Brightly Shone the Moon
Sequel is Winter Fuel
Written for Discovered in the Mistletoe, on the discoveredinalj livejournal community. With thanks as always to Callisto for the beta.
"Brightly shone the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel"
--From the Christmas carol 'Good King Wenceslas' (words by J M Neale)
Bodie looked up at his partner with a grimace that might have been sympathy.
"It's no good, mate. You can't hide in here for ever. The Cow knows you're in the building, so it's only a matter of time."
"Yeah, I know." Pushing away from the window he had been lounging against, Doyle shoved both hands deeper in the pockets of his jeans. "I'm just fed up with being given all the lousy assignments, just because I'm fit and you're not."
"You can trade places anytime," Bodie assured him, with a fervour that brought a slight upward tilt to Doyle's lips. "Being stuck in Records is ten times worse than any boring babysitting job, believe me."
With a sigh, the sought-after agent headed for the door. "Fancy a drink when you get off later?"
"If you think you'll be up to it, after your exciting day."
Doyle resisted the urge to wipe the irritating smirk off his partner's face and simply walked out of the office to see what he was being summoned for.
"At last, man. Get in here and shut the door. I've a job for you to do today, and you've wasted enough time."
Doyle stood in front of Cowley, displaying a singular lack of enthusiasm for the promised task. He hated working alone, but Bodie had yet to be passed fully fit after the knife wound he had suffered a few weeks back. His latest medical appointment indicated that he should be ready to get back to full duties in another week; in the meantime, Doyle felt he was marking time as much as the injured man.
Cowley's gaze was shrewd as he regarded the man before him. He had a very good idea where Doyle had been since entering HQ over thirty minutes ago. He never shied from mixing his agents up to work in different combinations, but the Controller was no fool and recognised that, having created strong teams, he could not ignore the downsides as well as the positives. A major downside, in the case of extremely effective teams -- like that of Bodie and Doyle -- was that the agents found it harder to adjust to working with a temporary partner. It wasn't always possible to accommodate this inconvenient fact, but it was something he tried to take into consideration when he could.
Of course, it didn't hurt either that making the uninjured half of such a team suffer boring jobs while waiting for his partner to be declared fit again might just encourage them both to look after each other's backs with additional care. The extra incentive could do no harm.
"Sit down and look at these." As he spoke, he opened the file on his desk and extracted from it several documents and a photograph. He handed the picture across to Doyle and waited to see if he recognised the face.
"The Israeli Ambassador's wife," Doyle stated, instantly. "What's she been up to this time?"
"Ah. You've heard the rumours too."
"Yeah. Expensive tastes, likes to indulge herself. But I thought that had all been checked out and she was in the clear?"
"Aye, there's no suspicion of any -- shall we say 'financial irregularity' - going on. However, the lady has received some rather nasty letters recently, and the Israeli government has decided to bring her home. In view of the circumstances, they have recalled the Ambassador as well."
"What kind of nasty letters?" Doyle's interest was mildly piqued, despite himself.
"Letters implying that she has certain connections with people not generally regarded as friendly to the state of Israel."
"Ouch. Don't envy her when she gets back to home soil. Mossad aren't exactly known for their gentle questioning style."
"Which is exactly why we have been asked to ensure that she gets on a plane to Israel, in one piece. The Ambassador will travel separately, with his own escort, but arrangements have been made to take the lady by another route. She will be flown by private jet to Amsterdam, and then she will be put on an El Al flight from Schipol. Your job is to see to it that she gets to Amsterdam. The Dutch security people will pick her up from the private airfield and escort her to Schipol, while you get back here." He gathered together the papers on his desk and returned them to the folder. "The details are all in here." He glanced at his watch before adding, "You have thirty minutes to read the file before you'll have to leave."
"Sir..." Doyle hesitated, then decided he might as well ask. "Is there any truth in the rumours?"
To his surprise, Cowley answered bluntly. "Aye, lad, I think there might be. So keep your eyes open."
The journey to the Israeli Embassy was a brief one, and Doyle had plenty of time to review the file before setting off on what looked to be, to all intents and purposes, another babysitting job. Representatives of the Israeli government and their families were usually easier than most to ferry around, being accustomed to extremely high levels of security and therefore less likely than many to kick up a fuss about the kind of precautions it might be necessary to take. Doyle had never met the Ambassador's wife before, but it was to be expected that she would not be too keen on returning to Israel to face such allegations as those featured in the letters.
Doyle pulled a face as he considered what the letters had said -- and what they hadn't. No names had been given, but it was quite clear that the anonymous writer was alleging that the wife of a senior Israeli Ambassador was in league with the PLO. It was hardly surprising that Mossad wanted to talk to her.
The Christmas shopping rush was in full flow as Doyle negotiated his way through the busy streets of Kensington before finally pulling up close to the Embassy. He was expected, and he knew that details of his car and its registration number would have been notified to the Israeli officials in advance; nonetheless, the security procedures before he was allowed in were stringent.
