I Said I Would Get You
by Jay Trent
(follows "The Right Words to Say" by O Yardley)
The CI5 operative jumped as Cowley's voice shattered both his apparent concentration on the file he was not reading and the morbidly introspective thought that was the real focus of his attention. Instantly--and silently--he cursed himself for that revealing reaction. He took a deep steadying breath before he stood, turning with a deliberation that was only one step away from insolence.
"I want a word with you, Bodie--in my office--now."
Unhurriedly, Bodie closed the file, then slouched over.
Cowley headed to a chair and remained standing, studying Bodie carefully. His experienced eye noted the tension under the over-relaxed exterior. "Quarrelled with your girlfriend?" he asked, apparently casually, apparently sympathetically.
Bodie half grinned. "No, sir. She was away for the weekend--left me babysitting her dogs."
Cowley grunted. It could have meant anything, that grunt. "Where's Doyle?"
"Doyle?" Bodie's overactive memory replayed his last sight of his partner disappearing 'round the corner. When the so-and-so wasn't at work this morning, Bodie had simply assumed that he'd either phoned in sick or he'd been assigned to some solo mission--or even just possibly teamed up with some wet-behind-the-ears recruit. Neither thought had exactly filled him with joy, but in a way it had been a relief not to have to face his partner and Doyle's obvious rejection of what had happened between them.
Now it seemed that he was wrong.
"Yes, Bodie. Doyle. Your partner." Cowley's acid voice held a patient note that was more biting than open sarcasm would have been.
Blankly, Bodie shook his head. "I dunno, sir. Last I saw of him was Saturday morning. He stayed with me Friday night, but the dogs seemed to irritate him. He--er--didn't appreciate being licked." Well, it wasn't entirely a lie.
"I don't blame him," Cowley said drily. "You've no idea where he was going?"
"No, sir. He just--well--lost his temper, like--and marched out."
Cowley grunted again. "He hasn't reported in this morning."
Bodie scowled. "That's not like Ray," he muttered.
"Nor does he answer his phone." Cowley looked searchingly at Bodie. "We don't have a record of a current girlfriend...?"
"Naw," Bodie grunted. "He's between girls right now. That's not to say he didn't pick one up on Saturday, though, and went off to her flat." Surprising how hard it was to say that casually. "He could've forgot the time."
"Doyle never gets so involved with women that he doesn't know which day of the week it is," Cowley snapped. "No, Bodie; something tells me that Doyle's in trouble. I want you to find him."
"Find him? He could be anywhere!"
"And what have you been trained for, Bodie?"
"Dammit, he mightn't even be in London any more."
"Then it's up to you to find out where he is--and bring him back."
Bodie took a deep breath. "Sir, have you thought of checking the hospitals, see if they've got any unidentified accident victims?"
"Teaching your grandmother, Bodie? That was done--without result."
"All right. I'll see what I can find out."
Bodie returned the file to its place and strode out of the building. In the street he paused, looking right and left. Where could the daft bugger have got to?
He tried to put himself in Doyle's shoes. What would he do if he had been seduced by another fella; liked it; responded and then the next morning had second thoughts? It was the thought of those second thoughts that worried Bodie. He and Doyle had a good thing going; a good working partnership, an understanding that was almost telepathy. Had he spoiled it all because he was a randy devil that wanted more than Doyle had actually been willing to give? Doyle had never tried it with a man before. OK, he'd been willing...but willingness wasn't always all there was to it.
It didn't answer his question.
Gloomily, he headed off down the road.
The next two days were among the most frustrating he could remember spending. He visited all Doyle's usual haunts: called on a half a dozen of his partner's ex-birds (the ones he had current addresses for) with no results. None of them had seen him. Now he was sitting in the pub that Doyle frequently visited, a barely touched pint in front of him.
He didn't like the pub and couldn't see what Ray saw in it, but he had hoped...
Four days since Ray had been seen last. Four days!
Ray had alot of enemies. One of them could have knocked him on the head and dropped him into the Thames at high tide. The river would carry a body out to sea fast enough. Oh, God, no. Not that. Angry at his pessimistic thoughts, he swallowed his beer rapidly, half emptying the glass. Even the beer was lousy, he thought--or was it just that for the last four days everything he had eaten tasted lousy?
"Mr. Bodie." A very, very soft whisper.
He glanced around quickly. A weasel-faced little man was standing a little to one side of him, not looking at him, but rather watching the darts game as if his attention had been caught by a particularly good score.
"Follow me out--see you down at the corner in five minutes."
