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Smoke and Mirrors

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11.57 p.m. 7th June 1984, Temple Street London

The bullet pierced the fragile bone, shattering her skull and carving a path through her brain like it was semi-set jelly.  Blood sprayed, slapping surfaces within reach; the floral wallpaper, the plastered ceiling and the tapestry fabric of the sofa as well as the family portraits positioned with care on the mantle, although by chance, a smaller image, set back from the others, miraculously escaped the bloodbath. A young curly haired PC photographed with his arm draped over the shoulder of the smiling, recently graduated police woman, lay silent witness to the tragedy.

It was late Friday night when PC Mary Dawson breathed her last, her very essence snuffed out in a moment of irreversible madness.

Rigor set in and fluids pooled as the cooling body listed sideways until it reached its final resting place on the bloodied couch, a Luger pistol dangling precariously from pale lifeless fingers.  

The single shot raised little interest among the building’s residents since short sharp cracks were common place late on a Friday night when the local lads were staggering home with a skinful of booze and a pocket full of penny bangers.  

*****

Retired teacher and long-time resident of the Temple Street flats, Susan Carmody, was up early for a Saturday having promised a generous donation of baked goods for the primary school fete which was due to kick off at ten. Dozens of scones destined for the Devonshire tea stall were piled high on the cooling rack alongside trays of iced fairy cakes, a lemon drizzle loaf and jam tarts.

It had been at least six years since she’d taught her last class, but she still took a keen interest in the old school and, without a family to fuss over, threw all her energy into fundraising. 

Humming quietly, she poured the drizzle over the warm lemon cake and glanced at her wall clock, pleased to see she had time for a strong cuppa before changing her clothes in readiness to leave.  Stepping back from the bench top and wiping her hands on her dough crusted apron, she was admiring her efforts when the shrill bell of the oven-timer interrupted her self-adulation.  

“Damn, forgot about you lot,” she muttered.

Moments later she stood in the centre of her kitchen, a piping hot tray of scones in her mitted hands, trying to decide what best to do with them. She grinned when the perfect solution popped into her head.

 “Who, hoo, Maary,” she crooned, knocking lightly on her neighbour’s door with a plate of warm scones in her clutches but when the door swung open a few inches, she frowned, confused, Mary was always such a stickler for security. 

Cautiously she poked her head into the flat and sang out again. “Good morning dear, fancy a nice hot…” 

An unpleasant, vaguely familiar smell had her nose twitching but she couldn’t quite place it.

She called out again and took a tentative half-step inside.

“Mary, are you there?”

Her eyes widened and her treasured Royal Doulton plate smashed when it fell from her frozen grip onto the hard-wood floor, sending freshly baked scones rolling haphazardly across the hallway.  When she found her voice, she screamed, then promptly passed out where she stood causing a commotion that caught the attention of everyone in the building, drawing even the most recluse residents out of their flats to investigate.

Local police responded quickly and ashen-faced Constables, shocked at the gruesome discovery, cordoned off Mary's flat.  They ushered those milling about back to their residences issuing strict instructions to remain there until they had provided a statement.   

*****

Susan came to on the floor of her sitting room, dazed and confused, her legs elevated and a blood pressure cuff wrapped around her upper arm. Muddled by the presence of strangers in her flat, she tried to sit up, but a hand came from behind, gently pressing her back down.  

“I need you to lie still, Susan,” the voice said.  

She arched her head back and saw sympathy on the face of the man who had spoken. He smiled as he rummaged through the kitbag at his side, a stethoscope visible around his neck. “I’m Jim, from the ambulance service,” he said looking up as he broke open a bandage. “You’ve had a nasty shock my dear, but you’re in good hands now. Can you tell me what day it is?”   

“Sunday…no, Saturday, must be Saturday,” she said, unable to remember how she ended up on the floor.

“You’ve had a fall and you’ve got a nasty gash on your leg, just hold still for me, I’m going to bandage it and then we’ll have you off to St Barts. They can keep an eye on you for a bit. Seems you hit your head when you took a tumble.”

“Tumble?” she said, still puzzled until a grave looking PC came into view over the man’s shoulder. The sight of the uniform triggered her memory and a flood of tears.

“Poor sweet Mary,” she sobbed as she answered the policeman’s questions, hoping the interrogation would soon be over.

“What time did you go to bed? Turn the light out? Get up?  Did you hear anything? When did you last see Mary alive?”

It was all too much. She didn’t want to think about the hideous sight on the other side of the shared wall any more than she wanted to talk about it, but the harder she tried to block it out, the more vivid the memory became.  The policeman seemed oblivious though and continued to press for answers.  “Was the door locked? How long had they been neighbours?  Did Mary seem depressed…?”

“The poor woman has had enough don’t you think?” Jim said as he wrapped the bandage firmly around her lower leg.

“Just a few more questions, then I’m done,” the young officer replied. “It’s best to do it now while the facts are still fresh in her mind.”

Susan closed her eyes against the onslaught and mercifully the policeman's voice became quieter and quieter until it faded out altogether.

*****

Nursing a hangover, Detective Constable Tim West sat slumped over his desk, his head resting on his forearms, silently cursing the shadowy figure banging on the frosted glass door of the CID office.  

It’s Saturday morning for god’s sake.

“Piss off,” he muttered, cradling his head, willing the bastard to bugger off but the commotion only grew louder and was now accompanied by threats of disciplinary action for dereliction of duty. 

West groaned when he recognised the voice and resigned himself to a bollocking as he levered himself out of his chair and flicked the light on.  The door swung open with force when he unlocked it and Roger Bain, day-shift Sergeant and all-round bully boy, stumbled into the office.

West chuckled despite the aggravation it caused to his throbbing head because the opportunity to take the man down a peg or two was something not to be missed.  

“Smells like a damn brewery in here,” Bain scowled as soon as he regained his balance.  

“Get off my back, I’m here aren’t I?” West grumbled, not in the mood to take a dressing down from a brown-nosing, wannabe Inspector.  Keeping the bastard waiting, he scrounged in his drawer for paracetamol he knew to be there, swallowing two tablets down with the dregs of his coffee before giving the man his attention.

“What’s got your knickers in a twist anyway?” he said.

Bain’s shoulders unexpectedly sagged, and he sighed like the fight had gone right out of him now that he’d gained entry to the office.  He opened his mouth to speak but closed it again as if he didn't know how to begin. 

West grew uneasy; it wasn’t like Bain to be tongue-tied and when their eyes met, he knew something terrible had happened.

“Come on, out with it,” he said, his anxiety peaking.

Bain drew a cigarette from the packet in his breast pocket and drifted to the window where he stood and stared blankly at the car park below.  He tapped the cigarette on the windowsill and placed the filtered end between his lips.  

“It’s Mary, our Mary,” he said slowly, carefully, unimpeded by the unlit cigarette balanced there with practiced ease.  He paused to light it, inhaling deeply, trapping the smoke in his lungs until he was forced to release it which he did in a steady blue stream.  

West snapped, his patience gone.  “What about Mary?”

Bain spun back around, his face angry, his eyes hard. “She’s dead alright, she topped herself last night.”

West faltered, doubling over like he'd been gut-punched, the meagre contents of his stomach bubbling up into his throat. 

Christ.

Gulping mouthfuls of air, he succeeded in forcing the vile taste back down as he reached blindly for the arms of his chair, trying to collect his scattered thoughts.

“Where…how?” he said in a hoarse whisper.

“Blew her brains out in the lounge room of her Temple Street flat.” 

Bain took a long drag on his smoke. You’ll need fingerprints to satisfy the Coroner, there’s not a whole lot left to ID.”

West’s stomach lurched again. “Jesus, what the hell did she go and do that for?”

The office telephone startled him, but he made no move to toward it.

“Answer the bloody thing,” Bain growled after the third ring.   

Grudgingly West did as he was told and picked up the receiver if only to silence it. “CID,” was all he managed to get out before being subjected to a tirade of questions from the caller about the theft of her apparently precious garden gnomes. He listened for almost a minute before losing his self-control and letting fly.  

“Quite frankly I don’t give a damn about your garden ornaments Mrs Butterworth, and for the record, the name’s West, Tim W.E.S.T,” he said before abruptly ending the call. He stabbed his finger at Bain. “Don’t you say anything either."

Bain shrugged, surprisingly indifferent. “The coroner’s van is already on its way and you know old Jock, he won’t be happy if you keep him waiting,” he said.

“Well old Jock can shove his timetable where the sun don’t shine,” West said, with the dawning realisation the investigation was going to fall on his shoulders. "Have crime scene been notified? What about next of kin?” he said, beginning to think like a detective again.

“Crime scene are aware of the job and because Mary's parents live down Brighton way, I've got the locals doing the notification.”

Closing his eyes, West willed his stomach to stop churning. “She leave a note?” asked hopefully.

“No.”

“Of course bloody not,” he said, shoving his notebook into his satchel. “Why make my job any easier?”

Stubbing his cigarette into the ashtray on the windowsill, Bain cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably.

“Come on Roger, spill it,” West said, sensing the man hadn't finished.

“Think I know why she did it,” Bain said sheepishly.

 “Go on,” West replied, interested to hear his theory.

“A few weeks back Mary confided in me, told me she wasn’t coping…said terrible things were playing on her mind, giving her nightmares and keeping her awake at night.”

“What sort of terrible things?” West asked.

“Remember the 8-year-old lad killed by the car on the High Street earlier this year?”

West nodded, taking mental notes.

“Mary was first on scene.  Christ, the lad was never going to survive his injuries, but she did all she could just the same, sat on the tarmac in the pouring rain, holding his broken body, telling him he was going to be alright up until the moment he died.”  

“I had no idea,” West said, remembering reports of the child’s death.  How could he forget? He'd gone home that night and lectured his own six year old son until he was blue in the face about the dangers of crossing the road. “That would have knocked anyone."

“None of us really knew the extent of it at the time,” Bain said taking another drag on his cigarette.  “When I arrived, the body had been covered and Mary was consoling the boy’s mother.”

Go on,” West pressed.

“Once the scene was cleaned up, I sent Mary home, she was soaked through to the skin and her uniform was bloodied. I didn't expect her back but the silly girl just changed into a clean uniform, dried her hair and came straight back, said she’d rather be working than dwelling on it.”  Bain tilted his face toward the ceiling and sighed.  “She never mentioned it again, until a month ago when she told me she was struggling to deal with it.”

“And?”

“Well, that's when I suggested she go to her doc for some pills to help her sleep.” 

“Did she?”

“How would I know? Not my business, was it?” Bain snapped, his prickly demeanor back.  

West mulled it over, disappointed in himself for having missed the signs of a colleague in trouble. Thinking back on it now, he hadn’t seen Mary at the pub for weeks and digging further back, he remembered she'd missed the poker fundraiser and the pizza night too, and she’d pulled out of the darts team with some lame excuse.  Bloody hell, she’d fallen off the radar but he'd been too caught up in his own little world to have noticed. Christ, what sort of a friend did that make him?   

The soul searching would come later, just him and a bottle of scotch, but right now he needed to focus and put his mind to the demands of the Coroner.

“How on earth did she source a gun?” he speculated out loud.

“You’re the detective, you figure it out.” Bain muttered as he left the office.

“Just make sure your plods don’t touch anything before I get there,” West shouted at the man’s receding back, not expecting a reply and not getting one as he collected his keys and the hand-held radio.  He slung his satchel over his shoulder and headed out to the carpark, he had a suicide investigation to wrap up.

*****

The ‘A’ team was buzzing after the successful end to the gun running operation but as the case officer, Ray Doyle, couldn’t contemplate joining in on their celebration until his report was on Cowley’s desk.  

The adrenaline rush from the shootout was long gone and fatigue had crept in hours ago, but the report still had to be finished and he reluctantly admitted to himself that taking his frustrations out on the typewriter was counterproductive as he reached for the Tippex yet again. 

Bodie snorted. “You should have shares in the stuff,” he said, as more of the tacky goo was liberally painted on.

Irritated by Bodie’s crack, but trying not to show it, he blew onto the drying paint, wishing that everyone, his partner included, would piss off so he could get the bloody thing finished.   

“Doyle! Phone!” Anson yelled from across the office.

“Tell ‘em to hold,” he shouted, pounding a dozen more keystrokes before packing it in.

“I’ll finish it,” Bodie offered, nodding at the typewriter. 

“You can keep your grubby mitts off, Bodie, it’s a factual account and it’s going to stay that way,” he said, stabbing his finger at him to make his point.

“That’s mortally wounding I’ll have you know,” Bodie scoffed, hand on heart.

He dismissed the prat with a wave and strode through the chaotic arrangement of desks to the wall phone on the opposite side of the room.

“Doyle,” he said wearily as he put the receiver to his ear.

A sombre voice, barely recognisable as his old duty Sergeant, came down the line. “Doyle, it’s Sergeant Bain, Stepney Green Police.”

“My memory’s not that short Roger, what’s up?”

“I’m doing the ring around, letting everyone from the old team know that Mary Dawson topped herself with a handgun last night.”

Doyle was dumbstruck.

“You there?” Bain said after a long pause.

“No…can’t be, it’s a mistake, Mary would never…”  He drew in a shaky breath and tried to order his thoughts, realising how irrational he sounded even to his own ears.  “Are you’re sure?” he asked finally.

“Of course, I’m bloody sure, I’ve seen the damn body.”

“Christ, I’m sorry Roger,” he sniffed, dragging the back of his hand across the end of his nose. “Why would she…?” His voice drifted off, the lump in his throat making talking difficult.

“Undiagnosed depression, there’s plenty of it about,” Bain said without compassion. “She isn’t the first and she sure as hell won’t be the last copper to do it.”

The conversation died, and the silence stretched. Doyle closed his eyes and lent forward until his forehead was cushioned against his forearm pressed to the wall. 

“Look Ray, I can’t hang about, I’ve got other calls to make.”

Doyle sniffed. “Sorry Roger…I appreciate the call.”

“Watch the paper for the funeral notice," Bain said, his tone abrupt. "I don't have the time to notify everyone in person."

“Yeah, ta,” Doyle replied as memories of Mary overwhelmed him.

Good friends from day one at Hendon, team mates at Bethnal Green, even partnered from time to time. They'd had fun learning the ropes side by side, until they became proficient enough to teach the new round of recruits. On and off duty they'd been close but when he made his move to CI5 inevitably they'd lost touch despite promises on both sides.

I’m so proud of you Ray, she’d said on his last day, examining him at arm’s length before pulling him in for a lingering hug, a bittersweet memory now.

He calculated it had been nearly seven months since they’d shared a beer and a packet of crisps at her local.  She’d seemed happy enough back then, said she was studying for the Sergeant's exam, so, what the hell had happened? If only he’d made more of an effort, just picked up the phone…

He was jolted out of his stupor when he felt the receiver being gently prized from his white knuckled grip by a familiar presence.

“Alright Ray?”

“No,” he replied, his vision blurring now he was forced to repeat the awful news. “PC Mary Dawson took her own life last night. She was a good copper and a bloody good sort,”

Bodie hung the receiver back on the cradle and stood patiently by his side. 

“Fuck the report, I need a drink,” Doyle said straightening up.

“Yeah, fuck the report,” Bodie chimed in, slinging his arm around Doyle’s shoulders, steering him out of the building and away from prying eyes and ears.

*****

Ten miserable, soul-searching days passed before the Coroner handed down his finding of suicide and Mary’s remains were released for burial, remains being the operative word as Doyle knew only too well what a bullet of that calibre did to a human skull. Just one of the joys of the job he reflected, a job so counter-intuitive to good mental health it was necessary to have a shrink on the payroll. As he pondered that thought, he began questioning his own sanity for staying, Bodie's too because despite the sod's claim that he was cool and dispassionate, Doyle knew the pillock was batting his own demons. More than once he had witnessed Bodie wake suddenly from a fitful sleep drenched in sweat, eyes wild and fists flying.  But they only ever opened up about the torment that played on their minds during drunken episodes when alcohol loosened their tongues and freed their inhibitions, but in the cold light of day, Bodie would brush it off, bad medicine he'd say, and they’d both move on like nothing had happened. Not even Ross could prise open that can of worms. 

During the eulogy, he discovered things about Mary that surprised him.  She’d been a school aged champion swimmer, a tone-deaf choir singer, a devoted Bay City Roller fan and avid reader of romance novels. He also heard the heart-warming story of how her love for policing had influenced Beth, her niece, to follow in her footsteps. The young articulate PC gave a touching tribute to her mentor, managing to hold herself together until she stepped down from the pulpit and joined her family in the pews.

After the service Doyle mingled silently with the others meandering from the family’s place of worship to the nearby cemetery, glad to be away from the airless confines of the church, sorry now he’d refused Bodie’s offer, he could have done with the sod’s company and black humour about now.  

Family and friends congregated on one side of the plot while Mary’s police family milled about on the other, all eyes cast down as the Minister recited The Lord's Prayer to the sound of sniffing and sobbing and the low murmur of those repeating the words while the coffin was lowered. Standing at parade rest, Doyle closed his eyes until he heard amen echoed by the mourners at which time he opened them again, spying Mary’s niece, Beth, looking at him from the other side of the grave. She averted her bloodshot eyes and didn’t look back in his direction again.

He recognised Roger Bain and a handful of former colleagues including long time team member and friend, Danny Wilson, Mary’s most regular partner, as well as an assortment of new faces. The officers, most in uniform, fell in behind the family shuffling single file past the grave to bid their final farewell. 

The service attendant offered long-stemmed roses from her basket to those who wanted one, but the traditionalists opted to run a handful of soil through their fingers into the pit as their parting gesture.

Doyle joined the end of the slow-moving line, head respectfully bowed as he contemplated fond memories when an angry shout ahead in the queue disturbed the sombre mood.  He jerked his head up to see Danny hurling a fistful of soil into the grave before colleagues could escort him away. 

