|In an Indian Market
Author: Halcris PM
Doyle goes under cover to discover a surprising killer, but lands in more trouble than he expectedRated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure - Words: 7,503 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 12-30-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8852460
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
In an Indian Market.
Bodie and Doyle reported into the duty-room early one morning, quite expecting to be summoned up to the office of their boss, Cowley, to receive details of their next assignment.
But instead they were met by a colleague, Murphy, who handed them a sheaf of papers, with the relayed instructions that they were to read through the lists of names and addresses, and to follow up on the ones they considered most important.
"Where's the boss, then ?," asked Doyle.
"At a funeral," replied Murphy.
"Another one !," exclaimed Bodie. "He's always going to funerals."
"Well, he knows a lot of people," said Murphy. "But this one's a bit different."
"How different ?," demanded Bodie. "They do tend to be all alike."
"Well," said Murphy defensively. "I think it's a bit different when it's a young person."
"A young person," questioned Doyle. "Do we know who ?"
"A young Indian girl," replied Murphy. "Cowley has met her father. My uncle knows the family well, too. It's all rather tragic."
Murphy's uncle was a highly-respected Professor, who had spent his life studying Indian culture and traditions.
Murphy didn't seem disposed to discuss it any further, and left. Actually, he was rather sad, for he had met the girl at one of his uncle's meetings. She had been young, beautiful, and very talented academically. She had been due to go to Cambridge next year, and would have done very well there.
Bodie and Doyle got on with the job they had been given. They read through the lists, assessed the names in order of importance , and planned an itinerary to visit as many as they could. Deciding that it would be better to go together, as some of the targets would be likely to cut up rough at being questioned, they took Bodie's car and set off
By lunchtime they had covered quite a few on their list, and came back to report on the several interesting things they had found out. They completed their reports, and handed them to Cowley's secretary to be passed on when their boss returned to his office. They grabbed a quick lunch, and prepared to set out again to deal with the next names on their list.
They exchanged a friendly word with the doorman on their way out. They were barely out of sight when he received an internal call. He jumped up quickly and shot out of the door to the yard, to call the pair back.
"Mr. Cowley wants you," he said, "in his office, straight away.
They obeyed the summons, and quickly climbed the stairs. They entered the office to see Cowley looking at their reports. But as they came in, he put them back down on the pile already on his desk.
"Continue with your lists today," he said briskly, "But tomorrow morning I want to see you here, prompt at nine o'clock. And wear something more formal. We're going into the City, into the business centre, and I don't want you pair looking like a couple of 'minders'."
Bodie and Doyle left quickly, hiding their smiles till they were outside.
"I wonder what that's all about ?," said Bodie curiously.
"I've no idea, but we'll find out tomorrow," replied Doyle. "Let's get on with today's job."
The following morning found them reporting as ordered to Cowley's office, Doyle looking neat but vaguely uncomfortable in a dark blue suit (the only one he owned), and Bodie elegant as usual in a smart grey number.
Their boss gave them an appraising look as they entered, but made no comment. Nor did he volunteer any explanations, as he led the way down to his car. He told Bodie to drive, and gave him instructions where to take them, into the business area of the City.
Eventually he led them into a well-appointed office in a tower-block. He gave his name to the smart receptionist who rose to meet him.
"Oh yes, sir," she said. "Mr. Assiv is expecting you." She ushered the trio towards an inner door, and tapped on it.
It was opened immediately, and Mr. Assiv, a distinguished-looking Indian businessman, welcomed his guests into his office.
As they entered, he shot a sudden startled look at Doyle, but quickly recovered his poise, and introduced the other Indian gentleman seated by his desk.
"Mr. Cowley," he said, "I understand you saw Mr. Punti yesterday."
"Yes indeed," replied Cowley, "At his daughter's funeral. My repeated condolences, Mr. Punti."
Soon all five were seated. Doyle was puzzled. Both Mr. Assiv and Mr. Punti, kept giving him odd glances, and he didn't know why. He checked his clothes. He was perfectly respectable.
So what was bothering them ?
"Well, gentlemen," said Cowley, "How can we help you ?."
"Mr. Cowley," began Mr. Punti. "Mr Assiv suggested to me that we ask for your assistance. He told me that I could totally trust your integrity and discretion."
"Thank you, Mr. Assiv," replied Cowley. "We do our best. Tell me about your problem."