As the next player threw, weasel-face resumed his interrupted and fractionally off-balance journey to the door.
Bodie finished his pint and slouched out. A fine drizzle was wetting everything, as if the weather was in time with his own black mood. There was only one direction 'the corner' could be; the club was in a cul-de-sac; a dimly lit narrow lane that didn't look as if anyone had swept it in years.
Weasel-face was waiting for him, leaning against a lamp post, vainly trying to light a cigarette. As Bodie reached him, he whined, "Got a light, Mister?"
Bodie handed him a box of matches. He scraped one on the box. "Mr. Doyle's in trouble." It was an almost-inaudible whisper again. The match went out and the little man scraped another one alight. "I dunno where 'e is, 'cept it's a derelict building somewhere near the docks." He scraped another match. "'E's locked in, 'n' the building's due for demolition soon. 'E done me a good turn once; but even if 'e 'adn't, murder ain't my line." He puffed smoke. "Thanks, Mister." He handed Bodie the matches, and began to stagger away.
Bodie watched him for a moment, knowing the little man wasn't as drunk as he looked, and with an odd admiration for his courage. Then he turned and walked off in the opposite direction.
'Locked in a derelict building that was due for demolition near the docks.' That covered a very wide area. Perhaps he had better report back to Cowley...
Doyle took the first bus that arrived without bothering to check its destination. Anything to get away from the flat and Bodie's company.
Just an experience for him. Damn him! Damn him! Damn him!!!
Doyle knew he had to get away, had to think, had to come to terms with what had happened. Oh, he could pass it off as 'experience', too, of course, but he needed time to accept the discovery that Bodie could use him like that. Luckily he could blame the dogs for his walk-out; Bodie need never know just how hurt he had been by that casual 'had a friend of hers with us...fascinating to watch...improved my education no end...'
He left the bus at the terminus and walked on; when he saw another bus coming, he paused at the stop and got on it, neither knowing nor caring where it was bound for.
He changed buses three times, and somewhere along the line he forgot to pick up his holdall. After a while he had had enough of buses and just walked, aimlessly going where his feet led him, his thoughts still circling, masochistically remembering how good it had been...until Bodie poured cold water all over him with that casual comment. 'Improved my education no end...improved my education...my education...improved...'
He passed a pub and realised that it was opening time. Maybe a drink would dull the ache in his heart. He went in.
One glance told him that he was in the sort of low-class boozer that normally he would only enter with his partner in the course of business; the sort of place where a stranger flashing a fiver could very easily end up with a knife in his back.
What the hell--he wanted a drink. Anyone who tried to tangle with him would get a shock; Doyle was in a mood to take on half a dozen rowdies. What if it was kicking the cat? He almost wished someone would start something; it might get rid of some of his frustration.
The handful of men in the pub watched him and glanced at each other, recognising the meanness of this stranger's temper. Doyle ordered a double whisky and leaned against the bar glaring at the room for a moment before tossing it down. "Another," he growled. It went the way of the first, and he ordered a third. He took this one more steadily. God, it was rot-gut! "Make this yourself, did you?" he growled at the barman, who glared back unfriendly. "It's a recognised brand," he returned.
"Sure," Doyle muttered. "The cheapest you can get sold as dear as you can get away with." He emptied the glass and strode out again. He was still stone cold sober.
He took a good look around his surroundings and realised that a) he was in a slum area, badly run down, buildings almost derelict--only a few places like the pub still open, probably because they were getting away with paying almost no rates at all and probably hardly any rent, and b) he was lost. It was the second realisation that made him decide that he'd be better to terminate his aimless wandering.
If he kept on going long enough he was bound to come to someplace he recognised. He knew his London well enough, even if he didn't actually know every street. Once he did, he would head back towards his home territory. Might stop off and look up Pam--he hadn't actually dumped her yet, just hadn't gotten around to getting in touch with her for a couple of weeks. She'd be good for his bruised ego. He walked on, paying active attention to his surroundings.
While not exactly busy, the streets weren't totally deserted, either. A few cars were parked near the handful of shops that were still open. One or two unshaven men in dirty clothes made their way along the filthy pavements. A dog paused as he approached it, then turned and bolted around the corner. A cat ran across the street and jumped through the broken slats that had once covered a window. He felt a momentary sympathy for the poor brutes, masterless, with nobody to love, nobody to love them...
He paid no attention to the footsteps behind him except to register that someone was in a hurry. Then without warning, something heavy hit him on the head and he slumped, unconscious.
