Man of a Thousand Secrets


"He'll kill us," Doyle said, glancing over his shoulder for the thirty-secondth time since they had entered Cowley's office. Cowley wasn't there, because it was four in the morning and even he had to catch some sleep in his own bed, some time. Doyle was wishing he was there as well. Safe in his own bed, not Cowley's, though even that might be preferable to what Bodie was doing.

"He won't know," Bodie said cheerfully, kneeling by the desk. "Trust me. When have I ever let you down?"

"Do you want a list?"

"I can open the old man's drawers and he'll never even notice." He realised what he had said and giggled uncontrollably.

"You're drunk," Doyle accused.

"'Course I'm drunk." Bodie looked up from his lock-picking. "If I were sober would I be trying to steal Cowley's whisky?" He started to laugh again, and quieted it, making his voice mock-solemn and fruity. "And the ultimate whisky, Raymond my son. Scotch from the bottle he doesn't even share with the Minister, let alone us less-than-the-dust-beneath- his-chariot wheels agents." The lock opened. "Liquid bloody gold. Where's a glass?"

"You've got it?" Doyle said, surprised.

"Of course I have." Bodie preened himself. "Poor man's Raffles, that's me. Come on, Bunny, where's a glass?"

"He'll kill us," said Doyle again, looking over his shoulder for the thirty-third time. But he reached for the crystal tumbler that was sitting on Cowley's desk, upturned on the green leather blotting-pad.

Bodie clicked his tongue warningly. "Eh, careful. Fingerprints."

Doyle shook his head, but pulled a hanky out of his pocket and wrapped it round his hand. Then he picked up the glass. Bodie had copied him, carefully taking the bottle out of the drawer. The top drawer held the whisky Cowley kept for his agents on ordinary occasions - a massacre, a girlfriend who turned out to be a Russian agent, or just a mission successfully completed. Scotch out of the bottle in the third drawer meant thorough approval for a striking success against long odds. There was a bag of Good Boy doggie chocolate drops in there as well, no one knew why.

In the second drawer there was a bottle of long-aged, pure malt whisky that was legendary. Cowley had never offered anyone a drink from it. Squad myth had it that if an agent brought down the Government and had a letter printed in the Guardian the same day they came out as a transvestite flagellant homosexual in the Sun, then before the agent was fired Cowley would pour them a drink from that bottle. Maybe.

Bodie poured a triple measure into the glass. "Hey," Doyle warned, "going it a bit strong, aren't you?"

"Listen, I remember all the triples Cowley's had of this stuff," Bodie said, almost soberly. "Just once in my life I want to know what it's like to be able to toss it off." He lifted the glass and looked at the liquid gold against the light. "Face of stone, heart of ice, liver of iron," he toasted reverently, and drank it off in one long swig.

He almost choked. Spluttering, he just put the glass down on the desk without breaking it, and bent over, coughing and choking, and - Doyle realised, appalled -giggling maniacally. After a triple Scotch with what he'd drunk before they got this crazy idea, he'd probably have to carry Bodie home.

Doyle wasn't sober either. This goes far to explain why it didn't until then occur to him what he couldn't smell. He picked up the glass and sniffed at it, conscious suddenly only of overwhelming surprise.

Bodie straightened himself - a difficult manoeuvre and, with a maniac gleam of mirth in his eyes, said simultaneously with Doyle, "Cold tea."

"He'll kill us."

-- THE END --

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