"As you know," went on Mr. Punti, "Yesterday I buried my daughter, Alisha. A very grievous day ! My daughter was a bright, clever girl, with a great future in prospect. She would have done well at University."
Cowley and the others murmured sympathetically.
"But", went on the man, "I am not the only one to suffer such a loss. In the past year there have been five others in our community, two boys and three girls, all bright, clever young people, with so much to look forward to."
He stopped for a moment, then went on purposefully. "The inquests said they had died of heroin overdose. But Mr. Cowley, not one of them were 'users' ! We know it. They were all intelligent, and very much against the stupidity of drug-taking."
Cowley looked thoughtful, though he had every sympathy with the man's distress. "Children do keep secrets from their parents," he said mildly.
"Not in our culture," interposed Mr. Assiv. "But tell him the other odd thing."
"Yes," went on Mr. Punti. "Although the cause of death was undoubtedly a large dose of heroin, they could find no obvious needle marks."
"That is a little odd, certainly," said Cowley thoughtfully.
"Mr. Cowley," interrupted Mr. Assiv. "Let me put it bluntly. We are beginning to wonder if these deaths were accidental, or whether someone is deliberately targeting our best young people."
"That is quite an allegation, gentlemen," said Cowley seriously.
"We know," replied Mr. Assiv, "Which is why we haven't put it to the police. We wondered if we might prevail upon your force to investigate our suspicions for us, discretely.?."
There was silence for a while as Cowley thought long and hard about what he had heard. At last he came to a decision.
"Mr. Assiv, Mr. Punti," he declared. "I will put a few enquiries in hand. But, please understand, it may all come to nothing. I can make no promises."
"We trust you completely," said Mr. Assiv, and his friend nodded agreement.
"Very well," said Cowley. "Now, I shall need a list of names."
"You will be discreet with the parents, won't you ?," said Mr. Assiv.
"We won't approach them unless it's absolutely necessary," Cowley replied re-assuringly. "We'll start elsewhere."
The trio left and went back to Headquarters, Cowley to his office, and Bodie and Doyle to pick up their own car. Then the pair set out on the first task their boss had suggested to them, checking up on the coroners who had heard each case, and then on the pathologists who had given the 'cause of death' verdict.
As Bodie started up the car, and drove out of the yard, Doyle, who had been very quiet and thoughtful since they'd left the City, suddenly broke the silence.
"Bodie," he said, "I don't think I'm imagining it, but both those Indian gentlemen kept giving me odd looks. I don't know why !"
"I do," replied Bodie with a grin. "It all goes back to the time you were abducted, and set up as a 'messenger from the gods'. It was Mr. Assiv that Cowley and Murphy went to, and he helped me get you out."
"I don't remember," said Doyle, looking rather puzzled.
"I don't suppose you do," replied Bodie. "You were drugged out of your mind at the time. It took a while to get you back !"
"Dai and Gareth," said Doyle. "I remember them now."
(See story 4, called Revelation.)
They visited half-a-dozen coroners that afternoon, and then went on to contact three pathologists, one female and two male, who had performed the autopsies on the young Indian boys and girls. They came away as puzzled as they were. Each of them confirmed that the victims had died of fatal doses of heroin, but all were unsure as to how it had been administered, as they had found no obvious needle marks.
They returned to make their report to Cowley, who listened carefully. Then he made a suggestion.
"I think your next move should be to find out what kind of life-style these young people had. Did they have the same friends ? Was there anywhere they went regularly ? What did they have in common ? You know the kind of thing."
"We'll have to talk to the parents," said Bodie thoughtfully.
"Yes, but go easy with them," advised Cowley. "They are all of good social standing in their community, and their children were well brought up."
"Maybe that's it, !," said Doyle suddenly.
"What do you mean ?," demanded Cowley.
"Well maybe it's the 'have-nots' against the 'haves'," said Doyle. "Getting at them through their children."
"You mean you think those youngsters have been targeted deliberately ?," exclaimed Cowley incredulously. "You're suggesting murder, Doyle !."
"I know, sir," retorted Doyle, defensively. "But isn't that what those two Indian gentlemen were thinking ?"
"We'd better find out," said Cowley determinedly. "Get onto it, anyway you can."
Over the next few days Bodie and Doyle paid visits to the parents of the youngsters who had died. They took pains to be gentle and polite, and were treated respectfully as a result. They learnt quite a lot about all six of the victims.
