|Surprises in Store
Author: Halcris PM
A motor-bike event, a meeting with an old friend, and the uncovering of a villain.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure - Words: 7,346 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 01-29-13 - Status: Complete - id: 8958111
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Surprises in Store.
Bodie and Doyle reported to the duty-room at C.I.5 Headquarters early one Wednesday morning, ready to discover what the day's task would be. Both were feeling on top form, for the completion of a difficult and long-drawn out case late on Monday evening had earned them a day off on the Tuesday.
Both had made the most of the break by indulging in their favourite mode of relaxation. Bodie had found a young lady friend available to go boating on the river. She had contributed a well-chosen picnic hamper, so he had had a very pleasant day.
Doyle had spent the day in the lock-up below his flat, happily tinkering with a classic vintage motor-bike that he was restoring.
They were told to report to Cowley's office, so made their way there, tapped on the door, and were called in .They waited for their boss's orders. His first remark was a question.
"What do you know about Sir Anthony Roehampton ?," he asked.
"Oh, he was great !," exclaimed Doyle with enthusiasm. "As 'Tony Roe', he was the best motor-cycle racer we've ever had ! He was winning everything, year after year, until a serious accident forced him to retire, at the peak of his career. He's stuck in a wheel-chair now, I'm afraid."
Bodie added his contribution. "He came into his title fairly young, as his father died overseas, on colonial service, I believe."
"Correct," agreed Cowley, "and at that point he inherited a huge estate in Gloucestershire, with a very large old house called Roehampton Manor, which he now runs as a centre for conferences and conventions."
"Yes, I've seen it advertised," said Bodie.
"What's aroused your interest, sir ?," asked Doyle, knowing that his boss wouldn't have brought the subject up unless he had a reason.
"Well," said Cowley, choosing his words carefully, "It's been brought to our notice that some of these conferences may have provided a cover for some very dubious dealings."
"Not Sir Tony !," protested Doyle vehemently. "He wouldn't be a party to anything dodgy."
"It's a big place," said Cowley, "with a large number of employees. Also hundreds of people attend the various get-togethers. He might well not know anything about it." "But we're going to try to find out," he continued. "Which is why you pair will be attending a Motor-cycle Convention there this weekend, - your places are booked. You'll be able to take your Harley-Davidson , Doyle, and show it off, and you'll go along too, Bodie, as an interested amateur."
"I can ride a bike, too," protested Bodie, feeling slighted.
"I'm sure you can," replied Cowley, "but you can't talk to other enthusiasts as Doyle can, about re-building an old classic bike, can you ? That will give him a very good cover."
He could give them very few further details of the suspicions regarding events at Roehampton, just advising them to look and listen, and keep alert for anything unusual. The rest of the week was spent in preparation.
Late Friday afternoon saw them on their way, with the tarpaulin-shrouded Harley, safely secured on a trailer, towed behind a powerful 4-wheel drive, which Bodie was handling very competently.
Doyle was full of excitement at the prospect of the next few days.
"It'll be great to see 'Tony Roe' again," he said. "My Dad took me to see him race, when I was about eleven. I was thrilled to bits, and vowed then, that one day I was going to have a bike of my own. I was riding mates' bikes before I was legally old enough. But as soon as I was, I got myself a bike. Naturally, as I hadn't much money, it wasn't anything special, but by that time I'd learned enough about the mechanical side, to be able to tune it up perfectly, until it could out-perform some of my friends' more expensive models. Great days !," he said reminiscently.
"And now you own a top model," commented Bodie.
"Yes," replied Doyle. "I longed for a Harley, once I'd seen one, but it took me quite a while to reach that objective."
"And now you hardly have any spare time to ride it," teased Bodie.
"That's true," admitted Doyle ruefully.
Changing the subject, Bodie ventured a question. "What do you suppose we're looking for ?," he asked.
"I've no idea," responded Doyle. "But one thing I'm sure of. That is, that Tony Roehampton isn't mixed up in it."
Bodie made no comment to this. I hope he's right, he thought. But a man who has an accident at the height of his career, and is now confined to life in a wheel-chair, could be vulnerable to temptation.