He regained consciousness to an aching head and the realisation that he was in a building. He raised his head cautiously.
He was sitting, leaning against the wall of what appeared to be a sort of cupboard. His feet were tied together, although his hands were free. There was an open door a yard in front of him. He blinked it into focus. There was a rope attached to the handle. At the other end of the rope, holding it, was a man whose face was vaguely familiar.
"Remember me, Doyle? Alf Higgins? I said I would get you, no matter how long it took. Well, I've got you now. You're going to learn what it is to be in a cage..."
Doyle remembered. Years ago, when he was still on the Force. Higgins--petty criminal with a nasty turn for conning the elderly out of money they could ill-afford to lose. Doyle had finally caught up with him and with the help of a judge who disliked that type of crime as much as Doyle did, had put Higgins away for five years. Higgins' last words before he was hustled out of the courtroom had been a screamed, "I'll get you for this, Doyle! I'll get you--no matter how long it takes, I'll get you!"
"Nothing to say, Doyle?" The voice was mocking.
"You're a rat, Higgins," Doyle said. "You tangled with the law and you lost. Did you never think that other people had a right to their own property?"
"Not if they don't have the gumption to hang onto it," Higgins said. "It's a game, Doyle; I can talk smoother than they can see through, it's not my fault if they fall for it, is it?" He grinned unpleasantly.
"People have a right to be protected from blokes with no consciences, like you," Doyle told him. "How'd you feel if someone fast-talking conned your mother?"
"That's her lookout, stupid bitch," Higgins told him. "Think that sort of talk will soften my hard heart, Doyle? My mother sent me out begging when I was three years old, with a black eye to soften up the mugs; if she wasn't satisfied with what I brought home I got another belting to keep it company. I walked out the day I was fifteen--I was fed up with her taking everything I could pick up. Don't even know where she is now--and what's more, Doyle, I don't care."
"But don't you want to know what's going to happen to you? Well, I'll tell you. Give you something to look forward to, that will. I'm going to pull this door shut and lock it. It's got bolts, too--nice heavy ones. Then I'm going to pull a heavy cupboard in front of it to hide it. Then I'm going to walk away and forget which building I left you in. You've got a sink in there with water--there's even a john. Don't say I'm not giving you proper sanitary facilities. You'll have a light, too...until the electricity is switched off, which'll be just as soon as the Packie grocer on the corner moves out. Once that happens you'll know the demolition squad is moving in. They won't know you're here. Ever watch a building being knocked down, Doyle? They're not gentle with it. You might even be lucky--they might find your body so that you can get a [missing text; I assume it was meant to read, 'proper burial'.]" Higgins was still chuckling at his own wit as the door banged shut.
With his feet, there was nothing Doyle could do. He could hear the key turn in the lock, then the squeak, slightly muffled, of the bolts being shot home, then a muted dragging noise, all before he managed to get his feet unfastened.
He looked around his prison.
As Higgins had said, there was a sink with a cold water tap; a broken-seated toilet; a light bulb screwed into the ceiling. It looked as if at one time it had been a cleaner's store, a conclusion partly confirmed by the motheaten mop sitting in a cleaner's pail beside the sink. There was no window.
Gloomily, Doyle studied the door. Good solid wood. He turned his attention to the wall beside it. If it was just lathe and plaster, maybe he could knock a hole through it. He took the mop, the only possible tool, and hit the wall with it...and knew instantly he would be wasting his time. The wall was good and solid, too.
He sat on the floor again, leaning back against the wall. He had one advantage, an advantage that Higgins didn't, couldn't, know about; he was no longer on the Force, but working for possible the most single-minded opponent of crime that there was in any sort of official position. Cowley would not take his disappearance casually; and as for Bodie...Last night might have been an 'experience' for him, but he, too, would not take his partner's disappearance with any sort of equanimity.
Doyle let his mind wander. He could almost feel sorry for Higgins. If the man's story was true--and Doyle did not forget that Higgins was a conman--he had been trained for the 'job' from infancy, and had obviously learned to resent punishment very young...
An area near the docks that's due for demolition.
Bodie drove around and around, but found altogether too many buildings that fit that description.
At last he stopped and began to think.
Weasel-face had said 'murder ain't my line'. So--it had to be someone who had a positive grudge against Doyle who had locked him in. Someone in the criminal fraternity.
God, the list was probably endless!
He discounted anyone who had been captured since Doyle joined CI5; instinct told him that anyone who wanted revenge against Doyle for that would also want revenge against him, too. That meant someone Doyle put away while he was still on the Force.