They took their findings back to Cowley, and all three sat down together to assess what they had found. First, it was clear that all of the victims had come from affluent 'upper-class' families. All had had a good education, and showed promise of going on to do well at colleges or universities.
There was not the slightest suspicion that any of them had ever dabbled in drug-taking. In fact most had been quite out-spoken about the foolishness of such activities and had shunned those who indulged in them.
They all had had many friends in common, being part of a large group of like-minded students. Their favourite meeting-place was a café-style restaurant, called Ravi's, situated at the centre of a large open market, which served the local Indian community, selling a wide variety of goods. There they met daily for friendly discussions, over coffees, or for meals at reasonable prices, mostly curries or other Indian dishes.
"We need a closer look at that place," said Cowley. "Someone under cover."
"Not easy," replied Doyle. "They don't get many strangers there."
He grinned at his team-mate. "Now he'd stick out like a sore thumb," he said. "But I might manage it, with a little help. After all, I have been disguised as an Indian once, and been accepted."
A little doubtfully, Cowley agreed to let him try, and he shot off to make arrangements.
The following morning, Cowley was busy at his desk, when there was a tap at his door.
"Come in," he called.
The door opened, and Bodie entered. But it was the figure following him that made Cowley stare in surprise.
The wardrobe and make-up department had achieved wonders. Doyle's hair had been trimmed and smoothed down, his skin showed a darker tone, and his clothes were perfect. Cotton trousers and jacket, and a forage-cap style hat completed the picture. He grinned at his boss.
"Meet Jamil Haseem," he said.
"Excellent," said Cowley, still staring.
"Now what I need," said Doyle, "is a room somewhere in the area, and maybe a part-time job to account for my presence. Do you think Mr. Assiv would help us with that ?"
Cowley was quickly on the phone, and soon it was all arranged.
Later that evening, Bodie drove his mate to the area, stopping some distance away, so that Doyle could walk in unobtrusively. Carrying his usual gun would have aroused suspicion, as his clothes would hardly conceal it, so he had instead a small weapon that could be tucked out of sight. A radio-phone would also have been very noticeable, so arrangements were made for him to meet Bodie in a secret place nearby, every alternate evening, to report any progress.
Doyle walked slowly into the area, making for the room he'd been told about, and thinking about the task ahead. Language might be a problem. He did know quite a few words, as he had some Indian friends.
Perhaps if he kept himself to himself, and grunted and scowled a lot, he would get by. Observation was the most important thing anyway, not socializing.
He found the room, and mentally pulled a face at the squalid area it was in. But perhaps it was just as well. The people who lived round about were too concerned with the struggle to survive, to have time to be curious about anyone new.
He entered with the key he'd been given. It was a very small room, with a single bed, a cupboard, a table and one chair, a sink, and a very basic cooking-stove.
He'd brought very little with him, apart from some food. That was good thinking, for round here, possessions were seen as an invitation to theft.
Lying sleepless that night, on the not very comfortable narrow bed, he wondered whose idea it had been to land him in such a miserable dump. He guessed that it wasn't Mr. Assiv. Much more likely, it was Cowley, to make him as inconspicuous as possible. Still, with any luck, he shouldn't be here too long.
The next morning he set out to find someone called Kamir, whose name had been given to him, via Mr. Assiv, regarding a job to give him some cover. He found that his task was to help load up a rickety old cart with the goods Kamir sold, to pull it to the market, and then to assist the old man to set up his stall. Kamir sold mainly basic pots and pans, work clothes, and a few leather goods, mostly belts and bags.
As he wouldn't be needed again till late afternoon, to reverse the process, it meant that Doyle, or rather Haseem, was free to wander round during the day, to see what information he could pick up.
He began to move around the market assessing the various stalls. As he really didn't know as yet what he was looking for, he found it hard not to be distracted by the beautiful items on some of the better-quality stalls, things with such colour and craftsmanship, which appealed to the artistic side of his nature.
So he made an effort to concentrate on assessing the stall-holders. For the most part these were hard-working business people. There were a few dodgy characters though. He decided he wouldn't want to try doing business with them, and the items on their stalls would certainly merit the attention of the Trading Standards Office. But there was nothing to suggest that this had anything to do with what he was here for.
