skinner op?"


"That all?"

"What d'you want? A bloody report?"

"No. I want to know how he gets it into the country so I can use the same way for the duty-free next time I'm over there," he snapped back.

"You'll have to wait, then. I don't know yet. Still hanging on for word from some old contacts."

"Sweeney and Drug Squad days?"

"Yeah. Called in a few favours. Sod it, Bodie, it's a case they could have handled as well as us, unless Cowley's holding out on a possible diplomatic tie-in."

"Maybe he's waiting for you to find that out for yourself?" Bodie grinned. "You know what a devious old bastard he is." He collected a sour look.

"Don't I just. But I asked him, and he said no. For what it's worth." Doyle refilled his coffee-mug, topped up Bodie's. "All I've got so far is that the runs are irregular -- no fixed time, and at a few hours notice. They don't use hovercraft or the planes, just the ferries. And I haven't found the common denominator yet."

"You will," Bodie said with confidence. "How about a couple of pints tonight before I see Lucy?" Doyle's face brightened.

"Yeah. Okay."

"I'll drop by at sevenish."

"Fine. What did Cowley say about Connors? How do you handle it?"

"Dunno. Haven't told him yet. In fact, I suppose I'd better. What kind of mood is he in this morning?"

Doyle glared into his coffee.

"Probably chancy. What was the important thing I had to hang around for?"

"Uh, nothing. A false alarm."

"Oh. Keep me posted on Connors?"

"Sure." Bodie drained his mug and started for the door. "Where'll you be?"

"Soho, the docks, don't know for sure. Control'll locate me."

"Right. Don't talk to any strange men."

"Are you kidding?" Doyle snorted. "I've been doing nothing else but since I joined this mob."

Bodie gave him the two-fingered salute, and went out. As soon as the door shut between him, his jauntiness became grim determination, and he made for Cowley's office. The short while in Doyle's company had only served to reinforce his conviction that Morgan had misheard. Theoretically it was possible, but in reality? He tried to imagine a scenario -- Cowley and Doyle, naked in an embrace -- and a surge of scarlet fury swamped the picture.

He thrust open the door to Cowley's office and entered without ceremony. Cowley looked up from his desk.

"It's customary to knock, 3.7," he said coldly.

"Yeah," said Bodie. "I will. Next time. Sir."

"Well? What is it?" Cowley took off his glasses and leaned back, a glitter of anger in his eyes. "I take it you do have something to report that'll explain your presence away from the operation?"

"Yes, sir." He got hold of the acid comment that burned on his tongue and flattened it, along with all visible emotion. "Connors warned me off Lucy. He's moving fast -- too fast, maybe, if you want to keep his comeuppance a safe distance from the Bulgarian sapphires. How do you want me to react, sir?"

"How did you react, Bodie?"

"Called his bluff, told him to quit wasting my time and to run away and play somewhere else. Only he wasn't bluffing."

"He threatened you? With what?"

"Said he'd take a hammer to my pad and my kneecaps. We could always get him on attempted GBH."

"Not enough. That young man needs to have his ego and self-confidence cut down to size."

"Much as I'd like to do that, sir, Ray's claimed first crack at nailing him."

"Yes." A smile softened Cowley's mouth. "He's taken quite an aversion to Connors, without having met him."

"Him and his copper's instincts," Bodie said lightly.

"It usually pays off, just as your instincts and hunches do. Play the man along, Bodie. Call his bluff, but keep the peace."

"I see. Defend myself, but don't hospitalise him."

"Correct. As soon as Doyle's wound up the Skinner operation, he'll be handling the other side of the Connors case."

"Oh. I'll be reporting to him, then, sir?"

"No," Cowley snapped, good humour gone. "Report to me. You two are a team."

"Glad to hear it," Bodie cut back. "I was beginning to wonder. Is that all, sir?"

"Yes. Get back to the Foreign Office. Sir Kevin will be in on the midday flight, and you'd better be there to meet him. I'm arranging for monitoring of Laurence's phonecalls, so we'll have some idea of Connors' future activities -- always supposing they are still working together. You'll be kept informed. On your way."

"Yes, sir."

An unsatisfactory interview for Bodie, answering none of his questions. He returned to the Foreign Office to kick his heels and speculate on matters official, and matters unofficial that might become too official --

By half-past-six, he was on Doyle's doorstep, attempting the 1812 Overture on the bell.

"You're early," his partner said, letting him in. "They're only just open. Barely got the beer warmed up."

"Yeah, well," Bodie muttered, sprawling on the couch. "Was ready sooner than I thought." Doyle grinned down at him.

"Worried about Big Brother walking in on you with his hammer?" he drawled. "I'm still drinking coffee. Want some?"

"Yeah, thanks. Any food going?"

"Didn't you eat?"

"Er, no. Must have forgot."

"Bloody hell, Bodie. What's wrong with you? In love or something?"

"Huh. Colin's not my idea of a brother-in-law. Have you heard any more about Cowley's leg? I didn't have the nerve to ask him myself."

"Yeah." Doyle turned away, busied himself with coffee, milk, sugar and mugs, and all Bodie could see was the back of his head. "Either the bullet has moved or a splinter of bone has come adrift, but there's nothing they can do about it yet. Too much stress and tension, and high blood-pressure."

"My God. You mean they are going to retire him?"

"I don't know." He sounded cheerless, tired -- almost defeated. "I hope not. What would that do to the poor bastard? Can you imagine George Cowley in sedate retirement? Damned if I can. He'd go stir-crazy." There was a short hiatus, then a murmur so quiet Bodie nearly didn't catch it. "Probably kill him...."

Silence stretched, and after a while Doyle put a mug of coffee at Bodie's side. Biscuits and a hefty slab of dark fruitcake appeared beside it.

"What's this?" he demanded, interested.

"Me Mum's annual test-run for the Christmas Cake."

"I remember. Up to her usual standard, I hope?"

"Of course."

"How's the Old Man taking it?" he asked abruptly.

"In his stride." There was a conscious irony in Doyle's voice. Bodie took a deep breath.

"Ray," he said. "Any idea who he's earmarked to take on the Department?"


"Sure? He's --" The phone rang, and Bodie swore under his breath. But he did not miss the momentary expression of relief that crossed Doyle's face.

Doyle pounced on the phone.

"Yeah?" he said briskly. Then his voice changed. "Well, I was going out for a --" a pause. "Look, I don't think there's much else to --" another pause. "Yes, I know. But -- well, okay. An hour? No, I won't be late." He put the phone down and returned to his coffee.

"A date?" Bodie inquired with a false brightness.

"No. There's more cake if you want it."

"I want. The Cow told me you'd be back on the Connors case when you've wrapped up Skinner."

"That's right." Doyle nodded, talking through a mouthful of sandwich.

"How long will that take? The Boy Wonder has his own time-scale."

"Not long. I've got dates and times of sailings, and some names. They're being tracked down."

"Found your denominator?"

"No, not yet. All the couriers so far have been different. In fact, the only link to date is the bloody sea. What I want is advance warning and I'll be on the next ferry from Brittany."

"Super Sleuth," Bodie snickered. "No idea yet on how it's done?"

"Nope," Doyle smiled. "You'll be the first to know. Come on, stuff that lot in your face, I'm just about ready for a pint."

"No rush, is there? I don't have to be at Lucy's until eight."

"I do have other plans, myself," Doyle said.

"Ah, yes. Your date that isn't a date. Okay, Raymond. Let's go."

But after half an hour in the pub, Doyle drained his glass, punched Bodie lightly on the shoulder, and left.

Bodie hesitated, torn between duty, friendship, suspicion, and a raging curiosity. A curiosity that wouldn't have been there if Doyle had not been so patently unwilling to talk about the phonecall, and where he was going.

He did not attempt to tail his partner in the Capri. The car was far too well known for that. Instead he used the simple expedient of hailing a taxi, and under his instructions -- enforced with CI5 ID -- they followed Doyle across London.

The taxi was paid off half a mile from Cowley's apartment block, and Bodie did not need to tail the Escort any further. He walked the rest of the way, and by the time he reached the car park that served the flats, Ray Doyle was nowhere in sight. But his car, in Bodie's eyes, stood out like a beacon. He stared at it, planted a savage kick on the nearside front tyre, and stalked out to catch another taxi.

Collecting his car from the pub's parking lot, Bodie headed for Battersea. He was forty minutes late, and was hoping that Connors would be with his sister so that he could legitimately break a few bones. But he wasn't and the girl was not one to be offended by a late arrival. And if her lover was more autocratic and demanding than usual, Lucy was not going to complain.

Throughout the evening, he made five calls to Doyle's number, the last one at two-thirty in the morning. Each time there was no reply. Lucy's curiosity was dispelled by the mention of an urgent message to be passed on to Sir Kevin Morant. But after the last call, Bodie gave up.

The aroma of fresh coffee awoke him. That and the sound of music came from the small kitchen, and the girl's voice lilted in pleasant harmony with Barry Manilow.

Bodie stretched until his joints creaked, and glanced at the bedside clock. Ten past seven. He'd either slept through the alarm, or Lucy had switched it off. No matter. He had time for breakfast in bed. He lay back on the pillows, but couldn't relax. Tension crept along spine, shoulders, and crawled through his scalp, and he was once more faced with the supposition that had haunted him through the night. If Doyle's phonecall had been from Cowley, and if his own calls had not been answered because Doyle was still at Cowley's apartment, then -- A faint sound caught his attention, and he froze. It had not come from the kitchen, but the living room. The front door had been opened with stealthy care, and seconds later he heard it shut with equal quietness.

Foreign office officials do not carry guns, and he swore in an undertone.

But when Connors pushed open the bedroom door, Bodie greeted him with smiling confidence, at his ease with hands clasped behind his head.

"Good morning," he drawled. "Have you come for breakfast?"

"Keep your voice down. I told you to stay away from her," nodding towards the kitchen.

"And I told you to stop wasting my time."

Connors smiled without mirth, and brought his hand out of his pocket. A snick, and the steel of a flick-knife glittered mirror-bright in the subdued bedroom lighting.

"You'll leave now. Quietly and with no fuss. Get out of here."

"You're being very silly," Bodie said, not moving.

"Get out!" Connors hissed, making a short, vicious gesture with the blade.

"What will you tell Lucy if I bleed all over the sheets? I cut myself on your razor-sharp wit?"

From the kitchen Adam Ant drowned out Lucy's singing and the men's muted conversation.

"Out, Bodie."

The CI5 agent heaved a sigh.

"Apart from waving a penknife under my nose, how do you propose to make me?" His tone was bored, and he patted a yawn.

"I'm a Karate expert. How much of a chance do you think you'd stand against that?"

"Oh, yeah? Black belt, are you?"


"Mmm, nice. Excuse me while I break out in a nervous sweat. For God's sake, come off it, Colin." He put bite into his voice. "Look at me," indicating his bare chest and shoulders. "Where do you think I got these scars? Young Wives Knitting Circle? I was in the Paras, mate. We're not powder-puffs. So put your toy away and go home before I belt you one."

"Get out of that bed!" a furious, low-voiced command, and Bodie sighed again.

"Okay, okay," he said, and climbed out.

If Connors had hoped to use psychological intimidation in having his enemy naked in front of a knife, he was in for a disappointment. Hands on hips, his stocky frame contoured with heavy muscle, Bodie showed no sign of being cowed by vulnerability.

"Put the knife away," he snapped. "Do you want Lucy to know you fool around with things like that? Tarnish your image, that would, and you're pretty hot on images, aren't you?"

"I'm giving the orders around here."

"Like hell you are." Bodie suddenly lost patience, chopped at Connors' right arm, trapped the wrist and twisted. Taken by surprise, not expecting aggression when he should have held all the aces, the younger man let out a half-shout of pain and fury as the knife dropped from nerveless fingers. Two swift jabs to his diaphragm from Bodie's rigid fingers, and Connors was doubled over, wheezing.

"Black belt, huh?" Bodie snickered, picking up the knife and closing it. "Sonny, I wouldn't rate you a green belt. Hop it."

Connor swore and straightened up, poised to lunge for him.

"Colin? Colin!" Lucy appeared, beautiful and tousled in her green silk kimono. "Bodie --"

"It's okay, love," he smiled, and gave her a swift hug. "Colin's had a slight attack of indigestion. I expect he'd like a cup of tea. Wouldn't you, laddie?"

White with baffled rage and humiliation, Connors was in no mood to take the offered cover-story.

"Remember what I said," he spat. "Lucy, get rid of him. I want him out of this flat for good, and you don't see him again!"

"What --? Colin?" Shocked and uncertain, the girl gazed from one to the other. "I -- I --" Bodie put an arm around her shoulders.

"You've said enough, Connors," he said with cold authority. "I'm not having you scare her. Hop it."

"What's happened?" the girl cried. "Please, what's --"

"Don't worry," he soothed. "He's leaving."

Connors hesitated a fraction, then pushed past them to the door, slamming out of the flat.

"What's going on?" she wept. "Bodie, please tell --"

"It's okay, sweetheart." He kissed her gently. "Don't worry. It's only that thick brother of yours being overly protective. It seems he doesn't approve of me, after all."

"But -- you got on so well in the pub!" she wailed. "I don't understand!"

"Ssh," he murmured, rocking her in his arms. "How's breakfast coming along? I'm starved." But she wasn't listening.

"I won't let him spoil it. I won't!"

"So I should think. I'm not easily got rid of. Come on, love, don't cry. Listen, I've arranged for us to visit Henley at the weekend. We'll drive down tonight, stay in a hotel, and see Aunt Flora tomorrow. Don't be mad at Colin. I'm willing to forget the spat if he is," he added nobly.

It took a little while to calm her distress, and he was late getting in to the Foreign Office. He reported Connors' activities by phone to a remarkably cheerful Cowley, and that brought Ray Doyle to the forefront of his mind. In turn, it also soured the rest of the day and cast a blight over the weekend. Cowley had no business sounding that bright. It was too much like the aftermath of a successful reunion following a lovers' tiff -- he cut that thought off before it had time to properly register, and turned his mind to Connors. But as soon as he had the opportunity he intended to find out the truth of the Doyle-Cowley relationship, and if necessary, do something about it. First a private warning, then, if he had to and much as it would hurt, he'd take official steps. CI5 was more important than individuals.

Somehow he couldn't manage to make the thought convincing.

The blonde head on Bodie's shoulder gave another giggle, and he gritted his teeth.

"William," Lucy murmured, and giggled again.

"Light of my life," he said. "Do you want to walk back to Battersea?" Still seething from Ruth Wojeck's one and major failing, Bodie glared through the sweep of the windscreen wiper, his jaw jutting belligerently.

"She's adorable, and the house is -- perfect. Why don't you like your first name, for heaven's sake? I've got an Uncle William. It's a nice name."

"Perhaps. But I am not a nice person. And I don't like it. I was Bodie at school, Bodie in the Paras, and Bodie in the Foreign Office. Everyone calls me Bodie except Flora and my mother. One because she can't remember not to, the other out of bloody-minded spite."

"Didn't you enjoy the weekend?" She sat up, eyes wide, one hand on his thigh.

"Loved it," he grinned. "Aunt Flora is about the only person who can get away with William. Mainly because she cooks like a cordon bleu chef."

"Doesn't she just. I must have put on pounds. Why don't you like your name?" Bodie gave in to her persistence.

"It was my father's and my grandfather's, not mine. Finally convinced she's no dragon-lady?"

"She's an angel. Why don't you use Andrew? Or Philip?"

"Because. Couldn't you and Flora find anything better to talk about?"

"We talked about lots of things," she giggled. "Why don't you?"

"To preserve my air of mystery," he said. "And if you leave your hand there for much longer I may well crash." (And for Christsake don't giggle.) he added in his head. But she did. Bleakly he wondered who had set him up. Ruth had never met him before, but would have been briefed, so it was either Cowley or Doyle, and he didn't think it was Cowley. But apart from that one point, everything had gone as smooth as silk. Ruth Wojeck had made a first class Aunt Flora; the cottage was furnished with antique elegance and charm, reflecting its occupant; and a small fortune in Georgian gold and silverware was on open display -- and in use. Lucy's lovely eyes had nearly popped out of her head, and she had been most concerned to discover Great Aunt Flora's security system consisted of Yale locks and a handful of very large bolts made by a local blacksmith-cum-farrier.

"It's a beautiful home," she murmured on his shoulder.

"Yeah," he agreed.

"That super garden -- right down to the river -- all those beams -- and the inglenook in the lounge -- I've always dreamed of a home like that." There was a note of wistfulness in her voice, and Bodie got the old familiar shiver of unease up his spine.

"She's had a few scares when the river rises," he said. "Do you want to stop off for a meal?"

"No, let's go on to my place. I've got chicken chasseur in the fridge. Not up to Aunt Flora's standard, but --"

"Sounds pretty good to me." He took his hand off the wheel and patted her knee. "You and Flora should swop recipes."

"We have," she laughed. "When can we go to see her again?"

Bodie chuckled, and made a teasing remark, but his mind was not wholly given to the girl at his side. His absent partner took up a great deal of his thoughts in spite of repeated attempts to evict him. Uppermost being where, how and with whom had Doyle spent the weekend?

A successful distraction was waiting for him when they reached Lucy's flat. Connors was already there, a bottle of malt whiskey and a bouquet of roses sitting on the table.

"I'm not stopping," he said to Bodie's hostile stare and the girl's confusion. "Just want to say -- damn it, I'm sorry. I made a proper fool of myself, and --" He broke off and shrugged, the pinched look still about his nostrils. "Bodie, I was doing it for Lucy, can you understand that? I -- you're different from a lot of the people we usually get to meet -- I don't want her to be hurt. I'm sorry."

"Yeah, well, I'd probably do the same if I was you." Bodie put on a friendly smile, as false as Connors' apology.

"No hard feelings?" the blond man asked.

"No hard feelings."

They met in the middle of the room, and shook hands. Lucy gave a cry of delight and hugged them both, tears sparkling on her lashes.

(One big happy family,) Bodie reflect dryly. (What the hell is he planning now?)

"It's only nine o'clock," he said. "Why don't we all go out for a meal?"

"Gooseberry pie?" Doyle grinned, pushing aside photographs, cross-channel maps, timetables and weather-reports so that Bodie could sit on the corner of his desk without planting his backside on paperwork he'd want to inspect.

"No," said Bodie, perching. "It was very civilized -- he left us in the restaurant after coffee and mints."

"Who paid the bill?"

"We argued, politely, and CI5 paid."

"Watch your expenses, sunshine."

"Never mind my expenses. Who briefed Great Aunt Flora?"

"Ruth?" Doyle's eyes widened, glinting with laughter. "Hey, she's something, isn't she? Tough as old boots -- been hearing a bit about her career -- wow --"

"Don't let your enthusiasm run away with you, 4.5," Bodie snapped. "I didn't think you went for older women." He put more emphasis on the 'women' than he intended and the green gaze narrowed. Behind them, someone else in the duty room sniggered. Doyle was out of his chair and across the large office in a few swift strides.

"Something strike you as funny, Mike?" he inquired, voice mild, dangerous.

"Er -- not particularly. Just something in this here report."

"Hey," said Bodie. "I still haven't been told," as if nothing untoward had happened, and he didn't want to break both Doyle's and Mike Nicholls' necks.


"Aunt Flora. Who briefed her?" The moment of tension passed, and Doyle came back to the desk.

