Two Plain Brown Envelopes
(Sequel is Sequel to Two Plain Brown Envelopes)
George Cowley, the head of CI5, picked up the phone rather distractedly, his mind still on the report he was reading.
The authoritative voice of his secretary answered him.
"There is a Sergeant Reeves calling from Glossop Police Station, Sir. He wishes to speak with you. He will not tell me why. Shall I put him through?"
Glossop, in Derbyshire, that's where his top agents had decided to spend a few days hard earned leave. Cowley wondered what they had uncovered, CI5 agents were always [WORD MISSING] and ready for the unexpected, even when supposedly on holiday.
"Sergeant Reeves. George Cowley speaking. How can I be of help to you?"
The voice which spoke back was slightly hesitant, as if the speaker was slightly in awe of the person he was talking.
"Mr. Cowley. We have had an incident in our area involving a car which records have traced as being a part of the CI5 car pool. Have you men working in our area? The car was a Silver Grey Capri registration number UOO 303T."
He didn't have to check the records, he knew that it was Bodie's car.
"That car is used by one of my men. They are currently on leave in Derbyshire; they are not currently on assignment. What have they been up to?"
For a moment there was only the hiss and crackle of static on the line, then the voice of Sergeant Reeves spoke again.
"Do you know the two men personally, sir?"
The Sergeant's voice had changed, and Cowley was immediately uneasy. What on earth had they been up to?
"Of course I know my men. William Bodie and Ray Doyle. What is this about Sergeant?"
"I'm sorry to have to inform you over the telephone Sir, but I'm afraid that their car was involved in a bad pile up on the Snake Pass. The two occupants were killed instantly. They didn't stand a chance. I'm sorry Sir."
"You are sure it was an accident?"
Both of his men had been targets before, anything was possible.
"Yes. Sir, there was a pile up involving six other vehicles, the last in the line was a petrol tanker, it overturned and began to spill its load, before the road behind could be closed the car, Mr. Bodie's car that is, came around the corner. He was going too fast to stop and ran into the back of the tanker. They really didn't stand a chance. I'm sorry Sir."
George Cowley didn't answer, he was looking at the signature on the bottom of the report he had been reading. Bodie never had mastered the art of typing. His spelling wasn't that good either. He'd left out the 's' in 'observation.'
"Mr. Cowley . . . Mr. Cowley . . . "
He was drawn back to the present by the cautious soft Derbyshire accent that was trying to get his attention.
"Mr. Cowley are you still there?"
Cowley opened his mouth to answer but no sound came out. He coughed to clear his throat.
"Can I ask you to contact their next of kin?"
"Yes of course. I will see to it."
"There is one other thing. We still have to make an official identification. Sir, can you --"
"I will come to identify the bodies Sergeant."
Until he had seen them he wouldn't be able to believe they were really dead, the whole unexpected phone call was unreal. How could they have died in some stupid road accident. He looked at the report again and saw another spelling mistake. With a pen he changed 'minuets' to 'minutes.' Sergeant Reeves was speaking again.
"Sir, there is really no point you coming here. Identification will have to be done by a forensic pathologist. All we really need are copies of your men's medical and dental records."
"By forensic evidence?"
"Yes Sir. You see the tanker exploded when the car crashed into it."
Bodie's petulant voice could be heard plainly by Doyle who was putting the shoulder pack in the car.
"We are supposed to be on holiday Doyle. Come with me to this place I know in the Peak District he said, it's beautiful. Just what we need, peace and quiet. Are you listening to me?" Bodie raised his voice airing his grievances loudly. "Peace you said. How the hell am I supposed to get any peace with you dragging me out on wild treks at the crack of dawn every bloody day."
The cause of his complaint walked unconcernedly through the door. Doyle watched as Bodie struggled to get into his clothes, at least for the moment his voice was muffled by the thick layer of wool. He waited until the tousled head reappeared.
"You haven't stopped moaning since we got here."
"I haven't had any of the promised peace since I got here that's why."
Doyle picked up his partner's walking boot and threw them across the room to him.
"Get a move on, I'm ready to go."
Muttering and mumbling Bodie obediently put his boots on and then followed Doyle out to the car. Just before the car pulled away the woman who had rented them the cottage passed by.
"Mr. Doyle, Mr. Bodie. Good morning to you. You're off early this morning. I thought that you city people would still be tucked up in bed this early in the morning."
In an effort to cover up Bodie's mumbling about eccentric country folk Doyle stuck his head out of the window to talk to the old girl.
"We're going up to Bleaklow Hill, thought we'd make a day of it seeing as we're going home tomorrow."