At last they arrived at the extensive estate in Gloucestershire. Their booking-papers were checked at the gate, and as they obviously had a motor-bike with them, they were directed towards the back of the house.
There they found that the row of stables, that had once housed the estate's hunters and carriage-horses, had been converted to a long series of connected garages, where vintage cars or bikes could be set up for display under cover, and safely secured at night.
They found the space allocated to them, disconnected the trailer, and parked it neatly, giving their details to the guard on duty. Doyle was very pleased with the degree of security being shown. Along with many others, he was proud of the bike he now owned, and valued it highly.
Then they took the car round to the main car-park at the front of the huge house. Carrying their personal luggage, they reported to Reception, to find that they had been given a comfortable, twin-bedded room, on an upper floor, with a pleasant view over the extensive grounds.
After a little amiable argument over which bed to have, they stowed their bags, and made their way downstairs, to mingle with the other guests, and to attend a promised welcoming address by Sir Anthony Roehampton in person.
As they made their way towards the main reception hall, Doyle was delighted to see, moving in the same direction, someone he knew, Johnny Moulson, who was an M.I 6 operative. He quickened his pace to catch up with him, but to his surprise, the man he'd thought had become a friend, totally blanked him, and walked quickly away. Doyle was staggered by this, but kept his cool, and took no action.
Bodie hadn't noticed this odd exchange, as his eyes were on a lively group of girl-bikers just coming in together.
The pair found seats, and listened with interest to the welcoming speech of the enthusiastic-sounding man in the wheel-chair. But Doyle's eyes kept straying to gaze towards the head of the fair-haired man, sitting several rows in front of him.
The talk ended and the assembled guests were cordially invited to visit the bar, where, they were informed, the first beers were 'on the house'.
As they were filing out, in an orderly friendly fashion, Doyle felt a tap on his shoulder. He swung round to find that it was Johnny Moulson. But the man didn't greet him as he expected, but merely handed him a folded leaflet.
"I think you dropped this," he said, and moved swiftly past and away.
Doyle pocketed the leaflet without comment. Something odd was going on !
Leaving Bodie to collect the first beers, and find a table, if he could, he excused himself and made his way to the 'gents'. There was no-one else there for the moment, so he retrieved the leaflet and unfolded it. There was a slip of paper inside, and Doyle quickly read the words.
It said, 'Sorry about earlier. I'll explain when I can. J.M.'
Doyle took out the lighter he always carried, although he didn't smoke, and destroyed the note. He returned to Bodie in the bar, and without being too obvious, looked around for Moulson. But there was no sign of him, and although they stayed there for some time, he didn't put in an appearance.
So after a pleasant evening, talking casually with other guests, the pair retired to their room and turned in. Doyle took the chance to tell Bodie about the earlier exchange and the subsequent note.
It must have been in the small hours of the morning when Doyle was roused by a slight tapping sound. He shot out of bed and padded across to the door. He opened it cautiously, and someone slipped in. Bodie, also roused, turned on the bed-side lamp. As Doyle suspected, their visitor was Moulson. This time their friend greeted them properly, and seemed pleased to see them.
"I'm sorry I had to blank you before, Ray," he said, "but there were quite a lot of staff about. And as I suspect that we are all here on the same mission, it seemed wise not to let on that we know each other in front of them.
Bodie and Doyle nodded in understanding.
"I'm here with a colleague, Matt Peters," continued Moulson. "He's a real 'bike-nut'. He's brought an old Norton that he's restored, and as you're also into restoring vintage bikes, Ray, you can strike up a conversation with him tomorrow, and it will look perfectly natural. And because we came with you, Bodie and I can join in, and get together too. I expect there will be lots of groups formed that way, so it won't attract special notice."
The listening pair saw the sense of that, and applauded Moulson's carefully thought-out approach.
"We're not all sure what we're looking for," said Bodie "Are you ?."
"I'm positive Sir Tony isn't involved in anything dodgy," Doyle put in obstinately.
"We agree," replied Moulson instantly. "The man we've got our eye on is Ivan Felsburg, the manager. He first came to our notice when he was seen with a well-known villain in Soho. We didn't then know who he was, so we made it our business to find out, and there's been a watch on him ever since. He comes to London quite frequently, and he's been seen with some very dubious characters, including a known Mafia contact. We don't know if he's up to anything here, but our boss, just like yours, thought that a Motor-bike Conference gave us a legitimate excuse to be here, to have a surreptitious look round."