"The Old Man," he said, sitting down. "Who else?"

"And you weren't around?"

"We-ell, yes. You'd talked about her to me, so he figured I might have the odd useful comment to make."

"Yeah," Bodie snorted. "Like William."

"Ruth agreed it was right. Great Aunt Flora would be a traditionalist, so she'd call her nephew by his given name. Be far too avant garde to use his surname. Would make him sound like the butler. 'Decant the port, Bodie. Iron the Times, Bodie. Show Lord and Lady Smith to their rooms, Bodie --'"

"Very funny. You'll regret that, Raymond. What's all this stuff?" flicking a finger against the paperwork. "Found your common denominator?"

"Could be. Look at this. The medical logs for the voyages where we know drugs were brought over. Look at the names. The ringed ones are our mules. We've got two denominators; rough weather, and injuries caused by same. When we checked back to the suspects, some of those knocks were genuine, some weren't. They range from gashed arm on stairway -- genuine -- to a broken leg -- faked. Which means some, at least, of the medical staff are in on it."

"In on what?"

"Drugs packed in between bandages."

"Fact or hunch?"

"Educated hunch. Plaster casts and pregnant ladies are two of the favorite ways of carrying drugs through Customs. I've done my share of helping to birth a nine-pound bouncing baby of heroin or coke. But this is a new twist, since it happens between check-points, and rough weather injuries are far less likely to be checked out by Customs than casts or bandages that walk onto the ship over on the other side of the Channel. This way, the drugs are either already on board ship, or brought in by someone else, then packed into the bandages after a staged accident by the medic on duty; or by the mule before the ferry docks. All we want now is the proof."

"No one's talking, then?"

"Nah. 'Course they're not. One of them was even threatening to sue the Company, cheeky sod. Oil on a companionway, he said, else he wouldn't have fallen regardless of how the ship was tossing."

"The nerve of some people," Bodie grinned. "Going along on the next run?"

"Yeah, when we get word -- and if we get it soon enough to fly over to Roscoff in time to catch the bloody boat." He was gathering together certain sheets of paper as he spoke, shuffling them neatly into a file. "Going to drop this to Cowley's In-tray and take a coffee-break. Coming?"

"Sure. Though after the food and drink I've had over the last few days, anything served up here will taste like drain-cleaner."

"Ruth told me she likes to cook. Lucy enjoyed herself?"

"Too much," Bodie sighed gloomily. "She's beginning to drop heavy hints about wanting a home like that -- settling down in the country -- swopping recipes with Aunt Flora --" He was interrupted by full-throated laughter, and he glared in exasperation. "It is not funny," he snapped, and Doyle sobered abruptly.

"No," he said. "It isn't. She is going to end up hurt, Bodie."

"Yeah," and a silence fell between them, not broken until they were nearing Cowley's office. "Sod it, Ray, I wish she was in with Connors and his dirty dealings."

"Got under your skin, has she?" It was a quiet, sympathetic query, and he shrugged.

"No, not in the way you mean. Haven't fallen for her, or anything. I -- just feel bloody sorry for her. She's got a bastard of a brother, and she's going to need someone around when he goes down, and I'm walking out."

"Yeah. The innocent victim. The kind Cowley's always saying he won't tolerate us causing by commission or omission. Except that we didn't know for certain she was innocent."

Bodie grunted.

"I know. We had to make sure. I suppose what it is, she's so bloody helpless she appeals to my protective nature."

"Didn't know you had one," Doyle smiled, opening the door without knocking. The office was untenanted.

"Of course I have." Bodie chose to be offended. "I just don't spread it around, that's all. But she's got to it. Where's the Cow?"

"Harley Street."

"Oh. Second opinion?"

"He wouldn't say." He slapped the file on the tidy desk-top. "Seems to think the vultures are gathering upstairs, ready to give him the regretful elbow."

"I'll bet. Weeping crocodile tears all the way. How was he over the weekend?" There was a pause, a second longer than it should have been.

"How would I know?" Doyle said. "I was target-shooting most of the time."

"Just wondered if he was along giving you a few tips on .22s."

"I don't need any," he snapped.

"Hey, there's no need to bite my head off, mate," Bodie protested. "What's got into you?"

"Nothing. Sorry. It's getting on my nerves, not being in on the Connors op, that's all."

"Yeah. How's the arm?"

"Don't you start! For God's sake --"

"Calm down! Bloody hell, Ray, this isn't just nerves! Take it easy!"

"Sorry," he muttered again. "It's okay. Doesn't itch or anything," giving it an unthinking scratch.

"Want to talk about it?"

"Nothing to talk about." Another mutter, head turned away. "Come on, let's get that coffee."

"Ray. This is me. Bodie. 3.7. Your partner?"

"Yeah. I know."

"So don't tell me there's nothing bugging you. And don't tell me it's none of my business."

Doyle didn't answer, and after a while, Bodie sighed and shook his head.

"Okay, old son. When you're ready," he said. "Canteen or restroom?"

"Canteen, I'm hungry," Doyle said, relief obvious. But when Bodie suggested an evening visit to the pub, he got a smiling and firm refusal. Bodie nearly confronted him with the Cowley-relationship then, but bit it back. He owed both Doyle and himself nothing less than incontrovertible truth. When he discovered that truth, whatever it was, then was the time to face his partner with it.

After recording a report on Connors and the weekend for Cowley, Bodie took himself back to the F.O. His next date with Lucy was Wednesday. He had deliberately kept this and Tuesday night clear, and when he left the Foreign Office in the late afternoon he made absolutely certain he wasn't followed.

Bodie did not go to Kensington. Instead he returned to the CI5 building and invaded the car-pool. After some dickering and argument he left at the wheel of a brown Granada, a car new into the Department that day. It was odds on Doyle wouldn't be familiar with it, and would be less likely to notice it than the silver Capri.

Even so, Bodie was not taking chances. He watched Doyle's flat from a distance made safe by field glasses, and when his partner left at eight, tailed the Escort only far enough to establish that he was heading in the direction of that part of London where Cowley lived. Then he took a calculated risk, and drove to Cowley's apartment block by another, longer, route. When he got there, Doyle's car was parked and empty.

His first priority was to find out if anyone else was interested in his partner's whereabouts. Leaving the Granada several streets away, Bodie walked back to the car park, entering the block by the service door. He took the lift to the top floor, got up on the roof, and moved carefully along just inside the parapet until he was above Cowley's flat, three floors below. Opposite him was another apartment block, identical, a mirror-image in the rain-washed evening. Some windows were dark, some lit, and it was the dark ones he concentrated on. Field glasses adapted for night-work gave him reasonable vision through uncurtained glass, and his patient scrutiny found no evidence of surveillance. There was, of course, a risk that the windows that were both curtained and dark hid a watcher.

Bodie got into that other apartment block the same way he had Cowley's; via the car park service door, and rode the lift to the top floor. Once more on a roof, Bodie leaned his elbows on the parapet, and focussed the glasses. Across the way, curtains were drawn across Cowley's living room windows, nothing but a narrow crack of light showing in the second. That window, he remembered, was at the far end of the long room, away from the fireplace. There was a stereo-deck in front of it, records standing in neat serried ranks, and with the aid of the field glasses, he could clearly see part of the turntable and the album revolving on it.

The head moved across the disc, reached the end and lifted, swung back. Then Ray Doyle appeared in his field of vision, a glass half-full of amber liquid in one hand. His shirt was out of his waistband, unbuttoned, and as he put down the drink, he glanced over his shoulder, uneven features alive with laughter.

Doyle flipped the record over, reached for the controls. Movement, and Cowley stood behind him, close, hands resting light on lean shoulders.

Frozen where he stood, slow fury seething in his stomach, Bodie watched his partner half-turn into the man's arm, still smiling, and Cowley's hand lifted to his face, moved through his hair. Then Cowley reached out and twitched the curtain fully closed.

Instinct took Bodie back to the lift, rather than a conscious decision. Impulses tore at him. On one hand he wanted to get hold of Ray Doyle and beat the life out of him. On the other hand it was Cowley he wanted to smash. Or both of them. When it came down to it, he wasn't fussy. He'd settle for hammering Doyle and Cowley into bleeding pulp.

Commonsense won out to a degree. Official reports would have to be made. But not yet. First he would talk to Doyle, get some answers from him, find out what the hell he thought he was playing at, and maybe break the other cheekbone.

But to do that required a confrontation, and as soon as possible. So, he would wait. For as long as it took for Doyle to crawl out of Cowley's bed -- He broke off with a stream of invective, obscenities he thought he'd forgotten, from Afrikaans to basic Anglo-Saxon, and headed for Doyle's flat.

Bodie had a long wait. Hours passed, and his temper cooled to ice-cold determination. Morgan had said it, had hit right on target. And neither did he give a shit who Doyle hopped into bed with -- his own past sexual adventuring did not bear too close a scrutiny if it came to that -- but Cowley could not afford to be so indiscriminate. Okay, maybe it was just an old man's infatuation with a youth, though Doyle in his early thirties was hardly that, but it had to stop. As of now, and he'd pray the damage had not already been done to Cowley's career. All he had to do was convince Doyle, and he knew exactly what he was going to say. In words of one syllable and quiet reasoning, he would set out what was at risk; security -- Doyle's own, Cowley's, CI5's; blackmailing attention from the KGB, BOSS, and their own politicians who disapproved of the Department's free-ranging brief. He would also point out that whatever, he, Doyle, got out of sexual athletics with Cowley, it wasn't worth any of the aforementioned dangers, and that he, Bodie, suggested it should be ended in double-quick time. Like right away with an immediate phonecall.

At eleven minutes to two the white Escort pulled up and Doyle climbed out. He didn't glance at the Granada parked well down the street. In the magnification of the field glasses his face looked tired, heavy-eyed, and he stifled a yawn as he unlocked the yard gate.

Bodie fought down an adrenalin surge of rage, gave him five minutes, then got out, strode to the gate and leaned on the bell.

Doyle shut the door behind him, groped for the light-switch and yawned, stretching cramped muscles. Having spent most of the evening crouched over a chessboard, his spine had a kink or two in it. Still, his game was improving. He'd made the Old Man work for his ultimate victory, and if this operation went on for any length of time, they'd be evenly matched.

He wandered into the kitchen, debated whether or not to fix himself a nightcap, and decided against it. It would be difficult to follow the coffee and liqueur brandy Cowley had provided to round off the steak dinner. Cook's wages, his boss had said, and Doyle had made a pretty good job of the meal. It had gone well, and tasted better, and he would send a thank-you note to Ruth for the sauce recipe. All in all, it had been an enjoyable evening, once they'd got the pantomime out of the way. Several short scenarios had been staged in front of the partially opened curtains before Cowley had drawn them shut, and he hoped Torvenski was out there watching. The Old Man seemed to find a certain wry amusement in the whole affair, but he didn't have to put up with the sidelong glances and occasionally snide remarks from the rest of the mob. Bodie's attitude was interesting. By this time he'd have expected the nudge-nudge-wink-wink and somewhat vicious ribaldry from that gentleman, treating the rumour as a big joke, but it hadn't come. Instead his partner seemed to vary between ignoring the situation and baffled concern. There was no doubt in his mind that Bodie knew of the supposed relationship, if only very recently, and it looked as if he was convinced enough of its authenticity to bypass the humorous mileage that could be extracted. That peeved Doyle somewhat. Bodie, of all people, should know him better than to assume without question that he'd roll into a man's bed at the drop of a hat. Unless he'd already done some checking up of his own. Doyle grinned. Maybe Torvenski hadn't been their only spectator. In which case, he could expect Bodie to take action of his own. This would probably take the form of a nose to nose confrontation and the reading of the Riot Act. While his partner's morals were few and far between, he would certainly react to the undoubted -- and premeditated -- risk of foreign interest, and Agent 3.7 would not be slow in pointing it out. His own response to that had already been worked out, the time and place now depended on Bodie.

Ambushed by another yawn, he went up to the bedroom, shedding jacket, sweater and shirt on the way and dropping them on the bed. He kicked off his shoes, removed his socks and started to unbuckle his belt. The doorbell rang.

He swore and padded downstairs.

"Who is it?" he said into the intercom.

"Me," said an unexpected and familiar voice, and Doyle's eyebrows climbed. Bodie hadn't used his usual code, just a single blast. He also sounded curt. Trouble, or the Riot Act?

"Come on in," and he pushed the gate release, unlocked the door. "What's up?" he asked as Bodie pushed past him. "Connors causing trouble?" shutting the door and following him into the living room.

"No," Bodie snapped. "You are."

"Me?" (The Riot Act. Looks as if he caught tonight's floorshow.)


"What the hell have I done?" he demanded, putting in as much injured innocence as he could. Bodie's temper was clearly on a hair trigger, and for a moment he thought a fist would be coming his way. He prepared to duck.

"Cowley. Or do you take turns?"

"What? Bodie, have you gone crazy?"

"No, but I think you have. Sod it, Doyle! Have your brains been short-circuited? Of all the bloody stupid --"

"What are you talking about?" he yelled back, enjoying himself.

"You know damn-well. Cowley. You and Cowley --"

"That's none of your business!"

"Oh, yes, it is, mate! Mine and MI5's -- and how about the KGB, B--"

"Stuff 'em!" and he trotted out the prearranged story. "It's no one's business! Theirs, yours, anyone's! Cowley could be out of the Mob by the end of the year, maybe by the end of the month. He isn't going to have a career to be threatened, so where's the lever, eh?" Bodie was not noticeably impressed.

"Sod his career! What about yours?"

"What about it? I'm too small a fish to turn, and I don't give a damn about blackmail -- if anyone wants to try it, they're welcome, and they can flog the serial rights to the News of the World for all I care! I'll do what I like, sleep with who I like --"

"The hell you will!" he exploded. "Cowley isn't retired yet."

"Any pressure, and he'll go even earlier. He's said so."

"Talked it out, have you?" a sneer.

"Yes. And if he's not sweating, why should I? Calm down, Bodie. It's not that important. George Cowley is too bloody canny to take unnecessary risks with CI5, himself, or me."

"Not important? My prat of a partner makes himself the talk of the whole sodding Department, and it's not important?"

"So they're talking about me," Doyle shrugged. "It'll blow over. Nine day wonder."

"Will it?" Bodie showed no sign of being appeased. If anything, his mood worsened, and Doyle felt the beginnings of a slight unease. There was something else behind all the sound and fury, and he couldn't yet identify it; the confrontation was not running its expected course. "What'll you do when they chuck you out of CI5? Because they will -- you may not think you're a security risk in this modern, forward-thinking and democratic world, but they bloodywell will! Pack him in, Ray," he abruptly exchanged anger for pleading. "It can't be worth it."

"It's not up for discussion." Doyle was no longer enjoying the conflict. He'd identified the undercurrent. His partner was not only furious, he was hurting as well, and he hadn't expected that.

"For God's sake, see sense!" Bodie yelled. "What the hell do you want with a man old enough to be your father? Whatever it is, it isn't worth ruining your career."

"That is not at risk," he insisted.

"No? Come off it! You're one of his top operatives, with the potential to be head of the Department if you live through the next ten years. He's already started grooming you --"

"And I don't want it! I told him that!"

"Not now, maybe. But in ten years' time? By then the KGB could have you in their pockets -- or more likely MI5 will have sorted you out and given you the push!"

"No way!"

"What the hell's wrong with you?" Pain was raw in his voice. "Are you that bloody naive or just plain daft? Why won't you see the risk, at least admit it's there? And pack him in."


"My God, has he got you hooked that much? I don't believe it."

"Believe what you want, I'm not discussing --"

"Yes, you are." Bodie's hands clamped on his biceps, fingers bruising. "What do you need from him, damn it?" he shouted. "What the hell can he do for you that I can't?"

Shock jolted through Doyle, slackening his jaw and widening his eyes. Bodie's face mirrored the reaction as he, too, realized what he had said.

The grip on his upper arms loosened, fell away, leaving white welts that darkened with returning blood.

"Well?" Bodie demanded, a kind of defiance covering his astonishment. "Tell me."

Doyle could not answer immediately. Mentally reeling from that one sentence, his first impulse was to admit the set-up. But Cowley had stressed that nobody, Bodie included, should know. But if he didn't spill the beans, Bodie would assume --

"Tell me," his partner repeated, and Doyle came close to panic. What in God's name could he say -- how did he get out of this impossible situation -- To hell with it. Cowley could shout all he liked, but Bodie was going to know about Torvenski before he made a fool of himself and said or did something he'd regret.

But he had hesitated too long. Bodie's hands closed on his bare shoulders, and he moved nearer. Doyle tried to coordinate the words that would clarify everything, wanting to pull free, wanting that sentence unsaid, but for some reason he could neither speak nor move.

"Tell me?" Bodie said again. "What can he do for you that I can't?" The voice was husky, confident. Eyes of scorching blue locked onto his until all he could see was sapphire haze, all he could feel was the weight of two strong hands on his shoulders, and there was a kind of suffocation under his ribs.

"Nothing," he whispered. It wasn't what he'd intended to say -- didn't know why he'd said it. The suffocation increased, heart and lungs striving to maintain an equilibrium that was rapidly being lost. His panic grew. It had sounded like an invitation, which was crazy --

"Nothing at all?" Bodie murmured, fingers tightening. "Ray --"

Doyle read his intention, braced his hands on Bodie's chest, but his muscles wouldn't work as they should, and before he could form any coherent objection, the man's mouth fastened on his.

Cowley's lips had been dry, impersonal, a paper-touch that did not expect or receive anything from him. Bodie's mouth was the expression of his emotions; anger, confusion, pain and hunger, coalesced into a kiss that struck fire into Doyle. A riptide of lava seared through him, taking away all restraint, and his body arched close, out of control, groin pressed to groin, his mouth opening for Bodie's tongue. He was caught in a web of pleasure, subtly different from any he'd known before, so totally unexpected he had no defence against it. Bodie's arms had closed around him in a convulsive embrace, and the suede jacket was like plush to his skin, cool in comparison with the hands that moved over his naked back.

One small part of Doyle's mind hung on to sanity, yelling silently in horror and amazement at the turmoil this man had roused in his blood, and shaken by the moan of loss that came from him as Bodie lifted his head, breaking the kiss. Ragged breathing was in his ears, whose he couldn't have said. He was shaking, and could feel the same quivering tension in his partner; one thing was certain, he wasn't alone in his madness.

"You taste of brandy," Bodie whispered. His breath was warm on Doyle's throat, lips touching on the great vein. He shuddered, eyes opening. "Finest liqueur brandy..." a tongue-touch traced a line to his collarbone and he gasped, body responding with slow, sensual movements that tightened the arms around him. An aching need was in him, and he closed his eyes again, the better to concentrate on sensation, refusing to listen to the voice of commonsense that demanded a halt to this, and soon, before things got out of -- The hands that stroked down his spine in a long caress were sure and confident. They pushed beneath his waistband and cupped his buttocks, fingers clasping on tensed muscle, pulling him even closer into the embrace. Inside the constriction of his jeans, his flesh was heated, erect. Bodie's erection throbbed against his stomach, and it added fuel to his fire. Blindly he turned his head, seeking that mouth again. The arguments still stood -- valid, every one of them, and the thought of sex with a man had never seriously occurred to him. But this was here and now and Bodie, who was equal and counterpart, had started a furnace that could not easily be damped down. Their lips met, and this time it was Doyle's tongue that tasted, probed, demanded and was given entrance.