"I hope the weather holds good for you. It can turn quite nasty sometimes up in the hills. You city folk don't seem to realise that the weather can be really treacherous in these parts."
"We will take care. See you tomorrow."
The woman moved off and Bodie thankfully put the car into gear and moved off. They had suffered quite a bit from Mrs. Fields' advice over the past few days and Doyle listened in pained silence as Bodie mimicked her voice.
"Don't forget to keep to the paths boys. Wouldn't do to get lost would it. Bloody hell, the way she goes on you'd think we were six years of age and in the middle of winter."
"And the way you've been creating anyone would think you'd been doing forced marches with a full pack on your back instead of leisurely strolls around our wonderful heritage."
Leaving Bodie to concentrate on the road, Doyle pulled out the survey map and began to look for the right roads, he could hear various comments about army maneouvres and Breton Beacons but he tactfully ignored them and began to tell Bodie the roads to take.
Their holiday cottage in Hathersage was soon left behind as they drove along empty roads through the hills and moorland, working their way along unregistered roads towards the reservoir at the foot of Howden Moors. They parked the car at about nine o'clock on a sidetrack. There in front of them was their, or rather Doyle's, target for the day, Bleaklow Hill.
Bodie looked on in dismay. It was going to take all day to get there and back. He had an idea.
"Tell you what Ray. You walk there and I'll take the car around to the other side. The map shows there's a road much nearer than this one. I'll meet you there this afternoon."
It had been a good try but Doyle's expression told Bodie exactly what he had thought of the idea.
"Be fair Bodie. I spent all yesterday scrabbling around in damp dingy caves. Today it's time for the wide open spaces and fresh air. Come on."
Doyle lifted the shoulder pack and began to move off towards the hill. Bodie sat on the bonnet of his car and watched as Doyle started off up the hill. With a resigned sigh he zipped up his jacket tighter against the cold damp air and followed him.
Cowley looked at the files on his desk. Inside each file was a large plain brown envelope. He removed them both and placed them side by side on his desk. All of his men were instructed to try and keep their affairs in order, and owing to the danger element in their work it had become policy to leave a sealed packet containing any final instructions or messages with their personal files, only to be opened at their deaths.
He had opened too many of these sealed envelopes already. To delay the inevitable he moved away and turned his back on his desk and the envelopes, he limped slowly over to the whisky decanter and poured a stiff measure into a tumbler. As he poured the drink he could almost feel the presence of Bodie and Doyle behind him. He had often, of late, shared a drink with them after a completion of a successful assignment. He could almost feel the duo exchanging the look which they thought he had never seen. Looks which said, "If we get a drink we're in his good books." Once or twice he'd deliberately not offered them a drink whilst helping himself, then the look had been "What have we done now?"
He turned back to the desk. The envelopes were patiently awaiting his attention. He reached for Doyle's first. He was aware that Doyle had a family, a large family, the envelope was quite bulky. He broke the seal and tipped the contents onto his desk. There was a letter for his bank, a solicitor and four personal letters addressed to his mother, his sister, Bodie, the last one was addressed to George Cowley.
He placed Bodie's letter to one side and with a hand that was trembling slightly opened the one bearing his name. In all the other final packets he had opened there had never been one addressed to him. The seal was already broken before he decided to leave the letter for a while. He still had Bodie's packet to open.
In comparison the second packet was nearly empty. A copy of a will, a letter for his bank and two personal notes, one addressed to Ray Doyle and the other to George Cowley. There were no letters for any family.
He put the letter addressed to Doyle beside the one addressed to Bodie. Had they ever considered that they might die together, it had always been a possibility. He tried to avoid looking at the letters bearing his name but his eyes were drawn back by an irresistible force to the small innocuous envelopes.
He picked up the one written by Doyle again. It was a single sheet of paper, neatly typed. Doyle asked Cowley to inform his sister rather than his mother of his death so to allow the sister to soften the inevitable blow, explaining that his mother would immediately know the worst as soon as she saw Mr. Cowley. He also asked his Boss to keep an eye on Bodie, to stop him going on the rampage if his death should be caused by their work. The short note finished by Doyle saying that he had been proud to be a member of CI5 and he was aware of all the risks involved and he blamed no-one, especially his boss, if he died following orders. There was a handwritten Postscript on the end, it said "Look after Bodie for me. Thank you."
Before opening the second envelope he got up to pour another drink, and when he returned to the desk he took the decanter with him. He would wait until after the forensic identification before contacting the sister.