 Doyle understood Danny’s anger and hurt, he felt it too. Poor bastard.

The incident took him back to his own painful memory of burying a partner and visions of Sid Parker, lying lifeless among the silken folds, skin waxy and shiny, rouge too heavy to look natural and his hair styled as he had never worn it, a sad effigy of the man he had once been.  Then, inexplicably and without conscious thought, Sid’s features morphed into Bodie’s familiar face, turning his legs to jelly.  Blood drained from his face and he turned and stumbled away to compose himself. 

*****

Three months later…

Doyle wandered into the rest room with Bodie close on his heels, their jackets, slung over their shoulders exposing the weapons snug in their holsters; a luxury only permitted away from the public eye or when it was particularly hot and only then at Cowley’s temperamental discretion.  He nodded at Murphy stretched out on the couch with his nose in the newspaper and his boots dangling over the end of the two-seater.

“Lo,” the tall man said, lowering the paper an inch to make eye contact.

“Where is everyone?” Bodie asked as they draped their coats over the closest chair.  

Murphy shrugged, “No idea.”  

Doyle raised his brows at the unhelpful response before filling the kettle while Bodie scrounged for a teaspoon and righted two stained, chipped mugs that had been draining on the sink.  

“Don’t get too comfortable Doyle, the old man’s looking for you,” Murphy said from behind the paper.

Bodie paused, a heaped teaspoon of sugar hovering above a cup, “What have you been up to my son?” he said.

“Cowley’s probably offering me a rise…for putting up with you,” Doyle quipped.  “You coming?” he added tipping his head at the door.

“Seeing as you’re inviting, why not?” Bodie said dumping the sugar into the cup before picking out a digestive from the biscuit tin.

“And if it is a raise, I’ll want to know where mine is, I deserve danger money getting in a car with you,” he added, shoving the entire biscuit into his mouth with childlike glee.

Doyle chuckled. “That’s rich coming from you,” he said, ducking the anticipated clip over the head.

Murphy’s giggling faded as they strode along the corridor.

“He’s waiting for you,” Betty said, waving Doyle in.

He squeezed her shoulder lightly as he passed.  “Thanks love.”

She turned to follow his movement, appreciating the view until Bodie appeared in her peripheral vision, hastily brushing biscuit crumbs from the front of his shirt.  She rolled her eyes and went back to her typing as he followed his partner into the lion’s den.

*****

Doyle’s attention was on Cowley’s firm mouth and his magnified, bespectacled eyes, as he and Bodie stood at parade rest a respectful distance from his expensive antique desk.

“You wanted to see me Sir?” he began, never quite sure if a summons to this office was a positive thing or not. 

Typically, the curt nod was hard to read, as it was intended it to be.

“I see you’ve brought back-up 4.5.”

Doyle sensed Bodie growing an inch and squaring his shoulders as they stood, almost touching, prompting a knowing smirk from the man who loved to play God. 

Somewhat unexpectedly though, the great almighty’s expression softened, “Ooch, I shouldn’t think you’ll be needing 3.7’s assistance, it’s just the matter of a hand-delivered package addressed to you, 4.5.”  

“Delivered by who?” Doyle shot back, puzzled, he hadn’t been expecting anything.  

“Now that’s the interesting thing Doyle, a young lad was offered a fiver by a stranger in the street to see it delivered.” 

Cowley stood, massaged his gammy leg and walked stiffly to his drinks cabinet where he retrieved a package the size of a small box of chocolates from the top drawer.  It was neatly wrapped in brown paper.

“It’s been checked by the mail room,” he said, sliding the box across his desk. “And you will be pleased to know it’s not ticking,” he added with a smirk.  

“Want me to leave sir?” Bodie asked.

Cowley flicked his eyes to Bodie. “Not unless Doyle wants privacy.”

“No stay, I’ve got nothing to hide,” he replied quickly, dragging his hand through his hair.  

Bodie moved closer. “Ray?”

Doyle shrugged.  “To be honest, I’ve got no idea what it’s about.”

Bodie poked his head back into the adjoining office, “Betty love, get us a pair of document gloves, will you?”

Moments later Betty dropped a pair of white cotton gloves into Doyle’s outstretched hand.

“Ta,” he said, his attention on the package.

She retreated and closed the door quietly behind her.

“There’s no point looking for prints on the outside, it’s already been handled by every man and his damn dog,” Cowley said, rustling around in his drawer and producing a letter opener.

Doyle donned the gloves and began cautiously inspecting the package, jiggling it gently up and down once he was satisfied there were no wires.  It wasn’t that the mail room weren’t thorough but the only person he truly trusted with his life was the man standing alongside him.

“Bit early for your birthday init?” Bodie joked.

“It’s light,” he said, ignoring the comment.

“Let’s hope it’s not an ear.” Bodie added with a grin, still trying for levity but Cowley’s icy glare ensured his amusement was short-lived.

The letter opener slit the edge of the brown paper with ease and he peeled it away to reveal a balsa wood cigar box. The stained timber and the torn paper seal told him the Coronas were long gone which only increased his curiosity.

Holding it at eye level, he examined every angle before prizing the lid off, hissing when the contents were revealed.

The fresh face of a young Mary Dawson stared back at him from her graduation photo, innocent and as yet, untarnished by the job. Her long hair was pulled back into a neat bun, positioned low at the nape of her neck to accommodate her hat. Her manicured brows and ruby lips were stark against her peaches and cream complexion and in a small act of rebellion she sported a hint of a smile for the camera.

He ran his finger lightly across the photograph, caught in the moment.

“Look like you’ve seen a ghost mate,” Bodie said quietly, breaking the silence.

Doyle flinched, snapping out of his daydream.  ‘Yeah, something like that,” he said as he lifted the photograph out to reveal a police badge and a folded note beneath it.  The badge aroused a mix of emotions as he took it out for closer inspection.

“What’s this all about Doyle?” Cowley asked.

He looked up and met Cowley’s gaze. “PC Mary Dawson sir, a friend of mine. She took her own life a few months back.”  

Cowley’s expression softened but he made no comment.

Doyle’s hands were steady, but his heart raced as he read the handwritten note.

“Well?” Cowley pressed. 

“According to this,” he said, flicking the paper with the back of his hand. “The CID and the Coroner got it wrong.  The author doesn’t think Mary committed suicide which by default means they think she was murdered, only they haven’t hinted at a motive, a suspect or any damn evidence to support their theory…and of course it’s anonymous.” 

He picked up the badge again and clenched it, ignoring the dull pain as the metal edges dug into his skin through the thin cotton gloves.  

“Why all the smoke and mirrors?”

Cowley returned to his seat and took a thin folder from the stack awaiting his attention. “What do you think 4.5?  Is it possible?” he said as he began editing the paperwork in front of him. 

“Anything is possible,” Doyle said, his mind racing. “But why would anyone want to harm Mary? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Bodie snorted. “You’ve got to be joking, she was a plod, wasn’t she?  Christ Ray, look at the posse of enemies you collected during your time. Do you need a reminder?”

“Listen mate, Mary was a good community minded copper, everyone loved her,” Doyle said, prodding his finger in Bodie’s chest. “Your grandmother would have more enemies than Mary.”

“Something in her private life then?” Cowley offered as he moved onto the next document, his interest in their conversation waning. 

“No smoking gun there,” Doyle replied. “She was single when she died and there was no talk of...”  A niggling feeling had him faltering mid-sentence.  He snapped his fingers. 

“Wait, there was a heavy-handed jerk hanging about.  I remember now, the bastard wanted to move in with her, but he had no respect for women.”

He paced, his fists clenching as his memory became clearer.  

“She gave him his marching orders after he gave her a shiner, but the prat wasn’t too bright, and it took a visit from some of the lads at the station to move him on.  As far as I know he took off after their little chat.”

Bodie cracked his knuckles. “Perhaps a quiet word is in order?”

Doyle gritted his teeth. “Yeah." 

“This, gentleman, is police business and I’ll not tolerate police business interfering with my operations,” Cowley said without lifting his head.  “If I find out it has, there will be repercussions, mark my words.”

“But sir,” he began.

Cowley snapped his head up and stared, dismissing them both with a wave of his hand. “Report it to the Met Doyle, it’s their responsibility, not yours.”

“But...”

“You heard me 4.5, leave it to the CID,” Cowley said in a tone that brokered no argument.

He glared at the Scot as he shoved the items back into the cigar box, but it was a wasted effort, the old man had already turned his attention back to his paperwork.

He raised his brows at Bodie and tipped his head at the door.  

“Repercussions Doyle,” Bodie mimicked as soon as they were out of Cowley’s earshot.

 

*****

Doyle stared out of through the side window, indifferent to their progress as Bodie tooled the Capri through the heavy mid-afternoon traffic.

“Look Ray, there must be someone in the Met you can trust.”

“That’s the problem, init?” he said continuing his vigil of the passing scenery. “If Mary was murdered it means one of two things, a botched investigation or a cover up, and if it is a cover up, who do I trust?”

Bodie changed back a gear and pushed through the next roundabout, testing the car’s suspension before straightening up.  He tipped his head at the cigar box on Doyle’s knee. “Does that really change anything?  I mean if the sender had any evidence, why not come forward, tell you their story in person?”

“No bloody idea.”

Doyle lifted the lid from the box, studying the photo for the umpteenth time.  “I didn’t want to accept she’d killed herself, but the alternative seemed even more unbelievable and let’s face it mate, coppers aren’t immune to the black dog, if anything, they’re more susceptible.  Take us…”

“What about us?” Bodie asked, frowning and shifting in his seat.

“What we do; it’s not normal is it?” Doyle replied. “Risking our necks for queen and country, kill or be killed, we’re expendable, you know that and then there’s the psychological cost.  Joe public doesn’t give a toss about us just so long as the streets are kept smelling sweetly of the old man’s lavender and roses.”  He scrubbed his face. “Why do we do it, eh?”

Bodie shrugged, “Pays the bills, dunit.”  

“I don’t believe that for a second mate, there are easier ways to make a living.”  

Doyle tilted his head back against the headrest. “To be honest, there’s been times when I’ve thought about packing it all in, and before you ask, no, I’ve never contemplated blowing my brains out, but it’s not a huge leap for someone in our line of work, is it?  Live by the sword, die by the sword…”

“Christ Ray,” Bodie said, manoeuvring the Capri across lanes of traffic to the edge of the road, accompanied by the sound of several blaring car horns. 

Bodie’s open mouthed stare gave him a stab of guilt.

“Sorry mate,” he said screwing up his nose.  “There’s no need to have me committed, I’m just overthinking it, you know me.”

Bodie swallowed, his adam’s apple protruding. “Yeah, I know you alright, you’re a bleeding bloody heart, but promise me you’d say something… if things were, you know…?”  Bodie’s voice broke off and his adam's apple bobbed again.

“Scout's honour,” Doyle said reaching out, wrapping his hand lightly around Bodie’s forearm. Their eyes met.  “I’m alright, I'd tell you if I wasn't.” 

He pulled his hand back and lay his fingers on the lid of the cigar box. “But I won’t be letting this drop, I owe Mary that.”

“The Cow’s not going to like it.”

“The Cow’s not going to know.”

“You’re bloody predictable, I’ll give you that,” Bodie said, pulling back out into the traffic, only marginally more sedately than he pulled in.

“So, err, you with me?” Doyle said.

“I know you won’t drop it so the sooner we knock this conspiracy theory on the head, the sooner we get back to doing what we’re paid for, right?” Bodie said.

“Right.”

“So, what’s the plan?”

“I’ve organised a meet, The Rose and Crown in thirty.”

Grunting, Bodie, executed a tyre squealing U-turn.  “Seems like I’m the predictable bloody one, dunit?” 

*****

Bodie slotted the Capri into a convenient park opposite the Rose and Crown, a tidy pub with its two-toned red brick and cream exterior, floral baskets and sandwich board advertising on the footpath.  

“Alright Sherlock, who we meeting?” he asked, turning the ignition off.

Doyle exited the car and lent against it, elbows propped on the roof, watching as Bodie mirrored his movement.  “PC Danny Wilson, Mary’s partner. I want to pick his brains.”

“Any chance he’s your cigar smoker?”

“I guess we’re about to find out,” Doyle said as they crossed the road.

When they entered, it was evident Danny hadn’t arrived so Doyle made a beeline for a vacant booth at the back of the room, sliding across the worn vinyl seat until he had a clear, uninterrupted view of the entrance while Bodie headed to the bar for refreshments.  Scanning the tired décor, Doyle observed half a dozen patrons sitting in a head high pall of smoke, nursing their beers.  He checked his watch, Danny was late.

“Classy place,” Bodie said lowering three pints to the table without spilling a drop.  

“What did you expect, the Ritz?” Doyle replied, slurping the head from his beer then wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.  

“You know I like the finer things,” Bodie joked, brushing non-existent lint from his shoulder as he slid onto the bench seat alongside him.  He lifted his glass. “Cheers.”

They drank in silence with an eye on the entrance until Danny strolled in nearly twenty minutes late, dressed casually in jeans and t-shirt, a sports bag slung over his shoulder.  The man had barely changed in the years Doyle had known him, a few more creases around the eyes and a pound or two on his waist, but the man still looked as fit and capable as he ever had.

“Good to see you Danny,” Doyle said, standing as he grasped the man’s outstretched hand.  “This is Bodie,” he added tipping his head, smirking as he caught his partner’s eye. “He’s alright.”  

Bodie half stood and leant across the table, shaking the offered hand. “Any mate of Ray’s…” 

Danny nodded. “Sorry I’m late, Bain held me up,” he said sliding into the opposite side of the booth. “I didn’t think it was possible but he’s an even bigger pain in the arse now.”

“Eh?” Doyle said frowning.

“Got his promotion, didn’t he? It’s Inspector Bain now,” Danny explained as Bodie set the pint down in front of him.  

“I don’t bloody believe it,” Doyle replied, shaking his head. “The clown couldn’t lead a pack of girl guides across the street.”

Leaning back, Danny eyed Bodie before fixing his attention on Doyle.  “This isn’t a social visit, is it?”

“Brace yourself mate,” he said, leaning forward and lowering his voice. “I’ve received a tip-off that Mary might not have taken her own life.”  He waited for the words to sink in.

Danny’s face furrowed. “You mean…?”

Doyle shrugged.

“Christ!” Danny said, looking from him to Bodie and back again. “Tip-off from who?”

“No idea,” Doyle replied. “But don’t get too worked up just yet, not only is it anonymous, there’s no hint of a motive or any clue as to a suspect.  Could be someone's idea of a sick joke or someone who just can’t come to terms with the thought that Mary took her own life.”

Danny raised his hands defensively. “It’s not me if that’s what you’re hedging at. No offence Ray, but I’d have gone to the CID if I thought her death was suspicious.  Why’d they come to you?”

“Now that’s the 64-thousand-dollar question, init?” Bodie interjected, raising his eyebrows.

“Need your help Danny,” Doyle said. “Official channels are out on this one which is why I’ve come to you.”

“Anything Ray, just ask, you know that,” Danny replied as he rummaged about in his bag.  He offered them both a cigarette from the Dunhill pack he produced, wedging one behind his own ear before tossing the packet back into the bag.

“You worked with Mary, was she suicidal?” Doyle said, realising how callous the question sounded as the words spilled out.

Danny fidgeted, shifting his gaze to his lighter and the small flame he produced with every roll of the flint. 

His thumb stilled eventually.  “I refused to believe it at first, not my partner, not my Mary…”  

His words fell away and the lighter became his focus again. 

Doyle glanced at Bodie and nudged his leg under the table, appealing for his patience, the man had lost his partner after all.

“Sorry,” Danny said moments later, lifting his head.  

Bodie raised his glass to his lips. “Take your time mate."

Danny cleared his throat and smiled weakly.  “When I thought about it, I mean really thought about how much she’d changed in those last few months all of a sudden it didn’t seem so hard to believe after all.  She’d always been a social butterfly but toward the end she’d become a recluse, quick to duck away, pulling out with the flimsiest of excuses.  It’s hard to put my finger on it but somewhere along the line I lost her, she'd become distant, almost secretive.”

Doyle nodded, understanding the grief and the guilt because he felt the weight of it too.

Tugging the cigarette from behind his ear, Danny lit it, drawing in deeply and exhaling the smoke over their heads.  “After she died I got angry, real angry with the people who least deserved it, very nearly cost me my marriage and a few friendships too, but it wasn’t their fault, was it?  I’ve been trying to move on for the sake of the people I love but it still hurts in here,” Danny said laying his hand on his chest then drawing it into a fistful of t-shirt.

There was a lull in the conversation and Bodie spoke up.  “Can you pin point when things started to go belly up?”

“It’s no secret,” Danny said, tapping the ash from his smoke into the ashtray.  “Everyone knows the death of that boy in the car crash was the start of it.  Mary was delivering summonses when the job came over the radio, a kid had been hit by a car.  She was on scene first, but the lad was in a bad way and there was nothing she could do.  She was gutted of course, anyone would be, but when I tried to talk to her about it she brushed me off, denied she had a problem and when I pushed her on it, she got angry.  We argued, and things became progressively worse from there.”  

“Anything else not sit right?  Anything at all?” Bodie asked.

Danny shrugged.

“Come on Danny, spill it,” Doyle said. “I can see something's on your mind.”

“It’s going to sound like sour grapes, but I want to know why she chose Bain to confide in? He was her supervisor, I get that, but he’s an arsehole too, so why him, why not me?”

“Fair question," Doyle said, now curious about that himself.  

“Anything else?”  Bodie asked.

“I’d like to know how she got hold of a gun, she hated the things, wouldn’t touch ‘em if she could avoid it,” Danny said.  

Doyle drained his glass. "That's true. I remember she very nearly didn’t pass her qualifying shoot in training, she had a real aversion to 'em," Doyle said. "Look, I can’t make any promises, but we’re going to do some digging to at least satisfy ourselves that everything is kosher.”