Doyle felt as if he was drowning, which was ridiculous. This was Bodie, not Jenny -- but she had never triggered in him a sexual hunger of such intensity, so that all his self-control was stripped away -- and reason took advantage of the momentary apprehension to leap in with both feet and push them apart.

He stepped back a few paces until the couch hit the back of his knees and he nearly fell. There was an expression of startled wonder on Bodie's face that was almost comical.

"Bloody hell," his partner said, breathing erratic. "Didn't expect that. Did you?" Stupid question. Doyle shook his head. Then; "Did Cowley ever give you a charge like that?" an aggressive demand, and Doyle knew it was the ideal opportunity to lay the cards on the table. But if he did, what would Bodie's reaction be? Walk out? That would be the safest, sanest outcome -- but he didn't want him to walk out.

"No," he whispered.

"Should think not." Blue eyes moved over him in an all but tangible caress. "You'd give the old bastard cardiac arrest if he turned you on like that. Come here."

He shook his head.

"Security," he managed. "BOSS, KGB--"

"Sod 'em. You, Raymond, are too bloody randy for George. You'll kill him before his time. Come here."

"No -- don't be stupid." It was a last ditch attempt, and they both knew it.

"Tell me you don't want me," he said, "and I'll leave. Now."

The ache in Doyle's loins was becoming a raging pain, but he opened his mouth to speak, to give him the whole set-up. The words refused to come, and Bodie's grin was triumphant.

"See?" he murmured, and crossed the space between them. "We'll talk about it somewhen else." He reached out, and Doyle swayed forward, driven by the urgings of his body, hands clutching at leather-covered shoulders, mouth hungry on Bodie's parted lips. Caution, commonsense, were burned away. There was only the lava-flow in his blood, the pulsing pressure of arousal in his groin, and the instinctive awareness that his need was shared.

Bodie's weight pressed him back and down, and he did not resist it. Cushions gave beneath his shoulders and hips, fingers fumbled with the button and zip of his jeans, and then he cried out against Bodie's mouth as the fingers closed on his swollen, throbbing shaft. His hips lifted and thrust, and the man's breathless laughter whispered in his ears.

"Take it easy," he said. "We've got all night," and before Doyle could prevent it, he pulled away. An inarticulate protest burst from him, but Bodie wasn't leaving. He stripped off his own clothes, hauled Doyle's jeans and underpants from him without ceremony, and came back to the arms reaching for him.

Bodie's heavy nakedness lying along his own body defeated any last faint-hope inhibitions, and Doyle reacted with an almost savage urgency that brought a like response from his partner.

Too highly charged to savour long, slow lovemaking, climax came swiftly for Doyle. Too swiftly, leaving him stunned and shaking and heavy-limbed, their bodies welded together by sweat and semen, and the room swinging in a lazy circle about an off-centre axis. From somewhere far away he heard a quiet chuckle, and Bodie's head burrowed into the hollow of his throat.

"Too bloody hot by half," came a husky murmur, slurred and complacent. "Haven't been that quick on the trigger since I was a kid. You're worse than a runaway truck when you get going, aren't you?" and moved slightly, a slick, sensual glide of flesh on flesh, deliberate. Doyle caught his breath as pleasure rippled through him.

"This is crazy," he moaned.

"Is it?" a mumble into his skin. "Not as bloody daft as you and Cowley." Doyle shifted uneasily, but it turned into an involuntary stretch along Bodie's stocky frame, slow and languorous.

"Christ," he groaned, closing his eyes.

"Mmm," said Bodie in his ear. "And we've still got all night."

But Doyle was at least trying to marshal his scattered equilibrium, to work out the large what and why screaming inside his head. If he could.

"How in God's name did this happen?" Complete bewilderment, spoken without thought.

"That's a bloody silly question," Bodie snorted. "Bio-chemistry, mate. Complaining?" A hand stroked gently down over Doyle's flank and hip, and he could not control his response. "If it comes to that, how did you and Cowley happen? Not like this, that's for sure, or we'd be planting the old bugger --" He broke off snickering. "Hey, did he?"

"Did he what?" said Doyle blankly, and the snicker became a hoot.

"You are something else, Ray, you really are. What do you think? How many men have you gone through before the Cow?"

"None," he muttered.

"Oh." The hilarity ended abruptly, and the arms around him constricted, possessiveness in their strength. "Your first, was he? The jammy Highland sod." There was an edge to his voice, but Doyle was not given a chance to query it. "Are we going to stay here?"

"What?" he said again, losing track of the question marks bouncing around in his mind.

"You do have a bed, don't you?"


"Well, come on, then. I'm not going to carry you up there, I'll end up with a bloody hernia."

So casual, so matter-of-fact, as if the world had not suddenly tilted off-balance, and that the happenings since Bodie had walked in were commonplace, nothing out of the ordinary. Uncertainty came back, bringing confusion, self-doubt. Maybe Bodie sensed it, because he lifted his head, and kissed the corner of the troubled mouth.

"Come on, Ray," he said quietly. "Let's go to bed? Please?"

Doyle gazed at the face bent close to him. The eyes were intent, darkened, and that proud wilful mouth was no longer set in a complacent smirk, and a strange melting feeling curled through his stomach.

"All right," he said.

The stairs were too narrow to climb side by side, so Doyle went ahead, more keenly aware of Bodie's hand on his hip than the chill of drying sweat.

He detoured by the bathroom for a towel to wipe the dampness from him, and found his hands were shaking. There was a quivering in his belly as of a colony of moths, and his heartbeats ran fast and light. Nerves. (First night nerves, like some bloody virgin.) Which he was. Had been. Technically still was.

Slowly he returned to the bedroom. Bodie was waiting for him, stretched out on the bed with no self-consciousness at all, taking it all in his stride. But was he? Doyle heard him catch his breath as he entered, and it boosted his confidence. The blasé and unshakable Bodie was not as much in control as he would like it believed.

He sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at the dark head on his pillow.

"I don't understand any of this." He had not meant to say it aloud. Bodie grinned at him.

"You take a hell of a lot of convincing," he said. "Did George have this much trouble with you?"

"No comment."

"Come on, Ray. You can tell me, surely? Especially now."

"I'm not talking about it," Doyle said, knowing he had to be distracted. "Not here." Carefully, with a kind of shyness, he touched Bodie's hair, ran his fingertips over forehead and cheek. Mask stripped away, Bodie's face was young, oddly vulnerable, eyelashes impossibly long, the way a child's often are, and a surge of bitter-sweet emotion welled up in him, something he could not name or define.

"Handsome, aren't I?" Bodie drawled, but there was a shake in his voice.

"Vain bastard," Doyle whispered, and bent his head to a waiting and avid mouth. Wildfire flowed through blood and bone, sexual voltage arcing between them. Whatever the how or the why, the immediacy of it was undeniable.

But this time, the desperate frenzy was missing. There was no hurry, not now, and Doyle had a voyage of discovery to make, exploring new territory, and for the time being, at least, Bodie seemed content to let him set the pace.

He trailed his lips across the taut line of the man's throat, tasting the faint salt of sweat, feeling the erratic leap of blood through the big vein, the scent of expensive aftershave and sex filling his head, more intoxicating than alcohol. Pulsebeat became heartbeat as he progressed down Bodie's chest, skin smooth over athlete's muscle, and he won a bitten-back gasp and a hissed curse that was almost a moan. It felt good, very good, his partner's response building the heat in his own blood.

Instinct was guiding him, since he had no experience on which to call. Double-dates that ended up in the same bed, the occasional threesome, were of no assistance. This was new, different, their needs were not the same, and had to be discovered. Runaway truck, Bodie had said, and he had the feeling that he wasn't the only one without brakes and anchor. That was how it should be, and he wanted Bodie to acknowledge it as well, willingly or unwillingly. But Bodie wasn't protesting. He turned his head and found a nipple, tongue working on sensitive flesh until it hardened. Then he used his teeth, gently, and the man groaned, body writhing, hands tangling in his hair. Doyle searched across the unevenly lifting ribs, took the other nipple, teased it erect and won another involuntary response. It gave him a heady sense of power; all the strength and deadly skills of Bodie helpless under his hands, an unasked-for submission, offered and accepted, and one that he in turn would give -- Doyle's tongue dipped into the hollow of a navel, tasting on Bodie's quivering stomach the evidence of their first encounter. Slowly he moved lower, resisting the urgent pressure of the hands in his hair. This time he was in control, setting the tempo, and he did not want to lose the upper hand. Not yet. With lips and tongue he followed the widening line of dark hair, one hand stroking up Bodie's inner thigh to cup the heavy sac. Last vestiges of control long gone, Bodie was bucking convulsively, and when Doyle took the rigid column of flesh into his mouth, the man yelled aloud, head thrashing on the pillow, hips driving. The same rising surge was in Doyle, growing more slowly, perhaps, to the inevitable consummation. Bodie was gasping his name, an incoherent litany, pleading, demanding, and then the writhing became a series of explosive convulsions and hot fluid filled his mouth. With Bodie's sobbing cry of release ringing in his ears, he swallowed, hungry for all the man could give, relishing the taste of him, wanting more --

His own need was reaching the borderline of pain, and he obeyed the insistent hands tugging at his shoulders, turning to his lover's kiss, letting the probing tongue savour the essence still in his mouth. But he needed Bodie's lips on the straining urgency of his erection, and moaned his relief as hands eased him back on the tumbled bedding.

The shock of the man's mouth tore a shout from him, and dimly he heard quiet laughter. Then his world coalesced into heat and waves of ecstasy that shattered over him time and again, draining all that he was until his very bones felt hollowed. Taking it away, and then giving it back with gentle hands and a shaking mouth that touched over eyelids and cheekbone.

For a while Doyle drifted in a mindless lethargy, leaden-limbed, sated. Bodie lay sprawled beside him, half-pinning him. Later, maybe, the self-doubts and the questions would return. But right then, in a hazy kind of way, he was at peace, more than comfortable, and he didn't want to move. He felt Bodie shift a little, and the quilt was carefully tucked around them both. He was half-lifted into strong arms, and it took only a slight squirm to ensure total comfort once again. The last thing he registered was Bodie's lips in his hair, and he turned his face into his lover's neck and slept.

Arms were tight about him when he awoke, and an unshaven chin dug into his collarbone. The weight of a heavy form was stretched along him from shoulder to hip, legs wrapped around his own lower limbs. The scent of sex still lingered in the air, and the body that was giving a good imitation of a human octopus belonged to his partner. Nor were there any girls present. For a moment horror and bewilderment flared in his head, then memory came back, and the horror, at least, was dispelled. Regardless of who had shared the night with him, the sex had been fantastic. He squinted down at the dark head, and wondered what the devil he was going to say to him when he awoke.

Doyle glanced at the clock, but it was not the alarm that had wakened him. There were ten minutes to go before that went off. But he had to get up, the insistence of his bladder saw to that, and he wasn't sure he wanted to face Bodie yet. Last night had been incredible, too good to be true, maybe? And where did they go from here? Couldn't pretend it had never happened, though the how and the why were beyond him. And having experienced that almost transcendental ecstasy once he knew he would not have enough will-power not to seek it out again. He would be drawn back -- so what of Cowley, CI5, and all those valid arguments against a relationship that, while it broke no written law, was still the favorite blackmail lever of the Eastern European espionage departments. And he was involved in an operation that had an exclusively water-tight rating.

Carefully he began to extricate himself from the sleeping embrace. Bodie stirred, rolled over, but did not waken, and he managed to slide out of bed without further disturbing him. With any luck it would be as easy to get out of his somewhat tricky situation.

He padded into the bathroom, emptied his bladder, showered, shaved, and dug clean briefs and cord slacks out of the airing cupboard. He pulled them on, and went down to the kitchen, a strong need for tea making itself felt. At the same time part of him wanted to go back to the bedroom and wake the sleeper, to find out if they could recreate the pleasure they'd conjured in the night. He sat on the impulse, filled the kettle, and hacked off a doorstep wedge from the loaf.

The slice was too thick for the toaster, so he stuck it under the grill, and pottered about putting together a breakfast of sorts. His mind was not on it, however, and the bread had to be rescued from the brink of cremation. Doyle swore and fed it to the waste bin.

He heard Bodie come down, but did not turn round. The moths were back in his belly, and he knew he should make an effort at normality. After all, he was supposed to be already having an affair with his boss.

"Suddenly gone bashful, have we?" drawled a complacent voice, and hands rested on his hips, pulling him back to lean against a broad towelling-covered chest. That feeling of suffocation came to join the moths. "After last night, Raymond, shyness is out of place. I borrowed your toothbrush as well."

"It isn't that," he said, unable to relax in the light embrace.

"No?" Bodie murmured in his hair. "What then? Guilty conscience? Wondering how you're going to tell the Old Man you've two-timed him? And that from now on, he's had it." There was an added bite to the last few words.

"I thought we'd already sorted that out," Doyle said uneasily.

"Oh, no. We were still discussing it when we were -- uh -- distracted. Phone him now. Tell him it's finished between you." A demand, not a request, and it stung.

"I can't."

"Why not? You don't need him. Last night should have shown you that. So tell him it's over."

"You're assuming a hell of a lot, Bodie," he said quietly, irritation counteracting the moths. "Maybe he needs me." He turned in the circle of the man's arms, met the stubborn, wilful gaze, and the lies did not come so easily to his tongue. "He's come to the end of his career, been beaten by that bloody leg of his after all these years --" Anger glittered in the blue eyes, and the arms tightened around him.

"So you're going to let him live CI5 through you?" Bodie demanded fiercely.

"What if I am? It won't be for long, probably until he's got used to the idea of retirement. What harm can it do?"

"Plenty. Because I am not going to bloodywell share you! I'll see him in hell first!"

"Share me?" Doyle echoed, startled and angered in his turn. "I'm not a box of sodding toffees!" He began to break free, but Bodie leaned forward and kissed him. He gasped, mouth opening, spine arching, clutching desperately to his self-control and his partner.

"Ray, I want you," Bodie said, lifting his head. "And I won't share you. Not with another man."

"You don't own me!" Fury rose up alongside desire, and he wrenched himself out of Bodie's arms. "You barge in like a bloody juggernaut, turn everything on its ear, trot out the whole possessive bit --"

"Hey, whoa," Alarm showed in his partner's face. "Calm down, Ray, I --"

"What makes you think you're more than a one-night-stand, eh?"

"Ray --"

"You and your fucking ego --"


"Don't Ray me! Last night does not make me your personal property! Okay, it was great -- you're a bloody good lay, but I've got news for you. I am not your Regimental wife, and I am not finishing with George Cowley on your, or anyone else's say-so. Got it?" Stunned speechless, Bodie did not answer, and Doyle pushed past him towards the boiling kettle. "Why don't you get dressed?" he suggested, voice even and controlled. "Breakfast'll be ready in a minute." Bodie let out his breath in a sigh.

"Okay," he said. "Where are my clothes?"

"Over there. By the couch."


By the time he returned, Doyle had cooled off somewhat, aided by a cup of tea. He'd done some more thinking, as well, while he put the finishing touches to the meal. The time for telling Bodie the facts of the situation was long past. He should have told him last night. The opportunity had been lost along with his head. But from now on the game would be played according to the rules set out by Cowley. As for Bodie -- and there his intentions wavered to indecision. How did he begin to cope with the sexual magnetism that had suddenly sprung into being? (Sod it, the man only has to touch me and I go up like a bloody rocket. Why? After all the years of working together, why now? And what in God's name do I do about it?) Though after his outburst, probably he wouldn't have to do anything. Once again he clamped down on the confusion in mind and body; he was a CI5 operative, and his job should come first. Like Torvenski, Connors, and Skinner. His personal upheaval was small fry in comparison. (So concentrate on cases.)

"Have Taff and Don come up with anything new on Connors?" he asked, dumping a mug of tea and a pot of marmalade in front of Bodie. His partner eyed him warily.

"No, he's keeping a pretty low profile, according to them," he said. "How about the Laurence end? That tap set up yet?"

"No. The Post Office is being bolshie. We should have put a tail on him right from the word go. And planted bugs when we went in after the sapphires."

"Why? He's not the one we're aiming for. Once he gets his fingers burned, he'll walk the straight and narrow. The Boy Wonder is the chancy bastard."

"And Laurence is the one who directs him. In my book that makes him as --"

"Mr. Plod the Policeman," Bodie's grin was rueful. "Ray, do we have to talk shop?"

"Yes. I think it'll be an idea to put Sally in with Ruth, in case Connors goes in with a small army. What do you say?"

"Good idea. There's no chance the Cow won't sanction it, so I'll burble to Lucy about my little cousin from the sticks." But the restraint was still between them, something they had not known since the early months of their teaming. Then it had been born of hostility. Now -- Doyle gritted his teeth, aware of Bodie's eyes on him, watching, waiting, speculating. He remembered the pleasures of the night, and shivered. Bodie had been so bloody confident. Sure of himself -- and of Doyle. And he'd known what he was doing. It wasn't his partner's first same-sex encounter, of that he was sure. He had a hazy recollection from the previous evening -- writhing on the couch, his own control hopelessly gone, and Bodie enhancing the experience with deliberate skill, driving them both to that first, shattering climax. He shivered again. And discovered he was afraid; not only of the strength of the hunger awoken within himself, but of Bodie's dark expertise and the unexpected possessiveness. ' -- I won't share you --'

"Cold?" Bodie drawled. "Come here. I'll warm you up."

(Concentrate on the operations.)

"Connors could move in on Ruth any time," he said, as if he hadn't heard. "I'll get Sal out there as soon as possible."

"Ray. What about Cowley?"

Doyle walked away, stood by the window looking out at the new slate-grey day.

"You followed me yesterday."


"Not in the Capri. I'd've spotted that."

"Borrowed a new one from the pool. You were careless, Ray."

"Was I?"

"Both of you. If I'd had a camera I could have got a beautifully incriminating shot of you and the Old Man."

"Oh, yeah? Standing in line with the Eastern Bloc David Baileys, were you? Surprised you weren't selling tickets."

"Now, now, 4.5. Don't be catty," Bodie murmured, and Doyle felt rather than heard his approach. "Let's be reasonable about this." Arms closed around him before he could move, Bodie's mouth fastened on his throat just below the angle of his jaw, and the too-knowing hands stroked down over bare chest and belly to cup the rising heat in his groin.

"For Chrissakes don't do that!" he moaned. "Bodie --"

"Why not?" breathed a damnable voice in his ear. "You enjoy it. Just a one night stand, am I? Like hell. Not when you turn on like this. Admit it, Ray." But he couldn't admit it, not to Bodie. It would be handing him the advantage, and that was something he did not want to do. Body and mind, though, were not in accord. Part of him wanted the night wiped from existence. Part of him -- the greater part -- wanted a re-run of all its elements, right there and then, and he leaned back against Bodie, hips pressing into the man's groin and the hardness there -- and then he remembered the possessiveness -- 'I won't share you --'

Resenting the traitor in his own body, resenting the confidence and skill that caused the betrayal, he found the strength to pull free, to make an attempt at normality, as if he knew how to handle scenarios like this.

"If you've got to swop cars and get back to Kensington," he said, "You'd better get a move on. And you can save your breath about Cowley. I'm not changing anything."

There was strained silence, but Doyle would not break it.

"Okay," Bodie snapped, voice taut with fury. "We'll play it your way. For now. What are you doing tonight?"