Unable to put it off any longer he reached for the second envelope, for a moment his vision blurred but he blinked the moisture away. Doyle, he knew, had a large family who would grieve for him, but Bodie had no-one. No-one he would want to cry over his grave anyway, for Bodie there would probably be very few people who would mourn his passing. Doyle would have done, certainly, but he was dead too. That really only left his fellow agents and George Cowley.
He remembered the first time he'd been aware of Bodie. His personal records had been given to the Controller of the newly formed CI5 Department as a possible candidate. The file had been impressive, but after reading all the details of his time spent in the merchant navy, roaming Africa and the Middle East as a mercenary, his army record showing his service in the Paras, and lately the SAS, he had been shocked to discover that the hardened soldier was only just 26 years old.
Their first encounters had not been promising. Bodie never let anyone or anything upset or get close to him. But Cowley had seen something deep inside the hard man that had intrigued him. As time went by he watched as Bodie slowly changed and became more accessible and actually allowed people, mainly his partner and boss, to get close to him.
Cowley knew that when he looked at Bodie he was seeing himself at a similar age. The difference between them had been that he had found his wars on his own doorstep. Bodie had had to go in search of his.
In his heart he knew that he had been grooming Bodie from the beginning to eventually take over as Controller of CI5. He still had a lot to learn but he had been the only person Cowley knew he would even consider handing his department over to when the time came. But Bodie was dead.
He turned his attention back to the envelope in his numb fingers, he opened it. This letter was handwritten.
Dear George,The view from Bleaklow Hill was reputed to be quite spectacular, but today it was singularly unspectacular. The surrounding valley and lowlands were blanketed by a thick white mist, the peak of the hill being the only visible land for miles.
I hope you don't mind me calling you George, under the circumstances, Sir sounds a bit officious.
The fact that you are reading this letter means that I am dead. My only hope is that my death has served some purpose. As you know I am not religious, and death has always been just around the corner throughout my life, it holds no mysteries or terrors for me.
I'd like to ask you to handle all the arrangements. I've told Ray that I have asked this of you, if he has survived me I can imagine what he is like right now. How and where I leave up to you, I have no preferences. All that I do ask is that you do not inform my father until everything is over. He was never there when I wanted him and I don't want him when I no longer need him.
If there is anything in my possessions that you want, please take it, I have said the same to Ray. Everything else is to be sold, I have left instructions as to what I want done with the money in my will. Under no circumstances do I want my father to claim a single item.
I'm going to ask one more thing of you, please look after Ray for me. Don't let him go on some pointless revenge trip if my death has been caused by someone else, even if you have to lock him up somewhere. He has been a good partner and one of the best friends I have ever had, so please, guard him well for me.
There have been times when I have regretted getting involved with the Department and I expect you know as well as I do when those times were, but sitting here today writing this letter that you are reading -- I don't know when -- I really feel that the time I have spent working with you has been very worthwhile. Before I met you I always believed that what is IS. You more than anyone have shown me that change is always possible.
I have been proud to be part of CI5 and proud also to have known you. I like to think of you as a friend, but you are also my boss and as such have my respect and loyalty. If by following your orders I have met my death I do not blame you in any way. We all have our jobs to do and we do them to the best of our abilities.
Having reached the peak, Bodie hunched down behind a large rock trying to find shelter from the fine drizzle.
"Come on Edmund Hillary, break out the coffee."
"Oh. Fancy yourself as Sherpa Tensing do you?" Doyle replied. "Just remember that it was muggins here that lugged that pack all the way up here."
"I'll carry it down," came the virtuous reply.
"It'll be virtually empty then!"
"So. Is it my fault you lost the toss. Chuck us a sarnie then."
Doyle joined his partner behind the rock, and carefully passed over a cup of steaming coffee and a packet of sandwiches.
"Is there a choice of sandwiches?" asked Bodie.
"Cheese and pickle or cheese and pickle."
"In that case I think that I'll have cheese and pickle."
They sat in contented silence munching their sandwiches and sipping the warming coffee. Bodie watched as Doyle sat forward listening intently.
"Listen," Doyle whispered.
Bodie listened. He stopped chewing and cocked his head on one side to try and hear what his partner obviously could. The mist had blanketed and muffled all sounds save the single lonely bleat of a sheep lost on the hill [WORDS MISSING] mist.
"I can't hear anything."
"Wonderful isn't it. No cars, train, people, nothing -- just us."
"No-one else is daft enough to come out in weather like this. Only you would want to have a picnic at the top of a bloody mountain when it's freezing cold and raining."
"Are you sorry you came?"
The tone of Doyle's voice had changed. Bodie knew he'd been complaining but Doyle knew he was only teasing -- didn't he?