A smile played on Danny's lips. “Thanks Ray, I appreciate it." 

Danny glanced at his watch. “Christ is that the time?”  He took a final drag of his cigarette and butted it out in the ashtray.   “Sorry Ray, Bodie,” he said, nodding at them in turn. “I have to go, but count me in. What do you need from me?”

Doyle grimaced knowing it was a big ask. “Witness statements and scene photos if you can manage it? Without them we're going to struggle.” 

"And don't forget the name and address of Mary’s ex,” Bodie added. “The one that gave her the shiner.”  

"I remember that bastard,” Danny said tapping the side of his nose.  “Leave it with me.”  He stood, shook their hands and strode out of the pub like a man on a mission.

*****

Thirty-seven hours later Doyle traipsed wearily into the empty squad room after a long day in the field.  He dropped heavily into his chair, lifted his trainers onto the desk he shared with Bodie and crossed his ankles, stealing a quiet moment while Bodie was downstairs washing off the grime and bacteria he’d picked up during his unscheduled dip in the Thames.  Easy to chuckle about it now knowing the daft sod was alright, but until he’d surfaced...  

He closed his eyes and replayed the scene, still unable to figure out what the crazy Arab had hoped to achieve by taking Bodie over the edge with him.  Drown the sod then paddle off into the sunset?  He smiled to himself, grateful Bodie was alive and especially grateful he didn’t have to type the report until the morning.  

The click of boot heels in the corridor jolted him awake. He listened, trying to pick his partner’s frame of mind by the sound of his footfalls.  It had better have improved or the bastard could find his own way home.

“Happier now?” he asked, as Bodie sauntered in.

The corner of Bodie’s mouth lifted into a smirk. “Not my finest hour…” 

Doyle snorted. “Not by a long shot mate, I’ve seen bags of cement do a better job of staying afloat.”

“I’d like to see you take a swim with the kit I had on me,” Bodie said, nostrils flaring.

“Yeah, well the armoury weren’t too happy when I told ‘em why your rounds were stuck in the cylinder and the barrel was full of silt.”

“Not my bloody fau…” Bodie began until his attention was diverted elsewhere .

Doyle followed Bodie’s line of sight and saw an envelope propped on their shared typewriter. 

“Oi, trained observer, seen this?” Bodie said, picking the envelope up.  “It’s for you,” he added as he tossed it over. “I bet if it was a pint you would have noticed it.”

Doyle chuckled, the bastard had a point.  He saw that the front right corner of the envelope was marked, ‘Photographs do not bend’ and the sender’s details were printed neatly on the back. 

“Danny,” he mouthed, dropping his feet lightly to the floor, suddenly more alert than he’d been for hours.  He tipped his head at the door. “Don’t fancy the old man walking in on us.”

“Us?” Bodie said as he turned the key in the lock.

“Yes, us,” he replied with mock exasperation.

Bodie sighed and moved closer, “Come on then, let’s have it.”

As the photos spilled out onto the desktop, Doyle caught glimpses of the gory images and felt his detachment slipping.

“Alright Ray?” Bodie asked quietly, perceptive as always.

Doyle nodded, took a deep breath and picked up the first photograph knowing his fond memories of Mary would be superseded by these gruesome images, a sacrifice he had to make.  When he finished examining the first one, he swapped it for the one Bodie was grimacing at. Their eyes met, and he saw sympathy there, but it wasn’t sympathy he was after, it was answers.

“What do you think? Anything sus?” Bodie asked when they had finished viewing them all.

“Nothing obvious,” he replied, feeling numb as he squared up the glossy images to slide back into the envelope. 

“So, it is a suicide then?” Bodie said.

“Didn’t say that, did I?” he fired back. 

Bodie’s mouth twitched and Doyle knew the daft sod was about to say something stupid to cheer him up and he wasn’t disappointed.

“My dear Raymundo, it is entirely possible you are looking for a smoking gun that doesn’t exist,” Bodie said waggling his eyebrows outrageously and twirling his non-existent moustache in his best Inspector Clouseau impersonation.

“Ya clown,” Doyle replied, not able to keep his grin from blossoming. “You could be right you know.”

He unlocked the squad room door and turned around to see Bodie bending down to retrieve a computer printout from the floor.

“What’s that?” Doyle asked, digging around in his pocket for the car keys.

“It’s the antecedence report we asked for on Mary’s ex.  The bastard’s name is Wesley John Clifford, date of birth, 4th of June 1958, bailed to flat 8, 45 Surrey St Clapham.”  

“Bail?” Doyle said, looking up sharply.

“Yeah, he’s got a pending GBH matter but listen to this, he’s got multiple convictions for theft, unlawful possession, dope and assault.”

“God knows what she saw in ‘im,” Doyle said, reading the printout before sliding it into the envelope along with the photographs.

Bodie winked. “I feel a bail check coming on.”

Doyle saw the gleam in Bodie’s eye and mulled it over.

“Look mate, there’s nothing in this lot to convince me the original investigation was flawed,” he said, flicking the envelope with the back of his hand.  “The bastard deserves a tune up for what he did, but he’s not worth the grief we’d get from the old man.  Don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough for one day, let’s go home, eh?”

He tucked the envelope under his arm and together they headed for the carpark and home.

*****

Bodie tossed his keys onto the hall table and watched as they missed the bowl he’d been aiming for and slid over the edge onto the floor.

Fuck, he muttered, too apathetic at this point to bend down and pick them up so he left them there.

After setting the locks, he peeled off his jacket and holster, draping both over the back of the couch on his way through to the kitchen for a soothing ale, but when the bitter taste hit the back of his throat he realised it would take more than alcohol to forget the crappy day he’d had.  He wandered back into the lounge room, collapsed in a heap on the couch and toe’d his shoes off, beer in hand. 

He could have died in the Thames this afternoon with that Arab bastard clinging to him like a barnacle, still could if some deadly strain of bacteria found its way into his bloodstream. Curiously though, that didn’t bother him half as much as seeing Ray’s reaction to the crime scene photos today. The daft sod wasn’t prone to letting his guard down but this was different, this was personal.

He sighed and massaged his eyes, feeling the responsibility of seeing the pillock through this, even if it meant pandering to his half-baked ideas and conspiracy theories when they’d still not found any evidence to confirm them. He relaxed further into the couch, letting the events of the last few days play over in his head, trying to see connections that would prove Doyle was right, that his friend had been murdered. Getting nowhere and starting to nod off, nearly spilling what was left in the bottle, he got up and took himself off to bed.

Jerking awake, momentarily disorientated until his sleep addled brain caught up with his body, he cursed as he rolled over and reached blindly for the bedside phone.

“Lo,” he mumbled, his voice still thick with sleep.

“You awake?”

“Sod off Doyle, can’t it wait til morning?”

“It is morning…anyway, I’ve found something,” Doyle said, ignoring his plea.

“Eh?” he muttered into the receiver he’d propped on the pillow next to his ear.

“Mary was murdered."

His eyes flew open when the words registered, “You sure?” he said taking a firmer grip on the receiver and bringing it with him as he rolled onto his back.

“Yeah, I’m sure, couldn’t see it for looking…”

He stared into the darkness. “See what?”

“The round entered the side of her head, just behind her right eye.”

“And?”

“The pistol was in her right hand.”

“Sounds logical so far,” he replied, wondered where this was going. 

There was a brief pause before Doyle spoke again.  "Yeah, well it would be wouldn’t it…if she was right-handed."  

Bodie swung his legs over the side of the bed and planted his bare feet on the floor, now fully awake.

“You saying she was cack-handed?” 

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“Christ…”

Bodie lay awake long after the call had ended.  Such an obvious oversight and yet no one had picked it up, that is until old Sherlock started digging about.  His smug pride for the daft sod was tempered by a rising trepidation about the future of their employment knowing Doyle would flatly refuse to hand the investigation over to anyone else especially now he was onto something. Keeping it from Cowley was going to be the trickier than asking for a pay rise and he knew how that had ended. 

He glanced at his bedside clock wondering what in god’s name possessed him to agree to Doyle’s demand for a 0530 start.  Forty minutes later, he turned his alarm off, threw his sheets back and climbed out of his warm bed.  Doyle had better be right or he’d kill him himself.

*****

Bodie yawned for the third time in as many minutes as he tooled the Capri through quiet London streets.

“Next left, second right if you can stay awake that long,” Doyle said, stowing the A-Z.

Sneering unhappily, Bodie kept his eyes on the road, following the directions until he turned into the street they were looking for and slowed, pulling the Capri to the kerb a hundred yards out from the rundown semi where Wesley Clifford, Mary’s ex, was bailed to live.

They checked their weapons and exited the car, pressing their doors closed quietly before walking briskly in the hazy, pre-dawn light toward the target address at the nearest end of the row. 

“How do you want to play it?” Bodie whispered. 

“Obnoxious,” Doyle replied quietly as he pulled his RT from his jacket.  “Two beeps,” he added tipping his head toward the rear of the property.  

Bodie nodded and vanished down the side of the building without further discussion while Doyle made his way to the front porch, where paint peeled from rotting timber, weeds invaded cracks in the concrete and planter pots doubled as ashtrays.

He heard the side fence rattle and knocked firmly on the front door at the sound of their pre-arranged signal.

“Lucky bastard’s having a lie in,” Bodie said yawning over the radio when there was no response.

“Or he’s not in,” Doyle replied through the transmitter.

Movement at the upper window of the adjoining semi caught Doyle’s eye and he watched with interest as a dishevelled, middle-aged woman poked her head out.

“Piss off or I’ll call the cops, some of us round ‘ere are trying to sleep,” she yelled.

“Fill your boots love,” he shouted back but a ruckus from the rear of the property had him thumbing the RT, “Bodie?”

“Got him,” was the breathless reply.

Ignoring the aggrieved woman, he darted to the side fence and scrambled over, grinning when he saw their target in Bodie’s grasp, especially pleased to see the clown had run right onto Bodie’s fist if the way he was holding his jaw was any indication.

“Wesley Clifford, I presume,” Bodie said grinning, easily restraining the squirming man with a handful of clothing at the scruff of his neck.

“Who’s ask’in?” Clifford said, full of false bravado.   

“I am,” Doyle replied, causing the man’s head to swivel between the two of them. “Let’s have a quiet word inside, shall we?”

Bodie forcefully shoved the man back through the door.

Doyle followed them in, alert for unseen threats and grimacing as the putrid smell attacked his senses. The semi was a dive, stinking of rotting food and dampness, uninhabitable to most but not scum like Clifford.  The hob was coated in grease and littered with mouse shit and the dishwater had some kind of science experiment floating on the surface.  Food wrapping, and scraps littered the threadbare linoleum floor and cockroaches scattered from under the debris as they frogmarched Clifford through to the front room.

Bodie grabbed a kitchen chair and dumped it down in the centre of the room. 

“Sit.”

Clifford grudgingly complied.

“Anyone else here?” Bodie demanded, drawing his weapon.

“No,” Clifford muttered, dabbing his swelling lip with the edge of his t-shirt.  “Check if you don’t believe me.”

“Oh, I will,” Bodie said, moving up the stairs with cat like grace, his pistol trained on the landing above.

Doyle paced back and forth, eying the man with half an ear on Bodie moving about in the upstairs rooms. “Why’d you run?”

“Didn’t know who you were, still bloody don’t.”

“He’s got a point Raymond,” Bodie said re-holstering his weapon as he sauntered down the stairs far more relaxed than he’d gone up.

“E’s Bodie,” Doyle said tipping his head in Bodie’s direction. “And I’m Doyle, and for the record, we’re CI5, but let’s be clear,” he said, his voice lowering an octave. “This has nothing to do with national security, this is personal.”  By the time he’d finished talking, he was nose to nose with the scumbag, staring him down.

“You’ve got the wrong person, I don’t know what you’re on about.”

“But you know Mary Dawson, don’t you?” Doyle said evenly, straightening up, his fists clenching and unclenching.

Clifford rolled his eyes. “What’s the bitch accused me of now?”

Doyle’s patience snapped, and he swung a perfectly timed right hook at the man’s jaw, knocking him clean off the chair.  Clifford staggered and collapsed to his knees, blood streaming from his mouth.  

Bodie grinned. “Wrong answer.”

“That was for Mary.” Doyle sneered turning away, his left hand wrapped tightly around his right fist, curbing his need to pummel the bastard into oblivion.  The weasel deserved more of the same, but he held back, he was better than that.

“Up you come,” he heard Bodie say, followed by a pained gasp.

After a calming breath, Doyle turned back to see Bodie standing roughshod over Clifford who was back on the chair.  

“Come on, we’re wasting our time, let’s go,” he said, tipping his head toward the door, the bastard didn’t even know Mary was dead. 

Bodie looked up sharply and their eyes met, a silent communication passing between them.  He nodded and turned his attention back to Clifford.

“Don’t you ever lay a hand on a woman again or we’ll be back to finish this conversation. Capisce?” Bodie said, tapping lightly on the man’s cheek with his hand. 

“Capisce,” Clifford mumbled through bloodied saliva and a fat lip.

Bodie gave the man’s bowed head a cuff as they left the house the same way they had entered.

“He’s a right bastard but he’s no cold-blooded killer,” Doyle said, stalking back to the car, his only lead having gone down the plughole. 

“Look Ray, I hate to say it, but isn’t it time we handed this over to the CID?”

“No fucking way,” Doyle snarled on impulse, regretting his hostile attitude the moment the words came out, Bodie of all people didn’t deserve it. 

He tried again, this time moderating his tone. “Not yet,” he said, hoping Bodie would accept his roundabout apology.  

Glancing at his partner it was hard to tell what he was thinking as he turned the key, revved the engine and pulled away from the kerb.

*****

Barely a word had been spoken on the drive to headquarters until a radio summons broke the frosty atmosphere.

Doyle snatched up the mic. “4.5,” he answered brusquely.

“4.5, I’ve got a Danny Wilson for you, says it’s important.”

He felt Bodie’s eyes boring into him and lightened his attitude. “Patch him through will you love?”

Moments later, Danny’s voice filled the cabin. 

“Ray?” 

He glanced sideways at Bodie.  “What’s up Danny?”

“I’ve got something for you. Can we meet?”

Bodie shook his head, tapping his watch.

“Where and when?” Doyle asked, ignoring his partner’s obvious lack of enthusiasm.

“The usual place in thirty?” Wilson offered.

“Right, see you there,” Doyle replied, ending the transmission and replacing the mic in its cradle.

“Bloody hell Ray, Cowley’s briefing?  The old man will have our guts for garters if we’re late.”

“I told you, I’m not letting this go so you’re either with me…”

“Or I’m not,” Bodie interjected, with a smile playing on his lips. “But if we miss the briefing, you’ll be doing the explaining.”

Doyle grinned.  “We won’t miss it, I promise.”

Bodie rolled his eyes and took the next turn at speed, sending the Capri hurtling in the direction of the hastily agreed rendezvous.

*****

Danny Wilson was draining the last of his pint as they approached the familiar booth at the rear of the Rose and Crown.

“My shout gents,” he said standing to greet them.

“Sorry mate, we’re a bit pushed for time,” Bodie said as they slid onto the bench seat.  “We’ll take a raincheck though.”   

“You’re on,” Danny said, lifting a package from the seat alongside him and sliding it across the table.  “Witness statements.”

“Ta,” Doyle said, feeling his stomach flip at the thought of what they contained.

“They’re borrowed so I need them back,” Danny said with an overt wink.  “Preferably before they’re missed.”

“Give me a day, two at the most,” Doyle replied, glancing at Bodie.  “I’ll drop them back to the station as soon as I’m done.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” Danny said nodding. “If I’m not around, just leave the envelope in my pigeonhole, I’ll keep a close eye on it.  So how are the enquiries coming anyway?  Anything interesting in the scene photos?”  

Doyle had toyed with the idea of telling Danny what he’d discovered but decided against it; there was no way of knowing how he would react to the news she was murdered or what he might inadvertently do that could interfere with the investigation.

“Still trying to piece it all together,” he lied, nudging Bodie’s leg under the table as he took the offered envelope, keen to get moving before Bodie let the cat out of the bag.

“Christ, what happened to your hand?” Danny said nodding at Doyle’s swollen grazed knuckles.

Bodie snorted. “You should see the other guy.”

“Sorry Danny, we have a briefing to get to,” Doyle said as they rose to their feet.

“Wait a minute,” Danny said at a whisper, motioning them to sit down again. “I’ve got something to tell you.  I’ll make it quick.”  

Doyle saw Bodie glance at his watch as they sat again.

Scanning their surroundings, Danny leant forward.  “Ray, you remember China?”

“That bastard still kicking around?” Doyle said, surprised by the mention of the name familiar from his drug squad past.  “I thought he’d rotting in Brixton or pushing up daisies by now.’

“Believe it or not, he’s still alive and still dealing.”

Danny flicked his eyes to Bodie and then back again.  “Fourteen months ago, Mary was seconded to the drug squad because they needed a female undercover for a special job and when she came back she wasn’t allowed to talk about it, you know how secretive that mob are, but rumour had it she had snared China in some sort of buy bust scenario.”

“Go on,” Doyle said, glancing apologetically at Bodie.

“I’ve heard the case against him was dropped because the crown lost their star witness and the bastard walked, again.”

“Bloody hell,” Bodie muttered, clasping his hands on his head.

Doyle felt the hair rise on the back of his neck.  “And no one questioned the timing of Mary’s death?  Does West know?”

“To be fair, he wouldn’t, how could he?  He’s on holiday which is how I managed to lift those,” Danny said nodding at the statements in Doyle’s hands.

Bodie leant forward, showing far more interest than he had until now.  “Was this China bloke remanded in custody?”

“No, the piss weak Magistrate bailed him at his first appearance which meant all he had to do was follow the primary witness home….” 