The old man, Kamir, couldn't afford to pay for his help, so instead he gave him a daily ticket for a meal at Ravi's, who was some family relation. This suited Doyle very well, as Ravi's was the meeting-place frequented by the group of youngsters he was interested in.
Although the meals served there were mainly curries in varying strengths, there were other dishes on offer, as the market did have the occasional non-Indian visitors, mostly tourists, who came searching the stalls for articles of Indian art, carvings, jewellery, and Batik textiles.
When dinner-time came he made his way to Ravi's, and presented his meal voucher. He settled for a mild curry, which was served to him by a demure, quietly-spoken Indian girl, who, he discovered later, was Ravi's daughter.
He had barely settled in a quiet corner, from which he could observe the rest of the room, when the door opened and a group of young people entered. This pleased him, as he was most likely to get some information by listening to them. Fortunately for him ,they spoke mainly in English, partly because it was what they were used to in their various schools and colleges, but mainly because it meant that their elders, most of whom had little English, could not eavesdrop on their conversations.
The youngsters were in a lively mood, as they were in the middle of their summer break, and all set to enjoy themselves before settling down in the autumn to serious study. A lot of laughter and teasing was going on. The teasing seemed mainly to be about daring each other to go for the fiercest curry ! But today there were no takers.
As the Indian girl approached the group to take their orders, one of the girls spoke to her. "You don't usually do the serving, Navindra," she said in a friendly manner, "Where's Ranji ?"
"Oh, he has gone to fetch my grandmother," she replied. "She is coming from Bombay to visit us, but by boat, as she refuses to fly."
This caused a little amusement among these modern young people, but it was friendly and sympathetic.
"Ranji will be back in a day or two," she told them, and proceeded to take their various orders.
Doyle returned to his exploration of the market in the afternoon. Then he helped the old man dismantle his stall and pack the goods onto the cart. He pulled the cart back to Kamir's house, and then retreated to his own dingy room.
He hadn't really learned much yet, but it was only his first day, after all. He had gained an impression of what the young victims had been like, for they all had been part of the group at one time.
The next day followed much the same pattern. Doyle helped the old man set out his stall, making a few suggestions about the placing of the goods to show them to better advantage. Kamir grumbled a bit about this, but changed his mind later when he found that his sales were slightly up as a result.
Later that evening he sneaked out of his room, and went to the rendezvous with Bodie. He told him what little he had to report.
"I've got something for you," said Bodie.
"Do you remember, the pathologists were a bit puzzled as to how the victims had taken overdoses, as they hadn't found any marks of injections ?"
Doyle nodded, and waited for what Bodie had to impart.
"Well," went on Bodie. "It appears that heroin can be ingested, taken in food or drink. We never hear much about it, for most addicts 'snort' or inject, because it gives them an instant 'kick'. If it's ingested, it can take up to an hour for the 'kick' to come, and even then it's not so powerful. So, of course, they don't bother with that method."
Doyle's face lit up as he realised the implications of this. "But if someone had murder in mind…" he began.
"Exactly," interrupted Bodie, "and to disguise the taste, what better dish than….?"
"A very hot curry ! ," they said in unison.
"So I checked," said Bodie, "and they'd all had curry for their last meal."
"And the other thing is," continued Doyle, "That with it being so slow-acting, by the time it affected them, they were miles away from where they'd actually eaten it, some of them at home for quite a while, I expect."
"That puts a new light on things, doesn't it ?," he said thoughtfully.
"Check something for me, will you ?," he said. "The deaths have been spread over some length of time, haven't they ? Find out whether they all ate at Ravi's that day."
"Already done," retorted Bodie smugly. "They all did !."
"I'd better have a look at Ravi and his staff," said Doyle, "But he seems a pleasant man, and the waitress, Navindra is sweet and gentle. I couldn't suspect her !."
"Poisoners are often female," replied Bodie. "It's a known statistic."
The next day started out following a similar pattern, until lunchtime, when Doyle, ever alert, seized an opportunity.
Navindra had been collecting used plates, ready to take them into the kitchen. As she approached the swing doors with her laden tray, she did as all waitresses do, turned round to push them open with her back.
Doyle grabbed his chance and jumped up to hold the door open for her. She thanked him politely, unaware of what he was really doing, which was having a good look at the rest of the staff in the kitchen.