"I don't see Lucy until Wednesday, so --"

"So?" Doyle said, as he paused.

"So I thought maybe we should have a talk."

"What about?"

"Bloody hell, Ray. Last night. Cowley. Us. Or are you going along with the one night stand farce?"

"It happened, that's all," he said stubbornly. "No need to make a big production number out of it. Since when did you ever take sex seriously enough to start laying down the law about who sleeps with who, eh? Besides, I'm not in."

"With George?" Bodie's smile was not pleasant.

"Yes. At the sports club."

"And afterwards? A chaste goodnight kiss on your doorstep?"

"Pack it in! Or do you get a kick out of acting the bitch-queen?" For a moment he thought Bodie's temper would explode into violence, and tensed, waiting to counteract with a kind of fierce anticipation. But the anger was held back, and Bodie turned to the door.

"I think I better go," he said evenly, "before I end up breaking your bloody neck. See you around."

The door shut behind him, and the flat abruptly felt empty.

"Damn," said Doyle, aggression giving way to a sense of loss and frustration. "Damn, damn, damn."

It was not an easy day for Bodie, and the grim, forbidding figure that prowled in Sir Kevin's wake throughout that gentleman's perambulations about the Foreign Office was a far cry from the irreverent joker to whom the staff had become accustomed. It had been an open secret that the new P.A.-cum-secretary was more properly a bodyguard. Now it was patently obvious that his trade was not the shifting of letters and memos. It was an alarming transformation, and one that Sir Kevin found somewhat un-nerving. So much so that Bodie had to explain that no, he was not expecting trouble from their Irish friends, and yes, he was worried, but it was another case entirely.

It eased Sir Kevin's anxiety, but did nothing for his own, and Bodie was glad to leave the confines of the Foreign Office for the Kensington flat.

He checked automatically, but there was no tail, nor was there a Scimitar parked near the mews. He let himself in, reaching for the telephone with one hand, the whisky bottle with the other. Then put the phone down without dialling.

"Sod you, Ray Doyle!" he snapped, and slammed into the kitchen, refusing to admit that his mood was caused by anything other than Doyle's unreasonable attitude. What the hell was wrong with Doyle? Okay, he'd been somewhat startled himself at the way the carefully planned confrontation had turned out, but his partner's reaction seemed extreme. After all, the man had needed little persuasion, so he, Bodie, hadn't expected the adversities of the morning. He could see, however, that it was partly his own fault. If he had played his cards differently, he'd have got Doyle back into that bed, and there wouldn't have been any question about Cowley or anyone else. Only he'd said the wrong thing. God alone knew what had prompted him to say something so stupid. Tactless wasn't in it. And it wasn't true. He did not give a damn who Doyle got himself involved with, as long as it wasn't Cowley. He hadn't meant it the way it had sounded. What he had meant to say was that they were a team, and he didn't want it broken by Cowley deciding to take Doyle out of field-duties -- it rang false in his own ears, and he buried it hastily. Even so, his partner was not following the pattern Bodie would have predicted. It wasn't as if Doyle didn't know the score. Cowley, damn him to hell, may have been the first with him, but he'd learned bloody fast. And that triggered the memory of Doyle beside him on the bed, hands and mouth lifting him to heights not reached before; destroying in the process that autocratic control Bodie was so proud of. (Two of a kind,) he thought wryly, slow heat coiling through his blood to centre on his groin, and recalled Doyle's response the first time he'd kissed him. (A volcano on a slow simmer was Raymond. Turn up the flame a little, and the pyrotechnics were bloody fantastic. And I'd bet a year's wages that the Cow never took him that high. So how the hell did the Old Man get hold of him in the first place?) The smug grin was replaced by a frown. And why was it Doyle clearly intended to stick with his first man? It couldn't be the sex angle, he'd been too surprised by the depth of pleasure they'd generated, knocked off-balance and swept away by it, so Cowley couldn't have triggered that kind of fire. Could he? Nor could it be promotion via the Old Man's bed. Could it? So -- it was more a case of 'better the devil you know,' keeping to a relationship where the sex was not so highly charged? That way he could retain control, would not feel threatened by the strength of his own needs?

Looking further back, Bodie could see the pattern of secrecy, Doyle's almost hunted reluctance to talk. (Poor bastard. After spending his life since puberty enthusiastically and successfully chasing girls, he ends up with two possessive blokes in his love-life, all in a matter of weeks.) Except that he, Bodie, wasn't possessive. But he did intend to be part of Doyle's love-life. The sex had been too bloody good to pass up. Still, as far as Doyle was concerned, it was enough to make any red-blooded macho male somewhat erratic and confused in his behaviour. But Doyle would get over it. He had.

The previous night had not been Bodie's first sexual encounter with a man. Years ago, as a twenty-year-old mercenary in South Africa, too handsome for his own good, he had had a violent initiation into the kind of brutality that can be used in a close-knit, virtually all-male, society where sex was just another weapon to enforce domination.

He'd learned to play the game along with the rest, losing some, winning most because he'd hated the consequences of losing, and no one was exempt. The one man who never lost the game subsequently taught him that there was another aspect to it, that sexual satisfaction was not dependent on winning the power struggle and finding release in raping the loser. The victor could give pleasure as well as take it; the vanquished did not always have to endure pain and humiliation. It was not a lesson he had learned easily. The defeats had been bad enough; being forced to enjoy the inevitable result offended him nearly as much as the rapes at first. But being a healthy young man with very little moral compunction, he had no trouble taking both sets of circumstances in his stride, especially since his officer's interest protected him to a great extent from the violence of the game. He had never gone out of his way to look for a male lover, accepting it only as a second-rate substitute for a girl in his bed. So nothing had prepared him for the avalanche that had struck in Doyle's flat, and it didn't take much imagination or intuition to know that the effect on his partner would be correspondingly greater, despite Cowley.

"Poor bastard," he said aloud, and nailed another curse to Cowley's brow. At least the Old Man was obviously giving Doyle a gentle and considerate initiation into a homosexual relationship. But he, Bodie, should have been the one to do it, and if he'd have thought of it first he would have done, and Cowley -- or anybody else -- wouldn't have stood a cat in hell's chance. He stuck a third notice on the security fence he'd built around his partner -- No Trespassers.

To his surprise, though, Bodie felt compassion for Cowley; could understand why he would latch onto Doyle. This was a man in whom he could see himself twenty, thirty years ago, and in a way would be able to relive his own youth and fitness and potential, nullifying the increasingly lonely and empty life that held no chance of remaining at the head of the Department he had created and built up to a viable, efficient tool. But it was a shame he had chosen as he had. Any other man in CI5, and Bodie would have wished him well, would not have taken the mickey, nor allowed others to do so. The Old Man didn't deserve to be the butt of bad jokes, from himself or anyone else. But Ray Doyle was Out of Bounds.

All he had to do was convince Doyle. Start that volcano burning a few times, and Cowley would be an also-ran. Not that he was possessive, of course; he would be doing it for Doyle's own good, and the security of CI5.

The situation, its psychological undercurrents, and solution worked out to his satisfaction, Bodie abandoned the cerebral detective work, poured himself a shot of whisky, tossed it back, and turned his mind to food. He'd have a snack now, then give Lucy a ring and see if she'd welcome an unexpected date. It would fill an otherwise empty evening, and in her different way, she was nearly as good in bed as his partner.

Grinning to himself, he put coffee and water into the percolator, switched it on and put together an omelette, fending off immediate starvation with a couple of cold cooked sausages and a chunk of ham from the fridge. But his thoughts would not stay with the girl or the meal. Once this operation was wound up, and Lucy was out of the way, he'd concentrate on Doyle, burn Cowley out of his partner's system, and all would be well. (So keep out of my head, Raymond. I'll get round to you before long.)

The aroma of Blue Mountain filled the kitchen and living room, and he poured himself a mugful, diluting it with a generous helping of whisky. Purely to ward off the chill winter outside the windows. Sleet slapped wetly on the panes, and he yanked the blind down, added another shot of alcohol, and took a healthy swallow of the hot, pungent liquid. As personal central heating, it was pretty near unbeatable in his opinion, and by the time his omelette had finished cooking, he was ready for another.

Bodie carried plate and mug through to the living room, and the first wave of giddiness hit as he set them on the table. Coffee splashed over polished wood as he lurched off-balance, clutching at the furniture for support. His reactions were slow, fumbling, and he half-fell against the arm of the couch.

Drug -- and he'd been drinking alcohol -- First, raise the alarm. Second, make himself sick. Two decisions easily made, but fog was clogging his brain, his r/t was in the car, and the phone was across a room that suddenly assumed the characteristics of an assault course. He did not have a gun to hand, either, and that was something he would have given almost anything to rectify. He had a feeling he was going to need one. Not that he'd be in much of a fit state to use it. Fury injected adrenalin into his blood, giving him enough energy and coordination to reach the phone on the coffee table and dial Doyle's number. There was no reply, and in his drug-hazed mind there was only one reason for it, one place his partner would be --

"Cowley, may you rot in hell --" Bodie pushed the words out through wooden lips with a tongue that felt too big for his mouth. He started to re-dial, but fumbled it, and all he got was the unobtainable whine. Even that sounded muffled.

The phone dropped from his fingers, and he slumped to the floor. He did not lost consciousness, but his body was as unresponsive as a rag doll. He could not even stick his finger down his throat to make himself sick, he discovered. Connors -- it had to be him -- would have him where he wanted him. Then the doorbell rang. Hope surged up in him, gaining strength as a key rattled in the lock, but he could not move. Footsteps, and a gloved hand appeared in his line of vision, and the hope curdled in his throat, choking him.

Connors lifted the fallen receiver, listened briefly, and then carefully replaced it on its rest.

"Didn't you manage to make your call?" he asked, voice sympathetic. "What a shame. Not too well, Bodie? Feeling a little tired? That won't do." He leaned down and got a double fistful of jacket and hauled him over, propping his shoulders against the couch. "Come on, keep your eyes open." Connors' palm cracked across Bodie's cheeks, snapping his lolling head from side to side. "I want you awake for this." With one hand propping the semiconscious man, Connors took a heavy short-handled hammer out of his pocket. It was new, the head shiny, the handle varnished, maker's name-sticker clean and bright. "You're going to have a few more scars, friend, by the time I'm finished with you. I might even smash your elbows as well." He put the hammer on the coffee table and struck again, open-handed, stinging blows that left the imprint of his fingers on Bodie's face. "Stay awake when I'm talking to you, Bodie. I don't like bad manners. They make me very irritable."

"What makes you think," Bodie managed, "you can get away with this? Fair bit of porridge for GBH --" It wasn't easy to enunciate the words clearly but he did his best.

"You don't know who I am, friend. You can't even describe me. Try it, and it won't be a hammer for your kneecaps. It'll be a petrol bomb through your window, maybe, or explosives in your car. Or should I give Great Aunt Flora the petrol bomb? Yes, perhaps that'd be a little more effective. Great Aunt Flora -- fried. If you give the cops my name and address. So you won't do that, will you, Bodie?"

"You're sick." All that got him was a quiet laugh and another belt round the face. It occurred to him that he should be stalling for time, trying to talk the pillock out of it, or he was going to end up crippled. "Wait," he gasped. "Okay, I'll stay away from Lucy -- you don't have to get physical --"


"You've proved your point, for God's sake!"

"I think it needs underlining."

"Connors --!" a croaking yell of anger and desperation. He could not keep the man in focus; the handsome blond features blurred and shifted, mirage-like, fogged around by greyness, and his muscles would not obey the frantic brain-signals. Not even the rage of the trapped animal could cut through the leadening effect of the drug, a fury directed as much against Cowley and Doyle as Connors himself.

Abruptly the man stiffened, glanced towards the door. Bodie had heard nothing, but something had caught his attention, and any chance was better than nothing -- Bodie made a supreme effort, body flopping like a landed fish, and the coffee table rocked under the impact of his knee. Rocked and tilted, and the phone slid off, hitting the floor with a jangling clatter. Connors' hand clamped over his mouth, hammer raised.

"You bastard!" he spat. "That won't work. No one's going to hear --"

But the door crashed back on its hinges and a familiar tangle-headed tornado barrelled in.

Connors spun round as Doyle attacked, and took the full force of the agent's feet on his chest as the smaller man vaulted the couch. He staggered back, tripped over Bodie's legs, and went down. Doyle pounced on him, fists jabbing, landing on face and body with solid, effective thuds.

"Flora --" Bodie mumbled. "Ray -- let'm'go --"

"What?" Doyle stepped back. "Bodie, are you okay?"

"Pa'rol --" he was fighting a losing battle. "-- Fire -- Fl'ra -- let'm'go --"

"Bodie?" Hands clutched his shoulders, shook him, and he tried to focus on his partner's face. All he could see were twin blots of shadowed green that merged into one and he was sinking into it --

When Bodie finally struggled out of oblivion, he wished he hadn't bothered. He felt as if several herds of elephants had trampled him, concentrating their route march over his abdomen. But at least that terrifying helplessness had gone. He now had full control of mind and body. And the body was hellishly uncomfortable. He blinked his eyes open and identified a ceiling of the hospital variety. (Good old Ray. Come up with the goods again. Just like the bloody Seventh Cavalry. But how had he managed to time his arrival that well?) A chair creaked at his bedside, but when he turned his head, the restless sitter was Cowley, not Doyle. Bodie scowled.

"Good morning, 3.7." Plummily repressive, the quiet voice somehow conveyed disapproval, amusement, and irritation.

"Where's Ray?" Bodie croaked. The interior of his throat seemed to have been scoured with a Brillo pad. "And Connors?"

"Doyle is at Henley. Connors is in Elland's apartment, licking his wounds."

"Ray didn't bring him in?"

"No. In view of your somewhat garbled statement, he allowed him to make a break for it while he was attempting to keep you awake."

"Licking his wounds, you said."

"Bruised, if not cracked ribs, and an almost certain broken nose. Doyle considers himself to have been remarkably restrained." The amusement had gone, leaving arctic disapproval and irritation. "Between the pair of you, you came close to ruining the operation. 4.5's precipitous entry and subsequent violence was not necessary."

"What the hell was he supposed to do?" Bodie howled, outraged. "Hold the crazy sod's coat while he smashed my knees?"

"A simple 'unaware of the situation' intervention would have been sufficient. No doubt Connors would have been most concerned to have found you in a state of collapse, and would have helped Doyle get you to the hospital."

"No doubt," Bodie muttered weakly, and held out a limp hand. "D'you want to slap my wrist now or later?"

Cowley stood up and started for the door, lines set about his thinned mouth that could have either been anger or pain.

"Mill House and Ruth are under full surveillance," he said. "It is likely they will be his next targets."

"Likely? Bloody certain," Bodie said. "What do I do? Go back to Kensington and make like nothing happened?"

"Yes. I don't want him made any more suspicious than he is already. What was Doyle doing at the mews in the first place? He should have had more sense than to risk your cover."

"Dunno. You'll have to ask him," Bodie said, closing his eyes. "He never had a chance to say. But I'm bloody glad he did." It was a question he wouldn't mind hearing answered himself. In view of the way they'd parted company, the reason for Doyle's visit could be rather important. He grinned to himself. Maybe Doyle had discovered he couldn't stay away? "What was it, and where was it?"

"Valium. In the whiskey. Enough to tranquilize the Derby winner. You were lucky the caffeine counteracted it to a certain extent. As it was, a stomach pump proved effective enough. The locks have been changed, and the mews will be under surveillance until the operation is concluded. So will you."

"Who? Ray?"


"He is my partner. We're supposed to watch each other's backs. It says so in the training manuals."

"Doyle has other duties."

"Cowley." Bodie sat up, stiff and sore and not showing it, all facetiousness gone. "He is my partner." Two pairs of ice-blue eyes met and locked.

"Mr. Cowley to you, 3.7. And the composition of operational units is not your concern. I make them. I break them. The doctor will be around shortly. He'll give you a final check-over, then you can go. And, Bodie. There will be no more fiascos like last night. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," meekly, but the cold gaze did not waver. Cowley paused as if he had something more to say, but apparently changed his mind and left without speaking.

Bodie returned to the mews apartment in the early afternoon, peeved by the loss of twenty hours, and by Doyle's continued absence. His partner had not contacted him at the hospital, and had left no messages, nor did he phone during the evening. Lucy did, though, wanting to know why hadn't he come to pick her up at half past seven and it was now almost nine and was everything all right? He'd forgotten he was supposed to be taking her out, but his glib tongue hid his irritation.

He told her part of the truth -- food poisoning and a hasty visit to the hospital, putting the blame on Foreign Office salmon pate sandwiches. She was all concern, and ignored his pleas that he was too fragile for company, arriving on his doorstep half an hour later all set to play the little mother and coddle him. But since Doyle neither showed up nor phoned, that was okay.

Doyle was conspicuous by his absence the next day. Sally was with Ruth Wojeck, Bodie learned, Campbell and Morgan had Connors under their eyes, Doyle had caught an R.A.F. jet at three o'clock Wednesday morning and hadn't been seen since, and Cowley was heading for the South Coast via Henley on Thames. There were neither instructions nor messages for Bodie. He began to feel isolated, out on a limb, conscious of the tactful sympathy of most, and of the ribald amusement of the rest. With both Cowley and Doyle out of hearing, speculation was rife and vocal, and Bodie's angry presence did little to dampen the comments and opinions. He retreated to the Foreign Office, furious and hurting, a grim resolve forming in his mind. Enough was enough. Doyle was going to be made to see sense. It was also time he learned exactly what it meant to be a stronger man's lover. After that, Cowley could have him and welcome. Along with Bodie's resignation. He'd joined a security organization, not a Lonely Heart's Club. But then he pulled himself up -- that smacked of defeat, and he did not acknowledge defeat.

Bodie's tail was one Andrew Milne, a comparative newcomer to the ranks of CI5, and in Bodie's views, a lad still wet behind the ears. But he was a skilful, unobtrusive watchdog, and got eight out of ten for his efforts. Milne's partner had pulled the mews detail, and the pair of them had taken up residence in a top floor bed-sit opposite the gates. Bodie kept them posted on his intended movements via the r/t, and his evenings with Lucy were as near a threesome as a one-man-one-woman date could get. He stayed at her flat until gone two, drove back to Kensington and rang Doyle. There was no reply. Out of sheer perversity he rang Cowley's home number. Again, no answer. That pleased him, and he slept the sleep of the pure-in-heart for what was left of the night.

The phone dug him out of bed five minutes before the alarm.

"How's the gut?" asked Doyle's voice, cool, distant, an almost token concern. In the background Bodie could hear a typewriter chattering away, and muted conversations.

"Okay," he said. "You've collared your cross-channel mules? How did it go?"

"Okay," said Doyle. "No problems. You've seen Lucy? Has Connors been in contact with her?"

"Yes, and no. She hasn't seen him since Sunday night, when we went out for that meal together. Got anything on his whereabouts?"

"Yeah. He's still with Elland, and Styles turned up last night, stayed until twelve-thirty. At twelve-thirty-two Connors made a phonecall to Laurence asking if he was interested in Georgian silver and gold, all hall-marked, no plate. Laurence didn't sound enthusiastic. Connors told him he'd be doing the job anyway, and that he was giving him first refusal on the goods. Laurence decided to take him up on it, and they arranged a meet to talk it over. Connors will be calling in at Samarkand today at twelve."