Doyle closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“You know this clown, Ray?” Bodie asked.

He nodded. “Yeah, I know ‘im alright. Eight-ball China is the type of scum you find at the bottom of a fishpond.”

*****

Doyle edged his way into Cowley’s briefing as unobtrusively and noiselessly as possible with Bodie following up the rear. 

A dozen agents were already seated, their eyes fixed on Cowley’s back as he scribbled the pairings on the blackboard alongside the pin board display showing a map and several mug shots. 

Doyle shrugged apologetically at Bodie when he realised the only empty seats were in the front row and in the interest of avoiding a scene, he opted to stand at the back and hope for the best.  Bodie looked decidedly miffed.   

Anson twisted in his seat and made eye contact, silently gloating, while the rest of the squad faced the front, apparently not game to risk the old man’s wrath.  

“Bodie, Doyle, my office immediately after this briefing,” Cowley said, still scratching pairings on the black board.  His tone deceptively calm.

“Yes Sir,” they mumbled in unison.

“I swear to God that man’s got eyes in the back of his head,” Doyle grumbled under his breath.

The announcement that both he and Bodie had drawn the night shift for the duration of the upcoming op coincided with Bodie’s size 8 shoe pressing down hard on his instep.  

*****

George Cowley glared at them from behind his desk, shifting his attention from one to the other until they both began fidgeting under his scrutiny.  He finally spoke, breaking the uncomfortable silence with the one question they should have been prepared for.

“I’m curious gentlemen as to why you thought it would be acceptable to miss my briefing?”

“Sorry Sir,” they began clumsily together.

“Just one damn clown at a time! Bodie?”

Doyle winced.  Bodie had been so pissed off about drawing the night shift they hadn’t discussed a plausible excuse.

“Actually, we were…” Bodie coughed, then cleared his throat, a feeble attempt at stalling.

 “… caught in traffic,” Doyle finished, schooling the smirk from his face.

“Since when did traffic slow either of you down?” Cowley yelled, angered by the obvious lie. “And is your name Bodie?”

Doyle focused on the Queen hanging on the wall behind Cowley’s head.  “No sir.”

“I sincerely hope your tardiness doesn’t have anything to do with that police woman’s unfortunate death.  Doyle?” 

“No sir,” he replied, feeling the colour rise in his cheeks. 

“Bodie?”

“No sir.”

“Is there a damn echo in here. No sir, what?”

“No sir, it’s not about the unfortunate death of the police woman,” Bodie said, screwing his eyes shut.

Cowley began strumming his fingers on his desk.

“Go on, get out of here the both of you and don’t be late tonight.  Murphy had the good grace to attend the briefing, so he can fill you in, now get out of my sight.”

Cowley lifted the phone and began dialling as he waved them out. “If I find out that you are meddling in police business…”

When his call connected, and they made a hasty exit.

*****

Murphy provided an abridged version of the gun running op referencing the map and surveillance photos still pinned to the board in the briefing room.   A shipment of assault rifles, handguns and grenades destined for IRA sympathisers had been intercepted 24 hours earlier, the weapons removed and replaced with replicas, meticulously wrapped as the originals had been.  The crate had been nailed shut again and strategically positioned among other containers stacked on the wharf in line of sight of a derelict warehouse. 

If their intelligence was correct, the contraband was going to be collected during business hours by two nondescript men in possession of valid documents for the collection of the ‘farm machinery’.

“Hiding in plain sight,” Murphy said with a wry smile. “And they might have pulled it off if it wasn’t for our source.  Cowley’s grand plan is to have the van followed until it leads us to the group’s ringleaders and once we can put them in possession of the delivery we jump ‘em but there’s a chance the intel could be wrong and hence the need for 24 hour surveillance.  Any questions?”

“Looks straight forward enough,” Bodie said, examining the map of the wharf and the surrounding buildings. “Security at night?”

“Yeah two guards and the gates are padlocked at 2100 hours.”

“What about the river? Our friends could approach from the water and not be detected in the dark.  That’s what I’d do if it were me,” Bodie said.

“Yeah it’s possible, but unlikely considering they don’t know they’ve been outed,” Murphy replied.

Doyle listened to the conversation while recording names in his pocketbook and committing the mug shots to memory, satisfied Bodie had the logistics covered.

“Right, I’m off then,” Murphy announced, failing to stifle a burgeoning smile before weaving his way through the chairs to the door. “Me and the lads are appreciative though.”

“Eh?” Bodie said looking up from the map.

Murphy paused in the open doorway and turned back. “For volunteering to take the graveyard shift, very decent of you.”

“Fuck off Murph,” Doyle shouted, hurling a lump of chalk from Cowley’s blackboard supply but the missile lacked sufficient weight and fell short of its mark as the intended target disappeared down the hallway giggling like a naughty schoolboy. 

“Yeah, thanks for that,” Bodie said, his pointedly.  “All bloody night in a freezing warehouse eyeballing a crate of phony weapons on the off chance the IRA goons ditch their perfectly constructed plan.”

“There is an upside, you know,” Doyle said.

“Yeah, and what’s that?”

‘We’ve got the afternoon off,” he replied grinning, but the observation failed to placate his partner who simply grunted and stalked out to the car pool where they switched drivers. 

“The old man knows,” Bodie announced once they were mobile.

“Of course, he knows,” Doyle replied, working through the gears, revving the engine more than necessary.  “Which is why I’m finishing this investigation on my own.”  

He felt Bodie’s eyes on him.  “Now just hang on…”  

A terse glare and a sharp raise of his hand cut Bodie’s protest short. “Look mate, just listen. I’m letting you off the hook,” he said, determined to protect the sod’s career.

Bodie shifted in his seat, huffing his annoyance but he didn’t interrupt.

Doyle felt his emotions bubbling up but Bodie deserved an explanation.

“Where was I when Mary needed me, eh?” his voice rough, even to his own ears. “I’ll tell you where, swanning around with this mob,” he answered in the same breath, momentarily taking his hands from the steering wheel and spreading them wide. “I owe it to her Bodie and not you, or Cowley, or anyone else, is going to stop me.  It’s my problem, not yours, and I’ll not see you kicked out of CI5 on my account.” 

“You finished?” Bodie said as the car came to a complete stop in the heavy traffic.

Doyle blasted the car horn repeatedly, ignoring the question.

“Give it a rest Ray, where’s the fire?”

Short of using the siren to escape the gridlock, he realised they were stuck for a while.  He slumped back in the driver’s seat, running his hands through his hair, taking stock of his anger.  As sure as Cowley was a Scot, it wasn’t Bodie’s fault Mary was dead.

He sighed. “Sorry mate, I’m a damn fool.”

Bodie shrugged. “Reckon being a fool goes hand in hand with that bigger-than-Texas guilt complex of yours.”

He felt the weight of Bodie’s hand on his thigh and they locked eyes.

“I get it Ray, but I’m a big boy, I can look after myself, been doing it for quite a while now."

“You sayin’ you’re still in?” Doyle said, humbled by Bodie’s loyalty. “Even after Cowley’s threats?”

Bodie glanced at his watch. “What I’m saying is, we’ve got nine hours to find old mate China before our date at the wharf tonight.”

*****

“That’s it on the left,” Doyle said driving past the alley at a constant speed to avoid flagging their interest.  “There, between the pawnbroker and William Hill.”

“Got it,” Bodie said, looking straight ahead.

“China’s been the local dealer around here since before Noah was a lad.  Coke, horse, weed, you name it, he’ll sell it and he's been known to dabble in shooters too if there’s a profit in it for him,” Doyle said.

A low whistle escaped Bodie’s lips. “So he’s got motive and means but the question is; does he have the balls?”

“That’s what we are here to find out,” Doyle said, pulling into the kerb further along the street.  “I hope you’ve had your Weetabix mate, he’s got priors for doing a runner.”

“You just worry about your end of the alley Sunshine,” Bodie said, interlocking his fingers, turning them over and stretching his arms out until his knuckles cracked. “No one’s getting past this little black duck.”

“Cocky sod,” Doyle muttered, removing his identification from his wallet and placing it in the glove box along with his RT.  “Seriously mate, you’ll need to be on your toes, there’s a service door half way down the alley into the pawnbroker shop and back when I was in drugs, the owner was in cahoots with China.  You know, a bit on the side in return for access and a quick escape route from the coppers.”

“Any other pearls from back in the day?” Bodie said, rolling his eyes.

Grinning at Bodie’s response to the mere mention of the drug squad, Doyle unclipped his holster, wrapped the straps around the weapon and stashed it under his seat.  “It was China’s routine to have a minder on point to vet the customers, too paranoid but being a shrewd business man, he never trusted anyone else with the merchandise so if there is a deal to be done, I promise you, he won’t be far away.”

Bodie reached under his jacket and drew his weapon, cocked it and slid it back into its holster.  “So, what’s this moron look like then?  Don’t want to go legging it after the wrong bloody one.”

“China?  He’d be going on fifty, five ten, five eleven, built like a greyhound but the easiest way to identify him is the tear drop tattoo on his face,” Doyle said tapping his cheek just beneath his right eye. “Right here. You can’t miss it.”

“All class then?”

“Yeah, all class.” Doyle repeated, mussing his hair and pulling his t-shirt out of the waistband of his jeans.  He glanced up into the mirror in the sun visor, grateful to Wesley Clifford for getting him out of bed so early that he hadn’t had time to shave.  His fist clenched at the memory of their early morning encounter and he winced as his bruised skin stretched over his knuckles.

Ignoring the discomfort, he put his sunglasses on and checked the mirror again.  China would recognise him of course but it was the minder he’d need to convince if there was any chance of flushing the dealer out.  Christ, Cowley would have their guts for garters if he knew what they were up to, but now wasn’t the time to worry about it, he couldn’t afford the distraction.  

They synchronised their watches and exited the Capri, walking shoulder to shoulder, stride for stride along the footpath until Bodie peeled off down a side street, heading for the rear of the alley.  Meanwhile Doyle continued along the busy shopping strip, shoving his hands deep in his pockets and slowing his pace to a leisurely stroll as he passed the wire framed billboards leaning against the newsagent and the Indian takeaway, as two customers exited carrying their takeaway lunches. The bell above the door tinkled, and the smell of curry and spice wafted out, reminding him of how hungry he was. 

To avoid passing directly in front of the pawnbroker and the alley, he jogged to the opposite footpath where he used the reflection in the hairdresser’s window to keep watch as he continued along the street, crossing back over once he was well clear.  

With his heel propped against the William Hill frontage and the alley situated to his left, he surveyed the street from behind his mirrored lenses, leafing through his cash like a punter counting his winnings or assessing the damage.

Then, when he’d judged that Bodie was in place, he stowed his wallet and stumbled around the corner into the seedy world of Eight-ball China.

The alley stretched the length of the block, stinking of urine deposited by drug addled addicts and rotting rubbish in overflowing skips, which provided cover and concealment for shady transactions.  Anti-establishment graffiti marked high brick walls tall enough to keep the sun at bay, putting a distinct chill in the air.  A startled tabby scarpered, leaping onto a skip further down, drawing Doyle’s attention to the bald man lurking behind it.

Bingo!  

A shiver of anticipation ran down Doyle’s spine, but he kept his head down all the same.

Staggering deeper into the alley, toward the tattooed skinhead, he noted the man’s solid build, swastika emblem on his jacket and chains threaded through his belt loops when the thug pushed away from the wall and stepped out from behind the skip. 

“Lookin’ to score,” Doyle rasped, keeping his head bowed, trusting Bodie had his back. 

The thug moved closer, towering over him.  “Fuck off,” he snarled, angling his head toward the street.

“Come on man, just one lousy point, I’m desperate,” Doyle whined, clutching his stomach as he doubled over but the brute wasn’t moved.

“Piss off unless you want your teeth shoved down your throat.” 

Doyle estimated he had just seconds before the man began making good on his threat, so in desperation, he pulled out a familiar name from his days in the Met, breaking the cardinal undercover rule of only using verified back stories.

“Roach sent me,” he said hoping for the best, his heart pounding as he fumbled with his wallet, but the gamble seemed to have paid off because the oaf relaxed his expression and seemed ready to listen.

“See?  I’ve got the coin.” Doyle plead, pulling cash from his fold to prove his worth.  “Roach wouldn’t lie, ‘es a mate, promised me China would see me right.”

The skinhead lifted his chin. “Old man Roach, you say? When was that, eh?  Tell me, when did he tell you that?”

“Christ man, I don’t know,” Doyle said, his new-found confidence waning.

I hope you’re paying attention Bodie.

The thug’s voice hardened. “When?”

“It’s the gear mate, m-messes with me head,” Doyle stammered, knocking his palm against his skull. “A few days, maybe a week?  Me memory’s shit.”

“Wait,” the thug demanded as he approached the pawnbroker’s delivery door and rapped out a coded knock.  

Moments later the door swung open and Doyle stepped forward, recognising China’s face in the gloomy interior, but in that instant a meaty forearm clamped around his throat and lifted him clean off his feet and he felt his attacker’s hot breath on his ear.

“Roach OD’d six months ago so unless you’re using a Ouija board, you’re fucking lying.”

The door slammed shut and everything faded to black.

He stirred, fighting his way back through the miasma, vaguely aware of sporadic grunts and the sound of fists on flesh interspersed with a strained voice shouting his name.  As his awareness grew, he realised the commotion had stopped and the only sound he could hear now was heavy breathing.  He forced his eyes open and was greeted by Bodie’s anxious face just inches from his own. 

“Christ Ray, you made a right cock up of that,” he said between laboured breaths, his grin gathering momentum as he slid his arm behind Doyle’s shoulders to lever him up.  “Come on, you’re alright.”

Sitting up with Bodie’s help he saw the thug laid out cold on the cobblestones. “What happened?” 

“The bastard took a dislike to you and, naturally, I took a dislike to him,” was the cheerful reply.

“China?” Doyle asked, his memory returning.

“Long gone, just as we should be. Listen,” he said, sirens wailing in the distance.

Doyle closed his eyes and nodded. “Cowley will kill us.”

“Can you walk?”

“Of course, I can bloody walk,” he grumbled hoarsely as Bodie hauled him to his feet. 

“Come on.” Bodie said, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. “Looks like you need to brush up on your undercover skills my son.”  

*****

Twenty minutes later Doyle was sitting on Bodie’s couch having his skull examined by gentle probing fingers because despite all attempts to reassure the clown he hadn’t banged his head, Bodie was insistent, threatening to haul his arse off to A & E unless he cooperated.

“Gerrr off,” Doyle grumbled eventually, batting Bodie’s hands away when his hair began to tangle. “I have enough trouble getting a comb through this lot as it is.”

Not to be deterred, Bodie shifted his attention to Doyle’s pupils, taking a firm grip on his chin with one hand, staring into one eye then the other before leaning back and comparing them both.

“Right, you can have a beer,” Bodie said, looking pleased with himself as he headed to the kitchen.

Doyle sighed and slumped back onto the couch. “How about I read these statements while you hit the sack,” he said, raising his voice to be heard from the kitchen. “One of us needs to get some kip before tonight.”

“Bit bloody late now, init? I’ve opened both of them,” Bodie said, strolling back with the neck of the opened bottles in one hand.

“Ta,” Doyle said reaching up to take one. “I'm starved, you got anything to eat?”

Bodie collapsed into his armchair and swung his legs over the armrest. “Cold bangers in the fridge and a day-old bread,” he said, taking a swig from the bottle before pressing it to his forehead and holding it there.

“You alright?” Doyle asked, kicking himself for not asking sooner. China's skinhead can’t have been a pushover and being a stoic bloody bastard, Bodie would never make a fuss. Typical SAS mentality, unless you’d lost a limb you had nothing to complain about.

“Just a lucky elbow," Bodie said sounding worn out.

“How about I make lunch.”  Doyle abandoned the statement to examine the ripening bruise above Bodie’s left eye.  “You need ice on that.”

“Forget the ice mate, I need sustenance, I’m wasting away.”

“Don’t quite see it myself,” Doyle said chuckling on his way to the kitchen, ignoring the snorts of indignation from the other room.  He returned short time later with the sausage sandwiches he'd thrown together and set the plate down in front of Bodie, taking half for himself.

“Give me one of those statements,” Bodie said, his words muffled by the bread and sausage crammed into his mouth.

“Who do you want first?” Doyle said, shuffling through the top few. “Gregor from the upstairs flat, Mary’s Uncle Clarence or PC Thompson?”

“I’ll take the Russian,” Bodie said raising his eyebrows suggestively as if the KGB could be somehow involved.

"Moron," Doyle said as he handed it over and they settled down to read.

The next hour and a half passed in relative silence, punctuated by the sound of shuffling papers and Doyle’s pencil scratching away in his notebook as they read and re-read the witness accounts.

“Right Inspector Clouseau,” Bodie said, on his way back from the kitchen with two freshly opened bottles. “What have you deduced from this lot?”

Doyle stood and stretched, cracking his neck as he twisted his head from side to side. “Ta,” he said, taking the bottle while Bodie settled back into his chair.

“Right, we know Mary was alive at 7 p.m. based on the statements of two residents, one who had entered the building at the same time as she did, and the other who spoke to her at the post boxes shortly after.” With his notes in one hand and beer in the other, Doyle began a slow circuit of the room.  "The pathologist puts the time of death somewhere between 10 and 4 in the morning and a handful of resident’s report hearing a sharp crack just after midnight. That had to be the fatal shot.”

“Agreed,” Bodie said lifting his chin. “What else you got written there?”

Doyle took another mouthful. “None of the residents admit buzzing anyone into the building between 7 p.m. when we know she was alive and 8.15 in the morning when her body was found, and we know there was no forced entry into both the building and Mary's flat.”

“And that tells us what exactly?”

“It tells us either one of the residents is telling pork pies about giving someone access, the offender lives in the building or Mary buzzed them in herself.”