It was a good idea, but it brought a very disappointing result. All he saw were two elderly Indian women, and an only slightly younger man working at a stove. They looked as if they might all be family members, and there was no reason to be suspicious of any of them.
He talked later to Kamir, whose English was surprisingly good, and found that his guess was accurate. The two women were Ravi's aunts, and the man was a distant cousin. Why would any of them have any reason to harm young customers ?
But the next day brought a surprising change. Navindra was no longer taking orders, or serving meals. Her duties had been taken over by a young man. Doyle assumed, correctly, that this was Ranji, whose name he had heard mentioned the other day.
Now it just happened that Doyle was looking at Ranji, as cheerful voices announced the arrival of the usual group of young people.
And what he saw there shook him rigid ! If ever the expression 'if looks could kill' were true, he saw it on Ranji's face.
The young man's eyes were blazing with a look of total intense hatred !.
Then the moment passed. Ranji lowered his gaze, veiled his expression, and went out with his notebook to take the group's orders.
They greeted him pleasantly enough, and after exchanging a few words, he completed his list and took it to the kitchen.
Doyle finished his meal quickly, but his thoughts were whirling. If ever he had seen an ideal murder suspect, it was Ranji ! But suspicion was not enough. How was he going to prove it ?
As he helped Kamir clear up his stall later, he slipped in a casual question, asking about Ranji.
"Ah, yes, poor Ranji," said Kamir. "He's a very unhappy boy, I'm afraid."
"Oh. how's that," queried Doyle.
"He's the son of Ravi's older brother," said the old man. "But he's an orphan. Both his parents died when he was about eleven, and Ravi brought him up. He used to go to school with that group of youngsters that eat at Ravi's, and was just as clever as any of them. But when the time came for them to leave school, things were very different for him."
"How ?," asked Doyle, interested in what he was learning.
"With rich parents to support them, they are all going on to colleges and universities. But Ravi cannot afford to do that for young Ranji. He barely makes a living for himself, and he has several elderly relatives to support."
"I see," said Doyle, "So Ranji had to give up any thoughts of further education, and work for his uncle"
"Yes," said Kamir, "and he's very bitter about it. I'm afraid it's driven him into bad company too, drugs and gambling, with other lads around here, who have no future to hope for."
Doyle could see the whole picture now, and couldn't wait to meet Bodie that evening, to tell it all to him. Bodie was impressed.
"Great work, Ray," he said. "Sounds as if you've cracked it. I'll report it all to Cowley, and then he can decide what action needs to be taken next."
"All right," said Doyle "I'll hang on here and keep an eye on him."
"Don't eat any hot curries," quipped Bodie with attempted humour.
As his mate threw him a withering look, and turned to leave, he stopped him.
"Before you go," he said, "I've got a bit of news you won't like."
"Oh, what's that ?," Doyle asked curiously.
"There was a big break-out at a secure prison up north, last night," he said "Six men got away, but they've managed to recapture four of them. But one of the two still at large is your friend Leitener.!
"Max Leitener," exclaimed Doyle. "He's a crafty one. They'll have a job catching up with him."
"Aren't you worried ?," asked Bodie.
"Me, why?," said Doyle.
"Well," said Bodie, "The last thing he said was that he was out to kill you."
"He's on the run, isn't he ?," replied Doyle. "He'll be too busy trying to stay free to bother about me."
He grinned at his mate. "Besides," he said, "he's not going to find me here, looking like this, is he?"
Doyle helped Kamir the next day as usual. Then he wandered round the market, looking at the beautiful things on sale, knowing he could never afford them, and this could be his last chance to admire them.
Probably when he met Bodie tomorrow night, he would be told that his stint was over, and that he was free to pack up and leave. Others would continue the job of checking up on Ranji, and finding the proof of his guilt.
At lunchtime, unexpectedly, Ravi's was extremely busy. A coach load of tourists had been brought in to enjoy the market, and they occupied many of the tables. People were having to share every available space.
Doyle, who had got there before the rush began, was half-way through his meal when he was joined at his table by three Indians, whom he hadn't seen before, a woman and two men.
The woman was very subdued and said nothing. Always observant, Doyle thought she looked nervous and frightened. The two men were very voluble, but as they spoke in their own particular dialect, Doyle couldn't understand a word of what they were saying. They did appear to be arguing quite fiercely though. One man looked far from well, and his companion seemed to be angry, and was intent on brow-beating him.