"Now I must get back," he said. "But I was very pleased to see you here,- four of us, instead of just two, should help a lot."
He moved back to the door, as Bodie put the light out.
"See you at breakfast," Johnny whispered, and was gone.
Doyle slipped back into bed and settled down. He felt better now that the situation had been clarified. We could have an interesting few days ahead of us, he thought, in more ways than one !
It was a cheerful, chatty crowd that assembled for breakfast, in the large dining-room, next morning. A shared interest made them all instant friends, and they were looking forward to what was to come. When most had served themselves from the buffet, and found somewhere to sit, Sir Tony arrived. He addressed the company enthusiastically.
"Good morning, gentlemen," he began, and then suddenly realising that there were female groups too, he added "and ladies, of course. I do beg your pardon" This raised good-natured smiles all round. He smiled genially at them all, and went on.
"Today," he said, "is going to be a day of sheer pleasure.! As soon as you've finished eating, you can don your overalls, if you've brought them, and go off and set up your beautiful machines. There are some real treasures here, I've heard, including one of mine. So show off your own pride and joy, and go round to admire those of others, and have a great day !."
His enthusiasm was infectious, and it was a lively, noisy crowd that went out and round to the large garage block.
Here they found, already set up, Sir Tony's treasure, a very old Rudge, attended by several young overall-clad mechanics, who greeted them in a friendly manner, and volunteered to give advice, or practical assistance, to anyone who needed it.
So the next hour was one of intense activity. Doyle set up his beloved Harley-Davidson, its white paint and chrome polished to perfection. Next to him was a Kawasaki, and beyond that the Norton belonging to Matt Peters. As had been suggested, Doyle went along and spoke to him, comparing notes on restoration work.
The obliging Kawasaki owner, noting their shared interest, volunteered to change places with Matt, so that the pair could continue their conversation while still being close to their own machines to answer queries and comments. They thanked him profusely, as they quickly moved the bikes.
After a while, separately, Moulson and Bodie joined them, and all four took it in turns to go off and look at all the other exhibits. And there was plenty to see.!
Doyle spotted two other Harleys, and chatted to their owners. There were several B.S A.s, a lot of Triumphs, several M. V. Agustas, another Norton, not as old as Matt's, and, of course, Sir Tony's wonderful old Rudge, which attracted a lot of admiration.
As Sir Tony had predicted, it was a wonderful day for all these enthusiasts, and it was a tired but happy group that finally saw their treasures safely under lock and key, and returned to the big house for dinner and a convivial evening.
By this time, as Moulson had suggested, different groups had formed naturally, and tended to sit together. But everyone was friendly and chatted freely, united by a common interest and obsession.
The second day followed a similar pattern, with the additional spectacle of several of the older bikes being tuned up and brought out to show their paces round the driveway and grounds.
For some who could only manage a weekend, the event was over, and they left reluctantly. But for the 75% remaining, there was the promise of several days of seminars, talks and demonstrations on every related subject, from repair and maintenance, to restoration and performance-improvement.
These were optional, so some of those, who had only come along as companions to the enthusiasts, felt free to do other things, such as walking in the beautifully maintained grounds, or even going further afield to explore the local surroundings and countryside. This suited Moulson and Bodie very well, as it meant they didn't have to account for any movements they made.
Doyle had put his name down for as many of these treats as he could, and was thoroughly enjoying the course. But, at the same time, he was totally mindful of the reason they were there, and his keen mind was carefully observing and assessing the various staff members he encountered.
Moulson's team-mate, Matt, was doing the same. They were getting on well together, too. Moulson and Bodie spent a little time walking about the extensive grounds and assessing the layout. As Moulson had suggested, lots of little groups like theirs had formed, who, although they might attend different talks during the day, tended to meet up at mealtimes, and in the evenings, so their association was not unusual.
Wednesday turned out to be a very wet day. Those who were in the garage, or at lectures were not affected, of course, but it did rather curtail the activities of those who weren't involved.