Could he possibly find out anyone who might have a grudge against Doyle from back then? Starting up the car again, he drove back towards CI5 headquarters. He judged it was time to have a word with Cowley.
Cowley acted quickly. A phone call, and five minutes later he and Bodie were on their way out of London, heading south into Sussex.
It took almost an hour to reach their destination and three quarters of the time was spent actually getting out of London. Following Cowley's instructions, Bodie drove through winding country lanes until they reached a house of a size that it was difficult to describe. The tiny-paned windows would be a right pain to wash, Bodie thought, though the climbing roses around the door had a certain old-fashioned charm. The owner clearly cherished his garden; it gave the impression that not one blade of grass on the lawn grew out of alignment with its neighbors, and not one weed had the temerity to raise its head in the flower border.
As they pulled up, an elderly man came out of the front door and crossed to meet them. Cowley shook his hand.
"Good to see you again, George," he commented.
"This is Bodie," Cowley introduced his operative. "Bodie, Inspector Brandon. He's retired now, but he was in charge when Doyle was on the Force."
Brandon led them into the house. A bottle and three glasses stood ready on the table and Brandon poured generous measures as he waved his guests to seats.
"Ah!" Cowley said on the first sip. "You always did appreciate a good Scotch, Dave."
Bodie swallowed some. Yes, it was good--a full, mellow flavour--but he was in no mood to listen to small talk about whisky. Cowley saw his mouth open and stepped in instead. "Have you had time to think over what I asked, Dave? Can you think of anyone who might have a grudge against Doyle big enough actually to do something about it?"
Brandon scowled. "It's a hard one, George. So many of the criminals we put behind bars make threats. Usually it's just empty words; they don't have the guts to go through with it once they're out. Oh, that's not to say the hate isn't still there--usually is--but they don't have the guts to go any further than empty threats."
"I wouldn't want like to say how often a newly-condemned criminal threatens to 'get' the policeman who arrested him, whose evidence has usually resulted in the conviction and more times the judge as well. Normally, it doesn't mean a thing. If it did, there'd be alot more cop-killings than there are."
"But there was one...On the face of it, it was the usual meaningless threat, but the fellow in question caused alot of trouble while he was in prison--no remission for good behavior, he served his full five years--and he was frequently heard muttering threats directed at the cop who nicked him. That cop was Doyle."
"And the criminal?"
"A conman named Higgins. Specialised in talking old ladies out of their savings. Come to think of it, it was always women he victimised. He got out a few months ago."
"Will the Yard have any idea where he's living?"
"It's more than possible, unless he's shifted very recently."
Cowley finished his drink and put his glass down half-reluctantly. "Thank you, Dave. We'll check up on Mr. Higgins."
Bodie hurriedly finished his drink. Not that he was really feeling like drinking, but you didn't waste a good malt like that!
Brandon accompanied them out to the car. "Good luck," he said seriously.
Bodie checked the address. Yes, this was the place. His nose twitched fastidiously at the stink of cat that permeated the stair. The building wasn't quite a slum, but it was fast on the way to becoming one.
HIGGINS. He leaned on the bell. There was no answer.
It took him only a few moments to cheat the lock open. Closing the door carefully, he moved, cat-footed, through the tiny hall. There were no lights showing under any of the doors. Without losing an iota of watchfulness, he opened doors in turn.
The house was empty, but obviously lived in. The interior had a luxury that was at total variance with the exterior. This was the home of a man who liked his comfort.
Bodie sank into a chair in the living room. No--too soft. Anyone sitting in it would be at a disadvantage. He moved to a hard chair at the table behind the door. Yes--this was perfect.
With the patience of a big cat stalking his prey, Bodie waited.
Doyle lost track of time. His watch told him he had been here now for six days, not counting the day he had been caught, but the knowledge was purely academic. He was cold and hungry and rapidly giving up hope. Too much ground to search; not even Cowley was infallible.
And then the light went out.
Higgins stood watching with apparently casual curiosity as the boxes of goods were carried out of the Pakistani grocer's and into the van that waited for them. At last the grocer himself appeared. He paused in the doorway, looking back; then he closed the door, locking it with a care that was almost pathetic and climbed into the passenger seat of the van. It drove off around the corner.
Higgins waited a little longer. An electricity van drew up; the driver got out, propped a ladder against the wall and climbed up to a junction box. The power disconnected, he got back into his van and drove off again.
Higgins smiled, turned and walked away.