“Or, they had their own key,” Bodie offered.

“Or, they had their own key,” Doyle repeated, picking up his pencil to edit his notes, ignoring Bodie’s smug grin.

“I’ll give you that one,” Doyle said, contemplating the likelihood that Mary would trust someone with a key to her flat. He couldn’t imagine it, but a good investigator considered every possibility, not just the bleeding obvious.  His mind drifted, had his judgement been impaired by his personal connection with Mary? 

"Oi!"  Bodie's shout interrupted his brooding thoughts.  

“Eh? he said, jolted from his contemplation.  "Sorry mate, I was miles away."  He scrubbed his face and returned to his notes.  “We need to establish the source of the weapon, re-interview friends and family, chase up the ballistics report and the doctor’s statement, both are missing. Review recent cases Mary had been involved in and of course, there’s China, our best suspect.”

“He’s our only suspect,” Bodie replied.

Doyle flopped back onto the couch having exhausted his to do list and took a long draft from his bottle. “What did you think of the Carmody woman’s statement?”

“Bit light on considering she discovered the body and she was Mary’s closest neighbour,” Bodie replied.

“A bit?" Doyle said incredulously.  "The poor woman must have been in shock when she spoke to police so soon after finding the body and yet no bastard bothered to revisit her once she’d been released from hospital.  Mary deserved better," he snarled.

Bodie straightened in his seat. “Christ Ray lighten up, you said yourself the scene had all the hallmarks of a suicide.”

“It’s not like you to defend the plods,” Doyle said dropping his voice an octave.  “Tunnel bloody vision is what it was.”

“And isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing,” Bodie said, lowering his tone match.  He shifted forward until he was perched on the edge of his chair.  “Put yourself in their shoes Ray, I mean it.  Constable plod arrives on the scene of a sudden death and what does he find?  One of his own colleagues with half a head, blood and god knows what underfoot, and, surprise, surprise, a shooter in her hand.  Now how detached do you think you'd be at that point?”

With his indignation fading, Doyle conceded it was likely his own guilt over Mary's death was fuelling his frustrations, not the actions of his old team mates.  He rose to his feet and began pacing again.  “Someone from another district should have been brought in to investigate, someone who didn’t know Mary…someone not personally involved.”

He locked eyes with Bodie as the irony of his statement registered, and whether it was out of compassion or self-preservation, the sod didn’t say anything.

“I’m not backing out now though,” Doyle said, prodding his finger to make his point.  He walked to the window and yanked the curtain open, gazing at nothing in particular, trying to reorder his thoughts.  It wasn’t Bodie’s burden to bear yet here he was taking the brunt of it all.

A jet stream left high in the sky by an aircraft long since gone, caught his eye, sparking his imagination.  He envisaged both of them on board, sitting side by side, Bodie wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a Panama hat, sipping a cocktail with a paper umbrella and a slice of lime, as they cut ties with this life of violence, dumping the baggage that came with it.

“Remember King Billy?" Bodie said, appearing at his shoulder.

Doyle shuddered at the memory of Cowley’s loaded pistol at Bodie’s head. “I’ll never forget it.”

“Learn from it,” Bodie said. "You'll need to lose the emotion if you want to see this through."

They stood together, deep in thought until Bodie ruffled his hair.  “Go on, hop it, I need my beauty sleep,” he said collecting the empty bottles on his way through to the kitchen.

Doyle bundled the statements up and headed to the door. “I’ll see you at 2230 on the dot, make sure you’re ready.”

“Right you are,” Bodie replied in his best public-school voice as the door closed.

Doyle paused on the landing, waiting for the locks to engage before he moved off.

 *****

The warehouse door scraped like fingernails on a blackboard in the quiet of the early morning as Bodie pushed it shut across the uneven metal step. The sun wasn’t up yet but they’d been relieved of their duty by the day shift crew and were free to go.

Doyle yawned. “That’s eight hours we’ll never get back,” he said stretching the kinks from his neck and shoulders, glad to be away from the discomfort of the draughty mezzanine office, not at all surprised they’d seen no suspicious activity on the wharf.

“And if you’re really good, you get to come back and do it all over again,” Bodie said grinning like the cat that ate the canary.

“Why you so bleeding chipper?”

“Breakfast old son,” Bodie said, wringing his hands together. “I know a café not far from here and it’s got a table with our name on it.  I can almost taste the bacon, sausage, eggs, beans...”

“About that…” Doyle said cutting him off with a burgeoning smile of his own. “Made a few calls when I stretched my legs earlier and I’ve got an address for China.”

“So, that is what you were up to?  When were you planning on telling me?”

Doyle wiggled his eyebrows. “Just did.”

Bodie walked another few paces, stopped and turned, hands on his hips. “I can see where this is going.”

“Promise I'll shout breakfast tomorrow,” Doyle offered, confident he would win his partner over with an offer of free food.

After a moment’s hesitation, Bodie reached up and touched his bruise. “You’re on. That bastard owes me the right of reply.”

*****

Within half an hour, they were climbing the derelict stairs of Claredale House, Claredale Street Bethnal Green where the informant claimed China had dibs on room 208.  Rumour had it the drug dealer had found himself in a spot of bother with a new supplier which was why he was laying low between deals.

Doyle led the way up, testing every step before putting his full weight on it to avoid falling though the rotten treads.

“This place should be condemned,” Bodie whispered when they reached the first-floor landing.

“You mean someone should fix it up,” Doyle scowled, angered by the squalid conditions. “These people would be out on the street if they didn’t have this place, they’re not all criminals you know.”

“Alright, steady on,” Bodie said, muttering something about Mother Teresa as they continued their careful ascent.

On reaching the second-floor landing, they were faced with a dimly lit corridor devoid of activity in both directions, and, after checking the run of room numbers, Doyle headed left signalling Bodie to follow. 

At room 208 they fell into their familiar drill, one to each side of the door, drawing their weapons as they prepared themselves. Bodie nodded and Doyle reached across, knocking solidly with the barrel of his weapon before swiftly moving back to the safety of the solid wall while he waited for a response.  When there was none, he backed back to the other side of the hallway and on the count of three, lunged forward, shouldering the door open, splintering the frame as he stumbled headlong into the room with Bodie hot on his heels.

“Drop it,” Bodie shouted, from above, his Browning focused on the man rising from his bed with a long-bladed knife in his hand.

Doyle scanned the room from ground level, satisfied there were no other threats before turning his attention to the man in the bed.  While his face was gaunt and his hair thinning, there was no mistaking the tear drop tattoo on the bastard's cheek. Doyle had always been perplexed that criminals branded themselves this way and he wondered how often China had been nicked simply because he was so easy to identify.

“Last chance, drop the knife or I’ll drop you,” Bodie ground out, his weapon trained on his target until the knife clattered to the floor and the man flopped back onto the bed with a groan.

“That him?” Bodie said, rushing forward to kick the knife out of reach.

“Yeah,” Doyle said climbing to his feet, massaging his shoulder as he recovered the knife while Bodie re holstered his weapon.

Doyle flicked the light switch and the bare bulb illuminated the austere room with its wire framed bed and striped mattress pushed into the corner. An upturned milk crate doubled as a table. A beer glass full of cigarette butts was perched on the top alongside a half-eaten tray of takeaway food and a roll of toilet paper, but it was the stale body odour and cigarette smoke that made Doyle's eyes water. 

“Moving up in the world China,” he said.

“Fuck off,” the man sneered, raising his hand to shield his eyes.  He lifted his chin and squinted. “Ahh, it’s PC Doyle.  Was that you trying to score yesterday?”  China nodded at Bodie, “He aware of your little drug problem?”

Doyle lunged forward but Bodie’s reflexes were faster and his arm shot out to restrain him. “Settle petal.”

“You won’t find anything here." China's eyes flicked to the filth and mess on the floor. “But feel free to look,” he said goading them.

Doyle bared his teeth. “I’ve already found what I’m looking for.  Where were you when PC Dawson was murdered?”

China grinned, revealing a set of rotten teeth.  “God works in mysterious ways my son, her loss was my gain.”

“Raaay,” Bodie growled, struggling to hold Doyle back.

The stand-off was interrupted by a hacking cough in the hallway and the appearance of an elderly, barefooted man in the splintered doorway. 

“Everything alright China?” the old man wheezed with a voice indicative of a lifetime of smoking. 

“Nothing to see here, old man,” Doyle said, producing his identification. “Keep moving.”

“Do as he says Frank." China's tone surprisingly gentle.

Frank shrugged and shuffled away in the direction of the ablutions and was heard telling others to go back to their rooms and mind their business.

“You right, we done now?" Doyle said, incensed by China's casual attitude. "Seventh of June, where were you?” he demanded.

China choked out a nervous laugh.

“Answer the damn question,” Bodie snarled, lunging across the bed, grabbing a hand full of the man's clothing and shoving it hard up under his chin.

“I-I-I didn't know she was dead til I was released,” China stammered.

Bodie maintained the pressure on the man’s windpipe. “Released?”

“Take a look,” China squawked hoarsely, attempting to tip his head forward but the fist in his throat prevented him.

Loosening his grip, Bodie allowed the man to lean forward and present the back of his balding head for inspection.

“Ray, you need to see this.”

Doyle moved closer and saw the serious scar on the back of China's head. “Christ, I don’t believe this.”  He sucked air in through his clenched teeth.  “What happened?”

“Some bastard king hit me so hard my head cracked open. They reckon I was in a coma for a bit and when I came to I couldn’t even remember my name.”

“When?” Doyle snapped, frustrated this lead was going down the drain just like their first one.

“Christ, I don’t write everything down on a calendar you know.  I didn’t even know the case was dropped until my lawyer told me.  I was facing a long stretch inside so that lady copper did me a favour, I couldn’t believe my luck.”

Doyle lunged forward and this time Bodie didn’t intervene.

“How do I know you didn’t put some other bastard up to it,” Doyle said dragging the man from his bed and throwing him to the floor.

“Eh, eh, easy,” China said cowering with his arms over his head.  "My lads might run interference but murder, no bloody way. I don’t pay ‘em enough for that.”

"How do you pay em?" Bodie insisted.

"Merchandise, they get paid in merchandise," China spat out in the face of Bodie's wrath.  "Straight up man, this new fella, h-he tried to take over my patch, ripped me off big time and now I’m in hock up to my eyeballs.  Do you think I’m living like this by c-choice?" 

“And you expect us to believe you?” Bodie challenged.

“Over there,” China said breathlessly, eyeing a pile of papers in the corner. “The paperwork the hospital gave me is in that lot.”

While Doyle kept the man’s attention on him, Bodie began rifling through the accumulated rubbish.

“What's this?" Bodie said, shaking open a folded piece of paper, tentatively held by one corner. He angled his head to read it.  “St Bartholomew Hospital. Charlie Evans admitted 2nd of June, discharged 18th of June, next appointment, blah blah blah.”

As the document fluttered to the floor, Doyle stalked from the room, kicking the splintered door jam on his way out.  He heard a grunt and the sound of something solid hitting the wall in China's room before Bodie joined him and they made their way through growing crowd of destitute onlookers who had gathered to see what the commotion was about.

*****

As he pulled away from the kerb, Doyle put his foot down hard, pushing the engine to its limit before shifting up a gear, frustrated their second lead had petered out to nothing.

“Back to square one,” he scowled breaking the frosty silence as he took a turn so fast the rear of the Capri lost traction.

“Look, we just need to keep plugging away at it…and slow the hell down will you,” Bodie said, raising his voice.

Lifting his foot immediately, Doyle blew his breath out through puffed cheeks. “Sorry mate, I'm just trying to figure out where to next.”

Bodie snorted.  “Yeah, I know, I can hear the cogs turning from here.”

“The man's a pathetic son of a bitch but he’s no cold-blooded killer and he's got an alibi.” Doyle thumped the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. 

“Stop beating yourself up Ray,” Bodie snapped. "Just go back to your list and work through it, slow and steady wins the race. Something will turn, I promise you,” he said yawning. He reclined his seat and closed his eyes. “Let me know when you’ve figured out what’s next.”

The sound of gentle snoring softened Doyle's temper. He smiled, the daft sod was right, this was investigations 101. 

He pulled up to the kerb opposite Bodie’s flat and killed the engine, prodding his passenger in the ribs.  “Oi you, you’re home.”

Bodie woke with a jolt, his eyes bloodshot and red rimmed.  “Christ, I’m shattered."

“Your turn to drive the chariot tonight.” Doyle said.

Bodie grunted, stretching awkwardly in the confined space.  “Happy with that, just so long as you don’t forget breakfast in the morning.”

Doyle watched Bodie cross the street and trudge into his building without looking back.  Yeah, see you too mate.

Sitting in the cooling car, Doyle considered his next move. Sleep should be his priority, but his mind wouldn't switch off after their encounter with China so he revised his list and decided to clear at least one task from it before hitting the sack.   

He wound the window down, scrubbed his face and pulled away from the kerb.  The fresh air revived him and after a moment’s hesitation he threw the Capri into a hasty U-turn, ignoring the abuse from other drivers, his mind was on the conversation he was about to have with Mary’s neighbour, Susan Carmody.  

*****

Doyle found himself idling outside the Temple Street flats where Mary had lived, and died, barely remembering the drive to get there.  He shut down the engine and stared at the ordinary three-story building as the photos of the crime scene flipped through his head like a Vincent Price movie until a nearby car backfired, snapping him out of the nightmare. 

He flinched and lifted his hand from the butt of his gun.

Sloppy, he berated himself.

Retrieving Carmody's statement from the envelope concealed beneath his seat, he re-read her brief account to have it fresh in his mind when he spoke to her.  His gut told him Mary and this woman had been more than just neighbours because a gift of warm scones first thing in the morning wasn’t the behaviour of strangers.

He cursed when he caught sight of himself in his wing mirror, the shadow on his jaw and his bloodshot eyes would do nothing to endear her to him but he decided to chance his luck anyway.  He wouldn’t have blamed the old girl though, if she refused to let him in.

He stared at the occupancy panel at the building’s entrance, noting Mary’s flat had been re-tenanted, not surprising really after three months but he did wonder if Mr Adrian Fenwick was aware of the flat’s sad history.  The poor bugger probably heard the story from other residents after he’d moved in.  

“Hello, can I help you?” Carmody answered brightly through the intercom when he buzzed her flat.

“Hello Susan, my name is Ray Doyle. I am, was, a friend of Marys, can we talk?”

The warmth in her voice disappeared.  “W-what did you say your name was?”

“Ray, Ray Doyle, I’m with CI5. I worked with Mary in the force a few years back.  I am hoping you can help me answer some questions.”

After an agonising wait, Carmody spoke again, only this time her friendliness was back.

“Oh, I know you, you’re the chap with the curly hair, the one in the photograph.  Mary told me all about you.” 

Mary told me all about you…

His stomach clenched at the bittersweet disclosure.

The door buzzed open, giving him something to focus on other than his guilt and regret.  The hair on his arms stood up as he strode past the crime scene on his way to Carmody’s flat.

The retired-school teacher greeted him at her door, looking much like he expected a retired teacher would look. She wore tan stockings and sensible shoes and an apron to protect her modest knee length dress. Her kindly face and generous smile were framed by coiffured hair and manicured brows and when she welcomed him in, he immediately felt an affinity with her.  Unsure if it was the lace doilies on the settee or the china plates on the wall but the flat reminded him of his own grandmother’s place all those years ago.  It felt cosy, like a sanctuary, comforting and familiar, and when he stepped over the threshold, he felt the stress of the last few hours ebb away 

“I’ll pop the kettle on, looks like you could do with a strong cuppa,” she said moving to the kitchen.  He could hear her lighting the hob before he had even responded. “Milk, sugar?”

“Just a little milk,” he replied.

“Sit down young man before you fall down,” she insisted, patting the cushion of one of two matching velvet chairs before returning to her tea making activities.

He sunk back into the soft upholstery and closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of the woman pottering about in her kitchen. 

A waft of perfume abruptly revived him and a cup of tea in a petite china cup appeared on the table alongside him. 

“Ta,” he said rousing himself and sitting up.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“Don’t be sorry, I can see you’re dead on your feet,” Carmody said cutting him off as she settled on the opposite chair, cradling her own cup and saucer.  “Your boss must be working you too hard,” she added after taking a sip.

Imagining how Cowley would react to that brought a smile to his lips.

“Mary looked up to you,” Carmody said, her expression tinged with sadness.  “Said you were the best copper in all the Met.”

He felt the colour rising in his cheeks. “I’m not so special, Mary did far more for the community than I ever have.”

Carmody shook her head.  “She told me there wasn’t a criminal around who could outsmart you.”

Doyle chuckled. “Be good if it was true.”

“You’re far too modest Ray, Mary told me what your new job entailed and it sounds absolutely terrifying.”

“I’m sure she exaggerated,” he replied.

They fell into a companionable silence, sipping their tea to the rhythmic ticking of the pendulum clock on the mantle until he set his cup down on the side table and cleared his throat.  

“Do you think Mary killed herself?” he said, immediately regretting how blunt the question sounded.

She dropped her gaze to her cup and took a deep shuddering breath before looking up again.  “To be perfectly honest, no I don’t.”

“What makes you say that?” he asked, surprised by her directness.

She too lowered her cup to the table and put her hands in her lap. “Just an old lady’s intuition.” 

“Please, tell me what you know,” Doyle said softly, leaning forward.

Her bottom lip quivered, and she touched the small gold cross that hung around her neck.

“Mary, bless her soul, swore me to secrecy, made me promise not to tell another living soul.  It was a real cross my heart promise and I don’t feel right breaching that trust, even now that she’s gone.”

Doyle moved to the edge of his seat, reaching out with open hands.  She hesitated, then placed hers lightly in his.  They were warm and soft and clammy.  He squeezed them gently.  “It’s alright Susan, you can tell me, I know Mary would have wanted you to under the circumstances, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think she took her own life either, but I need your help to find out who did."