Over breakfast, Bodie learned that Matt and Doyle were booked for a day of talks and practical demonstrations on restoration work, and Moulson had decided to go to a basic lecture entitled 'How to Choose a Motor-cycle to Suit You.'
So he was going to be left to his own devices. As he lingered over his coffee, trying to decide what to do all day, he gazed idly round the fast-emptying room. He noticed a row of pictures grouped along the far wall. Whoever chose those, he wondered idly ? They are very drab and colourless. He wandered over to have a closer look, and was pleasantly surprised.
Faded and lacking in colour they might be, but dull they were not !
He found that they were all carefully-mounted drawings, plans for the building of Roehampton Manor, and dated 1707, which must have been when the house had been started. Bodie studied them carefully, and found them very interesting, and that gave him the impetus for his day's activity. He spent the morning happily wandering round the huge house, comparing each floor, as it had originally been planned, with how it was now.
The ground floor, which had once been comprised of a huge ballroom, and several very large reception rooms, was now altered to a big communal dining-room, with modern kitchens behind it, and one large lecture hall, with several smaller ones, which could be easily adapted to suit the requirements of any type of conference or convention.
The first floor had been designed with many large bedrooms, to comfortably accommodate numbers of elegant guests, for in days gone by, with travel being so slow and so difficult, guests stayed for long spells of time. Now these had been cleverly divided in two, thus doubling the number, but all still with perfectly adequate space for short-time guests.
Sir Tony, because of his wheel-chair problems, had a suite of rooms right at the far end of this floor, served by his own personal lift.
On the floors above, where the rooms were smaller, each adjoining pair had lost a third of their space, to make another room between them. Bodie and Doyle were in one of these, and they were still quite big enough to be comfortable.
On the top floor, which would have once been the quarters for the huge resident staff that were employed in those earlier days, there were now a fair number of single rooms. Only a few of these were required for staff, as most were non-resident.
So now the old house could offer a wide range of accommodation for the various events held there. Bodie was very pleased with what he had discovered, and was keen to tell his friends about it.
But he wasn't able to do so. Because it was such a wet day, and to save them the trouble of having to change in and out of greasy overalls to trail back to the house, those working in the garages had had lunch sent down to them.
He didn't see Moulson either. A passing waiter explained that those from that particular lecture had come in for lunch early and returned to complete what they had been learning.
Bodie felt a bit deserted, but soon lost this feeling as he joined a group of girl-bikers. His cheerful banter with them was well-received and responded to, and did wonders for his ego.
When they eventually went off to their afternoon session, he felt a bit lost again. He took his coffee into the big conservatory, where some weak sunshine was trying to improve a miserable wet day. He found that Sir Tony had wheeled his chair there too.
The friendly man greeted him warmly, and invited him to join him. Bodie did so gladly, for here was someone he could talk to about the splendid discoveries he had made.
"I've been looking round your beautiful house," he began. "I discovered those wonderful drawings and plans in the dining-room."
"Aren't they interesting ?," exclaimed Sir Tony enthusiastically, "But there have been such changes."
"The conversions to suit its present use are amazing," responded Bodie, "but they must have cost a fortune !."
"They did," agreed Sir Tony, with a wry smile, "but we're gradually paying off the debt. Another 3 or 4 years and we'll be clear."
"I was impressed by the huge cellar space too," said Bodie. "I suppose that's great for storage ?"
"Yes," said his host. "One end is the wine-cellar, of course. My grandfather and his father were connoisseurs; they laid down a huge stock over the years. We're gradually using it up, but there's not a great call for hock, burgundy, claret, or port and sherry these days. But I do have a good friend who is a vintner; he buys some of it from me, which is a great help. He also keeps me supplied with wine and champagne for special occasions. And I have a splendid bar-manager for the more popular drinks."
"I can vouch for that," said Bodie with a grin. "The beer is very good."
"My event manager, Ivan, uses some of the space, too," went on Sir Tony. "He's a bit of an entrepreneur, with antiques and works of art. He asked me if he could use some of the space to store his stuff, until he sells it on. There are frequent vans bringing furniture etc. in and fetching it away again to sales rooms."
He paused for a moment, then added, "But he's very discreet about it. He sticks to off-peak times, and never lets it interfere with his work."