It was getting late as Higgins climbed the stair to his house. He wasn't drunk--but he was decidedly merry. It didn't matter how long the demolition squad took getting there; that interfering bastard Doyle would have the added worry now of wondering just how long he had to live. The longer the demolition crew took reaching the now totally derelict building, the better, he thought viciously.
He unlocked the door and let himself into the house. Hanging up his coat, he made his way into the living room. He switched the light on and headed towards the fire, intending to switch it on, too. He was halfway there when he heard a voice behind him.
He swung around.
The man facing him had a cold look in his eyes that the petty conman recognised only too well. This was a hard man; harder even than the heartless Doyle. Rapidly, Higgins searched his conscience. No--he had been very careful not to tread in the patch of any of his criminal [missing text].
"What the hell do you think you're doing here?" Higgins' voice was a masterpiece of indignant injury.
"Doyle, Higgins." The cold voice sent a shiver down his spine. "I want Doyle."
The conman swallowed convulsively and Bodie knew at once that the long shot had come off.
"What makes you think I know anything about anyone called Doyle?" Higgins was full of enough Dutch courage to try a bluff.
"I know, Higgins. You don't threaten a man in open court and hope to get away with putting your threat into action." Bodie took a step closer, his eyes watchful. "I was a mercenary in Angola, Higgins. I know plenty of ways of making someone ignorant...talk and suddenly remember all the things he didn't know. And I'm not afraid to use them."
Higgins believed him. He swallowed again.
"And, Higgins," Bodie said softly, almost tenderly, "for your sake I hope that Doyle is still alive. Because if he isn't, I will take great pleasure in breaking your neck--eventually."
Higgins believed that, too.
"Now--you and I are going for a little walk," Bodie said, still quietly. "And you are going to take me to where Doyle is--aren't you?" The menace in the last two words made Higgins shudder.
The water was off, too.
Doyle sank down onto the floor. Well, with any luck he would be dead of thirst before the building came crashing down around his ears.
He never knew how long he sat there before he became aware of a scraping noise outside the door. He scrambled to his feet. Had Higgins come back to gloat, expecting to find him either dead already or too weak to put up any sort of fight?
That voice! "Bodie!" he croaked and knew that his voice was too weak to penetrate the door. The bolts screeched back, the lock creaked open and the door opened. A torch shown on his legs and he gave a half laugh. "Looking for the body?" he asked hoarsely.
"Doyle! Thank God!" Bodie caught his partner to him in a tight embrace that squeezed the breath out of him.
Doyle clung to him for a moment then struggled to free himself.
"You're not running away from me again, Ray," Bodie said softly.
"Let me breathe, you great berk!" he gasped. Bodie relaxed his grip hastily.
"Sorry." Bodie took a deep breath himself. "Let's go home."
It wasn't quite as easy as that, of course. Outside, Cowley waiting in Bodie's car with a watchful eye on Higgins, who seemed completely cowed. Doyle looked at his adversary thoughtfully, but said nothing. He slid into the passenger seat; Bodie drove off. They delivered Higgins to the nearest police station, then Cowley insisted on taking Doyle to hospital for a checkup. He was kept in for twenty-four hours as a precaution, so it was not until the next night, when Bodie picked him up from the hospital, that they got the chance to talk in private.
Bodie took his partner back to his own flat. Once there, he turned accusingly.
"What did you run off for?" he asked flatly.
"Bloody dogs," Doyle muttered, sinking into a chair.
Bodie stared at him. "I think it was more than that, Ray. Did you suddenly get cold feet?"
Doyle shook his head. "No. It was great...but...It was what you said, Bodie, about Mandy and her mate together being an education. It made me realise...you'd seen two birds together; it must've made you wonder what it was like with another man. Improving your education..."
"Oh, God, Ray, no! Not with you. Oh, I grant you we started off acting the goat and it got a bit out of hand, but it wasn't just curiosity. It...it really meant something, Ray. As for the improving my education bit, sure, watching them together did--let me see the sort of thing that really turns birds on, and it's not necessarily the sort of thing that we think will. But I know what turns a fella on--and boy, I'd sure like to put it to use!" He leaned over Doyle. His partner looked up; their mouths met, gently at first then with increasing passion. "Ray...Oh, God, Ray..."
Doyle looked up into Bodie's eyes. "Are you goin' to sweep me off my feet, carry me to bed and seduce me?" he demanded.
"No," Bodie told him. "You've got feet. You can walk."
He pulled Doyle upright. They were both giggling as they made their way to the bedroom.
-- THE END --