Finally, however, he was through the door and being greeted by a man who was clearly part of the Embassy's security detail.
"Good morning, Mr Doyle. My name is Moshi. If you would follow me, please." The man was huge, at least five inches taller than Doyle, and powerfully built. While his manner was quiet, he stayed a little too close to the CI5 man, and Doyle caught a glimpse in the other's eye that made him certain the man was crowding him on purpose. Outwardly, he kept his face bland, but inwardly, he sighed. He could play macho games as well as any, but this was supposed to be a co-operative venture. No doubt the Embassy staff, those who knew, were feeling a little sensitive that one of their compatriots might have turned traitor, but it was hardly CI5's fault.
Silently, he followed the behemoth through a succession of corridors until finally he was led inside an opulently-appointed room where another giant of a man stood, very close to a chair on which was seated the woman in the photograph. The wife of the Israeli Ambassador.
Doyle wished, intensely, that Bodie was there. His partner seemed to take an odd pleasure in the protocol surrounding dignitaries. Doyle had long suspected it was left over from his days in the army, and shamelessly took advantage of it, leaving Bodie to do the hob-nobbing whenever he could. He was on his own today, and had no choice.
Stepping forward, he extended his hand. "Mrs Sharett. My name is Ray Doyle. I'm here to escort you to the Netherlands."
Standing to return the greeting, Mrs Sharett was revealed to be only a little shorter than himself, elegantly dressed and exuding a calm so concentrated it was almost palpable. Doyle's instincts reacted immediately. This woman was too poised for an innocent being returned to her country for questioning by one of the world's most feared secret police.
"Mr Doyle. How do you do?" The persona was firmly in place, Doyle could tell. The 'I am the Ambassador's wife' persona. No doubt it was a useful mask.
Before he could speak, the man who had been positioned next to Mrs Sharett stepped forward. "My name is Peled. I suggest we leave now."
It's going to be one of those trips. Great.
By the time they reached the small airfield on the outskirts of London, Doyle would have given almost anything to be back in London, even if it meant Harrods and the horrors of Christmas shopping. The two Israeli agents had maintained a rigid silence throughout the journey, eyes constantly flicking front and back, as Doyle drove. Their silence was matched by that of their charge, who had said nothing after her initial greeting in the Embassy.
Doyle looked at his watch. The flight to the Netherlands was a short one, just a brief hop across the North Sea and then he would be rid of this tedious job. He brightened at the thought of being back by dinnertime. Maybe he could finally get round to that chat he'd been meaning to have with Bodie for a while now? He thought he'd caught a glimmer of something in his partner's eyes this morning, something that indicated the chat might be welcome...
Concentrate, fool! Now is not the time. Wait till you get home again before you start on that.
With a deep breath to refocus himself, Doyle pulled the car up as close as he could to the light aircraft indicated by Moshi as their destination. He and Peled climbed out of the car and headed straight for the aircraft, leaving Moshi with Mrs Sharett until they had checked things out. Before they had taken more than a couple of steps, another man appeared, heavyset and clearly armed like the agents. Peled continued forward, and after a moment's hesitation, Doyle followed. "Another one of yours?" he enquired, deliberately pitching his voice to be inaudible to the approaching man.
Peled nodded curtly. "Gavish. He is a colleague, but will also be our pilot. He has already received full instructions." Raising his voice, he called, "Have you completed the pre-flight checks?"
Acknowledging Doyle only by the briefest of eye-contact, Gavish nodded. "I have checked the plane. We are ready to leave as soon as you are all on board."
"Wait. I'm sure your checks are thorough, but I would like to examine the plane myself before we take Mrs Sharett on board. Until we are safely in The Netherlands, she is my responsibility."
Peled was nodding in agreement, aware that had the situations been reversed he would have felt the same. But Doyle thought he caught the slightest of hesitations from Gavish before the pilot nodded too.
Doyle completed his own examination of the exterior of the aircraft before moving to the inside. Without special detector equipment, he would have to rely on sight only. His checks were thorough and revealed nothing untoward, but something was nagging at him, making him uneasy...
Finally, he could delay no longer. He had no tangible reason for refusing to continue; both the Israelis and Cowley were confident that this method of leaving the country was safe, or they would never have allowed such a potentially sensitive traveller as the Ambassador's wife on board. Reluctantly, he indicated to Moshi that it was time to board.
As soon as the four passengers were strapped in, Gavish began to taxi along the grass, the plane jolting and bouncing slightly along the uneven surface before finally rising into the air.
Doyle kept an eye on his watch. Twenty minutes to clear the coast, maybe another half an hour across the open sea, and then the rapid descent over Holland and down. They'd already been going for more than ten minutes, so that meant--
There was a crack, loud in the confined space even above the engine noise, a curse from Moshi in the seat next to him and a stifled yelp from Mrs Sharett. The plane jolted, the clouds outside the window parting rapidly and swirling dizzyingly around them, before levelling again as Gavish regained control.