Bodie stored this bit of information away, to be passed on to the others as soon as they met up again.
"And, of course," went on Sir Tony, "there's the Monk's Hole,"
"What's that ?," asked Bodie curiously
"It goes back to the days when people were persecuted for their religious beliefs," explained Sir Tony, "and had to keep them secret. It's a dark little windowless cell right at the far end of the cellar. The monk used to live there permanently, and only came out to hold services for the household."
Bodie nodded. He'd heard of this kind of thing before.
"I remember playing down there when I was a child," went on his host, "but being too scared to venture in. Of course, I haven't been down there for years, because of this," he added, patting the arm-rest of his wheel-chair.
"But you could have a look, if you like," he offered. He pulled a bunch of keys from his pocket, abstracted one, and held it out to Bodie.
"If anyone questions you," he said, "just tell them you have my permission."
Bodie thanked him and set off. This might be interesting. First he popped up to his room and collected a large torch he'd included in his luggage, and then, a few minutes later, he was down in the cool darkness of the cellar.
He stood for a moment at the entrance to the wine-cellar, and played his torch over the racks and racks of dusty dark bottles. This lot must be worth a fortune, he thought.
Then he turned and went in the other direction. He soon came upon the signs of Felsberg's business side-line. Furniture was neatly stacked against the walls, antique furniture, desks and bureaus, tall lamps and ornate mirrors. Further on he found a whole collection of art works, dozens of large paintings, some in very ornate gilded frames, worth thousands. Though I suppose some of those could have come from the house before it was modernised, he thought. They looked as if they'd graced the walls of stately homes in their time.
Sir Tony had said that the Monk's Room was right at the far end, so he pushed on further, the strong beam of his torch lighting his way along the ancient flag-stones.
As he swung his torch from side to side, he spotted, in an alcove, a large tarpaulin, which, by the look of the shape it covered, was hiding a stack of crates. Investigating anything curious was an instinctive part of his job, so he went over and moved a corner of the tarpaulin.
What he found made him let out a low whistle of surprise. As he had suspected, the cover was hiding a pile of wooden crates. The markings on them would have meant little to most people, but Bodie was an expert on small arms, and he knew what the jumbled numbers and letters stencilled on these boxes meant.
He'd stumbled on a cache of rifles, grenades, and machine guns !
So what was going on here ? He couldn't wait to get back to tell the others.!
But, he didn't get the chance ! As he turned to retrace his steps, he caught the merest glimpse of two shadowy figures, before a hefty blow knocked the torch from his hand. The impact as it fell must have broken the bulb, for suddenly they were all in darkness.
Bodie quickly re-orientated himself, remembering where he'd been standing, and backed up stealthily till he felt the wall at his back. His ears were alert for the slightest sound of movement, which would let him know just where his attackers were. But they were being equally cautious.
Suddenly a light shone in his face, quickly extinguished as his assailants used this ruse to locate their prey. A concerted rush followed. Bodie laid about him skilfully, and was rewarded with a sharp yelp of pain.
But then his luck ran out !
A swift kick knocked his feet from under him, and a bodily charge caught him off-balance, and slammed him hard against the pile of crates. His head made contact with a sharp corner, and that was it. He slumped to the stone floor, in an unconscious heap.
The light came on again and stayed, as the two men surveyed their recumbent victim.
"What are we going to do, Alf ?," whispered one of them. "The boss won't be back till tomorrow afternoon."
"We can't let him go," rejoined the other, "He's seen too much."
"I know," said the first one. "Let's stick him in the Monk's Hole. Then Felsberg can decide what's to be done about him."
Together they dragged Bodie's considerable dead weight the few yards further on. Opening a very old and solid wooden door, they heaved him into the small dark room beyond. A heavy iron key, hanging on a nearby hook, secured the prison, and the two left hurriedly.
Doyle had had a very busy tiring day. He and Matt had spent a most enjoyable time, working on some demonstration bikes, along with the rest of a totally absorbed group. It had been quite hard work, as it had involved much shifting of the heavier old models. They had all been so totally engrossed that they'd hardly realised what a nasty wet day it had been.
I wonder what Bodie's been doing, he thought idly, as he climbed the stairs to their room. He wasn't there, so he wasn't able to ask him.
