Author: Halcris PM
I hope you have as much fun reading this story as I did writing it. The clever C.I 5 girls grab a chance to tease Bodie and DoyleRated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure - Words: 7,930 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 11-23-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8728859
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The work-load of C.I.5 had been steadily increasing, and the head of the organisation, George Cowley, had felt the need to increase his force. Recruitment was something he dealt with personally, and very carefully.
It started with a personal recommendation from him, based on his information about a proposed candidate, followed by careful 'vetting', and several interviews, to back-up or cancel his interest.
But he had been working at it steadily for some time now, in between getting on with the important work in hand.
And, today, ten new members, seven male and three female, would be coming to Headquarters, having completed all their tests successfully, culminating in an extensive, and punishing, term of physical training.
He would be having a few words to say to them, and then, after an informal coffee-break, they would be told where their duties would be.
It was an un-written rule that any of the established agents, who happened to be in the building at the time, and were not engaged in anything urgent, would join the group at the coffee session, to greet the newcomers who were likely to be working with them.
It all went very smoothly. His talk was well received, with due respect and attention, and he returned to his office, leaving the group to retire to the adjoining room where refreshments were being served.
He was pleased to note that several agents had managed to find a few moments to do the necessary socialising, that would help the newcomers settle in.
After a while, the senior girls took the three new ones off with them, to show them first the female facilities, and then the likely places they would be working.
As was to be expected, the three were intelligent, self-confident girls, ready to learn, and they chatted easily with the others.
"I shall never remember all their names," said one, a little worriedly.
"Oh, that will come in time," said Sally, one of the senior girls.
The tall, slim blonde, called Melissa, had a question. "Two came in just towards the end," she said, "I don't think I heard their names"
"What did they look like ?," asked Sally.
Observation was one of their training skills, so Melissa answered readily. "One was tall, strong-looking, dark hair," she replied, "The other wasn't quite so big, and had brown curly hair."
"Ah, did you hear that ?," said Sally, turning to the other senior girls. "The 'Terrible Two' are back !"
Turning back to the new girls, she said, "You'd better all note those names, - that's Bodie and Doyle !"
"Oh, we have heard of them," said another of the new girls, "They're Cowley's top team aren't they ?"
"That's it," said Sally. "They've been on extended leave. That's why you haven't met them earlier."
"Why did you call them the 'Terrible Two' ?" asked Melissa curiously. "Oh, just our joke," Sally hastened to explain. " We all think the world of them, really, but we could take bets on how soon one or other of them, probably both, will start chatting up you new girls."
"Fore-warned is fore-armed !," said Melissa with a smile and the other two nodded.
Things went smoothly for a couple of weeks as the newcomers settled in. The men were mainly out in the field, temporarily paired with senior agents, while the girls found their places, either in some of the many offices, or in the Computer Centre, according to their different skills.
At the end of one of her shifts in the Headquarters office, Melissa asked if she could have a private word with Sally. She followed her into one of smaller offices, temporarily not in use.
"What's wrong ?," asked Sally, anxiously. "Is it to do with work ? I thought you were settling in very well."
"Oh, it's nothing to do with work," said Melissa quickly. "I'm getting used to that, and loving every minute. It's so interesting." "No," she went on, "It's Bodie and Doyle."
"I did warn you," said Sally. "Have they been asking you out ?"
"Yes, several times, both of them," said Melissa, "but I haven't taken either of them up on it, yet."
"Go, if you feel like it," advised Sally, with a smile. "They know how to give a girl a good night out, but don't expect too much."
"What do you mean ?," asked Melissa.
"They're a cheeky pair," said Sally, "but they're not nasty with it. They're no angels, of course. They are both fighting fit, and they'll take whatever's on offer, but if you draw a line, and mean it, they won't overstep the mark, or hold it against you. Just don't expect any commitment, - the life they lead won't allow it.
"It's not that," said Melissa hastily. "I can look after myself ! It's just that I have an opportunity to have a bit of fun with them, and I wanted your opinion. You see, I have a 'secret weapon '," and she proceeded to tell Sally all about it.
What she had to reveal, brought a smile to Sally's face and a twinkle to her eyes. When she had finished, the senior girl smiled widely at her.
"Go for it !," she exclaimed "it could be fun. But two conditions, please."
"What are they ?," asked Melissa curiously.
"One, you don't keep it up too long. The work these men do is very important, and we don't want them too distracted," said Sally seriously.
"And the other ?," asked Melissa.
"Keep the rest of us girls well informed," said Sally, with a twinkle in her eye. "We'll all be very interested."