"Do you mean up this bloody hill or here on holiday?"
"Here on holiday. I mean, it's not the type of holiday you usually go in for is it."
No it certainly wasn't. Bodie's original plans had veered more towards a foray into the nightlife of more than just a few clubs, hopefully in the company of one or two beautiful and willing young ladies. Doyle's offer to share the holiday cottage had been a surprise, his own eager acceptance had been even more of a shock.
He thought back over the past week. It had been good, very good. It wasn't often that he and Doyle managed to spend so much time together just relaxing. They'd spent their time on walks and cave explorations or just soaking up the peace and natural beauty of the area. It wasn't the tourist season and so they rarely met anyone out on their walks. They had talked a lot, but even when walking side by side in silence it was still comfortable, relaxing.
"Of course I'm not sorry. It's been good, really good. Thank you for asking me."
Doyle could not doubt the sincerity behind the voice or the smile.
"But it's still not the kind of break you had in mind though. Do you fancy a night out tonight?"
He was treated to a very wary look from Bodie.
"If you think that I'm going back to that pub where the lemonade's got more life in it than the locals, you can think again."
Their cottage was in a rather remote part of Hathersage and was only equipped with a very old radiogram and a deck of cards by way of entertainment. One night they'd decided to visit the local pub, and being very responsible citizens had decided to walk, the intention being to have a good drink and cut loose a little. So they had walked for a mile down pitch black lanes to the pub. After being solidly ignored by the local populace for over half an hour they began to wonder if they had perhaps trodden in something unpleasant. Their attempts to outdo each other in impressing the barmaid were thwarted when, after a few cheeky comments and smiles from the lads, they were served thereafter by the landlord and the daughter was bustled upstairs out of harm's way. As they left Doyle had muttered something about maybe no one had told them that they plague was over and it was safe to let in strangers.
"I was thinking that once we'd been home and changed we could drive into Manchester for the night. You know, pack all our stuff and leave Hathersage tonight. Then we could just drive back to London from Manchester tomorrow morning. It'll only take about an hour over the Snake Pass to get to Manchester, we could be there by about nine o'clock."
The prospect of a slightly decadent evening cheered Bodie up wonderfully.
"Right, Sir Hillary. Let's strike out for base camp shall we. Look our Manchester, here we come."
Doyle looked on as Bodie chucked the empty flask back into the pack and started off back down the hill.
George Cowley was jolted out of his reminiscences by his secretary bringing in his afternoon coffee. He knew that she would see the brown envelopes and recognise them for what they were, a quick glance told him that the file names were covered, she wouldn't be able to see exactly whose files were on his desk.
"When the call from Manchester's Coroner's Office comes put it straight through, I'll deal with it myself."
As she put the cup down she tried to see whose files he had on his desk, but they were upside down. She returned to her own desk in the outer office racking her brains to try and remember which of the men were working in Manchester. Had been working in Manchester she corrected, the brown envelopes could only mean one thing. The phone call from Glossop had been the start of it all. Straight after he'd hung up Cowley had drawn someone's personal and medical files and sent something in a sealed packet by special messenger to Manchester. That had been about 11.45. The files should have arrived by 2 o'clock, the results of an autopsy should be ready by about 4 pm. She looked at her watch, it was 3.30. The next half hour was going to drag.
He watched his secretary close the door behind her, he knew she had recognised the envelopes for what they were. He had decided to wait until after the forensic report came in before telling anyone. It was always possible that the whole thing had been a mistake, but he knew that he was grasping at straws. There was no reason to believe that the two men the witnesses had seen were not Bodie and Doyle -- it was pointless to hope, but until after the official identification the chance was there.
Cowley had never liked to consider how his men would die, it was a hazard that went with the job, and he had ordered more men to their deaths than he cared to think about. To die in some pointless road accident seemed ridiculous when in the last few years they had defied death in a hundred different ways. The only consolation was that they had at least gone together. It was a double blow for the department and for himself, but he had often wondered what would have become of the one left behind.
He sat in his chair and waited for the phone call, it wouldn't be much longer now. As he waited he eyed the letters that they had written to each other and wondered what they had found to say that had to wait until one of them was dead.
By the time they reached the lane where they had left the car the light was just fading. They wandered down the dirt track, turning the corner they could see that the road was empty.
"You sure this is the right place?"
"Yes. Look there's the reservoir and the big boulder. I parked it right there." Bodie was getting slightly peeved. "I know where I left my car. I left it right here."
He stood on the spot where his car had last been and turned full circle, trying to accept that it wasn't there any more. Doyle's voice was incredulous.