"Nice. You read that just as if you were in the witness box, ossifer," Bodie said brightly. "Did you get your wrist slapped for the other evening? When you did your Seventh Cavalry imitation?" There was a short pause.

"Yes," said Doyle.

"As a matter of interest, why did you come over?" The silence stretched. "I see. No answer. Well, you'd better think up a good one, Raymond, because that question is going to be high on the agenda next time I get you alone." Doyle put the phone down. Bodie grinned and replaced his receiver. That augured well, he decided, and headed for the bathroom in a happier frame of mind.

Under the shower, inspiration struck. If Doyle was still set on Cowley, okay, fair enough, he could spend as much of his off duty time as he wanted with the old goat. After he'd spent some time with Bodie. And if Doyle had anything left for Cowley after he'd finished with him, then he'd flog his partner's body to the London School of Medicine. Screw the legs off him, and he wouldn't be able to crawl out of the flat, let alone into Cowley's bed. It was as simple as that. No dramatics, no psychological warfare; plain, uncomplicated exhaustion would serve the same purpose.

With no tail other than Milne, Bodie drove to the CI5 building, his mood one of cheerful optimism. It was tested to the limit. Doyle was not there, being out in Soho rounding up the remaining elements of the Skinner op. Cowley was, though, and his patent complacency got under Bodie's hide. Because Doyle's pet operation had been an unqualified, totally unobtrusive success. They had taken shipment, mules, and collection agents, and no one bar those immediately involved had been any the wiser. It had not been without rough stuff, but there had been no complications. Cowley clearly felt his decision in giving the op to Doyle had been completely vindicated, and was proud of his protégé's achievement. The agents seconded to Doyle's command would hear no word against him or his private life, were happy to follow him to hell and back, and made no secret of it. Doyle's feet, it seemed, were well and truly on the promotional ladder, and he didn't need anybody's bed to get him there. Which was, of course, the way it should be. What Bodie took violent exception to was the general assumption that their teaming was now over, needing only Cowley's official reassignment of them both to ratify it. Almost as hard to take were the unspoken condolences he was receiving from some of the girls. As if Doyle was dead, and they were keeping a respectful but supportive distance from his grief. He shivered, and got out of there, fast.

Bodie left his r/t channel open as he pottered about the flat, so he knew when Doyle was returning to base and logging off duty. He seemed to have scored top marks in the tying up of loose ends; he'd got a gruff, 'you've done well, 4.5' from Alpha before signing off.

Bodie cut his own set then, took ten minutes to shower, shave and change, and contacted Milne.

"Andy," he said, "get your skates on. I'm going round to Doyle's to drag him out for a beer." A groan was all the response he got and he grinned. "Yeah," he chuckled, "surveillance details are hell, aren't they? We might even go out on the town, pick up a couple of birds and make a night of it. -- That's enough, brat. It is impolite to snort at your betters."

"I didn't." Even with the faint static, the young man's defensiveness was obvious, and Bodie's smile held little mirth.

"Then use a hankie, Christopher Robin, and don't get lost." He broke the connection and slid the r/t into his pocket. He was now fully dressed; the short barrelled .357 was tucked away in a belt holster under the waistband of his slacks, and had been there since he'd got back from hospital. He did not intend that Connors should catch him at a disadvantage again. Never mind hammers, he'd show the cocky bastard what a Magnum slug could do to the human kneecap.

He played his usual fanfare on the bell, waited for acknowledgement and release of the catch, and bounced into Doyle's flat with fierce bonhomie. But his partner wasn't watching. He was slumped on the couch, a cooling and full cup of coffee in front of him, and his unshaven features were white, hollow-eyed, and drawn. Bodie revised the opening lines of his script.

"You look bloody terrible, mate," he said.

"Knackered," Doyle muttered. "If you've come to pick a fight, hop it."

"What I had in mind was a couple of beers and a game of darts at the local," Bodie lied, affronted. "You look as if you haven't slept for a week. What's up?"

"Nothing. I feel like I haven't slept in a week. Not for days, anyhow. But Skinner's all sewn up. Wonder what it's like, working nine to five?"

"Wouldn't know, never done it. Had anything to eat?" glancing round the kitchen area and not needing the shake of Doyle's head. "Okay, go up and take a shower; I'll fix you a meal."

"Is that a hint?"

"Yes. You smell like a trucker's Y-fronts."


"George will not love you if you neglect personal hygiene."

Doyle's eyes speared him with a vicious hatred.

"Pillock," he hissed. "Sod off, Bodie, and take your smart-ass remarks with you. I've had enough of your bloody-minded --"

"Shower first, fight later," he interrupted. "Deal?"

The eyes did not relent, and he wondered if vitriol was green. But Doyle got to his feet, moving stiffly, favouring his right leg, and disappeared slowly up the stairs.

Bodie watched him out of sight, frowning, then assaulted the fridge, and kitchen cupboards. There was very little in any of them that he felt up to tackling, preferring meals that needed only twenty minutes freezer-to-oven -to-table when he had to make them. But the solution was simple. He took out his r/t, flipped it on.

"Still with me, Andy?"

"Yes. On your way now?"

"Nope. My brilliant partner has been clever enough to get himself duffed up in the course of duty, and is also without basic amenities like food. Nip round to the take-away opposite the Crown & Anchor get me a couple of chickens and some cans of beer?"

"Okay." Milne did not seem surprised. "I'd heard it got a bit dodgy in Soho, and I expect the fall didn't help."

"What fall?"

"Him and the mule on the ferry. Silly bugger tried to make a run for it -- on a boat in mid-channel, I ask you -- Doyle went after him, brought him down, but the sea was up, and with a gale blowing, and they went off the top of the steps onto the lower deck. Lucky they didn't end up in the drink, if you ask me."

"I'm not asking you!" Bodie barked. "Fetch the grub, damn it!"

Milne delivered the meal to the door in record time, and Bodie took the carrier from him.

"Doyle is okay, isn't he?" the agent asked.

"Must be, or the Cow would have had him in hospital so fast his feet would blister." Bodie snarled. "Use your loaf, for Chrissakes. How much?"

"Four pound and five pence. Pay me tomorrow."

"Okay. Thanks."

He shut the door as Doyle came down the stairs, wearing clean shirt and slacks, his hair curling damply.

"Sit down," Bodie snapped. "And shut up." He'd made a pot of tea while waiting for Milne, and poured out a mug, heaped in sugar, and put it down beside the cold coffee. "Drink it."

Doyle lowered himself onto the couch, eyed Bodie with wary distaste, then the tea. His expression did not change, but he drank it, despite the temperature of the liquid.

"Thanks," he said eventually. "I needed that."

"I'll bet. What's the damage?" He got the glare again.

"No damage," then, "Just bruising."

"Is that official, or Doctor Doyle's private opinion?"

"I'm not that stupid. It's official."

"That's something, I suppose. Another cup?"

"Yeah, thanks."

He poured it, piled chicken and chips on two plates, plonked one in front of Doyle, and sat beside him.

"Get outside of that, sunshine. It'll do you the world of good."

"You'll make someone a wonderful mother," Doyle said, acid in his voice, but his initial picking at the food did not last more than a few mouthfuls. His hunger had only been dulled by exhaustion, and once started, he cleared his plate but for the bones.

"You owe me two pounds, two and a half pee," Bodie announced, pushing over cans of beer. "Feeling better?"

"Yes. Where did you get the food from?"

"The Young Milne collected it. He's my watchdog."

"Oh. Good. Connors isn't going to let you get off so lightly."

"He won't get the chance again. Ray, as far as I'm concerned, you'll never make a better-time entry -- I was seconds away from being invalided out. Why did you come over?"

Doyle rubbed his hand over his eyes, then through his hair. The curls sprang back, dark brown shot with copper --

"Nothing important," he muttered. "To tell you, you should be wearing a gun."

"You could have picked up a phone and told me that," Bodie said quietly. His partner reached for a beer can, opened it, and drank. Stalling tactics. "Why?"

"Don't push me, Bodie. I've had enough."

"Then stop fighting me," he said. "I don't want to get at you. I'm fighting him, but you keep on getting in the way." Not exactly what he'd intended to say, and it obviously puzzled Doyle as much as himself.


"We're a team, a unit. Right?" he went on, picking up the thread of his prearranged script. At least he had Doyle's attention.


"Wrong. Not any more, we're not. When was the last time we worked together as a unit?"

"Lifting the sapphires, but --"

"Exactly. Oh, sure, we've been on the same op, some of the time, but not as a team." There was a silence, and he watched the green eyes in the stony face, hoping for a reaction. A shadow seemed to grow in their depths, a slight frown pulled down the arched brows, and Doyle looked away. "Is that what you want, Ray? Promotion? A change in status?"


"Then why are they taking bets on who my next partner will be? Including Paula, who knows more about what's going on than any of us? Except you, of course. But I've got news for you. I've already got a partner. And I don't intend to settle for second best. I'll resign first."

Doyle's eyes came back to his face, and they were dark with shock and pain.

"Blackmail, Bodie?" he whispered.

"Whatever I have to use, I will. Do what the hell you like in Cowley's bed, but for God's sake, don't let him swallow you completely."

"That's all you're worried about."


"What about security?"

"Well, that, too, but --"

"And us? You and me and Monday night? Not to mention Tuesday morning." Bodie flushed, jaw jutting, mouth set. "It's okay, sunshine," Doyle drawled. "You don't have to say it. Not so important now you've cooled off, is it?" He leaned back against the cushions, eyes closed, lines of weariness etched on his face, bitterness about his mouth. "Why don't you go home, Bodie? Don't you know you're compromising your reputation hanging around here? What will the Young Milne think?"

"You want me to go?"

"Yes, sod it. I didn't know I was being that subtle."

"Okay!" Bodie exploded to his feet. "Anything I say is going to be bloodywell wrong, so what the hell. You can have the plain, unvarnished truth. If you climb into that bastard's bed again I'll beat the shit out of you! You can screw your way through every female in the country, but when it comes to sex with men you don't go any further than me. Got it? Or do you want it in words of one syllable? You are mine, whether you like it or not, and I don't share! Clear enough for you?"

"You're jealous?" startled disbelief.

"Too right I'm bloody jealous! So tell me what you need from him that I can't give you. I asked you that before, and all you said was 'nothing'. If that's true, why are you sticking with him?"

"Bodie --" Doyle took at deep breath, grim determination wiping all other expression from his face. "Cowley isn't my lover."

"No?" he jeered. "What do you call it, then? Pull the other one, Ray. I saw --"

"You saw what was meant to be seen, but not by you."

"You expect me to believe that?" he spat. "It was a set-up from beginning to end? Bull-shit!"

"Yes. Only it's not ended yet."

A murderous fury rose in Bodie, locking his muscles, choking in his throat.

"Who?" he breathed.

"Can't tell you. Shouldn't have told you this much. It's between me, Cowley, and the Home Secretary."

"Why in God's name didn't you come out with it on Monday?" he yelled. "None of this needed to have happened --" Doyle's head came up, and he seemed to brace himself.

"I couldn't tell you. Didn't want to," he said evenly. Bodie clenched his hands into fists, fighting the urge to hammer that calm, feline face into a bloody mask.

"You used me."

"No." Doyle shook his head.

"Yes! If I believe it, they'd all believe it, right? You bastard!"

"Wrong." Doyle's gaze fell away, and he abruptly looked weary beyond endurance. "You were the last person I thought would believe. But you did, and came round to bawl me out, and -- things got out of hand."

"Didn't they just," Bodie sneered. But Doyle didn't appear to have heard him.

"Then I realised I didn't want to tell you," the tired voice went on, "because we'd've gone through this scene then, after you'd said what you did, and I didn't want that. And you'd've left and I didn't want that, either. Tuesday, I was coming over to tell you Cowley was a set-up."

Bodie snatched a handful of curls and hauled Doyle's head up.

"Why?" he demanded.

"You had the right to know, regardless of orders."

"Yeah? With you and bloody-Cowley laughing up your sleeves while I made a fool of myself? You cold-blooded, calculating bastard! You and him make a great pair, do you know that? Just tell me this," grip tightening, "who was first with you?"

Eyes squinting with pain, bruised with exhaustion, Doyle looked up at him. A small smile tugged at one corner of his mouth.

"You, sunshine," he whispered. "No one else."

And Bodie believed him. The fury died, leaving him cold and anchorless, and he loosened his fingers in Doyle's hair, let the tired head drop.

"You weren't being used," Doyle murmured. "The joke's on me, not you."

"Ray -- do you want me to leave?" He reached out to touch him, but drew back, waiting for the reply.

"No," so quiet an answer he barely heard it. He moved close, intending to lift him into his arms, but it didn't quite happen that way. Although he got his arms locked around Doyle, somehow he was kneeling by the couch, his face pressed into Doyle's chest, the man's hands moving gently over his hair and back. It was a little confusing, but he did not want to move.

After a while, the hands stopped their slow glide, and Doyle grew heavy in his embrace, head drooping to his shoulder. Carefully, Bodie shifted position, propped himself up on the corner cushions, and gathered the sleeping man to him, relaxing with a rueful grin. Doyle could certainly pick his moment. What a time to flake out -- damned inconvenient, and inconsiderate. But it was proof enough of Doyle's exhaustion, and he was comfortable, content to stay put. There was a warm, completed feeling under his ribs that was only indirectly connected to the heat of arousal in his groin, and his arms tightened around the lean body resting against him. So much for planned scenarios. How was it that every scene and speech he'd worked out lately went all to pot, and he ended up losing his rag and coming out with the stupidest -- what the hell, it worked. So why question it?

Eyes closed, Bodie breathed in the warm, clean smell of him, and without thought bent his head to touch lips and tongue to Doyle's throat. A shudder ran through the sleeper, and he moved in his arms, half awake, body already aware, inviting further exploration. Bodie smiled; his suspicions, all his plans, had been nullified. Cancelled out by a few words. When it came to it, there was, after all, only the basic truth of Doyle's immediate and spontaneous response to him. He kissed him again, teeth nipping, felt the shivering gasp vibrate under his mouth, heard it as a sigh of almost feline pleasure. Triumph surged through him, riding on desire, amplifying it. There was no rival, no contest -- the only one who might dispute his claim was Doyle himself, and he was easily distracted. The smile became a chuckle and Bodie turned on the couch, reversing their positions. He studied the dazed face for a moment, then nuzzled aside the shirt, lips biting a possessive trail down throat and chest.

"Bastard," Doyle whispered, voice husky and shaking. "You cross-grained, bloody-minded, contradictory, paranoiac, tunnel-visioned, overbearing bastard --"

"Mmm," said Bodie, found a nipple already erect, and teased the sensitive flesh with his teeth. Doyle moaned, arching. "Complaining?"

"Yes! Bodie --"


"Will you listen to me?"

"You want to talk?" he was indignant. "Raymond, if you can't think of anything else to do with your mouth, it's about time you learned." He paused, and grinned. "Though when I think about it, you didn't need much teaching Monday night." While he was speaking, Bodie was unfastening buttons, zip, carefully removing Doyle's few garments. He got no help, but no resistance either. "Playing hard to get. Ray? Come on, we haven't got much time -- Christopher Robin's outside, remember? We can talk later."

Doyle didn't reply. He reached up, got a double-handful of Bodie's shirt and tugged him down to a bruising, demanding kiss. It was all the answer he needed, and he struggled out of his own clothes. As their bodies met, flesh on flesh, that incredible voltage shocked through them, searing away all considerations but hunger.

Bodie had no thought of restraint, of self-control. His needs were too imperative, and with a desperate urgency he drove them both towards an explosion of sensation that left them drained and exhausted. Physical hunger was appeased, and if there was a sense of something important missing, he smothered it without inspection.

He sat up, reached for his clothes and started to dress. Doyle was a sensual, sated sprawl on the couch, eyes shut, lips swollen, parted, and Bodie was ambushed by a rush of emotion he could not understand. Nor would the feeling of incompleteness stay banished. He'd known it before, when he'd woken Tuesday morning in an empty bed. Why then? Why now? And what was missing? The sex had been fantastic, as before, if over too soon, so -- Doyle's lashes lifted, eyes hazy green in their shadow, and Bodie shoved his questioning away, covering it with facetiousness.

"Runaway truck again," he smiled. "You're going to have to learn to take it slow and easy. I'm surprised your girls don't complain." It got an unexpected reaction.

"That's rich, coming from you," Doyle snapped. "I didn't notice you being left behind." He swung his legs off the couch, stood up and grabbed his trousers. "If you've got any complaints, go find someone else," and went up stairs two at a time.

"Hey!" Taken off-balance by the anger, Bodie was slow to respond. He followed on Doyle's heels, but found the bathroom door shut in his face. "Ray? What the hell's got into you?"

"Sod off." The shower hissed. "I should have had more sense. You want cheap kicks, you can --"

"Ray," he interrupted. "Have you lost your marbles?" He tried the door. It wasn't locked, and he pushed into the steam-filled room. "What's wrong?"

Doyle came out of the shower-stall, snatched a towel and wrapped it around his waist. Bodie took hold of the wet shoulders, looked into eyes that were angry, confused, hurt. Hurt? "What's wrong?" he asked again, quietly.

"I don't know!" Doyle yelled, pulling away. He couldn't keep a firm grip on the slippery skin, and the smaller man pushed past him, heading for the bedroom. But Bodie overtook him, blocked his path.

"You better make up your mind, sunshine," he snapped. "You wanted me to stay --"

"Yeah. Like a bloody fool." The self-contempt startled Bodie.

"So what's got into you now?"

"Into me? So bloody confident, aren't you? Push all the right buttons and good old Ray'll perform as per requirements."

"Hold on a --"

"Well, it won't work again. Was a mistake to've let tonight happen in the first place, but --"

"It's a bit late to get cold feet, Ray."

"No, it isn't. I don't want to get involved."

"Who's involved, for God's sake? It's only --"

"Yeah, exactly. It's only a bit of fun, and you're not involved. But you don't share. Right?" Doyle's smile was bitter. "I need my head read. Dog in a sodding manger, you are."

"You're not making sense."

"Probably not. Nothing about this makes any kind of sense. Best thing to do is uncomplicate it."

"You wanted me to stay," Bodie repeated stubbornly. "You were on fire for it."

"Yeah," again the bitterness.

"Is that the problem? Worried about your famous macho image?" Unsure as he was, it came out as a sneer.

"No," Doyle said quietly. "I don't give a sod for images. Go home, Bodie. I'm bloody tired, and I want to get some sleep."

"Ray, what's gone wrong?" It was out before he could bite it back, and suddenly he recognized what had soured their encounter. It had been an exercise in sex, basic animal needs satisfied with the same carelessness he'd give to filling an empty stomach. That was fine for the casual couplings with the Lucys and Annas of the world, but Ray Doyle was his partner, the other half of a unit, and he was tottering on the edge of losing something newly discovered and beyond price.

"I don't know," Doyle muttered. "I don't even know why this happened at all, from Monday on. Go home. And do me a favour? Don't let Cowley know I've told you about the op?"

"No," said Bodie, "I'm not going. Not yet."

Anger flared again in Doyle's eyes.

"For Chrissakes, why not?" he yelled. "You got what you wanted, didn't you? And if you didn't, hard luck! Satisfaction isn't guaranteed, Lover-boy. I'm a beginner in this game, remember? I don't even know the bloody rules!"