Bodie and Doyle entered the Duty Room, to receive a message to report to the boss's office immediately. As it sounded urgent, they shot up the stairs quickly, and tapped for soon as they were in, a worried-looking Cowley snapped a question.
"What do you know about Sir Edward Paignton ?," he said.
Both replied promptly.
"Junior Cabinet Minister," said Doyle, "working at present on a special committee investigating the arms trade."
"A bit of a radical," commented Bodie, "Coming up with some extreme ideas, which could have far-reaching effects, if they are implemented."
"Aye," agreed Cowley, "Which has made him very un-popular in certain quarters, for he looks as if he might be advocating the closure of some very lucrative loop-holes."
"Where do we come in ?," asked Doyle.
"Well, as I said," replied Cowley, "he's been making some enemies, and he's been getting letters, threatening him and his family."
"He's young for the post, isn't he ?," said Doyle, "and he's got quite a young family."
"Yes," said Cowley, "The older boy has just started at Eton. I'm already arranging for someone to keep an eye on him."
"Then there's younger ones at home," said Bodie. "Twins, a boy and a girl, about five years old, isn't it ?"
"Four and a half, to be exact," confirmed Cowley, "and we're making plans for them too."
"What do you want us to do ?," asked Doyle.
"Without being too obvious," ordered their boss, "go round and see the man, have a look at the letters, check the house security, and the daily routine. Oh, you know the kind of thing," he added crossly. "Go and get on with it, now !."
The pair left in a hurry. It was obvious that their boss was seriously worried by the situation, which was why his temper was so short.
Just in case the house was being watched, they went in disguise, using the cover of a van marked boldly, ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS. They wore overalls and carried tool-bags. With this cover, they boldly marched up to the front door, and were admitted by a butler, who eyed them suspiciously till they produced their I. . As soon as they were inside, Doyle turned to Bodie.
"I think it's a good job we did that," he said. "Did you see the man lurking by the telephone box ?."
"Yes," replied Bodie, "and another by the bench opposite, pretending to be tying his shoelace."
"They weren't ours, were they?," Doyle had a sudden thought. "If they were, they deserve a 'rocket' for being so obvious."
"Don't think so," replied Bodie. "I didn't recognise them."
They were escorted into the study, and met Sir Edward Paignton, who, of course, they recognised from his pictures in the press. He was a tall active-looking man in his forties. He greeted them affably, and was eager to co-operate. He took from a desk drawer, the threatening letters he had received, and showed them to the interested pair.
"For myself," he said firmly. "I won't be intimidated by threats, but I am very concerned about my family."
"Where are they now ?, asked Doyle.
"My wife's out shopping," said Sir Edward, "but my driver is with her. Maria is at her dancing-class with her nanny, and Teddy has gone with Philip, his tutor, to the Natural History Museum. He likes drawing pictures of the animals," he added proudly, "and they are very good, for his age."
Bodie and Doyle went on to tour round the house, assessing the lay-out, and the security of all the doors and windows, making notes as to any possible improvements.
As he looked out of a window at the top of the big house, Doyle spotted a figure lurking in the shrubbery. But on looking more keenly, he did recognise this man as one of theirs. Cowley had evidently got some surveillance measures into place already.
Satisfied with what they had seen, the pair took their leave, and returned to the van. Without appearing to notice, they registered that one of the watchers was still there, but the other had gone.
As they drove back to Headquarters, Doyle ventured a query to his mate. "Where were you last night ?," he asked. "I drove past your place, and there were no lights on."
"Yes, I was out," replied Bodie, and his face lit up with the recollection. "I had a great night out with Melissa. I took her dancing, - she moves like a dream."
"But," began Doyle, then stopped short. Bodie had just lied to him !
He couldn't have been dancing with Melissa, for he, Doyle, had taken her to Mario's !
They'd sat the whole evening over the meal, talking very pleasantly, for he'd found that Melissa knew one of the men who'd helped him, while he was in the police, to set up a boxing-club for boys. It had been quite a success, and had taken quite a few would-be tearaways off the streets
Why was Bodie lying to him ? A sudden thought came to him. Maybe it was a 'machismo' sort of thing. He knew Bodie was a bit put out that Melissa had refused to go out with him, at least twice. Perhaps he couldn't take rejection, and didn't want his mate to know that his charm wasn't working. He decided to say nothing, and let the moment pass.
They reached Headquarters, returned the van to the pool, changed out of their overalls, and made their way up to Cowley's office to report. As they tapped on the door, it was wrenched open by Cowley himself.
"Come in," he snapped, and they followed the agitated-looking figure in. He turned to face them, and his face showed the strain he was feeling. "We were too late !," he said abruptly.