"What the fuck was that?" Doyle spat.
Gavish's gaze remained fixed on the control panel in front of him, but his reply sent a cold chill through the cabin. "Some kind of explosive. It's taken out the electricals and I think it may have damaged the fuel tank."
"Can you land?"
"No!" Moshi's voice was uncompromising. "We have to get to Holland. It is not possible to land here, in the middle of nowhere."
Even in the stress of the moment, Doyle couldn't prevent a slight twist of his lips as he considered where they were likely to be flying over. East Anglia could well qualify for the middle of nowhere, especially in the middle of a bleak December day.
"We have no choice." Doyle was snapped back to the present situation by the pilot's voice, tension sounding clearly through the outwardly calm sound. "We are losing too much fuel. It would be safer to try and land here than to come down over the North Sea. We would survive less than fifteen minutes in the water in these temperatures."
"He's right." Doyle looked at Moshi and Peled, before speaking directly to the woman in their charge. "I'm sorry, Mrs Sharett. It looks as if it's going to be a bumpy landing. Gavish, do you have any radio contact?" He thought he knew the answer already, but he had to ask.
"OK. Can you bring it down now?"
"I'm descending, trying to find somewhere flat enough to land safely. The cloud cover's low, which makes it harder to -- ah!" He fell silent and swung the plane round, clearly scoping out a prospective landing place.
"I'm going to land here. The field looks big enough, and I think it cannot be too far from houses so we should be safe to make contact soon after we land. Put your heads down and brace yourselves -- this will not be smooth."
Not smooth was an understatement, was Doyle's first thought as he raised his head groggily. Surely it didn't have to be quite so rough as all that? Shaking his head to clear it, he unstrapped himself and got to his feet, one hand reaching for Mrs Sharett while the other hovered near his gun. All his instincts were screaming at him to get the hell out fast, and they were joined now by reasoned argument. This plane was supposed to have been searched thoroughly. So how did any kind of explosive get missed, unless it was overlooked deliberately -- or planted by the person checking for it?
His body was moving on autopilot, opening the door and dragging the woman to it, pushing her out before immediately following. The Israeli agents may still have been stunned from the rough landing, but they could look after themselves. His responsibility was to keep the Ambassador's wife alive until help arrived. Grabbing her by one arm, he began to run. He had no idea where they were, but anywhere had to better than where they were right now. Unfortunately, elegant dressing meant impractical shoes, and he found himself almost dragging Mrs Sharett with him, halving his speed and seriously impeding his ability to assess the area. "Kick those damn shoes off and run!" he urged her, ignoring her protests as he continued to drag her towards the adjacent field.
The next instant they were both face down in the muddy ground, thrown by the force of the explosion from behind.
Had any of the other agents escaped? It was impossible to tell. If they had, Doyle couldn't be sure that they were on the same side after all, so finding them would only complicate matters. Hauling himself and his charge to his feet, he pulled her on, only to drop to the ground again near the hedge dividing this field from the next as the sound of gunfire pierced the continuing rumble from the burning aircraft.
They were in deep shit.
Bodie yawned and stretched, noting with relief that there was hardly a pull from the knife wound that had relegated him to Records. With any luck, he'd be out of here next week and back on active duty. Apart from the tedium, it was lonely in Records. Some days, he was lucky if he exchanged more than a couple of words with anyone. Doyle came in when he could, of course, teasing and tormenting, but even stuck on boring babysitting and obbos, he was out more often than not, and if he did try and chat, was only too likely to get dragged out for something. Like this morning.
Unconsciously, Bodie gripped his hands together and squeezed. Silly, really, but there was something about today that was making him uneasy. Nothing he could quite put his finger on; just a niggling sense of something being out of kilter. If they'd been on a job, he would have said it was his Ray-dar pinging, but Doyle was on a routine escort job the last he'd heard -- except he shouldn't really have heard that, but it was quite surprising what you could pick up if you chose your place to loiter carefully enough. Some time, Bodie reflected, he probably should warn Cowley about that, as it was a potential security breach, but it was so useful on occasions that he couldn't quite bring himself to do it just yet.
Damn. There it was again. Nothing he could really explain, just a sense of unease in his gut and a tingle in the back of his head.
Maybe he could persuade Betty to tell him just what Doyle was up to. Wouldn't do any harm to try, anyway.
He was halfway to Cowley's office when the familiar voice called down the corridor. "Bodie! Betty, get Bodie here straightaway. Call down to--"
Cowley glared at him for a moment, beady eyes raking across Bodie's face and body before he swung round into his office. He didn't even wait for Bodie to close the door before he spoke.
"The doctor says you should be fit enough for active duty by next week. How are you feeling now? Can you drive?"