Bodie was silent. Words tumbled through the chaos in his mind and choked in his throat, and he could not force them into coherence. A chasm yawned at his feet, and the brink was cracking away beneath him -- Some of the turmoil must have shown in his face, because Doyle's anger died, and a slow, rueful smile twisted his mouth.

"Go home, Bodie," he said gently.

Uncertain, and therefore awkward, Bodie put his arms around the damp shoulders.

"Can't we make our own rules?" he whispered. "No strings, no conditions --"

"Stupid sod," Doyle sighed, arms closing round him, holding him close. "You don't bloodywell know what you do want, do you?" Bodie wasn't listening. He turned his face into the wet curls and shut his eyes, relaxing with a shuddering indrawn breath. That missing piece was back in the jigsaw puzzle. He still couldn't interpret the picture, but it was complete again. "Do you want to stay the night?"

"Yes," he said without thinking. Then groaned. "Ray --"

"Yeah, I know. Some other time, when the Young Milne isn't outside, and I don't have to fake an affair with our boss. Go on down and make us some coffee while I get dressed."

Reluctantly Bodie released him, looked into eyes that were warm with understanding. Illogically, Doyle had gained in confidence while he had found confusion -- hands in his hair eased him into a kiss that gentled his mouth open for a tongue that teased and tasted and promised pleasure to melt his bones --

"Coffee," Doyle murmured, pulled free of the renewed embrace and disappeared into the bedroom, shutting the door with a decisive snap.

Bodie stared after him for a moment, then trailed down to the kitchen, bewildered and subdued. Once more events had not gone according to plan, but the end result was the one he'd aimed for. At least, he thought it was. More or less.

Towel in hand, Doyle faced the mirror, looked his reflection in the eyes.

"You," he said to it, "have just made the best or the worst decision in your life, and I hope you bloodywell know what you're doing."

He hauled on slacks and sweater, rubbed his hair damp-dry, and ran down the stairs. His leg, and sundry other bruises, hurt like the devil, but he ignored the discomfort. The aroma of coffee laced with brandy filled his nostrils as he reached the living room. It didn't quite cover the unmistakable scent of sex.

"Hot as hell, black as sin," his partner announced with his usual brashness back in full strength, carrying steaming mugs through to the couch. "Who's the fish you and Cowley are angling for?"

"Can't say." Doyle dropped onto the cushions, rubbing the heels of his palms over eyes that felt scratchy with tiredness.

"Oh. A mole?"

"He might have contact with one. Cowley's stressed all along it's got to be a water-tight op -- for God's sake, don't drop me in it."

"Would I do a thing like that? With something this important?" he added, as Doyle allowed his scepticism to show.

"I suppose not."

"So tell me how you want me to play it."

"You've already set your own pattern," Doyle said. "Puzzled resentment."

"That's what you call it, eh?" Bodie grinned. "Not rug-chewing jealousy?"

"You want to chew rugs, mate, you go back to Kensington," he chuckled.

"The rugs there," Bodie murmured, sitting beside him and sliding an arm about his shoulders, "are sheepskin. This thick. Ever made love on sheepskin?"

"Not for some time." It was an intriguing thought, and he studied Bodie with lazy speculation. The atmosphere between them was totally changed; was back to the easy camaraderie of pre-Torvenski, with the undercurrent of sexual awareness to add spice. He wondered briefly if another man could make him feel the same sensual appreciation of maleness, but there was no compulsion to experiment further afield. He leaned into Bodie's arm, relishing the contact, and smiled into quiet blue eyes. That uncharacteristic stunned, lost look was gone. For good, he hoped. He did not want to see it on Bodie's face again. "You've got plans in that direction?"

"Yes. I might even buy you one for Christmas. The burning question is, how soon can we get rid of my bloody watch-dogs?"

"Just as soon as we put Connors where he belongs. The only problem left then will be Cowley's pet pigeon. Until that's tied up, nights and weekends are out for me."

"Sod it. I won't have any trouble keeping up the resentment, that's for sure." He leaned closer, lips brushing Doyle's cheekbone. "No trouble at all."

Doyle turned into the embrace, mouth opening under the pressure of the kiss. Tongue touch on tongue, a hand stroking down to cup his groin, and he moaned, body writhing slowly under the skilful fingers. Time. All he wanted was time to spend with the familiar stranger who had become his lover, time to explore and savour new paths, where the pleasure need not be snatched too fast, too soon. Time to lie together in the quiet night, when all that could never be put into words could be expressed in a caress -- and time was the one thing that was in short supply.

As if to underline it, Bodie's r/t bleeped at them. Doyle got his breathing and pulse back under control while his partner dug the radio out of his discarded coat-pocket.

"Yellow alert," said Milne. "Connors, Elland, and Styles are heading out of London in a dark blue Marina. Campbell's in tow."

"Heading west?" Bodie asked, frown disappearing.

"Yes. They haven't taken any equipment as far as he can tell, so it looks like a reconnaissance run."

"That boy doesn't hang around. If they're checking the place tonight, they could go in tomorrow. Give me a chance to finish my coffee, and I'll take you home for your beauty sleep."

He stowed the r/t away, shrugged into the coat.

"Things are moving," Doyle said, satisfaction in his voice. "What time is it?"

"Nine-ish. Why? Due at George's, were you?"

"No, not tonight. He gave me orders to catch up on my sleep. Got a lecture on Impaired Efficiency. You know what he's like."

"Sanctimonious old goat. Bet he'd throw a fit if he knew how much sleep you've got so far," Bodie snickered. "But you do need some rest after the Skinner op by the look of you, and I've got the Young Milne out there, so," he paused, and Doyle leaned forward, kissed lips that tasted more of brandy than coffee.

"Take Christopher Robin back to Alice," he murmured. "And thanks for the chicken and chips."

"You still owe me two pounds and something," Bodie said huskily.

"Do you want payment in cash or kind?"

"Depends on how kind --" he started, and Doyle shut him up, covering his mouth with his own. No time for more, and no way of knowing when there would be -- "Ray, I want you." The harsh whisper echoed his own need.

"It'll keep. Save it for that rug of yours."

"'M gonna screw you into the bloody ground --"

"Save it. Go home and take a cold shower."

"You wait --"

"I'm going to." He propelled Bodie to the door and evicted him, but the protests were half-laughing, the threats of retribution, promises.

Doyle shut the door and leaned against it for a moment, waiting for the fire in his blood to cool a little. He yawned and stretched, luxuriating in the languorous warmth of arousal, setting aside the frustration. He could wait.

Bodie. Autocratic, brash, amoral, unscrupulous, arrogant, possessive and supremely self-confident; but on the other side of the coin was a different picture, a man who was searching and didn't know it. Who needed something from him, and could not recognize that, either. And he himself hadn't seen it until it was nearly too late. He'd missed the first clue, the man who had knelt by the couch needing the reassurance of his embrace. It had been swamped by his tiredness, then waking already responding to that damnably sure mouth -- trying to retain self-control and failing, because he'd wanted Bodie too much. But the aftermath had brought back the doubts along with the realisation that he had moved to each calculated touch like a puppet. At the time he hadn't cared. Lava had flared and flowed under Bodie's assault, igniting him to the same feral urgency. But with orgasm, like Icarus he'd soared into the sun and fallen back to earth, shocked and -- admit it -- scared by his overwhelming reaction to Bodie's expertise. He would have done anything, given him anything, and if their climax had not come so soon, Bodie would have taken him, impaled him on the heavy shaft that had thrust between his thighs. He'd rejected the thought of that ultimate possession, but had to face the fact that in the savage heat of the moment he would have permitted it, wanted it. The self-knowledge was bruising, but it wouldn't have mattered so much if, by word or caress, Bodie had shown he understood, that it was more than a physical craving to be satisfied in the shortest possible time. But he hadn't. He'd got up from the couch, dressed, and made some flippant remark when he, Doyle, had needed the reassurance he'd earlier given to Bodie. Consequently, feeling used, pride smarting, he had almost walked away from the second clue without seeing it. Bodie's jealousy and possessiveness both stemmed from a desperate need; and he knew he could fulfil it. Bodie was hungry for love, starved of it -- and it was typical of the fool to confuse sex with love. Bodie had a lot to learn.

Doyle smiled, and went to bed.

Under instructions from Cowley, he did not show up at the Department until mid-morning, then spent some time on the phone to Henley Police Station, arranging the details of the final phase of the Connors operation.

Morgan appeared briefly on and off, but said nothing, did nothing more than poke his head round the door and disappear again. Doyle thought nothing of it until the fourth time, when the Welshman came in, shutting the door behind him. Doyle happened to be alone in the office on this occasion, and it wasn't a coincidence.

"Ray," said Morgan. "Can I have a word?"

"Sure," he shrugged. "What about?"

"Security. Let's take a walk."

"Security?" he repeated, scowling. "You should be talking to Cowley if --"

"Won't wash, Ray. You know damn-well what I mean. Do you want to discuss it here?" As he spoke, two girls came in carrying files and papers.

Doyle looked into his fellow agent's cool, dispassionate eyes.

"Okay," he said. "Where?"

"Pub's open. Why don't we have a beer?"

"I see. An unofficial grilling."

"Yes. For now."

"You're buying, sunshine." His smile was without humour, and Morgan nodded.

They left the office block, and drove the short way to the White Lion. It was a little early for the lunchtime crowd, and the bar was almost empty.

"Take a seat," Morgan gestured to a corner table. "I'll get 'em in. What'll you have?"

"Glenlivet," Doyle said, an ice-cold devil of perversity in him. It got no reaction.

Morgan came back from the bar, a half of lager for himself, and put the malt whiskey in front of Doyle.

"Just a friendly chat," he said evenly, "to clear the air, see exactly where we stand."

"A nice mix of metaphors," Doyle said.

"Don't hedge. How much thinking have you done lately?"

"Quite a lot," he drawled.

"Reached any conclusions?"

"Yeah. One or two."

"Care to tell me what they are?"


"Okay. Ray, I want to put something to you. Suppose you found out I was having a homosexual affair with Cowley. Given the nature of our job, CI5, and all that, what would you do?"

"Always knew the Welsh were sneaky bastards," and he saluted him with the whiskey.

"It's the Celtic blood. Well?"

"No comment."

"Come off it, Ray. You can't get away with that. I want answers. What would you do?"

Doyle let the silence stretch.

"Find out all the facts," he said at last. "Decide how much of a security risk there was, bearing in mind the psychological make-up of the people involved, then make my decision."

"Which is what I'm trying to do. So give me all the facts. Convince me I don't have to go above Cowley's head with this."

"Convince, hell. You pass your own judgement, sunshine," Doyle drawled.

"Not without facts."

"Okay, I'll give you some. Cowley is on the verge of retirement -- medical grounds. Once out of CI5 he won't give a damn what's slung at him; he won't be blackmailed by anyone. If it comes to that, regardless of his commitment to CI5, he won't be blackmailed while he's still up there calling the shots, either. So where's your security risk, Taff?"

"What about you? If they put the black on you -- you've got a lot of years and potential ahead of you."

"Maybe. But the agent's not for turning."

"You'll take being kicked out rather than play it safe?" Morgan demanded incredulously. Doyle didn't answer, just fixed him with a bleak, uncompromising stare. "What about the wider issues, then? If it got out to the press, they could make a beautiful smear all over CI5's face. There's enough left-wingers out there who'd love to see the Department hauled over the coals --"

"Ray Doyle?" the barmaid called, looking around the half a dozen patrons. "Phone call for Ray Doyle."

"Coming, luv." He stood up, eyes agate hard. "Tell you what, Taff," he said. "I give you my word when someone tries to black me, you'll be the third to know."


"Cowley, Bodie, then you. Pass your judgement, Solomon." And went to the phone.

"Good afternoon, Doyle." A quiet voice, slightly accented. "My car is a dark blue Talbot, V registration. I will pick you up outside the pub in a few minutes."

"You must be jokin'," he snorted. "Who are you? What's the game?"

"Nothing to be concerned about. I am a friend -- with your best interests at heart. Yours and George Cowley's. Be cautious." The line went dead.

"Damn," said Doyle.

He hurried back to the corner table, drained his whiskey.

"A snitch with info," he explained. "It better be good or I'll break his bloody neck. Take my car back, will you? He's playing at being the poor man's Mafia."

"Some of 'em do," Morgan smiled. "I'll let you know what I decide, Ray."

"Thanks," sourly, and dropped the ignition keys in front of him. "I'll do the same for you, one day."

The blue car was waiting as he left the pub, and the passenger door swung open. He climbed in, raking a swift glance over the driver as the car pulled smoothly away. The man had a nondescript face. Slavic of cheekbone, fair hair greying, he looked to be about Cowley's age. Valery Torvenski. But he didn't have to air his knowledge.

"What's the game?" he repeated. "If you have information for Cowley--"

"For him -- and MI5 -- perhaps."

"Oh? First off, mate; who are you?"

"No names."

"Then no deal. Pull over."

"Don't be so hasty. You misunderstand me."

"No kiddin'?"

"I have information about your Controller that I think neither he -- nor you -- would wish shared." Doyle, one hand inside his jacket on the Walther's butt, froze.

"Who the hell are you?" he whispered. "How did -- you're bluffing."

"Am I? In the glove compartment are photographs. I admire his taste. If I were inclined to look at a man for both sexual pleasure and companionship, it would be to one like you."

Fumbling with the catch, Doyle took out the photographs. They were neither many nor explicit, but obvious. In fact the staged scenarios had photographed rather well.

"Okay, so we're more than Just Good Friends," he said, voice controlled to an even monotone. Almost certainly there would be a tape recorder running -- "You're barking up the wrong tree."


"What are you? KGB? Cowley's not the type to bow to blackmail. You've got the wrong pigeon, mate."

"Have I?" a smooth purr. "Of course, George Cowley will not bend. But what of you? You see, I give you the credit of caring for your lover, a genuine commitment to a man who also has your respect and loyalty. Would you allow him to be pilloried, laughed at -- sneered at -- by his inferiors? Summarily and ignominiously removed from the Department he has created? He is a proud man. How would that injure him, Doyle?"

He did not answer, and Torvenski was in no hurry to break the silence. Finally;

"What do you want?" Doyle asked, voice husky.

"You, my friend."


"George Cowley is near retirement. Vast though his knowledge is, his years with CI5 are numbered -- perhaps they are even less than years? He has visited Harley Street specialists, has he not? And his limp has increased. You, on the other hand, are already beginning to climb the ladder. Protect him, and serve us."

"Get lost."

"Too hasty. Think about it, Ray. Think about what it will do to him when those are released to the Press and to MI5. A proud man, coming to the end of a long and honourable career in a cloud of disgrace, dishonour, and sneering laughter. And if he falls thus, CI5 will not go unscathed, will it? Some would like to see the Department go the way of its founder. Think about it. I'll be in touch."

The car eased up to the kerb, but Doyle did not immediately get out.

"You expect me to betray Cowley and the mob just to protect them?" he demanded. "That's a crazy kind of logic, isn't it?"

"Not betray them, Ray. Your prime concern in CI5 is domestic crime, terrorists, and so on. All we would need is a few names, addresses, dates -- Eastern Bloc people whose allegiance is not as sound as it should be -- perhaps dates and locations of security conferences -- and such like."

"Is that all?" Doyle muttered with weak sarcasm. "Still sounds like betrayal to me."

"Who will it hurt, Ray? No one. On the other hand, if Cowley and CI5 topple -- can your country afford to lose them both? Think about it. Oh, and a word of advice; Cowley is a ruthless man, and you probably know that better than I. Don't tell him of this discussion. He may well sacrifice you one way or another to preserve the Department, regardless of his feelings for you."

Doyle climbed out and slammed the door, walked away, hands in his pockets and shoulders hunched. He did not look back.

Torvenski had dropped him in Trafalgar Square, and he walked the short distance to the CI5 building as if the Russian's eyes and camera were watching him every step of the way.

As soon as he was through the doors, he headed for the nearest men's room and checked his clothing for bugs of the electronic variety. It was an elementary precaution when dealing with agents like Torvenski, and in this case, needless.

He reported to Cowley, giving a word for word account of the conversations, both with Torvenski and Morgan. The former pleased his boss, but the latter did not. Nor was it Morgan's knowledge that irked him. Rather it was what he had not done with it. Any genuine grounds for concern should have been taken straight to either the Home Secretary or MI5, Doyle discovered, with amazed and wry amusement. Morgan should not have been pussy-footing around pinning the party of the second part in pub corners, but informing on the party of the first part.

"Is that what you'd've done, sir?" Doyle asked when Cowley paused for breath, "given the same circumstances?"

"Probably not, but that's beside the point," he snapped. "Departmental Security should come before personal loyalties."

"Yes, sir," his agent agreed, poker-faced. "In that case, they should have put someone else other than George Cowley at the head of CI5. How do you want me to play him, sir?" He went on over the snort of surprise.

"Take the bait. Find out exactly what he wants."

"And what do I do about Morgan?"

"Nothing. Let him make his move first. Has anyone else tackled you?" A loaded question, and Doyle hesitated. That was a mistake, he realised, catching the fractional change in Cowley's expression.

"Bodie," he admitted.


"A few days ago."

"You didn't report it."

"No," he muttered, and glanced away. "The argument got a little heated." Which was one way of putting it, he reflected.

"And?" Cowley prompted.

Doyle drew a deep breath and plunged in. "I told him you and I are setting someone up. That's all," he said.

"My express orders --"

"Yeah," he interrupted. "Your orders wouldn't have done anything to prevent Bodie barrelling in here and doing his damnedest to break your neck. Or resigning. And how would you have handled that? If he decided he was quitting, you couldn't stop him. You'd have to take it. You'd've got mine, as well, after we'd nailed Torvenski --"

"That has to be the most garbled statement I've ever heard," Cowley snapped, "and a prime example of muddled thinking. If you've jeopardised this operation, or if Bodie does, neither of you will have to resign. You'll get your marching orders so fast you won't know what hit you." He leaned back in his chair, removed his glasses, and studied Doyle's face. "So, Bodie was not amused."

"No, sir."

"Another one who failed to take the correct action. Interesting. I am going to have to tighten up certain areas of procedure. Why, 4.5, was Bodie's immediate reaction that of one to a personal affront rather than to the potential security risk?"

"We're partners, sir. He resented the possibility of the unit being split, my coding changed."

"I see. And the supposed relationship between us?"

"Yes, well, he didn't like the security angle, either. He suddenly discovered he had a scruple, and it bit a little hard," he added, hoping the facetiousness would detract. It did not.

"Bodie and his amoral outlook are well known to me, 4.5. That young man can not surprise me." Doyle did not find the calm assumption amusing. He had the feeling Cowley could make a damned good guess at the other reasons behind Bodie's reactions, and come awful close to the eventual result. "How you handle his -- resentment -- is up to you, but this operation will not be hampered or threatened by either of you. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. He can continue to cool his heels at the Foreign Office for the time being -- but bring him fully into the picture. We won't change our pattern. With the pressure already applied, evidence held, there would be no need for you to display cold feet this late in the day."

"Yes, sir," Doyle said, smothering the urge to tell Cowley exactly how he had handled Bodie's resentment. "How much of a smear on CI5 could the Press make, if it was leaked?"

"Supposing it was genuine? The boat would rock somewhat, but it would blow over soon enough -- quicker, if another, juicer scandal cropped up. You and I would be expected to resign, of course, but that would be all, I suspect. There has been, after all, no breach of security."