"Why, what's happened ?," asked Bodie.
"I've just had a report from the police." replied Cowley. "The Paignton's tutor has been found in an alley with a serious head injury, and the boy is missing !"
"Oh, poor little kid !," exclaimed Doyle, instantly concerned for a sure-to-be frightened four-year old.
Cowley had recovered from his first shock, and was now thinking with his usual calm.
"Doyle," he ordered, "You go to the hospital, and see if the tutor can tell you anything. He might have seen something before he was struck down."
"Bodie," he went on briskly, "You go to the police. Get them to take you to where the man was found, and see if you can find any sort of lead. I'll go and talk to Sir Edward."
Although all three were feeling pretty bad because they had failed to prevent this, they could hardly be blamed for the fact that the perpetrators of the crime had acted so swiftly. But all three were equally determined that they would do their utmost to redress the situation.
Doyle hurried to the hospital. Reaching the correct door, he met the policeman who had been on watch.
"The doctor sent me out while he examined him," the constable explained. "I think he's starting to come round."
Doyle knocked on the door and entered, his I.D. at the ready, in case he needed to exert his authority, but the doctor didn't quibble.
"He's not very coherent," he told Doyle. "Keeps asking what has happened to his teddy. Why's he so upset about a toy ?"
"It's not a toy," Doyle explained quickly. "Teddy is the name of the boy he looks after."
He moved to the bedside. The occupant was a pale young man, with a white bandage holding a dressing to his head injury. Doyle laid a hand on the shoulder of the agitated patient, and tried to calm him down.
"Easy, Philip," he said soothingly. "We'll find Teddy. Just think, and tell us all you can remember."
The re-assuring words helped. The man relaxed a little, and began to talk more calmly.
"I can't tell you a lot," he said, "but I'll try. We were walking to the bus-stop to catch the bus home. We could have had a taxi, but Teddy likes a bus-ride. We were having a laugh over the job Teddy was having in saying 'hippopotamus'. We were taking it one syllable at a time, trying to get it right. Then Teddy had a fit of the giggles, not surprising, for really, to a child, it must be a ridiculous name."
"Go on," encouraged Doyle, for the man was becoming calmer, and thinking more clearly now.
"Then two men got out of a car, parked by the roadside. One, a big man, pushed me towards an alley between the buildings. The other, a smaller man, grabbed Teddy and was pulling him towards the car. Then the big man pulled something from his pocket and hit me. I don't remember any more !"
"You've done very well," said Doyle.
"I think that's enough for now," said the doctor firmly. "He needs to rest."
The worried young man grabbed Doyle's arm. "The last thing I remember," he said, "was hearing Teddy yelling. He must be so frightened. You will find him, won't you ?."
"We'll do our best," promised Doyle.
He hurried back to Headquarters. He'd hardly made it to Cowley's office before Bodie arrived back also. He didn't have a lot to report, except a rather vague description of the car. A man, easing his car into a parking-space, had heard a child yelling, and had seen the boy being pushed into the back of a car. He'd idly thought that perhaps it was a parent, cross with a child who'd been playing up. He hadn't remembered the incident until the police had started asking questions. All he could recall was that the car was a big saloon, dark in colour, maybe black, maybe dark green, and that the driver, who was just getting in, was a big man, wearing a donkey-jacket like a workman.
Cowley wasn't back yet, so they wrote out their reports, and left them with his secretary.
Cowley had taken upon himself the hardest task, that of going to see the Paignton's. He found a distraught family. Lady Paignton, frantic with fear for her younger son, was being cared for by the family doctor.
A discreet nanny was skilfully keeping the little girl amused in the nursery, and out of the way of her distracted parents. They wouldn't have appreciated her frequent pleas asking "Where's Teddy?"
Sir Edward, himself, was alternating between concern for all his family, and fury that anyone should have dared to do this. But he controlled himself, and endeavoured to greet Cowley as calmly as he could
"What do we do now ?," he asked quietly.
"There's not a lot we can do," said Cowley, "except wait till we receive the kidnapper's demands, which may come either by letter or by phone."
"Yes," said Sir Edward, "Your man Doyle said something about putting a 'tap' on my phone, but there is a difficulty there. I get a lot of confidential calls from cabinet ministers…."
"That's why I've brought Stevens," interrupted Cowley. "He has some intricate equipment to set up. We'll 'tap' the phone, but there will be a special switch that you can use, which will 'scramble' all confidential material, so that only you hear it."