Tears welled in her eyes as she wrestled the dilemma.

Her lips thinned, and she nodded. 

“Mary was pregnant,” she sobbed as the tears spilled over and streamed down her cheeks. “No mother in her right mind would kill their own flesh and blood.”

Doyle tightened his grip on her hands, his mind racing as her grief poured out.

“Do you know who the father of the child was?” he pressed.

“No, she never told me, said it was best if I didn’t know and I never pushed it.”

Carmody pulled her hands away and took a folded cotton handkerchief from her apron pocket. She dabbed her eyes and composed herself.  “What do you want to know?”

“Let’s start at the beginning,” Doyle said, his tone gentle.

She straightened in her chair.  “I met Mary the day she moved in…”

*****

Bodie peered through the binoculars from the mezzanine office of the warehouse at the black water flowing swiftly downriver, grateful for the patches of yellow light thrown from the naked bulbs strung the length of the wharf.  

Behind him, Doyle was shifting restlessly in his sleeping bag.

“Come on, out with it,” Bodie said quietly, scanning further out into the river for dinghies and gun-toting frogmen.  “Spit it out or you won't get any sleep.”

Bodie heard a resigned sigh.

“Remember Susan Carmody, Mary’s neighbour?” Doyle said.

“Yeah,” he replied, remembering the brief one page statement.

“I paid her a visit this morning after I dropped you off.”

“Have you been to bed at...?”  Bodie stilled, their conversation brushed aside as movement on the dock distracted him.  Squinting, barely breathing, he willed the shadows to move again. His arms ached from the effort but he held the binoculars perfectly still, fighting the discomfort to kept his focus on that very spot.

Doyle was behind him in a heartbeat, looking over his shoulder, so close Bodie could feel his partner's breath on his neck.

Seconds stretched into minutes and the tension grew.

“Bastard,” Bodie said all of a sudden as a cat shot out from the shadows, fleeing with another on its tail. “Bloody animals,” he grumbled, lowering the binoculars.  He stretched, twisting his back and cricking his neck from side to side before returning to his vigil. 

The rustling sleeping bag confirmed Doyle was back laying down and the night returned to what it had been, another dull obbo, except now his heart was beating ten to the dozen.   

“So, what did the old girl have to say?” he asked eventually, sensing Doyle was still awake.  

The sleeping bag rustled some more before quietening again and Bodie pictured Doyle lying on his back, hands clasped behind his head.

“Mary was pregnant,” Doyle said in a matter of fact tone.

“Christ!” Bodie hissed, juggling the binoculars as they slipped through his fingers, grateful his reflexes were quick enough to stop their fall just inches from the floor.  He closed his eyes and blew out his breath, there was no doubt Cowley would have recouped the replacement cost from his pay.

“Careful,” Doyle sniggered.

“When the hell were you going to tell me that snippet of news?” Bodie said, unimpressed.

“Didn't want to interrupt your concentration, did I?”

“So, who’s the father then?”

“If I knew that I wouldn’t be lying here, now would I?” Doyle replied, the lightness gone from his voice.

“No mention of it in the post mortem report,” Bodie said, raising the binoculars to resume his observations. 

“That’s because we don’t have the full report, what we have is the provisional cause of death which in Mary’s case, was pretty damn obvious. The pregnancy would have shown up in the toxicology results in the full post mortem report, but the Coroner is really only interested in what contributed to the death.”

Bodie shook his head. “So, does Carmody know anything about the father?”

“The only fella she was aware of in a romantic sense was Mary's ex, the one we’ve already discounted, other than that she had no idea. Having said that, she also told me she was in bed by nine thirty every night and slept like the dead, thanks to a sleeping pill. She reckoned a bomb could go off next door and she wouldn’t have heard it.”

“Explains why she didn’t hear the shot then,” Bodie said, mulling it over. “Changes everything dunit? The pregnancy I mean.  An abusive boyfriend, an affair gone wrong, jealous lover, one-night stand?”

Doyle yawned.  “I don’t like it mate and I don’t believe for a second the pregnancy is a coincidence.”

Bodie nodded. “Find the father and you’ll have found your killer.”

“Is that so, Miss Marple?”

“Sleep on it mate, you know I’m right.” 

                                                                                    *****                                                                                                    

The dock workers began arriving just before dawn as they had the previous morning, all similarly outfitted in overalls, warm coats and heavy-duty boots with most carrying kit bags.  They congregated around the foreman’s hut, awaiting their allocation of duties. 

Adjusting the focus on the binoculars, Doyle zoomed in on their faces, examining them all in turn but, like yesterday, none of them resembled the photo board images he’d committed to memory.  He lowered the glasses and glanced behind him at the lump in the sleeping bag, envious of Bodie's ability to fall sleep anywhere, anytime.  The sod was snoring gently with his mouth open and his arm draped over his eyes, dead to the world to anyone else, but Doyle knew his partner always slept with one ear open.

Doyle drew his collar up against the early morning chill and lifted the binoculars again, studying the men milling about on the wharf, some chatting and laughing while the less sociable among them hung about on the periphery, but none showed the slightest interest in the munitions crate. 

“Waste of bloody time, this is,” he muttered under his breath. 

“Penance is what it is,” Bodie mumbled, shifting onto his side and re-shaping his makeshift pillow.    

“The old man is just being bloody minded,” Doyle said, grateful for the company even if that company was still trying to sleep. “I’d bet a month’s pay no one’s coming for this lot,” he added, massaging his tired eyes.

“Making a point though, isn’t he?” Bodie said, beginning to sound more alert.  

“Which is?”

Bodie hauled himself out of the sleeping bag and stretched.  “We’re the puppets and he’s the puppeteer,” he replied without any hint of malice, before padding off to the bathroom.

Doyle heard the toilet flush and the sound of running water before Bodie re-appeared.

“All quiet?” Bodie asked peering down at the wharf over his shoulder.

“What do you reckon?”

Bodie rolled up the bedding and moved it out of the way. “It's a waste of time trying to pull the wool over the old man’s eyes. He knows what we've been up to,” he said wagging his finger.  “Nothing gets past him mate, hell, he knows when you've got to itch your balls even before you do.”

Doyle felt his temper rising. “I’m no damn puppet,” he scowled, snatching up the clipboard and making a heavy-handed entry on the running sheet, Cowley could shove his puppet strings right up his Scottish arse.   He flinched and spun around, annoyed when Bodie tapped him on the shoulder but the bastard's goofy bloody grin took the wind out of his sails. Doyle shook his head and grinned too, knowing exactly what was behind Bodie's good humour...breakfast, a free breakfast to be precise.  His partner was a man of simple pleasures.

“Your shout remember?” Bodie said.

“I haven’t forgotten,” Doyle replied as the sound of their replacements coming up the stairs signalled the end of their shift. 

*****

From the café entrance Doyle spied a vacant table in the far corner which was perfect, there’d be no arguing over who had their back to the door. 

They ordered the house special, and were served two greasy, full English breakfasts along with a pot of over-stewed tea, in record time. Being a working man's cafe, what the place lacked in niceties it made up for in grease and serving size which suited Bodie down to the ground.

Picking at his meal, Doyle leaned back and watched Bodie clean up his plate and solve the bitter tea issue by adding copious spoonfuls of sugar. 

“Doesn’t your mum feed you?”

Bodie ignored the quip and eyed the left-overs on Doyle’s plate. “You done?” he asked.

Doyle pushed his plate forward which was all the invitation Bodie needed to spear a sausage and snatch the untouched toast which he used to mop up the egg and baked bean sauce from his own plate.

When he had finished his last morsel, the uncouth git burped and lounged back with the sweetened mug of lukewarm tea. Doyle sighed, despairing of his partner's table manners when there were no eligible women about to impress.

“So, Sherlock, where to from here?” Bodie asked.

Doyle pulled out the required cash from his wallet and put it on the table. “Before I do anything, I need to deliver the statements back to Danny, then I’m reacquainting myself with my pillow."

Bodie slurped his tea down, brushed the crumbs from his front and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.

“Fancy coming?” Doyle asked, ignoring his partner's lack of decorum.

“To the nick? You’ve got to be joking,” Bodie scoffed. “You’re on your own there, Sunshine.”

*****

Doyle strolled into the Bethnal Green Police Station through the public foyer, unseen by the junior Constable manning the counter because he was busy flicking rubber bands at the faces on the missing person's poster.

In Doyle's assessment, the lad needed a swift kick up the backside, and a lesson on the inherent dangers of his chosen profession, if he was going to see his next birthday, so he casually drew his weapon, checked the safety and cleared his throat. The lad startled and spun around, spilling his cache of rubber bands, and when his eyes settled on the pistol in Doyle's hand, the colour drained from his face and he thrust his hands in the air. 

“Today’s lesson is complacency, it-will-get-you-killed." Doyle sighted the weapon on the missing person's poster over the lad's shoulder. "Right?" he said. 

“Y-y-es,” The PC stammered, nodding his head in quick time.  

“I hate to break it to you, but that uniform you're wearing is like a target on your back," Doyle said, tipping his head at the perfectly pressed trousers and shirt.

“I-I-I…”

Doyle re-holstered his weapon and flipped his identification out.  “You can put ‘em down now," he said, signalling the lad to lower his hands. 

The PC groaned and dropped his arms like they were lead weights.

“How long have you been out of Hendon son?” Doyle asked.

“Nearly a month,” he replied, still looking pasty. 

Doyle knew his type, fresh out of training and as cocky as hell, graduated just long enough to think he was god’s gift to coppering but not long enough to know he was wasn’t.

“Are you going to r-report this to the Inspector?”

Doyle lifted his chin and pursed his lips, seemingly contemplating the question until he took pity on the lad.  “What’s your name son?”

“PC Simpson sir.”

“Well PC Simpson, I think we can keep this between us, don’t you?”

Now flushed with relief, the lad released the breath he'd been holding.

“Is Danny Wilson about?” Doyle asked. 

Simpson shook his head. “No, it's only me and the Inspector here due to a lorry roll over on the roundabout, lost its load of spuds and traffic is banked up for miles in every direction so it's all hands on deck." 

“Any idea how long he'll be?” Doyle said.

“Hard to say.” Simpson shrugged.

“Right, well then I’m going to leave this for him,” Doyle said lifting the envelope. “Have him check his pigeonhole when he gets in, tell him Ray's been. He will know what its about.”

“Yes sir,” the PC replied, snapping to attention.  

The sound of a woman’s heels on the hardwood floor of the station foyer, coincided with the appearance of a well-dressed, middle aged woman strutting up to the counter.  Doyle could tell by the set of her mouth and the tilt of her head she was in a flap about something and he was proved right when she demanded the Constable's immediate attention.

“Young man, I’m here to report my insufferable neighbour,” she announced, slapping her handbag down on the counter. “I warned him it would come to this if he kept playing that dreadful music.  I’m sure he does it just to aggravate me.”

“I’m sure he does too,” Doyle muttered out of her hearing. He slapped Simpson on the back as he made his way through the door marked ‘Police Only,’ grateful he didn’t have to be civil to the cow, he’d done his penance on the public counter years ago.

It was as if nothing had changed in the bowels of the station as Doyle made his way along the familiar corridor to the muster room where skewed chairs and half-eaten sandwiches confirmed the team had vacated in a rush. 

Doyle fixed his eyes on the bank of pigeonholes attached to the wall, still arranged as he’d remembered them, a column for each of the six teams with team members arranged in descending order of seniority which made Danny’s a cinch to find.  

After delivering the envelope into Danny's slot, he scanned the rest of the name tags, identifying a dozen or so he knew before his eyes fell on Mary’s pigeonhole.  He was pleased to see it hadn’t been reallocated and when he squatted for a closer look he found the recess contained a dried rose pressed between layers of tissue paper, an ornate cross, and the hymn book from her funeral. Lost in memories, he ran his finger across the raised letters of her name until a distinctive voice stopped him dead in his tracks.  

“If it’s not Ray Doyle, back in his old stomping ground.”

Fuck.  Doyle turned and straightened, finding himself face to face with the newly appointed Inspector. How long had he been standing there? Had the bastard seen him returning the borrowed statements?

As they shook hands, Bain's eyes flicked to the pigeonholes and Doyle knew then the statements weren't safe there, so to protect Danny's back, Doyle resigned himself to keeping the man occupied until Danny returned.

“I see congratulations are in order,” Doyle said with false adulation, eyeing the metal pips on Bain’s epaulets.

The man's chest puffed out and Doyle swore the clown grew an inch taller.  

“I finally get to crack the whip around here Doyle. This lot don’t know what's hit them,” he said, running his eyes over the abandoned desks.  “I’ve put the brakes on overtime and shift changes and there’s none of this leaving early just because the oncoming shift have arrived.”

“What about all the times, they don’t get a break?” Doyle rebutted, tipping his head at a half-eaten sandwiches to prove a point.  “And staying back in their own time to get things done.  It’s give and take Roger, always has been and if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a mutiny on your hands.”

Unsurprisingly, Bain changed the subject.

 “Never thought I’d see you back here, Cowley’s finest, in our little backwater? So what do we owe the pleasure?”

Doyle tapped his back pocket.  “Concert tickets for Danny,” he said, thinking on his feet.

Calling his bluff, Bain extended his hand. “The lad is out on a job but I’ll see he gets them." 

“I’m in no hurry, I’ll wait til he comes back,” Doyle said, not to be out played.  “Actually, I’ve been intending to catch up with you since the funeral, got a few minutes?”

Bain hesitated, flicking his gaze back to the pigeonholes but Doyle knew the man’s curiosity would get the better of him.

“Sure, but just a few minutes mind, I’m a busy man Doyle.”

The Inspector’s office was just as Doyle remembered, only now there was a gold embossed name plate on the front edge of the desk to remind everyone who was in charge. In pride of place alongside it, a formal photograph, in a gilt frame, of the man himself in full ceremonial uniform standing behind an attractive seated blonde wearing a low-cut ball gown.

For busy man, the desk was surprisingly devoid of paperwork, a far cry from Cowley’s cluttered desk stacked ten deep in files.   Busy my arse.

“What did you wanted to talk about?” Bain asked once they were both seated. 

“I have a few questions about Mary,” Doyle said.

Bain lifted his chin and tugged his starched collar.  “Like?”

“I heard Mary told you she was struggling to cope?”

Bain rolled his eyes, giving the appearance of being bored already.  “It’s no secret, you can ask anyone.”

“Was she offered any psych help?”

“No, she didn’t ask for any, so no.”

“Christ Roger, she shouldn’t have had to ask for it.”  

Bain’s lips thinned. “Look, I suggested she go to her doctor for pills to help her sleep.  What else would you have had me do, eh?  Drag her kicking and screaming to a shrink?”

“She came to you, it was your responsibility to see she got help.”

“My responsibility?” he said raising his voice.  “What about her team mates, eh and here family, where were they in all of this?”

“But she chose you, Roger, God knows why, but she did.”

Bain sighed.  “Who knows how a woman’s brain works.”

Doyle smiled, taking the opportunity to de-escalate his aggression.  “Touché,” he said forcing a lightness into his voice, because at the rate he was going, he’d be out on his ear in no time and Danny would be left exposed.  He'd have to be civil to the egomaniac.

The telephone on the desk rang, interrupting their conversation.

“Bain,” the man barked as he snatched up the handset but a moment later, his tone softened.  “Sorry love, I can’t talk now, I’m with someone,” he said.  “Yes, yes, I won’t forget.” 

The phone conversation continued regardless, and Doyle was drawn to the photograph on the desk. He wondered what she saw in him, although he conceded a woman might find Bain attractive, he was fit and confident and Doyle knew from his own experience, the fairer sex was attracted to the uniform.

“I promise…yes, on my way home.  I’ve got to go now, goodbye.”  The receiver was returned to the cradle far more gently than it was snatched up.  “The wife,” Bain said unnecessarily, tipping his head at the photograph.

“Pays to keep ‘em happy,” Doyle said.

“Happy wife, happy life,” Bain replied with a stupid grin.  “Now, where were we?”

“Deciphering female brains,” Doyle said, trying to drag their conversation out as long as he could.  “The last time I spoke to Mary she was studying for the Sergeant’s exam, plotting her career, doesn’t much sound like someone contemplating suicide, does it?”

“Would have been a waste of time with the baby…” Bain’s words died on his lips, and his expression froze for a heartbeat, his face suddenly flush with colour. He attempted to clear his throat.  “Well, I mean the Met’s n-no place for a mother is it?” he said, licking his lips, barely able to speak.  The man shifted in his seat and swallowed. “Of course she would have married and had children sooner or later, it was inevitable, and that would have been the end of any career she might have planned.”

Christ, the bastard knew about the pregnancy and he just tried to cover it up.  Doyle’s heart skipped a beat and his mind raced back to the conversation he’d had with Carmody.  The old dear had been adamant, only two people knew of the pregnancy, her and the baby’s father.

The lying son-of-a-bitch.  The bombshell knocked him for six. It all made sense now. Bain had manipulated the investigation right from the start, filling everyone’s head with stories of depression and suicide.  Mary hadn’t withdrawn because she was depressed, she’d withdrawn because she was spending all her time with him.  The dots were joining quicker than his brain could process, and he had to fight his impulse to leap the desk and shove his weapon fair up the man’s nose. 

Had Mary demanded he leave his wife?  Had she threatened to go public; had he insisted she terminate the pregnancy, or was it simply that he was so hell bent on promotion he was prepared to commit murder to keep his image squeaky-clean?

Doyle shuddered considering the possibilities before he realised Bain was staring at him, waiting for his response.  Now it was he who was caught on the hop.

A coy knock on the open office door interrupted them and Doyle looked up to see PC Simpson, with the station property book in his hand. 