"And on a lower level?" The question was out before he could catch it back, and he was obliged to go on. "There was a bit of gossip a while back about Matheson and King before they were killed, but --" He broke off and shrugged.

"But it did not exercise Morgan's sense of fitness -- nor anyone else's," Cowley continued for him. "There was a little talk, a little leg-pulling, nothing more."

"That's right. But if there was anything there, would they have been potential risks?"

"Ex-marine, ex-policeman -- would you have judged them likely to give way under blackmail pressure?"

"No, sir."

"Neither did I. And field operatives are too small a fry to make a splash in the headlines. Does that answer your question, Doyle?"

"Yes, sir." And he got out before Cowley could fire awkward questions of his own. Even so, he knew he'd said too much.

Maybe it was the interview with Cowley that had unsettled him, maybe it was the routine work to be done; the debriefings on the Skinner op -- interrogations and reports that would take up several days at the least -- and the Connors case, poised on the edge of completion, but his usually disciplined concentration wavered. There was more than enough to occupy his time, but none of it was compensation enough for not being out on the streets with the other half of his unit.

Doyle damned Torvenski to hell, and at four o'clock put through a phonecall to the Foreign Office.

As per instruction/request, Bodie turned up in the duty room at just gone five.

"Where's the fire?" he demanded, sitting on the corner of Doyle's desk.

"Could be Mill Cottage, later on tonight," he said. "Don called in; Styles has arrived at Elland's place carrying a holdall. Connors hasn't left it since they got back from Henley last night."

"Ah-hah. Tonight could well be the night. Told you so."

"Smug bastard. Ruth's all set, and as soon as Connors goes in, the local police will be on their way. We're cutting it as fine as we dare."

"Then why the scowl?"

"I want to make the bugger squirm," Doyle snapped. "Any objections?"

"None at all, old son. Only the queue forms behind me."

"Like hell it does. If I can't get to him, neither can you. If we go, it's as spectators, nothing more. Invisible."

"Better than nothing, I suppose. We ought to be there, after all. Just in case something goes wrong and poor old Aunt Flora needs help. And Cousin Sal," he added.

"Exactly," Doyle agreed. "Come on, let's get out of here, I'm beginning to develop claustrophobia. You'd better warn the Young Milne," he went on, heading out of the office for the lift. "He and Thomas can tag along for the ride, but --"

"-- Afterwards," Bodie cut in, grinning, "they can sod off and watch someone else. Right?"

"Right. Come round to my place later. I've been told to fill you in on all the details."

"About bloody time," he snorted.

Bodie's heralding fanfare sounded on the stroke of six, and Doyle let him in.

"Just made coffee," he said. "Want some?"

"Daft question. Okay, who is it?"

"Valery Andreivitch Torvenski. And he's taken the bait."

"Bloody hell, he's a sizeable fish! Tried to turn the Cow, has he?"

"Nope. Me," and he gave a run-down on the events of the morning. Bodie was impressed.

"Crafty bastard. A neat line of levers, but it wouldn't've worked, even if you and George were having it off."

"No, it wouldn't." Doyle brought coffee to him, set it down on the low table. "What if it was us he was trying to turn?"

"You're not serious? No question, old son. We'd tell him where to stick his blackmail. And if necessary, we pack in the mob. There's an awful big world out there, and plenty of jobs right up our street. More money, too," he added. "You'd not play it a different way?"

"No. Just wanted to hear you say it, that's all."

"Daft sod." Bodie reached out for him, and Doyle moved into the embrace with a kind of relief, relaxing with a sigh. "We're not blackmailable material," he continued, face buried in untidy curls. "Let 'em tell the Old Man, the Home Sec., News of the Bloody World, who they damn-well like. It'll be no skin off CI5's nose -- hey, you're not chickening out, are you?"


"Good." His hands moved down Doyle's back, igniting small fires where they touched, and he arched closer, so that their groins pressed together. But when Bodie sought to kiss him, Doyle turned his head, avoiding the hungry mouth.

"No," he said again.


"Pack it in, Bodie. It'll keep 'til later."

"You don't mean that. How much later, for God's sake?"

"I mean it. We haven't got time for distraction now -- later on tonight, maybe, when we've got rid of Connors and your nursemaids."

"But we've hours!" Bodie protested, tightening his hold. "Wonder Boy won't be moving until midnight, and it's not half past six yet!"

"You don't know that." Doyle leaned back against the arms around him, controlling the impulse to try a slow, sensual glide of his hips. "Listen, you stupid maniac, I'm not having any more high-speed sex sessions with you. You'll bloody-well wait until we've the best part of the night, okay?"

"Okay," he agreed with surprising docility. But neither man moved for a long moment, relishing the warmth and closeness.

"Coffee's getting cold," Doyle murmured eventually, and Bodie released him with some reluctance. "Where's Christopher Robin?"

"Outside with Alice."

"Well, bring 'em in. There's no point in them sitting out there while we know where Connors is, after all."

"Not with you playing hard to get, there isn't," he growled, and brought out his r/t. "Come on in, children, Uncle Ray's making orange juice."

Connors moved out at ten o'clock, after loading a bulky canvas holdall into the Marina. All three men were wearing dark clothes.

Campbell and Morgan stayed on their tail. Bodie and Doyle, followed by Milne and Thomas, took off for Henley by another route, travelling fast.

They reached Mill Cottage with little time to spare -- just enough to get the cars out of sight in the driveway of the neighbouring house, and to station themselves at intervals behind the evergreen boundary hedge.

Morgan provided progress reports over Doyle's r/t, and when Connors' car drew up opposite the gates of Mill Cottage, Ruth Wojeck was alerted. And when they left the car, their heads covered with ski-masks, and moved silently towards the house, so were the local police.

Bodie, too, moved silently, a black shadow drifting back to the road and the empty car. Minutes later he returned to Doyle's side, a rotor arm in his hip pocket. He gave his partner a wide grin and a thumbs-up. "Insurance," he mouthed.

In the house itself, no lights showed. Aunt Flora -- and Cousin Sal -- had gone to bed. Styles cut the telephone wires, and Elland used adhesive tape and a glass cutter to lift out a pane in the lounge window. It was neatly and quietly done, and the three forms slipped inside the room. Firelight flickered briefly as the curtains were parted, then the window was a blank eye again. The CI5 operatives closed in.

But Connors had more in mind than Georgian metalware, and it was an added refinement he had not discussed with his confederates.

Crouched outside the window, knee-deep in herbs, the agents picked up the astonished whispers from within.

"Gun? Bloody hell, Col--" from Elland.

"Shuttup and take it," Connors hissed. "Get the girl and bring her down here. I'll deal with the old bitch."

"Why, for God's sake?" Styles protested. "All we want is this stuff, and we've got it, so --"

"Because I say so, sod it! Bring her down."

"What're you going to do?" Elland demanded, stubbornness in his voice.

Connors gave a quiet chuckle.

"Scare 'em a little," he said smoothly.

"I don't like it," Styles muttered. "Let's get out now."


"I'm with Tony. Damn it, Col, we should clear off -- we've got what we came for, and you always said clean in and clean out was the only way to run this --"

"You'll do as I bloody-well tell you." It came out as a sibilant threat, and a short silence followed. It didn't take much imagination on the part of the listeners to see the gun in Connors' hand turned in unsubtle threat on the other. "Get her, Pete. Tony, load the stuff into the bag."

Doyle turned his head and met Bodie's gaze. They didn't need a debate. They would wait, find out what Connors was planning and how Ruth and Sally would handle it.

The two women were brought down to the lounge -- Sally's protesting voice pitched high and off-key, counter-pointing Ruth's small fluttering cries of panic.

"Shut up." Connors' voice held a vicious bite to it. "On the couch, both of you. You two, get back to the car."

"What're you going to do?" Elland said again.

"Told you. Now beat it -- and take the haul with you, sod it!"

"Come on, mate," said Styles quietly. "Let's get out of here."

They left the way they came, the CI5 agents melting back into the night to let them pass. Morgan and Campbell would make sure they stayed around for the local police to collect, should they decide to leave Connors to his own devices and walk out.

"Know what this is?" Connors was saying. "It's petrol. When I go, I'm going to chuck it into that nice olde worlde fireplace of yours."

Ruth gave a scream of horror.

"Why?" Sally gasped.

"Be quiet, bitch. I wasn't talking to you. I told him, stay away from my sister, but he didn't. Told him what I'd do to you, told him I didn't bluff. So now you're getting it, old lady. A petrol bomb."

"No -- please --" Ruth sobbed, and there was a patter of movement. "Please -- we haven't done anything to hurt you -- yet," she finished, voice changing, and there came the solid thud of a blow landing. Connors gave a retching croak of pain, and Bodie grabbed Doyle into a congratulatory bear-hug.

At the same time, a siren started up, a blue light flashed in the drive, and uniforms arrived in force. CI5 was very rapidly conspicuous by its absence.

The six operatives assembled by their cars, and might as well have been invisible for all the notice taken by the Henley officers.

"I'd've like to've done it myself," Bodie sighed, "but it'll hurt more coming from dear old Aunt Flora."

"Sounded like she was wiping the floor with him," Milne grinned. "Is she built like a Russian shot-putter?"

"Hah!," Bodie crowed. "Five-foot-nothing of white-haired fragility. Lavender and old lace -- I think I'm in love --"

"Savate," said Doyle. "She picked it up when she was with the French Resistance."

"Nice," Morgan approved. "I hope she kicked his balls clear up to his chin."

"Sounded like she did," Bodie grinned. "Did they collar the other two?"

"Yeah. No sweat. In fact, they were very subdued about the whole affair. Didn't put up any fight at all."

"Neither," said Doyle, straight-faced, "did the Boy Wonder, by the look of it," and he jerked a thumb toward the garden of Mill Cottage. Every light was on and the drive was illuminated like Blackpool's Golden Mile. Connors was being led out by a single policeman. He was doubled over and limping, rubber-kneed. The ski-hood was in the officer's free hand, and Connors' already bruised face was streaming fresh blood. Another uniform followed along behind, carrying a .38 revolver and a screw-top bottle full of liquid in separate polythene bags.

"Nice," Morgan said again. "He needed stopping."

"One way or another," Campbell added, and got a sour look from his partner.

"What about Laurence?" the Welshman wanted to know. "Is he going to be picked up, Ray?"

"Perhaps. But Fraud Squad are going to be starting on his books first thing in the morning. And if Elland and Styles implicate him --" He broke off as a sleek Rover turned into the drive and pulled up. Cowley climbed out, lame leg awkward.

"Good," he said. "Neatly done, and no shots fired. Bodie, stay with Kensington and the Foreign Office until further notice. Doyle, come with me. The rest of you can report in tomorrow for reassignment." He turned on his heel and disappeared through the gates of Mill Cottage.

Doyle started after him. Bodie jerked open the Capri's door, climbed in and slammed it shut.

Doyle hesitated, came back to the silver car. Bodie wound down the window, and Doyle leaned in, forearms resting on the frame.

"Shouldn't be too long," he said quietly. Bodie didn't answer, just scowled straight ahead. Both men were aware of their audience, and the mixed reactions to the scene. The key dropped into Bodie's lap; Doyle had always been good at sleight of hand. "See you later," he said, and loped off in Cowley's wake.

Bodie accelerated away on a screech of tyres, his displeasure not entirely feigned for the spectators.

Cowley did not stay long. He assured himself that neither Ruth nor Sally had come to any harm, spoke briefly with the Inspector in charge of the official side of the incident, and then returned to London, Doyle acting as chauffeur. They went back to Cowley's flat, and Doyle stayed an hour. During that time, they formulated several contingency plans for Comrade Torvenski, and eventually Doyle caught a taxi back to his own apartment.

There was no sign of Bodie's car, and the place was in darkness. He let himself in, feeling disappointed and oddly alone. He had refused to allow memory and imagination to intrude upon duty, but he had been looking forward to this time with his lover. Lover. It sounded strange in his inner ear, and his half-smile was rueful.

The disappointment didn't last long. Doyle switched on the light, took off his jacket, and as he dropped it over the back of the couch, saw his spare door key sitting in the middle of the coffee table. He grinned, anticipation starting its slow heat through his blood. But he did not hurry.

He went upstairs to the bathroom, stripped and showered, taking his time about drying off. No need for haste -- they had all night -- and he smiled again, hearing Bodie's voice drawling the complacent words. Smug bastard.

Doyle didn't put on the bedroom light. He dumped his clothes on a chair, and slid under the quilt. A warm body and enveloping arms were waiting for him.

"Took your bloody time," Bodie grumbled in his ear. "Here I am, patiently waiting for you to crawl home from The Cow's bed --"

"Cryin' shame," he agreed, a husky breathlessness in his throat, hunger firing through him in a sudden flare. "Bodie --"

"A runaway truck again?" his lover chuckled, and held him closer. "Not tonight, Raymond. So put your brakes on."

He started to laugh, a soft sound in the darkness of the room. "This is crazy," he murmured. Then; "don't think I want to be sane."

"You aren't," Bodie assured him. "Never have been, as long as I've known you, anyhow."

"You talk too much."

Urgency was contained, disciplined, and their love-making was unhurried, something to be savoured and enhanced, not spoiled by haste. Doyle let Bodie take the initiative, learning things about his own body and his lover's that he already instinctively knew. Hands, mouth and clever probing fingers lifted him to glittering heights; showed him that the ultimate possession, whenever it happened, was not to be feared or resented. Already on the brink of losing himself in the maelstrom, he wondered briefly how it would feel to take Bodie in that way -- climax came to them both in tidal waves of surging pleasure, and they sank together in the dark velvet of the aftermath, bodies welded close, mouth on mouth hungry-gentle.

Somewhen, Doyle decided, as he was drifting into sleep, he was going to ask Bodie who'd taught him the skills he was passing on...

Morning came with a slow sensual awakening, a sense of completion and rightness that the day should begin thus, and Doyle knew -- if he had ever doubted it -- that there could be no going back for either of them. Nor did he doubt that sooner or later, and probably sooner, Cowley would know about their altered relationship.

What Cowley would do about it was another matter, and could well be the major turning point in their lives. It was not a prospect he relished, but --

"Falling asleep again?" Bodie drawled, kissing the pensive mouth.

"Nope. Trying to find the energy to get up and shave. You can fix breakfast."

"Who says?"

"I do."

"I've had breakfast." Bodie licked his lips. "In bed. You taste pretty good."

"Hors d'oeuvres, sunshine. Now you can make the tea and toast."

"Not bloody likely," and he rolled out of bed, heading for the bathroom. The phone rang as he reached the door, and he paused. Doyle scooped up the handset.

"Yes?" a curt demand.

"Good morning, Ray." Torvenski's quiet impersonal tone put a slight chill of apprehension into his spine. If the Russian knew how and with whom he'd spent the latter part of the night -- "You've had enough time to think. Shall we meet and discuss the situation?"

"Okay," he said cautiously. "But it could be difficult. I don't know my assignments yet, or where I'll be today."

"Torvenski?" Bodie mouthed, and he nodded.

"Then tell me now; are you prepared to come to certain arrangements?"

Doyle let his hesitation stretch to a calculated number of seconds.

"Yes," he said.

"Good." There was no surprise in Torvenski's voice. "I'm glad you're being sensible. The British Museum, one o'clock. I will be admiring the Elgin Marbles."

"But --" The line was cleared, and he replaced the receiver, a smile starting.

"Taking the bait, is he?" Bodie came back to the bed.

"So far, yes. Wish I dared to go in wired for sound."

"Too risky with that one. No reason why I shouldn't bug a Greek or two. That place is already tight on electronic security, a bug wouldn't show up amongst all the rest on any sweeper device."

"Good idea. But not you, just in case he's on the lookout for a double-cross. He knows we're teamed, if he's done his basic homework, and he'll know what you look like. Let Taff do it, but don't let him know why."

"I won't. Your KGB pal could be watching here, have you thought of that? Grab the bathroom, I'll fix breakfast and shower later. I'll give you a half-hour head start before I leave."

"Okay. Bodie -- I think I'd sooner tell Cowley than wait for him to find out."

"What? About us? You are crazy."

"I mean it. I want him to know from us -- straight up front. Then he can make up his own mind whether or not we stay on with the mob. It'll be a point in our favour, I think. If we're not scared about him knowing, then we're not bothered about the likes of Torvenski putting this kind of pressure on us. Or anyone else. Blackmail only works if you've got something to be ashamed of, that has to be hidden. Unless, of course, you'd sooner pack it in."

"Pack what in?" Bodie demanded suspiciously. "Us, or the mob?"


"Neither. But if one has to go, it's CI5. You and your bloody conscience. At least you've got a devious mind and enough common to make use of it. But can we talk about it somewhen else? Go and get showered while I deal with the Pontypool front row."

Bodie grabbed Doyle's bathrobe, and ran downstairs. The rooms were in semi-darkness, but he did not draw back the curtains. Not that anyone could see into the garden flat from the road, but he wasn't taking any chances. There was enough light to see his way, to find what he wanted.

He filled the kettle, put it on to boil, shoved sliced bread into the toaster, and picked up the phone.

Morgan answered it on the fourth ring, a disgruntled snap in his voice.

"Taff," said Bodie quietly, "I need an unofficial favour."

"Yeah?" Cautiousness replaced the irritation. "Anything to do with Ray, by any chance?"

"Well, yes. Listen, I caught the tail-end of a phonecall he had yesterday, and -- well -- it's been chewing at me. I need a bit of help."

"I'll do what I can, up to a point," Morgan said. "You've got your proof, then?"

"Yes. I asked him outright, and he admitted it -- refused to pack it in, no matter what I said -- could have wrung his soddin' neck --" injecting just the right amount of pain and fury into the words. "The thing is, I think someone's put the bite on him, and I've got to be sure. After the fight we had, he's going to watching me like a hawk, and if it's the opposition who've made the move, they will be too, so --"

"Bodie, don't be bloody daft! This has to be official!"

"No! Not yet! We don't know who this guy is, who -- if anyone -- he's working for. Ray's arranged to meet him at the British Museum, by the Elgin Marbles. Can you get in there before it opens and plant a bug? Once we've got an ID on him and what he's after, we can decide what we're going to do."

"But --"

"For God's sake, Taff! Me'n'Ray have been a team for a long time -- as long as you and Don. How would you feel if it was him, eh?"

"It couldn't happen with Don."

"No? Well, I thought that about Ray!"

There was a short, uncomfortable silence, then;

"Okay," Morgan said. "But that's it. We can't afford to give him any more rope."

"It could be," Bodie said painfully, "he's already got enough to hang himself," and put the phone down, rather pleased with his parting shot.

At ten minutes to one, Bodie climbed into the anonymous blue van parked near the British Museum. The two men nodded a greeting, and Morgan pushed back his headphones.

"In place and working fine," he said. "I hope to God you know what you're doing."

"He does," Campbell grunted. "If you've got to gun for the top, make sure you've got the heaviest calibre you can get for ammo. Right, Bodie?"

"Right," he snapped. "If I have to. Tapes all ready?"


"Bodie," Campbell said. "You tackled Ray about that phonecall?"

"Yeah. He shrugged it off. Reckoned it was family problems -- one of his nephews in a spot of bother, wanting some Dutch-Uncle advice. Could be it was the truth."

"But not likely," Morgan said. " -- Here we go," and switched on tapes and speaker.

" -- early, Ray," a cool, faintly accented voice.

"So? I'm pushed for time," Doyle; aggressive, defensive.