A convenient space was found for Stevens in the study, and soon all his equipment was set up, and the man settled down, with his ear-phones in place, ready for what could be a long wait. But he knew that his boss, in his usual efficient way, would arrange for relief men, all skilled operators.
"Thank you for thinking of that," said Sir Edward, "One less concern."
After checking that all the men on watch were 'on the ball', Cowley left, having assured Sir Edward that though that was all that could be done here at present, his men would be at work in other areas, trying to discover all they could to improve the situation.
Bodie was in early the next morning. He went straight to the Records office, where he set one of the secretaries to work, looking for two things, first any details of kidnappers, and secondly, any known pairings of 'little and large' villains.
Doyle came in ten minutes later, and Bodie told his team-mate what he had arranged.
"Beat you to it," exclaimed Doyle. "I've just come from the Computer Centre, where I've got the girls working on the same thing."
"Mind you," he added gloomily, "Could be a complete waste of all their time."
"Why ?," queried Bodie.
"Well," replied Doyle, "It could be a 'first time' on both accounts, first time they've tried an abduction, and first time that particular pair have worked together, anyway."
"Well, what do you suggest we try now ?," asked Bodie, realising that what his mate had said could quite possibly be true.
"I have one idea," Doyle said thoughtfully. "You and I know quite a lot of 'small-time' villains, not worth C.I.5's full attention. But some of them do have a sort of 'code', - they don't like people who harm children."
Bodie quickly followed his friend's line of thought. Maybe if they put out a few 'feelers' in the right places, they might get some clue offered to them. So they spent most of the day visiting various haunts known to them, and dropping the right hints. Once or twice they had to be a bit heavy to get their audience to listen, but they were used to that.
They didn't get any immediate response, but then they hadn't expected to do so. They just carried on, in the hope that the seeds they were sowing, might, in a little while, yield some sort of harvest.
Late in the afternoon, they got an urgent call from Cowley.
"Meet me at the Paignton's house," he ordered. "The ransom note has just come in the afternoon post !"
Bodie broke a few speed limits getting them across London, and before long they were pulling up outside the house. There was no need now for disguise or cautious approach.
They found Cowley with Sir Edward in the study, and he handed them the ransom note, neatly encased in a plastic pocket, to read for themselves.
Oddly, there were two parts to the demand. The first demanded the sum of £10,000 in used notes. The second part said that Sir Edward was to resign immediately from the 'Arms Committee, to withdraw all his recommendations, and to take no further part in it.
It ended by saying that when that was done, they would be told when and how to exchange the boy for the money.
Doyle handed the letter back, with a very puzzled look on his face. "That's very peculiar ," he commented.
"What are you thinking, Doyle ?," demanded Cowley.
"Well, sir," said Doyle slowly, "Ten thousand isn't an exorbitant amount to ask of someone in Sir Edward's position."
"So ?," queried his boss. He knew his man well, and realised that his clever mind was working on the problem.
"It suggests to me," went on Doyle, "that the kidnappers have already been well paid, by those to whom the second part of the demand is the important bit."
"Yes," interposed Bodie, "and we can make a good guess as to who they are.! But how do we find them ? Or prove it."
There was silence for a few moments as all their active minds chased the problem round and round.
Cowley was the first to break the silence.
"The only way we'll do it," he mused, "is to find the kidnappers, who we think are only 'hired hands', and to 'persuade' them to tell us who put them up to it."
"We've got to be careful," said Doyle. "We don't want to endanger the boy."
Sir Edward threw him an appreciative glance, and addressed Cowley.
"What do you want me to do ?," he asked.
"Buy us some time," replied Cowley. "Make all the moves as if you were implementing their demands. I'll go personally to the P.M., and take him into my confidence. He'll be the only one who will know that your resignation is just a temporary pretence."
"And Teddy ?," asked Sir Edward anxiously.
"My men will be making every effort to find him," promised Cowley. "We must get a lead soon, with all the work we are putting in to it."
Next day's papers announced the resignation of Sir Edward Paignton from the 'Arms Committee', as it had come to be known. No specific reason was given for this, which gave rise to a lot of speculation in the business world.
Many of the editorials in the main newspapers were asking the same question. Would the Arms Committee fold completely now, or would it have to be re-convened with different participants ? Would they be able to find anyone else with Sir Edward's forcefulness ?
Meanwhile, the C.I.5 operatives were working hard with the information produced by the computers, and from the extensive records.. Their work was turning out to be mainly eliminating one lead after another, and so far, nothing of any value had been un-earthed. This was frustrating, as most of them were feeling concern for a small boy still separated from his family, and his home. He was with strangers, in a strange place, and it was to be hoped that his captors were at least treating him reasonably.