Doyle was tired, both physically and mentally. His head was spinning with all the new information he had accrued. I don't think I can face a long-drawn-out meal, and an evening at the bar, he thought. I'll get something sent up, have a nice leisurely bath, then lie in bed and read some of the information fliers I've collected. I'll explain to Bodie if he comes up to change.
So he did just as he had planned and enjoyed doing it. He rarely had such leisure the time he was ready to put the light out, Bodie hadn't put in an appearance. But he thought little of it.
He grinned to himself. I bet he's chatting up those girl-bikers, he thought. He's had his eye on them since we first arrived. Best of luck, mate !
He woke about his usual time, and rolled over to see if his mate was awake. To his surprise Bodie wasn't there ! He sat up and looked at the bed. It didn't look as if it had been slept in. That's odd he thought, and began to feel the first niggles of concern.
Actually, he felt a bit guilty about Bodie. He'd been so interested in what this course was giving him, that he'd neglected his friend. But, he thought, there were talks he could have chosen to go to, like Johnny had done.
And anyway, I'm not his keeper ! Though we usually do look out for each other, he mused, his conscience pricking him a bit.
As he washed and dressed, he thought about it. I suppose he might have found a girl who invited him to her room, he considered. And that thought stuck with him, as he went down to breakfast, and met up with Johnny and Matt as usual. But Bodie did not appear.
We know where Bodie was. He had come round to find himself in total darkness, and with a splitting headache. A swift look at the luminous hands of his watch had re-assured him that the darkness was due to the hour and not the bang on his head. It was the middle of the night. He got carefully to his feet, stretched out his hands in front of him, and attempted to assess where he was. It didn't take him long to guess, as his hands met with cold stone walls in every direction
He knew he was in the Monk's Hole !
He found the door, but, of course, it wouldn't respond to his efforts to open it. He tried banging on it, but soon gave that up, as he was only hurting his hands. I'll wait till I hear sounds of someone searching, he thought. They must have missed me by now, he reasoned, and they'll be looking for me soon. But when the pale light trickling through a grating high up on the wall told him that it was morning, he began to get a bit worried. Surely they've noticed I'm missing, he thought.
Doyle found Matt and Johnny already having their breakfast. Anxiously, he asked them if they had seen his mate. When they answered that they hadn't seen him recently, warning bells began to ring.
"He wasn't in for dinner last night," reported Johnny, "But neither were you, so we assumed you'd gone off together somewhere,- into the nearest town, maybe. I've been told there are some good pubs there."
Doyle quickly explained why he'd missed coming down for dinner. When he told the others that Bodie's bed hadn't been slept in, they began to feel concern too.
Doyle looked across to where the group of girls usually sat together, but they all seemed to be there. So it looked as if his suspicions in that direction were wrong.
Now he was really starting to worry. He abraded himself a little, feeling guilty that he had virtually ignored Bodie for the last couple of days. But he'd been so absorbed by the classes he'd been attending, knowing that they were the chance of a lifetime, and one that he would never have been able to afford for himself.
He went over and spoke to the group of girls, but got no joy there. They told him that his friend had joined them at lunchtime the day before, but they hadn't seen him since. As he turned away from them, he all but fell over Sir Tony in his wheel-chair. The friendly man saw the troubled look on his face, and immediately asked what the matter was.
"I can't find my friend who came with me," said Doyle worriedly.
"Do you mean that tall dark-haired chap ?," asked Sir Tony. "What was his name ? Oh, I remember, Bodie."
"Yes, that's him," said Doyle.
"I was talking to him yesterday afternoon," went on Sir Tony. He pointed to the pictures on the wall. "He'd discovered these," he said, "and had been exploring the house. He seemed really interested. I lent him my key to look at the cellars. Come to think of it," he commented, "He hasn't brought it back."
He looked suddenly concerned. "Oh, I say," he exclaimed, "You don't think he's had an accident down there ?"
Seeing Doyle's suddenly alerted look, he added. "Come to the office with me, and I'll find you another key. Then you can go and have a look."
Doyle beckoned to Johnny and Matt, and as they joined him, told them what their host had just said. All three followed the wheel-chair out of the room and along to the office. As they went Sir Tony told them about the cellars, and how his manager used part of them as storage for his business sideline.