"Yes, of course. Excellent workmanship, don't you think? Showing great appreciation of youth and strength in horses and men alike."

"I'd call it artistry, myself," Doyle snapped. "You wanted this meet, so let's get on with it."

"Very well. You have agreed to cooperate, correct?"

"Correct." Doyle mimicked the precise tones. "And you've agreed to keep George Cowley out of this, correct?"

"Yes. He may end his days in CI5 with honour, and enter an honourable retirement. While you, my young friend, climb the ladder of promotion."

"Maybe. I think I've got the ID on you. Valery Torvenski."

Inside the van, Morgan's expression of growing disgust and indignation became one of complete amazement, and he stiffened, jaw dropping. Campbell's lips pursed in a silent whistle.


"Perhaps, nothing. What do you want from me, Comrade?" a vicious irony in the last word.

"Information, Ray. We have doubts about a certain official in the Bulgarian Embassy. I would like that confirmed or refuted."

The listeners were so intent on the conversation, that the opening of the rear door came as a severe shock. Three guns faced Cowley, but he ignored them, stabbing out a swift hand and blocking Morgan's move to turn off the speaker. He climbed in, sat down at the man's side.

"I see," Doyle was saying. "What do I get in return?"

"You already know that. Your lover's safe tenure of employment. Not to mention your own."

Neither Campbell nor Morgan could look at Cowley.

"Promotional ladders aren't easily climbed. I'll need successes. If I feed you information, I'll need some back -- genuine stuff, and valuable, or I won't be in a position to -- cooperate -- for very long."

"Careful, laddie," Cowley whispered, and two heads whipped round, Morgan nearly strangling himself with the leads of his headphones.

"This is true," Torvenski sounded thoughtful.

"Also," Doyle went on, remorselessly, "you're older than George, according to our records. Nearly sixty. He's on the brink of early retirement; how much longer before you're elbowed out by a younger man? What happens to KGB agents of your calibre when they've out-lived their usefulness? Seems to me we both need insurance, Valery."

"That's enough, lad, ease up or you'll lose him --" Cowley muttered, leaning forward. His features were fierce and intent. Absurdly, Bodie suddenly saw him as a sandy-haired mongoose stalking a cobra --

" -- but that's your problem, not mine," Doyle continued with a harsh chuckle. "Who do you want in the Bulgarian Embassy?"

"Suppose you tell me." Smooth though it was, Torvenski's voice now had an almost imperceptible edge to it.

"Suppose I tell you a story," Doyle said, "about a careless lady and some sapphires, and her taste in tall blond men? And, of course, her husband, who is neither tall nor blond, but is very fond of the Western life-style."

"Uh-oh," said Bodie. "I think we just alienated MI6."

"They'll survive," Cowley said curtly, "and a little easier with the likes of Torvenski out of the way."

"Ah, yes. You do know who I mean. Is CI5 involved?"


"Don't prevaricate, Ray. Who is?"


"Interesting. And useful. Very useful."

"Who do I get in return?"

"Who would you suggest?"

"Mr. Up-and-coming who might be aiming for your shoes?"

"Ease up!" Cowley snapped, frowning.

"Should he ever come to Britain," Torvenski said softly, "I will give him to you with the greatest of pleasure."

"Fine. In the meantime, how about names and aliases of your agents helping IRA groups over here?"

"You're being greedy, Ray. That'll cost you more than Irina's husband."

"Okay, name it."

"An airline pilot defected two years ago. Captain Pavel Korshov. He has been given a new identity, and has settled in this country. I want that alias and his whereabouts. It will be on your files."

"It'll take a day or so to dig out."

"I'll contact you again in three days time. Goodbye, Ray. I have a feeling this is going to be a long and valuable alliance for both of us."

"Yeah. Maybe. But just you make sure George stays safe, or I'll blow the whole bloody lot ski-high."

Torvenski's quiet laughter faded as he walked away from the bug, and Morgan switched off the tapes and speaker.

"Excellent," Cowley said, rubbing his hands together. "I think we've got him hooked. Morgan, Campbell --" he rounded on them, fixing them with a commanding, basilisk stare. "Water-tight security on this. If I lose that shark all four of you will regret it. At the wheel, Campbell, let's get back to base."

"Yes, sir," weakly, and he clambered over the equipment to the front seats.

"It was a set-up," Morgan breathed, relieved and angry at the same time. "The whole bloody charade from beginning to --"

"Which is another thing," Cowley cut in. "When this operation is concluded, we are going to have a discussion on security procedure and what you should have done about a possible weak link."

"Bloody hell," Campbell moaned, "can't soddin' win, can we?"

"No," said Cowley, with some satisfaction. "What are you waiting for? Move out."

In the stark light and cleanliness of the computer room, Doyle paced like an untidy panther, tie pulled loose, shirt unbuttoned.

"Who," he demanded, "is Torvenski's successor? Who's pushing him?" Rhetorical questions, and Bodie was not paying much attention.

"Dunno, mate," he said absently, eyes on the slender blonde girl bent over a console. "Why not ask the boyfriend?"

"Going to. When he turns up. Where the hell is he?"

"Probably trying to convince MI6 they don't want your guts for garters." Their voices were quiet, little more than whispers, and no one was near to overhear. "I'm sure I know that face."

Doyle glanced at the view.

"Caroline," he said. "You had her last year. She was a brunette then, in the ops room."

"Oh." Bodie lost interest. "I remember. She used to think Germaine Greer was a latter-day Joan of Arc."

"Still does. Ah, here he comes."

Bodie tore his eyes away from long legs and expanse of thigh, and looked up as Cowley approached. His limp was more pronounced than usual.

"Hope that's faked," he muttered.

"Mostly," Doyle said. "Sir, who --"

"Mihail Hanev," Cowley answered. "At present in Washington. He worked with Torvenski for three years in Europe, learnt a lot of the old dog's tricks, and added a few twists of his own. He is known to be ambitious. On the home front, it will be suggested in a certain Russian department that Comrade Torvenski be given a medical check-up. He was told to stop smoking several years ago after a lung inflection, so it won't come entirely out of the blue. Even if they find nothing, it may well make him think very carefully about those unsubtle hints."

"Pity we can't get Hanev over here, if only for a flying visit," Doyle said. "Do I offer him a deal, sir? Info on Hanev I can leak to MI6 and CIA that'll put him out of commission?"

"That depends. Patriotism may be stronger than professional jealousy, regardless of what he said in the Museum. Play it by ear, 4.5, and whatever you do, don't rush him. On the other hand, don't spin this case out needlessly. The Committee is going to interview you for full membership Saturday evening, and I don't want to be landed with your fees."

"No, sir," Doyle's lips twitched in a smothered smile, and Bodie changed his snicker to a cough. His amusement was effectively and rapidly killed, however.

"We'll drive out to the Club tonight, and you'll spend the rest of the night at my apartment --"

"Oh, no. Not the couch again," Doyle groaned. "With due respect, sir, I don't snore, talk in my sleep, scratch, twitch, or wet the bed --"

"Propositioning me, 4.5?" Cowley drawled, and limped away, his quiet chuckle floating back.

"The old goat," Bodie sighed. "Shall I keep a light burning in the window for you?"

"No," Doyle murmured. "But you can give me coffee and breakfast round about five tomorrow morning."

"Is that all?" His stomach tightened as if a caress had stroked down him to his groin.

"I'm sure you'll think of something," and Doyle smiled.

"Damn you, Ray Doyle --"

Disgruntled, Bodie watched his partner leave, visualizing the lean strength of the body under the loose shirt and tailored slacks. Then slammed on the brakes and steered his thoughts in another direction. He was aided by Caroline.

"Bodie, phonecall," she said. "You can take it in my office."


To his surprise it was Sir Kevin on the other end, and with a slightly unsettling message. Several times during the day a Lucy Connors had phoned for him. She'd seemed upset, wanted Bodie to call her back at her flat. It might be personal, or it might be business; either way, Sir Kevin had decided to play safe and pass it on.

Bodie did not phone. He drove to Battersea to tie up the last loose end on the Connors operation.

It went more smoothly then he had a right to expect. Lucy had been collected by the police, questioned, and released. Although she hadn't seen her brother, she had been allowed to talk to Elland and Styles. They had sung like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, being disenchanted with Connors' sudden predilection for firearms and petrol bombs, not to mention his choice of victim and the reasoning behind it. And Lucy had been told the lot, including the drug-plant that had put Pattie Anderson behind bars. Connors himself was in hospital under guard, having his twice-broken nose and sundry other injuries attended to, and was feeling too sorry for himself to talk to anyone.

Lucy cried on Bodie's shoulder for half-an-hour, then startled him by asking if he would take her to prison. It took a minute or two before he realized it was Pattie she wanted to see.

Bodie took her, surreptitious use of his CI5 ID getting them in outside visiting hours.

She poured out the whole story, Aunt Flora inextricably mixed up with pot and gold and guns and bombs, but Pattie caught the gist of it well enough. Dark intelligent eyes flew to Bodie's face, and she smothered a slight smile as she comforted the blonde girl sobbing on her shoulder.

"Do you know a man called Ray?" she asked quietly.

"Never heard of him in my life," he answered promptly. "Scouts' Honour."

He persuaded Lucy away, gave her both his handkerchiefs and bought a box of Kleenex from the sweetshop near the prison gates. Then had to dissuade her from visiting Aunt Flora to perform a similar penance.

"Sal's taken her to Warwickshire," he improvised. "The doctor said complete rest, but she'll be okay, don't worry. What are you going to do?"

"Go home," she hiccupped. "I spoke to Mum on the phone this morning -- they'd already heard from the police -- she says I'm to come home."

"Is that what you want?" he asked gently.

"Yes," she whispered. "W-want to g-go h-home ..."

And Bodie took charge.

Within an hour she was walking aboard a plane at Heathrow, secure in the knowledge that her parents would be waiting at the airport on Guernsey to meet her, and that Pattie would be back in the flat as soon as her sentence was quashed. By the time the plane was airborne, her erstwhile lover was speeding back to Whitehall and the Foreign Office with a weight of apprehension lifted from his mind.

Lucy had got under his skin. That childlike helplessness had both exasperated and bored him; but it had also brought him a feeling of responsibility, not to mention a kind of protectiveness. That happened sometimes. Individuals occasionally slipped past the armour, and he found himself caring about them -- confused or unknowing pawns in the dangerous games he played for CI5.

He and Doyle, on the other hand, were knights, moving in zigzags across the board, while Cowley -- and here he snickered -- was the Queen, liable and able to go in any direction.

"George," he said aloud about the purring engine, "you're a devious old bastard."

-- Or maybe he and Doyle were the pawns in Cowley's games. Well, that was okay. Pawns can hold a King in checkmate, after all, and take a Queen.

The next time Torvenski contacted Doyle, the CI5 operative was given very little notice of the meet. The National Gallery, El Greco, half an hour.

Bodie was summoned from the Foreign Office, and was picked up by Morgan and Campbell in the van.

"Has to be a culture freak," he grumbled, scrambling into the back where Morgan was crouched over the receivers. "We better nab the bugger before he runs out of museums and art galleries. Ray on his way?"

"Yeah," absently.

"Is he wired?"

"No, we're getting a bug in there."

"This late in the day, for God's sake? How?"

"Judy's borrowing her sister's school uniform. In flat shoes, white ankle socks and no makeup, she'll look about twelve years old. Straight out of St. Trinian's. She'll have a bug in her satchel. With any luck, she'll be there before Ray."

"Christopher Robin and Alice are covering entrances along with you and me," Campbell continued. "Taff will be recording it all for posterity."

"And Cowley?"

"Around. He's listening in, via this," Morgan said, patting the receiver. "We go in on his say-so, depending on whether Torvenski swallows the bait. No shooting. He's got diplomatic immunity."

"Naturally," Bodie sighed.

They had to wait a while. Doyle arrived on time, and was kicking his heels in front of a vast Christ-in-agony for ten minutes before the Russian turned up. Their voices came through clear but distant.

"Miss your bus?" Doyle drawled.

"No," said Torvenski. "How is Major Cowley, these days?"

"Still boss of the department," he countered.

"I hear he's been ordered to rest for some weeks."

"No. It was suggested a break might do him good, which isn't quite the same thing."

"Is he going to take it?"

"Don't know. He hasn't decided yet. Do you have any names for me?"

"Some. But I'll have Captain Korshov, first."

"Okay, no skin off my nose. He's taken the name of Paul Nielsen, and he's living at The Briars, Hastings Lane, Battle, in Sussex. Drives for the local bus company."

"An Aeroflot pilot driving buses?" and Torvenski gave a disparaging snort.

"Sad, isn't it. All he can show for it is the freedom to speak, think, do and be what he likes."

"Are we to argue ideologies, or exchange information, Ray?"

"So far it's been a one-way street. You may have the whip hand, but if I'm going to be a useful tool, I need teeth."

"Of course. I have your information. You understand it would not be wise to reveal your source? I am giving you field agents, Ray."

"Yeah," he said softly. "Never thought you'd do it, if they're for real."

"Oh, yes, they're genuine. As you said, we both need insurance. Here is part of the list -- four agents in the south of England and Wales. The rest, those in the North, Scotland and both sides of Ireland, you must earn."

"How?" an immediate demand, eagerness unhidden.

"You will somehow suggest to one Henry Schilling of the U. S. Embassy that a minor official on our staff in Washington should be investigated. I suspect he is a double agent working with the Chinese, and his discrediting would be an embarrassment to them. His subsequent recall to Moscow would remove a possible thorn in the flesh for both America and Russia."

"Okay. Who?"

"Mihail Hanev. Here are the dates and places that would bear inspection. I doubt if they will find anything concrete, but the suspicion and the operation would be enough to have him called back to Moscow."

"No problem. And the list?"

"Later. When Hanev is in Moscow, I'll give you the rest. Once that is out of the way, we can settle down to a regular pattern of give and take. -- Look on this as a kind of trial run for you, testing your present level of usefulness and your future potential."

"And if I fall short?"

"You won't do that, Ray. Having gone this far to protect your lover, you've burned your bridges. Failure now would destroy you both more effectively than public knowledge of your liaison."

Over the CI5 r/ts came a quiet command.

"All units, move in."

Campbell and Bodie disappeared, leaving Morgan swearing at the slow-turning reels, wishing he could be in two places at once.

Bodie entered the gallery on Cowley's heels, saw the Russian's eyes narrow with suspicion.

"Is this wise, Ray?" Torvenski murmured.

"My agent is acting under orders," Cowley answered for him. "As he has been throughout this operation." He held up a couple of cassette tapes. "These will make interesting listening for your superiors, Comrade."

"Never thought it would end this quickly," Doyle said. There was, Bodie noted, an element of disappointment in his partner's voice. Nor did Cowley miss it.

"Mourning for Burnham Hall, 4.5?" he smiled. "Aye, you may well grieve. It'll be some years yet before your salary will be able to permit membership of that establishment."

"If ever. I was thinking of applying for a job there. Like armourer-cum-Range-master, or martial arts instructor, maybe," he said wistfully. "The food's pretty good, too. And the cellar."

Cowley shot him a keen glance. Like Bodie, he had caught the undertone.

"A little premature, Doyle," he said. "Unless you're thinking of resigning."

"No, he's not sir," Bodie said before Doyle could answer. "You know what he's like; makes sure he's got all his options covered."

"I see." Cowley sat down at his desk, slipped the cassette tapes into a drawer, and leaned back in his chair. "You've done well, 4.5. A little heavy-handed at times, and careless on at least one occasion, but on the whole a good effort. And Bodie," he went on, accents somewhat acid, "I am grateful to you for containing your sense of -- injustice? -- and not jeopardising the operation."

"Yeah, well," Bodie scowled at the imperturbable face of his Controller. "Next time you intend chucking Ray into some bloke's bed, I'd appreciate advance warning."

"I'll remember that," Cowley said over Doyle's snort of 'Next time?' "However," he continued, "this operation has thrown up some interesting points, and I'm going to require some swift answers from you, Bodie, as well as Campbell and Morgan."

"Yes, sir," he said brightly. "What would you like to know, sir? Why I didn't shop you and Ray? Because to be a possible blackmail victim, you've got to have the potential to give way under that pressure. Neither of you have."

"You hypocritical bastard!" Doyle gasped, the words goaded from him.

"Yeah, well, I was angry then," he admitted.


"Okay! Bloody furious!" and they glared at each other.

"Anyhow," said Doyle, "I told him it was faked, so there was no need for him to take official action."

"And as for Taff and Don," Bodie said, "I deflected them by saying I was collecting as much evidence as I could before handing it over to the top brass." A united front, in spite of the friction.

Cowley eyed them both, eyes bleak, brows pulled down; clearly he was unimpressed, and unsatisfied.

"That will be all, for now," he said, just as Bodie was beginning to think the Inquisition was about to start. "Vacate house 4, 3.7, and both of you report for reassignment at 7.30 a.m. tomorrow."

"Yes, sir," and they removed themselves with practised speed.

They headed for the lift, collecting grins and comments from those they passed on the way. Word had soon got around that the Cowley-Doyle relationship was not what it had seemed, and now that the grim edge had been taken away, it was likely that Doyle -- and Bodie -- would be the butt of bad jokes for some time.

Bodie responded in kind, and hoped that his partner's temper was once more on its usual slow fuse.

Back in the Kensington Mews, Bodie made coffee while Doyle retrieved cardboard boxes from the under-stairs cupboard. He had been unusually silent during the journey to the safe-house, and Bodie had let it ride, leaving him to his thoughts. For the time being.

"Coffee's ready," he announced. "What d'you think the Cow'd do if I stayed put? Squatted here?"

"Send in the SAS to evict you," Doyle smiled. "Say goodbye to your life of luxury, sunshine, you'll sleep in your own bed tonight."

"Will I?" he said. "Alone?"

Doyle's smile became a chuckle, his eyes smoky-green, and speculative.

"Probably not."

"Probably?" Bodie echoed, blood tingling through his veins. "Come here --" But Doyle was already reaching for him, hands locking behind his head to pull him into a kiss that scorched an immediate response. He did not contest the initiative; opened his mouth to be invaded, felt the sweet, shuddering hunger surge through his body, and knew it was shared.

"Bodie." Doyle arched back against his arms, hand braced on his shoulders, groin pressed to groin. "It has to be a joint decision. I think he should be told, and soon. Or it stops, right now."

"That's blackmail."

"No. It's common-sense. I want you. But I'm not going to have what I feel maybe used as a weapon against Cowley or the Department. He has to know -- put it on our files if he wants to, or give us the boot, but it has to come from us, not the opposition, or our own men."

"Don't have much option, do I?"

"Yes. The mob's important to both of us --"

"Yeah, but I already told you, remember?"

Doyle didn't answer. His gaze was intent, and Bodie smiled. "Doubting Thomas," he murmured, and released the tensed body. He walked across the room to the phone, dialled a number. "3.7, sir," briskly. "Can you come over to Kensington? We've got some information you should have. Okay, sir." He put the phone down. "Satisfied?" he demanded. "He'll be here in half an hour." Doyle nodded, a smile growing that tightened bands around Bodie's ribs, and it was suddenly difficult to breathe. "Bet you a quid he doesn't bat an eyelid."

"Fifty pence," Doyle said automatically, as he'd known he would, and Bodie, with a deep well of contentment overflowing in him, began to laugh.

-- THE END --

Originally published as a zine novel, Blue Jay Press, 1984

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