"Yes sir. What's going on?" The pause and the way Cowley briefly averted his gaze solidified the unease in his gut to a solid, icy lump of apprehension. "It's Doyle, isn't it? What's happened?"
Cowley pulled his glasses off and sat down heavily, indicating Bodie should sit too. "We're not sure. He was escorting the Israeli Ambassador's wife to Holland in a private plane. They took off on schedule, just over an hour ago, and should have been close to landing by now. But it seems that all radio contact was lost not long after takeoff, and it's taken the Israeli Embassy this long to notify us. If they went down soon after losing communications, they could have landed somewhere in East Anglia." Dragging out a large map from under his glasses, he spread it open and pointed. "According to what I've just been told, their last known location was above here. There's been no sign of them in any airspace since, so assuming the pilot was still alive at the time the radio failed, it's reasonable to think that he would have tried to land before reaching the North Sea. I'm sending out as many units as I can to try and find them, and I've already got the local police on it. I'm hoping for a call--"
At that moment, the phone on his desk rang. "That'll be them. I told Betty not to put any other calls through." He snatched up the receiver. "Cowley. Yes. Yes, that's the area. What? You're quite sure? How many bodies?" Bodie found himself on his feet, straining to hear the voice on the other end of the phone, but to no avail. He didn't even hear the end of the conversation, but Cowley's voice speaking to him jerked him back to awareness.
"Bodie. Pull yourself together, man. Now, pay attention. That, as you will have guessed, was the local police. They've found the plane; it landed in a field just here," a single finger pointed at the precise location they had just identified, "together with two bodies. Both appear to have survived the crash, as they were some distance from the plane, only to have been shot. Both were carrying diplomatic badges identifying them as members of the staff of the Israeli Embassy."
The ice in Bodie's gut melted, just a little. Just enough to enable him to start functioning again.
"And Doyle?" "The police report no sign of him or Mrs Sharret." "I'm on my way."
Bodie remembered nothing of the drive out of London, through Essex, Suffolk and into Norfolk. The short winter day was long gone by the time he pulled up on the narrow road adjoining the field where the remains of the aircraft still smouldered quietly in the cold, still air. Nightfall had brought a shift in the weather, the clouds dissipating to reveal a moon nearly at full and stars impossibly bright in the huge sky which yawned over the flat, empty landscape. No light pollution here; no lights at all, except the torches held by the police surrounding the wreck. The temperature was noticeably colder than in London. Absently, Bodie pulled his heavy coat around him as he climbed out of the car, stiff from the long drive and the tension that would not release him.
Before he had taken more than three steps, a policeman stopped him. "CI5," Bodie snapped, before the other man had a chance to open his mouth. "Who's in charge here?"
"That would be me." The voice to his right made him jump, so focused was he on the damaged plane. "Inspector Coke. I was told to expect a contingent from CI5. Are the rest following?"
Bodie nodded. "Yeah. You could say I'm the advance guard. Any news on the three missing people?"
The Inspector shook his head, his face a blur in the darkness. Breath steamed out of his mouth with every word he spoke. "You're aware that we have two dead?"
"It's the live ones I'm interested in." Bodie's words were a sibilant hiss, the steam that accompanied them reminiscent of the final puffs of a steam engine seconds before it exploded.
"We've found no trace of them, except possibly just over there, where someone may have pushed through the hedge." Bodie was running across to the boundary before the Inspector had finished speaking. Snapped and broken twigs bore mute witness to the Inspector's statement, but there was no other evidence.
"Has anyone local seen anything?" Bodie's gaze raked the dark field ahead of him, as if he could force his eyes to see through the darkness if he only tried hard enough.
"We have men out in the area, but you can see for yourself that this is not a well-populated area. If your fugitives wanted to escape notice, this would have been my first choice of places to land. I suppose they were just unlucky."
"Maybe not. Maybe that crash wasn't a crash after all." Bodie spoke slowly, trying to frame the thought in his mind even as the words left his mouth. "Maybe it was deliberate. Have your people touched anything on the aircraft?"
"Only to make sure there was no-one inside. Otherwise, we're waiting for the aviation people to come and inspect it."
Bodie nodded before jogging back to his car. Snatching up the radio, he was relieved to be able to contact HQ immediately. This place felt so remote, he had half-expected all communications to be out.
Cowley was on the line in seconds. "Well? Any news? Have you found them?"
"No sir. There's no sign of them, except that someone appears to have forced their way through a hedge into the next field. I'm going to go and have a look properly in a minute, although it's too dark to be able to do much. But the thing is -- I'm not sure the plane really crashed."
A brief silence indicated that Cowley was processing this remark. "Explain."
"The local plod said that if he had had to pick a place to land without being spotted, this would be the one he'd choose. Now, it may just be coincidence, but doesn't it seem strange to you that two people are dead, with no sign of the killer? According to the file, if this woman has done what she's been accused of, there could be at least two lots after her; the Israelis to shut her mouth, and the others to stop her blabbing about her contacts. What if the killer was one of those on the plane?"