Doyle finished his meal and left. Later he helped Kamir shut up his stall. He'll miss my help, he thought, he's getting too old to manage on his own. But he couldn't do anything about that.
He retired to his dingy room. Not much longer here, hopefully, he thought. He felt tired, although he had not done a great deal all day. He tried to settle to pass the time reading the one paper-back he had brought, but couldn't relax. He felt restless and a bit off-colour.
Still, he thought, with a bit of luck, I shall get home tomorrow night. He was looking forward to re-gaining his creature comforts, a hot shower, a comfortable bed, and food that he liked. He mused idly about the things he'd been missing, his telephone, his radio and television, driving his car. It's amazing, he thought, how you take such things for granted, until you live among people who do not have any of them.
Bodie strolled to where he had to meet Doyle, feeling very pleased with himself, for he was to relay orders to his team-mate to pack up and get out, and he knew his friend would be very pleased about that. He entered the small room on the ground floor of the building, quite expecting his mate to be waiting for him, as Doyle had been there before him the last two times. But he wasn't there yet. He waited but Doyle didn't come. He took a quick look at his watch. He's half-an-hour late, he thought.
That's not like him ! He's usually very good on time.
He went to the door, stepped outside, and looked around. No sign of him. He looked at his watch again. Doyle was now nearly an hour overdue. Bodie began to feel worried. What could have happened ?
His every instinct was to go and look for his mate. But where ? He knew that Mr. Assiv had arranged a room for Doyle to live in, but because Bodie was under strict instructions to keep clear of the area, he didn't know where it was.
It was now into the early hours of the morning. On impulse, he called in to base, and spoke to the night-duty operator. He was hoping that perhaps Doyle had called in there, because he couldn't get to the rendezvous for some reason. But he drew a blank. There had been no call.
In desperation, he risked calling Cowley, who was none too pleased at being woken up this early. He explained what had happened.
"Something must be wrong," Bodie said agitatedly. "Can I go in and start looking ?," he begged. "As soon as it's light."
"No," said Cowley firmly. "You'd be much too conspicuous. The police are going to pick Ranji up today. They've been working on his drug contacts for evidence. We don't want him doing a bunk."
"But Doyle could be in trouble," protested Bodie.
"I realise that," said Cowley. "I'll get on to Mr. Assiv, and get him to send someone less noticeable in to look. We'll wait for his report." Bodie wasn't entirely happy with this, but was obliged to go along with it.
So, as soon as it was light, a small man called Achmed slipped into the area. He would be able to recognize Doyle, even in disguise, for he had helped Bodie rescue him once before.
He went first to the address given him by Mr. Assiv. He knocked, but there was no response. He tried the door gently. It appeared to be locked, but a few minutes fiddling with a special tool gave him access. He slipped in quietly and looked around. It was all very neat and tidy, but deserted. There was no-one there. He came out, re-locking the door, and went to find Kamir. He found the old man, struggling to load up his cart, and grumbling loudly to himself.
"I'm looking for Jamil Haseem," he said.
"You, too," snapped Kamir in annoyance.
"Have you any idea where he is ?," persisted Achmed.
"No, I haven't," snarled the old man. "He's supposed to helping me, but he didn't turn up yesterday, and he's not here today. I'm having to do it all myself." Achmed ingratiated himself by quickly giving the old man a hand, which calmed him down. As they pulled the cart towards the market, Achmed tried again for information.
"You might try Ravi's," said Kamir grudgingly. "He went there most days to eat."
So Achmed made his way through the market to the popular eating-place. He found the place in a bit of a turmoil. !
A flustered-looking Navindra was busy laying up tables. She had been called in hurriedly by Ravi, who was in quite a state over what had happened that morning !
There had been a surprise dawn raid by the police, and they had arrested Ranji, and taken him away. Poor Ravi had no idea what it was about, and he hadn't been enlightened, in spite of his plaintive questions.
Achmed spoke to Navindra. "I'm looking for Jamil Haseem," he said, and described him.
"Oh, yes, I remember him," said the girl. "A nice friendly man. He came in several days. But I do not think he was here yesterday. I was not serving, but I was working in the kitchen, and I looked out several times."
Achmed left and went round several of the stall-holders. Some of them remembered seeing Haseem helping Kamir with his stall. Others had seen him looking round the market. But when asked if they had seen him yesterday, they couldn't remember for sure. Doyle seems to have made a good job of not being too noticeable, thought Achmed to himself.