Simpson cleared his throat. “Sorry to interrupt sir,” he said nervously. “I have a gentleman at the counter to collect his wallet and I need access to the exhibit room.”

“Right.” Bain stood abruptly.  “I’m rather busy Doyle, this conversation is over,” he said before striding briskly away with Simpson close on his heels.

Left alone in the office, Doyle took a moment to study the woman in the photograph.  She held the key to this investigation.  Either she knew her husband was having an affair or at the very least suspected it.  Bain had to have been coming up with excuses to explain how much time he was spending away from home, away from her. 

He had to speak to the woman sooner, rather than later, because even though Bain’s slip had him connecting the dots, there was no solid evidence of anything.  The man wasn’t a fool, so time was of the essence, and poking the marital fire might just be the quickest way to breath life back into the investigation.

The sound of the team returning from the roll over interrupted his thoughts. He took a last look at the photograph and headed to the muster room which was now a hive of activity. 

Doyle caught Danny’s eye from across the room and tipped his head.  

Danny nodded, and they came together in a quiet corner of the room.

“Sorry mate, I have to run." Doyle said quietly. "I've left the statements and the photographs in your pigeon hole but don't leave them there, Bain’s been sniffing about.”

“Everything alright Ray?”

“Yeah,” he replied, puffing out his cheeks and making a conscious effort to breath. “I’m on nights and my bed is calling, just a bit weary is all.”  He clapped Danny’s arm and left before his friend could probe any further, but sleep was the last thing on his mind.

*****

Doyle sat in the driver’s seat of the parked Capri gathering his thoughts.  He tilted his head back and closed his eyes, visualising a pleasant domestic scene in the Temple Street flat, Mary relaxing on her couch, reading or dozing or watching tv, her back to the kitchen where her lover was messing about, pouring a drink or boiling the kettle.  Bain cocks the pistol quietly and holds it by his side as he strolls toward the rear of the couch. Mary’s head is conveniently positioned just clear of the backrest, he raises the gun to the side of her head.

Bang!

Doyle flinched, his heart pounding, the gruesome crime scene photos back in the forefront of his mind.  He breathed deeply, trying to purge the images but it was a wasted exercise. He shoved the key into the ignition and started the engine.

It was quite brilliant really, all Bain had to do was ensure there was no evidence of a second person at the flat, plant the seed about Mary’s mental health and pray no one else knew about the pregnancy.  Christ, the bastard had nearly succeeded.  

Doyle lifted the mic to his mouth.  “4.5 to base.”

“Send 4.5.”

“Sandra love, I need a favour.”

“Of course, you do,” she replied. 

“Come on Sandra, it’s important.  The address of Roger Bain, aged 43, give or take a year.  I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“You’re all talk 4.5.”

The radio fell silent and he began to wonder if Sandra had really ditched him, but just as he began to doubt her, the radio crackled back into life.

“Base to 4.5.”

He grinned. “4.5 send.”

“The address you are looking for is 13 Christchurch Street, Crouch End.”

“Ta, Sandra you’re a gem, 4.5 out.”

*****

The woman who opened the front door of the neat Victorian villa was just as attractive and stylish in real life as she had been in the photograph on her husband’s desk. She was wrapped in a snug fitting, mid-length dress that showed off her curvy figure and heels that flattered her shapely legs. 

“Can I help you?” she asked.

Now that he was there, he wasn’t quite sure how he was going to broach the subject of her husband’s infidelity because this woman was no shrinking violet.

“I’m Ray Doyle, I worked with Roger a few years back at Stepney Green. I was hoping to have a minute of your time if I could, a private word about a sensitive matter.” He produced his identification for inspection and hoped she didn’t ask too many questions on the doorstep.

She took a cursory glance at his credentials and raised her eyebrows.  Her lips curved into a smile. “So, you’re Ray Doyle?” she said warmly.  “I’m Rose.”  She stepped back to allow him to pass.  “Roger is at work.” 

“Yes, I know,” he replied

“First room on the right, I’ll be right with you,” she said.

Doyle was conscious of his scruffy appearance when he entered the front reception room and saw the expensive décor, plush furnishings and shag pile carpet. 

Rose entered behind him moments later and invited him to sit.  From his position on the settee, he had a bird's eye view of the framed photograph on top of the piano, the very same portrait he’d seen on Bain’s desk less than hour ago.  The man was on an ego trip.

“Scotch?” she offered, walking toward the drink cabinet on the other side of the generous room.  “I’m going to have one.”

“Sure, why not?” he said, hoping the liquor would help loosen her tongue and make a difficult conversation easier.

“Water?” she asked as she poured the drinks.

“No thank you,” he replied, scanning the tastefully decorated room, wondering how they had afforded such an upmarket house with all the trimmings on Bain’s wage.

“Roger always said you’d go far,” she said replacing the lid on the bottle.  “Seems he was right.”

“Depends on your definition of far I suppose,” Doyle replied, surprised that Bain would have mentioned him at all.  

She approached with a crystal glass in each hand, giving him and eyeful of her ample cleavage as she leaned forward to hand him the drink.  She took a sip from her own before taking a seat on the opposite couch, straightening her dress under her backside as she lowered herself, then brushing her hand across her thigh to straighten the creases. 

“CI5 must be terribly exciting,” she said fluttering her eyelashes. 

“Has its moments,” he replied before the whisky robbed him of breath.  He nodded at the photograph. “I see Roger got his promotion,” he said hoarsely, keen to build a rapport with the woman before steering the conversation toward her husband’s extracurricular activities.

“The first of many,” she replied full of confidence.  “Superintendent Bain has a nice ring to it don’t you think?”

“Superintendent?” Doyle said, nearly choking on his drink. “He’s only just made Inspector.”

Rose Bain arched one brow as she lifted her glass to her mouth. “Yes, but my Roger has sponsors and they’re grooming him for higher things.”  She winked and tilted the glass up, swallowing the rest of her measure in one smooth motion.

“Higher?” he queried.

She nodded and pointed toward the ceiling. “The top job,” she whispered.

He mimicked her action, his glass tilting precariously.  “You mean the top job?” he said with a chuckle, despite her straight face.  He swallowed the last of his own drink and thumped his chest as it scorched its way down.

“You think I’m joking?” she said sitting up straighter.

“Well, aren’t you?” he said, putting his empty glass down on the table more heavily than he had intended.

“We’re moving up in this world Mr Doyle, mark my words.”

“We?”

Her lips thinned. “We’re a team, Roger and I, he wouldn’t be where he is now without me driving him."

Before he could respond, there was a knock at the front door. 

Rose scowled, excusing herself, giving him breathing space to figure out where to go from here, because she clearly wasn’t the spurned woman he expected he'd find.

Relaxing back against the settee, he closed his eyes and listened to snatches of conversation at the door, but as persistent as he was, the charity collector was no match for a cold-hearted cow.  It was time he left, he was too damn weary to play these cat and mouse games. He'd need to come up with another strategy to get the evidence he needed.

“I must be on my way,” he said, forcing his eyelids open to find Rose standing in front of him.  When did that happen?  He blinked repeatedly.

“Everything alright Mr Doyle?”

He tried to sit up. “I should…I really must...”

Feeling lightheaded, he slumped back, his pulse thundering in his ears from the aborted attempt, and a voice in his head urged him to get out. 

“Bodie?” he mumbled.  

With great concentration he pushed himself to his feet, determined to leave under his own steam but the room swayed alarmingly.  He staggered on his jelly like his legs, collapsing heavily back onto the couch, unable to keep his eyes open a second longer.

“Roger warned me you’d be coming," she said a few octaves lower and much slower than he remembered her voice to be.

He groaned when the reality of the situation sunk in.

In a last-ditch attempt, he tried for his weapon, but his leaden arm refused to cooperate and momentum caused him to tilt forward and tumble helplessly onto the carpeted floor.

Moments later he felt the weight of his pistol being lifted from his holster. 

It was his last conscious thought.

                                                                  *****                                                                                         

Bodie stirred in the early afternoon, annoyed at being woken by his RT chirping on his bedside table.  He lifted his head and stared at his clock through sleep addled eyes as he reached out and picked up the radio transmitter.  This had better be good.

“Lo,” he said, his head still on the pillow until Cowley’s angry Scottish brogue had him sitting upright in an instant.  Moving the RT an arm’s length from his ear, Bodie could still hear the old man’s voice loud and clear.   

“What the hell is Doyle up to?”

“Sir?”

“Doyle, your partner, where is he?”

Bodie groaned, “SIR, can you give me a moment to wake up?”

“You’ve had it,” Cowley said curtly.  “Where is he?”

“Doyle? How should I know? I’m not his keeper.”

“BODIE!”

“Alright, hold your horses.  I expect he’s home in bed…sleeping,” he offered, knowing he wouldn’t be on the receiving end of this ear bashing if he was.

“He’s not answering his phone or his RT.”

“Is there a problem?” Bodie asked, his spidery senses beginning to tingle. 

“You’re damn right there’s a problem 3.7.  Forty minutes ago, he requested an address over the RT which has raised a flag with the Metropolitan Police.”

Bodie frowned, “What’s the…?”

Cowley cut him off, “Thirteen Christchurch Street Crouch End, home of one Inspector Roger Bain.”

“Christ,” Bodie replied, what was Doyle up to?

“He’s your partner Bodie, find him, bring him in, NOW!”

The transmission was abruptly terminated.

Bodie looked at the RT and groaned. “You’re a bloody fool Doyle,” he muttered as he threw the covers off and dragged himself out of bed, scribbling down the address while he still remembered it.

He dressed quickly, wriggled into his holster and checked his weapon, attempting to raise Doyle on the RT and the landline in-between combing his hair and brushing his teeth.

As he tooled the Capri toward Crouch End, he tried not to speculate about the trouble Doyle had found this time, no doubt linked to the daft sod’s visit to Stepney Green.  The more Bodie mulled it over, the more frantic he became, Ray might break the rules when it suited him, but he was damn vigilant about responding to the RT. 

*****

Doyle woke in a cold sweat; almost certain he hadn’t been moved from where he’d passed out but he had no way of knowing if he had been there two minutes or two hours.  Panic set in when he realised none of his limbs would budge, not even the muscles in his neck responded, he was utterly helpless with only his eyesight and his hearing to rely on. Even breathing was an effort and it took all his concentration to avoid passing out again.  

His view of the world was limited to an expanse of shag pile carpet, furniture legs and piano feet as well as the part of the hallway he could see through the open door.  It was darker now and he guessed the curtains had been drawn to keep him out of sight from any pesky visitors. He was angry and frustrated at himself for having been outwitted by this conniving couple.  Cowley would be livid, and Bodie, well Bodie would never forgive him.  

His mind wandered.  Had Roger murdered Mary to save his marriage, his career, or both?  Was Rose so jealous she had stooped to murder to keep her man and her social status?  Moot points now he realised, but curiosity and a lack of anything better to do, kept him speculating until the sound of Rose Bain’s voice gave him something else to focus on.  When he heard just one side of the conversation he knew she was on the telephone, but he couldn't quite make out what she was saying from the brief snatches he could hear. It didn't much matter, because he knew whatever it was they were planning, it was going to be an undignified end.

“…get home be…  You…have…get…now.”  Rose sounded agitated.

From his restricted view, he caught glimpses of Rose in the hallway, passing the reception room door intermittently as she paced up and down, one hand holding the telephone to her ear, the other holding his weapon.  

“…yes two… of course…I don’t…just hurry.”

Rose Bain had his life, and his Browning in her hands, but Doyle clung to the hope she wouldn’t want to ruin her pristine shag pile carpet, which meant Roger dearest would be forced to make the mess elsewhere, unless of course he was planning a bloodless kill.  Strangulation would be easy enough, right here where he lay, no mess, no fight, just a body to dispose of.  He imagined Bain’s face just inches from his own, the bastard’s hands around his throat, thumbs crushing his windpipe while he lay helpless, a passive observer, powerless to prevent it.  Christ, a pillow pressed over his face would do the job, even a woman could manage that.

“…in the street,” she said.

The Capri, they had to be talking about the Capri, which, if left where it was, would be a red flag to authorities and eventually connect the Bains with his disappearance.  They would need to get rid of it somehow.

Doyle’s stomach clenched. They had his car, his gun and his un-resisting body.

It had worked with Mary, so why change a winning formula?  He tried to imagine just how it would go down. Bain would drive the Capri to a remote location, with him trust up on the back seat or stuffed in the boot, and Rose would be following at a respectable distance in their private vehicle, ready to drive her husband home after the deed had been done.  He would be found with a gunshot to the head in his own vehicle in some quiet spot, his own weapon pressed into his cold lifeless hand.  Then Bain would work his magic, spreading a raft of lies about how poor Ray Doyle had succumbed to his pain over the unfortunate suicide of his good friend.  The bastard would ‘reluctantly’ disclose the tragic story of the CI5 agent who had broken down in his office only hours earlier, and how, when he'd left the station, Doyle had been out of his mind with grief.  It might have worked if it hadn't been for the one thing they hadn't factored in, Bodie.  The loyal bastard would never fall for it, not in a million years and when he had put two and two together, and he would, Bodie's justice would be swift and merciless, no court room trial for these two bastards.  

“…Awake,” he heard Rose say, the telephone cord stretched taunt to enable her to see him from the hallway.

“I know…alright, I’ll do it…yes, alright, I said I would.”  He heard the phone hit the cradle with force just before Rose walked back into the room and squatted in his line of sight, his weapon still in her hand.

He screwed his eyes shut and tried with every ounce of his being to move something, anything, that might give him a chance, but it was a waste of time. 

“Pays to keep your nose out of other people’s business, doesn’t it Ray?” she said sweetly.

He closed his eyes, messaged a silent apology to Bodie and waited for the bullet from his own gun to end his life, the ultimate bloody insult.  It seemed her shag pile carpet was replaceable after all. 

*****

Bodie drove like a man possessed, and even though he loathed the emergency siren, if it helped him reach Doyle a minute sooner, it was worth the aggravation. 

The other drivers mostly obliged and moved out of his way and those that didn’t copped a blast of the horn and a mouthful of abuse until they let him pass.

Standing hard on the brakes at every turn, he traversed most corners in a four-wheel skid, stripping the tyres and leaving a trail of white smoke, his own safety not even a consideration when it came to Doyle’s welfare.

*****

Time stretched, and when the bullet didn’t materialise Doyle gingerly opened his eyes, sensing the bitch had moved behind him.  He felt her tugging the dead weight of his legs, lifting and dropping his foot, grunting with the exertion, followed by the sound of duct tape being pulled from a roll. He knew what she was doing even before he felt the pressure of the tape around his ankles.  She moved to his wrists next and bound them in front of him, working quickly and efficiently and refusing to make eye contact.  The high heels were gone now, replaced with loafers and she had changed out of the dress and into casual pants and a jumper.

The sound of a key in the front door had her scrambling to her feet and heading out of the room.  

“Is he secure?”

Doyle recognised Bain’s voice immediately.

“He wasn’t going anywhere but I've done as you asked,” she replied. “He’s had enough to keep an elephant down.”

“Insurance my love, he’s not to be underestimated,” Bain replied.

Still wearing his uniform, Bain stood alongside his wife in the doorway to the reception room, looking at him.

“Too damn clever for your own good Ray,” he said shaking his head and pouting like he had reason to be disappointed.  “Sorry love, I’m going to need your Persian rug, but I promise l'll replace it.”  He kissed the top of his wife’s head and they both moved out of sight.

“Sick fuckers,” Doyle wanted to say only his voice was just as useless as the rest of his body.  Holding his breath, he strained feebly against the bindings, but it was a futile effort and when his oxygen level dropped from the effort, he passed out again.

*****

As Bodie neared Christchurch Street, he calmed his driving to avoid flagging his approach but it took all his self-control to turn sedately into the leafy suburban street with its expensive villas, paved driveways and neat gardens.

As he rounded the bend, his view of the street opened up.

Bingo!

Doyle’s Capri was parked further down on the opposite side, in front of the only property in the row with a tall privet hedge along its side boundary, blocking his view of the front of the house and its driveway.

Terrific.

Gently applying the brakes, he pulled into the kerb a few houses shy of the target address and wound his window down, ignoring the smell of hot brakes and burning rubber wafting into the cabin.  He listened, and other than a lawnmower in the distance, the immediate neighbourhood was quiet.  That was until something, or someone, set a dog barking in the vicinity of Bain's house. 

Unable to contain himself a moment longer, Bodie exited the car and closed the door quietly behind him, angling his head to try and pinpoint the source of the dog’s excitement, but the thick hedge totally screened his view.  Rushing in blind wasn’t the answer but then nor was hanging about exposed in the street and with the hair standing up on the back of his neck, his patience was fast running out. 

Two car doors slammed in quick succession, followed by muffled voices, another car door and a diesel engine spluttering into life. 

Removing his weapon from his holster, Bodie started across the road with his sixth sense screaming. Ray was in trouble. 

The idling motor crunched into gear and moments later, a pale blue van swung wide onto the street from behind the hedge, travelling straight toward him.  The driver's first reaction to a pedestrian on the road was to ease off the accelerator but then their eyes met. 

Bodie knew it was Bain, the plod haircut was a dead giveaway.    

Confusion flashed across the man's face, but when his eyes honed in on the weapon at Bodie’s side, Bain's expression hardened and he pressed down hard on the accelerator.   

Bodie held his ground; there was no way he was letting the van pass without knowing if Doyle was in it.

Lurching forward and accelerating rapidly, the van swerved toward him and with barely enough time to raise his weapon, Bodie fired two shots in quick succession before diving out of its murderous path, a blur of blue filling his vision as he tumbled and rolled, finishing in a tangle of arms and legs on the pavement.  The windscreen had crazed the moment the projectiles hit, and he watched as the van fishtailed across the tarmac, scraping the length of his Capri before mounting the pavement and crashing into a solid garden wall.  The horn began blaring and steam began hissing from the van's engine.