Cowley's response was immediate. "Have they identified the bodies by name to you? I haven't had that information yet."
"Hang on, sir, and I'll ask."
A brief word with the Inspector, who had been standing politely just out of earshot, and Bodie was back. "The IDs that they found had the names Moshi and Peled. Does that mean anything to you?"
The hiss could have been static, but Bodie knew it was not when Cowley replied, his voice low and tight. "Yes, Bodie. It means you may be right. The surviving member of the Embassy staff on the flight must be Gavish. And guess what?"
"He was the pilot," Bodie ground out.
"He was the pilot," Cowley agreed. "If you're right, he's trying to kill Mrs Sharett, whether he's genuine or a plant in the Embassy. I think we can assume that Doyle somehow managed to get her out and away, but how long he'll be able to hold him off, God knows. You'd better get out there and find your partner before Gavish does."
Gavish hadn't found Doyle yet, but the CI5 man wouldn't have cared to bet on how much longer it would take. On his own, he could have evaded the pilot, but hampered as he was by the need to keep Mrs Sharett safe, that task was becoming increasingly hard. For one futile moment he wished the cloud had stayed as it had been when they had first landed, shrouding the sky and offering some comfort to the hunted. Instead, he had to contend with a moon so bright they cast shadows as they moved, crouching and half-crawling beside the pathetic shelter of the hedge field boundaries. His R/T was useless out here, so far from London, and although he knew help would be on its way as soon as the crash was notified to Cowley, the chances were it would arrive too late. In a town, evasion would be feasible, immediate help easy to summon. Out here...
Doyle shuddered. With cold, he assured himself, eyes continuing to scan for any movement that could herald the presence of Gavish. He suppressed the feeling of unease that grew stronger the longer they stayed out in this godforsaken corner of England. He couldn't afford to be too imaginative in this job.
The woman beside him shifted uncomfortably, and Doyle caught a small puff of steam drifting from her mouth as she sighed. Frowning, he pulled her scarf up to cover her mouth again. He had realised very soon after their escape that in such an exposed place even the slight visible evidence of their breathing could betray them, and since then both had muffled their mouths in their scarves. Nor could they risk speech, and Doyle was as ignorant as he had been in London of whose side she was actually on -- or, indeed, if she was even guilty of the alleged crime.
Returning his attention to the field before him, he pushed the thought away. At this stage it made no difference whether she was guilty or not. They were being pursued, and given the gunfire they had heard shortly after escaping from the plane, it was fair to assume that their pursuer did not have friendly intent towards them. The rest would have to wait until later -- if there was a later.
Perceiving no sign of movement, he motioned to Mrs Sharett to creep forward. It was risky to move, the chances of making themselves a target increased with every step, but he was running out of options. It was just too damn cold to stay here all night; if Gavish didn't find them hypothermia undoubtedly would. Both had been shivering almost since the moment they left the plane. Mrs Sharett was better placed than Doyle, as she wore a full-length fur coat. He was in his usual T-shirt, shirt, jumper, casual jacket and scarf -- hardly adequate for spending the night in sub-zero temperatures. Already he could feel the cold leaching his clarity of thought and slowing his reflexes. He found himself uncharacteristically hesitant about what to do next, even as they crept forward, desperately trying to avoid making any sound that might reveal their location.
Foot by slow foot, they crept on. Doyle was beginning to see the cold as a tangible enemy, closer and as threatening as any armed man could be. It might not kill them as fast, but its insidious power was no less deadly. Pulling his scarf tighter around his neck, wishing he had a hat, he forced himself grimly on.
Time lost all meaning, and he had no way of gauging how long they had been crawling along the hedge before they reached the corner of the field. Which way now? If they followed the hedge round where it angled left, would it be taking them into the path of their pursuer? Gavish was a big man, and surely would have made some noise breaking through the hedge, so chances were he was still on the same side of the boundary as they were. Perhaps they should try to break through the hedge here.
Forcing his fuzzy mind to concentrate, he bent closer to look at the hedge. The berries on the hawthorn looked like small black bullets in the moonlight, and for a moment his mind drifted. For God's sake, concentrate! It took an inordinate effort, but he dragged his focus back, and finally was rewarded. Just beyond the point at which they were both crouched, he thought he could see a slight break in the hedging, as though one plant in the row had failed to take. Waving his silent companion to follow, he slid along the ground and looked more closely. Yes, it looked possible. The thorns would be a nuisance, but they should be able to squeeze through. As long as Gavish wasn't waiting on the other side, they might be able to move faster. Surely, somewhere, there must be people, houses -- and, more crucially, telephones and warmth? This was England, for God's sake, not the wilds of Alaska.