"It's been pinched."
"No. It's been towed away 'cos I double parked." Bodie's sarcastic voice did not bode well for the prospects of the thief if he ever caught up with him. "Of course it's been pinched. Now what do we do?"
"Walk! Doyle it's miles to the main road, we've been walking all bloody day. These boots are killing me."
"You'll wait a bloody long time for a bus sitting here old son. Come on Bodie, let's see if we can reach the main road before the light goes completely."
He knew that Doyle was making some sense and shuffled off down the lane after him, but not before he had taken a final look around to check that his car wasn't hiding behind any bushes. The prospects of the pleasant evening in Manchester rapidly faded into oblivion.
By the time they reached the main road it was pitch dark and pouring with rain. They tried unsuccessfully to hitch a ride with the few cars that passed them. After the fourth car had passed them by Doyle turned to his partner, he could just about see him in the gloom.
"I'm not sure that I'd pick us up either, the state of us."
"The next car to come is either going to pick us up or run us over. I'm not walking another step. My heels are raw." Bodie complained.
"Serves you right for not breaking them in properly before you came." The unsympathetic voice of his partner reached him through the gloom."
"I seem to remember someone not a million miles away from me saying something about short walks and gentle rambles, not bloody twenty mile hikes in survival conditions over fucking moorland!"
Doyle had the feeling that Bodie was going to elaborate even further on their misfortunes when a car's headlights showed on the bend.
"Bodie, look, headlights going our way."
Fortunately the stretch of road they were on was fairly straight and open. Bodie firmly planted himself in the vehicle's path and held up his arms to halt it.
For what seemed the hundredth time Cowley looked at his watch. It was six o'clock, what the hell was taking them so long? They'd had the time to do half a dozen autopsies. When the phone finally did ring he jumped.
"The Manchester Coroner's Office, Sir."
"Thank you." There was a soft click as his secretary switched the call through.
"Speaking. You have the confirmation for me?"
"Aah. Mr. Cowley. The Coroner has stated that the bodies are still unidentified."
"What do you mean? Why are they still unidentified? You've had the medical reports since 2 o'clock this afternoon. I distinctly told you that I wanted the official verification by 4 pm. It is now 6 pm and you're trying to tell me that you still haven't done it yet."
The anger and frustration he had held at bay all day exploded down the line to Manchester, sizzling the poor minor official at the other end.
"I you would please let me finish, Mr. Cowley. The bodies are unidentified because they do not match the medical files that you sent to us."
"The bodies and the files do not match. They are definitely NOT the same people."
"Let me get this straight. The Coroner is absolutely certain that the bodies you have do not match the files of my men that I sent to you?"
"That's right, Sir. I don't know where your Mr. Bodie and Mr. Doyle are, but they are definitely NOT in our mortuary."
The man sounded very pleased with himself after all, it wasn't often in his line of work that he got to announce that someone wasn't dead.
"Thank you. As soon as you do have positive identification let this office know. Oh, and return the medical files."
The hand that replaced the receiver was trembling slightly. Slowly, he carefully replaced the letters his men had written, back into their respective envelopes and re-sealed them. The phone rang again. It was with a much lighter heart that he answered it this time.
"Sergeant Reeves from Glossop, Sir."
"Put him through . . . Sergeant, Cowley here."
"Mr. Cowley, I've some good news for you. Your two men walked into Hathersage Police Station about half an hour ago and reported that their car had been stolen, seems it was taken while they were out walking the hills, only just got back and found it gone."
"Stolen was it? Well, that would explain a lot."
"The PC at Hathersage didn't know about the crash and just filed a stolen car report so your men don't yet know what has been happening. Do you want me to call Hathersage and get the PC there to go round and tell them, I don't believe that the cottage is on the phone?"
He gave that a bit of thought. He had had a few minutes to take in the fact that his best team were not dead after all.
"No Sergeant. They will be returning to London some time tomorrow anyway. I will inform them of the events when they turn up for duty."
Sergeant Reeves recalled the shock and disbelief he had heard in the voice that morning. He was glad that he was neither Bodie or Doyle, judging by the tone of voice at the other end of the telephone, he had a good idea that maybe those two gentlemen would wish that they had been in the car crash by the time their boss finished with them.
George Cowley actually smiled as he replaced the receiver. It was the first time he'd smiled since the phone call this morning. He finished putting all the letters back in the right envelopes and returned the packets to the right files. He knew that one day he might have to open the envelopes again, for real, but his relief that it wasn't going to be today tempered that thought.
-- THE END --