He returned to make his report to Mr. Assiv, who in turn passed it onto Cowley. But they were all very disappointed with the negativity of the result, the total lack of news. Doyle or Haseem, as the locals had known him, seemed to have disappeared without trace.
A couple of very anxious days followed. Routine searches were put in hand, with concerned agents asking questions of their various contacts, but nothing came to light. The police were also alerted and inquiries were made about traffic accidents and hospital admissions.
This last did bring in one report, from a small hospital not far from a populous Indian residential area. A sick man, an Indian, found collapsed on a canal bank, had been brought in to them. He had no identity on him, and was too ill to respond to their questions.
Bodie at once jumped in his car and shot off to the hospital in question. He met one of the senior doctors and made his inquiries.
"Oh, I'm afraid you're too late," replied the doctor. "The man died early this morning."
Bodie felt a sudden stab of fear. Trying to remain calm, he asked if he could see the body, and was given directions to the hospital morgue. He watched in some trepidation as the attendant drew the long narrow drawer from the metal cabinet, then turned back the cover from the face of the corpse.
Bodie released the breath he'd been holding in a sigh of relief. Whoever this was, it wasn't Ray Doyle. !
He didn't recognize the man at all, but Doyle would have done. It was the man, looking so ill, who had shared his table, the day Ravi's had been so busy.
Bodie reported back to Cowley, who was as relieved as he was, though, of course, he didn't show it.
Searches and enquiries went on, with continued negative results. In spite of their determination to be optimistic, everyone was getting tired and less hopeful.
Late in the evening, Bodie drove wearily home, knowing that he had to get some rest if he were to function at all the next day. He was desperately worried about his team-mate, although he knew that everything possible was being done to find him.
He parked his car and locked it securely. As he walked toward his front door, he noticed that the porch light wasn't working. I must get that fixed, he thought idly. As he stepped forward to put his key in the lock, he all but tripped over something lying in the corner.
As he couldn't see clearly, he stretched out a hand to feel what it was, and found he was touching the shoulder of a man, curled up in the corner.
He quickly opened his door, put on the hallway light, and turned he bent to lift the man out of the dark corner, he could feel him shivering and shaking, and yet he seemed to be emanating heat as well.! As soon as the light from the hall fell on his burden, Bodie let out a gasp.
It was Doyle !
But a very sick Doyle, who was delirious and moaning as if in pain. Bodie moved quickly into his lounge, deposited his mate on the large sofa, pulling the throw down to tuck round him.
Then he was on the phone, calling for emergency assistance. Fortunately, this came very quickly. Within a short time, Doyle was in an ambulance, charging towards St. Richard's hospital, with lights flashing and siren wailing. Bodie went with him, managing to get in a quick call to Cowley on the way.
Things moved very quickly when they got to the hospital. Because Doyle was obviously in the grip of some very virulent fever, he was immediately whisked away into an isolation ward. There experts got to work, taking observations and blood-tests etc. with great efficiency.
The two nurses assigned to getting their patient out of his sweat-soaked clothes and into bed, had quite a surprise as they discovered that the darker colouring was limited only to his face and arms, and that he wasn't an Indian at all. But as they worked, the doctor who knew the truth explained it to them.
Bodie was obliged to cool his heels in a waiting-room, his anxiety for information ignored by the very busy doctors and nurses working behind doors firmly closed to him. When Cowley joined him, he could tell him nothing, except to describe in detail how he had found his friend and the condition he was in then.
"It must be something he picked up in that damned Indian quarter," exclaimed Cowley, struggling to suppress the guilt he felt, for allowing one of his best men to go under cover in such a squalid area.
They seemed to be waiting for ages, but at last, mindful of Cowley's status, someone came to enlighten them. The senior doctor knew who they were, and approached them purposefully, but the serious look on his face did nothing to quieten their fears, as they waited for his report.
"There is some good news," he began, "At least it isn't cholera, as we first feared, _ that would have meant the danger of an epidemic. But it's a mutated variant of that, which appears in some parts of India. We've seen a few cases over the years, usually brought in by illegal immigrants who have avoided the customary basic health checks. But it's not nearly as infectious as cholera._ the actual virus dies off quite quickly. We may get a few more cases, but hopefully not a widespread epidemic."