Then they got the break-through they had been waiting for, albeit in a rather surprising way. Bodie and Doyle were slowly threading their way through a busy street-market, on their way back to their car, after another abortive enquiry.
Suddenly, Doyle felt a hand thrust something into the back pocket of his jeans. He swung round with a startled exclamation, but the crowd milling about them was too much. He caught the merest glimpse of a figure he thought he recognised, scuttling away among the stalls, and then he was gone.!
Bodie had turned back when he had heard his mate's voice.
"What's up, Ray ?," he asked curiously.
"I've just been slipped this," replied Doyle, fishing out of his pocket the scrap of paper he'd been given. "I think it might have been Squealer," he added, "but he was gone too quickly."
"What does it say ?," demanded Bodie, trying to get a look at the paper, hampered by the jostling figures trying to get past.
"Let's get back to the car," said Doyle. "It's too crowded here."
They pushed their way through and found the safe haven of their car, revelling in the sudden quiet, after the bustle that had been surrounding them. Doyle carefully smoothed the scrap of crumpled paper on his knee. It bore only a few words, - an address. 74 Denmark Street, East Cheam.
"I know where that is !," said Bodie eagerly. "Shall we go there ?"
"No !," exclaimed Doyle instantly. "We can't go charging in there, just on the strength of this. If they are there, they might harm the boy. No, let's report to Cowley, and get some very discreet enquiries made, - see if anyone has seen anything that might substantiate this. We've got to be sure !."
They made haste back to Headquarters, and went straight up to Cowley's office to report. He listened very carefully to their story. Then he asked,
"How much reliance do you put on this information, Doyle?"
"Oh, a great deal, sir," replied Doyle "I'm almost sure it was Squealer who delivered it. And I can make a good guess as to who sent it. I think it's worth investigating, - but very cautiously ! We've got to be mindful of the child's safety."
Cowley nodded in agreement. "I'll get it all in hand straight away," he said, in his usual brisk manner, "But," he added firmly, "I don't want you pair in that vicinity yet. You're too well known to some of the criminal fraternity. You might be recognised, and that would blow it."
Seeing the looks of protest on the faces of his top team, he added a quick placating word. "But, don't worry," he said, "When we go in, if it's the right place, you'll be leading. But, we've got to be sure first. I'll keep you posted on all I learn."
The pair had to be content with that, and went off to have a break and get some rest. They had been working pretty steadily the last few days. They strolled down together to the back yard to collect their cars.
"How's your social life, Ray ?," asked Bodie. "I haven't seen much of you 'off-duty' recently."
"Oh, I'm having fun," replied Doyle. "I'm going to persuade Melissa to come bowling with me tonight. She said she'd never tried it. It could be a laugh."
Bodie smiled to himself, but said nothing. You'll be lucky, mate, he was thinking. She's already agreed to come with me to that new revue everyone's talking about. I'm picking up the tickets on my way home to change.
As soon as they reported in the next morning, they were called up to Cowley's office. He looked quite pleased as he told them to sit down.
"I think you've been given good information, Doyle," he said. "I'll tell you what I know so far. I'm waiting for more reports to come in."
Bodie and Doyle sat forward in their seats, eager to hear any news.
"The house belongs to a Mrs. Bowman," their boss went on. "She's a widow with one son away in the Army, and one at home, a boy of about eleven. Nothing much to go on there, but there has been a dark-green saloon car seen, parked just round the corner. This morning one of our men saw a small man go up the path and ring the bell. The boy opened the door and let him in. He was carrying a newspaper and a bottle of milk, so it looked as if he'd just popped out to the corner shop. He hasn't come out again. They sat around for some time waiting, but those watching the house reported no further activity."
But someone else had been very busy ! Brenda, another of the senior girls, had been calling at nearby houses, ostensibly looking for suitable people to answer a N.O.P. survey questionnaire that she was carrying. In actual fact, she was after any gossip she could pick up that might help. Her first calls hadn't been of much use, and she'd been quite brusquely refused by a couple of people just leaving to go to work.
Then she'd had a stroke of luck ! At no. 72, she'd found an elderly lady, who'd invited her in eagerly; probably glad of someone to talk to. She had volunteered to take part in Brenda's survey, but the clever operative had avoided this by prevaricating.
"I'm afraid you're not the right age group, dear," she said. "I've to find a middle-aged woman, with a child still school age."
"Then Mrs. Bowman, next door, is just what you want," said the old lady. "She lives there with her son Joe, such a nice boy." Then she had a second thought. "Oh, but she might be too busy," she exclaimed, "She's got a cousin and his friend staying, - and the little boy."