With his pistol still in his fist, Bodie staggered to his feet, ignoring the pain in his ankle as he limped to the driver’s door, wrenching it open, weapon at the ready.  From the bloody mess in the cabin it was obvious the driver was dead.  Reaching in, Bodie pulled Bain’s torso back from the steering wheel, immediately silencing the monotone horn which had masked a woman’s hysterical screams. 

Shut up you cow, he muttered as he turned his attention to the driver.

Two neat holes in the man’s forehead confirmed he was dead before the crash. 

Re-holstering his weapon, Bodie hobbled as fast as he could the rear of the van, bracing himself before he pushed down on the handle and threw the doors open. His eyes darted around the dim interior, panic rising when he couldn’t see what he was looking for.

Where the hell was he?  Still in the house?  

Cardboard boxes and laundry bags were strewn about hindering his view until his eyes adjusted and fell on the end of a carpet roll toward the front, barely visible among the chaos.  The roll looked heavy enough that it hadn’t been tossed about during the crash…

Christ.

“Doyle?” he shouted, heart pounding as he climbed in.

“Ray!”

Frantic, he tossed boxes and laundry out onto the road, scrambling to gain access to the carpet roll, the pain in his ankle all but forgotten.

“Come on,” he shouted, pushing himself to go faster as he cleared the debris.  He froze, his eyes fixed on strands of curly brown hair visible in the centre of the carpet roll.

“Come on, come on,” he howled, desperately struggling to unwrap the rug with its dead weight inside.

“Doyle!” he shouted again, his heart in mouth as the lax body was revealed, bound hand and feet like rubbish going off to the tip.  

Shaking with a mix of adrenaline and fear, he dropped to his knees and pressed his fingers to Doyle’s jugular, sagging with relief when he felt a steady throb.  The warmth of Doyle’s skin and the rush of his pulse told him all he needed to know for now.

“Priority A3, Christchurch Street, Crouch End,” he shouted into his RT. 

“Ray, come on, look at me,” he said lifting his partner’s head, gently tapping his face until he was rewarded with a crooked smile.

“I’ve got you,” Bodie said, stroking Doyle’s pale cheek.  

“Bitch…drugged...,” Doyle managed to rasp before he slumped and became a dead weight again.

Working his fingers into Doyle’s jean's fob pocket, Bodie latched onto the pocket knife he knew his partner carried. He pried it out, opened the blade and cut the tape from Doyle’s wrists.    

The sirens were getting louder now and belatedly, he realised the screaming he had heard earlier, had ceased. 

“Hear that Ray, the cavalry is coming,” he said, reaching over to cut the tape from Doyle’s ankles before manoeuvring them both until he was sitting with his back against the cabin partition, Doyle’s head cradled in his lap and the street in his line of sight through the rear open doors.

The van’s suspension dipped at the front unexpectedly and a woman shrieked.

“You’ve killed him.”

Bodie lifted his head sharply, tracking the sound of heels on the tarmac moving swiftly toward the rear of the van.  His hand snaked under his jacket and his fingers wrapped around the butt of his pistol just as a woman’s silhouette appeared between the open doors. There was no mistaking the shape of a pistol at her side, but the shadow across her face made it impossible to read her intent. 

What the hell was she up to?

She began lifting the weapon and the moment Bodie lost sight of it in her shadow, he drew and fired instinctively. The percussion was deafening in the confines of the van but he kept focused on his target until the woman buckled and disappeared from view.

"Sorry mate," he said, shoving the dead weight of his partner aside as he scrambled from the van, stumbling when his ankle buckled under his weight.

A small gathering of horrified onlookers shuffled back. 

He could see her clearly now, an attractive blonde, one arm draped across her upper body, the heel of her hand pressed against her shoulder where blood was seeping. The pistol she’d dropped was lying on the tarmac just out of her reach.

She whimpered, her face contorted with pain or anger or both.

“You’ll live,” he said callously, re-holstering his weapon as he bent down to pick up his partner's Browning.  Applying the safety, he tucked the weapon into his waistband at the small of his back and hobbled to the woman’s side. 

Favouring his ankle, he knelt awkwardly, blocking the view of eyewitnesses as he grabbed a handful of long blonde hair, twisting it violently upward, ignoring her pained gasp. 

“What did you give him?” he whispered menacingly.

Their eyes locked and her lips pressed together defiantly.

He growled, twisting tighter.

Her eyes watered. “Roofies,” she blurted out.

“How many?” he demanded, keeping the pressure applied.

“Two,” she cried.

Releasing his grip, he tapped her cheek with the flat of his hand, then pushed himself upright, anxious to get back to Doyle.

He flashed his identification to a stunned bystander and pointed to the approaching ambulance before limping back to the van and disappearing inside where he gently lifted Doyle's heavy head into his lap. 

“Rookie mistake old son,” he chuckled, tousling Doyle’s limp hair.  “Roofies? The oldest trick in the date rape handbook mate, but don’t worry Bodie’s here, that bitch won’t be having her wicked way with you.”

His one-sided conversation was interrupted when two ambulance officers climbed into the back of the van.

“What have we got here?” one asked.

“Rohypnol poisoning, two tablets ingested in the last hour or so,” Bodie reported. “Pulse is slow and his breathing is shallow.”   

“Hop it mate,” the man said, flicking his thumb at the doors.  “We can’t work with you in here.”

Bodie nodded and eased Doyle’s head to the floor.  “He’s one of the good guys, look after him,” he said climbing carefully out into the bright sunlight.  He leaned against the van’s side, surveying the scene. The street had been closed off and a number of plods were milling about, rolling out crime scene tape and speaking to witnesses. The blonde bitch was already on a stretcher being pushed into the rear of an ambulance with a police escort.

"That you Bodie?"

He turned, recognising the voice.

“Where’s Ray?” Danny asked.

“With the medics,” Bodie replied, nodding at the back of the van. “The bitch slipped him some roofies.”

“And you shot her?” Danny said, peering in through the open van doors. “Christ, remind me not to get on your wrong side,” he said with a nervous laugh before his tone sobered. “Ray’s going to be alright, isn’t he?”

“He'd better be,” Bodie replied.

“What the hell happened anyway?”

“Wish I knew,” Bodie replied, heaving a sigh. “Been here less than a minute when your bloody Inspector tried to turn me into roadkill.  Turns out Doyle was in the back on a magical carpet ride to hell.”

"Jesus Christ," Danny said, shaking his head. "Under our very noses. I always knew he was rotten but this? This is crazy man."

Bodie groaned at the sudden arrival of a gold Granada just outside the crime scene tape.

“Find Bodie immediately and I want a report on Doyle’s condition,” Cowley instructed, sending Murph and Jax in different directions.

“Be a good lad and give us a hand,” Bodie said to Danny, nodding at his ankle. “I need to get this seen to."

Danny helped him into the bench seat in the rear of the unattended ambulance, closing one of the barn doors to shield him from sight. 

“I’d better make myself useful," Danny said clasping Bodie’s forearm. "We'll talk later, eh."

“Thanks,” Bodie said, appreciating the man's help. He slumped back against the interior of the ambulance, shielded from view, the events of the last half an hour on a loop in his head.  He had plenty of questions and very few answers which wasn't going to bode well in any conversation with Cowley. 

The ambulance door swung open, exposing his hidey hole but his annoyance was short lived when he saw it was Jax.

“Been looking for you. Cowley’s not happy, he wants to have a word.”

“Leave off Jax, I’m going with Doyle to the hospital. The old man can wait.”

“Look, he’s in a foul mood already, I don't want to make him any worse.”

“Tough,” Bodie scowled.

Jax sighed and pushed the door closed before opening it again almost immediately.

“Need a hand, fellas?” Jax said to the medics.

Bodie saw the saline bag in his colleague's hand as the stretcher carrying Doyle was pushed passed him into the rear of the ambulance.

“How’s he doing?” Bodie asked the medic, taking the liquid filled bag and holding it high.  

“Stable,” the man replied economically, preoccupied with wrapping the blood pressure cuff around Doyle’s arm.  “What are you doing in here anyway?”

“I’m coming with you,” Bodie said in a tone brokering no argument, his eyes on his partner.  “I need this checked out,” he added, raising his trouser leg to expose his severely swollen ankle.

The medic shrugged and relieved him of the saline bag, moving it to an elevated hook. 

“Yeah, that needs attention,” he said as he began pumping air into the blood pressure cuff.

“He’s coming with us,” the medic instructed his driver who shut both barn doors without question before climbing into the driver’s seat. The siren was activated, and the vehicle raced off toward The Royal Brompton.

Bodie leaned back and closed his eyes, allowing his body to sway with the motion until the pain in his ankle put a stop to that.

*****

Doyle stirred, immediately wishing he hadn’t. Worst hangover ever, he diagnosed, but he soon revised his assessment up to a decent concussion when the smell and sounds of a hospital room permeated his senses. The tug of a cannula in the back of his hand confirmed his suspicions.

Here we go again.

The pain in his head severely hampered his concentration especially with the disjointed images swirling about in his brain, but no logical explanation came to mind to explain his current predicament, and that hurt his head even more.

Against his better judgement, he forced his eyelids apart. They fluttered and tears leaked uncontrolled in an effort to reduce the strain on his retinas.  He groaned and lifted his arm over his eyes.

“Ray?”

"Bodie?" he croaked.

A sudden head-splitting clatter of solid metal objects hitting the floor, and Bodie cursing, had Doyle jerking upright, but the sudden movement and inevitable pain saw spots appear in his vision and the darkness encroached again.

The next time he woke, his head felt significantly better. The cannula was still in the back of his hand but things seemed much quieter now.  He felt a blood pressure cuff being applied to his upper arm and cautiously opened his eyes to a nurse leaning over him, blocking the light. 

“Hello Mr Doyle, welcome back.”   

It wasn't until he tried to speak, he realised how desperately dry his mouth was.  Almost immediately a straw was pushed between his lips and he drank, relishing the cool fresh water on his parched throat.

“More?”

It was Bodie, he was back, or maybe he hadn't left.  Before he could reply, the nurse bombarded him with a raft of questions.

“Do you know where you are?” she said.

“Hospital?” he croaked.

“What year it is?”

He hesitated. “1984?”

“What colour is this clipboard?”

“Blue?”

“Follow my finger please,” she said efficiently as she moved a single finger across his face from ear to ear.

“Without moving your head,” she added tersely.

A bright light flashed into each eye, one at a time. “Hold still please, Mr Doyle.”

The cuff was removed roughly from his arm and then she was gone, leaving a vision of floating neon lights in her wake.

“Nice of you to join me,” Bodie said from a chair at his bedside.

“What ‘appened?” he said, disturbed by his blank memory.

Bodie leaned over and squeezed his hand. “Don’t worry, the doc said you wouldn’t remember.”

“Remember what?”

“You were drugged, roofies in your drink mate, like a school girl at the local prom but don’t worry, your virtue is safe.”

Doyle tried to wriggle up the bed, but a solid weight on top of the blanket kept him pinned where he was.

“Eh…?”

Lifting his head, he spied Bodie’s foot, encased in plaster, resting on top of the bedclothes.  “What the hell's been going on?” he said.

“Now, now Raymond.  We don’t want to get your blood pressure up, now do we?” he said with humour in his voice.  “Just lie back and let uncle Bodie tell you a tale you're not going to believe.”

 

*****

The Crown Court was jammed packed for the sentencing of Rosemary Bain who had entered a plea of guilty to one count of accessory to murder and one count of conspiracy to murder. 

Doyle arrived deliberately late and sat at the end of a row near the exit in the event he needed to leave in a hurry.  The A team were closing in on a terrorist group who had grand plans to blow up Downing Street, and he didn’t want Bodie doing anything stupid without him.  The RT in his pocket was set to mute, but he’d be alerted by the glow of the transmit light should there be a need to leave. 

The defendant sat motionless in the dock, a shell of her former glamorous self, head bowed, hands twisting in her lap.  Four months in the can did that to a person, gone were the false eyelashes, plunging necklines and bouffant hair.  He gloated, still bitter, unable to forgive.

At 2.15 p.m., the clerk of the court entered through the Judge’s side door. 

“All rise,” he bellowed.

The sheriff at Rose Bain’s side placed his hand under her elbow and she reluctantly stood along with everyone else in the court room until the Judge had taken his seat directly beneath the Royal Coat of Arms.

When his gavel fell, a hush settled over the gallery and he began reading his sentencing remarks while the reporters among the crowd began madly scribbling in their note books.

“Rosemary Bain, by your own admission you are guilty of the heinous crimes for which I am about to pass sentence.  I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt your insatiable greed for wealth and prestige is the reason you are before the court today.  You played a significant role in the planning and preparation of the pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder of Police Constable Mary Dawson, the woman carrying your husband’s child.  You sourced the Rhyopnol he used to sedate Miss Dawson, the same drug you later used to render Mr Doyle powerless with the same intent.  You have admitted driving your husband to Miss Dawson’s flat and waiting nearby while he committed the cowardly act.  Then you drove him home, wiped the interior of the car clean and burned your husband’s bloodied clothes in your backyard furnace.”

The judge paused and looked up at the defendant, allowing his words sink in.  He took a sip of his water and continued.

“Miss Dawson’s pregnancy was the catalyst for her murder.  Your husband had recently been promoted and further promotion was on the horizon but you both knew if Miss Dawson spoke publicly of the pregnancy, the resulting scandal would have been career ending.  We know Miss Dawson came to your husband seeking counsel and support after a traumatic incident, and from there, their relationship grew.  Needless to say, you played a significant role in Miss Dawson’s death and that of her unborn child.  A crime that may well have escaped detection, had it not been for the tenacity of CI5 Agent Raymond Doyle who would have been your third victim, except for the timely intervention of his partner, Agent William Bodie, also CI5.

Rosemary Bain, I sentence you to life imprisonment for your part in the murder of Mary Dawson, and a period of 35 years for the attempted murder of Raymond Doyle, to be served one after the other.  I have only one regret in pronouncing your sentence, and that is my inability to further sentence you for the death of the unborn child because he, or she, never had the opportunity to live independently of its mother.”

The Judge’s gavel fell to murmurs of approval and reserved claps from the gallery, but Doyle’s eyes never left the stony face of the defendant.  She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of looking up. 

Bitch.

He’d seen and heard enough and made his way out of the court room, bowing toward the Judge as demanded by protocol before strolling out into the bright sunlight, stopping at the top of the court house steps and moving to the side to avoid impeding the flow of pedestrians up and down.  He welcomed the sun on his face and turned his face toward it, soaking it in, reminding himself that not everything in the world was evil, it just felt that way sometimes.   

Raising the volume on the RT, he called Bodie up.

“Come and get me mate.”

“Right, be there in ten,” Bodie replied, just as Mary’s parents shuffled out of the court house, clutching each other.

Her father forced a smile when his eyes met Doyle's, and he mouthed the words, thank you.

Doyle responded with a solemn nod, watching the man guide his distraught wife down the steps while several reporters hovered about like vultures. It made him feel sick.

Suddenly a surge of people streamed out of the court house.

He received back-slaps and congratulations from passing uniformed officers including Danny who stopped to shake his hand. “Wouldn’t have got that result without you Ray, you coming to the pub?”

“Can’t mate, have to get back to work, have one for me, eh?”

“Too right I will,” Danny said, grinning before his colleagues dragged him away. 

A band of Mary’s supporters were half way down the steps when a young woman from within the group stopped and after a moment’s hesitation, turned back toward him while the others continued down to the footpath.  When she smiled and made eye contact, he realised it was the young PC who had delivered the eulogy at the funeral. 

“Hello Ray,” she said, extending her hand.  “You probably don’t remember me, I’m Beth…”

“…Marys niece,” he interrupted, matching the firmness of her handshake. He was struck by a fleeting sensation but it's meaning escaped him.

She beamed. “That’s right.”

“I didn’t see you inside,” he said, jerking his head toward the court house.

“I was with the family on the far side, we had to see the bitch get her just deserts.” Her voice wavered, and her smile disappeared. “The bastards almost got away with it.” 

Doyle squeezed her shoulder, “But they didn’t, did they?  She won’t see the light of day again until she’s an old woman.”  Suddenly he remembered Beth’s eyes on him at Mary’s grave side and the penny dropped. The photo, the badge…. He shook his head, surprised he hadn’t connected the dots before now.

“Can I interest you in a slightly used cigar box?” he said with a dry chuckle.

She raised her eyebrows and her smile returned.

“To be honest, my grandfather has got a shed full, you keep it.” 

She closed the gap between them and wrapped her arms tightly around him.  “Thank you,” she whispered in his ear before letting go and stepping back. 

“Why all the subterfuge?” he asked.

“I really wasn’t sure, I just knew Mary hadn't done it but I had no idea who to turn to until I saw you at the funeral. I mean it’s not like I carry any weight in my position, a junior PC keeps their head down and their mouth shut.  I remembered Mary singing your praises, said you were the best there was, so I decided to plant the seed and see where it led.”

The sound of a car horn beeping had him glancing over her shoulder. Bodie was in the Capri at the bottom of the steps.

“Mary would be proud of you,” he said, gently squeezing her arm, distracted now by Bodie’s frantic waving and beeping.

“I have to go, but don’t be a stranger, eh?” he said, abandoning her on the steps as he made his way down to the Capri.  His door was barely closed when Bodie accelerated swiftly away.

“Where’s the fire?” Doyle shouted over the revving engine, his hand quickly finding the safety handle above his door.

“Anson’s got himself in a foot chase with the mad bomber,” Bodie replied, his eyes not leaving the road. He worked the gears and drove at breakneck speed through the slow-moving traffic. “They throw away the key?”

“Eh?”

“Earth to Doyle, everything alright?”

“It is now,” he said, stretching and flexing his muscles in the confined space, a little exercise and a dose of adrenaline was just what the doctor ordered.

 

End