Pointing to the break he had spotted, Doyle waited until the woman nodded her comprehension before he edged forward, pulling his scarf tight around him to avoid it snagging on the thorns. He turned sideways and eased through, slowly widening the gap. The planting was thicker than he had expected, and he pushed harder, leading now with his foot while trying to stop his hair from becoming entangled in the twigs. As he leant forward, shifting his balance, he became aware of an emptiness beneath his foot, but it was too late to pull back. He stumbled, twisted, and fell, hitting the ground later than he was braced to, shaken for a moment and unable to grasp what had happened. Lifting up his head, he was bewildered to see, not another field, but the sides of a shallow trench.
Realisation was quick to follow. Of course. It was a drainage ditch. His hopes rose as he took in the narrow, muddy trench that stretched before him, shadowing the track of the hedge. If they could stay in this, they could cover the length of the ditch unseen.
A glowering inspection revealing no signs of movement along the distance that he could see, he carefully checked the field, keeping his head just barely above the edge of the ditch. All seemed quiet. Turning back to the gap he had fallen through, he saw Mrs Sharett crouching down, watching him with eyes that reflected nothing of her thoughts. He didn't dare speak, unsure of how much noise his carelessness had already made, but stretching out a hand he was able to guide her through and down with ease.
As he led the way carefully through the mud, thankful that despite the cold it had not yet frozen enough to crack under their feet, he let himself think a little about the woman he was risking his life to keep safe. They had barely exchanged ten words; he had no idea whether she was innocent of the charges she was being returned to Israel to face, and chances were, he would never find out. In a way, it was irrelevant. His job was not to judge, but to keep her safe until she was off British soil and became the responsibility of others.
In the meantime, here she was, treading softly behind him, her shoes squelching slightly in the cold, wet ground, her coat clutched tightly around her. At least she seemed to have a cool head on her shoulders, leaving him free to concentrate on keeping them both alive.
Shame he was finding it increasingly hard to concentrate on anything.
Bleakly, he pushed on, only too aware that the violent shivering he could no longer control did not bode well. If he didn't find them both some shelter and warmth soon, it wasn't going to matter whether she was guilty or not. They'd both be dead.
Bodie had never concealed his opinion of the police in general, and rural police in particular, but even he had to concede that Inspector Coke could not have been better. He seemed to grasp the situation, as explained to him in a few terse sentences, admirably, and he got his men moving immediately on getting together the supplies Bodie demanded. These were primarily brighter search lights, a couple of police dogs and their handlers, and warm clothes. They couldn't afford to delay the search until daylight, so his plan was to make their presence only too obvious in the hope that Gavish would prefer to escape himself rather than risk capture. It was flimsy at best, but under the circumstances, he could see no alternative. Neither Doyle nor Mrs Sharett were dressed for spending a night outside in these temperatures, and the Inspector had already warned him that there was very little shelter to be found for a radius of several miles.
Just as he was climbing into the extra clothing provided by the local constabulary, another car drew up, and Murphy and Lake jogged over to him.
"Any sign yet?" Murphy was already clad in thermal layers, clearly intending to join the search.
"Not a thing. They've got to be round here somewhere, though. According to the locals, there's nowhere for them to go."
"So, it's just a matter of setting the dogs to find them, then." Murphy's voice was calm, as if this was the most reasonable thing in the world, but Bodie noticed the suppressed shiver and his mouth thinned.
"If they can get to them before the cold does." Without looking at his colleague again, he finished adjusting the top layer of clothing and stalked over to the handlers.
"The dogs need a scent to follow. One of the people missing is your partner, isn't he? Have you got anything of his?"
Bodie cursed. I should have thought of that already. What have I got? His brain ran uselessly round in circles, as he tried desperately to think of something that would have Doyle's scent on it. Nothing. They didn't share clothes, Doyle didn't leave his possessions lying about, so it was unlikely that there would even be anything in the car... the car! Of course! Doyle might not have left anything in it, but he sat in it every day when they working. OK, they hadn't been out in the field together since before Bodie was hurt, but there'd be enough scent lingering for the dogs to pick up, surely?
Barking a terse "Follow me!" at the dog-handler, he led the way to the Capri and dragged open the passenger door. The Alsatian sniffed cautiously, and whined a little.
"Is it enough?"
The man cast a dubious glance at the inside of the car, then at his dog. "It might be. It would help if there was something that was just his, with no other traces on, but if that's the best you can do, we'll just have to try."
Bodie rummaged impatiently through the glove compartment, but to no avail. Murphy's voice from behind him made him jump so hard he nearly cracked his head on the door frame. "If you take the dog back to the aircraft, as close as you can, he may pick up Doyle's scent from there and match it with what he's smelt here."
The dog-handler jumped on this at once. "Let's try. Once he knows what to look for, with any luck it won't take him long at all."
He was right. After circling around the site of the crash, as near as they dared, the dog clearly picked up a familiar scent, and nose down, began to track. Conscious that there was another man out there too, armed and clearly willing to kill, Bodie and Murphy had their weapons ready, leaving the handler free to concentrate on the dog. Lake followed with the searchlight, its bright beam dimming the glow from the moon and making the way ahead at once clearer and yet harder to follow, the cone of light bouncing with his every move and rendering the uneven surface hard to assess.