Brenda's ears pricked. "Little boy ?," she queried.
"Yes, nice little fair-haired chap," went on the lady. "A lot younger than Joe, but they've been playing very nicely in the garden. I've been watching them from my bedroom window. They've had the paddling-pool out, and they've been having so much fun !"
She beamed happily at Brenda. This had been the best entertainment she had had for ages, and she was enjoying having someone to tell about it.
With some difficulty, Brenda eventually got away from the chatty old lady, and made her was back to her car to report.
The phone rang suddenly in Cowley's office, and he grabbed the receiver quickly. He listened intently to what he was being told. The watching pair saw his face brighten visibly, and guessed it was important news. They waited, trying to be patient.
"Great work, Brenda !," said Cowley. "Now, go round and warn everyone to keep their distance while we make plans."
He put the receiver down, and relayed to the waiting pair all that Brenda had found out.
"I think we can be sure now," he said, and the others nodded. There were too many details to be pure co-incidence. They had found their quarry !
Back-up teams were quickly alerted, as plans began to be made of how to handle things. A certain caution had to be employed, for they wanted everything to go smoothly. It appeared that there were five people in the house, and no harm must come to the woman or either of the children.
Just as Bodie and Doyle were about to set off, another phone call came in. Cowley motioned them to wait, as he took it. He put the receiver down with a pleased look on his face.
"That makes things easier," he said. "I've just had a report that the woman and her son, and the small man, have just left the house, and are walking down the road. The boy is lugging a shopping-bag on wheels. I think we can presume that they are making for the nearby super-market for supplies."
"So that leaves only the big man and the boy," said Bodie. "Great !."
Half an hour later, saw the pair of them in the narrow alley at the back of Denmark Street .They climbed nimbly over the back wall, and began to make their way up the long narrow garden. There was very little cover, so they kept close to the side fence, and kept an eye on the back windows.
They were in radio-phone contact with other men edging cautiously closer at the front of the house, awaiting their signal, so that they all moved in simultaneously.
Boosted by the feeling that this was going to be easy, with only one man to deal with, Bodie couldn't resist taking the opportunity to tease his mate.
Thinking that he would be able to crow over his mate's rejection, he whispered a quick question. "How did the bowling go last night, Ray ?, he said. He expected his friend to admit that he had been refused, and he would rub it in why.
But to his great surprise, Doyle whispered back. "It was great !," he said. "Neither of us were very good at it, but it was fun."
Bodie was astounded ! This was not the answer he had expected, for he and Melissa had had a great night out at the revue, which had lived up to every word of praise that the critics had lavished upon it.
Before he could voice his protest at the lying words, there came an unexpected interruption.
Somewhere inside the house, there was a loud bang, as if some piece of equipment had exploded!
A moment later, the back door opened, and the big man, in his shirt-sleeves came running out, followed by a puff of smoke.
Bodie and Doyle dashed forward together to intercept him. The big man put up a good fight. He managed to send Doyle flying, and land a few hefty blows on Bodie, before the pair of them combined to subdue him, and force him to the ground.
Then Bodie got another shock. His mate grabbed the man by the throat, and was pushing his gun practically in his face. He looked ferociously aggressive, as he shook the man, and demanded, "Where is the boy ?."
The big man, who now looked thoroughly scared, let out a gasp. "Small bedroom, left at the top of the stairs," he said.
"Here !," exclaimed Doyle, and thrust his gun into Bodie's hands. Then he was off, back down the garden !
Bodie was staggered. What had got into his mate ? First he'd lied to him, then he'd looked about to commit murder, and now he was running away !
He glanced towards the open back door. Black smoke was billowing out now, and beyond that was the fierce light of red and yellow flames. Whatever had blown up had set the house on fire !
He looked back for his mate. Doyle was haring down the long narrow garden. As he passed the clothes line, he whipped the pegs from a sheet hanging there.
A few strides further on, and he was throwing himself, and the sheet, into the children's paddling pool, which was pretty full, due to last night's heavy rain.
He clambered out and was running back up the path, draping the soaking sheet over his head and shoulders.
He shot past Bodie, and was in at the back door, charging through the smoke and flames, and disappearing beyond them.
There was a loud crash as the side gate was slammed open. A couple of the back-up men came charging through They quickly took over Bodie's prisoner.
Bodie dashed round to the front of the house. The fire seemed to be towards the back, so perhaps there might be better access through the front door.
Doyle had quickly got through the bad patch of fire, and was charging up the stairs. He soon found the room, left at the top of the stairs, with the key still in the lock. He opened the door, and went in. There was no-one there !