"The man I saw yesterday !," exclaimed Bodie. He quickly explained that to the doctor.
"Sounds likely," was the interested reply. "Tell me which hospital, and I'll get it checked immediately."
"You said 'some good news'," interrupted Cowley, "Does that mean 'some bad news' ?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so," replied the doctor. "The virus affects non-Indians very badly. Your man is desperately ill. We're doing all we can, naturally, but he's fighting for his life in there. Only time will tell if we can hang on to him."
There was silence as Bodie and Cowley struggled to absorb the shock of this news.
"May we see him?," asked Cowley very quietly.
"No, not yet," replied the doctor. "We are sticking to the strictest 'barrier' nursing, just in case."
"I handled him," said Bodie suddenly.
"When ?," demanded the doctor.
"Just before I called the ambulance," said Bodie.
"Then I think you're all right," the doctor replied. "He's been ill for some days. But I'll get a nurse to do a blood-test, just to be sure." Bodie submitted to this, but the test came back negative, much to his relief, and Cowley's.
There followed several days of intense anxiety. Cowley demanded and got, regular up-dates on his man's condition and relayed them to Bodie. But usually the only word was ' No change '
He endeavoured to find jobs to keep Bodie busy, without a great deal of success, for although the man carried them out with his usual efficiency, they didn't fully occupy his mind, which was constantly with his team-mate, and friend, lying in a hospital bed.
As the doctor had predicted, a few other cases occurred, including a man and a woman Doyle would have recognised. Unfortunately the woman died, but the man recovered sufficiently to admit that they were illegal immigrants, and to tell of all he had had contact with.
The police had taken Ranji into custody, and had been questioning him hard. They had amassed quite a bit of information about his dealings with drug dealers. At first he had denied everything and blustered vociferously that he knew nothing about any of it. But eventually, under pressure, he had broken down and admitted it all. He was now undergoing psychological assessment, before a decision was made about bringing him to trial. No doubt there would be lots of questions about his mental state, and the many reasons for it.
But Mr. Assiv and Mr. Punti, and the other parents would be satisfied that the sad story had finally been brought to an end.
At last the day came that brought the news they had been hoping for. Doyle was beginning to respond to treatment, albeit very slowly. But he was out of danger, and an eventual full recovery was predicted.
Bodie was anxious to get in to see him, but those in charge would not allow it yet. Tired but much happier, Bodie made his way home that evening. It was going to take some time, he knew, but he was going to get his team-mate back.
He made himself a meal and sat down to relax, for the first time in ages, it seemed. He was disturbed by the ringing of his phone. He answered it. It was the night-operator at Headquarters.
"I've got a call for you, Bodie," he said. "It's a man. He won't give his name but says you'll know him."
"All right," said Bodie, "Put him through." The voice surprised him.
"Hello, dear boy," it came, "I've called to ask about Doyle." Bodie gasped as he recognized the voice _ Max Leitener !.
"You're on the run," he exclaimed.
"Indeed I am," replied Leitener, "And don't bother trying to get this call traced. I won't be here long enough. I'm off abroad, Bodie. It's too hot for me here at the moment. I shan't tell you where I'm going and I may even have to change my name for a while. But I will be back, one day."
He continued in his usual jaunty manner. "Now, about our dear boy, Doyle," he said. "Is he recovering ?"
"Yes, very gradually," said Bodie. Then realisation dawned on him. "It was you who dumped him on my doorstep," he exclaimed.
"Yes it was," admitted Leitener. "I was with a friend, paying a late call on a derelict shop he plans to use, when we came across him there. Didn't take much notice at first. We frequently get beggars or drug-addicts crawling into such places. They often die there, too. But this one was delirious and muttering wild words. Then I caught the name Bodie, so I had a closer look. I didn't believe it at first, what a splendid disguise !."
"He was under cover," explained Bodie. "But I don't understand. Last time we saw you, you were determined to kill him."
"I was. I still am," replied Leitener. "But surely you understand, dear boy. There would be no personal satisfaction in killing a man who was too ill to know what was happening ! But my turn will come, one day. Until then, look after him for me, won't you ?"
There was a click, and the line went dead. Bodie slowly replaced the receiver. What a strange man Leitener was ! Although he was an out and out villain, there was something about him that was almost likeable.
He couldn't wait for Doyle to be well enough to be told all about it. He'll find it interesting, he thought.