Reality seemed to be suspended. Bodie's whole attention was on the animal ahead of him. How crazy is this? Doyle's life depending on a dog? The brilliance of the searchlight made the shadows deeper beyond its reach, and Murphy dropped back, muttering something about the light making them a target as surely as if they had painted bull's-eyes on their backs. A remote part of Bodie's mind agreed, but he would not step back. They needed to be able to see their way.
The dog picked up speed, its nose close to the ground as it traced an almost straight line to the hedge dimly visible in the nimbus of the searchlight. Without hesitation, it turned left to follow the line of the hedge. The men following had barely covered half the distance to the corner of the field when a sound cracked through the frosty air. A sound all too familiar to the CI5 men, and only too easy for the police to recognise.
It was a gunshot.
Hardly able to stay upright, Doyle was dimly aware in the fog that seemed to have taken over his brain that he was now supporting Mrs Sharret's weight as well as his own. The ditch was barely wide enough for one, let alone two, but she had grabbed his arm and leant heavily against his back, dragging along behind him as he plodded on. He couldn't distinguish her shivers from his own, and was beginning to wonder why they were still bothering to struggle through this narrow, damp track. There was something important, something he had to do...the memory eluded him, but his feet kept moving.
Abruptly, he was shaken out of the encroaching oblivion by a sound he knew all too well. The gunshot came from close by, and instinctively he fell to the ground, twisting to fall on top of the woman, trying to shield her. Without conscious thought his right arm came up, the gun in his hand pointing back the way they had just come as his eyes strained to see through the darkness. No sign of any movement. His gaze drifted sideways and up, but the sides of the ditch were just high enough to prevent him seeing anything over the top. The moonlight was strange though. There was something not quite right about it. Idly, he speculated about what it could be. He'd seen a sci-fi film once about a planet with two moons, and he had a sudden vivid memory of how the moons cast separate shadows that fell in opposite directions. Weird...
Appalled, he realised with a jerk that his mind had drifted. He was lying here, being chased by a man with a gun, an unarmed civilian representative of another country his sole responsibility, and he was thinking about shadows? What the hell was he playing at?
He heaved himself to his feet, feeling heavy and disconnected. For a moment he hesitated, unsure what he should do next, before instinct took over. Stooping a little, he muttered "Stay here", and without waiting for any acknowledgement he began to move back the way he had come. It seemed harder to walk than he remembered from before, the ground not where his feet expected it to be, and there was still that strange double shadow effect going on. His gun trembled as the shivers swamped him again, and the ditch ahead took on a grey cast, all detail obliterated. The last thing he registered was a dog barking before the grey deepened to black.
The dog-handler and Bodie spoke at the same time, but they were not seeing the same thing. The policeman's eyes were fixed firmly ahead, tracking the line taken by his dog; Bodie's had been keeping watch behind as well, leaving Murphy to sweep the sides. Even as the joint cry was heard, Bodie could see the man he had spotted in the shadows behind Murphy raise his right hand in all too familiar gesture.
The agent's response was immediate, and Bodie fired, hitting the shadowy gun arm. Murphy was up again in an instant, running back to secure the wounded man before he could recover his gun.
"I've got him. You get over there," Murphy called over his shoulder, and Bodie suddenly remembered that his cry had been echoed by another. Swinging round, almost skidding on the ground rapidly becoming covered with frost, he ran forward. The dog was out of sight, but his handler was stooped over something near the hedge up ahead. Bodie's heart was pounding as he drew nearer. It was a relief to see that the man was staring, not at a body on the ground, but into a ditch stretching the length of the hedge. The relief was short-lived. Reaching the edge, he cast one swift look down and jumped into the trench.
Was he hurt? "Shine the searchlight down here, and get that ambulance, now!" The beam of light that was directed downwards illuminated his partner's body. No sign of blood. Why isn't he moving?
He touched gentle hands to the still body before him, feeling for injuries. Nothing seemed wrong, but something nagged at him. Something about the cold, and exposure. If only he could remember...
Dimly, hands and attention still on Doyle, he heard other voices, was aware of another segment of ditch lit up, further down they way they had come. It seemed they had found the Israeli Ambassador's wife. Someone was shouting about her being too cold, that she needed help. Bodie's mind made the connection even as the ambulance man, recognisable by his uniform, jumped into the trench beside him, and said, "He's stopped shivering. Are there any injuries we need to worry about?"
Bodie shook his head numbly. He had checked Doyle as thoroughly as he could, and he was sure that he was not hurt, just cold. Dangerously cold.