He also told them about the Monk's Hole.
The trio exchanged looks as they took in this bit of information. Being who they were, alarm bells were ringing for all of them. Perhaps Bodie had found something that had given him a clue to what they were looking for. But had he been discovered too ?
Soon all three were hurrying down the cellar steps, using a torch Sir Tony had found for them. By the light of this, they did as Bodie had done, and observed the articles stacked either side of the cellar, the furniture and the pictures etc. But as the tarpaulin had been carefully replaced, they didn't find what Bodie had discovered.
But as they progressed along the cold stone floor, they suddenly became aware of a distant banging sound, and hurried on towards where they thought it was coming from.
Doyle was in the lead, and moments later the beam he was directing lit up the heavy wooden door. It was the work of seconds to locate the nearby key and open it up.
"You took your time !," came a very familiar voice, as a dusty figure came into the spotlight of the torch.
"Are you all right, Bodie ?,"asked Doyle anxiously, as he spotted the slight trickle of dried blood on his mate's forehead.
"Yes," replied Bodie cheerfully, "and all the better for seeing you lot." "But," he went on, "You'll never guess what I found.!"
But before he had the chance to tell them, the situation changed. Suddenly there was light, as a whole string of bulbs, hung on hooks along the walls, sprang into life. Not that they had much chance to notice those details, for what was revealed was more important.
Advancing towards them, was a quartet of 'heavies', a couple of them sporting baseball bats. !
Bodie's assailants of the night before had managed to contact Felsberg by phone. He had come back early, with hired men, with the intention of disposing of the intruder before a search was started, so that his disappearance might remain a mystery. When they had heard the three men enter the cellar, they had concealed themselves, but now, egged on by Felsberg, they were ready to 'sort them out'.
Quickly, the four friends ranged themselves into a defensive stance. Four against four, that was good odds compared to what they sometimes encountered. A fast and furious battle ensued. The four friends, well-trained by M.I.6 and C.I 5. respectively, were quick and agile, but their adversaries were vicious and ferocious, full of every dirty trick in the book.
The arena they were fighting in was a bit of a handicap, as the space was narrowed by the furniture stacked both sides, and cannoning off this, with its many sharp corners and angles caused quite a lot of nasty bruises to all the participants.
But the skill of the well-trained group was soon getting the upper hand. Two of the attackers were down, and looked unlikely to get up in a hurry, and Moulson and Doyle were handling the other two easily.
Then suddenly, things changed.!
There was the crack of a pistol shot, and a bullet whizzed past their heads, to thud into the wooden door of the Monks' Hole.
Thank goodness for small mercies, thought Doyle to himself. If that had ricocheted off these stone walls it could have gone anywhere.
All four men froze instantly, as they turned to see Ivan Felsberg approaching with a wicked-looking automatic in his hand.
None of the four were armed, of course. They all had guns with them, neatly concealed in secret compartments in their luggage, standard practice, but they had hardly thought they would need them yet. They stood stock still and eyed the man warily. A concerted rush would take him, of course, but at this range he could hardly miss, and it might cost one of them his life.
Suddenly an authoritative shout filled the air. "What's going on here ?," it demanded loudly.
Behind Felsberg, they saw Sir Tony, in his wheel-chair, surrounded by the four hefty bikers he had conscripted to carry it, and him, down the cellar steps.
Startled, Felsberg swung round. That was all that was needed !
Matt dived low in a rugby tackle that brought Felsberg crashing down, while Doyle's safe hands wrested the gun from the man's grip, and flicked the safety catch.
Moulson and Bodie were close behind, but their help wasn't needed, so they turned their attention to their previous assailants. But all the fight had gone out of them.
One rather foolishly attempted to make a run for it, and shot past them, only to be brought up short as one of the burly bikers stepped in front of him, with a fierce scowl on his face. None of that four had a clue as to what was going on, but when Sir Tony had requested their help, their admiration for the man, had made them give it unquestioningly.
"I don't understand," said Sir Tony. He waved a hand at the stuff lining the walls. "I gave him permission to store this here," he said, "He buys it and sells it on when he can."