"Teddy," he called anxiously.
There was a tiny muffled sound. At first, he couldn't locate it, but then realised there was only one place in this room where a small child could hide.
He was quickly down on the floor, peering under the low bed. Right at the back, he caught a glimpse of a small frightened face. He stretched out an arm, but because the bed was a very low divan, he couldn't reach the boy.
He tried coaxing. "Come on, Teddy. Come out now," he said quietly. But the scared child only uttered a muffled squeak, and shook his head.
Then he had an idea. "Teddy," he said gently, "Philip sent me. He wants to know if you can say that big word yet, - you know, the name of that big animal you were drawing."
It did the trick !
The boy began to wriggle towards him. As his head emerged he was babbling excitedly. "Yes, I can, I can !," he squealed. "Joe helped me to get it right. It's called a 'hip-po-pot-a-mus' !
"Good boy," praised Doyle. "Now let's go and tell your mummy and daddy how clever you are."
He held out his arms, and this time the child came to him readily. He picked him up, and quickly wrapped the still-wet sheet around them both.
But when he opened the door, he found that the delay had cost them dearly. The landing and the hallway were full of black smoke, making it difficult to see, and bright flames were curling up the wooden banister rail.
He groped his way towards the stairs, and winced as his arm came in contact with a very hot newel post. But at least that helped him locate the head of the stairway, and he began to descend, pressing hard against the side wall. Tongues of flame leapt towards them from the flaming balusters, but the wet sheet still offered some protection.
Then a welcome sound reached his ears,- the siren that told of the arrival of the fire-brigade. Someone had had the sense to call the fire-station, and as it was only a few streets away, the appliance was quickly on the scene.
There was a bang as the front door was broken down. The sudden inrush of air fanned the flames, which leapt up more fiercely, but the water from the hoses manned by the efficient fire-fighters, was already dealing with the fire.
The firemen might have been excused for thinking they had seen a ghost, as they spotted the amorphous white bundle creeping down the stairs, but Bodie had already told them what Doyle had done, so they played their hoses cleverly, putting the full jet towards the blazing banister, letting only the peripheral spray fall on the descending shape.
As it reached the last few steps, strong hands were there to help. Once outside, the bundle was un-wrapped to reveal the bedraggled dark-haired man, with the fair-haired child clutched tightly to him.
At once, paramedics from the ambulance, drawn up nearby, took over. A female one took the child, and talking soothingly to him, bore him off to their vehicle.
"You'd better come too, sir," said the ambulance-man to Doyle, "so that we can have a look at that arm."
He pointed, and looking down Doyle noticed the blackened shirt-sleeve, and the red mark on the back of his hand. He couldn't remember just when that had happened; he hadn't registered it at the time.
"Go on, Ray," urged Bodie. "I'll call Cowley and let him know what's happened, and he can call the Paignton's."
He grinned at his mate. "You did great, mate," he said, and gave him a gentle push towards the waiting medic. Doyle didn't protest. Now it was all over, he suddenly felt very tired.
The ambulance sped quickly to the hospital. Teddy was carefully checked over, given the 'all clear', and re-united with his over-joyed parents.
Doyle was treated for superficial burns along his forearm and the back of his hand, painful but not serious, and then discharged.
He made his way back to Headquarters, to join Bodie in Cowley's office. He was quickly brought up to date on what had happened since he had left the scene.
The efficient fire-men had quickly brought the fire under control, though quite a lot of damage had been done. They were now busy damping down, and investigating the cause.
The returning shopping party had been intercepted. The little man had now joined his larger fellow conspirator in the Interrogation Centre.
Mrs. Bowman had been found to be completely innocent of any involvement in the abduction. The little man was indeed the cousin of her late husband, and she had met him several times when her husband was alive. She had totally accepted his story that the big man was a friend from up North, down in London to look for work, and that the boy was his son.
She and Joe had been told that the boy's mother had recently died. So when the child, playing with Joe, had suddenly said "I want my mummy," Joe had, with totally kindly intent, diverted him with all sorts of games.
"Mrs. Bowman and Joe are the losers in all this," commented Doyle, "Their home's a mess."
"Yes," agreed Cowley, "but Sir Edward knows all about it, and says he'll try to help them."
"That's nice of him," said Doyle.
"Well, they did treat the boy kindly," said Cowley, "and he's grateful for that."
"What about the two villains,?," asked Doyle.