Cowley swung through the front door of the small cottage hospital and strode impatiently up to the desk. The drive up had been appallingly long, although he had managed to get through quite a backlog of paperwork while Ruth fumed silently behind the wheel. He was due back in London for an appointment with the Home Secretary early that evening, and if the return journey were anything like the outward one he had just endured, he could probably only spare half an hour before having to set off back south again.
Following the directions given by the receptionist, he had no trouble locating his destination. Clearly, the room he wanted was the one against the closed door of which one of his agents was currently propped.
"Bodie. How is he?"
The corner of Bodie's mouth twisted so briefly Cowley almost missed it, replaced as it rapidly was with a half smile.
"He'll be fine, sir, or so they say. The doctor's in there now, if you want to have a word with him."
"Aye, I'll do that. Hypothermia, you said?"
"Yeah. It was bloody cold out last night, and the mad wally wasn't dressed for it. He was headed for the third stage by the time we caught up with him, but they've got him mostly warmed up now."
"And Mrs Sharret?"
Bodie shrugged. "Murphy's been keeping an eye on her. A couple of Mossad blokes turned up this morning, so he's been keeping an eye on them too."
Before Cowley could comment, the door behind Bodie opened, and a tall, solid man in a white coat stepped out. Bodie didn't pause, just walked straight back into the room, but Cowley put a hand out and stopped the doctor before he could move on. "Doctor? My name is Cowley. That's one of my men in there. Can you tell me how he is?"
"Would you mind if I head back to my office as we talk, Mr Cowley? I'm running a bit behind today."
"Of course, doctor."
"Thanks. Well, essentially there's nothing to worry about. Mr Doyle will make a full recovery, but I would like to keep him here a bit longer, just to be on the safe side. His core temperature had got rather low by the time he was brought in late last night, and although he's improved a lot since then, I think it would be just as well to keep an eye on him. He should be fine to go home tomorrow, though, as long as he's not the one doing the driving."
"Thank you. I don't think that will be a problem." Cowley spared a brief thought for Bodie, who he knew would insist on being the one to take Doyle home. "And Mrs Sharett? She came in at the same time as Doyle."
"Ah, yes; our mystery lady."
"What makes you say that?"
The doctor raised an eyebrow as he reached a door marked 'Dr Hampton'. "I think it would have to do with the number of large, intimidating young men that have congregated outside the private room I was informed she had to be placed in."
Cowley allowed a brief grin to show. "And how is she?"
"She'll be fine too. She was in pretty much the same state as Mr Doyle, maybe a little better, but she's recovering nicely too. However, I understand that when she leaves here she is to be flown home, and I'm not sure she's quite ready for that yet. I don't know where 'home' is, as no-one has been at all forthcoming with any details about her, but I would prefer her to wait another couple of days before she undertakes any long journey."
"I'm sure that can be arranged, doctor. Thank you for your time." Cowley shook the doctor's hand and having ascertained where he would find Mrs Sharett's room he made his way there. As he approached, he acknowledged the justice of the doctor's remark. There were four men in the corridor outside the room, only one of whom he recognised.
"Sir." His agent followed Cowley a short way up the corridor, just far enough to be out of earshot while still able to view the corridor.
"I've spoken to Dr Hampton and I understand from him that the lady will recover, but she'll not be fit to fly for another couple of days."
Murphy nodded. "Yes, sir. When he broke the news about her not flying, the two Mossad chaps were not happy, but he was most insistent."
"Are there just the two of them?"
"No sir. There's one outside her window, and I think there's another in the grounds as well."
"Hmm. I want you and Lake to keep an eye on them until they've got her on a plane and out of the country, is that clear? The threat most likely is over, now that Gavish is in custody, but I don't want to take any chances."
Nodding dismissal, Cowley frowned at his watch as he made his way back to Doyle's room. He was really going to have to hurry if he wanted to be back in London in time.
Pushing open the door, he found Doyle barely awake and Bodie leaning against the window, making scurrilous comments about the Mossad agent he had clearly just spotted from his vantage point. Bodie straightened slightly when he saw his boss come in.
Cowley looked critically at the man in the bed. Doyle was pale and tired, but he responded to Cowley's presence, trying to push himself into a seated position. In a flash, Bodie was there. "Keep under those blankets, sunshine. You've only just got warmed up. Let's try and keep it that way."
Doyle just nodded.
"Stay where you are, Doyle. I just wanted to see how you are, and to let Bodie know that he can stay overnight and drive you home tomorrow. If nothing else crops up, you can have the next three days off, both of you. Bodie, don't forget that doctor's appointment. When you come back, I want you both back on active duty."
Bodie smiled. "Yes sir."
As he left the room, Cowley could hear Bodie say something to his partner. Reprehensibly, he paused with the door not quite closed. "I told you you need looking after. Can't let you out of my sight before you're in plane crashes, trekking across country, being shot at--"
Doyle's reply was indistinguishable but unmistakeable in tone.
Cowley allowed himself a smile as he made his way back to his car for the long journey home.
-- THE END --