"Sells it maybe," interposed Moulson, "But buys it ? I'm sure I've seen some of this furniture, and several of the paintings on the lists of things stolen from stately homes."
Sir Tony looked totally astounded.
"Come this way a bit," said Bodie excitedly, and led them all back a few paces. He whipped the tarpaulin off the pile of crates.
"I bet you didn't give him permission for this !," he exclaimed.
"What on earth are those ?," said Sir Tony , totally bemused.
Bodie's hand indicated the stencilled letters and numbers on the crates, marks which evidently meant nothing to the man in the wheel-chair, but were his line of expertise.
"Hand guns, rifles, machine guns, grenades," he interpreted, pointing to each mark in turn.
"He's selling guns ?," said Sir Tony, incredulously, "Who to ?."
"Well, we don't know that yet," admitted Bodie, "but we'll soon find out."
The four realised that it was time to explain themselves, so they all quickly produced their I.D cards from special pockets, and showed them to their host.
But he was a mentally alert man, quick on the up-take. "So you came here because you suspected something was going on ?," he surmised intelligently.
"Yes, we did," admitted Doyle, "but our interest in bikes is genuine," he hastened to explain. He didn't want the man to think they were only pretending an interest in the course.
"Oh, I know that," accepted Sir Tony, "by the amount of knowledge you've exhibited. But you were 'on the job' at the same time. Well, I never !."
He turned his gaze to his erst-while manager, now standing disconsolately among the group of cowed-looking heavies.
"I'm disappointed in you, Ivan," he said. "You've been doing such a good job for me. Wasn't it enough.?"
Felsberg scowled blackly, but made no reply. He knew very well his job was at an end, and his lucrative sideline was over. The game was well and truly up.!
Sir Tony turned back to the others. "What happens now ?," he asked.
Moulson took it upon himself to be spokesman. "Well, first we find somewhere secure for this lot, while we contact our bases, and make further arrangements."
"I should use the Monk's Hole," suggested Sir Tony. "That's pretty secure."
"Good idea," exclaimed Bodie. "See how they like it."
The five miscreants were quickly shepherded into the small dark room, and the door was securely locked on them. The party then turned back and moved towards the stairs. Moulson went to walk along-side the wheel-chair.
"I'm afraid you're going to be invaded, sir," he said, almost apologetically. "First there will be a team to relieve us of that lot back there, and then there will be others too, some to remove that arms cache."
"Good thing, too," said Sir Tony, "I don't want that in my cellars, thank you."
Moulson continued, "Then there will be experts to deal with the furniture and the art-works, to decide where they have come from. I expect most of them are stolen goods."
Sir Tony shook his head sadly. "I'd no idea this was going on," he said, "and Ivan was so good at arranging and managing all our events. I shall miss him sorely."
"How will you manage ?," asked Doyle.
"Oh, I'll be all right for a while," replied Sir Tony. "Everything is planned well in advance, and I have a very good staff who will carry on. I'll have time to look for a new man, and friends who will help me."
They had reached the stairs. The four stalwarts who had brought him down made short work of carrying him up again. He thanked them for their help, and they went off back to their classes, full of the story they had to tell.
The rest made their way towards the office and the much-needed telephone. Doyle fell into step beside Matt and turned to him.
"Looks as if we've lost our last day's talks," he said with real regret in his voice.
For today, Thursday, was the last day of the course. By tomorrow, the last of the bikes and their owners would have left, and the efficient staff would be cleaning, tidying up, and making ready for their next group of visitors.
"Never mind," said Matt, "We've had a terrific time the last few days, and we've managed to do the job we were sent to do. That can't be bad !."
Suddenly a dissenting voice came to their ears. "I've got a complaint," said Bodie, addressing his three friends. "You've missed the first priority !."
Moulson spun round to face him. Not knowing Bodie as well as Doyle did, he hadn't recognised the teasing tone of his voice.
"Have we missed something ?," he said anxiously. "What priority ?."
"Me," said Bodie plaintively, "I'm starving ! I haven't eaten for ages !."
They'd reached the office by then, and the sudden burst of laughter echoed round the small room. Sir Tony joined in with it. What an exciting day this has been, he thought, and how proud I am, to have encountered a group of such calibre. These four men were really pretty special !