"Attwell and Borden," Cowley enlightened him. "They're in custody and being questioned. Just how much they can, or will, tell us about who hired them, remains to be seen. Even if they do give us names, it will be hard to prove anything, but at least we may be able to fire a few 'warning shots', which should stop them trying anything else. And once Sir Edward gets going again, they'll be too busy trying to find a way to avoid the measures he's advocating."
"Is Philip all right ?," asked Doyle.
"Yes," replied Cowley. "He's much better, and he's been discharged. He lives in, so he's back with the Paigntons, and Teddy."
"Good," said Doyle.
"The Paigntons are very grateful," continued Cowley, "and so they should be. You did very well today, Doyle. I suggest you go home for a rest now."
The pair left, feeling very pleased with themselves, that what could have been a nasty situation, had eventually worked out satisfactorily.
As they walked down the stairs together, Doyle looked at his watch. "It's a good job I keep a spare shirt in my locker," he said. "I've just got time to wash and change before my date."
"Oh, who's that ?," asked Bodie nosily.
"Melissa, of course," replied Doyle. "I'm meeting her at the back door at six."
"You can't be !," expostulated Bodie fiercely."
"Why ever not ?," retorted Doyle.
"Because I've arranged to meet her there, at six, too," explained Bodie.
"You're making it up," accused Doyle fiercely.
"No, I'm not !," retorted Bodie.
"I don't believe you," said Doyle angrily,. "You've already lied to me once."
And he stormed off towards the locker-rooms and the showers, leaving his mate standing totally bemused.
Bodie was flabbergasted. Doyle had accused him of lying, when he was the one who'd made up a tale about going bowling. Thoroughly annoyed, he took himself off to the canteen for a calming cup of coffee. Well, he thought, come six o'clock, we'll find out who's lying.
Just before six, Bodie descended the last few steps into the hallway that led to the back door, only to find Doyle already standing there. For a moment the pair glared at each other, lost for words.
As they heard the sound of the back door opening, both turned towards it.
It opened, and in came Melissa, … and Melissa !
The two C.I 5 men stared in complete astonishment at the two identical beautiful girls standing before them.
Then one stepped forward, and said with a smile, "Gentlemen, may I introduce my twin sister, Lucinda."
For a moment there was complete silence. Then Doyle's infectious laughter echoed round the room. Turning to his mate, he grinned widely. "Bodie," he said, "We've been taken for a ride !"
Smothered giggles were now heard, and suddenly several of the other girls emerged from various hiding-places, and surrounded the group.
Explanations quickly followed, as Melissa told the two puzzled men that Lucinda, who worked as an interpreter at The Hague, was home on a month's leave, and they had taken the opportunity to have a little fun at the C.I.5 men's expense.
Bodie looked a bit put out as all was revealed, but Doyle punched his arm playfully. "Come on, mate," he said, "Don't sulk. Just admit that these clever girls have put one over on us."
"Serves you right, too," commented Sally, with a smile, "You're just a pair of 'Casanovas'."
General laughter followed.
"Come on," said Doyle, after a while. "Let's all four of us go to Mario's. We'll give his customers a treat."
As they walked out towards the cars, more explanations followed.
"I went to Mario's with you," Melissa told Doyle.
"And I went dancing with you," Lucinda smiled at Bodie.
"I enjoyed trying to do bowling," said Lucinda.
"And I loved that revue," said Melissa.
That explained so much, thought the two men, as they looked disbelievingly from one girl to the other, They really were totally identical !
"We don't always look completely alike," Melissa told them, "but we can if we do it deliberately."
"Well, you certainly fooled us," admitted Doyle, and Bodie agreed. "I still can't tell which is which," he confessed.
The quartet created quite a disturbance when they arrived at Mario's. Two men escorting two identical beautiful girls, was not a sight to be seen often.
Mario dashed to greet them, quickly found them a nice corner table, and had his staff doing everything they could to give them a pleasant evening. Good food and pleasant conversation made sure of that, and all four were enjoying themselves. Doyle even forgot his tiredness, and the slight discomfort of his scorched arm, as the laughter flowed freely
Mario could occasionally be heard in the background, chattering excitedly. "Bellissima, belissima," he kept saying, "Due gemella bellissima .!"
There was one tiny postscript to the story. When Doyle got into work one morning, a few days later, he found an envelope waiting, with his name on it.
He opened it carefully, and drew out a large sheet of paper. As he unfolded it, his face lit up with a smile. Across the top, in the large round hand-writing of a child, were the words.
THANK YOU. LOVE FROM TEDDY.
What is it, Ray," asked Bodie curiously.
"A present," replied Doyle, looking at the picture below the writing. "Just what I've always wanted, - a hippopotamus !"